The original film poster
The space rock band I play with, Asteroid Deluxe, have a great new commission: To perform a live soundtrack to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain at the Greenman festival this summer. This 1973 cinematic masterpiece is a surreal tale of a thief who through an encounter with a mystical alchemist gets led on a spiritual journey along with seven business people (each representing ugly human traits) to the fabled “Holy Mountain”. The film is unquestionably psychedelic in its visual design but also in its underlying meaning. This makes it an ideal film for Asteroid Deluxe!
Here is a brief trailer for our show:
We have written a brand new score for the film and have tried to avoid mimicking the original soundtrack which coincidentally has just been issued on vinyl for the first time recently by Finders Keepers. Our rescore features nearly two hours of brand new music and contains much variation ranging from pulsating beats and acid dripped guitars to introspective acoustic moments all played live with no sequencers or backing apart from the dialogue track. The imaginative, vibrant and violent scenes in the film, have inspired us to come up with a heady brew of different influences and musical intensities.
There is a good feature about the film here but beware it contains spoilers!
Last Saturday I played a gig with a great friend of mine, Colum Regan in the legendary Cardiff venue The Four Bars (so pleased it got it’s name back after years of being called a generic Dempsey’s Irish bar). The band consisted of Colum on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, Joe Grant on drums, Jammy Harris on lead guitar and myself on bass. This gig was mostly about Colum’s original music. Below is a video from the gig of Who Do You Think You Are?
I have collaborated with Colum on various projects over the years including producing his second album, the stark and introspective Hotel. This album was recorded in a recreation of a prehistoric round house near Cowbridge in South Wales. We applied a strict “tape rules’ strategy to this project. This meant that even though we were using a computer we only allowed ourselves techniques that would have been possible in the halcyon days of reel to reel recording. This meant absolutely no copy and pasting or any other digital shenanigans. We also had an only appear once rule too which meant that no vocal or instrumental parts were double tracked. This, along with utilising the natural reverb of the round house and using only acoustic instruments, has ensured that Hotel has an organic sound which I think will always sound timeless.
The Roundhouse in St Hilary, South Wales.
Colum is an interesting guy. Hailing from Cork in Ireland, he is a superb entertainer and is out most nights gigging solo, with his wife or with a variant of his band Goose. Irish Goose, Super Goose, Wedding Goose, Indie Goose. Essentially a Goose for all occasions! He is also frontman for The Dandos which is a more original slanted band and features Incredible String Band man Lawson Dando. If that wasn’t enough Colum is a newly published author with his freaky debut novel The Fly Guy now available.
A short doc about the launch of Colum’s new book, The Fly Guy.
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.
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