Mar 24 2011

New Solo Record News…

Hello folks,

Thought it was about time I wrote a short post about this new record I’ve been working on over the last couple of months. It’s only fair…

Most of you have heard Mandala by now. Some of you might have the CD. More of you have probably got the download version from here, Amazon, or iTunes.ย So you know what it is that I do when playing solo. If you don’t, then click the Music tab at the top and have a listen ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve changed my setup quite a lot since Mandala. Both the live rig and the recording setup. I’ve now moved on to Pro Tools and my trusty Mbox 2 Mini; which has finally decided to start working with my LP1. The recorded sound is infinitely cleaner now and having it in Pro Tools will enable me to do so much more in post-production and will also make life a lot easier going to mastering. Just sold the old Toneport UX2 on eBay ๐Ÿ™‚

ps. Geek Alert!! Am gonna talk about gear quite a bit here. Sorry to the Duke and TDC fans who’ve unwittingly stumbled upon a bass geek-fest…

I’ve added a Pod X3 Pro and a FBV Shortboard to the live rig which has, to be perfectly frank, revolutionized the whole process for me. I used my Lexicon MPX G2 for the guitar effects on Mandala and got some great sounds. But I could never get the kind of over-processed synth effects I was really after and the UI was an incredible faff to get around; especially during a live performance. I’m still using the Lexicon in the effects loop of the X3. Couldn’t quite live without the great pitch shift effects (which are the mandolin-esque parts on Mandala) and those strange shimmering sparkly noises, but they’re used sparingly…

The Pod X3 is fantastic. The sounds I’m using now are definitely inspiring me to write new material all the time. The presets are all top notch, easily editable and programming new patches from scratch is actually a pleasurable experience rather than a chore. Adding the FBV shortboard to the mix makes it ideal for what I do with live looping; it’s like having a whole bank of complete pedalboards right in front of me. The amp modeling has also opened up the control I now have over the basic sound of the bass as I write new tunes.

So, what’s the new material like? Well, most of the tunes are more organic and less ‘written’ than those onย Mandala. I’ve revisited a couple of tunes that didn’t make the last album including Baliset and Go Quietly Now (you can hear the previous ditched incarnations on my Soundcloud page). I wanted this album to be very different sonically to Mandala. I’ve used a lot more ‘guitar’ effects and synth sounds than previously, and I’ve been more precious making any actual ‘bass’ parts sound more punchy and distinct. I’ve also been a lot more experimental with the recording/performance process. I’ve been looping more glitchy sounds, crackling cables and detuned effects to further remove the music from what would obviously be solo bass.

I’ve posted it before on the blog, but here’s one of the early demos again so you have some idea (sorry about the hiss)…

Glitch #1 by simonlittlebass

So far I have ten tracks completed that I’m really happy with. I’m going to continue spending time working on new material until the tunes gel as an album. I might even release the rest of the tracks as an EP around the same time. I’m finding this new looping rig really inspiring and the recording ‘hit rate’ has been much higher than with my previous setup. I’m probably going to release this record just as a download via Bandcamp, maybe adding it to iTunes etc later on. I might be tempted into doing a very short run of limited edition CD copies (100?), but I need to find a way of making it cost effective first.

I’m really excited about this new project. It’s been great working on this alongside the Little Alex material. Having the possibility of using live drums with my looped bass in a separate project has really helped concentrate my solo writing.

Exciting times ๐Ÿ™‚


Mar 9 2011

Little Alex Blog #2: The First Preview!!

The time has come…

It’s all well and good me babbling on about my new project with Steve Alexander Little Alex, but what does the music sound like? I hear you ask… Well hopefully now we can give you some idea.

We’ve been spending a lot of time jamming out new ideas and recording our efforts at Chez Alexander and we had one rather successful live session at Terminal Studios. I’ve been getting used to my new Line 6 setup and programming a whole new sparkly range of sounds, whilst Steve has been torturing his thumbs on the kalimba (see the bottom of the page!) and getting to grips with his brand new Maschine.

At our last writing session we recorded one track of live bass that we quite liked as it stood. So Steve took it away and programmed some drums with the Maschine…

Ladies and gentlemen; here is the first sneak preview of things to come:

The Littlest Alex by simonlittlebass

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Remember you can sign up to the mailing list at Reverbnation and ‘Like’ us on Facebook (that sounds so naff, but that’s what they call it nowadays). Feel free to leave your comments here on the blog; in fact you can even click on specific bits of the track and comment in time with the music. Oh yes indeed folks; it’s all very technical here.

I’ll leave you to ponder the forthcoming joys that Little Alex has in store for you. And just for a laugh, here’s the video I shot of Steve hammering away on the kalimba from the same writing session. Just watch the concentration on his face…

Until next time ๐Ÿ™‚


Feb 11 2011

Little Alex Blog #1

Hello folks,

Firstly, just to let you know that calling out from my solo album Mandala is today’s featured free MP3 download on Allaboutjazz.com, so make sure you pop over there and grab yourself some free music if you don’t have the album yet. There’s a great selection of past free tracks archived on the site too so it’s well worth a visit.

Many of you will probably have noticed that over the last few days I have been beavering away setting up a bunch of pages and profiles for my new band Little Alex. This is a collaboration with Steve Alexander in which we combine the live looping of my solo project with live drums and percussion from Steve. I though it was about time I posted something here on the blog to let you know where we’re at right now.

We’ve been on Twitter for quite some time now with both myself and Steve posting. Incidentally, Steve also has his own Twitter account now so do go say Hi when you get a chance (his username is @SteveADrums). Over the last couple of days I have also started up a profile on Reverbnation which is home to our mailing list if you want to keep up to date with progress. We’ve already had a fair few people ‘like’ the Facebook page, which has been great. Last night, and only for the sake of completeness, I gritted my teeth and put together the world’s most half-arsed MySpace page. If you feel the need to visit that one, please bear in mind that I can barely get my head around it’s out-dated and glitchy interface; but at least we have the username ๐Ÿ™‚

We’ve been busy writing new material and recording various demos at Little Alex HQ. Unfortunately we have nothing to play you at this stage because we’ve yet to play together in a proper studio with all our gear. So far Steve has been playing sampled drums in the studio due to space and noise (!) restrictions. We’re looking at having our first fully live rehearsal next week…

Now for the geek stuff. You have been warned…

My live looping rig has expended somewhat with the addition of a Pod X3 Pro and FBV shortboard thanks to the lovely folks at Line 6. I’ve hooked this up with the old faithful Lexicon MPX G2 in the effects loop which has given me access to some seriously scary sounds. The Pod feeds directly into the Looperlative LP1 which goes straight into the desk for recording. For live playing I managed to get my hands on Cass Lewis’ old touring Warwick ProTube IX which has a stereo effects loop and dual DI outputs. I’m finding that it’s becoming increasingly important to keep the bass in stereo to get the full effect from some of the more spacier sounds I now have access to.

And Steve has been working on a brand new drum setup for the Little Alex project. It’s a much smaller kit with some more esoteric cymbals so we can have access to some really interesting colours and textures. He’s also looking at adding some toys into the mix too; kalimba and baby glockenspiel should be the next additions. We’re trying to keep electronics and samplers out of the drum rig at this stage to simplify our on stage setup, but we haven’t ruled it out entirely for the future. Here’s a little blurry shot taken by Steve this week to show the kit’s latest incarnation..

Anyway. Didn’t intend for this post to be so long! Hopefully next time I blog about the band we’ll have something to play you. We’re working towards putting together an EP to release later this year. We’re hoping to play a slot at the Limelight Music Festival at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow next month, as we will both be up there for the week working on another project. Watch this space (or one of our other many spaces) for announcements of upcoming dates.

Until then..