Archive for June, 2008

one from Rachelle

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

A lot of people have been asking me about Rachelle Garniez, who sings backups and plays the Claviola in the last two clips from the TED House Band. So here’s a lovely song of Rachelle’s, also recorded earlier this year.

I first met Rachelle circa 2002 when we shared a stage in, of all places, Las Vegas! I’d been asked as a favour to play at a CDBaby event they called ‘Tour Baby’ where several of the artists that sell CDs on their site get together regionally for a free concert. It took place in an outlying casino called (I think) The New Orleans, in a kind of restaurant/lounge bar. I had never heard of Rachelle but I was instantly taken with her music, her oddball stage presence, and her funny lyrics. She’s a brilliant solo accordianist, coming from a very musical family and with strong European, Louisiana, and Americana roots. She started up an intro on accordian and it was clear right away she’s a great technician with a lot of feeling. Then she broke into song: “I’m a sucker for a broken nose…” and it went on intriguingly from there! We exchanged contact info and it struck me some time later that she’d be great at TED. So the next year we invited her to do a solo spot at TED, and it went over very well. She stuck around for the whole four days—as most performers do—and made some friends among the explorers and novellists and venture capitalists, many of whom fell madly in love with her and bugged me for her phone number.

The following year I asked her to play with my house band. I had no evidence that she would be as good a ‘team player’ as she was a soloist, but I just had a hunch she’s an intuitive musician, the kind I like best. Sure enough, she turned out to be a delight: very quick to latch onto an arranging idea, totally fluent in every key, and always spontaneous and uplifting with her tasty accordian and Claviola elaborations.

That year (2004) she shared the vocals with me on such classics as ‘Happy Talk’, ‘By A Waterfall’ and of course ‘La Vie En Rose’ which you can see here. We stayed in touch and I asked her back in ’08. She has a new album out, ‘Melusine Years‘, which I think is her best yet, with a maturity to the songwriting and calssic edge that some have said is reminiscent of Tom Waits or Randy Newman.

‘Hello Cruel World’ is one of a couple of Rachelle’s original songs that we played at TED. The lyric seemed especially appropriate in a year when world experts talked to us about mushrooms that could take over the planet; a fast-approaching breakthrough in the creation of synthetic lifeforms; and whether or not we can ‘domesticate’ germs.

Whee, I got to drive this today!

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

This must be the mother of all forklifts! We used it to take the diesel engine out of my lifeboat, as it is no longer needed. If anybody wants it, it’s going on eBay tomorrow for £250! (The engine that is, not the forklift.) It’s a Perkins 99 Marine 4 in good working order, 3000 miles on the clock.

Hell I'd Go!

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

Okay, you asked for it, another song from the TED House Band: this time, a cover of a nifty Dan Hicks tune about alien abductions, which originally appeared on his album ‘Beat The Heat.’

There’s a healthy belief in life on other planets at TED. Some of this is fueled by physicists and astronomers there like Stephen Hawking and Freeman Dyson who confidently predict that it’s only a matter of time. Every now and then we get a complete nutter who claims to have been beamed up and subjected to anal probes and cruel sexual experiments. Just the evening before we’d heard of how the pyramids were actually alien pleasure palaces. So this tune seemed very appropriate, and the band is rocking! My vocal sounds like I’ve been at the Jack Daniels. Rachelle Garniez pops in as a kind of interstellar flight attendant, and provides a nice overblown claviola solo. I have an acoustic guitar patch dialed up on my Yamaha Motif 8 (as I did on ‘Tubas In The Moonlight’) which enables some good interplay with Mark Stewart’s actual acoustic.

Dan Hicks sent me a sweet postcard from California (surprise, Dan don’t do email) and seemed pleased that I’d covered another of his songs…. as you recall, he also penned ‘I Scare Myself’ which I covered on ‘The Flat Earth.’ I am so glad he’s still with us! I took a few liberties with the lyrics as I only remembered about 2/3 of them and I don’t own a copy of the original. Enjoy!

Tubas In The Moonlight

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

At the TED Conference earlier this year, my ‘house band’ played a dozen or so short musical intros to the speaker sessions over a four day period. They were filmed, and I’ve put one up on YouTube. If you ask politely I might upload a few more! This one’s an old Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band number. (Hey Neil Innes, if you’re out there I’ve been trying to get hold of you!)

The band consists of myself, to my right Rufus Capadocia on 5-string electric cello, Rachelle Garniez on claviola and vocals, and Mark Stewart on banjo and a strange wind instrument whose name I’ve forgotten. (A Xophon? I will have to ask Mark.) Anyway it’s not much bigger than a mouthpiece, and has no right to have such a fat sound.

Long Beach

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

I’m in Long Beach, CA for meetings about next year’s TED Conference, which is moving to its new home here from Monterey next February. From my hotel window I can see the Queen Mary (memo to Steve Jobs: MacBook webcams don’t snap very good long distance shots!) Oh, and now I notice it’s reversed, isn’t it? Kathleen and I once stayed the night on board the QM, after playing a Lost Toy People gig at the Spruce Goose flying boat (its former domed hanger is pictured behind the QM). Tonight I’m going to meet up with my former video crew Johnny Dekam and Bree Edwards, just back after a year-long Dream Theater tour, and we’re going to sample the Observation Room bar on board the old steamer.

Behind that is the bay where I used to windsurf when I lived in LA. Given where I sail now on the North Sea it seems a bit cruddy that I used to sail here. But actually the water beyond the breakwater was relatively clean. I never caught anything, but I did once nearly hit a suitcase!

Tomorrow, I’m off to Toronto where there’s an event called NxNE going on, and they want me to do a days’ worth of interviews because The Sole Inhabitant is being released to retail in North America on Invisible Hands Music. I know it seems odd that this is coming out now when it’s been available on the Net for two years. But it was never in retail stores here, and now it seems a couple of chains want to pick it up, in a version called ‘Deluxe’—which means the CD and DVD are both in the same package.

Oh and more news: I recently agreed terms with EMI to re-release my first two albums! Looks like they will be in some sort of ‘enhanced’ format, possibly including alternative mixes and B-sides. This should happen early in 2009. But it’s not to take away from Job #1 which is my next album. I’m working away at that and have some nice new songs on the boil. It’ll get easier when I finish my lifeboat studio, which is going to be great but is coming along slowly—no big surprise for an old wooden boat.