After leaving University in 1997 I found work as a bassist on a cruise liner – the Veendam, a ship from the Holland America cruise line. My initial contract took me to the Caribbean, where I visited exotic locales such as St. Kitts, St. Thomas, Gran Canaria and Cozumel whilst working as part of the ship’s orchestra. It was a very tough gig for a young, inexperienced musician, but I learnt a lot in those three months. Playing fast show tunes, big band music and backing singers, sax players, comedians, banjoists and more was a fantastic experience and really helped me to get my sight reading into good shape. I followed this contract with another in 1998, this time playing on the sister ship the Rotterdam and touring the Baltic and the Mediterranean. This was an equally good experience and as well as learning more about playing music, I made some great friends.
However – and bizarrely – during this time, I also began to develop a serious interest in graphic design and devoted much of my spare time on the ship to learning to use illustration software. Upon my return to the UK, I decided to abandon my music career and instead pursue a career in graphic design. I found a job in a local advertising agency and over the next couple of years worked my way up from doing small newspaper adverts to full colour brochures and websites. My interest in music dipped off a little during this point, although I continued to play and study music on a casual basis.
In 2001 I found the music bug coming back to me and began practising more and more. I also decided to pursue the idea of publishing my Level 42 transcriptions myself, since my earlier attempts to interest a publisher had been fruitless. After hours of phone calls (on the company’s time naturally) I was able to secure the necessary permissions to publish my first Level 42 Bass Transcriptions book. My newfound background in graphic design meant that I was able to design the cover and put the book together myself, something that would otherwise have been an extra expense. The first book was a fairly simple ring-bound affair, but after advertising it for sale on a few of the Level 42 fan sites I was inundated with orders and quickly sold through the initial print run. The book was reprinted and a second volume followed, again selling well, prompting me to offer them for sale in some of my local music shops. One such shop was Manson’s Guitar Shop in Exeter, which was run by Adrian Ashton. A few months after agreeing to stock my books Adrian contacted me with the offer of contributing to a new UK bass magazine that he was setting up. Naturally I jumped at the chance and together we wrote many of the tutorials and reviews for the first few issues of Bass Guitar Magazine.
In 2002 I decided to once again pursue music full time and left my job at the advertising agency. With more time available to look for work I was able to put together a third and fourth Level 42 book as well as take on a contract from Sanctuary Publishing to write a book entitled 100 Tips for Bass Guitar You Should Have Been Told. This contract – my first ‘actual’ book – was a lot of fun for me and I quickly found that I really enjoyed writing, particularly if it was bass guitar related! Fortunately the book was well-received and over the course of the next few years I wrote six further titles for the company, including Crash Course Bass, Bass Styles and my own personal favourite, Giants of Bass. This, combined with my work for Bass Guitar Magazine (through which I had been fortunate enough to interview two of my heroes, Mark King and Stuart Hamm) and my continuing live work meant that I had become a pretty busy bassist.