How Simon Gallup’s Brazen Crazy Bass Sound Gave Me The Reason I Need To Start Using Bronze and Copper: The Cure Play Wembley Arena 1/12/16

I was a huge Cure fan back in the late ’80s, big black and white poster of Robert Smith on my bedroom wall, had all their albums but never went to see them live. The closest I got was going round a friends house to watch “The Cure in Orange” on video. Then 1992 and the Manic Street Preachers happened and stole me away from The Cure. Not much other than occasional listening until my live art collaborator and friend Steve Lawson messaged me on the Monday and asked if I wanted his spare ticket to see The Cure that Thursday. The instant answer was yes and once the usual child related logistics had been sorted out we were on!

Wembley is an arse to get to whether you go by train or car, a stadium and an arena plonked in the middle of an industrial estate with a maze of tiny roads with names like Engineers Way and Fifth Way or even more imaginatively Fourth Way. I managed to meet up with Steve and after some faffing about finding where the tickets actually were (it turned out we were there courtesy of Reeves Gabrels the guitarist, thank you indeed Mr Lawson!) it was straight to our seats and The Cure were on. They played for three hours of fantastic music, loads of hits, pop mixed with the darkness and they rocked way more than I remember from their studio recordings. “Friday I’m in Love” is up there with “Knights of Cydonia” for songs that instantly make me smile but for very different reasons. The Cure really are such a happy band, both defining “Goth” and not being it at all, transcending the genre you helped to carve out has to be the mark of creativity in its purest form.

Having survived Matt Bellamy’s guitar at the Hydro in Glasgow I was getting brave. The mix was towards the bass, drums and keyboards as we were sat next to the stage on the opposite side to the guitars of Robert Smith and Reeves Gabrels. What a sound Simon Gallup makes with that bass of his, truly astounding and gorgeous! When I say brazen crazy I mean in both senses of the word, bronze coloured and bold. It was prominent and folding and bronze/coppery with dark blacks and greys swirling amongst the leaves. Very different to the dark purples, reds and white distortion auras of Chris Wolstenholme of Muse’s playing that appears in my Heavy Bassine series. How an instrument is played has a huge effect on what I see and none more clearly than with bass, the low end usually being dark and liquid. With The Cure not so, extraordinary and cutting bronze like structures.

The live experience of Simon Gallup’s bass playing has given me some interesting food for thought, the drawings I’ve made since have not yet blossomed into the obsessive days of trying to work out shapes and colours that happened after Muse live, not yet. I’m still ruminating and digesting what I’ve heard. I have done some initial sketches which will give a flavour of where I’m heading with this. My Guitar Distortion series which explores the distorted and chaotic sound of Matt Bellamy’s guitar playing is in sterling silver, it is the right material for the colour of his playing, white hot, silver, cracked and twisting. Silver would not work for Reeves Gabrel’s guitar playing which is steely greys, dove greys, with shimmering hints of blues, turquoise and purples and is much more centered in the vanishing point of my synaesthesia. Similarly bronze, brass and copper or mixtures of these materials will be perfect for representing Simon Gallup’s playing in three dimensional form. I will be exploring how I will do this over the coming months. Exciting times…

 

The Space Bass – Step by Step Custom Painting My Bass Guitar

When I learnt how to custom paint it was essentially to use in my jewellery, however, being a bassist I couldn’t resist painting a bass just because I could.  It was a complex design for my first go but it worked out in the end. The bass itself works fine and sounds great so I’m happy.

The first thing was to find a bass to paint, EBay obliged with £30 worth of slightly abused Fender Squire P-Bass.  It was in a bit of a state but I cleaned it up took it apart and sanded it back. I took it almost back to the wood taking off the heavy commercial lacquer as I knew the gloss coat I was going to use on the top was thick so to just paint over the lacquer would have meant none of the fittings would have gone back on properly.  I used an electric sander and ended up looking like a Smurf with all the blue paint!

 

This is the Space Bass in its original state after I bought it off Ebay

This is the Space Bass in its original state after I bought it off Ebay

 

Bass Dismantled

Bass Dismantled

 

Bass sanded back

Bass sanded back

 Once cleaned it was now ready to start the painting.  First I needed to decide on and plan the design, I used one of my sound sketches as a starting point.  It is based on a song – Muse’s Cave (Remix).  Its on YouTube here  I took the initial sketch and fitted the design on to the bass on a 1:1 scale drawing.  I knew I wanted it to be an abstract spacescape so the background was a starry sky and the Milky Way would appear on the back.

 

Original "Cave" Sound Sketch

Original “Cave” Sound Sketch

1:1 Scale Drawing of the Design

1:1 Scale Drawing of the Design

I undercoated the body of the bass white with my mini-gun, I masked up the headstock and painted that white too.  (I love my mini-gun, it’s a beautiful piece of pink anodised aluminium).

Undercoated white

Undercoated white

My lovely mini-gun :)

My lovely mini-gun :)

Now comes the complicated bit, a bass turns out to be an odd three dimensional shape so covering the whole thing in masking tape evenly was a bit of a challenge but once that was done I could sketch out the design directly on to the tape.  I worked out which order I wanted to do the painting in, what I had to keep masked, when.  Look on the image of the 1:1 design drawing above and you’ll see my notes.  I also made a titanium pick guard at this point. I wanted it as minimal as possible, just to cover the electrics.  The masking tape was cut to do the deep space blue first.

Design sketched on, pick guard fitted

Design sketched on, pick guard fitted

Masking tape cut for painting deep space blue

Masking tape cut for painting deep space blue

Once the deep blue was sprayed both sides, much masking and re-masking ensued to paint the purple hoops and green spheres.  I wanted the spheres to look vaguely earth like so they are painted in swirling green and blues built up with the airbrush and taken back with a cotton bud soaked in reducer then built up again.  I used my hand as an organic stencil which worked well.

 

 

Blue done, building up the spheres

Blue done, building up the spheres

How does a sphere catch the light?

How does a sphere catch the light?

Building up the spheres

Building up the spheres

Spheres almost complete, hoops completed

Spheres almost complete, hoops completed

 

From here I keep stripping the masking tape off each piece of the design and painting as I go, next up was the lightning flash (this is the harsher sound of the electric guitar to the mellower purple bass hoops and electronic sounds of the spheres).  The lightning flash is shaded with a bevelled edge to give it a three dimensional feel like the spheres and hoops. Then jagged line around the edge which was originally to be yellow but I decided it would look better with an icy look so toned it down with some blue.

Lightning Flash

Lightning Flash with bevelled edge

 

 

Lightning and ice flashes completed

Lightning and ice flashes completed

Now for the Milky Way.  I had already spattered stars on the front when I painted the dark blue/black background but this has to look like a specific feature of the night sky rather than just generic starry sky.  I used several images of the Milky Way as source material and amalgamated them to fit the back of the bass.  I loved painting this part best I think, the airbrush works so well for this kind of painting. Again I built up with the airbrush and worked back with a cotton bud soaked in reducer.  I also painted the headstock with a starry night sky.

 

Milky Way and Starry Headstock

Milky Way and Starry Headstock

Milky Way Complete

Milky Way Complete

Now followed a bit of touching up and wrapping the green pipes? Tethers? Snakes? (I’ve no idea what they are!)  around the top cutaway horn.  This was actually the most complicated three dimensional part of the design and too a bit of juggling to get it all to connect.  Happy with the painting now so time to gloss coat.  I lack the equipment (air fed mask and a spray booth) to use the usual gloss coat so I decided to experiment with the epoxy resin I use in my jewellery.  It is actually used as a flood coat in surfboard making so there is no reason I shouldn’t work on a bass.  It creates a thick gloss coat that is very satisfactory although if there is the slightest bit of grease it will pull away and leave a little crater!  I had to redo this coat twice to get it right!  Some further finishing and polishing with Auto-Glym resin polish and it looked great.  It then went off to an exhibition in the New Ashgate Gallery in Farnham.

Once it returned form a spell of hanging on the wall so all that remained to do was get it working. Luckily my husband is good with electronics so a bit of soldering and it was working.  I got it properly set up at my local guitar shop and we were good to go.  There’s a link to a couple of YouTube videos of my practicing La Sera’s “Love Is Gone”  & Muse’s “Nishe” on it below – I haven’t  learnt “Cave” yet so not the perfect debut for it but these’ll have to do!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDqClzh6bDE&list=UUvvQvp9fHcClr5vce_jxgvA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5WHLpIr-vI&list=UUvvQvp9fHcClr5vce_jxgvA

 

The Strange Attractors Project Starts To Take Shape…

I’ve finally started work on my Strange Attractors Project, its been on my mind for a while now (you will notice it is also the title of this blog and is a phrase I use to describe my creative process, it is actually something complicated to do with maths but that’s not necessarily relevant) and will be recording progress and posting updates here on my blog.  I will be revealing the ideas and creative processes behind the development of this project.

It’s time for a different direction with my work and while the general inspiration is familiar the source of my inspiration is totally different and has started to branch out beyond my initial starting point.  Yes you guessed it F1 cars again!  This time rather than the physical appearance of the cars it is the sound of their engines.

Sound is all around us and mostly we pay little attention to it but there is so much to be gained from just closing your eyes and listening.  It’s quite revealing and there is so much to discover.  However the sound of an F1 car engine is a sound that cannot be ignored and I find it symphonic in its complexity.  Now there’s a problem with trying to listen closely to an F1 engine the sound is so loud you have to wear ear plugs or it is truly uncomfortable!  So I kitted myself out with one of these and set out to record some sound and video.

Living in the South of England means I am lucky enough to have access to F1 cars once a year in July at the Festival of Speed.   Last year’s visit inspired my Racing Wings collection launched at the beginning of the Summer. This year I left my sketchbook aside and recorded some sounds.  I’ve put a few of the best videos and sound recordings up on my YouTube Channel, go over and have a listen, an F1 engine is a curious beast.

However, engine noise is not the only sound my ears love!  I have always enjoyed listening to music and have a large collection of albums, I also love to listen to birdsong in the woods while I’m walking the dog.  There is so much to hear once you open your ears.

So, now where am I going with all this?  Sound waves are not exactly wearable.  Back to the sketch book but this time with my headphones on and what happened was that some rather curious landscapes and abstracts started to emerge.  Some of the below are based on songs, some on engine noise and one is a lark rising….but which is which?

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

 

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.