Who are you listening to at the moment?
Recently, I have been listening quite a lot to Steve Van Zandt & The Disciples Of Soul, Primus, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Mr Big, and Richard Thompson. I have seen them all live and they have all inspired me as a composer and as a musician generally. I cover songs by the latter four when I perform live as Öli – my bass and vocal solo act. Les Claypool and Billy Sheehan have been bass inspirations to me for years and aspects of Richard Thompson’s style fit well into what I do – particularly the more percussive, Duo De Twang-esque parts of my music as both Richard Thompson and Les Claypool have country elements in their playing which blend together well.
Additionally, I have been listening to a lot of classical/orchestral music as I am learning parts in preparation to record bass arrangements of various pieces. I have been listening to Saint-Säens, Debussy, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Holst, Satie and many more, along with music from Star Wars, Saw and various other franchises. I have chosen pieces which particularly appeal to me and will record and release them as soon as I am able.
What do you love about Manchester?
This does not pertain specifically to Manchester – indeed, this is one of the most crucial factors in one’s enjoyment of any place – but my experience here has been great mainly due to the good people I have been fortunate enough to meet. This applies beyond BIMM, of course, though it is exemplified by my experiences of meeting many BIMM students and tutors; from the beginning, they seemed to absolutely love meeting anyone new and being in such an environment. When I came to BIMM, I instantly felt like I belonged.
When I decided to undertake a university course, I knew that I wanted to do something bass-specific as I wanted to be a better bassist – that was the focus of my being. I did quite a lot of research and BIMM was the only university which offered a course that actually appealed to me. Rather than vaguely wanting to be on a music course at a university, I specifically wanted to be on the BA (Hons) Professional Musicianship Bass course at BIMM. I would not have settled for another course and only applied to BIMM.
I auditioned to Stuart Eastham and I knew even more definitely then that I wanted to be at BIMM; he was very encouraging and so generally nice that I knew BIMM was right for me – I knew that with tutors like that, I could not go wrong and I should note that every tutor I have met has possessed the invaluable quality of genuinely caring about the students and their successes.
It is also great to be in a small bass department. Bassists can potentially find more opportunities within BIMM than musicians of other disciplines as the bass department is relatively much smaller than any other. Also, all the bassists in my year were together for most lessons throughout the first year of the course; we all got to know each other well and there was always a really positive and supportive atmosphere of a kind rarely possible in larger or constantly-changing groups.
Beyond the course itself, one of the best things about BIMM is the facilities. I wish that I had already had experience and knowledge regarding recording, mixing and mastering prior to the course as I could have made better use of the facilities. As it was, though, I taught myself (with the aid of various tutors and other students) how to do such things. I recommend doing the same to anyone who enrols. BIMM provides students with all that is needed to record and release music.
Many who come to BIMM want to play live above all. There are many opportunities to do so. I played with many varied musicians while on the course. Obviously, it is a good thing to be involved in as much different music as possible – it helps one to diversify and to improve overall. Playing with others as much as possible is perhaps the best way to reach a professional standard as a musician. I recommend doing so, though it becomes increasingly difficult as the course goes on, mainly due to the increased workload. It should be noted that the course is intended to develop all of the necessary characteristics of a professional musician and this includes the ability to find a good work balance – to know how much to do for others and to know when to say “yes” or “no” (a thing which seems simple but which many – myself included – find very difficult sometimes).
Overall, I would recommend the course to anyone who wants to improve their general musicianship and is willing to work hard at it. I would also recommend trying to establish a professional career alongside the course and preparing for when the course ends; though it may at times be impossible to do both, it is imperative for anyone who wants to avoid being in the terrible position of leaving BIMM and suddenly being stuck without student finance, accommodation or any idea of what to do. Tutors and the Careers Department are there to help with professional matters as well as matters pertaining to the course and I recommend seeking their help regarding both whenever it is needed – they always do their best to help.
Finally, I would also recommend starting work on assignments in the first week of each year – even if it is only the initial research – as it is much better to do this than the awful, frantic and stressful alternative of rushing to get work finished and handed in right before a deadline.
I am glad that I chose BIMM. The course was right for me and I hope that some of the above will be useful to others.