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Theos Travis' Blog

News, reviews, music and more about Theo Travis.

Soft Machine UK Tour – November 2017

John Etheridge – guitar
Theo Travis - tenor sax, flute, keyboards
Roy Babbington - bass
John Marshall - drums


I am delighted to be touring the UK with Soft Machine in November. 

Three quarters of the celebrated 70's version of the legendary group which recorded the acclaimed 'Softs' album in '75 plus me on sax, flute and keyboards is now a well established chapter in this iconic band. We will be playing material from the era (compositions by Hugh Hopper, Mike Ratledge, Karl Jenkins) as well as many contemporary works mainly composed by John Etheridge and myself as featured on our albums - 'Burden of Proof', 'Live Adventures' and 'Steam'.

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Theo with Tangent at Summers End 2017

Sunday, October 8th 2017 saw Theo performing live with The Tangent at Summers End Progressive Rock Festival in Chepstow, UK. Photographer Martin Reijman was there to capture the event.

Theo with Luke Machin at Summers End, Chepstow 2017
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Memory Lane Monday - 'The Crow Road'


Twenty one years ago I first read the book 'The Crow Road' by Scottish author Iain Banks. I thought the book was fab' as it combined menace, dark humour and an interesting take on the relationships between the characters. I was so taken with the book that I named a track I was writing for my 'Secret Island' album after it. I also thought the title fitted the music because of its multi-layers, its rollercoaster nature and its unusual twists and turns. The Crow Road is actually a road in West Glasgow (which I have subsequently driven on many times on journeys up to the Scottish Highlands) but it is also an expression for death, as in 'He's away the Crow Road'.
I subsequently read many of the author's other great books and through a mutual acquaintance we struck up a brief correspondence and I sent him the album which included the track 'The Crow Road'. He said he liked it which was very gratifying. I got to meet him a couple of times and was invited to one of his birthday parties in a pub in London which was fun.

The track 'The Crow Road' is a bit of a prog jazz epic - at its core it is an up tempo blues but with jagged prog' interludes, changing time signatures, and big solos. There is one particularly tricky gear change (a fast 4/4 modulating to 6/8 for the musos) that was inspired by part of a great old It Bites song ('Screaming On The Beaches' actually). There are other strong musical influences eg of King Crimson and John Coltrane. The whole band plays wonderfully on the recording which was made live in the studio – David Gordon on piano, Rob Statham on bass, and special mention to the special guest John Etheridge on guitar who plays a burning solo. Marc Parnell on drums plays spectacularly throughout. This track and the whole 'Secret Island ' album were recorded in summer 1996 at the now defunct Protocol studios off the Holloway Road, North London, I was very fortunate to have been able to book the wonderful sound engineer Phill Brown to record and mix the album. He had been recommended to me by bassist friend Mario Castronari. I think Phill was in the middle of recording Mark Hollis' classic solo album at the time and he is one of the great sound engineers – having recorded such classic albums as 'Spirit of Eden' and 'Laughing Stock' by Talk Talk, 'Houses of the Holy' by Led Zeppelin and Island records artists like John Martyn and Steve Winwood as well as 'No Woman No Cry' by Bob Marley. All artists and records I love. It was a privilege and a joy to work with Phill on the album and I think he got an amazing sound on it It was wonderful to hear his stories too!

I went to huge lengths for the cover of the album, travelling all over the south coast of England to find a suitable beach location. I was really looking for somewhere as atmospheric and bleak as the beaches in the wonderful 'Quadrophenia' album booklet with its grainy black and white photography by the legendary Ethan A. Russell. I ended up near Seaford in Sussex which had some amazing coastal cliffs and hidden beaches. The album photography was by Brighton based photographer Mark Nelson of (First Light photography) and it was our first collaboration – the first of many as Mark has now shot the covers of no less than fourteen of my albums including my very latest release 'Open Air'.

The track 'The Crow Road' works really well live particularly as a 'set ender' and has been a mainstay of my jazz quartet's live set touring the British jazz clubs for many years. More recently we have played it live with my Double Talk band on some gigs too. I think it still holds up. Hope you like…

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New Album ‘Open Air’ : 19 May 2017

If you enjoyed any of the 'Travis & Fripp' albums, 'Slow Life' or the Cipher albums, I hope you will be interested in the brand new solo flute studio album recorded in London in 2016 and coming out in May 2017 on Tonefloat Records. Called 'Open Air' it is being released on heavyweight black vinyl. It features mainly atmospheric ambient flutes – alto flutes, bass flute, concert flute and a very cool Native American wood flute.Plus there are some surprises on there too.

I have just 25 copies of the Special Edition which has completely different artwork and a cool burgundy cover. I am personally signing these ones and with these copies as an extra come two exclusive high resolution bonus tracks. For those of you that go for this option, you will also know that these copies are a vital part of making this album project actually possible. Like a sort of Kickstarter/crowdfunding element that enables it to happen at all. So you have my personal thanks and appreciation for your contribution! See ordering page here for ordering info.

The remaining copies of this Special edition are available direct from Tonefloat records at www.tonefloat.com

I also have a limited number of the Standard edition of the vinyl with completely different cover photos and a green cover available on this site, on our shop. I am happy to sign these on request. The album will also be available as a Digital Download. The album features stunning photography by Brighton, UK based photographer Mark Nelson and design by Carl Glover.

Check out the video for a taster.

Thank you! T x



Press Quotes for 'Slow Life'

Despite the complexity of the arrangements, the pieces, each recorded live in the studio, are characterised by a sense of space, freedom and clarity. The overlaid flute loops resist entanglement and the listening experience is almost entirely restful.

The Wire

There are no FX that morph or distort the natural sound of the instrument, but the resulting layered loops do produce an ethereal atmosphere within which the flute can explore, and makes for a surprisingly full sound given the solo nature of the album. The music is generally slow paced, with deep consideration given to each note and phrase.

Aural Innovations (USA)

Sinuous alto flute strands are stratified across contemplative soundspaces by Theo Travis. With dreamlike slowness, layers of flutatious curlicues unfold ... These solo flute compositions are beautiful and thoughtful.

Ambientrance (USA)

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A belated Happy New Year

John Etheridge and Theo front and centre

Welcome to my new website and a belated Happy New Year to you all! The revamped website has been a while coming and I am pleased to launch it so early in 2017. 

I have just returned from a great flying visit to Aberdeen in Scotland with my friend and colleague guitarist extraordinaire John Etheridge. We had a great trip with a gig at the Blue Lamp Jazz Club with drummer Alyn Cosker and double bass player Euan Barton and had a fabulous night. The following morning we took a jazz and improvisation workshop at Aberdeen University and we were impressed with the students who were of a high standard and really engaged with what we had to offer.

My main recent activity has been the preparation for the release of my new solo album 'Open Air' which is being released in a beautiful vinyl package on Tonefloat Records. The album is broadly a follow up to my 2003 album 'Slow Life'. It comprises 10 flute tracks – bass flute, alto flute, concert flute and various wood flutes, often layered in hypnotic loops and largely ambient and atmospheric in nature. 

The mixing and mastering has recently been completed and the artwork now signed off. There will be a special limited edition of only 75 copies for collectors, with completely different artwork and a burgundy cover, as well as the regular edition with a green cover. Both editions feature specially commissioned atmospheric photos by Brighton photographer Mark Nelson. 

The special edition will also feature a link to two additional exclusive high resolution bonus tracks recorded from the same studio recording sessions. 

There will be copies of both the special edition and regular edition available from my website shop (and also www.tonefloat.com) which can be signed on request. In addition to the download code, copies from my site will include an exclusive signed photo. Pre-ordering will open shortly.

I have also been involved in some great but low key gigs on the London jazz scene and planning some more Soft Machine concerts for later in the year. 

Also there has been some really cool activity in my home recording studio working on some new production music - for a company that provides music for film and TV. It has enabled me to work on some really cool sounds and collaborate with some very talented people. I am working on some tracks with Fender Rhodes electric piano, acoustic piano and electronica in a musical soundworld combining Cipher music, the strangeness of Twin Peaks soundtracks and ambient electronica. 

There have also been some discussions and mixes being sent for approval of recordings of concerts from the Travis & Fripp tours of 2009 and 2010. It is a thrill for me to have toured and recorded with Robert Fripp so much and I hope some of these recordings will see the light of day at some time in the future. There is some very cool music there.

But more of that later. So do take a look around the new site, hang around for a bit and feel free to leave any comments you wish to. 

Cheers, 

Theo

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Happy New Year. Hello 2016!

​First of all, apologies for the lack of updates on this site. Very sadly, my friend Phil Smith who built and looked after my website since the beginning suddenly became very ill, and sadly passed away early last year. The website has been rather in limbo ever since, but it is hopefully being sorted soon. My deepest condolences go to his wife and family.

2015 was a good year for me and pretty productive musically. I guested on seven albums – all of which were very well received and a few – like Steven Wilson's 'Hand. Cannot. Erase', and others by the Tangent and Anekdoten appearing in many Best of 2015 lists. It was very exciting and rewarding for me to get back in the recording studio with one of my own bands and record a new album of my own material. 

The Double Talk Band with Mike, Pete and Nic worked really hard on the new material and have been absolutely amazing. I love what they all did in the studio and the new album 'Transgression' is for me a career highlight. It was great of Steven Wilson to fit in the time to mix and master the album and he was absolutely stunning in doing so. I was delighted that Vicky Powell of Esoteric Records came forward and invited me to release the album on that label and I have been pleased how that has all worked out. Great of Tonefloat to release the beautiful vinyl edition too – my first jazz album on vinyl. The album has been very well received (getting in a few Best of 2015 lists too) and it has been great taking the band out on the road – touring the British Jazz Clubs again. We have more gigs coming up this year and I am looking forward to them. I hope you can make it to one.

New Double Talk albumSoft Machine Legacy has continued to tour, though with John Marshall not being well, we have had to use dep's for some of the gigs. Thank you to Gary Husband who stepped in for the Japan gigs (also with Keith Tippett) in March 2015 and to Nic France for the Euro gigs in December 2015. A great job done by both and a pleasure to play with. It looks like we are dropping the 'Legacy' tag in 2016 and we are going to be Soft Machine from now on. I understand we could have all along, but for various reasons it was decided to call the band Soft Machine Legacy.

The surprise of the year was the e mail completely out of the blue I received in August while grabbing a coffee at a motorway services on the way home from a few days away…

"Hi Theo, David Gilmour here. Would you give me a call when you have a moment please?
Best wishes,

David

I was asked at short notice to join David's 'Rattle That Lock' tour for the European dates in September 2015 with some rehearsals in Brighton first. As a fan of his music and playing, and a Pink Floyd fan since being a teenager this was hugely exciting and a real privilege for me. I was to absolutely love the whole experience. The venues were mainly large open air Roman amphitheatres – like in Verona and Florence in Italy, Orange in France and Pula, Croatia. 

They were all stunning, the band fantastic and David Gilmour was amazing. Such a great musician and iconic talent. A gentleman too.

It was great to play again at the Royal Albert Hall in London in September when I guested with Steven Wilson and his amazing band. I also recorded a couple of tracks for his new mini – album '4 ½' .

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Trailer for new album


Recently Theo co-hosted a radio show on Progzilla radio on which he played 4 tracks from Transgression as a special preview and also played tracks from his career on which he features as soloist. These include-

  • JBK – Saday Maday
  • Porcupine Tree – Don't Hate Me
  • Gong – Wise Man In Your Heart
  • Gong – Bodilingus
  • Theo Travis Double Talk – Everything I Feared/li>
  • Nine Horses – A History of Holes
  • Travis & Fripp – So There
  • Theo Travis – The Munich Train
  • The Tangent – DIY Surgery
  • The Tangent – Aftereugene
  • Theo Travis Double Talk – A Place In The Queue
  • Steven Wilson – Remainder The Black Dog
  • Francis Dunnery – Still Life In Mobile Homes
  • Bill Nelson And The Gentlemen Rocketeers – Adventures In A Yorkshire Landscape
  • Soft Machine Legacy – Kings And Queens
  • Anekdoten – If It All Comes Down To You
  • Theo Travis Double Talk – The Call

You can download the podcast here-


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New Album – Pre-orders (now closed!)

On 6 July 2015, Theo releases his ninth solo album and his first solo album in eight years, with his band 'Double Talk'.
Transgression was recorded in January 2015 at Koolworld Studio in Luton and Steven Wilson applied his studio skills to the album as he mixed and mastered it in his own No Man's Land studio, just before launching his own 'Hand Cannot Erase' world tour.
Theo says "It is an instrumental, bluesy, progressive jazz album. It reflects many of my influences and inspirations and I think it is both personal and of broad appeal – at least if you are into melody and powerful bluesy electric jazz with a strong 1970s influence. After a recent gig by the band, a member of the audience said to me 'This was the first time I've ever heard you play in your own band. Having heard you live before with Gong, Soft Machine, The Tangent, Steven Wilson, I knew it was going to be excellent – and it was' which was a very pleasing response to the music.
The line-up includes Nic France on drums, Mike Outram on guitar and Pete Whittaker on Hammond organ. "It is very much a live band and the album was recorded in the studio but all playing together live and watching each other intently. I think that immediacy and excitement comes across. I've written most of the music and much of it reflects my love of music from the late 1960s and early 1970s when the boundaries between Jazz, Rock and Experimental music were more fluid, though I think the music we have recorded still sounds contemporary. You might be able to hear the influences of King Crimson, Mahavishnu Orchestra as well as late Talk Talk, and ECM artists such as Terje Rypdal and my friend Palle Mikkelborg."
The album also includes an instrumental version of a track co-written with keyboard player and composer Andy Tillison – the title track from the Tangent's third album A Place In The Queue. There's also a cover of Robert Wyatt's tune Maryan and a track written with Dave Sturt of Cipher and the recent Gong line-up called Everything I Feared. The track Smokin'at Klooks is a tribute to Klooks Kleek the North London Jazz and Blues club open in the late 1960s, which was in a pub near where Theo used to live. A small club – it used to host such names as Keith Richards, Peter Green, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix! A real melting pot and springboard for so many great musicians and so much great music.
Nic France played on Steven Wilson's Grace For Drowning album and also on David Gilmour's Live At The Royal Festival Hall DVD. He also was the original drummer with Loose Tubes and has played with Kate Bush, Robert Wyatt, Alan Holdsworth, and Working Week.
Mike Outram played on two of Steven Wilson's albums as well as with Herbie Mann, Carleen Anderson, Jacqui Dankworth and with poet Michael Rosen.
Pete Whittaker plays regularly with guitarists John Etheridge and Nigel Price and was a touring member of The Wonder Stuff and Catherine Wheel.
The album is released on CD on July 6 on Esoteric Recordings and there will be a vinyl edition on Tonefloat records – a 12 inch album, plus for the first pressing a bonus 7 inch of the remaining tracks.
The release will be followed by a UK tour in the Autumn of 2015. An early London preview gig has already been announced to coincide with the release – July 2 at the Vortex 11 Gillett Square, London N16 8AZ (020 7254 4097) http://www.vortexjazz.co.uk/events/2015-07-02/
=================
THESE PACKAGES WILL BE ON OFFER FROM THIS SITE FROM MAY 20

'Transgression' Special Package Pre-orders

Exclusive to pre-orders from this website are a very limited number of special packages – 100 CD packages and 100 vinyl packages. See below for details.

CD Special Package
1. CD – signed by all 4 members of the band
2. Exclusive Photo print of the band signed by all 4 members of the band
3 Exclusive Photo print of TT – signed by Theo.
4. Two exclusive Double Talk tracks. High resolution downloads (24 bit /48k) personally e mailed to you
a) Goodbye Pork Pie Hat – recorded live in concert at Teignmouth Jazz Festival Nov 2014
b) Fire Mountain – alternate and longer studio take of storming first track on album composed by Theo. Mixed and mastered by Steven Wilson.

Cost- UK £21 + £2p+p (£23.00)
Rest of world – £21 + £5.50 p+p (£26.50)

Vinyl Special Package
1. Vinyl edition of album – including 12 inch LP plus 7 inch single – signed by all 4 members of the band
2. Exclusive Photo print of the band signed by all 4 members of the band
3 Exclusive Photo print of TT – signed by Theo
4. Two exclusive tracks. High resolution downloads (24 bit /48k) personally e mailed to you
a) Goodbye Pork Pie Hat – recorded live in concert at Teignmouth Jazz Festival Nov 2014
b) Fire Mountain – alternate and longer studio take of storming first track on album. Mixed and mastered by Steven Wilson.

Cost for vinyl package (incl 12 inch plus 7 inch)
UK – - £26 + £4 p+ p (£30)
Rest of world – £26 + £8.00 (£33.00)

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London Double Talk Date

STOP PRESS!!!

My band Double Talk with Mike Outram on guitar, Pete Whittaker on organ and Nic France –have a London date previewing the material from the new album 'Transgression' Thursday July 2.

It is at the great jazz club in Dalston – 'The Vortex'. Please come along. It is going to be fab!

11 Gillett Square,
London N16 8AZ
020 7254 4097

http://www.vortexjazz.co.uk/

Hopefully see you there.

Cheers

Theo

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Daevid Allen – A Personal Reflection

Daevid Allen was born in Australia in 1938, but his springboard to musical legend came after he moved to the UK in 1961. He was a founder member of Soft Machine in 1966, but became best known after starting madcap psychedelic rockers Gong. The band are best known for their Radio Gnome Trilogy, made up of the albums Flying Teapots, Angel's Egg and You. Although he left Gong in 1975, he resuscitated the band in 1991 and played with them until their last album 'I See You' in 2014.

I first encountered Daevid Allen in 1999 when, through a series of happy accidents, I joined Gong at short notice for a European Tour filling in for Didier Malherbe, playing saxes and flutes. I had heard little of Gong's music and was barely aware of Daevid though I knew some of Gong member Steve Hillage's music, particularly his album 'Fish Rising' which I thought was great. Joining Gong was a turning point in my musical life. For 10 years I toured the world and recorded with Daevid and the band, playing saxes, flutes and some keyboards and I co-wrote much of the 'Zero to Infinity' album. I recently read of Daevid Allen's music being 'like Sun Ra meets Vivian Stanshall meets DIY punk meets a really big fucking bong' and I think that just about sums it up!

When I met Daevid, I was immediately taken with his openness, his love of music and words and his sense of wonder and almost childlike curiosity about the world. He was continuously excited by all things artistic and creative. He took great delight in words– whether poetry, lyrics, puns, or just the fun of language and games with word play. I spent endless hours with Daevid and Mike Howlett on tour buses around the world joking and playing with words and rhymes.

With Gong, Daevid was very happy to be an equal part of a group and although he was the soul of the band, wrote the majority of the music, did most of the singing and fronted the band, he was very generous with sharing out songs and instrumental solos and encouraged everyone to write music for the group. He also shared out songwriting credits in a far more generous manner than most in his position would.

Daevid was a talented guitarist and a great improviser. There was a wonderful freedom of spirit in his playing which I enjoyed very much – much more than all the technically accomplished rock guitarists who have everything worked out and pre-prepared. I once heard his soloing style described as like an airplane taking off and you never knew how it would land and I think that was right. Anything could happen and his solos were unpredictable. When one is truly improvising, things don't always work out- but that is the risk you take. Daevid was wholeheartedly improvising and some magical music and guitar playing resulted. His glissando guitar technique which he said was inspired by Syd Barrett was wonderful and at times awe inspiring – washes of sound, harmony and textures floating in space. He also said that Syd Barrett was the original inspiration for singing with the strong London accent – a characterful style of singing that he, Robert Wyatt, Richard Sinclair (of Caravan) – and later David Bowie – all adopted, at least for a while.

Daevid not only started off the bands Gong and Soft Machine (both which I have enjoyed playing with for many years) , he also recorded many solo albums, and formed University of Errors, Brainville, Magick Brothers and various other groups. He was a catalyst for an enormous amount of much music making and musicians and poets worldwide were drawn to him for his creativity and his huge enthusiasm for life.

He loved jazz, free form improvisation, songs, experimental music, folk music, nursery rhymes, noise music, chanting and all sorts of fringe musics. He used to wind people (including myself!) up by saying he 'hated the Beatles'. He also said he 'hated Prog'. He embraced punk and new wave music and there was often a youthful and fiery energy to his music, from his band Planet Gong right up to the end. On the very last Gong album – 'I See You' there are almost punk like thrashes that sound like a band of seventeen year olds – not a 76 year old man – and certainly not a music icon from the 1970s.

Daevid was kind, fun, inspiring, encouraging, endlessly creative, and an original thinker. A big fan of the Goon Show, his crazy humour was loved by millions though he also saw it as having a revolutionary edge to it too. I think it was in the subversiveness. The Flying Teapot trilogy, Radio Gnome and the Pot Headed Pixies were all wonderful inventions – charmingly bonkers. He was not one to toe the line and could often be contrary – sometimes infuriatingly so. One funny anecdote I remember was that he went to a legalise cannabis event in Hyde Park in around 2001 as a special guest as he was such a leader of the counter-cultrure movement. You would not believe how many people I have heard say that they had their first trip listening to Gong's music. Anyway Daevid went to this event at Hyde Park and in front of a big crowd, stood up and said 'Ban cannabis! It's terrible for you! And the throng of people in their stoned haze just cheered – 'Yay! Great!' Hilarious and very Daevid.

Of course being the age he was Daevid was right there when it was all happening in the 1960s. He lent Jimi Hendrix his first amp when he came to London, and enjoyed playing chess with him. He played alongside all the rock greats when they were starting out. He was in Paris during the riots in 1968 and the Stonehenge and Glastonbury festivals in the early 1970s. Gong were one of Richard Branson's very first bands on Virgin records. I loved to hear his stories about those times.

I always felt that Daevid was 'the real thing' not someone trying to be a rock star or a poseur. He was living the alternative lifestyle full of music, poetry and life before such a thing was even invented. An artistic beatnik, an intellectual hippie, a comic surrealist and a poetic musician. A true original and an inspiration to so many.

All over the world I have encountered so much love for Daevid and his music. He has now had his last cuppa tea and left us on his flying teapot to another place. Farewell and bon voyage. I feel honoured to have known him. And thank you for the music you daft old bugger.

Theo Travis
March 2015

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New Double Talk Band Album

Nic ,Theo, Mike, Pete – Koolworld Studios Jan 2015

​Just spent two amazing days in the recording studio with my band Double Talk comprising Mike Outram (guitar), Pete Whittaker (organ) and Nic France (drums and percussion). We recorded various versions of eight tunes including some serious epics and some powerful bluesy prog jazz. Some wonderful playing all round and the tracks are sounding stellar. A few things still to do, but very pleased with the results… Watch this space…

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New Double Talk Band Album

Just spent two amazing days in the recording studio with my band Double Talk comprising Mike Outram (guitar), Pete Whittaker (organ) and Nic France (drums and percussion). We recorded various versions of eight tunes including some serious epics and some powerful bluesy prog jazz. Some wonderful playing all round and the tracks are sounding stellar. A few things still to do, but very pleased with the results… Watch this space…


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What a week…

I have just had the most busy and varied week of musical activities I have had in a long time. Last Monday, Sept 15 was the release date of my latest album – Travis & Fripp 'Discretion' (on the Panegyric label). An album of duets with he who is Robert Fripp, it is our fourth CD release and perhaps our finest. I hope we will do more live performances in the future but at the moment Robert is on tour in the USA with the latest incarnation of King Crimson, playing to sold out houses everywhere. I was fortunate enough to see the band play through their set to an invited audience of about 25 people at Elstree studios as part of their rehearsal process. It was great to hear Mel Collins again (one of my favourite sax and flute players) and I thought the three drummer front line (yes, you heard correctly!) worked very well. Anyway, for now promotional Travis & Fripp gigs will have to wait.

Then on Tues, Weds and Thurs I was working with Trevor Warren on his new album. Trevor is a founding member of a curry club of friends that convenes from time to time with lots of the London jazz guitarists – John Etheridge, John Paricelli, Carl Orr, Trevor and others. It has expanded to now include various musician friends including myself and is always a lot of fun. So the band Trevor put together had one day of rehearsal to play through the ten songs he has written then two days recording. The band was awesome – Trevor on guitar and vocals, Ayo on second guitar, me and the stunning rhythm section of Dudley Phillips on basses (who I toured with with Anja Garbarek) and Nic France (of Steven Wilson/ David Gilmour/lLoose Tubes fame) on drums. We rehearsed at the rather funky Audio Underground studios in Stoke Newington, London, but were recording in Bath. The sound engineer was Stuart Bruce – a great sound engineer who was at Peter Gabriel's Real World for years. We were recording at his own Riverside studios where the facilities were very good, and relaxed too, and there was very comfortable residential accommodation. Stuart was superb and also had some great stories like when he recorded Paco de Lucia, John McLaughlin and Al Di Miola and the egos, law suits and even physical punch ups that were involved in those sessions! We arrived at the studio lunch time on the first of the 2 days and were ready to record by about 4.30pm. I thought it would be impossible to actually record 10 songs by the following night then drive back to London, but unbelievably we did. I played tenor and soprano sax and flute and there was a very organic feel to the songs – which were all recorded live, in one, two or occasionally three takes. There was also a lot of space for layers of flute and soprano sax soundscapes and loops which we recorded live in real time and they came out really well. There were also some roaring solos from various members of the band. A very English feel to the songs, I was reminded of Syd Barrett's songs at times. On the evening of the second day, the heavens opened and there was the fiercest thunder and lightning I can ever remember, like from a Hammer Horror film. We were a bit nervous driving back to London but I eventually got back home fine. I am looking forward to hearing the finished album.

Very early the very next morning I had to get up and drive 3 hours to Ironbridge in the Midlands for a dress rehearsal of the Freefall Arts / Cipher Past Lives performance. Past Lives is an archive amateur movie footage and live soundtrack project (www.pastlivesproject.com) which is unusual, inspirational and moving. It involves writing and performing live scores to amazing films of real people and real lives from the Midlands going back to the 1940s/50s and 1960s. Saturday's performance was of a soundtrack written by students from the excellent Abraham Darby Academy in Telford, arranged and organised by Dave Sturt and myself. The music was arranged for brass sextet, percussion ensemble, wind and strings and two duos. Each of the eight pieces had to run sequentially with the film that had been put together from local historical footage and the performers, who were schoolchildren – very proficient and able students, but nevertheless still children – had to get it right. I was conducting the whole thing, so had to carefully follow the tempos with an in-ear click track to make sure the music stayed in sync' with the films. I also needed to see the film as it was running, and conduct, bringing in instrumentalists as required and ensuring all went smoothly. There were about 250 people in the audience so a big occasion for my public conducting debut! Thankfully it went well and there was some excellent feedback. During the second half of the performance I was playing sax, flute and clarinet for the original Past Lives film and live soundtrack composed by Dave Sturt and myself. A great evening and rewarding event, to be followed by the rather dull 3 hour drive home.

Then Monday (yesterday) I got the early train to St Ives in Cornwall to play at the Guildhall as part of the St Ives festival with the mighty Soft Machine Legacy with special guest Keith Tippett on piano. The train should have been five and a half hours but because of a fatality on the railway line (poor sod) the journey was actually seven hours. It did give me some much needed time to try and write a bit more music for a planned instrumental psychadelic Prog- jazz project I have been working on for some time. So out came the manuscript paper and iPad keyboard (I love GarageBand!). I arrived in St Ives time for the soundcheck, quick Mexican dinner, check in at the Western Hotel and then the gig. It was a great gig and everyone was on form (John Etheridge on guitar, Roy Babbington on bass, John Marshall on drums, Keith Tippett on piano and your truly on sax, flute, keyboards and a bit of electronic jiggery-pokery). We went for a quick drink afterwards at the Kettle and Wink pub under our hotel where John Etheridge whipped out his guitar and sat in with the local band to much applause.

So it is now the following day and I have arrived home (late because of another fatality on the railway line…) and ready for a nice cuppa tea….Phew.

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Steven Wilson Tour Blogs book going to the printers

I have now had the final draft of my new book – 'Twice around the world- Steven Wilson tour blogs 2012-2013′ and it is looking fabulous. Initially it is only going to those who pre-ordered through Kickstarter, but it will go on general release through this site probably in September with pre-orders from August. Watch this space. Exciting stuff!
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2014 – so far…

So we are nearing the middle of 2014 already, and the year is flying past. The beginning of the year was taken up with writing and sorting the book I have written of Steven Wilson Tour Blogs 2012 -2013. Titled 'Twice Around the World – Steven Wilson Tour Blogs 2012-2013′, the book is a road diary of the tours with songwriter/composer/producer Steven Wilson over the period and it was very exciting. 21 countries including North and South America, all over Europe, Australia, Israel and two special concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall and Royal Festival Hall (both sold out!). It is largely a photo journal with over 100 photos by the fantastic Lasse Hoile and the wonderful Diana Nitschke, as well as photos by Theo and by other band members and fans. The book is currently in the production stage and copies are expected to be released in July 2014. The first available copies will be going to the subscribers and sponsors who signed up to the successful Kickstarter Campaign.

Soft Machine Legacy has been very active, with a great gig at the Jazz Cafe in London recently, and a week on the 'Cruise to the Edge' progressive rock cruise in April 2014. Miami – Honduras – Cozumel – Miami in the company of the Steve Hackett Band, Yes, Marillion, UK, Tony Levin, Tangerine Dream, the Strawbs, Three Friends, and many others. It was a lot of fun and the Softs played 3 sets to the crowds. There have been other gigs in Lyon and more scheduled in Manchester, Kent, Finland and London. See live dates page for details.

Travis & Fripp will be seeing the release of 'Discretion' on CD and vinyl this summer. This release comprises an album originally released in 2012 as a Bowers and Wilkins speakers subscribers club only release – so very limited. This is the worldwide release of that recording. 

Comprising a set largely of soundscapes but with some surprises in there too, the album starts and ends with a piece featured in some of the duo's live performances in 2010 – 'The Power to Believe' (from the album of the same name), in a stripped down and haunting version.Cipher continue with the expansion of the Past Lives project around the East Midlands – not only more performances, but workshops with local communities, collection of more local amateur vintage film footage and encouraging pride in local heritage and arts.Steven Wilson is talking of more recording in the Autumn and there are two great releases I was involved in that are coming out this summer – Nacaal from Tim Motzer's 'Goldbug' and 'Windjammer' from Echo Engine with Rob Palmer and Daniel Biro. More on those releases later.

Latest listening 

  • David Torn – Tripping over God
  • Soft Machine – Seven
  • Wagner – Tristan and Isolde, Prelude
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The Royal Albert Hall

Here we go, here we go...back on the road with Steven Wilson. So we are now back on he tour bus for another stint touring to promote 'the Raven that refused to sing' album and the new EP/ single 'Drive Home'. In September we went to Australia for 3 gigs. 3 cities, 6 days there, 7 flights and large doses of jetlag. It felt all a bit surreal and if we hadn't stopped by the Sydney Opera House I am not sure it would have felt like we were actually in Australia at all. Hotel, dinner, backstage, gig, bus, airport. It is like travelling in a bubble.

But the gigs were good, and there were some very appreciative fans. Good to see Daevid Allen and Orlando from Gong in Brisbane too (even if Daevid did tell Steven all the things he thought were wrong with the gig!)

Royal Albert Hall Then we had the UK dates. I always enjoy touring in the UK. In my jazz life I have played hundreds of gigs around Britain, from jazz clubs to Arts Centres to rooms above pubs; a brewery visitor centre in St Austell, Cornwall to the library on Iona in Scotland. I love it! I seem to have done less of it and have been touring abroad more in the last few years since I have been doing more Prog type gigs (Steven Wilson/Soft Machine Legacy) and also the ambient experimental gigs with either Robert Fripp or Cipher. We had one day rehearsal to learn the new song (which has been going well) and for Chad to play in 'Sectarian' which he had not played with us before. It was good to visit Wolverhampton, Bristol (where I played a lot in the early 1990s with Andy Hague and others), Newcastle (an alreet toon!) and then the Royal Albert Hall, London. The Albert Hall was a highlight for me. Such a stunning venue and big crowd. Lots of friends there (including Robert Fripp, Tony Levin, Steve Hackett, Jakko, Davide Giovannini, Robyn Koh, Maggie Docherty) and my family too - which was lovely. The sound was really good and pleasing to get lots of comments that the flutes and saxes were particularly clear and audible, and we all felt we played pretty well. We all came off feeling really good about it and there was a cool aftershow hang too- one of those special nights.

Encore at the Royal Albert HallI have just found out today that there is a four star glowing review of the gig in the Guardian which includes a reference to the 'preposterously honed and proficient band'. Nice. Then a couple of days off before off to Europe for another run - Netherlands, France, Poland, Scandinavia, Austria, Spain and a gig in Tel Aviv, Israel which should be fun. I have not been to Israel since playing at the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat in 2000 with my own jazz quartet - which was an amazing experience. The tour has geared up as we are now travelling not just with a night liner tourbus and trailer but a whole other truck carrying our own full PA, lighting rig, and back line, and we have also extra crew to help with all of that. As the backstage rider gets refined I have noticed that it seems to be dividing between the rock 'n roll half and the health farm half - so we have vodka, beer, red wine, rum, and then blueberries, smoothies, nuts, humous and yes, Manuka honey! So on Tue we met up at K- West hotel in Shepherds Bush (named after the sign on the Ziggy Stardust cover) to get on the tour bus to set off to Dover. Adam brought a DVD box set of 'Breaking Bad' which we watched a couple of episodes of (pretty good in a dark sort of way) and at about 11 pm we got the ferry to Calais to continue on to Nijmegenfor the first gig. And here we are, ready to go. Soundcheck in one hour. 

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