Travellin’ Light

Dominic Lash
Answers 20 Questions About Life on the Road

Dominic Lash                                                                                                           ©Emile Holba 2013

Dominic Lash is a Bristol-based bassist and composer. A longtime, central figure in the Oxford Improvisers collective, Lash’s important ongoing collaborators include Steve Noble, Pat Thomas and Philipp Wachsmann. Lash frequently shuttles between jazz-tinged groups like the Convergence Quartet (with Taylor Ho Bynum, Alexander Hawkins and Harris Eisenstadt), situations with such old-school improvisers as John Butcher and Evan Parker, and work with Wandelweiser composers and improvisers like Antoine Beuger, Sarah Hughes and Radu Malfatti. Lash also leads a quartet with Hawkins, Ricardo Tejero and Javier Carmona: Their debut album, Opabinia, will be issued by Babel this fall, with a UK tour to follow in December. Other recordings on the horizon include a duo CD with Angharad Davies and an album with the Set Ensemble, whose members include Davies, Hughes and Patrick Farmer. Lash’s schedule of upcoming performances includes gigs with the Convergence Quartet in Sibiu and Ulrichsberg – and the Vortex – in October; a debut UK tour for a quartet with Tim Hodgkinson, Paul Lytton and Denman Maroney in January; and a second Norwegian tour for the trio with Alex Ward and Dag Erik Knedal Andersen is planned for early 2014.

For more information about Dominic Lash, visit:

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What is the most difficult airline to deal with in terms of instruments and equipment?

It seems to me to be based more on the airport than the airline. I had a real fight getting my bass on board a Norwegian flight to Trondheim, had to miss my flight and catch the next one. But flying internally in Norway and back home with the same airline I didn't have any trouble at all.

There was, though, the time I flew a tiny airline whose name escapes me from Birmingham to Belfast, and was impressed that the online booking form had a checklist that included “double bass” among outsized luggage. Upon arrival at the airport I discovered that the plane was a tiny propeller plane which couldn't physically fit my bass in the hold.


Which airline has the worst economy seating and food?

None of them are fantastic – I was very impressed, though, when flying Air Berlin economy from New York to Berlin to be offered a choice of a brandy or a Baileys after the meal.


Which airport is craziest for making connecting flights?

I don't have any connection horror stories thus far. I should say that I by no means always fly to gigs in Europe – recently I've really enjoyed a few trips in the car. (The train would be great with a smaller instrument, but with a bass rail journeys can be even more miserable than air travel.) I quite enjoy driving, and not having flights to miss combined with actually getting something of a sense for how places fit together are great advantages. Having to park in Paris is a disadvantage, though.


What is the most important thing you ever forgot to pack?

I don't think I've done anything too egregious in this department. Not yet, anyway.


What is your worst lost baggage story?

Nothing too horrific here either. The worst I've had is some nervy half-hours when waiting for my bass in what turned out to be the wrong place. You can never tell if it will show up at the oversized baggage area or will be brought along next to the standard carousel. And there's no point asking anybody; they'll have no idea.


What country hassles musicians the most at customs and passport checks?

It's probably the UK, so I feel lucky to be a British citizen. I've sometimes been a bit nervous getting into the US but it's always been plain sailing. I had a great conversation once with an immigration officer who had previously been a professional bass player and studied with Ellington bassist Aaron Bell.


Which city has the worst cab drivers?

Again, no horror stories here – I try and avoid cabs with the bass if possible. It did surprise me when I first took a cab in New York that it isn't compulsory actually to know your way around the city – I was rather taken aback to be asked how to get to where I was going.


What is the best hotel that a presenter has provided for you?

There have been some lovely ones and some grotty ones, but some of the best times can actually come when people put you up. Not that that can't also be a disaster; but the warmth, generosity and self-sacrifice so often displayed by musicians and enthusiasts for the music continually astonishes me.


Do you travel with a laptop or a PDA? If so, how many times a day do you check your e-mail?

I usually just use my phone. I am guilty of checking pretty frequently – whenever there's any free wi-fi, that is.


Do you listen to music on the road? If so, what device do you use?

No, not much, actually. I'm a bit more like Steve Lacy (in one regard!) in that I tend to pack my suitcase with books. I'm resistant to reading on an electronic device (I think the book is a great piece of technology itself). I have a horror of running out of reading matter on a long-haul flight so I almost always have about three or four in my carry-on luggage just in case.


Do you do your own laundry on the road?

Hasn't been necessary, as of yet.


What is your most nightmarish sound check to date?

I find them all fairly miserable and inefficient. If you end up more or less able to hear what's going on, and nobody gets obsessed with not being able to hear somebody – with the result that that person ends up deafeningly loud – it's a good sound check.


What is the scariest food that has been laid out for you backstage?

Always been lucky here as well. This wasn't backstage; but there was a time in Madrid with Barkingside when we went for tapas across from our hotel. Realizing that our Spanish was even worse than we thought, asked if they had an English menu. They did, which included the enticing “goldfish miffle.” Of course we ordered it, but I still have no idea what it is.


What are your three favorite venues?

Boat-Ting (London), Douglass St. Music Collective (Brooklyn), Over the Top (Sheffield).


Which cities have the best restaurants for late after-gig meals?

Everywhere has somewhere great, as long as you get taken there by locals who know the lie of the land. That's the way you discover the fantastic places you'd have been very unlikely even to find, let along choose, otherwise.


Which cities have the best after-hours sessions?

I'd love to go to an after-hours session, if there really are such things.


What is the best city that closes down too early?

It has to be London – the UK has never managed a 24-hour culture.


What is the best locale to have a day off?

Anywhere with decent weather and a good art museum.


What is your cure for jet lag?

All I do is get onto local time as soon as I get onto the plane. The airlines don't make it easy, though – they seem deliberately to serve food at the times which will most exacerbate the jet lag.


What is your best tip for the novice?

I feel like quite a novice myself. Maybe that's a good idea – try not to gain the impression that you know what you're doing!

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