The Simon Densley Blog

Read the latest posts from our 'news from within' or visit the full blog here.

A Wasted Talent

(Posted: 14 October 2017 18:07)

Part of the process of marketing a new band is getting a website together, writing the bios etc. This has caused me to look back at some of the previous work I did.

A while back I produced an album for a chap called Brad Walker. Years later he played keys on some of my stuff and helped me produce a bunch of my own songs. I recently found myself dusting off and listening back to this album of his that we did together.

Brad Walker's Album, The Man Enclosed is a Smaller Gift
What stands out now is that this album has stood the test of time. I thought it sounded absolutely great at the time. We were so proud of it but on hearing it again so many years later, I really think we put together an absolute giant of a record.

At the time we managed to get quite a lot of airplay on a bunch of radio stations in Europe. We made album of the week on a few stations scattered around the UK but being an independent release we didn't have the resources or expertise to push it to the next step.

We only pressed 500 copies of the album and most of those were distributed to radio stations, the band, family and friends, a few record companies and a few other people in the music industry.

I find it astonishing that record companies weren't breaking down the door to sign this guy, but they weren't. Despite his obvious talent, a great record and the brilliant response from the small corner of the broadcasting industry we had managed to reach, silence from the people who could take it further. How good do you have to be?

A few tracks have been put on on Youtube now. They are probably the only place you can now listen to this any of this masterpiece. The song that most radio stations picked up on first was the opening track, "Song For Ankie", however the title track, "The Man Enclosed is a Smaller Gift" was always my favourite. Possibly because it had 9 guitar tracks on it - and I played 5 of them!

I have not spoken with Brad in a while. I understand he's had some tough times and is now working as an artist and painter in Melbourne.

Website Launched

(Posted: 08 October 2017 16:38)

The Simon Densley Music website
For a while we've been using this blog site as our temporary official website but no more! Our proper website launches today. (Cue appropriate fanfare).

No more reluctance to give out the website address. We now have a site that proudly shows people who we are and what we are about. Result!

There are details up upcoming gigs as well as information about the band and music, videos/images etc - everything you could want from a band website.

Pay it a visit if you haven't already...

There is still information about Simon and the band on this blog but the more detailed stuff will always be found on the main site.

Adding a String

(Posted: 03 October 2017 14:27)

The most recent ads for a lead guitarist turned up nothing. The one guy I went to see who was easily up to the task didn't show up at the first rehearsal and then when I phoned him said he couldn't commit due to his day job.

Lorne however, them offered himself. "I was always a shredder first", he said, "I moved to bass for McCree but would enjoy playing lead guitar again." He is a good enough musician and a decent enough guy that his assurance that he can play the necessary parts is good enough for me.

Knowing Lorne can play either part does make finding the fifth member easier given I can take on a bass player or lead guitarist. I decide to advertise primarily for another bass player. We really need someone who can learn the parts and be up to speed in a few weeks - at least with half a dozen songs, because that's when we're planning to start playing gigs. The first responses have started to roll in...

Meanwhile Lorne should be dusting of his six string and putting his 5 string to one side...

Disappointing News

(Posted: 28 August 2017 14:05)

We'd been rehearsing up for a few more weeks now and I felt it was time for the next step. It was time to make a video of a live performance to show potential venues what we would look and sound like on stage.

I organised to take two video cameras into the studio for Monday's rehearsal. I'd booked an extra large room and we would all face the camera as if facing an audience and 'perform' to the camera. Everyone was fired up and ready, down to making sure they would be wearing 'stage gear'.

Nicola on GuitarThe on the Saturday morning, two days before the shoot, a bombshell email came through. Nicola's personal circumstances had changed and she could no longer be part of the band. I was deeply upset and effected by the news. As well as being a great guitar player and someone I had grown to really like, I knew that Nicola would look absolutely great on stage and in the video. I was not only a guitarist down but had to decide what to do about the video shoot two days later.

Communication with Nicola was difficult as she was now embedded in darkest West Wales with no phone signal. I tried to persuade her to change her mind via email, with offers to help with her current situation but it didn't make any difference. There was nothing I could really do to help and she just couldn't do it.

Shot from the live video of Simon Densley and bandDisappointed but with commitments pending I made the decision that we would have to shoot the video as a four piece with me taking on all guitar duties. It was not ideal but it was the best we could do under the circumstances.

There was a bit of a cloud over the rehearsal. Nicola's decision had taken us all by surprise and we were all feeling a bit down. However as had been planned, we spent the final hour filming our performance of two songs: Just Got My Life and If You Can't join Them Beat Them. The performance sounded fairly good and once I had edited the various camera angles into finished videos, they both looked pretty good too.

A Change Of Bass

(Posted: 24 August 2017 15:09)

We had our five piece and we had been rehearsing two nights a week for a couple of weeks and things were tightening up and coming together. There were still a few things that we seemed to be having trouble with in the groove department though.

A phone call with Andrew on a the Friday in mid August revealed that he was not feeling that it was working out for him as much as he'd like. He realised there were some parts he was not feeling the way they felt on the record and as someone very self-critical he'd prefer to bow out rather than feel uncomfortable not getting it quite right.

Having rehearsals booked for Tuesday and Wednesday the following week and no bass player meant I needed to work fast. A quick email let everyone know, and to ask Nicola if she might be able jump back on bass for a few rehearsals.

Numerous emails to potential bass players on various websites generated nothing. Gumtree had hundreds of ads for bass players wanted and almost none for ones available however it was the Gumtree ad that produced two bites.

Lorne McGregor (Ex McCree) on bass guitarI headed south to visit Lorne on Sunday afternoon. I had instinctively liked him on the phone and we enjoyed the couple of hours jamming together in his lounge room. He played a 5 string bass (which I like) and had played in a successful touring rock band in his native South Africa, signed to Sony and had had songs in the charts there.

The same evening I visited Steve who live 10 minutes away from me. He was also a very good bass player and also played a 5 string bass. I invited both Lorne and Steve to come to the Tuesday evening rehearsal which was now going to be an audition.

Mark was away and Nicola couldn't make it at the last minutes so Paige and I heaped the pressure on both of them in turn. It turned out we maybe heaped a bit too much pressure as both emailed to say it wasn't for them. An email to each of them asking them to reconsider resulted in Steve saying 'No way' but luckily Lorne relenting and agreeing to join us at the full rehearsal the next evening.

I quickly sent Nicola a follow up email asking her to bring her guitar instead of her bass after all. Unfortunately she didn't see the email before she left home. Luckily she also hadn't seen the previous one asking her to bring her bass instead of her guitar.

The rehearsal with Lorne, which also included as dep keyboard player (Joe) that we would use when Mark was away, went very well. Back on track again.

The Girls

(Posted: 08 August 2017 19:53)

As is so normal with this sort of thing, 80% of initial enquiries lead to nothing. People seem keen on the phone but don't reply to your emails. Or they seem to really like your songs but on reflection decide it's not really their style.

Fair enough, it's better to weed out such people before investing any serious time in working together with them. It does however mean that what seemed like a rich vein of potential musicians was more like that sound you get when you turn on a tap after the water supply's been switched off. So off I went instead to scour the various musicians available websites.

The girls playing bass and drums - Nicola on bass and Paige on DrumsOut of all the people contacted, the two who turned up for the next rehearsal were both girls. Both in their early twenties, both living hundreds of miles away in Bristol and Cardiff respectively and both profession musicians also working on other projects in London.

I'd seen Paige play on a couple of her YouTube videos where she plays drums to electronic rap music. Not at all like my own music but there was something about her style which I really liked. Nicola played both bass and guitar and as I had a potential lead guitarist lined up I'd asked her to come in on bass.

They were both clearly good enough and if they wanted the gig it was theirs. They both did and so it seemed we were just about there.

The potential lead guitarist turned out to be another false start so I was still a musician down. While trying to decide what to say to Andrew, as I'd still be interested in him playing as a dep bass player, it occurred to me that Nicola could perhaps play lead guitar and Andrew could play bass. A phone call to Nicola confirmed she'd be happy to do this and the 5 piece was formed.

The First Jam

(Posted: 01 August 2017 08:51)

The ads were now up on the various musician websites and one or two replies had started to trickle in.
"Have you had much live experience?"
"Any recording experience?"
"Do you have any stuff up on Youtube or Soundcloud that I can listen to?"
"Where do you live - can you get to rehearsals?"
"Did you like the tracks I sent you - would you enjoy playing those songs?"
The same set of questions being asked over and over again. You get an idea over the phone if you're going to get along. A quick curt chat suggests probably not. A yak that goes off on mutual interest tangents suggests this is someone you could work with.

Then comes the initial meet up - at least where practical.

The first person I went to see was a bass player called Andrew. One late July evening after work I humped my Roland Jazz Chorus amplifier up an elegant narrow set of stairs to his Hampton Court flat and set it up in his small lounge room. He played my some of his stuff and we jammed on some of mine. Could we work together? Possibly, it was not an exact match but there was some overlap between our styles. He had a couple of ideas that I liked while other requirements clearly weren't his natural playing style.

He was keen though. So keen that he organised a rehearsal with a drummer he knew and invited me along! Keen is good. Organised is good. As long as he's happy that it needs to be me calling the shots, I'm happy for him to organise rehearsals.

Mark 'Wilko' Wilkinson playing KeyboardsAt the same time a mutual friend gives me the number of a keyboard plays who plays in a Pink Floyd cover band. That's a good indicator. Someone who knows their Floyd is a) likely to like my music, b) going to understand and be able to play my music. Mark 'Wilko' Wilkinson, as it turns out is interested but has numerous gigs book with yet another (and his main) band, Asylum Affair, a classic rock covers outfit. He also has his wrist in plaster from a motorcycle accident but it seems he is still able to play in a limited capacity and is still keen if I'm happy to work around these things. I invite him along to the rehearsal as well.

Once all set up and playing it becomes clear that Mark is the most experienced musician of the three of them. They are all good musicians and the songs they have learnt all sound fine but there is something in the groove that is missing. It's hard to put my finger on it but this is now my responsibility so I must decide if it can work or not.

I have other people to see and decide to leave it a day or so for the conclusions to settle in my head. I phone Mark first. "Yes, I'd like to have you on board. Don't worry - we'll get in a dep keyboard player when you have other gigs."

Then the drummer: "Sorry, I don't think our styles overlap enough."

Then Andrew: "I've got another bass player trying out, but I'd like to jam with you again."

It seems whatever happens I now have a bass player and a keyboard player. First two boxes ticked.

Picking Up Again

(Posted: 01 July 2017 09:52)

The election is over and I've started looking for musicians again to try to get this band thing happening. I have been in contact with a few people I've worked with before but none are able to commit to anything. I have at least got a list of names though of reliable session players.

The question is: Do I put together a session band where everyone is professional but will need to be paid for every rehearsal, or do I put together 'normal band' of keen competent musicians happy to volunteer their time for a common cause?

I decide to speak with people on my list. These are the professionals and if nothing else they might be able to offer advice in addition to possibly playing in the band.

I spoke to a bunch of great musicians - evident from you tube videos as well as amazing lists of who they've played. The list included:
Gareth Brown - Drums
Dan Ezard - Bass
Andy Carr  - Bass
John McKenzie - Bass
Richard Coughlan - Bass
Joe Wright - Keys
Sam Grimley – Guitar / Keys

In some cases these were recommended by others on the list. In most cases they were interested to hear the music. In many cases after hearing it they were keen to be part of it. Also in most cases they were quite busy touring/working/recording with other projects and weren't available right away.

I realised that these guys could turn up and play with a minimum of rehearsing and that if push came to shove and I had to put a group together at short notice, I could do so using these or similar people but it wouldn't be like a normal band as I have always known it.

I decided to keep these people in mind but try to put a group together in the meanwhile that I could rehearse and jam with regularly without having to fork out huge sums every time I wanted to get everyone together.

However having a group of dep musicians ready to go as well could prove useful and it might be an idea to have one or two people lines up for each position allowing for things to be a bit fluid if necessary - especially if people have other commitments too.

It was time to start advertising on the many and various musician websites...