Big ups to Stiners who just landed the job that she wanted at JCC! She’ll be doing something event planning something something.
Think we should celebrate this weekend? Me too.
Just need to get a line in on those nickle monkeys we heard about back in college. . . .
I learned about a new weekly electronic music event in SF called backlit lounge. Its basically a chance for geeks like me to whip out their various electronic music gear and perform for a crowd of mostly like minded people. On Wednesday, I went downtown to go check it out. I was there on the early side, 9ish, and there were few people present. One dude was doing his thing with a laptop and drum machine, and it was sorta interesting, but didn’t hold my attention. I liked the socializing tho – I know so many musicians, but I know literally no one who’s into the computer music.
The next performer, jaswho?, rolled in with a bunch of different gear I’ve never seen before, and oddly no computer to link it all together. And holy shit did he rock the joint. Too bad the joint consisted mostly of me. Noneless, I got the fuck down. It was awesome. He seamlessly connected his songs together like a DJ, only using a bunch of cool looking electronic music gear. He won at least one new fan. I’ll try to grab some video from a dude who was taping to illustrate his awesomeness.
Working on this album has been an interesting learning process, to say the least. I composed a bunch of tracks many months ago and then put them away. In last couple months, I started revisiting tracks to see how they could be taken to the next level by having other people play on top of them. For some of them, I had written out parts in mind for different instruments. For example, for one track I wrote a melody part for a trumpet. For the past few weeks I’ve been working with a trumpet player in the UK. We chat on skype, and then he emails me his parts. Repeat. Yeay Internet!
For other tracks, it was more about seeing what happens when I bring in different musicians and get their take on what could be done to a track. Since the song structure is already there, it’s a great starting off point to jam ontop of. I’m not married to the composition – I’m ready for it to evolve. If someone has an idea, I’m all ears.
Two weekends ago I have the privilege of having Anthony Rogers-Wright over for a jam session. He’s a sick bass player – you can hear him on his current band’s myspace page. I had him in mind for a specific track, but threw a couple different tracks at him to see what would happen. Then on a track I had already written the bass part for, he totally blew my mind with his funky shit. Oh man. F my bassline.
Last weekend, I convinced Sean Lehe, a ridiculous guitar player, to come over. I’ve seen him in different iterations of his band (Home at Last, Isabella), and he really throws down. I’m always been interested to take a monster jamband player and combine that with my music. I know there’s not a whole lot of overlap, but those are the two musical worlds that I live in. It would be great to see them collide.
So, to give you more context, I will harness the power of the internet to demonstrate what I’m talking about.
Here is a snippet from the one really uptempo track on the next album (I think I’m gonna call it “the grenablerer”):
Its got a nice bounce. But wait.
Lets listen to that same snippet with Anthony’s bass line:
Aww yeah. That’s what I’m TALKING about.
Now add Sean’s fiery guitar:
That’s how we take a track to the next level.
After a fairly epic Thursday, it was difficult to drag myself through Friday. Fortunatly I had DJ Shadow and Massive attack as an incentive to put one foot in front of the other. I did have a little trepidation about the show though – it was at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, an 8000 person capacity venue. I’m starting to fear the big venues, with their $4 waters sans bottle tops.
Its funny to go to a show with a bunch of people. I’m now so used to being solo, that I had kinda forgotten about the positive and negative baggage of the group concert experience. Its awesome to hang out with friends, but its painful to coordinate people to get to a place on time to catch an opener. Fortunately, as soon as I left my apartment, I consciously let it go, thus making my travels a whole lot more fun.
I eventually met up with Lars, Dave SG, and Craig downtown and we BARTed across the Bay. We ambled our way to the venue and DJ Shadow was probably midway through his set. I guess we were meeting up with a whole bunch of folks. Elyssa sees us, and is all “uh oh, we don’t room for all of you”. Upon hearing those words, I immediately wander off by myself. The venue is 2/3’s full, so its easy to find some random strangers and plop myself down. DJ Shadow had some awesome video clips synced to his set. He brought out a couple singers and MCs. It was pretty good, though one of the MCs that was hyping up the crowd could have just shut up and DJ Shadow could have filled that void with music. I only knew a couple songs that he did. I guess he played his earlier stuff in the first part of his set. I’ve heard a bit about his new hyphy sound, but to my untrained ears it sounded like generic hiphop.
During set break I wandered back to our group of friends. At this point people were up and about, so it was easy to hang. Right when the lights went out, people returned to their seats, and it was all “uh oh, we don’t have room.” I take off again. This time, the place is full, and I can’t find a seat. Shitterkins. I eventually settle on the space between the seats and the lawn, right in the middle where the sound and visuals were best.
I was curious what the configuration of Massive Attack would be. It turns out to be a full band, two drum sets even, and a rotating cast of singers. They were really able to reconstruct their dense studio music live. I don’t think any of it was tracked – I believe all the necessary samples were triggered by the keyboardist. It sounded fantastic. Sometimes they would really open a song up for a serious psychedelic pink floyd soundscape and let the guitar player rip it up. I knew at least half of the material they played. It was pretty fantastic. The kind of show where your mind starts wandering all over the place, jumping in and out of segues of thought. The visuals were pretty fantastic as well, contributing to an out of body experience from time to time. The only real downer were the drunk people who would sometimes stand next to me and yell at each other through out the show. Why did they pay $40 to do that?
Yup, I’m old.
Oh, and it looks like PVision saw them in LA on Sunday. Rock.
It was absurd. There were four shows of interest going on last night. After careful consideration, I decided upon Mute Math, a band that knobtweakers was throwing their support behind. I saw their video, and I was sold. I took a page from the book of Patry and called the venue to get set times. They were to hit @ 10:15. Perfect. That gave me ample time to first go to the Hotel Utah, where my friends Jesse Culter (or JP Cutler as he brands himself) and Jason Parmar were opening.
Its a fun scene at the Hotel Utah. Half of a large boat is mounted off the balcony. I can play frogger and galaga. I knew some of the players from the second band, the Shim Sham Rebellion. Adam and Ryan were there. I met the bass player to ALO, who used to be roommates with Jesse. It was good scene. JP + Jason finished up their short solid set at 10:30, and I cruised over to Slims for Mute Math. I popped in to catch their final encore. Ummm, what? It was 10:45. WTF! Well, either they started early, or their set was absurdly short. Its not even 11. So, I decided to go for 3, and boogied down to the Connecticut Yankee to see Isabella.
I really like the Conn Yankee. Isabella was sounding great. I was fired up to watch Sean, their guitar player, really tear it up. He’s coming into the general fuzz studio for the first time on Saturday. I can’t wait.
There were some folks assembling demo CDs of New Monsoon for their show tonight. New Monsoon is opening up for Moe at the Warfield. I was feeling good (fuck Mute Math), and since I know the bass player from New Monsoon, I decided to jump in and help with the assembly. I sometimes really enjoy the repetitive manual tasks. It was the first time I’ve ever met real die hard fan of New Monsoon before. Glad to know they exist.
They took setbreak around 12:30, and it was time to head home. There was only one way to improve upon my evening at that point – some kick ass, late night pizza. Sooo good.
We had a bit of a party on Saturday night to continue the celebration of Stina’s month long birthday.
The theme was blue.
We dually celebrated Angels birthday, as it was on Sunday.
It was a real good time.
Big ups to Tony for taking too many pictures.
We just found out that our friend Erin Kirkpatrick and her long term Astrophysicist Boytoy Nat are having a baby. Well, lets just categorize that under “Holy Shit!” So, a super duper congratulations to the expecting couple.
This data, in turn, flared up the ole “when are we going to have babies?” conversation, one which has been an on and off again topic for the last 5 years or so. Neither of us is terribly comfortable with the idea. Neither of us feel ready, or are feeling like we’re ready to give up our basically responsibility free existence. I keep waiting for Stina’s maternity instinct to kick in, but mebbe we keep suppressing it in our long running quest to kill brain cells.
There’s a whole lot of baggage besides the baby in the concept. There’s the idea that we’re going to move east to where our parents live, which is an idea I have a lot of difficulty with. San Francisco is home. Boston is not. Stina would like to own a home prior to this undertaking. Its all very very scary. We had some nice, tense conversation about it. She said very plainly that she doesn’t want to have one until after she’s turned 30. I, in my hyperventalating state interpreted this statement as “we’ll have a baby when I turn 30” (in a year from now). Freak out ensues.
Good times. Time to lie on the floor and have a beer.
The next day we had a wonderful dinner with Zaq, Chelsea (8 months preggers), and Lila (who is now 3) the next day. Talking about these issues with friends who are parents is always an enlightening event. It also helps that Lila is basically the happiest, most wonderful child anyone could wish for (though certainly more work/effort than I can comprehend).
It turns out that they are prodding us in the right direction by bestowing a wonderful honor – they have asked us to be godparents to the unborn child. Now we have the opportunity to be sorta surrogate aunt and uncle to said child. Maybe that will get us more fired up on the babies concept. Either that, or we’ll realize this is more of our ideal situation – getting to play with other people’s children and then get to go home to get drunk and watch movies. Naked.
While I sit here, working on a sexy new track, a most unexpected email pops in titled: “Review of Messy’s Pace on Indie Launchpad”. Whoa. I’ve never had a review before. Its funny. I find that it’s difficult to get people to take your music seriously when you don’t change money, ironically enough. So, I’m uber psyched that someone took the time to review one of my albums. Go check it out. Its on indielaunchpad.
This weekend, we headed up north for Sam and Xia’s wedding. We weren’t supposed to be there. Stina was going to do her Tri that weekend, but due to sustained injury, she decided to postpone racing until early November. Fortunatly, that meant we got to go to the amazing wedding.
They rented out a campsite eastish of Sacremento in the middle of frickin nowhere. I have no idea how they ran across such a site. It was totally gorgeous, right along a river. It was a true destination wedding, as everyone spent the whole weekend together. Sam and Xia’s folks cooked up some really tasty dinners, and Shoomer reigned supreme for Saturday brunch. Of the 50 people there, I knew probably 40, and went to college with at least 20 of them. All in all, it was too much fun.
Now Stiners and I are pretty pathetic campers. We are rather attached to our creature comforts. Going camping a means we’ll need our Aerobed and an adapter for the car so we can pump it up (while its inside the tent).
Fortunately, it turned out that this wasn’t really camping. It was all the benefits of camping – clean air, lots of gorgeous nature – without any of the hardships that camping usually entails (for me). There was electricity, toilets, showers, a huge kitchen/barbeque area, a keg, and a hot tub that fit 15 people.
We played frisbee,
There was snacks, followed by a BBQ feast. Somehow, drunkedness happened. Hans captured a potent moment while Thriller was blasting out of the stereo.
Anyhow, we had a ridiculously good time. Now there were no caterers or bartenders or anything at this wedding. So I went in with the attitude that I wanted to really pitch in to help Sam and Xia enjoy their weekend more. One of my favorite moments was after dinner on Saturday. I was trying to clean up the tables in the rapidly diminishing light. I wasn’t sure if I should collect all the silverware – since we might need some for cake. I approach Xia, who had a hell of day, and was totally ready to kick back. I asked what the deal with cake was. She looked at me with blank eyes – she clearly had forgotten about the cake. She took a deep breath, and said: “You know what, fuck it. We’ll do cake tomorrow or something”. Sam walked up to her right then, and Xia said to him “James asked about the cake. I said we should skip it.” Sam, who had no idea that was coming, was probably assuming it was time to deal with the cake. He looked at her for moment, and I saw one of the most responsible people I’ve ever met, fully aware that people we’re ready for cake say “Totally. Fuck it.”
It was brilliant.
Yeah, I know it sounds like a porn title, but it’s actually a very cool website that promotes electronic music. They have a streaming radio show that anyone can submit music to. They also feature artists from time to time that they think people should check out. I’m proud to be able to say that I’ve just been featured on knob tweakers, and it’s because of my music, not cause of my skills with a wang.