so as I was saying, I was fairly obsessed by music for a while. At 14 I got my first bass guitar, mainly because Danny Haines down the road got a guitar. We bought the guitar and bass tab book for U2’s Joshua Tree album and attempted to learn a few songs – the basslines were easy, not so with the guitar and Danny soon dropped it. At the time I was heavily into Level 42, with the excellent Mark King on bass, and I set about trying to play like him. That proved quite tricky, and luckily about 6 months later I started getting a few bass lessons from someone at school who was into The Cure . I had already started to listen to a bit of indie stuff because my sister was into The Smiths, so I soon abandoned Level 42 in favour of The Cure, The Smiths and the Pixies. Basslines were much easier to learn, once I had moved into that genre, and I also become a bit more cool 😉
After about a year I was invited to join a metal/punk band called Witchhunt – we played mostly covers (Black Sabbath, The Cult). I was much younger and less experienced than the rest of the band and I soon found myself sacked in favour of a an older, better, less embarrasing bass player. That was quite gutting at the time, so I ploughed loads of time and energy back into my bass playing, vowing to become much better. On the sly I was listening to level 42 again and learning to play slap bass and use my fingers rather than a plectrum.
I joined a kind of pop-rock band, called Clarence – we recorded some stuff but never gigged – we didn’t have any kind of focus for the style – I was trying to push it into an indie direction, with a bit of funk thrown in, but it didn’t really happen and we lost momentum.
One day I watched an appalling 80’s skateboard movie called “Thrashin” (west side story on skateboards), and at one point in a film, they go to a Red Hot Chili Peppers gig, in their early days when they dressed up in wigs. They played Black Eyed Blonde from the album Freaky Styley – a seriously fast punk funk track with a manic slap bass bassline. I managed to track down a bootleg tape with Freaky Styley on one side and The Uplift Mofo Party Plan on the other. This was then welded into my walkman for the next year at least.
Predictably I went on to form a couple of Red Hot Chili Pepper style bands, first Funky Octopus, which then morphed into Groovespider. By that time The Chilis had released Mothers Milk, which was a bit metal, and they became known on the metal scene, which was handy because really the rest of the band wanted to play metal and punk, but the existence of the Chili’s, Faith No More and Fishbone meant that I was allowed to play some slap bass.
I got quite good at the bass, or at least it is fair to say that I could play fast, manic slap bass lines and give the impression that I was better than I actually was. If you asked me to play any of those basslines slowly I just couldn’t do it.
I went off to uni and joined a Stourbridge indie band called Manic Thing. They were mates with Neds Atomic Dustbin and had previously played some support slots for Neds, so were fairly well known on the local indie scene. I formed part of a new line-up and the style changed a bit. Inevitably my egotistical playing bubbled to the surface – if there was a gap in the music anywhere I would fill it. That band sort of faded out, our last gig was at a bowling alley – no-one came to see us at all, we played in front of a few members and liggers of the support band, most of whom left halfway through. We split up the day after.
I had a four-track portastudio and continued to try to record music of my own. I had picked up an acoustic guitar, electric six string and a drum machine. That kept me happy musically for a while and apart from the odd jam, I didn’t play in any more bands for a while, until I got a phone call from Stourbridge based Floyd Brennan who wanted a bass player to do some recording. Being in Floyd Brennans band was the most “serious” musical thing that i’ve done – he was a very talented singer and songwriter with close interest from the music industry. Floyd taught me a lot about music – most importantly about grooves and how to let a bassline breathe. I won’t go name-dropping here, but I got to meet and jam with some well-known musicians along the way. I also got to do some demo recording at the expense of a couple of major labels. We didn’t play any gigs, it was mostly recording with a view to getting signed. At that point in my life, when I was 20 – I really wanted to “make it” as a professional musician, I saw it as a viable alternative to getting a “real” job.
It is fair to say that my playing was a bit sloppy, and also i’ve never been a “session” musician – I can’t just play something and memorise it immediately and I certainly can’t read music. To learn or write a bassline I usually need to go off for a few days with a walkman and spend some real time on it, and this became obvious when I was put in a room with some real session musicians. I was holding things up, and if it wasn’t for being dropped from the band, I probably would have left anyway.
After that I concentrated on my guitar playing and started learning to sing – I recorded a few demos, and also spent six months in Spain doing a lot of busking. I really enjoyed that – busking during the day and often playing in bars in the evenings, in return for beer. I still wanted to be a musician, but I was starting to become more balanced and realise that I could still be a musician without being a “star”. I was singing and writing my own material too, and apart from the dubious melancholy lyrics, it was pretty good (I like to think!).
Back in England and settled in Bristol, I formed Braxton Hicks [link removed] – an acid jazz band, playing bass again – that went on for a couple of years and never had any serious intentions – it eventually got shelved when a few of us lost interest, and it was becoming a pure covers band, playing at weddings – I had always vowed to knock it on the head when I found myself in a wedding band!
I haven’t touched my bass since, I still play acoustic guitar and i’m also concentrating on playing electric guitar, mainly Rock/Indie/Punk. I have intentions to do something with that in the future – either recording or a band or hopefully both, but time is very limited at the moment because of better and more important things!