Monday, 19 October 2009


Hello, and welcome to an entirely redesigned Mid-Life Bassist blog (well, not if you're reading this over at MySpace - I'll get round to tidying some of that up in another month or so. Sorry). Still not entirely sure of the seemingly-'egotistical' header - I had the sort of Scottish Presbyterian upbringing where you were taught not just to hide your light under a bushel, ideally you would seek out 2 or 3 more bushels to keep the first one company, and assist in its illumination-suppressing duties. My internalising of the notion of anything that hinted of self-promotion being only marginally less wicked than battering old ladies, has proved something of an obstacle from time to time, (especially when trying to carve out anything that could almost be mistaken for a career in music/comedy/what have you).

So the idea of having a close-up of a slice of my fizzog adorning the top of the page, along with the name of the guilty party in stark black letters, is one I'm having difficulty getting used to. Daft, I know, but...

And the reason for this sharper, 'cleaner' layout?

Well, I've finally taken the big plunge online. That's right, for the extravagant sum of £6.86 (less than the cost of a cheap day return ticket from here to Edinburgh, plus a decent cup of coffee), for the next 12 months I now hold the exclusive rights to

Not so exciting of and by itself, I grant you, but when that's combined with signing-up to the wonderful (and entirely *free*) music distribution site that is, (yet another excellent suggestion from the far-too-plugged in and talented Steve Lawson) we're talking cool, groovy, and possibly even a little funkadelic, no?

Ok, you're not quite with me yet on this one. This may help - today (Sunday, for those who are reading this in the future, and may have become slightly temporally dislocated by the reference. Oh, the 18th of October, if it's already next week before you see it. 2009, for those who are really late, or have solved the problems surrounding time travel), for the first time ( the history of me, ever), someone actually paid money (that real digital money via Paypal, oh yes), to download some musical meanderings of my very own creation. No, seriously, they did.

I was pathetically thrilled by that - not that I'm under any delusions of garnering accountant-delighting riches, or funding a ridiculous 'celebrity (snort, snort, dab nose, oops, where's my nasal septum gone?) lifestyle' [small hint to the Lily Allens of the entertainment world - less par-tays and 'bling', more actual work - and perhaps some talent? - you wouldn't need to make yourself look stupid when you talk about copyright], but being able to offset some of the basic costs of being an obscure musician would be fantastic.

HUGE thanks to the far-too-generous KJB for that. Anyone else who'd like to have a go, there's only 3 tracks online so far, and the pricing scheme isn't going to render anyone destitute, so please, feel free to follow their fine example...somewhere in the region of 50 downloads or so and I'll be able to afford a new microwave oven - again, for the 'more than a couple of months in the future' people, I expect that's already had to be purchased. But please, still go and buy my music, I'm sure I'll have other domestic appliances that require replacement by whatever decade it is you're in - and as you can see, I'm not too shy to almost resort to begging.

What with all this online activity, a new solo bass piece (for the lovely, wonderful, and still far, far away Anne), a video of me recording it, and having sorted-out a vast hoard of personal paperwork stretching back to the mid-1990's, it's a good thing the kids have been over at their mother's for the last 4 days. I'd never have got a quarter of any of it done otherwise.

The unruly piles of potential recycled toilet roll included a bunch of over 50 old payslips from the BBC for the freelance comedy stuff I did over a decade ago ('future people', that's...oh, forget it. Close to the year 1263. Thereabouts.). Glad I found them, because I can show them to my children and prove that daddy wasn't lying about being paid to inflict my verbal nonsense on the poor listeners of Radio Scotland (mostly on Friday mornings). But it was also an odd discovery, because I can't recall having done anything like that number of appearances. Perhaps 20 or so, sure, but they were actually foolish enough to have me back on almost fortnightly? I simply can't recall...but then I'm getting older, so my mind isn't quite what it once was. Assuming it ever it was. Or could have been. Maybe.

Ok, now I've officially confused myself, I'm clearly far too tired to continue this nonsense, and it's time for bed (alright, probably not where you are, but I'm beyond caring at this point).

Goodnight, folks - and again, please indulge your cravings for meandering instrumental music by downloading from Or make a donation via PayPal. Or you could just send me cash, I'm really not that fussy...

Friday, 9 October 2009

Sweets For My Sweet

A question - why do otherwise outwardly sane, sensible, and almost-rational people willingly and consciously choose to be musicians? Perhaps they are overflowing with creativity, hearing soaring melodies that they feel an overwhelming compulsion to bring forth into the world? Maybe they are following in long-standing family traditions, carrying on the disciplines and culture of previous ages, that otherwise might be lost? Is it the desperate need to ease their adolescent emotional sufferings through cathartic screaming-angst and digitally-simulated-distortion driven ballads? Or are they simply rejecting the numbing strictures of conventional employment, seeking instead the bohemian existence of a modern-day wandering minstrel (albeit one who belts out dire cover versions to placate the scurrying high-street shopperati) ?

What, though, if the soiled and clammy truth is that for many who tread the noisy path, underlying their efforts is that great popular misconception - that all musicians regularly get to have a great deal of amazing sex with a large number of spectacularly beautiful people of their choosing? (All at the same time, if they should feel the urge).

Of course, there are plenty of autobiographies out there that would suggest that *if* you manage to become inordinately famous (fabulous wealth a handy extra), this can indeed be the case. If, on the other hand, you're chugging around the country in a clapped-out Mercedes van for years, prostituting your meagre talents to anyone that'll pay £40 a head as part of a ceilidh/function/pub/covers/"plastic paddy"/folk rock/whatever band....then not so much. Certainly not if you're me, anyway. But then, we were always above such base concerns, we were in it for the sake of...'artistry'. And, er, cultural heritage. The greater good. Peace, love and understanding. All that sort of thing, understand.

Particular genres of music don't lend themselves so readily to these carnal pursuits, either. In prog rock, for example, many bands have found their audiences primarily to consist of "earnest young men, often with spectacles and facial hair" (Robert Fripp), which is great if that's your personal fetish, but if not, well... "Free jazz" (and its environs) is another sub-culture where post-gig 'relaxation' with fans is probably more likely to take the form of being quizzed by slightly agitated, logorrheic and unusually determined middle-aged men about obscure chord voicings and the significance of a twice-repeated dis-harmonic interval that first occurred seventeen-minutes-and-twenty-three-seconds into the first set. Again, if that's what you're after, cool. For the rest of us, though...

It also doesn't help if, like me, you're not exactly a looker. (I'm pretty much the guy in Jethro Tull's "Seal Driver"..except I don't have a boat. But apart from that minor quibble, it's me). Also, my strongly held - and highly detailed - opinions on socio-economic and political matters have never sufficiently compensated for a personal lack of anything approaching 'small talk', you'll be astonished to hear.

Anyway, help is at hand, since - by a popular request (and I do mean "a", as in "just the one") - I'm going to offer up another route to possible (but still very, very unlikely - and yes, this *is* a disclaimer) dating success.


But not just any coookies.

Just over a year ago, I posted my recipe for "Satan's Own Cookies", a double-chocolate combination that melted in the mouth and left a bitter-sweet after taste of Type 2 Diabetes. Now, after months of painstaking cookie research (in collaboration with my lovely & wonderful Norwegian partner), what follows is a cunningly-remastered version, "Spelt-and-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies", which has so far proved irresistable to all who have been exposed to its sugary-yet-wholemeal power.

[Right about now I'd just like to point out that I'm not really trying to reduce all human behaviour to a long, drawn-out mating ritual. These cookies are also excellent for keeping the kids quiet while you desperately catch up with all those tedious-but-essential domestic tasks that are impossible while the delightful little munchkins are dashing about, engaging in entertaining new ways to inflict pain on each other.]


100g butter (trans-fats are *not* sexy, nor do they taste as good)
85g demerara sugar (as 'wholemeal' as possible, adds to the texture)
45ml (3 tbsp) maple syrup (the cheap "Clarks Original" maple & carob fruit stuff from Asda works well - higher viscosity than 'pure' maple syrup)
125g Wholemeal Spelt Flour (yeah, I know, expensive - it's the best, use it, ok?)
50g Oatmeal (porage oats are fine - again, texture)
100g Plain (dark) chocolate chips
45ml (3 tbsp) milk
15ml (1 tbsp) baking powder

Method: (copied from my old post, 'cos it's late & I'm knackered, with acknowledgements to the venerable 'Be-Ro Book')

1. Heat oven to 180C, 350F, 'Gas Mark 4' - in other words, keep the mini-primates out of the sodding way. Oh, and you're going to need an oven mitt, unless you're particularly partial to the smell of your own flesh charring. Grease 2 baking trays. Or just one, if that's all you have. (Don't worry, nobody round here's judging you. Well...maybe only a few of them. You know, the ones who host dinner parties for more than 6 people, and know how to make 3 different types of pastry...them.)

2. "Beat the butter until soft" (much easier if it's been sitting out a while beforehand - if you've only just hoiked it out of the fridge, then a brief low-power blast in the microwave (NB Kitchen numpties - not still in its wrapper) will work wonders. Add the sugar and "cream together until light and fluffy". I'm sorry, but I made these entirely by hand, and "light and fluffy" was never on the agenda. School Home Economics teachers must have had the power of cement mixers in their forearms, because there's no way me and a wooden spoon are going to achieve "fluffiness". I'd settle for what looks like "thoroughly mixed"...they still came out ok...

3. "Stir in the syrup, flour, chocolate chips and milk and mix well". Not forgetting the baking powder, of course. And as for the stirring and mixing, yeah, it's likely to induce hand pain & sweating (as per step 2). But don't give up now - you've almost made it to the eating stage, just a brief interlude of applied heat to go.

4. "Place spoonfuls of the mixture on the prepared trays and bake for 8-10 minutes". Hmmm. Originally I was using the wee fan-assisted top oven, and 8 minutes was absolutely all they needed. Any longer and they burn on t'bottom, which is never recommended. Erring on the side of caution, (and sensible usage of the appropriate protection), is always advisable...and also gives you a greater-than-98% chance of avoiding pregnancy - always a bonus. In the main oven, however, 10 minutes seems spot-on - golden-brown colour, with no burning. "Remove from the tray immediately and place on a wire rack to cool".

Oh, yeah, should have said - get one of those wire cooling rack things ready before you start, because if, (like me), you completely forget about it, you might end up scrabbling around in a cupboard for one, while trying to hold a (hot) tray of still-slightly-soft cookies perfectly flat in the other hand. Add to this state of unpreparedness and minor panic a very saggy, almost grip-free oven glove, and you just know there are going to be cookie casualties. Which is extremely vexatious after all the effort you went to in steps 1 to 3.

And that's it. Let them cool, solidify, and then you can impress people (even if it's only your children) with fantastic, home-made, so-wholemeal-they're-almost-healthy cookies. Oh, and you should get somewhere around twenty cookies out of that recipe. Depends how vast you want them to be.

If you want the 'double-chocolate' variation, just add 25g Green & Black's cocoa powder and only use 100g of the spelt flour. I must warn you, however, that extensive experimentation involving one of the toddler groups I'm part of suggests that a lot of people don't go for the 'double-chocolate' cookies, but will happily devour equally sugar-filled 'choc-chip' varieties. A sad indictment of our media-waif-obsessed, under-physical-exercised and over-fad-dieting times?

Perhaps. Further research is vital, so enjoy your cookies. You've earned them, especially if you're a musician who, like me, is down near the bottom end...