Thursday, January 30, 2014

Audio Scratch Pad: Learning The Ropes

Earlier this month, I put the kids to bed and snuck over to my buddy Pete's house to make some music.  Our primary objective was to become more familiar with some of the software and devices we have for recording, editing, and mixing music.  We decided to move as fast as we can and just get something to edit - sometimes, we're both guilty of getting hung up on the details of getting the song "just right".  (Or maybe I should just speak for myself.)  The results are below.  The one called "Zink Experiment" was the result of that get together; the second one ("Mixed") is a later mix/edit that Pete did on his own.  Even though the emphasis was process, not product, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't proud of this little "audio doodle".  Software used:  Garage Band, Caustic 3 (I cannot recommend Caustic 3 enough).  Instruments:  5-string American Fender Jazz Bass (LOVE the tone on that thing!), midi controller and other things I can't remember.  Beats and bass by me; the rest by Pete.  I love the fact that a portion of this was created on my phone.  Fuckin' technology, man.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

HateSong: Dylan Roahrig On Great White's "Once Bitten Twice Shy"

My good buddy Dylan hipped me to an excellent A.V. Club feature called "HateSong", wherein various celebrities are asked about the songs they hate the most.  It's extremely entertaining - start with Robyn Hitchcock's disembowelment of Christopher Cross's "Arthur's Theme".  Since Dylan is a helluva writer (among other things) I asked him to do a guest spot about the song he hates the most.  He chose Great White's "Once Bitten, Twice Shy".

  "Once Bitten, Twice Shy," as performed by Great White.  Having not heard the Ian Hunter original, so I can not compare it to that.  As a stand alone song the Great White version embodies for me Rock and Roll at its most mundane.  It is almost hateful in its disdain for our intellect.
  Let's start with the arrangement.  Opening with the standard bass beat\snare beat intro which will be sure to pump the concert crowd into a frenzy.  It is effective.  Especially, when your core audience is out of their head on ditchweed and Bud Light.  In comes the honky tonk piano riff and we are off and to the races with Cliche taking the lead, but here comes Def Leppard-Harmonizing-On-The-Chorus in the backstretch!  Who will win?  Oh, it is Let's-Play-A-Scale-And-Call-It-A-Guitar-Solo by a nose.

Lyrically it is just a mess.  In short, a groupie screws everyone in the lead singer's band, road crew, extended family, Facebook friends list and eventually a record producer, I think.  It is littered with music and rock analogies too puerile for even the least accomplished of junior high school poets.  "You didn't know what rock and roll was, until you *insert sleeping with type of band member here.*"  Oh, how very droll.  And, of course, there is the requisite mention of the preferred model of instrument: "Woman you're a mess going to die in your sleep\There's blood on my amp and my Les Paul's beat."  Wait... is that another metaphor?  Oh, who gives a shit?

Finally, there is the video.  Just imagine every hair band video ever made.  Got them?  Good.  Now, imagine feeding them all to a human centipede.  What eventually comes out of the unlucky caboose's caboose is what this video looks like.  A tepid amalgamation of the hopelessly banal filtered through the colons of corporate stooges.  There is nothing stimulating, interesting, arousing or even slightly noticeable by the end of it.
Final analysis: This song would often come on the auto-play of the jukebox in the Pizza Hut I frequented in high school.

It was the first time I truly recognized institutional rock.  I was 16, and I think that it informed much of my musical taste from that point on.  I suppose I should thank the members of Great White for being such a fantastic object lesson for me, but aren't they all in prison for murdering their entire fan-base in a bar fire?  No?  They should be.  Fuck them and the lawyer who got them out of that.
Close second: "We Built this City (On Rock and Roll)" by Starship.  Oof, that's a turd that dropped from the Human Centipede 2.  (That was the one with loads more people on the ass-to-mouth train.)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

"Four Guys Walking In Slow Motion": Oasis's Noel Gallagher Commenting Oasis Videos

This is funny as hell. Watch the whole thing.  It continuously gets better.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sonic Confessional: Keith Moon Is An Awful Drummer

I started getting into the Who long about 5th grade.  As a kid who would spend a lot of time of the next few years either suspended or in detention, they came to me when I needed them the most; they came to me at a time when I was uniquely receptive to their sound, image, and lyrical content.  I loved almost everything about the band - their anger, their introspection, their vulnerability and honesty, their originality/creativity ("Tommy"), the destruction of the instruments, the amazing live shows, Entwistle's playing, Townshend's playing; hell, even Daltrey's singing.  They got me through my tumultuous junior high years by somehow tapping into some of the crap that worked me up, all the while reminding me that there probably wasn't anything unique about what I was going through.  I wasn't a freak, it was a part of the struggle of life to feel what I was feeling.  They have always meant a lot to me, still do.

However, there is one thing I could never bring myself to admit:  Keith Moon is a pretty awful drummer. This thought never really occurred to me until the time I was extolling the virtues of his playing and my brother Bill remarked that Moon couldn't carry a beat in a bucket.  Who is better than Keith Moon, I asked.  Bill remarked that there were a number of drummers better than Moon, but the first one that popped into his head was Mitch Mitchell. And thus began an ongoing debate about the merits of Moon's drumming vs. Mitchell's; a debate I would carry off and on for years with Bill.  Sadly, I was wrong and I'm just now admitting it.

Of course, Keith Moon is cited as an influence by drummers all the time; he has left an indelible mark on rock as we know it.  I'm not arguing that all of his work is awful (dig the drumming on this - Keith was great when he was pushing the song along); but I do think it's mostly on a spectrum of "okay" to "awful".  You'll have to admit that's not exactly a shining endorsement. The primary reason his drumming wasn't good was just as Bill had said:  he wasn't keeping the beat.  Whereas he and bass player John Entwistle should've been locked together most of the time, John was usually left to anchor the rest of the group while they windmilling shit or kicking it over altogether.  Moon's drumming was less beats with fills and more just one. Giant.  Fill.  He over plays big time.  Groove and swing were two feels that were, for the most part, unknown to Keith Moon.  He played with power, which is a plus in my book; but then again, he didn't know when to turn the power off (and turn the finesse on).  I read somewhere that Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascus* started out on drums, then took his simple, power-driven philosophy of playing to guitar.  If Moon did that, he'd be like an even busier, shittier version of Steve Vai.

Another critique - perhaps one that's not quite as valid, but valid nonetheless - is that as a general rule of thumb, if your off stage antics/personality overshadow your actual playing, that's not good.  I'm not going to link here to all the stuff about how the Who were banned from all Holiday Inns in the U.S. after Moon's 21st birthday, or how he chased his wife Kim around the house with a gun until she phoned for help, or about how multiple cars he drove ended up at the bottom of some nearby body of water.  Invariably, if you ask anyone about Keith Moon, the first two things that come up are that he was a drummer, and that he was nuts.  I think his instability showed in his drumming.  It was erratic and frantic - just not really that much fun to listen to. He was notoriously unreliable.  The band could never be sure if, by show time, he'd be sober enough to play.  And his substance abuse only exacerbated his bad playing.  By the time he died in the now cliche rock n' roll way (overdose), everyone knew him as "Moon the loon".  Not good.  I should note that Neil Peart does not have a similar nickname.  In fact, I'm not aware of anything about Neil Peart except that he's a nice guy who could beat the shit out of a drum kit.  Same with Mitch Mitchell, actually.

I think I've piled on ol' Keith Moon enough.  It's true the Who - in fact, rock n' roll as we know it - wouldn't be the same without him.  If you remove Keith Moon from the Who equation, it's not the Who. Ask Kenney Jones.  But if drummers are judged by reliability and depth of skill set on and off the stage, Moon is definitely an awful drummer.

*-Or am I thinking of Dave Grohl?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Rethinking Roger Daltrey: Listen To Rog Masterfully Handle Howard Stern

So the interview below is pretty old (from 2006), but I only came across it this past November.  I don't remember how I happened upon it, but I was doing some pretty mindless, sedentary work, so I was looking for some good background noise and ended up listening to the whole interview.  The interview is worth a listen if you have the time.  Basically, Stern and company were to be interviewing Pete Townshend, and Pete was going to answer questions and sing a few tunes.  As they were preparing to begin the interview, Stern and his crew talked about Pete's legal trouble stemming from child porn charges.  Townshend, who was in a studio in London, was apparently incensed and left without notice.  Roger Daltrey was there as a surprise, and he for whatever reason stuck around to chastise, entertain, and inform Stern and his audience.  Seriously - give it a listen:


Here's what I took from it:

  • Pete is a dumb ass if he thinks that he wasn't going to get asked about the child porn stuff.
  • Pete's the one who comes off looking the worst in this whole shitstorm.
  • Howard is a dumb ass if he thinks anyone would believe that had he been warned not to bring up the child porn topic with Pete, that he wouldn't have done it.  C'mon, Howard: bringing up this sordid bullshit is your bread and butter.  
  • Rog's honesty is delightful, as is his frankness.  He effectively scolds Stern and his cronies, defends Pete, all the while admitting that he and Pete haven't always been the best of buddies.
  • Rog was charming in a very abrasive way, dishing out whatever Stern gave to him with both anger and humor.  Any of Stern's thrusts would parried by Daltrey.  It's really amazing - you can see where Stern is trying to go with some of his questions, but Daltrey handles him.
  • Props to Stern's team for persisting that Daltrey sing along with the yahoo playing guitar in the studio.  It was funny as hell, and I'm glad ol' Rog relented enough to be made a fool.
Of all the members of the Who, Roger Daltrey was probably my least favorite of the guys.  I have to say this changed my mind about him considerably.  I'd have to say Stern was schooled in this case.

Calling All Cats And Kittens: Local Film Maker Looking For Rockabilly Acts For Soundtrack

Local award winning film maker Scott Schirmer is looking for rockabilly acts to contribute to his next project.  Scott's last movie "Found" took home several awards from Elvira's Horror Hunt this past year, including Best Feature, Best Actor, and Best Director.  I don't know much about his upcoming project, but I bet it's pretty good.  And I bet your rockabilly band could use some exposure.  Interested?  Leave an email address in the comments below (I'll delete the comment after I get the email address to protect your privacy), or simply email Scott himself at scott@scottschirmer.com.  Tell 'em Matt sent you.