It's all about the Bass. And good people doing good things
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Amazingly, Richard has been re-united with his bass.
See his message at the bottom of this post.
Richard March is a happy bunny right now. He plays double bass: you stand up and wrap your self around the instrument. He's in one of the fastest rising bands in town, Rhino and The Ranters, among others.
Double basses are physical. They're actually bigger than the people who play them. It means intimacy and engagement. Players are on their feet, dancing. All musos have physical bonds with their instruments. But basses are already deep and primal. String basses take it deeper.
So when Richard posted on Facebook, just before Christmas, that his bass, his amp and bits and pieces had been stolen, it came across like a howl of pain.
A season of goodwill? I think so
Many people now know there's been a happy ending. An old friend of Richard set up a just giving page. The goal was £850. You can see the results lower down the page. It's pretty breathtaking.
Musing at his kitchen table last week, Richard was still amazed.
Richard: It's always upsetting when people steal your belongings! But musicians have a very special relationship with their instruments. Particularly something as physical as a double bass. You have to embrace the instruments.
I come from a background of playing electric bass, which is fretted, so you have an approximate idea of where the notes are. You can't do that on a string bass. You have to know exactly where to put your hands. And every little mark, every little knock is a little clue – so you can't help but get close.
Richard March has history
Music history, that is. Really quite a lot. He started on electric bass in Pop Will Eat Itself. Then he formed sampler dance groove monsters Bentley Rhythm Ace, who, amazingly, have gigs this summer.
Next year is Pop Will Eat Itself's Thirtieth anniversary! That makes me really feel old. But we're not reforming. Clint Mansell's very busy with his Hollywood soundtrack career. We did a reunion show about ten years ago, which was great fun, but we needed a rest afterwards!
So when did you pick up a double bass?
It gets really complicated. I hadn't played for maybe four or five years. People who play music sometimes do that, until something comes along that excites you again. I got asked to put together a band for a friend. It was his 50th birthday, he was coming back from New York, and he wanted to do his David Bowie thing from the US. Could I put a band together and rehearse the Ziggy Stardust album?
That's when I hooked up again with Brian Travers of UB40, whom I had worked with many years ago, when we recorded the Bentley Rhythm Ace album, in the Dep studios. We had so much fun playing together we decided to put a little band together – and that was the Peaky Blinders.
The intention was to do something acoustic. I had a double bass that I'd got from Martin Parry, who was the drummer in Fine Young Cannibals. My daughter had played it in a schools orchestra. And that's when I decided to pick it up, maybe three or four years ago.
I got blisters on my fingers!
How did that go?
It was a real struggle. The string bass is a beast. There's a different technique that you have to master. You have to work through the blisters and the arm-ache. Then when you amplify it, it's quite a struggle to get it loud enough to stand up to a drummer like, say Pete Hammond (Richard's colleague in Rhino And The Ranters). So it took a bit of experimenting. After all, it's not designed to be amplified! That's why they invented the electric bass.But after all the blisters, tech stuff and arm-ache, you got there. So it must have been awful to have it stolen.
We'd done a gig with the Ranters. Left our kit at the gig there overnight., Went back to get it the next day. Parked the car outside the house. I got distracted, and left in it the car. Then I went to take my son to football, and the car looked... empty. And it just dawned on me that the car had been broken into. It was gone.
Very creepy. From outside your house too.
I can only imagine that somebody was driving around in a van, and took their chance.
What about a replacement? Were you insured? How much do you think it was worth?
I was insured. But the insurance company said it wasn't fully covered because it wasn't inside the house.String Basses don't come cheap, do they? Something serviceable might run the thick end of two grand?
Something not even up to orchestral level might be a grand. And then there was the amp. So, yes, probably knocking on seventeen hundred, two thousand pounds.
That's a scary amount of money to find in a hurry.
Especially for someone in my position. I'm no longer a full time professional musician. Most of us barely cover our expenses, when you factor in things like strings, rehearsal time and all that. We do it for the love of it.
Step forward about 60 Christmas fairiesYour Facebook post really read like you were hurting. But the world shared your post, which I thought was brilliant. And even more brilliant – up comes a crowd-funding campaign.
I was blown away. Absolutely blown away. A friend of mine, Kerry Hammond, who I hadn't seen for ten years, but we've known each other for thirty. He'd had a similar experience. He took it on himself to set up a pledge thing. Saying 'Why don't we all chip in some money to help Richard replace his kit?'
And it got there fast, didn't it?
Within 24 hours, it had reached a thousand pounds. I was speechless.
Does that get you up and rocking?
With the insurance money, just about.Fantastic. I have to ask you though: playing in boozers, dragging your kit up flights of stairs, rocking out in a live room drenched in beer, sweat and heat, bouncing around in cars or a van on the way back from a gig... it's not the ideal environment, is it?
Not really, no! But there's something magical about that instrument. It's a real joy to watch people playing it. It give me a great deal of pleasure. And I am still blown away by the response. The thing that upset me most was that so many people had anonymously given money. All the people who put their names I could send a personal reply to. But I would have like the chance to say thank you to each and every person who chipped in.
So many people have come up to me in the past two weeks and said what a brilliant, heart-warming thing this is. It shows how supportive the Birmingham music community is. I was talking to an old friend Nick Bullen who was originally in Napalm Death. Now he's doing electronic avant-garde compositions. And he said that we all had to hate each other when we started. Every band used to hate every other band. We needed to do that, to push ourselves. We needed that competition. And now, we're just all old guys, all into music together. That hadn't occurred to me. But he was completely right, of course.
Before I left, Rich played me a few tracks from the next Rhino and The Ranters album, which is about half done. It sounded very interesting indeed. The trick for a band that is all about fearsome live energy married to a broad and individual music vision... is to be able to bottle that in the studio without either disappointing anyone, or sounding frantic and desperate.
I think they've cracked that one. And I suspect there'll be a little bit more snap to Richard's playing once he get hands on his new bass.
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Richard has now recovered his bass. Here is his facebook post of 7 January
INCREDIBLE NEWS - MY DOUBLE BASS HAS BEEN RETURNED!!!
"So, the saga of the double bass continues! I received a message from Greg Scott-Cook saying he thought he had my double bass. Turns out he'd found it abandoned in the street and had taken it home for safe keeping. After informing the police and hearing nothing he managed to track me down via google and I was happily reunited with my (thankfully undamaged) instrument. Quite why the police had been unable to match up a report of a stolen double bass with a report of one found abandoned in the street remains a mystery!
As many of you are no doubt aware, my friend Kerry Hammond had set up a just giving page to raise money for the replacement of my equipment, which i was incredibly touched by. The problem now is that once I have replaced the amplifier, speakers, accessories etc. there will be quite a bit of money left over which leaves me in a bit of a dilemma. Obviously I don't want to personally profit from peoples generosity so my initial though would be to donate the remaining funds after replacing my gear to a music based charity - maybe Nordoff-Robbins who deliver thousands of music therapy sessions per year in care homes, day centres, hospitals, schools and their own centres. They are also developing a range of other music and health projects aimed at bringing music to more and more people in local communities.
I would be really interested in hearing people's thoughts on this, particularly people who kindly donated via the just giving page. Please leave a comment or send me a message!
I would also like to thank Robin Valk and everyone else who helped publicising this through social media.
And thanks once again to Greg for taking the time to rescue my instrument and making the effort to return it to me.
Happy New Year everyone! I'm once again left speechless by this ongoing saga!"
More music posts on Radio To Go
Radio To Go on Brum Radio
Mon 4th at 10pm: In The Studio with Catherine Howe and Vo Fletcher
Tue 5th at 4pm: Big Wheels: Roy and Jaki Davis from the Asylum/Madhouse complex
Wed 6th at 11pm: Live and Local: Acoustic Night at the Jamhouse
Friday 8th at 4 pm: Muso Takeover with Michael King from Boat Row
Brum Radio is running test transmissions at present. After their first airing, these shows can be heard again here.
**Listen for exclusive Rhino and the Ranters songs on Brum Radio **
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