Monday, July 29, 2013

The Video That Never Fails to Reaffirm My Faith In, Well....Everything

Zep No More?

I started trying to lay down vocals for Zep over the weekend. There's temp bass and a temp guitar solo. The former because I'm still wanting Pauly C to lay down bass for me, and the latter because I, flat out, can do better.

Ultimately, I think I have to change the name of the song. While the inspiration is still very much Zeppelin, it's strongly apparent that I will not be able to pull off a Robert Plant-style vocal line. I feel no shame over this, I mean, there are very, very few people who can sing anything like Robert Plant. I also simply can't play drums like Bonzo, and, yet again, few can. The track also simply doesn't have the improvisational feel of most Zeppelin stuff. That's just the nature of how I'm recording...I have to plan out arrangements and structure.

The influence is still felt. I had lyrics jotted down to work from, and as I worked with them, I felt that I had fallen into the same trap I often do. Too literal. Not in terms of content, so much as that I tend to approach lyrics in a much too linear way. I want to tell a story, I want each line to lead logically to the next. Which I find starts nudging me closer and closer to "moon, june, croon" bullshit.

Zeppelin had a wonderful sense of imagery over story, and I've been re-working the verses, pushing more in that direction. The chorus already seems to work, and it's almost literally nonsense words. Of course, I'm so hook-oriented when it comes to a chorus. Into how the rhythm of the words falls off the tongue, more than anything else, I've always had an easier time saying, "makes no sense - screw it, it's catchy."

All that aside, the material is proceeding well. A pattern is forming, where I lay in the drums, then get paranoid that they're "off," then, as I start putting the other material over what's there, the whole thing tightens up. It's exciting, honestly. The drumming is rudimentary, at best, but I love the "human" element of it. There's no doubt in my mind that moving on from the drum machine has been the single best decision I've made, in regards to long-term creativity, as far as music goes.

I am so excited to move on to the next few tracks, which are more straight-ahead rockers. Shorter, less forethought required. I'm hoping I can put them to bed quickly. The tally stands at 3 completed tracks, one "in process" (but closer to done than not), and 4 more or less written, and ready to go. That gives me 8 tracks total, I usually aim for 12, but I may cut back. I'd rather put out something shorter than pull 4 tracks out of my ass. There was a lot of that on Where Have All the Heroes Gone? and I think it was pretty obvious. That said, I have a couple of riffs I've been messing with that could evolve in time to be included. We'll see what shakes out.

In other music talk, I downloaded the debut, self-titled album from The Winery Dogs. Another in the recent spate of "supergroups," it features Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theatre, Flying Colors) on drums, Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, ex-David Lee Roth Band)on bass, and Richie Kotzen (who, in addition to his solo career, had brief runs as a replacement guitarist in both Mr. Big and Poison) on guitar and vocals.

The cops on display are monstrous. All of these guys are top, top flight players. The album is, without a doubt, a bit of a shredfest, and I can dig that. As a player, I love listening and watching players who are simply some of the best in the world. However, I'm also acutely aware that great playing does not make a great song. All the notes in the world, no matter how fast you play them, can't make a great song without feel and melody.

I was prepared for the shred on The Winery Dogs, what was pleasantly surprising is how catchy and tuneful this deeply blues-based set is. I was a little worried while listening to the opening seconds of the first track, Elevate, which is good, but busy. It brushes right up against overdoing it, but when you hit the incredibly catchy chorus, all feels well.

It's definitely a hard-rock, blues-based album. If you're not into that, I'd pass by, but there is tons of great stuff here if you are. With tracks that are just on fire with musicianship, and others that lay back and allow texture and feel to win the day. Kotzen's voice is also compelling, reminding me a lot of Chris Cornell. As I listened, I couldn't help but think that The Winery Dogs is, fairly effortlessly, what Black Country Communion expended a lot of effort to reach.

If what I've written makes you curious, I'd recommend checking the album out on Spotify. You may dig it. 

Stuck in My Head: Karn Evil 9 (First Impression Pt. 2)

 Karn Evil 9 (First Impression Pt. 2)
by Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends
We're so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside
There behind a glass stands a real blade of grass
Be careful as you pass, move along, move along

Come inside, the show's about to start
Guaranteed to blow your head apart
Rest assured you'll get your money's worth
Greatest show in Heaven, Hell or Earth
You've got to see the show, it's a dynamo
You've got to see the show, it's rock and roll, oh

Right before your eyes see the laughter from the skies
And he laughs until he cries, then he dies, then he dies

Come inside, the show's about to start
Guaranteed to blow your head apart
You've got to see the show, it's a dynamo
You've got to see the show, it's rock and roll, oh

Soon the Gypsy Queen in a glaze of vaseline
Will perform on guillotine, what a scene, what a scene
Next upon the stand will you please extend a hand
To Alexander's Ragtime Band, Dixieland, Dixieland

Roll up, roll up, roll up
See the show

Performing on a stool we've a sight to make you drool
Seven virgins and a mule, keep it cool, keep it cool
We would like it to be known the exhibits that were shown
Were exclusively our own, all our own, all our own

Come and see the show, come and see the show
Come and see the show
See the show

Friday, July 26, 2013

It's Not Pretty, But It's Human

I started out this week with a long blog about the Orson Scott Card/Ender's Game controversy.

I deleted it.

I frankly just decided that I couldn't take the aggravation.

I've been confronted a lot this week with groupthink. A pervasive, insidious push toward "you're with us, or your against us." Left, right, no fucking difference. God forbid anybody asks questions, or offers considered alternatives. The opinion of the masses has been set. Speaking out with any sort of critical thinking has become verboten in our rapidly brainwashed culture.

Yes, I said brainwashed.

We are inundated with messages that position the world as black and white. There's "us," the right thinkers, and "them," the unwashed, insidious evil. Again, left, right, no difference. Social media has made this portion of the American political spectrum, which has always been there, the mainstream.

We live in a world where we have chosen, systematically, to opt out of critical thinking in favor of a collective groupthink that aligns with the opinions we already hold. We choose "news sources" who will present information in ways that singularly support our own worldview, or at least fail to challenge it.

The simple fact is, there are no "news sources" anymore, simply propaganda machines that we either hold up as unimpeachable, or slander as outright fabrication. I don't give a shit if it's, Fox News, Salon, or The New Republic. None of it is designed to facilitate thought, it's designed to reinforce and justify the opinion you've already decided upon.

It's comfort food. An intellectual Twinkie. It's sweet and comforting, and provides zero nutrition.

Then, the really destructive part kicks in. We share this propaganda on Facebook, or Twitter, and convince ourselves this is the same as political "action"...

Bullshit. Utter bullshit.

It's not action, at all. What possible positive change in society can come out of sharing something you already agreed with? That challenged your overall perceptions not in the slightest. Sharing it with a group of peers who, at a guess, are 99% (or more) likely to absolutely agree with you? That's not action, it's masturbation.

It's sharing propaganda with a like-minded peer group, in order so that you may all share in the glow of being "right" and "more enlightened" together. It perpetuates a continual divisive political climate, and a close-mindedness to ideas that do not hew, utterly and completely, to your already established bias. You've created a closed cycle of superiority, and outright hatred (which is ABSOLUTELY NOT the sole purview of the right, let me tell you), that will never resolve positively.

Let me say that again; it will NEVER resolve positively.

Animosity will continue. Hatred and resentment will grow, and we'll continue to look around at our own peer group, read our preferred propaganda, and assure ourselves, "hey, WE'RE not the problem."

Then the shooting will start.

I have walked many different paths in this world, with many different kinds of people. I've worked on ranches with very conservative peers. I have worked in the very liberal world of theatre for most of my adult life. I grew up in a town dominated by the military, and now the center of the "megachurch" phenomenon. I've been to the lowest points a human can tolerate, and the highest. I have seen love and hate in all of these places.

No one is a saint, and no one is a devil.

The thing I learned, and I often don't see around me, and rarely see considered, at all, anymore, is that we're all the same. We're all human, we make the best decisions we can, based on the situation at hand. We fail, sometimes catastrophically, we succeed, sometimes far beyond our wildest dreams, but we cannot transcend our basic humanity.

...And sometimes humans are very, very petty. Sometimes they are very, very weak. Sometimes they are very, very cruel.

The thing to remember is that we are ALL those things. That's what "human" is. We are all biased, all fearful, all stereotypes, all prejudiced. Flaws are an inescapable part of the fabric of humanity, and hating the "right people" doesn't absolve your hatred. It just means you've managed to justify your ugliness to yourself.

No one gets a pass, and anybody who accuses another of any of those things, is...without fail...a hypocrite. Which is not to say that we should not be held accountable for our failings, but we should all remember....those failings are often universal.

And to answer what you may be thinking, I don't pretend to have any moral superiority in any facet of life. I have done awful things. I have hurt people and myself. I absolutely do not excuse myself from this criticism. However, I do believe that refusing to excuse myself is the first step to understanding myself and others.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Lone Ranger

I love The Lone Ranger.

When I say that, I mean the character. I've always been attracted to characters who are "superheroes" without super powers, and who work with a close partner. Batman, Captain America, even The Green Hornet (who's actually the Ranger's great-nephew, for the trivia-obsessed).

I also love westerns, as a genre. The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Searchers, Silverado, The Unforgiven...the western is a uniquely American creation, and can be used to say so much about our uniquely American society. Our tendency to fierce independence, our love of community, our unending pursuit of "more," be it money, freedom, space, whatever. It's also, inherently, grappling with the people and societies we unthinkingly ran over to get there.

The Lone Ranger occupies an odd space in our collective consciousness now, as do most of his contemporaries in the radio/pulp era that spawned so many forgettable characters. He'd probably have become just as obscure as The Spider, or any number of other of that ilk, if not for the TV version starring Clayton Moore as the Ranger, and Jay Silverheels as Tonto. I grew up watching the adventures of The Lone Ranger and Tonto, and, while the series is steeped in the time period in which it was made, both technically, and in it's attitudes, it did (along with many other things) provide a constant reminder of the power of decency, loyalty and friendship.

In 1981, there was a miserably tin-eared attempt to revive the character as a big-screen franchise, The Legend of the Lone Ranger. Despite some rather breathtaking scenery (courtesy of director, and Oscar-nominated cinematographer, William Fraker, and his cinematographer, the legendary Laszlo Kovacs), the film is hobbled by a zero-charisma leading man in Klinton Spilsbury (who even ended up having every line of dialogue dubbed by James Keach), and a really, really off-putting rhyming, cheesy narration by a I-can't-imagine-he-wasn't-embarrassed Merle Hagard. Entertainment Weekly has a terrific write-up on the whole debacle, here.

The Legend of the Lone Ranger is a pretty epic example of having a lot of great ingredients in a creative stew, and finding out the center (Spilsbury) couldn't hold it all together. The script isn't AWFUL (except for the narration), the direction comes very, very close to the epic scale that they were aiming for, and the supporting cast is pretty awesome. I really like Michael Horse as Tonto, and Christopher Lloyd kills as Butch Cavendish.

It bombed, big time. I honestly think the narration was the biggest culprit. The Ranger was relegated to a few comic book runs, and a couple of fairly miserable attempts at television shows.

Well, as you might guess, that brings us to the most recent attempt to bring the character to the big screen. Jerry Bruckheimer producing, with Gore Verbinski at the helm, Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio working on the screenplay, and Johnny Depp as Tonto. Basically, the team that made the first three (enjoyable, in my opinion) Pirates of the Caribbean movies. They're joined by Armie Hammer as John Reid, aka, The Lone Ranger.

I saw the film last night, after reading numerous miserable, dismissive reviews, and hearing all sorts of comments regarding Johnny Depp's performance...

It's not that damn bad, folks.

Is it perfect? Not by a long shot. There is a big problem in terms of tone, as I was never really sure if the script, credited to Justin Haythe, along with Elliot and Rossio, wanted to really be a Lone Ranger movie, or a parody of one. Even the recent The Green Hornet with Seth Rogan had moments of humor and levity without feeling like a parody, and The Lone Ranger hits that tone for roughly half the running time. The other half is split, pretty evenly, between being a truly kick-ass western action film, and feeling like an out-and-out attack on the character.

I mean, they aren't changing anything from what has been presented before, John Reid returns from the East a lawyer, ready to help bring the West, kicking and screaming, into a more enlightened future. He's deputized by his Texas Ranger brother, Dan, to ride after the Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner, who's just AMAZINGLY great) gang, and the posse is betrayed and ambushed, leaving only John alive. He's rescued and nursed back to health by Tonto.

That story can certainly feed the greenhorn version of The Ranger they present. I was rolling with it. However, the script just sort of leaves him (and by extension Armie Hammer, who's a lovely choice for the role, honestly) in that mode for pretty much the entire running time. It doesn't really feel like he rises to become the Lone Ranger we know, and I, as a fan, wanted to see. Takes steps in that direction? Yes, and maybe they were playing the long game, hoping for a franchise to allow the character to grow.

The box office makes that point moot.

What does work? The direction. The Lone Ranger is, hands down, the best directed of all the major "blockbuster" films I've seen so far this year. The look of the film is PERFECT, and, visually, the perfect way to step away from the powder blue number that Moore and Spilsbury both wore. This feels like a classic western with a pulp-fiction twist. The tactile sense is gritty and realistic, but the details evoke something just beyond realism. I even love Tonto's look, in the context of the film.

It also absolutely reaches the "epic western" look that Fraker was chasing for The Legend of the Lone Ranger. I do admit, shooting in Monument Valley for a film set explicitly in Texas gave me a "that's definitely not Texas" chuckle, but....John Ford made Monument Valley THE look for the American western film, and Verbinski just shoots the shit out of it. Every shot is gorgeous.

Verbinski also can shoot the crap out of action. The final act of this film offers massive destruction and chaos, as is apparently mandatory for a Summer Blockbuster these days, but the sense of what is happening, and where the characters are, in relation to each other and their goals, is clear and easy to follow. Where Pacific Rim lost me with more, more, MORE, no matter how illogical the introduction of that more was (not to mention the murky visuals), The Lone Ranger sets the scene, shows you the pieces on the table, and then begins to gleefully smack them into each other. I admire that so much the more I watch other films descend into "what the hell did I just see" confusion.

I also, and I'm sure I'll get killed for this....LOVE the framing sequence with Tonto on "display" in a 1930's "Wild West" sideshow attraction. Mainly because I think so few people have understood it. Tonto isn't telling the story, the little boy he's talking to is imagining it. There are various moments that give us hints at this, but the killer, for me (and I hope I'm remembering this right), is when the boy becomes upset that Tonto leaves off the story at a point where it appears everyone's going to die. The boy protests that can't happen....

Tonto responds, "it's your story."

And see...I wish the film had hewed more to that, overall. As children, we don't know that The Lone Ranger, as a concept, is a bit out of touch. We don't know that Tonto is, more or less, a caricature (and in my opinion, the film saves this whole area by making Tonto explicitly insane, and presenting a whole tribe of non-caricature, noble, intelligent and worldly Native Americans). The film does sort of hit a batshit-crazy "anything can happen" level of a child's narrative (I'm thinking of the carnivorous weird and disturbing), but doesn't allow for the hero the kid obviously admires (he's wearing the mask, so he obviously plays at being The Ranger), to truly become the HERO. He just flirts with the edges.

I don't think the film is perfect, and it misses a lot of notes I wanted it to hit, but I cannot call it a total loss. It looks exactly like I wanted an updated Lone Ranger to look, and the action set pieces are the best you will see this year. It offers two charismatic leads, and much of the humor landed for me, even when I was wishing for something more serious.

At this point, you probably won't see it in a theatre, but it's worth seeing.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Stuck in My Head - Hunger Strike

Hunger Strike 
by Temple of the Dog

I don't mind stealing bread from the mouths of decadence
But I can't feed on the powerless when my cup's already overfilled
But it's on the table
The fire is cooking and they're farming babies, while the slaves are working
The blood is on the table and their mouths are chocking
But I'm growing hungry
I don't mind stealing bread from the mouths of decadence
But I can't feed on the powerless when my cup's already overfilled
But it's on the table
The fire is cooking and they're farming babies, while the slaves are working
And it's on the table, their mouths are chocking
But I'm growing hungry (Growing hungry)
I'm growing hungry (Growing hungry)
I'm growing hungry (Growing hungry)
I'm growing hungry (Growing hungry)

I'm growing hungry (Growing hungry)
I'm growing hungry (Growing hungry)

I don't mind stealing bread (I don't mind)
I don't mind stealing bread
I'm growing hungry (Growing hungry)
I'm growing hungry (Growing hungry)

Is Dropping My Bass On My Foot An Omen?

I was trying to lay down a temp bassline for Zep the other night, I was tangled up in cords, trying to puzzle through what I needed for the track. Something got hung up, and I gave it a tug to free it, and it yanked the strap right off the front button.

Down she went. Right onto my foot. the same foot I smashed the crap out of in college with a pallet jack while doing night stocking at a grocery store. Fear was my main response. After the initial yelp of pain, and "FUCK!!!," I had a sinking suspicion I'd broken the damn thing.

Of course, I also had a fear that I'd broken the bass. The last time I dropped it, it shoved the cable right through the jack plate. (Cheap bass, yes). I didn't even notice until weeks, months later when I was helping a friend record some acoustic tracks, and I suggested some bottom end might fill out the sound. Great idea. Having a non-working bass...not so great.

In the end? The bass is fine, and my foot has a nice, deep bruise across it, but otherwise none the
worse for wear. 

I was planning to hold off on the bassline until Paul C. could come over and do it, but I needed the bass track to put the guitar parts together. The song has been a bit of a bitch to wrangle. The drum parts are done...maybe. There's a few points where I think everything could be a bit more in synch. I'm thinking I might take another run at it once I've put down the guitar parts.

This is really going to be the first time I've "built" a track out of individual guitar parts...not overdubs, which I have done a lot, but different tracks for the different sections of the song. The verses are going to be lighter, acoustic, or at least clean electric. The pre-chorus and chorus are both heavier and distorted. This sort of thing just didn't feel possible when I was working with just 8 tracks (especially when only 4 were available at a time), but with 24, I have room to play.

But it's moving along, I think I've even solved the lyric question. I don't know that they're brilliant, or anything, but I thin they fit with the tone of the piece, and should be interesting. I am excited to move on to the next couple of tracks, which (as I've said) are more straight-ahead rockers, and ought to be easier to get situated. In particular, Reason has presented it's own lyrical solutions, as well as some structural changes that are exciting. I've also been refining a new riff and concept I'm calling Deliverance.

I feel good. It's been ungodly hot in Chicago, when you add a sealed-up room to record in, and my own sweaty nature, it does get a little..drippy. Even at that, I'm excited and invigorated. Of course, I'm starting rehearsals in a few days for Warped. Which is sure to slow me down, but I am DETERMINED to not get off-task with this stuff. The album will be done before the end of the year.

Speaking of Warped, and Stage Left, if you have any interest in helping, or ability to help, a small, non-profit theatre company, you can find info here about our mid-summer fundraising drive.

The other thing on my mind the last few days is that The San Diego Comic-Con began today.

Boy, do I wish I was there. 

There really is nothing like SDCC. Other conventions just seem...underdeveloped, in comparison. My visit to the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo just felt underwhelming, and I know that's because I was trying to use it as a replacement for visiting San Diego.

It can't compete. Few conventions can. Certainly not the ones Wizard produces.

The planning is underway for a trip next year. As always, the ticketing/hotel situation may screw us, but, if it does, we've discussed a "Plan B," which would be the New York Comic Con. Which does not have the rabid, "I gotta go" craziness of SDCC, meaning you can get tickets without sacrificing a goat, but still would offer a trip away from home. Now places to explore, people to meet, etc, etc.

Part of the problem with C2E2, honestly, is that it just doesn't have that, for me. Because I live here. When I drive home, the fact that I CAN drive home, tends to move me into a more insular experience. I don't feel like I'm in a place where I can, and should, wallow in the experience.

But, yeah....I am deeply envious, downright jealous, honestly, of anybody in San Diego right now. I wish I was there.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rolling Stone: What the HELL Were You Thinking?

Well, we're big rock singers
We got golden fingers
And we're loved everywhere we go...(That sounds like us)
We sing about beauty and we sing about truth
At ten thousand dollars a show...(Right)
We take all kinds of pills that give us all kind of thrills
But the thrill we've never known
Is the thrill that'll getcha when you get your picture
On the cover of the Rollin' Stone

Well, what Dr. Hook didn't ever consider was to set off a bomb at the finish line of the Boston marathon.

Now, I'm not going to vilify Rolling Stone as much as some people have. It's pretty clear, from all reports, that the piece on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev isn't supportive of his cause. It's apparently an exploration of the path that took this young man from a good kid into a world of Islamic terrorism. That's 100% valid investigative journalism, and while I'm kinda sick to death of Rolling Stone's desire to be a bastion of investigative journalism, it is a story that would probably be good for a lot of people to understand.

But the cover.

The COVER of Rolling Stone.

That's supposed to be a great honor, a recognition to a musician who has "made it." Or a figure of import and interest, which, I have to admit, fits Tsarnaev, but how many other murderers has Rolling Stone featured on it's cover? Well, yes...Charles Manson, but that was a year after the Tate murders, not less than 6 months later.

The point is, the cover of Rolling Stone is not like Time or Newsweek, who, yes, could probably have easily used this photo as a cover without issue. Rolling Stone's cover infers a level of celebrity, of glamor, of fame, so much so that I find this choice on their part, not offensive...I am not offended...but it's stupid. It's ill-considered.

For a magazine which is more than a little about image and public relations...they should've known it was a bad idea.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Stuck in My Head - In the Mood

I honestly couldn't believe he played this Friday

In the Mood
by Robert Plant

I'm in the mood for a melody
I'm in the mood for a melody
I'm in the mood
I'm in the mood for a melody
I'm in the mood for a melody
I'm in the mood
I'm in the mood for a melody
I'm in the mood for a melody
I'm in the mood

I can make you dance - I can make you sing
I can make you dance - I can make you sing
If you want me to
I can make you dance - I can make you sing
I can make you dance - I can make you sing
If you want me to
I can make you dance - I can make you sing
I can make you dance - I can make you sing
If you want me to

Any little song that you want to sing
Little songs that you want to sing
Any song will do
Any little song that you want to sing
Little songs that you want to sing
It's up to you
Little songs that you want to sing
A little song that you want to sing
You're blue

I'm in the mood, I'm in the mood, I'm in the mood

I can write it on the door - I can put it on the floor
I can do anything that you want me for
If you want me to
I can do it right - I can do it wrong
'Cause a matter of fact it'll turn out to be strong
If you want me to

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Re-Visiting Serenity

CByrd and I re-watched Serenity Sunday evening.

This is not going to be a review of the film, which, frankly, is pretty review-proof, where I am concerned. I am deeply in love with Joss Whedon's Firefly/Serenity 'verse, and the characters that inhabit it. Any film that can still, after probably dozens of viewings, make me tense for the cast's fate, is doing something right.

No, I want to talk about the way this film was marketed by Whedon, and Universal. I started thinking about this when watching Joss Whedon's Introduction, as part of the special features on my Blu-Ray.

 Now, there's nothing, in and of itself, problematic about this video. It was made to run before very early screenings, for which the studio quite rightly determined the audience would mainly be the faithful. Firefly fans en mass.

As I re-watched this clip on Sunday, I (and my arts marketing professional wife) kept thinking, "why all this effort to sell to your day-one buyers?"

See, the problem was that the idea of these screenings was to build "buzz" for the film. The problem was, they were building "buzz" with people who were already "buzzing." Serenity, no ifs, ands, or buts, needed to reach a new, larger audience to be a financial success. Almost to a fault, the entirety of the pre-release marketing was geared to sowing excitement with the people who already knew and loved Firefly.

The result? A box office disappointment.

There's also the film itself, which we, as fans of the show embraced easily, and got right up to speed with. While I will concede that the film does a  solid job of presenting the broad strokes of the series concept very quickly, it doesn't, nor really could it, really share the "flavor" of the relationships that really makes the third act fly for fans. Yet, the film plays like we're all in the club. Which was fine for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as Star Trek had a decade of reruns to worm it's way into the collective mindset. Serenity jumps in as if Firefly had the same advantage, instead of an aborted one-season run and a whole lot of DVD sales.

I always wondered about those DVD sales, too. It seems pretty clear that the Browncoats were all about buying the set for friends and relatives. It's how I got on board, despite my luke-warm-to-outright-dislike of Whedon's other shows. Did everyone who was gifted a set like the show? Did they even watch it?

Of course, I'll also acknowledge that this whole line of thought is fanboy service at it's worst. Serenity/Firefly is over. It's done. It won't be coming back. All the Monday-morning quarterbacking in the world isn't going to change that the film did not do well enough to warrant a sequel.

But, man...we got that film.

We got the film, and it's good, and it winds up the story in a pretty worthwhile way.

Be happy about that.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Music Project Update - 7.9.2013

The Cliffs of Moher is done.

After a rather agonizing few hours trying to figure out a working vocal line, I worked it out. Which is strange, as this is a song I've actually been playing and singing out loud. It should've been a relatively easy vocal to cut. I think it's a excellent example of the "think too much" problem. If I'm playing Cliffs of Moher and singing, I'm acting instinctively, and have no time to self-criticize or second-guess. It just happens, and it's over.

Standing at a mic, with nothing to do but sing, and listen to myself in the headphones...all I can do is self-criticize and second-guess. I am not a strong vocalist, this much is certain. However, I think I can pull it off to some extent. Maybe vocals will always be the albatross around my neck.

I don't really care anymore. I've been listening to some "professional" records that I find quite good, notably ...For the Whole World to See by Death, and Kadaver by Kadaver, and the vocals are pretty murky and buried. Which is usually my fall back when I'm not confident in the vocal track. Sometimes you just need to make it happen, and, right now, that's where I'm at with Hayoth.

It just needs to get done. I've been fucking around with this material for too Goddamn long.

Next up is a track with a working title of Zep. It started with a chord progression that reminded me of Ramble On, and began it's life in a Hard Rock Hotel room on the "Led Zeppelin" floor (back when the Hard Rock Hotel offered "loaner" guitars to guests - maybe they still do, I don't stay there often). Now, I don't pretend to be anywhere close to Zeppelin, but I am working for the "light and shade" feel that dominated Zeppelin recordings. The idea is acoustic/clean electric verses, and heavier, distorted chorus parts.

The basic guitar track is done, kind of. As I start working on putting the drums on the track, I'm thinking it needs to be revised. I think the bridge doesn't really work, and the transition into that same section is muddled. It's always been my intention to re-do the foundation guitar tracks after the drums, which will be easier to play to, but I need the music there to help guide my drumming. The fact I'm not the greatest drummer in the world doesn't make that easy. The slopped transition into the bridge just makes me grind to a halt every time. Plus, I think the bridge should just be simpler.

So, yeah...back to the drawing board.

Still, I think this is a good place to be. After Zep will come a series of mostly direct rockers. More along the lines of MonkeySex, but hopefully not as dumb.  The drumming will not have to shift tone and feel so much. My hope is that, after the tonal shifts of Zep, the drumming will move easier.

Although, Getting Dollars Back itself is still out there, waiting.  I'll probably put it off to the end, because I tend to think it's going to be a bitch to put together. Still, it's also my favorite riff of the whole project.

I also have to grapple with the lyrical content of Zep. I've made several runs at it, but nothing's felt exactly right. My hope is that once I get the music set and worked out, I can go over my notes and concepts, and find the proper words and melody.

Of course, I also still struggle with the whole concept for the project. I often find myself thinking that Typographic Worker's Trade Union is just a better band name, and that the album artwork set for that would be cooler and more exciting. That, of course, is really just idle musing. I'm a LONG way from being ready to deal with packaging. Yet, it does nag at me.

Hayoth is from Jewish myth, not to mention DC Comics, with some religious and political connotations. I just thought it was cool sounding. I'd hate for someone to take offense, of otherwise apply some sort of meaning to it that I didn't intend. I'd rather just have it be fun. Maybe dumb fun, but fun.

But, like I said those decisions are a LONG way off. My original goal was to have something "released" by my birthday. That is pretty likely NOT going to happen. Much like with Where Have All the Heroes Gone, I expect to shift it to the end of the year.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Music Project Update 7.4.2013

So, spent some time last night working on Cliffs of Moher, I did a scratch vocal track. Then I managed to get the mandolin track done, and also lay down the bodhran drum and a shaker for some percussion.

And damn if it doesn't sound pretty good. Needs some fine mixing, and a bit of reverb and EQ, but it sounds like what I wanted it to, a folk tune. The rhythm was tricky, as the verses have repeating measures of, I think, 2/4 time in the midst of pretty regular 4/4 for the rest of the track. It's actually kind of similar to a bit in the verses of  Hourglass from my first CD.

So, I need to do a final vocal track, maybe lay in some backing vocals, mix and master, and one more down...bringing my total to 3 completed tracks. I'm off on Friday, so I expect to have something by the weekend.  My goal is still 12 tracks, ultimately. I'm not expecting to finish by my birthday, at this point. Especially with Warped rehearsals starting.

Next? It's back to rock.

Which means, after being packed up for several weeks to accommodate guests, the Roland kit is coming out again. I'm excited. I'm not a great drummer, but I have a blast pounding on this thing.

Actually, the whole project has taken a turn. I'm energized and invigorated now. I think actually getting something done is helping. It's really exciting to spend a few hours on something and have a completed song that sounds much better than what I could do with my 8-track and drum machine. I'm back in that zone where the work is driving itself. With each track I want to do more, I think about the riffs and stuff I have waiting. I enjoy simply playing more than I have in a while.

I am finding myself somewhat torn about sharing the completed tracks on soundcloud, as I have with the works in progress material. I yearn for feedback, but I also have an intense desire to wait, and lift the shroud on the whole project when it's done. I have people asking for the tracks, wanting downloads, etc, which I can certainly do in soundcloud, but I am definitely not going to allow downloads until the whole thing is ready. I may stream a few more tracks, but I want to keep the eventual CD a special thing.

One advantage to that is that it keeps me from wanting to tinker more and more. Every time I get feedback, I want to revise. In a lot of ways, it's the total opposite of where I get with acting. Once I've set my path in a show, it's set. Bad reviews, snarky comments (and hell, positive comments) have zero effect. I set my path based on what I feel works, and let it play out. Honestly, it's just about experience and confidence. I am a damn good actor, and I have years, decades, of experience to draw on. As a musician and songwriter, I still consider myself a learner.

Although, I am really happy with these tracks, so far...maybe confidence is just around the corner.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Stuck in My Head - Vegetable

A little something for Dug, since his hernia surgery is at 8:30 tomorrow...

by King's X

If I didn't have a brain
Then I couldn't feel no pain
And the longing to be happy
If I didn't have a name
And everybody looked the same
Maybe I could see the difference

I would give it all away

If I didn't have to change
Everything that I became
Maybe I could find some loving
If I didn't have a dream
Or the rest of everything
Well I'd still be missing something

I would give it all away

If I didn't have a life
And freedom didn't have a price
Maybe I would be a rich man
If I wasn't incomplete
And could control the rest of me
I'd fill this hole and let it bleed

I would give it all away

The Next Six Months-ish

Two upcoming projects to flog....

by Barb Lahota
Directed by Jason Fleece

August 31 - October 6, 2013

Two Chicago police officers give a ride home to a young, drunk twenty-something. Several hours later, the young woman emerges from her apartment screaming rape. Influenced by the film Rashomon, Warped presents the contradictory stories from each character's perspective and asks the question: Is the truth constant, or is it as malleable as our own perceptions?

 Presented by Stage Left Theatre Company

Warped was developed at Stage Left through a Downstage Left Residency in 2011 and appeared in LeapFest 9. I have been involved with this script through the entirety of it's development.

H.P. Lovecraft's
The Shadow Over Innsmouth
Adapted by Scott T. Barsotti
Directed by Shade Murray

No Synopsis, as yet - Per Wikipedia *SHUDDER*

The story describes a young man's discovery of a strange hybrid race, half-human and half an unknown creature that resembles a cross between a fish and a frog, that dwell in Innsmouth – a coastal town that had seen better days – and the waters offshore. The townspeople worship Dagon, a Philistine deity incorporated into the Cthulhu Mythos.

Presented by Wild Claw Theatre

Really excited about this. A new company, for me, which is always exciting. Plus, I get to work with two guys I've had wonderful experiences with before. The terrific Scott T. Barsotti (writer of Your Teacher is Out Today from Leapfest X), and similarly-terrific Shade Murray (director of Strawdog's The Petrified Forest).

Two Chicago police officers give a ride home to a young, drunk twenty-something. Several hours later, the young woman emerges from her apartment screaming rape. Influenced by the film Rashomon, Warped presents the contradictory stories from each character’s perspective and asks the question: Is the truth constant, or is it as malleable as our own perceptions? - See more at:
Two Chicago police officers give a ride home to a young, drunk twenty-something. Several hours later, the young woman emerges from her apartment screaming rape. Influenced by the film Rashomon, Warped presents the contradictory stories from each character’s perspective and asks the question: Is the truth constant, or is it as malleable as our own perceptions? - See more at:
Two Chicago police officers give a ride home to a young, drunk twenty-something. Several hours later, the young woman emerges from her apartment screaming rape. Influenced by the film Rashomon, Warped presents the contradictory stories from each character’s perspective and asks the question: Is the truth constant, or is it as malleable as our own perceptions? - See more at:

Et Tu, Loverboy?

Even when I was 20-*cough*, and dead certain of my infallible taste and critical acumen, I thought some of the unending bitching about music "credibility" was silly.

Now, it just seems pathetic.

I mean, seriously, seriously pathetic. I mean, I stumble onto this website with an article by Tim McMahan, who, writing about a wholly unrelated event/artist, offers this:
Well, my plan was to go to Camera Obscura at The Slowdown tonight after the Memorial Park wankfest featuring Loverboy and Pat Benatar. Seeing as I live a few blocks from the park, I feel obligated to be there if only to protect my home from potential looters.
I won't link, I don't wanna drive traffic to him. Although, he did give a positive review to my brother-in-law's band's show, so...that's a brownie point. He makes a few more snarky comments, but who cares?

I read that paragraph over 3 times, just to try to decide if  Tim McMahan is really just that scared of mullets, or if he's just that insecure in talking about what he does like, that he has to frame it in what he doesn't. It seems (reading between the lines) he's required to see this Loverboy/Pat Benetar show, and feels gypped that he has to miss Camera Obscura. OK, fine, of course, he just can't say "I'm required to see this show for my job," which, I guess, would seem deeply uncool and non-"indie." Nope, let's turn it into a wisecrack about Loverboy and the people who would want to see them.

How pathetic.

Now, please be aware, I could give two shits about Loverboy. Really. I'm sure I love a ton, I mean a metric ton (he doesn't seem the Rush or Springsteen type) of music that McMahan reviles, but I just have no opinion on this particular group of Canucks. I do have a warm spot for Working For the Weekend, as it was huge (the high point of their career, frankly) when I was in FIFTH GRADE. Which would lead me to guess, that Mr. McMahan probably wasn't even alive (or too young) when they were a household, or as close as they ever got, name. It's a catchy, fun, non-challenging song that you can dance to, as almost every "hit" single known to man.

It's dumb, no argument. Fun? Yeah, I think so. It reminds me of riding bikes and being stupid as a 10 year old. I'm sure for folks a little older than me, it reminds them of cruising around in the Summer, being stupid and looking for someone to buy beer.

Every generation should have that, will have it, and there's nothing wrong with it. Do I own any Loverboy? No. Do I intend to buy any Loverboy? No. Do I tap my toe and hum along to Working For the Weekend when i hear it? Oh hell yes.

I bet McMahan has a similar reaction to Gin Blossom's Hey Jealousy, or Urge Overkill's Sister Havana. The point being, most of the people at that show aren't there because they are HUGE Loverboy fans, or that the band is genius, but because they're going to play songs that remind them of a simpler, easier time in their lives when they could like a song because it was, flat out, catchy.

We won't even get into Benetar, who I do own music by...because she's pretty awesome.

I guess I just find it ridiculous that this guy still feels the need to prove his "indie cred" by taking a shot a Loverboy, for God's sake. A band that hasn't charted an album since 1987 (that would be more than a quarter of a century ago), and most people wouldn't even know was still together if they didn't frequent State Fairs. Let me put it this way, the last time Loverboy had any sort of, non-nostalgic, impact on popular culture, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Tim Burton's Batman were still 2 years away from release.

I mean, One Direction or Justin Bieber, at least they represent the middlebrow rock of RIGHT NOW, rather than of THIRTY YEARS ago.

Often, when I find myself in a discussion about music, and a band like Loverboy comes up, I get a lot of the word "credibility." Which just makes me laugh, hard. Mainly because many of the acts that I'm told are "credible," are anything but. Jack White, for instance. All anybody has to do is watch It Might Get Loud, and the fact that that dude is a ginormous poseur is obvious. Connor Oberst (drawing from McMahan's neck of the woods)? I know something about the privileged, entitled upbringing he he sells himself as some sort of street poet.

Loverboy? They sell themselves as a bunch of guys who wanted to be in a rock band, so they started one, and wrote some songs you might like. Come down and have a good time.

Which seems more credible, to me, than 90% of the bands you could name.