Posts Tagged ‘music’

I mess around like this all the time but rarely bother to record it. I’m not sure when I filmed this. Based on the length of my hair, probably a year or so ago.

For the gear heads:Korg Kaossilator Pro for drums, Moog Little Phatty run through a TC Electronics delay, Yamaha CS2x and a loop pedal.

Hope you enjoy it!

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!

 

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

As crafty as I get

As crafty as I get

 

Summer has hit the bay area.  Here in my neck of the woods we’re weathering temperatures as high as the low 70′s.  Don’t laugh, that’s really warm for us.  I haven’t worn my black hoodie all day and now I’m sporting shorts.  I’d take the kids to the beach but I know it will be packed with people who are pretending they are in Hawaii and that just gets on my nerves.

Our favorite beach time is in January and February when your rain boots can do double duty to both keep your feet dry and the sand out of your socks.  Nothing like sitting on a deserted beach, bundled up in a jacket and a scarf beneath a hazy winter sky, watching all the hardcore surfers bob up and down in the arctic waters waiting to catch the perfect swell. And you always get the best spot on the beach too, a little nook in the rocks to shelter you from the winds.  Don’t forget the sand toys.

With the kids home from school we’ve been checking out the local attractions. We’ve hit the bowling alley, the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve,  and the San Francisco Zoo.  Next on my list is Playland-Not-At-the-Beach in El Cerrito. In between the big outings we do the usual things like parks, playgrounds, the library, and of course arts and crafts here at home.  My kids live for the next Oriental Trading Company catalog to show up in our mailbox so they can make plans for a dozen inflatable beach balls or juggling scarves.  This time around we ordered some wooden fish to color and I splurged on a bag of self adhesive jewels, which I plan to stick to everything and everything I can think of, knowing that eventually the glue will dry out and they will all fall off.  While others may feel that spending money on cheap sundries is a waste, I feel it teaches kids a valuable lesson: everything falls apart, nothing is permanent.

With all this frenzy of summer fun, I am doing my best to put in some music practice time. I have a show with the Debora Iyall Group coming up on July 4th at the World One Festival which should be a blast, even without all the fireworks.

I’m also finishing up the tracking and mixing of two songs for my side project, Shot in the Dark.  We played our first online/Second Life show on June 23rd and received a positive reception so I’m excited to get some finished music out there, wherever “there” is.

Finally I’ve got a video project in the works for Zoid.  The ball is in my court and I can see where I want to take it, but the work involved is a little daunting as it requires a lot of sitting quietly at my computer and fiddling with Adobe After Effects.  It’s much easier to go outside with the kids and bop around a dozen or so beach balls from the Oriental Trading Company, because these warm days, like all those beach balls are not here forever.

It really is all about finding balance, isn’t it?

Here’s a couple of things for you to give a listen and look. First,  here’s a song from the Shot in the Dark online show:

Fan Fic (Sexy Serial Killer) – Shot in the Dark, live

And the last video I created for Zoid, which I think turned out pretty well.  Would love to hear what you think in the comments!

 

Deadhau5Wife

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!

 

 

It’s the weekend before Halloween so expect costumes and craziness!

I’ll be playing a short set of my solo stuff to open for Gina Montel’s new band, The Grand Desire.

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.

“Burn” with Pauli Gray

 

“Say Anything” with Pauli Gray

 

 

April seems to be all about doing the work:  tearing down my studio so I can get it water-proofed and remodeled; learning to be flexible with practice time and space when I don’t have a dedicated area; learning new material for upcoming shows.  But I’m pretty sure it will all pay off, in some cases as soon as next month.

My biggest news is that I’m playing keys for Debora Iyall’s backing band. I’ve mentioned Debora in a previous post; she was the lead singer of Romeo Void, a seminal post-punk band from the 80′s.    The whole situation seems a little too good to be true, so I’ve been very quiet about it, afraid I might jinx it in some way.  However, we have a show coming up on Cinco de Mayo at Armandos in Martinez, CA so I guess it’s time to make it official.

And here’s a preview of some of the music you’ll be hearing if you make it out to the show:

 

 

A Jimi Hendrix tribute performed by the very talented Stev Ohanis (guitar), Dave Wenger (bass) and John Tucker (drums) will kick off the evening, and I’ll even play a few solo songs before the main event.

Later on in the month of May, on th 22nd,  I have a show at El Rio with special guest Zoid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The heavy rains in my area have caused water to  seep into my studio/rehearsal space and I’ve had no choice but to tear down all my equipment and begin the process of ripping up the soaked carpet to see what’s going on and how it can be fixed.  This leaves me with nowhere to practice, and of course with my contrary nature, I want to practice now more than ever since it’s not an option.  I’ve even got new songs in my head dying to get out but they will have to wait.

In the meantime, I threw together this video in an effort to feel like I can still be creative.  I’m always torn about throwing things together.  Truth be told, I’m an idea person, but I’ve figured out that it’s the execution that counts.  Some people have a natural instinct for knowing when their work is polished; I remain a diamond in the rough and perhaps will always be just that.  This video is a perfect example of less than perfect pieces coming together to make . . . less than perfect art from a less than perfect artist.

On a side note, I realized only after I made the video (filmed in Second Life) that my virtual self is hanging out in a virtual studio, perhaps of my subconscious longing to have my real studio back.

Enjoy!