Saturday, May 18th marks the debut of a side project I’ve been working on with guitarist, Pauli Gray, called Shot in the Dark. Pauli comes from a hard rock/punk perspective in his guitar playing and I of course am all about the synthesizer. We decided to meet in the middle with out influences, and so we’ve put together songs built on an electronic rhythm section with hard rock guitar to roughen up the edges. Vocals tend to be a bit punk and we’ve got touches of dark wave and industrial thrown in for good measure. The goal is to keep it high energy and fun. It all takes place at Wild Side West in San Francisco with a start time around 6 pm. It’s also a fundraiser for AIDS LifeCycle. It would be great to see you there!
Tags: AIDS Life Cycle, fund raiser, live music, Pauli Gray, San Francisco, Shot in the Dark
Tags: cynical, Facebook, gifts, Holiday, New Year, New Year's Resolutions, positive affimation
Goodbye, 2012. You were a pretty good year.
New Year’s Eve has always been a bittersweet event for me. I remain a creature of possibility. A hard, fast ending that involves a countdown followed by a melancholy tune rhetorically questioning if we should forgot the days that have gone by can reduce me to tears as I realize all that could have been won’t be. At least not this year. But then, poof, here comes 365 days of possibility, wonder, amazement. You can’t turn down a fresh start.
I’ve become a little more fluid in my thinking these days and have recognized possibilities and fresh starts are available almost any time or place, but it still feels good to demarcate the beginning and ending of 52 weeks. It makes it easier to look back and say things like, “That was the year my youngest son started school;” “That was the year my oldest son grew taller than me;” “That was the year I began to feel like if I put in the time and effort, I could really become a musician;” “That was that year I felt my life had come together and I became aware and amazed by how much love and beauty surrounds me.”
Actually I would never say that last sentence because it’s a little too New Age-y for me. One cannot thrive on the power of failure and fully embrace the positive affirmation. It seems to me positive affirmations are tossed around far too willy-nilly these days anyway, and often I sense there is a less than positive subtext beneath. In my cynical little blackened heart I feel that the much touted “I’m so blessed” Facebook status update translates into: “My life is soooo much better than yours.” Seriously, if Mother Theresa were alive and on Facebook she wouldn’t be posting how freakin’ blessed she is every 15 minutes! Get over yourselves, people! You’re trying too hard, and I’m pretty sure all those pictures of your family have been heavily retouched!
Ahem. I feel better now. But this does bring me to the obligatory list of New Year’s Resolution. My first resolution is to limit my Facebook time to one session per day (and preferably a session that lasts no more than 5 hours) or at the very least,to figure out how to turn off the status updates of the Facebook friends who annoy me. Beyond that, I should work on my self confidence, but then I realize I would never be able to do that, I just don’t have that kind of strength of character. So instead I have resolved to take up a bunch of low level bad habits (like not flossing twice a day or biting my nails) and then next year I can resolve to stop doing those things, which should be fairly easy to accomplish, thereby boosting my sense of self worth. Sometimes you have to look at the big picture with these resolutions. My final resolution is to have the mess from my New Year’s Eve party cleaned up by next New Year’s Eve.
Seriously though, I’m looking forward to a lot in 2013, including working on my second CD, playing music with the Debora Iyall Group (DIG for short), perhaps continuing a side project with my friend Pauli Gray, and of course spending lots of time with my kids who are growing up way faster than I thought possible.
For those of you who have stopped in and read my entries in 2012, thanks so much for reading. Hope you have a great 2013!
Tags: Deadmau5, demos, free, housewife, Massive, music, Native Instruments
A couple of weeks ago I decided I needed some really heavy bass synth sounds for a song I’m working on. I loves me some free VST Plugins, but thought I might broaden my horizons and check out free demos to see the range of what is out there. I came across Native Instruments’ Massive, immediately downloaded it , fired up Cubase and was ready to give it a whirl when my son called me into his room. He wanted to show me something he had created. I tried putting him off for a few minutes while I messed with a couple of the presets, but it became apparent he really wanted my attention so off I went.
After checking out my son’s latest Lego creation, I headed back towards the kitchen only to spy a basket of laundry I had collected a little earlier that day. I decided to be proactive and take the laundry down to the washing machine. Once I had the wash started I realized there was more laundry in the dryer. I’ve been working very hard to stay on top of things and not let it all pile up, so I took that laundry upstairs, folded it and put it away. In the process I came across a shirt that needed a button sewn back on. Well, there happened to be a few things in my “needs mending” pile, so I took all of that out to the living room, sat down and made necessary repairs. Now I felt really good about myself. I was getting things done!
I started towards the bedroom by way of the kitchen when I saw my laptop sitting there with an odd message on the screen. I immediately checked it out in fear that is was my virus protection software alerting me to some download doom. Nope. It was simply a message from Native Instruments telling me my thirty minute trial of Massive was up and thanking me for giving it a try. D’oh!
Tags: costumes, fremont, Halloween, live, music, performance, The Mojo Lounge
Tags: band, California, drinking, live music, musicians, Nevada City, road trip
*Nevada City is . . .
A.) Deceptively not in Nevada
B.) California’s most well preserved Gold Rush Town
C.) A little strange after dark
D.) Where I found myself last Saturday night playing a gig with the Debora Iyall Band
E.) All of the above
I love a good road trip, but I rarely take to the open road alone. Still I found myself cruising down I-80 E towards Grass Valley with nothing but my keyboards and some new music this past Saturday afternoon, headed for a show with the Debora Iyall Band. While the keyboards didn’t do much more than occasionally rumble around in the back when I hit a rough patch of highway, the music turned out to be a great companion. The road opened up to rolling, barren hills beneath an ultra-blue sky as lush as the synth sounds on M83’s “Hurry Up We’re Dreaming”; the rustic countryside of Highway 49 provided both a compliment and stark contrast to plaintive vocals of EMA’s Grey Ship. “When you see that ship, it is the ship you can see, when the grey ship calls it is calling for me.”
It was a good drive.
When I arrived in Nevada City I was taken aback by the quaint nature of the town, but it soon lost its appeal . Any meditative state the solitary drive had afforded me was quickly broken by the number of tourists darting in the path of my car as I crawled up and down the main street looking for Miner’s Foundry Cultural Center.
Thanks to bassist, Dave Wenger, I soon found the hall and a primo parking spot.
We were there to play Nisenan Heritage Day, an event that celebrated the indigenous people of Nevada County. The event included speakers, dancers and craftspeople. Live music was an end-of-the-day cap off, so in the meantime I had a chance to walk around the downtown area and check out some cute jewelry shops as well as some historical artifacts in the town square.
Then I headed back to our makeshift green room and hung out with Debora until it was time to get on stage.
The stage at Miner’s Foundry is a good size and has hosted a wide range of musicians from Zepperella to The Dark Star Orchestra to Johnny Winter. The sound was amazing, but leave it to me to be freaked out by the loudness of my own keyboards. The set went off pretty well, but I had a couple of instances of stage fright where my mind drew a complete blank . Still, the audience was appreciative. Particularly a boy named Tyler who was dancing his heart out at the front of the stage and later made the effort to introduce himself to the band and offer us some chai tea.
We played two short sets and then it was time to pull it all down and turn things over to Shelly Covert & UnderCover, an amazing cover band that sent most of us back to our formative years with tunes from Heart, REM and Georgia Satellites.
However, I was pretty hungry at that point, and since my fellow band mates had already wandered off on the quest for dinner, I took a late night stroll through Nevada City after dark.
Nevada City was a pioneer town and it has held on to the identity, if only for the sake of the tourist trade. At night its quaintness take on an eerie quality, which was accentuated by a man in a black cape and top hat leading a crowd through the streets and telling stories of ghosts. Certain alleyways were completely deserted, while other areas bustled with life; young people crowded around open storefronts like moths flocking to a flame.
One thing that has most definitely changed since the Gold Rush days are the prices. I had a hard time finding a decent place that wasn’t in the $20 and up entrée price range. I finally settled on Lefty’s Grill and had a yummy flatbread pizza.
Back at Miner’s Foundry Cultural Center, Shelly Covert, who has a phenomenal set of pipes, was heating the place up pretty good, but my band mates and I decided it was time to head out to our hotel, the Northern Queen.
Our drummer joked that we could trash the place as all true and good rock stars do. I thought perhaps, since this was our first time out doing such a thing, we could simply set our TV sets outside of our room doors, rather than throw them out the window. It’s good to have a goal, but to break it into smaller steps.
We checked in without event and I was just about to settle in when I realized my leftover pizza was still in the car. Who doesn’t love some good leftover pesto pizza around midnight or so? On my way out to retrieve said pizza, I ran into Steve-the-Guitarist and Rob-the-Drummer who asked if I wanted to go back to town for a drink. Now I’ve heard the sirens’ call many times (it usually sounds like my cell phone ringing and when I answer they say, “Hey, Paula, why not come on out to this big rock and get smashed. It’s pretty cool. We think you’ll like it.” They’re usually right.) Going back into town at 11 PM “for a drink” was a bad idea, especially when I was hoping to get an early start home in the morning, so of course 15 minutes later my pizza was safely in my room fridge, and I was driving back into Nevada City.
First we hit the saloon at The National Hotel. It’s the oldest bar in Nevada City and supposedly haunted. It was full of the spirit of karaoke when we arrived, as evidenced by a young man doing his best at Train’s “Meet Virginia” while an older couple danced cheek to cheek like they were on the Lawrence Welk Show. Not long after that we found ourselves down the street at The Mine Shaft Saloon.
It was drinking as usual after that. Rob- the- drummer dropped a dime in the jukebox (okay, it probably was more than a dime) and put on some Hendrix , Rolling Stones and of course,“Never Say Never.” A group of young’uns in spandex and big wigs kept us entertained for a good long while as they got progressively drunker. Steve-the-guitarist questioned if we were in still in Nevada. Shots of Patron and Jameson’s flowed freely , and the highlight of the evening for me (the designated driver who was not having shots of Patron) came when Rob-the-drummer passionately recounted the music video for Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself”.
When last call came we headed out but forgot to leash our drummer and he escaped to the bar across the street, The National Hotel Saloon, where he stayed for a good long while, supposedly ghost hunting.
I got to bed at 2 AM, woke up around 6:30 AM and was on the road by 7:30 AM. Road trips alone aren’t so bad after all.
* The correct answer is E.
Tags: dance music, female, gear, girls, Grimes, keyboards, Lily Taylor, live, looping, MNDR, music, original, performer, producer, rise, singer, synth pop
When it comes to being a one-person band, a producer/performer if you will, it would appear that boys like their laptops and their big fancy light shows and us girls like our gizmos and gear. I don’t have a term for it yet, but I’m seeing a trend of female artists who aren’t quite electronica yet definitely use electronica elements in the creation of their music. I think I may be part of a genre and I’m in good company!
For myself, I got the notion of using a looper from watching guitarists and originally was planning to use my JamMan Loop Pedal with just a bass guitar, layering notes to build chords and rhythms. It didn’t quite gel for me and I put the whole thing away for a while. Somewhere between putting it away and pulling it out again to loop keys and drum machines, I encountered Lily Taylor and I think I would be remiss to not admit her performance style was an inspiration. Using a loop pedal, effects pedals, and Casio keyboard, Lily layers lush vocal harmonies over ambient synths to create hypnotic music. She is currently based out of Austin, TX, but seems to visit the San Francisco Bay Area on a regular basis to perform.
Poised on hitting the mainstream, Grimes is a Canadian artist who also performs with a keyboard, effects pedals and a sampler. Her vocals are lovely and ethereal, while her music ranges from ambient to pure pop. She recently performed on Jimmy Fallon and I’ll admit I was a bit sad to see they felt the need to dress up her performance with back up dancers and some special effects, but it was still a beautiful performance.
Finally, there is MNDR, which is actually a duo comprised of Amanda Warner and Peter Wade, but Warner performs solo. I’ve seen Warner perform with a synth and also with a guitar, but it seems she is focusing mostly on singing live. She reminds me a bit of Kim Wilde (of Kids in America fame) so I guess I’ve included her here just because I really like the music. She’s also opening for Duran Duran these days. I think I would like to be her when I grow up. Heh.
I recently realized that I am anti-laptop when it comes to music performance. It feels like a crutch to me, or maybe I just don’t want to compete on the same playing field as all the people who can kick serious a** with Ableton Live. I currently describe my music as having all the canned sounds of electronica and all the shaky timing of a garage band (ba-dump-ba), although in truth, I think my timing is pretty amazing considering I make most of my loops live on the fly.
Currently I’m beginning pre-production on my next recording project and also thinking I’d like to perform live again soon. This song, Lessons, performed at the Stork Club in February, will most likely be on my next CD. Check it out and enjoy.
Tags: depression, disappointment, expecations, failure
One of the hardest things to do is to sit with your own disappointment; sit quietly with it in a room, no running or reaching for the phone to call for help, no opening a bottle of something to drown it. Disappointment can be huge, and yet still drowns neatly in a small bottle of the right stuff. Funny how that works. The challenge is to just sit with it, look it in its colorless eyes and wait until it gets bored. Eventually it shrugs and says “what did you expect?” before it finally lopes off to some other non-event.
But I can’t do it. I can’t wait out disappointment like that. If it looks like disappointment is on the way, anyone’s disappointment, I will be the first to cast an anxious eye to the horizon and scream, “Distract, distract, distract!” And it must have been that time when I could not distract myself from looming disappointment, that I discovered the power of failure.
Failure can be a beautiful thing. It builds no expectations, and with no expectations there can be no disappointment. The twisted twin of: “Do or do not. There is no try,” there is only “try” in my power of failure. And I try everything – film making, sword fighting, singing in front of an audience, creative writing groups, so many endeavors that make others pause and worry, “What if I’m no good?” I simply mutter my negative affirmation “I’m going to suck. Oh well,” and barrel onward.
Sometimes I do stop and ask, “Where has this gotten me?” Because obviously approaching everything with the understanding that you will fail doesn’t leave much room to strive towards improvement. I suppose the answer is nowhere, but it’s an interesting nowhere. And I’m rarely if ever defeated, which makes me something of an alpha loser.
Sadly though, any expectation, even an expectation of failure, will lead you back to disappointment. Witness the moment a peer in one of my activities turned to me and said, “You know, you’re not as bad as you think you are.” It was intended as encouragement, but it meant that I had failed at failing. And what do I do with that?