Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Next CJ Gig and Kim Deal Sang Plenty

So on the heels of my personally devastating performance last week, we are preparing for our biggest show yet on April 16th. Of the 51 songs we've laid hands on over the last 12 months, it looks like we will shoot to play about 44-46 of them in a single night. This totally blows away the ACTUAL Pixie's record of playing 33 songs in a single night.

My voice, rattled by self doubt and about six months of coughs and colds, is kind of trashed.

Last night I sat down to work on some of the tunes that give me particular trouble vocally. I was recalling all the interviews I've read with Kim Deal about how people were sad that she "wasn't allowed to sing" more and how she's basically said, screw that, I was the bass player. So I mapped out the list into 1)sing lead, 2)sing backing, 3)don't sing.

All those people who complain that Kim Deal "wasn't allowed to sing more" can go to hell. She's singing all the freaking time. I should be so lucky to have to sing less and just play the bass. That'd be lovely. There's only 12 of the 51 songs that I don't sing at all on (and I think she does sing on a few of these, like Something Against, or Wave of, I just don't). I sing lead on 3 songs. And most of the other 36 songs I have a backing vocal that is usually pretty key to the song...on a few I'd even call it a "shared lead vocal" (like I Bleed or Subbacultcha).

People, as always, are stupid.

Update on Amp

Had a shot at a free speaker...but it was the wrong size.

So now I am deciding between:

Weber, 15", 60oz Ceramic magnet, 175 watt, 8 ohm, 2" bass voice coil, cloth-edged ribbed bass cone, 12lb (5.45kg), 15-1/8" (38.41cm) diameter, 6-3/8" (16.2cm) deep, $125 plus shipping (have an email to them to estimate shipping, would by direct from Weber). Built in Kokomo, Indiana.

Eminence Legend CB158 15" 300W Bass Speaker, 8 ohms, Ferrite magnet, 17.3 lbs., $120 with free shipping (from Musician's Friend)

My two lingering thoughts are...
1) how much would the shipping be from Weber
2) do I go with the 175 W or the 300 W?

The 300 W FEELS safer because it would provide plenty of head room...but that could be ignorance talking. The amp puts out 125W supposedly, but I've also read that it CAN put out 175W to an external cab. So I was hoping for a 200W speaker. But I haven't found one of those yet. What I've read and heard is that you want the speaker to match or exceed the wattage of the amp...but not exceed the wattage of the amp too much, because this also causes problems. My buddy recommended the Weber and that would match the max I've heard about the amp while exceeding slightly what the amp actually SAYS. The 300W is definitely the highest I would feel comfortable going...but it may actually be TOO high. And then there's the fact that I just feel more comfortable ordering from Musician's Friend because I've done it before.

I think the deciding factor is shipping. The shipping weight for a 12 lb speaker is probably around 15 lbs. Using the USPS calculator and assuming 20"x10"x20" package, seems like shipping ought to be about $20 for priority mail...bringing the cost up to $145 total. Not a deal breaker if it is the right speaker to get...but slightly more than the Eminence. Another issue, they build the Weber's to order, so there is a 2 week lead time. That's not really a deal breaker either, I guess.

I wish I knew what the right speaker was.

UPDATE 4/1/2011: After consulting with the electrical engineering half of my repair buddies and us both deciding that we didn't know what the right thing to do was and that we both kinda thought 300W was safest but 175W was probably actually more correct for sound...I ordered the 175W Weber.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Mistakes of the Past

These recordings suck less than I remember them sucking (in particular, songs 1 & 2). Which is surprising because things usually get worse the longer you leave them. The song writing is pretty juvenile and simple, sure. But I'm particularly impressed by the instrumental arrangements, which I'm sure I pulled out of my ass kind of on the fly.

I can't imagine myself sitting down and doing this kind of thing nowadays. It feels pretty foreign. Like an out-of-body experience.

Also, the idea of playing folky acoustic music feels pretty weird.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Worked out three and a half Flaming Lips tunes this weekend. They were the easiest ones, but it is a start.

Fixing the Amp

Basic trouble shooting with my friends the Electrical Engineer and the Luthier revealed that the amp appears to have a partially blown speaker. I need a 15 inch 8 ohm, probably 200 Watt or 200-300 Watt speaker to replace. In theory I really only need a 120-175W speaker...but we decided some head room (but not too much) would be good to prevent future blown outs if I am going to have it cranked up most of the time. 200W probably perfect...300W probably ok, but nothing more than that.It is an easy repair I can do myself. They thought a speaker would run about $180...but I'm finding them more in the $60-$130 range.

Not really sure how to make a selection amongst the available choices. I know to be on the lookout for weight (want lightest possible...probably around 12-15 pounds). We talked a bit about maybe going with a Neodymium speaker...though I'm not sure it matters.

1. Neodymium P AUDIO_E15-350N, 300W, 17 pounds (if you look at the detailed specs), $92.99
2. Cheapest to date, B-52 15-85 Speaker, 300W, $69.99, 13 lbs. This seems like a no-name speaker...but really cheap and pretty light.
3. From a known retailer, Eminence Legend CB158 15" 300W Bass Speaker , 17 pounds. $119 with free shipping
4. Recommendation from the luthier, Weber 15", 60oz Ceramic magnet, 175 watt. 12 pounds. She likes this brand, but I'd rather up the wattage and this doesn't seem like a great deal or anything.
5. One of the few 200W speakers I've found, Peavey Scorpion SP-15825 8 Ohm, 13 pounds. $92.39. Has kind of a weird case. Also...this is listed as 800W max, 200W continuous. Not really sure how that compares. Most of these are RMS wattages, so I probably need to double check if I need 200 RMS or 200 Max.

God I hate figuring this kinda stuff out. If all else fails I'll probably just go with the one from Musicians Friend and call it a day. A little heavy, but less scary somehow. We live in a McDonald's world.

UPDATE: Here's one that's available locally...Eminence BETA-15A, 15" Woofer, 8 ohm, 300W, $69.99, 9 pounds

Eminence seems to have a number of models that are popping up. Their website lists 3 models specific to bass in 15 inch, but only one of the three is 8 ohm: LEGEND CB158. This is the one that Musician's Friend has for sale. The specs for the 15A that is for sale cheap locally are here. The one listed specifically for bass is twice as heavy and has some different specs. It might not be a terrible idea for me to just go with a bass specific speaker...since I don't know much about this stuff. The cheap ones are probably cheap for a reason.

P-audio doesn't list which of its products are bass specific. The one I mentioned above, the E15, is listed for "high level bass and full range response in both live sound and recorded music venues"...they have many other products as well.

The "no name" speaker above is actually by "B 52". They also do not have speakers listed as bass specific, but do have info on guitar amps.

Peavey has instrument specific speakers listed, but none that fall into the right category for my needs in terms of 15" AND 8 ohm.

Pixies Milwaukee 4/23/2011

Milwaukee tickets have arrived

Friday, March 25, 2011


So I recorded the March 21st show from the stage on the floor by my amp. The recorder tends to clip because if I set it to adjust it overcompensates and the levels go wildly up and down. I won't be sharing 99% of the recording, because of my horrible vocals. But we were told that "Tame" was particularly impressive. So here it is. Unfortunately, my vocal is too loud in monitor mix and RS's is too quiet for the recording. The bass is forward in the mix too cause it was cranked to max, and distorting from being effed up (and recorder is right next to it). I imagine from the audience PA mix RS's vocals blew them off their chairs:

CJ, 3/21/2011 High Noon

Rock Against Walker benefit for wisconsinwave.

I stank up the joint (my vocals, the bass was fine) after a near perfect dress rehearsal the prior Wednesday. Can't even reflect further. I kind of never want to sing again and I'm really, realy depressed.

And also...blew out my bass amp. Total stress and financial despair has ensued.

Here are some disturbing photos of RS snapped at the show. It is possible that his neck vein may actually explode at some gig in the future. I'm glad we've all had fair warning now.

Well...ok...maybe a little reflection. Problems with vocal related to:
1. Not being able to hear myself despite the PA/monitor probably being fine. I think my brain gets to a certain level of input from my ears and then shuts down. Made me pitchy and I strained my voice trying to sing loud enough to hear myself...which made it impossible to hit low quiet notes cause I was all scratchy. Bass being effed up probably also messed me up, since I couldn't hear it clearly (I probably relate my vocal to bass notes whether I know it or not).
2. Too much beer. We arrived (as requested) 4 hours before going on. Big problem. I knew it was a mistake even as I was doing it. Stupid.
3. Voice is still super weak after many months of chronic cough. Low notes are so hard.

Beyond my craptastic vocal performance...

I had an above average number of people come up to me after the show to tell me how awesome the band is. While that is very cool, what comes with it is not. Most had Kim Deal related comments as per usual. People really need to get a grip. One said "Kim Deal rocks so hard because she's not feminine" which kind of made me want to punch the person in the face. They probably meant it in a "good" way, but gender presentation ought to have nothing to do with the ability to rock. And while I find Kim Deal a handsome women indeed...I wouldn't exactly say she isn't feminine. What does that even MEAN? And what are you trying to say to me? SHUT UP, SHUT UP, SHUT UP! Really, "I enjoyed the show" is all anyone ever needs to say to a musician. Leave your personal opinions and baggage about gender, music, and people at home. And ps, I'm an introvert. I really don't want to talk to strangers in a public place...particularly after I just put myself up on stage in front of you. I already feel like you stole my soul right out of my body. All I want is to go hide in a corner, really. Leave me alone.

The 99% of musicians who want to be the center of attention and to be told how awesome they are is probably throwing people off...

I know. I'm a jerk and hard to figure out.

It's been a rough week.

Here's a video in which I screw up Debaser in at least three places (bass, vocals, structure...what have you):

Where Is My Mind?
Nimrod's Son
Here Comes Your Man
Trompe le Monde
Something Against You
Palace of the Brine (slower deep cuts seemed to bum out the 20-something crowd)
Letter to Memphis
Levitate Me (this was a request)
Monkey Gone to Heaven
Manta Ray
Gouge Away
Wave of Mutilation (cause we were at a Wisconsin Wave fundraiser...NOT because of the recent tsunami in Japan)

Friday, March 11, 2011

SSW, 3/10/11, Mr Roberts

We were a last minute add. I was a little sloppy, but not terrible. Dropped sticks alot. Broke a stick too. Someone from audience said we were "tight" which was a very inaccurate assessment.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Olivia Newton-John

The last couple of days I've been on a nostalgia trip.

From about 1981 until about 1984 Olivia Newton-John was the most important person in my life. Like so many situations in my life...I conflated my sexuality with other burgeoning interests. I was a preteen and first discovering pop music...and also first discovering my sexuality. I'm sure there were plenty of men who found Olivia Newton-John good looking back in the day...but if she wasn't a lesbian icon (though not a lesbian herself) than I don't know who was.

Now the music is dated. It was mass produced country...then its day. And now that seems old and quaint. She wasn't cool then...and now she's kitsch-y.

But when I loved her I loved her with no sense of irony.

What IS ironic is that I've drifted far, far away from liking vocalist-centered music, particularly with female vocalists. I'm not a fan of bands that aren't bands...but are rather studio musicians backing a big name star.

But in the way that repeated listens in one's formative years will do...I still like the songs. I have every word memorized whether I want to or not.

I've always thought it was throw-away music...but last night I listened to it in a different way. The backing bands were high quality studio cats. They are right on the mark. They are so good that you don't notice them. They fade into the background. But without them the music doesn't exist.

Some of the drum parts are simple(Let Me Be There and If You Love Me Let Me Know)...

but some are more unexpected than you'd think (Heart Attack puts the crash on 2)...

and Make a Move on Me has an almost jazzy shuffle groove.

So much of this would be done with drum machines today (particularly the post Grease stuff). It is refreshing to know a real person was playing these drums even when they are machine precise.

There's actually a fair amount to be learned here. About serving the music. About dead on pocket playing. About how to make music interesting without being distracting. They were there for nothing more than to highlight the voice and to create hooks and grooves that would sell records. They did an excellent job at it.

For the favorite ONJ lps (in chronological order), more here:

Clearly Love (1975)
Come On Over (1976)
Don't Stop Believin' (1976)
Making a Good Thing Better (1977)
Totally Hot (1978)
Xanadu (1980)
Physical (1981)

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Berklee School of Music has a serious online school. It's kind of expensive...about $1,000 for non-credit ($1,200 for credit) for a 12 week course. Tons of classes available. You also have to have internet, and web cam w/ audio recording ability. But looks pretty cool.

Perhaps someday.