I'm getting more and more useless at this blogging thing by the minute. Fantastic. However, it's been a decent 2014 so far, so I thought i'd share some highlights with you all!
Let's start with January shall we?
I started the year by going stereo. I'm now rocking two Egnater Tweaker 15 tops into my Zilla 2x12 small vintage cabinet. Being able to run stereo delays and tremolos and the like live has really given some width to my sound, and being able to slave one head into the other has opened up more tones to explore in the studio. I really can't praise the Egnater Tweaker heads enough. They do so much in such a compact package, and for the price they're a steal. Plus they look badass. Totally badass. Which is of paramount importance, of course.
I also managed to squeeze an Xotic Effects SP Compressor onto the board, too. After a few months of testing it both live and in the studio, it's fair to say I think it'll be staying for the long haul. It's a great little unit that you can just leave on all the time, and it makes everything sound better. Wonderful. I also realise that the picture to the right mainly focuses on the SM Fuzz rather than the SP Comp, but I thought it looked cool and arty so I uploaded it anyway. I hope you'll find it satisfactory. If you don't, rest assured that nothing will be done to rectify that.
Early January also saw the final recording sessions for Robbie Boyd's debut album, which I'm pleased to say is now finished and is due for release soon. Roll on the summer gigs! Here's producer Tristan Ivemy mic'ing up my rig on my last day in session... (Great selection of gear to choose from behind it, no?) All the latest details on Robbie and the album can be found over on Robbie's website at http://www.robbie-boyd.com.
Here's a pre soundcheck shot of my view at One City One Sound - a fantastic worship conference made possible by Noel Robinson. (He's just released a new album, so click on his name to get over to his site and check it out!) It was a great night, and an honour to be a part of. Plus we ate Nandos before playing. Any story that begins with Nandos has potential for total excellence.
In February, I served in the worship band at the OneLife south conference. It was real privilege to be a part of this conference for the second year running. The OneLife team are an amazing group of people who work with and seek to empower young leaders in every sphere of society. Check out their website HERE for more info on what they do...
It was good to catch up and play with good friends that I haven't seen for a while too, and to be inspired by their musicianship and artistry. Good work everyone. You're all awesome. Some mystery delegates also bought and delivered chocolates to the stage for us. Take note, people. If a musician returns from a break to find a box of creme eggs and cookies on their music stand, chances are you're they're gonna play very well. Kudos to whichever legend supplied the chocolate. We loved the chocolate. Yay.
Here's a couple of shots from/of the stage...
Moving on to March,
The month started off with worship-banding life up at the St Stephen's Twickenham church weekend away at Wokefield Park hotel. It was a really intense couple of days, with too much fun and 'work' and too little sleep. A great time was had by all.
The rhythm section of the band were asked to do a little impromptu function set in the hotel lobby. We must have done quite a good job, because people even danced(!). To save hauling the main stage rig into another room to then have to set it up again, I plugged into this:
It sounded tidy. It looked tidy. Tidy.
I now want a 1x10 cab. Really quite a lot.
I realise that this has been a horribly geeky blog post mainly consisting of pictures of amps. I'm not going to pretend that I'm ashamed of this.
Here's a couple of really beautiful pictures of St Paul's Hammersmith, where I was recently asked to join the Holy Trinity Swiss Cottage worship band to play at a healing conference. The building has 3 seconds of natural reverb. It is a sound technician's worst nightmare. But it's really pretty, so we'll let it off.
That's all for now - I've got a lot to look forward to this summer, and at the rate this blog is going, i'll catch up with you again in autumn. Ha.
So, it turns out that I am absolutely useless at keeping a once monthly blog. It was going so well. Drat.
I have, however, been rather busy since my last update. So hopefully this post will be quite interesting. Where to begin...
The October/November Robbie Boyd UK tour was a lot of fun. Thanks to anyone that came along to see us! Here's a snap from my favourite gig of the tour, the Jazz Cafe in London...
Photo by Michael Brydon Photography
Thank you also to the good people at Gibson guitars, who kindly gave me this stunning ES-175 for the tour. Here I am auditioning it at Gibson UK HQ in Soho, with a lovely backdrop of several instruments that I cannot afford, but would like to. Especially that doublecut Les Paul Jr in TV Yellow. Those things are absolutely nice.
Also in October, I was asked by the wonderful Miss Hayley Tucker to track the electric guitars and lapsteel for her debut release, coming early 2014. It was a very enjoyable couple of days in the ever brilliant setting of Far Heath Studios. Hayley's got some great tunes, its going to be a fantastic record and I'm very much looking forward to hearing the final mix when it's done. As is the way in Far Heath, a lot of emphasis was put into the perfect capture of sound at source level going into the desk - here's a couple of shots of the rig I used...
Judging by the SG Jr being on the stand, it'd be safe to assume that this was taken just before we started tracking Hayley's song 'Billie Holiday'. It's a fun tune that kind of sounds like The Rolling Stones and the B52's went to an office party and got slammed on cocktails. It'll make more sense when you hear the track!
My Egnater Tweaker 15 and Zilla 2x12 actually took care of all the tracking - we tried running the Blackstar Artisan combo in stereo with it to get some panorama on delays and tremolos, but alas, the amp's voices just didn't compliment each other too well.
Here's a shot that better details the mic placement on the cabs - this is the same setup that I used for my ReWork EP. It just seems to really work for my rig.
From left to right -
On the Blackstar... (not used in the end)
On the Zilla...
SM57, Royer R-122v, AKG C414
I can't recall exactly what the room mics were, but there's definitely another Royer R-122v in the top left of the shot which may have been used, but I have a feeling it may actually have been one of Angus Wallace's (Far Heath chief engineer) vintage Neumanns. Couldn't tell you what model. I'm still learning about mics. It's a long, arduous process. But it makes me happy.
I'm also very happy to let you all know that Paul Bell's album 'Small Town Boy' is now available, and it's a really great listen. I tracked electric guitars and lapsteel on this not too long ago. You can preview and buy the entire album at http://store.paulbellmusic.com/.
If you do decide to have a listen - be sure to check out the credits and liner notes (scroll down past the tunes on the store page...) and have a look at the musician credits. It's actually quite frightening how many instruments Matt and Dan Weeks play on this album. Also taking into account that they produced the album as well, it seems appropriate to have them sectioned and studied by the government. They're clearly onto something, and its not fair on the rest of us musicians to have to try and compete alongside such ludicrous talent. All jokes aside though, check out their production company, WeeksWeeksWeeks. They're doing some really exciting stuff with some fantastic artists, and you'll definitely want to have a browse.
YOU SHOULD ALL COME TO THIS GIG.
It's going to be a bit of a showcase gig for us, and we're fresh out of the studio after recording two new tunes, 'Pleasure Island' and 'If I Call' both of which are going to be featured in the gritty indie film 'Pleasure Island' - (the name refers to a beach amusement park).
Check out my EP on YouTube!
I'm trying to generate some more buzz around my YouTube channel as I'm aiming to use it a lot more in the coming months (tunes, studio outtakes, potentially some gear reviews and tutorials? Feel free to send me some ideas!). I've *finally* put my ReWork EP up on my channel, so if you like what you hear, please share! Have a listen below..
I believe that's all for now. I've got some exciting studio ventures with artists that I've not yet had the pleasure of working with coming up in the not-so-distant future that I'm looking forward to sharing with you all, so do keep an eye out for my next update!
Thanks for reading if you made it this far!
Next month i'll be heading off for two weeks on Robbie Boyd's headline UK tour! I'm looking forward to being in a new city every night and living on a bus for fourteen days. (Ask me again after we're done, and I don't think I'll be so enthusiastic about the bus part... but as the rest of the band will tell you, I'm notorious for falling asleep as soon as the driver turns the ignition. Even if I got out of bed five minutes prior. True story.)
Click on the poster to the left to buy tickets, and leave me a comment if you're planning on coming!
I also tracked the guitars on Robbie's latest single 'Under My Skin', which you can watch the video for below. It's being released as part of an EP which features 3 acoustic tracks to accompany it (I also tracked guitars and mandolin on two of these, 'Front Page News' and 'Dreamland'.) Click HERE to pre order it on iTunes for the frankly outrageous price of £1.79. £1.79 for 4 songs. It might as well be free! I remember the days before iTunes when £10 was a bargain for a CD of a new album. Madness.
I also played a great show with Peter Conway at Ronnie Scott's on the 17th, here's a fan-shot video of 'Lonely Tears (Use Your Imagination)' - I think the SG Junior sounds particularly lovely at the end!
I've also recently set up a home studio in my bedroom and upgraded to Logic X. It's brilliant. I love it. Looking forward to doing some virtual recording sessions and co-writing soon!
I'll leave it there for now...
It's been a while since my last post, but what a couple of months it's been! Where do I start?
On July 19th I played to the largest crowd of my career so far at Olympic Park with Robbie Boyd (an estimated 30,000 people, so I'm told!). It was also unbearably hot for my pasty white British self, and I managed to not only get rather impressively sunburnt, but also to burn my arm trying to play my resonator, due to how much the sun had cooked the metal cone on it. But I didn't care at the time, because I was too busy being a rockstar. (ha...) We stuck around for the whole day and enjoyed watching the likes of The Feeling and McFly from sidestage.
We also played to this lovely lot in the Big Top at Beautiful Days festival in Devon. However, it wasn't much of a Beautiful Day. It rained all bloody morning. And afternoon. The tent couldn't cope. We were forced to give up on the idea of camping, and head home with a car boot full of muddy gear and soggy tents. The car smelt fantastic in the morning, as I'm sure you can imagine. There isn't a magic tree air freshener in the world that could have prevented the 'au de wet festival' that I was greeted with when opening the car door the next day. However, despite the fact that I seemed to have moaned about the weather for a paragraph or so now, it was a great gig, and we loved being there.
My favourite part of the above photo is the delightful chap in the blue Nike top, right at the front in the centre. For someone posing with his hands in the air at a festival, he looks spectacularly pissed off. Someone should employ him to make demands on their behalf. He just looks like such a merciless badass.
I've also been in and out of The Church studio, Crouch Hill with Robbie and the rest of the band recording his new single 'Under My Skin'. It's been great fun to track (because it's a very guitar heavy tune :P), and I'm looking forward to hearing the final mixes soon! The bulk of the tracking was done with my 1963 Jazzmaster, with some support from the Telecaster, Stratocaster and a gorgeous 80s solidbody Gibson ES-335 belonging to the studio. Amp wise, I was lucky enough to plug into a Divided by 13 FTR 37. If you're a guitarist and you havn't experienced the sonic joys of one of these yet, I urge you to go out and find one. Your ears will thank you. For photos from these sessions, have a squint at my Instagram page: http://instagram.com/russelsmusician
(and follow me at @russelsmusician !)
In the world of Peter Conway, we were recently invited onto BBC Radio Cambridge by Sue Marchant to play a live acoustic session featuring 3 songs from Peter's new album 'Stay'.
You can listen to 'Found My Faith In You' and watch the performance of 'It Ain't Over (Not For Me)' via the YouTube videos below - don't forget to subscribe to Peter's channel and check out the album sampler if you like what you hear!
Check out Peter Conway's site at www.peterconway.net for info on how to grab a copy of his latest album 'Stay', currently only available in limited edition, hand numbered CDs.
And now for the news that I'm really excited about...
Now that all the official paperwork is taken care of and the dotted line has been signed, I am extremely pleased to announce that I am now an endorsee of Elixir Strings. It's a great honour to receive support from what I believe to be the best strings on the market (not to mention the only strings that seem to be able to survive more than two nights worth of my sweaty gig-hands!).
I think that's about it for now...
Playing to a sold-out crowd at Bush Hall, London for the launch of Robbie Boyd's latest EP 'Painted Sky was pretty awesome. When you add the fact that two days prior to that we'd performed the single 'I Want You To Stay' on ITV's 'This Morning', this has been a pretty great week.
Thanks to all that came along to the launch and made it such a night to remember, and to all who tuned in to watch us dancing around like loons on the TV.
For all those that care about this sort of stuff, I've been trial running a new rig for Robbie Boyd gigs recently. The Resonator/Mandolin combo seems to be working out very nicely. No pedalboard has also worked out very nicely too. Plugging straight into the amp has really encouraged me to hone in on parts and tone rather than whether my delays are perfectly tap-tempo-d in time. It's been a refreshing experience. Plus most people seem to like the fact that the guitar I'm using is really big and shiny. Everyone's a winner.
Also, after recently acquiring a rather lovely 1965 SG Jr (was too good a deal to pass up), I'm really enjoying the single p90 vibe. They just sound great. No frills.
Here's the video from 'This Morning' with Robbie Boyd -
I've also recently played on Paul Bell's up-coming album, produced by WeeksWeeksWeeks - more on that soon! Very fun session. Here's a clip that producer Dan Weekes shot after we'd captured all the sensible takes for Paul's tune 'California'. (NB - I very much doubt any of this will be used, it was just a bit of fun!)
I think that's about everything for now!
I cannot begin to explain how excited I am about sharing this album with the world. From a concept that was born in Nashville, to the studio, and now to your earholes.
Peter's launching his incredible new album, Stay, on Monday 24th at the Barfly - and i'm very honoured to have been a part of recording it, and a part of the band at this gig.
Stay was a real journey to record. It spent around 2 years in the studio before Peter knew it was in the perfect state to put out.
Working on the album has been brilliant. I love Peter's music, and this is a very special album - I'm sure you'll all agree when you hear it.
I've learned so much about myself and developed new levels of musicality and artistry while working on this with Peter. He's a visionary producer. Peter doesn't speak the language of musician. He speaks the language of art, vision and emotion (which at first, was extremely difficult for me to translate onto a fretboard in a live room.) Interpreting Peter's direction was a skill that took time and perseverance, but was o-so rewarding to listen back to after the takes had been captured.
I'm featured on Electric and Acoustic Guitar, Mandolin, Lapsteel and Piano Accordion throughout the record, and at the launch gig you'll be able to purchase a one-off limited first edition pressing of the album, limited to only 250 copies.
I'm sure I speak for Peter's whole band when I say we're extremely excited about sharing this with you.
Tickets are available at - http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/event/PUA2406?camefrom=CFC_UK_MAMA_BARFLY&brand=barflycamden
See you there!
For the time being, check out 'Hear Me Now' - taken from the album. If you're into it, download it for free!
The image to the left is the view from the live room at Far Heath studio, Northamptonshire.
Not what you'd typically expect to see from a live room window.
That's if the live room even HAS a window.
This, among many other reasons, is why I wanted to head to Far Heath to put the guitars and finishing touches on my first release under my name. As much as I love recording in London's dark little warhouse studios (no sarcasm intended, I do love them really!), I really wanted to get out of the city for a couple of days so I could completely focus on the music and not be bothered by anything else.
There's also no phone reception at Far Heath. Which is bloody fantastic.
This EP started off as a bit of an exercise in harmony & theory and arrangement rather than something that was ever meant to be recorded. I wanted to rework some tunes that I love and have been playing for years as chord melody arrangements for solo acoustic guitar. I was lucky enough to meet Bill Laurance (of Snarky Puppy) through university, and even luckier to be able to jam these ideas with him. They quickly developed beyond solo acoustic ideas into full band arrangements. I decided that it would be nice to record these arrangements in a way that'd best present them for sharing with the world.
The EP came together in 3 days in total, which is testament enough to the amazingly talented musos (Philippe De Hovre on Bass, Huw Beynon on Drums, and Bill Laurance on Keys) that I had the pleasure of working with on this EP. What you hear is the product of a 3 hour rehearsal with the band, one day in the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance studio recording the Keys, Bass and Drums live, and then two days at Far Heath in Northamptonshire adding the Guitars, Mandolin and finishing touches. Special thanks to Dave Holden for engineering the live session, and to Angus Wallace at Far Heath, and of course, to Huw, Phil and Bill. You're all incredible people - and you made recording these tunes a blindingly quick and enjoyable process.
There's a slideshow of photos from the sessions below the SoundCloud widget...
There's not really much else I can say about this - just that I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed creating it! If the music resonates with you, please feel free to share it around. I'll make the tracks free for download very shortly. Enjoy!
An amazing week with some amazing people. Being given the opportunity to share a stage at least twice a day with some great friends/musicians for a week is just great. Even if that stage is located in Butlins and you're getting the worst nights' sleep you've had in a while on a mattress that should have been thrown in the bin at least 20 years ago. I can't actually begin to describe how awful these mattresses were. All that was left of them were the springs. Horribly uncomfortable. But anyway. I digress...
For those who aren't familiar with Spring Harvest and what they do, its essentially a big ol' christian holiday. Have a look at http://www.springharvest.org/ if you'd like to find out more.
Led by the wonderful Lynsey Berry, the band (Dave Holden, Ciara Titchener, Ben Trickey, Bubba McCarthy) and myself led worship at Iscape, the Spring Harvest Youth venue every morning and evening for the week. It was extremely tiring, and we were all really worn down by the end of it, but it was a brilliant experience. We even managed to bust out a couple of Isreal Houghton tunes by the end of the week! (But with Ben Trickey on the MD mic, is that any surprise?!)
Although I was playing Lapsteel and Mandolin for the majority of the week, Ben and I were given the opportunity to teach a masterclass in Guitar within a Worship context. We invited the 30-ish young musicians to explore the differences between playing a regular 'gig' and playing in a worship band, as well as some common sounds and arrangement techniques within contemporary worship music. We also got some of them to have a blast through our rigs at the end. Very rewarding experience, if anyone reading this was there - please leave a comment about how you found it, I'd love to hear your opinion!
Here's a few shots from the phone...
In other news, it was unfortunate to hear of the passing away of Baroness Margaret Thatcher today. It was also extremely unfortunate to see the torrent of hatred and disrespect that appeared on social media sites afterwards.
Now, I'm no expert on politics, nor the era of British history in which Thatcher was at the helm. I have a basic understanding of what state our country was in, and some of the things that Thatcher saw fit to do about it at the time. A friend of mine summed up my thoughts on the matter in a far more eloquent way than I could hope to in my own words;
Forget the simplistic caricatures: Maggie Thatcher did some things that were abhorrent and some that were good (as anyone who lived through the sclerosis wrought by 1970's Trade Unionists using their positions to fight the so-called "class struggle" will agree.) Like all politicians she was corrupted by the power she sought to use for good, but unlike any politician since, she stated loud an clear where she stood and left the voters to decide whether or not to vote for her. She-devil or Goddess? Neither: just a woman in a tough job.
There also seems to be a large case of what The Daily Mash have, hilariously, summed up HERE.
Whatever your opinion on The Iron Lady, let's have a bit of dignity and show a bit of respect for her, and keep her family and friends in our thoughts and prayers at this time shall we?
I'll leave it there for now...
Good evening everyone! This is the first time i've ever written a blog, i'll do my best to keep it to-the-point and interesting for you all.
So, last week, myself and a few of my Robbie Boyd Band brethren enjoyed a brief jaunt in the beautiful region of north Italy. We played some great little shows in Milan and Brescia, and got some time to head to Music Manor Studios in Brescia (http://www.musicmanor.it) to lay down a new tune which will be hitting iTunes soon. Big shout out to our tour manager and owner of Music Manor, Mauro, for being such a legend all week. It's always an enjoyable experience playing overseas, but I particularly love the Italian ethos of eating, drinking and gigging late into the night. For the most part, we'd soundcheck, eat, drink, eat some more, and maybe be starting our set by 11pm if we were lucky - and this was the time that the venues were the busiest! Brilliant.
It was great to play at Zog Bar in Milan again (they serve these absolutely GIANT cocktails. Lethal.), always a great crowd there - and it was cool to get to hang out with Francesco Sàrcina (frontman of Italian band 'Le Vibrazioni') again. He's literally more rock and roll than the Rolling Stones. It's outrageous. What a guy.
I had my international debut as a bassist in the Blue Jeans venue in Brescia. Great fun. It's funny how learning a set on an instrument you don't normally play deepens your understanding of the compositions as a whole. Especially with bass - if you don't know the changes inside out, you're going to have a bad time, and its probably going to sound a bit awful. That's not to say I didn't make some mistakes. If anyone's got any video from that gig, i'm certain there's a few 'interesting' root notes being thrown into the mix!
Plus, Italians know how to do coffee. Seriously. Italian coffee will change your life. Mornings will never be the same again. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Here's a couple of snaps from my phone...
Here's the fantastic Peter Conway soundchecking at our headline gig upstairs at The Garage, Islington the other night. It's always a pleasure playing in Peter's band. Great music, great musicians, great fun. Thanks to all who came down. If you weren't there, why not check out Peter's SoundCloud? There's a couple of free downloads on there, including 'Hear Me Now' taken from the forthcoming album 'Stay', featuring myself on Lapsteel.
Go on. It's free. You know you want to. You know you want the tunes. You can't resist them. Face it, you're practically clicking the link now. You can't help yourself. It's like a reflex isn't it? Don't worry. It happens to the best of us. Its okay.
Also, don't forget to like Peter's Facebook page to keep up to date with gigs, releases, tours, etc etc.
April is looking like a busy month. Starting with a week's worth of playing Lapsteel at Spring Harvest, Skegness (http://www.springharvest.org/) with Lynsey Berry leading worship. Really excited about this. I'll be playing alongside some fantastic musicians and friends, and no doubt witnessing God do some really amazing things.
You should all have a listen to Lynsey's music too. She's a real talent, and is releasing her second EP very soon! (get the first one too, because I played the mandolin and lapsteel on it!) Check her out here; www.lynseyberry.com
Sticking with the church vibe, you can catch me every Saturday morning at Wimbledon International church, doing my best to keep my head above water with some incredibly talented musicians. The church is putting on a seven-week series with the emphasis on Heroes, and finding personal identity. If that sounds good to you, pop along! I'll also be found in the worship bands at both St Mary's, Marylebone and St Stephen's, Twickenham on varying Sundays of the month.
Perhaps the most exciting part of April though, is going to be heading to the studio with Bill Laurance from Snarky Puppy, to record some tunes that Bill and I have been working on. It's gonna be nuts. I'll be working with some great friends/musos on these tunes, and I can't wait to show you all the results. For anyone that doesn't know who Snarky Puppy are, check this out;
There you go. Is your mind blown? Thought so.
I'll leave it there for now I guess!