Busy summer begins

My festival season began with a baptism of fire this year – a warmup show at Southampton Joiners playing with Willy Mason, The Mariner’s Children AND Emma Gatrill, three hours sleep in a Travelodge on the M3 before an 8am ferry over to the Isle of Wight festival to perform with Willy Mason before getting the hovercraft (yes, HOVERCRAFT!) back to the mainland and a train to London Waterloo arriving just in time for soundcheck with Woodpecker Wooliams for Yoko Ono’s Meltdown Festival.

Now I’m in the studio with Campbell Austin, AKA T.S. Idiot. He’s a fantastic songwriter but he keeps taking the piss out of me for having a website. I know you’re reading this Campbell: GET WITH THE TIMES, MAN.

Besides Campbell, it’s been an absolute pleasure to play with a load of exceptional musicians for the first time: Sam Walker on the multiple keyboards / shaker / cape, Anisa Arslanagic on viola and violin, Hannah Miller on the cello, Ollie Austin on the drums, Bjorn Dahlberg on bass clarinet and Jim Mortimore on bass. I’m looking forward to playing with many of them on the Moulettes recording sessions, which take place immediately after these in the same studio with the same producer (Joe Gibbs). It’s nice to be working Monday to Friday with these guys then three or four festival appearances each weekend for the next month or so – good to have some kind of routine.

Also off to Corsica Studios tonight (great venue) to support Landshapes at their album launch. I’ll be playing with Eyes & No Eyes, and also played trumpet and tenor horn on Rambutan, the album that Landshapes are launching.

Recording with Steve Aston at The Hatch

I’ve just returned from snowy Worcestershire after five days of recording with the incredibly talented Steve Aston. He normally plays rhythm guitar in with various other gypsy jazz or ‘jazz manouche’ musicians, but his original compositions break away from that style. They are almost all waltzes, many of them very slow and weighty but interspersed with volatile bursts of energy. They’re very interesting harmonically, with a definite influence from Steve’s love of the two Ericks – Sartie and Dolphy. It was great to play with the exceptional violinist Matt Holborn  and guitarist Andy Morris of The Downing Street Years (catch them live if you ever get the chance), and to meet so many members of the European gypsy jazz fraternity, everyone a ridiculous virtuoso. Check out Remi Harris and Bar Zalel here. Bar produced the album and Remi was kind enough to host us in his beautiful house.

January 2013 activities

I’ve decided to do regular updates on this site detailing my musical activities to try to drum up some more interest in my work. As tends to happen, I’ll probably just do a flurry of blog posts over the next couple of days then relapse into e-obscurity.

Last Saturday I played at King’s Place with both Sons of Noel and Adrian and Woodpecker Wooliams. I prefer the excitement of sweaty rock clubs to concert venues, but it was refreshing to play with a nice PA and great engineers and it was a good opportunity for the live debut of my new flugelhorn (the best Christmas present ever) as well as my Yamaha CS-5. I can’t get enough of analogue synths recently. I also just got a Kenton Pro Midi to CV convertor so I can send note information to them and I’ve been having far too much fun with that.

This is my setup from a recent BBC 6Music session with Woodpecker Wooliams for Tom Robinson

This is my setup from a recent BBC 6Music session with Woodpecker Wooliams for Tom Robinson

Over the next few days I went up to Ben Hampson‘s somewhat al fresco mix room. It’s a little bit like sitting in a Scandinavian sauna crammed full of gear in the Sussex countryside. We finished off the upcoming Eyes & No Eyes album mixes, which I can’t wait to send off to mastering. It’s the fourth album we’ve worked on together after Alessi’s Ark‘s Time Travel (of which we only did about half), Sons of Noel and Adrian‘s Knots and Woodpecker Wooliams‘s The Bird School of Being Human. Final touches to the E&NE album included sending a few things through my eccentric, temperamental old Italian tape echo – the loveable Melos. It won’t give you an echo that’s in time and it skips and warbles all the time but it adds so much character.

Trusty, quirky tape echo unit basking in the sun at Ben Hampson's mix room

Trusty, quirky tape echo unit basking in the sun at Ben Hampson’s mix room

After that Ben and I spent two days back at Brighton Electric recording overdubs for Rachael Dadd‘s new album. We were mostly just adding finishing touches after recording live takes in Brighton Acoustic then assembling a studio in Rachael’s house in Bristol to record the bulk of it.

Rachael plays a lot of prepared piano on the album, and so we’ve experimented with preparing other instruments to create unique and evocative sounds. This included threading wool through a harp’s strings, and creating a colourful desert guitar sound using tin foil at the bridge then doubling certain notes that jump out using the clarinets.

It’s been an eventful week; on top of all that I’ve managed to record some horn and synth parts for Peggy Sue‘s third LP, some overdubs for the debut album from The Mariner’s Children (also a Hampson/Hamblett production), do some “pre-production” and write some parts for Emma Gatrill‘s second album (and record her playing some vibraphone parts for Fear of Men), as well as rehearsing with Steve Aston ahead of our recording trip to The Hatch Studio in Worcestershire. More on that soon.

An introduction

Seeing bandmate Matt Ingram‘s personal site inspired me to finally put some content here. So here’s an introductory update.

2011 was a great year for my discography. I felt proud to play on a number of fantastic albums including bass and horns on Peggy Sue‘s Acrobats (Wichita), guitar, bass, horns, a bit of vocals, a bit of drums and even credited as ‘musical director’ on Alessi’s Ark‘s Time Travel (Bella Union), banjo, guitar, mandolin, a bit of backing vocals and tenor horn on Laura Marling‘s A Creature I Don’t Know (Virgin/EMI) and lots more.

2012 is already looking equally good as the Sons of Noel and Adrian album Knots (Broken Sound / Willkommen) will finally see a release, an album very close to my heart on which I played guitar, electric and upright bass, a bit of brass including my euphonium recording debut and a few other bits. There are loads of other things recorded but not yet released – electric and upright bass, electric guitar, high strung acoustic and banjo on a new EP from The Mariner’s Children, electric bass and a few other bits on a new album from Eyes & No Eyes, a bit of double bass for Kristin McClement‘s debut album, a tiny bit of electric guitar and the artwork design for Emma Gatrill‘s debut, some horns for Lulu & The Lampshades and my first album as producer for Woodpecker Wooliams.

So far this year I’ve played a few shows with Peggy Sue, Eyes & No Eyes, The Mariner’s Children and Emma Gatrill and spent most of my time touring with Laura Marling. Very much looking forward to a Sons of Noel and Adrian tour in April and many more recording projects – Laura Marling’s fourth album, debut album from The Mariner’s Children and some exploratory Sons of Noel and Adrian sessions. I’d like to get more into producing and I’ve very much enjoyed working with Ben Hampson on Sons, Alessi, EANE, Woodpecker Wooliams and Mariners – he’s swiftly becoming the Willkommen Collective’s official engineer.