Thaar be Pyraats round tha’ Bend

Getting a tour set up is probably very easy if you are famous, well known, have a great following… but I’ll tell you, when you are unknown entity (like poor wee me) – it’s tough. So after many calls (where nobody calls back) and emails (where you are delighted if you get an answer) I had managed to set up 4 gigs in Arizona … which was great – but none in my 1st real stop Bend, Oregon which was a shame as Bend is a lovely place, full of pubs and breweries … and it was half way to St Patricks day – why didn’t they know they needed me ! 🙂 . I was grumbling about this to Steve Behrens of 67 Music one Friday after a Mahers gig, Steve sympathized and had a couple of suggestions as he used to live in that area. I followed these leads but still no joy.

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The following Friday, Dorothy was driving us back from a Mahers gig when we ground to a halt in a huge traffic jam on the I84. It had been a great night (as usual in Mahers) and we’d stayed a wee bit longer than intended (ok, ok, Dorothy did her best to drag me away from excessive blethering and Guinness… but got distracted by her own bletheryness 🙂 ).. anyway it was after midnight and we were tired and well and truly stuck in traffic. I checked my email on my phone… there was a new mail from a name I didn’t recognize (Sarah Pollock Holmes), so I opened it … it was a hoot, this was Sarah from the Celtic Rock band 5-pint Mary in Bend inviting me to play a guest spot with them on Friday September 19th at a Pirate party – cool – and she’d written the email in Pirate

So… a few weeks later, I’d played my last 2014 gig in Mahers (see my last post or watch the video), had our short trial run trips in the Washington / Portland area and headed down to Bend, our longest drive in “our rig” for a 5-day stay, explore and of course… Pirate Party.

Pirate Party 2014

Bend is a lovely place, we actually stayed in Sisters which is 18 miles north of Bend. Remember in my last post when I mentioned my 12-string Taylor guitar had eaten its way through 3 batteries on my last evening and even at that the internal pickup had given up on my encore (which actually (to my surprise) turned out really well) – I found a music shop which was a Taylor dealer – Music Makers, Dan, the owner, was fantastic – he called Taylor and after a 5 minute call where the Taylor guy had verified that my guitar was under lifetime warranty (even though I’d forgotten to register it 7 years ago… ooops) – he’d agreed to ship everything needed overnight so that Music Makers could fix it.Sweet! They fixed it and all it cost was $15 for a new set of strings, fitted and tuned… fantastic service!

Anyway, we headed along to the Pirate party place on the Thursday as we hadn’t brought any Pirate clothes with us on our trip (how dumb is that 🙂 ?) and they were doing “fittings” the day before… these were serious Pirates! So we met Ivy who was transforming people into Pirates, Dorothy became “buxom Bess” … and she convinced me to wear my Kilt (very piratey apparently 🙂 ).

Wench Dorothy

On the Friday, we headed over to the Pirate ranch – a large property which had become something out of the Pirates of the Caribbean for the weekend – complete with masted ship and barrels (with beer tap attached!). I sat in with 5-pint Mary playing Bodhran as they are already a pretty tight band… adding someone who is busking through their songs would probably have diminished their sound rather than adding to it. I enjoyed playing bodhran again – and playing in a band again – being non-essential to the sound was also a novelty as normally I am all there is.

When the band stopped for a break, I got my guitar and did some vaguely piratey songs – getting pirates to goo aaaarrrrrr and whoop and join in with gusto was easier than I thought – they were all well in the mood and all fired up by 5-pint Mary’s superior piratey performance. I went down really well, it was a pleasure playing for such an appreciative bunch of scallywags and wenches 🙂

See my piratey bit here

5-pint Mary rounded off the night, I joined them again for part of the set and we ended the night well… aaaaarrrr! So with lots of happy pirate handshakes, hugs and sharings of rums (and of course some whisky), we headed off back up the road to Sisters – with promises of a repeat performance next year and a bunch of new friends… especially 5-pint Mary – a great band, great musicians – and most importantly – great people who love what they do.

Watch the pirates live stream here (ok, it was live then… and you may have to look through the clips as it has no definite address – it’s about 1hour 32 mins)

For the next two weeks we become explorers around Boise, Salt Lake City, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, Utah… and getting ready for my next performances – Friday 3rd October in Scottsdale, AZ at the Skeptical Chymist, Saturday 4th Oct in Tim Finnegans, Phoenix, AZ, then Wednesday 8th Oct in Fibber McGees in Chandler, AZ… should be fun – watch for my next post to see if it was!

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Recording… from humble beginnings

Everyone records themselves – unless you are the truly gifted 1%, it starts with the enthusiastic “I’m going to really show people what I can do” start and ends with the “… is that really what I sound like ?…” anticlimax.

anticlimax

Sessions in my bedroom at my mums house with my dad’s Grundig reel-to-reel tape recorder were great times (once I got used to what I did sound like). No multi-track then, we (me and my pals) would all cluster round the microphone and play and sing our hearts out! No-one liked the sound of their own voice… but remember, our voices were breaking and unintentional yodels were frequent!

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Several years later, I thought I had hit the big-time, I got a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder, the world of multi-tracking opened up before me! On my own I could record and record until I sounded like a full band with a choir, as long as you didn’t mind uncorrected mistakes and the decrease in sound quality when you bounced 3 tracks onto the 4th track to free the 3 tracks up for more recording delight 🙂

Time marches on again – living in the Netherlands now and working for Apple, Feargal and I (Keltic Fire) got serious about making a CD. Feargal had a pretty cool soundproofed room, mixer, digital sound board and a powerful Mac with recording software! By this time we both had money to spend – the equipment wasn’t the problem… our problem was time. We had started to record our CD, spending time we couldn’t afford to spend in his home studio mostly failing to produce anything we were happy with – the working title of the CD was “Stolen Minutes” We did have a lot of fun (mostly un-productive) and his wife Marjolijn made us a ton of ham and cheese toasties (with ketchup) – we we happy – but had no CD.

CD cover

While we were struggling with “Stolen Minutes” Feargal moved to Orleans (South of Paris) for a new job, set up another studio and we set a date for us to spend a week there at his old fashioned creaky French country house. I drove down and we worked round the clock for a whole week and I drove back to NL exhausted at the end of the week with a shiny self-mastered CD which had become “Almost Traditional”. When I knew I would be moving to the USA in 2007, we put in another mammoth effort and produced our 2nd CD, “The Bottom of the Road” just before I left.

Looking back at those recording days, we really worked hard and totally ineffectively, spending hours wrestling with software and hardware glitches and playing songs which we had never done before just learning as we went… it was exhausting – but rewarding.