Tag Archives: gig

Loose Ends

Alright… where to begin. The longer I don’t write the longer it takes me when I finally do. So I’m sitting here listening to Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’ again and sipping a beer.

The days’ve been flying by lately while I was busy tying up loose ends in my songs and preparing for the gig. Last time I’d caught you up on things I’d been working on ‘The Tide’. Apart from some small tweakings it’s done. I managed to write the remaining lyrics and came up with a nice melody. I also recorded some real spanish-sounding handclaps and finished the arrangement. The song’s very dramatic and cinematic, I love it. Here’s a tasty bit of it without vocals:



After that I moved on to ‘Euphoria’, a song that I’ve been working on on and off. Maybe that’s why it’s been causing me a bit of trouble. It never seemed euphoric enough for my liking. And when it already promises that in the title you have to deliver, don’t you? I’m still not completely satisfied with the beats, but something’s giving Ableton Live the hiccups in this song, especially the beats have dropouts. I’ll have to figure that out tomorrow. Other than that I’ve finally solved the puzzle last night. I tried to play the song faster and with 8 BPM more everything just fell into place. It’s funny sometimes. Of course, I had to redo certain parts, but then I got into a working frenzy and added some lovely piano part in the chorus that sounds like sunshiny rain – if you know what I mean, kind of like the equivalent to the sun coming out after a downpour – and some very expressive strings. The last part of the song had been only a rough idea until I’d started rehearsing the song. All of a sudden I had some backing vocals and the melody when I tried out stuff with my looper. Sometimes you just have to give a song some time to work itself out. I guess the rest will be a piece of cake now. I might have to find a new vocal melody for the refrain, but it’ll come. Another morsel (the refrain):



One week before my gig at Mastul I started rehearsing. I’d been asking around for a cellist and even found two. One ended up not having time on that day, but we’re definitely going to try to work together. I think he might be the better fit of the two, because when he plays on his own he uses a looper and a Macbook. So he knows where I’m at with my live setup. The other one that accompanied me for the gig turned out to be a bit of a rocker. What are the odds? I had to thwart him somewhat and our only rehearsal was mainly to talk things over. Even though he’d mostly improvised to my songs it went down well with the audience.

Since the gig was my first feature-length one I had a lot of things to prepare. On the previous Sunday I downloaded some free MIDI translator programmes so I could build macros to both trigger sounds and operate everything in Ableton Live with my MIDI keyboard. After trying out a couple I settled for midiStroke that converts MIDI messages into keystrokes. To termine note and channel numbers from my keyboard I also installed IttyBittyMIDI, a dashboard widget for Mac OS X that monitors MIDI signals on the computer and is programmed by the same guy. After I got that working smoothly I moved on to hooking up my looper to receive MIDIclock from my Mac and that way play in sync. I must say I was surprised how swiftly I got everything to work, because I’d been dreading the usual technical problems.

The rest of the week leading up to the gig I spent relearning my new songs, figuring out how to best play them live. I only have one MIDI keyboard so far that I use for playing stuff live, looping things within Live, triggering sounds and navigating through Live so I don’t have to touch the computer within a song. This has proven pretty tricky, because quite often I need most of the keys already just to play and I have to assign different keys for all kinds of actions in each song. A lot of stuff to remember, requires much thinking ahead while I’m playing and singing and so on. Lately each time I had to rehearse for a gig the weather was freaking hot which doesn’t help concentrating (I kept thinking I want to go swimming). I felt like my head was fuming and my brain melting. Or was it the other way around? Now there’s more equipment on my list to buy: a foot pedal to control my looper and a MIDI controller of some sort.

Anyway, the gig went well. Not that many people there, because it was almost the last hot day and people in Berlin tend to sit outside cafés and enjoy a nice drink instead of being inside. The ones that came loved it though with calls for encores and everything. I even sold some CDs. This time I wasn’t that nervous either. The atmosphere was very homely and cosy, a bit like a living room concert. I played all of my new songs apart from ‘Euphoria’, ‘Unspoken’ and ‘Chaos & Order’, a couple of old ones and a cover version of Brain Eno‘s ‘By This River’ with my looper. As the last song I played ‘Scaredy Cat’s Lullaby’ to which the cellist played exactly what I had composed for the song and after a while when I was singing on top of some looped vocals the sound engineer joined in doing some percussion and another guy started making up another vocal melody. Magic! Each time I do a gig I learn some more. The audience as the indicator of what works well and what needs adjusting. This time I felt like I’d achieved a new landmark in my performance. Sure, there are still some kinks to be worked out, but boy oh boy it’s really going somewhere now. I’m aching for more, totally hooked!

The next day, a Sunday, I spent blissfully hanging out doing absolutely nothing. I reckon I’d earned that and I was exhausted, too. Naturally, the way it always seems to be, there was a lot of cleaning to be done in my flat. I did most of that on Monday and decided to assiduously ignore certain bits for now. So my flat’s clean, but slightly messy. That’s the way it goes when you’re busy and I sure am. It’s going to be a tight schedule till the end of July. Still, I’m loving every single minute of it!

x

Live life live

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.

x

 

I don’t like Mondays… and computers

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.

x

Building blocks

Thursday was the – for now – last day I worked on ‘The Tide’. I wrote some more bits for the string arrangement and added a great middle 8 that adds perfectly to the dramatic sound of the song. Then in the evening a good friend of mine who I hadn’t seen for some time came round to listen to my songs. He hadn’t heard much of the new songs, actually only knew the first two. So I bribed him with a nice dinner I cooked for the both of us. And he got pretty excited when I played him my songs. His favourites were ‘Webs’, ‘Unspoken’ and ‘The Tide’. We didn’t get around to all the songs since we got a bit drunk and then another friend came by who – believe it or not – doesn’t really like music.

In the last two days I started rearranging some of my new songs for a gig I’m playing next Wednesday. So far I’ve done ‘Webs’ and I’m on ‘Hearts first’ now. Pretty tricky what I want to pull off live, doing my One-Woman-Show. It takes a lot of preparation, rehearsing and thinking how each song works best because I definitely don’t want to do some sort of karaoke. Admittedly some parts will just be done by play back, but I’m trying to play as much live as possible. Since I’m writing and producing on Windows XP, but play live with my Macbook Pro, I have to find some work arounds for the VST instruments and plugins that only work on XP. Quite time consuming, but at least this time I’ve hopefully started early enough to be well prepared on stage.



That’s how ‘Webs’ as an instrumental originally looks. Quite something going on in there, right?!

Off to a little gig I was asked to come to tonight. I’ll try not to stay out too long nor get too drunk… fingers crossed!

x

This and that

Time’s really been flying in the last couple of days. After being sick my flat looked extremely messy. Dishes piling up, no more food in the fridge. So I started undoing the mess and once I was at it I decided to do a serious spring cleaning. Took care of a lot of things that I previously chose to ignore, but that had begun bugging me. It took me all of wednesday and thursday. At least they’re done with now. Phew!

On friday friends of mine got married and my best friend came to Berlin especially for this event. The ceremony was nice and the party was loads of fun. Yesterday I used the little time I had to hang out with my best friend before he left again. We don’t see each other very often since we don’t live in the same city anymore. What a shame! In the evening I went to see Patrick Watson live at Admiralspalast. The band was absolutely brilliant and played for two hours. When they played ‘Man under the Sea’ they even came up the ranks and did an unplugged version. Patrick was standing and singing almost right where we sat. Funny guy, too. Last night I dreamt the whole concert again. Very inspiring! Now I feel ready to plunge into the music making again with new energy.

On wednesday Bobby Starrr was supposed to come over to rehearse for the upcoming gig. Unfortunately he’s got a cold now and the gig is canceled for now. We might play the Villa at a later date or maybe just other venues. The organisers at the Villa were unwilling or unable to confirm the date of the gig. Apparently the guy in charge of booking has gone bonkers and doesn’t answer any calls or messages. We were advised to call the whole thing off. Otherwise we might have turned up without a PA system and party people to be found. We’re definitely gonna do this live thing together at some point, it’s only put on hold. To be honest, I’m not complaining. I’m  going to be busy enough finishing my album.

And now… it’s back to the music.

x

Blooms & Starrrs

More preparations for the gig with Bobby Starrr. Built some more ‘instruments’ so I can play stuff live on my Mac/keyboard and won’t only trigger everything. That’d be a bit boring. Made nice broken beats as an interlude and found some great VST plugins with which I can manipulate the sound live. Real live tweaking and geeking, yay! I also listened closely to the tracks since I have to know what is supposed to happen when. They’re quite free form, but you still have climaxes and breaks that need be considered.

Did some reading up on how to best do certain things with Ableton Live in a gig situation. This programme has so many features hidden away that if you don’t use them for a while you just don’t remember properly. There’s still quite a bit to figure out tomorrow. I guess I’ll have to do bits and bobs over the next couple of days. Bobby is coming over tomorrow afternoon with most of his gear and we’re gonna rehearse the whole set. I hope going through everything with him will clarify a few things that I’m still a bit clueless about.

x

Off the couch

No news in the last couple of days because the cold had me lying on the couch. Much better now though. My nose still looks a bit like Rudolph the Reindeer’s and I’ve got a croaky voice, but that’ll subside in the next days. On the upside… I watched some great movies I’ve had on my list for a while now. I’ve begun reading Salman Rushdie‘s ‘Shalimar the Clown’ and his language is so beautiful it’s always inspiring. Reading one of his books triggered the way I wrote the lyrics for ‘Unspoken’.

Today was the first day I felt like working again. Still taking it slow since I’m not that fit yet. Nevertheless I finally hooked up the borrowed audio-interface and after downloading the appropriate driver for my system it seems to work smoothly. I went through all the presets that come with Ableton Live and made notes about which ones could be good for our live set. Had a lot of fun actually playing around and it made me want to start preparing my new songs for gigs. First things first though. I’m writing and recording my songs on a Windows XP setup, but recently bought a Macbook Pro for playing live. I’ve collected some great VST plugins and instruments over the years, but unfortunately most of them don’t work for Mac OS X. So I started recording the sounds that I then edit and chuck into the Live Sampler. That works really well, but preparing each instrument takes about half an hour. I guess if it didn’t come in handy for my own solo gigs I wouldn’t make such a big fuss for the project with Bobby Starrr. Especially since it’s much more about broad strokes than with my own songs. Of course I completely underestimated the amount of time it takes, but when if not now? It’s pretty dull work, but exactly right when you’re still feeling a bit under the weather. I also searched the internet today for great plugins for OS X and am happy to report I found some really interesting ones.

Tomorrow will probably be all about preparations for the gig and hopefully some rehearsing, too. I’d like to wrap the whole thing up till wednesday night. It might be too optimistic a schedule I’m afraid. I’m anxious to get back to writing and recording again. While playing around with sounds I came up with a nice little melody already. Not sure what it’s gonna end up as. Maybe just a little instrumental piece. Who knows though? Anyway it sounds a bit like a nursery rhyme.

Really gotta go to bed now. It’s far too late already.

x

Cold

I’ve got a cold. On monday there was this woman sitting beside me and constantly coughing in my direction. And I thought to myself, it’s all good and well that she likes sharing, but does she have to be generous with her germs? It already started to show yesterday when I woke up with a sore throat. So I tried to fight it by taking medicine and drinking teas with honey and lemon right away. I didn’t manage to stop it, but it’s not as bad as it could have been. My nose isn’t constantly running and I had a good long sleep last night. That’s a big plus. I’m not fit, but neither am I so sick that I’m too weak to leave the bed. Actually I’m already bored with watching movies and series. Nevertheless I will be a good girl and plop myself onto the couch and do anything to get better. No use to keep working and drag the cold on and on. Hopefully I’ll be over it tomorrow. Might be my impatience talking though. One thing I’ll do today is backing up my music. It’s about time I did that anyway. Just imagining that I could lose all of it is inconceivable. And I can do it comfortably and conviently from my couch.

Yesterday I went to meet up with Bobby Starrr in his home studio equipped with lozenges. Step by step we went through the tracks we want to play live. It’s gonna be one solid set, no breaks for roughly an hour. Essentially it’s gonna be house music. But since I’m involved in this project there’s no way it’ll turn out as that in the end. There’s gonna be loads of vocal live looping, use of field recordings, my own odd beats etc. We have some nice surprises up our sleeves. When I agreed to do this gig I wasn’t sure how open Bobby would be to my suggestions and ideas. As it turns out wide open. He thinks that our mash up of musical styles is way better than just playing house live. That we might hopefully really blow people’s minds. Hear, hear! I can only nod like a bobblehead.

m-audio firewire 410

He also lent me his M-Audio Firewire 410 Audio-Interface. I’m genuinly itching to hook up all my gear to it. Tomorrow… Because of my cold I also have to postpone the recording of the piano part. Oh, well.

x

Gigs and changes of heart

Had a bit of an undecisive day yesterday when I had no clue if the arrangement for ‘Hearts first’ was any good, especially the beats. So I didn’t make all that much progress – adding things and deleting them again.

I ended up going to Antje Öklesund to see Phoebe Kreutz play live. Always a pleasure. It looks like I’m gonna play there, too.

Today I wrote and recorded a new ending for ‘Hearts first’. The indecisiveness completely gone. There’s still quite a bit to do to finish the song, but I’m gonna play at Grüner Salon tomorrow night at VoicesUp so I started rehearsing the songs I will play. ‘Hearts first’ amongst them. I’m gonna perform it on the grand piano, sing and  sometimes tap a rhythm on the piano. Maybe even integrate the looper. More rehearsing tomorrow and then more work on music on friday.