May 31, 2017

Raleigh Ritchie US Tour 2017

It was only whilst filling out my visa application for Raleigh’s US tour that I realised I had been working with this team for nearly 3 years now! The word team feels a bit distant – these guys are family! Things in Raleigh’s camp have been a little quiet over the last 6 months, so you can imagine how girlish my squeal was when we were asked if we were available to travel around the states for 2 weeks on a sold out headline tour (obviously it wasn’t girly – it was a masculine roar with a pint of beer in one hand and the footy on the TV and #lad written in sharpie on my face because #lad…honest).

I want to stray a little away from the tone of my existing posts which are quite heart-on-sleeve, advice based and throw in a few stand out career moments – because, in honesty, I don’t have too much more advice to give (insert laugh-crying emoji). So here are my highlights from the US tour with Raleigh Ritchie.

Since I’ve never written about my experience on the road, I’m going to just throw some highlights out there, a few pics, maybe some gig vids and if you’re lucky I might nerd out over some of the gear I used! So here goes…

Our tour schedule, over the course of 2 weeks, took us to Fairfax (Virginia), Boston, New York, Toronto, Chicago, LA and San Fran with (I think) all but one show being sold out – but regardless of the size of the gig, we’ve always played the show like it’s in a stadium – the energy of the music is insane, playing it is like a full body workout!

I’ll jump straight in at New York, as, for me, this was one of the best gigs I’ve played with Raleigh – and possibly one of my most memorable gigs to date. Incredible energy on stage, everything sounded sweet and the crowd were on-side from the very first note – here’s a great montage of the show put together by the super talented Alice Plati – who I can’t find a website for, but show her some love on instagram

…it goes without saying that since we were in New York, we all did the tourist thing – it’s like my 10th time in NY and it never gets old!

FYI – that last picture is in a coffee shop called Two Hands down in Soho (NY) and the food and coffee are amazing! Definitely worth checking out if you’re a foodie or coffee nerd.

Following the New York show, we played Toronto and Chicago in quick succession. Toronto is the absolute business – I instantly fell in love with the city, again, little foodie note, check out a spot called Banh Mi Boys – they do Korean sandwiches – which sounds really lame, but they’re dope. There is also the most unbelievable Synth shop on Queen St West which you NEED to check out.

Here’s some pics from Toronto:

I took some GoPro footage from this show on the end of my bass – so you can watch one of my favourite songs to play – Sicko.

Now might be a convenient time to talk about the gear I’m using and most importantly, the approach we had on this gig. So first of all, I’m using my Sadowsky bass which I always use – I can’t get away from it, it’s just an extension of me! I’m on a bit of a personally tone journey at the minute – I love the sound of my bass, but when you stick it through a cheap ass, beer soaked DI box, I’m not convinced it’s coming out of house in the best way. So I’ve been exploring different DI/preamp options, so that at every gig I have tonal consistency. The guys at Lehle were kind enough to send me a bunch of pedals to play with, and honest to God, they sound sweet! I’ve fallen in love with one called the Sunday Driver which, to my ear, just boosts a few intricate frequencies here and there and makes my bass sound more textured and 3D – I’m running that in conjunction with the Lehle Bassswitch IQ DI, which, as the name suggests, acts as a sweet ass DI box with an EQ on it. Here’s a pic of me settings for those who don’t mind tilting their heads to the side:

I’m looking at the EQ setup now thinking it looks a little odd, scooping out the high/high mids – but, the Sunday Driver balances this out nicely, plus I was slightly favouring the back pickup for this gig, which, on my bass, creates a noticeable drop in the low end – so I’ve added it back in on the pedal. The result is a very slightly “Nasal” tone with some warmth added so it doesn’t sound like Jaco playing over everything! Watch the video – you’ll see what I mean!

I’ll move on from Toronto/Chicago since the next stop was LA and it was pretty special. Up until this point, the travelling was pretty brutal – when we hit LA, we had 3 solid days off and instead of being in a hotel, we were put up in a bloody massive house equipped with pool, basketball hoop and pool table – it was like being in MTV cribs.

The days off consisted of Venice Beach (where I bought an amazing long board) and a day trip to Six Flags theme park – arguably one of the best theme parks in the world! There aren’t really words to describe six flags, i’m still not exactly sure what happened on most of the rides, but it’s fair to say that there aren’t many places like it!

The LA show was pretty special. The venue was the infamous Troubador which has seen many amazing acts pass through its doors, but, for me, the most exciting has to be Miles Davis…not that he is remotely similar to Raleigh – just a cool thought that we’ve played the same stage!

Let’s do some more gear talk. A good friend of mine, Jay Terrien lives in LA – he’s the real deal when it comes to session musicians – he’s got a CV that will make you cry for no reason – I won’t name names, but let’s just say one of his client’s names rhymes with Peevie Ponder. Jay also happens to be the artist rep for an amp company called Jules Amps – these are, by far, some of the best sounding boutique tube amps I have EVER played. They are hand wired by a gentleman called Jules (go figure), he makes them to order and if sound was a Blue Peter presenter then this amp would be Konnie Huq – check them out here, don’t be put off by the website.

Here’s a picture, if you’re a bass player – save every penny you have to buy one, please (sunglasses not included)! This is the highest item on my buy list right now!

On this gig, we hired in all our equipment for each show from local hire companies. I used a Roland Gaia as my weapon of choice for all synth bass parts. I’ve not played on one of these boards for about 3 years and I forgot how great it is – a testament to its versatility is that, due to my dodgy choice in memory sticks, I had to program up all my sounds before soundcheck (in about 20 minutes) – and with this keyboard it was never an issue – super flexible and easy to use and, for its price, a really solid sound. The Gaia is a great synth if you’re just starting out on the bass synth game and trying to get your head around synthesis.

Our last show was up the coast a bit in San Francisco – my first time there and it’s kind of like an American Brighton. It was a super quick visit, so not much time to explore, but, I found 2 amazing coffee shops – Blue Bottle and Mazarine – some of the best-tasting coffee I’ve ever had, although Mazarine was a little bit too reminiscent of that McDonald’s advert where they take the rip out of coffee shops who serve their product in test tubes and charge £9 for it.

Our approach to this tour was to keep it British and represent what we do, we all love a good gospel chop and orchestra hit, but realistically, that sound started in America and is pretty characteristic of American sounding live pop music – so instead of trying to show that we could do it too, we wanted to bring ourselves. We played with energy, with feel and at times with aggression – it was heart-on-sleeve playing, not always perfect and clinical, but always with passion and excitement. We were proud to be British musicians on each stage we played – and I think there is a big lesson for all UK musicians in that!

I’m going to put together a montage video of the whole tour, but maybe not tonight as it’s getting late and this post is getting long. Let me know if you’re going to be at any UK festivals this summer, would be great to meet some of your guys who read this and hang out!