First there was International Bagpipe Day at the Pitt Rivers Museum.
|Phil Powell's Leicestershire Smallpipes (by Julian Goodacre) - photo by Ian Clabburn.|
Even though I say so myself, it was a rip-roaring success. Large crowds assembled on the balcony to hear demonstrations of English, Mallorcan, Galician, Turkish, Tunisian, Bulgarian and Bohemian bagpipes. The lecture theatre was rammed all day. And we had 600 punters at the makers' fair (on top of the 1500 who'd have visited the museum anyway), come to try instruments and to watch further demonstrations. I was rushing around a bit but did manage to play a short set with Wod (for which, I must admit, I wasn't really on top form) and some tunes on the balcony with Jim, Jane and Jo.
Even more heartening was the extent to which International Bagpipe Day has gone truly global. There were events in the US, in South Africa and beyond. A group of pipers played in an orphanage in Nigeria and there was a piper's picnic in Athens on a hill overlooking the Acropolis. How wonderful to be making these kinds of global connections through nothing more than a shared love of an ancient instrument.
Then last weekend I was in the studio with Telling the Bees. It's been a long time coming but we've finally begun work on a third album.
The old Bees magic was at work with arrangements falling into place and everyone playing as one. Over the years we've perfected a recording process that works for us: we piss around a lot, eat a lot of food and drink a lot of tea. Then we play some music and then we drink more tea and finally we have a go at recording. We do everything live, playing together without a click-track until we've got a take that we're all happy with. Then we do the odd tweak here and there, add overdubs, backing vocals and the like (a much longer process that takes up to a year to finish). The aim, always, is to get the vibe right. We did, and we managed to get Astrolabe and One More Mazurka in the can.
Then we went for some fresh air.
|Telling the Bees outside Middleton Stoney church, March 2013|
Then on Tuesday Nomi and I drove down to Canterbury, where I gave a talk on 'Psychedelics and Spirituality' to the University of Kent Psychedelic Society: all very learned and I got to use the word hermeneutics. Which is nice.
It was also an opportunity to stay over with Dr Matthew Watkins of Canterbury Soundwaves and Secrets of Creation fame (photographed here on the Ridgeway a couple of years ago).
Unbeknownst to me he had another guest staying: old friend and old cove Matt Spacegoat, renowned for his illustrations for Wooden Books, his work as a studio engineer at Pond Life Studios, and for playing bass, bouzouki and sitar with Martha Tilston, Camel Nitrate and Transglobal Underground (not forgetting the Space Goats). The two Matts are hard at work on the much anticipated third volume of the Secrets of Creation Triology - out in June they assure me. I've had a sneak peak at the artwork and it's awesome.
We immediately launched into one of those beautifully looping, intoxicating conversations about all manner of weird shit: the mystery underlying prime numbers; the demise of the publishing industry; Terence McKenna; 2012; Rupert Sheldrake's humility; the 'missing' Douglas Adams-penned episode of Dr Who; 1970s children's TV; why it's possible to tell the difference between plastic and amber by touch alone; the latest archaeological findings at Stonehenge; just how good a draughtsman M.C. Escher was; the divine feminine; the Canterbury music scene and so on and so forth. The University of the Hedge was in session.
Nomi and I slept in a wooden hut, curled up against the frost in a pile of sleeping bags, blankets and duvets. We were woken by a particularly mellifluous wren improvising long phrases from the bushes.
Dr Matt treated us to some of the best porridge known to man before treating us again. He filled a tub with water, lit a fire underneath and voila! A bath in the woods!
I can think of no finer way to unwind.