Monday, February 26, 2007

Was It a Dream?

Back at my desk. At least my head is.

My mind is still in that bed on Sunday morning.

6.15 AM, woke up with Colombo in my heart.

As soon as I get through the backlog I'll start to do a post or fifteen about the week.

It really was one of the best though.

The quickest week ever.

That's the big C for you.

That's Colombo!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Bye Then

The final day is here. After my looking forward to this week so much I feel as if I've had a monumental and life changing one.

There's tons of stuff I'll be writing about in the weeks to come, I've no intention of trying to get it all down in one post.

To every person I've met I just want to say thanks. From Java to Mala, from Photographer to Doco Maker, from Cliff's drummer to Shiraaz and from Naz to B.

Thanks and bye. I'll be out and about doing the family visiting thing today and popping into places, buying presents and doing all the stuff I should have done all week. The more of you I bump into the happier I'll be.

I don't know exactly why but I feel a tad emotional writing this. I've met so many wonderful people and received such kindness that I feel honoured.

So, as the French say. I hope it's not "goodbye".

Let's just call it a "Bonjour".

RD

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Oooh - My Head Hurts!

But it was worth it.

A superbly enjoyable time was had in Colombo last night. I was entertained by friends, of the older and newer and the younger types. All sorts actually.

Thanks are due to all of them, the hospitality and kindness can be overwhelming but it warms the cockles of one's soul too. To build relationships with people that I'm sure Grandparents and the like would want me to get to know feels pleasantly deep and a bit on the spiritual side.

That's enough meaningful stuff. The night was a mixture of everything from five star hotels to no star establishments with more characters than a Dickens novel. I think the night was such a late one that I got back here sometime next week. I'll tell you more about it later.

It doesn't get any easier you know. I'm off now to meet a scintillating and sexy lady for a spot of lunch.

Isn't she the lucky one!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Even The Sun Is Different Here

This'll be a quick post. To tell you that I can't quite believe what happened to me today.

I went to Barefoot to check out the Sunday afternoon jazz that goes on. There's something about the Barefoot Garden that is beyond description. So I won't try to describe it. I have never seen a photograph, a narrative or a video clip that can put across the ambience of the place, its feel and atmosphere. As Mala said

"Even the sun is different at Barefoot."

So, there I was, in one of the most relaxing settings I can imagine, only I didn't have to imagine it because I was there. The sun was out, the music was good and the drumming was sublimely played by Shiraaz Nooramith. The devilled prawns were delicious, so much so that I nearly ate some of the salad that came with them. And I was as chilled as my Diet Coke.

The band took a break and, as I was chatting away, I heard some music come through the sound system. I knew the song, you know that " Oh what's that song again?" nanosecond of a moment? I had one of them, then realised that I knew it because it was my band. I had given a copy of our demo to Shiraaz and he had asked Mo to put it on. It was a weird few minutes. I looked around at the people to see if they were reacting to the music. Largely they weren't, just like home I thought. At least no one walked out in protest or tried to get a refund, that would have been just like home. Still, I gave the money back to the wife after she asked for the fourth time.

Seriously I felt rather dreamlike. I've heard the songs so many times and in so many places and situations that I should be used to it, but to hear them at Bareass Boulevard, in that setting with that, or rather this climate, was something else.

What else? Oh yes. I've met Java Jones, all round top geezer who thinks my accent is more British than he expected, Ravana, who taught me a new word; meetspace, not to be confused with meatspace, the internet butcher. I even met thephatone, albeit briefly.

The best bit? I got to play a song with the jazz band at the Foot, more about that later, it needs a post of its own.

And I still don't know who wans the strawberry stuff!

Friday, February 16, 2007

I'll Be Off Then.

Friday night should see me comfortably ensconced on one of SriLankan's finest. Some, like R, T, Cof25, S and Darwin will know how exciting it feels to be Colombo bound, even for a short break. I suppose I should think about packing soon.

I won't miss the weather here in London and the wimmin' are scuttling off to the Isle of Man to see their Grandmother, so I have no guilt pangs either!

And who was the person who wanted the Dunn's Nourishment Strawberry stuff? I've got it.

Laters.

Or maybe see you in a few days!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Negative, Intelligent or Just a Wanker?

Or maybe all three.

I had a social encounter recently that annoyed me. I shan't name names or give a lot of detail but it was with a friend who I'm normally fond of and whom I have a lot of respect for. Occasionally he demonstrates the kind of behaviour that I'll explain, that makes me question whether I actually like him.

We were discussing something, a group of us, and the friend had some objections. Fair enough, I can accept that. He voiced his objections, but then kept going on and on with a torrent of negative criticism about everything we talked about in the ensuing discussion. We've all seen others and maybe ourselves do it at times, when we just go off on one. You know the scenario; someone casually says that it's 2007 and the bloke spends four and a half days arguing that it's not, someone else says that Kylie Minogue's got a nice bum and the bloke argues that she hasn't. Just ridiculousness.

He was not just negative but he was also destructive, giving objections to virtually everything but with no ideas of his own and certainly nothing to add. The old business adage springs to mind of

"Don't come with problems come with solutions".

His demeanour and tone was full of sarcasm, cynicism and sceptism. Frankly I would have like to have put another "ism" in there but couldn't think of one. It turned out to be one of those sessions where we all ended up feeling drained, mostly because of the negative energy that he seemed to infect us with.

When I reflected on things afterwards I remembered something I had read some years ago, written by Edward de Bono. I'm a big fan of de Bono, his contributions to management thinking have been immeasurable and yet he still finds the time to release new albums and write songs.

The thing that I remembered was a topic he called "The Intelligence Trap". You can read his proper explanation of it here. Or let me try to explain it.

It occurs in more intelligent people when they get too wrapped up in trying to prove a point and win an argument. The theory goes that the intelligentsia are better equipped to win an argument by using logic and reasoning than the less intelligent of us. So they continue to push their point and get so absorbed by thoughts of winning the debate that objectivity and rights and wrongs go flying out of the window. A bit like that story my Grandmother used to tell me about the chap who could prove mathematically, with no room whatsoever left for uncertainty, that the Earth is flat. All well and good, but wrong.

The less intellectually able parties are the ones who are more likely to see sense, they are more likely to change opinion because they're more open to ideas. The highly intelligent are attracted to negativity as it's often a way to assert their intellectual superiority and are often the ones who are overly critical of others.

I bet everyone gets caught in the intelligence trap at times and I think that's what happened to the friend the other day. It's frustrating for all around but, I always think that if you know about a trap, then it's much easier to avoid.

Negatively critical thinking has its place and its uses. But, given a choice, I'd always rather be classed as an ideas person than a critic.

What about you?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Manbag - Decision is announced.

My brother, the one who reads this and denies it, bought me one as a birthday present and therefore forced my hand somewhat. He also gave me a book called "awaken the writer within" about awakening the writer within.

So if you notice a sudden change in writing style (ie you suddenly find things around here get interesting, funny or a bit sexy) then you can take it that I have started to read the book and it's stirred the adventurous but previously dormant creative writing genius that was always within me, just never up and moving around.

Back to the manbag business. The decision about whether I should buy one is not an issue any longer. I shan't be buying one because I've got one. It's kind of satchel like, jammed full of pockets, zips and straps and I must say that it looks quite fetching. The big question is whether I go ahead and use it.

You know me well enough by now to realise that I'm reporting the facts to you, there's no embellishment, no distortion and nothing added for effect, unlike most guitar solos. The fact is that I've been practising the "walking around town with a manbag" thing at home.

The big stumbling block, well the two of them, are the camera and the whole "will I look like Camp Freddie from The Italian Job?" thing. If you're camp or called Freddie or an Italian or an actor from the sixties then please accept my apologies, for I've no personal grudge against you. Your life is probably pretty tough as it is.

I've been strolling around Rhythmic Towers with the manbag to see what the wimmin' think. I discovered that, on balance, they don't care at all. The only way I could get their interest would be to fill the bag with Nintendo related things.

But I decided one thing immediately; the large satchel sized manbags are all well and good, but they're actually a substitute for a briefcase, albeit in a more fashionable way. That's good, if you're a laptop toting writing sort of person. If you're like me and all you want to carry around is a wallet, some ID (in SL), keys and some of that fluff that you normally have in your pockets or in your navel then a smaller manbag is what's required.

So now, I can frequently be spotted perusing the menswear departments checking out the smaller sized manbags. The next stage of my evolution is to buy one, then not use that too. But after vast research on these I can't quite bring myself to make cross the line, the point of no return, the point of purchase. Of course it's not actually a point of no return because I could return it if I don't like it, providing it's in the original condition and with all the original wrapping and stuff.

Then again, if I get one of these I won't be able to take my journal pad thing around or my drumsticks (I'm being serious there, ask my brother) or anything that is larger than the size of about a fag packet. So it will be a bag for my wallet and ID, which fit in my pockets anyway.

Decisions, decisions. I spent a good twenty minutes yesterday peering deeply at the satchel manbag which has found a home hanging on the back of a door with all the wimmin's handbags in the house. All thirty seven thousand three hundred and twelve of them. I played with its zips, I pulled some velcro fastenings, I looked at its many pockets and I tried carrying it around the house with my camera in it, both in its case and out of its case. Then, like the judges on a reality TV programme, only this time with serious stuff at stake, I finally came to a decision.

It will shortly be thrown into the Colombo bound suitcase, assuming SriLankan Airlines doesn't misroute it of course. I'm going to give it a go, with a large dose of trepidation and a load of nerves I'm going to give it a run out. It's a risk and it's an adventure but I'm just a thrill seeking risk taker and this is just another challenge to face up to.

I might look like a brown skinned camp Freddie or I might be mistaken for some kind of trendsetting film star.

There's only one way to find out.

Just write something, anything.

New Year's resolutions, as far as I'm concerned, are shit really. They defy logic and should be banned. If you want to lose weight then why wait until the first of January to do something about it and if you want to give up smoking then just do it. If you make a resolution it usually lasts until sometime in January and then life carries on as usual.

But this year I made one of my own. It was to do with music, specifically drumming, and it has already made a big impact on my playing. I decided that I'd learn one new drum fill per week. A fill is one of those frilly bits that may lead on to a chorus or a middle eight or any new segment of a song. A change from the groove, maybe a drum roll or a few cymbal hits, it can be anything really.

For a long time I felt that my fills are one of the weaker areas in my play. My mental library of fills that I might call on and use in any situation was no way near as big as I wanted it to be, yet my groove playing has always come a bit more easily. The best drummers will play a fill and always, no matter how hard or how technically simple it may be, they'll play something that fits the music.

Think of Dave Grohl's opening fill on "Smells like Teen Spirit". It wasn't just a fill, it pretty much launched grunge into the nineties, it heralded in a new era and it was perfect for the song. Or think of Stevie's drum introduction to "Superstition". Both of them are technically simple yet couldn't be more musically appropriate.

What I set out to do was to build my own library of fills, not necessarily hard to play but just ones that would sound good and feel right in a musical setting. I'd had enough of sitting at my practise kit and playing around with things, coming up with something I liked only to have forgotten it the following day. So I decided that I'd learn a new one every week for the whole of 2007. They needn't be my own, they could be "borrowed" from other songs and other drummers. Learning and mastering them is only half the job, the other half is to apply them in the right song and the correct setting. Superstition would never have felt the same if the opening fill from Teen Spirit had been its opening now, would it?

I spent some time thinking about how I could do this properly and effectively. If I succeeded in the one a week thing I'd end up with around fifty two new fills in the year (Captain Obvious is here!). However, it's very likely that I'd come up with some crap, or a lot of crap. So I tried to be conservative about it and decided that fifty ish fills in total might give me twenty five good useable ones. If it takes me a year to add that many new fills to my musical vocabulary then I'll be happy.

To learn them properly and get them into my head is not as easy as it sounds. One of the continual musical challenges for me is jamming with others and keeping my mind open and nimble to ideas for fills. I often find that, when under pressure, I tend to play only a small slice of the already small number of fills in my armament. Learning the fifty two (or 25 good ones) will grow my library and give me more available ones. But how do I increase the number that I'll actually use in a "high pressure" environment? How do I keep more at the forefront of my musical mind, so they're ready and waiting to pop out at the right time?

I have to "make them mine". I've got to practise all of them so much that I own them, that they become my fills, my drum phrases and my musical vocabulary. The first thing to help me with achieving this is to write each one down. Drum music is the same as normal written music, note values and rests are all the same. The only difference is that the position of the note on the stave tells you which drum to play. The act of writing down each fill immediately imprints it on my mind with more longevity than if I hadn't written it down, largely because my music theory is so bad that it takes me a shed load of time to write down the simplest of fills.

Then, once I've got it on paper and it's correctly notated, I can return to it and know how it should sound at any time in the future. Practising is easier when you know what you have to practise and there's no "it sounded something like bla bla bap ba doo" stuff going on. Then I keep practising these little babies as often as possible, making them mine.

I've got two pages of the chaps now, I'm ahead of my one a week schedule, only because I've decided to write down every good one I think of. I find that, as I think of one and write it down, that will often lead me to think of others. Sometimes these might be similar to the original one but it's good to get them written down and mastered too.

And that's the great thing about this writing stuff down thing. Now that I've got some creative juices trickling fills come to me at the most odd moments. I was checking my blog comments last night and one came to me. I rushed to my kit and spent about forty five minutes getting it written down. The semi quaver rests, flams and dotted note values were playing havoc with my limited ability. But I got it down, it's still in my mind twelve hours later and I think it's one of the ones I'll use in the future. The funny thing is that I'm sure it's from a song that I know, I just can't place it yet. It's definitely not Dave's or Stevie's though! Even better was the fact that I came up with another one whilst sitting at the kit.

The act of writing, whether it's in the form of words, musical notation or a mindmap, something I'm a fan of, always acts as a kick up the backside. If I'm sitting and contemplating what to write I invariably get flooded by a lack of ideas and a tide of nothingness. The second that I put pen to paper, finger to keyboard or pencil to music manuscript I start to get ideas and the juices start to ooze. I should probably get some treatment for the oozing juices but the ideas thing is good and healthy.

It's early days but I fully intend to continue with my resolution. The rewards are already evident in my play and I'm excited about what's to come. If I finish 2007 with twenty five new and good useable fills in my musical library I'll be well chuffed.

Maybe the New Year's resolution thing isn't such a bad idea after all.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

As Luck Would Have It

In a week's time I'll be floating around Colombo. I'll be on a quick eight day jaunt, just relaxing, visiting some friends and relations and chilling, in a hot way.

It's fair to say that most people have a love for their Country of origin, whether that be Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan or even the good old US of A.

I've never lived in SL, but was born and brought up here in the UK, to Sri Lankan parents. As I've got older I've discovered and nutured my passion for Sri Lanka and all that goes with it.

As a kid I sometimes entertained the notion that I wasn't at home either here in the UK or in Sri Lanka. But now I feel privileged to be able to say I've got two home countries.

I've got London as the city of my birth, the Capital of the World and that gives me my physical home and then England and the UK and all the great things that come with it.

Then I've got the richness and diversity, the colour and the tropical splendour of my heritage; Sri Lanka. Few Countries are able to stir feelings of emotion and passion the way it does.

As heritages go, I think it's a damn fine one!

Friday, February 9, 2007

The Achcharu Game

I've been doing a bit of eyeballing Achcharu recently. You may think I'm just jumping on the bandwagon, the one that was wheeled into motion by Darwin here. A kind of Achcharu wagon I guess. But no, I ain't jumping on no Achcharu wagon, just ask Lady Luck or my brother. They'll tell you that I was going on about the tags on Achcharu a while ago.

I like it. I like it because that chap who runs it, that drac bloke, has and clearly does, put a lot of effort and time into it. I don't claim to understand all the technospeak, the utterances of RSS feeds, Firefox and all that geeky stuff but I like the end result.

A few days ago I was moaning about the tags to Lady Luck, saying that they're negative and destructively critical and bemoaning the fact that they're funny but also a bit evil, like a clown.

Lady Luck, in her eloquent, intellectual and medical way basically told me I was being an arse. My brother told me a similar thing a few days before, without the medical and eloquent stuff. He takes more of a cultural geographical approach and uses more swear words. The swear words aren't part of his culturally geographical approach, they're more to do with his personality.

So I decided to mellow a bit about these tags. Then Darwin posted about them too, that confirmed my decision, that some lightening up needed to be done. So I've now started to read them and chuckle. Some are witty, some are bitchy, some are cutting and some are just below the belt nasty.

I confess though, I have a fundamental issue with people leaving negative comments, whether they're proper comments on a blog or tags like these, if they are left under the cover of anonymity. My thinking is that it's only people lacking in bollocks who do this. If you're going to hurl insults, chuck bitchiness around and call names then at least have the tiny bit of courage to let the recipient know who you are.

Only this morning I noticed that someone had tagged a post I had put up, this one, with "you have a BMW we get it" and "small penis". The latter has since been removed, the tag that is, not the actual small penis. Presumably it broke the rules. There's a hint of sour grapes about it but it's largely true, well entirely true.

There was another tag on another post of mine saying "NSFW". I had to google this to see what it meant; "Not safe for work" was the result of my research. This is quite an honour, I'm not aware that I've ever written anything or posted any pictures before that are not safe for work, with the exception of all the hardcore stuff of course.

On the other hand some of these tags are side splittingly hilarious, the kind of remarks that we're all thinking to ourselves anyway. The kind of things that we'd all like to say but wouldn't unless it could be done with anonymity. I'd guarantee that I'm not the only one who's condescendingly amused by that bloke with the Nissan. The one that's been "extended" by several feet and made to look like a Bugatti Veyron or something. The fellow without a "T" or an "H" on his keyboard.

I've noticed something that is giving me much amusement and joy. You may want to bear in mind that I'm also entertained by farts, making sexual organs out of Gorillapods and hitting things with sticks before you rush out and try it.

On Achcharu there is often a section at the top right of the screen showing tags that are pending. I think these are the tags that people have put by posts that have yet to be approved and assigned to the relevant posts. It doesn't show up that often but if you see it try to do what I've now started to do.

Trying to guess which post each tag will be assigned to. I've had literally minutes of fun trying to figure out which particular post will get the tag that says:

"grammarians everywhere silently weep".

And who was going to get the onomatopoeic:

"greed is good greed works"?

Have a look and you'll see for yourself.

In the meantime I'll continue to contemplate whether I should embark on a campaign to say nice things, to leave positive and constructive tags.

Have a good weekend all.

Yes It's True

It snowed, it settled, it melted, it went.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Broke my leg



The photographers out there may be interested in this contraption that I've had to buy two of. It's called a Gorillapod. It's a masterpiece of design, a gadget to be adored and a thing to put your camera on.

I saw it announced in the photo press here a few months ago and it shot straight in to the higher middle eschelons of my "gadgets I'll buy" list. It's a big list, counting such marvels as a new iPod, Porsche 911, one of those reading lights that clips on to the top of a book and a record player thing that plugs into a USB port. So to enter at a high middling position is no mean feat.

There was I playing around with it, as all boys do, when "snap", a leg broke. All I was doing was trying to make it look like this:



So I had to go out and buy another one. If you want a Gorrillapod with a broken leg, just let me know.

I know - I should grow up.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Gig

Whenever I write about drum stuff or band related things, people lose interest. Comments decrease, viewings go down and "regulars" sit and wait for something interesting to come along. I don't mind that, I've got my new found sense of writing for myself to fall back on and I've got the biggest gig I've ever played to tell you about. A number of people have asked me how the gig went and I wondered how I'd write a "review" post on it. After all, I can't make a claim to be an objective reviewer and I'm hardly going to tell you that my band was crap am I? So I've decided to be self indulgent. I'm going to attempt to describe the thoughts and feelings that I had during the gig. You probably won't last until the end, but just in case you do, I'd like to thank you in advance.

It happened on the Thursday before last. The "Funk Vibes" gig.

For about four months we have had the thing booked in the diaries. In itself that is an achievement, after all we're looking at musicians here and diaries, paperwork and admin aren't things that slot into the average musician's lifestyle too easily. Fortunately we in Mimosa are all far from average, considerably below it to be precise. In the diaries therefore was this "big one" a full blown proper gig in a theatre that holds a proper sized audience. We were one of three bands on the bill and we were the second band in order of brilliantness.

We had our last band practice on Tuesday night and were as meticulously and as thoroughly prepared as we thought possible, all our own individual practice was done and we felt as ready and as raring to go as a starving Chikungunya mosquito on a pay per infected person bonus scheme. There was just the wait to go through. On Wednesday night I did no practice, not even to sit down at the kit. I always think that it's better that way. On Thursday I came into work as usual then left at about lunchtime to go home, get my stuff ready and attempt to get "in the zone".

Home I headed, with thoughts zipping through my brain from "How much hair product should I use?" to "Will I remember the fills in Little Wing, the ones which for some inexplicable reason I either play perfectly or make a total hash of?" There were many other things, including my work issue which was still looming large, in the old grey mass. For your information though I went for the "not much and probably not enough product" approach and the "total hash" approach.

I did all my stuff at home. I'm not superstitious and don't have a set routine prior to a gig so this time I ran through most of the set on the practice kit, paying attention to the trickier bits. I undressed, showered, brushed the teeth, all that kind of stuff and then spent ages dressing and messing with hair product to give me an unkempt, unshowered and unclean look that would befit the rock 'n' roll image. Then the tools of my trade had to be loaded in the car. It was a kitshare and I was using the kit belonging to the drummer in the headlining band, the norm in these things, so I only had to take a minimum of stuff. The minimum for a drummer that is, which is still roughly seventeen times more things than most drum shops hold in stock.

That consisted of two snare drums, a bag of cymbals, my double bass pedal, my own stool (in case I couldn't adjust the height on the other one) and my bag of "consumables" (sticks, nuts bolts etc). All this just about fitted in my boot. Oh, and Shalimar the Clown too, not to be confused with Ronald. Shalimar is deadly, very obsessive and from Kashmir whereas Ronald is continually laughing, full of junk food and wears big red shoes everywhere.

And off I went, with a drumpitty drum, drum drum, drum.

Further shattering your image of the rock 'n' roll drummer I got there about an hour before I had to, settled into the warm car and got out Shalimar the Clown, Mr Rushdie's latest. It's had me engrossed for the past weeks, albeit in a way that's slow and painful. I have to reread every other sentence because the language is all poetic and flowery and I'm just not used to that. It's magical language, but it takes some getting used to. After my alloted time I strolled into the theatre, trying to portray the image of nonchalent funk drummer who's cool as a cucumber yet still a bit excited. I pulled it off superbly, but no one was there to witness the act. Damn!

Now up until around this point I had been feeling calm and relaxed. I knew we'd be playing to a largish crowd. Not large by the standards of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, or the Foos, they'd probably have more crew than we would have crowd, but by our standards this was a biggie. I'd been calm though, I felt ready and relaxed and I knew that the paying punters would be on our side. Mistakes are all part of a live performance and, from my perspective, this gig, as with any, wasn't going to be about playing every note perfectly. It would be about getting out there and grooving, making it feel good, keeping good time and being solid.

Then I walked into the theatre.

OH FUCKINNN 'ELLL!!!!

is the only accurate way to portray my feelings. It was a proper theatre, with seats, stalls, those balcony bits, fold up velour chairs and a full size stage. There was even a stage curtain. Hell, there was even a "Green room" backstage. It had settees and fridges and dressing rooms complete with a closed circuit TV camera to watch things going on onstage. This wasn't the local pub in Basingstoke, it was a real venue.

I spent some time wandering around and eventually found the stage. It was at the front of the place and about four times the size of Luxembourg. I located the drummer from the main band setting up his kit and headed towards him. We've met before and he's a nice bloke and a superb drummer so we exchanged the usual drummer pleasantries; what do you think of Bush's foreign policy? Did you watch the Panorama programme about Alexander Litvinenko? What do you think the Bank of England will do to interest rates next? What kind of sticks do you use? Just the normal idle chit chat between drummers.

There wasn't much I could do to help him set the kit up so I sat down and began to warm up with some sticks and a practice pad, a marvellous nerve settler. Then we went through the rigmarole of getting all the levels set correctly. This is the bit where you hear the singer saying "one, two" over and over again, where you hear the bass drum being hit endlessly and all musicians try their hardest to play incredibly hard musical snippets yet make them sound easy and relaxed. The sound man is the one setting levels and balancing things and the rest of us are busy trying to impress, without looking like that's what we're doing.

You see, making an impression on the run of the mill boisterous punter is quite easy, it's impressing other musos that's hard. We all try to do it, we rarely admit it though. Just don't tell anyone I told you.

Kaldera, the main band, did their soundcheck and they were their usual tight and slick selves. Then we got up and soundchecked a brace of songs. All was smoothly juicy, the other bandmembers were playing their own instruments and I had to adapt quickly to another drummer's kit. I had my cymbals, my snare and my bass pedals so all I had to get used to was the positional stuff.

It's an exciting and whooshing type of experience to play on a stage where everything is done properly, but even more so when you're used to a different scenario. I was suddenly faced with the luxury of two monitors, a drum kit that was fully miked up and a sound engineer that could give me the exact monitor mix I wanted. It's not something I'm totally alien to it so I was able to ask the engineer for the mix that I knew I wanted. But it's the feeling of playing a fully miked up drumkit that' s vastly different to the norm for me.

When I'm doing a gig in a small venue, which is pretty much all the time, the drums will have no miking up at all, except some rare occassions when the bass drum may have a mic in, just for a bit of extra bottom end. So all the balance of the drum sound is down to me, the drummer. If you're in the audience the balance of my kit, ie how much bass drum, snare drum or hi hats you'll hear, will be dictated entirely by how hard, or softly, I hit each respective thing. The great drummers can change the feel of a song by the balance in their play and often, when people talk about groove, they are referring to that balance as an intrinsic part of it.

When you're on a bigger stage, in a bigger venue and the whole kit is miked up, it's the sound engineer who dictates how the crowd hear the drumkit. The noise levels are so great that hardly anyone can actually hear the natural acoustic sound of the drums, all they're hearing is what has been amplified through the PA, all I'm hearing is what is put out through my monitor mix.

The result is that everything changes. I can tap the bass drum like a feather and the sound guy can decide that it should be the loudest voice in the kit, or I can smack seven bells out of my snare drum and he can decide that he wants just a tiny whisper to come through. Now, in practice he wasn't as extreme as that but there's still some very different conditions to become accustomed to in a short time. I find that the best thing is to concentrate on playing the correct notes and not worry about balance too much. That I did, or tried to do.

So we finished our soundcheck then vacated Luxembourg. It meant that all my stuff had to be taken down from the kit but that's showbiz. We left the stage, headed for the bar and the Green room and watched the young Indie band hit the stage for their turn to do the honours.

I have noticed in myself that, immediately before a performance, I struggle with the whole socialising thing. I feel as if all I want to do is get on and play. I see other people happily chatting and laughing and all I want to do is get out there and get on with it. I used to struggle with this, now I accept it and leave the socialising to others while I get warmed up and ready.

I wandered around the theatre, fluttering from the Green room to the bar to the stalls to the circle, then doing it all again. Surprisingly I wasn't recognised by hoardes of screaming fans. At one point the wife recognised me, I think it was the fourth or fifth time I walked past her, but I managed to evade her before a conversation started.

I hung around in various places and watched the theatre fill up with people. This filled me with a mixture of electrifying excitement and terrifying tension. Excitement that many of these people had actually paid some spondulicks to see us and terror that they had paid some spondulicks to see us. Then the Indie kids came on stage to do their stuff. They're a nice bunch of lads if a bit angsty, all good musicians with hair, beany hats, attitude and most likely repectable city jobs during the day. They did a half hour or so set, which I watched from every part of the building, just because I could. I had a yellow wristband, an "access all areas" thing. It wasn't quite like having one at Glastonbury but I sure as hell wasn't going to waste it.

They did their thing, their parents, friends and girlfriends applauded wildly and keenly and then we took to the stage to get our equipment set up again. After about twenty minutes we were ready. We convened in the Green room, all full to the brim with a mixture of nerves, excitement and fear. We did one of those group hug bonding things, you know the ones that all Americans do fourteen times a day. Well we're not used to that kind of touchy feely stuff in England so, on infrequent occasions when I'm involved in one, it's quite a motivational and powerful thing. Off we headed, through some doors, down some corridors and through one more door until we appeared out on stage, in front of our adoring fans.

I felt a rush of blood, a twinge of exhilaration and quite a lot of wind. The culmination of all the months of rehearsal, of all the practice and all the songwriting was about to take place and it felt unreal and dreamlike. In the few seconds between sitting at the kit and counting in the first song it felt as if a lifetime of thoughts and feelings went through my head. At least it does now. At the time my main focus was on recalling the tempo of "Summertime", our first song, correctly. I did.
Debby, our most beautiful and wonderful singer, said some singerish things to the audience. Things like "we're Mimosa" and the routine stuff all singers say. From the very back of Luxembourg and behind a drum kit with lights shining on me I couldn't see much of the audience but, like a silent but deadly, I was well aware of its presence.

"One, two, one, two, three, four", I said, although I didn't actually say it, just clicked it in with my sticks.

Bang!! We were in with the introduction to "Summertime", my favourite song of ours. We launched into its smooth Latiney first eight bars, then stepped it up a notch to go into the bridge before the first verse. We played the song faultlessly and kickingly, a damn fine way to start. When we had written the set list I'd been dead against starting with one of our best songs but, with hindsight, I was probably wrong. It set us all up for a good gig. Don't worry, I'm not going to talk you through the nuances of each song we played, but the rest of the set continued in the same vein.

The audience was with us, which is always useful. They cheered and whooped and hollered at all the right times. We've got a certain looseness about our live persona that I think is a positive thing. Not a looseness in our tightness, just that we feel like an older style funk band, there's more grit than I've seen and heard in other bands, a tad more of an edge, as if it could all go horribly wrong at any moment. In band practices it usually does.

I had a few mishaps, nothing drastic or lifechanging but there were two or three occassions when I mis hit my ride cymbal and just played some air instead of metal. Each time it happened it was noticed by the band and there was brush of eye contact together with a smile and a laugh, a good sign that we are tight as a unit and that we can take these things lightly.

I know that there's a smattering of musicians and thespians who read this blog and I'd be eager to learn if you have experienced this same feeling when you perform live, or if it's just me. It's the feeling that I get on every gig, looking down at the set list and I suddenly have the thought that we've spent so much time practicing and suddenly we're halfway through the big climax. There's no going back, no "can we just do that again from the second chorus?" no "I'll run through it a few times at home and have it sorted for next week".

It's knowing that I could have played that verse a bit better, or I could have come out of the fill with some more emphasis on the one. It's also knowing that it doesn't matter. It's not like a recording, where you, and others, may listen to it for years with a critical ear. It's a moment in time that people have loved or hated or anywhere in betweened, and it's the next one that you need to do well. The big thing that seems to hit me on every gig is how much of a build up there is for a forty five minute set that flashes by in a blink. I guess professionals who may be out gigging much more frequently don't share that feeling as they might be playing the same set the following night and will have that chance to slow down the fill or do something a bit differently if the mood takes them.

We moved on, then three songs before the end, we came to our slow and moody song, featuring a guitar solo. Only this time it didn't. At the point of the guitar solo, after the build up fill on the drums, there was a massive loud deafening silence coming from the vicinity of Rich, the guitarist.

Anyone familiar with guitarists will tell you that this is unusual. Silence? Guitar solo? - they just don't compute. It meant that one of five things had occurred; either Rich had died, fallen unconscious or had a major equipment failure, or I had died or fallen unconscious. My highly tuned brain sped into action, unlike Rich's highly tuned guitar, and within minutes I realised that I was both alive and conscious, thus eliminating two of the possibilities. Our esteemed guitarist, who had chosen to wear a black and white shirt on the night, presumably in case someone was filming the event on a very old camera, was busily looking like one of those old fashioned mimes. He was rooted to the spot, guitar slung round neck, making frantic waving actions and gesticulating wildly with his arms.

Frankly I thought this behaviour strange. Here we were, on stage, guitar solo due and he decides to do a Rowan Atkinson impression. And people say my timing is bad! I did the honourable thing and carried on playing. After about sixteen bars I realised that Rich probably had some kind of equipment failure, he was just so wrapped up in his mime that he hadn't figured it out himself. We rose to the occasion, we played on and skilfully kept our cool and the song together. Finishing the song with some very clever ad libbed vocals and saxophone twiddly bits in place of guitar we then had to sort out the problem.

Debby made a brief announcement that we'd have to take a short break to fix the broken amp, I came out with a side splittingly hilarious joke which she relayed to the audience, along the lines of

"can someone call an ampulance?"

She ruined it by telling them to "blame" rather than "credit" the drummer for it. A simple mistake, could have happened to anyone.

And then we left the stage.

Behind the scenes there was much panic. The amp was blown and there were problems getting hold of the guitarist in the other band to try to borrow his amp. Frantic phone calls were being made, our guitarist had given up on the mime stuff and was now looking worried and I was superfluous to requirements so I wandered off to mix with my public. One of the characteristics of being a drummer in the average band is that you're the least recognised person in the unit. This suits most of us groovers, it's probably a fundamental reason why we chose the role in the first place. If we had wanted limelight, stardom and recognition we would have been a singer, a guitarist or a blogger.

I can stroll around straight after coming off stage and people may just look at me with a hint of recognition in their eyes, usually followed by a "didn't I go to school with you?" type of statement. At first I used to get pissed off with this, the other band members were busy lapping up the adulation, being bashful and having sex with groupies while I had to fend off weirdos from my old school. These days I've accepted my lot, although sex with groupies would come in handy.

I strolled through the theatre and was accosted by an old woman dressed in black with wide open staring eyes. She was sniffing something and looked at me. I was just about to say "No I didn't go to that school" when she muttered to me, sounding like a cockney villain played by an American actor in a low budget film, the kind who thinks we all know the Queen and talk like Dick van Dyke.

"Here d'ya want some?"

"What?" said I.

"Some of this" she thrust this glass bottle under my nose.

"What is it?"

"Poppers" said the mentalist.

A three week discussion ensued. Mentalist trying to persuade me to have some, me just wishing she's be struck by lightning and get out of my way. Eventually she did, well not the lightning bit but the get out of my way side of the wishlist.

Up I went into the upper bit of this theatre, the balcony bits, to find the wife and friends. I was chatting away merrily, they were complimentary about us, then I saw a band appear on stage. An unusual band in that they had no drummer. Already you've probably figured out why, but it took me a little longer. With a burst of speed that hasn't been seen since I was told

"Errm you'd better come down, I've had a small crash in your car"

I ran towards, well anywhere in the general direction of the stage. I flew past the off her face mentalist, through some doors, down a corridor and got there. We only had two more songs to play, an original and our version of Little Wing, the Hendrix song. We blasted through the first one and I bumbled my way, just about, through Little Wing. It's become evident that it's a kind of jinx song for me. On every gig prior to this I've played it perfectly, but in band practices, it can be hit or miss, quite literally in my case. You know when you think about something too much and then mess it up, well that's what happens. I miss a fill and then make a total hash of the same fill every time I have to play it later in the song. Luckily for me the fill only comes up about nine thousand times in the song, so I can get away with it!

There were plenty of stares in my direction from bemused bandmates as they were left wondering if they had come back in on the three instead of the one. I just smiled, shrugged and gave that look that implies they had all messed up. Six of them all making the same mistake at the same points and me being correct, that plan was never going to get past the selection committee. It was worth a go though.

It didn't really matter. We finished, we soaked up the applause, we patted each other on the back and shook hands, we felt mighty fine and we were going to revel in it.

And that was it. We all stayed back to mingle and watch the stars of the show go on after us, they were wicked, slick, groovy and classy. I know that sounds like a cheesy American detective show but it's how they were.

Then off we went. It was my biggest gig so far, top fun with a top band. Hopefully it won't be the biggest I'll ever play.

It was one of those targets that I was working towards and, as I look back at the recent past, it's becoming a fading speck on the horizon. I still haven't come down, that'll take some time. We played well, I played well, I enjoyed every minute of it. I made some mistakes, which I've learned from but, above all, we had fun.

The music and performance effect is like a drug, once it's got a hold of you there's no turning back. But, it's all good. I used to look at struggling musicians and wonder what the attraction was, why they'd live a life of financial poverty and often sacrifice success in other areas in order to pursue their music. Now I understand. I wouldn't do it, I don't have the ability, the drive or the talent, but I understand.

If you got this far, thanks for sticking with it. I promise not to post for a while.

Next stop - Colombo.

Yay!

Monday, February 5, 2007

Change your style?

Got a blog?

Have a go on this then.

Put your own URL in and be amazed. Now everyone can sound like Java Jones.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Questions to my favourites

Indyana's post about random questions she'd like to ask other bloggers made me think about the same thing. So, here's my list of "not quite but almost off the top of my head" questions to my favourite bloggers:

1. Darwin - You like Creme Eggs, I can appreciate and respect that. But, deep fried Mars Bars. What's your stance on them?

2. Lady Luck - You can swap places with one person for one day. Who would you choose?

3. Java Jones - How would your best friend describe you?

4. Nazreen Sansoni - Art or music, if you had to give up one which would you sacrifice?

5. Yo from Lanetop - Who was the best Star Trek Captain?

6. Julesonline - What is the best thing you have discovered about Sri Lanka?

7. Ian S - 1truecoolguy - You always write very thought provoking posts. Do you spend a lot of time thinking about them or do they just come out?

8. Sachini Perera, the cynical one - This cynicism and low self esteem stuff, is it good for you?

9. Indyana - What brought you to Sri Lanka? (already asked on her blog)

10. Electra - Dancing or acting? Which is your preference?

11. Child of 25 - What was the biggest change you saw going back to Sri Lanka?

12. Theena - Rage Against The Machine reforming. Good or bad?

13. DDM - How would you sell Sri Lanka to a potential tourist?

14. Hot Chocolate - Have you stopped the blog then?

Answer if you dare / want / are bothered.