Jan 24 2012

A New Solo Album You Say??

Hello folks,

Yes indeed. It’s that time of the year again when I venture forth back into the studio to work on some new solo material for your collective listening pleasure. I’ve been tweeting about it over the last few days as work has begun here and I thought it might be a good idea to let you all know what’s happening with the new record.

During my time working on The Comedy of Errors at the National Theatre, I’ve grown rather fond of the acoustic bass guitar. I must admit I never thought this would happen as the instrument, by definition, is physically flawed. Such a small bodied bass instrument can never project like an upright bass, but it turns out that with the right preamp it can produce a fantastic and very individual sound. It took a long time to find the right bass but I eventually settled on a Breedlove acoustic from Guitar Guitar in Epsom.

I did a little test recording about a month ago which I posted to Soundcloud. The bass has a great gnarly sound and the preamp gives me quite a lot of control over how much of the fret noise I want. I want a lot… For those of you that haven’t heard it yet, here’s my demo track.

Breedlove Acoustic Demo #1 by simonlittlebass

So. I wanted this album to be very different to the previous two. By deciding on recording an entirely acoustic album I have intentionally imposed a number of limitations on the way I usually work on the solo project. Most of the effects that characterize Mandala and The Knowledge of Things To Come simply do not work with the Breedlove. I’ve decided to mainly keep the sound of the bass relatively pure (well, it’ll be smothered in reverb and delays) and try to bring out some of the nuances and harmonics that you only get from an acoustic bass guitar. So the Pod X3 Pro will be having an easy time during the sessions. I have set up one patch will I will probably use for the entire album. It has a nice open reverb, some light chorus, delay and an octaver for when I fancy a bit of extra bottom. Gone are the distortions, pitch shifts and backwards delays. For now…

It’s also rather disconcerting going back to four strings after playing all my other solo material on the six. In many ways this is the greatest limitation on the process. A great deal of my solo/live-looping vocabulary is based on the extended range the six string offers. I am having the develop a new approach which relies less on the instrument and more on my own creativity. Which is a good thing.

None of this is to say that I won’t be making full use of the awesome talent-booster that is the Looperlative LP1. Most of the sound manipulation will come from the Looperlative this time rather than banks of guitar effects. Just a few days in and I’m finding out new things about the Breedlove all the time. For example; the best recorded sound comes from playing with a slightly sideways ‘double bass’ style right hand technique rather than proper bass fingerstyle.

This is turning into a bass geek-fest. I do apologize…

So anyway, the new record is going to sound very different to the previous two. I’ve also been listening to a lot of acoustic music of late for inspiration. Dutch cellist Ernst Reijseger has proved a big revelation over the last few weeks. Apart from Jonas Hellborg I can’t think of any particular bassist that has fully embraced the acoustic bass guitar, so I’ve been listening to a lot of other instruments with similar characteristics such as the lute, sarod and bass viol. Hopefully some of these influences will filter through into the music.

That’s it for now folks. Here I am typing away when I should be toiling over a hot laptop. I’ll keep tweeting progress reports as I go along. I’m using the tag #soloalbum3 for now. Turns out my intended album title does not work as a hash-tag as it has brackets in it. Bugger. Feel free to use the tag whenever you like and help spread the word.

Until next time…


Dec 24 2011

Quick Pre-Christmas End of Year Roundup!

Good evening folks,

Thought I’d sneak in a quick blog post before Christmas is officially upon us. It’s also my first attempt at writing the blog using the WordPress iPad app(lication). It’ll be interesting to see what a hash I make of the formatting if nothing else. I apologise in advance if it comes out looking like a dog’s dinner and littered with typos.

I’m sitting here watching the excellent Victor Wooten Groove Workshop DVD which arrived this morning. Yes indeed folks, I am a proper bass geek.

It’s been a fantastic year. The quiet first few months gave me time to record my second solo album The Knowledge of Things To Come (and the 5-track Rejectamenta EP)and put it out via Bandcamp and CD Baby. When things get busy there just isn’t enough time to concentrate on my own music so this year I’ve learnt to embrace the occasional ‘gig drought’ and make the most of my time…

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As well as touring with Clare Teal and Lea DeLaria I’ve been lucky enough to play for two shows at the National Theatre this year. In the Spring I was playing the Double Feature in the Paintframe with Ben, Phil and Mark from the Duke Special band. We had a great time and it was amazing to play in such a special venue. I wrote a whole post on the Double Feature earlier this year. Obviously, the Paintframe theatre isn’t there anymore (they started tearing it down straight after our last show) but I reckon we’ll be hearing from the band sometime next year. Watch this space…

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A couple of months after finishing the Double Feature I was called back to the National for Dominic Cooke’s production of The Comedy of Errors, which opened in November. We’re currently right in middle of our run of over 80 shows in the Olivier (back in on Boxing Day!). We had some fantastic reviews and he shows are selling out so if you’re gonna come; book your tickets sooner rather than later folks…

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Aside from playing and writing I also got quite involved with the fight against Westminster Council’s plans for evening and weekend parking charges. I had conversations with the Musicians Union and the BBC. I wrote about it extensively on my site and Twitter. I even spent one rather wet night in the street outside Westminster City Hall with a load of musicians and bikers (!) handing out leaflets. I have never done that before…

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Well, having postponed the charges until January (supposedly so as not to ruin Christmas) Westminster Council has now decided to wait until after the Olympics to implement their ridiculous plans. Although apparently there are Council elections in May so hopefully we’ll have seen the last of them by then. Why anyone would vote Colin Barrow back in after this is beyond me. I shall keep you posted…

So I accidentally bought two new basses this year. First was the Fender 60th Anniversary Precision bass which has already seen plenty of action this year. About a month ago after much searching I bought a Breedlove acoustic bass. Having been playing an ABG for The Comedy of Errors I’ve gotten used to idea and actually really started appreciating he sound (if not the action!). So I’ve decided to record a new solo record next year entirely on acoustic and was therefore forced to buy one. Honestly. There was no other option. This afternoon I put the Breedlove through the looping rig to see how it recorded. This is the first demo, a quick improvisation on the acoustic…

Breedlove Acoustic Demo #1 by simonlittlebass

Well that was a long post. It’s been a great year and I’m looking forward to 2012 and all the exciting new projects that are coming up. Little Alex and Triage are both set to be doing all kinds of good things next year. And I’ll eventually have another solo record for you. You lucky things…

Merry Christmas everybody and have a happy new year!

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Sep 9 2011

The Line 6 Post

Hello folks,

Two blogs in one week?! You are lucky…

My latest album The Knowledge of Things To Come was featured in this month’s newsletter from Line 6. So I thought now would be a good time to say a few things about my effects setup for the solo project. Over the last few months since the album was released, a lot of people have been asking me how I get all the sounds and what effects I used. Let me clear that up for you…

After I finished Mandala, I decided that I wanted to further explore the world of multi-effects. I used my Lexicon MPX-G2 with the Looperlative for all the sounds on Mandala and whilst I loved some of the sparkly sounds and pitch shift effects, I couldn’t quite get the more guitar-orientated tones I was looking for. After much research online and faffing about in various guitar shops I eventually decided to invest in a Line 6 Pod X3 Pro (the rackmounted version). I also bought the FBV foot controller to give me some proper control.

The unit is dead easy to program and some of the presets (I use both bass and guitar presets) are astounding. They are also incredibly easy to tweak. I always found the Lexicon UI massively complicated and unrewarding, but the X3 Pro is very intuitive and sounds great. Each patch I program is like having access to a whole new rig and switching between sounds is fast and reliable, especially with the foot controller.

Line 6 have been very helpful and have been plugging the album since it’s release a few months ago. They asked me to upload some of the key tones from The Knowledge of Things To Come to their Custom Tone site so that other Pod users can download my patches and work with them on their own machines. So I uploaded six of the key tone patches from the album. You can download them all at the following address:

http://uk.line6.com/customtone/profile/simonlittlebass/

I hope you have fun with some of the patches. The L For Leather patch is particularly fun…

If you haven’t got your copy of the album yet, you can download it from the Music page, where you’ll also find Mandala (CD and download) and the Rejectamenta EP. I’ve still got plenty of CD copies of Mandala left, so if you want a signed copy just let me know when you order.

Here’s a little player so you can have a listen. Until next time…