Friday, 30 May 2014

Otis Redding Show

So I got a call from band mate and genius show fixer Alik Peters-Deacon last week asking if I fancied some horn section work at the well known music venue The Watering Hole in Cornwall.

"Cool," I said, "Who for?"
"Otis Redding."
"Erm, right. I thought he was dead?"
"Yeah, but he had a son called Otis too and he wants a band put together."

When the reply came back I nearly lost it. This man's dad is pretty much the godfather of soul and after hearing we'd be playing all the classics like My Girl and Dock of the Bay it was pretty much the best thing ever.

The band I was going to be part of was made up of 8 guys and girls I've had the pleasure of knowing and working with around the South West for some time and I hadn't seen a few of them for a while so it was pretty exciting. Drummer Gary Kroll is a great guy and I've played with him on a few sessions, bassist Celso Rocha a Brazillian firecracker and at the time was part of Freshly Squeezed. Alik the MD on guitar and Jacob Kodicek are also Freshly veterans and of course Simon Dobson the other Badcore Horn I spend most of my time playing next to. Backing vocals were a real treat to have and provided by Alex Hart, a local country/pop songwriter and blue singer Becca Langsford. Rehearsals sounded great and as Simon and myself had a few sessions on that weekend and a lot of material to get down we were running iPad music stands which worked fantastically.

Fast forward to the day of the show and we were at Cube Studios in Truro at lunchtime to run everything with Otis. We'd made some adjustments to the arrangements and were hoping he liked them. After setting up we were feeling pretty good and relaxed, then someone said "Otis is here," and suddenly the game faces came on.

Rehearsing at Cube Studios

Aviators, leather jacket, gold boots and left handed Strat, the dude looked every bit as soul as you'd expect. First thing he did was see if everyone knew Green Onions and had us jam it to size us up. Seemingly pleased with that we moved on to the main event and after a good number of hours adjusting and transposing he was happy and we packed up and headed to the venue.

We chatted for a while and the guy is the nicest dude ever. Totally humble about his beginnings and properly switched on about soul and music in general. The mood in the Watering Hole was crazy when the evening got underway. You could tell the crowd were dead excited and that definitely rubbed off on us. Otis meanwhile was in his dressing room sleeping off the flight like a pro.

Showtime, and as we played the opening track the man himself strides onto the stage wearing a sequined shirt with security on either side. For the whole set he commanded the stage, throwing solos around and weaving in bits of family history and at some points I saw people at the front in tears, it was an amazing experience. The end came all to soon and he was pretty
much mobbed for autographs and photos until he left.

Afterwards he told us how impressed he was that a bunch of young guys from little old England could groove out so hard and how he'd love to take us across the Pond to play with him in the US. Turns out he'd had trouble getting session players together who worked and he liked the way we worked. There's a big festival due in 2015 and he wants us there. Needless to say I've got my passport ready for the call!

The band with Otis afterwards
As cool shows go, that's way up there!

The day after was a drive to Cardiff to play with London collaboration, High Cross Society as a last minute dep gig. It was great, but a long night that included sleeping in the car at an unremembered service station at something like 5am. Ooof.


Friday, 3 January 2014

New Reeds!

Yo! Short update on the new brand of reeds I'm now totally digging. After years of being a Vandoren convert and playing on the standard blue packets, I then discovered the different flavours like ZZ, V16 and Java. I loved each type for a fair time until discovering the next. 

V16's were brilliant and powerful, but lacked finesse. The ZZ's produced a lovely tone but gave me less power and I'd find they were blown out after a couple of particularly lively funk shows. The original Green Java's were the first variation I tried and I must admit I was never truly taken with them. They played a bit harder than the vanilla version, but nothing really leapt out. 

However I saw the Java Reds on and gave them a go. They have an amazing balance of power and finesse, being great for both hard funk and smooth jazz. They bed in and warm up quickly, but like all reeds you do get some duds in the box. At the moment of writing on average 1 or 2 per box of 5 warp the minute they're wetted or are woolly sounding, but the rest are sharp and clear. 

I play these at 2.5 on my Series II Selmer Tenor and plan to replace the ZZ's I'm running on my other horns when I run out.

Go well, 


Saturday, 9 November 2013

In Ear Monitor Review pt2

So after a good while of using the system, I feel I can give a decent account of performing with it.  To recap, it's the LD Systems MEI One wireless UHF In Ear Monitor I bought second hand from Gumtree. I wont include pictures to save space. Just refer to the previous post for those.

Setting up during soundcheck is easy. The Mackie DL1608 our regular sound engineer uses is easy to work with and with the sender unit set to mono, all it takes is a 1/4" jack to jack from aux to left input and that end of things is ready once plugged into the mains and the arial screwed in. Only problem is that if the stage power goes down (which happens an unfortunate amount on outdoor stages) then the unit needs to be turned back on again. This is no big problem, but if you or the engineer don't realise it can lead to a confusing bit of trouble shooting.

The belt pack takes 2 AA batteries and is pretty good for consumption. Averaging about 4 x 2 hour shows before showing signs of death. There's a LED onboard to let you know you're running low so keep a spare pair in the box! The pack is light and has a belt clip, no more bulky than any of the others I've seen. The only problem with this is that the rubber volume knob on top seems to catch on my clothes occasionally and turn the volume down which is a mild irritation! Other than that, the rest is all good and I've not had any signal dropouts, lag or poor sound.

Ear buds however are another story. Whether the drummer I bought the kit from ran them at high volumes (don't worry, I did clean them thoroughly,) or whether they sounded like they do out of the box I'm not sure, but they aren't the best sounding examples. The top end lacks some crispness and the bass power isn't great either. They can pump out the volume for definite and you can hear what you need to over even the most ridiculous of stage sounds, but you're not going to get the delicate highs and lows.  I've tried them on other devices and they do still sound the same.  Still, the isolation is good and I come away from shows without ringing ears and having had a damned good monitor sound. Most irritating however is the fitting. The driver housings are metal and this means weighty, which means quality right? Fine, but when the ends are the same kind of rubber that the cheap high-street buds use, you find them falling out mid-performance at the mere hint of sweat or movement.

So, the supplied buds are fine, but if and when I have a spare £300-500 I'll definitely be looking at the Shure SE range. I've heard nothing but good things about them from session players and with 3 drivers per ear and an over ear fitment on the 535 model (Pictured) I believe this will make the whole system work on a par with the Sennheiser units still for a much lower price overall.

To finish, the iPhone compatibility with the Mackie sound system via the Mackie app allows me to manage my own monitor mix live. We've had a few teething troubles with mismatched updates between devices, but overall it's been fantastic as no-one is better suited to getting the mix I want than me and avoids the usual back and forth for fine tuning.

I'm definitely enjoying the fact I'm getting the mix I want when I want and protecting my hearing at the same time. Band mates occasionally say they feel I'm more isolated with them in, but I think it's something to get used to and learn to work with as my ears are important to me. Happy hearing!


Thursday, 29 August 2013

In Ear Monitor Review - LD MEI ONE

Hi, my name is Dan and I'm a Gumtree addict. There, I said it. The buying and selling website is a good place to find music gear at knock down prices, and I've done it again. I bought some IEMs.

As a working musician I've realised how important it is to protect my ears and recently with the more powerful sound system my regular band use these days I've been looking into hearing protection.

I've been doing a lot of research and not found many sax players going into detail about their monitoring setups and experiences so figured perhaps it was time I did.

I've tried plugs. Not expensive ones though as going full tilt into any form of hearing protection is costly and I've heard some horn players have some issues with plugs and the occlusion effect. The 'head sound' you get when pressure changes inside your plugged ears when you play.

Industrial foam plugs were ok, they're kind of like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut though and it really
isolates you from the rest of the band. They feel fine in your ears even if they do take a while to expand and settle in. You're definitely protecting yourself from high sound levels and you are able to hear the sax, but the cost is getting any real clarity from anything else and more often than not I'd find myself taking one or both out to feel more 'connected'.

The Christmas tree style ones often marketed as 'music' or 'surfer' ear plugs are more of the same. The plastic material they're made from makes them less comfortable and more likely to lose their place in your ears. Also, they seem to block less frequencies too. I still feel clear eared after a gig, but the sound is somehow 'off' when using them.

So, to the crux. I've been looking into budget IEM systems. As assured as I was that Sennheiser and Shure combinations are the industry standard, the wireless systems themselves cost £500 and the best earpieces are £300. This is great and I'm sure they're the best out there, but if I find out I don't get along with them I've spent close to a thousand pounds to get there.

T.Bone and LD Systems both make some budget IEM's and on doing some research online, I've found that they share a lot of components between both companies and their upper and lower price range models.

You can get brand new reasonable quality setups for about £350 from both companies with very similar specs. LD also do a super low priced one called an MEI ONE for £130. It was one of these that I found on Gumtree going for £90.

I figured that was a reasonable price and if nothing came of it, I've not lost too much. I also reasoned I could spend the cash I saved on some half decent Shure earbuds if all went well.

To the gear.....

Sender Unit:

Rear of Sender
Weighty, feels solid and made of metal which is good. I've felt plastic units similar to this before and they don't inspire much confidence. The aerial is separate and has an extension cable which is a nice feature. On the front are headphone out and seperate volume, an pair of AF input level meters to show how much audio is being pushed through the unit, and a power button.

Rear has two balance multi XLR/jack inputs for ya engineer to pipe stuff to you through. You can have stereo or mono and it's all switchable and the volume of both inputs is adjustable.

Belt Pack:

Belt Pack
Plastic, light, takes two AA batteries, which is nice because they're the same as the EWI so I don't have to carry around two different sizes. Small flexible aerial on it, 3.5mm jack input for your 'phones and a volume/power pot too. That's great, to give yourself a little more control if things get out of hand or the engineer falls asleep.


They feel really solid, far more than I was expecting. They're metal body and rubber cushioned, fit well in my ears and aren't too obtrusive. The jack is metal cased and once again feels pretty well built too.

The quality seems reasonable, I think this is possibly due to the previous owner (I did clean them thoroughly!) He was a drummer in a rock band and it feels like some top end has gone out for a while and might be some time. This could of course be the 'phones themselves, but the mids and bass sound great.

The whole thing:

Front of the Sender
I got my horn out in my studio and routed my mic (Rode NT2-A) and some jazz backing tracks through the MEI ONE and got to work. Getting the levels right was a bit of a pain, but that comes with practice. Sound was great and I can definitely work with this. No 'head sound' in there and once the mix was there it was a pleasure. There was nothing like the background noise of a real stage and the live test will have to wait 'til the weekend, but so far so good!

Mackie My Fader App
Our sound man, Mike Osbourne if you want to check him out, has started running a Mackie DL rig with an iPad controlling the whole thing. This means that with the My Fader app on my iPhone I can manage my own monitor levels without having to worry him. Looking forward to the weekend!

Rundown of how it was to come next week!

Hope that was of interest to you,


Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Yet again I am an awful bloggist!

Wow, so yeah, this diary of musical escapades really hasn't worked very well. The problem with chronicling life is that you have to 'do' some life to chronicle it and therefore reduce the amount of chronicling time you have. Still, never mind!

So as you, dear reader, can imagine, plenty of things have happened since 10 months past. I'll try to compress things a little to save eye strain.

The bunch of funk meisters Freshly have been working on originals and we've got a small collection brewing away nicely. Our eminent Brazilian bassist Rokko and as we recently found out, producer, has been stocking up one some mean hardware. Neve and SSL mic pre's, AKG 414s, Logic interfaces and all sorts have been secretly piling up at his doorstep and he unveiled them to us not so long ago. Also, keyboarder Trip Hazard has the most awesome crib there ever was. Options of the piano room with choice of 2 full size grands and crazy sculptures and also a mill to ourselves.

Unfortunately a week before we were due to record our guitar/synth man Alik had his Novation Mininova stolen after rehearsal. This put a rather large downer on the whole thing, but being a small village and after a few heartfelt notes, the synth was returned by a mystery man, no questions asked. Pretty cool really.

With Rokko and Trip's powers combined we made a nice little studio for a week and got to work. We stayed up far too late and started way too early every morning, but in the end we've got something we're all hugely proud of. We couldn't have asked for better surroundings either, table tennis, chasing chickens, kayaking down weirs, playing Dungeons and Dragons (terribly and drunkenly) and to top it off Trip's dad is some kind of Czec master chef.

You can see what transpired here and the tunes will come soon.

The Seahawks love releasing new stuff and yet another tasty album us out with some mixes and remixes I've had the pleasure of playing on. Have a look at this beauty! Coloured vinyl to go with the picture disc from last year!

The Badcore Horns have been busy too and a fair number of works we've been on have been released to the world now at long last....

  • Granville Sessions have put their album Forward on Bandcamp, we laid down trumpet and saxes on this and there are some huge moments in the first track March and ridiculous baritone in The Next One.

  • We're all over Electric Swing Circus' release too and they've sampled us for live use meaning we probably featured a bit at Glasto this year ;)

  • The hush hush bit of work we did for Madness has now been released and you can hear us on their live DVD of Oui Oui etc... Links fail me but check it out for sure!

Our latest project was for rock band Canturbury. If you like a cross between good old British rock and Muse you'll be on to a winner. I spent a ridiculous night there with the usual crew, band and a London based string section. We ended up drinking wine and playing Countries, if you've never played it you'll find it the most irritating game 'till you get the rules. I was also coerced into waking Pete up with some sexy sax action (See Picture). He was not as excited as we were. We discovered Peter Miles, producer extraordinaire is also Peter Miles, Ugandan rapper. It kinda explains all the mystery hits on his website from Africa...

So, term starts again in a few weeks, I'm now teaching sax, clarinet, flute, uke, guitar, drums and piano. Worried much? Naaaaah!

Oh! Almost forgot, we got a jazz night started in the local pub following in the footsteps of local legend Tony Harris. It's started getting quite a reputation and we've had loads of guests get involved! It's pretty rough and ready and mostly a bit of fun. Check our version of All Blues.


PS, I'm going to be reviewing a wireless IEM unit over the weekend. Check it out!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Teaching, Brixton and Websites!


It's been some time since my last report, but there's been plenty going on at DHQ and since this is as much a journal for me to keep track of things as a news feed for the website I'll go back to where we left off which was just after the Granville Sessions session at Pete's studio...

The weekend after that, with an already packed schedule of funk with Freshly, myself and my bongo brother Blades were seconded into an afternoon of Sax & Bongos vs a troupe of DJ's for some Exeter University folk to gyrate to. There were some good moments with lithe sunlit students giving it the beans to our stylings, and some not so good ones where one of the sickest drop builds I've ever had the privilige of rashing over crashed on it's arse when one of the ill-fated vinyl pushers accidentally slammed into a slowdance number by accident just as the current track had reached it's crescendo.

Still, we got paid, pushed some business cards about and set off on a 50 mile trip to Bude for a funk gig in Thom York's local boozer. Tasty.

It's learning time y'all....
The following week was my first one of teaching groups of primary school kids clarinet and what a baptism of fire that was. Imagine the sound you made when you first ever had a go at a non piano instrument. Awful wasn't it? Believe it or not, even your humble narrator when first blessed with a clarinet of his own to blow began with such honkings that nearby geese would head for the hills. Now times this by 20. Still, being of calm body and mind I have brought my little padawans, some numbering as many as 36 at one go, up to the point where they're kicking some one note tunes to backing tracks. Let's hope this continues as I'm expected to put them into a concert to show their relevent parentals/guardians/captors how well they're doing and I'm hoping for Bach sonatas from each and every one of them!

The next weekend where September shuffles off and October starts to make going outside a bit of a chore was also one where I was not blowing my horn, so I did what the normals do when a free weekend comes along and planned a getaway. 'To Surrey' I thought, and thusly took my better half, the intrepid Red Baroness home to meet my family for the first time on their own territory and to wish my father a happy birthday...

You're not driving that anywhere...
...Turns out a birthday it was, but happy it was not. At about 3-4am Friday morning and 80 miles out from our destintation on the most deserted country 'A' road we could have chosen, a lorry had a blowout in front of us and the resulting debris took our car off the road in action movie style. After the police and rescue people sorted the car out, my dearest father, who's birthday was becoming less happy by the minute, drove out to our stricken selves and ferried us not only home, but around most of London for the weekend too. Legend.

Also, and back to the point in hand, music, the boys from Granville Sessions were playing in Brixton and gave me a shout to see if I'd kick some bari with them on stage, so I plugged Hootenanny's into Google and found it was a mere half hour away from my lodgings. Obviously I couldn't pass up the chance to turn a non gigging weekend into a gigging one, and rocked up there ready to smash a wicked set and introduce my good lady to dirty London hiphop at the same time.

Playing bari Granville in Brixton
Needless to say the venue was amazing, the crowd were up for it, and African Head Charge who were on after us astonished me by being the most stereotypical Jamaican reggae band I've ever witnessed first hand. All older chaps with dreads and beards, accents so thick you could cut them with a knife, illicit domio games in the green room, and speaking of green, they were definitely advocates of da 'erb. Them chaps could play too, would have stayed and skanked all night if I didn't have a weekend of sightseeing to do!

Luke, topless conductor
Moving on, the Badcore Horns and our very dear friend and keyboard wonder Pat Pearson were back with Pete at Middle Farm again last Thursday, this time working for Luke Concannon of Nizlopi fame. His solo album is set to be a corker and, in my opinion anyway, every track I've heard from it has chart potential. Not only did Si and myself lay down everything from jolly soul stuff to Sigur Ross style moody pads, we all got stuck in with some gang vocals, so listen out for that one.

We ended up having the night there so we could spend hours getting the parts sounding just right and after a hearty home cooked meal and beer we all slipped into an 18 minute jam with the recently arrived slide guitarist from London who's name currently escapes me. There's a video and I'll get hold of it if it kills me (which judging on the difficulties of moving 1.5 gig of data it may well do). After that we tried jamming one of Lukes unprepared songs but decided it was too much muso gratofication to use for much so we'll keep that back until the real one is released.

Shirt modelled by Alex Norgate
Oh that reminds me, on the promo side of things. I've been busy weaving some dreams and made a real website for Badcore. Myspace was nice, but the glitches, limitations and downright retro-ness of the whole thing was getting to me so was born. Along those lines, Freshly Squeezed have finally got our act together and have a run of rather lovely T-shirts for sale as well as a small number of original tunes in the bag. We're just waiting to get ourselves a new permenant bass player since our legend of a young gun Jake Galvin left to carry on his degree course far far away. If you play, and play good, do get in touch!

Sorry for the essay but I did try and make it readable,



Sunday, 2 September 2012

August Roundup: More releases, Videos and Sessions

As usual in the life of a working muso things come in waves. Sometimes ups, sometimes downs. Between the biggies you usually find yourself kicking around trying to plan for new projects, work on some current things you should have thought about sooner and grinding out a living with the regular stuff that pays the bills. However the ups usually make up for all the waiting and make you love your profession again and August has been pretty good as far as that goes...

So first up our old favourites the Seahawks have just released their next album 'Aqua Disco' with yours truly on woodwind and faithful music compadre, Alik Peters getting chordal with it. I've shown some pictures of the process on some earlier blogs and now you can hear/own it for yourself. If you like mellow swirlies and vintage beats have a look on Piccadilly Records and grab a copy.

Next are those Bristol based jazz junkies, Jag Harps and after our well documented trip to Real World Studios a few months ago to record the headline track 'New York', we finally have the video back from the shop for all to see. Check out the bunch of talented chaps I'm lucky enough to hang with and watch out for some one take wonder-soloing towards the end. Must say I was totally bricking it during filming but forced myself to keep it below the surface 'till the end.

The Badcore Horns, horn section for hire, were out once again in duo form with founder members, myself and comrade in arms Si Dobson down at Middle Farm Studios in Devon. Under the watchful eye of Pete Miles, we spanked some chunky brass lines out over the massive tunes of London based hiphop group Granville Sessions. They're not quite mainstream yet, but by Gods they should be and I highly recommend you have a listen to the material they have out at the moment.

If that was enough to whet your whistle then check back soon and I'll update the blog when their new stuff is released. Also, the Lena Smith Band in Plymouth have booked us in to record on their album soon at Beliefspace Studios so more on that too!

Freshly Squeezed are still cracking out the funk too. We're currently working on some actual real material of our own but it's sill a way off from performance yet. Until then we'll stay funky and most definitely orange.

I'll leave you with a photo of us recently looking our best and strutting our stuff.

Until next time...