Sorry about that...
We've been in lockdown in the UK for the last 3 months. Live music is a memory, live concerts and theatre is gone, and none of it in the UK seems to be returning. I've put on half a stone, drank consistently for the first 4 weeks (and subsequently not for the last 2+ months), repainted the bedroom, painted shelves, repeatedly deep cleaned the flat and absolutely crushed life on Animal Crossing #current. Who was I? I certainly didn't spend much time in the shed playing scales or practising. What was the point when shows were not coming back and live singing was seen as a potential hazard. 3 metres between singers and audience.. that's just not practical. And so every day rolled into the next, new recipes tried and Zoom calls petered out until there was just today. And today. And today.
Until.. the DRIVE IN LIVE shows were confirmed the other week. And suddenly, I found myself with the realisation that I would be going back out on tour playing in front of real live people with the musical SIX. I've been with the company since September 2019 on the UK Tour until the rather depressing but absolutely expected voice note from the Company Manager in March told us "Don't come down to Brighton.. it's been cancelled". After much terror scrolling over the weeks, I full expected UK Theatre to never open again. But life has found a way. A bubbled, socially-distant, scented with hand gel, and COVID-19 tested way, but still! A way!
And this brought a few sharp realities into focus for my own mental and emotional awareness. So much of my life revolves around the next gig - and you can put my physical and mental state into that box as well. If I'm not physically in shape, I can't do the gig.. so yoga and gym visits it is to keep my body exercised and able to do those shows night after night without pain in my shoulder or feet. If I over-indulge on food or drink then I won't fit into my lovely gig clothes or my very sexy costume some of you may have seen on stage.. so moderation is required there. If I'm not mentally fit, then shows become harder, I get anxious and confused and I don't sleep... so meditation, therapy sessions and maintaining a good social network is really important.
But all of this requires gigs to be there as the next milestone to meet. Without that, my life structure had completely fallen apart. And lockdown has brought all of this into focus with the return of the next gig.
So my next questions is : is this healthy and sustainable? My tentative suggestion would be.. no. It's not. So Lockdown.. while terrible and yet necessary to support the NHS has been a real wake up call for me. The possibility of maintaining a health and positive life structure BECAUSE I WANT TO not just because ohgodthenextshowisonsaturdayandaaarggh wasn't something that had occurred. This 3 month break where I was able to spend the time looking at what made me happy and be able to build on the other things in my life so I wasn't just a musician waiting for the next show has been truly useful. And it definitely isn't something I would have chosen to do (3 months off? Are you mad? What if no-one hires me ever again??!).
To bring this painful essay to a conclusion: I invite you the reader to look at the structure in your own life. What do you lean on to bring meaning into your everyday activities? Are you doing those activities to provide support to yourself.. or to just mark time until the next big event? And when that next show is taken away.. do you collapse and fall? Or do you stand tall?
*Side note - yes I haven't commented on the bloody awful financial situation or struggling to pay rent or the many many MANY families who have suffered, the families who have had to isolate and look after children while WFH, the DV victims trapped with their abusers, the BLM movement, the current UK government's decisions, or Dominic Cummings' ill-timed visit to his in-laws. . That doesn't mean I don't care about it.. but this is not a political blog. Take to Twitter for that!
I was very happy to be included as one of the players in Bass Guitar Magazine this month! I've included the clip of "Hurricane" below :)
Absolutely no excuses for the blog silence on my part, I have been in rehearsals and on tour with a completely new and interesting artist called Soom T!
Soom's style is an unusual mash of 8 bit dub reggae, pop and guzhal - however on the initial listen I had it down as pop, easy peasy, job done. And yet, life is not that simple! Once in rehearsals, the massive reggae influence behind her writing began to shine through and after a few more rehearsals and listening back to some recordings, the placement of the bass in the music (for me) became a bit of an obsession.
Let me explain...
Reggae is one of those styles that I personally feel you can either play or you can't. It's as simple as that. The culture and vibe behind the placement of each individual note is not easily imitated and it is not as simple as simply "playing further behind the beat". I actually found myself almost swaggering around the stage trying to find that perfect placement (which you will be able to see in videos online!). As well as the placement, when you have the drummer on click and a quantised baseline on track, and a keyboardist's left hand hammering away..this seems like an impossible job! However it was one that I could focus on night after night - sometimes I got it and sometimes I didn't! A lifetime's work I think!
Anyway, please have a look at some tour highlights below. we've got a huge number of shows lined this summer and I promise I will at least try to give some updates and/or thoughts for my readers!.
Further tour dates: https://www.facebook.com/SoomTMusic
Having played bass for a while, I have found that it's very easy to get stuck in a pattern usually as follows:
1) Have songs to learn for gigs.
2) Learn songs (or what I call the "Noddy version", every nuance isn't picked up but the chords are followed and it's very easy to just "get through the tune").
3) Drink tea.
4) Do gig.
5) Get paid.
While this is a relatively fool-proof way of performing, it doesn't really speak to the musician within and neither is it a good way to develop good playing technique or practice. In fact I have found over the last year or so that I have fallen into bad habits.. something I am now taking the time to remedy.
So, I have begun a new regime of exercises before practice, namely technical to help my left and right hand co-ordinate. I've included some of the links I've been using below, namely Josh Fossgreen and Scott Devine who put up some excellent (and musical!) YouTube vides.
So the interview that I mentioned in my last update has come through - I have the pdf scans for you to have a look at (in Swedish!) and the translation below. Massive thanks to Tom Holmberg, we spent 3 hours in the restaurant of a hotel talking bass, music, production.. If he had put everything down that I had said, I'd be promoting my new book instead!
Translation courtesy of the mighty Vicky Neon!
Kat Bax - a bass player's confessions
At school, I would leave my essays to the last minute and as blogs have no "hand in date", the inevitable happens and nothing gets done. I am my own master etc etc.
However I would love to update you all what I have been doing over the last few months as there have been some shifts in my own well trodden path and stepping outside of my comfort zone is becoming a more familiar place!
Back in September of this year, I did an interview with a thoroughly entertaining man called Tom Holmberg who writes for a newspaper in Finland (more on that later!). He asked me what I would like to do more of this year, and I said that I would like to record more as the vast (if not all) of my playing this year has been live. The next week I was asked to play on Johnny Ashby's new album (http://www.johnnyashby.co.uk) and although I had some reservations initially.. I accepted and cracked through 7 tracks in 6 hours. I know that muso heavyweights will consider this recording time perhaps a little feeble, however having not really heard the tracks before, I was so pleased with my tone and ideas that came out on the day. I went on to play with Johnny at the St Mary's church in Ealing and then later on again Upstairs at Ronnie Scotts (again, more links to follow!). A great experience all round and one that has lead to me being requested to play on Paul Adams' album in the New Year.
I did a promotional video shoot for the beautiful SHE band (http://shefunctionband.com/) in November this year. I love working with Keisher (the band leader) as she is always pushing me to become better and stronger in my playing, and I know that I will always look beautiful on any gigs with her. I have shared some photos below (with massive thanks to DK - @dreamkiddmc)