Wednesday, September 20, 2017

[UPDATED] Link Dump 20 September 2017

Here's some audio related stuff you should probably read:

[UPDATE] I just watched this - "How Flea Plays Bass".  I love stuff like this and could watch it all damn day.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Day At Russian Recording


I had the good fortune of getting to spend the day yesterday at Russian Recording with my friend Caleb Weintraub.  We were working on a tune that Caleb wrote and recorded at home; and we had the whole day to work on just this one tune, with a focus on not only recording new guitar, bass and vocal tracks, but cleaning up/messing up (whatever the song called for) the tracks we brought in with us.  This was exciting for a number of reasons, but probably at the top of that list is the fact that Caleb and I have been talking about getting into a studio for years.  The track has yet to be mastered, but it already sounds fantastic thanks in large part to the skills of engineer Matt Tobey.  And for the record, if you can't get along with Matt, you can't get along with anybody.  He was game to try anything we wanted, and he did it with complete grace and cheerfulness.  His input was useful and most welcome. He was an utter professional.
The mixing board at Russian Recording.
Some of the instruments owned by Russian Recording.  I was
loving the Gibson RD Artist bass (second from left) in particular,
though I did not plug it in.

I arrived around 10 AM, and Matt was already setting up.  Caleb arrived moments later, and I proceeded to practically overdose on black coffee as we began the process of listening to and "re-amping" select tracks of Caleb's densely layered, multi-tracked composition.  Re-amping involves sending a pre-recorded track out of the control room through an amp that is in the live room.  The amp is mic'd and then re-recorded, allowing us to fine tune the pre-recorded tracks using the settings on the amplifier. It makes a huge difference.  That process took us about two hours, but it was a great, simple way to make each track more unique than it was when we came in to the building.

When it came time for me to lay in my bass track, I did so on my upright bass.  That went pretty smoothly, but we went ahead and recorded the same bass line on an electric bass that the studio had.  Ultimately, we decided to go with the electric bass track as it seemed much tighter, much more precise.  Interestingly, we didn't lose much in terms of the "largeness" of the sound; the vintage Kramer bass I used did a shockingly good job approximating the sound of an upright even though that was not necessarily our intention.  We had talked about doing a third bass line with fills and nifty little bass tricks, but decided to forgo that to keep the song from being too cluttered. I'm delighted with the tone we got as well as the run itself.
I did the first take on my upright (left), but we ended up using
the takes I recorded with the studio's beautiful old Kramer bass,
which features an aluminum neck and (I think) body.


A closer look at the Kramer, which is a dead simple and lovely
sounding instrument.  The neck was super fast as well - just
a nifty bass.  Learn more about them here.
It was fun watching Caleb work.  He got the guitar parts done quickly, and really worked hard on the vocal parts.  Among the challenges he faced with the vocal parts was the fact that he was singing this tune in a falsetto, which, if you have to do multiple times, can really wear out your voice quickly.  This was also exacerbated by the fact that Caleb is allergic to cats, and the studio has at least three cats.  (Though Lil Bub's dad owns the studio, Lil Bub was not present.)  But Caleb did multiple takes of every vocal part (and there are many), all of which were pretty damn good.  It was nice to have a lot to choose from.
Caleb Weintraub
Caleb practicing his guitar parts in the control room.
This tune doesn't sound like anything I've ever done, which is one of the big reasons I'm so excited about it.  I'm not sure what we'll do with it after it has been mastered, but there has been some interest in the song already - that's about all I can say about that.  I'll post it here if I can.  One thing's for sure:  we've both got the bug to go back.  Caleb already has a number of songs that are ready to be recorded.  The biggest limiting factors at the moment are time and money.  But if that changes, I hope to have a lot more to share with you.
Gratuitous photo of my upright bass.

Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't send out a hearty thank you to Mary Beth for holding down the fort while I was out playing rock star.  I would never take that for granted.  I am so glad, so thankful for all you do that allows me to do this, Mary Beth.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

First Dance: Pete And Keri

Welp, my fifteenth wedding anniversary fast approaches.  It's a great time to reflect upon the life my wife and I have built; it's a great time to relive our wedding day, which we both agree was pretty damn fun.  I did an entry last year about our first dance, but I also reached out to some friends and family to learn more about their first dances.  I thought I'd highlight my friends Pete and Keri's first dance for this entry.  Pete answered my questions via email.

Pete and Keri's first dance as a married couple was to a live band ("They were very good!" - Pete) playing the Beatles' "Here, There and Everywhere":


Pete reasoned that they wanted something that was "classic and classy and had some staying power" rather than something that was "fleeting or trendy".  If they had it to do over again, Pete thinks they would've selected the same tune since he doesn't recall "being overwhelmed by any romantic tunes since then that have any deep, meaningful significance".  The tune has a special place in his memory, and when he listens to the tune now, he feels a comfort in its familiarity; it hearkens him back to a simpler time.  Although "Here, There and Everywhere" isn't in any regular rotation at Pete and Keri's house, it does pop up from time to time when the music is on "shuffle".

What was your first dance, married people?  Leave your stories in the comments.

Other first dances:

Monday, August 21, 2017

Isolated Vocal Tracks From The Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice"

I don't care what you think of the Beach Boys, it's hard to find a performance with this much precision.  I mean, these harmonies are on rails, man.  I love isolated tracks, because often you can hear small imperfections that are buried in the final mix.  There's nothing wrong with the small imperfections; in fact I find it kind of charming.  But damn, this is perfect as it is.  I wonder if they got it on the first take.  Anyway, enjoy this.  I know I did.




Hate Sounds: Food Noise [UPDATED]

I know - I see the word "hate" in the headline and it felt harsh to me as well.  But you have hate sounds too.  We all do.  Don't be judging.  I'll prove it:  how do you feel when you hear nails against a chalkboard?  That's what I thought.  But you know what is a more common, bloodcurdling sound for me?  Freakin' food noises, man.  They repulse me.  It shouldn't be such a big deal, but they can put me in a pretty foul-ass mood.  Maybe you feel the same way.  How do you react when you hear the following:

  • Chewing out loud/talking with your mouth full.  C'mon, man.  Your mom raised you better than that.  For some reason, both are very common in TV and movies, and it drives me fucking nuts even in these fictional situations.
  • Slurping.  I know in many Asian countries, it's considered rude to not slurp your food; but as long as I'm stateside, I ain't havin' it.
  • Chewing ice.  I never really noticed this until I moved desks at work.  Someone behind me chews ice on a regular basis, and it sends me running.
  • Mindlessly scraping your spoon into your cereal bowl/yogurt cup.  You know what?  Scraping your spoon 600 times in your cereal bowl while you talk or space out will not yield any more cereal than doing it consciously 5 or 6 times.  That "CLANK CLANK CLANK" of a spoon against a ceramic bowl might not register for you; but everyone else probably wants to choke you.
Those are the big four that I can think of, but there may be more.  I'm pretty sensitive to the whole thing, but I don't feel crazy for thinking that if I can hear you consuming food and I'm across the room with my back to you, then I'm not the one in the wrong.  I do think it's a manners thing, but I also think - like the nails against the chalkboard noise - it's a primal, ingrained distaste that I can't control.

Okay - end of rant.  There's enough negativity in the world without me adding to it in my own, pointless little way.  Here's hoping that those who read this will be more cognizant of their own food noises.  Don't worry - eventually, I'm going to do some posts about "comfort sounds" - sounds that have the opposite effect of hate sounds.  What are some of your hate sounds?  Leave 'em in the comments.

[UPDATE]  I forgot to add burping to the list above.  The only time burping is funny is when Rick does it on "Rick and Morty".  (Especially when he's saying something while burping.  That shit cracks me up.)  Farting?  Funny.  Burping?  No.  Not funny at all.  I used to laugh my ass off at burps in 5th grade; it's maybe one of five things I've grown out of.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Creekdogs Reunion At Indy Folk Fest!

When the Creekdogs split up in 2013, I was pretty sad about it.  Truthfully, I understated how sad I was.  But like the article says, you never know what the future will bring.  Gratefully, it has brought us back together for a short set on August 5th at the Indy Folk Fest (in addition to the previously announced gig at Apple Works).  We'll only be playing for thirty minutes at this family friendly event, so make sure you're on time. If you blink you might miss us!  We'll hit the stage at 6:45 PM.  Stick around for lots of great music, including music from my friends Amigo Fields.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Concert Review: Vulfpeck [With Links To The Show!]

Who:  Vulfpeck  (Opener was Joey Dosik)
When:  13 May 2017, 8:30 PM
Where:  The State Theater, Ann Arbor, Michigan

The Short Take:  Unless super expensive light shows and over-the-top stage production are your thing, you will not see a better concert this year, period.  Feel your battered, cynical heart blossom into an organ of hope and life.  Feel your soul  inspire (and believe) the words that comprise stupid sentences like the previous one.  Smile and feel unsinkable like a junior high kid with a nasty crush and a great song in his head.  In these strange times, there's nothing more subversive than that.

The Set List:  All links are from the the very show reviewed in this blog entry - thank you, Internet.
(Major thanks to Paul Zink for tracking the set list and finding links to the show.)
Outro
Conscious Club
Rango
My First Car (w/ Jack Stratton drum solo)
The Speedwalker/Sky Mall
[Stratton father/son jam]
1612
Aunt Leslie
[Stratton mom "Funky Duck" dancing lesson]
Funky Duck
Boogie On Reggae Woman
Wait For The Moment
[Jack Stratton flash fundraiser for school in Flint, MI]
Back Pocket (w/ a capella intro)
Animal Spirits
Beastly (bass solo #1, #2, and #3, with alternate view of solo #3)*
Cory Wong

Encore: Dean Town
* - A note from Paul:  "The guy on YouTube has them mislabeled.  His "solo #1" is technically #2; his "solo #2" is really #3.  Solo #1 is usually the shortest, so maybe people don't consider this a "solo".

More:  Pete, Paul and I trucked up to Ann Arbor, Michigan this past Saturday to go see Vulfpeck; though we were all familiar with their tunes, none of us had seen them live before.  Although we all expected it to be pretty good, we didn't know what we would be seeing at all.

The venue for it was great - seeing concerts in old, ornate theaters always give the show a sense of occasion in my mind.  Probably the worst thing about the venue was you had to be a part of some club or something to buy beer.  You can join the club on the spot, but it reeked of some sort of weird extortion scheme.  If you didn't join the club, you had to settle for watered down Maker's Mark.  As a result, I had only one whiskey. Which is probably just as well.  I don't see how booze would've enhanced my experience even a little.  In fact, my two runs to the bathroom had me miss precious opening seconds of both Joey Dosik and Vulfpeck.  Stupid small bladder.

Joey Dosik opened.  I had never even heard of the dude though if I was a hardcore Vulfpeck fan, I would have:  He collaborates with them often.  He stayed on a Fender Rhodes piano for his whole performance, adding drums on the second tune, guitar on the third, then gradually winding back down to just him on electric piano by the end of the set.  Joey has soul to spare.  He sang in this cool falsetto for most of it; sort of mind blowing for me because I never thought I'd see the words "cool" and "falsetto" in the same sentence.  He also pulled off the singing dialogue thing nicely ("I know times are really strange" he sang at one point, seemingly acknowledging the world is in a fucking shitty place right now, but in the most melodious way possible.) - something that usually annoys me more than charms me.  But his minimalist set was full of warmth and love, and just sounded effin' good.  In that sense, he does exactly what a warm up act is supposed to do:  get the crowd feeling alright, ready for the main event.

I forgot to mention he did a great version of the Beatles' "Don't Let Me Down".

As for Vulfpeck?  There's a lot to say, and you don't have a lot of time.  Why don't I just list out why they were so dope?

  • Watching Vulfpeck is like watching a buncha clean cut, straight "A" students melt away all the dumb, pretentious ideas I had about music.  How is it that music like theirs can be fun without being campy?  How can it be positive without being preachy?  How can such extreme musicianship remain interesting without being ejaculatory?  How can a saxophone (Dosik joined Vulfpeck multiple times on vocal duties and sax duties) solo outside of jazz not hurt my ears?  I don't know, man.  But they did all that stuff.
  • With the exception of bassist Joe Dart and keyboardist Woody Goss, all the other band members switched instruments throughout the show.  Again, you'd think this would be a gimmick that would backfire; instead, each musician brought their own take to the instrument.  It was shockingly seamless.  At no point did the music lack because of the switching.
  • I often refer to Vulfpeck as a funk band, but that sorta doesn't work and this show drove that home.  They are probably the funkiest band I currently know about, but they bring a funk flavor to tunes that sound like one part lounge jazz, one part yacht rock, one part 80s pop with a dash of skank thrown in on the tone.  I know, I know - that sounds truly horrendous, but it's not.  It works.  No one else is doing it, probably because no one else can pull it off.  I like how their music references different types/sounds of music without ever actually doing a whole sale rip off of that music.
  • Cory Wong (guitarist) - his guitar tone is straight up 1983, but I've never seen it so perfectly executed live.  Cory Wong on the Vulfpeck studio recordings sounds identical to live Cory Wong.
  • Vulfpeck is hurting in the swag category.  They were selling these ugly ass posters for major money.  But even this is a positive:  I wasn't spending money on shit.  Just my luck they'll become collectible or something.  C'est la vie.
  • A one point, Jack Stratton did this dopey dance, only for a few moments.  If you liked it, you could go to Venmo and pledge $2 to help a school in Flint, Michigan.  Needless to say, they smashed their goal.  Hell, people were literally running up the aisle throwing cash at them.
  • And that crowd:  they were really, really great too.  Vulfpeck had us eating out of their hands, but the crowd was loud when it was appropriate, quiet when it was necessary.  There was some cell phones filming, but never a lot, and never distracting.  I was pretty surprised by that too.  Lots of dancing, lots of smiles to be had.  No one wanted the night to end.
  • Joe Dart.  It would've been worth it for him alone.  His playing is as tight, interesting and creative as it gets.  And it never.  Leaves.  The. Pocket.  I don't usually care much for bass solos (that'll be the topic of an upcoming blog entry), but Joe Dart is the glaring exception.  I could listen to him all damn day.
I'll probably think of some other praise to heap, but maybe I'll just leave it at that for now.  This is easily one of the best shows I've ever seen in my life, but you don't have to take my word for their greatness:  head over to their (lovely minimalist) website and see how many tickets are available for their upcoming shows.  Good luck if you want to go.  

MAJOR hat tip to Paul for supplying the set list and links for this post as well as to Pete, who drove to the show and was fun as hell to spend time with.