Saturday, March 31, 2012

I need to write but don't feel like it.

But need to mention that the Jerry Jam at Dirty Dog Wednesday night was a blast. Raised money to help with Jerry Gaskill's medical bills resulting from his heart attack last month which he is recovering quite miraculously from. King's X was supposed to play that night, and I was supposed to be on the road with them til 2nd half of April. But things changed, and Jerry is going to be OK. Good to have such an awesome human being and amazing drummer sticking around.

Thursday night wound up at Sis Deville at Flamingo Cantina. Was $15 a head, didn't mind paying for T and myself. Carolyn Wonderland is worth the cover alone, and here she is onstage with many other female legends who I am embarrased to admit to being mostly unfamiliar with. Which really sucks cause they were ALL amazing. Shelley King and whoever else, I need to look them up again. Professional ease and mind-blowing are words I'm trying to work into my description of the night. 5 card-carrying badasses who can all sing. Just, wow. SO glad we decided to check it out last minute.

In other news I've been stressing about some things and my appetite/energy level have reflected that. Eating becoming a chore. Last week did a shift at the Food Bank for CSR hours, weighed myself on the big warehouse scale out of curiosity. 157, and that was wearing boots, jeans and heavy clothing and my chain wallet. I need to eat.

But also that day as I dumped garbage bins of unusable half-frozen and spoiled meat of varying kinds into the trash compactor, it made me thankful that I play music for a living instead of dumping bad meat into the garbage.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wed March 28, 2012

Quick recap before I shower and head north to practice with Arcana Mundi.

ETB played an early set at Friends on Friday. Usually they are pretty good. This one was pretty lackluster. At peak there was 40 people there with their wallets glued shut. Ouch. Thats decent for a Monday, but this night was going to be slim. Then last song we get offered to play Maggie Mae's immediately after for a guarantee.

I agreed but wasn't happy making that decision. For one, had to break a date with Triniti to go see Adrian and the Sickness at the Dirty Dog. Second, she had just got there and was just informed of this development. Third, I don't want to get into it but ETB stopped playing Maggie Mae's last year. And fourth, not being in the financial situation to turn down a guarantee that fell into our laps.

So the gear was begrudgingly hauled 2 blocks East, thank God for friends who don't mind doubling as roadies. The van was parked and not going anywhere. Easier to wheel the shit than to re-park at 11pm on a Friday downtown.

But the foot traffic was pretty decent and working a double saved the night's earnings. Still kinda sucked n general but this is what I do.

Saturday wound up at the Victory Grill for Gian Ortiz's birthday/send-off. His other band The Ripe is about to go to Spain again to record another record. Awesome. Really cool night, and the kind of thing the Red River musicians need to do more often: jam together. Got to play guitar for a few tunes. Will be more proactive next time, I wanted to jam with Jamie and Erik from Tia Carrera but never got the chance. I don't like to go to open jams and play covers. It's a jam, and I would rather JAM.

Got to play Gian's Gibson SG bass as well. Always interesting getting to finally play someone's gear who you've been watching play for 12 years. For one thing I am apparently taller than him. He wears his bass high, and on me it was almost a chinrest. And he uses flatwounds, which also feel weird to me. But was cool when I finally turned the volume on the bass up and suddenly this TONE came out. Yeah, THAT'S Gian's tone right there. Awesome. But after 2-3 songs I had to bow out as holding the bass at that angle hurt the wrist on my pickhand and was killing my frethand. Talking to him afterwards he said basses strung low do the same for him.

The night turned even cooler when the singer n guitar player from Los Lobos showed up. Nice! The singer played drums on a tune then switched to guitar. Robert Randolph never showed and our bro Moses Blues was unsuccessful in wrangling a pedal steel for him anyway, but kudos to Moses for putting together last minute such a great event.

Fucking awesome night, hope we do more of those.

ETB Monday residency was a complete turnaround. Great crowd when we walked in who also stayed most of the night. Rachel Crawford Band is even better every time I hear them, and the crowd is responding as accordingly (growing). Great opening act, and great people all around. Felt like we were on fire, good times. Took Armadillo Strut in all kinds of cool directions.

Drove my van downtown for the first time in forever, Eric doesn't trust the van so he loaded his and my rigs into Olive Oyl (his 49 International). Wasn't going to leave it in the back overnight, so threw my stuff into Goldie Hawn end of the night. Now I just need to get my back door handle fixed so I don't have to crawl thru the side and over my gear to open the back door. Suck.

In other developments, I will not be working as musical director of the paranormal investigations show. Better to find out something's not going to work sooner than later, like when it's time to get paid. It is what it is, best of luck to them.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Made a video yesterday

Well the video made itself, anyway.

This NASA launch footage has been blowing my mind all week, and once as an experiment watched it with "Leap of Faith: Symphony in D Standard" playing to it. Holy Fucking Video, Batman! My mind was doubly blown at how well it all synched up, as if I had written the soundtrack specifically for that video. I mean, just wow. But that music was finished in late February and I just stumbled across this video on Monday.

So I've been promoting the hell out of it since finishing it (took 30 mins if that) and uploading it to youtube yesterday afternoon. What better promo for the new album? \m/,

Let's see. Monday ETB residency at Friends was still good for being the dead Monday after SXSW. Plenty of hungry SXstragglers and locals finally coming out from weathering the maelstrom at home. It was dead downtown and we still had a crowd. Awesome.

Until the skies opened up from an advancing storm front that stretched clean across Texas right before load out. We even ended early to beat the storm but still got caught lugging gear in the monsoon. Then Eric opted to take Boss Hoss home via I35 due to a busted tail light when the van stalled right on the I-35 access road at 5th Street. Still raining cats and dogs. 2:30am. And not the kind of place we'd want to just leave a van full of gear overnight.

So by the time Eric finally got a tow truck on the horn (24 service my ass), they'd have to call us back so they could check to see if their truck could even HAUL our van. They did call back, Eric was making arrangements with said tow truck driver, and Boss Hoss decided to roar back to life. Double-u tee eff. Well that just saved the band $150+ dollars, for now at least.

My thumb is improving, my index joints are almost 100%. Wrapping my thumb making it feel stiff instead of better. Got a $40 bottle of badass Glucosamine with a natural anti-inflammatory and several other joint-helping whatevers added. Flexcin with CM8, money back guarantee. Just have to be careful, meant to take it the other day and absentmindedly grabbed one of the dog's antibiotics instead.

ETB practice today cancelled due to Eric being sick, and having a solo acoustic gig later on. No worries, we play BD Riley's tomorrow night so he needs the rest, and this will give me more time to work on basslines for new ETB tunes before jam next week sometime.

Yesterday took my Droid in to Verizon to trade towards my new iPhone 4S, which I foogin LOVE. The battery life alone blows the Droid out of the water, and its much more user-friendly. Picking my Droid back up to grab pics the software/usability was so chaotic. Also digging Triniti's iMac as well.

Blah blah blah. And I still need to write my SXSW report. I didn't do much, but I did do some things.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Leap of Faith" song-by-song synopsis

I meant to write this awhile back, got sidetracked, and must write it now before I forget some the things that went into making this record.

All of songs save for "Krim" were written the first 2 weeks of February, written here at the Hobbit Hole on my trusty old Tascam DP-01CD. I started using presets on the 8-track for recording guitars as I didn't yet have my combo amp out of storage. Most songs were also recorded to a click track (Mobile metronome app on my Droid). This came in very, very handy later when tracking drums. Also 95% of arrangements were kept as-is when I wrote them. And most of these tunes were written in one sitting using my original guitar track, totally stream of consciousness.

1. Leap of Faith: Symphony in D Standard.

I started with the opening riff and took it from there.

First version was almost 10 minutes long and quite symphonic in its breadth and scope. Chord changes were improvised on the first pass, as was the spacey riff at the end of the song. Melody lines written on the second and third pass. I was thinking of calling it Symphony in Drop D cause it was a cool title, but the song wound up being in D Standard so there ya go. But just so happens the song has 4 distinct movements, much like an actual mini-symphony so I wasn't totally pulling phrases out of my ass.

All guitars are my Paul Stanley Iceman which was in D Standard for an Arcana Mundi song. I used my JCM800 2203 with a V30-loaded Marshall 4x12. Rented Adrian Conner's place to track guitars as she was out with Hell's Belles and was cheaper than the Music Lab, in addition I'd rather give that money to my friend than a corporation. Guitar effects are my trusty old Phase 90 and the tremolo pedal I built. Cosmic phase sound on the last movement was 2 separate guitar tracks with phase which I thought were both busts. But played together sounded amazing.

Drums are my late-70's Slingerland student kit recorded in Music Lab room 115, did drums for title track, "Brief Ties to Space" and "Rare Earth Metals" on the same day, with a warm-up session a few days previous to fix up my drums, try beats, test sounds and get back into shape. On the warm-up session I learned I could finally play to a click track, which opened a whole new world. I could now go back and put drums ON TOP OF the existing arrangements, rather than having to re-write them when tracking drums and hope to God I got the arrangement right and the tempo wasn't so fast I'd have to retrack. Mic placement as follows: Shure SM58 about 18" away from kick drum into first input. Second input was line out from my mixer with two overhead mics and a snare mic that was turned down a bit.

Bass was recorded at Music Lab room 93. Knocked out bass for the 4 songs that needed it on the same day, and bass is always last but certainly not least. Used the 'Ocean of Stars rig' as I call it, an Epiphone Valve Standard 15w tube combo chassis pushing a 200w Ampeg 4x10. Dirt provided by a Fulltone Bassdrive. There is phaser on the 4th movement, and yes that is bass feedback on the end. To date this is probably the best bass tone I have ever recorded, and with dirt pedal added is some of the gnarliest bass tone since Rollins Band "End of Silence." Yes, I was very pleased!

2. Luna en Sombra

The original idea was written on electric as something that just popped into my head.

Heard the possibilities for it on a nylon string classical and bought new strings for my Yamaha. Both original and album versions were recorded here at the Hobbit Hole in the entryway room, a single mic sitting on the edge of the table cause I forgot to grab a mic stand. In the original version it was raining and you could hear it hitting the patio on certain tracks. It was beautiful but the song was a mess. Wanted to grab the sound of the rain from previous pass and add to the newer one but never got around to it.

The title means "Moon in Shadow". I wanted to call it a beautiful-sounding Spanish phrase, so got on an English-to-Spanish website and tried different combos of words until it sounded right.

3. Brief Ties To Space

This one proved a challenge, because the original version which was improvised almost exactly as is but was not done to a click. That was stupid. Tried to redo with a click and careful charting, the tempo fluctuated from verse to chorus and the arrangement was stream of consciousness and not always even. No dice. Lost all life whatsoever. So I tried adding drums to the existing arrangement, no click whatsoever, just guitar tracks. And it fuckin WORKED. Holy crap, this was a huge leap forward for me.

The guitar was a challenge as well, did my best to re-do on the Marshall all of the original preset tracks. But was running out of time and wound up leaveing some of the original preset tracks as they were fine as is. The solo at 2:15 (the first actual guitar solo on the record, 3 tracks in... ha!) was the original preset lead. The solo that comes in at 3:56 and is almost 2 minutes long was a single-take Hail Mary pass. It was the end of the day, my hands were shot from recording 3-4 guitar tracks each on 4 songs. I could have come back to it, but I said fuck it and left it as-is. All the glory and all the warts. And I like doing things like that as a reverse-homage to the Joe Satriani and Steve Vai guitar-fetish masturbation albums that my HS friends were so into at the time. Yeah, this is a guitar album: and this solo is almost laughably sloppy but also works perfectly and totally improvised. And I include a pic of my damn DRUMS in the artwork. Fuck you guys.

The title was a phrase I heard on NPR. They were playing music from and talking about a band from Gambia in Africa, who for a few years in late 80's-early 90's had a NASA emergency landing facility and therefore "Brief Ties To Space."

4. Rare Earth Metals

Another stream of consciousness arrangement that started with the verse and chorus riff over a click track. Even tho you can hear the drums speed up in places to catch the click, on this song feels like I really came into my own as a drummer and knocked the take out of the park, fills and everything.

In putting the song together wanted to write a straight-up metal song, but with few of the metal traditions. You don't hear much tremolo in metal. There are no power chords played at all until 3:25 into the song. The second bridge part at 4:48 sounds like a chorus effect on the arpeggiated chords, but that is 2 guitar tracks with no effects.

The title came about as I wanted to name it something metal-related, as I felt I was throwing down the gauntlet and showing my metal roots to be alive and well. Googled some metal-related phrases and chose the existing title, as "Reforging of Metal" would be a little too pompous.

5. Give Us The Key

The was the most challenging track, as it has a weird time signature (7/8) on the verse. Original pass had no click and the tempo was different between the verse and chorus, which was a problem. But reworked it to a click keeping the tempo steady all the way through. Sounded weird at first but quickly got used to it as I filled in the other tracks.

Drums recorded again in Music Lab room 115 but this time I had fixed my snare, the snare chord had broken last year, I fixed it but the snare was not sitting right on the bottom head. You can hear it big time when the drum tracks are isolated, but was passable in the mix. Now my snare sounded night and day better and wish I had fixed it for the first run of tracks. I struggled a little with the time signature, but the natural breaks in the song helped with recording the drums parts-at-a-time. I am very proud on my John Bonham drumroll going back into the chorus at 3:12.

The song is straight up Stoner Rock, again in keeping with some of my musical roots. Stream of consciousness arrangement. This was also the only song in E Standard and using my 1979 Ibanez Iceman. Only the L guitar track was my JCM800. The middle and R guitars are presets. Something about the way the neck pickup with tone rolled back and the preset, sounded so damn fuzzy and tubey I just left it rather than re-doing it. Guitar solos also presets.

I really went nuts on the bass tone for the chorus and bridge, again getting some of the gnarliest bass tone since Rollins Band "End of Silence." My God that crappy little rig sounds amazing.

This was the last song I wrote a title for, and was having a hell of a time trying to come up with one. "Offtime" was just boring and obvious. My theory on song titles, especially for an instrumental album with no lyrics to get a title from, is such: you want people to read the song titles on the back of the CD and have them be anxious to hear what certain songs sound like based on the title. So yeah, fuck "Offtime" as a title.

I spent a lot of time on the Hobbit Hole patio waiting for CDs to burn, waiting for shit to upload. Spring was setting in (yes, Feb is pretty much springtime in Central Texas), and there are lots of doves in the trees making various calls. Some of the calls had a certain speech pattern to them, sounding like the doves are saying "GIVE US THE KEY." It was funny at first, but then I couldn't UN-hear it. After a week it was starting to weird me out. And I swear that I am not on acid right now. Either way, hello song title.

6. Krim: The Sound of Kali

This song was written as a request from our good friend tattoo artist Karen Slafter. She asked me to write a song about Kali. I said I'd see what I could do... time was running short on the Feb 29 midnight deadline. So with little inspiration other than my limited knowledge of the often misunderstood Hindu goddess, I sat down and just started playing. Stream of consciousness. I got done and hit stop. Song was 9 minutes long. Wow. Went back and did two additional passes to add embellishments and melodies. Then I stepped away from it to finish rest of the album.

Only went back to really LISTEN to it when I did one final run through to clean any rough spots. Only ones I could find on original pass was a few melody cleanups for around the 2:30 mark. Rest of the song was done that first time, and I was very pleasantly surprised listening back to it. Thought was just the same thing over and over (I barely remember writing it, and didn't listen to it until the final track cleanups) but was not. It's a rather introspective and involved journey. When Karen first heard it at her studio she remarked to Triniti: "How can a song be happy AND sad at the same time?!?" Hell I don't know, I'm just a conduit for the Music every February.

SXSW is here...

And I plan on sitting this one out.

I've been doing the hustle for almost 12 years, playing up 7-8 shows with 3-4 diff bands. One year Shandon Sahm did 4 gigs in one day. I could go downtown and schmooze/hustle, I have a new solo album and its now re-printed precursor. I could go and see a bunch of great music and see a bunch of great people whom I haven't seen in awhile, prolly since SXSW last year. I could try to get some exposure for myself and every band I play with, sniff down some label options for myself and ETB.

But I'm tired and need a break. ETB wound up not getting accepted to the SXSW festival, even with David Cotton and Susan Antone in our corner. We've only been busting our asses for the last year here and on our 99-day summer tour. This is all we do, we support ourselves by playing music for a living in the Live Music Capital of the World. Altogether the three of us have put 30 years + into this music community.

And like most other local Austin talent, they took our $30+ submission fee put our presskit into the "local" pile, which they open after the out-of-towners and big names. Remember when the SXSW Music Festival was all about showcasing Austin indigenous unsigned talent? Yeah me neither.

Anyway, end rant. Hope I don't come off as bitter, tho there is a difference between that and simply telling it like it is.

So yeah. I am taking this SXSW off.

No official gigs, no unofficial showcases (the festival is very particular what is and what is not an OFFICIAL SXSW showcase, tho 1000+ bands and who knows how many folks coming into town is still called SXSW as a general blanket term... again, just saying). I missed the tuesday free kickoff show at Red Eyed Fly which I go to every year. I could have seen a buncha great people and a buncha great bands. But I just felt like staying home, even tho I could have taken a cab to avoid the parking nightmare downtown. I was going to miss the Small Stone Records showcase (go every year, have reviewed in past for Rank and Revue mag) in favor of another firewalk with Triniti, but looking online it is Friday and not Saturday. Ok, that's pretty cool, but again see how I feel. I could wheel and deal and stay visible/promote my records, but at the same time it'd be more to let people know what I have been up to rather than looking for a record deal.

And I may make appearances at the Whoopsy Magazine party(s), have played that in the past with Shandon several times, and now Trophy's is in walking distance.

In the meantime I am trying to type with my thumb in a splint and my forefinger wrapped up. Looks much worse than it is, but have these nagging and constantly shifting joint pains/issues in my pick hand. Thought my forefinger was on the mend by a guy shook my hand onstage Monday night and the knuckle screamed back to life. That and constant random motions aggravate the tendons on top of my thumb. Immobilizing the whole works feels great so far. Maybe it's also good I'm sitting this SXSW out, as I'd be shaking a lot of hands...

But let's see: ETB's Monday residency was cancelled this week due to Friends being boooked for a private party (see above paragraph about SXSW and local artists), but they booked us at their sister bar Agave instead. It is long and very narrow, I was not very happy when we first got there (but that might have also been from carting our gear around the block due to the barricades). But regardless by 9pm 6th Street was packed like midnight on a weekend. That is a good sign. So we blew into our set not worrying about noise ordinance violations of if we were too loud for a venue that was about 10 feet wide in front of (and including the width of) the stage.

Turns out that is always the best course of action. Few songs in and we had the place packed with a crowd outside as well. I will say this, small places are easy to pack. They loved us and we were on fucking fire, good God that was an awesome show. And a fairly profitable night, people were dumping their wallets into the tip bucket. And laughing at my stupid jokes about "Wow, it's pretty packed downtown for a monday... is there a convention going on or something?" Heh.

Good times. Looking forward to enjoying my time off. And waiting for my CDs which should arrive today.

Friday, March 9, 2012


Been too busy/sidetracked to update.

That and my tweaky thumb have made typing on my phone rather uncomfortable. Became aggravated towards end of RPM album tracking. Doesn't really hurt to play, but doing everyday stuff like lighting a cigarette or doing tasks on my phone are either painful to first joint or causes tendons to lurch over top of the 2nd joint respectively. Needless to say stopped doing either activity, got a thumb brace from CVS, and have been taking Ibuprofin and Glucosamine when I can remember to.

But RPM Challenge album is done. In ordering copies of it, had trouble with the company's website (was my internet connection... bah!) and lost almost 2 days of production time trying to look at the art proofs. Needless to say, with that delay if I wanted them by SXSW I would be forced to pay out the ass. Making the order not even worth it.

But stumbled across another company, AMS Rabbit. Not only could they rush order 150 copies of 'Leap of Faith,' but they could also print 100 digipaks of 'Ocean of Stars' for less total than what it would have been to rush 130 copies of LoF with the other company. Sold. They'll be here Tuesday or Wednesday latest. Holy shitballs, I just inadvertently started my own record label.

OK so I've been thinking of that recently. Having my own label to put out my own music until an actual label (or investor) wants to step in as a business partner/financier. Much like Henry Rollins' label 2.13.61. Only calling mine 9.18.74 would be very cheesy. Going with Hobbit Hole Records, in honor of the nickname for our humble abode. Not the greatest name, but it sure is fitting. Just getting my music out there, and it's a nice tax write-off as well.

And AMS Rabbit needed to artwork so quick I had zero time to even add it to the album art, much less come up with a logo. Going to somehow work the upside-down bike hanging in the tree out front into it. CDs should be shipping today. Cool, I guess the next logical step is to sell them and get them played/reviewed.

Anyway. ETB songwriting rehearsal yesterday was a success. Came up with a new song then and there. Great groove to it. Also wrote down a list of the existing ideas and possible songs to re-record for new album. Almost an albums' worth of material already. # righttrack

Monday ETB residency at Friends went great. Getting back to the busier-season crowds. By first walkaround we had the dance floor full and swinging. We were on fire, had a blast and was a profitable night as well. I played my backup bass Cate Blanchett, as I ripped all the strings off Minnie Pearl at TX Independence Fest and forgot to get more (out, and been too busy ordering CDs to finalize SIT order). Goddamn she is a nice bass. Played great, felt great. Doesn't share Minnie's quirk of it seems the strings are different volumes. May have to rotate them out for awhile.

ETB @ TX Independence Fest was a blast, turnout not as good as last year but still people there whose faces were melted clean off. Damn feels great to play a short set (45 mins) and just totally unleash. And playing both my 2x15 bass cabs is fun as well. Finally got to meet/hang with comedian/former radio personality Charlie Hodge, who was hosting the event. He was awesome, and super nice.

ETB Saxon Pub gig Friday was a mixed bag. Last minute confirmation so no real time to promote, so crowd reflected that. But the people there (mostly new faces) loved us. My performance felt like a mixed bag as well, but always enjoy playing there. And always sounds great there while doing walkarounds. Seems turning down at other venues kind of takes the life out of us, but never the case at Saxon.

The ETB Friends residency has been cancelled for this coming Monday before SXSW. Venue rented out as a private party. Well there went my one money gig the entire week. Hopefully some out-of-towners will rent my now useless gear.

I'm sure there's a ton else going on, but I need to eat instead of type. First meal of the day (leftovers), it's 3:36pm CST and I've been up since 9-something AM.