Feb 18 2010

Back on the road with Maggie Reilly..

Hello folks

It’s been rather manic here so apologies for the distinct lack of bloggery. I’ve been involved with a number of projects over the last few weeks which I thought I’d take a moment to let you all know about.
The main development over the last fortnight, as those of you who follow me on Twitter will know, has been the little Danish adventure with Maggie Reilly. I drove up to Glasgow in the new bass-mobile a couple of weeks ago for three days of rehearsals. The lineup this time was slightly different and consisted of the usual core band of Maggie, Stuart MacKillop on keyboards, Gordon Dougall on rhythm guitar and keyboards and me on bass with the new additions of Ali Murray on drums and Jim Condy on lead guitar. We added a few new songs to the set this time including Replay, Echoes and Talking To Myself (which has become a favourite of mine live). I had no idea how cold it got in Glasgow compared to here in London. My Winter wardrobe leaves a lot to be desired and I found myself battling with the elements on more than one occasion. But that was nohing compared to how cold it was in Denmark…
We arrived in Denmark on the 10th to be greeted with huge mounds of snow, the like of which I have never really experienced. Apparently the Danes have not had snow like this for at least seven years and this kind of cold weather was particularly unusual, but it transpires that they are far more adept at dealing with the snow than us Brits. In fact we had no trouble at all with the roads or flights. Deep joy.
Our first show was at Rampelys. This was one of the first venues I’d payed in Denmark when I first started coming over with Maggie and it was great to revisit the place. It’s a great little folky club in Silkeborg with a fantastic Mexican restaurant underneath it. Needless to say we visited said restaurant straight after the soundcheck. It’s one of those clubs that seem to be quite common in Denmark where it is run by a society that pool their resources and bring in the acts they want to see. We were sold out with about 250 in the audience and ha a great time.
We played the Stubhuset in Stovring the following day, a slightly larger arts centre type venue with a much larger stage. The stage at Rampelys is a tad small for our six-piece lineup (it was tricky when we played there as a five-piece several years ago!), so it was great to have a bit more space. We had another appreciative if somewhat quieter audience. Maggie and Jim added in a bluesy version of Jesus on the Mainline which went down well.
We moved on to the Kielgasten in Holstebro on the Saturday. This was another venue we’d played before and one of my favourites (in fact, it was the place we played after my journey from Hell from Paris with TDC if you remember that particular blog post..). It’s a great little rock club, probably around the same size as the others (250/300 capacity) and has just the right atmosphere for a proper gig. It is a mixture of seated areas and standing so you feel far more connected to the audience. My favourite venue in Denmark is still the Train in Aarhus, which is entirely standing. The Kielgasten was definitely the best show of the run; I’m looking forward to going back there soon.
By this point the weather had warmed up a little bit, although the snow was showing no sign of melting. Our final show was at the Huset in Nakskov. We were playing at four in the afternoon on Valentines day as part of some kind of Maggie Reilly Valentines spectacular! I must admit that I was slightly concerned about such an early show but it proved to be a lot of fun and the audience were really marvelous. We had to get up incredibly early to drive down from Holstebro and catch the ferry but it was worth it. The staff at the Huset were lovely and really looked after us. There’s a chance we’ll be returning there in May for a little warm-up show before the Danish festival we’re playing.
I really look forward to the little ferry crossings in Denmark. Sad but true. This is mainly due to the marvelous hotdogs they invariably sell on board. Anyone who nows me well will know that I am virtually always unable to resist a good hotdog/chillidog and these are definitely right up there with the best. I managed to convince all the non-veggie in the band to get in on the sausage action too. Actually, Gordon didn’t take much convincing…
We had a lot of fun on this little Danish run. It was great to be out on the road with the guys again. We should be back in May so keep you’re eyes peeled for upcoming dates on my MySpace page.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been involved with a few other projects of late. A couple of days ago I recording some bass for my friends Sorana Santos and Chris Lane, aka Lyrebird for their forthcoming EP. Chris posted a little video of me recording on The Art of Staying Alive this morning. Thought you might like to have a look…

You can check out their music on Reverbnation and keep up with the progress of their EP on Twitter. They are well worth go to see if you get a chance…
Yesterday I found myself in the studio of a certain Mr Paul Pilot recording some saw for Duke upcoming tour dates and also for the fantastic band My First Tooth, who are incidentally also avid Twitterers. I recorded two tracks for their forthcoming album. Their music sounds great and Paul is doing a fine job of producing. I’ll let you know when it’s out so you can all go forth and purchase… Paul couldn’t resist having a go on the saw before I left and let’s face it, who could blame him?!
The big news this week is that I will be playing at The Bull’s Head in Barnes with the lovely Kate Eden in a quartet featuring pianist Alex Hutton and Josh Morrison on drums. Be there or be square people! We’ll also be playing The Spice of Life next Wednesday and the Ignite cafe at the Albert Hall on Friday 26th so there is no excuse for not making it down to at least one of the shows…
Anyway, must dash I’m afraid. I have sitar lesson number four this very afternoon and am in serious danger of being late if I continue writing. I hope you’ve enjoyed this post; feel free to share it all over the internet and leave lovely comments. I do as always appreciate your feedback.
Until next time x

Mar 9 2009

Back In Denmark With Maggie Reilly, March 2009

Hello folks,

I’ve just got back from three shows in Denmark with Maggie Reilly promoting her new album Looking Back, Moving Forward. The album features a great bunch of new songs alongside two songs from her days with Cado Belle and reworked versions of several of the hits including Moonlight Shadow, Family Man and To France.
These shows featured a different lineup. Stuart, Gordon and I were joined by Alyn Cosker on drums and Davie Dunsmuir on guitars. It made a real difference having both Stuart and Gordon in the band; we got a much fuller sound with two guitars which really sounded great on some of the heavier numbers. The latest incarnation of Heartsong with two acoustics sounded fantastic.
After four (loooong) days of rehearsals up in Glasgow the previous week we set off for Denmark on the 5th. Actually, I set out alone. Since I am now the only remaining band member residing outside of Scotland it is now my lot to do all the sitting around in airports on my tod. At least I finished my book. And have resolved not to read any more books by Will Self. A gig the previous evening at Pizza Express in Soho meant that I wound up staying up all night in order to catch the horrifically early flight out from Stansted to Copenhagen. No surprises there then..
Our first show was at the Teaterbygningen in Købe. The three venues were all of a similar size all were all seated. Probably around the 250/300-seater mark. We’ve definitely been to Købe before, although I’m not sure whether we’d played a show there yet. I remembered the town square, and of course the hotdog stand.. first one of the tour. Excellent stuff. We did have a rather farcical episode in a cafe when we attempted a coffee and cake stop. Having been shown to our table and handed menus we were resoundingly ignored by the entire waiting staff for the next 25 minutes, at which point we had to head back to the venue for the soundcheck. Fail.
Considering this was our first show with this lineup, the gig was fantastic. The audience really went for the new material and we got a very warm reception all round.

The second show saw us schlepping across Denmark for almost five hours to Aabybro. Which is apparently somewhere near Aalborg right at the Northern tip. It was frankly in the middle of nowhere. Although a similar setup to the previous gig, it didn’t quite have the same vibe. The stage lighting left a lot to be desired; mostly unflattering white light and certainly nothing moving. It’s amazing what a difference the lighting makes to a show like this, especially when the audience are seated. I found it very hard to get into the show once the house lights went down. It felt like the rock and roll equivalent of doing a gig in someone’s office. The guy who ran the venue insisted on us all coming onto the stage with him at the opening of the set whilst he introduced Maggie. It was one of the longest, most drawn-out introductions I have ever had the misfortune to witness; with long pauses and deathly silence between what I can only imagine were his gags. Not a great start. Luckily we managed to rescue the show from this less than ideal kickoff, but it wasn’t among the best we’ve done.

Luckily the last show was only an hour away in Hjørring. We played the excellent Vendelbohus, a great venue right in the middle of town. It’s always good when you roll up at the venue to be confronted with a massive poster advertising the show. We seemed to be following ‘Jane & Shane’ all over Denmark this time, whoever the arse they are. In the classic Danish touring tradition, the one day we arrive in a big town with shops and cafes aplenty is a Saturday when everything shuts at lunchtime. When do the Danes do their shopping? They must have to take the afternoon off work during the week. Hopefully next time we go back will be mid-week; it looked like a good town.
The show was fantastic. Definitely the best of the three. The staff and crew at the Vendelbohus were great and we got some amazing homemade food. Again, this was the first time Maggie had got some decent veggie food. The Danish really don’t get the whole veggie thing and this can cause a lot of problems for Maggie when on the road. They do however do a nice line in hotdogs and chili-dogs. So I was alright. The audience were again really receptive to the new material. I think the new album is going down really well over there and Maggie has been busy with a lot of promo appearances and interviews, so hopefully we’ll be back out there soon doing some larger venues. Fingers crossed!
We had a great hotel near the venue. This was the only one which managed to keep the bar open for us after the show. It never ceases to amaze me how seemingly every hotel in Denmark shuts up shop at about 10pm. Which is really not particularly conducive to the obligatory post-gig chill. We have become accustomed to trousering as much of the rider as possible on the way out of the shows and now have a bottle opener on standby after every show. There was a great kebab shop open opposite the hotel too, which made me very happy… But alas we were only there for five minutes having to leave at 5.30 in the morning to catch our flight home. Always the way!
Oh, and we saw these two rather unfortunately placed posters outside the venue… Classic.

So that’s it for now. Maggie has one more show in the book for the 2nd May in Belgium, but alas I will be busy touring with Clare and Lea that whole period. I think Ross Hamilton will be taking my place for that one. We’re expecting a veritable flurry of gigs in the Autumn, so do keep an eye on Maggie’s new revamped website or my MySpace page for future dates.
On a totally unrelated note, I was doing some recording with Katy at Red Gables just before we went away and tried for the first time a DPA mic on my upright bass. Let me tell you; this is the best recorded bass sound I’ve ever got in the studio and I’m going to be seriously investigating the possibility of getting one for myself. Apparently it was a IMK 4061. I can highly recommend this to any upright player; such a clear and full sound. I would be very interested to see what it does live on stage. I’ll let you know how I get on.
Until next time…

Oct 5 2008

Down and Out in Paris and Denmark (Part II)

Hello folks. Thanks to all of you that left comments and messages on Part I, it’s always good to know that you’re enjoying my tales of rock & roll calamity. And also thanks to all those of you who have subscribed via Feedburner over the last week or so. It’s great to see so many people getting involved in the blog. I had 25 new subscribers today alone (this is a record for me, I usually average around 15), which is very encouraging.
Thought it was about time to compose Part II. My memory is notoriously crappy in these situations and if I don’t get it down soon, I will have forgotten all the details. As it is, the Danish extravaganza was quite literally a whistle-stop tour and I’m finding it rather tricky to work out what happened where… I think it’s about time I started blogging whilst on the road. Expect something of a running commentary on the Duke Special Irish tour in November…
I finally arrived in Denmark late morning after the aforementioned Journey From Hell (including 1 taxi, 1 bus, 2 planes and the joyous overnight stay in the bus shelter). I was expecting to be met by Chrys and the band with our splitter van at Billund airport. As there was no sign of the van I gave him a call to discover that our van hadn’t even made it past Willesden Green. Chrys had spent a lot of time making the van more comfortable and had installed a little flatscreen TV for some on the road movie action (Pimp My Van style), but sadly the van decided it would break down before even leaving London. It turned out they had to hire a new van at Brent Cross, and Mark and Steve had to hire a car when they arrived at Billund earlier in the morning. I was met by our Danish promoter Bent who drove me the extra 90 minutes to Holsterbro. 
We were playing at the Kielgatan in Holsterbro. This is a great little venue and they looked after us really well. Which was lucky; I’d already been up for two days by this point. The stage was a bit of a squeeze, so we had to set up the wrong way around, ie; bass and keyboards stage left instead of stage right. For some reason this buggered me up no end on the gig. I seem to stand stage right in pretty much every band I play with. It’s incredibly strange to me how such a simple thing as where one stands on stage can totally throw you during the performance. I’m making too much of this really, to be honest it just threw out all my rock and roll moves which didn’t really work pointing the wrong way! The gig was really busy; it was a seated audience but plenty of people were standing so there was a good atmosphere.
We moved on to Sonderborg on Thursday. We were staying at the same great little hotel we were in last time. Don’t ask me it’s name, I have no idea. But it’s by the sea and has a windmill attached to it. We were playing at the Sonderborghus again, which is an artsy theatre-type gig in the centre of town. I do have a tendency to remember gigs on the quality of the food (shallow? yes) and this one was not a disappointment! A great little bit of buffet action was a welcome change from the deluge of cheese and speckled ham I’d been subjected to thus far that week. 
I’d had more than my fair share of technical issues during this trip, with virtually every one of my leads crapping out on me at some point and my pedal board performing it’s obligatory “I don’t like European voltages” hums and buzzes all through the week. My setup comprised almost entirely borrowed and stolen leads by the end of the run.
The show went down a storm, so much so that we were forced to bung in a second encore of Family Man at the last minute. Much to the surprise of our keyboard player Gordon, who had never played it before! Luckily, it only has a few chords…
After the show we found ourselves back at the hotel in that classic post-gig scenario we always seem to face in Denmark; the bar was shut. I really cannot fathom why hotel bars in Denmark insist on closing at around 11pm. We seem to end every night during the tour sat in some lobby or passageway nursing whatever spoils we had managed to liberate from the rider earlier on. It’s hardly rock & roll now, is it?
Which brings me on to Gadstrup. We arrived in Gadstrup (which is apparently near Roskilde) the following afternoon to met with the least glamourous of our hotels thus far. To put it mildly, they looked like what can only be described as a poorman’s Butlins chalets, directly facing the noisy railway line in a small town in the middle of nowhere. In fact, I found myself compelled to take a little photo to show you….
Oh, the glamour! Horrible, stinking, spider-infested shithole. The complete polar opposite of the previous night’s accommodation. O well, we thought. Onwards and upwards. Anyone who tells you that touring is all glitz and glamour is frankly talking shit. You can show them this picture if you like…
I got instantly bored after we checked in and went for a stroll around ‘town’ in search of a decent coffee. Fat chance my friend. It was one of the most bizarre towns I’ve ever been to. The centre essentially consisted of one main high street which had a small supermarket, one cafe/restaurant, two charity shops and five (yes, five) hairdressers. Why a town that small requires five hair cutting establishments is beyond me. Christ knows what these people spend their time doing during the long Winter months, but you can be sure none of them will be in need of a haircut.
We played a show at the Ramso Musichus up the road. This was one of those venues, apparently quite common in Denmark, which are run by a committee who get together and hire a band once a month to play in their own venue. I really like this idea, it’s something I have yet to come across in this country. Basically, they all club together and decide who they’d like to see, then approach the artists themselves. Because they owned the venue, they took great pride in the upkeep and had hired in a great sound system. 
It’s always a little odd playing these small folky clubs with Maggie. We are not the quietest of bands and it’s always a bit tricky playing the full-on show in such confined spaces. The room was laid out with a series of long tables set out for dinner, like some kind of masonic luncheon. I jokingly said to Maggie just before we went on that they were having a raffle in the break, and maybe a quick round of bingo. Unfortunately, Maggie didn’t quite realise I was joking and wished the audience good luck in the raffle just as we left the stage at the end of the set. Oops. The show was small but fun. Both the audience and the band had a great time and were very appreciative.
The biggest show of this little run was at Train in Aarhus (“In the middle of our street”). Train is a fairly large venue, which is very popular on the Danish music scene. It’s one of the places everyone plays at and it was good to finally play somewhere with a decent capacity after all the smaller shows we’ve been playing of late. You can tell almost instantly when you walk into a venue what sort of place it is. Train even smelt like a proper rock and roll venue (ie; it smelt like stale beer and sweat, but in a good way!). Nice big stage, fat PA and good lights. We knew as soon as we arrived that this was going to be the best show. It was.
We played the full-on set this time (we tend to tone it down quite considerably for the smaller venues) and loved every minute of it. Maggie’s show works best when we can stretch out with the dynamics. Which kind of requires a bigger venue. Train was definitely the highlight of the Danish run and I’m looking forward to playing there again soon. It turned out that after the show, Train turns into the clubbing venue in Aarhus with literally hundreds of people queuing around the block to get in. We made our escape back to the hotel (bar shut) and watched the carnage unfold outside.
These were the last shows this year with Maggie. Hopefully we’ll be back on tour soon in the new year with a new album, so watch this space.
Since I’ve been back I’ve been busy rehearsing with Jonathan Jeremiah and Duke Special. I’ll be touring Ireland with Duke Special in November promoting his excellent new album I Never Thought This Day Would Come, which will be released in Ireland on October 17th. The dates are all up on my MySpace page. 
As soon as I get a chance I’m going to go into solo bass overdrive as I’ve just got my hands on a new bass. It’s a Warwick Thumb NT VI (my first sixer) and will from now on be known simply as ‘The Beast’, because quite frankly, it’s a monster. I’ve just got it back from Martin Petersen at The Gallery who has worked his magic and given it the perfect setup. Let me tell you folks, it’s been a challenge putting it down long enough to write this blog post. Make sure you subscribe to my Solo Bass Podcast to keep up with the veritable deluge of new tracks that will inevitably come through in the near future!
On another note, I downloaded the new Lawson/Dodds/Wood album Numbers a couple of days ago and it’s the best thing I’ve heard in ages. Go forth and purchase people. If you order it now, you get the download version with a bunch of excellent bonus tracks, and then when the CD is released in November, you’ll receive that in the post too. Such a great idea. You can order the CD from Steve Lawson’s online store here.