Archive for December, 2006

NPR today

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

My piece on NPR’s Weekend Edition is set to air today. They told me it would be approximately 15 mins into the second hour, but if anyone can supply regional station info and more accurate times I would appreciate it. I recorded four songs for them which they will certainly edit.

I’m in a hotel in Orange County getting ready for the big New Years Eve party here at the Fairground. I’ll be playing with a 3-piece brass section again which should be fun. I came in a day early so I’d have time to program a new (old) song to play tonight. Arrived only to find I’d left my MacBook power supply at Kennedy airport; probably at the x-ray machine! To my amazement there’s an Apple Store right here in Costa Mesa. It opens at 10… Sound check is around 2…. Can I get a version of ‘Ferrari’ running in time? We’ll see!

In the meantime I woke up at 4am with a blues song in my head. Lyrics, and all: “If at last I see my home.” I think it’s original—but I’m not sure I really qualify to sing the blues, do I? Well, in the absence of a power supply, maybe I could sing this new one a cappella as an encore.

Tomorrow, I will see my home.

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas (Tour is Over)

Sunday, December 24th, 2006

We finished up tearfully at the Canal Room in NY last night. It was a packed house and I was thrilled to be back in New York, where I have played 7 shows in 2006 (counting multiple sets at Joe’s Pub.)

We had to give up the tour bus mid afternoon and frantically de-bussed our belongings on teeming Canal St as traffic cops hovered. In crowded Manhattan the poor bus driver clipped a car with the gear trailer. And the car turned out to be…. a Maserati! (He could at least have dinged a Ferrari, which would have given me something to sing about.)

It was a fun show. The ever present Stevie D was in the front row. He has attended 24 shows this year, travelling all over the US and he gets kudos for sure. Stevie, if you’re reading this, you’ve gone way beyond the call of duty and are straying into serious Celine Dion territory! Jordan Rudess was also there, one of the finest contemporary keyboard players. I’m glad I forgot he was coming or I would have been initimidated.

Also in attendance were my darling wife and 2 daughters, whom I’d not seen for a month. Harper (15) made an appearance on stage for ‘Europa’, but she hasn’t guested with me since the summer and I note she’s a little rusty. I played ‘Airwaves’ and we filmed it for a potential podcast episode. I also sang backup for BT on his anthemic ‘Satellite’. Both songs live IMO are better than their recorded counterparts.

I have a New Years’ Eve gig in Orange County with Blondie, Violent Femmes and others. 15k revellers are expected. That’ll be it for 2006, of course. I am totally exhausted and could easily sleep for a week. Thanks to my family for letting me do this. Thanks to my amazing crew for getting me to the gigs, and especially Lunesse for her stellar job on this website as well as all the merch and meet’n'greets. To my agent Rich Rees, my publicists at Conqueroo, and my licensing/distribution rep Lisa Klein. And thanks to everybody that’s read this blog, come to my gigs, and bought ‘The Sole Inhabitant.’ It’s been a fantastic year for me, and I’m so very grateful that the audience is still listening. I truly believe my best music is still ahead of me. In 2007 I plan to write and record a masterwork! Stay tuned.

Happy Holidays,


big NPR score

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

At the last moment NPR’s Weekend Edition called and asked me to stop by their studio in Washington DC this morning. I’m an avid listener, as are my wife and kids, to this and several other NPR shows (Fresh Air, All Things Considered, Morning Become Eclectic etc.) so I’m delighted they had me on. It was taped and will be broadcast on New Year’ Eve, 12/31/06, in the second hour.

I played four songs live–including as solo version of ‘Airwaves’–but they will edit the whole piece down to 16 minutes so I doubt any songs will be played in their entirety. Still, they promised to send me a CD of the whole thing, so maybe there will be something I can plunder for a future podcast. Oh, and they had a kick-ass Steinway, BTW. Noodling on it was very therarpeutic at this stage of the tour (see Lunesse’s pic below.)

I have to say though, after setting up and recording an important show like this, I’m pretty much done in for the day. Now I’m sitting here 15 mins away from the start of a 1.5 hr Birchmere concert. I expect I’ll summon up the energy from somewhere!

BT’s mum is sitting here in the green room and is every bit as taurine-powered as BT is! The other night she was on on the bus with us, splitting her sides laughing at ‘Little Britain’ and screaming out things like ‘SWEEET dude! Awesome! This is freakin’ OFF THE CHARTS!’

I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.


Tour nearing climax!

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

We’re down to the last four gigs of the tour. It’s all coming together together very nicely. I am performing a couple of songs with BT now, one of mine mine and one of his. It’s great when we’re on stage together, because the room in instantly united into a single fanbase! I am looking forward to being reunited with my family for the Holidays, and my kids will sneak into the last gig at the Canal Room in NYC.

BTW the tigers just got a $416 donation. I think next tour I should should have one on stage with me (like Roy? Not.)

In other news, we’ve just announced the program for the TED Conference 2007, and I’m proud to say we’ve landed Paul Simon, Tracy Chapman, and They Might Be Giants, for musical diversion. A major coup!

Also: Keyboard Magazine (Jan edition) will feature a big piece about me and BT. And I have a few invitations to play the NAMM Show in January, as well as SxSW in the Spring. Rock on!

Late night tour bus TV fare has included Little Britain, Eddie Izzard, ‘Kelly Shoes’ on YouTube (search for it!) and the uncensored version of Justin Timberlake’s hilarious SNL song, ‘Dick In A Box’. Now you know how low we have stooped!


Pic: Lunesse

TD in CamelSpace

Friday, December 15th, 2006

Here’s another pic from Tigers For Tomorrow, courtesy of BT’s excellent videomeister Scott Pagano.

BTW tonight in Atlanta was special. Great venue, LOUD supportive audience! And I played ‘Airwaves’, and it felt great.


Tigers For Tomorrow

Tuesday, December 12th, 2006


You often start off a tour with the best intentions. Stay fit, eat healthy, take time to stop at some parks and museums, see a little bit of the country. Usually the best laid plans fall by the wayside within the first week. So I dug my heels in today and took the bus 75 miles out of our route, so we could visit Tigers For Tomorrow at Untamed Mountain, a privately owned sanctuary for big cats, in Attala, Alabama. After leaving New Orleans at 2am, and crashing out around 4am (rather inebriated!) we arrived at TFT around 9am it was all I could do to get the band and crew out of their bunks. But very much to their credit they hauled themselves outside and up the short hill to the sanctuary. And in spite of our hangovers we all had a fantastic time, and made some great memories in the process.

TFT had contacted me a few months ago by posting an email to the address on this website. Amy Ausbun, a volunteer from Birmingham, AL, was contacting celebrities to see if she could increase awareness for the sanctuary and maybe raise some money by auctioning signed articles. She has had a good response from Deepak Chopra. I mentioned that our tour was coming through Birmingham today and the owners Sue and Wilbur were gracious enough to open up for us and give us a guided tour of their facility.

The sanctuary has 18 Siberian and Bengal tigers, along with white wolves, numerous lions, cougars, black leopards, a lama, camel, zebra, and even a Kodiak bear! Sue and Wilbur have only one fulltime staff member, their keeper, plus several interns. They usually only open up at weekends for school and private groups. Many of these animals have been rescued from misguided family homes; traveling shows; and even from ‘Canned hunts’ where a big cat is released on a private land so that a bunch of hunters can get their kicks shooting it then being photographed with their ‘kill.’

The animals will be at the sanctuary for life. TFT does not do any training or breeding. It purely provides a great home for the big cats and makes sure their diets and psychology are properly cared for. Watching Sue and Wilbur interact with them is amazing. Sue ‘chuffs’ at the tigers–a short panting sound that they make right back to her in an affectionate conversation. Wilbur demonstrated for us an aspect of tiger instinct: standing next to the fence, behind which a tiger was laying down looking very calm, Wilbur turned his back and stooped down submissively. The tiger’s eyes instantly grew the size of saucers, and it sprang up, across the enclosure, and in a flash attacked the fence behind Wilbur’s back. This is the tiger’s natural reaction to a show of submission. Some of them grow to 500lbs and there was no question who would have come out on top in a jungle situation. So, if you’re ever suddenly face to face with a tiger, look him square in the eye!

Here are some pics Lunesse took. BT and I are going to figure out what we can do to help TFT and support the great work they are doing!

[UPDATE: we decided to donate 10% of our merch sales last night for starters.]


Caption submission deadline tonight 12am PST !

Sunday, December 10th, 2006

Caption contest!

Saturday, December 9th, 2006

Submit a caption for this pic (by Marit Weitnauer of deviantArt) taken last week at the Belly Up in Solana Beach, for a chance to win a free ‘Sole Inhabitant’ t-shirt!


Gothic horror

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

For some reason it was only today that I was struck by the coincidence that ‘Gothic’ was both the name of the theater in Denver I played last night, and the name of my first and only orchestral score for a movie, Ken Russell’s thundering 1986 depiction of Byron and Shelley and the birth of the Frankenstein legend.



I have many good memories of that experience, as a well as some bad ones. It was wonderful to hear my music performed by an orchestra for the first time; and, given how out of control a composer usually is when it comes to scoring a movie, I could have done far worse than to get paired up with Ken Russell, who doesn’t take crap from anyone and who has a deep and scholoarly love of music.

Here’s an interesting story though. Ken had the reputation for being something of a tyrant and a hothead on the set. The movie was being produced on a low budget by Virgin, their first venture into feature films. To save money the producers pulled a stunt called ‘upgrading’, whereby a grip becomes a focus puller, a focus puller becomes a camera operator and so on, in order to get the credit on his/her resume but still being paid the old fee. In addition several of the crew were regulars on Virgin’s music videos and were working for free to get the feature experience. As a result the crew had a young average age—mid-20′s perhaps—whereas Ken was well into his 60′s, and quite a hard drinker to boot.

The movie was shot in England’s Lake District, masquerading as Lake Geneva. For the first few days of the shoot everyone walked on eggshells around Ken. Every time a lamp got knocked over, or the correct prop was not on the set in time for the shot, people would glance nervously over at Ken. But he could be seen visibly closing his eyes and counting to ten while his anger abeyed. Half way through principal photography the crew was just beginning to get comfortable, remarking on how calm and easy-going Ken was despite his reputation.

Then on the eleventh day, a parrot was required for a scene. There is only one professional parrot handler in the whole North of England, and he and his prize bird were on the set ready for the shot, probably delighted to get a rare booking like this. The shot required the parrot to sit at the right hand end of his perch in order to stay in the frame. The handler placed the parrot there, but each time the assistant director yelled “and…. ACTION!” the parrot immediately shuffled to its left along the perch and out of the frame, ruining the take.

After about five takes had been wrecked this way, Ken Russell, who had been lurking in the shadows watching a monitor, burst onto the set and was on the point the point of throttling the poor parrot handler—and probably would have succeeded had he not been physically restrained by the cast and crew.

After that, Ken’s outbursts became more frequent. It was not uncommon for a crew member to shush a colleague and whisper, “Careful… Ken’s got PHS today.” (Parrot Handler Syndrome.)

I’m happy to say Ken was always kind to me and I never found myself on the receiving end of PHS. But on the day we recorded the orchestral score, at the Angel Studios, a converted church in North London, I did get to witness it first hand.

I had never worked with an orchestra before, and I’d made the mistake of signing a deal with Virgin where I had to pay all recording costs out of my own fee. I reckoned I could just about afford the London Philharmonic plus an orchestrator for one day. We had 18 cues to record. I carefully prepared and sequenced them all in my Fairlight and gave the recordings to the orchestrator to transcribe. But I don’t read music and have little or no formal training, so I trusted him to transcribe my Fairlight versions faithfully. This he had not done. Orchestral players being heavily unionized as they are, on the dot of 9am they opened their sheet music for the first time. I stood there in the middle of a 96-piece orchastra thrilling at the sounds of my compositions. But every few bars, something was off. I made mental notes as they played each cue through. I had to walk from one section to the next saying, “Ok cellos… that part that goes ‘da DAAA da da…’ what’s your top note there?” “Erm, A flat?” I thought about it and said “…ok…. change that to an A natural will you?”

They obviously thought I was a complete dunderhead. I could see Ken through the control room window, already well into his ever present crate of red wine at this early hour. By late morning we were already 50% behind where we needed to be. At about 2 minutes to 12, I had just made a couple of minor changes to a cue and was ready to run it one last time. “Er sorry Mr Dolby,” said the first violin, “it’s almost twelve and we have to go to lunch.” “Well they’ve almost nailed it, can’t we just add on the equivalent mintues at the end of your lunch break?” I asked, perplexed. “Sorry, Mr Dolby, that’s the rules.”

I was speechless.

They were just beginning to put down their instruments when the heavy studio doors burst wide open, and Ken Russell came storming in the room, flush with Burgundy, the veins sticking out on his neck. He strode to the middle of the floor, glaring around at the musicians. “You… fucking… BASTARDS!!” he screamed: “You have this wonderful gift—from GOD!” (hand outstretched to the heavens) “—to play your instruments, and all your can think about is your FUCKING TEABREAK!”

The reverberations died down, leaving a deathly hush in the studio. After a few seconds the silence was broken by the tap of the conductor’s baton on his music stand. “Cue 11a once again please, gentlemen.”

I saw Ken in the canteen. He complimented me on how the music was sounding. I said I was sorry he got a bit het up there for a moment. He leaned in to me and whispered: “Well it did the bloody trick Dolby, didn’t it?”

write a review for 'The Sole Inhabitant'!

Monday, December 4th, 2006

Hey, if you’ve heard/seen The Sole Inhabitant you could do me a big favour if you’d write a review and post it online. Spread the word! Here are some URLs:

Amazon: CDDVD


iTunes: Go to Electronic / Thomas Dolby / The Sole Inhabitant / Customer Reviews

Ta very much.