Archive for the ‘music’ Category

knightressM1Very excited to once again be playing keys with Emily Palen and her genre-defying group, KnightressM1, this Saturday at El Rio in San Francisco.  An added bonus for me is that I will be sharing the stage with fellow Debora Iyall Group alumni (?) Robert Tucker on drums!  Show starts at 9 PM, $7 gets you in the door.   Also on the bill: Swoop Unit and Stymie and The Pimp Jones Luv Orchestra

I have never been good at counting my blessings; I’m far too negative for that. Those chipper, upbeat people on my Facebook feed (how did I even get these friends?) are constantly posting positive, life-affirming sayings, and it takes a great deal of will power on my part to not refute each and every one as oversimplifying, sugar coating or self-aggrandizing the true nature of our existence. Luckily I was taught not to say anything if I have nothing nice to say and so I remain, to most people, very quiet.

However, I sometimes feel the need to take a life inventory of sorts, just to remind myself how none of this makes any sense, but here I am and no matter what, it could always be worse.

Here then, in my most positively pessimistic perspective, is my list of miseries and how it could be worse:

1.) I make music that absolutely no one wants to hear. It’s my passion, my heart and soul, but apparently my heart and soul is lacking, boring, potentially dated and out of tune (do not tell me it’s because I’m a downer , not while The Cure and Morrissey are still touring).

It could be worse. I could be loaded with talent and still just as obscure and nowhere, like many of my truly gifted friends.

2.) My house is an absolute pig-sty having just spent the last week and a half enjoying a visit from a friend and her children and making little effort to contain the chaos.

It could be worse. I could have high expectations of my housekeeping abilities and spend the next week stressed out while working towards a presentable home. Instead I will take this opportunity to continue to enjoy the summer and host many more social engagements, knowing I won’t have to clean up much afterwards to maintain status quo. All the while I will not worry that my friends are secretly judging my messy home and deciding my best efforts are not good enough; I made no effort. Perfect!

There is the added bonus of boosting my friends’ confidence in their own housekeeping standards. Once they leave my place they will have a bright new perspective on how nice their homes truly are. I am a good friend!

3.) I’m turning 46 in a few weeks. How did that even happen? I was 27 just a minute ago and now here I am starting the 4 year countdown to 50. What have I even done with my life? Do I really need to go any further with the physical aging process? Because I know how it ends and I don’t like it. And . . .and . . .reading glasses!

 It could be worse. I could still be living with the youthful optimism that it will all work out without any effort on my part. That was a big lesson I learned only in the past 6 or 7 years: if there is such a thing as fate, you have to get her number and harass her regularly to get her to work for you. Or you can just do the work yourself (easier).

 Also gone is the underlying anxiety of where my life might take me because I finally know:  it’s taken me right here, a messy home with a couple of kids who, I hope, are enjoying summer break with their mom, a woman who isn’t stressing over things that don’t matter that much.

 Without being too optimistic, I’d like to say I am okay with where I am right now (although being at Comic Con this weekend would be good too).  There’s still some road ahead with potential twists and turns, but I think I’m better at navigating it than I was in my youth. Or not.

I certainly don’t see myself embracing the bright side of things anytime soon, so I’ll stick with counting my miseries and my life long philosophy. . .Could have been worse

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only loversjpgI spent Saturday afternoon at The Opera Plaza Cinema watching Only Lovers Left Alive, exactly where I had wanted to see the movie when I first heard about it. While the film does have a very 90’s feel – Jarmusch, vampires, Tilda Swinton, a soundtrack of moody, heavy guitar, it did not allow me to time warp back to 1995 as I had hoped: Indie Movie  Time Machine. You can travel back in time, but only while the movie is playing. No, I didn’t get that experience.   Instead I felt anchored to my present reality, one in which I’m rather busy with my family and new music and the slightest attempt at starting my own business. It’s nice to be so connected to my current life, but I do enjoy getting lost in a good movie and I’m afraid this one just wasn’t powerful enough to make that happen.

When it was over, my fellow film goers agreed it was visually beautiful, but slow-paced, with moments of dry humor. It seemed to me that seventy percent of the main characters’ dialogue consisted of historical and scientific facts, a constant reminder of the ages and information the vampires had witnessed and absorbed in their long lives.

“Do you think it was written that way out of sarcasm or irony?” asked one of the women in our group. “I mean they were such snobs. Was he  making a point about snobbery?” I’ll go with that. Perhaps the point is that the thinking-man’s vampire will become turgid, not with blood but knowledge that, while impressive, can become just as much a crutch as violence or melodrama when used so extensively.   Or perhaps I’m the real snob here. . . But then, Tom Hiddleston.

Meanwhile, back in my everyday life, I’m excited to be part of KnightressM1’s upcoming show at the Milk Bar in San Francisco on June 5th. Violinist/vocalist Emily Palen is the creative force behind KnightressM1, and she is one of those rare people with a direct connection to the music god(dess).   I first saw and heard Emily at The Red Devil Lounge with the band, Dolorata and she has since gone on to play and record with many groups in the Bay Area as well as the Foo Fighters. The music I’m helping her bring to the stage is more electronica influenced than the music she regularly performs with her power trio. It’s beautiful and compelling and I was immediately drawn to it. It’s also subtly complex and nuanced. It is definitely challenging me in regards to knowledge of my gear, Ableton Live, as well as my musicianship.

Here’s a song we will be performing on June 5th.  Enjoy!

 

 

I do not have a direct line to the  music god(dess), but I am lucky enough to be acquainted with some who do.  Karina Denike and Lily Taylor are two exceptionally talented people who create amazing music and perform it effortlessly.  While they are both strong solo performers, together they create something absolutely magical.

 

 

  My personal footnote – Karina Denike is an excellent vocal teacher who coached me through all the recording sessions of my solo CD.  Lily Taylor does amazing things with a keyboard, a loop pedal and effects pedals and inspired me to experiment with a similar set up that eventually lead to my own solo performance set.  Guitarist, James Frazier, is also an audio engineer and helped me out a great deal on the final production of my solo CD.  

 

We had a fun little show at 50 Mason Social House on Friday, Dec 20th.  Here’s a clip of “Say Anything”, written by Pauli Gray.

Shot in the DarkWe’ll be back there in March, so stay tuned!

 

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It will be loud.

Join us!

Moog FXToday I dug through my all-things-old-and-forgotten cupboard of musical gear and pulled out my Digitech bass effects pedal.  Then I connected that bass effects pedal to my Moog Little Phatty and now I am in love!  Don’t get me wrong, I loved my Moog before.  Nothing else sounds quite like it and I have consciously decided to build my sound in Shot in the Dark, my electro-rock project, around the Moog.  This just gives it an extra dimension.

Previously I had a T.C.Electronics multi-effects unit attached to the Little Phatty for a bit of chorus and reverb or the occasional delay, but it’s a second hand unit and it’s outbound signal is dirty, so it’s not anything I would want to take to a show and put through a PA.   Plus it is a rack unit,and the foot-pedal bass effects just work so much better for me.  I’m pretty excited to integrate it into my current set up for my next show with Shot in the Dark which happens on Friday, December 20th.

This will be the first show we’ve had where we can turn up.  Our maiden voyage, when we weren’t yet a band, happened in the front room of El Rio in San Francisco and we were a little unprepared when it came to understanding how our live sound needed to be handled.  Then we played at Wild Side West and understood we needed keep it down.  Finally we’ll be able to crank up the bass and drum machine and guitar and play the way we (mostly) play in rehearsals.

This will also be my first time out running Ableton as part of the performance.  I feel I use about 5 percent of Ableton’s capabilities, so I’m a little self conscious about getting on stage with a laptop and the Akai controller.  However, I’m also playing keys and singing so it’s not like I have an additional 2 hands to tweak the Ableton tracks on the fly.  Ableton is replacing my Roland SP-555 sampler which I had in my set up for a few years.  I felt really sure of the sampler.  It’s been a bit of learning curve, getting the feel of the controller down, and then I’m left with the question – what constitutes live performance?  If I’m triggering the samples on the fly, but I have a chance of screwing it up, wouldn’t it be better to just sequence everything?  And if I’m just sequencing everything, then what is my added value on stage?  Before I go spiraling out of control on these questions, I’ve promised myself to just keep everything as it is right now and worry about making changes after the December show . . . except for adding in the bass effects pedal; and re-recording a keyboard track for the Ableton tracks; and replacing the high hat part on one of the songs; and re-editing the ending on another song. But after that, I’m on lock-down, practice mode only.  Really. I mean it.

Post script on the War Horse entry – I actually ended up talking about watching War Horse to my therapist.  Isn’t that weird?  Also, that wasn’t even rock bottom. I’ve discovered Suburban Shootout.  I need to get out more!

 

A stretch limo, broken down in an underpass

I pull up behind because I know that this is my last chance

The driver reads the paper, he’s waiting on a tow

Do you mind if I sit in the back for a while?

We both have no where to go

And let me ride

It’s the ride of my life

Let me ride

It’s the ride of my life

The TV is broken, the wet bar is empty

It reeks of puke and perfume from last night’s bachelorette party

The windows are tinted to keep the rider in anonymity

Which I find ironic, since I want out of this obscurity

So let me ride

It’s the ride of my life

Let me ride

It’s the ride of my life

Let me ride to my glory, I want to ride to my fortune and fame

Let me ride to the big time where I can stake my claim

And all the kids from my high school

Now grown up and so mundane

Well they can still have the last laugh, because I am still the same

So let me ride

It’s the ride of my life

Let me ride

Yes, it’s the ride of my life

limo

In the wake of last night’s VMA’s I have come up with a subversive idea for the music industry.  Why not start promoting new pop artists who are over 35.  What more mature artists may lack in youthful good looks and reckless abandon witnessed on last night’s show, they make up for with years of experience, a serious understanding of paying your dues, and self-respect for one’s craft and performance.

Now I recognize that self-respect doesn’t really sell the way youthful good looks and wild abandon do. This could actually be a good thing.  It could be a reset button, a way to lower the bar for the young performers who feel the need to top all that’s come before, because topping all that’s come before is eventually going  to take us in to Annie Sprinkle territory and I can guarantee you that Annie Sprinkle has done it  better.

We’ve come a long way from Elvis swiveling his hips on Ed Sullivan, or even Madonna humping a wedding veil.  It takes a lot more to shock the audience.  There was a time when playing around with a bit of religious imagery was enough to get some cries of outrage.   However, religion seems to be on the decline in America so it’s hard to get the public riled up over something they may or may not care about.  Besides, Madonna drained that well dry in the 80’s and 90’s and Sinead O’Connor all but paved it over.

It seems we’ve lost the knack for subversive imagery and we’re left with nothing but the actual acts we once artfully paid homage to via creative symbolism.  Or maybe we have nothing left to rebel against.  However, there are things that still seem subversive in our society – conspicuously aging, being fat, being poor, being gentle, being average and being okay with it.  Unfortunately, none of these things make a marketable train wreck.

I maintain that here are a lot of musicians in this world, who in my opinion deserve way more attention than some of last night’s VMA acts received.  Here’s a list of some  artists/bands that would have shocked and amazed the audience both by delivering a compelling performance and also by breaking the ever devolving pop-star mold.  Check them out if you get a chance.

Diggsville

Adam Beach

The Hodges

The Clarences

Bite

Zoid