Last night I ordered a new DMX light controller. This will give me more control over my LED par cans, enabling me to produce better quality light shows for my own band and performances, not to mention other performers I work with.
Win a free half hour guitar or ukulele lesson by Skype, FaceTime or google hangouts. During #DevonHour on twitter, this week only (21/82013), 10 questions about me will appear under the hash tag #SoYouThinkYouKnowMe. Simply tweet the answers back to me. All the answers are in my twitter time line and blogs.
The winner will be announced shortly after Saturday 6 pm (24/8/2013) when the competition closes, here and on Twitter. In the event of a tie, I will draw a winner from the most correct answers. Anyone is eligible to play, except me. Good luck!
You must be able to get your hands on a guitar or ukulele.
No cash alternatives.
My decision is final.
I have been meaning to write this blog for a long time. A couple of years in fact. I keep putting it off because I know it's a little controversial and I want to get it right. In other words, I've done my research. Many of you may disagree (I have had many debates on Twitter and Facebook about it). It makes my blood boil.
Now just to be clear, when I say 'why you should not play them', I also mean, you should not watch them, or eat or drink in the venues that promote them.
The pub landlords that promote such events will tell you, they put them on
'to give new talent an opportunity to play in front of an audience', as if they are doing the 'new talent' a favour. Well let me tell you, this is a big fat lie, they put them on for profit. Now profit is not a rude word, but everyone contributing deserves a slice of it. They are using the musicians skills and talent to line their own pockets, and not share any of it with the musician. Okay, they often give you a 'free pint'. Let me tell you about that 'free pint', it's not free, you worked for it. I wonder if the landlord pays his plumber and staff in pints. Pints do not pay your mortgage, kids shoes, or even a packet of guitar strings. They should also be declared to the VAT man by the landlords because, as an accountant informs me, they are in effect making a taxable supply to the musician in exchange for services, so the VAT on the full value of the pint should be paid over. I hope you landlords are declaring them. Equally, musicians should be declaring them to the tax man. You are accepting beer as income. I suspect the whole thing is a hot bed of petty tax evasion. I suggest musicians should try going down to Soundpad in Barnstaple and offer them a couple of flat pints of beer for a packet of Ernie Balls. I can ensure you they will laugh you out the building. Musicians are consequently 'paying to play' as the old musicians slogan used to say.
Another trick that the landlords and agents use to pull you in is, 'come
play the open mic night, and we'll see how good you are. If you are good enough I will book you'. This is another lie. They rarely give gigs this way, although they will deny this. I know many venues that book a whole year or seasons entertainment on this basis, abusing the good will of hopeful entertainers.
Entertainers need to stand together, say no to this rip off, and put an end to this awful practice, that is in all but name slavery.
People have argued 'but they're fun'. I don't think putting musicians out of work and treating them as slaves is fun. I take no pleasure in it. Where are your principles? It's a nobel art.On occasions, I've had other musicians tell me, 'I only play for fun, I work in the week, I don't need the money'. Again, I don't see how putting other musicians out of work is fun. How would you like it if I go to your boss and say to him I'll do your job for free, because I work as a musician, therefore I
don't need the money? There is a minimum wage law, some how musicians fall through the net. Has this musician got public liability insurance? I have never
met one that has. Therefore any accident, such as taking someone's eye out with
a guitar neck, or burning the pub down with your untested (PAT) electrical equipment, is not usually covered by the landlords insurance policy. You're taking a hell of a risk.
When it comes to these practices, I want venue owners to give up, and pay up!
I'm off for a walk to calm down.
If you turn the clock back to the early part of this Millenuim, the likelihood of the ukulele becoming popular again, seemed about as likely as Gary Glitter making a successful come back tour. Associated wholly with George Formby, it was considered a joke instrument, slightly better than a kazoo, but not as good as the triangle.
Today every town seems to have ukulele club. The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain have become one of the world's biggest attractions. Not mention The Nukes, The Pukes, and the fantastic Gus & Finn. Then there are also ukulele festivals all over the UK. So what happened?
Around 2008, I was a school governor in two schools, Ilfracombe Junior School, and Ilfracombe infant School. I was also teaching guitar in a number of North Devon schools. I noticed about this time, all the schools were receiving around 30 brand new shiny ukuleles, shipped in from China. I asked a few head teachers, classroom teachers and teaching assistants about them. No one seemed to know an awful lot about these mysterious deliveries, but the consensus seemed to be 'they're cheap', and 'they're going to replace the recorder as the school instrument'. My final question was 'who in the school played the ukulele'? The answer was 'no one'. I smelt an opportunity.
Not long after this, I suppose remembering my inquisitive questions about the ukes, Maggie Foster, a fantastic music teacher from Ilfracombe, steered me towards a course run by Devon Music Services called 'Teaching Ukulele for Guitar Players'. Not wishing to miss the opportunity, I signed up.
While on this one day course in Exeter, I learned a lot more about why these ukuleles had appeared in the schools. First of all, the uke is fairly easy to learn. The advantage the uke has over the recorder is that you can not only play single notes, but also chords. So there you have it. The plan from those lesson planners from up in government, was to shake up school music education. Every child will get an opportunity to learn a musical instrument. And it is going to be the ukulele!
I went on the course purely to get me on schools radar, to bring in more school work. Before the course, I'd purchased a £20 uke to get a feel for it. One month later I upgraded my ukulele to a Kala Arch Top jazz uke. I love the uke. I played none stop. My kids played it, my girlfriend played it. We all got hooked. The work came in, I never looked back. My guitar used to always come camping with me, now it's my uke.
I'd been playing the guitar for over 30 years without much recognition. Just over a year of first picking up the ukulele, John Govier invited my to play live on his Saturday morning BBC Radio Devon show. That was an amazing experience!
In September 2011 I started Ilfracombe Ukulele Club. The club meets every Tuesday 7pm at Larkstone Cafe.
Long live the mighty uke.
Ukulele workshops. Available in every UK town, village and city.
Ilfracombe Ukulele Club
Me with my Kala Arch Top
Electric Bike Day On Exmoor
A couple of weeks ago, Robert Zarywacz (@robertz on twitter) invited me to join him in a prize he had won. It was a days electric bike cycling from http://www.experienceexmoor.co.uk/ (@experencEXMOOR on twitter). Mrs Z was not keen to take part, so I immediately said yes. For me it meant a really early start, getting up at 6am, because I am on holiday at Tamar Lake. I got an early night in the night before, but unfortunately, woke at 1.30am, then was unable to get back to sleep. Really tired, I set off back to Ilfracombe at 6.15am to be picked up by Robert at 9.25am. When we arrived at ExperiencEXMOOR, Neil gave us an explanation about how the bikes worked, including pannier bags for our packed lunch, sun cream and cameras. Also, an impressive list of free charging points, stretching from Ilfracombe to Lynton and Lynmouth. After a little paper work, and a helmet fitting, it was time to test the bikes around the court yard. I went first. Now before I arrived, I had assumed, being electric bikes, you wouldn’t have to pedal, but this is not the case, you do have to pedal, otherwise they just stop. The first thing you notice is they accelerate like a formula 1 racing car. With a couple of turns of the pedals you’ve hit 30 kph. It takes a little getting used to. After a short while we were both ready to start a great adventure. With a rough plan of the route we wanted to take, which would take in Lynton and Lynmouth, and the Valley of the Rocks, we cycled up the drive and turned left on to the road for the first time and headed for the Hunters Inn. http://twitpic.com/ahz67c When we arrived at The Hunters Inn, knowing Julian Gurney’s (@NTExmoorRanger on twitter) office is near there, we checked to see he was home. He was, and with only a brief conversation about cake, Robert and I had an ice cream. http://twitpic.com/ahqo7d Soon we were off again, heading towards Lynton Steam Railway http://www.lynton-rail.co.uk/ for another brief stop. http://twitpic.com/ahqm6h http://twitpic.com/ahz5pv http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLQ2ma3njUk&feature=youtube_gdata_player And so on to Lynmouth. Approaching Lynmouth, we were beginning to feel the affects of half a days cycling, and considered not going down into Lynmouth, because of the massive climb out afterwards. “We could cycle down and take the cliff railway back up” I suggested. “Are you sure they take bikes?” Robert asked. “Not sure no, about 85%” I replied. With no mobile phone or internet signals we were unsure what to do. So has with so many of life’s great decisions we flipped a coin. Heads we go to Lynton, tails we go to Lynmouth. The toss http://twitpic.com/ai3omv Heads we go to Lynton, tails we go to Lynmouth. I secretly hoped for heads. I really couldn’t face that climb out of Lynmouth. http://twitpic.com/ai3pyg Down we go http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOyDbA8SaiQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player At the bottom of the hill we stopped. We decided to check out the cliff railway, to find out if they did take bikes. They did. Neil, then happened to see us and caught up with us at the cliff railway. He asked how we were doing. All was well. We had planned to have our packed lunch at Lynmouth, and recharge our bike batteries. We had a choice of charging points, and chose The Glen Lyn Gorge http://www.theglenlyngorge.co.uk/ therefore recharging with the power of water. We left our bikes at the Glen, and went for a wonder around Lynmouth, and to eat lunch. We wanted to give the bikes a good charge, so we had an hour to kill. We had lunch by the river. http://twitpic.com/ahz5g6 http://twitpic.com/ahuh6w Afterwards went for a walk around the town. http://twitpic.com/ahs44n http://twitpic.com/ahuhfp http://twitpic.com/ahuhhi http://twitpic.com/ahuhss After 1 hour 15 minutes we were back in the saddle heading for The Valley of the Rocks via Lynton. We didn’t take the cliff railway after all. With the help of our charged up batteries, getting to The Valley of the Rocks was not as bad as imagined. We rested our selves recharged the bikes one more time. The cherry pie looked amazing, we couldn’t help ourselves. http://twitpic.com/ai7gz5 After the cherry pie, it was time to pass though The Valley of the Rocks, see the white lady http://twitpic.com/ahuij4 http://twitpic.com/ahui45 and head for home. We cycled on through Woodybay, onto Martinhoe, passed the Hunters Inn one more time. Finally pushed on up the hill to drop the bikes back to Neil. A very tiring, but really enjoyable day. Robert dropped me back home, I drive back to Tamar Lakes after doing a couple of jobs at home. Arrived back at the caravan at 9.15pm Shower! zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz