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Theo Travis’ Double Talk: Transgression Review

By ROGER FARBEY (All About Jazz)

The chiming notes of a very Mahavishnu Orchestra sounding guitar open the tension-rich "Fire Mountain" hotly pursued by Theo Travis' intense tenor sax soloing and coruscating axe work from Mike Outram. 

A change of pace is heard in the title track, beginning slowly but gradually building-up in pace and volume, Outram's fuzzy guitar twinned with Travis' sax comprise the melodic driving force, all underpinned by organ from Pete Whittaker and crackling drums from seasoned percussionist Nic France. The pressure continues to build courtesy of a keen ensemble riff reaching a climax until it dies back into the opening reflective sax-led balledic theme.

"Smokin' at Klooks" is a steamy blues-fest, Outram's guitar channelling Peter Green's memorable solo on "Black Magic Woman" and Travis producing a light, bluesy solo on flute. The catchy "Song For Samuel" benefits from Travis' articulate tenor sax, conjuring-up the breezy feel of "Off The Wagon" as performed by one of his sax heroes, Tubby Hayes and more lithe guitar ensues from Mike Outram.

A sultry head introduces the slower "Everything I Feared" underlaid by an organ bass pedal line over which surfaces Outram's stinging guitar and a dazzling echoey flute solo from Theo Travis. 

The only track not written (or co-written) by Travis is the wistful and deceptively complex "Maryan" by Robert Wyatt and Philip Catherine, which again spotlights delicate flute with organ accompaniment offering an example of exquisitely beautiful sensibility. 

The stately-paced "A Place In the Queue" is replete with magnificent glissando guitar and soulful tenor saxophone over plaintive organ chords, but then gathers a head of steam just over halfway through with biting guitar and an ensemble passage leading back to the opening melody. The closing track is the short and pensive "The Call" clearly demonstrating that Travis' blues-inflected tenor can sound as good as it gets played slowly and with feeling. 

Theo Travis really needs no introduction given his history of collaboration with music giants such as Robert Fripp, Gong and Soft Machine Legacy, not to mention the dozen recordings he's produced under his own name over the past twenty years. He has also contributed to various works by progmeister-extraordinaire Steve Wilson, who expertly mixed and mastered this album. Transgression will undoubtedly win many prog fans over to jazz and given the high quality of the compositions and superb performances all 'round, this album can justifiably be termed a cooker

Track Listing: Fire Mountain; Transgression; Smokin' at Klooks; Song For Samuel; Everything I Feared; Maryan; A Place In The Queue; The Call 

Personnel: Theo Travis: tenor sax, flutes, Fender Rhodes; Mike Outram: guitar; Pete Whittaker: organ; Nic France: drums, percussion 

Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Esoteric Antenna

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New Album 2015 - 'Transgression'

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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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New Album! Theo Travis' Double Talk : "Transgression"

New Album! Theo Travis' Double Talk : "Transgression"

SPECIAL PACKAGE PRE ORDERS NOW OPEN

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, Allan 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)

Click here for Show Information

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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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Cipher : Pandora's Box


Looking for more Cipher Soundtracks? Click this link to see more!

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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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Tour Blog Part 35 : Sao Paolo, Brazil

Teatro Bradesco, Sao Paolo, Brazil

And so we come to the last gig of this whirlwind tour. 3 continents, 14 countries, 39 cities, 40 concerts, playing to around 60,000 people. It has been one hell of a ride. The final gig was in São Paulo, Brazil. When we landed in São Paulo we went straight to the hotel. Most of us were pretty wiped out, so had room service dinner which was very good. The following day I spent quite a lot of time on FaceTime (which is like Skype but even better and only on Apple Macs) speaking with home in England dealing with family matters.

Eventually I went out for a walk just to take a look around the area local to the hotel. After all, I was in Brazil. At home the stereotypical image of Brazil is sunshine, beautiful beaches like Ipanema, smiling beautiful people and a sun baked outdoor life. Well, on my short walk, the heavens opened and I got drenched with rain. More like Manchester! I did take refuge in Starbucks, also known to some as the American Embassy, had a coffee and then looked around some shops before returning to the hotel. We left for the gig at 5 pm, though the crew had been there all day setting up. Despite the venue being a beautiful and large concert hall which reminded me of the Royal Festival Hall in London, unfortunately the in house crew and technicians were not great. In fact several of our crew, who are all fantastic said they had had the most difficult day of their working lives.

Things not turning up for hours, staff not doing their job, people being generally very unhelpful and chatting with their mates rather than working etc etc. However the two women who were representatives from the Promoter were excellent and very helpful. It is a credit to our guys that Steven did not even know there had been any problem until after the show, because they had made it all happen despite the poor in house crew. In the dressing room, Steven practised his introduction to the audience in Portuguese. He commented just how different it is to Spanish, but I think he did a good job at learning his bit.

Anyway...we went onstage at 9.30 pm. The audience was seated and until Steven asked them to stand, the response was very appreciative but slightly muted. It seems that when an audience stands the level of vocal enthusiasm increases significantly.

Actually the whole subject of how an audience responds is interesting. There were people in the audience who I know were listening intensely to the gig and very much enjoying it. They applauded enthusiastically but did not go crazy. I know this does not mean they liked it any less than those who did go crazy. I myself have been at concerts I loved, but did not go crazy.

For some, or many, listening to music is a very personal experience and an internal and almost solitary experience, even when there is a crowd. Music can affect one deeply and that need not necessarily go hand in hand with whooping and hollering and jumping up and down. So I do very much understand that. However.....standing on stage, it does fire up and inspire the band if the audience does go wild (as opposed to go mild).

I should say that the audiences have been absolutely fabulous on this tour, with special mentions (as far as I can remember in this jet-lagged state) for those in Montreal, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Mexico, Philadelphia, Glasgow and Paris.

So the gig in Sao Paulo went very well. We played well I think, the sound was good, the crowd was lovely. A couple of things did make me laugh out loud (or should I say 'lol'....argh) First of all, in the song 'Watchmaker', the gauze comes down at the front of the stage for the film, then the lights go up on the band and we play behind the gauze. When the lights went up, the gauze was resting on Guthrie's guitar and right in his face. Steven looked like he was sitting in a tent and Nick's tambourine and microphone were completely smothered! Jason and Scott from our crew ran around trying to pull it off them while Steven sang, but I think there was a big smile on his face, as it was all a little 'Spinal Tap'.

The other thing that still makes me smile, even after all these gigs is during the song 'Harmonie Korine', when Nick strikes a certain pose, which I call the 'Bassman of the Apocalypse'. (photo right) It looks like he is in a trance communing with a greater being directly above his head and channeling some incredible energy down the neck of his bass, like a lightening rod. I love it and it does make me chuckle.

After the gig I met up with my friend Leonardo Pavkovic from Moonjune records, who is also the manager of Soft Machine Legacy (and Allan Holdsworth and others). He is also a friend of Chad's. He is a top man and works very hard for music he is passionate about. My other guests were Fabio Golfetti and his son who came along with Leonardo. Fabio is the current guitarist in the band Gong, and I met him when I sat in with that band at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London last November. A very good guitarist and lovely bloke he is also involved in record distribution and dealt with distribution of some of the early Porcupine Tree albums in Brazil.

We chatted backstage for a while before going back to the hotel. As it was the last night of the tour we all had a very enjoyable drink in the bar before turning in. Great to talk with Nick (amongst others) about the scene in Birmingham in the early 1980s - the Rum Runner club, Barbarellas, Duran Duran, the group Fashion and the hip Oasis clothes market with its cool stalls where I used to hang out as a young teenager marvelling at the weird beautiful people.

By about 3 am it was time for packing my things for leaving and for sleep. The following morning I hoped to meet my friend Dave Sturt for breakfast as he had flown into São Paulo that morning for a couple of Gong gigs. There was a plan, but as he had just done the overnight flight from the UK, I was not surprised he did not make it. I did meet up with Leonardo again, with Chad and Adam and had a good chat over breakfast. We then said our good byes to the Americans in our group who were flying later and we left for the airport and the flight home. Ahhh......home. Looking forward to that very much.

So there we have it. The end of this amazing tour. I can honestly say that it has been one of the very best tours I have ever had the good fortune to be on. The music is great, the band and all the individual musicians in it are wonderful and I cannot imagine a better crew. It was extremely well organised and managed and we covered a lot of ground. Great to meet so many fans too. Five and half weeks on the road is exhausting, but it was made as comfortable as it can be. Of course it was very difficult being in Argentina so far from home when my mother passed away and I am thankful I could get home so soon after it happened.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I hope you enjoyed the show if you were there. For those who read this blog (and I thank you for all the kind comments I have received), I hope you enjoyed having a ringside seat and a peek behind the scenes. It was a blast. And so I bid you...
Thank you and goodnight!

BUT, that is not in fact it, because there are some summer festival gigs coming up around Europe and then in the autumn the tour starts up again around the UK, Europe and beyond. So do check out the dates at stevenwilsonhq.com

If you have enjoyed this tour blog and/or my honking and tooting, please do visit my own recordings store at the ordering page. There are lots of CDs and vinyl albums both of my solo work and collaborations with Robert Fripp, Soft Machine Legacy, Cipher, Goldbug and others. I thought I would do a special promotion for anyone who has been reading the blog or wants to try some of my music, so I will throw in a signed photo, and for two or more CDs or vinyls I will also throw in an extra CD for free. Just message me through Facebook or the Message page on my website, write 'SWBlog' and say which extra CD you would like. How does that sound? I thank you.


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Tour Blog Part 34 : Buenos Aires, Argentina

Teatro Vorterix, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

As soon as we arrived in Argentina I received a telephone call with the terrible news that my dear mother had suddenly passed away. It was a big shock and very difficult for me being so far away from my family. I would spend the evening and morning speaking to the family in England working out what to do and talking about this awful news. We arrived at our hotel that I remembered from last trip to Buenos Aires. Last time however, I seem to remember having only about 4 hours sleep in the hotel room before a super- early check out for the airport. This time there was more time and I was grateful for that. We have been away for about 5 weeks now and one does really appreciate the private time one has in a hotel room. I had room service dinner which was pleasingly good, and tried to get some sleep.

We went to the venue for soundcheck at 3.30 pm. A high stage in a night club type venue. I think there was a late night disco after our gig too. In the dressing room was a TV and there was a lot of news about the death in prison of the Argentinian dictator Jorge Videla. I had not heard of him but he was prior to Pinochet and we were told by Carlos, our most excellent South American tour manager that he was the most barbaric and evil of the Argentinian dictators. Under his regime between 1976 and 1981 an estimated 30,000 political opponents were rounded up and killed in what became known as "the Dirty War". Practices used against opponents of his military junta included the kidnapping of their new-born children who were later given to members of the army and state officials. Tortured militants were thrown from planes and helicopters into the River Plate so their bodies would never be found. They received the name 'desaparecidos'- the disappeared. He had, however, remained a free man for long after his reign of terror and was only in fact imprisoned last year.

Certain members of the band also got quite excited at the voluptuous and sexy news readers! Nick amused us with his alien mask. One fan had given Steven gifts including an Astor Piazzolla CD. Steven was not aware of his music so played the CD and we all talked a little about him. I was very aware of his music, have various recordings at home and have played and taught some of his pieces for saxophone eg 'Histoire du Tango'. It was good to hear some of this music, especially being here in Argentina. A quick but amusing game of the A-Z of bass players and it was just about time to go onstage.

The club was rammed and the audience was super excited. Loud unison football chants before we went on, in between numbers and when the gig ended. The monitoring levels felt slightly different tonight and I particularly got a good level of drums in my mix. I thought Chad played amazingly and particularly enjoyed listening to him tonight - his rhythmic 'feel', his responsiveness, his groove and with a huge sound. It seems this band does not drop below a certain very high level. Most groups have nights when something goes badly wrong, and although minor things do go wrong with this group (one song had to be restarted tonight), they are tiny, the playing level is always stellar and the lights, sound and technical side of the production are always under control and right.

After the gig there were a lot of fans clambering for autographs. When we went out to the bus to get back to the hotel, we had to be escorted by security and then fans surrounded the bus and were knocking on the windows. It was never threatening but certainly seemed like the next level. Amusingly Adam has started getting his own back on all the fans who want photos, by asking groups of fans to stand together while he takes a photo of them. It then became more convoluted, as a fan took a photo of Adam taking a photo of the fans! So I guess the next layer is for Adam to capture a photo of a fan taking a photo of Adam taking a photo of the fans!
Had a good quiet chat and a 'wee dram' before turning in, then sleep.

Today got up quite early for breakfast and more joyous airport check-in shenanigans. We arrived in plenty of time and Ian and the crew sorted everything out and got the boarding passes. Since the slight problem with getting my tenor sax on the plane as hand luggage and kept out of the hold (as happened on the LA-Mexico flight), I have a new cunning plan. When walking through security, and standing in the various queues on the way to the plane under the constant scrutiny of airport staff, I hold the sax upright in its rectangular box and hide it behind my leg while I walk with a rather rigid straight leg - a bit like a man with a wooden leg. No one sees it...no one asks me to check it in... Marvellous! It worked again today.

The flight itself was fine. I watched the episode of 'Glee' with Gwyneth Paltrow as a substitute teacher, and although the programme was very silly, it did remind me how inspiring and rewarding it can be working with music with young people. I run a large jazz group and a saxophone quartet at a school in Highgate, London. We have a jazz evening every year when I combine them with my professional jazz quartet. It is wonderful hearing them play together and great to hear the students' joy at playing at such a high musical level. Truly inspiring.

We touched down, spent ages getting through customs and immigration and finally got into the van and to the hotel. Phew... So, tomorrow is our gig here in Sao Paolo, Brazil - the last of the 40 gigs of this stretch of this amazing tour.

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Tour Blog Part 33 : Santiago, Chile

We left our hotel in Mexico City to head for the airport with plenty of time to spare, given the anticipated lengthy check-in with all our gear. We had been staying in a posh and comfortable hotel, though in some of the rooms the hot water had not worked for some of the time nor the TV. When I checked out of my room, my room bill included a charge for breakfast (even though this was included), a charge for the mini bar (which had been locked the entire time I was there) and a tax payable on the mini bar items which I had not consumed. I was not happy. So after some discussion, all these charges were removed. A bit annoying though.

We left the hotel having posed for photos with a few more fans and headed off through Mexico City for the airport. The traffic was terrible but we had plenty of time and it at least gave me a chance to see some street life in the city. Lots of small shops selling steering wheels, plumbing, clothes, and bric a brac, as well as all the places to eat and drink. There was a constant stream of street sellers walking through the traffic selling amongst other things steering wheels (how many steering wheels can anyone need?), white plastic eggs, toys and flowers.

We got to the airport and Ian, with the help of the rest of our fine crew, dealt with all the check in business. Our plane was delayed by an hour and a half, apparently because a volcano near the airport had erupted...! That did not sound good. The flight was an eight and a half hour overnight flight. That did not sound like fun either. Then we were told there was a further delay, so I played chess with Nick on his computer. The game is yet to be finished. When the plane finally took off at 11.20 pm it was three hours late. The only one good thing about the delay was it meant I sat with Chad and had a good chat about his working with Frank Zappa. Chad was in Frank's band from 1981 to 1988, so had lots to tell. I am a medium but not huge Zappa fan, but was fascinated to hear how things were in the band and what he was like. Zappa was hugely prolific, extremely talented, and built his own audience his own way playing very left-field, complex music that was utterly individual. He really made it work on his own terms and made a success of his music and his band in a way that anyone would have predicted was impossible. And Chad was right there in the middle of it for years. Hearing about that first hand was priceless.

The flight was full and as I am quite tall, not very comfortable. I watched much of the film 'Inception' which is a Christopher Nolan science fiction film with Leonardo de Caprio that Steven had recommended. A thriller about getting inside someones dream (and dream within a dream) in order to plant an idea to change the future for personal and political gain, it is an interesting and very well made film, but by 2am I had had enough and needed to sleep. After dozing but not sleeping for a while and then a sort of rubber scrambled egg breakfast, I revisited Pat Metheny's 'Still Life (Talking) on the in-flight audio system which I loved in the late 1980s and had not heard for years. It is one of his classics. We flew into Chile over the Andes mountains and it was cool to see them as we descended.

When we landed there was concern at the baggage reclaim as Steve's and Guthrie's cases did not appear on the conveyor belt. As someone who has had their baggage lost by an airline before I shared their concern. A couple of years ago I played a jazz festival in Sardinia (with Soft Machine Legacy with special guest Tony Levin) and my suitcase with my soprano sax, pedals and all my personal stuff did not arrive. It had for some reason not been put on the plane. The suitcase did eventually arrive two days later - the day after the gig! Then after 10 mins the baggage belt started again and Guthrie's and Steven's bags did appear. Phew! When we went through customs I knew things were going well when the lady customs official asked if she could pose with Steven and Nick and have her photo taken.

We got to the hotel and the crew only had about 40 mins before turning round and going to the venue to set up. The band had about 4 hours, so I grabbed a bite to eat and went to bed for some much needed sleep.

Later we went to the venue which is the same one we played in last year - a mini arena called Teatro Caupolican which holds about 2200 people. During the soundcheck, quite a lot of adjustments had to be made because there was a lot of hired equipment, not all of which worked. In fact the bass amplifier did not work, a replacement was brought in though one of the speakers on that was held together (just) with sticky tape, so that one had to be replaced too. There were problems with one of Guthrie's guitar amps too. However after a longish soundcheck we got everything working satisfactorily. The sound always changes considerably once an audience is in the room too.

Before we went onstage we could hear the large crowd singing a football chant. They were clearly pumped and were going to have a good time. The gig itself was really great for me. I liked the layout of the venue, the sound was clear, the audience was very enthusiastic and they clearly loved it. I think I played OK too. Afterwards I met some fans and did the autographs and photos thing. After all, how often do I get to play in Chile? We got back to the hotel quite late, but there was just time for last orders and one drink outside in the very pleasant patio area around the fire by the pool. The whole band and several of the crew were there and it was good to relax after a long and tiring two days before turning in. Steven had been given a thick book of romantic classic Chilean poetry and he regaled us with a readIng in his best Spanish. None of us understood a word, but it sounded marvellous. Nick had been given a bottle of some seriously strong local liqueur which smelled so dangerous none of us even dared try it.

Then today we flew to Buenos Aires, Argentina right over the Andes mountain range for our penultimate concert of this leg of the tour.


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Tour Blog Part 32 : Teatro Metropolitan, Mexico City

Fans in Mexico

Somehow a group of fans found out which hotel we were in and from the time we arrived they were outside waiting for autographs and photos. Some particularly enthusiastic ones seemed to camp out there for 2 whole days! We did meet a lot of them and sign CDs and pose for photos. Clearly the band coming to Mexico was very important to them and they were serious fans. 

Before the gig itself a group of us from the band were going to walk to the venue as it was not far from the hotel, but the throng was so big, if we had gone out the front door we would not have made it in time for the gig, so we sneaked out the back door of the hotel - proper rock star style. This is very different from 'jazz world', and Chad, Adam and I joked about this on our way out. 

The venue is the Teatro Metropolitan, the same theatre where the 'Get all you deserve' DVD was filmed in 2012. It seats 3000 people and was completely sold out. There is a huge and very high balcony as well as the stalls seats. As we had not brought our own amplifiers and equipment eg. Chad's drums, or Steven' s keyboard, these were all rented and so we had a longer soundcheck to check everything was working OK. It was fine, but things did need a bit of tweaking. 

When we walked onstage the roar of the crowd was deafening. Everyone stood up (downstairs at least) immediately and stayed standing up for the rest of the gig. The gig went well and was very well received. Steven even learnt some Spanish phrases to welcome the crowd. That went down well. Playing to a full venue of this size definitely felt different to our usual theatres and rock venues. This felt more like an arena or stadium crowd. Huge and loud. They were clearly listening carefully though as they clapped solos and were totally silent for the very quiet parts of songs (like the beginning of Raider 2). The monitor sound was not the easiest and that combined with not having the usual guitar amps (Marshalls instead of Bad Cats) meant there were some additional challenges. However I don't think the audience would have noticed any of this, and the show was good. I have already received messages from people in the audience from Facebook and my own website saying how much they loved the gig. Next stop....Santiago, Chile.

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Tour Blog Part 31 : LA - Mexico City

Mexico City

The day off in Downtown LA was relaxing. I had planned to meet up with a friend who I last saw in September when we were in L.A recording 'the Raven...' album at East West studios on Sunset Boulevard. However she had to cancel so I just chilled most of the day and was not very sociable. I did get concerned however when from my hotel room I heard some screeching tyres then a very loud bang. It sounded like a nasty traffic accident. I was even more surprised when about 30 mins later I heard another screech of tyres and an equally loud bang. I thought maybe the first accident had been in a hidden spot so someone else had driven straight into them. Ouch! An hour later I heard yet another screech and bang. This was getting weird. I decided to get out of my room and go for a walk to see what downtown LA is like as I have never been here. On the next block was a whole film crew and movie cameras and lots of people milling about with megaphones. It seems that a movie for Universal was being shot right there. Some cops and robbers type thing featuring Ice T and they were filming a scene with screeching cars and an explosion. Well I guess Hollywood is just down the road, so fair enough I thought. 

I took a long walk down 7th Street, past the Jewellery district and the Fashion district. On Broadway I saw some historic movie houses that have been renovated, some as performance spaces. Some of the buildings and shops looked pretty run down, and others just old. There has been a lot of renovation however including lots of new Loft space apartments. I chanced upon an interesting alley called St Vincent's Court (photo right), which has a slightly surreal feel to it and doesn't seem to fit with neighbouring 7th St. A cobbled street mainly full of Mediterranean and European small eateries it has a quaintness unlike any of the surrounding area and feels a little like a slice of Victorian London or Paris. I did find an amazing 'Juice Crafters' bar nearby and bought what is called an 'Oh yes', which was quite delicious. I later bought a light Mexican dinner which was a) not great but OK, and b) pretty dumb considering I was flying to Mexico the next day. Seemed like the right thing at the time, though... The following morning our lobby call was 6.45 am. This is a bit of a change from getting up on the tour bus at around 10.30 am. As we were flying, we had to take all the stage equipment with us, so all the guitars, basses, pedal boards, effects, lights, microphones, stage backdrop etc had to be checked in as baggage. We needed to allow some extra time for this as it can get complicated, especially if the airport staff at check-in happen to have got out of bed on the wrong side and decide to take it out on you. So we got to LAX airport and checked in etc and thankfully it was not too bad. The flight was completely full, so although I took my tenor sax as hand luggage, there was no room for it in the overhead lockers, and the air stewardess took it from me to put it somewhere - I assumed a cupboard or something. The flight itself was 3.5 hours and was OK. When we landed that was when the fun started. First of all, I was told my tenor sax was not in a cupboard but had been put in the hold. I have heard several stories of a saxophone going into the hold of an aircraft and coming out trashed, or flattened, or separate from its case. So I was indeed concerned. Then when we got out of the plane, it took 75 minutes to get through passport control. Argh! Luckily my sax was OK, but when we reached customs they decided to ask for every case to be opened, all the equipment to be explained and listed - every pedal and lead and instrument and light, and relevant forms to be filled in. This took an extra hour. Ian our front of house sound man stepped up as acting tour manager and dealt with it all very well without visibly showing the annoyance I am sure he was feeling! 

Finally we arrived at our hotel and after briefly freshening up, a few of us went out to dinner, before strolling round the square across the road, where there was a buzzing market place. Tacos stands, jewellery, dodgy DVDs, trinkets, food and three big dance floors full of people salsa dancing the night away. Very cool. Welcome to Mexico!

St Vincent's
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Tour Blog Part 30 : San Francisco - Club Nokia, Los Angeles, California

Adam and Theo
Club Nokia
The gig at the Fillmore is the last one with Marco (at least for a while), so it gave it an extra poignancy. Plus of course it is such a classic venue. You cannot but be humbled walking around the backstage area, seeing posters of Miles Davis, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, King Crimson, Sly Stone, the Mahavishnu Orchestra etc etc. So it was going to be a special gig. When we hit the stage it was interesting to see all the familiar faces of the fans we had met and spoken to at the Amoeba Records performance and signing. I felt like I knew half the audience! And there was the girl with the Steven Wilson tattoo on her arm in the middle of the front row. Maybe I should not be surprised because it was San Francisco but I do believe I could smell dope wafting across the stage during the show.

The gig felt good and relaxed. The advantage of doing 70 plus shows with the same band is that you become very comfortable with the material, even when it is complicated music. So you can relax more and feel less and less tense about forgetting something or not being able to play a certain part correctly. And for the improvised solo sections, you dig deep to find different things to play each night, because I generally want to repeat myself as little as possible. I can only remember one time in my life when I played the exact same solo each night, and it was when I filled in to help out a Pink Floyd tribute band called 'In the Flesh' for about 8 gigs in 2010. The job there was to play Dick Parry's solos on 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' and 'Money' note for note and to be honest I was more than happy to do so as I had known those iconic sax solos since childhood and always loved them. In fact when I first started out, I am sure I stood in my bedroom and played the 'Shine on..' sax solo along with the record 'Wish You Were Here' pretending I was in Pink Floyd. My version of the solo is on youtube actually. I think it is not bad (even if I do say so myself)... see video:

The coach home


However, I digress... After the SF gig I went out with Nick to sign CDs and programmes and meet and greet. It was good to meet fans and get feedback on everything. Then there was a backstage 'hang' with various friends of the band. I had the pleasure of meeting the third member of Marco and Guthrie's band the Aristocrats - Bryan Beller who is an excellent bass player and a very nice chap to boot. Also there was the very talented Mike Keneally who is playing with Marco and Bryan in the Joe Satriani Band. Innerviews writer Anil Prasad and his wife and a friend were there too. 

This was to be our last night on the tour bus as from LA on, it is to be all planes and hotels. After the LA gig we fly to Mexico, then to Chile, then to Brazil. I have got used to the bus and sleep fine on it. It is also nice being able to sleep in in the mornings and have your little travelling house (photo right) with you on the road and backstage too . So we drove overnight to LA and in the morning left the bus for our hotel which we are in for 2 nights. After checking in and relaxing for a bit, it was off to the Nokia Theatre for soundcheck and gig. Chad Wackerman was back with us now, so we had an extra long soundcheck for him to run through some of the songs. After all, this is complicated music and he has not played with us for nearly a month. Amazingly he has now learnt all the music off by heart and was to play without any reminder notes to refer to. The soundcheck was fine although I was not sure how it was going to be without Marco. There was then hours of waiting around until the gig. This was a little dull as the gig was a late one and we were not going on till after 9pm. 

The gig itself was surprisingly good. We wondered if the audience would be a bit "LA" and laid back, but they were very responsive. Steven talked a lot on the microphone and was very funny. He mentioned before we went on that this is the last English speaking audience for this part tour, so he thought he would go that extra mile with the chat and anecdotes. He is very good at all of that. Chad was absolutely superb. Not only had he learnt all the parts perfectly, he played with a lot of fire and added his own personal sound and groove to the songs. Very impressive and we all commented afterwards what enjoyable gig it had been.

In the VIP lounge it was good to see Rob Trujillo again. He is the bass player with the band Metallica, knows Nick and is a big fan of this band. He was raving about our gig when he came to the show last year at the House of Blues, LA and he thought tonight had taken it up a level. When a member of Metallica, who are one of the heaviest bands on the planet, thinks your band really rocks, that is one heck of an endorsement! Alan Parsons and his band also came along too, though by the time I got to the party, they had already left. Oh well. So day off now, then off to Mexico. Hola amigos!

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