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Tales from Stefan’s music adventures

Dear funkateers,

you might have come here via one of the buttons on my latest newsletter or via social media. Either way, happy that you are here and are interested in some of my stories. Starting off with this great quote (attributed to many like Blaise Pascal, John Locke, Benjamin Franklin, Henry David Thoreau, Cicero, Woodrow Wilson…)

If I Had More Time, I Would Have Written a Shorter Letter.

Everyone I know is busy and pulled into many different direction as far as their attention and time is concerned. I shall attempt to keep my newsletters short and sweet. For those of you who want more background stories – here they are. if I had more time I would have written a shorter blog:-)

SO WHAT HAVE I BEEN UP TO?

Hardly surprising but lots and lots of music or as I like to put it as of recent ‘sitting closely around the campfire of creativity’.

The creativity is going far beyond creating music and encompasses improving my skills to create better graphic designs, writing better ‘copy’ and social media posts, organising a plethoria of small and large projects, tending to the daily minutia of a self-employed musician, always trying to create opportunities for increasing the circle of people who will come in touch with my creations, improving the sound of my demos, getting a better guitarsound,  becoming a better interviewer for our podcasts and lots and lots of communication, naturally.

In many respects this is proably how the life of most self-employed artists looks like. At times I find it a little bit dazzling to find the right balance between my own bass practise and creating new tunes with the managing of all the processes – from conception to release and then marketing of new music. In the past I often considered the process to be finished once the music was finished.

ALIVE BUT DEAD

However, I had to come to the obvious realisation that finishing a song or album and then putting it in to the world’s largest superstore (the worldwide web) will need a lot more effort still for the music not to entirely disappear in the world of zero and ones and become zombified – alive but dead. It’s certainly a challenge but somehow I have succumbed to the fact that I’ll forever will find myself in the ring, just the same way ever since I started creating and playing music. It’s the FOREVER game of finding a good balance in life and what it is we need to do.

COLLABORATIONS

The Masterlink Sessions are in it’s nature collaborative and many great creations have come from it. In addition to the live-in-the-studio videos, livestreams and podcasts I also have produced and co-produced a bunch of records for new and upcoming artists as well as more established ones. What an experience, lots to learn and also a wonderful journey across different styles of music. This has allowed me to express musical ideas outside the Funkestra wheel-house of instrumental Funk and Jazz. Probably more important than the musical styles is the fact that most of these productions are vocal led and not instrumental. Producing and co-producing records with other artists is in some respects a very different journey than production my own records. In a recent podcast with mega producer Fred Mollin I really enjoyed him describing the producer as ‘the sheppard’ to the artist.

Here some of the musical collaborations

  • CONNOR SELBY Self-titled album
  • JADE LIKE THE STONE Seven Roads
  • JO HARMAN Signature Soul EP
  • BLESSING ANNATORIA Count My Blessings | Live | CD 2
  • ELLES BAILEY EP (title and release date to be confirmed)
  • GEMMA DORSETT Self-titled EP
  • HOLLIE ROGERS Criminal Heart (release date to be confirmed)

Singles (x Redtenbacher’s Funkestra) and compositions

  • PETE SIMPSON Nothing Is Impossible (Songs of Isolation – NHS Charity Record III)
  • HOLLIE ROGERS Youth
  • JANA VARGA Deserve My Love
  • GEORGIA VAN ETTEN Oh Mother
  • LAURA EVANS Drag Me Back In
  • JANA VARGA Foreigner Face (release date Nov 5)
  • JO HARMAN A Case of You (release date Dec 2)
  • UPPER AUSTRIAN JAZZ ORCHESTRA A Campainha De Salamanca (from: Brazilian World Music Project, co-write with Andreas See)
  • JOANNA COOKE No Stranger To The Blues

FOLLOW THE MASTERLINK SESSIONS SPOTIFY PLAYLIST HERE.

Some of these collaboration I’ve released on my RSB Records label which certainly holds a different story in itself. I probably should write a blog about it sometime.

NEW FUNKESTRA PROJECTS

Aside from recently having played at Stompin’ at the Quomps Festival which was great fun, we’ve recorded a bunch of Masterlink Session videos with a more chilled vibe in contrast to the ‘wall-to-wall’ Jazz Funk offering on previous records. Watch them HERE.

Not set in stone but they might become part of a new Funkestra album to be released next year. Currently I’m enjoying to work with Nichol Thomson and Tom Walsh, a.k.a. HORN HOUSE as you can hear on

  • CODE 12 (another Spotify editorial playlist success: JAZZ FUNK | Jazz but funky)
  • ONE TRUE COIN
  • OLD BLOOD (release date Nov 19)

I’m also enjoying the line-up without horns (two guitars, percussion, drums, bass, Hammond) as you can hear on the latest Masterlink Session videos. Of course an album can encompass tunes with and without horns, however, a bigger differentior is that the horn collaborations lean more toward the Jazz Funk and Jazz Fusion side of things whereas the non-horn tunes sit a bit more comfortably in the Blues and Soul Jazz corner.

Maybe this doesn’t matter whatsoever as it seems that the need for tunes to hang together on an album in one collection is not or less important on Spotify. Peeps generally seem to listen to playlists rather than entire albums. Of course, from an artistic point of view artists like myself feel the need for a collection of songs to ‘hang together’ and to create a cohesive story. I guess as I keep on writing and recording it will becoome clearer if this collection of songs will be on one album or if they will be two albums with songs of the same vibe.

THE OPTIMISATION MACHINE

In addition I’ve been conceptualising an instrumental album called ‘THE OPTIMISATION MACHINE’. There is some ‘heady stuff’ there and at the moment there are 5 or 6 songs of the same mould. This will sound very different to what I have recorded so far. In short, the aim is to experiment and not be constraint by any other thoughts than wanting to be creative – without a single care of having to neatly boxing it up into a pre-fabricated genre.

BLUES ROCK

In total contrast to this I have been working on a vocal led BLUES ROCK album for a few months now with my friend Grant Watson. We have written a bunch of rocking songs and are in the process of matching them up with the ideal vocalists. At this moment in time it is unclear if this will be a Funkestra record with, let’s say, 10 songs and 10 different guest vocalists, or if there will be a brand-new entitiy/band (“Do I have the stomach and time for this” I hear my self II asking?), or different still, offer our songs up to third-party producers, labels and artists. One thing is clear, I’m defintely branching out and my creativity is expanding into new musical territories.

JONI MITCHELL TRIBUTE?

Finally (as final as I can be with my perpetual mindset) I’m yet again embracing creating new renditions of other artist’s songs. When I was still teaching I always said at the beginning of a module calle ‘re-arrangement’: “Never EVER attempt to re-arrange a song that you truly love. Why? Because you’ll never be able to substantially change it, nor will you improve the original peformance”. Ok, some room for debate and argument here, however, I’ve broken my own vow, partly instigated by Jo Harman’s manager and artist consultant Mark Ede, as I’m (loosley) heading towards a possible…wait for it…JONI MITCHELL tribute album.

I probably can list as many arguments for as against it – however, the best I can hope for will be controversy? How so? Hopefully the renditions will be heard and people will cast an opinion – good or bad. The real enemy of an independent artists like myself is no response at all because the music either hasn’t been exposed properly (i.e. people simply haven’t heard it) or once it was actually heard – it’s a ‘Nja’ shoulder shrugging moment of indifference resulting in no interaction.

However, we have what I believe is an absolute cracker in the bag – giving us an excellent start, if not benchmark track for the possible album: singer Jo Harman, after some time away from the limelight to focus on motherhood is giving a stunning rendition of ‘A Case Of You’ and believe me, many renditions of this uber-classic have left me cold. Not so here – so watch out for it on Dec 2.

JONI MITCHELL INFLUENCES

My own relation to Joni’s music came via titanic bassist Jaco Pastorius and in the 80s I was listening to ‘Shadows and Light’, ‘Mingus’ and ‘Hejira’. Maybe bizzarly I’ve never connected with ‘Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter’ (yet). Aside from ‘Blue’ which recently celebrated it’s 50 year anniversary, a go-to album for my wife for here entire life, I’ve discovered another Joni live album (How could I have missed this – hold on – in 80s Austria it was a little harder to come by music of this kind): “Miles of Aisles’.

Aside from enjoying this being a brilliant live album I’m very much into the backing band. Hearing how Tom Scott and the L.A. Express interpret Joni’s songs as many of them were originally released just with voice and piano or voice, guitar and Appalachian dulcimer. Love the early guitar work of Robben Ford and the ueber-session bassist Max Bennett (in my opinion a much underrated bassist). The line-up behind Joni also reminds my of our own set-up as the Masterlink Sessions studio band (a.k.a. the Redtenbacher’s Funkestra) and the idea that a bunch of studio cats play behind awesome artists, both in the studio and on stage.

At the moment we have a bunch of great artists and vocalists lined up to create Masterlink Sessions videos and with a bit of luck and the blessing of the gods of song there might be an audio release at the end of this journey. RIght now it is an open book.

THE MASTERLINK SESSIONS

As mentioned the 100% live-in-the-studio videos, the live streams and our podcast have kept me busy, entertained and inspired. Somehow the Masterlink Sessions blog has fallen into my lap and aside from the usual ‘cat herding’ duties, I’m also driving the marketing and business creation. Sometimes I have to ask myself “what’s wrong with me? – Isn’t it enough to create records for my own band and with and for other artists”. I quietly smile to myself…

So in case you’ve missed any of our creations – first up – here our Masterlink Sessions videos – neatly divided up into three categories.

Our Live streams called ‘LIVE AT MASTERLINK’ (10 shows) – shared exclusively on our streaming partner’s platform. Great fun to collaborate with True Live Shows. CLICK HERE TO WATCH OUR CHANNEL.

And here our Masterlik Session podcast (35 Episodes). The topic ‘getting to know creatives in the music industry’ is fairly broad but it has stood the test of time so far. We’ve started the MASTERLINK PODCAST in February and have released one every week since. I think we are slowly getting better in doing them and it has been fun and inspiring! LISTEN ON YOUR FAVORITE PLATFORM HERE. Get in touch if you want us to reach out to your favorite music industry professional.

INSPIRATION

Attending some of the recent CoLab and Spotify for Artists Sessions gave me the idea to also list stuff that recently has inspired me.

Music movies I recently enjoyed very much:

  • THE BLACK GODFATHER (ABOUT CLARENCE AVANT)
  • CLIVE DAVIS: THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES
  • DAVID FOSTER: OFF THE RECORD
  • THIS IS POP (SERIES)
  • SONG EXPLODER
  • 1971

A Podcast I enjoy very much.

BROKEN RECORDS with Rick Rubin.

Music I enjoyed very much:

  • ALABAMA SHAKES Sound & Colour
  • THE SUPERHIGHWAY BAND The Shake
  • OLIVER WOOD Always Smilin’

& excited about SCARY GOLDINGS IV teaming up with JOHN SCOFIELD.

A Book that I enjoy very much:

YOUR MUSIC AND PEOPLE by Derek Sivers

Funkateers and readers of this long-form blog – thank you for reading, your interest and support. Long may it last and if you are so inclined – let your friends, collegues and family members know about our music and creations. It will defintely help along the path.

Now I’m going to pick my bass up and will play along to Lukas Nelson and Promise of The Real ‘A Few Stars Apart’ and Booker T & the MGs ‘Soul Limbo’.

Carpe funkem, Stefan

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