Friday, June 28, 2013

Stuck in My Head - Life Going By

Life Going By
by King's X

I've seen a wind torn sky.
And I've felt the river cry.
And I've seen the old ones have their say.
I've known the constitution.
And I've seen a revolution.
And I've seen the birds all fly away.
I've climbed in the back and I've hung
From the rack and I've died more that once on the way.
And I've sat there in awe and I've seen
Myself fall and I've felt the full light of the day. life going by.
I've read confusing fiction.
And lived a contradiction.
And I've wondered where on earth I've been.
I've known a love forever.
A Truth I couldn't sever.
A chord that flows a free as wind.
I've stood on the mountain and drank from the fountain and poured it all out on the floor.
Turned my back to the glory and walked the tenth story and come back to knock on your door. life going by .... my life going on ... my life going by.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Music Project Update 6.26.2013

The New Toy
Last night I managed to get a full, clean acoustic guitar track for the third track I'm working on, Cliffs of Moher. It's another ballad/primarily acoustic track. Ultimately, I'm working on this kind of stuff, because we have company coming, and my studio will very shortly become a guest bedroom. Which makes it difficult to set up the drums and really go after a drum track.

I'll get back to it, however, don't you fret. Moher is the last track of this nature I've written for this cycle of tunes. However, it's also fast becoming the most complicated. I picked up a (scratch & dent) mandolin on Saturday, and, after teaching myself the needed chords, it's going to figure prominently in this number. As well as a bodhran drum that CByrd brought back from one of her Irish tips for me.

Yeah, I'm hoping for a BIT of a folk tune feel on this one...which I'll probably not manage, but, hey, I am sure it will stand out, and have it's own identity, in terms o this whole project.

One challenge I discovered is that, when I wrote this tune, the guitar part, I was playing very freely, time-wise. After working with the metronome and click track, I found that some of it was in 2/4, some in 4/4, and some in 3/4. I attempted to piecemeal the whole track together for a while, but that process was ultimately pretty frustrating.

I opted to just play the whole guitar track live. Which had it's own frustrations, as I was still trying to use a click track to keep the tempo. My brain would hear that "1" on the click (slightly louder), and then I'd start thinking I was off. Of course I was, how could I not be?

However, last night I got a full, clean track down. Sounds pretty good. I doubled it, and now I have to start laying in the mandolin and other stuff. I'm excited for what may come.

MonkeySex and The Rain Came Down are both....(drum roll)...done! Or as done as they're going to get with me. Neither a perfect, but I felt like I got where I needed to be with them. I bumped up the volume in mastering, and..there you have it.

I am finding myself in a bit of a struggle about the whole Hayoth thing. Part of me is feeling like this
stuff isn't going to be different enough from the previous "Mark Pracht" tracks and CDs to justify the concept. But, then again, I like the concept...

Honestly, I shouldn't even be thinking about this stuff, now. I'm a long way from being done. Still, even with going through another "burning the ships" process, and deleting all the half-finished tracks that had been sitting around, I've got two FINISHED tracks, and one getting closer. It's good news.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Also Stuck in My Head - Phantom Limb

Phantom Limb
by Alice in Chains

No hope of rescue
I'm trapped here alone
If I don't dig my own way out I'll die here

Gave my loyalty too soon
Now the fork-tongued viper's dead
... Is dead yeah yeah

Weather is shiftin'
So cold goin' up
Through a pinhole of light I see vultures circlin'

Bottom feeders dig my skin
Winner bring a parasite
With him

Weak or pulverized
No better medicine
Angels have been advised
Don't want no requiem

I'll just haunt you like a phantom limb
I'll just haunt you like a phantom limb

Gonna wear you like a second skin
I'll haunt you like a phantom limb


Every new second
Getting harder to break
No matter which side I end up on
This ain't over

My regrets are very true
Still so much was lies (again?)...
By you

Weak or pulverized
No better medicine
Angels have been advised
Don't want no requiem

I'll just haunt you like a phantom limb
I'll just haunt you like a phantom limb

Gonna wear you like a second skin
I'll haunt you like a phantom limb

Monday, June 24, 2013

How about One More: A Box

A Box
by King's X

Lonely days will come and go, nothing new unless
you're bold, revolution #19 brand new wave of anger
Stain yourself with pumpkin pie, liquid tattoo
I got mine, don't forget forgetfulness, call it
There is no room inside a box,
there is no room inside.
Way down in the deep depress, colder than the
coldest yes, we all know of loneliness
others to another, just a place to run and hide
just a place to free your mind, just a place to
break the chains and find whatever matters
There is no room inside a box,
there is no room inside.

Stuck in My Head: Point Blank

Point Blank
by Bruce Springsteen

Do you still say your prayers little darlin'
Do you go to bed at night
Prayin' that tommorow, everything will be alright
But tommorow's fall in number in number one by one
You wake up and you're dying you don't even know what from
Well they shot you point blank you been shot in the back
Baby point blank you been fooled this time little girl that's a fact
Right between the eyes baby, point blank
Right between the pretty lies that they tell
Little girl you fell
You grew up where young girls they grow up fast
You took what you were handed and left behind what was asked
but what they asked baby wasn't right
You didn't have to live that life,
I was gonna be your Romeo you were gonna be my Juliet
These days you don't wait on Romeo's
You wait on that welfare check
And on all the pretty things that you can't ever have
And on all the promises that always end up point blank
Sot between the eyes
Point blank like little white lies you tell to ease the pain
You're walkin' in the sights, girl of point blank
And it's one false move and baby the lights go out

Once I dreamed we were together again, baby you and me
Back home in those old clubs the way we used to be
We were standin' at the bar it was hard to hear
The band was playin' loud and you were shoutin' somethin' in my ear
You pulled my jacket off and as the drummer counted four
You grabbed my hand and pulled me out on the floor
You just stood there and held me, then you started dancin' slow
And as I pulled you tighter I swore I'd never let you go
Well I saw you last night down on the avenue
Your face was in the shadows but I knew that it was you
You were standin' in the doorway out of the rain
You didn't answer when I called out your name
You just turned, and then you looked away
Like just another stranger waitin' to get blown away

Point blank, right between the eyes
Point blank, right between the pretty lies you fell
Point blank, shot right through the heart
Yea point blank, you've been twisted up
till you've become just another part of it
Point blank, you're walkin' in the sights
Point blank, livin' one false move
Just one false move away
Point blank, they caught you in their sights
Point blank, did you forget how to love,
Girl, did you forget how to fight.
Point blank they must have shot you in the head
Cause point blank, bang bang baby you're dead.

The Hits Just Keep On Coming

Max Landis Makes the BEST Statement About MAN OF STEEL So Far

Just Brilliant.

The language is NSFW. Spoilers also abound.

For the record, I'm with him on Superman's ultimate resolution of the Zod threat, along with just about everything else he says.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Stuck in My Head: Lost in the Flood

God, this song is just...awesome.

Lost In the Flood
by Bruce Springsteen

The ragamuffin gunner is returnin' home like a hungry runaway
He walks through town all alone--"He must be from the fort," he hears the high school girls say
His countryside's burnin' with wolfman fairies dressed in drag for homicide
The hit-and-run plead sanctuary, 'neath a holy stone they hide
They're breakin' beams and crosses with a spastic's reelin' perfection
Nuns run bald through Vatican halls, pregnant, pleadin' immaculate conception
And everybody's wrecked on Main Street from drinking unholy blood
Sticker smiles sweet as Gunner breathes deep, his ankles caked in mud
And I said, "Hey, gunner man, that's qucksand, that's quicksand, that ain't mud
Have you thrown your senses to the war, or did you lose them in the flood?"

That pure American brother, dull-eyed and empty-faced
Races Sundays in Jersey in a Chevy stock super eight
He rides 'er low on the hip, on the side he's got "Bound for Glory" in red, white and blue flash paint
He leans on the hood telling racing stories, the kids call him Jimmy the Saint
Well, that blaze-and-noise boy, he's gunnin' that bitch loaded to blastin' point
He rides head first into a hurricane and disappears into a point
And there's nothin' left but some blood where the body fell, that is, nothin' left that you could sell
Just junk all across the horizon, a real highwayman's farewell
And I said, "Hey kid, you think that's oil? Man, that ain't oil, that's blood"
I wonder what he was thinking when he hit that storm, or was he just lost in the flood?

Eighth Avenue sailors in satin shirts whisper in the air
Some storefront incarnation of Maria, she's puttin' on me the stare
And Bronx's best apostle stands with his hand on his own hardware
Everything stops, you hear five quick shots, the cops come up for air
And now the whiz-bang gang from uptown, they're shootin' up the street
And that cat from the Bronx starts lettin' loose, but he gets blown right off his feet
And some kid comes blastin' 'round the corner, but a cop puts him right away
He lays on the street holding his leg, screaming something in Spanish, 

still breathing when I walked away
And somebody said, "Hey man, did you see that? His body hit the street with such a beautiful thud"
I wonder what the dude was sayin', or was he just lost in the flood?
Hey man, did you see that, those poor cats are sure messed up
I wonder what they were gettin' into, or were they just lost in the flood?

When You Think About "Success..."

Not big on God, but I like the sentiment
What does that mean?

Now, of course, because I'm me, I'm talking about people of a creative bent. I won't say "artists," because I've discussed (probably ad-nauseum) that I reject people calling themselves "artists." I'm not an artist, I'm a creator, I'm a communicator, a craftsman. The audience can decide if I'm an artist.

For a lot of people it means money, pure and simple. That they will do anything, any project, as long as a decent check is involved. The ultimate goal is to "make a living," to not have to do anything else. I get that. I really do, but I often think...what are you giving up?

If you get that major national ad gig, become the spokesman for a product, you have a really lucrative opportunity. Lots of money, lots of exposure, comfort, and some security (to a point), for as long at the campaign runs, anyway.

Yet, I keep thinking...what does that do to your career? How can you move on from that, if you've done so many ads, your face on TV every 10 minutes hocking cell phones, or whatever, who's going to want to cast you for anything else? You're the "can you hear me now?" guy forever.

I feel the same when I hear tales of people chasing gigs around the country, stuff they're not in love with, but do because they need to keep the money coming in. Again, nothing wrong with that, seems to be a case of diminishing returns.

I didn't get into acting, or music, or writing, or whatever other expressive enterprise I try my hand at, to not love it. Granted, I think I would likely enjoy traveling the country performing over office work, and I did that for a (short) while. It was great. It was fun, and there was a ton of freedom to do things like surf and drink.

However, I always had my sights on Chicago, not because I could make a living acting here, but because I would watch early Steppenwolf, or Body Politic, or Red Orchid, productions and THAT was what I wanted to do, to be a part of. Work that made me uncomfortable, that challenged me, that pushed me. Even if it didn't pay me a "living wadge."

The fact is, I'm happy to work a day job when I find myself with those kinds of opportunities available to me.

Here's the truth. I am a story guy, period. I like stories about people who have problems, and try to deal with them. Who may succeed or may fail. I, personally, don't give a shit about politics, the burning issue you just NEED to get on paper, or Brechtian concepts. You can use all that stuff to tell a story, but when it overwhelms the idea of two people, standing on a stage, in conflict, I check out.

The fact is, all the fancy parlor tricks and speechifying quite often does just that. It becomes a barrier between the audience and the performer. Yes, I like realism. I like theatre that says, "these people are just like you, you can recognize them as real, not as some sort of over-baked symbol of an idea." Again, as I've trumpeted ad-nauseum, you can tell any story you want, make any point, but you have to do with people the audience relates to. What happens to these people is what illuminates your point, and often, explaining it any further is killing the catharsis.

See, because on the other side of doing everything for money, is willfully trying to make your work inscrutable.

I guess this is all prelude to the fact that I do not feel "successful." I work a lot, and sometimes it's great, and sometimes it isn't. I take jobs for all kinds of reasons, people I want to work with, companies I want to work with, even because I feel I owe somebody something (*sigh* Hero. Complex.). I strive to give my best in all cases, and I hope my colleagues recognize that.

But I live for the "magic" projects. Those are the ones that make me feel like a success, even if people hate them, even if we get the worst reviews, ever. Where the story means something to me, the character means something to me, gives me something new and interesting to play, and the people around me are supportive and working as a team. The hell of it is, it's often right after one of these "magic" projects, that I feel furthest from "success." When I realize exactly how rare they are.

That's becoming hard for me to deal with.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

On A Positive Note - More On Hayoth

Earlier this month, I shared the first two "works in progress" mixes for early tracks from my long-gestating (some might say "suffering") Hayoth music project.

I re-mixed "MonkeySex" on Tuesday night, re-recorded the vocals on the verses. Also re-did the guitar solo. Cut a lot of the double tracking on the guitars and bass. Re-thought the EQ on those tracks, as well. I feel like it's allowed the dynamics to pop a bit.

The original mix felt a bit muddy, to me. Plus, the vocals were kinda undercooked. I mean, the lyrical content wasn't Shakespeare, but that was intentional. I think my revised take at least sells it a bit more. I left the chorus and the quick pre-chorus bit alone. Yeah, they're over-processed, which I think I'll try to avoid in the future, but I like the feel of it.

Plus, another run at it gave me a chance to bump up the volume, which has been a recurring problem with my musical projects. I've been somewhat afraid of clipping, and I think that's put me in a too-cautious headspace. I think I've rode the line pretty good on this re-mix.

All in all, I think it's better. I haven't got the final file transferred to a version I can put on Soundcloud, but that will happen soon.

I'm also going to re-visit "The Rain Came Down," but I think it needs much less work. Mainly in trying to pop the volume a bit. I'm (astoundingly) pretty happy with the song as it is...even the vocals. Which NEVER happens, ask anybody. The reaction on that one has been more positive than negative, as well.

So, "if it ain't broke..."

Which isn't to say it's perfect. God, no. Far from. That said, I like the feel of it, warts and all. Which  may be, in fact, the first thing I've ever recorded that I can say that about.

That's progress.

When Will I Ever Learn?

 I think I've made a terrible mistake.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Stuck in My Head: Loner

by Black Sabbath

He's just a loner
He never says hello
A friend to no-one
He's got no place to go
He don't look happy
He looks through fertile eyes
He ain't got nothing
No-one to sympathise, alright now!

He hides himself away
His secrets not revealed
As life just passes by
He keeps himself concealed
A solitary man, an enigmatic child
A riddle never solved
A prisoner exiled, alright now!

I wonder if the loner cannot simulate
A lifeless lived alone plays devil's advocate, come on now!

Has he ever tried to be happy?
Reach out from inside
Someone on who he can depend
It's getting too late to recover
He won't stand a chance
And into his own hell he'll descend
Don't descend!

Don't descend!
Don't descend!
Don't descend!

No understanding of things he already knows
He has to live his life and just let out and go, alright yeah!

Communication's an impossibility
He's his own best friend, but he's his own worst enemy
The secrets of his past life deep inside his head
I wonder if he'll be happy when he's dead, come on yeah!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Stuck In My Head: Mission

by Rush

Hold your fire,
Keep it burning bright
Hold the flame 'til the dream ignites
A spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission

I hear their passionate music
Read the words that touch my heart
I gaze at their feverish pictures
The secrets that set them apart

When I feel the powerful visions
Their fire has made alive
I wish I had that instinct
I wish I had that drive

Spirits fly on dangerous missions
Imaginations on fire
Focused high on soaring ambitions
Consumed in a single desire

In the grip of a nameless possession
A slave to the drive of obsession
A spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission.

I watch their images flicker
Bringing light to a lifeless screen
I walk through their beautiful buildings
And I wish I had their dreams
But dreams don't need to have motion
To keep their spark alive
Obsession has to have action
Pride turns on the drive

It's cold comfort
To the ones without it
To know how they struggled
How they suffered about it
If their lives were exotic and strange
They would likely have gladly exchanged them
For something a little more plain
Maybe something a little more sane

We each pay a fabulous price
For our visions of paradise
But a spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission.

Man of Steel

I'm going to endeavor to remain spoiler-free here, and talk about the film in terms of theme and tone, rather than in detail.

I saw the film on Saturday, and have been chewing on it ever since. I have to be honest, the more I think about it, the less I like it. The reason is simple, and becomes more obvious to me as I turn over the decisions made here...

I would say the most human superhero, ever, is Spider-Man. Not only are his powers limited, but he also carries the weight of the lives of all of his friends, even after they might betray him. He is defined by his open heart.

Second on that list would be Superman, and it's not by much. His vast power levels set him apart from humanity, but that is negated by a heart that is more open, more encompassing, than any other. Superman/Kal-El/Clark Kent, whatever you may wish to call him, is human because he has chosen to be.

Where the film utterly stumbles is in constantly, and oppressively, reminding us of Supeman's alien nature. There's been talk the film was framed as a "first contact" story, and that's pretty accurate. It's also not what Superman is about.

Superman is not about The Other coming to us and changing our world, but about The Other becoming Us, the best of who we are. The Other who becomes the best of us because he was taught that is how everyone should be. Snyder and Goyer seem to poo-poo the immigrant angle, but Goddammit, that's what the story is.

The film positions Superman as a God...and I hate to invoke Chris Reeve, but he has really given the
only absolutely perfect performance of this role, ever...Reeve, at every, single turn, gave us the man. The man is what we can relate to, the man is who we can cry for, and with. The man allows us to see his limitations. The man gives consequence to action sequences.

Henry Cavil may be capable of that. I liked his performance, but it was a good performance of a character who was almost joyless, emotionless and cold. Superman is none of those things. Cavil is at his best in the moments where we see the man...There is a moment of pure joy upon his first flight that screams out "more of this, please!" Also a reaction to a terrible choice that Cavil nailed completely (a divisive moment, but I liked it), even if the rest of the film utterly let him down.

"All those things I could do, all those powers, and I couldn't save him."

That's one of the two defining lines in Richard Donner's 1978 masterpiece. Why? Because it speaks to limitations, not just of strength, or speed, but that Superman is, simply, not a God. He is a man, with powers and abilities beyond the rest of us, but he cannot do everything. He cannot save everyone. BUT HE WILL ALWAYS TRY.

This is where Man of Steel goes completely off the rails, for me. It's no secret that the third act is, essentially a long fight between Cavil's Superman and Michael Shannon's General Zod. It's a huge throwdown, buildings topple, the two titans smash each other around like rag dolls.

Yes, I am disturbed that buildings are falling, innocent people are CLEARLY dying horribly, and Superman is oblivious. What's even more annoying is that Zach Snyder and David Goyer could've solved that problem easily. We only need to see Superman TRY to save innocents, and we will love him, even if he fails. Why not a moment where Superman attempts to hold up a building, only to have Zod use this moment to take a cheap shot, and the building still goes down. Superman instantly feels more human, on many levels, and Zod more dastardly.

But see, the film isn't interested in that, it doesn't care about puny humans. At all. The Daily Planet staff is pretty much half-baked, aside from Lois, and Metropolis itself is just a city. It has no character. It has no life. It's there to simply be a bunch of buildings to get knocked over. I've never seen such huge scenes of MASSIVE carnage feel so antiseptic and cold. Who cares? The film hasn't even taken a moment to establish a world that feels in any way "alive."

You may think those last two paragraphs contradict each other, but, frankly, the latter just makes the former all the more apparent. It's just so blindingly clear that Snyder and Goyer don't care about people, they care about Gods. This whole film is in service to watching two video game characters (and that is EXACTLY what it looks like) punch each other through buildings, and fly thousands of feet through the air.

Drew McWeeny, over at HitFix, found the fight scenes emotional. I suppose that's true, but the emotion is blindingly self-centered. This movie is about Clark/Superman dealing with HIS issues, and saving the world just sort of happens to be part of that. It's ridiculous, and it's NOT Superman. Superman saves people, and, in many ways, is a servant to humanity. I don't see any of that in this film, his personal trials and difficulties should be attached to that. Which is something that Bryan Singer's Superman Returns TRIED to do, and, ultimately, got lost in reverence to Donner's vision.

Poor Brandon Routh...I maintain he could've been a GREAT Superman, but no one can succeed when the mandate is "play Christopher Reeve playing Superman."

Still, Singer was closer than Snyder. Much, much closer. Mainly because Singer pulled out all the stops to make Superman human. Probably too much, but...I prefer that to a cold, distant alien.

The sweet spot...clearly somewhere in between. Superman: The Movie and Superman II hit it, I think. They proved you can have massive, powerful, superhuman action, and never forget that Superman is here to help. He cares about us, all of us, and he cares even more because he can do more than anyone else to keep us safe. Just re-watch the fight in Metropolis from Superman II, it's full of drama, it's exciting, and it never, ever forgets the humanity.

Hell, that version of Superman RUNS AWAY, rather than risk more lives fighting in a crowded city.

Compare that to the climax of Man of Steel, which is about two men in a personal grudge match. Superman wrecking massive slabs of the planet to "save" it. Multiply that with the almost entirely CGI nature of the sequence. Floaty heads yelling at each other. Big deal.

Of course, at the end of the day, it's not Goyer and Snyder's fault, either. It's the mouth-breathing  crowd and their inane "he has to punch something!' calls. Hollywood, long being the purveyors of groupthink, just gave you what you wanted. A big, loud exercise with loving shots of super-powered beings punching each other. Big whoop.

As a post script - I don't blame Nolan for this, at all. I've long maintained that Nolan had to be hands-off member of this production.  It's Snyder and Goyer's show. I figure Nolan was there for cachet, and got a story credit for an off-the-cuff (which is pretty much how it's described) conversation with Goyer.

 What did I like? I loved the Krypton stuff. I love Russell Crowe as Jor-El. I love Keven Costner and Diane Lane as the Kents (although that one scene with dumb, but he was good). I thought the cast was game and handled what was thrown at them well.

I just wish what was thrown at them was more Superman and less "let's smash a bunch of stuff."

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Hayoth Works in Progress

I think they work, as songs...I am really feeling I need to re-do vocals.

Still...2 done, mastered and everything.

Hayoth lives!

Comments, constructive criticism welcome. the vocals.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Stuck in My Head - Smooth Sailing

Smooth Sailing
by Queens of the Stone Age

It's all in motion
No stoppin' now
I've got nothin' to lose
And only one way up

I'm burning bridges
I destroy the mirage
Oh, visions of collisions
Fuckin'bon voyage

It's all smooth sailing
From here on out

I got bruises and hickies
Stitches and scars
Got my own theme music
It plays wherever I are

Fear is the hand
That pulls your strings
A useless toy
Pitiful play thing

It's all smooth sailing
From here on out
I'm gon' do the damage
That was getting done

God only knows
Where love vacations
If reason is priceless
There's no reason to pay for it

It's so easy to see
And so hard to find
Make a mountain of a mole hill
And the mole hill is mine

I hypnotize you
And no one can find you
I blow my load
Over the status quo
Here we go

I'm a little bit nonchalant
But I dance
I'm risking it always
No second chance

It's gonna be smooth sailing
From here on out
I'm gon' do the damage
'Til the damage is done

God only knows
So mind your behavior
Follow prescriptions
Of your bloated savior

Every temple is gold
Every hook is designed
Hell is but the temple
Of the closed mind
Closed mind
Closed mind
Closed mind

It's all smooth sailing
From here on out

Monday, June 3, 2013

Stuck In My Head - Pretty Done

Pretty Done
by Alice in Chains

So you got the thing you wanted
Don't let it go
Though it hurts your hand to hold it
Don't let it show
I'm pretty done
Once a favored son
I'm pretty done
Slap me 'round for fun
Finding no pleasant changes
In old enemies
Not a lead a bit part playing
In my story
I'm pretty done
Once a favored son
I'm pretty done
Slap me 'round for fun
I don't care to further amuse you
Never had you how, could I lose you?

Paid in full, I owe no one at all
I'm supposed to smile and ignore it
Better than some
High roads are to fall from
Already hung
I'm pretty done
Once a favored son
I'm pretty done
Slap me 'round for fun
Pushing towards hopeless mission
Curiosity, omission
History colored since the fall
I'm pretty done
I'm pretty done
I'm pretty done
I'm pretty done