Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saturday night!

I want to make this an everyday thing, but it's hard to get to every single day....anyway, it's been crazy last couple of days. Last night we re-recorded the keyboard-only demo from a couple days ago. Chris played drums and bass and I redid the Rhodes part. The drums are mostly the new Premier set I just got, with the exception of the kick, which is "Thumper"--Chris' converted 24x14 marching bass drum. The Premier kick has a very good sound, but Thumper is pretty unique sounding and I thought that drum would fit better with the song.

So the rough mix sounds pretty good....kick drum sound needs some work, there's a couple timing issues in the third section (where it goes to 3/4), and it still needs guitar....the Rhodes had a lot of amp hiss in it; I denoised it but I'm thinking I may just re-re-record it instead....the denoising killed some of the brightness that I was enjoying so much from the new amp....been trying to write some countermelodies but haven't come up with anything solid. I might just leave that part to Kevin, we'll see.

P.S. Jerry-who-is-providing-my-hosting-gratis-therefore-he-is-asskickin' requested that I post the following links to his YouTube and MySpace pages.

[EDIT 1/30/08 mp3s taken down per Chris' request....]

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

today's recording

This is the first time I get to try's what I spent the night working on.

Chris & Kevin showed up around 10 pm....we arranged and recorded several of Kevin's guitar parts to a piece Chris (bass) and I (drums) worked up months ago. Chris & I re-recorded our parts with a different arrangement and a much tougher sound last week sometime, and so tonight Kevin got to lay his parts down. This is the first time I've recorded Kevin, which was a blast....he knows his shit.

So here is a rough mix of the thing in 23. The mp3 sounds a little washy towards the end when the cymbals get real heavy....

Yesterday (which for me would be Monday....) I brainstormed a very minimal piece on the Rhodes and spent a good part of the afternoon and evening trying to map it out....this has some really tricky rhythms in it....After Kevin left at about 2 or 3 am, Chris and I worked out a rough arrangement for keys and drums, and I guess Kevin will play either bass or guitar. Here's the keyboard-only super-rough demo I did about 6 pm. I realized I couldn't get the amp I usually use to be loud enough, so I used the new TubeWorks bass amp because it's stupid loud....the advantage of the other setup is I have a distortion knob on the other amp, and I was annoyed at not having any fuzz, but I was pleasantly surprised by how clear it sounded through the bass amp so I went with that instead. I'll add fuzz later.

Comments not only welcome but encouraged....

[EDIT 1/30/08 mp3s taken down per Chris' request....]

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

foreigners and Iraq

We invaded Iraq in March 2003. It's now July of 2007 and we're still in the dark as to who we're supposed to be fighting.

Bush and his apologists continue to assert that we are fighting Emmanuel Goldstein al Qaeda in Iraq. They claim, presumably with a straight face, that the insurgency is the result of foreign fighters, and that we are not actually fighting against the Iraqi people, whose interests Bush allegedly had foremost in mind when he ordered the invasion.

The LA Times recently published an article detailing the nationalities of insurgents.

BAGHDAD — Although Bush administration officials have frequently lashed out at Syria and Iran, accusing it of helping insurgents and militias here, the largest number of foreign fighters and suicide bombers in Iraq come from a third neighbor, Saudi Arabia, according to a senior U.S. military officer and Iraqi lawmakers.

About 45% of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia; 15% are from Syria and Lebanon; and 10% are from North Africa, according to official U.S. military figures made available to The Times by the senior officer. Nearly half of the 135 foreigners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq are Saudis, he said.

Fighters from Saudi Arabia are thought to have carried out more suicide bombings than those of any other nationality, said the senior U.S. officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity. It is apparently the first time a U.S. official has given such a breakdown on the role played by Saudi nationals in Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgency.

I can't find a primary citation right this second, but I think the total number of prisoners being held by coalition forces in Iraq is in the 15K-20K range. Of these, the LAT says 135 are foreign-born. No mention is made of Iranians, but roughly half are Saudi.

Recall that 15 of 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi. For some reason none of the neoconservative warmongers are beating the drum for bombing Riyadh back to the Stone Age, yet Cheney and Lieberman and the rest are practically drooling at the thought of air strikes in Iran.

If that hasn't unsettled you too much, make sure you're sitting down and relaxed before reading Part 1 and Part 2 of this McClatchy report on an ambush in Karbala that killed several soldiers and officers inside the city HQ. Clearly an inside job. A complex, clever attack involving obviously detailed intelligence as to who would be where and what the defenses were like. Strangers to Iraq almost certainly could not have pulled this off.

Yet the Administration is eager to point the finger at Iranians or Syrians. Why?

[cribbing liberally from Hubris Sonic and Prof. Cole]


Here's a picture of my cat, because I now have a blog and I feel compelled to let the world see just how goddamn cute he is.

I think I'm going to have get a camera now, because he does something hilarious about every 15-20 minutes or so.

P.S. Jerry Fowler was kind enough to give me hosting. Wicked.

Monday, July 16, 2007


DISCLAIMER: the following is bound to piss people off. It's not meant to cover every conceivable base, and I've probably left a zillion things out that I shouldn't have. I do not necessarily think that everything that has happened in the music biz in the last ten years is a great thing.

I think the art of recording--a young one by art standards--is changing radically. The entire recording industry* is built on assumptions that may or may not have been true decades ago, but history and technology do not stand still, and neither does music. Digital audio, the Internet, the ubiquity of computers in the home, advances in recording gear, as well as the advent of more affordable budget gear, and the proliferation of home studios are all driving the tumult in recording. And then there's label consolidation in parallel with media consolidation, in addition to exponentially increasing costs to both musicians and fans, leading to a stagnant monoculture where a handful of people shape the environment (radio, TV, chain record stores, ticket sales) that the bulk of all music is consumed in.

And maybe, somewhere, down deep in that word "consumed" is the dirty secret that nobody wants to talk about.

But everybody seems to see the symptoms of the disease just fine. 500 channels of TV and there's nothing on. All the radio stations with a reliable signal sound exactly the same. Britney Spears is on the cover of the Rolling Stone, and I heard a Ramones song in a bank recently, and Jimi Hendrix is selling Cadillacs. Ticketmaster has a monopoly. There's only four music labels left.

Somebody is making money, but it isn't (most) musicians.

I think people (both in and out of the industry) are slowly starting to remember: hey, waitaminnit, music doesn't work very well as a commodity. And, point of fact, up until the advent of recorded music, wasn't a commodity.

1) anybody can play it
2) there is no shortage of really talented people out there
3) it doesn't have a tangible form; can't be put in a box, etc
4) it's something essentially everybody enjoys, and is a basic part of being human

Very few people get paid for actually playing music. For years now, artists have been getting paid for selling stuff. You can't really sell music. If you're close enough to hear it, you're consuming it, whether there's been a financial transaction involved. But, artists have this irritating tic about eating and paying bills, so we have to figure out some sort of scheme where they provide something and everybody else gives them money. Thus, the artist becomes a trinket salesman. T-shirts, lighters, keychains, stickers, whatever you can convince people is worth money. And then there are CDs.

If you enjoy my music, the idea is you're supposed to hand me $15 and in return I give you a piece of plastic that has been decreed by fiat to be $15 worth of music. Except I cannot hand you music. How could I do such a thing? Music consists of vibrations in the air, nothing more, nothing less. Music does not live on that little piece of plastic. I can't hand you music any more than I can hand you silence. It's nonsense. But it's been the foundation of the recording industry as long as there's been a recording industry.

Let's jump back a bit further in the story here.

From the dawn of human history up until Edison started futzing around with it, the only way to hear music was for a living human being to play it. Then, in the scope of three or four generations, music was transformed into something that came out of a box. I think there are a lot of people in the industrialized world that don't understand that music is something that's meant to be shared (as opposed to sold), and it's my contention that the recording industry's separation of musician from audience is artificial, unnecessary, alienating, and constricting. And since it's not terribly profitable anymore, it's going to undergo unpredictable changes.

After Edison had shown it was possible, recording existed as something that only a few people in the world really understood all the details of. It required enormous amounts of technical skill just to make it sound half-ass. At the same time they were getting the kinks worked out of wire, wax, and early shellac recording, the mass media industry was getting off the ground. Like recording, radio was still in its infancy. There were only a few corporations with the vast amounts of capital required to get a studio going. In order to broadcast to as many people as possible, you needed a whole raft of things: the bulky, balky equipment, the space to put it, and the geeks to run it.

With all these obstacles, it's no wonder the only people who could afford to produce anything were huge corporations. All this required significant overhead to stay afloat. Now, they were getting money from the radio manufacturers (and later the turntable makers and the TV makers), so that helped. Selling advertising on radio made it all profitable.

So you had essentially one company that 1) signed the artist, 2) recorded and produced the artist, 3) broadcast the artist to the audience, and 4) put the artist's records in stores. Back then, there was simply no other option available.

Fast forward to today.

I can't for the life of me understand why anyone needs three years and a seven figure budget to make fifty minutes worth of music, when any schmoe can walk into Guitar Center, drop about five grand, jam the fuck out that night, and wake up in the morning and mix it all down and have a completed album by dinner the following day.

It's crazy.

There is no need for rockstars. No need for ten million dollar studios (although they sure are nice and I'd love to have one!). No need for major labels, no need for record stores, and no need for radio stations. All of these things are business ventures, and like any business venture they should go out of business when they are no longer meeting the needs of the market. Their continued existence is not guaranteed--something that has always been true for bands. Why should it be any different for companies that can't or won't change a dysfunctional business model?

Think of the law of supply and demand.

The gadget manufacturers have flooded the market with gear that's cheap but effective (if not necessarily of the highest quality). Add in the development of the mp3, the introduction of cheap broadband, drastically faster and roomier computers at the same price point, and the open source movement (thanks Bill Gates!) giving us p2p software. All this has served to undermine the idea that One Big Company is the only way to get music from point A (musician) to point B (audience).

That right there IS music. Not the fucking piece of plastic, it's the exchange between performer and audience. Sender and receiver.

And as a result of these technological changes, the supply has increased exponentially. And with CDs and mp3s and DVDs, it never degrades with age like vinyl, tape, or older formats. Once it's recorded, it's going to last forever and a day. But the demand hasn't nearly kept pace with supply. We are saturated in music. Every time we're in a store, there is music playing, because Everybody Knows People Buy More Shit When They're Listening To Music. A lot of people turn on the TV as a matter of course when they're at home. Some people never turn the damn thing off; it's just a big static device. (I think all of that's a bad thing, but I think that may have to be a subject for another post.)

As the supply has skyrocketed, and demand has remained flat**, the value of recorded music--the piece of plastic--has fallen dramatically. But we have non-market forces at work here, although they speak the language of business and markets very well. Vinyl used to be relatively cheap compared to CDs; cassettes were expensive because they were expensive to produce. CDs, initially, were going to be expensive for a while and then the industry would lower prices once their investment in the infrastructure paid off, or something. The promised price reduction never came, and CD prices have actually increased. Remember how shocked you were the first time you saw a $18 sticker on a single CD?

But the value is close to nil now, at this late date. What's happening? The market isn't clearing because the sellers are selling at too high a price for the buyers. In fact, buyers are leaving the market, because the sellers aren't serving them anymore.

It's serving a lot of suits, lawyers, bean counters, and middlemen trying to save their jobs, is what's happening. They lean on, are supported by, feed off of, that intercouse (pun intended) between musician and audience. They are adding less and less to what is necessary and demanding more and more. Consequently, they're going to be increasingly cut out of the picture as we move away from the 1900s.

Which brings me, at long last, to the point of this blog....personally I believe that the future for musicians and fans is pretty bright: but if you're a player and you want to make a career out of it, you're fucked unless you're touring.

I've been having difficulty with that; can't seem to keep a band together lately. And, paradoxically, I've been trying to teach myself the art of recording in the meantime. So, perhaps, with a bit of luck, I can build a bit of an audience for my studio music here on this blog, and hopefully that will be a springboard back to the road.

This is the same computer that I do the recording on, which is cool, because I can simply bounce the day's work down to mp3 and make it freely available. I'm going to setup a Paypal link so individuals so motivated may donate a bit to the cause, but that won't ever be required. I will also at some point make some CDs available to order, if there's any demand.

Well, this certainly turned into quite the screed manifesto, so I guess I should wrap it up here....

* (as distinct from the music industry, which is larger than just recording)
** During this time, demand has actually increased--the population has increased and enjoyment of music is near-universal. But the supply increase has been orders of magnitude greater.

sound check

Would it be wrong to post "FIRST!" in the body of the first post on my own blog?

Maybe not wrong, but in poor taste....and this blog can't afford to have bad taste. So instead I'll post some mp3s of tunes cooked up here in my basement.

In addition to music, I have a number of opinions, philosophies, and pet theories about music (and other topics, naturally) that I've been wanting to kind of spray out into the Interwebs for a long time. And now's my chance.

So, in celebration, let's get started....

Here are the four mp3s that are currently up at my Myspace page. I'll get some more recent material up very soon, like later tonight or tomorrow.

All mp3s are 128k. I think I will end up marketing higher-res mp3s files thru Snocap or something in the future, but for now these at least get the idea across....

> corona 4:08/3.8MB
> lapis lazuli 6:18/5.8MB
> lost weekend 3:22/3.1 MB
> lower algiers 9:02/8.3 MB

All four of those tracks are very different, but they're all me (except for the samples....).