mending a double bass


Sun 16th Feb:

Mending a double bass? The rhubarb is peeping through. The sloping hillside gives some protection against the endless endless running wetness. Does giving a storm a name somehow mitigate the miserable damage is causes to people’s lives? Dennis ffs?

I’ve planted many trays of seeds – all the propogators are full but the greenhouse sits woefully unfinished – at least its parachute like roof has survived the gales.

I’m just back from the ranch. I’m all washed out. I’ve had a week off work and as usual it flies by and I get little done. I’ve spread myself too thin and forgot to have a rest. It’s been a week of reflection in the aftermath of the big gig. We organised a 40 year on celebration of punk’s influence round here. It was a success on multiple levels. For me the best part is that it wasn’t just an old farts’ nostalgia party. It was seeing how it’s moved into the next generation.

A single moment sums it up. We decide to finish Leon’s set with I’m in Love with Margaret Thatcher which is after all an anthem of that time (even though Gaz and I don’t particularly like playing it). As the song ends, Sam and I look at each other across the stage and jump up in unison – mini scissor kicks – the stage was too tiny for anything fancier. I didn’t even remember it, but someone captured it on video on put on the internet. Me, Sam, Tyler, Leon, Rebecca and Gaz. The old farts are outnumbered and it couldn’t possibly be cooler. Pipe & slippers? (metaphorically of course) – no chance. We have ourselves a neat little underground music thing going on. We’ll be making a record (or two).

It wasn’t all sweetness and light. Some people who I love couldn’t come because they’re sick. Once again, I’m struck with the utter frail fragility of life. Time is a line and it runs out. I have the supreme good fortune of having similar fitness to when I was 20. I am spreading my energy far to thin and I long to jettison the unnecessary.

Today, I defaulted to sawing up soggy oak logs by hand and chopping up kindling with the old axe that I found in the field. I don’t mind the hail and rain – just me and the trees innit. It would be far more efficient to get the chainsaw and paraphernalia out, but the track is so soggy and I just don’t have the energy.

sawing oak logs

Organising a big event is not without stress and all along I kept saying to myself It’s a learning process – it’s a lesson (man). One of the icing on the cake moments came at the very last minute. I’d absolved myself of the last responsibility for tickets and we were trying to get the soundcheck done before the doors opened.

Typically, someone who should know better has sent an old drunk to hassle me for tickets that don’t exist – I have to be pretty firm to get rid of the fucker. I don’t judge – there but for the grace of god …. Of course, he gets in and right at the end of the night, completely arseholed, he falls over backwards onto my double bass. I’m mad.

It takes me a couple of days to sort out the equipment and put it away. When I look, the headstock is snapped. It’s not simple because it’s an old bass – a nice one – possibly Eastern European. It’s broken there before and has been well repaired. I phone my brother (a cabinet maker). He comes and has a look and advises that it’s a difficult repair and I should take it to a luthier.

So whose turn is it to sort this one out? Prob me. I could just leave it, but terrier-twat-me can’t. I could spend a lot of time thinking about how to find a luthier – taking the bass to them, bringing it back – it will be expensive and time consuming. In a moment, I decide to do it myself. It’s about that spirit of investigation that the Buddhists have a name for. I call it studying the form (borrowed from horse-racing). I am seeing the bigger picture.

The hardest thing is getting the headstock off. I have to drill out the old screw from the original repair. I do it all by hand (with a hand drill) – I’m not even thinking of using an electric drill on something so delicately old and beautiful. It takes me a long time. A few hours a day for a few days. Scraping off the old glue takes a while. (with a carefully sharpened chisel – who knows how to sharpen a chisel these days?)  I have to realistically shave of selected fibres of the torn wood.

In the end, it’s a delicate process of strategically glueing, clamping and screwing. I make oak pegs from an old floor board to fill in the holes. The glue has to set for 24 hrs. My rage disappears in the shadow of the master craftsman who first created this magnificent thing – absorption in impeccable craftmanship is a good thing – a higher place.

The end result is good – at least as good as the original repair – carefully cutting off the smudged out glue with a scalpel; a bit of matching up the edges with the chisel; sanding and staining. I finish off by rubbing the whole bass with linseed oil. Oh what a thing of exquisite beauty – a mastery of impeccable craftsmanship. Putting the strings on is a tense moment but the repair holds beautifully. We’re back in business – Rockabilly; Jazz; Rock and Roll; Rap; Grime. Fuck mediocrity.

At one point does one become a writer? I suppose the single most important pre-requisite is to write. I already wrote an OK book. I decided to document the year as it goes – warts and all, so I document it every week and so far, it’s pretty interesting. I’m a columnist without a column. Ha.

What is it about shit-hole America that keeps drawing me in? I’m having a lot of dreams lately – usually semi-anxious ones – like when I’m the only ED consultant at the critical care conference and I’m wearing tight beige shorts? This time, the dream is more real. We’re all exhausted – Michael walks in – I’m so pleased he’s drumming with us. Are Boff and Khany here? I ask. Yes. Khany walks in – as loud and gormless as ever. ‘This is going to be shit man’. ‘No it’s not’. He’s here in the back room where all the music magic happens. He was in America yesterday and now here’s here. It’s surreal, but it’s real.

The Burnley Boppers


By nature, I have still have projects on the go. Gwen and I are doing a cool little vegan food and music night at Jim’s next Sat. We’ve been trying to anticipate how much stuff to buy in.

We musos will have the chance to do our songs in a chilled setting (Me, Leon Gaz & co). 

I’ve been agonising about the recruitment film. The starting point to any film is some kind of script/storyboard. In my case, it’s the backing track – the music. Yesterday, I thought that I’d just lay down a quick demo but I got into a groove and spent a concentrated few hours recording the whole track.

I started with a click track on the Casio keyboard based on the snippet that I filmed with Erin and Rachel (I have to approximate the speed of the demo to the clip). Next, I record the guitar part, then the bass, then a second guitar, then, most difficult of all the drums, then a keyboard. It’s rough and ready but it’s fine. It’s a Northern soul derivative instrumental but it’s happy and upbeat. The rest of the film will hopefully fall into place. It will be different.

Louise started feeding the stray over a year ago. He lives humbly in his little house in the back yard that she made for him. He spends a lot of the time sitting on the windowsill staring at me and I ignore him. Today, I get back from the ranch feeling overwhelmed and alone. Louise as ever is coruscatingly unempathetic ‘stop complaining’. I talk to the cat (in French). He’s endured Ciara and Dennis. For once, he accepts the invitation to come in. You can say things to animals that you can’t say to humans (such as F*** off you fat hairy ginger c***).

Stray cat