Archive for the 'Tour' Category

Two (and a half?) gigs in July

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

I will be making a couple of concert appearances at the end of July along with my friends The Pirate Twins. It’ll be a short electronic set featuring some 80s classics and (possibly!) a sneak preview of a brand new track from my upcoming album A Map of the Floating City. The lineup will be:

TMDR — keyboards and vocals

Andrew Down — keyboards

Darren Goldsmith — bass, synth

Mat Hector — electronic drums and samples

Here are the dates:

July 27th or 28th — Possible ‘secret’ public dress rehearsal at a venue in or near London. The other two are quite expensive so if you prefer, you can attend our last rehearsal in an intimate setting. I’ll probably be stopping and starting as I did at the Union Chapel.

July 29th — Vintage at the Southbank, Royal Festival Hall, London

This is part of a 3-day festival encompassing several different eras of music and culture. It’ll be hosted by Martyn Ware of Human League/Heaven 17, and also features Alan Wilder (ex-Depeche Mode)’s band Recoil.

July 30th — Green Gathering 2011, at Chepstow, Monmouthsire

Formerly known as BGG, this is a long-standing summer festival event that celebrates alternative energy and lifestyles. We’ll be playing on a stage powered entirely by renewable energy, and the following day (July 31st around 1pm) I’ll also be giving a short talk about my solar-powered lifeboat studio. I’m looking forward to camping with a couple of my kids for the weekend and checking out the cool innovations and wacky outfits!

Feels like it’s time to warm up my gig chops and start thinking about a full scale tour! I expect to be doing around 20 shows in  the US and a half dozen in the UK before the end of the year. I’d love to also visit Australia, Japan and Europe, but this depends on a number of factors.

 

 

Get ready for TEDx Aldeburgh Music on Nov 6th

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

On November 6th I’ll be hosting an exciting TEDxAldeburghMusic event at the Snape Maltings in Suffolk, UK, home of the Aldeburgh Music festival, featuring an excellent lineup of performers including Imogen Heap, William Orbit, Martyn Ware, Tim Exile and Tod Machover.

I’ve written a lot about the TED Conference here over the last few years, but in case you didn’t know, I’m TED’s music director, which means I help select and book the musical performers for the events, as well as providing the House Band. TED now has two regular annual events, the main one in Long Beach in Feb/March, and TEDGlobal in Oxford in July. A year ago we launched TEDx, ‘an independently organised TED event’, which enables any community or venue to stage their own mini-TED conference, within certain guidelines. TEDx events must be not-for-profit, and can use a quota of pre-recorded TED talks; but you must bring in your own speakers, video their talks, and send the results back to TED.com for possible inclusion on the main site. There has been an astonishing response to TEDx program over the last year with over 1500 events taking place all around the world.

Aldeburgh Music is an organisation that hosts the Aldeburgh Festival of mainly classical music. It was set up in the 1950s by composer Benjamin Britten and tenor Peter Pears. My mother was the first secretary of the Festival, when the audience was about 100 people and it took place in the Jubillee Hall in Aldeburgh. As it grew, a new venue was selected: The Maltings at Snape, a beautiful disused industrial building complex set in the reed marshes on the upper reaches of the Alde river. I have a family connection there too—my great-great-grandfather was the brewer Newson Garrett who built the Maltings in the mid-nineteenth century where his company loaded malt onto Thames sailing barges bound for London and the Continent. So I’ve been going there for as long as I can remember, and Kathleen and I got married there in 1988. I even remember watching its huge roof burn in a terrible accident one night in 1968. It was subsequently rebuilt, and is now better than ever, housing the Britten-Pears Music School, as well as several peripheral buildings including the newly completed Hoffman Building which is used for extra activities such as Faster Than Sound, a series of experimental electronic music events, performances and installations. The expansion has been brilliantly masterminded by Aldebugh Music’s dynamic CEO Jonathan Reekie.

As I’m now living close to Snape again with my family, Jonathan and I had been thinking it would be nice if I could get involved in Aldeburgh Music in some way. Keen to grow Aldeburgh’s scope beyond just performance of music, he was very interested in TED, and when the TEDx program started up it seemed like an ideal opportunity to put together something that might even turn into an annual event. So the idea for TEDxAldeburghMusic came about. Joana Seguro, who produces the Faster Than Sound series and runs multimedia company Lumin, was engaged as Producer, and the three of us began lining up speakers and refining the theme. After a few months of planning we settled on a date and a speaker lineup.

So I’m pleased to announce that on Nov 6th TEDxAldeburghMusic will take place at the Snape Maltings, Suffolk. It will be a day-long, all-music themed event, featuring live talks and performances by Imogen Heap, William Orbit, Tod Machover, Louis Lortie, Martyn Ware, Tim Exile, United Visual Artists, David Toop and others. You can read their biogs here. As is always the case with TED events, speakers have a maximum of 18 minutes onstage, which means that during the course of the day the audience will witness a rapid-fire succession of brilliant speakers and performers, with a diverse range of wild ideas that will hopefully blend into a coherent theme. The main areas covered will be the creative process; music software and hardware tools and techniques; music in the community; and the future of the music business itself. Mixing up talks, live music, demos and video, along with some of the musical higlights from the last few years of the main TED Conference, I’ll be introducing the program and (hopefully) tying it all together. It promises to be a great day.

The proceedings kick off at 10am and last until 5pm or later. TED events are very interactive, so bring your friends or make new ones. It’s perfectly ok at TED to continue and expand the ideas presented onstage via conversations with complete strangers in the foyer or in the lunch break. Tickets are a very reasonable £20  (£15 if you’re under 27) and you can buy them here.

More information at:

http://www.aldeburgh.co.uk/events/tedx-aldeburgh-music-ideas-worth-spreading-conference

see you at the Maverick Festival gig July 3rd

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

On Saturday July 3rd at 7pm I’ll be playing a fun gig at the Maverick Music Festival in Easton, Suffolk, UK. I’ve formed a temporary band called The Toad Lickers and we’ll be playing a short ~1/2 hour set to celebrate the release of the ‘Amerikana’ EP. It’s quite appropriate as this is an Americana music festival. It’s a relaxed and upbeat affair that takes place on a working farm, with several stages featuring great roots American and ‘Country And Eastern’ bands and singer songwriters. It’s in its third year and is run by my friend and neighbour Paul Spencer, long time music video documentary producer (and former drummer with the Alex Harvey Band!) On the surface I’m an unlikely person to play a barn dance with linedancing picnickers in cowboy hats, but actually if you’ve read the lyrics to ‘Toad Lickers’ from the EP you’ll know it’s not quite such a stretch! In fact, I’m going to be shooting a video earlier that day, so if you do make it and would like to be an extra, make yourself known.

You can get a one-day ticket to the event for £25 – either online via ticketweb.co.uk (probably not ready till next week) or by phone from NAC on 01603 660352.

I mentioned Maverick in an interview with the Bob Harris show on BBC Radio 2 which will air in the early hours of this Sunday morning (June 26th) around 12.15am. We’ll be rehearsing at Kevin’s later that day, taking a 2-hour break to watch England v Germany. We’ll try to put together another rehearsal on July 2nd, but that’s it. So it’ll be somewhat less spontaneous than the Union Chapel gig in February, but not a lot! I won’t have a big synth rig, so don’t expect pyrotechnics. It’s an organic, low-budget affair, with a tight stage, but the band lineup should be as follows:

drums: Justin Hildreth
bass: Matthew Seligman
guitar: Kevin Armstrong
fiddle/banjo: Aaron Jonah Lewis
pedal steel: BJ Cole
backing vocals: Barbara Ann Spencer (Paul’s wife!)

Nick Sinclair took some really nice pics to help publicise the event. I got to pose with this gorgeous 1930s Indian motorcycle:




my new alter-ego: The Lost Airman

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

A bizarre character called The Lost Airman dropped in on a London gig Saturday night by Evelyn Evelyn, Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley.

And who was that masked man? The audience gasped as he tore off his false ‘tache and eyebrows, popped out the zombie contact lenses, and shed the Galliano coat; then Amanda said “It’s Thomas Fucking Dolby!” And the audience (mostly under 40) didn’t know who the hell Thomas Dolby was either. Never mind, I thought, and launched into an impromptu ‘New Toy’, which I wrote for the original, seldom-credited punk cabaret diva Lene Lovich. Amanda took a good long sniff of her armpit and blasted out a great version of the song, as Jason strummed.

Here’s a fan video clip of the song, which we managed to pull off without bass and drums.

Many thanks to @karohemd for the pics!

'Sputnik Mania' opens in NY this weekend

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

I’ll be flying to New York this weekend to join David Hoffman at the premiere of his feature-length documentary about the launch from the USSR 50 years of the first man-made satellite in space. If you’re around please come! It’s a terrific movie, and terribly relevant to today.


Sputnik footnotes

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

I need to correct or append to a few things in my blog about the Sputnik performance:

1. I said that David Hoffman ‘let me use footage’ from his feature documentary, but this was understating it. David and I have been friends for years, involved with several creative projects together, and we often support each others’ work. He showed me work in progress on ‘Sputnik’ and I gave him my encouragement and constructive feedback. It is a measure of his confidence in the quality of his own film that he allowed me access to the content and gave me a carte blanche to adapt it and use it in my performance. I am very flattered that he felt comfortable putting his work in my hands, knowing that I would create a different type of experience, and one that possibly he wouldn’t have made himself. In practical terms, it came down to this: I loaded his ~90 minute film, took out all the narration and current-day interviews (other than one clip of Kruschev’s son); selected the passages that I thought were most effective visually; and trimmed those down, until I had a concise 30 minute piece. Yet it would never have been possible without the many months of hard work David and his team had done to acquire the footage, make shot selections and cuts, and sequence them in a coherent way to tell the story. The point of view we represented at the ICA, perhaps a European point of view, was a different slant from David’s. As important as it was to David, 1957 was a pivotal moment, in a different way, to the Radio Science Orchestra, who have a special world-view that is an homage to their musical and cultural heroes, but with more than a touch of irony. The loungy flavour of their arrangements is very tongue-in-cheek, as evidenced when Bruce Woolley sings ‘Autumn Leaves’ over the disastrous US rocket launch at Cape Canaveral. We chose to play the theme from ‘Thunderbirds’ because the young Gerry Anderson was so inspired by the Russian space program. This was pointed out by our narrator Ken Hollings who has a unique and quirky take on 1950′s history which is witty and dry, and very valid in its own right. But I urge you to seek out David Hoffman’s ‘Sputnik Mania’ which tells the whole story much more comprehensively, explaining its place in 20th century history while making us think of parallels with 9/11 and today’s world. This is the way David intended it. On March 14 2008, at the IFC theater in New York City, ‘Sputnik Mania‘ opens for three-week run. If you’re anywhere in the area please go down and see the film, which is terrific. Thanks again David for the gift of your film.

2. About the Russian duet: a few people have asked me if it will be available in any other form. I think this is very unlikely, but as I often re-use pieces and themes, you never know. The song, by the way, was a co-write by myself and Melissa Jordan—known on the Forum as merujo. I composed the music and sang kind of mumbled lyrics in English; Melissa took the vocal melody and composed original lyrics in Russian to fit my phrasing, which was a considerable achievement. She even sang them for me in Russian and sent me back a demo, which surprised me as I never knew she had such a lovely singing voice! So it was remiss of me to refer to it as a Russian ‘translation’, as Melissa’s contribution was more as a lyricist.

3. I owe a debt of thanks as well to Lindon Lait and his friend Keith Handscombe, who put in many hours converting and compiling the three video recordings from the ICA into a single file format on an external hard drive. The clips are now on YouTube by the way! Here.

'Sputnik And Beyond' video online

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

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(top to bottom: Bruce Woolley; Thomas Dolby; Ken Hollings and Lydia Kavina)

On Oct 3rd 2007 I took part in a performance entitled ‘Sputnik And Beyond’ at the ICA in London, along with The Radio Science Orchestra. You can download video of the concert at the bottom of this blog entry.

This was a one-off concert to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 1, the first man-made satellite successfully launched into space. My friend David Hoffman, a documentary filmmaker, had recently premiered his full-length movie ‘Sputnik Mania’ (previously entitled ‘The Fever of ’57) and he was kind enough to allow me to use footage and entire edited sequences from his film, to project at the ICA. The Radio Science Orchestra arranged and performed a live soundtrack, with commentary provided by pop culturist/DJ/sci-fi writer Ken Hollings.

The RSO is a UK-based electronic collective, on this occasion consisting of musicians:-

Bruce Woolley (Theremin and ring modulator)

Lydia Kavina (Theremin)

Joy Smith (Harp, Dulcimer)

Andy Visser (Flute, tenor and baritone saxophone, keyboards)

Kit Woolley (Moog Voyager and ring modulator)

….also guesting (on ‘Thunderbirds’) were my UK horn section:

Kevin Robinson—trumpet

Fayyaz Virgi—trombone

Ian Kirkham—sax

We put the show together very hurriedly, in the couple of days off I had between my autumn US and UK tours. It features some original music, a few covers, a little Debussy, and some ‘recycled’ film score music from my other movie projects. For the duet by me and Bruce, I wrote music and some lyrics in English that were kindly translated into Russian by Melissa Jordan. The goal was to showcase the idea of a live Sputnik performance, with a view to interesting some promoters, arts centres, museums, universities etc in a larger scale Sputnik tour in 2008. So if you fall into that category and want to talk to me about it, please post a Comment below and let’s talk.

I invited three volunteers from my Forum (Lindon Lait, Clive Radford, and Nathan Toms—thank you!) to bring video cameras and tape the performance, and they sent in their footage to me afterwards. We also recorded the mixed audio off the front of house PA feed, though this was not working for the first couple of minutes. I put all the content in Final Cut Pro (a Mac video app that should be called Final Cut Amateur in my case) and I did an edit. Of course, the lighting was not optimal for performance, projection and cameras; and the sound mix was not intended for video. But having got those caveats out of the way, I am pleased to offer you the following clips for your enjoyment. If someone out there is a YouTube contributor, perhaps you could work with me to upload these clips there, with the correct format and credits, before someone else does it wrong! I have broken it up into four parts, totalling about 30 minutes. The clips are in .mov format, which should work on Macs and PCs provided you have the latest QuickTime Player. You can view them in your browser window but you’ll probably be best off downloading the four individual parts (~40Mb each) and watch them in sequence.

Enjoy!

Cambridge and Dublin added

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

We’ve added two shows to the British leg of the tour! Cambridge UK on Oct 9th, and Dublin, Ireland on Oct 11th. Cambridge is kind of my second home town, as my dad taught classical archaeology at Trinity (well they both have a Trinity College actually but he taught at the English one) and my stepmother and brother still live there. The Irish gig will mean a frantic overnight drive from Islington to catch the morning ferry across the Irish Sea, but it will be worth it. I’ve never played a gig in Dublin—how shameful is that?

The last few N.American gigs in Boston, Toronto and Montreal last night were fabulous. It must have done me a world of good to offload all my s#*t on you the other day, because I played and sang better than I have all tour. We partied hard at Harper’s Ferry before taking off for the Canadian border. I enjoyed finally meeting Crackers for the first time, a long time long distance partner in crime and current owner of my infamous Casio MIDI controller. We wrapped up on Montreal, a cool city with a very European culture. I cracked a few jokes in French, though as we know, non-French speakers making the effort ends to fall on deaf ears! Still, we had a fine time, and I just saw my band and crew off to the US border and said adieu to the tour bus, as I will be staying here the next 24 hours prior to catching a flight back to the UK.

Here are some final US pics, taken by Jeff Wasilko in Boston. Believe me, I felt even tireder than I look!

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Farewell to the USA

Monday, September 24th, 2007

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(Pic by trombonist Adam Theis, onstage at the Iron Horse)

We’re on our way to Boston for tonight’s gig at Harper’s Ferry, that last of the current US tour. After the show tonight we drive north to the Canadian border. As Boston is where we started out two weeks ago, this seems like a good moment to post some thoughts about the tour.

We’ve played eleven shows in the last twelve nights. Mostly I’ve enjoyed myself once I’m onstage and there have been many high points. But I have to say that overall it’s been the most stressful tour I can remember.

It started out with a catastrophic equipment failure that nearly caused me to cancel some or all of the gigs. On Sept 11th (coincidence? I think not…) my gear arrived at Logan Airport by cargo plane. Evidently some security official wanted to look inside the cases. My main Mac G5 computer had been opened up, the hard drives pulled out of their bays, and multipin connectors stuffed back on clumsily, breaking the pins. This meant the computer would not start up at all. A certified Mac genius spent 15 hours trying to get it back, but was only able to retrieve about 40% of the data. I stayed up all night two nights in a row trying to pull the songs back together. As my songs involve many seperate resources like samples, MIDI sequences, hardware patches and preferences etc, almost all of them were irretrievable. And the main backup drive was right there in the Mac and also damaged. I had a second external backup which had older versions of the songs (pre-Horns) but I was still missing many software plugins, preference files and so on.

I’m very embarassed to admit this because it’s such old hat. I’m sure you’ve all had computers go down at one time or another, so you’ll you know how hard it is to maintain a thorough backup policy. And yet there’s almost a tradition among high-tech performers (viz Todd Rundgren, Howard Jones) for gear failures resulting in cancelled shows or worse. I watch that and think, well it would never happen to me because I will be smart about backups, have two of every piece of kit and so on. But I probably had a false sense of security after nearly 70 gigs in the last 18 months with nothing worse than the odd gremlin. When it came down to it I wasn’t as prepared as I thought for the unexpected disaster of Sept 11th.

(I realise my own little 9/11 disaster was a mere trifle compared to that other, more famous one. No offense intended.)

When Peter Gabriel did his ‘in-the-round’ stadium tour a couple of years back he had a dedicated technician under the stage with a twin backup system running the entire show in perfect sync and a giant A>B button which could be automatically or manually flicked at any instant with only a few milliseconds of audio lost.

And yet I remember Roger Waters at The Wall concert in Berlin—a man whose worst waking nightmare is to be left stranded in the spotlight with nothing but a microphone—surrounded by massive production teams with no expense spared, and three songs into the show, guess what happens? A complete failure of the the sound system, and a deathly silence witnessed by millions of people around the world on satellite TV.

What’s most upsetting for a performer is not just the silence—because that’s just a brief moment of embarassment you can usually wave away with a curse or a joke, and the audience just goes with it. What’s upsetting is the haunting feeling that follows you around: at any moment this could all come crashing down around my ears.

It’s so hard to sing your songs and stay emotionally present when that feeling is haunting you. And every other part of your reaction—the stress, lack of sleep, over-eating and drinking, you ultimately forgive yourself for, but what’s sacriligious and unforgivable is being onstage yet not really in the moment along with the audience, sharing that communion, the common love of the music that is so precious. Without that, the whole touring equation doesn’t add up.

BUT! On to the positive side…..

Last night I slept in a comfortable hotel bed, a rarity on a tour when you drive overnight and hope to catch a few winks in the back lounge of the tour bus. I feel relatively rested, and I’m very much looking forward to the Canadian and British dates. The show has settled down and kinks ironed out, and I’ve decided to take this same show to the UK, which will save me re-programming all over again for my solo set. A couple of ‘oddball’ gigs are behind us (Moogfest and the charity show—different songs/guest perfromers etc) This has definitely eased the stress levels and allows me to concentrate on the Sputnik perfromance, for which I need to write a number of instrumental cues. I can use daytime hours to work on those on my laptop.

My road crew have been great through all this. Jeff Kaplan and Mike Klooster, and Rick our driver, have worked overtime to adjust to the messed up schedule. Many times they’ve kept it together in the early hours of the morning when I was at my wits’ end and ready to throw in the towel.

And the Jazz Mafia Horns have been fantastic. Their playing goes from strength to strength. Like Rebirth and those other New Orleans brass combos they admire, they play super-tight but loose at the same time, reading flawlessly from charts but weaving improvised licks in an out of the written parts. Adam, Joe and Rich are gifted section players and soloists, and very dedicated to their craft—they can often be heard of a morning wandering around some back alleyway practising scales, and presumably nursing a hangover from the previous night’s partying!

I’m also feeling better having unloaded this on you. There’s an argument that says, never tell the audience about the problems and they will never know the difference. But I’ve always been quite candid on this blog and I think you should know what goes on behind the scenes. I’m amazed and quite proud that we pulled them all off, considering the situation. Nigel Tufnell put it succinctly: “I won’t let it affect my professionalism”.

In any case, if you saw one of the shows or are coming to see one, please put all this crap out of your mind and just enjoy the music!

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Marriage proposal!

Friday, September 21st, 2007

At my Sellersville show last night, someone proposed to his girlfriend during my set! And it’s already on YouTube…