Tuesday, November 26, 2013

You Want a Hayoth Update? OK.

So, for those of you keeping track, we are very near the end of the ...And Getting Dollars Back project. I did final mixing on Reason, and re-mixed Haunting last week, and I'm extremely happy with the results. I think I've stumbled onto a way to record and mix my vocals that is pleasing to my ears.

Which is a pretty good trick.

I'm still not 100% sold on the lyrics I've come up with for Reason. They looked good on paper, but sound a tad clunky. So, I revised for the re-mix. Still not 100% sold. I may let the tune live with me for a while, and see if I can't come up with something better before the end of December. If I can't think of anything better, it'll stand. I mean, I don't find the lyrics embarrassing, or anything.

The big news is that I started on the musical side of the final track, Getting Dollars Back. The original concept in my head has been dialed back a bit, but I really like how it's working out. On Sunday, I was able to record a scratch guitar track, then the drums and the bass. I sort of astounded myself. It was just an incredibly productive day.

At this point, I have to build a final guitar track, which should be interesting, as my current plan is to have the verse riff change each time through. I'll probably have to build it in sections, in fact I know I'll have to, as the concept is for the wah-wah pedal to come in and out a lot during the track. It's just easier to do that in separate takes, rather than trying to switch it on and off on the fly.

Save that for some theoretical live gig, in the future.

The Reason experience has also left me feeling very critical of the lyrics. So, I think I'll probably work on some revisions there, too. I think, right now, I'm erring on the side of specificity. I often get too involved in storytelling, lyrically, rather than trying to create an emotional mood. As with my soloing, I think I need to learn to let the lyrics breathe more.

Well, what do you expect? My favorite songwriter is Springsteen.

A good example of this is how Dark Water ended up. The original lyrics were just bursting with me Dark Water may be the strongest song on the record. I like how the lyrics and vocal came out, and the solo, which is a long guitar solo, may be the best playing I've ever done on record.

Which is hilarious to me, because the song is a total compromise. If you recall, Dark Water used to be called Zep, and was a acoustic number heavily inspired by Zeppelin's Ramble On. Now it feels, to me, like a mid-tempo blues number. As I re-listen and evaluate my work, I keep thinking maybe I should do a re-mix on it (make the bassline more prominent, specifically), but then I just sort of sit back and find myself thinking, "this pretty much works for me as it is." I mean, I still flirt with doing some re-mixing, if for no other reason that a couple of tracks are mixed slightly more quietly than others, and I'd like to try to find a consistent volume level.
trying, probably desperately, to get the point across. What I ultimately came to (and I hope you'll agree when you hear it) was a pretty simple recurring phrase with variations. Honestly, right now, as I write this, I think that

But, then again, the volume differences aren't that huge. The tracks, so far, sound pretty great together (to my ears). I have those, "if it ain't broke..." feelings.

I'm so close to done, I can taste it. We've got house guests coming soon, and I'm gonna be able to pack up the drums completely. I won't need them until probably January or February. I have no intention of letting another six years elapse between these projects again. I've felt so inspired and creative since I really buckled down on this album. It all started with the drum purchase, which was in March, I think. Since then I've (almost) recorded eight complete songs.

Although, I've also learned to not rush. As I look back at Where Have All the Heroes Gone, my last "album" from 2006, that was so rushed, and almost every song was pulled out of my ass. So much so that I can't even remember how to play most of those songs. I was truly making it up as I went, and clearly not taking very good notes. The time that I've taken, even if it was too damn long, allowed me to write what I think are 8 solid numbers. I was more prepared to record, song wise, than at any time since my first "solo" project.

So, as I'm moving into the last phase, figuring out song order, artwork, deciding how to distribute the thing, I'm really happy with how this is all turning out.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In Tribute to Geezer Butler

From the Bass Player Live! 2013 event, hosted by Bass Player Magazine. This year was a tribute to Black Sabbath's Geezer Butler.

Guitar - Zakk Wylde (ex - Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society)
Bass - Jason Newstead (ex - Metallica, ex - Flotsam and Jetsam, Newstead)
Drums - Charlie Benante (Anthrax)
Vocals - Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour)

Pretty awesome cover, IMHO.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thor: The Dark World

First off, and I cannot state this any more strongly:

I will NEVER pay to see a Marvel Studios film in 3-D again.


Marvel's use of this technology has consistently been sub-par and mercenary. It's simply a gimmick to inflate the box office numbers, and I've had enough. Especially in a year with a film like Gravity showing us how this tech can be used creatively and intrinsically to immerse the audience in the world of the film, Marvel's consistently half-assed presentations simply make me angry.

However, what can I expect when I see a film like Thor: The Dark World.

Is the film bad? No, not at all. It's diverting and provides entertainment. Yet, as with Iron Man 3, I just felt like the whole escapade was simply a matter of going through the motions.

Let's start with the good. I've come to the conclusion that Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman are going to be the only couple Marvel ever gives us who actually seem to have a honest physical attraction or relationship. Tony Stark and Pepper Potts seem like a mommy and her petulant child, and, while I loved it in the context of the film, The Steve Rogers/Peggy Carter relationship was SO chaste. Portman and Hemsworth have moments of true sexual chemistry, something sorely lacking in the rest of the franchise.

The cast continues to be game and engaged with their roles. Hemsworth, however, seems a bit trapped by the limitations of the thunder god (Rush showed what he's capable of as a leading man in a way these films can't even remotely come near). Portman, as opposed to the Star Wars prequels, where she just stopped trying, is engaged. Of course, Tom Hiddleston steals the show to the delight of women everywhere who like pale, thin, non-threatening British men.

The film also looks good, with Game of Thrones vet Alan Taylor building some grunge into the Nine Realms, which, in retrospect, seemed lacking in Kenneth Branagh's original film. He coaxes some good moments out of his cast. The pacing and action are handled well. Like I said, it's not a bad movie, and the fact it's not be attributed to Taylor and his cast.

Because the script is awful, for the most part. Christopher Eccelston, a truly gifted actor, is utterly and completely wasted as Malekith, the leader of the dark elves, who are on the hunt for the Aether, which is a really, really uninspiring and ill-defined maguffin. Somehow, the Aether can return the nine realms to the time of darkness, when the dark elves ruled. It's also fluid/gaseous, and is able to worm it's way into Portman's Jane Foster. It could kill her...I guess. The whole function and nature of this stuff is frustratingly ill-defined, and Malekith's hunt for it really lacks much in the way of drive.

(Of course, it's also part of a larger crossover-universe thing, but I'll get to that.)

Which shouldn't be construed as saying nothing happens. Plenty happens, but it all seems really perfunctory. Without getting too spoilery, in the final moments of the film it becomes very, very clear that this entire move was an excuse to move a few pieces around the "Marvel Movie Universe" board, rather than a fleshed-out narrative on it's own.

Which is really frustrating, because it plays right into the biggest pitfalls of this shared narrative universe. The idea of a shared universe is exciting, but this film, much like Iron Man 2 with The Avengers, felt like it was a tossed off story simply there to set up Thor 3. Because it's REALLY obvious where the third film will head, at this point, and everything important that happened in this film probably could been part of the first act of that film.

Then there's the during/after credits tags...one, I'm sure it's no surprise, is designed to lead us to Guardians of the Galaxy, which I am excited about. However, the teaser, which Alan Taylor wants us to know he had nothing to do with, is kind of alarming. I want to believe in James Gunn, but it looks cheap. Like Sci-Fi original cheap. It also gives us the sense that the Aether is tied directly to a BIG piece of Marvel Universe Mythology.

To that I say, "fuck you Marvel." You spend a whole movie with this stuff, and make it confusing and less than inspiring. Then you try to make it important...for the next movie.

In short, this movie didn't need to exist. It's a placeholder, like The Matrix Reloaded, just there to put plotlines and elements in play for other movies. Which would be fine if it was wildly entertaining, but it isn't, it's passably diverting.

So, yeah. I didn't hate it. I didn't get up angry or feeling gypped, like with Man of Steel or Star Trek into Darkness. It happened, and I went home. Being a completist, I'll buy the Blu-Ray. Maybe I'm being too harsh, it's not offensive or insulting. It's just by-the-numbers franchise filmmaking, but after enduring the rampant ego of Iron Man 3, I really wanted this to be better.

Persistance Is Rewarded

So, here's the story -

An Italian fan was following Bruce Springsteen around Europe with a huge banner that said "NYC SERENADE." Show after show, Bruce would see this guy's banner...and then they played Rome on July 11th....

Bruce hired a string section to come up and play this one tune at this one show, and dedicated the song to this persistent fan.

Amazing song. Amazing performance. Amazing story.

New York City Serenade
By Bruce Springsteen

Billy, he's down by the railroad tracks
Sittin' low in the back seat of his Cadillac
Diamond Jackie, she's so intact
She falls so softly beneath him
Jackie's heels are stacked,

Billy's got cleats on his boots
Together they're gonna boogaloo down Broadway and come back home with the loot
It's midnight in Manhattan, this is no time to get cute
It's a mad dog's promenade
So walk tall, or baby, don't walk at all

Fish lady, fish lady, fish lady,

she baits them tenement walls
She won't take corner boys,

ain't got no money
and they're so easy
I said, "Hey baby,

won't you take my hand,
walk me down Broadway
Well mama take my arm and move with me down Broadway
I'm a young man and I talk real loud,
yeah baby, walk real proud for you
So shake it away,

so shake away your street life
shake away your city life
And hook up to the train
Hook up to the night train
Hook it up,

hook up to the, hook up to the train"
But I know that she won't take the train
No, she won't take the train
No, she won't take the train
No, she won't take the train
She's afraid them tracks are gonna slow her down
And when she turns, this boy'll be gone
So long, sometimes you just gotta walk on

Hey vibes man, hey jazz man, play me your serenade
Any deeper blue and you're playin' in your grave
Save your notes, don't spend 'em on the blues boy
Save your notes, don't spend 'em on the darlin' yearlin' sharp boy
Straight for the church note ringin', vibes man sting a trash can
Listen to your junk man
Listen to your junk man
Listen to your junk man
Listen to your junk man
He's singin', singin', singin', singin'
All dressed up in satin, walkin' past the alley
Watch out for your junk man
Watch out for your junk man
Watch out for your junk man

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Stuck In My Head - The Envoy

The Envoy
by Warren Zevon

Nuclear arms in the Middle East
Israel is attacking the Iraqis
The Syrians are mad at the Lebanese
And Baghdad does whatever she please

Looks like another threat
To world peace
For the envoy

Things got hot in El Salvador
CIA got caught and couldn't do no more
He's got diplomatic immunity
He's got a lethal weapon that nobody sees

Looks like another threat
To world peace
For the envoy
Send the envoy
Send the envoy

Whenever there's a crisis
The President sends his envoy in
Guns in Damascus
Oh, Jerusalem

Nuclear arms in the Middle East
Israel is attacking the Iraqis
The Syrians are mad at the Lebanese
And Baghdad do whatever she please

Looks like another threat
To world peace
For the envoy
Send the envoy
Send the envoy

Send the envoy
Send for me
Send for me
Send for me
Send for me

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


I want to achieve. I want to create. I have turned my life to these ambitions.

In the back of my head, I have a neo-noir screenplay I want to put on paper. Something that's about mood and style, not big action. I want to wallow in cliche, but put my own spin on it. A down-on-his-luck, somewhat, or maybe more than somewhat, alcoholic private detective, confronted with a dangerous woman from his past, and a case that takes him too far. A man who's moral failings are only matched by this righteous anger. A man past his prime, and all too aware of it.

Like I said, wallowing in cliche, but fun.

I find myself thinking about Robert Rodriguez, and his advice about micro-budget filmmaking....what do you have?

I have Chicago.

Chicago, to me, screams detective fiction. I get inspiration just walking around downtown.

Maybe I could never actually shoot the thing....but maybe I could. All I know is that this story has been percolating for far, far too long, and I need to dig into it. Break out the laptop and the screenwriting software.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I Have My Reason

"Reason" is aaaallllmost done.

I laid down some lead guitar, intro stuff, and vocals on Sunday. as I was working on the mix, I began to feel I should take another run at the main solo, and maybe re-record the vocal track. It's actually turned out even more "rock" than I ever expected.

The main riff was written with a bit of a swing groove in mind, and I think a bit of that is still there, but the arrangement has become much more aggressive. Switching back and forth from the main riff to vocals. It gives it a bit of a...I guess start-stop feel would be accurate. It's not a track you could dance to, but that's not my goal anyway.

Although, it would be cool to pull off a good dance track, just one. Ahh...on the next disk, maybe.

The opening and closing solos made me pretty happy, and I was feeling good about the main solo until I listened back to the track about 14 times, working the mix. Just seemed too much like what I always do. Which, really, is probably me just smacking hard into my own limitations. I wanna try to get more adventurous with it. I also need to just learn how to lie back and NOT play, instead of trying to fill every second with a note. Feel, man...that's the deal.

Same with the vocals. They were energetic and raw, flowing relatively well, but I felt like maybe I was playing to the top of my register too much. Sounded a bit shrill. Vocals are always difficult for me, because I tend to cringe at the sound of my singing. It's mot even a matter of singing "well," or not (because I think I've been doing relatively well on these tracks), but just that the timbre of my voice doesn't please me. Something to accept/fight/work through.

I re-strung my bass on Sunday, too (don't even ask how long it'd been). And started mucking about with a line that sounded really cool, along the lines of Jane's Addiction's "Coming Down the Mountain." Started hearing guitar stuff that could go over it. Long story short...my "stop at eight" decision may get reversed if this can come together for me.

As it is, I just have "Getting Dollars Back" to finish for the eight. I expect that "Dollars" will take a bit of time, but who knows? I am, however, still committed to finishing by the end of the year.

Maybe even Christmas.