Monday, March 31, 2008

Relax, It's All Part of The Process

Part II

I had this whole idea that I'd make a few posts about creating some music for radio. A lame attempt at serializing the blournal? Uh... doubt it. Anyway, I brought the camera along to try to capture the vibe of capturing a vibe.

The demo I made was met with approval. That's always nice. So then it's on to recording this thing for realz.

I had instructions, but I also had ideas. These two forces are at odds in almost every endeavor, but when music meets advertising, a more explosive mix you will not likely find. Today could be the story of me getting it all wrong.

Employing some of the finest technology from 1964, out comes the Magnatone 421 amplifier, packing 3 Watts of tube-driven power - not enough to make any self-respecting night light glow. The new guitar will also hopefully be making its radio debut. Dozens, possibly even scores, of indifferent listeners will get to hear the happiness which this instrument brings... unless the client decides otherwise. I mentioned that, right?

An elephant, as well as a microphone is placed within specific proximity of the amplifier.

Moving forward, technology from 1985 is employed.

(please note: This utterly reprehensible piece of gear was used strictly for its keys and was not utilized for its so-called sound-producing capabilities. Unless your music begins with the phrase "You know our love was meant to be..." this instrument should be thrown away or incinerated. If your music does begin with the phrase "You know our love was meant to be..." you should consider joining said instrument.)

All of this stuff is then plugged into a bunch of other stuff and a dude focuses on buttons while you focus on notes.

Adjustments are made. Mixing happens. Transitions are polished. Sounds are formed. Evaluative listening occurs. Retakes are mounted. Gestalt is considered. Ideas versus instructions are weighed. Was the idea executed with the right overall tone? Is there even the slightest trace of inspiration and creativity?

Did the hard drive take a shit and literally eliminate your entire day's work right as you went to mix it all down?

Yes? OK. You're done.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Easter is about the same as ever around here. It starts by me not going to church. I don't go any other time of the year and I think it would be pretty disingenuous of me to go on "the big day."

So, should I not partake?

Looks like a pretty nice spread. Not a big fan of that ham which somehow seems more like Jell-O. It's got a strange and unappetizing jiggle to it, but the important thing is that it saves money.


Kids relegated to KP.

Where Peeps really come from.

Folks enjoying whatever it is that young man is doing with his pants.


...and the serenity of another Easter Sunday. Relaxing conversation. An afternoon with a pleasantly slow pace. Various confections pepper the homescape, ready to satisfy cravings in any particular direction.

Oh, and my insane fucking neighbor out there running his leaf blower in the snow.

What?! Do you see anything there? I mean, okay, it's 30°F out, yes, but that doesn't need to stop you. The bare tree branch in the foreground might serve as some sort of clue, though. Did you miss that? Oh. How 'bout the snowbanks at left and right? They could be an indication that leaves aren't really a factor around here right now. A clue, maybe, that you're wasting gas and just making noise with that fucking thing.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Still Doesn't Mean Anything

More years ago than I care to recall, I got my first taste of a genuine Maine accent. I met some college dude who was obviously a lifer, and he was going on about how cool he is in various towns or whatever. Wasn't so much interested in what he was saying, and I didn't really think twice about his accent until he invoked the word "Biddeford". Then my life changed. What he pronounced was, phonetically, "Bid-eh-fid".

And the rest is history, but I so enjoyed it that, in every conversation I have, I look for a way to work that word into it, using that pronunciation. Rarely does it come up, which leads me to today's entry.

A few years back now, a grocery store opened up pretty near my house. The name of this grocery chain is "Hannaford". When they opened, I immediately wondered to those around me, "Hey, wonder if they have one in Biddefid? Then I could say, 'I'm goin' up ta Biddefid to shawp at Hannafid.'" I would further annoy with frequent and pointless juxtapositions of the words "Biddefid... Hannafid", and so on.

Last week, I made a rare cash transaction over at the Hannafid in Biddefid. (Note: it was not actually in Biddefid and I do not live in nor am I from Maine.) For my change, I was handed a ten. Not just a tenner, mind you, but an Old Timey tenner. An Old Timey tenner with a stamp on it. From Hannafid.

Get yourself a nice, close look at the stamp there on that sawbuck...

It still doesn't mean anything.

But I'm keeping it.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Don't Judge Me

Hey, you don't know my process, man.

Once in a great while, I get a call from completely out of the blue, and a person (almost always the same person) asks me to make some music for a radio ad. It doesn't happen often, but it happens often enough that I've recognized a pattern, which I will now share with you.

First, some painfully vague adjectives are thrown about during the call. Then, I hang up feeling as if somehow I have less information than I had before the call.

Next comes a short period of procrastination and freaking out. This period can actually be quite lengthy, but is also often thwarted by the so-called "deadline".

When I've explored and exhausted all my procrastination options, I look for my capo. I know the capo is the answer.

Should the creative process at some point ever start to kick in, it'll be met by a frenzy of microphone cables tangling my feet, instruments that I lay on the floor and have to step over, and files with names I don't recognize scattered across my computer. And all of this will be met by a very nagging, tentative feeling. My idea could be sooooo wrong. These things have so far been just for small business owners who aren't about to take much risk with their image. It's really no time for "art", and it really doesn't matter how much time you've spent focusing on Rockabilly lately.

Mostly, I'm just trying to get the idea down before it goes away. I don't spend much time tuning instruments to each other or getting a sound. I'm trying to nail down that adjective, whichever one it was. And I'm trying to make it all end at sixty seconds.

So here's the idea as it happened, complete with mistakes. Wrong chords peppered amongst bass notes that also don't work. A drum loop that's just too damned loopy. A quick dose of "Pinball Wizard". You'll get the idea, anyway. More undressed than unplugged. If this is the wrong overall style, don't bother trying to make the shoes match the belt, if you catch my frisbee.

Yes, it's for radio, but I made a short video so you'd have something to stare at while you listen. Pretend it's the olden days and you're listening while trying to figure out just what the hell the cover of "News of the World" was all about.

And good luck with that.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Doggie

Been pretty light on pictures around here lately, so here's one, and the story that goes with it.

My brother lives in the past. It seems the greatest time in his life was when he was a kid (trust me - it totally wasn't) and he is constantly making efforts to get the family to come together like we're all five again. Sorry, bro. Maybe you've turned it into a comfortable 'ol golden warm memory, but my Evel Knievel feety pajamas just don't fit anymore.

He asked me to e-mail a picture to his new portable toy so he could see how it worked. I obliged and went to bed. Next time I checked the mail, he asked me where I got that picture of our dog. Seem like a fair question? Allow me to attempt to dismantle it. You can decide for yourself.

We had a dog 25 years ago. None of us, collectively, in my family have had a dog since.

Why would I have a picture of the dog, from 25 years ago, on my computer? 25 years ago my parents were the ones who kept the pictures. Would a person really contact their parents to ask them to dig up a picture of our 25-years-ago dog so I could scan it and keep it somewhere in my computer just to have? Tell you what, even though I haven't had a dog in 25 years, I'll entertain the notion that I might be the kind of guy to do something like that. Tell you what else though - my parents would never get around to digging up the photo for me.

My goodness, that print has held up exceptionally well over the past 25 years.

The keen family observer would recognize the brick street as a giveaway which precludes the possibility of this picture having been taking within our 25 years ago dog's life. Other family members had no difficulty passing this test.

But other family members aren't stuck in the past.

Man, that dog's a dead ringer, though.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Passwords I Have Known

Over the years, various people have either entrusted me, or just not bothered to hide their passwords from me. Was this a mistake? Until now, no. Here is a list of passwords I have gathered, and a brief description of their owners.

jung: Back in the day when you could get away with just four characters. This person was involved in media communications, but majored in psychology. I was told the password with the assumption that it would be meaningless to a peon such as myself, and I could swear I sensed a pang of anxiety shoot through her when I said, "Oh yeah - that whole synchronicity thing." Her loss that she wasn't a big Police fan.

factus: IBM geek. Something he decided was cool in college. A big fan of M.C. Escher (who, for you kids out there, is not a rap performer) but I'm going to guess an even bigger fan of New Order.

123456: Seriously? The dumbest password you could (not bother to) think of? Oh, wait - I guess it does make sense. A good fit.

maine: Staples computer department. Reformat the drive of your choice.

lily: An elderly man who works on high-speed military weapons.

fleeber: Auto mechanic who happened to be a big fan of the movie "The Freshman".

muffins: A five-year-old girl.

007: Disable the music store's security system.

I know it takes some of the fun out of it when I say that none of the passwords apply anymore, so I won't say that.

Friday, March 07, 2008


A little something called "direct address" maybe?

I took a picture this week. It was pretty good. Now, it's just basketball, but it's an interesting and somewhat unusual image nonetheless. In keeping with the recent theme of not sharing, I'm not going to share it here (creative commons my ass.) Suffice it to say I think I might be onto something.

I tracked down the e-mail address of the player's parents, sent them a low-res file, told them to enjoy the shot, and said I could make a print for them if they are interested. It just dawns on me now that, in the right light, this could look an awful lot like spam. Ultimately, it was an unsolicited offer. Yes, I sell those penis pills as well, but that's done in an entirely separate mailing, and I don't use my real name. Anyway, it took me a while to figure out just what to say, and how to say it without coming across like Penis Pill Guy.

I guess the goal was to just get the image in front of the right person and see what happens. The result was a lot like staring into the nozzle of an aerosol can that "doesn't work", and then shooting yourself in the face with it.

Here's the response:

Oh my gosh! What an incredible shot! I don't know how you did this, but it's the greatest shot I have of Jon playing basketball-----ever!
It was so very kind of you to think of us. A million thanks for capturing a moment in Jon's career and sharing it with us. We'll never forget your kindness!
Thanks, again

On the one hand, I think this proves the idea that I was onto something. On the other hand, I believe you have just witnessed the most kind "no thanks" ever conceived. To paraphrase:

"This is the greatest shot ever! I do not wish to buy a print."

This is of course all my fault for not coming out with the simple, straightforward type of "give me some money and I'll give you an awesome product that you totally want" offer in the first place, like I do in the penis ads. Yup. Take a page from the boner pill manual; the soft sell just doesn't work.

Honestly, if the picture means that much to you, how 'bout opening that wallet and seeing if you can't pry loose a 20 or something, huh?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

This Doesn't Mean Anything

I guess I should mention that I recently got me one of these...

Yes, for the past two-plus months, it's been a Rockabilly explosion around here. When it comes to guitar, I've had little interest in any other style of music. In fact, in my head, I have my own three-piece Rockabilly band, and we have a weekly gig at a pizza joint. We also have a kickass name which is far too awesome for me to just haphazardly be plastering up on the Internet where any jackass can just cut, paste, and steal. That's how awesome it is.

In reality, I can almost play a set's worth of music and I've made one phone call. Oh, and some of the music in the almost-set isn't exactly Rockabilly. But the name really is awesome. No, you can't know it.

Yeah, okay. What's the point is that this new geetar turns out to be the catalyst that has brought a full-on paradigm shift around here. All new songs in a whole new and unfamiliar (to me) style. So after a couple months of sounding like the fourth, sucky member of the Stray Cats, on Monday, I finally broke the mold and quite randomly picked out a tune that just came out of nowhere. I couldn't even tell you the name of the song. I hardly ever play it because I'm not so sure how much I like it. It was just something I heard once a long time ago, it was easy, and it stuck in my head. Thoroughly random.

Turns out the song was "Them Changes" by Buddy Miles, who died the next day.

Well that was weird. At least he didn't roll over in his grave.