Here’s a little update that’s been long overdue. Four songs for the new album are done now. For two more I still need to record and mix in some more vocals. It’s really just another day or two to finish them, but currently my live performance set takes precedence.
I’m very happy and extremely excited to say that I’ve been invited to the IndiEarth Xchange in Chennai, Madras to hold a workshop and perform live. I only got the first email about four weeks ago and I’m flying there already on Tuesday. Very unexpected and it will delay all my other plans, but who’s going to say no to such an opportunity? So I’ll be in India for a week, hopefully with some time to not only take in the Xchange, but also a glimpse of Madras. I’ve never been, but always wanted to go. So exciting!
Fingers crossed that I’ll have the live set ready and am well rehearsed till then. Panic started setting in a few days ago when it took me three hours to get the MIDI remote scripts working as expected. And that was one small part, not all the details. Charlie, my cat, helped me calm down with her purring. I can’t bring my array mbira, but will use Ableton Push to play and record. Quite a task, relearning all parts on the In key layout (from keyboard and array layouts).
After I’m back, I’ll get right onto finishing Noise Machine and Tipping Point. One night, when I was supposed to work on something, I instead looked through all my little musical sketches and jammed along with the ones I still liked. I have at least four more ideas, vocal lines and lyrics. I only need to find enough time in a row to produce them. Not just a few hours here and there.
In case it looks like I never will (because there’s somehow always more work), I’ll postpone everything else. At some point the album simply needs to be my first priority. I feel like otherwise my head might just explode one day.
Anyway, I’ll be back with another blog post after my return. I’m sure there’ll be much to write about.
2 weeks since I came back from the Sicily tour. How quickly time flies by. I had to work a lot of hours doing tech support to make up for the time away. I’m also working on new songs and a plan on how to get to tour more. Lots of new things in the pipeline already. Anyway, here’s my overdue post about the first tour.
I took a taxi to the airport as I couldn’t take all my luggage by public transport. At the check-in desk I was told I had 8 kg more luggage than allowed. That made 80€ (yikes) extra one way for bringing my array mbira. Altogether I had 40 kg and my clothes made up the smallest part. Nicoleugenia picked me up from the airport in Catania and so we drove to Palermo. She’s the one who booked the gigs for me and who also made a great tour manager and driver – or handler, as she liked to call it.
The first gig was the next day. A good thing since I was overtired from getting everything ready. The venue was less than 5 minutes away from the B&B we stayed at, both in Ballarò. The rest of the day we spent wandering around Palermo. An impression through cotton wool for me in my sleep-deprived state. Italians are noisy people with their shouting, vespas and honking. I had brought earplugs and so managed to get a good long sleep.
We had a look at the venue PalaB on Friday afternoon before it was time for soundcheck in the evening. I was rather excited about playing there. Then there was only the owner to do the sound and he didn’t know the mixer or what to do. When I tried my headset mic I got feedback. He tried different things, even wanted to give me another one made only for talks. Finally I went behind the mixer and found the gain to be the culprit. Soundcheck done after ages. By then I was extremely nervous again. When I started playing I noticed that the mixer settings didn’t work on my laptop. I had set them up to be recalled for each song with one button press. So I scrambled to get the mixing done on top of all the looping, playing and singing. The audience enjoyed it anyway, but I found it difficult. Grin and bear it and through with it. People came up to me afterwards saying “Complimenti” or “Brava”. Not many Italians speak English actually. The chef even bought my album and was blasting it to the whole neighbourhood the next day. Sweet!
The next concert in Caltagirone was a week later so there was time for taking in Palermo. We also went to Marsala for a day to enjoy the view of the salt pools and windmills. Then it was time to head to Caltagirone where I had to work some hours in the tech support inbox each day and took it slow otherwise. I stayed at the same B&B as in December and it almost felt like home. One with an incredible view.
The concert in Caltagirone was open air and it was unusually chilly for the season. We set up behind Villa Patti with plenty of time for soundcheck. This time I was going to have an opening act – Daiquiri Fantomas. I even got to play their Theremin.
The later it got, the chillier and windier it became. Because of the technical issue at my last gig my stage fright was back at its worst. I was ready to sell all my live gear and never do it again. The two guys – Dario and Marco – did a great job with their debut gig while I anxiously awaited my turn. Then it was time for me to start. At first I was still nervous, especially with the wind being picked by my mic in every loop. Luckily it was only loud in my in ear monitoring. The crowd enjoyed it and apart from a few people with kids they stuck it out till the end despite the cold. Daiquiri Fantomas and I even did a little improv together. It made me realise how much I miss jamming with others.
The third and final concert was in Catania at La Lomax, a 45 minutes drive from Caltagirone. This is the place where I was supposed to already play last December. Back then the police shut off the power to find squatters leeching electricity from the streetlights. No power, no gig. I knew that the venue is very nice with helpful and knowledgable sound engineers. When we arrived there was a puppet theatre – pupi in Sicilian – still on.
When they were finished they left the whole setup where it was as the stage is big. I loved the soundcheck. I only had to sort out my own setup, everything else they took care of. Subsequently I was hardly nervous about the gig. I even had a backstage area that I could hang out in and prepare. The concert went really well and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, it was so much fun I just wanted to keep touring. Play every night.
Not yet, but hopefully soon. I’ve got a plan and am working out the details at the moment. More on that in a few weeks.
You might have read my tweets when I prepared for my gig at the watertower in Bernau and wondered why on earth I would spend so much time sorting out the live setup, troubleshooting and rehearsing for one single concert. No one can have sooo much stage fright! Nope, but it wasn’t just another performance. It was my longest one so far. 14 songs so over 90 minutes. My parents saw me perform solo for the first time. And last, but definitely not least, it was to be recorded and filmed with 4 cameras. I also set up everything so I could record the songs internally for better sound quality. Unfortunately I forgot to hit record on the last 3 songs so I’ve made a live recording of them in my living room/studio, dubbed The Ivory Tower Sessions (which I may continue in the future in some way or another).
I didn’t want to announce the plans beforehand because surprises are nice, I was afraid if I did I would jinx it and things would go wrong and the pressure was on enough. Now that things went well – very dramatic drum roll -:
The audio download of the gig will be released soon (mid July, TBC) including 4 videos (In Unison, Zero Tolerance, The Tide & A Little) and a booklet. 50% of the proceeds will go directly to the charity Father’s House that helps underprivileged children in Berlin.
When Ruben, a friend, who works for this charity heard about the upcoming concert in this unusual location (a watertower) he suggested the live recording in cooperation with Father’s House. The gig was on May 27 – exactly half a year after the release of Minutia. Everything seemed so neat and fell into place so easily… who could say no?!
I’m currently in the process of mixing and mastering the live concert. Just now I got back from going through the videos of the 4 songs with Tom who did not only do the shoot at the watertower he is the one who made the fantastic dumentary “Letztes Jahr im Sommer” (Last Year in Summer) of OMP, the band I’m part of as well. The videos are gonna look great. One camera angle is a slanted view from above showing an overview of my gadgets.
The set list on May, 27 at the watertower Bernau:
Scaredy Cat’s Lullaby
I knew for a while there was the chance I might get to support Imogen Heap at her Berlin gig, but the date drew nearer and nearer and nothing happened. Then suddenly on Monday I got an email saying she’d love me to open for her – the next day. Just as I was giving up hope and thinking about getting a ticket. So last minute and so exciting!
When I turned up at the venue (Lido) the soundcheck had just started. I waved hello to Imogen and the others, they waved back. I was surprised how normal it all felt. It was calming to watch and listen even though time was ticking away. I had woken up with a migraine and thrown up first thing in the morning. The whole day I was so worried I might not be able to perform after all. Yet I thought, if Imogen had to get steroids to do her London gig then I could do it. No matter what. And if I keeled over on stage at least I’d have given it a shot. Luckily watching her, Ryan, Vince and Emma soundcheck blew away most of my headache. So I got changed into my stage outfit, sorted the merch and then was told to already set up my gear in front of the stage to speed things up. In the end I had about 10 minutes to set up with very little space to move around and 5 minutes for soundcheck while they held the doors. Madness!
Then as it was to time to hit the stage Immi kindly introduced me to the audience, explained how spontaneous and rushed everything was and beckoned them to come closer. People were still pouring in when I played. I started with ‘A Little’ and as I recorded my ‘fake beatboxing’ loop there was feedback from the mic. So I stopped and started over. Admittedly it made me nervous, but I got through the song without any more issues. Next up was ‘Zero Tolerance’ with drums played with wiimote and nunchuk. That went well and the audience seemed to really enjoy it (I sure did) . When I tried to record the wiimote drums for ‘The Tide’ next they were all over the place. It had worked perfectly at home. Whether it was shaky hands or too little distance to the computer (it works better when further away) I just couldn’t get the beats right. Time was running so I decided to move on to ‘In Unison’ and finished with ‘Breathing Underwater’ after asking the sound guy how much time I had left. Everyone wanted to hear another song except for one guy who shouted at me to stop. I asked who said that (he didn’t respond) and that I would come and find him afterwards. This seemed to rather amuse the rest of the crowd. A lot of people came to me afterwards to tell me they enjoyed my set including Tim Exile who came straight to the stage while me and the crew were frantically getting my stuff off stage. I had expected to get stage fright as I used to, but it’s so much nicer to have a bigger audience. A little more routine with all the multitasking and I’d feel right at home on stage. Ah, to go on tour… well, working on it.
Next up was Ryan a.k.a. BackTed’n’Ted who was great. I’m so looking forward to hearing his album which unfortunately was held up at customs. Then finally it was time for Immi. She started with ‘First Train Home’ as usual and had to start over as well, because one wine glass was awefully out of tune. Her whole set was as amazing as expected. Emma and Vince on violin and viola were a great addition. Imogen and the two string players also took turns drumming on the cocktail kit Immi had bought just before the tour started. You could see they weren’t quite as comfortable yet, but it all worked out just fine. I loved ‘Just for Now’ with the crowd singing the otherwise looped parts and very well at that. Don’t ask me for details or a complete set list as a lot of the evening is slightly blurry. I was still on an adrenaline high. I was outside in between and didn’t even feel the cold.
After the show I hung around, talked to anyone who wanted to, signed a couple of autographs (getting used to it by now, but I’m still finding it weird), Ryan even bought a copy of my album. Then I went backstage where there was tasty Indian curry, silly dancing, conversation and laughter. Everyone of them is so lovely. Immi, Ryan, Emma, Vince and the stage crew. They made me feel very comfortable and right at home. Imogen thanked me lots of times for playing at such short notice.When it was time for me to share a cab home with Tim we all hugged and said goodbye. While we loaded our gear into the boot of the car the others got ready to go on the long bus ride to Oslo. I so wanted to just hop on and go with them. Apparently the bus even has luxurious wood panelling and leather seats, but I totally forgot to have a gander.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten to include lots of details you might be interested in, but a remix plus vocals are waiting to be addressed and there’s never enough time for all the things I want to do.
I’ll be playing a gig tomorrow night at the Astrobar at Simon-Dach-Straße in Friedrichshain, Berlin. Show starts at 9 p.m. It’d be nice to see you there. I’ll even bring my array mbira and play you some tunes on it. So do come!
Sorry for not updating again. Been mostly busy rehearsing. I even found a cellist who’s gonna play with me tomorrow night (July 5). It’s gonna be a great show. The first time that I can play as long as I want so it’ll be definitely over an hour. Yay!
If you live in Berlin please come to my gig and have fun. It’s at Mastul in Wedding, Liebenwalder Str. 33. We’ll start the show at 10 pm sharp. Hopefully see you there!
Really been slacking off with the blog writing business. So this might be a long one.
The gig at Schokoladen went okay. I was pretty nervous, still got a lot of stage fright which will hopefully subside once I’ve played all my new songs more often. The sound engineer was a bit of a twat. After a very quick soundcheck he only twiddled his thumbs while I played, didn’t readjust the volumes one bit even though that would have been a terrific idea. He even forgot to turn up the sound of my looper and then tried to blame it on me, when I asked the audience if they heard anything at all. Seems to me you can tell a bad sound engineer not only from him doing nothing after the soundcheck, but also giving stupid advice to female musicians. Yeah right, women and technology! Since I’m usually the only one turning up without a guitar I always have to play first. I had intended to play 5 songs, but was cut short after No. 4. After the gig a friend of mine came up to me, hugged me and told me how brave I was going on stage on my own. Cute! And lots of strangers told me they liked me best. Yay!
The next two days I took off. I couldn’t remember the last time I had two days off in a row and I felt like I deserved it after all the sleep deprivation and brain fuming. Accordingly spent most of the time sleeping.
I’ve got another gig coming up on July 5 and this time I can play as long as I want. I’d like to play all of my songs. A lot of the new ones have never been tried out live and it’s about time now. I’m even thinking of getting a cellist for this gig if I can find one in time. The last gig preparations proved to be much more time-consuming than I expected so this time I figured I’d start way early. Especially since I’m still in how-to-rearrange-songs-for-gigs mode. This is what I’ve been busy with lately. A lot of the plugins I’m using I only have for Windows so I rebuilt the ‘instruments’ and sounds for almost all new songs and bounced down audio for things that will be just played back or triggered live. Now I’m in the process of relearning the chords and melodies for the songs and trying out what seems to work simultaneously and what doesn’t. Gotta find a good MIDI controller programme for OS X, so I don’t have to assign two buttons or more any longer to get the result I want in Ableton Live. There’s still a lot to learn for me and I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of all the possibilities my setup provides. I’m thinking of buying a foot MIDI controller so that my hands are free for playing the keyboard or the array mbira once I’ve got it and I can still trigger sounds live with my feet. I guess it’s gonna be a work in progress and the more gigs I play the more I’ll know what works best.
Really tired now, even though I’ve got more to report. I’ll write again tomorrow I promise.
Been busy trying to rearrange some of my new songs so I can play them live. I wasn’t expecting it to take soooo long, but it does. Ran into some problems today when I realised that on my Macbook VST instruments don’t appear in the plug-ins folder in Ableton Live even though everything’s set up correctly. I wish I could just throw a fit, but that doesn’t help since I’m running out of time. Found a workaround for now which isn’t perfect. Who cares! For now. I’m getting a bit anxious that I might not be so well prepared after all. So much fine-tuning left and rehearsing all the little bits… gotta be done, so it will be done. I guess it’ll all gonna come together tomorrow.
The heat in Berlin is shocking. I don’t wanna moan. I like summer, especially when I actually have some time that I can spend outside. Preferably by a lake. For now I’m stuck inside my flat at close to 30 degrees Celsius. I’m so looking forward to Thursday. Finally going to a lake and spend an afternoon writing lyrics, swimming and having a picknick. That’s going to be my treat to myself. It’s always good to have something nice to look forward to when you’re slaving away while everyone else seems to be out and about having fun. Oh, and going to the Camille concert tomorrow.
Something great though also happened. My friend in San Diego contacted me to confirm he’s definitely coming in early August and he’s gonna bring my spanking new Array Mbira with him. Yay! Funny, I’d had just dreamt of playing one even though I never have. Gotta make up my mind soon how exactly I want it to be, because they’re custom-made and it takes about 4-6 weeks.
And now a little advertising: all who read this and live in Berlin, please come to the gig on Wednesday at Schokoladen. I’m gonna start playing no later than 10 pm so please come early.
Dinner now (I’m starving), then a huge pile of dishes and then back to rehearsing until my eyes fall shut.