Monday, December 21, 2015

Punk Xmas at Nottingham Coop, 12/19/2015

A little weird, but I was home by 10pm!

Came Out of a Lady
I Don’t Love
I Will Survive

Friday, November 20, 2015

Looking Back

I'm a pretty reflective person, but I often don't take time to really give myself credit for accomplishments. I'm a "what have you done for me lately" kind of person when it comes to dealing with myself. I struggle and beat myself up during the struggle, then after the struggle is off I rarely give myself credit. I'm on to the next thing to beat myself up for.

Sometime in the next six weeks I am going to wrap up the Breeders tribute recording project. I have 6 songs left to go of the 80 total in the project.  I'm trying to take a moment to really let myself reflect on the accomplishment. I'm pretty sure I'm the only person in the world who knows all the work that went into it...or cares. An outsider listening to the recordings probably would think "meh, those aren't so good." It's true. They aren't. I'm not a great singer or player or recording engineer or producer. And that's not the point. I still sat down, listened to each song a billion times, figured out all of the parts (with or without the help of internet resources, more often than not without), learned to play them all (often on instruments that I don't really play), recorded them all, and mixed it down. All in a about 20 months. The history of recording is littered with people who couldn't manage to learn and record 10 songs on one instrument in 20 months. The scope of what I did... in my free moments outside my day job, playing in 6 bands, and maintaining a long-distance sort of astounding. I'm gonna own that god dammit.

I learned a bunch about playing my instruments, but this post is going to focus on what did I learn about recording...

1. Acoustic guitars sound different recorded live from a room versus plugged in direct. They don't really sound like acoustic guitars plugged in directly. I'm sure you can buy pre-amps and various conditions that can MAKE them sound like acoustic guitars when plugged in, but if you can manage it...just play them live in a room with good mics. It will be better.

2. Sets of microphones marketed as "drum mics" aren't worth buying. I mean, maybe if you bought really expensive ones. But I tried using a middle-of-the-road set and decided that my basic SM58s sounded way better. You don't need special drum mics. To some extent a good specialized mic for the kick isn't a terrible idea, but I did ok just with a 58.

3. Time delay on vocals = the cheap man's reverb. Don't abuse it.

4. Record the loudest signal you can get before clipping/distortion sets in...then dial down the sound in the mix. It is really hard to make things louder and still sound good.

5. My rig didn't take to #4 very well. It distorted easily, especially with bass frequencies. I had a pretty narrow dynamic range to work in.

6. If possible, get the meta-data correct on your first export. You probably won't go back and fix it later and it doesn't always take anyway. Having your recording with the same meta-data as the backing track (in my case the original song) is bad for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that it is hard to find your recording on your computer.

7. I didn't use post-effects in my recording setup at all and very little editing other than cut/paste and the occasional fade-out or dynamic adjustment. I never figured out how to punch in correctly, so everything was its own new track even when I recorded over parts I'd messed up the performance for. This actually worked out ok. It probably made my files larger than they had to be. But there's a ton that I don't know. As with most things in my life, I did the best I could with the tools and skills that I had. It helped that The Breeders don't tweak their recordings much with digital bullshit after the fact.

8. For a long time I really wanted a rig that would let me record multiple tracks at a time. The one I have let's me only do one track at a time. I ended up recording drums, for instance, by running them through a mixer and sending the whole thing to one track. This meant I couldn't edit individual drums and had to get the balance right on the mixer. This was ok for me. I think where I am coming down on the multiple track at a time thing is that I really don't need that for recordings I do of myself. It would be nice when recording a full live band together. I did a recording of a full band using the mixer method, and it wasn't the best. We managed but it would be better to be able to tweak the individual parts in that situation. That said, the cost of a true 8 to 8 setup or 16 to 16, for instance is probably prohibitive. So you still end up mixing somethings a 8 to 4 or 16 to 4. I guess it would be cool to at least split vox, guitar, bass, drum...but I just don't think I'm going to be doing that enough to warrant the investment. I don't like working with other people on recordings enough.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

COL, Frequency, 11/17/2015

We were a last minute add for this my first gig with the Cats.

1. It rained.
2. The show started an hour late
3. One of the other bands didn't show up...cancelled via comment on the FB event page a few hours beforehand #classy
4. Power was dirty, buzzing, and shocking JC through mic.
5.  TLT was having amp/guitar issues.
6. Stage sound was a mush.
7. It was just us and the touring band watching each other's sets pretty a half dozen friends from other local groups that stopped by for our set.

Welcome to the rock and the roll.

Setlist to come.

Monday, November 16, 2015

TD cd release Mickey's, 11/14/2015

We played with German Art Students and The Moguls (who were lovely, but for future reference, quite loud).

We played well. There was a good, but not huge, crowd. People told us we sounded good...improved...and that they didn't miss the bass at all. TLT took some photos and video that may or may not have come out. It was a nice night. My car battery died, but under best possible circumstances.

Sent It
Hold U
Take Me Away
Fire Burns
Easy Life
Caw Caw

The entire show in video format.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

CJ as The Scars Freakin' Halloweekend

CJ (plus friend Roscoe) was The Cars (The Scars). We were awesome. What can I say? Brought down $680 with a sold out crowd at HNS. We MAY actually have this tribute band shit down finally.
Good Times Roll
You Might Think
Shake It Up
Let's Go
Moving in Stereo
You're All I've Got Tonight
My Best Friend's Girl
Bye Bye Love
Just What I Needed

Here's a recording of the entire show:

Oh yeah, we played one song live on the radio acoustic the night before the show's RS at studio with friends from the Fleetwood Mac Trib.

And the show proper...

SVFD LRC 10/25/2015

We played LRC

I Will Survive

SVFD at Freq 11/3/2015

This was a last minute pickup gig at Freq with The Jukebox Romantics
The Beast of Bray Road (one of these was very loud but I don't know which, probably Beast). We were kind of wildly under-prepared...yet played great.

thigh high
mr smiley
I don't love
i will survive

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Maturing as a Drummer

I've been reading drum magazines for years now. A repeating theme is drummers saying that, when they were young, they cared a lot about how fast or complicated that they could play. They cared about having "chops." But that as they aged and matured, it became more about "serving the song" and playing tastefully. That they scaled back their playing and simplified and that the result was so much better.

I always wanted to punch those dudes in the face.

It is really obnoxious to say that chops don't matter...AFTER you yourself have gained chops. As a beginning drummer who can barely put a beat together, the last thing you want to hear is "chops aren't important." Because you know very well that everyone in the room is thinking..."wow, that drummer isn't very good." It is only possible to say that chops aren't important AFTER you have them.What having chops gives you is the ability to make choices.

I've been playing drums for about 9 years now. Sort of towards the middle of that time I tried to buckle down and get more serious and improve my skills and what I learned was that I didn't enjoy buckling down and that I did not have a natural talent for big improvements. I could get better bit by bit, but probably I was never going to be fantastic. And really, I didn't NEED to be fantastic. To do the things that I enjoyed, I just had to be "pretty ok". It is hard to accept that, because I still feel like a failure when I see people who play better than I do and I still worry that people are saying behind my back "that drummer isn't very good." But honestly, I play well enough for what I need/want to do.

Last night the song writer in our band brought a new tune in. Usually the way I approach this is that I play what seems to go with what he is doing...whatever comes out naturally. I start simple, because the most important thing when the band is learning the song is for me to keep a steady beat so everyone can lock together....and then as the song develops over time I try to make my beat more complicated. I try to never play the same beat do something a little different with each song. Some times this means I force weird things that don't come naturally and I end up spending a long time trying to make the part work so that I can play it.  But the last two songs he has brought out, including the one last night, I just did what felt right and didn't worry too much about if it was complicated enough or different enough from other things that I've done in the past. I was sort of amazed at how easily the part came to me, and how good it sounded. It was so simple. I really did serve the song. And I thought..."maybe I will just leave it like this." It was one of the first times when I really believed (and wasn't at some level just consoling myself for lack of skills), "yeah simple is better."

Here's the song that we played last night. So the singer and one of the guitars is the song writer. The other guitar and the drums...we had never heard this song before. We were playing along the first time we'd ever heard it (there are some guitar misses for this reason but they aren't too bad). I gotta say that I mostly nailed the drum part. It is simple, but I DID have to make choices. I'm particularly proud of the instinct that I had at 1:35...just felt it and went with it.

SVFD at Punk's Picnic 8/15/2015

Got invited to play a cool party at Indian Lake County Park.

Encore: I will survive

SVFD at Frequency 9/11/2015

Opened for Gentle Brontosaurus (who was a last minute fill in) and Tin Can Diamonds. TCD brought in a huge crowd. We took home $200. It was odd.

mr smiley
about a girl
i don't love
i will survive

Thursday, July 30, 2015

SVFD at Frequency 7/29/2015

Opened for Eli August and the Abandoned Buildings and Beefus. Not an empty room but not packed. Was concerts on square day. I played pretty well except biffed transition out of solo on Point

Came Out
About Girl
I don't Love
Mr Blue
Red Rubber
I will Survive

Monday, June 8, 2015

Breeders Tribute Progress

I've now completed and posted 66 songs.

Last weekend I put down drums parts for "Overglazed,"  "900," "Lord of the Thighs," "German Studies," "Regalame Esta Noche,"  and "Happiness Is a Warm Gun."  I admit that, as I get into the weeds I am more prone to cut and paste parts than to try for perfect performances.

After those are done, that leaves just "Mountain Battles,"  "The Last Time,"  "Chances Are,"  "Climbing The Sun," "Collage," "Wicked Little Town: Hedwig Version," "I can't help it if I'm still in love with you," and "Buffy Theme." These are pretty deep cuts.

I'm either out of town or busy most weekends this summer, so things are probably going to slow down a bit until October. I took a moment this weekend, while working on the drums for the last of the main tunes, to reflect on the accomplishment to date. I know that no one else notices or cares (or maybe people noticed and just thought the whole thing was utter shit) but it is quite a body of work. Certainly it will be finished before I hit the two year mark...perhaps in a year and a half time...which is pretty quick.

Monday, May 4, 2015

SVFD, 5/2/2015, Red Zone

Opened for Gin, Chocolate, and Bottle Rockets and VO5 for a GRC fundraiser.

Played pretty well. Feel like I'm starting to lock in better with NS, but maybe that's just cause I played guitar with her for three days straight last weekend.

I like the lead pedal that CT gave me, but it seems really finicky. Sometimes the boost is mild and sometimes over-whelming (the latter at this gig). Not sure how to correct that.

I also am still fucking up the solo on Point. It doesn't seem to matter how much I practice it. I think I have a block.

Thigh High
Lost Again
I Don't Love You
Somewhere in Betwn

Thursday, April 9, 2015

More on Breeders Gear

I've been coveting  cheap gold top Les Pauls with open pickups over the last few months (like Kim's). I almost bought one in Indiana at the start of the year, but it sold before I could get to it. There's one available, a red quilt top classic (like Kelley's), available at my local GC for $299 right now. I'm basically waiting to see how much my car repairs are going to be (mechanic is mere blocks away from the guitar) before I go look at it (and maybe hoping it will sell before I touch it). I was trying to figure out how close it looks to Kelley's and stumbled across these excellent circa 2008 pedal photos by "dietspritezero."

At first I was just looking at the photos and didn't notice who's account it was. Then I saw and was like...right. Of course. I have a long history of bumping into "dietspritezero" online. She's the person who taught me (via youtube video) how to play Debaser. I think we chatted briefly about the fan-only Music Box Pixies show once on a forum too. It's fun to cross paths with the same super fans from time to time. 

Found some good pics of the red les by searching under Cheryl instead of Kelley (photo in Kim's basement by Glass, natch):

And the one for sale, a "classic":
It isn't an exact match. Kelley's doesn't look like it is a quilt top and it has old-style tuners, but in my price range it might be close enough ($299 for this Epi. It's a discontinued model so no comparable price new).

For comparison, here's the gold Epi Traditional Pro I've been eyeing (they run ~$450 new or ~$350 used):

and Kim's below (she has one black and one white pickup as opposed to the zebra, but I kind of like the zebra. I suspect the pickups on Kim's have been changed out from stock):

In the end I think any gold top or red les that I can get for under $350 that has uncovered pickups will fit the bill so long as it isn't one of the super shitty models (100, studio, junior, etc). I know that newer models allow you to split the coils in all kinds of weird ways, but I really don't think I'd use that function.

And, as I find myself less than 20 songs away from finishing the tribute project (and unlikely to ever play the tribute project out live) this is all basically a waste of money anyway.

Monday, April 6, 2015

CJ, 4/4/2015 at Lazy Oaf

Played on the night UW went to NCAA finals at a sports bar. That was probably a mis-step. Anyway, still had a blast with friend-bands Cats on Leashes, Hello Dmitri, and The Creeps, in spite of low attendance, odd interactions with drunken audience members, rushed setup, and having to cut tunes for time. CT's first gig with the Marshall JCM800 rig. I used the equalizer pedal he gave me to punch in my bass mini-solo on Gigantic and it worked well.

Bone Machine
Wave of Mutilation (fast)
Monkey Gone to Heaven
Dig for Fire (cut for time)
Here Comes Your Man
Where is my mind?
Nimrod's Son
Gouge Away
Vamos (cut for time)