Friday, February 27, 2015

Odds And Ins

There's some stuff I should probably hip you to:

  • I still haven't gotten around to telling you about the blue grass outfit I've been playing with.  I will at some point; probably after we get more of a web presence.  But if you want to get a sense of what we're about, tune into WFHB's "Local Live" this coming Wednesday around 9 PM.  I'll be playing bass on at least a few tunes (I'm still learning the whole set) and jabbering between songs.  Or if I'm lucky, not jabbering - would rather have my band mates take on that burden.  Anyway, I'm not sure if they stream the show or not, but they always (eventually) upload the show online, so check back to WFB's website often if you can't listen to it live.  
  • I'm playing (with Kevin Reynolds) at a fund raiser for the kids' school this weekend.  This should be a lot of fun.  To tell you the truth, I can't wait to try the food as it is being catered by Lennie's.  I can tell you first hand that the food will kick much butt.  It's also exciting in that I'll be making my debut on ukulele for this show.  I think I'll be playing it on about three tunes.  
  • Mini link dump:  space sounds from NASA.  This is cool as my son and I are reading a graphic novel about the first dog in space, and these sounds help make it real for him.  Plus, they make dope ring tones.  I stumbled across an old interview (2013) with my personal hero Mike Watt.  I'm still making my way through it, but it just makes me love him all the more.  His uniform (flannel) and blue collar work ethic are proudly on display.  Makes me feel good to know there are still guys like him around.  He's got some great stories too - about Iggy asking him to not wear flannel on stage when on tour with the Stooges, about recording with Kelly Clarkson, etc.
  • Crazy timing on today's "Fat Friday Feature" - this just showed up in my inbox.  Someone else felt it right to showcase MonoNeon as well.  Weird/cool.
I think that's it for now.  Party on.

Fat Friday Feature: MonoNeon Plays Along With An Unknown Song

I found out about this dude MonoNeon only today from this post at Boing Boing.  When I went to check out some of the other videos he had posted, I was pretty blown away.  I like his outlandish fashion sense for starters - way to create some interest, Mono.  But his playing - whoa.  I haven't heard anything like this in long time.  It's part Jaco Pastorius, part Joey Arkenstat, it's all weird.  But I love this dude's happy fingers - it's been a long time since I've seen anyone that agile on a bass.  This dude is a bit of a freak, and I'm loving it.

If that's a little much for you, dig on this shit:

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sonic Confessional: I'm Thinking Of Selling Sade

When I was in junior high, and on into high school, there were really only two mass-produced basses I pined for:  an Ernie Ball/Music Man Sting Ray, and a Rickenbacker 4001 (or 4003 - kind of the same thing).  Don't get me wrong - I'm enamored with basses in general and I always have been.  I love Fender Jazz and Precision basses, dig on the custom work of Carl Thompson, and can appreciate a good bargain brand like Washburn.  I keep a bass book in the bathroom and I've read it a million times (infer what you want from that info).  But whenever I was having fantasies about destroying venues with my virtuosic bass playing, I was almost always playing a Rick or a Sting Ray.

My senior year of high school, the opportunity for realizing one of these fantasies came up:  my bass teacher was selling not one, but two Music Man Sting Rays.  They were "sister" basses that were the same year and same specs, only one was fretted and the other fretless.  I could have each for $800, or both for $1300.  Ohhh let me tell you:  I would've carried out a contract hit if it paid $1300.  But as it was, I was able to scrape together the $800 for the black fretted 1977 Sting Ray.

What made this bass unique was that the neck had be expertly shaved (by noted luthier Ron Volbrecht) to a tiny, tiny profile.*  Of course, this kills the value of what is a highly collectible bass, but I didn't care.  It practically played itself, yo.  And hell - there was no way I was ever going to sell it.  Taking Quack's advice, I gave it a name:  Sade, after the singer of the same name, because like Sade, it sang and it was smoooooovvvve.  Until recently, the Sade has been my main bass.  She's been with me through everything - college, moves out west and back, vacations, gigs of all sorts.  She still plays great and she wears the patina of age very, very well.  I think it looks better now than when I bought it.  I've had other basses that I loved - hate that I had to sell my G&L L-1000 to be able to afford an upright - but selling Sade was never, ever an option.

But it's time to face facts.  I'm not as nimble as I want to be.  Sure, this is mostly due to my shitty practice regimen and lack of background in theory, but it's also due to my freakishly small baby hands.  Try as I might to do some of the more demanding Trowar runs on my (as yet unnamed) Fender Jazz bass, I just haven't mastered them.  The span of frets is a major challenge for me.  And rock songs - particularly Trowar songs - call for some mud and grit that the Jazz bass CAN deliver, but only after much knob tweaking and effects gathering.  All of this is to say that lately I've been pricing out Gibson SG* basses.  They're 3/4 scale basses (meaning the neck scale is 30 inches as compared to the 34 inch scale of the Sting Ray and the Jazz Bass), and the pickups are legendarily dirty.  That's a good thing, although what I've been impressed with looking at demos online is how well the sound of SG basses cleans up.  A wide sonic spectrum on the same bass is a major plus in my book.  And admittedly, this is sort of a lame reason, in my mind, the SG bass is the official bass of power trios.  Jack Bruce and Mike Watt being prime examples of dudes walking all over everyone else with their SG basses.

So if I'm attached to my Sting Ray, why not sell the Jazz Bass?  Answer:  I can't make my Sting Ray sound the way I want it to.  More accurately, the sound of the Sting Ray is not right for what I play.  Sting Rays are (rightly) popular in jazz and funk circles because they're bright and cut through everything. I used to value that sound a great deal - lots of gain, lots of attack, lots of treble.  Sting Rays had that in spades.  In the sonic melange that is a song, the tone of the Sting Ray was always the pretty lady:  clear, bright, beautiful.

But as I've gotten older, I've change my ideas of what a good bass sounds like.  Now I love the thunder, the meatiness, the roundness that passive electronics (Sting Rays are active) deliver.  I've tried many different amp and effects configurations with the Sting Ray, but I can't hide that distinctive sound.  Selling or trading that Jazz Bass is out of the question.  I've totally fallen for that bass.  It begs to be played and every time I plug it in, I'm amazed at the range of sound I can get from it.  It's definitely a bass to grow old with.

Of course, there are emotional considerations.  Will I miss the Sade?  We've had so many great times - high school gigs at the all ages club with the Unexplained, playing it on the dock at Lake Leelanau, forging many a musical friendship with Sade in hand.  But ultimately, a bass is a tool.  If it doesn't serve it's purpose - and since I'm not a collector - it has to move on.  I just don't know though.  I called this blog entry a "sonic confessional" because I feel like I'm selling something more valuable to me then money:  my past.  My memories.  I worry that I'll regret selling it if I do sell it.  I think the deciding factor is to find a Gibson SG bass to test drive. If it charms me; nay, if it seduces me, you might see Sade on the chopping block.

Stay tuned.

*-Technically it's not accurate because they're two different basses, but I'm calling EB-3s "SG basses" because I'm lazy and they're more or less the same thing.
*-Ron later taught me how to strip the finish, and he gave it the amazing sunburst finish you see on it today.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

From Bill: The Ultimate Endurance Test

While looking for a beat that I had made to embed in the previous post (I didn't find it), I ran across this email from my brother Bill.  Here it is posted in its entirety - it used to be linked to a Rhapsody list that is no longer there, so the links below won't work.  If I was hardcore, I'd link to every song he mentioned.  But I'm not hardcore and I'm also not Google.  Go look for these yourself, yo.  I'm also too lazy to change the background color from the original email.  But anyway, for folks my age and older, some of these will be a major blast from the past.  Fun stuff - check it.

From Bill:

HAVE YOU NO FEAR? TEST YOURSELF . . . AGAINST SOME OF THE GREATEST ATROCITIES THE SEVENTIES HAVE TO OFFER. AN ENDURANCE TEST THAT ONLY THOSE WITH SUPERHUMAN CONSTITUTIONS CAN HOPE TO COMPLETE. Actually, there's some good, some bad, and some ugly here. I'll let you decide which is which. This is the source playlist for my ongoing seventies series . . . 8 hours of hits, misses, and obscurities, with no artist headlining twice (yeah, I know, differentiating between Michael Hurley and The Holy Modal Rounders is splitting hairs). Workin' the Seventies part two is already 1/4 of the way done, still with no artist repeated (and still no Boston or Billy Joel - you have to draw the line somewhere). Expect CDs 4 & 5 of the seventies series in September, if you prefer to deal with the "me" decade in more discreet bites. - Bill

Workin' the 80's - 8 hrs. of hits
  • "Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)" - Looking Glass
  • "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" - Van Halen
  • "Lights Out" - UFO
  • "Fool For The City" - Foghat
  • "Let It Ride" - Bachman-Turner Overdrive
  • "I'm Not Awake Yet" - Rory Gallagher
  • "I Don't Need No Doctor" - Humble Pie
  • "Simple Man" - Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • "Brand New Key" - Melanie
  • "I'm Not In Love" - 10cc
  • "Kiss You All Over" - Exile
  • "Bad Luck" - Lee "Scratch" Perry
  • "Cracklin' Rosie " - Max Romeo
  • "Get Up, Stand Up" - Bob Marley
  • "I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)" - The Moody Blues
  • "Yours Is No Disgrace" - Yes
  • "I Need To Know" - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • "We're An American Band" - Grand Funk Railroad
  • "Shambala" - Three Dog Night
  • "Peace Frog" - The Doors
  • "(I Know) I'm Losing You" - Rod Stewart
  • "I Feel The Earth Move" - Carole King
  • "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" - Elton John
  • "If You Don't Know Me By Now" - Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes
  • "Doctor My Eyes" - Jackson Browne
  • "Mother And Child Reunion" - Paul Simon
  • "Couldn't I Just Tell You" - Todd Rundgren
  • "Lorca" - Tim Buckley
  • "The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys" - Traffic
  • "Love Is The Drug" - Roxy Music
  • "Sweet Jane (LP Version)" - The Velvet Underground
  • "Jackie Blue" - Ozark Mountain Daredevils
  • "Strawberry Letter #23" - The Brothers Johnson
  • "It Never Rains In Southern California" - Albert Hammond
  • "Black Diamond" - Kiss
  • "Easy Livin'" - Uriah Heep
  • "Still I'm Sad" - Rainbow
  • "Too Rolling Stoned" - Robin Trower
  • "Talkin' `Bout A Fellin'" - Frank Marino
  • "The Ballroom Blitz" - Sweet
  • "Scatterbrain" - Jeff Beck
  • "Midget Submarines" - Swell Maps
  • "No Christmas For John Quays" - The Fall
  • "Bad Motor Scooter" - Montrose
  • "Miss America" - Styx
  • "Cold As Ice" - Foreigner
  • "Gypsys, Tramps And Thieves" - Cher
  • "Superstar" - The Carpenters
  • "Ohio" - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
  • "Playground In My Mind (Single Version)" - Clint Holmes
  • "On & On" - Stephan Bishop
  • "Turn The Beat Around" - Vicki Sue Robinson
  • "Ring My Bell" - Anita Ward
  • "Me and Mrs. Jones" - Billy Paul
  • "Boogie Nights" - Heatwave
  • "Brother Louie" - The Stories feat. Ian Lloyd
  • "Midnight at the Oasis" - Maria Muldaur
  • "Disco Inferno" - The Trammps
  • "The Tears Of A Clown" - Miracles
  • "Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe" - Barry White
  • "One Nation Under A Groove" - Funkadelic
  • "Tin Man" - America
  • "Delta Dawn" - Helen Reddy
  • "Like Spoons No More" - The Mekons
  • "Magic" - Pilot
  • "Love Machine" - The Miracles
  • "Indian Reservation" - Paul Revere & The Raiders
  • "Boogie Oogie Oogie" - Taste of Honey
  • "Get Ready" - Rare Earth
  • "She's Not There" - Santana
  • "Day After Day" - Badfinger
  • "Fallin' In Love" - Hamilton, Joe Franks & Reynolds
  • "Ever Fallen In Love?" - The Buzzcocks
  • "Maze" - Art Bears
  • "Baby's On Fire" - Brian Eno
  • "20 Jazz Funk Greats" - Throbbing Gristle
  • "Anthrax" - Gang Of Four
  • "Bastille Day" - Rush
  • "Trans-Europe Express" - Kraftwerk
  • "Rock Your Baby" - George McCrae
  • "Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time" - THE DELFONICS
  • "Let's Get It On" - Marvin Gaye
  • "So In To You" - Atlanta Rhythm Section
  • "Use Me" - Bill Withers
  • "Will It Go Round In Circles" - BillyPreston
  • "Across 110th Street" - BOBBY WOMACK
  • "Midnight Rider" - Allman Brothers Band
  • "Portland Water" - Michael Hurley
  • "I See The Light" - Hot Tuna
  • "Walk Away" - James Gang
  • "Just Got Paid" - ZZ Top
  • "Barracuda" - Heart
  • "Jailbreak" - Thin Lizzy
  • "Stone Cold Crazy" - Queen
  • "Dancing Queen" - Abba
  • "Kill Your Sons" - Lou Reed
  • "Poptones" - Public Image Ltd.
  • "Psycho Killer" - Talking Heads
  • "12XU (Live)" - Wire
  • "Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road" - Robert Wyatt
  • "Beginning The Long March" - Henry Cow
  • "Meadow Meal" - Faust
  • "Robbin' Banks" - Michael Hurley/Unholy Modal...
  • "Pink Moon" - Nick Drake
  • "Ghost Story" - John Cale
  • "Dirty Work" - Steely Dan
  • "If Not For You" - Bob Dylan
  • "Jesus On The Mainline" - Ry Cooder
  • "Still ...You Turn Me On" - Emerson, Lake & Palmer
  • "Moondance" - Van Morrison
  • "Dark End Of The Street" - Gram Parsons
  • "Mainline Florida" - Eric Clapton
  • "Won't Get Fooled Again" - The Who

You Snooze, You Lose

Long about 8th grade/high school, I started paying more attention to rap.  There was still a boatload of it out there that I didn't "get" (specifically, N.W.A.), but I liked the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy a ton.  Both of those bands had great DJs - specifically DJ Hurricane and Terminator X, respectively.  Besides their innovative scratch technique, they were deep into their vinyl collections, pulling out only the funkiest, most obscure beats and samples.  The way they worked them into the tunes always had me scratching my head saying "where in the hell did they get this stuff?"  I believe that the beats and samples of Public Enemy and Beastie Boys have helped their music stand the test of time in a genre (hip hop) that evolves far quicker than most genres.

The beats sparked my imagination.  I loved how they could pull beats from such disparate sources and still weave them into a seamless, funky, original sounding tune.  I began to listen to my cassettes and records more critically, paying special attention to the beats.  I even went so far as trying to isolate and loop some of the beats on my own.*  One beat I attempted to loop was "Dizzy" by Tommy Roe.  Here's the original Tommy Roe tune:

Lo and behold, though it's taken years, someone has finally used it.  Check out this Action Bronson track - I'm pretty sure it's the "Dizzy" beat slowed down.

Of course, the world belongs to those who get their ass up early and hustle.  I don't honestly think I could've done anything with this, but when I heard this tune today, I was all "dammit that dude took my beat".  C'est la vie.

*-Would love to share them, but I don't want anyone to steal them.  The best thing is that they come from blatantly white bread sources like Billy Joel and the Byrds.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

More Stand Up From Dylan Roahrig

It is with great pleasure that I post the latest stand up of Dylan Roahrig.  I'm still making my way through this video, but I couldn't wait to post it.  This video is evidence of Dylan's evolution as a comic - it's very funny, but I found it thoughtful as well.  You might even learn something -  you thought you knew how a bill became law, but it's not how we do it in Indiana.

I will try to be better about posting when these shows are coming up.  Dylan and all local comedians could use your support and/or feedback.