Therapy? b assist Mike considers the mixed
blessing of 'time off'
Any working musician who hears the phrase 'quiet year' tends
to v ie w it w ith a m ixture of relief and dread. R elief b e ca u se it's
tim e to regroup and take sto ck, and dread b e ca u se it's go ing to be
a bit le ss of w hat you love doing. Th is p ast year w a s su p p o se d to
b e o n e of th o se qu iet o n e s for us, but thankfully it's been o n e of
the best, m o st productive and creative ye ars in recent history. The
m ain treat w a s w riting, rehearsin g and recording a n e w album - our
first sin ce 2012 and a record that w e felt had to be so m eth in g really
special. It w a s a real buzz to be back in the stu dio being creative
and w orking hard at retaining the stren gth s of the band's sou nd,
w h ile trying to put a fresh persp ective on it w here necessary.
H o pefu lly w e 'v e ach ieved that. O ther high ligh ts included having
Infernal Love
alb u m s finally reissued in rather
lovely expanded deluxe editions; a run of killer live sh o w s, including
a celebratory TG 2 0 U K tour; our debut festival p erfo rm an ces at
H e llfe st in France; and a one-o ff
Infernal Love
sh o w at So n isp h e re
UK. A t the tim e of w riting w e 're ju st about to receive the Le g e n d s
A w ard at the Northern Irish M u sic A w ards: it's a m a ssive honour
for us to be reco gn ised in this w ay in our hom eland. Th ere w a s also
the sm all m atter of sign in g a brand n e w deal, w hich w ill usher in
the aforem entioned album - num ber 14! - early next year. Eleven
brand n e w so n g s to unleash and add into the set, so m e th in g that
every m usician can 't help but be excited about. A n yw a y, hopefully
this d o e sn 't co m e a cro ss as a hu ge brag-fest: I'm hoping to
illustrate that a m u sician 's w o rk is a lw ays o ngo in g, w heth er they're
'quiet' or 'b u sy'. B e ca u se w e ge t to do w hat w e love, our passio n
is our day job: it's all about ch ise llin g aw ay, refining the art and
p ro gressin g. If 2014 w a s a quiet year, then roll on next year's b u sy
and ho pefully n o isy year. It g o e s w ith out sayin g that I hope yo u 've
all had a good year yo u rse lve s, and I w ish you all the b est for a
safe, fun and productive 2015.
Ten-string tweaker Stew continues his bass survey.
Where Roberto Vally is a professional session musician and
sidem an, Steuart Liebig is best known for his role in Lo s A n geles'
experim ental and im provised underground m usic scen e. He has
w orked in studios and toured plenty, but w hen you a sk people about
w hat they love and adm ire about the W e st Co ast six-stringer, they will
talk about his com m and of the instrum ent, his acco m plish m en ts as
a com poser, his fea rlessn ess on stage and his absolutely incredible
tone. Consequently, his re sp o n se s to m y qu estions often return to his
aesthetic as an artist and to the im portance of personal expression.
W h y did Liebig m ove beyond four strings? A s he says, "I wanted
to have m ore orchestral range and potential from m y instrum ent."
After all, his upright b ass had a C extension and "low E som etim es
didn't feel like it w as really low ". Like Roberto, Liebig cites Anthony
Ja ckso n 's pioneering w ork in extending the range of electric bass.
Th is statem ent stood out for me: "Either playing or writing, I look
for fluidity of technique, integrity of idea or m usical gesture and a
se n se of place and time. Imagination is the m ost important chop". He
se e ks to becom e "m ore elem ental - m eaning there's le ss analysis
or intellectualising, and m ore going for it and being in the m om ent."
A s som eon e w ho has listened to him play for decad es, this perpetual
striving is incredibly inspiring. H e takes this further, adding, "I strive
to be in the m usic and com m it to it every tim e I play. I w ant w hat I
play to have integrity and clarity - even if I'm freaking out or m aking
n o ise .
.. I w ant to be in a place w here every note has intent and
m eaning. It surp rises m e how m any m usicians do not se em to listen.
Even playing solo requires attentive listening." Liebig p laces the m usic
first, and although m any w ould describe him as a m aster m usician, he
still has a list of w e a kn e sse s and things he w orks to improve. A s he
says, "I feel the instrum ent is capable of w ay m ore than m ost people
are w illing to acknow ledge. I would like to se e le ss imitation and more
exploring of a personal w ay of playing m usic. In the end, it's only a
box of colours that you're using, and som etim es your palette needs to
change." Th is is w h y the m an's a hero of mine. + search 'Stewart McKinsey'
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