I’m pleased to announce the availability of my brand new EP – Ban Hammers. It is the result of a collaboration between myself and various electronic producers based in the United States. The producers who collaborated on this project are Leo Rapture, Nekkron99, Ken Flux Pierce and Mr. 25 Keyz.
The premise was quite simple, the various featured producers were asked to submit a finished instrumental backing track just lacking bass lines. I then attempted to record first take improvisations reacting to the music on first listen. I added a few overdubs here and there and a bit of editing but essentially what you hear are those first ideas as close as possible. The whole project from start to finish was in less than a week.
1. Eden Palace featuring Leo Rapture
2. Crunch Time featuring Nekkron99
3. Stingy featuring Ken Flux Pierce
Ken Flux Pierce
4. Could’ve Sworn featuring Mr.25 Keyz
I suppose what we have here are the first instrumental bass led tracks that i have ever released. I have played bass on hundreds of releases prior to this but mostly either in band or session roles. This however is a unashamedly a bass driven project. I used my Bristol made custom Waghorn Gecko bass through a Sonuus Wahoo filter pedal for most of the sounds adding some MXR bass chorus to sweeten things a touch.
Waghorn Gecko bass
The terrific surf band I play bass with, The Rumble-O’s have been asked to perform a live soundtrack to the classic surfing film “The Endless Summer” at this year’s Greenman festival in the prestigious cinema tent. The festival runs from the 14th to the 17th of August. We are performing at 8pm on Saturday. We will also be appearing on the Solar Stage in Einstein’s Garden on the Friday at the same festival.
Lead guitarist Andy Taylor
Keys and trumpet player Banga Stanley
Drummer James “Slippy” Phillips
Bassist Gaz Williams (yep that’s me!)
Writing a complete soundtrack has poised an interesting challenge to the band as we haven’t attempted anything collectively like this. We do have individual experience though as lead guitarist Andy also performs with leading silent film soundtrack specialists Minima with whom I also played keyboards with between 2008 and 2009 gaining valuable insights into this peculiar art form. Rumble-O’s keyboardist Banga Stanley also composed a live soundtrack to images of acclaimed comic writer Ben Dickson’s Falling Sky.
We have written 8 brand new pieces of music for this commission and together with another 8 of our existing catalogue we have extensively rescored this glorious celebration of the nascent days of surfing. The original soundtrack was performed by The Sandals and is charming and quite beautiful at times. Although the temptation to copy them was strong we found that our existing tunes were the perfect match with the bespoke tunes filling in the gaps nicely. One of the joys of playing with The Rumble-O’s is emulating the naivety and spontaneity of music from that era. From a musicians perspective, it’s important to not be too technical and to essentially play in a direct and simplistic manner. Being all instrumental too is challenging as we have to ensure that the music has plenty of hooks and memorable moments keeping self indulgence to a minimum and fun to the max!
Here is a sneak preview of one of the specially written tunes, Hang 10. The recording is just a rough run through at one of the rehearsals. In fact this is one of the first ever run throughs of the song.
The original producers of the film Bruce Brown Productions/Monterey Media have been incredibly helpful and supportive with our adaptation partly due to the imminent 50th anniversary of this classic film. Although released in 1966 it was shot fifty years ago in 1964. The film follows two young American surf fanatics as they circumnavigate the globe seeking the perfect wave. A particularly memorable scene has the boys surfing off the coast of West Africa giving locals their first ever glimpse of the sport. The film has subsequently attained legendary status and has been credited with introducing millions of people to the pure elemental joy of surfing!
I played a gig on saturday with the live dance band The Egg. Well, it was more of a scrambled Egg as Maff Scott, the awesome drummer and twin brother of frontman/synth guy Ned was on holiday in Turkey plus bass maestro, the unbelievably funky Paul Marshall was similarly unavailable hence my inclusion along with stand in drummer Tony.
The Egg are genuine legends of the underground music scene not just here in the UK but due to numerous global jaunts, worldwide too. The band formed in Oxford in the 1990’s and were one of the first bands I’d ever seen play electronic techno but as a typical four piece bass/drums/guitar/keys affair. I remember thinking when rave music was taking over in the early 90’s that bands would have to learn to play this thumping dance style in order to compete with the rash of DJs popping up everywhere. The Egg not only mastered this but also developed their own highly funky take on the genre that proved irresistible with the countless audiences they performed to. The Egg had a hit record in 2006 with the David Guetta mashup Love Don’t Let Me Go (Walking Away) which reached number 3 in the UK and charted all across Europe.
I was fortunate enough to first play with The Egg in a backstage jam at the 1998 Glastonbury Festival playing to a packed marquee called The Green Room. This venue was exclusively for the crew and performers of the circus and cabaret fields and is one of many backstage areas that are real hidden gems of the festival as the parties stretch out way until dawn. I sang improvised vocals with them at that particular performance which also included sometime Egg member Jerry on guitar. Jerry was coincidentally the guitarist I played with on Saturday too.
I saw The Egg play the following year at Glastonbury and this was during their number phase where all the band members dressed in pure white other than the humorous individual numbers ablaze on each members top!
Over the past few years I have performed a few times with the band when Paul has been unavailable and it is a thrill partly because Maff is an amazing drummer and Ned is constantly pulling surprises out of his deep bag of party tricks such as vocoding, stylophone and the most bizarre samples. One of the coolest aspects of the band is the lack of sequenced clock. Maff essentially controls the timecode to which Ned’s various arpeggios and loops are synchronised to. This means that if Maff wants to speed up or slow down, everything else essentially follows him. This gives an organic and free flowing quality to their live performances which avoids the staticness of being slaved to a computer clock and allows the band to create arrangements on the fly reacting much like a DJ to the audiences moods and whims.
With a heavy heart I learnt about the passing of my friend, the legendary sound designer Stephen Howell this morning. I first learnt about Steve’s existence through his sterling contributions to Alesis’s ill fated Fusion synthesiser that he virtually transformed with his exacting and inspiring sound sets and sample libraries. I was surprised to then discover that he was a fellow Welsh man and had formerly lived next door to my good friend and long term collaborator Tim Lewis aka Thighpaulsandra in Cardiff way back when.
Steve’s legacy stretched way beyond software and into hardware with his long term involvement with Akai Professional and their esteemed sampler line. He worked on the interface design for numerous models throughout the 1990’s and was even involved with the stupendous DPS24. Steve also had a hand in inventing pedal based looping with his idea to utilise available memory in Akai’s groundbreaking Headrush delay pedal. Steve wrote an interesting (and sad) blog entry about the death of his friend and collaborator Jack Sugino of Akai in which he explains much about his involvement.
His Kontakt based sample libraries released under his Hollow Sun moniker were an astonishing collection of innovative and unusual instruments that we used extensively in the rock opera Pop’pea. You can read about that crazy show here.
I had communicated with Steve numerous times over the internet before our first physical meeting at a gig by my band Rocketgoldstar at the tail end of 2012 in Cardiff. Steve wrote about that encounter on his blog here. From that point on, we regular communicated and we spent a fabulous and silly evening back in January this year that Steve blogged about here.
I’m so sad to learn of Steve’s untimely passing and I extend my heartfelt sympathies and love to his friends and family especially his wonderfully talented 17 year old daughter Alice. I would also like to thank Rob Puricelli (aka Failed Muso) for letting me know about Steve’s sudden illness and for keeping me informed. Rob has also opened a book of condolences on his site here.
Hello readers old and new! I am going to make a pledge to any of you who enjoy this site or are interested in my musical exploits that I will make much more regular updates. I have so many articles on the back burner waiting for a spot of time to finish that there soon should be a steady flow of new posts and that is a promise!
I am looking more towards the internet and my site as a focus for my activities as in recent times I have crawled out from under the stone of anonymity and through mostly Sonicstate.com I have started to enjoy a more public persona. In the past, I was so preoccupied with my perception that as an artist I should remain somewhat aloof and mysterious but now I realise that just leaves you with a whole heap of nothingness!
So what can we expect in the future? Well I have started writing up little featurettes on some of the notable people I have worked with some of whom are well known and some may be new to you. I have been incredibly lucky in my career so far to have worked with some truly inspirational musicians and artists that I feel I should share some of those experiences. The fairly recent features about Karl Hyde and David Rhodes should give an indication of the type of thing I have planned.
Other features will be around my continuing exploration of music technology and it’s applications. I am first and foremost a live musician who thrives on playing and collaborating with others so it may seem strange that I am so enthusiastic about this subject as it appears to thrive on electronic music and solitary working (both of which I also enjoy). I am, however, constantly interested in developments which encourage collaborations (both physical and virtual) and of bridging the gap between acoustic and electronic. These are the themes I plan to explore in future posts.
Here is a performance I recorded last August of my Jean Guillou influenced piece, The White Flame. I am using my trusty Roland GR55 which is the same unit I have used extensively with Karl Hyde and the rock opera, Pop’pea.
Jean Guillou’s magnificent flames of hair and the inspiration for the title of my piece!
I was interested to see how writing a piece of music within a particular large room would affect my note choices and phrasing. The hall I used in this example is the Upper Room at Cairns Road Baptist Church and I’d like to thank them for the opportunity. The room has a long decay, around the 2.5 second range so therefore lots of long legato notes would work best in that setting. I also wanted to try and use tones that would resonate well within that space so I created a trombone woodwind hybrid using the dual PCM layers of the GR55. I mapped the trombone sounds to the expression pedal which let me create swells over the woodwind base. The GR55 has an incredibly deep programability which I think people aren’t aware of. I have to say though that editing on the unit is no fun and I highly recommend Gumtown’s astonishingly excellent free editor for it available here.
The GR55 editor for PC and OSX
Want to hear me croon?
I had great fun today performing with Bristol’s Fantasy Orchestra at the funkily titled café Roll for the Soul. The Fantasy Orchestra is a project run by a bit of a Bristol legend called Jesse D Vernon, formerly of 90’s hippie festival favourites The Moonflowers. Jesse truly is a one of a kind and has been responsible for many interesting projects such as his long running band, Morning Star, his ever evolving the Greatness of the Magnificence plus his continual involvement in BBC 6 music faves This Is The Kit.
The terrific Jesse giving the audience cues to join in!
The crowded venue earlier. You could hardly swing an ewok in there!
The concept behind the Fantasy Orchestra is that it is open to everyone no matter what instrument they play. The selection of songs initially was centred on the incredible music of Ennio Morricone but has expanded to take in such disparate film score composers including Dominic Frontiere, John Barry, Alexander Courage, Jimi Hendrix and R D Burman. This is interesting music to play, Burman for instance is one of India’s seminal film score composers so it’s highly rewarding to perform in this Bollywood style. Hendrix’s name may seem odd included amongst these cinematic composers but the arrangement the F.O performs of “1983 (a merman I should turn to be)” reveal Hendrix’s music to having terrific film scoring potential.
Here I am singing with the Orchestra, new years eve 2013 at The Cube, Bristol
The show today however featured a lovely song that was originally meant for Disney’s 1967 The Jungle Book but didn’t make the cut. It’s called Brothers All written by Terry Gilkyson. Jesse has a particular talent for locating obscure gems and performing them makes being involved with the Fantasy Orchestra such fun. My original involvement within the ranks of the F.O had me playing bass (along side Eels, PJ Harvey producer John Parish) but due to being otherwise occupied I had to bow out. Upon rejoining at the tail end of last year and with the bass job now handled by the psychedelically funky Stefano Manfredi , Jesse asked me to sing lead vocals instead on a bunch of songs including this one, which is a low baritone crooning style. This is in contrast to my normal quoggy wail style as ably demonstrated here.
Another element to playing within the Fantasy Orchestra is that we have to perform wearing whatever the dress code happens to be. When we played at Bristol’s venerable Cube Cinema, new years eve 2013, the code was Wildermann. This is French photographer Charles Fréger name for his project of trying to capture the spirit of tribal Europe. This resulted in some inspired outfits that evening! There are many awesome photos of those outfits here.
The Wildermann influenced look!