Sunday, 3 May 2009

Studio update 6

So, it's all change here. Finished the writing, finished the recording, done the mastering, so now it's time to do the last few edits, compile the album and run the masters and.... it's done.

Hard to believe I'm nearly there, it's been a long, difficult struggle putting this album together but then again there never was an easy one. By the end of the week the album should exist in it's final completed form and I can finally take a day off.

Oh no I can't, got to start working on the live set for the first gig in 3 weeks time...

Feels great though!

Monday, 6 April 2009

The great Facebook debacle

I have been rather late getting a Banco page set up on Facebook. Everyone else seems to have done it years ago but I just, well, couldn't be bothered, frankly. Still, I did finally get round to it a few weeks ago, only to find out I was better off before.

For some reason Facebook decided that the name 'Banco de Gaia' is blocked and would not let me set up a 'Banco de Gaia' page. OK, I thought, it must be to stop copyright infringement, I'll just have to explain to them who I am and they'll lift the block. Mmm, except you can't contact Facebook to discuss things like that.

When I tried to set up the page there was a link to a customer service form which I duly filled in, explaining who I am and why I want to set up the page. Their response? Nothing. So I tried again, still no response. And again. And again. And again from someone else's account. And again, this time in a different name. Still no response.

So that's that. Facebook have blocked me setting up the Banco de Gaia page, and there is no way to discuss it with them. This is exactly why small shops with friendly shopkeepers will be around for a long time to come; big techno-corporations may seem all-knowing and capable but actually they're only as good as their programming, and in this case that's clearly dysfunctional.

That is, of course, assuming it's a bad web interface and not that they're blocking me because the Chinese government told them to because I spoke out about Tibet.... Nah, I can't be bothered to go down that route.

Anyway, I have the last laugh (so far). We discovered that they haven't put a block on 'Banco de Gaia - Official' so if you're on Facebook and want to go and have a look at a Banco Facebook page, you can.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Studio update 5

Obviously I've been quiet for a long time because I've been really busy in the studio. Yeah, well, something like that... Anyway, the album is coming along, maybe not as quickly as I would wish but it's getting there.

I just had an old friend of mine in the studio adding vocals to the tune I'm currently working on. He's an announcer on BBC radio, every album should have one.

Meanwhile I've been sorting out the 'boring' side of it all, distribution plans, record labels, all that stuff. Mostly sorted now, we have a plan and the album will be available everywhere when it's ready. Well, not sure if Kyrgyzstan is really covered or not, but most places will be.

I've also joined Twitter (do you join Twitter? Whatever, I'm doing Twitter now). You may notice it in the sidebar. Not sure what the point is but the above mentioned BBC radio announcer said it's great so obviously I believed him. Given how often I update this blog, my Twitter should be gripping...

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Studio update 4

All has started well in the studio this year. I'm still making progress with the new album, even got a title in mind for it, and it's looking good to release sooner rather than later.

I've been rather pleased to discover that, with the help of my old friend Andy Guthrie, I've been able to get into files of really early tunes on old floppy discs, and also old sample discs, some going back as far as 20 years. (Hmm, why would I want to do that?). Good to know they haven't all turned to dust in the intervening years.

Outside the studio all is not quite so rosy. Our UK distributor went bust in December, in part due to Woolworths and EUK going under, so a bit of a hiccup there (don't worry, all the albums are still available from us by mail order and there's also the download store), but we'll sort it out and shake up our European distribution while we're at it so all will be in place for the new album release.

Now't more to say right now but more soon for sure.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Studio update 3

Another productive week in the studio so things are moving on nicely with the new album. I wonder what you're all going to make of it...

One slight hitch has been that my wrist injury is getting worse again; it seems the position of the mouse in the studio is making me bend in ways which I would rather not and I can't find any position that works. The software I use has loads of hierarchical drop down menus which unfortunately require twists of the wrist which are not doing me any favours. How I suffer for my art...

Meanwhile, we've got the website forum up and running again and have hopefully solved the spam problem.

Other than that nothing to say really. If I don't update beforehand then happy Christmas to everyone and see you in 2009.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Studio update 2

Things are coming on slowly in the studio, not the quickest recording I've ever done but I'm making progress so should still be on course to release the new album next year.

Working with Maya again today on some of her stuff, nice to have a bit of variety and a pleasure to work with such a good singer.

Outside the studio we've had to temporarily shut down the website forum due to some very concerted spamming. I'm trying not to take it personally but the sites it was advertising were Chinese... ;-) I remember when the internet seemed like this wonderful new world where only good things would happen...

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Studio update

OK, news at last. I've been in the studio making slow progress on an album to hopefully release next year. On Friday I was recording with Maya Preece of Dragonsfly, who sang on "We All Know The Truth" and things are coming along nicely.

Nothing else to say about it at the moment, really. Hopefully release in the spring but who knows how long it will take...

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

It's only been 6 weeks

I've been reminded it's rather a long time since my last post. 'Tis true, apologies for that but I've not had a lot to say lately that I want to air in public. But fear not, recording is underway, the wrist is holding up so far and I'll be back with more waffle soon.

Meanwhile, don't forget we're in Kendal this Saturday playing at The Brewery, could be the last Banco live show for a few months so learn to live with the regret if you decide to go to that 'other' gig in London instead...

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

There goes another one

Richard Wright (keyboard player with Pink Floyd if you don't know) died yesterday.

I don't have many words to say except that he was by all accounts a really lovely person and he certainly had a major influence on my musical tastes and development. It is a sad passing and my thoughts are with his family and friends who must have lost someone very special to them.

There aren't so many key figures in music who mean so much to so many people without making a big fuss about it. He seemed gentle, honest and down to earth which is pretty impressive given the world he moved in, no huge ego on display, which probably explains why I didn't find out until today. No front page headlines, no rent-a-celebrities spouting inane anecdotes on the TV news; probably how he would have wanted it.

Thank you, Richard, for all you gave me. I hope I can emulate a little of what you brought to this world.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Less is more

An eager Zen student arrives at a temple and says "I want to join the community and work to attain enlightenment. How long will it take me?"

"Ten years" replies the master.

"Well, how about if I really work and double my efforts?"

"Twenty years."

"Hey, just a moment. That's not fair! Why did you double it?"

"In your case," says the master, "I'm afraid it will be thirty years."

From "After the Ecstacy, the Laundry" by Jack Kornfield.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Back to the studio

OK, I've been quiet for some time, apologies for that but I have been busy. First I went away for a break for a week or so then since I've been back I've been doing some maintenance on my studio.

Actually, maintenance isn't quite the right word. Ever since I built the studio 10 years ago there's been a big problem with bass in there. I won't go into all the maths and acoustic theory but in a nutshell the shape and size of the room means that a lot of the bass from the speakers gets bounced back from the walls, floor and ceiling then it all meets in the middle of the room and cancels itself out. I've tried various things over the years to sort this out and made some improvement but overall I have still heard very little of what is really come out of the speakers and have had to do a lot of mixing by guesswork and checking on other systems in other rooms.

All this suddenly got a lot worse a few years ago when I decided to start experimenting with 5.1 surround sound mixing. Again without going into the theory, the new speaker system I put in made the problem even worse and for the last year or so I have been scratching my head trying to work out what I could possibly try that I haven't tried already. Roll on to this year, and specifically the car crash in Turkey which put my immediate plans on hold, and I decided that as I had a bit of time with nothing else to do I would have yet another crack at tackling the problem.

So, I thought about it, I looked at what I'd done already, I talked to other people who know about these things and I read loads about similar problems. And I came to the conclusion, again, that what I had done before should really be doing the job.

But clearly it wasn't so what to do next? Well, eventually flawless logic won the day and I figured that if what I had done already should be working then I should do that again, in other words just do more of it. A lot more in fact. So, yet again without going into all the theory, I got hold of a large amount of acoustic material (mineral insulation used in the building trade if you must know) and built myself a load more bass traps. Now, this was actually quite fun as we had a few days of really lovely weather so being out in the garden sawing up pieces of wood was very pleasant. Unlike dealing with the insulation material which is made of kind of fibreglass and really itches if it gets in your skin. Picture the scene: me in the garden wielding a Black and Decker wearing shorts and sandals. And a pair of rubber gloves. (A prize to anyone who can convincingly recreate that in Photoshop).

OK, that's the porn out of the way.

So, did it make any difference I hear you say? Is my subwoofer shaking the room like Concorde on steroids? Well, frankly, yes. Really, at last, after 10 bloody years I've cracked it and finally my room sounds like it's supposed to and I can hear what I'm doing again. Makes me wonder how the hell I've managed to turn out all those album in there, I hope they've been sounding OK to everyone... For those of you who like to look at such things I've even taken a picture (of the studio, not me wearing rubber gloves).

Incidentally, more good news is that my damaged wrist, which I was told could be out of action for 6 months, is making remarkably quick progress and you'll be pleased to know that I'm planning to get back in the studio and start recording again as soon as I've finished tidying up the building site.

Which means even more good news: I should have plenty to blog about for the next few months...

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Apparently I said...

I know I've been a bit quiet lately and I'm afraid I can't think of anything interesting to say still, must be the weather or something. And, I'm about to go away for a week or so so won't be posting anything for a while again but I figure you might want something to ponder in the meantime so take a look at this.

There have been some technical problems with it, hopefully resolved by the time you try to read it (if it still isn't working check later as the are on it), but it means I haven't even seen it myself so I'm trusting Jonny to have written something nice (and trusting that I wasn't spouting total drivel the day we did the interview!).

Enjoy, I'm sure I was being very interesting...

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Seatbelts part 2

It seems my initial diagnosis of 'no real damage' after the taxi crash in Istanbul was a bit premature. Since then I've developed some serious pain in my left wrist which the doctor tells me is soft tissue damage (tendon, to be precise) and which could take up to 6 months to get better. If I completely rest it.

It's not the end of the world, although being left-handed it does mean I'm having to learn to do all sorts of things with my right hand which is kind of interesting, frustrating and frankly amusing at different times, but it is rather unfortunate to say the least. Particularly as I was planning to work on some new guitar-based music over the next few months.

This year is turning into a bit of a farce, actually. In January I started on 2 new projects, one a collaboration with some African musicians hopefully leading to touring and possibly an album, and the other a collaboration with a fantastic singer to record an album together. Both of these projects folded for one reason or another (to be precise the collaboration with the singer is only on hold until she can find the time to prioritise it) and plan C was the guitar-based stuff which has now gone down the pan, too. Add to that a tiny handful of live dates across the summer, some of which cancelled themselves before even getting up and running, and it all looks like a very empty year.

Funny how it goes, eh? Still, it does give me time to do other things (er, watch rather a lot of tennis for example) and I'm sure the enforced creative break will lead to bigger and better things in the end. But the in the meantime there may not be much new to report from planet Banco for a while so I hope you can all bear with me.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

It all started with...

I'm off to a big family 'event' this weekend so not much time to write anything, not looking forward to it to be honest but I'll tell you about that after it's happened. But I thought I would just quickly stir up the waters of controversy by giving a list of 10 albums which have massively influenced my musical output.

Miles Davis - Bitches Brew
Jimi Hendrix - Electric Ladyland
Pink Floyd - any of them before The Wall
The Orb - The Orb's Adeventures Beyond The Ultraworld
Roy Harper - Stormcock
Erik B and Rakim - Paid In Full (Coldcut Remix) (Ok, it's not an album but it did change my life)
Philip Glass - Koyaanisqatsi soundtrack
John Mclaughlin, Zakir Hussain, Jan Garbarek and Hariprasad Chaurasia - Making Music
NWA - Straight Outta Compton
Massive Attack - Blue Lines

Obviously this is just a tiny sample of stuff that I've stolen ideas from, I mean been influenced by, and in the late 80s and early 90s we were mostly listening to 12"s and compilations so a lot of key tunes not mentioned here. (One which really must get a mention though is 'Everything Starts With An E' by E-Zee Posse, those were the days...). But anyway, there you go, nothing shocking I hope.

So, your homework this week is to work out which Banco tracks were obviously influenced by which artists (and no, you can't have 'Celestine' and Pink Floyd).

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Would you join this club?

Here's an idea. I've been looking a lot recently at the evolving music industry and the internet and wondering where it is all going. It's not news that filesharing has had a big impact on the industry (although exactly what that impact has been and whether it's positive or negative does rather seem to depend on whether you're a major record company or not) and things will continue to change and develop in the future in ways we probably can't even predict yet.

Radiohead pulled a great stunt with their last album making it available to download for whatever price you wish to pay and as far as I know have done very nicely out of it, but it was a risky stategy financially and not all of us are necessarily in the position to take that kind of gamble. Personally, I also still like physical CDs and records and I believe a lot of other people do too (and Radiohead made a physical version of the album available too to satisfy that demand) but there's no getting away from the fact that many people prefer the simplicity and cheapness of grabbing files off the internet rather than acquiring a hard copy. So, how best to satisfy both worlds?

Well, here's the idea. How about an annual subscription, something like £10 ($20, €15) a year gives you a digital (download) copy of everything new we release, whether it's a brand new album, live recordings, remixes or whatever. Maybe you would get them a little before the CDs hit the stores, maybe some of it would be available to subscribers only, maybe you could get the physical CD for cost price too. I don't know, I'm making this up as I go along. But in principle is the idea of a subscription something people would go for?

Or to look at it another way, would you like to support the arts by patronising your favourite artist? You give us cash to keep us alive so we can make music to give back to you, it's pretty much how Mozart, Bach and most of those old composer chappies did things and it seemed to work ok then.

Or would you rather support us by buying the music after we've released it in the traditional way, thus ensuring you definitely get something worthwhile for your money? I suppose it's partly a matter of trust but also one of involvement. By subscribing you would be directly involved in making the music happen whereas by buying the finished CD you just get to consume it. Worth the risk?

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Food for thought

I just received an email asking me to sign a petition about EU food production plans. Apparently, from 2009 all EU-produced food will be irradiated and may be treated with pesticides and chemicals but may still be called organic, along with a load of other changes including us losing the automatic right to grow our own food without needing to be licensed. As a strong supporter of organic farming I naturally find this rather worrying, and I hope this reality does come to pass, but it has also got me thinking.

I can see only two reasons why the powers that be would choose this path: either because they wish to have a chemically controlled, homogenised population akin to a herd of farm animals to feed the great capitalist beast, or because us humans face such an extreme food crisis that the only way to minimise starvation is to maximise food production by whatever means are available.

Let us assume for now that the first option is mere science fiction, or at least a rather extreme exaggeration of the truth, and that we are not that far down the road of totalitarianism yet. That leaves us with the reality where global population growth has outstripped our ability to feed ourselves and there simply ain't enough food to go round, leading to price rises, food demonstrations and emergency meetings of high level think tanks. Er, exactly what is in fact going on right now (I believe there is a UN food crisis summit taking place as I type this).

So, here's my question: if the only way to minimise the number of people dying from starvation is to maximise food production is it morally wrong to engage in organic farming? In the short term at least, the use of pesticides, chemical fertilisers, GM crops etc etc... increases the amount of food we can grow, so surely not using these methods must lead directly to avoidable deaths?

I'm really interested to hear people's thoughts on this so, please, comment away...

Monday, 2 June 2008

It's small and I don't much like it

Pollen, that is. Today seems to be the first day of my annual hayfever season, it's come on really strong and really sudden and I'm not happy about it at all. I thought I might be getting away with it this year as I'm sure it normally starts earlier than this, but oh no, it's back and I'm sneezing like, er, someone with really bad hayfever.

I never even got hayfever until about four years ago, apart from literally one day when I was a kid. I've no idea why I'm getting it now but I've had to resort to nasty chemicals from the chemist as I can't blow my nose much more today without damaging an internal organ or two. I'm also seeing a homoeopath and praying they have a miracle cure but of course homoeopathy doesn't really work like that.

Oh yes, it also turns out the car crash in Turkey did a bit more damage than I thought and I have knackered wrist which the doctor tells me may be sore for up to six months. Bloody great, I love days like this...

Still, gotta keep things in perspective. If I've got hayfever it must be the start of summer and that is definitely a good thing...

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Always wear a seatbelt

Just got back from Turkey after what feels like a pretty full-on few weeks of gigs and travel. The last month has been a fascinating mix of flying, driving, gigging and meeting people but not really enough sleep at any point so right now I'm in bed with a cold which is telling me to chill for a couple of days. Well, if I must... :-)

I won't go into everything that's happened in Mexico, Soctland, Derbyshire and Turkey but I'll mention a couple of things from the last two days. In Istanbul I met up with an old friend and his wife who just happened to be in town for a few days same time as me (they live in the US and I hardly ever get to see them, even over there, so being in Istanbul at the same time was quite a coincidence). It was great to hang out and catch up and yesterday we had half a day to go see the sights so went to the Blue Mosque (pretty cool but not as amazing as I had been led to expect), the Byzantine Cistern (totally surreal massive underground water store all columns and arches, pure Indiana Jones) and most amazingly the Hagia Sofia. It was built (I think) as the main church by the crusaders at some time or another and it is massive, totally awe-inspiring and the most amazing place I've been for quite some time. Really made an impression on me so expect some music inspired by it soon!

And the other thing I want to mention about Istanbul? Well, we were joking at one point about how the seatbelts in the back of Turkish cabs don't work so you can't wear one even if you want to. So of course you know what happened next... On the way to the airport the driver managed to completley ignore the fact that the van in front of us had stopped and drove straight into the back of it. Thankfully we weren't going too fast so no major injuries occurred (as far as I know , I haven't seen the driver since) but it was a bit of a shock to say the least.

Hence the title of this post. It's the second car crash I've been involved in when I've been away for gigs (the other was in Japan) and has really brought home to me that if you spend a lot of time in cars, especially with drivers who may not have been getting much sleep for a while (e.g. after a Japanese festival), then putting the seatbelt on just might make a difference to your future quality of life.

But what do I know? I couldn't wear a seatbelt in Istanbul and I survived intact, but another 10 miles and hour faster and maybe I wouldn't be playing guitar any more...

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Sunday, somewhere in England

So the festival season has started and it hasn't rained yet. We're at Off The Tracks Festival in Derbyshire, wishing the motorbike racing just over the fence from the festival site didn't have to start at 9am.

I had a great gig last night, fantastic crowd here as ever who were well warmed up by Transglobal Underground who played before me. The night before we were at Knockengorroch in Scotland, another fantastic little festival which has the major benefit of being out in the wlderness rather than next to a race track (although the hotel we were in for the night was equally unpleasant to wake up to), so having a great weekend. And in sun a lot of the time too, excellent.

The only downside of all this is the mileage we're driving, I think we've done about 750 miles already since thursday and we have the joy of bank holiday weekend traffic to wade through on the way home today. Still, great to back at festis again, let's hope for a long, dry summer.

Monday, 19 May 2008

The shop is open

Right, as promised yesterday our download store is now online. Happy shopping!

(If you really want the URL it's: or