Tuesday, November 29, 2011


1989-90 - on the way home from vocational school, rolling in my dad's Chevy Silverado, I was blaring either the Beastie Boys "Paul's Boutique" or the Fall's "Extricate".  Everyday.

Props To Elvis Costello For This Rant

From a rant at www.elviscostello.com:
Tape and celluloid were rolling at the Wiltern Theater, Los Angeles in April this year and present a vivid snapshot of the early days of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook show on “The Revolver Tour” of 2011.
The live recording finds the Imposters in rare form, while the accompanying motion picture blueprints the wilder possibilities of the show, as it made its acclaimed progress across the United States throughout the year.
Unfortunately, we at www.elviscostello.com find ourselves unable to recommend this lovely item to you as the price appears to be either a misprint or a satire.
Read the whole thing here.  This is a rare thing of brutal honesty.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Some Thoughts On Desired Upright Bass Tone

Perhaps this is of no one's interest but mine, but I feel the need to suss out what great upright bass tone is after mentioning it in the last "Fat Friday Feature". I like the bass to sound meaty, it's notes nice and round. The attack of the notes should start with a nice thump from the pluck of the finger, the sustain should bellow loudly and have a woody, reedy character to it.  The decay should resolve itself to the nice "mwhaaa" tone that every bassist since Jaco Pastorius seems to want.   To hear what I mean by "mwhaaa", click here and skip to the 2:44 mark.  I know it's on a bass guitar, but you should get the point.

The best way to achieve this is by using a good condenser mic. There may be an adequate pickup/preamp combo; I just don't know what it is.

In the over all mix, the listener should be able to hear all of these things without straining. By keeping the bass tone as defined above prominent enough in the mix, any given song will have a great deal more warmth to it.

 There are some exceptions to this - bluegrass bass being the first one that comes to mind. The function of the bass changes slightly - it's usually up to the bass player to keep pushing the song forward, even more so than most other genres.  In bluegrass, you just need to have a nice thump going on to keep the time and punch through the brightness of the mandolin/fiddle/banjo. As an example of what I mean, sing the word "thumb" (or "tomb") for the bass part to "Foggy Mountain Breakdown". Achieving the bluegrass sound requires no finesse to be honest. A lot traditional bluegrass bassists, when not sharing a mic with the other musicians, stick a microphone in some pipe insulation and wedge it between the top of the bass and the tail piece. This tends to do the trick nicely in most venues.  It ain't rocket science; it's bluegrass!*

* - If there are any sensitive bluegrass fans out there, this section is by no means meant to insult. Rather, it reflects a simple, pragmatic view of what works for bass in bluegrass settings.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fat Friday Feature (IOU Edition): "Cachiato" Lopez On "Drume Negrita"

I let a Friday get by me without posting a great bass performance - sorry about that. Here's one for you - nothing fancy, it just sounds fucking right. Sonically, this is how the recorded upright bass should sound. Gah. . . Imma shut up and let this song take me way from these overcast skies for a bit.
And because I screwed up and forgot to post yesterday, enjoy the fruits of my Catholic guilt with a BONUS HELPING OF RY COODER!11!!1! This is one of my favorite songs I do believe. Freaking guy must've been born with a guitar in his hands.

Thanks A Lot, Jerks

Bad news for cubicle jockeys everywhere:  Grooveshark's death is imminent.  Of course, this is courtesy of the jerks at Universal Entertainment.  If you have the Grooveshark smart phone app, it'll be rendered useless in due time.  And of course, here at ol' History Lesson Pt. 2, many, many links and embedded mp3 players will be rendered useless.  Fuck it man.  Assholes.

Oh well - I guess that's the way it works.  Enjoy some Grooveshark awesomeness here, here, and here while you still can.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: The Jam's Bruce Foxton On "In The City"

It's Friday - that means I feature a bass player or bass part that rules.  Today, it's Bruce Foxton's performance on "In The City".

I think one of the many things I love about Bruce Foxton is - and this may seem very simplistic - that he can sing and play at the same time.  I love watching him perform - it's all power, precision, and action.  There will be a post coming up about my "holy trinity" of bass of which Bruce Foxton is a part.  This "holy trinity" are the guys that inspired me to pick up a bass; they are the well that I continue to draw upon for inspiration.  I submit the clip below as a tiny bit of evidence as to why Bruce Foxton is a part of that trinity.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Some Questions For You

Some questions for you:
 - I guess if she's 19 she's legal, but is any one else creeped out by the lyrics from "Hey Nineteen"?  Or worse still, the visual of Donald Fagan hitting on a comely young lass?

 - Raise your hand if you use white noise to help you fall asleep.

 - Is it bad when covers of your song are better than your song?  Even the "Glee" version is better.

 - Is there a more comforting sound to hear to hear in the fall/winter than the sound of the heat coming out of the duct work of your house?

More questions here.

An Edited Interview With Duder

Monday, November 14, 2011

Obsolete Sounds

Over at the Mental Floss blog there's a fun compilation of now obsolete sounds.  All of these sounds were in my life, except maybe the cash register.  I suspect they'll live on as novelty ring tones and whatnot.  But don't throw out your typewriters yet - there's some life still for those beloved machines.  I regret getting rid of the electric typewriter I got for Christmas when I was a sophomore in high school.  I guess it means a lot to me because it was concrete proof that my parents were trying to cultivate my interest in writing poetry - a fact that was lost on my self absorbed teenaged self.

I digress - check it out and feel old.
P.S. In the "Designing Women" clip, is it me or does the Jean Smart character talk just like Tommy Lee Jones in any given movie?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: Freekbass Takes You To School

The clip below is not the best representation of Freekbass.  Honestly, there's only one way to see this dude:  live.  Please - go see him if he's coming to your town.  I've seen him twice and it was like an effing clinic.  The dude is a showman in addition to being a helluva bass player.  That's a fairly uncommon combination.  I saw him at the now defunct Patio Night Club in Indy (let's all raise a glass in memory of the Patio) years ago.  A breaker tripped or something and all the power went out in the club except for the power going to the amps and mixing boards.  It took them something like 10 minutes to find out what was going on.  And Freekbass kept going.  And not a single person left.  We were all glued to the performance even though we could see nothing but the power lights glowing from the various amps.  He's that fucking good.

Anyway, chalk up another great musical find discovered by my brother Paul.  Like I say, the first taste below is is free; pony up the cover charge and get the full rush at a night club near you.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Audio Scratch Pad: The First Birds Of Morning

The weather has changed and honestly, it hasn't gotten unbearable - yet.  Still, I'm a spring/summer guy much more than a fall/winter guy, so I suspect that I'll return to recordings like this quite often to help me through the winter.  Just put on my headphones, close my eyes and let myself be transported away. . . .

This was recorded in late July-early August, I'm not sure exactly when.  It was a sleepless morning.  I could hear one lone bird doing his thing in our front yard.  By the time I had given up trying to get back to sleep, some of his compatriots in the back yard had joined it.  I sat on my front steps with my netbook and mic and just pressed "record".

Listen for:  dripping gutter, car that goes to the end of the street then turns, the dull hum of the city waking up in the background (which I have come to love).
First Birds Of Morning by mattzink

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Stinky Mindfulness

When I went to take a shit at work today, I decided I was going to quiet my mind and listen to the room.  I'm not totally sure what prompted it, but I think it was because of an awesome "This American Life" episode I remembered from years ago.  I heard the loud hum of fluorescent lights.  I heard some pipes in the wall flexing and rattling.  I heard the autodeoderizer chirping, alerting whoever cared that the canister inside of it needed to be replaced.  Someone in the women's restroom was flushing a toilet; someone in the hallway was getting a drink at the water fountain.

I found this exercise quite rewarding.  I must go in and out of that restroom a million times a day (trying to get enough hydration in my life, you know).  I've never noticed any of those sounds before, ever.  I felt like I was entering uncharted territory; I felt like the john was brand new.  It occurred to me later that I might be practicing a sort of mindfulness.  I made a conscious decision to be present in that moment in that stinky room.  I became aware of a world that goes unnoticed though it is right under my nose.  In order to do these things, I had to shut out conscious thought and make myself still from within and without.  I had to listen.  How else might my world change if I chose to be present, chose to my make myself still and to listen?  The possibilities become numerous.

And if you believe in God/higher power, what better way to thank he/she/it then by taking an inventory of the world he/she/it created for you?  I think that if you do, then that is the first step to creating a world in which we'd all like to live.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Off Topic: The Rules

Time again for "The Rules", a semi-regular feature I ripped off from Esquire magazine.

116.  Avoid party guests who use the following words or phrases in casual conversation:  paradigm (or “paradigm shift”), political agenda, Obamacare, bro (or “brah”).

117.  Watching Saturday morning cartoons is still permissible for adults provided you are watching it with your kids (or nieces and nephews).

118. “I know it’s a shitty thing to do, but we can’t refuse to accept the situation”. - Pvt. Cowboy, “Full Metal Jacket” Accept the situation. React accordingly. Or to put it another way. . .

119. It’s okay - even cathartic - to vent. But once you’re “venting” goes past the 15 minute mark, you’re whining.

120. Distrust people who eagerly and unabashedly air their dirty laundry.
Rules, rules, rules are everywhere!

A Foray Into Song Writing

One of my band mates (Dan) in the Creekdogs recently returned from a visit to his daughter, who attends college out of state.  While there, they checked out what I gather was an open mic night at the campus coffeehouse.  He was quite impressed with one particular performer, who told the crowd she made herself write a song every day for seven days no matter how busy she was or how large the task. She admitted that this method only produced one usable song; but by my friend Dan's account, it was a good one.

It's not all that uncommon for us in the Creekdogs to tear off beautiful instrumentals in practice, agreeing that a given jam was good enough to add lyrics.  Easier said then done - we've yet to add any words to some of the lovely instrumentals we have kicking around.  Knowing that Dan has a pocketful of great music at any given moment, I decided to try to take the "seven day challenge" and write words everyday for a week to send to Dan and Kevin to put music to.

Starting from zero was really, really hard.  It would've been difficult enough to try to distill a particular sentiment/story into song lyrics; but truthfully, I didn't have a particular sentiment or story I wanted to convey.  For whatever reason, I found myself trying to write like Tom Waits.  This is kinda funny as I'm at best a casual Tom Waits fan.  I have profound respect for him as a songwriter and musician; yet I've never felt compelled to get very deep into his catalog.  I guess the thing I admire the most about Tom Waits' writing is its attention to detail.  A few carefully selected, "small" details vividly portray a given thought/sentiment much better (and a lot more artfully) than just coming right out and saying what's on your mind.

In a week's time, my song lyrics swung wildly from fictitious, third person story telling to personal and sappy as hell.  I tried very hard to remove the inner critic and just get something sent out each night - a process that is trying when some inner voice keeps wondering what Paul Simon, Tom Waits, or Pete Townshend might think of a particular song.

But ultimately, I prevailed.  The experiment yielded six songs in seven nights.  I can't say any of them are great or even good.  But I found the sustained focus and hard work to be quite rewarding.  It remains to be seen if we'll be able to get anything usable out of this batch of tunes - if so, you can expect a follow up post, possibly with audio.  I will say that at the last band practice - this was day two in the process - Dan had taken my lyrics from day one and put them to music.  Bear in mind I thought the lyrics were terrible and unusable.  But after hearing what Dan did to them - I literally almost cried.  It is truly thrilling to hear words I came up with put to music. It was beautiful and honestly, I was using the wrong standard for the words:  reading them there on a page almost as one would read a poem is a world apart from hearing them sung.  I'm hopeful that something cool will come of this.  But if not, I am creatively better for the effort.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: MCA Of The Beastie Boys On "Sabotage"

If you take away one member of the Beastie Boys, the whole thing falls apart.  If you make an exception for the amazing DJs the B-Boys work with, no one member of that band overshadows the other.  And yet, I can't help but think that MCA's bass playing is often overlooked - by B-Boy fans and especially fans of the bass.  "Sabotage" in particular seems to be built around the bass.  I guess because his playing isn't as flashy as say a Firehose-era Mike Watt, MCA doesn't end up as the topic of a lot of discussion in bass player forums.

But check it below - he (they) blow the roof off of wherever the hell it is they playing.  It wouldn't even be close  cool without the bass.