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Back at that point where I feel like I’m just a gigantic sack of useless skills. Broke, miserable, overwhelmed, as un-musical and un-creative as I’ve ever felt in my life, and can’t do a damn thing about it.

Otherwise, doing okay, thanks.

Recording – Phase One

for some reason I can’t post here unless I use the iPad.. Hmm..

I took three work days off to go to DC for Yule over the January 14th weekend, but couldn’t afford the trip itself. So my staycation became a Thursday and Friday of Nuendo prep, and a Sunday and part of Monday trip to the warehouse, where Josh presided over me and the Digi 003 and the brand new UA preamp.

Very happy with it. Spent the last week soaking in the six tracks we managed to complete, and have sent them out to a half-dozen friends for feedback.

I have a “solo” gig on Feb 11th, playing on Stu’s live webcast. Hopefully I can get one or two of these good to go for that.

Boldly Going..

I can now say, with a relatively straight face, that I’ve become a solo performer. And not just in my own mind, but instead with a handful of witnesses. Twice. And counting.

The key to any endeavor is finding a comfort zone, and I seem to have found one in the Sunday night open stage in Lakewood. I know everyone there. The talent level is between very good and extraordinary, and the pressure is non existent. Perfect.

I had a perfect storm night of sorts, in that I had prepared a solo set with the Bari, and fell into a perfect situation to go up and try it out. Following and angry dude who bailed midway through his set, and with friends in the house who had been encouraging me for ages, and fueled by two-dollar Rolling Rocks, It came together.

I decided to lead off with Greg Brown’s “Lord I Have Made You A Place In My Heart”‘ which I know the words to and don’t really have to rely on motor skills to execute. I had good voice that night, so I followed with a somewhat a capella version of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home” into “All I Want Is You, on which I was joined by Angie Stevens. Yes, thats correct.

I promptly massacred “Beautiful Wreck” and then called Angie back up to do her side project song “what Have I Become”, which I was going to do myself, but hey, why not.

A good debut, I think.

The following week I got somewhat cajoled into doing a set, wasn’t as ready, and really kinda sucked. But that’s okay. It’s all about learning. I’ve learned that my voice is the asset here, and choosing songs that people know is far less important than performing ones that I can do well, at least in this context. So i’ll be tailoring the routine to that thought for now.

It’s a small step, but a giant leap for me. Now to find out if I can be good at this. I’m at least having fun, which has been an elusive status for a while.

How about them apples..

I have all the variables. I just don’t know how to build the equation.

Lots of inspiration lately, although because I’m me I’ve processed it a little differently than I think most people would.

Completed the cycle from recording to live show with Russ and Surplus Cheaper Hands – really had a great time getting the show together and working with John and Tony and the gang. I’ve been hitting the Lakewood Grille open mic with Jay Ryan and Miss E and, the last couple, the awesome Angie Stevens. Just trying to soak in the whole experience of people who can stand up and do this stuff anywhere.

I lucked out and got my interface to work with the computer, so I’ve made significant writing and recording progress. “Starry”, which isn’t a title as much as a self reminder of what the progression is, went from a nice little melodic segment into a full song thanks to the Charger 290, complete with mix.
Half Her Heart awaits guitars and maybe a verse edit. All sorts of little bits an pieces evolving slowly.

I’m keeping this whole thing to myself for now, mainly because I’m expanding my horizons with it a little bit. I’m trying to answer all the stuff the songs ask for – rhythm parts and guitar riffs and stuff I don’t usually do – myself. Just in the scratch phase – I love that I have a lot of supportive friends who would help out if I asked, but at this stage this is still really about finding out what -I- can do, for myself. It won’t stay that way, but its important to me to make a bit of a statement here and figure out what I can do, both musically and from a recording standpoint.

A Level Of Acceptance

The juggling act has caught up to me again. I think I’m doing better with it than in the past, in that I accept it as part of the process at this point. Its still frustrating.

A lot of what holds me back is, in fact, me. There are times – especially musically – where I feel I’m the only person capable of executing all of what I want to accomplish, and given the expanse of my vision on some of these songs that’s a lot of pressure to put on myself. So when I can only accomplish so much in X amount of time, the sheer enormity of what’s left is daunting.

Had the last two nights to myself, had all my equipment set up and ready, and didn’t record a note. Played the Nord for about three minutes and wasn’t feeling anything. Still too worn out from my work week, I went to bed.

I’d like to think I have all the time in the world to get this done, and that losing two perfectly good evenings doesn’t have a cost to it, but I’m probably wrong. I just need to accept the timetable and do this when I can and not worry about the ghosts of implications or consequences.

Monday

Good mental day today. Still sorting through yesterday’s actual physical progress while plotting individual courses for each song and the project overall.

I don’t have doubts as much as I have introspective questions such as why I bother with this. I think the prevailing motivations are a) proving to myself that I’m capable of such a total musical endeavor, b) improving several skill sets that I don’t consider up to speed, mainly lyrics and singing lead, and c) the delusion that I may be one lucky spark from being able to do this for a living. This would be a sub-set of creating one’s own luck, in that if I’m going to have any chance at that luck I need to do everything I can to promote those slim odds.

I have practical motivations as well. I want to be able to go out and play solo or small group gigs with my own material and under my own inertia, and I need original and cover material for that purpose. Writing an album of material gives me merch options, and something unique and familiar to drill myself on when I get to the point of trying to assemble a performance band, be it an acoustic patio set or a full-on gig band.

I want to be the horse for once. I’ve been the cart for many, many years.

So we’ll see. I have a vision of it, blurry and fluid as it may be. I need to get material together, bring myself up to speed, and then hopefully I will have something to sell people on when I decide to share.

And then, when and if I get together a group of people I trust with the whole vision of things, I can let go a little and let it become something else, perhaps something more. But first things first.

Trees Make Wind

I’m underway.

Trees Make Wind. A three-word summary of many of the elements of my life right now. It is a song by the fantastic Iowa punk trio House Of Large Sizes; It is a succinct summary of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip where the Dad takes great joy in explaining to his 6-year-old that wind is created by moving trees; It is a wonderful twist on perception and reality. It encompasses punk rock, parenting, and bullshitting for the sake of comedy into a neat three-word package. It is the working title of my project, either as the ‘band’ name or the ‘album’. Whichever makes the most sense.

I’ve had some really good conversations and experiences lately, and I’m taking advantage of this positive mindset to get myself moving.

Playing music promotes playing music. Recording promotes recording. The process supports itself. So I think being involved with the Surplus Cheaper Hands project in the last few months has really gotten me going, especially hanging out and trading brainspace with Macy engineer Nick Sullivan.

A few months ago I made the best Craigslist purchase pretty much ever – a 16-track Zoom digital recorder that I got for next-to-nothing. I’ve decided to do literally as much as I can with it – tracking all my ideas to the very limits of the machine and myself (and my dining room) using mostly my keyboards and digital modeling amps, and then I can transfer to something with a GUI or start over in a more ‘real’ process with mics and amps and loud and stuff. It reminds me of when I used to try to record and arrange on my little Fostex 4-track cassette deck, except I have a lot more room to suck. And not quite as much liberty as with Cubase or ProTools, but I can always transfer the files into those formats later. For now, elemental recording.

This morning was the first step – from the pattern generator on my Korg M50 I two-tracked a few rhythms and determined preliminary tempos for a few songs. I have something like 19 songs in my head and in my notes. A couple are leftovers from the Silent Iris era that may or may not get re-purposed. The first song to disk will likely be the only song I wrote in The Trampolines, one that never made it to stage or record but would have likely made the ‘Between The Lines’ CD had I stayed on. Can’t wait to see how it comes out.

Adjustment

My perception and my reality are clearly out of whack. Someone very succinctly pointed this out for me today, and they are absolutely right.

Its one thing to be opinionated, to be honest, to hold things out in the open. Its quite another to trash someone unnecessarily in that process.

I don’t preach. I hold my knowledge, opinions, and feelings out in the open for the most part, but I never try to impart them on others. I need to realize that being overly forward about my opinions and feelings – especially toward someone as opposed to something basically amounts to that.

I was wrong. I’ve been wrong before. I’ll try not to be again.

Holidaze.

Maybe ‘hollidaise’.. since this time of year tends to beat me into a sauce-like consistency..

Anyway. Its been several months yet again. Really proud of the girls, who are doing very well in school. Particularly Anna, who had a bit of an uphill last year with staying interested and this year seems to be much, much better.

The gear parade goes on. Gone are the X50 and the Club King, and in are the M50 and the Charger and the cheap Guyatone console lap steel. Still need to make some moves, but getting closer.

Still paralyzed by the house and the general recording process. No dedicated space, no motivation or energy to fix the situation. Rinse, repeat. I suck.

I think part of it, honestly, is that all these ideas are better in my head than they could possibly be on tape, and in holding to the ideal of such things I’m scared of making the effort and ruining the illusion of the potential. Which is idiotic. But there it is.

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