Tuesday, 24 April 2012

This post is very anal - Bass Guitar Upgrade!

I've bought myself a bass guitar several weeks ago and I love it.  I bought an ex-girlfriend a Taylor accoustic guitar for a Xmas prezzie last year and it was beautiful thing that you just had to touch.  I picked up my little bass at an aution for a fair price - £95.  It's like new and unmolested.  Until now....

My bass is a shortscale Squier Bronco.  It cost new about £165.  I've been playing quite a lot and this cute, glossy guitar feels like it is built like a battleship, but it is only a 29.5 inch neck.  Very easy to play but you don't see many of the pro's using them.  The guys play top gear so for me to fulfil my little ambition (to play a song on the bass at a gig) I think I should breath a little quality into the electrics.  It's an underdog and I want it to play with the big boys!

After a lot of research and thought this is my rationale.  My bass has a thin sound due to the pick up being a cheap 6 string item used on the Squier Strat copies.  It has to go.  I don't like the finger noise you get - especially when you are as crap as me - when moving around the fret board.  Roundwound strings have to go.  I want a rich complex sound.  These are my parameters.

So start with the strings  I have a posh set of half round (smooth) string coming.  The E is 100 size, the G 40.  These strings give a slightly mellow sound more akin to soul and reggie.  I will play rock mostly so I have chosen a powerful pick up and bright tuning pot.  Seymour Duncan Hot Rail for a Strat neck.  Not as powerful as the bridge version but still very pokey.  Physically it is very similar to the stock pick up I'm replacing so adapting the mounting plate should require minimal if any work.  Being a rail pick up the unusual spacing (short scale guitar) of the 4 strings is also dealt with properly.  Regarding the pots I have gone for high quality Italian 500k items.  These should allow mid tones to come through from the now twin coil pick up.  Ive got a vitamin cap for the tone control and it's a standardish old style 47mf jobber, £11.  The Bronco, being a solid but cheap guitar, has no insulation.  Basically, to reduce "noise" within the circuitry the better guitars have all of the electrics in the guitar screened by an earthed Faraday Cage.  I've got some thin self adhesive foil coming and that should rectify that issue and bring this element up to a professional standard.

This will keep me busy for a day or two!  Before I do anything though I am going to record the stock guitar.  I have a great camera and in addition I will measure the action of the guitar and the distance the strings of the guitar are from the stock pick up.  When I restring it I will have a base setting to set the guitar up to.

I like customising stuff.  My festival manbag is covered in patches from my travels and this laptop is covered in motorcycle themed stickers.  My bike is not standard.  Once I complete this work on my guitar it will be mine.  How will it sound?  It's going to be better because at the moment the tone of my little Bronco is just not good enough to sound interesting - it simply works.  The quality of the componants I have aquired is very high.  Professional standard everywhere so I think the question is whether I will like it and I won't know until I've finished it!

Well.....wasn't that a dull post!!!  So to finish, a band with a unique sounding bass player and a lead guitarist as good and as anyone - including the greats.  It's loud and brash but what do you expect from a speed freak?  What a lead solo, what a bass solo, drummer is a bit good too, powerful stuff.....


Monday, 23 April 2012

A Night at the Tavistock Wharf with Martin Barre

It was well worth the long drive.  Joolz (our lead guitarist) and I managed to get the last two tickets to see the Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre playing with his new band.  Those of you too young to know who Tull are would not expect such a folk/prog leaning band to have an Axeman such as Mr Barre.  He loves to rock out and the quality is excellent.  There were mistakes but  a very entertaining evening at a classy, intimate venue.  the beer is very reasonably priced and so are the burgers!

A great photograph of my pint!

The man himself.

This dude's face did not change all night.  To be honest given the complexity of the music he was required to play....mate, if it had been me I would have had a heart attack just looking at the music.

What a performer this guy was.  If you could put it in your mouth this bloke could get a tune from it.  I've had a couple of girlfriends like that.

OK that was last night.  Yesterday afternoon I was doing this with the guys.

Si, my partner in crime.

Charmaigne looking magnificent as ever wondering whether the new boy knows his knobs from his sliders.  Gary blissfully unaware as ever!!!  Love ya bro and a very "Sound Geezer".

Joolz showing the look every lead guitarist must be envious of!  Reminds me of Forest Gump.  Lol!!!!

Nice day.

So I guess the music choice is an obvious one this post.  Yeah, it is old but I still think it is fresh.  What a classic and dedicated to all those who work hard to achieve there goals whether on stage or in life.


Footnote:  If you havent heard this before stick with it for a couple of minutes.  It is not a dried up old left over from the hippy generation (i've had a couple of.....it don't matter...!).  This rocks and I watched it last nite!!!!!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Even sadder - 1 Funeral, 1 Daughter, an Ex-lover and a photo I thought I would never see myself in! - Early April 2012

What a strange week.  Isn't it funny how the past never really leaves you?  Just when you think some frustrating, disappointing, confusing and very painful times are behind you they suddenly come back with a vengeance.  More on that later, first the photos.

Yup, it is me playing a guitar.  A personal message to all the guitarists I have playfully jibed at over the years:  Your instrument is easier to play than the drums!!!!!...........still the drummers sense of humour!

We buried Wendy last Friday and it was terrible.  I took the bike and we gave her the best biker send off we could.  A power wheelie in 3rd past the Crem at over 70mph was derigeur - been a longtime since I did that!  Juvenile and naff and if you have never done a biker funeral you won't get it...there we go...  Everyone was emotional and it is so very wrong for a parent to bury her child.  Watching this frail old woman touch the coffin at the end of the ceremony was a real blub provoker for me.  Lizzy, babe, please out live me - I don't know whether, and to quote a Japanese Emperor, I could "endure the un-endurable".  If ever you wanted to do me a favour, just outlive me.
Lizzy has been spending some time with me in the month long Easter break and, as ever it is a joy to have her around.  I'm a very lucky guy.

Ok, that is the photos, the funeral now the ex-lover...  Those of you who have read this blog for over a year will already know of her.  Although I removed much detail from my blog many months ago - too painful - you should still get a flavour from my earlier posts.  Back to the story;  Yesterday I recieved a text - totally out of the blue from a woman who I love from her hair, her laugh to her fucked up and counter productive way she deals with those who love her.  For all that, she is the one for me and I'm the one for her and it is torment that will probably be with me forever.

So a text - a text full of affection and hope....but.  I wish I could just ride my bike but I am so bad at the moment and leaving the house is still difficult so I'm lumbered, as ever.  What a waste....in every way.  Fuck it. Who cares?  Why am I surprised?  I'm giggling here thinking how I would explain getting back with her to some of you guys anyway!  Some of you would apply to get me certified!!!  But I think you would understand too.

Tomorrow is another day and I have a mission.  I have not been out for several days trying to recover from my recent relapse - it's too difficult to conceal it at the moment - but I have got the band coming over tomorrow night.  I've got to go to the supermarket as I'm cooking and putting on a spead.  I have not done this for years and Lizzy may be there and so will Gary.  Ga is one of my closest friends and over the years we have supported each other in important ways.  Always loyal.  Always honest and always tries to see both sides of things.  What more could you want?

I've had enough of this post now.  So it's pain killers, a night cap, dvd and sleep.  Tomorrow is another day.  Ever seen "127 Hours"?  There are worse places to be.  If you have seen "Crazy Heart" you can believe there is a hero in all of us but that doesn't mean you get what you think you deserve.  If you are good however you may just get something else.  It is fiction but I like the optimism so who cares!  What a performance from Jeff Bridges...

As for music.....I've linked to this before....shit music but great lyrics....very apt.


......and I have toothache lol!!!!!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Sad, very sad - Easter 2012

About 3 years ago I dated a lady called Wendy.  Wendy was a social worker and in her mid 50's.  She was a widow and knocked around with a few bikers and musicians.  Well spoken and good fun Wend was always keen to smile and loved me.  I left her for another women who I fell for month before I met Wend but we stayed in touch and I swapped routine "catch up" texts only a fortnight ago.  When I returned from Europe she made me a welcome home dinner and we had a very pleasant evening drinking lots of wine and generally having a giggle.  This fine lady who supported her sick mother died of a heart attack a week ago today.

Wendy was present when my back finally gave out and I was virtually paralysed - the last day of my working career.  She would bring food and water to my bedside.

I did my self flagellation grief thing last night and the hangover today is impressive.  Considering my hobbies it is no surprise that I have lost friends in the past but there has been a lapse of many years since I have lost a mate and then it was never due to natural causes.  Bike accidents, suicide and drink etc accounting for most.  This is different.  This is a contemporary of mine; an ex-girlfriend who died suddenly whilst going about her normal business.  No warning.  Gone.  It's happening in the now.  I guess it is natural and indeed correct that we encounter more death the longer we live.  Our life clock is ticking and we all have a unique amount of time but to see nature working in such a final way to someone you know well is deeply thought provoking and upsetting.  I'm fine today; I have to be because it could be me tomorrow.  This does not frighten me.  I've had a full life.  I could go tomorrow and die knowing I have done my best with what I have and spent my time trying to do interesting things.  In this particular case however I broke the heart of a decent hardworking woman in the last 2 years of her life.  Doesn't matter what you think about that - it's the shitty truth and it can't be changed.  I feel sick.  Does anyone remember the Red Dwarf episode called "The Inquisitor"?  Watch it.

Bye Wendy, thinking of you.



Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Singer Auditions....

Boy, have we got lucky.  It was a moment of genius on my part (obviously) and the utmost good fortune that lead us to our first candidate for the post of "singer/front person" of the new band.  We are delighted to announce the arrival of Charmaigne into our band and we are very fortunate to have her.

Charmaigne has been performing for years locally and is very polished and boy didn't it show last Sunday when she joined us for a jam.  Setting the levels for her mic (SM58) gave me a insight into how powerful her voice is.  All the PA does for her is sound reinforcement - not projection.  I had to turn her right down from the desk and when you consider, in an empty room, the lads and I are pushing 400watts of back line in practice that is a BIG voice.  She sings quite deeply to.  It's a perfect soul, blues, rock voice and she knows it.  She has confidence and is a performer as well as a singer and that is exactly what a good rock band needs.  You know your on a winner with a singer when they start talking about phrasing and key changes and stuff (whatever that means).  A voice is an instrument and needs to be used correctly by the player.  When we fucked up she even improvised convincingly.  Yup, we were all blown away.  Si had such a big smile it looked like he had swallowed a coat hanger!  Nice experience.

Charmaigne agreed to join us providing we keep our future bookings to a Friday.  She is booked up doing her 1 woman show for the rest of year Saturday wise.  We could live with that - no problem.  Regarding the wider sound dynamic of the band the lads always thought we would need another player.  Whether it be a rhythm guitarist or a keyboard player.  If they could sing that would be a bonus.  There is a gentlemen who drinks in my not-so-local pub.  Quietly gets on with the Daily Telegraph crossie over a pint or 6 sitting at the end of the bar during the day.  The long hair on a gentlemen of his vintage (careful everyone...) usually suggests there is a story to tell.  It turns out that this dude used to play professionally and has played in America as well as recorded his own material.  He's got a nice old Gibson SG and Les Paul to!  This bloke obviously knows his way around a band so we are cutting some heads Wednesday this week.

The sad truth about band life - even at the very lowest level where I live - it takes work.  On stage there is no where to hide.  If you don't do the work you fuck up on stage and the thrill isn't quite the same.  Talent is a rare thing but without a certain amount of endeavour and most of all "bottle" it doesn't quite work.  Let's hope we are getting to that elusive blend so we can have some fun and do something we can be proud of.  It would mean a lot to me if I went to bed at night/early morning knowing I play in a popular, respected outfit.  Worth having a go at.

Well, a very music related post.  Usually when I put a post together I know what song I want to have at the end.  Most of the time it reflects my mood.  Today is different.  I haven't got a clue.   10 minutes later - I have come up with this one.  We played this on Sunday and she nailed it.  You must hit number 11 on the volume for this one chaps - you just have to!  Enjoy!


And here is another that we did.  That we always do.  That everyone does!  Great performance, I was a boooooooggggggie'ing and I think it was dry!