After the European tour with Hipster Slayer, I played a few more gigs in Italy, then felt it was time to stop and recharge. I was happy to spend time home… watching movies, reading, listening to new exciting music, seeing friends. And most importantly, riding my bike! As a matter of fact, I’ve dusted off my old mountain bike earlier this summer and fell in love with it, all over again. I enjoy long bike rides, they’re extremely relaxing. Landscapes can be inspiring, too – it’s nice to stop, take a look, maybe shoot a picture. I avoid listening to music while biking, first of all for safety reasons. But I especially like the idea of being 100% focused on the moment. A good excuse to give my ears a break, as well…
On the note of giving my ears a break, I spent time recording in the Bunker. I had some session work to go through, and I took it as a chance to experiment new things. One of the sessions was particularly inspiring – I recorded some tracks for a Hip Hop project called Organ!k. The drummer from Hipster Slayer, Toni Nordlund, provides the beats for the band and hooked me up. He said: “Just be yourself. Do whatever you want”. Wow, that’s what a session player would love to be told everytime! I setup my pedals, and decided to record everything with a condenser mike. I thought, why not have some room in the recording? I was also sending the bass signal to an audio interface, but in the end I thought the mike recording was good on his own. I’m using a lot of prepared bass techniques these days, so I love to capture all of the additional sounds I can get from the bass – even the sound of me pressing buttons on the pedals, or the attack of a pick on the strings. I improvised on the drum loops that I was sent, and that was it. I just edited the tracks a little, but I was happy with what I had played right away. I was pleasantly surprised: I’m discovering my own sound on the bass, which is leaning more towards creating textures rather than playing a typical bass line, and I feel more comfortable with improvising now. Always shy away from the obvious.
Speaking of bass guitar – Julie Slick will arrive here in Italy in a few days. EchoTest get together again! We’re planning to finish the soundwriting and pre-production of our third album, and practice the new songs for upcoming live shows. It’s going to be fun, but also challenging. I love practicing new music and get it to be perfect. We’ll also be busy sending out packages of “Le Fil Rouge”. Don’t forget to grab your copy on Julie’s bandcamp.
What else have I done these days? Oh well, I’ve seen quite a few live concerts. On September 12th, I was in Rome to enjoy a lovely performance from Steve Hogarth, the singer in Marillion – a band that I love, and that I had the pleasure to support on a couple of dates during their 2013 tour. Steve was magnificent as usual. What great dynamics and range his voice has. Rather impressive. He played and sang solo for the first half of the show; later on, he was joined by an Italian prog-rock ensemble called Ranestrane. Very talented band. They worked out some new arrangements for a selection of Marillion’s material. That was refreshing and unexpected.
A few days later, I took a Megabus to Florence to see David Gilmour. I had never seen him live… it was about time, I guess! It was extraordinary, very emotional. I grew up on Pink Floyd songs, and have always loved David’s style on the guitar. A night I won’t forget. While in Florence, I stayed with my friend, Gabriele. He has an impressive record collection. In fact, he took me to a couple of record stores in town, the kind of places where I would spend all of my money in a few hours. One of them was a “comics+records” combo, and I thought that I was in heaven. Very, very fine place. “Twisted” is another remarkable store, not for the casual listener of course. If you’re into the ECM catalogue, avant-garde, jazz and art-rock, you need to check “Twisted” out. I bought the latest album from the Penguin Cafè, “The Red Book”, which I highly recommend. Gabriele also showed me around town – I hadn’t been in Florence for years, so it was nice to refresh my memory. One of the great aspects of Italy is that each region, and each town, has its own traditional food. I got to try the focaccina (basically a focaccia, the typical flat oven-baked piece of bread, but smaller), that you can fill with… everything (usually meat and cheese, or fish, or veggies. I learned that you can ask for only one combination of filling per focaccina at a time. Asking for more is “against the rules”. Very funny). Next in line was lampredotto, some popular street food in Florence, consisting of a sandwich stuffed with tender slices of tripe (beef belly), salsa verde, and spicy sauce – too bad, I was still pretty full from the big lunch we had that very same day, so I couldn’t put anything else in my stomach (could have been dangerous!). Next time!
Last but not least, I managed to visit Paris, France, for a day and a half. I went there to see one of my favourite bands ever, King Crimson, performing live. A dream coming true. Never had a chance to see them, until now. Great show. I found a 50 € airplane ticket, roundtrip – difficult to ignore! So I booked an hotel room, and off I went. Shame on me, I had never been to Paris before. I was blown away. What a gorgeous place. I hope I can go back sometime, and spend at least a week there. As soon as I got to the heart of the city, I went sightseeing. Tour Eiffel, Champs-Élysées, Louvre. Notre Dame was particularly impressive. Didn’t have time to go inside, though.
I had some great meals. I feel like recommending a couple of spots. One is located in Île Saint-Louis, just a short walk away from the Notre-Dame cathedral. I wanted some typical food for lunch, and I avoided restaurants that unmistakably looked like tourist traps. I found this place – Aux Anysetiers Du Roy, where I enjoyed a tasty boeuf bourguignon, accompainied by a glass of red wine (sorry, I don’t remember what wine it was. It was suggested by the chef). Desserts seemed to be very good too, but didn’t order one… I prefer desserts to be consumed at dinner. I would have gone with a crème brûlée, though. The restaurant felt cozy, with Medieval furniture (it’s worth the trip upstairs to see the toilet set-up!). The day after, I was wandering around the Opera and stumbled upon a place called Big Sur (6 Rue Faubourg Montmatre), which serves home-made burgers, cooked right in front of you (open kitchen) with bio ingredients. I was attracted by the name, Big Sur, which reminded me of a novel by Jack Kerouac; however, the Classic Burger I had (sans caramelized onions, not good for my nickel allergy), was a real winner!
Don’t worry – I’m not turning this space into a food blog. The morning after the Crimson show, I got to meet with legendary bassist Tony Levin for coffee (Tony also had a salmon crêpe that… oh well, nevermind. No more food talk!). The logo of the café had a bass clef in it, that grabbed our attention. I tried to shoot a photo with both Tony and the bass clef in it, but I failed. I must admit, Tony is a much better photographer than I am. He’s also a Photoshop wizard, so he sent an updated version of my photograph, that actually included the bass clef:
Well, I guess it’s time for me to stop writing this and go back to work! As you can see, there’s always so much stuff happening… and I’ll have more to report in a month or so.