“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” ― Martha Graham
It has made a very pleasant contrast to enjoy an extended and feelable summer. Though the nights are getting much more cool, the days still offer some enjoyable fine weather. A major contrast to last year. This image of the waterlily is what I see in the front garden pond, and always reminds me of a lotus.
A week ago it was great to have a visit from the Slovenian singer songwriter Javor Vogelnik Skerlj – (that`as quite a mouthful for us Brits!). We had met each other at one of the Drum Mantra events in St Peter`s Church Vauxhall, and he had expressed in interest in drumming and songwriting. So I invited him down and we worked on recording `Standback` – a song of his which comes in two parts. Read more →
Simon Brewin visited the studio and added some blazing rhythmic guitar to some of the tracks for Drum Travel and also some excellent bass. The recent Daft Punk release `Get Lucky` has been an inspiration, especially in terms of being a return to the fun aspects of music that goes back a while. Nile Rodgers was the guitarist who was one of the innovators of the highly rhythmic and funky style of guitar playing that characterised the early hits by Chic, and also plays on the Daft Punk album and single. Looking forward very much to seeing Nile play live when he appears at the Love Supreme Festival on July 6th at Glynde, a local venue previously known for opera.
Sometimes music tracks call for overdubs of a very specific kind and they need tailored accordingly. Working on a jazz track recently with bass player/guitarist Simon Brewin, we felt a need to add some live cymbals and snare drum played with brushes. This proved be an ideal added component and really brought the track to a pleasing sense of completion. Though there are commonly accepted ways of recording, it`s always a good idea to listen and be open to what may be missing in the way of elements, and add these accordingly.
It was great to have a chance to meet up with old friend and creative collaborator Sivamani recently in London. As he was performing during the Alchemy Festival, he was in the UK briefly. Sandeep Raval was also there and it was brilliant for the three of us to be reunited. The enclosed photo captures the moment. Sivamani has a huge profile in India, being an extraordinary and highly charismatic showman. He also has a significant worldwide following. We recorded an album together in 2001 called Drums on Fire. During the last Commonwealth Games there I heard one of the tracks – Hangfire – being played in the stadium as a preamble to the sporting events.
The recording work and development of the Drum Travel project with Sandeep Raval has been progressing very well. One of the latest tracks to evolve is called Darabuk Dub. In the photo below you can see the recording of darabuk and dumbek. Sandeep`s awesome playing technique, evolved originally from his training as a tabla player, works extremely well on these two Middle Eastern percussion instruments. The track itself has a very infectious upbeat quality. Yesterday it was further enhanced by some spectacular bass playing by Simon Brewin, who also added some brilliant funk rhythm guitar. The Drum Travel project continues to grow from strength to strength!
Some of the collaborators in creativity along the way have been very striking. One such is the extraordinary Rory Baxter from Australia, who I met originally as the talented graphic designer for Aura-Soma, but also an excellent and original musician, playing didgeridoo and djembe. Wishing to explore possibilities with a new drum he had been given for a birthday, we recorded a piece called Pemulwuy. This would become the first track of Feet in the Soil, the album released in 1995, and to date my bestseller. Read more →
World music and its breadth of expression intrigued me and this led me to my first album in this area – Globalarium in 1993. Musical collaborations with the likes of Joji Hirota (Real World), and Hossam Ramzy (Arc Music) enriched the mix. The musical direction was diverse, but resonated enthusiasm at the idea of combining the rich qualities of these cultural sources in a free form celebration. By this time Music West had folded, and out of several interested labels I selected Silverwave, based in Colorado. Read more →
Last Saturday at St Peter`s church in Vauxhall, London was the the third Drum Mantra event in which I have taken part. As well as playing drums, I had also brought my hammered dulcimer. This instrument has an extraordinary sound which was actually picked up quite well by the microphones with its thirty six resonant strings, which as can be imagined takes a while to tune up. This particular instrument was made by Tim Manning – a great crafter of instruments from Somerset, England. The addition of some excellent djembe playing made for some dynamic rhythmical exchanges and there were some exciting moments.
In this photo Sandeep Raval is programming the Maschine Drum as part of our Drum Tavel project. Drum programming is a fascinating area (see Wikipedia for a description of drum machines). First of all in the way of creating guide tracks against which you later play it offers a form of scaffolding for the rhythm. Also because the nature and variety of drum samples that are available is so completely vast, there are astonishing possibilities available within that. Considering the right feel and tempo for a track, it provides the ideal tool. How does the groove feel if we notch it up a bit? Can it go halftime for a while, and for how long? Read more →
There was a succession of gigs for Howlin` Blues, which all seemed to go very well. The Cinqueports in Seaford was a cheering start where it was great to see the landlord dancing behind the bar – always a good sign! Then on Saturday morning we performed at the Underground Theatre in Eastbourne to a capacity crowd, most of whom had never seen us before , so the enthused response was very encouraging. That evening as we were all ready to hang up our guns, we got a call asking us to dep at the Hailsham Club for a band whose van had broken down. Initially the evening seemed a little slow to take off, but come the second half the dancefloor was buzzing, and it turned out to be a very fun evening. Then on Sunday we concluded with a brilliant and lively afternoon at the Garden Bar in Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne. This was the first time we had played here, but were assured by the manager we would be back.
It may be a bit of a mystery to the idle observer as to what it is that goes on for a band before a performance at the soundcheck. It is in fact a crucial and key part of how well the gig is likely to go. It`s not just how well the audience can hear each of the musicians in the band, but also very importantly how well the members of the band can hear each other. The challenge of this of course varies hugely according to the acoustics of the venue. These come in all shapes and sizes,and there are fiendish obstacles to overcome if you have close odd shaped walls bringing about unwanted slapback echoes etc. Read more →
Rod Pooley and I have now been collaborating on a number of musical projects, and this is getting better as it progresses. The direction we were exploring on Monday was that of comedy for soundtrack purposes. Rod is able to combine a sharp and witty sense of humour with phenomenal keyboard agility and dexterity. The end result is nothing sort of amazing. I suggested the first musical idea which was called `Suss Kebab`. I explained that what I had in mind was a chordal accompaniment on harmonium, with a melody shared by zurna and duduk wind instruments to convey the image of a less than wholesome kebab outfit. `No problem` said Rod and he came up with some awesome and funny interpretations, and the parts where he played deliberately out of tune, by dint of the modwheel on the keyboard, had us cracking up. Awesome!