Walt is a percussionist. Initially he played kit, starting in the sixties in rock and jazz, but over the years this widened into the use of home-made instruments, often made from scrap, amplified objects and low-tech electronics. An interest in playing gongs has always been there. These are bought and home-made, again from found objects. The emphasis is usually on experimentation and improvisation, always searching for new sounds, techniques, and collaborative scenarios to extend his practice.
Walt has produced three solo CDs: 'The Third Curtain', 'Snare' and 'The Ballroom of Imagination and Desire'
Walt has played with a range of leading U.K. and overseas improvisers such as Corey Mwamba, Graham Foster, Heddy Boubaker (France), Jonny Marks (New Zealand), Pat Thomas, Bruce Coates, Mike Hurley, Adrian Myhr & Henrik Norstebo (Norway), Cyril Bondi & d'incise (Switzerland), Herve Perez, Pete Fairclough, Orphy Robinson, Cleveland Watkiss, Martin Archer, Mick Beck, Laura Cole, Seth Bennett, Graham Clarke, George Harris, Alison Kamsika, Alan Jenkins, Christopher Hobbs, Geoff Bright, Paul Dunmall, Mark Miller, Chris Bywater, Gillian Whiteley, Terry Todd, Julian Broadhurst, Lorin Jasper Halsall, Zlatko Baracskai (Hungary and UK), Matt Harling, Nathan Bettany, Mark Summers, Mark Browne, John Samsworth, Matt Le Mare, Steve Dinsdale, Johnny Hunter, Han-earl Park (Korea & U.S.A.), Ben Shaw and Mark Sanders. Last, but not least, Walt did several gigs with the late Lol Coxhill, with whom he collaborated on two major Arts Council England projects.
Walt has performed at gigs throughout the U.K. , Lingen, Osnabruck & Kassel in Germany, Sarajevo, Paris and Budapest.
He has done 5 solo gigs, sometimes using an array of gongs and purely acoustic instruments, other times using percussion with electronics.
At the opening of my art exhibition at Deda on January 11 th 2020, I did a solo percussion set. The exhibition was curated by Vitor Azevedo. The performance consisted of 10 ‘acoustic sketches’ which were tributes to 10 artists that I find personally significant. Each ‘sketch’ had a different, appropriate feel. Many thanks to William McGiven who made a video of the first ‘sketch’ which was for the artist Kurt Schwitters. The whole set was kindly recorded by Chris White.
The full recording of Walt's solo, at the exhibition opening, is out on Discus as a download only
A thoughtful review from Richard Allen in A Closer Listen for Walt Shaw's solo DL release on Discus Music:
"We’re always on the lookout for great covers. While we can’t judge an album by its cover, a great cover makes us listen. A wide range of websites, from Bandcamp to Boomkat, offer so many new releases that sometimes art is the only way to get attention. Unfortunately, many artists ignore this fact, offering blurry, indistinct or otherwise unmemorable images, claiming that their music will do the talking ~ but seeing nothing of interest, the viewer never clicks on the sound.
Walt Shaw understands this reality. We’re not sure whether he was a painter or a percussionist first, only that he has been doing this for quite a long time and is incredibly talented. Shaw also makes many of his own instruments (often from scrap) and has a special affinity for gongs. Earlier this year, his two worlds collided in an enjoyable way: a solo percussion set performed at the opening of his art exhibition at Deda. Each short “sketch” is dedicated to an artist who has influenced Shaw; Barbara Hepworth’s inclusion is especially gratifying, as it’s only been a week since we reviewed Olivia Louvel’s tribute to the iconic sculptor.
It’s interesting to watch Shaw play, as he holds his drumsticks as one might hold a paintbrush, often hesitating ~ or waving ~ before striking a note. In the video for “Kurt Schwitters,” he plays a metal drying rack and puts it away before continuing the performance, something one would never guess without the eye. He drops a drumstick, leaves his seat, picks up a rope in one hand and a chime in another, then uses those as drumsticks. Schwitters was a German collage artist whose influence on Shaw’s work is easy to spot; the sketch is but an aural collage.
In contrast, David Blackburn worked primarily with pastels, which calls to mind the question of how to portray them in music. Initially, Shaw is quieter in this piece, with subdued drum rolls and light taps on the gong. The track has a hard time conjuring pastel; more fitting is the dedication to expressionist / surrealist Paul Klee, which provides license to experiment. Shaw attacks the instruments with glee, allowing the track to find its own form. The pensive “Barbara Hepworth” honors the sculptor and her path to reception, producing a pleasant contrast to the preceding piece. But perhaps the best match is “Wassily Kandinsky,” as the geometric shapes and swirls of Kandinsky’s work are a perfect partner for synesthetic percussion.
While “Cy Twombly” could have used a few more scribbles, “Mark Rothko” nails it with a sense of horizon; Shaw allows reverberations to elongate in a manner that honors the painter’s work. In like fashion, “Richard Long” plays with circles and on circles, the gong being the primary example. It’s a challenge to give each track a distinct soundscape. Fortunately there’s a great variety of artistic styles, continuing with the assemblages of Joseph Cornell, another medium that has attracted Shaw over the years (albeit with fewer shadow boxes). Richard Diebenkorn may be the hardest artist to summarize, as he changed styles so many times; Shaw honors him by doing the same, starting with the gong, following it with the sound of dragged objects on strings and concluding with sand and breath, invoking a Tibetan mandala.
The only frustration is that there’s no vinyl edition, only digital. One can’t hold a copy of this cover as a cover, or this release as a release. The acrylic painting (“Invocation”) is one of dozens of images that would make stunning LP covers; see Shaw’s website for a sample. But whether the cover draws the attention to the music, the music to the art, or the titles to the work of others, all components work in connection ~ like an assemblage or a collage. The circle is complete."
- Richard Allen, A CLOSER LISTEN
Solo percussion at Deda.
This is a recording of a solo percussion performance I did at Deda in Derby in January 2019.
The performance used a number of instruments and objects.
In no special order they were - gongs, metal sheets, springs, small bells, children’s toys, chains, bass drum, a ceramic instrument made by my friend Craig Underhill, singing bowls, small cymbals, small hand percussion, shakers, scrap objects.
There are no overdubs. The recording is the sound as it was on the night.
Thanks to David Edge for the photo, Deda, and also to Vitor Azevedo for making the performance possible.
also to Everyday Sounds for doing this recording and getting it together to put it up here
'Biochem' was recorded at Derby University recording studios in 2001, at what was the Green Lane annex. Thanks are due to the staff and students from the music technology course who made the recording possible.
2. Gong Solo (Walt Shaw)
3. Corey Solo (Corey Mwamba)
2. Gong Solo (4:56)
The Third Curtain
'The Third Curtain' was produced by Walt Shaw in 2007. He used a selection of instrumentation designed and built by himself, alongside electronics, voice, saxophone, and field recordings made in southern India on travels in that same year.
1. Mesh Casing
3. The Third Curtain
5. Night-train Dreams
6. Fear of Leopards
4. Timepoints (6:28)
1. Ground Shadows
2. Glass Cude Bird
4. A Man Who Looks on Glass
6. Latissimus Dorsi
7. Islets of Langerhans
8. Dead Men Walking
3. Gogglehead (3:15)
Ballroom of Imagination and Desire
1. Cave Printmaker
2. Dream Level Null
3. Grip onto Salad Leaves
4. Tiny Particles go Right Through your Head
6. Ballroom of Imagination and Desire
7. Metro Gnome
8. I Feel the Hands of History on my Shoulders
4. Tiny Particles go Right Through your Head (5:16)
1. Bandage (2:23)
2. Sub (4:41)
3. Corrosive (2:24)
4. Silk (3:27)