been around lately, a good weekend out in what LA is, a museum, some galleries and hundreds having fun, electric evenings. I suppose summer is here.
Also I played guitar tonight.
Here’s a super rough “song”… I don’t know if it’s that, so much as an idea and letting the lyrics fall out of its pockets to see if there’s anything worth picking up.
I have a fancy recorder that is used for recording, well, sound, and in a high quality way anywhere. I think that sound art is beautiful and I’d someday like to spend months with a backpack collecting field sounds.
Until then, here is a video of a walk through Elysian Park in LA… where the sounds are distinctly not nature but it sets the stage for a really interesting place.
Ok so, The Night Country… Well first things first the title comes from a book that I read back in time, by Lauren Eiseley, where the night is described as a boundary we can imagine and sense but not quite cross into, the place outside the porch light, that we can feel the allure of when alone, that we always could cross into.
Just a little disclaimer: you could pick this idea apart, the irony is rich, but I actually don’t really like talking about what an album is “about” (‘what’s it all about… man?) but I like having a dialogue with YOU so here we are.
This album is very much a continuation of The Faraway. Most of the songs were written during a time in my life where I had made a leap from the small town to the city, very much wanting to prove through my own life and to myself and to the woman I love that a dream can be followed all the way through to the end. Optimism and defiance, which in a way sums up the voice of most of the songs I’ve ever written, maybe.
It has really been a long struggle to let this album go. It has been a frustrating time for my music career, to be honest. And so I think I have been making it take longer than necessary, I think maybe I don’t want to let go of that place, where you lay down your cards and proclaim that win or lose you are triumphant, that that can’t be taken away.
Meaning: the process of finishing (not beginning) these albums has been a reckoning with who I was and not who I am. I guess that’s always true but there are versions of you that you want to hold onto… In my case I respect the defiant optimism still in these songs, and even though that stubborn and wide eyed phase has passed naturally, letting this album go is a form of moving forward that is difficult but necessary.
Big deal right? Here’s where you come in… All of these songs are can be read “as let go, set off, and the journey will sort itself out.” If that’s what you need. Whatever you need, you might find it in there, I know I ran the gamut myself.
It’s necessary musically… I’ve never harkened to any era or leaned on nostalgia so much as I did while recording these. I didn’t harken to the 60s or some other musical bullshit like that, but I harkened to the forever idealized version of my musician self that wailed inconsolably and banged on guitar strings violently and lived in a woodsy bubble removed from coolness without knowing or caring that I was removed. Making music in a vacuum, purposefully not tapping into the endless stream of new, not referencing anything directly, and seeing where all these years of songwriting take me.
And these songs are a foundation and I will move forward gladly, now, but in a way they do justice to the albums I always wanted to make, back when the idea of recording a pretty good sounding album was a distant romantic vision. This one is getting closer (though infinitely far away) to my platonic ideal of an album (Nebraska or Astral Weeks are others for me.)
I’ve nothing to lose with my music, which is liberating. And so there might be some balance here.
And the music should speak for itself and it will, regardless, but I thought I’d write this out and take note of how this particular time and this particular longing was especially tough to unveil. And I hope it speaks to your change and to your resistance to change and to the struggle to reconcile the past that is always present and I hope that what comes through is that that process also yields something beautiful in its own way, even if on the surface it is gnarled and dusty and heavy, inside maybe it’s the light that is easy to carry that reminds you who you are. No big deal, just that. Just the you that approaches the edge of night, the scary territory, that knows you can turn back but does not turn back.
Giving away music for essentially free is a problem that Spotify is both remedying and exacerbating. How to make the platform more musician friendly?
Emulate freemium app strategy. If a song is favorited or an artist streamed for a certain number of times/songs, encourage the listener to support that artist. Establish kickstarter-esque “projects” for every artist and fund their next album in exchange for pre-established thank-you’s such as merch, special edition music, pre-orders, vinyl, etc.
Make it easy to support artists via premium subscriptions and dedicate a certain amount of their payment to monetary support for the artists they listened to most, or allow the subscriber to choose where that slice of their money goes.
Auto-translate (with pre-approval) streams of a certain artist to Facebook likes and Twitter tweets.
What are your thoughts?
“Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.” –source
I don’t really listen to or think that much about Taylor Swift, (no particular reason, I just don’t) and this quote is old news, but I wholeheartedly agree with the concept of value she raises. I don’t think the fault for devaluation lands squarely on Spotify or any one listener (myself included), but it is, from my bombastic/genuine point of view, a cultural warning sign that we denigrate the value of the arts to the extent that we do. I think it’s a big deal that someone in her position is taking a stand, regardless for whom she is speaking.
At the risk of revealing where on the totem pole I currently squat, I will say that in order to pay for my subscription to (the ad-free version of) Spotify, my songs would have to be streamed more than* 1,574 times per month. That’s not a HUGE number of plays and many artists get a whole lot more than that. But I’m still at the level where every 100 streams, no, every SINGLE stream I’m REALLY happy that people are listening to the music I’ve created.
By the same token, I currently feel a bit obliged to “undervalue” my music and make it available on Spotify because I am anxious to have it be discover-able. I don’t know where this leaves me, ethically. I still feel really certain that a certain someone finds my stuff and feels something kindred and strong. Valuable. And I can’t think of a better way to make that happen. I’d rather have people listening to what I’ve created, which took thousands and thousands of hours to create, than to have it sit in a nostalgia box somewhere.
Spotify’s rebuttal seemed to be basically “better to get a little money than nothing at all”, but I just don’t see it ever deciding to pay any more out than the very bare minimum. It’s a corporate entity, not a philanthropist organization, which is fine. Spotify is probably also just as much a demographic research pool as Facebook is, ie. the “art” of music is very much secondary to its primary goal of market research.
But I do think that Spotify can do much better. I do think that music has value, and I do laud Ms. Swift.
*that’s at the highest potential rate that I’ve seen in my payouts, which hovers around $0.00635 per stream, sometimes it is half that, and I couldn’t tell you why. Also, commercials interrupting music is disgusting, I don’t care if that sounds pretentious.
Random lyrics to a song that never quite made the cut
On and on and on your beauty
like alarm clocks going off at 2 in the morning
clean your wings and fly away angel
before the smog of growing old swallows you
I just felt like putting this up tonight.
It’s a fine Summer night. Is it the end of Summer? That’s what I hear. Me and Cinco are tending to the empty home while the rest of the pack is off at FYF Fest. Slowdive is playing. Hmm. I wish I was there. It was sold out.
I’ve mostly finished up on a big buffet of music I’m going to serve up in the near future. I’m happy with the work done and mostly the feeling of the songs.
Los Angeles for me: still and ever just past my fingertips somehow. It’s there, I push at it, brush it aside like curtains. But I have yet to pass through.
It’s a good city after all, and there are just so many surfaces you could attach your mirrors to here. Everyone is beautiful and larger than life, even if just in their own minds.
There aren’t country lanes, nature revery is rare, and the general balance leans one way and then the next, undecided. It’s menacing and inviting at once.
Blah blah poetic yada yada. Meaning: I’m here, making music in my dear studio with my dear cellos and my dear thoughts and I’m not on that damn stage at this damn point in this damn city.
That’s my check in.
Hope this version of this song fits with your time and place.
Click on this post then start typing away!
I’ve been in this weird place in life right now where things are moving at light speed forward and days are busy and full, and also where, with my music, I am working countless hours and making seemingly no progress at all.
That happens. I wonder, I really do, if it is me procrastinating subconsciously on wrapping up new albums. It really is a scary thing… once you’re done it’s like… ok: does you likey? what should I work on now?
My thing is mixing. Mixing is when you put all the instruments together at a reasonable volume AND you somehow make it exciting AND you make it sound good on ALL stereos/headphones/cars. It’s not an easy feat and amazingly talented people make a living just doing that end of things. Paying a professional is a little pricey for me though, sadly. So sadly.
I would love nothing more than to take these tracks and send them off to someone to mix and master for me if for no other reason that tragically I get really really sick of these songs by the time I release an album. It’s not that they aren’t good songs, it’s that if they are I wouldn’t know.
Hearing them literally hundreds of times takes the excitement of what’s around the corner out of it. And I think that that is music’s big shazam, surprise, like comedy. Even if you’ve heard OK Computer 673 times, there’s a pretty good chance that you forgot how the tone of that guitar just makes sense for that solo, even though it shouldn’t. Something like that. Or is Caravan before or after Into The Mystic. Etc.
So today though it’s back to the grindstone. Honestly it would be a lot easier to mix my own material if I weren’t so addicted to bass. I listen to a lot of heavy low end music, not at all the more acoustic music I’m mixing. I cannot get enough bass. But too much bass drowns out the high end and it all sounds like mud.
I’ve been guilty of this bass addiction with pretty much every album I’ve ever released. This time I think I might try the recommended balance of things. That’s ok. It’s like following a recipe instead of (my preferred) throwing whatever you have in the kitchen together “artfully”. Recipe seems boring but could be the most amazing. Regardless it probably won’t be a disappointment. Intuitive kitchen-ing? Yeah. That can fail miserably.
I do not subscribe to this belief for songwriting though. No no no. The kitchen of songwriting (for me, don’t mind/care what others do) is not a place for cookbooks. Never ever. Maybe that’s why I’m so well known!
Yeah, I mean, the formula for big pop songs really works. But I just can’t help but feel that it is… not my thing to follow a song formula. And that’s a specific take on the process. The whole songwriter genre is a relatively new thing, but I do believe in it. That one person’s take on creating something is worth the tunneling required to follow/get there.
Well. There you have it.
So here’s the plan:
Give you some pieces of the album along the way the next few months
Tour and see you and play
Wanted to give y’all a video-free version of the cover song I posted on youtube a few days ago.
I’m playing a show this Wednesday, May 21 at Malo in Silver Lake, Los Angeles. It’s really been toooooo long since I’ve played a show and I’m super grateful to Surely Lorraine and Kondo Exurbia for including me.
I’ve been working up new songs because what happens when you don’t play is you forget ALL your lyrics and when you get on stage your brain turns off completely its ability to recall such information and since there likely won’t be a teleprompter it’s better to get it memorized!
I decided I wanted to do a cover because covers are fun for everyone especially when in my case all this material is new and I don’t know what works and what doesn’t. Some songs work live and are kinda lame on an album, and vice versa. So I thought about doing “I’m On Fire” which I’ve always played on the cello but I thought perhaps I’d think of something not done so often (Bruce’s popularity has risen yet again and to my relief his street cred is much higher than I think it used to be… I remember people would ask who my favorite musicians were and I’d say Bruce and they’d think I was joking, which is absurd! Because, well, you know, he’s the best songwriter perhaps ever.)
ANYWAYS so I was letting my mind wander and I was walking down Sunset Blvd. and I happen to live really close to where the show is Wednesday and I realized that the “Elliott Smith wall” is right next door to the venue.
Which is weird and for me kind of eerie and moving because:
• Elliott Smith influenced my life and especially my identity as a songwriter probably more than any other musician. Either/Or changed my life in so many ways. If I had to put it into words (poorly) I would say because he made me realize that beauty and melancholia are not necessarily taboo to all people. People love his music rightly so and it’s sad but not sad at all because it is just aching and oozing with so much life, and feeling FOR life. I’ve never written anything as beautiful as his, but it certainly gave me a context for where my music fit in to the world. And I don’t know if my music is especially sad, I don’t think so and I never set out to make it that way or any way, but people have often told me that in one way or another. So it makes sense, the kinship I felt, musically.
• Elliott Smith kinda really, as silly as it sounds, or naive, is the reason I moved to Portland. Again, I just figured “if music like that is being made there, I need to be there.” And so I moved there, and I walked Elliott Ave. in Ladd’s Addition many many times, often on my way to the Red & Black where I played my favorite shows in that city. And I was enveloped in the rain and the comfort Portland is and it was a beautiful, beautiful time.
• Elliott Smith moved to LA and here I am. And I don’t know where “From a Basement on the Hill” was specifically recorded, but I ended up on a hill in Los Angeles and I never, ever ever would have guessed that. And I’m still making the music I do, for what it’s worth.
• I’m still mad at Elliott Smith for dying. Yeah, I know he “killed himself” which makes me more mad at him… but there’s some doubt and I’ve always felt how if it is true that he stabbed himself in the chest with a kitchen knife there’s so much sadness around that act and everything surrounding his death that truly I can barely listen to his music anymore. Which is a shame. To be clear he wasn’t my hero. But he was a beautiful inspiration.
And so, for what it’s worth I’m going to play an Elliott Smith cover on Wednesday, by his wall, and maybe some closure will come about and maybe I’ll blow it and forget the lyrics! Who knows! It’s unknowable.
It would be nice to see you there, if you are in the neighborhood…
Just got back last weekend from camping with my three brothers, three of my favorite people, at the mountain of gold. Where this video was made last year exactly around this time:
And so The Faraway was so half-assedly “released” to the world. Really it was my birthday and I was going to be gone and I had self-imposed deadlines and thus, hence, I released an album. Without thinking! Without mastering! Without caring.
But that’s fine… right?
Camping now with my girls, my dog Cinco and the ever-amazing Katy Unger. Between last weekend with my brothers and now this, it doesn’t really get better. What a crazy blessed life!
Yeah. Well. Anyways. I thought I might do the same this year with The Faraway part 2. But I’m going to hold off until my return from the ocean and woods and just being faraway. It’s ok. I can do that, I’m indie.
I don’t want to rush it. And, truth be told I’m going to fold in the impatience of that album “release” last year with this one, and it will all be well and good in the universe. You’ll see.
So stay tuned. Hopefully I’m far enough from cell phone coverage to not be bothered with any thoughts of anything at all but guitars and walks and campfires and maybe a beer or two.
Or don’t stay tuned. Stay out of tune. Stay golden. Stay, though, please.
I promise I’ll give you music if you do.
I hope you are feeling good and able to get some good things out of your day. And that it all adds up to beautiful. Thanks for being here. I’ll see you there.
I’m a big fan of interludes and in between moments. I’m a fan of the album vs. the single, and I think these snippets create a glue to hold the other songs together. It’s a fine line and you can kill the momentum of an album pretty easily… But I can’t help myself.
It’s also a way for me to include snippets of musical ideas that maybe don’t ever make it into a song, and the why bother there is that for me albums are more about a certain period of time being captured, rather than a bunch of songs. And those little snippets tend to coincide pretty well with the feeling of the rest of the music.
This one is called “Forge” and it’s a throwback to my ukelele addiction I suffered through last year. I listen to a lot of EDM and somehow someday I want to marry the pulse of that music’s kick drum to an acoustic instrument. For fun and amusement. For justice and glory. And stuff.
Working on a thing, you have this moment before it’s finished where it’s time to take stock. Same with building a bookshelf as it is making an album as it is planning an event, there’s a moment where you can begin to visualize how it all will turn out, and whether some serious reconsidering needs to be done. Is it a ton of things? Just a few details? Was something fundamentally wrong with the inception? That’s the time, and unfortunately you only get to that point after you put in that much work.
This is definitely where I’m at with my latest group of recordings/album. It’s all laid out and I’m got my hands on my hips just kind of nodding my head up and down trying to decipher it, like a crime tv detective looking at the pins on a map.
And it’s either discouraging or re-invigorating.
And I guess my point of bothering to write this moment down is that I realized just now that whether it is discouraging OR re-invigorating is YOUR choice at that point. It’s a choice.
Your bookshelf is a mess all wrong angles the screws are poking through, the shelves aren’t level. That could be it… forget it, other f it, get mad, burn the scrap wood and move on. OR recognize that fixing the fundamental flaws is not only necessary but maybe… (I’m definitely inserting my own optimism here) just maybe this is the most important part. Not the work you’ve already done. But the evaluation of it.
That’s what I’m going to tell myself at this point. And ideally make the most of this moment. Or just burn it as scrap wood. No. I don’t think I’ll do that.
Two favorites. And they just…
I like Chuck and his music a ton. Got to play a few shows with him way back and man, he’s just a great musician and guy. I’m pretty excited to hear his newest album…
It’s been a while between actual posts. This blog. It’s so old. So young. For a while there I thought Facebook would be the way to go to have it all in one place. Before that myspace. But like MySpace Facebook has been eaten up by profiteers and there’s no real connection between me and the folks who like the music I’m lucky enough to make.
Tonight in Los Angeles under a few clouds and hazy moon I’m thinking about what’s next. Last year I “released” The Faraway in great haste, on my birthday, April 14. I knew it wasn’t done but I needed to push forward and also I knew it wasn’t done and kinda didn’t care. I was in the midst of a couple year’s long crisis of confidence. I needed to just say “hey I did this.”
Almost a year later I am coming out of that cozy but lame place of self doubt and have a bunch of new material, or more importantly, the inspiration to act on it. I’ve decided to rework The Faraway and re-release it (one of the perks of being indie, I can do whatever I dang feel like) and also to add a new chapter to it with another album.
It’s good, I wasn’t done, and now I can finish it.
I’m aiming for another birthday release date. I think it’ll be scruffy and delirious as an album, like how it is lately.
So gotta get to it then.
It’s good to share with you again, dear reader. I think I can get behind this ol’ website once again.
I found the music to be stunning, perfectly placed and utterly transformative in All Is Lost.
Last night joined Shar and Nisha and the whole workings of You Follow to watch the first public screening of their documentary.
The story, of an adopted woman looking for her birth mother in India, is moving, and making a few pieces for it was a really amazing experience. Especially seeing it, and hearing it, all together last night.
One of my favorite moments was running into one of the women interviewed for the film… I created some music to go with her very emotional story about finding her mom, and so I had spent hours watching her face and cue-ing musical moments to her words… It was surreal to see her in person.
Great times, great group of people, makes me realize how much I love the endless energy of Los Angeles.
And makes me realize how very much I want to continue to make music for moving pictures…
Here’s some of the music writ for it…
I had the honor of working on the soundtrack for “You Follow”, a story about a woman who goes to find out about her past in India. The main character does a lot of searching and I composed this piece to be her (Nisha) theme. It was a fun and interesting project and I’m excited to go see the opening screening tonight(!)…
I realized just this afternoon that I’m basically almost done with my latest album. Kind of by accident. Right now it’s clocking in at 11 songs with three interludes in about an hour. The best part is that I’m having to narrow it down from roughly 25 or so songs, meaning I’ve got a lot of material to work with going forward.
The goal is to have the album in your hands by my birthday, April 14. Goals are cool.
Here’s an update from a song I posted a couple weeks ago. I added a cello solo in there. It was imperative to shred. I also added backup vocals toward the end. And hand claps. Always more hand claps. Also as always I prefer the original, what do you think?
As is the habit lately, sadly, this archive is rarely being updated, which is too bad for me perhaps more than for you, as it is such a good record of my music persona and all the things “that” does.
You could easily deduce that on the music front I am more a crockpot on warm than a roiling boil. Nonetheless the pilot light is lit. I have this project that feels very organic, an album that, go figure, is a return to what I’ve always done. Guitar based acoustic based songs earnest and emotional. I would like to keep the production very minimal with it. Meaning: instead of writing a song and recording the main parts, then adding and layering and tweaking from there, I’d like to have all the songs under my belt and record them in a space I’m comfortable with and that sounds good. I’m not terribly concerned with having other musicians on the album, I would LOVE that, and the more the merrier, but if I go forth with just cello, guitar, and singing, then that is great.
So yeah, the songs are mostly there. I go back and forth on the lyrics. What happens with my lyric writing generally is that I kind of spew out as stream-of-consciously as I can, as little editing as possible. This sounds easy, but for me lately it has been the hardest part. I suppose I would say that the more you TRY to “craft” your music, the more you hold a certain standard above your own head, ironically the more difficult it can be to just produce the raw materials to work with. For me at least.
So, but, ideally I’ll take that pile of lyrics and if I’m really really lucky I won’t touch a thing and I’ll make the guitar or cello parts underneath it as interesting as I can make them while still being able to perform them while singing. Usually it’s not quite that easy, and my literary editor declares that what I’ve created is nothing short of a horrible embarrassment to the history of songwriting. What it is is that I am fully aware that I am not writing heady story-telling songs, and I’m not even actually aiming for high literary achievement… I aim for honesty and I tend to believe that rock and roll is better for it, from me. In other words, the type of music I love walks the razor’s edge between profound insight and simple truth. And, unlike a lot of songwriters, I don’t allow myself to rely on pure whimsy and irreverence. This is a very, very common songwriting “technique” that I hear ALL THE TIME in indie music these days. It sometimes works. It works for everyone, apparently, but my tastes lean to actually abhorring the smug indifference of pretending not to care, or not caring. I just feel that the music that I am aiming to make is all about emotion and the transference of. I’m not saying that all music has to be uber-emotional, and obviously it can be quite terrible/embarrassing when it is. But it’s what I resonate with so it’s what I attempt to do.
Anyways yes, so there is an album in the works. My songwriting is just SO SLOW lately.
It’s because I’m not playing. I’m really not playing as much in L.A. as I hoped/expected to. I just can’t seem to crack the shell of the scene or find my happy place in it. I suppose that’s the nature of the big pond. I really need to play it turns out. It’s truly what I feel I am meant to be doing. And I’m not! Yeesh. That has to change. Even if it means returning to small towns to play.
Ok, I’ve got to paint a box I made now. Yeah that’s vague but true. Tonight my lady is putting up an installation for a Twin Peaks based art show/cocktail party at The Falls in downtown Los Angeles. I made the box and stand. It’s neat.
Thanks for being amazingly loyal considering my own lack of enthusiastic input into this here weblog. Rest assured though it shall continue, and be more exciting soon!
Had a good rehearsal yesterday. Me and Tripp played at Bedrock Studios over in Echo Park. A big room, horror movie posters on the wall, huge amps, and a little time. We haven’t had time to play lately and so it was good.
If you are a musician out there trying to get better, let me tell you, if you can book a gig, any gig, that is the key. Basically you are forced to get your act together, literally, and it will speed up the process of developing your material exponentially.
Also: rehearsal studios = good. Never thought I’d be a fan, but now I kind of am. It’s nice, for one thing, to get away from the house to play. It’s nice to have all the equipment set up and ready to go, and then to walk away from it. And it’s also nice to see and occasionally meet all the other musicians in your peer group coming and going from their rehearsals. You can hear them through the walls and get a feel for where other bands are at.
Opened up the book of songs we’ve been playing. Six or seven tracks off of “Tomorrow Was” that are manageable live and that are propulsive. Good to play those but wow they take a lot of energy. Playing a super fast song for three minutes is one thing. Playing a string of fast six minute songs is different. So we kind of played around with new “material”, improvised is why it’s in quotes, and it was exhilarating.
I feel certain that if we work together on a new album, making material from rehearsals and live shows, that we will be onto something really cohesive and cool. Recorded part of it too. I’m not sure that it warrants sharing per se, but you know that I’m always down to share stuff that is borderline fit to listen to. I like raw. So I’m ok with it. So yes, a show Tuesday night near downtown LA at The Airliner. Midnight Door plays at 9ish. Cover is $5. I think it will be a really fun night out, given that there are DJs and other rad bands and live painting. I’m looking forward to it.
So, yesterday I went out with the sharp eyed keen minded Ramon Garcia to shoot some scenes. He originally had the idea of shooting potentially illegally (we don’t really know) down in the subway and we did it guerilla style and his shots turned out great. So yesterday we did more of the same, a little bit of filming at the caves up in Griffith Park. It was funny, another film crew, much more professional and moneyed was already there. We just acted like we knew what we were doing and, oddly, had the cave to ourselves for a good 20 minutes. We shall see how the shots turn out, but it’s refreshing and fun to just come up with ideas on the fly and make them happen like that. And it’s nice to work with Ramon. He’s cool.
Oh blog of mine, which hath been updated irregularly and regularly since 2004. I’m glad you exist my sweet blog. Although you make me nostalgic too.
But yeah, I’m reminded that documenting moments of time has a purpose, perhaps a hell of narcissistic purpose, but purpose nonetheless. It’s a night like this, last night of March 2012, where I am sipping cheap whiskey on my roof deck, lamenting that Kate is out working for the evening, teaching painting to a group class which must be terrifying. I am listening to Thao and the whosiwhatsits, which isn’t a common choice lately but it fits for now. It was really too quiet in this sweet orange ish apartment. Cinco is sitting on the orange chair making the scene all the more orange.
Life has been really kind of brutal in a non complainy way the last six months or actually year. No breaks man. No big hearty moments of smiley ness. A bit of confusion stew with generous sprinklings of self-doubt and repetition. What a weird time. Ugh. I don’t know that I could have lived it better, in fact I’m willing to bet I couldn’t have. But yeah. Aimless, hopeful and heartbroken.
Well, I mean I finished those albums about this time last year. After endless silly revisions. And then… wha happend? Weird mastering issues, time just passing in such an uncomfortable way, expectations built, and then shattered. Then reality set in.
Thank god for walks and brothers and family, lovely girls and dogs. Thank god for cheap whiskey and a night where I have the balls to write a journal entry that could be read by someone wondering who I think I am. I don’t know. I would love to personify the super cool musician to you, and seduce you with imagery from the special mind of a special musician. But that’s all obviously a bunch of scaredy cat bullshit. There aren’t any musicians out there that are really better than you, in your quiet apartment. They may have the perfect hairstyle in their press pictures, and they may tweet cleverly, and on stage they seem invincible, but they aren’t invincible, and they certainly aren’t cooler than YOU, who, incidentally, are the coolest ever. Music has a purpose, but it oughtn’t be to maintain the egos of its makers. So sayeth I.
So yeah. Turned a corner. Thank god for April. I am starting a new job on Monday. That’s right, a job. Well, yeah, I know. I hoped to break through with the new album enough to not worry about such trifles as “money” and “groceries” but it didn’t happen that way. It’s ok. I like work. I hope to be able to work as a musician and I think this job will give me breathing room. Maybe it will remind me how imperative it is to play music as the thing. I am really really really not interested in giving up. Even though at times, scary sad times in the past year I have actually thought that perhaps I ought to. Give up. Let’s face it. If you are reading this, you are the few and the proud. Unless I have indeed “made it” and this blog becomes a hysterically stupid piece of the legend dispelled of this music. Or what. This music. This… life.
I miss my friends. Gonna say it. Getting older you miss everything. And it’s important to realize the utter and complete sweetness of each phase. I would say “of each day” or “of each moment” but really I can’t keep up. I would just say that each phase of life is insanely sweet and poignant in its own lonely lovely way. Not that you are lonely, but that those phases are lonely. They want you to appreciate them. Remember first break up phase? Remember first apartment phase? Yeah. Those phases are lonely/lovely.
Ok. that’s my check in. Thanks for reading. You are rather patient.
Thanks life. This evening is cool. On to the greatest raddest most fantastic adventure yet!
A big storm passed through LA yesterday. It kind of ravaged this desert city. I heard that an inch came down in a couple of hours. The streets became rivers, rushing downhill almost over the edges of sidewalks, and the drains to which all water rushed were big loud vortexes one would not want to slip into. Especially while unloading a guitar amp.
I witnessed all this as I was loading-in for a show at the Universal Bar in L.A. (It’s called the Universal Bar & Grill, but for some reason my pride allows me to play bars, but not bar & grills). The rain made the load-in more exciting than usual.
This venue was on the shore of the LA river in North Hollywood, which is not really as rustic sounding as it could be. At that point the river is a concrete slough and last night it was really raging, with no trees or grasses to slow it down. The rain was relentlessly dumping.
There was something kind of charged to the atmosphere outside and inside of the bar. Red light mixed with black lights and a cozy warmth. The smell of damp jackets and beer. Everybody had braved the elements a bit to make it out, and, as only some bars can do, it felt like THE place to be in case of emergency. So it was good. People were happy, the previous bands put on a great show and brought in a good draw and all was well.
We (as Midnight Door) played with abandon, as has been the case for all three of our shows thus far. Last night I felt even more the need to exorcise, and the feelings behind the songs felt pretty spot-on to me in my life. Being emotive wasn’t particularly difficult. More importantly though, the small crowd was TOTALLY into it , which is something that you can feel viscerally on stage. It is important and amazing when a crowd is wrapped up in every note… you can be exponentially more interesting and interested as a performer.
Then a rainy drive through Hollywood, which, at the risk of sounding like a farmboy, still impresses me greatly. I don’t know what Hollywood is or means, but it has a certain energy and excitement in its present that just being near is undeniable.
My brother came all the way up from Orange County and drove me to the gig and back which was amazingly cool. And my girlfriend as usual was present and super-into the whole thing, including carrying heavy equipment. Some good friends showed up for a meet up at the bar before and after, and my new partner in musical destruction Tripp played drums so excellently as only a pro can.
The night before, Saturday, we played in Echo Park at Pehrspace, which is this cool, funky venue that sits inside of a strip-mall type area. On both sides there are tiny hispanic churches whose buildings would be equally fitting for a laundromat or a travel agency.
Pehrspace is run by incredibly sweet and kind people whose real purpose seems truly to be allowing for art to happen. The opening band was a duo of drums and synth/beat/sounds and they brought a bunch of their super supportive crowd out. It was really great party jam music with thick beats mixed with urban psychadelia, and their drummer played live with a fury and a precision that is very difficult to pull off with electronic stuff.
There weren’t a whole ton of people there, but the ambience was supportive and great and wide open and so we just rocked it out. To tell the truth, circumstance made it such that we didn’t rehearse prior to the performance, but I had a feeling we could pull it off and we did. It was great. I was sweaty and sore after.
So now as is the usual though I just try and filter out what it means. To play great shows for a few people. To not actually have anything booked. It’s a mix of accomplishment and what now? It feels good and bad at once. I want to play more shows and reach more people and just, be able to do that. And that isn’t always easy to do. Ideally some clarity will come about, some natural career-ish evolution will become inevitable, and I will not have been spinning my wheels on a stationary device. Regardless, it was good great fun, and a solid workout to boot!
Played a show in Echo Park yesterday and the little room at the little cafe was nice and close and intimate and good and the daylight shone through the window which is not all that common for a music gig. Improvised set means you don’t have any basis for judging the performance. Actually, you never do.
I have two gigs coming up this weekend. Didn’t mean for that to happen, that’s usually a no-no, even in a big city, because you you know, use up all your pulling people in power. To be honest I don’t have a ton of that at the moment so every show played out is a chance to reach people. I’m… well… I hate to admit this but I’m desperate to play more. And so if someone says “will you play?” I say “Yes!”, no exceptions (almost).
So I’ll be revisiting Tomorrow Was, which is good. Playing through those songs, which are still full of a meaning I don’t even know that I understand yet. I’m happy to stick around with them a bit, though I’m always anxious to write and create more. Perhaps now that I’ve split my persona in two (Midnight Door and Luke Janela) I can write under one and continue on with the other.
Spring is really here. LA is so ridiculously lovely weather-wise, to the point that it creeps me out at times. I loved the big and rare storm that roared across the basin and blew down my wind chimes. It is essential that break, that chaos.
Anyways, the point is that I will be practicing this week. And that will be good.
Today I hope I can inspire myself to put on a few sweaters and brave my little studio. I actually really need to, I’ve got a show tomorrow and two the following weekend. And in the midst of that I’ve got some other “real world” responsibilities that are pretty pressing, needing my every bit of extra attention.
I will be working on this ambient set that I’ve been performing for a long while now. Beats + Cello + Effects.
I write the beats first thing. I’ve always been a fan of big beats and while I can’t say I am any kind of expert, I enjoy the act of creating beats. I don’t use canned beats (Canned beats are free-to-use beats that somebody already wrote and recorded a sample of, for anyone to use).
Most of the “songs”are quite free-form, and I enjoy that freedom. It’s like electronica/jazz, that openness. But a lot of times I will, no wait, I always decide on a key initially, whether it be b minor or C Major or what-have-you. Sometimes if I can think that far in advance I’ll go modal, though really if anything I play in Dorian and tend, sadly, to not explore the other modes too much. Some of these “songs” over the years have in fact developed their own melodies or themes, and so, in that sense they are not completely improvised. But after those things are out of the way (beats + key + theme) I just see what happens.
The most difficult thing about that in a live context is self editing. It doesn’t take much at all for one of these songs to turn into 30 minute self-aggrandizing tombs. It’s extremely important to try and think quickly and move forward quickly, in my opinion. I’ve seen far too many musicians wanking over how awesome they are for too long and I don’t want to be that guy. A helpful thing for me to keep in mind is that less IS indeed more. In fact that is sort of a mantra I repeat over and over as I perform (less is more… less is more…). I think Miles Davis is the master of that and everything else, and I can’t count how many times his face has popped into my head while playing as a way to remind me to let things breathe. It’s a startling vision that snaps me back sometimes.
That’s the process. As technology has changed the process has changed, the performance has changed. My first attempts at doing things this way was in Portland playing some random loft parties. I had my trusty Korg Electribe ER-1 and a delay pedal. I played loud and feedback was rampant. It was great!
Music device fiends: My favorite favorite thing about the Electribe is its “audio in” feature, which is hard to describe in words, but allows you to create a rhythmic pattern for your external input to actually be outputted… So that the notes I play on my cello beep through with the beats in a set pattern. It is a nice sci-fi sound that makes it sound like more than one instrument is playing. I am bummed that so far the electribe is the only device I’ve found that does this. Even software like Ableton doesn’t have this feature. You can hear that effect in “Everybody Is Dreaming“, it’s the synth sounding rhythmic noise going on throughout, especially audible for the verses.
The Electribe is still with me, even though I don’t really need it. I’ve found a way to integrate it via midi into my current setup. My setup is not all that different now, I just use my laptop with Ableton Live + Electribe + Effects Pedal + Keyboard Synth + Launchpad.
Using a laptop live does have its drawbacks… 1. software glitches and computer malfunctions (they happen, I can attest) 2. It’s your laptop, which, in my case, is the most valuable thing I own second to my cello, so that’s not ideal to have on a stage at a club, but in the end it takes a solo act to levels probably impossible otherwise.
So yeah, time to stop writing and go practice! Maybe I’ll record some snippets and post. Maybe!
Seth Godin is a universal delight. This is a topic I’ve been kind of obsessing over, whether it matters to please everyone (you know the answer).
Invisible is an option, of course. You can lay low, not speak up and make no difference to anyone.Thats sort of like dividing by zero, though. Youll get no criticism, but no delight either.
There is no set career path.
You can blow up big and be gone from the scene in less than a year. You can trudge away for years and years and that does not by any means guarantee or even increase the odds of a “promotion”. You can start off playing punk clubs and end up at the county fair. You can become a huge hit only playing people’s living rooms. What that does to the psyche is simply that there is no career guidance that fits for every musician. There are very few things you can share with each other as musicians that sort of point to the “proper” way to go about being a musician.
The paradox of taste.
Most of the bands that I adore also have people who adore them, but were I to lift the needle off of “Baby Baby” and drop it on a song I will eternally love, say, “Drunken Butterfly” I would likely be pummeled with scorn. Faces would contort. So that can be an odd feeling, knowing that some people love in a real way the music you make, where as others actually, sincerly, hate it. I imagine that is even more weird but probably less concerting the more popular you become.
The Endless Crescendo
Career wise and/or skills wise, there is never a point where you put up your feet and say “I am finally a ‘good enough’ violin player”. Inevitably there will be another goal to push through. You might play your dream show with your favorite bands and most likely that will inspire you to think “this is only the beginning”.
More of these to come. If you are a musician let me know yours.
October 1993 – La Maison de la Radio. Mazzy Star, two weeks into touring behind their second album, So Tonight That I Might See, record a Black Session at studio 105 in Paris.
Well, oh well.
This blog was once a place where I would sit and write about life, because life and music were intertwined. I think I felt like I needed to become more distant, more cool, in order to be a successful musician, because that is how most bands that come to mind present themselves. Also I just wasn’t sure it was appropriate to be personal here of all places.
But with tumblr and facebook and my “official” site, there are plenty of places where I can act like I’m cool. Here I am reclaiming as a place to just write. If you don’t like it, I’m not sorry to say I really don’t care.
There’s a lot of catching up to do… I moved to Los Angeles after all! The short story is L.A. is not a bad place. The long story to be written at some point may indeed be that I don’t know where I fit.
I’ll stick with right now, to bolster my sense that writing like this is right.
Right now I spent the day cleaning up this blog. I played some old songs on guitar. I’m really lying. I updated my resume. Music is wonderful. But in reality I can’t feed myself with it yet. Not even close. And so I’m at another crossroads in my life.
I won’t go into details, because one thing I will not do with this blog is pump up the jams at my pity party.
Right now it is almost Spring. I LOVE Spring. Every year I act like January and February do not terrify me, because of the depths of introspection I tend to go into… and every year I come out of those months unable to believe that I couldn’t protect myself from waves and waves of Winter’s big… feeling. Big feeling. The Big Feel. That is what January and February are to me.
So: here is a toast to re-invigorating this blog. Which, if you look at the archives, has always been remarkably honest.
In the next few posts I’ll catch up on what has all been going on in the past two or three years.
In the meantime, welcome back, I’m really glad to have you here.
Thanks everyone for the kind words and support with spreading the word on The Beautiful Truth and the new album…. http://fb.me/ElldoiWc
@AFINewsHQ thank you!!!
@AFINewsHQ great! Album release is august 1, 2011. Called “Tomorrow Was”.
@AFINewsHQ Thanks so much James! I’m excited to share it. Adam is on four other tracks on the album, all of which he made sooooo epic.
The first track off “Tomorrow Was”! Featuring Adam Carson (AFI) on drums and Molly Allis (Huff This!) on backup… http://fb.me/DXQIUd0a
omg best track ever: http://t.co/ATzj6NA
The first track off the new album! Featuring Adam Carson on drums and Molly Allis on backup vocals. Enjoy! And… http://fb.me/A1ljzx4C
I’ve got a little treat for y’all this Friday! 🙂
Awaiting (impatiently) final masters of “Tomorrow Was” (The New Album!), oh what a journey, almost there!