Music

Artists and bands I play with, artists and bands I like, music gear (for the nerds), and tall tales of rock ‘n’ roll excess.

McCann:

McCann is a three-piece band that plays power punk pop. Based on the diverse and exceptional music of 1979, McCann plays original material that is a bit punk, a bit mod, a bit rock, a bit new wave, with a nod to ska and reggae and the burgeoning electronica of the day.

I play drums for McCann.

In the face of manufactured nonsense like X-Factor, The Voice and anything involving Louis Walsh or Simon Cowell, McCann embraces the punk DIY ethos: grab a guitar, write a song, go and play a gig, find other like-minded souls doing the same thing and work with them.

Punk isn’t dead, it just grew up.

www.mccannmusic.com

everywhere:

everywhere (always uncapitalised) is the brainchild of Jimbo MacKellar. everywhere is currently comprised of Jimbo, Dave Thompson, and me.

We work on the theory that we are good at what we do, we have good enough chemistry between the members to improvise and play off each other, and that we should never play the same thing twice. So we don’t.

An everywhere set might comprise of six original songs, two covers (OK, I will admit that there is a bit of a Bowie bias to the covers, but you might also get a 1950s standard, or an improvised song that we’ve never played before, we’ve just talked about).

Never apologise, never explain, never do the same thing twice. everywhere.

everywhere.audio

Helen Reeves, Fran Schöppler, Southpaw:

If you’re in town and you’re hungry, you can go into Macdonalds and get a burger, then you won’t be hungry any more. Easy!

I’d rather eat my own head. No easy options for me, thank you. Likewise with both Fran and Helen: no easy options.

Fran is a left-handed guitarist who plays a right-handed guitar upside-down. She is self-taught, and when I met her and started playing bass with her, she did not know what the chords she was playing were called:

Me: “Is that an E minor with a G bass, or is it a G with something on it?”

Fran: “..?”

Like I said, no easy options. Fran was in a jangly indie band called Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes, and she does the best version of Fred Neil’s ‘Dolphins‘ I have ever heard.

Helen started off as a right-handed guitarist playing a right-handed guitar. She discovered the blues in her mid-20s (about a decade after I did, but nobody’s perfect) and started playing amazing blues guitar, totally enthused, totally committed.

At the age of 28 Helen had an accident and lost most of the fingers on her left hand. Within weeks, she was playing left-handed guitar with a thumb pick (still in hospital, wearing a T-shirt that said ‘Don’t mention Django Rheinhardt’). Things that normal people would need to adjust to, tying shoelaces, using a can opener, putting clothes on one-handed, were not even on the radar: as long as Helen could play guitar, everything else was secondary.

Southpaw is the two left-handed ladies on guitar and vox, and me on bass. If anyone ever videos our version of Patty Griffin’s ‘Long Ride Home‘, I will post it here, because it is great.

Disco Shark

Disco Shark is the only time I have ever been mentioned in Rolling Stone magazine. Some of my friends put on occasional charity events at the Community Central Halls in Maryhill, and there is always a musical theme: songs about horses; Simon and Garfunkel; Bowie; Bacharach and David (I am holding out for songs about outer space); but for one of them we did disco.

Bloody hell, did we do disco! There is video, I will post it.

Stevie Jackson of Belle and Sebastian is the usual musical director of the house band, and when the Belles were interviewed by Rolling Stone he mentioned us! Woo-hoo!

Anyway, Disco Shark is one of the most energetic and talented groups of people I have ever worked with, they challenge me to up my game every single time we play.

Drum Gear:

I play a Tama Superstar kit in black wrap. Yes, I like The Cure and Siouxie and The Banshees. Black is cool. Deal with it. The Superstar is the last one that Tama did before ‘Hyperdrive’ shallow toms became the norm. I don’t like the shallow toms

The Superstar is birch and basswood, I use Remo Emperor Clear tom batter heads, Remo Ambassador Hazy reso heads, Remo Ambassador Coated snare batter heads (plus one that uses a pinstripe), and Remo PS3 kick batter heads.

I like Remo. Always have.

Current Superstar sizes:

  • 8×7 rack tom
  • 10×8 rack tom
  • 12×9 rack tom
  • 13×10 rack tom
  • 15×5 snare
  • 14×14 floor tom
  • 16×16 floor tom
  • 18×16 floor tom
  • 22×18 bass drum

I have a 14×6½ Worldmax back nickel over brass snare (basically a Ludwig Black Beauty clone for a quarter of the cost of a real one), which I use to play with McCann, and to intimidate people who owe me money. It is manufactured by the same people who make shells for Porkpie and some other big names, it is a brazed brass shell, not a seamless one like a Black Beauty, and it has tube lugs and pressed triple-flange rims. Coated Ambassador over Ambassador Hazy, stock 20-strand snare, I love it.

I also have a 13×3 Pearl Maple Piccolo snare. When I got it, it had my default Coated Ambassador on it. I hated it – too much crack, not enough pop – so I changed it for a coated Pinstripe. Perfect for what I want. The Ambassador was too responsive, and I am not using the piccolo as a main snare for a big sound, it is either an auxiliary snare or the main snare for a small kit. The pinstripe is a twin-ply with a damping ring, and it takes all the ‘edge’ off that snare.

I have an 18×16 bass drum made out of a Sonor 407 floor tom, with proper wood rims and a Gibraltar riser. The Superstar bass drum is ported with a 5″ hole, but the Sonor is not ported. Some sound engineers like this, some do not. Billy Connolly has a purple beard – he calls it his ‘arsehole detector’. My 18″ unported bass drum is my arsehole detector: some sound engineers listen to it and go “Cool – that’s the sound you’re after”, and some offer to cut a hole in it for me. Arsehole detector as I said…

Cymbals:

  • 4″ Paiste 2002 Accent
  • 6″ Paiste 2002 Accent
  • 8″ Paiste 2002 Accent
  • 8″ Sabian AAX Splash
  • 12″ Sabian AAX Splash
  • 14″ Paiste 3000 Sound Edge Hi-Hats (top hat cracked, repaired by Cymbal Magic)
  • 14″ Sabian AAX Stage Hats
  • 16″ Stagg SH China
  • 16″ Zildjian Avedis Medium Thin Crash (Brilliant)
  • 18″ Paiste Signature Fast Crash
  • 18″ Zildjian Rock Crash
  • 20″ Sabian AAX Stage Ride
  • 21″ Zildjian Z Mega Bell ride

Bass Gear:

I am a double bass player who happens to own a bass guitar. I am not a bass guitarist, OK? When I talk about a bass, I mean a proper bass, a double bass.

I have two basses and a bass guitar: a beaten-up 1992 ¾-sized Zeller with plywood back and sides but a solid top; a nice 2008 ¾-sized solid wood Strunal; and a 1985 Ibanez RB680BK bass guitar (which is more like a Fender Jazz bass than a Fender Precision, if you see what I mean).

The Zeller is fitted with Thomastik Spirocore strings, it has bridge adjusters, and it is fitted with a Fishman BP-100 pickup and B-100 preamp.

The Strunal is fitted with Pirastro Evah Pirazzi strings, they have been on for nearly ten years and I think the G is on its way out, nevertheless – ten years from a set of strings? Outstanding! It also has bridge adjusters and is fitted with a Shadow SH-965 NFX Nanoflex pickup.

As a childhood cellist, I favour French pattern bows, and I have a Chinese carbon fibre number that tends to live with the Zeller, and a lovely Knoll bow that I use with the Strunal. Both basses are fitted with bow quivers, as I jump between arco and pizzicato within songs, and  never got the hang of that pizzicato with a bow in your hand thing.

The Ibanez bass guitar buzzes like a bastard and is getting new pickups the first time I have a spare £100 sitting around. Yeah, right…

Amplification: I have a Hartke HS1200 Kickback, 120W, 12″ aluminium speaker cone, it is perfect for pubs and clubs with the double bass.

I also have a Hartke HA5500 head, 500W into 4Ω with a 4Ω 2×10″ cabinet that I built myself. The cabinet will never handle more than about 300W, but it’s a double bass for goodness sake!

I also have a constantly changing home-brewed valve amp, currently a 1x12AX7 preamp with a Baxandall tone stack into a 1x12AU7 cathodyne inverter and 2xKT88s fixed bias at 450v B+ with 250V on the screens, about 70W or so into 8Ω – a 1×10″ cabinet, I reckon. The current version uses zener diodes and MOSFETS for voltage regulation (screens, preamp, fixed bias power supply), MOSFETS to drive the tone stack and the grids of the power valves. You can’t hear the solid state sound, there is no voltage gain through a semiconductor.