Monday, April 30, 2012

I Have Booked Rehearsal Space

Myself, a bassist, and a drummer.

*and there was much rejoicing*

Of course, thinking about the $50 it's gonna cost for 3 hours in the room makes me remember getting together in a garage with Dave F and Larry D back in the day. Yeah, I sucked back then, but we had fun. And it was free.

It's still a few weeks away (May 19th), but I'm feeling good about it. We're going to work on some of my material, so, I'm FINALLY going to hear some of it with a real drummer. I'm excited for that, of course.

This also means I have to get some of my crap together and make some recordings so they'll have some idea of what's coming at them. I was hoping to get to it this past weekend, but...yeah. Didn't happen. Still, I'm feeling pretty inspired right at the moment, AND pretty good about my playing, in general. I feel ready to move forward, and put energy into making the time to do that.

I still miss Dave and Larry, though.

Ah, well, you move on right? It is nice to feel in control of what I'm doing on the guitar. My lead playing could still use work, I know this, but my riffing and rhythm work feels solid. I finally feel like I can get out of my own way, a little bit, and just play.

I'm also going to give a big endorsement for the locking tuners I put on the Les Paul. Holy crap, it stays in tune so much better now. Night and day, almost. So much more stable. Definitely a worthwhile purchase.

Friday, April 27, 2012

I'm Sorry If I Missed Your Show

I've long talked about how one of the problems with local-level theatre is that we really aren't reaching an audience. We're reaching our families, and friends who don't happen to have to perform that night. It's a sad state that the majority of the audience for most theatre companies is....other theatre people. It's the sad side-effect of working in a, sadly, dying art form.

I have no idea who these people are.
Of course, this also leads to the usual horse trading, "oh, I can still see your show?! Give me a Postcard! Fantastic, you know MY show is opening in three weeks. Here, let me get you a postcard." There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's natural, and, with utter sincerity, when I say I want to see your show, I really do.

Doesn't mean I always succeed. That said, I also want you to know that I feel really bad about missing shows I want to see.  I'm not a guy who says "I'll be there" lightly.

How stylish...I don't look that good laying on my ass.
But I'm also a guy who, when he plops his ass down on the couch, doesn't want to move. It's a terrible failing I have. It's why I get up at 5:30 AM to work out. If I come home after work, and I don't have rehearsal, I'm going to watch TV, or a movie, or play a game, until I fall asleep. I'm not proud of it, but...there you are.

I hope you don't take it personally that, after I close a show, I don't really want to go near a theatre for at least two weeks. I just want to be away from it. I know it's selfish, but I am weak that way.

Then, of course, you realize that show your friend's in, that you wanted to see, well, it's closing Sunday. Or worse, closed LAST Sunday. Now you're screwed, because you've made plans for dinner and a movie with the wife on Saturday. The guilt grows, and you feel like an ass.

So, yeah, I'm sorry if I missed your show.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Stuck in My Head 4.26.2012

Trick of the Light
by The Who

Wide awake in the middle of the night
I wonder how she's feelin'
Is it just a trick of the light
Or is her ceiling peeling?

She's sitting up in bed, shakin' her head
At a copy of "True Confessions"
Ooh, it must seem like a fairy tale
To a woman of her profession

But was I all right? (was I all right?)
Did I take you to the height of ecstasy?
Was I all right? (was I all right?)
Did a shadow of emotion cross your face
Or was it just another trick of the light?

But was I all right? (was I all right?)
Did I take you to the height of ecstasy?
Was I all right? (was I all right?)
Did a shadow of emotion cross your face
Or was it just another trick of the light?

What's a nice girl like you doin' in a place like this?
They don't make girls like you no more
And I'd like to get to know you
On closer terms than this
But I guess you've heard it all before

Lady of the night
Won't you steal away with me?
Lady of the night
Won't you steal away with me?

The money's lyin' on the floor, she looks at me
Shakes her head and sighs
Out of time, out the door
Red light shinin' in my eyes

But was I all right? (was I all right?)
Did I take you to the height of ecstasy?
Was I all right? (was I all right?)
Did a shadow of emotion cross your face

All right?
But was I all right?
All right?

Listening to Pete Townshend

When you play an instrument, there's always a sense of other players you try to emulate. It's natural, you start out with an instrument, especially when you're generally self-taught, as I am, and immediately start trying to play like the artists you most admire. You have no technical grasp of how to play that way, but you know what it generally sounds like. So you chase that, and fill in the technical aspects to try to get there.

Early on, for me, it was James Hetfield. I'm still in awe of his riffing and pick work. The man is a monster rhythm player, and when I started all I wanted to do was play rhythm guitar in a metal band. I can still do a pretty good approximation of his downstroke riffing, even if I no longer have anywhere near the speed that he can generate.

Often the players you want to emulate are just, well, out of reach. I love, and am astounded by, hyper-technical players like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson. Even as I played around with trying to learn some of their stuff, I knew that was not where I naturally sat as a musician.

As the years have passed, I have found myself in what I would generally call a "classic rock" style. What I do owes much to blues-based players like Jimmy Page and Slash, as well as strummers/songwriters like Bruce Springsteen. I'm comfortable there. It allows me the freedom to get heavy, a la Zeppelin, and also the space to get lyrical, like Springsteen. I'm also really, really into rhythm and groove, which sets me toward acts like King's X. Not to mention Rush (which is a deeply groove-oriented band, for all their progressive writing).

For absolute clarity, I am not even remotely as good as any of these artists, and do not, in any way claim to be. I simply am at a place where these are the players, and the sounds that I'm identifying and seeing in my own songwriting and playing. Even if all of the influences I've had over the years do, occasionally, erupt out of me.

Recently, I've been spending a lot of time with The Who, and specifically listening to Pete Townshend's playing. I'm finding a lot about how he approached using the guitar in composition to be very similar to what I hear in my head. Townshend was a master of "negative space," where the moments where the guitar is not playing are as important as when it is. A almost staccato approach to rhythm, and I hear it in my own work.

I think this is where a lot of my well-documented frustration with the drum machine stems from. I want to hear the drums do more than just keep time, but actually play off the other instruments. The good news on that front is that the current project is moving forward with trying to find a drummer. I have a jam set up for next month with Paul C. and a guy recommended to me. The bad news is, he's leaving town before the end of the summer. Even with that, I'm hoping he works out and we can get some stuff recorded before he leaves. *fingers crossed*

In either case, it's made me keenly aware that I need a new approach to working with drums. I expect my next large music equipment purchase will be some sort of electric kit for recording.  The idea of being able to organically play off of the rest of the music, even with my feeble percussion skills, is better than a glorified metronome.

Anyway, that's beside the point, for this discussion. I'm finding myself more and more drawn to Townshend's songwriting and playing. It's powerful, gut-level stuff, almost purely emotional, with just enough intellectual refinement to give it heft. As any reader of this blog should know by now, I really gravitate to art from the gut. I love how naked Townshend leaves himself in his songwriting, and how his playing seethes with rage. I'm reading a biography of the man, right now, Who Are You: The Life of Pete Townshend by Mark Wilkerson, and it comes up, time and again, that the shows where Pete would get well and truly enraged resulted in the most compelling performances.

Personally, I find the Townshend/Who albums of the 70's to be where he really came into his own as an artist. I've long held that "Baba O'Riley" is, simply, the greatest rock song ever written, and, as I've dug into the guitarist and band, that opinion has only strengthened.

Hell, Pete doesn't even touch the guitar until almost halfway through the song, and yet the whole thing literally drips with power and emotion. Which, of course, isn't just Townshend, but the whole band, Roger Daltrey, John Entwhistle and the great Keith Moon, just laying into the song. Wondrous.

The band, and Townshend, had a pretty rough go of the 80's. Even at that, I still think they produced some great tracks, "You Better, You Bet," and "Eminence Front" are quite good, if not up to their explosive earlier work. Pete's best work of that decade was on his solo disks, even as he struggled with alcoholism. You can't argue with "Rough Boys" or the amazing "Slit Skirts" (which Townshend has called an attempt to write in a "Springsteen style" - the wheel always comes around with me, it seems).

In the 90's and 2000's The Who started to regroup occasionally, and it seems clear that Townshend was rather ambivalent about these appearances. He's made comments that indicate many of these tours were to provide the high-living Entwistle with infusions of cash. However, at some point, he must've become inspired again.

There is footage available of The Who in the 2000's that, for a group forty years into a career, is stunning in it's energy and power (Rush is just about the only band close, and, lets be honest, they were never an "explosive" band like The Who). A friend pointed me to this DVD of their 2000 Royal Albert Hall appearance, and I was knocked out. I'd also recommend any footage you can find of their set at The Concert for New York, after 9/11. Pete, after a decade of rather sedate performances, often remaining on acoustic guitar, seemed to just embrace punishing the guitar again.

As it stands now, with Daltrey and Townshend the last remaining members, after Entwhistle's death in 2002, I doubt another Who tour is in the offing (although Daltrey keeps touring). Their Endless Wire album was actually quite good, even superb, but it was also a rather low-key affair. Definitely worth a spin, if you have interest, but don't expect another "Who Are You" or "Substitute."

I plan to continue to look into Pete's playing, and how I can work more of his style into my own.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It's Always When You're Trying to Save

Man, it's been a couple of weeks.

Dropped my Zune (yes, I use a Zune, and LOVE it) on the train platform, and cracked the crap out of the screen. Still works, but I hate seeing those jagged shards. I keep waiting form them to start falling out. Eventually, I'll have to get some sort of replacement.


I'll probably have to go to an iPod. It was sort of a point of pride, to me, that i didn't have any Apple stuff. I know, I know, different jut to be different. Still, with the questions about how their factory workers are treated, I find the kind of myth-making the company indulges to be more than a little disturbing. I have no bone to pick here, if you use and enjoy Apple products, good for you. I'll probably have an iPod sooner or later, but...not happily.

I also picked up new locking tuners for my Les Paul. I had been having some tuning issues with the guitar, nothing horrendous, but annoying enough that I was looking for a way to make the tuning more stable. It wouldn't be a huge issue, but I've grown to really love the feel of my Les' neck, and how it plays. It feels much more natural than my Stratocaster, which I still use for cleaner playing. The Les has a bit too much "chunk" for lighter styles.

I looked at several brands, but all of them required a lot of work to fit the Les Paul. Drilling new holes, etc. Was not in a place where I wanted to do that to the guitar, and I really don't have the skill, anyway. Then I found a Klusen locking tuner that not only looked like the stock tuners, but would fit the guitar without modification. Yeah, they have a higher profile, with the locking mechanism on the face of the headstock, rather than underneath, but I kinda dig the look. (I almost want to get black locks, as in the picture - I think it looks cool)

More importantly, they work very slickly. It took me around a half hour to get them installed, very easy process. Once they were on, string changing became MUCH more simple. Put the string through, lock it down, a few tune. (I did manage to break my 4th string [D] while stretching, but I think that was my own fault) It's stayed pretty well in tune ever since. I'm calling this a good investment. Long-term reactions may vary.

Then, of course, it rained today, and I noticed the tell-tale moistening of my sock. Yet another pair of shoes has given up the go.  My Nike Delta Force high tops have worn through the sole, again. I don't wanna be one of those "in MY day" people, but I really do remember shoes lasting a lot longer when I was a kid.

Cbyrd likes to point out that I buy a pair of shoes, and then wear it, exclusively, until it wears out. Yeah, I can see how that would make my shoes wear out faster than somebody who has two or three pairs they rotate through, but when I was a kid I did the same thing! I just think the shoes don't last as long.

But hell, I guess nothing really does.

Monday, April 23, 2012

OK, Back to The Grind...

Hello faithful readers! I know it's been a while. My apologies, but things have been crazy for your faithful blogger. I think, however, I'll have a good shot a keeping up with things for a while.

Quite a few things happened while I was quiet. John Carter tanked, despite my best efforts to whip up an audience. The Avengers edged ever nearer to release, and I honestly can't believe it's less than two weeks away. My countdown to the San Diego Comic-Con continues, as I try, desperately, to sock away every last possible cent for it.

However, I did want to jump back a bit and talk about how Guns N' Roses induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ultimately went down. I can't say I was surprised by who showed up, and, more importantly, who didn't. However, I was also struck by how I felt reading Axl's public statements about the induction, which, as is Mr. Rose's want, were pretty rambling and  edging toward schizophrenic.

Still, really when he issued his first real statement about the matter, on Facebook, of all places, I could help but just shake my head and say, "exactly what I expected." I don't even mean that in a bad way. I mean, Axl, and the group he has assembled under the name "Guns N' Roses" were left in a pretty awful place with this induction.

Axl owns the name "Guns N' Roses," that's pretty much uncontested. Now, how underhanded his tactics were to secure ownership of that name is debatable. I tend to believe Slash and Duff on this one, because their accounts of the events in their respective autobiographies synch up pretty well. Why Axl felt he had to do what he did is really something only he can tell us, and I doubt he'll ever really do so.

You can go around and around about it for days. Really, however, for my purposes today, it's irrelevant.

Axl put together a band of truly great players (OK, that Ashba guy strikes me as a complete poseur, but whatever, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal is a badass player, as is Tommy Stinson) and recorded (and re-recorded, and re-recorded, and re-recorded) an album that, while not Appetite for Destruction, isn't embarrassing or a disaster, by any means. Is it too little, too late? Probably. It is sad to me that Chinese Democracy will never be able to be considered without weighing it against the fourteen years Axl spent making it, because it isn't nearly as bad as people make it out to be.

Is it a Guns N' Roses album? The pragmatic part of myself says yes. That's the name on the damn CD, and this is the band that's out touring. That said, it bears a much resemblance to Appetite for Destruction, or even the Use Your Illusion records, as the Page and Plant albums do to Led Zeppelin II. There are elements that we, as the listening public, associate with "Guns N' Roses" that just aren't there. That doesn't make it bad, but it does make it different. It really is an Axl Rose solo album, but, like it or not, legally, Axl IS Guns. He's been battling since the first tour with, essentially, this lineup in 2002, to assert this Guns, HIS Guns, as THE Guns.

I'm not judging that action, only point out that he's worked pretty hard to put that across to the public. The Hall of Fame induction, frankly, was a very dangerous thing for the Guns N' Roses Axl has been building. The last thing on Earth that the current lineup needs is to be reminded how explosively awesome the original band could be. They could also suck beyond comprehension, but that's a whole 'nother rant. The SECOND Axl steps on stage with the AFD or UYI lineups, the CD lineup is set back 10 years.

Now, why in God's name would he EVER put himself in that position? Why would anyone?

So, he wrote his open letter, and, no matter how much he wants to say it wasn't a press release, it was certainly a calculated move. Bringing up questions about the HOF selection process that play well to the hard rock fanbase is clearly a tactical decision. The wording is very careful. I'm sure 100 lawyers went over it. Although, come on, Axl...You inducted Elton John! Where were your concerns about the Hall of Fame process then?

So, he doesn't show. The crowd boos his name. Izzy Stradlin doesn't show, either, but his history of reclusiveness  makes it forgivable. Steven Adler makes an embarrassing speech, that I can forgive, because the guy's just obviously so damaged. Then Slash, Duff Mckagan, Adler and Stradlin's first replacement, Gilby Clarke, get up and play with Slash's current vocalist, Myles Kennedy, as I suspected might happen.

The night goes pretty well. The band gets to show their stuff a little bit, and then, Axl issues another non-press-release-press-release. A statement that, for all the world, sounds like the guy might juuuussst regret not going a little bit. Who knows? Only Axl really does. Never miss another chance to point out that the Hall might be a sham, however.

(Lord, I am sick of that, but, again, another rant for another time)

I do however, think that, ultimately, what happened in Cleveland was good for everyone. If nothing else, it nailed the coffin of the original lineup shut. Which is probably something that the band, and the fans, needed. There will be no reunion. It's never going to happen, and what we saw on April 14th is probably the closest you'll ever get.

I think it came off so well that everyone can put that experience to bed. Maybe even Adler. Certainly Stradlin has, and Slash and Duff have moved on to their own projects. They all seem pretty happy to let Axl carry the weight of "Guns N' Roses."

Maybe we should, too.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

And...We're Back! Kinda - Stuck in My Head 4.17.2012

It's been an INSANE month. That's about the only excuse I can muster...

I'm hoping to get back on track sooner, rather than later.

by The Who

Mother was an incubator
Father was the contents
of a test tube in the ice box
In the factory of birth

My name is 905,
And I've just become alive
I'm the newest populator
Of the planet we call Earth

In suspended animation
My childhood passed me by
If I speak without emotion
Then you know the reason why

Knowledge of the universe
Was fed into my mind
As my adolescent body
Left its puberty behind

And everything I know is what I need to know
And everything I do's been done before
Every sentence in my head
Someone else has said
At each end of my life is an open door

Automatically defrosted
When manhood came on time
I became a man
I left the "ice school" behind

Now I'm to begin
The life that I'm assigned
A life that's been used before
A thousand times

I have a feeling deep inside
That somethin' is missing
It's a feeling in my soul
And I can't help wishing

That one day I'll discover
That we're living a lie
And I'll tell the whole world
The reason why

Well, until then, everything I know is what I need to know
And everything I do's been done before
Every sentence in my head
Someone else has said
At each end of my life is an open door