or: Why I canceled the gigs this week
The concert on Tuesday was an absolute disaster for me. Instead of being able to focus on the performance I was battling serious feedback issues. And why? Because the one (!) speaker was behind me on stage pointing directly to my mic. It was not to be moved so their solution was to turn the mic almost all the way down. I asked the guy if the mix was alright and he nodded vaguely and vanished with the words ‘If it needs any more adjusting you can do that yourself.’
I introduced myself and beckoned the audience to get closer as they had spread out during change over. They ignored me because the mic was so low in volume they couldn’t hear me. I didn’t realise that and was slightly irritated by it. So I got started with my first song ‘A Little’ which is all looping. After I finished I asked the few who had come back to the front if the mix was alright. The vocals were barely audible, was their reply.
I use in ear monitoring to hear everything well while looping. This means I wear headphones and don’t hear much of the outside. On top of that when there’s feedback it goes straight into my ears. I bought this last year because a lot of venues don’t have a monitor and looping vocal harmonies is very difficult when you can’t hear yourself properly.
Off stage upping the volume, back up, instant feedback, back down, turning it low again. In the end, turning the speaker away helped somewhat, but the vocals were still too low in the mix. Also, each time I turned towards my MIDI controller – which was positioned too low – it produced new feedback. I tried to be professional and just grin and bear it, but the whole thing left me rattled and shaken which translated directly into my performance.
I had sent the booker my tech rider and enquired about the setup of the speakers and the availability of one bigger or two small tables. I was assured everything would be as requested. Yet, it wasn’t. Putting the speakers behind you usually results in feedback because the microphones used on stage are facing them. Especially when you’re looping with a mic. This is Audio Engineering 101. It’s the speakers that feed back, by the way, not the mic. I had perfected my setup as best as I could, spent money on in ear monitoring and other gear, but the one thing I still need is the speakers in front of the stage. Otherwise looping is impossible and I don’t want to stop doing it as it’s an integral part of my live show and I enjoy doing it.
Already last year I had come to this conclusion and so rather booked select shows ahead of time. Because there are decent venues out there, but you have to be early when booking. This mini tour through Berlin was in tandem with Vibeke Falden and it was pretty short-run. I had voiced my concerns about booking so late and my gut feeling told me no. Yet, I went along because I promised. I shouldn’t have. That was my mistake.
I walked home with all my gear. Devastated. Back home I talked to my friend who booked the concerts for me in Sicily. She reminded me, I had played a show while still recovering from a bronchitis and unable to sing. I did an improvised set instead and people enjoyed it a lot. I don’t cancel that quickly. If I think I can deliver a decent performance. Yet, this last show was awful. The conditions were awful which rendered the performance subpar. The audience went home with the memory of me as the woman with all that feedback. The rest of the tour would have had similar conditions.
I don’t cancel lightly, but the last show was good for no one. Not the audience, not me. Well, the venue made a quick buck by selling liquor.
The cautionary tale: Don’t sell yourself short. If you need certain conditions to perform well, only agree to gigs that meet your minimum requirements.
And speakers in front and keyboard stands or tables at the same height is not too much to ask, now is it? I don’t even ask for a monitor or a sound guy. This can’t be too much to ask.
Don’t sell yourself short! … and trust your gut feeling!
or: Why I canceled the gigs this week
The new year has begun and it’s the perfect time for hatching new plans and setting things in motion. It seems I can set myself one big goal to achieve for each year. 2008 was for making Minutia, 2009 for starting my label and getting the album released. Last year was all about getting a somewhat financial stability for me.
So what’s the plan for 2011, you might ask?
One thing I have not managed yet is touring. My publisher had the idea to send me on the road as a tour support. I was already getting really excited. But then he became unsure if I was ready for it. Yet, he has never seen me play live.
So… I’ve booked a wee Berlin tour for mid February with Vibeke Falden from Denmark. The idea behind this is to play four or five concerts in one week to get a routine and lose my stage fright.
Just because I can’t make it out into the world right now, doesn’t mean you can’t see me live these days. I’m also going to play a first internet streamed concert in mid February. If you live in Italy you might not have to wait much longer to see me in the flesh. My friend Nicoleugenia who I visited last December in Sicily is putting together a tour for me for March.
When I was there in December I was supposed to play gigs. I got a Bronchitis, had completely lost my voice and wanted to cancel. They really wanted me to play so I agreed to play a shorter instrumental set. The first gig at Lomax in Catania didn’t happen because there was no power. And that after I had been nervous all day long. For the second one in Caltagirone I was hardly nervous and the concert happened and went well. Admittedly it felt very strange to improvise and not sing at all. It made me get out of my comfort zone and I needed the experience. In Berlin the market for live music is totally oversaturated and it makes you feel unappreciated. Playing in Sicily is so different. They’ll tell you repeatedly how much they enjoyed your concert. They want me to come back to Catania and so I’ll return for a week of touring.
Depending on how all this pans out I might just continue doing little tours in different European countries. Possibly with a little help from you. I have some ideas, but I’ll get to that later. Enough rambling about ideas now. It’s time to start making them happen.
The Berlin Tour Dates with Vibeke Falden
February 15: East of Eden Bookshop
February 16: King Kong Klub
February 18: Die Fabrik
February 19: La.D.I.Y.fest
Support for Donna Regina
February 25: HBC, Berlin
Watch this space for more news soon.
11 songs from the concert plus 3 bonus live tracks (Ivory Tower Sessions) with a beautiful booklet designed by Eduardo Fitch are available now on bandcamp. In addition 4 live videos from the concert are to be had. : In Unison, Zero Tolerance, The Tide and A Little.
My vocal remix of Boozoo Bajou’s song ‘Yma’ is out now. It’s not only the first officially released remix I’ve made, they’ve also asked me to sing on it.
Available at the usual outlets including iTunes. Have a listen!
A while ago ‘Zero Tolerance’ was open for reinterpretations at FiXT Remix. Today the compilation of the best remixes is out at FiXT. The resulting mixes jump from electro/acoustic pop to electronic rock to drum and bass. Quite the eclectic mix!
Head over to FiXT to check them out, watch and grab a free download of the Zero Tolerance music video I made!
This blog entry is all about remixes.
Tomorrow (Friday, July 16) the remix contest for Zero Tolerance will commence. The stems and all the info can be found at FiXT Remix.
I will handpick the winners who will have their remixes released in the FiXT store on a (mini)album. There’s no other prize from FiXT Remix, but I’ll throw in a download of my live album ‘Live at the Watertower’ that will be released on September 3. You can find more info on it here.
The Minutia Remix Project has been pretty quiet lately. Things have taken longer again on my part so the deadline I’ve set for Mingle is void.
The new one is now: September 9… 8 more weeks from today!
I’m still awaiting some back. So if you’re one the people who wanted to do a remix could you please get in touch with me to let me know if you’re still gonna do it? Or if you’d like to give it try, but hadn’t chosen a song yet read the Mingle post and get in touch with me. The more the merrier. 🙂
I’m sitting here outside an old mansion outside of Berlin (actually right now I’m at the hospital cafeteria for the free wifi). It’s quiet but for the wind, birds, crickets and the occassional car sound from far away. It’s sunny/cloudy and windy. The perfect summer residence. I still can’t believe my luck. One day I’m melting in the heat in my flat unable to do any work because my brain hot way too slow, the next I’m in a stranger’s huge house at my free disposal. It’s got everything but hot water and who needs that in summer. Guess I’ll stay here for a week and except for the occassional city guest I’ll be on my own writing new songs. Got a mobile recording studio here with me (Hurray for technology!) and a video camera. I’m only here since last night and I’m already feeling inspired.
You might have read my tweets when I prepared for my gig at the watertower in Bernau and wondered why on earth I would spend so much time sorting out the live setup, troubleshooting and rehearsing for one single concert. No one can have sooo much stage fright! Nope, but it wasn’t just another performance. It was my longest one so far. 14 songs so over 90 minutes. My parents saw me perform solo for the first time. And last, but definitely not least, it was to be recorded and filmed with 4 cameras. I also set up everything so I could record the songs internally for better sound quality. Unfortunately I forgot to hit record on the last 3 songs so I’ve made a live recording of them in my living room/studio, dubbed The Ivory Tower Sessions (which I may continue in the future in some way or another).
I didn’t want to announce the plans beforehand because surprises are nice, I was afraid if I did I would jinx it and things would go wrong and the pressure was on enough. Now that things went well – very dramatic drum roll -:
The audio download of the gig will be released soon (September 3, 2010) including 4 videos (In Unison, Zero Tolerance, The Tide & A Little) and a beautiful booklet designed by Eduardo Fitch. 50% of the proceeds will go directly to the charity Father’s House that helps underprivileged children in Berlin.
When Ruben, a friend, who works for this charity heard about the upcoming concert in this unusual location (a watertower) he suggested the live recording in cooperation with Father’s House. The gig was on May 27 – exactly half a year after the release of Minutia. Everything seemed so neat and fell into place so easily… who could say no?!
I’m currently in the process of mixing and mastering the live concert. Just now I got back from going through the videos of the 4 songs with Tom who did not only do the shoot at the watertower he is the one who made the fantastic dumentary “Letztes Jahr im Sommer” (Last Year in Summer) of OMP, the band I’m part of as well. The videos are gonna look great. One camera angle is a slanted view from above showing an overview of my gadgets.
The set list on May, 27 at the watertower Bernau:
Scaredy Cat’s Lullaby
More news on this and other things soon.
There are always people asking what sound is what somewhere in my songs. So how about a little making of blog post for each new song here? For now written, maybe later as little video blogs. Enough, let’s dive right in:
I don’t think I have to say anything about the subject matter. We’ve all been there and even though I don’t spell it out in the lyrics I think it’s quite obvious.
The piano part of In Time has been around for quite some time. Whenever I have time for it I just sit down and play and when something nice emerges I quickly record the idea (yes, I have quite lot of those sketches and hopefully some of them will turn into fully fleshed out songs in the (near) future). I also already had a vocal melody (they usually come all by themselves), but if I don’t have matching lyrics songs tend to be tough to work out. It’s synergetic thing for me.
The dark – or as a friend called them – psycho sounds at the beginning and end (in between as well) and the cello-like bits are me playing my Epiphone Les Paul (electric guitar) with a violin bow, partly pitched down an octave (don’t have a bass which would have been better). All the small ‘electronic’ sounds are actually made from array mbira or piano. Then of course there’s the mbira. I didn’t use it much on Minutia, because by the time I had the money together and got it, most songs were already more or less finished. You can expect quite a lot more mbira on the next EP or album from me though. I just adore this instrument. The darker sounding beats are made by stomping on my wooden floorboards. The ones that sound like brushes are eggbeaters on a canvas bag filled with paper strips, very closely micced.
So apart from the piano (I don’t own one yet) everything on In Time is made with real instruments or field recordings. I’m planning to re-record the piano parts once I have enough new songs with piano passages and found a good one to record them on. An idea I’m having for the next release is using no MIDI instruments on it as the real thing always sounds warmer. If a song asks for a full orchestra though I won’t be able to make that happen. We’ll see.
I don’t know when I’ll have the next release finished. If I do it the usual way – release it as one body of work – I seriously doubt it will come out this year. A possibility I’m toying with is to do a subsciption-based release. Different packages starting from 10€. Subscribers would get a new song each month. Even then I’d have to have a few finished before the whole thing could start as it takes me about 2 weeks from start to finish for a song and there’s always so much else to do as it’s just me. What do you think (comments here are welcome as are tweets or emails)?
I started the Minutia Remix Project already in October, that’s over half a year ago (where did the time go?) So I decided it might be time to set a deadline for it. Don’t fret… it’s not tomorrow.
Deadline: July 31, 2010.
That’s 12 weeks from now. It should give you plenty of time to work on the remixes and/or the artwork, methinks. Of course the project is still open until then. So if you’d like to contribute to it with a remix or artwork, you can read up on it and get in touch with me.
I want to give a big shoutout to all the contributors. You’ve done an amazing job. Thank you so so much! You have no idea how often you’ve saved my day when I was feeling down.
Wanna have a listen first?
Have a look at the artwork contributions:Vodpod videos no longer available.
I’ve got a question for you.
Those of you who follow this blog already know about Mingle – the Minutia Remix Project. The first 6 remixes are fantastic and waiting to be downloaded for free at bandcamp. About as many are still in the making and I can’t wait to hear them. I’m well chuffed how an @reply from Twitter sparked such a wonderful virtual collaboration.
The whole thing didn’t go unnoticed and I was asked today if an online store could carry Mingle – meaning – sell it. For you who follow my doings Mingle would stay available for free at bandcamp where so far I’ve only set it up that donations can be made. In addition Mingle could be sold at this online store for those who just happen to stumble upon it there.
Now, the remixers gave me their contributions for free so the thought of monetising their work makes me queasy. Then again, I’ve barely recouped the production expenses for Minutia not counting any equipment bought.
So here’s my question: