Sunday, January 29, 2006

Formication + Modulator ESP 19.01.06

Well the gig with Formication went really well, apart from a few technical problems and a few car-related incidents that I will get to later.

Got to the venue for 7pm, parked outside (on a bit of pavement) and unloaded, helped by the Formication guys.

Got everything set-up quite quickly and tidily and was soundchecked by about 8:30. Somehow managed to misplace my camera while setting up but did manage to get the video camera set-up to tape the gig.

The venue was full of young trendy students, quite a different crowd to a normal EM gig. A few friends also came down, including Dave, Pete, Alan, Ian and Katy. (Thanks guys)

I was quite nervous due to the large crowd, but pulled myself together and went on at 9:05 and played about an hour long set of drones, spacey ambient sections, sequencer sections and a few wig-out solos too.

Unfortunately I had a few technical problems during the gig:

I forgot to press record on the minidisc, then when I did remember, when I checked the recording levels I realised I'd also forgotten to plug the minidisc in, as I'd been using it's output with my headphones for a few final checks. Hopefully I should only have missed about 5 mins.

Also, during the first half of the set, when I came to fade things out for a transition, I found I had some stuck notes droning in the background. After desperately checking all the faders on the mixing desk I realised it was the Prophet 600, but in the dark I couldn't really work out why, so I just turned it off. Later when I decided to give it another go I discovered that about 5 of the top keys had slipped out of alignment and were sticking down.

Apparently no-one noticed so hopefully the recording won't have been ruined.

There was a fair bit of applause at the end of the set and at several points during the set where it sounded like I may have been coming to the end of a piece.

Unfortunately, as soon as I came off stage, Alan, one of the promoters, came up to me to tell me that someone had snapped the wing mirror of my car whilst I was playing. Luckily the bouncers had manged to get the pieces off the miscreants. I managed to put all the pieces back together but despite the best efforts of Alan and myself we just couldn't get it back on. Deciding to leave it 'til the morning I headed back inside to sort a few things out.

I was still on a high from the performance and wasn't really bothered, as I was sure it could be fixed.

Reports from people I spoke to afterwards were that my set was pretty well recieved and that there were even people dancing. I sold a few CDs too.

Next thing I knew, Jared, the other one of the Leftlion promoters was outside arguing with a traffic warden, who wanted to give me a ticket for illegal parking. Ooops, in all the excitement I'd completely forgotten to move my car and lo and behold I was issued with a £30 fine. Bugger.

Even this didn't really phase me, so I got in the car and drove off to find a parking space 1/2 a mile up the road.

Headed back in time to catch the bulk of Formications set, slightly dazed by the evenings events.

Jared very kindly paid my fine too, which made me feel rather guilty as it was really my fault, but it made him happy as he was still feeling guilty about the wing mirror incident.

Some photos:

Gratuitous gear shot

Me in action (photo by Alec of Formication)

Formication in action

rest here

All in all, quite a strange evening, but overall a positive experience.
I even had some girls come up and ask me questions after the gig which was nice.
Also big thanks to Joe who helped me pack up afterwards

Monday, January 16, 2006

Dave Davies + Modulator ESP 13.01.06: Secret gig report

Did a 'secret' gig supporting Dave Davies at Bunker's Hill on Friday 13th January, sort of as a dress rehearsal for the gig supporting Formication on the 19th. Was very useful as it helped me iron out a few wrinkles in the sounds and setting up departments. gig was video-taped and recorded and highlights should be made available in due course.


The funky backdrops lit properly

Dave performing his very minimal spacey electronica

Nice shot of me in action

More here

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Modulator ESP interview in LeftLion

Here's the text of an interview I did recently for LeftLion, a magazine and website dedicated to Nottingham culture

When did you begin to record as Modulator ESP?

Well, I have been recording bits and pieces in between playing in bands since the early nineties, though I didn’t actually decide to use the name until about 2001, when I compiled my first proper solo album (Random Fluctuations) out of the best stuff I’d produced over the previous 5 or so years. More recent albums as Modulator ESP have all been recordings of improvised gigs. I’m just about to start work on my second studio album, if I can ever make the time.

How would you describe your style to new punters?

A mixture of (dark) ambient, ‘70s electronic music (Jean Michel Jarre/ Tangerine Dream) and prog rock (Rick Wakeman). To people who don’t know the music of the artists mentioned I’d say it was spacey instrumental music, the sort of music they would play in planetariums.

So what exactly is this experimental synth project?

A ‘get out clause’ so that I can do different things when I want to without getting labelled as one particular style. Also a way to get round the one small problem I discovered after choosing to call my project Modulator, that there is an American pop/rock band who have been using it slightly longer.

What instruments and kit do you use to create the music?

I use analog and digital synthesizers in combination with analog style step sequencers that allow real time interaction with the sounds and the rhythmic parts enabling me to improvise more freely.

Tell us about the other bands you’ve been in during your time in Nottingham?

I’ve been in three ‘bands’ in my time in Nottingham: ‘Spiritland’ was a studio project with a guitarist called Dave, we made a tape and then he left to play with Toyah, she dumped him after the tour and he lives down somewhere down South. ‘Voyage Within’ was an obscure ‘prog’ band. We did about 3 gigs, very weird, complicated music in all sorts of odd time signatures. We had terrible problems with drummers and vocalists and were an instrumental band for most of the time we were together. I left due to ‘personal’ differences. ‘Made in the Shade’/ ‘Shadowdancer’ was the last band, doing quirky melodic rock/pop, with another two guys called Dave, we did lots of gigs around Nottingham and even one in Derby, again without a drummer. I left to do my own thing, which turned out to be the current project ‘Modulator ESP’, and I’m also in another band called ‘Astrogator’ with a chap from Manchester.

If you could get anyone in to hook up on a track, who would you choose?

I’d quite like to do some stuff with a guitarist, someone like a young Dave Gilmour or Robert Fripp, into more textural stuff.

What other music in Nottingham are you feeling?

Not a lot really, there doesn’t seem to be anyone doing the sort of stuff I’m into in Nottingham these days. I mostly go to gigs up in Leeds or at the National Space Centre at Leicester.

What other music are you feeling generally?

At the moment, I’m listening to lot of pretty obscure electronic music, stuff by Steve Roach, Stephen Parsick/ [‘ramp], a band called Node etc.

What’s your idea of a good night out in Nottingham?

On a night out I generally prefer the rock end of the music spectrum, so I like the Tap for a drink then on to Rock City.

Do you follow County of Forest in the footy?

Neither, I’m afraid I’ve never understood the appeal.

Who is your ultimate Nottingham hero?

After much deliberation I’d have to say Richard Beckinsale, he was funny and it was tragic that he died so young.

What was the last thing that made you laugh?

Marvin the Paranoid Android shooting the Vogon soldiers with the Point Of View (POV) gun at the end of the Hitch-Hikers movie, leaving them all collapsed on the floor moaning about how depressed they were. Sad to say the POV gun was probably the funniest bit of the film.

What was the last thing that made you cry?

The end of King Kong., when Kong dies at the top of the Empire State building

What was the last film you saw?

At the cinema – King Kong on my birthday, fantastic, made me laugh and cry and even feel a bit sick.
On DVD – The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, as a huge fan of the books/radio series/TV show I couldn’t bring myself to see this at the cinema after reading a review that slated it. It was an interesting experience, with great visuals, but I felt it suffered from superfluous additions to the plot, crap characters and the wanton removal of all Douglas Adams jokes. I did laugh occasionally though, the POV gun amused me

What was the last book you read?

Batman Year One, graphic novel by Frank Miller, an extended take on the Batman origin detailing his first year as a fighting crime and corruption in gotham City.

What can we expect from your gig at the Orange Tree?

Depending on time, one or maybe two quite long evolving improvised pieces, with some weird abstract bits and some more rhythmic, melodic bits. There are several good examples of live sets available from my website, including one recorded very early on New Years Day which was streamed live around the world.

Is there any question that you really wish we had asked you..?

No, these have been pretty comprehensive.

Anything else you’d like to say to LeftLion readers?

Come to the gig at the Orange Tree if you fancy an evening of music almost but not completely unlike anything you will hear anywhere else...

link to interview online here

Thursday, January 12, 2006