Monday, 28 August 2017

Disappointing News

We'd been rehearsing up for a few more weeks now and I felt it was time for the next step. It was time to make a video of a live performance to show potential venues what we would look and sound like on stage.

I organised to take two video cameras into the studio for Monday's rehearsal. I'd booked an extra large room and we would all face the camera as if facing an audience and 'perform' to the camera. Everyone was fired up and ready, down to making sure they would be wearing 'stage gear'.

Nicola on GuitarThe on the Saturday morning, two days before the shoot, a bombshell email came through. Nicola's personal circumstances had changed and she could no longer be part of the band. I was deeply upset and effected by the news. As well as being a great guitar player and someone I had grown to really like, I knew that Nicola would look absolutely great on stage and in the video. I was not only a guitarist down but had to decide what to do about the video shoot two days later.

Communication with Nicola was difficult as she was now embedded in darkest West Wales with no phone signal. I tried to persuade her to change her mind via email, with offers to help with her current situation but it didn't make any difference. There was nothing I could really do to help and she just couldn't do it.

Shot from the live video of Simon Densley and bandDisappointed but with commitments pending I made the decision that we would have to shoot the video as a four piece with me taking on all guitar duties. It was not ideal but it was the best we could do under the circumstances.

There was a bit of a cloud over the rehearsal. Nicola's decision had taken us all by surprise and we were all feeling a bit down. However as had been planned, we spent the final hour filming our performance of two songs: Just Got My Life and If You Can't join Them Beat Them. The performance sounded fairly good and once I had edited the various camera angles into finished videos, they both looked pretty good too.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

A Change Of Bass

We had our five piece and we had been rehearsing two nights a week for a couple of weeks and things were tightening up and coming together. There were still a few things that we seemed to be having trouble with in the groove department though.

A phone call with Andrew on a the Friday in mid August revealed that he was not feeling that it was working out for him as much as he'd like. He realised there were some parts he was not feeling the way they felt on the record and as someone very self-critical he'd prefer to bow out rather than feel uncomfortable not getting it quite right.

Having rehearsals booked for Tuesday and Wednesday the following week and no bass player meant I needed to work fast. A quick email let everyone know, and to ask Nicola if she might be able jump back on bass for a few rehearsals.

Numerous emails to potential bass players on various websites generated nothing. Gumtree had hundreds of ads for bass players wanted and almost none for ones available however it was the Gumtree ad that produced two bites.

Lorne McGregor (Ex McCree) on bass guitarI headed south to visit Lorne on Sunday afternoon. I had instinctively liked him on the phone and we enjoyed the couple of hours jamming together in his lounge room. He played a 5 string bass (which I like) and had played in a successful touring rock band in his native South Africa, signed to Sony and had had songs in the charts there.

The same evening I visited Steve who live 10 minutes away from me. He was also a very good bass player and also played a 5 string bass. I invited both Lorne and Steve to come to the Tuesday evening rehearsal which was now going to be an audition.

Mark was away and Nicola couldn't make it at the last minutes so Paige and I heaped the pressure on both of them in turn. It turned out we maybe heaped a bit too much pressure as both emailed to say it wasn't for them. An email to each of them asking them to reconsider resulted in Steve saying 'No way' but luckily Lorne relenting and agreeing to join us at the full rehearsal the next evening.

I quickly sent Nicola a follow up email asking her to bring her guitar instead of her bass after all. Unfortunately she didn't see the email before she left home. Luckily she also hadn't seen the previous one asking her to bring her bass instead of her guitar.

The rehearsal with Lorne, which also included as dep keyboard player (Joe) that we would use when Mark was away, went very well. Back on track again.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Girls

As is so normal with this sort of thing, 80% of initial enquiries lead to nothing. People seem keen on the phone but don't reply to your emails. Or they seem to really like your songs but on reflection decide it's not really their style.

Fair enough, it's better to weed out such people before investing any serious time in working together with them. It does however mean that what seemed like a rich vein of potential musicians was more like that sound you get when you turn on a tap after the water supply's been switched off. So off I went instead to scour the various musicians available websites.

The girls playing bass and drums - Nicola on bass and Paige on DrumsOut of all the people contacted, the two who turned up for the next rehearsal were both girls. Both in their early twenties, both living hundreds of miles away in Bristol and Cardiff respectively and both profession musicians also working on other projects in London.

I'd seen Paige play on a couple of her YouTube videos where she plays drums to electronic rap music. Not at all like my own music but there was something about her style which I really liked. Nicola played both bass and guitar and as I had a potential lead guitarist lined up I'd asked her to come in on bass.

They were both clearly good enough and if they wanted the gig it was theirs. They both did and so it seemed we were just about there.

The potential lead guitarist turned out to be another false start so I was still a musician down. While trying to decide what to say to Andrew, as I'd still be interested in him playing as a dep bass player, it occurred to me that Nicola could perhaps play lead guitar and Andrew could play bass. A phone call to Nicola confirmed she'd be happy to do this and the 5 piece was formed.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The First Jam

The ads were now up on the various musician websites and one or two replies had started to trickle in.
"Have you had much live experience?"
"Any recording experience?"
"Do you have any stuff up on Youtube or Soundcloud that I can listen to?"
"Where do you live - can you get to rehearsals?"
"Did you like the tracks I sent you - would you enjoy playing those songs?"
The same set of questions being asked over and over again. You get an idea over the phone if you're going to get along. A quick curt chat suggests probably not. A yak that goes off on mutual interest tangents suggests this is someone you could work with.

Then comes the initial meet up - at least where practical.

The first person I went to see was a bass player called Andrew. One late July evening after work I humped my Roland Jazz Chorus amplifier up an elegant narrow set of stairs to his Hampton Court flat and set it up in his small lounge room. He played my some of his stuff and we jammed on some of mine. Could we work together? Possibly, it was not an exact match but there was some overlap between our styles. He had a couple of ideas that I liked while other requirements clearly weren't his natural playing style.

He was keen though. So keen that he organised a rehearsal with a drummer he knew and invited me along! Keen is good. Organised is good. As long as he's happy that it needs to be me calling the shots, I'm happy for him to organise rehearsals.

Mark 'Wilko' Wilkinson playing KeyboardsAt the same time a mutual friend gives me the number of a keyboard plays who plays in a Pink Floyd cover band. That's a good indicator. Someone who knows their Floyd is a) likely to like my music, b) going to understand and be able to play my music. Mark 'Wilko' Wilkinson, as it turns out is interested but has numerous gigs book with yet another (and his main) band, Asylum Affair, a classic rock covers outfit. He also has his wrist in plaster from a motorcycle accident but it seems he is still able to play in a limited capacity and is still keen if I'm happy to work around these things. I invite him along to the rehearsal as well.

Once all set up and playing it becomes clear that Mark is the most experienced musician of the three of them. They are all good musicians and the songs they have learnt all sound fine but there is something in the groove that is missing. It's hard to put my finger on it but this is now my responsibility so I must decide if it can work or not.

I have other people to see and decide to leave it a day or so for the conclusions to settle in my head. I phone Mark first. "Yes, I'd like to have you on board. Don't worry - we'll get in a dep keyboard player when you have other gigs."

Then the drummer: "Sorry, I don't think our styles overlap enough."

Then Andrew: "I've got another bass player trying out, but I'd like to jam with you again."

It seems whatever happens I now have a bass player and a keyboard player. First two boxes ticked.