SOFT MACHINE : 1966 - 2018

Soft Machine : One of the greatest UK avant/jazz-rock bands of all time.

Their work, from their earliest performances as a psychedelic band who were contemporaries of, and shared stages with, Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, all the way to being one of Europe's best known 'fusion' groups, has influenced several generations of bands, and continues to be name-checked by today's hip experimentalists.

Whilst the line-up of Soft Machine may have changed many times since the heady days of the late 1960’s, the band’s spirit of musical adventure, and the ease with which it freely avoids being pigeon holed and can move from powerful progressive jazz fusion to atmospheric psychedelia to free improvised jazz-rock to ambient loop music continues to make it both unique and totally contemporary.

Soft Machine 2019

Well two months seem to have flown by and I am aware that I have not written a tour blog since the Japan gigs in late July, contrary to my intentions.

There were only a couple of days between getting back from Japan and going on a family holiday to Italy. Annoyingly and stressfully Lufthansa decided to lose my suitcase which ended up stuck in Frankfurt and it took days of hanging on the telephone trying to get some answers and action before my case was eventually returned. I ended up having to fly to Italy a day late which was not good at all. No, sir. Not at all.

With the new Soft Machine album ‘Hidden Details’ being released just in time for the September tour it was vital that we had stock of both the CD and the vinyls to sell on the September dates. The coordination had taken months of planning, but unfortunately it was all to go horribly wrong. Incredibly, the distributor of the CD having received a consignment in their warehouse of 157kg of CD boxes - 2000 CDs....which were actually signed for...lost them. They lost them! No idea where they went! The label, pressing plant and distributor themselves all said it was not possible, but it happened. This caused major grief. More were hurriedly pressed and the party at fault paid, and some boxes were speedily shipped out to Vienna for us to pick up so we did have CDs on the tour, but still lost out a bit. Also the vinyl pressing plant got behind schedule so the vinyls were not ready for the tour either, and we lost out on considerable sales a a result. It seems that the resurgence in vinyl means that pressing plants cannot keep up with the demand. So that was most unfortunate. But we do have them now and they do look and sound amazing.

On September 5, the Softs tour took off again. First we flew to Oslo in Norway, then to Zoetermeer in the Netherlands where we met up with Nick our tour manager and the van of gear he had driven from the UK getting the ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland. We were to drive round 8 countries in 2 weeks: Norway, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Italy. It is a pretty small and efficient operation with just the 4 of us plus Nick, who is a friend of the band who drives, tour manages, helps John Marshall with his drum kit and sells the merchandise. I won’t go into detail about the gigs as they were all a success, inevitably some more of a success than others, and with huge contrasts in quality of venues, promoters and sound engineers (we just use the in house people) but nevertheless all good. Some musician friends turned up at the gigs and backstage - Arild Andersen and Paolo Vinaccia in Oslo, Alessandro Papotto sat in in Milan on Facelift and the Last Day which was great, good to meet Christiann Bruin of Sky Architect face to face in Zoetermeer (I recently recorded on his excellent forthcoming solo album) and the Tangent’s Jonas Reingold came to the gig and to hang out at Porgy and Bess in Vienna.

One of the reasons for no gig reports was the considerable amount of admin’ that I needed to get done on the road....not very rock and roll, but hey...stuff has to get done and this was the only time I had to do it - ‘normal life’ off the road being way too busy! This included completing various production music forms and track sheets, typing up tax accounts and checking some studio mixes and making notes. Having a Bluetooth speaker does mean I can listen to loads of music on the road, from Apple Music, YouTube or Spotify (none of which, as a recording artist, I like, because of the tiny amounts they pay to artists -but as an avid listener they are an incredible resource). So just for the record I can say that my most played music on the Euro tour was-

Tchaikovsky - Hymn of the Cherubim
Lévon Minassian- YouTube mix...various
Brian Eno- On Land
King Crimson- Live in Chicago

Pretty eclectic mix and not much jazz there I know, but there you go...all good nourishing music. Also coincidentally, both John Etheridge and I have been getting stuck into John Le Carre novels. I have been reading ‘A Most Wanted Man’, which is very good and much better than the film (with Phillip Seymour Hoffman).

And now we have arrived in America. Baltimore to be precise. The city from which came Edgar Allen Poe, Billy Holiday, Bill Frisell and Phillip Glass. This will be the first Soft Machine tour of America since 1974. Famously, Soft Machine toured the USA with the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1968, sharing a small van, backline and hanging out together. Jimi was a fan of the band. When I first joined this band it was great hearing stories from Hugh Hopper about those times with Hendrix. Cool stuff.

This morning I awoke at jet lag o’clock and had a funny disoriented experience. I woke up and looked at my bedside LED hotel alarm clock and saw it said 7.45am. That is good, thought I. Normally the first morning in America on the East Coast, you wake up between 4 and 5am (which is 9 - 10am at home). I thought I’d have a swim in the hotel pool so got up, had a shave, got dressed and went down to the pool as it opens at 8am. When I got there it was closed, which I did not understand. I went up to the hotel reception but there was no one there which was also odd. Then I heard the TV in the hotel lobby. ‘The time is 10 minutes past 5...’ Argh! My hotel clock had the completely wrong time, but as I had felt awake, I just assumed it was right and had got up! It was only 5.10am. Jeez!! So I went hastily back to bed.

First gig is tomorrow and I should report that we will be playing a mix of Softs tunes going back to the album ‘Third’, and a mix of tracks from Soft Machine 4, 6, 7, Bundles, Softs and plenty from our new album and the Soft Machine Legacy albums too. Our manager Leonardo ‘Moonjune’ Pavkovic will be at the gigs selling merchandise too. We even managed to bring some of the Special Tour Edition 2LP marbled vinyls with us - though not many. It is all going to be awesome and I am really looking forward to the gigs and meeting the USA Soft Machine fans too.

×

TOP