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…

Nov 9 2010

It’s All About Bandcamp…

Well we all knew this blog post was coming…

In the run-up to releasing Mandala I spent a lot of time investigating the various channels I could employ to sell the album online. There are myriad ways to get your music onto iTunes, Amazon MP3, and eMusic etc and equally as many routes to selling physical packages online too. But here’s the catch; they all cost you money to set up and you have no control over pricing, availability or branding. Services like Tunecore will put your music onto a variety of digital stores, as well as streaming services like Spotify for an annual fee of $49.99 per album. Reverb Nation now also offers a variety of digital distribution packages ranging between $35-60 per year, per ‘release’ (ie; single, album, EP), but has no options for selling physical CDs and seems mainly aimed at the US market.

Enter Bandcamp!!

Bandcamp is a website that enables a band/artist to easily distribute their music directly to the public, both digitally and physically. It is well worth reading their excellent blog to keep up to date with all the new features they regularly add to the service. It is one of the best new sites to have sprung up over the last few years to embrace the changes in the music industry and the way artists engage with their audience.

Some benefits for artists/bands:

  • Easy to set up. You can have your album on sale within 30 minutes..
  • Integrates with existing website via custom urls, custom headers, design etc
  • Fans can stream the music in it’s entirety, unlike the dreaded 30 second previews of iTunes etc.
  • Offer high-quality downloads in a variety of formats. Also offers the possibility of including an instant download with physical packages
  • Excellent sharing options to place widgets and links on other sites
  • Various pricing options including ‘pay what you want’, set pricing and everything in between. Plus the facility to generate free download codes for promotion etc
  • Receive payments instantly via PayPal
  • Bandcamp only takes 15% commission on sales and has no annual fees

and some benefits for fans/listeners:

  • Listen to full tracks/albums online, so you can try before you buy
  • Know that you are supporting the artists directly when you buy the music (and not Steve Jobs)
  • Easy to share your discoveries via Facebook, Twitter, embeddable widgets/music players
  • Download music in various high-quality formats (MP3, FLAC etc)

I have been a big supporter of Bandcamp since it first started up. I know as a listener I am far more likely to buy an album download from Bandcamp than any other digital store; mainly due to the superior quality of the downloaded files and because I want to directly support the artist when I buy their music. I know of several people that sell their music on iTunes and see a surprisingly small return from sales. Bandcamp is a great resource for independent music.

Over the last few weeks I have noticed more and more artists turning to Bandcamp to sell their music. I have turned several of my friends onto the site this month. Most recently the fantastic pianist Janette Mason has uploaded both her solo albums for download. I also convinced my good friend Steve Alexander to offer his excellent Isometric album on Bandcamp. Artists like Zoe Keating and Steve Lawson have been selling their music through the site for quite some time now, with great success. Both have made use of the ‘pay what you want’ model to some degree, which allows fans to name their own price and pay what they think the music is worth (with or without a lower limit).

This is the pricing model I have opted for with Mandala. At the moment, the digital version is £5 (or more) and the physical CD is priced at £10 (or more). This enables people to pay a little more if they would like to show some extra support for the project and indeed any future projects. I have found that most people do add a little extra than the minimum price, especially for the download. I know that both Steve and Zoe have had fans pay upwards of $100 for albums downloads as a show of support for their music.

Just saying, you know…

Incidentally, Bandcamp have just added Facebook ‘Like’ buttons to their pages, which is by far the easiest and quickest way to share your favourite albums with your friends right now. Please do take a moment to scoot over to my Bandcamp page and click the ‘Like’ button under the album artwork. Even if you’ve already bought it; every little helps in spreading the word! You may have also noticed that I have added my own little ‘Like’ button to this very site recently (it’s at the top of the sidebar on the right), which will magically add you to the small but perfectly formed gang on my Facebook page if you are that way inclined…

So what have you discovered via Bandcamp recently? I’ve downloaded a few corkers recently. Here’s a few recommendations (in no particular order)

Until next time, here’s one of their lovely widgets so you can stream the solo album whilst having a look around. This is the Grande version, in case you were wondering…

Sep 18 2010

Mandala by Simon Little now officially available on CD and download!!

It’s official, my debut solo album Mandala is now available on CD!!

In fact I’ve just heard that a few lucky folk have already received the copies of the album I sent out yesterday afternoon. The postal system is obviously improving somewhat. I picked up a motherload of CDs from the lovely David at Key Production yesterday lunchtime and am so happy with the finished product.

The CD is exclusively available on my website (click here for a shortcut!). It comes lovingly packaged in an eco-friendly recycled card sleeve designed by my friend Symeon Cosburn with photos by Ary Vidot. The CD version also includes immediate download of the digital version of Mandala in whatever format you prefer (FLAC, 320k MP3 etc).

I keep getting asked about the record; what sort of music is it? Is it really just bass? So here is some of the info I’ve started sending out to give you some background…

Simon Little releases solo album Mandala

Having been experimenting with live-looping technology for the past few years, bassist Simon Little has now released his debut solo album Mandala.

Best known for his work with The Divine Comedy, Clare Teal and Duke Special, Simon has appeared on numerous recordings and this is his first release under his own name.

The entire album was recorded using solely his Warwick Thumb VI, a wide array of effects and a Looperlative LP1. Simon uses live looping to create ambient soundscapes as a basis for improvistion. He explains:

When I was 17 I was listening to the Weather Report live album 8:30 and heard Jaco perform his solo live-looping piece ‘Slang’. It changed the way I thought about playing the bass and so began my obsession with making music using the bass as a solo instrument.

Whilst I was studying at The Guildhall School, a friend introduced me to the fantastic Eberhard Weber album Pendulum. This album really opened my eyes to the possibilities of using live-looping technology to create vast soundscapes and textures as a basis for improvisation.

Mandala is the culmination of my ongoing experimentation with looping technology. Each track is a live improvisation using the Looperlative LP1.

Mandala is available now on CD or digital download via Bandcamp at Simon’s website http://music.simonlittlebass.com.

Some lovely people have also been asking how they can help promote the record and spread the word online. As you can imagine this is incredibly important for an independent release and I am a great believer in the power of Social Media. My best suggestions for anyone who likes the music is simply to tell your friends, tell your colleagues and tell your family via whatever method you prefer. I use Twitter and Posterous to share new musical discoveries and recommendations. Some people prefer Facebook or Delicious. Some people even prefer MySpace (!). One great way to let people hear the album is using the embeddable player from the Bandcamp page itself. Just click the Share button to copy and paste the code onto whatever page you’re using. Easy…

Big thanks to everybody that has bought and downloaded the album already. I’ve had some great feedback and hopefully will be getting a bit of press coverage in the near future.

Hope you’re all enjoying the music…

Simon x