Over the next few weeks I will be performing each weekend with Atapa who is a French musician and multi Instrumentalist and composer. I heard her album Ode A La Vie earlier this year and have invited her to share the billing and the stage with me for 4 shows running up to Christmas.
This weeks From the Vaults takes me back to a show in one of my favourite venues. Club 85 – Hitchin.
This was a song that didn’t see a release until 2012 but was performed for years before hand. I started to choose to put a loop jam in the middle of it. This show kinda went into a bit of psychedelic place and the Director of the video Mark Garvey took it there with the visuals too.
Over the last few years I have not only embraced playing piano but also busking out on the street. It has helped me through the tough times when CD/Vinyl sales dropped (with the rise of streaming) but also with the arrival of Covid and the cancellation of so many shows.
This short video is from when I was testing my busking rig out to be sure it worked and would set myself up in the forest and simply play for a few hours. I was practicing a song I’ve still not finished simply called ‘Process Song’.
The 2nd in my From the Vaults Series looks at a project I have been a part of for over 22 years.
It’s amazing that a band formed at university when I was a teenager is still going as I enter my 40’s.
We even managed to play as recently at 2020 just before the lockdown.
Working with Julia Bell and Leon Camfield over the years has helped greatly with my journey. We have at least an album of unreleased material but given our own very conflicted schedules we are happy just to play and meet when the planets align.
Also for now our listeners will have to make do with live cuts from our years of shows together. This one dates back to 2007 (only 14 years – no big deal ;). This song has been very much a part of our set since 2005 and one of my proudest compositions.
The video has become randomly patchy over the years but I’m still super pleased to have it documented.
Filmed and edited by Mark Garvey and mixed by Chris Hollis
Over the next few months I will be digging out various live videos and sharing them Via Youtube.
This is the first one: A song from my first album performed with a one off 6 piece band of Chris Hollis (Drums), Leon Camfield (Percussion & Electronic Percussion), Riad Abji (Double Bass), Vicky Flint (Trumpet) and the late great Dave Smale (Keys).
Big thanks also to Mark Garvey who filmed and edited this all those years back and to Stuart Alexander who provided the visuals for the back drop screen.
I am joined by a wonderful cast of international musicians from Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, Czech Republic and the UK.
The album was recorded live in 1 day over 2 complete performances and everything you hear was performed live with a loop station and no use of backing tracks. Performing it through was incredibly complex but rewarding and it was different each time. It really was a labour of love and an ambitious struggle to reach this point. Also it wasn’t helped that I damaged my left hand in a cycling accident 6 days before. But it all came together on the day (Just about) 🙂
It is with a heavy heart that I write this blog. Recently I spoke to friend and long term collaborator Dave Smale.
He has informed me that his battle with Cancer which has been constant over the last 3 years has reached it’s final phase. Sadly he has been given between 2 and 8 weeks left to live. He is in his late 30’s. The news keeps swishing around my brain and partly to help the process along and partly to focus on the positive (of which there was so very much) I want to reflect upon the influence he has had on my world.
We first met when Dave joined a band I was in called ‘Phoenix Down’. As was the case with PD at that time the line up would sometimes change from show to show. I arrived at a concert to be told we would be joined by a piano player for this concert. I had never met the man and so the whole thing would be unrehearsed and although I was comfortable with my role I thought the new guy may feel a little out of his depth jumping onstage with a bunch of guys he hardly knew to run the set. But then I met him and he was super cool, very unassuming and brought nothing but positivity to the night. The host (Pete) introducing us was also thrown by yet another line up shift and so he introduced our new keyboardist as the mystery man. From that point forward he would be known as ‘Mystery’ Dave.
Shortly after meeting Dave it was clear his passion and instinct as a musician was simply incredible. Not only that but he made others around him feel incredible with his constant positive support. I was tinkering around with my 1st solo material and when Dave heard it he was full on encouraging. Soon he would become the 1st member of my new ‘Solo Band’.
Please see below a video from our 1st concert as a band in 2008.
By the time I was making solo album number 3 Dave was a big part of the process and we co-wrote what would become the albums opening song. Dave had written a wonderful piano line which we slowly moulded into the tune ‘Fear Not all Your Answers Will be Questioned’.
Fear Not all Your Answers Will be Questioned
For me what was the most incredible contribution Dave made to my output was for a song called ‘Conversations’. I planned to use music to back up snippets of interviews and despite collecting the 11 interview over 3 years I had yet to begin work on the music. I sat down with Dave and simply said OK so I will hit record and we will improvise and see what we get. Dave in his usual relaxed way said ‘sure, no props’ and so we began. However suddenly the light in the room blew and we were 30 seconds into the 1st take and were sat in complete darkness. But Dave just continued to play the piano and so I kept going with the guitar, 10 Mins later we finished and never needed a 2nd take. What we finished with was far greater than anything I could imagine and for me remains one of the most important pieces of music I will ever release.
As a musician this summed up Dave well. The chops are always there but more importantly so were his skills to see and understand what would best serve the song. His ability to play just enough of what was needed without crowding a track made him such a desired musician to work with. Let alone his positive demeanour and great sense of humour.
He has pushed me as a writer and has given me encouragement which I so needed so much at certain times.
In recent years I have been having a go at learning the Piano myself and through out so much of the practice I am thinking of the man who has inspired, encouraged and educated me. Your influence has left such an important mark on my journey through music and life Dave. I would not have made so many of the things I now look back upon as achievements with out your help.
Although I have not released any new solo material since 2012. I have worked closely with the guys at Impact to write and record 2 albums (with a 3rd in the pipeline). The songs were created working with adults with learning difficulties to make original songs about whatever they felt. These included songs about Mobility, Nationality, Friendship and what would happen if you found a giant bag of crisps in the forest – As you do.
All the music is there to be downloaded for £4 per album.