Welcome

January 22nd 2013

23rd Jan 2013

The year of the Dragon finishes next month: a whole year of my sun-sign! As ever, I am terrible with website updates, and over the last few months I have been especially busy and had no time to sit down to write any concise overview of the events that have taken place. I looked back to a draft I’d written around Halloween, a few days after (if not the day of) the hurricane, and promptly deleted it because it was verifiably out-dated and I couldn’t even use any material from it to write this one.

Today seems like an appropriate time to write a website update. I’m in my warm, cosy 8×8 room in Astoria as the temperatures outside plummet to -4 degrees C, still morning time, up for a few hours due to the spacey bubble jet-lag has left me in after a month in Japan. Seems like the best time to get my website updated… at least where the news is concerned!

My band, Human Equivalent, finally recorded our follow-up material earlier this month, seven tracks brimming with color and energy that we managed to lay down in audio during a day at Bushwick Studio. I think what sealed the deal with this session and experience was working with the owner and engineer Josh Kessler: I instantly clicked with this man’s approach and personality. (Note to self: always work with people with a wonderful sense of humor.) We are looking to get the remaining mixing and mastering work completed next month, in February! I have the album name already at the back of my mind, so it shouldn’t be too long before the record is ready to roll! Otherwise, I’m looking forward to getting back in action with this band in 2013!

I’ve also had the pleasure of performing with Allegra Levy and her project again, through November and December, at various locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as Emily Wolf in the Lower East Side area, and have been recording some of Rodrigo Bonelli’s music (when we’re all able to get together on the same day) at an audio recording school in the Manhattan area. Another project is slowly coming together with pianist Sean McCluskey, that will include original material in a Jazz-Celtic crossover vein. Rehearsals are to start very soon!

Work, writing and producing music with The Wig, has been steady, and yielding amazing results, and as time goes on I’m finding new techniques and approaches to using the software to help take our music to the “next level” (or some-such phrase). Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoy the whole process and get a great kick out of working in the electronic genre. Having the balance between electronic and acoustic feels natural for me right now. We are laying down the last foundations for Usessions Records, who are signing three of our Emotional House tracks for our upcoming EP ‘Viisions’ (UR019). This is an exciting step for us, as we’ve been working hard together on developing our material for the past ten months, with more paths emerging as we go.

Twice-weekly performances with Noah MacNeil at La Flor Bakery & Restaurant in Queens have been a continued success and, as always, the best opportunity to perform with a great friend and keep the jazz chops in shape.

2012 was mostly a year of “ups” but November, with its relatively quite spells gig-wise, brought a more devastating event in the form of Hurricane Sandy. The area in which I live, Astoria in Queens, was unscathed for the most part, save for the odd tree or two that had tumbled or uprooted into the streets and onto people’s cars. Because most of us were O.K. in the northern area of the city, it took us a few days to realize that elsewhere in the city, there was major chaos. Personally, from my own standpoint, I felt it was hard to get a sense of what had happened because much of the public transportation system was a jumble, severing us from Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan. I know that when I lived in Williamsburg and the ‘L’ was out for a weekend, we all took it for granted that we wouldn’t be going anywhere, so stayed inside. It wasn’t until I saw updates from people that I know generally to be self-sufficient and “strong”, calling out on FB from wifi they had managed to snag from elsewhere, that I realized there was something wrong. I don’t watch the news in the US, and BBC online is obviously selective with its material, but with events as quick as this and a city in hysteria it’s hard to gauge how far the damage extends. I live almost on the other side of town from where a friend and her community needed a hand in the clear-up, but everything is close by in our modern world, so I went down to help. If there are questions being raised in our modern world about “helping” people out as too risky, or as an unwanted expense to your time and (jeeze, I will even go there) ego, then, of course, this isn’t news for us human beings. But I hope for most people it does become old news soon…

Okay, so that’s one of my end-of-2012 two cents’ worth but, ultimately, November spent in New York was both an experience of people at their best and at their worst, going to areas in Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach to help with the clean-up. Ultimately, you can’t give up: you have to do what needs to be done. I haven’t much more to talk about on the events, I just went to help.

The beginning of December was intensely busy and by the 18th, I was flying to Japan. The main purpose for the trip was to perform with fellow Berklee-Alum and one of my best friends, pianist Alan Benzie, under a duo project called BG-C Duo (I know, not the most creative name, but it was something we had to whip up on the spur of the moment…!). My first week there was spent at the Naeba Prince Hotel, in the Niigata prefecture of Japan: lots of mountains, fresh air, snow and sports. We played each day there, a few sets per day over the Xmas season at the hotel’s lounge area. It was restful and a wonderful way to spend the Christmas Day: playing music and sharing it with good friends. I want to thank our director for the opportunity, Yasuko Sato, for the event and look forward to (hopefully!) working with her again in the future.

On the 26th, we Shinkansen’d off to Tokyo, where I spent the next 3 weeks. There I reconnected with a childhood friend, Zach Thomas, and was invited to sit in with his band The Deadlines for a couple of sessions. Made up entirely of Bloomberg employees at the Tokyo Office, they put together the group to hone their creative energies outside of work (which, in Tokyo, is a luxury amidst the workaholic lifestyle there) and, to tell the truth, they play some mean music. I had a blast with them!

Another highlight in Tokyo was the BG-C Duo’s performance at the city’s Somethin’ Jazz Club. The club’s name is familiar: it is the partner venue to the SJC in New York and is an equally great hub for live music and various artists from all across the nation (and globe!). We had a great turn-out, playing on Saturday 5th January and it reminded the Alan and I that we will play again and retain that musical connection, despite living in different countries and continents for the time-being.

Otherwise, I actually spent the majority of my time in Tokyo completely by myself, without a useable phone and with no internet connection, save for Starbucks Coffee a few blocks away. I can barely speak any Japanese and I only began reading the most basic of Hiragana whilst being there. For days at a time, walking the streets of Tokyo, speaking only “thank-you’s” now again, I don’t think I have ever placed myself in such a solitary position. I had no street map (I hadn’t thought to buy one before heading East), my only connection to contacts I had was through pay phones at stations (that you sometimes spent 10 minutes trying to find) and I had little knowledge of what the society and customs of Tokyo entailed. But, I walked every length of central Tokyo with the help of a basic subway map, explored many back-alleys, parks and museums, and probably visited close to every temple and shrine in Tokyo. I also took the train south to Kamakura for a couple of days, to explore the hiking trails of the old Capital, one of the most intensely spiritual areas I’ve been to.

The experience I had in Tokyo taught me a lot about a society and culture I knew bits and pieces about, through pop culture, movies and second-hand knowledge. Having little connection with the outside world, it was what I had hoped for. One passion of mine is to observe and experience things first hand. It helps a tremendous amount to have someone to translate and show you around (which I did have, sporadically), but you see very different sides and perspectives of the coin when you’re completely alone. I learnt a lot from being there, related a lot to the society and culture they hold there and came away with personal treasures and images that have added another page to my life’s book, little pieces as a tourist but most of it without any icing or pretty bow on top. The raw thing. And I would do the whole experience all over again in a heartbeat: I’m already planning on it.

So, here’s to 2013. It is going to be an eventful one and I hope to keep things up to date here more often. I already know I am heading to Berlin, Germany, for a week in April, to work on internet music software being developed by James Ingram, a former assistant to the late Karlheinz Stockhausen. We will be using my Electronic Wind Instrument to test out and experiment with this program James is working on for the World Wide Web. Then, in July, I will be working with a UK sextet, LOCUS, on more original material of mine for a short UK tour. More information to come very soon on that!

News update, 23 March 2012

23rd Mar 2012

Well, as per usual, I’ve been rather poor at keeping a regular update on my site here but, I’m happy to say, it’s because there has been an incredible whirlwind of activity going on here in NYC over the last couple of months!

Not too long after my last update, I left my internship at Yessian to properly start getting stuck into the music scene here in NYC. Don’t get me wrong: I was terrified to be leaving such a great group of people. And the parting of ways was certainly friendly! It was an amazing place to be, first moving down to NYC from Boston, and my learning experience there was invaluable. The advertising world, even where music is concerned, is a hard-hitting and competitive one. Every day you had to be on the edge of seat, ready to put your all into the task at hand, because getting a hold of that client and a job, is the name of the game. I’m someone who is versatile in a range of situations but, in honesty, there was an element where I didn’t quite feel ready to settle into that world, so that was a part of the reason why I decided to really throw myself into the deep end and become a full-time (freelance) musician and writer.

Was I fearful that everything would come tumbling down, that my NYC experience would end quickly because I would, ultimately, be struggling? Yes. A lot. For the first couple of weeks of being “free”, I was stressing and gearing myself up for a few months of nothing before I would give up and leave.
The thing is, the situation actually woke me up: I was FREE, damn it! This was a good thing, not a bad thing! No more institution (of any kind), no more worrying about schedules set by other people… It was time to go out and have fun, see people, not network but just re-kindle the love and appreciation of friendships and, ultimately, have fun making music.

Since then, the past 2 months have been the best times I’ve had so far here in NYC, because the music has been much more and I can count a number of people who I respect musically and as friends. Here they are, this is what I’ve been up:

Emily Wolf has been making more strides on the NYC scene, with a gig at least once a month at Caffe Vivaldi in the West Village, LIC Bar in Long Island City and we also have an up-coming gig next month at Triad in the Upper West Side. The musicians in this band are all great people, incredible musicians (many from NEC) and just wonderful to hang with!

The Rodrigo Bonelli Group has had a spate of gigs this month (almost one every week), at the Sugar Bar in the Upper West Side, Shrine in Harlem and Somethin’ Jazz Club in Midtown East. Every gig just gets better and better, the high-octane Brazilian Jazz is true work-out to play and exciting to listen to.

I’m keeping the ball rolling as much as possible with Human Equivalent NYC, booking the group for a gig at least once a month at various venues, from LIC Bar, Shrine and venues in the Lower East Side (where the indie and rock bands settle themselves). We’ve been picking up some great press from local listeners (check out Eric Hathaway’s blog for a recent review). The band has gone through various re-arrangements musician-wise, but I’m digging the current line-up, looking to nurture the sound more!

I’ve also had the pleasure of re-connecting with my friend and musical collaborator Noah MacNeil. He moved down to NYC at the beginning of the year and, through some turn-of-events, we have had a couple of gigs performing as the Leah Gough-Cooper:Noah MacNeil Duo, at a truly wonderful restaurant in Queens, La Flor Bakery & Cafe, where we perform three sets of straight-ahead jazz and originals! They’ve invited us back for another Monday night session, so it’s looking to become a regular weekly slot for us: a free meal and small fee are a great deal, as well as the fact that the owners of this Mexican Fusion restaurant are amazingly generous and appreciative!

As well as all the regular bands I perform with, I continue to perform with pop vocalist Meagan Hickman when she rolls into NYC from Chicago and also recently performed with another, Hannah Sumner, at Brooklyn’s Resort World Casino (which was both at once the most amazingly cool and odd experience I’ve had since moving here!). I also head up to Boston twice a month to play in-house with guitarist and singer George Woods, at 6B Lounge, Sunday nights from 8pm, which is a great excuse to see old friends often as well as having a great music-making time!

And last, but certainly not least, during most days I’ve had the most amazing pleasure to work with a great friend and musician, Rich Chwastiak (aka. DJ The WIG), who has been my travel companion into the world of Electronic and Dance music. In all, I’ve garnered a writing and production role alongside him (under the moniker of PANOOC) and we’ve been accumulating a range of dance tracks for both of us to use in performance, separately and together, and also to share with the community out there. We recently remixed a song by Boston-based group Bad Rabbits (‘Can’t Back Down’), which has been getting a healthy amount of hype from social media sites such as Secret Boston, as well as NYC’s music promoters Scotch & Murder Music and Tennessee’s 128 and Up. We’ve produced another three tracks thus far, hoping to have two more completed in time for April. It’s a great experience working with Rich, and one that I hope will continue for many more months to come!

Diverse or what? I’ve been having a blast working with all these great people and have been lucky enough to get a healthy amount of gigs recently (i.e. almost one every night!) and, although you will walk away from one gig or another with little more than tips, it’s always a good feeling to be creating music, having fun and doing exactly what you love!

So, ’til next time, enjoy the Spring!

NEWS UPDATE: JANUARY 15th 2012

16th Jan 2012

Once more, itʼs been a rather long time since I last posted news on what Iʼm up to here. The last 6 months have been an exciting time, here in NYC. I wonʼt go into all the details of what I did, but along with settling into this city a little more, I had many great opportunities to perform frequently with the aforementioned groups and continue gaining experience at my internship!

So, whatʼs in store at the moment? Iʼm having the great privilege to perform with another wonderful singer, Allegra Levy, and her band this month, at a wonderful French Bistro in Brooklyn, and thereafter am hoping to continue working with these great bunch of musicians! Iʼm also continuing to book the odd gig with my own quartet, Human Equivalent (in its many shapes and forms), on a per monthly basis. Open invitation, however: feel free at any time to ask of my services! I am not bound to any one project and am always excited to work with new people and new/different music!

Iʼve been finding much inspiration in a couple of other areas this year.
At my internship, Iʼm finding myself gravitating a lot towards the Mixing/Audio and Sound Designing aspects there – my goal is to gather much more practice and experience in these fields, getting an even better grasp on the various software used in the industry and for my own projects, too.
With this, Iʼve begun to delve more into Electronic music, which has always been a genre that Iʼve gaped at in wonder and adoration from afar for years now. Like anything in the arts, it takes time, patience and practice to fully realize ideas (both sounds and composition/arranging) and understand the full potential of it all – itʼs also amazing in that itʼs a world where you really have to set your own limits as you go along and be really sure of what it is you want to produce, because the rabbit hole can go on and on and on…
In all honesty, itʼs been a while since Iʼve been this inspired and really determined to learn it. Funny how I canʼt seem to escape the educational (or, should I say, self-educational) bug, right…? It now feels like Iʼm ready to pursue this area after all thatʼs come beforehand!

So, as they say, please watch this space. Iʼm excited to go down this path and merge everything I learnt (theory, acoustical performance) with this new platform! Iʼm sure the outcome with be entertaining, at least… :)
In the meantime, the temperature has dropped here in NYC – hereʼs to making it through January with a warm heart…!
Check back in soon!

  1. MP3: Future Pop ('Future Pop')
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  2. MP3: Leaf Blower ('Future Pop')
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  3. MP3: On the Other Side
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  4. MP3: From the Ash (live at Bar East)
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