Thursday, December 3, 2009

Full of Thanks

I am no longer full of Turkey (it's been a week, so that's really not newsworthy). I am, however, currently full of applejacks and cheerios.

Thanksgiving is a damn fine holiday, don't you agree? I played eight million games of nerf dart tag with my niece and nephew. I am full of thanks for that.

Two days I started on a cover of John Lennon's Happy Xmas (War is Over). I have an urge to get into the Holidays songs early, before the department stores make me curl up into the fetal position from Mariah Carey over-exposure.

I shall post my Christmas cover on the interwebs as soon as it is ready for consumption.

I enjoyed the movie The Fantastic Mr. Fox on my Thanksgiving break. I want to be a fox when I grow up, mostly for the fancy clothes.

Yesterday I went to the dentist for a cleaning. My teef are still in my head. I'm thankful for this as well. I'm hoping to floss at least as often as I blog. Maybe I'll blog while I floss, or vice versa.

I'm thankful you read this blog. Are you?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tubes in the Sky

I have a writing session today. It will be my second writing session with my friend Ron Irizarry. He lives in Florida. I do not. He is in Florida right now. I am not. How will we accomplish such a feat? Will it be the world's longest piece of string with two huge tin cans on either end? If you believe that the internet is a series of tubes, then the answer is yes-ish. We shall make beautiful music over video chat. The future is now... or wait... not yet... just a second... NOW. Yeah, that's the future.

It's manure season in Southern California. The weather is mild, and the landlord of the apartment complex I reside in wants to grow grass. How does he accomplish this? With large quantities of bags of cow poop. The weather is mild, but the windows are shut.

I flew home from my East Coast gigs with Fitz and the Tantrums on JetBlue. They have the TV on the JetBlue. On the TV they have the History Channel, which was featuring a show on 9/11. It's disturbing to watch a documentary on 9/11 at just about any moment. It's extra disturbing to watch the documentary when you're on a plane from JFK to LAX, but I couldn't turn it off. I can't believe it's been eight years already.

I lived in New York during September 11th, 2001. I flew to Los Angeles a few weeks after, at a time when people weren't ready to fly yet. The humongous plane I flew on was mostly empty except for me and a bunch of Los Angeles Firefighters who had flown out to help out with clean up and grief counseling. I sat next to a firefighter with a gigantic mustache and a fresh tattoo the size of a saucer on his bicep commemorating 9/11. I listened to him talk. He gave me an LAFD pen. I think I'd recognize him if I passed him on the street eight years later. I hope I do run into him so I can say thanks.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Prefection Part To

Does anyone prefer to read prose that isn't proofread? I missed a couple errors in my last blog entry. Does that make me more "rock?"

One friend brought up the idea that editing should be used to correct great performances, not mediocre ones. I like this idea, and need to remember to keep that in mind.

Don Gehman, who produced my album "The Story So Far" noticed that the pitch center of the record was wide. I.E.: the variety of guitars and keyboards we used made it that notes that were not 100% in tune according to science sounded in tune, because it was in tune to, for example, the quirky Hammond organ. This leads to another discussion: time and practicality.

It is quick and easy to simply drop auto-tune on an instrument in the world of digital recording. Auto-tune pushes and pulls the pitch as close as you would like to "perfection." This does not take into account how in tune the rhythm guitar with the accidentally bent D string is.

It's more musical to listen to each vocal note alone with the guitar or piano and only adjust the notes that bug you. It's also significantly more time consuming.

Those of us who are pursuing music as a career are doing so at a time when people are buying less records. I am a full-time musician. I need the music that I make to create income for me. What's the best way for me to do that?

Lately I've been writing music with and for other artists. This is in hopes that I can find other people who will take the baton and find a home and a market for the songs we create. Is it in my best interests to write one song that I spend 80 hours making or eight songs that I spend ten hours on? That depends. If the artist is someone who is already established and I know their record is going to see the light of day, then theoretically I should spend the extra time on it. That doesn't necessarily mean that the song is going to turn out better.

This all comes down to taste. This is the job of the artist and the record producer.

In a conversation with Fitz, the singer of the band I'm touring with, he more or less said: "vibe is the one commodity that is still valuable in the digital age." Almost everyone has access to computers that can make your music sound huge and "good" in a subjective way. Creativity and finding that perfect sound, maybe you use a rickety upright piano, or a $15 garage sale casio keyboard, is the one aspect that still separates the women from the girls.

Knowing when to say when is enlightenment.

Let's keep working, but let's know when to stop.

Friday, November 13, 2009

mafia pitch correction? fughettaboudit

Read me:

And then, let's discuss:

I agree with the gist of this article. Over-correcting is a serious problem in modern music. Also, the dynamic range of modern rock and pop has become teeny-tiny.

As a musician I have spent many hours in the practice room trying to "perfect" my playing. The studio allows me to reach that goal in some ways which were not possible before digital recording. How do you know when to stop? If you're a model would you not want a blemish photoshopped out of a picture?

This reminds me of a part of an Ayn Rand book I read which more or less stated: if you see a person who's physically beautiful but has a weird birthmark on their face, you overlook it. If you see a painting of a beautiful person with a hairy mole on their face it's a giant slap in the face. It's a statement.

How does that relate to music?

Read this excerpt of Bill Evans' liner notes for the Miles Davis album "Kind of Blue"

I agree that music is better with the blemishes left on it. I believe that dynamic range is a good thing. I'm also simultaneously worried that if I make a recording that could be used in a movie or a tv show and it's going up against another song that sounds bigger I'll lose the gig.

It's not possible for society to move back in time. It trips me out that we'll never again be in a movie theater that there isn't at least the possibility of someone forgetting to turn their cell phone off. This is the world we live in.

The great music of the 60's was recorded with eight or less tracks. That limitation was part of the creative process, and helped the artist achieve greater heights.

Read this for more:

Those limitations are toast, and there's no going back. You won't see athletes avoiding creatine and modern dietary supplements unless they're outlawed.

If we passed legislation banning auto-tune, wouldn't that just give way to bootleg-mafia pitch correction?

It's time to get dressed for my gig, so I'll have to leave this right where it is for the moment.

Tell me what you think...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Falafel? No, I'm feeling great, thanks.

The rain in New York falls mainly on the ground.

The rats in New York hang out mainly near the trash bags.

I spotted five of New York's Furriest/Grossest on my way from recording studio to R train last night at 2 AM. I played the fretless bass on a "what the heck, let's record something" session with Bill Campbell, Ryan Scott. and Christina Courtin. My apologies to anyone who hears that recording and has perfect or relative pitch.

Driving play by play:

Now it's on to Connecticut. I'm enjoying of the view of the East River. Kind of nervous on the bridge. I shall overcome.

Ok, we're safely on to gentrified sections of Brooklyn now.

There are three remaining days for me on the tour. Fitz and the Tantrums shall carry on with the incomparable Jeremy Ruzumna resume-na-ing his keyboard duties with the band.

I'm imagining it will be warmer in Los Angeles than it is in the Northeast. I'm also imagining that the falafels won't be as good as they are at Taim in the Village. These are the tradeoffs you make in life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

hither, yon shouts out

Ah, New York. It is good to be back in you for a few days.

Yesterday was a tour de force involving some of my closest New York friends (a tour de friends?). I had a leisurely, margarita-y lunch at Rosa Mexicano with stellar saxophonist (say it: sacks-often-ist) Rob Wilkerson, followed by an intimate beer or two with my old bandmate Bill Campbell at Kettle o' Fish in the village, followed by a nightcap of jazzy awesomeness at the Village Vanguard. I got to witness my old college roommate and fellow Nebraskan, Frank Basile, live the dream. He plays baritone sax with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, my favorite ensemble with more than ten and less than 30 members (yes I like them better than the Los Angeles Lakers).

I love and am proud of my friends.

I walked hither and yon throughout lower Manhattan. In Los Angeles, we'll walk hither, but we'll have to drive to get there. Yon is just out of the question.

Today we're driving our faces off to Blacksburb, VA, home of Virginia Tech, which is the locale of a concert I did with the Plain White T's back in 2k3 or so. My friend who facilitated that concert, Nada, is having a kidney transplant very soon, so everybody do a shout out to whoever you shout to for such events.

We woke up at 6 am, and are now close to arriving, therefore it's time to post this blog and shut down the lappy. Sleep is for non-New Yorkers, by the way. I'm a non-New Yorker, and will therefore soon need a nap.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I could milk somebodeeeaah

Oh blog. It's been too long. I got a very thoughtful email from a fan about re-starting this here thing, and it's time. I feel some imaginary, self-induced pressure to have this particular blog entry be the best ever, since my last entry was five months ago. So... here we go!




I'm currently in the back seat captain's chair of a Sprinter van. We have wifi. We have an XBox. We have The Talking Heads burning down the house on the radio. We are Fitz and The Tantrums. I am playing keys with "we" for a week, whilst we open for "they." "They" are Maroon 5.

They talk a lot, don't they.

Tonight we shall play Cornell University. We're about 30 miles out right now. The farmhouses are purty and neat. I want to milk something. That's my favorite Kings of Leon song, incidentally, or is that "Milk SomeBODY"? I forget.

Yesterday our dressing room was a basketball court. This was a dream come true. We had plush couches, chips, salsa, peanut butter, jelly, and, after harassing a few friendly St. John's student-employees, a basketball. I was in heaven, and my heart beat so that I could hardly speak.

My jump shot was semi-silky at fleeting moments.

Meanwhile, back in LA, I've been busy writing songs, some poppy, some rocky, all with chords and melodies. The new album is still only a faint glimmer on the horizon, but I'm optimistic. The good news is: I'm creating music. The bad news: there are nowhere near enough hours in the day.

Let's do this again before another five months go by.