Adventures in Zimmerland
Wow. My head is still kind of spinning. May was looking like a fun month – some RPJ band gigs, a live broadcast and a few club dates with Simon McBride – a few sessions, some mixing – all the usual stuff. My phone rang on a Monday afternoon and as soon as I saw Yolanda Charles name coming up on my phone, I got a little burst of excitement. Yolanda only ever calls me for interesting stuff. And I know who she’s currently out on tour with….
So, after almost 20 years of listening to his music, I suddenly got a call to perform with Hans Zimmer. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I’ve probably spent more time listening to Hans’ music over the last five years than all of the other artists I’d listen to put together.
I got the call at the start of a rather busy week and had to hit the ground running with no rehearsals. I was sent through all of the bass charts and immediately set about re-transcribing all of the bass parts into the neatest, most economical charts I could manage (while still retaining all of the essential information). After sorting some of the administrative bits and making sure I had cover for my UK gigs while I was abroad, I left for the airport. Upon arrival in Bulgaria, I was greeted by an incredible cast of musicians, management and crew all of whom were super welcoming, effortlessly professional and absolutely killer in their chosen roles. MD Nick Glennie-Smith and I had a quick chat, which turned into a singalong set of Beatles songs around the piano in the hotel lobby in the early hours of the morning. It was an amazing introduction into the band.
The sun came up, and with it – gig day had arrived!
Although there were a few passages within the music that were fairly taxing, most of it was fairly straightforward for my hands. The much bigger challenge was getting everything right in my head. I had to try and stay zen – mainly though reminding myself: don’t be overwhelmed, don’t panic, relax and fall back on all of the years training that I have done – that has got me to the point where a bassist as incredible as Yolanda Charles would call me in to cover for her. Breathe deeply, look around and take it all in.
Also, don’t be a complete bozo and gush when you meet a musician who’s music you love. A lot.
So we hit the stage and I gave it full beans – there were a few missed notes, the odd misstep on unfamiliar pedals, but nothing that anyone but an eagle-eared (eyed?) MD would ever notice. The second gig was incredible (although a delay at Bulgarian customs meant we didn’t even line check in Geneva – we walked straight onstage and played the whole set through with no intermission) and by the end of my week in Zimmerland, the final gig was a wonderful play and a huge relief.
Looking back, my experience of the Hans Zimmer Live shows (and whatever nervousness I felt doing them) was fuelled by an immense responsibility to the music. Moreso than a direct responsibility to Hans, Yolanda, Nick, or anyone else in the band, I didn’t want to do anything that would burst the bubble – that would cause an audience member to become aware of themselves or their surroundings. My role was to become invisible and simply be a mechanism through which this music comes to life.
It’s a crazy thing jumping from a blues-rock trio into a massive band-plus-orchestra-plus-choir ensemble. Although there were moments that featured me as a player, I came away with the immense joy that only comes from being part of an incredible ensemble, lead by incredible people, playing amazingly well crafted compositions. Add to that meeting Nathaniel Kunkel, a trip to the CERN facility in Switzerland, late-night piano singalongs, finally getting to play with the legend that is Guthrie Govan and some really nice runs with Aleksey Igudesman and Lucy Landymore…
All boxes ticked