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How Simon Gallup’s Brazen Crazy Bass Sound Gave Me The Reason I Need To Start Using Bronze and Copper: The Cure Play Wembley Arena 1/12/16

I was a huge Cure fan back in the late ’80s, big black and white poster of Robert Smith on my bedroom wall, had all their albums but never went to see them live. The closest I got was going round a friends house to watch “The Cure in Orange” on video. Then 1992 and the Manic Street Preachers happened and stole me away from The Cure. Not much other than occasional listening until my live art collaborator and friend Steve Lawson messaged me on Monday and asked if I wanted his spare ticket to see The Cure that Thursday. The instant answer was yes, and once the usual child related logistics had been sorted out we were on!

Wembley is an arse to get to whether you go by train or car, a stadium and an arena plonked in the middle of an industrial estate with a maze of tiny roads with imaginative names like Engineers Way and Fifth Way or even more imaginatively Fourth Way. I managed to meet up with Steve and after some faffing about finding where the tickets were (it turned out we were present courtesy of Reeves Gabrels the guitarist, thank you indeed Mr Lawson!) it was straight to our seats, and The Cure were on. They played for three hours of fantastic music, loads of hits, lots of pop mixed with the darkness and they rocked way more than I remember from their studio recordings. “Friday I’m in Love” is up there with “Knights of Cydonia” for songs that instantly make me smile but for very different reasons. The Cure are such a happy band, both defining “Goth” and not being it at all, transcending the genre you helped to carve out has to be the mark of creativity in its purest form.

Having survived Matt Bellamy’s guitar at the Hydro in Glasgow, I was getting brave. The mix was towards the bass, drums and keyboards as we were sat next to the stage on the opposite side to the guitars of Robert Smith and Reeves Gabrels. What a sound Simon Gallup makes with that bass of his, genuinely astounding and gorgeous! When I say brazen crazy I mean in both senses of the word, bronze coloured and bold. It was prominent and folding and bronze/coppery with dark blacks and greys swirling amongst the leaves. Very different from the dark purples, reds and white distortion auras of Chris Wolstenholme’s playing. How a musician plays their instrument has a significant effect on what I see and none more clearly than with bass, the low end usually being dark and liquid. With The Cure not so, extraordinary and cutting bronze like structures.

Chris Wolstenholme: Portrait of a Bassist
Chris Wolstenholme: Portrait of a Bassist

 

 

Simon Gallup: Portrait of a Bassist
Simon Gallup: Portrait of a Bassist

The live experience of Simon Gallup’s bass playing has given me some interesting food for thought. The drawings I’ve made since have again blossomed into the same obsessive days of trying to work out shapes and colours that happened after Muse live.  My Guitar Distortion series which explores the distorted and chaotic sound of Matt Bellamy’s guitar playing is in sterling silver; it is the right material for the colour of his playing, white-hot, silver, cracked and twisting. Silver would not work for Reeves Gabrel’s guitar playing which appears as steely greys, dove greys, with shimmering hints of blues, turquoise and purples, centred in my vanishing point. Similarly bronze, brass and copper or mixtures of these materials will be perfect for representing Simon Gallup’s playing in three-dimensional form. After long hours of listening and drawing, thinking and planning. The result so far is a little sculpture that fits in your palm; it didn’t want to be jewellery. It has the stature and personal proximity of a netsuke, tiny Japanese sculptures but resembles a vortex. Click here for a video of it Bass Distortion Sculpture: Simon Gallup

Drawing wall: Simon Gallup
Drawing wall: Simon Gallup