Sunday, 30 January 2011

More gear?

On Friday I bought another leather jacket and another fuzzbox. Mid-life crisis ahoy! Well, I needed a lightweight leather jacket - mine are all proper winter-wear, and from experience of gigging in them, they are not very suitable for stage wear, except for 10 minute sets. The Primevals set looks like being over an hour, which is a bit of a stretch. My treasured Ibanez Tube Screamer needs a little TLC : I hope it is that my earlier solder fix for the battery connector needs repair as opposed to something else. But I saw an AXL TOD-9 overdrive, at a really good price, and it's good to have a spare. 

I managed about 6 hours playing over the weekend, which was good. One more tune added to the list (Long Screaming Slide). Ready now for a  few hectic days away working, then rehearsing on Thursday. I'm hoping we'll have confirmed dates soon, both for the tour and for something local.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Lightweight!

When I was playing in the Primevals the first time round, in 82-84, I used heavier and heavier guitar strings to try to get away from breaking strings as frequently as I broke strings. Rehearsals, gigs, even soundchecks sometimes. I went up through the gauges- the heaviest I used were 14s. Some of the guitars I had back then (a Danelectro in particular) didn't like heavy strings. I sold that because it was likely to come apart in my hands. But part of my shtick back then was to hit the guitar really hard - it really does make a different sound when hit hard. And some of the earlier Primevals songs need a real strong arm on the guitar to make the whole thing ring. I didn't bring my wrist into play much at all for strumming. I can still freeze-frame the moment near the end of a set at Strathclyde Uni when one huge strum/clang went wrong and lifted most of my right index finger's nail off on the E of my Les Paul. As I saw the nail fold and flap, I thought "that's going to sting in a bit". I finished the set, and then spent ten minutes with my hand in the ice bucket backstage. I vaguely recall gaffer tape being part of the maintenance * protection regime until the nail grew back. 

When I left the Primevals (for the first time) in Feb 85, I did my best to improve my technique, and moved down through the gauges. I rejoined later that year to help out while the band was "between guitarists". I ended up staying for 6 months, recording a Kershaw session, recording the second album (Soundhole, produced by Richard Mazda who also produced The Fleshtones & Wall Of Voodoo amongst many others), and of course doing a bunch of gigs. I had worked down to 11s, and wasn't breaking as many strings. By then I owned better guitars - a Les Paul, a Telecaster, and a Gretsch Double Anniversary (which was the prettiest guitar I have ever owned. Shame it wouldn't stay in tune). I left the band before they headed off for 6 weeks round Europe. Round about this time I read an interview with James Burton - I loved his sound - and he was asked "What advice would you give to young guitarists?" He replied "Use lighter strings". So I tried 9s, and found that the guitar behaved differently - you can't ding it as hard because the strings will just fly off. So I learned a lot about dynamics of playing, and since 1986 I have played 9s on all my guitars. I haven't broken very many strings, even though they are light-ish. 

*dramatic music*

Now I'm playing Primevals tunes again, I was thinking about hitting the guitar harder and also about how there is more clang and twang with heavier strings. So I've re-strung my Tele with 10s. It is MUCH louder when played acoustically. The strings took longer to settle in to tune, but I'm looking forward to trying them out through the Twin Reverb tomorrow. I'm glad I worked my pads up before starting this upgrade. But now I need to restring the Strat (other guitar for the tour) with 10s as well - the spring whammy bar may need both jiggery and pokery to settle this. And I'll need to buy more spare strings. I'm sure that there will be an audible difference at the next rehearsal - it will all be worthwhile. 

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

One more cup of coffee

When I got in from rehearsal last night I spent an hour going over what we had done, anlaysing what I had played and what parts need more work. A couple of slide things were good ideas that need better execution - I can fix that. I've simplified a few parts, rhythmically, and changed some others to leave a little more space. Eno's definition of "an arrangement" is "some of the band stop playing" - there is the temptation to keep battering the guitar, partly because it is good fun. Most of the ideas worked- one didn't, so I'll abandon that, and there's another one I will take further by playing even less in the verses of that particular song. The other parts will be improved by regular practice, and I can do that this week.
 
So we've got 29 songs on the slate - after the next rehearsal I think they will all be giggable. (It's not just me that has a vote, obviously, but we can all hear that there is hard work going on away from the rehearsal room). If we still knew bands who were gigging regularly we'd be asking for a half-hour support slot somewhere before the end of February to see how they really work. We've made some calls.  

Monday, 24 January 2011

New room, no dates fixed yet

We had a good rehearsal tonight, in Lo-Fi. Pretty good room, but a bit too ringy for me.

The French promoter has been in touch, with proposed dates but nothing finalised yet. The London & Brighton dates are also pencilled in. We'll all feel better once they are contracted.

Tonight's tunes -
Eternal Hotfire
Prairie Chain
Fertile Mind
See That Skin
Fire & Clay
Saint Jack
Fluorescent Statues
Venus Discovered
Justify
I Don't Feel Free
Wicked Willow Blues
Sister
Bones Are Buried
Someone To Love
Stream Of Life
American Road Trip
and the brand new one, from Goffin & King - I Happen To Love You

17 tunes, no major cockups, several where we were fine-tuning arrangements.

Next week (depending on my work location) we will easily cover the remaining 11, and also look at a few that need a bit more arrangement. Wicked Willow Blues, Fluorescent Statues, and Justify are all close but need a little more work on the guitar parts particularly for them to stand out.

Next - some gigs.

I plan to use the Telecaster - it felt and sounded good tonight, but I think for the extra clang and twang I'll need to move up from 9s to 10s. For ease of work, I'll do the same on the Fernandes Strat that will be my other guitar for the tour.

Working working working

Monday, 17 January 2011

whoosh

We rehearsed the following songs tonight -
Fluorescent Statues
Pauper's Grave
My Emancipation
Someone to Love
American Road Trip
Stream of Life
Ho Chi Minh City
DT Blues
Elixir of Life
Spiritual
One Sweet Drink
Looking So Clean
Have Some Fun

Pretty solid rehearsal, and next week we will add some more tunes (probably Burden Of The Debt, others TBD) and do more arranging - where we have more sections with different/fewer guitar parts.

Michael played guitar on a few, which is always good. Now - a beer, and some Ike Quebec to relax.

Ding! Ding! Round 2

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Who's counting?

Playing today was good fun - I focussed first on the half-dozen newest ones so I had a handle on them. Then I put the ipod playlist of the current pool on shuffle so that I didn't get stuck in only knowing them in the sequence I rehearsed in.

I've played through the 29 songs that are the current candidates. I have played each of them at least three times today, with several getting repeats as I try to work out/sharpen up sections. This is the most guitar playing I've done in years. Probably the last time I played every day for more than a few days was when I was playing in a band which did Thelonious Monk tunes. That really sharpened up my playing.

I've still got a list for more work - 2 of the newest ones will require some more work with all the band, but at least I've got some ideas of what I could do. I probably won't play much tomorrow, as we've got a house full of guests, which will be lovely. Chances are I'll make half an hour in the morning to go over the stickier tunes before getting the preparations started. I also need to start a list of notes for each song - who starts, who solos, any odd bits to remember, how it ends, slide or not, any particular guitar sound. I'll start that before Monday's rehearsal then update it as we go. Last week we were just trying to get through the tunes without bumping into each other. This week we need to start tightening and improving. Which we will.

I've not had proper guitarist's pads for a long long time - my fingertips are toughening up nicely. Now time to relax with Match Of The Day and a cup of tea.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Woodshed

I've spent 2 hours tonight learning songs from Disinhibitor, the new album. They are all pretty much there, but 2 will need some band rehearsal to work out how we all want to play the various guitar parts - blast through as simply as possible? Make some space ? Time now to chill with a large glass of red wine and some Horace Silver.

And as I did that, I got an email with suggestions for some more additions -
Spiritual
One Sweet Drink
Highway
Looking So Clean
Have Some Fun

So I'll need to learn (in some cases re-learn) them over the weekend.

BACK TO THE WOODSHED!

What's next?

The 12 songs to focus for the next rehearsal are -
Pauper's Grave
Fluorescent Statues
My Emancipation
She's All Mine
Someone To Love
American Road Trip
Stream Of Life
Venus Discovered
Ho Chi Minh City
D.T. Blues
Elixir of Life
Primeval Call
 
I will try my Telecaster at the next rehearsal - I think it will have a suitable amount of twang & clang for what we need.
 
I'm expecting that as well as these, we will be doing a bit of fine-tuning of the ones from last time, and maybe a couple of new songs or garage covers.  
 
 

Monday, 10 January 2011

How was it for you?

I'm home after 3 hours of enjoyable hard work. We covered a lot of ground, busked our way through a couple, didn't get too lost in anything, had a few laughs as well as working through some good ideas. I'm enjoying a pie and a Furstenburg. "Dr" Gillian Mckeith would not approve, but it works for me right now.

We had agreed 9 as the ones to focus on tonight. We played -
Eternal Hotfire
Fertile Mind
See That Skin
Fire & Clay
Saint Jack
Prairie Chain
Fluorescent Statues
Venus Rediscovered
Justify
I Don't Feel Free
Blues At My Door
She's All Mine
Wicked Willow Blues
Sister
Early Grave
Bones Are Buried
Primeval Call

17 tunes with 2 guitarists who hadn't met until tonight and were getting in and out of each other's way, as guitarists do. I'm playing most of the slide, Martyn is playing most of the wah-wah / feedback.

A fruitful night's work.

Working hard

Spend! Spend! Spend!


Getting ready for tonight's rehearsal, I have invested my projected tour income at GuitarGuitar. A spare slide, a new guitar strap, and ear plugs - Paul is a much louder drummer than the drummer in the Beat Poets, so I think I'll try these to see if they protect my hearing.



Friday, 7 January 2011

Mobile update

This entry is as much a proof of technology as anything else - I've re-strung 3 guitars, cleaned out my gig bag, put fresh batteries in the fuzzbox and checked I have too many spare sets of guitar strings.

I have also run through the 9 songs for the first rehearsal, made some notes on what I need to clear up, and I'm now switching off all technology (once I have checked that this mobile post worked)

Update - although the battery was new, the connector for the battery has come apart. So tomorrow I'll be off to Maplins to buy a replacement part and solder it. Better to find out that it is old and tired now as opposed to during the first gig.

Back in the saddle

I'm a guitarist. For 25 years, I've played in The Beat Poets, taking our brand of surfing instrumental rock & roll wherever we can. We've released records, supported our hero Dick Dale, been on TV and radio, and had a great deal of fun. The Beat Poets are on myspace at http://www.myspace.com/originalbeatpoets.

Before I formed the Beat Poets I played guitar in The Primevals, helping form the band in 82, finally leaving in late 85. I have pretty much managed to intertwine the Beat Poets with a regular job, which would have been pretty much impossible with the level of gigging that the Primevals were doing in 86.

I've kept in touch with the guys down the years, and Big John Honeyman from the band has played bass in the Beat Poets for the last 15 years or so. I have helped out at a couple of Glasgow gigs when they were short-handed, including a great night supporting the Nomads in 2002.

I got a phone call last week asking if I would like to play guitar with the Primevals on a French tour in April, with a London gig on the way south. After a wee while to think about it I said yes. It'll be a week's holiday from work, and a last (?) chance to tour Europe. I played in Paris with the Primevals first time round, in January 85. France has always been supportive of the band, with several albums released on New Rose.


Primevals backstage in Paris January 1985.

I thought I'd start a blog to record how I get on.