Friday, June 22, 2012

BONUS Fat Friday Feature: Acoustic Ladyland's Ruth Goller On "Thing"

One last bad ass bass part to showcase before I shove off for a week.

Vacation (All I Ever Wanted)

This is in my immediate future:

I wish I could take y'all with me, but this and this should be an adequate cubicle vacation for you - use headphones for maximum effect.  This of course means that unless I can con Bill or someone else into doing it, there will be no Fat Friday Feature next week.  In the meantime, enjoy this amazing article.  Coming from someone who considers himself a HUGE Camper Van Beethoven fan, it's nice to see ol' David Lowery get schooled a bit in this article.  Please, God, don't let Lowery become another Lars Ulrich-type d-bag.

Have a great week, everyone!

Fat Friday Feature: 'Til Tuesday's Aimee Mann On "Voices Carry"

Because she's the bass player/front person, and I like that.
Because I loved this song when it came out, but wouldn't admit it (time to come clean).
Because this video is hilarious.
Because Aimee Mann was in "The Big Lebowski", probably the greatest movie of all time.
Because why the hell not?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bass Player Humor

Thank you to fellow bass player and all around great dude Ben for hipping me to this!

I have this book at home wherein Paul McCartney admits he was reluctant to take on the bass because bass players couldn't "pull the birds".  It doesn't have to be this way.  According to Mark Hoppus, we can all be knee deep in tail just by moving around a bit.  Thanks, Mark!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Remembering NBC's "Friday Night Videos"

When you didn't have cable, this was your only option to satisfy your music video jones:

NBC's "Friday Night Videos", complete with its confusing, phallic opening sequence.  Even as a sixth grader I knew this show was terrible.  Although the show originally started with videos from beginning to end, it wasn't long before NBC realized they had a captive audience of us non-cable havin' motherfuckers to beat over the head with NBC promotions.  (To be clear, guest hosts didn't come from just NBC shows, but they appear to have shouldered most of the guest hosting duties.)  All the mindless banter between hosts, all the "Private Reels", and "Video Votes"* - I hated that shit.  Hated it.  It seemed like the videos I wanted to see were always shown dead last.  Yet, I always sat through crap like Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, and the Jets just to watch the Stray Cats, the Kinks or Dire Straits videos.  NBC had me right where they wanted me.

Of course, music videos were a new, incredibly exciting medium in the early 1980s.  It's easy (and right) to watch them now and make fun of their unrefined, schlocky content (my favorite ones to make fun of are the ones where they act out the song); but "Friday Night Videos" provided my generation with something to talk about and in some cases, emulate.  There were at least five Duran Duran-obsessed Madonnas and one Boy George in my class, bending the St. Mary's dress code as far as would go.  I remember pestering my mom to death for a pair of parachute pants, the one Michael Jackson look that I really dug (She wisely rejected me - thank you, mom.  I love you.).  "Like A Virgin" made sex sound electrifying and virginity an unbearable burden; Chrissy Hynde had me wondering what specifically she had "winking at me".  David Lee Roth videos made me ache with desire.  And Prince?  Lock up your daughters, as the old timers say.  Popular music has always been steeped controversy, but music videos made sure that we were all on the same page as to what we were supposed to be enticed/offended by. As kids became seduced and parents become horrified, ad revenues went up.  The message was emerging loud and clear:  youth culture was was huge, powerful and profitable.

Sorry - I got carried away with myself.  MTV realized the potential of videos/youth cultures.  "Friday Night Videos" sanitized the medium as much as it could while throwing in a little raciness ("Friday Night Videos" guest host Elvira - I can guarantee I watched that whole episode) to try and remain relevant.  T&A videos or anything else that could be construed as "controversial" were usually shown dead last.  Although the show did a pretty good job of showcasing R&B, rap and soul acts next to pop and rock acts, it was decidedly ungritty, unsophisticated and noncontroversial.  MTV seemed to grasp that the college rock scene (which bloomed from the ashes of the punk movement of the 1970s) was ascending, "FNV" did not.  MTV had "120 Minutes", which featured videos from bands on up-and-coming and independent labels.  The more popular acts (for example, REM and The Cure) would trickle into the regular rotation.  "FNV" showed "Rock The Casbah" once.  Maybe twice, I don't know.

For a short while, "Friday Night Videos" even had a regional competitor:  "Rockbox".  For an hour or two on Saturdays, the local Fox affiliate (at that time known as WPDS) would show "Rockbox".  It was truly astounding to see the stuff they were playing - Utopia and the Clash being the first two that popped into mind.  I liked that I didn't recognize very many of the bands.  I thought, "this is the way to discover music".  That show, however, did not last long.  So fate forced me to "Friday Night Videos" (because NOT watching videos was not an option).

For all its weaknesses, I still remember "Friday Night Videos" fondly.  I was - and still am - totally in love with the medium.   "FNV" was the only game in town for me, but it was better then nothing (yeah I know:  90% music videos were crap, but I didn't think so at the time).  It was a part of my weekend, especially in the summertime when I was staying up late every night.  I liked being able to see the people playing the music that was all around me.  And, if you didn't pick up on it, some of the videos fueled my teen age male fantasies.  Staying up for "Friday Night Videos" became an important ritual for me. I'd boil some hot dogs or put some peanut butter on some Ritz crackers and wash it down with a cup of RC while watching Tears For Fears or Men At Work. Later in the night, (when I hit 8th grade) I'd sneak out for a smoke into the sleeping suburban world of my existence.  Quietly puffing on a Winston Light, listening to the sounds of the sprinklers on the nearby golf course - it was heaven.  I probably wouldn't've made the effort to stay up and enjoy this if "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" wasn't coming up later in the show.  Fuck, might as well smoke another:  fucking Miami Sound Machine is on again.

* - Even though winners of a "Video Vote" could only win four times before being retired, that was four times too many times for "The Big Log".  It seemed like that song was on there every week for three years.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Death Metal Rooster

Too awesome not to share.  Thanks Karl!

A Directory Of Awesome Bass Players/Bass Parts Showcased On "Fat Friday Features"

In celebration of "History Lesson Pt. 2"'s first anniversary, here is a directory of awesome bass players/parts featured at this blog.  NO player has ever been featured more than once, so there's a lot of great stuff here with plenty more to come.

Click on the link to read the entry.
  1. Unknown dude #1
  2. Reid Anderson (The Bad Plus)
  3. Adam Yauch/MCA (The Beastie Boys)
  4. Freekbass
  5. Bruce Foxton (The Jam)
  6. Cachiato Lopez 
  7. Mark Rubin (The Bad Livers)
  8. Unknown dude #2
  9. Chris Squire (Yes)
  10. Steve Smith (The Vapors)
  11. Bill Clements
  12. Francis Rocco Prestia
  13. Trevor Bolder (Uriah Heep/Wishbone Ash)
  14. Scott LeFaro
  15. Wm. Sims (Scratch Acid)
  16. Justin Meldal-Johnsen
  17. John Entwhistle
  18. Unknown dude #3
  19. Mike Watt (Minutemen)
  20. Tony Lombardo (The Descendents)
  21. Unknown dudes #4, #5, and #6
  22. Kazuyoshi Kimoto (The Ruins)
  23. Trevor Dunn
  24. Victor Krummenacher (Camper Van Beethoven)
  25. Jim Prescott (G. Love and Special Sauce)
  26. Colin Moulding (XTC)
  27. Andy Rourke (The Smiths)
  28. Royston Langdon (Space Hog)
  29. Jeff Tweedy (Uncle Tupelo)
  30. Willie Dixon 
  31. Holger Czukay (Can)
  32. John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)
  33. Unknown dude #7
  34. Paul Socolow (David Byrne)
  35. Ali Friend (Beth Orton)
  36. John Taylor (Duran Duran)
  37. Bakithi Kumalo (Paul Simon)
  38. Meshell Ndeleocello
  39. The Brothers Johnson
  40. "Slick" Joe Fick
  41. Kim Clarke (Defunkt)
  42. Esperanza Spalding
  43. Cris Kirkwood (Meat Puppets)
  44. Matheus Nova (Savarah Soul)
  45. Charles Mingus
  46. Clint Conley (Mission of Burma)
  47. Chris Wood (Modeski, Martin and Wood)
  48. Dan Bergland (EST)
  49. Pete Shand (The New Mastersounds)
I think that's all of 'em!  Thanks to Bill for the occasional Fat Friday Feature.  What about the rest of y'all?  What bass players/parts rock your world?

Original Music: Redbird's "Tongues" Rough Mix

It's been almost a year since I posted about my thoroughly enjoyable experience playing bass in the studio with Mike and Dave.  I love being in recording studios, esp. with two dudes as cool as these guys.  I don't believe I ever posted the fruits of my (our) labors.  Take a listen.

Mike tells me that this particular track for various reasons may not see the light of day on any Redbird projects.  It doesn't matter to me much as I really valued the experience a great deal.  It's a great tune methinks.  If this is one of the cast away songs, the stuff that Redbird actually releases should pretty much blow your noggin apart.

At any rate, I'm so grateful to have been asked to play on this.  If you're in the Chicagoland area, keep a look out for Mike Bushman - I'm sure he'll be cropping up at a club near you (if he's not already).

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fat Friday Feature: Guest Post By Bill Zink

It's Friday - time to feature another amazing bass player/bass part.  Today's post was authored by Bill Zink.  Take it away, Bill. . ..

Fat Friday - Genesis P. Orridge and the Bass as Sound Generator

I recently scarfed up a good deal on one of those Orange "lunchbox" amps: a little 15 watt all tube head called the Dark Terror.  I got it because I wanted to have access to that nasty grindcore guitar sound that I love but rarely ever use.  So, I got it plugged in, cranked up the gain, and . . . meh.  Not so much.  I figured maybe it was weaker than expected because I was using a Telecaster, when that death metal sound works so much better with overwound Duncan humbuckers, or pickups like that.

And then, almost out of a sense of ritual more than anything else, I tuned the the Tele down to a drop-D:  much better!  And when I tuned it all the way down to a C, it got even nastier.  I still need some humbuckers to really maximize the darkness of the Dark Terror, but it's clear that the evil lives in the low end.

And that is today's lesson: the evil lives in the low end.  Ladies and gentlemen, Genesis P. Orridge:

This is a departure for Fat Friday: Genesis was much more interested in pounding your ass than he was in moving it.

Throbbing Gristle played at volume levels right at the top end of human tolerance, and Genesis chose to play bass because of the low-end power that the instrument gave him: he often talked about the ability to do physical damage with his over-amped bass.  "Zyklon B Zombie" shows how he used bass as the primary melodic instrument while still occupying the bottom end (certainly not a rarity - Motorhead's "Ace of Spades" does pretty much the same thing, though the bass is reinforced by the guitars there).

TG's bass fixations didn't limit themselves to string basses: they also exploited high volume low end growls from their synthesizers, as here, in perhaps their most famous song, "Hamburger Lady":

In among all the syths and noise, Genesis chose the bass because only the bass gave him the percussive and physical punch needed to execute his version of music.  Here's some live TG with Genesis strapped to his trademark Gibson EB-1:

Guitars have always been the weapon of choice among noiseheads, while bass was often relegated to a grounding role, rounding up the wacked-out guitars like a border collie rounding up sheep (I know, I was in one of those bands).  Throbbing Gristle was a band built around the low end, with the low end as its primary force of assault.  The music sounds somewhat tamer these days, especially at lower volume (remember kids: record at high volume, mix at low volume, for maximum impact on playback!), but Genesis and company manage to open new vistas with the low end . . . this is definitely a different kind of low end theory. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Holy Crap History Lesson Pt. 2 Is A Year Old Today

This blog is a year old today.  Here's the first entry, the middle entry, and the last entry.  Although you wouldn't guess it from that pretty lame sampling, I started this blog to enact my desire  to consciously observe and make sense of the sounds of my life.  It is a small attempt to live at least one aspect of my life more mindfully.  I think it's cool that the more I write, the more ideas reveal themselves to me.  For sure, there is no shortage of stuff to make sense of; and in that sense, this blog has been a small triumph for me.

History Lesson Pt. 2 is a nice little lark.  What this blog is not is a showcase of fine writing, grammar, logic, or critique - as long as you take this blog lightly, you'll probably enjoy it.  Thanks to all of you for reading, commenting, and stopping by!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Here Is A Short List Of Instruments I'd Learn To Play If I Could Not Play Bass

  1. Pedal steel guitar.
  2. Ukulele.  (I have a uke; just need to learn to play it.)
  3. Banjo.
  4. Mandolin.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Commentary Free Photo Dump From The Harley Gig

Here is a smattering of photos from the Harley gig.  There was so much awesome in that parking lot it had my head spinning.  The crappy cell phone photos don't do it justice, but it might give you a sense of the cool stuff that was there.

Trowar Report In Photos

Here is the obligatory wing shot. This particular shot
is the Indianapolis to Charlotte (NC) leg of the flight.  From there it was
Charlotte to Seattle.  I was in the air something like six hours total;
not a big deal unless you took the 5:15 am flight like I did.  Factor that in
with the fact that I went to bed at 10 PM, got up at 1 and was on
the road by 2 AM and that kind of adds up.  I really can't get comfortable
enough on planes to sleep, so it was a bit gruelling at times.  Still
I knew this was the deal going into it and I didn't really
mind.  I actually like getting up early.  The only truly shitty part of
the flight is when I provoked the righteous fury of one of the attendants
because the door to the overhead storage would close due
to my carry on.  After berating in front of the other passengers at the ass
end of the plane (where I was sitting), she actually got on the intercom
to point out the error of my ways.  Holy shit she was pissed.  For
the record, it was US Airways.   All of their attendants seemed really
put out for having to do stuff that is a part of their job.
Fred and I rehearsed for a day before John came up.  As usual, the rehearsals were really long and very focused, which I've come to expect/prefer.  I got to try the new (used) Ampeg SVT-350 they purchased for me.  I really like it a lot.  I want to spend more time with it figuring out my sound, but I was happy with what I was able to eke out of it with little/no time for knob tweaking.  There are several jacks on the back, and I'm not sure if I had connected the head to the speakers for maximum quality/volume, but as I said:  everything was adequate.  I don't have to fight near as much to be as loud as the other two.
(Left to Right)  Sade and new bass rig.  They complimented
each other just fine.  It was loud enough, though
ultimately I aspire to Entwhistle levels of volume.
Anyway, the rehearsals were extremely helpful and went pretty smooth.  Fred has been concentrating a lot on becoming a better singer.  We're deciding that excellent vocals would be the best way to differentiate ourselves from other bands.  When you couple that with Fred's amazing soloing talents and John's extraordinarily creative drumming, I think we can really stand out.

Our first gig was on a Thursday was at El Corazon, an appropriately dumpy place in an appropriately dumpy section of Seattle for rock and roll venue.  There were five of us - the manager Chris Wilhite, Fred's son Cole, us Trowarriors and all of our gear in Chris's Ford F-350 crew cab.  Within 10 mins of getting on the road for the 40 minute commute, we fell into a deep silence.  I can't speak for the others, but I really wanted to make sure my head was in the right place for this first gig.  I suspect they were going through the same thing.  At some point, Cole (who by the way is a very, very cool dude) busted out his phone and started playing a Gap Band play list.  Oddly, this was perfect pregig music as we all arrived at the venue in energetic and great spirits.
El Corazon used to be known as the Off Ramp.
Allegedly this is where bands like Pearl Jam,
Soundgarden and Nirvana cut their teeth.  Just like
everyone in south central Indiana has a John Mellencamp
story, I suspect the same is true for Seattle and
the huge bands that came from there in the 1990s.  Which
is to say I have no idea if those bands ever played
here or not.

Fliers inside El Corazon.  Is it me, or at we at an extreme
cultural low for band names?  "Fungal Abyss"?
"Destruction of a King"?  Fucking terrible even if the bands
are awesome.

Another prerequisate shot: the bathroom.

When we arrived, we unloaded our gear into the back room.  We were excited -a huge, high stage in a huge, high room.  I had visions of 200-300 people; my only goal was to turn the place into rubble.  The hilarious part came when the dude came and told us that section was locked off for the night; that we'd be playing in the front up by the street facing window.  We learned more:  we'd get 30 minutes to play, and this was an all ages show, which meant all bands had to be wrapped up at 11 PM.

We were second the second band to get up there.  We ended up playing for 45 minutes, which was nice.  In a nutshell, it went very well.  We were tight.  We left jaws on the floor.  After the last song - which is a slower, more hypnotic song - there was 3 seconds of silence before the place kinda blew up. The crowd, consisting mainly of high school/early college/middle school kids and their parents and girlfriends, was very enthusiastic.  I had lots of well wishers coming up and wanting to know more about us.  One dude even bought me a Guinness and introduced me to a buncha people he was with.  We left with a very warm feeling. It wasn't a perfect show, but we were encouraged by the excitement we had generated.

The next night, we were off to tiny Carnation, Washington, to Pete's Tavern.  This gig did not go as well.  Let me be clear:  the crowd that was there really liked it, it's just that we knew better. I didn't play as precisely as I needed to.  The only way to play better and to recover from errors is to know the songs inside and out, backwards and forwards.  The PA was abysmal.  There was nothing there when we arrived and the sound man was on vacation.  The owner of the venue called in someone else, who literally cobbled something together (he was asking to borrow cords from us if memory serves me correctly).  There was one mic, meaning I couldn't add my wonderful harmonies.  There was no sound check.  The dude working the PA set it up and disappeared.  We couldn't find him. We had to hope there was no feedback or one of us would have to jump off stage to fix it.  Fred's vocals were mangled by a shitty wire or something.  His singing crackled through the speakers, an indicator of a possible bad cord.  As a result, he really strained to sing loud yet in control.  It was futile - nothing he could've done would've made the singing sound right.  The whole situation was cause for a tense ride home.  We really had a pretty animated discussion about that gig.  The good news was that there were ten text messages on Chris's phone from the owner.  He wanted us back badly.  The bad news for him is I suspect we won't be back.

Pete's Tavern, a favorite among bikers and other assorted riff-raff.
And I mean "riff raff" affectionately.
Our last gig was at Eastside Harley-Davidson.  We were a part of their eighteenth birthday celebration.  There were hot rods, choppers, a zip line and this tractor with three giant super charged Hemis.  There were door prizes, free drinks and food from Acapulco Fresh.  And I'm sure that any of those fine folks at Eastside Harley-Davidson would've been happy to talk to you about a new or certified used Harley-Davidson.  Anyway, the crowds were large and steady throughout the day.  Needless to say, we had a healthy nervousness going into this gig, but a great sound man and sound system is about half the battle.  We had a blast and were right back on top of our game.  In terms of precision, this was one of my best gigs.  Fred's vocals were fine and as usual, his solos would melt your face or whatever the kids are saying for "awesome" these days.  John, as usual, is a fucking monster on the drums.  I say this all the time; but if you could hear him play, I'm positive you'd reach the same conclusion.  We played two 45 minute sets about two hours apart.  Both sets ruled.

The set up.

Fred changing and tuning a string between sets.  He's gotten a
new Ibanez that is pretty sweet.  I'm kinda turning into a fan
of some of Ibanez's premium guitars.  They sound clean, are fast as
hell and very comfortable.

Promotional shiznat hanging inside the dealership.

It was tempting in this gig to be some what bummed that we couldn't pull people into the tent.  We sounded great, but the jalapeno eating contest drew more folks than we did.  We also felt goofy when asked to wrap up a set because they were going to fire up that fucking tractor.
Why, God, why?  Who would ever need to plow a
field with three super charged Hemis?

But really, people weren't there for us.  There were plenty of distractions that we had to compete with.  I think it has to do with the mindset of people who are coming out - they're there for a motorcycle sale.  And free burritos.  And the zip line.  I do believe we made a very good impression though it may have been difficult to tell.  I know that organizers were absolutely delighted with us, and that's great.  Ultimately, they're the ones who sign the pay check.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer Is Here And I Love Summer So This Blog Is Going On Break

I think I'm going to step away from this blog for the month of June. There's plenty of stuff to write about; it's just that I feel like being in the material world a bit more, at least for this month.  I may have a thing or two to hip you to - Trowar's latest adventures in the Pacific Northwest for example - but for now, this feels less like fun and more like an obligation.  I'm sure I'll be back sometime soon though. 

If you got a guest post, send it my way!  Otherwise, get your butt from behind the computer and out to the beach/woods/road/farmer's market - whatever.  Be safe, and have fun!