Thursday, February 28, 2013

Long Notes

It has always bugged me that I can't hold the last note in Debaser for the full 15 seconds. Likewise, that I have to take breaths during the intro to River Euphrates and its 20 seconds of "ride". Now, I'm learning The Happening and it has 18 second long notes...and you have to do them up to 12 times consecutively.  So it is like note-for-18-seconds-big-breath-another-18-second-note...and that goes on for nearly 2 minutes.

I've never been good about doing vocal exercises or breathing exercises or even about practicing my vocal parts. I hate singing in front of people. I also hate trying to mimic someone who has one of the best voices in rock and who I personally look up to a bunch. I mean...I love doing it...I just hate that anyone else has to hear it.

But I recognize too that I'm usually too hard on myself. In point of fact, no one in the world but me cares if I nail these vocals.  We do a pretty good job with the songs in general, so I think that the average listener's brain fills in the missing bits. Essentially we sound like them...and they (the listener) don't know the songs as well as we do they probably could not tell you how accurate we are.

This morning I went looking for a live clip of Debaser where she holds the note the whole time. I've been on this search before, so I know that there is evidence out there.  But this morning the first four examples I found were these. In the first three she bails really quickly. In the last, she tries, but runs out of breath right about where I always do.

This last one I find particularly endearing, because she's doing what I'm doing...which is trying to reproduce the record.

Here's any interesting twist...Charles comes in and covers the breath and drops out when she's got it again. After watching several vids from the Doolittle tour, this seems to be the way that they resolved it. She takes the first 4 bars, he covers the second, then she comes back in. It actually looks like sometimes they traded back and forth for all four times through the progression.

Anyway, the moral of the story's hard. And it doesn't matter. But what else is there in life but to sweat the small stuff?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Things We All Face

There are so many things about this post that I love.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Rare Case of Patting Myself on the Back

This weekend I was out supporting a friend who had a cd release show. The premiere local ska band rounded out the bill. I cozied up to the bass player and asked about sharing a bill sometime. He knows me as a drummer, and I suspect he thought I was drumming in the ska band. He asked what we were like. I said, "Oh we play stuff by Mustard Plug...Mighty, Mighty Bosstones...Streetlight Manifesto..." He stopped me. "Streetlight Manifesto?!?! Man, those are some hard basslines. I could never play that stuff. It's really fast."

So basically the person I thought I ought to aspire to play like told me I play better than he does.  That's pretty cool.

It also tells me that we basically started with the hardest stuff out there. Since I was blind to this fact, I just learned it. Had I known I probably would have been too terrified to try. So here's to being blind.

Friday, February 22, 2013

For Your Edification...

The Academy Is, About a Girl:

Streetlight Manifesto, Somewhere In The Between:

Streetlight Manifesto, Point/Counterpoint:

The Guild, I'm the One That's Cool

Bomb the Music Industry, Future 86:

Bomb the Music Industry, I Don't Love You Anymore:

Hugh Masekela, Grazing in the Grass:

Parliament, Everything is On the One:
Rockwell, Somebody's Watching Me: Black Eye Peas, My Humps: Metallica, Master of Puppets: The Clash, Rudie Can't Fail:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Vocal Effects

A very nice closeup I stole off FB.

Related, last night I got a rough mix of a few songs that were recorded live from a CJ show recently. The sound guy pulled everything straight off the board. It probably counts as the closest thing to a legitimate recording that we've ever had (or may ever have in the future, since recording really isn't the main concern of a tribute act). He had the effects turned up super high on RS's voice (perhaps borderline too high) and it made RS sound like an entirely different person. I kept having to remind myself that I was listening to...well US...because it sounded so otherworldly, polished, and...ahem...professional.  

I can't say that it did the same for my little vocal bits, but that's probably just me not being able to listen to myself sing without wanting to vomit.  But it is worth remembering that the dry ass, bare-bones, shitty quality mic/PA combos (run by no one at all often) that I'm used to singing through probably do me no favors. Nor the shitty rooms. I'm no great singer...and I'm not trying to make excuses...but even the pros would probably sound a bunch worse under the performance conditions in which I find myself.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Sadness...My Amp

So I bought an amp back in spring of 2011 that I thought was perfect. It was an Ampeg BA600 with a 1x15 inch speaker. 600 watts. 35 pounds. It had power, light weight, and a good brand name. It cost me $850. It was going to be my forever amp. It was my first quality equipment purchase.

Every so often, it has seemed like it would cut out, but I chalked it up to bad cables. Then, a rattling/buzzing started at high volume. I've tried to ignore it. I don't think it is under warranty anymore and even if it was, I can't bear the thought of shipping it somewhere.

I looked it up and it sounds like these amps, while Ampeg in name, were made by some other company and the quality control was poor. The screws inside the amps were not quality checked to the proper torque, so when you vibrate the air inside with 600 watts of power, the screws come loose and rattle. Some of them also have a problem with cutting out. It doesn't seem like there is a fix to either problem.

I'm sad, because I was trying to invest in quality equipment and it didn't work out. It sounds like what I'm looking for...high power and low just a pipe dream. Probably the best solution is a separate cabinet and amp head...and possibly to move to a 2 x 12 configuration instead of a 1x15 or 4x10 in order to save weight. And there's my nagging feeling that any good venue will just DI me what is the fucking point of even having a good amp...essentially it is a monitor. Of course, it is true that I play in lots of venues that do not have sound systems that can accommodate a DI bass. Probably for those I can muddle through with what I have or wait to get a good deal.

It is true, though, that I think that bass is going to stick around for a good long time. It would be nice to have something I could rely on. Of course, having a reliable amp is also probably a pipe dream...there will always be speakers or tubes to blow...wires to to stop and over heat...drunks to spill and drop...and the ever-present threat of theft. All life is impermanence and that goes for music equipment too I guess.

A footnote...which is that, recent bad wire excepted...I have two basses that are easy to play and sound decent and one cost me $100 (w/ practice amp) and the other cost me $75 (w/ practice amp AND a free acoustic guitar thrown in). I fantasize about fancier instruments (or ones that match KiD's)...but the two that I have are really great players and I'm so lucky to have them.

SVFD, Feb 15th, Mickey's

SVFD had its debut and played with The Type and TL;DR. The show went about as well as I could have hoped for. Turnout was great and the reception from the crowd was great. People had obviously come to see us specifically cause the place cleared when we finished. Hopefully those people will keep coming out and it won't be a first show phenomenon.

The only thing that sucked a little was that it took forever to clear the we weren't able to start playing until 11pm. Even so...our set took almost exactly 45 minutes...The Type started 30 minutes after we finished and played almost exactly 45 minutes...which left TL;DR an hour to set up and play so they got in a decent set. So it worked out even though it made things feel hectic at the start.

I hadn't realized how much I rely on RS to take charge at gigs. A little of that had to fall to me and it was weird, but not too bad. I was glad that The Type are pros and used to the situation at Mickey's. They were a big help and just made me feel better about the situation. I love people who jump in and move shit when it needs moving.

I used my old amp cause I think my Ampeg vibrates too much at high volumes and might be cutting out sometimes. I've identified that this model has those problems, which sucks. The G-K was fine, but didn't feel loud enough. The Type was using an old-style Fender Bassman and TL;DR had a Neo G-K.  Both sounded fine. I looked it up and those old Bassman's are only like 50 Watts and $2,000. I don't know how it sounded so good.

Our mistakes were minimal truly and the few that we had were recovered from quickly and well. There was even a mic failure that Be handled really well. Ba busted out some shit on keys that I've never heard her play before, sounded great. I only used notes on Superman. I had them for Sergio but forgot to pull them out and muddled through. I didn't have too many brain farts...and nothing catastrophic...just a few skipped notes here and there.

I commented to the sweetie later that I thought things went well...and that I NEVER say that. I don't feel jump up and down fantastic...but I don't feel bad at all. And for me that's probably saying a huge amount. It probably means things were fantastic.

I ate a good dinner, got good sleep, and did not drink. We brought in $61 per that's $183 total...which if you figure that's after the charge for sound, isn't bad. We filled the place, but they weren't a drinking crowd and left when we were done, so the bar totals were probably affected by that fact.  Still, even on the best attended, hardest drinking nights at Mickey's I think CJ only brings down $300 total, and that was before the PA charge was in I think we did well.

UPDATE: photos and video streaming in from all corners! Gotta say this sounds pretty darn good.

Came Out of a Lady
Hope I Never Lose My Wallet
Mr Smiley
Rascal King
Thigh High Nylons
Lost Again
Red Rubber Ball

Friday, February 15, 2013

Local Love Fest

I don't agree...but I do love the shirt.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Buy Our Record

Today anyone in the world with unfettered internet access can purchase a record that one of my current bands has produced. I'd like to say that I am a featured player on the release...but that would be too much to hope for. No, in spite of being a member of the band since late summer 2010...this recording process was begun PRIOR to that, and so the drum tracks are by my predecessor. Alas.

At least this record, though it lacks me, was professionally recorded in an actual studio, professionally printed to cds and duplicated, and released to the world via cd baby, amazon, itunes, etc.

This is just the latest in the ridiculous history of my recorded musical output.
  • Release One: a self-produced solo effort to cassette tape. Fewer than 20 copies exist
  • Release Two: a self-produced solo effort to cassette tape. Fewer than 20 copies exist
  • Release Three: recorded to a multitracker by the band in my living room and hand copied to cds by the band. Homemade paper cover. No distribution. I suspect no one knows it exists.
  • Release Four: a self-produced tribute album to a local band. I believe 4 cs copies were created. I'm convinced at least one of those copies was destroyed in a ritualistic fashion by the song writer for the band the album was a tribute to 
  • Release Five: Actually recorded, mixed, and mastered by an actual professional recording engineer (though, to be fair, also in my living room). Actually printed and duplicated on actual cds professionally with jewel cases and shrink wrap and everything. Released postumously under the old name after I was fired from the band and it changed it's name. No distribution. I suspect no one knows it exists.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Last night CJ practiced for the first time in a while and for the first time in a while when we didn't have a solid goal in mind. We tried playing through lots of songs that we haven't played in months...or even over a year.  I was surprised to find that these had fallen out of my memory banks. They are easy to get back...but for awhile there I thought I'd never forget how to play any of these songs...but I guess there are limits.

On the flipside of memory, I've got all but one ska tune memorized with a week to spare before the show. I'll be bearing down on the last one over the next few days. I suspect I'll get it.  The band, it turns out, needs to discuss goals as they seem to vary amongst us. Seven people are a bunch of people to get on the same page. I'm less worried than I thought I'd be about what will happen. This whole thing turned out to be a terrifying exposure to music that I thought was beyond me...and it turns out that it isn't. Individual songs will continue to be a challenge as we move along...but I've proven to myself that I can handle it. It almost feels like it doesn't matter what else happens now. A strange kind of goal has been reached for me.

CJ also talked hopes and dreams last night...and I've finally decided to push us a bit on accomplishing those things. Inertia is hard. I think the goals are very reasonable and attainable though...just one of us needs to push a bit and I guess I'm accepting that I will have to be the one. I'm ok with this because it is something worth working hard for.

The other three groups I'm just not too worried about. I wish rehearsals all around for all of my bands were more regular...I don't like having down time...but I'm not that concerned about outcomes at the moment oddly enough...other than the previously stated outcomes with CJ.

I do have some personal anxiety that I'm working through lately in life in general and I'm trying to figure out where applying myself more in my music will help and where backing off and relaxing more will help. It is a balancing act for sure.

Friday, February 1, 2013

How-To-Play-Bass dot Com

This guy has a pretty awesome site

You Make Lovin' Fun

Last Bass Lesson 1/31/2013

As mentioned recently, I decided to quit taking bass lessons.  I had started taking them on a whim so I guess it isn't surprising that I would stop basically on a whim too.  The last lesson was a little disjointed, but mostly what I got out of it was a tip to make Came Out of a Lady easier to play (barre with first finger instead of second, use 2nd/3rd/4th to press down together for the high note, and generally don't worry about it, it is an ornament)...and we talked about strategies for memorizing...including playing without the recording, slowing down the part, singing the part and trying to match what I'm playing to what I'm singing rather than trying to match what I'm playing to the movie in my head of the written notes going by, and...of course again...don't worry about it. Hit the prominent notes and if the rest gets screwed up who cares?

The bass lesson experience was useful right at the time that I needed it. But I'm ready to fly solo for awhile and maybe not fret so much about the outcome.

In the end she feels more like a mentor and friend than a private lesson teacher. And I think that I ought to keep using her as such...that when questions or uncertainty arises that I just email her and say "hey let's get together to chat". And I'll throw her 25 bucks.