Archive for the Playing Live Category

Shadows: An Improvised Film Score

Posted in Film Music, Playing Live with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2015 by Gideon K

 

This was a really fun project to do. A few of us were discussing the idea of doing an improvised score for a silent film or something like that. We wanted to do something experimental. Luckily, our filmmaker friend Fraser Watson was really up for the idea. I like working with Fraser because apart from being very easy to get along with, anytime you throw out a weird idea at him, something that could potentially be really fucked up, he gets quite enthusiastic about it – which I find both amusement and enjoyment from.

We ‘commissioned’ Fraser to make a 3-act 15 minute silent short film, which he did with customary aplomb and speed. Then we got together a few times to ‘rehearse’, which was essentially jamming along as we watched the footage, talking about what worked, what didn’t, and deciding in advance a few parameters to put limitations on so that we could have a starting point. To quote Charles Mingus – “You can’t improvise on nothin’, man”.

I say jamming, which it was, but it was jamming with a purpose. We had the image to guide the feeling and tone we should have been trying to create.

 

The music on the film was recorded at a screening of the film at New River Studios with the 6 of us improvising along with the moving image. Andy Watzik recorded the whole thing on his laptop and after a little mixing, the music was synced to the film.

We were all excited by how it turned out, partly because it was quick and relatively painless to put the whole thing together, but also partly because it was an interesting surprise to see how it turned out. As far as I am aware, none of us had done anything quite like it before

We’re currently looking for more projects to do another improvisation to, so if anyone is interested in collaborating with us, get in touch.

 

The other musicians involved were (and still are presumably):

Stephan Barrett – Piano
Danny Conroy – Keys
Dan Strange – Saxophone
Andy Watts – Trumpet
Andy Watzik – Guitar

And me on bass.

 

 

The Sacred Space

Posted in Creativity, Gigs, Playing Live with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2012 by Gideon K

I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of TED talks and think it’s a wonderful online resource that makes me hopeful about humanity and mankind. I recently watched a clip that my friend posted up, about how in Jazz there are no mistakes – nothing is ever a mistake, only a failure to respond to the input and failure to accept the gift of that moment.

It was a wonderful clip.

 

https://www.ted.com/talks/stefon_harris_there_are_no_mistakes_on_the_bandstand?language=en

But aside from me relating to it from a musical perspective in terms of live performance, being in bands, or just playing in general, it set my mind wandering and thinking of live performance.

It’s not just about the band playing either.

Currently, I am not performing live in a band, but playing solo shows – just me and an acoustic guitar. However, I never feel like it’s just me and my guitar, because I don’t see it that way.

To think that playing live is about just getting enough practice in beforehand, and then playing your songs one after another until the time is up, is for lack of a better term ‘a mistake’. There is a whole range of opportunity being wasted, gifts being sent back. It is important to accept, and to take everything.

In some ways you can be more open to it as a solo performer, and might be able to hear it clearer and more directly. The audience is part of the show, the room is part of the show, the lighting, the noise in the room or outside, the time of day, season, EVERYTHING.

I’m always throwing bait out to try and get a reaction from a crowd, not so much because I’m attention seeking (that’s a given when you’re up onstage with a guitar!), but so I can get some kind of reading of what the level of mood is etc and play to/with them accordingly.

I’m always looking out for some rough edge, some unexpected stimulus that I can use in the show right then and there. I don’t want to miss something good that I can turn into something else.

For example, I was playing one venue and noticed the sound man was wearing a Bad Brains T-shirt. I got the idea in my head to play one of their songs, then and there on acoustic guitar. You could call this a stupid idea, whimsical, novelty, or inspiration. All might be true. But to me, it was a clue even, or just something I could smell on the trail to the unknown.

If I get up there and sing my songs from beginning to end, I know exactly what is going to happen. But I want adventure, and I want something fun, crazy or weird to happen and I don’t mind falling flat on my face to do this.

How I think this ties in with the notion of their being no mistakes, is that sometimes it is possible to use whatever happens in any moment as something useful and beautiful. I had a great time recently where in the middle of one of my songs I completely forgot the words. I stopped the song, held the silence in the air for a while, retried it, still couldn’t remember the lyrics, held my arm up in the air for silence, told everyone it would be worth the wait, then carried on with the song exactly at the point I’d left it once I remembered the lyrics.

I’ve had shows where this has worked, because I’ve kept the tension up in the room, and used the occasion. Equally, I played a show not that long ago, where an attempt was made and I still couldn’t remember the words (I must be getting old, hehe) and I failed to accept the moment I was in, by reacting to it appropriately.

All I aim for each night I gig is that I learn something from the experience, even if nobody else does.

The best way for me to do this I’ve found is to always be looking for how I can use my surroundings as part of my array of props in the show.

I’m not advocating going out of your way to forget lyrics or to mess up. I’m just saying that whenever I’ve found myself in an unplanned situation live, accepting and using it has always brought about the best, most enjoyable and most memorable results

Like a good friend of mine says – everything is a weapon.

“Hey, Come to my show!”

Posted in Playing Live with tags , , , , , , , on June 26, 2011 by Gideon K

Do you have musician friends who only ever contact you to come and see them play? Are you one of them?

 

Here’s something a lot of musicians do wrong. I’ve done it wrong in the past, maybe still do. I’m trying to learn from it and do it differently now.

 

I have a friend who is always inviting me to see them play live.

 

The problem is I’ve lost interest, because that’s the only time I hear from this person. They don’t take the time to ask how I’m doing or what I’m up to in life, and worst of all in this scenario, have never been to see ME play even once.

 

I’ve been to a fair few shows, show support when I can, but all relationships need give and take, and when you’re getting nothing out of it in return, feeling more like a punter than a friend, your enthusiasm fails.

 

This may sound like a whine and a moan, but when I think about the relationship between myself and this other musician, I have to reflect on how I relate to the people I invite to my gigs.

 

Who wants to be like that weird family friend at the party who is always talking about selling insurance?

 

Am I being a robot? Am I ‘Mr Sell-yourself’ all the time? I hope not. I try not to be. I’ve been making the effort to speak to people, or at least more people about what’s actually going on in their lives.

 

I’m asking from a self-interested point of view, but also I want things to be enjoyable for anyone who comes to my gigs. I WANT them to feel good, I WANT them to have a good time, because a) I’m that sort of person b) If they enjoy themselves they might come back.

 

It’s in my interest to do so.

 

The last thing anyone wants surely is for their friends to start associating them with a moan or sinking feeling.

 

I had another friend tell me ages ago she stopped looking at my invites and online messages as she figured they’d all be about band stuff. I couldn’t be upset about that because she was giving me honest feedback (although I had to take it with a pinch of salt considering how flaky she is….), but regarding the story I just gave you about this friend of mine, every time I get an invite to a show, I’m not even thinking about the show, I’m just reminded of all the other points I mention, which make me groan.

 

I liked the quote Fugazi gave in their film ‘Instrument’ which was something like “It’s not important that everyone comes to our show, but it’s important that everyone is invited”.

 

I agree with that, but then it’s also how you go about inviting people to things.

 

So how does one go about it?