“What, no PA?” – this month saw the return of roaming gigs. To the uninitiated, roaming gigs are totally a totally acoustic affair. Not like Clapton’s definition of unplugged. I’m talking no wires, no PA, no mics, no nothing! If you want to turn it up, you hit the bass harder and brace that diaphragm. It might seem a bit limiting, but it’s a refreshing change to hear and play more stripped-down arrangements of songs I’m used to playing. Even more refreshing at the end of the night when I put my acoustic bass in my bag and I’m ready…instantly. But where do you play if there’s no stage? You just go to wherever the party’s happening and play your next song there. It’s a bizarre return to the world of travelling bards, and I’m here for it. The venue wasn’t bad either – Hever Castle looks at least this grand everywhere.
New pedalboard – remember last month when I talked all about my compact little pedalboard and great it was? The pedal monster has got me, and I’ve jumped into the jaws of the beast head first. It’s still in something of a transitional phase – one more distortion and a loop switcher to allow for two very different distortion circuits to come, as well as a little extravagance on the wah pedal front…stay tuned!
Twin Town Madness – like many people and musicians (apparently musicians aren’t people), I hadn’t left the country since The Before Times. All this changed when I went with The Village Idiots to Le Touquet for the conclusion of Special Effect’s final Twin Town event. Participants buy a car for <£500, decorate it in a theme and costume up appropriately, completing challenges on the way. Drive from Oxfordshire to Le Touquet. Big old street party gig at the end…and that’s where we came in. To say it was exhilarating is an understatement in so many ways. The crowd was a euphoric mix of Twin Towners, Le Touquet locals and some of the many French people who visit the town as a weekend treat – all united by that joy only live music brings. And needless to say, all of us on stage were just as ecstatic. To see how the day panned out, see the highlight on my Instagram stories. Truly one to remember – it’s not every day I get to address a gig crowd in two languages!
In the As Yet Unnameable Funk Project, recording is happening. It is as unshareable as it is unnameable, but I’ll say this: in order to deliver disco funk, there is only one person to study. Shaping my bassline was done purely through the lens of “What Would Bernard Edwards Do?”. Every redraft left me thinking it’s gotta be simpler. Bernard Edwards was the master of the musical mot juste: saying so little, but that ‘little’ bass line was the purest, most perfect one every time, locking in with every other instrument, and yet still having its own voice. If I’ve done one thousandth of the job that he did, I’ll be happy. RIP Bernard.
ON REPEAT THIS MONTH
In April it was all about the master work that is Unlimited Love, the new release by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. What can I say about these guys? This band is the reason I got into rock music as a teenager, and Flea is the closest thing I’ve ever had to a bass teacher. The return of John Frusciante created the perfect musical chemistry, and these guys delivered. What I loved most about it was that I could hear every other one of their albums coming through in the sound of UL. All the hours spent learning the basslines to every song on every album back in my teens came right back to me, as I heard little hints of Freaky Styley, Blood Sugar, By The Way, and even the odd bit of One Hot Minute. An amazing body of work, and I’m even more excited to see them perform these new tracks live. Yes, I’m going to see them…twice. That should tell you everything you need to know. Meanwhile, here are my top three tracks:
Here Ever After – The huge drum sound and bass groove sound huge. Great hook from AK. Gonna be huge live.
Whatchu Thinkin’ – A perfect piece of funk rock. Proof that simple is sometimes the most effective. Guitar sound with high levels of ‘Fruscianticity’.
White Braids & Pillow Chair – A dreamy song with a beautiful lyrical theme and melody. A classic moment of wistful rocking that could only come out of California, and makes me yearn for the west coast.
CHECK THIS OUT
Alec Benjamin – UnCommentary – sometimes you need them opposite of epic. These songs are beautifully sincere and sincerely beautiful. Simple but get right through to your heart. John Mayer said it best: “The point of songwriting isn’t to get me to see just your life. It’s to see my life in the reflection of your details. You can write about a broken heart at a school water fountain, and if you tag the emotional core of it, I’m *in*”. Alec Benjamin does this on every song, and it goes OFF. Here’s my favourite one from the record.
Oh and lastly at my gig last night near Birmingham there was a cat. Gigs with cats are the best gigs.
See you next month – if you liked anything in this, let me know!