The Hackney Colliery Band have kept me a busy as ever. This year starting with playing at the Brits at the O2 in London. A superb bill included Madonna, Kanye West, Sam Smith, Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran.
After coaching young musicians at the South London Youth Orchestra I got to work starting my new band '1201Alarm'. I've done a number of solo laser harp gigs and some with the Steve Pretty Band, but I really wanted to do something a little more permanent with some incredible musicians that I had met over the years. To my sheer amazement and delight, all of the musicians that I wanted to be involved were available and were happy to be a part of the project!
'1201Alarm' had the first rehearsal in February and I was delighted with the results! We already have gigs in the diary and a trip overseas! A recording is planned for late March and a video shoot in early April. Its early days, but you can follow us on Twitter and all the usual social media places.
The year finished for me with two shows at Hammersmith's Apollo with Robin Ince and Brian Cox's Christmas shows. As I have come to expect, the bill was packed with amazing scientist, musicians, comedians and once again, Commander Chris Hadfield of the International Space Station. It was once again a real honour to be involved
In May I ordered a bespoke musical Tesla Coil from a very talented builder in the USA. The mandate of 1201_Alarm is to fuse music with science, technology and innovation and I was keen to explore strange and unusual instruments and sound. The coil discharges over 350,000 volts of electricity producing and ear piercing sound which can be modulated to a desired pitch. I's beutifully made and hopefully will one day become part of the 1201_Alarm set.
HCB played many more dates throughout the year including one for GQ in London, which I think the smartest the band have ever looked!
In April, I had a reunion with my old school band. It was great to meet everyone from the Epping Forest High School Band, not least, the legend that is Denis Taylor, my very first trombone teacher who is now in his 90's!
The event was broadcast by ITV and I particularly enjoyed my amazing photo bomb of Ant n'Dec at the after show party
As a life-long Delorean and Back To The Future fan I was delighted to spend a few quality moments with the other Mrs Thompson in June. Lea Thompson, star of all three films, said I was a dream boat. What more can I say? I'm a very happy man!
Next up was some more radio with Jammie Cullum. We got to record in the legendary BBC Maida Vale studios. We recorded a number of tracks and Jamie joined in at the end of the session. He's such a great guy, he even found time to record a personal video message for his two biggest fans, my nieces Fraya and Saskia!
In September, 1201_Alarm played their first gig at a family science festival in Singapore. It was a great trip to an amazing city. We were really thankful to A-STAR for the invite and to LucasFilm who were one of the main sponsors for the event.
We had great fun at the Jazz FM studios in London filming this short set. The roof was quite low but we were so loud that I think it raised a few inches by the end of the set. The tracks are Superhero Disco written by the band's leader, Steve Pretty, and a cover of the hiphop classic 'No Diggity' featuring Jeff Miller on Sousaphone.
The year continued with more HCB gigs, including this one at the Brooklyn Bowl at the O2 in London, and writing new charts for the 1201_Alarm project
In November the band were asked to record a 90 minute TV special for Christmas by Sky Arts. A Brass Band Wonderland was shot in Peak Cavern, a cave in the Peak District and starred comedian Jason Mansfield along with a whole bunch of special guests. The show to around 13 hours to film with temperatures hovering at a steady minus 1 celsius for most of the day. The show aired over a dozen times over the Christmas period on the Sky Arts Channel.
The band took the time to enjoy some of the famous Singapore street food and a cocktail or two at the impressive SkyBar in the Marina