Improvizone

Please replace the lamp

Andrew Booker 2010-03-11 23:41:20

Last week we went back to the Plough in Walthamstow for the first time since last July. They've painted the walls a kind of terracotta red. They've luxuriously carpeted the stage. And they've filled in the weird hole next to the side door. That was good for Os, able to set up minus said former hazard accidentally to fall through. The carpet was slightly worse for me, preferring as I do a solid floor for setting drums upon.

We did a reasonably good gig all told, definitely a good start to the year. It was kind of odd playing acoustic drums. Looking over at Nick from behind an acoustic kit was like we were rehearsing in a band all over again. The music almost felt like it too. Trying to organise itself and tighten itself up in the limited time available before we thought we'd played enough of that idea and moved away onto another one. Nick brought his fretless bass, which he seldom uses and was therefore a tiny bit apprehensive about how well he would manage the intonation. In fact he sounded more in tune than ever, I thought. Os got stuck in with his Juno arpeggiator and filter envelope. Mike swooped and scraped and plinked through the entire gig in his typical endless invention. All present and correct.

For the acoustic drums I brought less this time. Only three cymbals besides the hi-hat, and I hardly ever hit the Zildjian A 16" crash to my right, which is a beautiful cymbal but strangely uninteresting in a gig like this. Next time I will try my 16" Paiste crash, which is a fairly disgusting cymbal, and therefore probably quite good for our purpose.

Also I used my very shallow bass drum. A cheap old premier 20" drum, from which I sawed away two thirds about 12 years ago. I occasionally used it for Pulse Engine recording with Nick. I gigged it for the first time here. Last Wednesday it sounded pretty crap, as in the bad way, but that was probably because it's had the same head since I got hold of it as a student. I guess I'll change it before using it again. Unlike any other bass drum in the whole world, this one has no supporting legs. My DW pedal has such good traction on the floor, it takes care of most of the stability. The rest comes from clamping the top of the drum to the nice heavy ride cymbal stand. One tiny bit of excitement for me was that I had not tried this before. I reckon an Improvizone gig is as good an occasion as any to see whether your gear will make it through the first 10 minutes of playing without structural failure and collapse.

In fact the bass drum sounded really good in the recording. I used only three mics for the kit. My one overhead was an early Rode NT1, plus an AKG C1000 for the snare as before and a JoeMeek JM47 a couple of inches off the bass drum head. That might be a surprising choice for a bass drum, but at not quite close-mic distance, and given that I wasn't going to be bashing it very loud, I assumed I would get away with it, and it turned out to work really well.

My projection video featured entirely new material, including the whole round trip to Brussels and Antwerp in May 2009 with Darkroom. Video begins entering the Channel Tunnel train at Folkestone, segues into emerging at Calais and follows the motorway straight to Brussels and the Atomium. I then cut to some Atomium video I got out and shot when I arrived. It then picks up on the motorway to Antwerp, on my journey to the Arenbergschouwburg, however, rather than show the town bit, it cuts to my return journey the following day, which happened to be at a similar hour and in the same fabulous weather. Later I also included some images from inside the Arenbergschouwburg.

Pity the Plough's projector was on the blink. It worked, sort of, except everything was a nasty yellow that clashed with the recently reddened walls. All the way through it showed a legend near the bottom of the screen which read Please replace the LAMP. Better than nothing, I suppose.

I now have Os's audio discs and it all sounds nice, though I'm possibly regretting not using a DI on Mike's guitar, and bits are sounding abnormally dirty. But there is a lot of energy in places, and it has a noticeably different, organic sound and feel compared to the more clinical sounding electronic drum gigs. We should definitely be doing more like this.

I'll be mixing some downloads soon. Meanwhile check out Os's video.

28th gig: Wednesday 03 March 2010 at The Plough E17 << | >> 29th gig: 31 March 2010 at The Plough E17