It was this time last year, during the Christmas period, I was holed up in my music room frantically learning an hour's worth of Also Eden material in preparation for an imminent gig with them. This was to be no ordinary gig though. It was to take place in Oslo, with Steve Rothery from Marillion joining us on stage for a number.
At this point I was not an actual member of the band, though I was of course very keen to join. I'd remembered the band from back in 2005 when I played on the bill with them at the Summer's End festival. I recall loaning their bassist, Ralvin my backline rig. The idea was that the Oslo show would be treated as an audition, to see if I could pull it off. Fair enough, thought I. This was going to be an amazing personal opportunity anyway. I'd never played outside the UK before and certainly not onstage with anyone famous. Time to get the old passport renewed rapidly! I'd not even met any of the band members yet and I was to be entrusted with helping make this gig work, so I knew I had to deliver the goods. There was to be one rehearsal in Bristol prior to the gig and, when it was over, I was humbled and amazed to be offered the permanent position there and then, meaning I was a now a band member before going to Oslo. I was genuinely speechless and one happy bassist.
Since then it's been a fast-paced, varied and action-packed year. A band of this calibre requires so much more than simply learning the right notes in the right order. One thing I noticed right from the start is how reassuringly professionally run the band is. I've joined an intelligent, articulate and interesting bunch of guys, all passionate about music and in particular the music and words they create. Their combined experience brings a confidence and authority to proceedings which make any newcomer feel immediately at ease but, at the same time, on their toes. Rehearsals are candid affairs with a degree of what I suppose would be called 'positive tension', to be expected in such a creative band. like any new boy, it's perhaps taken me a while to fully contribute to the debates and discussions, partly because I was largely concerned with just playing my parts as correctly as possible.
I've thoroughly enjoyed my first year. So much has been compressed into it; rehearsing, recording, travelling, interviews, meetings and gigging. The hard work and time invested is always worth the reward of being able to play live and gain positive comments from audiences. I've been allowed a fair bit of freedom in the band to play the bass the way that feels most natural to me. I've been told the band is sounding somewhat 'funkier' in the rhythm section lately and this is perhaps true but I certainly think there's more of a harder classic rock vibe going on, with a tad more aggression.
The recording process for [REDACTED] felt a little strange, mainly owing to my being remote from the rest of the band. I'd never recorded for an album before without at least some of my fellow band-mates being present in the room with me. All my bass parts were recorded in a little home studio in Bramley, just north of Basingstoke and then sent electronically to our producer's studio in Wales. Most of the songs I recorded for [REDACTED] were played without the benefit of hearing any drums, and to a click-track only. I know that things can be relatively easily repaired at the other end, but it was still somewhat disconcerting, not fully knowing whether what I'd recorded was going to be acceptable or not. Luckily, I believe most of it was; at least I THINK that's me playing on there, isn't it?!
Yes, G, it certainly is - albeit that a few of the notes have magically moved closer to the beat than when you recorded them ;) Ed.
In terms of my gear, well I'm not getting any younger and loading, unloading and shifting stuff around is never much fun. So, back in the spring I decided to invest in a much lighter, more portable and modern MARKBASS rig. The result is I have more independence, an even better sound and, best of all, a pain-free back! I've also invested in a board on which to mount my various pedals, which saves so much time compared to before. I've found the sound of my Fender Precision and Music Man Stingray basses are best suited to our music, and it's been a pleasure to be able to offer up occasional bits of fretless bass and backing vocals (generally the higher ones!) to the live soundscape. One regret is that I've not been able to utilise my Moog Taurus bass pedals in the live environment, but the reality is that they're too impractical to cart around when you have no real roadies and there's rarely a rehearsal PA capable of doing them justice; it was great to have recorded with them on [REDACTED] though.
Of course, there are moments when being in the band can feel challenging. For example, rehearsals in Bristol can be quite an effort on a school night from Basingstoke - I'm rarely home much before 1AM. And balancing the inevitable pressures of life like work, home, family, friends and other interests can prove difficult at times. The band quite rightly expects everyone to pull their respective weight for the greater good of the band, and this can prove tough to maintain at the required level sometimes. But as I said earlier, it's all more than worth the investment - and what's the point of being in a band that doesn't want to grow and, dare I say it, progress?
Some of my personal highlights of the year, in no particular order, have been:
Here's to 2014!