Bill The Bass

I’ve invited my brother-in-rhythm from alt-folk combo ‘Rivers of England’ to join us on double bass for Bike to The Future. Also a keen cyclist, Bill lives near some of the most horrendous hills in the country!

Melodic and Mercurial

If you’ve seen Rivers of England in action, you’ll know that Bill’s bass playing is both driving and melodic. He has the knack of providing distinctive patterns that help propel the songs forward. And, at the same time, Bill introduces elements of counter-melody that can only really be delivered by the double-bass.

Dom The Drum

But wait… there’s more! On drums, I’ve invited Dominic Bailey-Clay, who also has a Rivers connection. Dom produced our recent EP ‘Eight In The Evening in Spring’, as well as my own album ‘Never There at All’, the title track of which appears in this show…

Album Favourites

Phew… brought it back round! Yes, the show will feature that song, as well as other album favourites and a couple you won’t have heard before (even if you came to the first version of Bike to The Future). So grab yourself a ticket and get along to the Old Theatre Royal Bath tomorrow night at 8pm. Doors will be open from 7pm and there is a bar – so come early and grab yourself a drink and a seat at the front.

Mystery Guitarist

And – last but not least – we have a special guest appearance from a mystery guitarist. I can’t say too much but, rest assured, he’s a leading-light in his field of music…

Is That All?

Of course not! This is a Fringe show. There will be the usual surprises; breaking of barriers and opportunities to get involved. I’ll say no more, as I want you to enjoy everything as it unfolds. But, to do so, you really will need to be there…

A Hard Act to Follow

The Bike to The Future tour got underway at the weekend, with a trip down to perform at Shindig festival, where I met the inspirational ‘Spoke & Chain’.

On its new site – Dillington Park – the weekend was a joyous, colourful occasion that somehow managed to be both Drum & Bass-heavy and child-friendly!

Next stop: Bath Fringe (June 1st, Old Theatre Royal Bath, 8pm)…

Inspirational

On the way down to Shindig, I stopped for some much-needed refreshment at a tea-room in Somerton (former capital of ancient Wessex, apparently). Parked nearby, I noticed two heavily-laden bikes, with enormous frames and a mish-mash of intriguing luggage. As I later pitched my tent at the festival, these two vehicles wheeled into the space next door.

Naturally, I got talking to the occupants of said bicycles and they turned out to be quite inspirational. These two – we’ll call them ‘Kevin and Sylvia’ (since those are their names) – have been touring all over Europe for the past eight years. They carry their home and belongings, as well as props for their show, with them as they travel from town to town.

Vision & Bravery

The duo goes under the name ‘Spoke & Chain’. I didn’t actually get to see them perform their show but did get a glimpse of one of their giant puppets, as they did a quick ‘walk-about’ during the festival. And I also had the pleasure of spending time with the couple over the course of the weekend.

How wonderful it is to meet people with such vision and bravery. Kevin & Sylvia have let go of the certainties of a fixed home and income. But they gain in having the freedom to roam and the joy of performing to appreciative audiences. They have also experienced a huge amount of human kindness from strangers offering them food and lodgings in return for their entertainment and company.

Experience It For Yourself

If I can be even a fraction as inspiring as Spoke & Chain, I’ll have done my job. A lot of time and effort has gone into planning my latest Fringe offering ‘Bike to The Future’ and I’m hoping you can be there to experience it for yourself. Come along and see what you think. You’ll certainly be entertained and I know it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Do let me know (if you haven’t already) if you’re coming.

Saving The Planet? Really??

‘Saving the planet’: rather a bold claim? Yes but a) I’ve got to say something to get you to my show and b) there is genuine intent within that. Let me explain…

Changing The Narrative

The other day, I attended a talk by George Monbiot, as part of the Bath Literature Festival. He is somebody who has dedicated himself to the understanding of complex ecological and socio-economic systems. And he has the ability to share this understanding in a way that is accessible to all.

Much of what George had to say was, not surprisingly, rather frightening. However, he remains positive that we, collectively, have the wherewithal and opportunity to make the changes needed in order to save ourselves from calamity. The technology and knowledge required are already there. However, what we really need to change – to facilitate the necessary revolution in both thought and practice – is the narrative.

Rethinking Stories

Which is where I come in. Well, not just me – obviously. All of us, really. We all need to rethink the stories we tell ourselves. Recent history has shown that our perceived certainties are shaky at best. So, we face the opportunity and obligation to challenge those – and quickly.

If it’s possible to address this situation with wit and humour – in a way that is provocative and entertaining – then that would seem to be a good step to take. And, with the limited means at my disposal, it feels like the best I have to offer. When I say ‘saving the planet’, that is meant collectively. Honestly, if I could do it for you, I would. But I’m afraid we’re all going to need to pull together on this one. 

Part of The Process

I’ve no idea whether me singing a few songs and telling some stories is going to provoke actual change in anyone. However, if the greatest mind of which I’m aware – when it comes to the climate emergency – is calling for a change of narrative, then I feel it’s my duty to at least attempt to be a part of that process.

What the hell am I on about? Come along to the Old Theatre Royal Bath, on June 1st at 8pm, to find out. At the very least, you can be assured an entertaining evening of songs, stories, surprises and some very special guests. You never know – it may just help provoke a revolution…

The Crown Jools

Once again, it’s my pleasure to announce that the wonderful Jools Scott will be making a guest appearance in Bike to The Future.

Man of Many Parts

Jools is a supremely talented composer, pianist and producer. His Oratorio ‘The Cool Web’ was commissioned for inclusion during the Armistice Centenary commemorations at St Paul’s Cathedral in 2018. Which had a certain symmetry to it, since Jools had been a choirboy there. He even sang the traditional solo for Once in Royal David’s City, from the Whispering Gallery, in 1992!

Full English

Jools and I first met whilst playing in bands appearing on the same line-up at various gigs and festivals. Once we discovered a shared interest in composition, we hit on the novel idea of meeting whilst sober! So, a semi-regular routine of breakfast meetings was established.

During these encounters, we’ve discussed all sorts of things – both music-related and unrelated. Among these were the initial ideas for my first Fringe outing ‘Think of a Song’. Jools has been a constant source of support and ideas. So, it’s especially pleasing to have him on board for this latest Fringe spectacular.

In a Field of His Own

As with Rob (Whale – violinist), Jools is due to accompany me at a lesser-known event in some fields near the village of Pilton, later in June. What Jools doesn’t yet know is that we’re scheduled to play at midday on Saturday. Which is not a bad time to play – since there is little competition from the main stages at that juncture. However, it may prove a little early for someone of Jools’ constitution.

So, if you are attending said event, do come along and find us. But don’t bank on Jools (or any other band members) being there. In fact, the one way in which you can ensure you’ll see the full line-up is to come to the show at the Old Theatre Royal on June 1st. Plus, there will be one or two other surprises in store. Trust me.

Be Prepared

Don’t delay. Book now to avoid disappointment and do get in touch to say you are coming. If you forward your confirmation to brian@madmusik.co.uk I’ll even send you a free album download. Then you can swat-up on the songs beforehand and be ready to sing along!

The Full Package

With just under three weeks until Bike to The Future, it’s time to introduce my special guests. And gently remind you to book your tickets…

The Full Package

First up: Rob Whale. Anyone who saw his appearance at The Rondo, last Autumn, will agree he really is the full package. Fiddle player, singer, songwriter, arranger and avid cyclist, Rob is someone with whom it’s always an honour to share the stage.

Mimes Past

We first met as music students in London, back in the late 1980s (I know – hard to believe ether of us is that old). In the orchestra there, Rob developed his talent for miming, on the back desk of the violins. Meanwhile, I was humiliating myself on percussion, coming in – fortissimo – on cymbals in all the wrong places.

Funk Soul Brothers

But things improved from there. Rob formed his funk/soul outfit Rob Whale and The Marleys, for whom I played drums. We traipsed round the usual London haunts, including the legendary Half Moon in Putney and Moonlight Club. The band featured Charlie Round-Turner (now Midge Ure’s keyboard player) on keys and Lisa Walsingham (Jools Holland) and Jason Yarde (Jazz Warriors) on sax. (Bet they wish they’d been invited to play for Bike to The Future…)

Award Winner

Rob went on to teach music, winning the Classic FM/TES Teacher of The Year award in its inaugural year of 1999. He continued to write and arrange, forming the African-influenced outfit Super Rhythm Express, with whom I had the privilege of recording. Today, Rob is a regular member of folk outfit Jake’s Rake and sometime member of a Band named Brian.

Somewhere in a Field

Rob will be accompanying me at a lesser-known event in some fields near the village of Pilton, later in June. But before that you can see him in all his glory (and you’ll know what I mean when you do see him), at the Bath Fringe. This is a fabulous event and it’s always a pleasure to perform in the magnificent Old Theatre Royal. If you’ve not been before, it’s worth coming just to experience the venue.

The Only Choice

So, when I was looking for a well-equipped, fiddle-playing, backing-vocal-singing, cycling enthusiast for Bike to The Future, there really was only one choice! Come along on June 1st and see for yourself.

I’ve Thought of a Sequel!

You didn’t think the fun would end there, did you?  Oh no.

This year sees the premier of the follow-up to ‘Think of a Song’, which I have imaginatively titled ‘Think of a Sequel’.

If you were at the first show and would like to relive the agony/ecstasy/indifference it induced – or if you weren’t there and would like to take a voyeuristic look – then please click here. But look: now there’s more…

So What’s New This Year?

Well, this time around, I have enlisted the help of some first-rate musicians to fill the silences for you. Back into the breech will be the inimitable improviser/guitarist/composer/genius that is Paul Bradley. Alongside him will be the astonishing talents of drummer/percussionist/Gas Giant/wearer-of-shite-shirts Tony Orrell. And last but by no mean least is the ethereal oboist/percussionist/multi-instrumentalist/bear-foot-globe-trotter James Watts.

To say that these are three of the most affordable and available musicians I could find would be to tell the truth. But not only that! They are actually each hugely respected talents in their own field.

Meet the (A)Team

Paul Bradley, you will know from the first show, is the brains behind Organelles, Three Cane Whale and more besides. Renowned for his freewheeling improvisations, Paul is a hard man to pin down in terms of style or genre but you may want to think Frank Zappa meets John Williams and Pat  Metheny (and kicks the sh*t out of both of them).

Tony Orrell is notoriously one half of Gas Giants, alongside Will Gregory (of Goldfrapp fame). But he is much more besides, being the go-to drummer for jazz combos throughout the South West. Tony is an astonishingly expressive player with a flare for improvisation, which is how we originally met, back in the late 90s. Tony was commissioned to lead a series of free-improvisation sessions that culminated in Fringe performances around Bath in a variety of unlikely locations. Yours truly took part on a cobbled-together portable percussion rig and a battered flute.

James Watts is a very-much in-demand oboist, who also has a penchant for world music and a thirst for travel. He brings a multitude of influences to the party and is well-versed in the art of improvisation. James is well known in the area as champion of reed instruments among young students. He is an early music specialist, a classical soloist, producer, arranger and all-round lover of all things noisy and/or reedy.

Sublime Support

As I go to press, I don’t have any specific information for you on Jim Gallagher, who will provide the opening performance for Think of a Sequel. However, I have known Jim for many years and seen him perform at (indeed on) various stages over that time. His songs are beautiful, ethereal, engaging and at times other-worldly, all of which adjectives apply to the man himself.

Something of an enigma, Jim is someone who very much treads his own path. Having spent time in California during the 1960s, it is very possible that a part of him never really returned. Or that is the impression sometimes given. So, as you can surmise, Jim is a shoo-in for this show. He will set the tone and we will follow…

Put it In Your Diary!

Now, don’t come running to me saying you didn’t know this was happening. The date is booked for June 6th. The venue, as for ‘Think of a Song’, will be the Old Theatre Royal Bath (details available here). This space has a certain magic to it, which lent itself perfectly to the first show and will – I am sure – do the same once again.

I will be posting updates as more info becomes available (like actual information on the other performers), so stay tuned. Once tickets are available, the links to book will go live on this site and I will be sending out emails to those unfortunate enough to be captive on my list (but with an opt-out of course).

Any Questions?

Of course you have. Feel free to get in touch at brian@madmusik.co.uk: I should love to hear from you.

 

 

A Show of Two Halves

This Wednesday at the Old Theatre Royal in Bath is going to be a show the likes of which has never been witnessed before. Not only that but it comprises two very different performances. The unifying factor is that in each half the performer will be ‘thinking of a song’.

Improvised and Inspired

First up is Paul Bradley; Bristol-based Northern Irish singer-songwriter, guitarist, composer and raconteur. Paul improvises everything with such fluency and skill that it is hard to believe this is not all predetermined. Somewhere between Thom Yorke and Tim Buckley, his vocals soar to high falsetto one moment, then descend to a whisper the next. His guitar playing ranges from prog to folk to Pat Metheny-esque jazz-fusion. And the whole thing is augmented with electronic processing and pre-Ed Sheeran looping.

All in the Mind

Following that is Brian Madigan (a Band named Brian), presenting his experimental-theatre-cum-performance-art piece ‘Think of a Song’. In this, he literally does just that; performing songs in his head and inviting the audience to join in a communal mind-experiment. In between, he tells the stories – out loud – that inform the songs, weaving a compelling narrative thread and throwing in a couple of surprises along the way.

The Final Part of the Puzzle

Audience members will then get a third performance –  but not until after they leave. They will each receive a CD copy of ‘Think of an Intro’. This comprises the songs from Think of a Song, as performed at the Old Theatre Royal – live but without an audience -on May 15th. In this performance, the songs are delivered out loud and the intros are performed in the mind. That was captured on film and will be edited together with footage from Wednesday’s show to create a unique video document of the whole experiment.

Be a Part of It…

Naturally, the audience forms a major part of the whole thing. In both performances, the relationship between performer and recipient will be explored and tested. Come and be a part if this unique Fringe experience: it certainly is one you won’t forget in a hurry!

Book  Your Tickets Now

Tel: 01225 463362
Email: boxoffice@bathfestivals.org.uk

“So, What’s It About?”

Somebody posted on Facebook the other day “What’s ‘Think of a Song’ about?”. Which is a very good question…

 

Like many pieces of experimental art, the interpretation will lie largely with the audience. Which is – to a large extent – the point. However, there are some themes that run through the piece. If you don’t want to know in advance, then please look away now. Otherwise, read on.

The show asks how can we break away from our day-to-day routines and certainties. How do we  allow ourselves to move beyond our own and others’ preconceptions of who we are and where our limits lie? What does it feel like to put ourselves willfully into a position of discomfort and embrace present uncertainties?

Through these explorations, is it possible to transcend our  instinct for self-preservation and expand our creative potential? And by so-doing, can we allow magic into our world?

And what’s that Kingfisher got to do with anything?…

 

… Come along and you’ll find out.

Book Tickets

Tel: 01225 463362
Email: boxoffice@bathfestivals.org.uk

Well That Was Weird…

Monday was the first performance of ‘Think of a Song’. No, don’t worry, you’ve not missed anything – this was the non-public part of the performance. If you haven’t fully grasped the concept of this show, let me explain…

All in the Mind

But first, I want to share my experiences from Monday’s show. This was performed in its entirety, with no breaks or edits. The space was empty, save the film crew, audio technician and myself. What was disconcerting was the sensation that, having thought the introductions (the part that will be heard on 31st May) in my mind, I than had the strange sensation of not knowing whether or not I was actually singing out loud .

It was clear that I was playing the guitar but I very nearly forgot to externalise the vocal more than once, as I had become accustomed to the voice inside my head. This was an interesting and disconcerting part of the experiment and, I have to admit, adversely affected my performance. It should not have been a surprise, since I always think of my shows as being a dialogue with the audience. Yet I came away with the distinct feeling of having in some way let myself down.

Experi-Mental

As an exploration of the role of the audience within a performance, this has – then – already yielded some significant results. All the more fascinating to see how it goes ‘on the night’. That is, the ‘second night’. Let me explain:

On May 31st, I will be performing the introductions to my songs in front of a live audience, who will then join me in thinking the songs as I play them through – silently – in my mind. Yesterday, I performed those same songs, in the same space, out loud and thought through the intros. This was all captured live on camera and digital audio. Footage from both performances will be edited together following the live show on May 31st and audience members will receive a CD of the songs they have just thought. Clear? Thought not!

Please don’t forget to book your tickets while they are still available. These can be ordered from Bath Festivals Box office on 01225 463362 or online here .

 

 

Lights, Cameras… Action

Preparations for the ground-breaking premier of ‘Think of a Song’ are well under way. A major element of the project is the filming, which is being handled by Martin Tomkins. Martin has already created stunning images for the show (as seen on this web site) and specializes in music videos, working with some great breakthrough acts, such as Port Erin and Rivers of England.

‘Aren’t you in Rivers of England?’ I hear you ask. Well yes, I am. And that’s how I became aware of Martin’s work. His video for the band’s recent single ‘In The Barley’ is a thing of sublime beauty: using hundreds of still photographs to create a moving sequence. And not just any old shots: each is perfectly framed and employs natural ambient lighting to amazing emotional effect.

Take a look for yourself :

Click here to watch ‘In The Barley’ at Martin Tomkins’ web site

So what’s that got to do with this show? Quite a lot as it happens. A key element will be capturing the two performances – yes two. In case you missed it in the blurb, the show comprises two performances: one with and one without audience. The first will take place in advance of the public show on May 31st, in the empty space, before it is set up for the Fringe. This will be filmed and recorded, the audio then presented to audience members after the live show on a complementary CD.

The film will capture and blend the two parts. In the first , I will be thinking the intros and singing the songs out loud in the empty space. In the second, I will be speaking the intros, then thinking the songs ‘out loud’ in front of an audience (including you, hopefully…). As well as providing a document of this unique event, the filming will serve to underline the role of audience as participants. In essence, you are the show.

I’m really excited to be working with Martin on this and know he will do a great job. Please note that in booking your ticket, you agree to be filmed and have your image used within the resulting footage, which may then be posted online and broadcast through various channels and events.

Book Your Tickets Now

Thanks for being a part of my show.