Thursday, April 26, 2012

To be or not to be

Joe wrote a nice bit here about waiting for the song writing dog to return home in the wake of recovery. I told a bunch of lies to others and myself in my youth about what I wanted to be when I grew up...but I'm pretty sure that the real thing I wanted to be was a songwriter. But in that way that you want things and don't work for them...I made no effort towards this goal for the majority of my life. I wrote one song before age 23 and it was a terrible song that is thankfully long gone now. Then, for a couple of years, I was prolific (at least for me). I think I wrote maybe 9 over a few years. Then I went quiet again until like 2006...when I wrote another half dozen or so. I think that of the whole catalog there's probably 2 or 3 worth keeping...and even those need work. I've never bothered to study song writing or to ask anyone for help. And I've never spent any amount of time trying. If I don't sit down and spit something out fully formed in ten minutes I give up. So it is no great surprise that I am not much of a song writer. Writing songs takes inherit talent, sure...but it is also a craft that one learns and practices and fails and then gets better at. I've done none of those things.

Along about the time that I quit PdF I figured out that I am not meant to be a band leader. A front person. A singer song writer. Part of it is that I'm not very good at the musical part (singing and playing guitar and being a showman) and it is a competative and judgemental business (only the best really survive). But even more than that is I found that I didn't like it. I didn't like being in charge and I didn't like being in the spot light. So I headed full time to the drums and bass. And things are much more comfortable over there even though I'm not sure that I'm any better at those things. but for some reason, giving up front person status equated to giving up song writing.

I'm not really sad about this and I really haven't thought much about it. I've got plenty of musical goals and song writing just isn't one of them anymore. These days I'm much more interested in learning what others have done note for note. That's what excites me these days. Even writing original drum parts isn't that much fun. It's nerve wracking. I like copying other people. I guess I'm shallow that way...but it is more satisfying. I have some sense that what I'm working on is worth listening to...and I have some idea when I'm finished and have achieved my goal. And people like what they know...and they don't usually know your original music. And I like all of that.

But I can understand where Joe is coming from. Change...especially the kind of change we share right weird. You really do become a different person. I'm sure he's used to reinvention by now...but there's a difference between moving towards something you crave and feel comfortable with...and moving away from something dear to you. I find strange things changing about myself. I'm fairly certain that if I don't regress to old behavoir that I will be a totally different person in a year or so. Not better per se...just really different. It's exciting...but a little scary. And it is hard work. Constant hard work. Constant exhausting hard work. And some days it is easier to let go of all that and not do the work and do something dumb and numbing instead. Maybe someday I'll get over that periodic return to stupidity...but I have a feeling it won't happen for a while yet. Luckily it happens less often these days at least.

I hope your dog comes home Joe...but if he doesn't that's ok too. Maybe there's a whole new chapter for you that you could never have imagined. It's a funny old thing, life.

Monday, April 23, 2012

SSW, 420 Party, 4/20/2012

We played an acoustic set at a party at JG's house. It was mellow. One of my wire brushes exploded at the end of Political Song and nearly poked my eye out. I was thristy and didn't have enough water handy. I was in charge of putting the set order together and totally failed. The pacing was terrible. But it didn't matter.

Dance to the Radio
Hate and War
The Way I Love You
Part Time Punks
Political Song for MJ
New Rose
Teenaged Kicks
This Side of Paradise
Suspect Device
Two Pints
I Am A Cliché
We Are the Ones
No Fun/I Wanna Be Your Dog
One Track Mind (cut for time & to save RS's voice)
Too Drunk To Fuck
Fucked Up & Wasted

CJ, HNS, 4/22/2012

We played an Alliance for Animals benefit with four other bands. The sound guy was really cranky and not helpful. He did not offer to sound check anyone...but after the show complained that no one sound checked. Yeah...dude you gotta set that up...that's your job.  Even with the bad attitude, my monitor mix was pretty good and I didn't have any trouble singing (CT said his mix was terrible though...and it was totally unclear that the sound guy was willing to help fix it, so he didn't even ask him). An awkward MC interupted people's sets to pick raffle tickets and told bad jokes badly between sets. Not many people came. We played ok. I spaced the opening to Bird...a classic case of...gee I've never messed THAT up before. And my voice almost gave out on Where Is My Mind. I'm puzzled by this. For almost two years I sang that song flawlessly. And about two months ago I started having trouble with it. I never practice it because I hate making that noise...but I guess maybe I need to start practicing it. I also think that I may be over thinking it and messing myself up. I think that Velouria, Dig, and Ana all need work...but they are likely to fall off the regular set list soon anyway. We purposely played all the animal songs and all the slow songs...and the pacing on that certainly would drive away any normal won't do that again. I also think starting the show with In Heaven/Wave UK is a mistake that we all agreed was a mistake. Could be a 2nd set opener...but not a show starter. I noticed that it is hard to shake off nerves when you don't play any fast songs too. I noticed that the two songs that people really reacted to were Manta Ray and Here Comes Your Man...and I really think it was just because they were up tempo compared to the others. We had the usual handful of people come up to us after the show and tell us that we nailed the Pixies and where could they see us next. That's nice to keep hearing...even when the crowd is small.

In Heaven
Wave UK
Bird Dream
Manta Ray
Here Comes
Where Is
Gigantic (cut for time)

Favorite Songs

I have a list of my favorite albums (though grossly out of date) but I don't think I've ever made a list of my favorite songs. Too hard maybe? Well it occurred to me that it might just be worth doing. the problem is that many of my favorite songs I forget exist until I hear them on the radio. And I often don't know the name of the song or the artist.

Case in point...The Weight by The Band. So this song is on the list, but I only learned the title and band in recent years.

Hmmm...what else?

Well #1 is and always has been Come on Eileen by Dexy's Midnight Runners.  Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison USED to be on the list...but no more. Played out for me. Still on the list is likely Lay Down Sally by Eric Clapton. Groove is in the Heart by Deelite. After that I'm stumped a little bit. There's a whole bunch from the 70s that I'm just not sure about the title and artist...and that don't come to mind even. And there's probably a pile from the late 80s early 90s. It's a moving target I suspect for sure. And I don't feel like including songs on albums I love is valid somehow. Once I've got an album and play it a bunch...well the songs take on their own life as part of an album. It's a different thing than a favorite song.

I spend a bunch of time on FB...and here too I guess...talking about the Pixies. So probably anyone who knows me from FB would expect me to list a bunch of Pixies songs on my list of favorite tunes. But I'd almost have to exclude them entirely from contention. Pixies is a whole other thing. All 89 songs they recorded got dumped in my lap one day two years ago and from moment one until right now I was dissecting them and listening to them on non-stop repeat. I have no way to objectively judge how I feel about them against other songs. I have no way to say if I like or don't like them. If they are good or not. They are completely and totally loved from start to the way that you unconditionally love a child whether or not you would love that person if you met them on the street as a stranger. They are "a project"...they aren't an organic development of my life at all. They have grown into an appendage of entire section of my brain devoted to every note. They are a giant asterisk in my musical taste. *OTHER

Yeah...tricky. But maybe I'll start dumping my favorite songs of all time here as I think of them.

How You Like It Kimmy?

So the history of my life is strewn with chasing girls. Pretty much anything I've ever done has been motivated in some small part by an interest in a girl...trying to impress a girl, trying to be like a girl, trying to date a girl. It's kind of a sick cycle that...while serving as great motivation...usually ends in me making an ass of myself...or making bad decisions based on inappropriate or excessive motivation. I like to think that I've gotten better about this over the years...but I really haven't. Luckily, in the last five years or so this tendancy hasn't plagued me in real life (where it tends to do more damage)...but it's there all the same.

Back in the day (1987-1992) when I OUGHT to have been listening to the Pixies...I wasn't. I was a huge fan of alt rock of that period, watching "120 Minutes" religiously and running out and buying 2 cds a week for two solid summers based on stuff I saw on the show. And so I really should have listened to them. But at the time I had Kim Deal mixed up with Bjork. I really hate Bjork's voice. And so I hated the Pixies. And I never liked that video for Here Comes Your creeped me out. I couldn't really see at the time that it was a nice statement about lip synching in music videos. I thought it was dumb and gross at the time.

And so I was a mostly blank slate when I started playing bass in a Pixies tribute band.

Right away I got that Kim Deal was everybody's darling. If I hadn't of gotten that from internet research on the songs...I would have gotten it from playing live. People are nuts for Kim Deal. And that made me a little creeped out. People fixate on women who play rock the point that they zone out the details really. It feels sexist and objectifying. It's weird. It's REALLY weird when it is directed at you...and you aren't the kind of person that men have ever looked twice at before. But men and women alike are right there...seemingly amazed and titilated that a woman can pick up an instrument and play.

So I didn't want to be like that...fixated. But then there she is in all her glorious no makeup wearing, sweaty t-shirt glory. Swearing and laughing and thorougly being exactly the kind of woman that I'm attracted to. A perhaps slightly masculine smart ass. [Don't ask me what "slightly masculine" means. Socially constructed gender roles are not my favorite topic. And I hate the idea that I put those roles on others. But there is no denying that I have a type that I am attracted to...and they aren't girly girls]. So yeah...I'm the worst kind of fixated Kim Deal fan.

But beyond all of that...I realized this weekend that I really owe the gal a debt of gratitude. Setting aside all the fixation. She's taught me a ton over the last two years. And I didn't even realize it. Right away when we started playing Pixies songs I realized that my voice was weak. I had no breath control at all. I'm still struggling with it, but for sure my voice projects better now. I sing in my chest voice more now (I used to be all head voice). I'm even getting better at harmony even though I still suck generally at it. But I'm more aware of my voice and how it works now and I'm getting better at controlling it. It's interesting to try and sing Breeders songs now...because she sang those differently. And I'm still not so good at those songs.

But really what I realized this weekend is what she has taught me about playing the bass. Not totally unlike the way that she started with the bass...I joined a band back in 2003 before I knew how to play the bass. And I'd say that I didn't know much more than that when I joined the Pixies tribute in 2010. And I haven't much worried about playing the bass. The vocals have always been the thing that I worried about. The bass just took care of itself. So this weekend we watched a few bass players who seem to be beginners and the boys were disecting thier technique...and basically saying why they like the way I play better. I guess I never expected to be GOOD at the bass...or for anyone to think I was better than anyone else. And I've not put much time into thinking about how to play the bass. It just happens. But there's all these microscopic things that I do or don't do that make my playing "good". And how weird is that. Thinking about it I realized that, while the playing is all me...that spending two years playing every Pixies song ever written has really given me a unique way to develop my playing. My experience is narrow...but oh so deep. And we've learned the songs in precisely the order (for the most part) that Kim Deal learned them. And so I've been able to follow along and learn more as she learned more. She has this simple, solid style that is 8th note and root based. It isn't anything crazy, but it really serves the song well. It's great pop music. And it is a fantastic foundation to build bass experience on.

And so this weekend, when I teach 3 other people how to play bass, I'll recommend playing Pixies songs. And that will make me seem like a dork who can't let go of my narrow/deep obsession with Kim Deal. But I gotta's good stuff. It's a great foundation to build a life with the bass on. It's a foundation I'm lucky to have stumbled upon.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Two, two, two gigs in one

Not really. But two in one weekend.

TD and SSW seem to be stalled on the gig front whist CJ soliders on playing out roughly monthly.

On the books at present
Fri, April 20: SSW at private party(unplugged)
Sun, April 22: CJ at HNS for benefit
Sat, May 5: CJ at Mr R
Thurs, June 14: SSW at Froth (unplugged)

The last three weeks of May are out as RS and I are traveling. The week of July 4th as well. So thinking things might be a little quiet this summer on the gig front. But we'll see. Still no final conformation on Halloween...but seems like we're leaning that way. I suspect it'll happen without us ever actually proactively deciding to do it.'s not like TD is supposed to be releasing an album or anything. But procrastination is the name of the game there too. And given the current atmosphere in some folks' lives I suppose that isn't surprising. At least we're writing new songs.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Pixies Drums: The Toughies

As I've mentioned before, I feel compelled to now learn how to play all the Pixies songs on drums too.

There's a whole pile of..."well that's just the natural way I'd play that"...songs that really need not even be "learned". They just happen.

There are tougher ones least for me. the ones that spring to mind right away as harder are:
I Bleed
Trompe le Monde

Tame is clever as hell and bravo to David. It's actually not that hard, but it takes a bit to get. He switches between one and two hand on hi hat. Here's a guy pulling it off reasonably well:

I've spent some good time with I Bleed over the last few weeks. The pattern is super simple...just not one I'm used to. Two handed hi hat to snare like a funk thing. I'm getting it though. Here's David intermittently:

The thing about Trompe le Monde is the tom rolls to the snare. I'm just not used to them. Once I get them they will seem easy. Not the best video to see the drums (even more intermittent than normal)...but the only one I can find.

Hey is all about timing. There's this funny middle section with sparse drums. I listened to it this morning really carefully. He does a funny thing where he enters on and of beat 4...then on beat 4...and then on and of beat 3. So the part shifts half a beat each time. Again...just really nice arranging/orchestration. Here's the guy from Tame trying again with Hey:

Here's more from that guy who did Tame and Hey...bass covers too. Here's a bonus...Bone Machine. It didn't make my hard list only because I've got the hang of it now, but it is definitely a counter-intuitive drum song. The beat has the perception of being flipped.

This Weekend

May, June, and July are going to be crazy busy despite the fact that the bands probably won't have many gigs. So I'm trying to get some stuff done sooner than later.

Two weekends ago I think I got through figuring out tab for all of these:
1. Mirror People
2. The Light
3. Welcome Tomorrow
4. No New Tale to Tell
5. Here on Earth
6. Lazy
7. Waiting for the Flood

So I think that just leaves these left to figure out. So I'll give that a whack this weekend and hopefully wrap up my first drafts.
8. Rain Bird
9. The Telephone Is Empty
10. Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven
11. Earth, Sun, Moon
12. Youth

UPDATE: Think I've got the rest ready to go. The album really is kind of stupid simple.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pixies Bass Fakebook Update


I've been having trouble uploading updates to the Pixies Bass Tab Fakebook over the last few months. But I'm happy to say I've resolved the issue. Turned out I needed to empty the trash to free up disk space. So I've now been able to post the newest update...which is from today.

There are only 14 songs remaining with "red titles" (that is to say the tab is incomplete). 8 of these are covers that we probably won't learn....most of which I don't even WANT to learn (I've Been Waiting for You, Hang on to Your Ego, Born in Chicago, I Can't Forget, Ain't that Pretty At All, Wild Honey Pie, Theme from Narc, Evil Hearted You). 5 are b-sides that are still in play, but unlikely (I'll still probably learn them myself though...Boom Chicka Boom, Bam Thwok, Santo, Make Believe, Rocka My Soul). And 1...just an album track...Lovely Day...and I'm 80% sure that I almost have it right. It is on the list of songs to learn in the next round...and so it should be nailed down in the next few months for sure.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Next Tunes

The next tunes to learn after the April 22 and May 5th gigs will be:

Build High
Lovely Day

After we learn those that will leave 6 from Bossanova and 2 from Trompe that we don't assorted Bsides/covers (which are essentially "extra" at this point).

I am 90% sure that I understand what I am supposed to sing on Winterlong and 70% sure that I will be able to pull it off while in the same room with RS singing at the same time (95% sure I can do it when alone).


Last night at TD rehearsal RS commented on the fact that my rolls are getting better. I remember too KS saying one day recently at SSW rehearsal that "the class I took was obviously helping" as I seemed to be getting better.

The funny thing is...I'm not practicing drums pretty much at all these days. And I gave up on the class and didn't really even do it.

But yes...I'm getting better.

I've sort of thought about it in fleeting moments over the last four months or so...but on Monday I was convinced. I play drums better sober.

This might seem self evident. Of COURSE you would play better sober than drunk. But I wasn't so sure for some time...and honestly it might not have been true for a while. What's true is that...all other things being equal...I play better sober. Which is to say that, for a while I played really poorly sober, because I was more used to existing while drinking than existing while not drinking. But I'm getting to the point where I'm sober more often than I'm drunk (though still not drunk zero percent of the time). And so things are evening out.

My first real band on the drums was The Lollards, and I remember very vividly that right around the time I started playing with JA (August 2006) that I was in a period of "trying not to drink". But what I found was...I couldn't play drums sober. It's true. Playing drums is a strange mix of total concentration and...not thinking too hard. If you think to hard you guarenteed will mess up. And so, at the time I was in a place where I was either drinking...or thinking too much...and so I found that I really could not play drums without drinking. And so I set a limit for myself of two beers only when drumming and nothing at all the rest of the time. And these are the kinds of rules that were meant to be broken by someone of my tendancies.

I remember just as clearly that, last fall, when I started again down the road of sobriety just how bad I drummed. I felt like my arms and legs didn't work right anymore. But rather than put a bandaid on it...I pushed through. And now...a little over four months later, I can honestly say that I play better sober than drunk. And in fact that I might not be able to play AT ALL while drinking now (haven't tried in a while...and don't want to).

But I guess the part that is a pleasant surprise is I play better sober than I did back in the day when I played my very best drunk (or while drinking). I fix mistakes more endurance is patterns are more smooth...I get good ideas and sometimes can pull them off on the fly (or can try, fail, and recover). I still occasionally catch myself thinking too much and train wreck...but less often.

Just imagine if I actually practiced too.

Baby steps...

Monday, April 2, 2012

I Stalk Therefore I Am


Last week I found this odd little interview with Kim Deal about food. The post is from last September and I nearly skipped over this line:
"She is an L.A. resident (temporary) these days and living not too far from me, so we met at her place. Kim Deal is a busy gal with a full calendar, in a little over a month she will embark on a Pixies US tour called ‘Lost Cities’ performing the classic ‘Doolittle’ album. She is also in the studio making new music for her own band."

Hold the phone...shut the front door. What exactly does "in the studio making new music for her own band" mean?

So today I'm looking for new food blogs to read and I thought...hey that lady with the KD interview must have a food blog...right? Of course she does. Ok...fine...whatever. And then I see THIS post from March 21st...just a week or so ago. And there's another frickin' picture of Kim Deal. So she's still in LA probably.

I know for a fact that Kelley Deal is hauling all over the country with R Ring as of late. So...again I ask...what exactly does "in the studio making new music for her own band" mean?

Possible meanings:
1) Pixies
2) Breeders (possible for interview taken by Mando Lopez)
3) New band we don't know yet
4) Food interview girl has her head up her ass.

The first three are all interesting options for sure.

Oh...I missed one possibility.

That I should maybe just get a life.

It Begins Again

This past weekend I began learning the Love and Rockets songs. I don't even know if we're doing it yet...but it is always nice to be prepared. There's 12 songs on the record and I cranked out about 6 of them. I don't anticipate anything hanging me up with the remaining 6. It is interesting how even something that is REALLY simple can take a while to figure out. Just getting the structure of a tune takes a few good listens. They are taking longer to figure out than I thought they might...but not too long. It IS reasurring that I'm able to do it by ear though. I have chords for about 75% of them...but no bass tab for any of them.

The Pixies really was an exercise in correcting tab. 90% of the songs had bass tab on the internet and it was just my job to figure out the rhythms (which you can't really show in tab) and correct the mistakes. I put lots of work in on them for sure...but it is a different kind of work than learning something totally by ear.

So I'm glad that I'm able to figure out the Love and Rockets songs...even if they are really easy.

Drum Funk

I'm in a full on drum funk.

I feel like I hit this peak a few weeks before Halloween and ever since then I've been on a downhill slope. Taking that class from Berklee just pushed me on down the hill. Can't bring myself to even sit at the damn things any more except for band practice. My confidence is gone and it isn't any fun right now. I think that I thought redoubling my efforts and putting my nose to the grindstone would help me to feel better...but it just made me feel worse. Even more inadaquate.

There is, thankfully, the bass to save me from despair.

Hopefully this is just a phase. My new thought on the topic is that I have to stop trying to become something I'll never be...chasing some perfect technique that I don't have the talent or interest to really pursue fully...and just get on with being whatever the hell kind of drummer that I am. And start having fun again.