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My  shelter in place breakdown has become an existential crisis.  I’ve been creative and producing and releasing and it’s like screaming into the void.  If I make art and no one is there to receive it, is it art?  Actually, if I make art and there are people there to receive it, the question will resound even greater – is it art?

So, it is in this state of mind that I bring you my latest concept, inspired by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

The 9 Levels of Artistic Success (as conceived by someone who never made it past level 3)

(ps. The art I’m referring to refers to a number of disciplines including music, visual arts, writing, etc. so don’t feel excluded.  We can all fail together.)

9 levels of artistic success

Level 1  – Polite encouragement from friends and family: Your initial attempts aren’t groundbreaking or breathtaking, but you might get better . . .  so friends and family may encourage you with delicately fashioned compliments like: “Wow, you’re so creative!”  and  “I like this one better than your last one.”

Level 2 – Absolute silence and avoidance from everyone:  You haven’t gotten better and you haven’t stopped.  Hopefully you’ll figure it out soon but until then friends and family will give polite acknowledgement only under pressure and total strangers will put you on ignore.

Level 3 – Light derision from fellow artists of similar talent or position:  They’ve gone through levels one and two as well and who do you think you are?  Maybe you keep bumping into each other on the same bill or have mutual friends, but they want you to know they admire your tenacity but they’d be lying if they said they’re into what you do.

Level 4 – Casual encouragement from lower level achievers with slightly more success than you and nothing to lose by encouraging you:   They’re not much further up the ladder than you, but it’s a big step – like going from elementary school to middle school.  Maybe they’re genuinely like what you’re doing or maybe it’s a sympathy nod – but they make an effort of encouragement and it means something.

Level 5 – Emphatic praise from people with less success than you hoping to receive similar encouragement from the lower level achievers:  It’s called networking.

Level 6 – Acknowledgement from higher level achievers based on the emphatic praise from the people with less success: They’ve heard of you, they think . . . they’re pretty sure they’ve heard of you.  Cool.

Level 7 – Positive interest from a general audience (not artists) based on the acknowledgement from a higher level achiever:  If those really cool people have heard of you, you must be worthwhile! (Things can go terribly wrong here.  You actually have to have a little something going on at this point otherwise, return to Level 3 and regroup).

Level 8 – Acclaim based on the positive interest from the general audience:  Cool people have heard of you, regular people have heard of you – it may take a little while for people to like what you do, but it’s supposed to be good and people will look for the good in something that is supposed to be good.

Level 9  -Wide spread derision as a backlash to acclaim:  Who the hell do you think you are?  Why are people even giving you any attention?  Lots of people can do what you do and do it better.  Congratulations – you suck!

So there you have it, my take on artistic success in 9 levels.  Am I on to something? Let me know.

And check out my latest Soundcloud track : Undivided Attention   Don’t let me languish at level 2!

worldview changing

I came across this short article on HuffPost last night: Finneas Reveals Hidden Sounds In ‘Bad Guy’ And Our Worldview Is Changed and I could not resist writing a response.

The gist of the article is that Billie Eillish’s brother, Finneas, who produced her Grammy award winning album, revealed he subtly incorporated sound recordings of every day occurrences/items into the music. Examples given in the article include the sound of dental equipment and a crosswalk warning signal.

My first thought was – what has journalism come to? This is an article summarizing a TV interview that’s been given a sensationalized headline (Worldview changing?!?! Really?!?) just to entice people to click on it. (And I did!) But then the author declared Finneas’ method of using these every day recordings as genius and I thought: “Damn! I must be a genius too!”

Now, it’s true I never swept the Grammys so I guess I’m not quite on the same level as Finneas and his sister, but I have been using recordings of everyday items in my music for a long time and I’m pretty sure I’m not the first or last musician/producer to do that. In fact a quick web search will turn up many articles like this one giving details on unlikely sounds that have been used in pop songs in recent years.

I want to make it clear I’m not dissing Billie Eillish and her brother at all. I really liked “Bury a Friend” and “Bad Guy” the first 100 or so times I heard them and I also appreciate that she has achieved this level of success by bringing a whole new style to the table and not showing off her body. No, I just think the framing of the article was ridiculous and I’m using that ridiculousness as a jumping off point to make it about me – because I’m pretty sure that’s how the internet works these days.

So without further ado, here are three times I was a “genius” and used everyday recordings in my music.

“So Bad” – a copy machine

I found volunteering at my son’s school highly creative work and here’s proof: around 0:08, there’s two claps followed  by a sound like a phased drum; that’s the copy machine at my son’s elementary school recorded while making copies for the book fair.

“Body”  – a washing machine

The song begins with a drum roll and rhythm beneath the drum roll that continues throughout the song.  That rhythm is the sound of the washing machine at my friend Gina’s house.   Lucky for me, Gina does a lot of laundry even when she has house guests – had she not I probably would not have been inspired to write this song about David Bowie’s passing.

“Fan Fic” – a breast pump

 

Ah – my old Roland SP-555 sampler!  I loved that thing and I sold it thinking I was trading up to a better piece of equipment and I wasn’t.  I miss it so much!

Anyway – this song is at least ten years old and I had just come through a  year or so of occasionally pumping breast milk for my son.  The sound the pump made was unique and I started hearing voices in it – like singing voices, not like voices telling me to do things.  In this clip at the 30 second mark (after I finish pushing the “I play a sexy serial killer” button far too  many times) I hit the drums and a loop of the breast pump sound.  To me it sounds like voices singing “usha-may   usha-may  usha-may”.  Sadly this sound loop did not make it to the final recording of the song years later.

So there you have it, my favorite moments of “genius” from my songs.  If you have your own to add or know of other songs that use interesting sounds feel free to leave a reply!

 

 

I have long been fascinated by NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series. I love seeing acts I know reworking their sound to fit the space, and I especially love discovering new artists. So naturally I wanted to take part in the Tiny Desk Contest when I heard about it a few years ago. Last year was the first time I was in a position to enter – that is having ready music – with my band, Shot in the Dark. I also had the pleasure of being part of KnightressM1’s entry. Although I never expected to win I thought KnightressM1 had a chance of getting a shout out because violinist, Emily Palen, is a force of nature.  But it’s a big contest  . . .

This year I’ve decided to enter solo.  The song I chose is called “Ghost” and it was first recorded for my EP Phases Like the Moon.  The original recording features Karen Mitchell on shared vocals and Glen Douglas on guitar, giving the track an ethereal alternative rock feeling (at least that was the goal). I’ve rearranged it into a jangly piano piece which I’d like to think gives off the vaguest hint of The Cure.  You can listen to both tracks below.  Let me know if I’m way off base with my reference to The Cure.  Any feedback is appreciated!

 

 

Winter's-Tavern-Flyer

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area and a fan of Romeo Void you should come out to Winter’s Tavern on June 20th to watch the incomparable Debora Iyall perform Romeo Void tunes as well as her beautiful solo work and a couple of surprise covers.  Also on the bill will be Shot in the Dark, my electro glam trio featuring Sunni McGarity on vocals and Falling Pauli Gray on guitar.  Girls with Guns finish up the night with super girl powered punk rock.  It’s a night of fierce female energy and firearms.  Don’t miss it!

 

50-Mason-March-2015

As the fall television line up makes its debut,  it’s time to be grateful for the creative and original stories represented on the small screen.   Without networks taking chances on new premises and characters we would be stuck watching the same old bad television I was subjected to as a child. Of course they would probably have to be updated a bit and so, in case the networks do run out of original ideas, I offer this:

Horrible Reboots of Bad TV Shows

(That should never happen)

my_mother_the_car_logo

My Mother the Car

Original Bad Premise (as explained by Wikipedia)

The show follows the exploits of attorney David Crabtree (played by Jerry Van Dyke), who, while shopping at a used car lot for a station wagon to serve as a second family car, instead purchases a dilapidated 1928 “Porter” touring car. Crabtree heard the car call his name in a woman’s voice, which later turned out to be that of his deceased mother, Gladys (voiced by Ann Sothern). The car, a valuable antique, is a reincarnation of his mother who talks (only to Crabtree) through the car’s radio. The dial light flashed in sync with “Mother’s” voice. In an effort to get his family to accept the old, tired car, Crabtree brings it to a custom body shop for a full restoration. The car was originally coveted by a collector named Captain Manzini even before its restoration, but Crabtree purchases and restores the car before Manzini can acquire it. For the rest of the series, Crabtree is pursued by the avaricious Captain Manzini, who is determined to acquire the valuable automobile by hook or crook.

 

The Horrible Reboot –

My Mother the Smart Phonemy-mother-the-smart-phone

Follow the exploits of programmer Diane Crabtree, who while trying to create a new smartphone OS, discovers the personal assistant portion of her prototype has stopped being functional and instead criticizes her requests and offers a lot of unsolicited advice.   The voice also sounds very familiar. When the phone, without any prompting, asks Diane “You’re not really going to wear that outside, are you?”, Diane puts it all together and realizes her smart phone prototype is the reincarnation of her deceased mother, Gladys. The ensuing argument between Crabtree and her mother/phone is overheard by a competitor; the rival programmer is blown away by the intricacies of the AI and vows to steal the prototype to reverse-engineer it.

Meanwhile, Crabtree is dismayed to find her prototype is just as dysfunctional as her relationship with her mother;   because even though she is the phone, Gladys confounded by technology, cannot figure out how to make herself work.

 

The Mothers-in-Law

mother in law_Original bad premise (synopsis from IMDB)

Roger and Kaye live next door to Eve and Herb. Eve and Herb’s daughter Suzie marries Roger and Kaye’s son, Jerry. This forces the families to be a bit closer than they would prefer, particularly since Jerry and Suzie live in the garage.

The Horrible Reboot –

The Mothers-In-Law Apartment

Mohters-in-law-apartmentRoger and Kaye have been lifelong neighbors to Eve and Herb. Eve and Herb’s son, Steve, marries Roger and Kaye’s son, Jerry. This forces the families to be a bit closer than they would prefer, particularly since the housing boom in San Francisco has caused Roger and Kaye and Eve and Herb to lose their apartments and now they must share the single in-law apartment in Steve and Jerry’s Noe Valley Victorian.

 

My Favorite Martian

Original bad premise (synopsis from Wikipedia)My_Favorite_Martian_title

A human-looking extraterrestrial in a one-man spaceship crash-lands near Los Angeles. The ship’s pilot is, in fact, an anthropologist from Mars and is now stranded on Earth. Tim O’Hara, a young newspaper reporter for The Los Angeles Sun, is on his way home from Edwards Air Force Base (where he had gone to report on the flight of the X-15) back to Los Angeles when he spots the spaceship coming down. The X-15 nearly hit the martian’s spaceship and caused it to crash.

Tim takes the Martian in as his roommate and passes him off as his Uncle Martin

The Horrible Reboot –

My Favorite MartinezMy-favorite-martinez

When Carlos Martinez, a young journalist for the LA Times, has his Uncle Ramon move in with him, his landlady suspects Ramon is an undocumented immigrant. Little does she know how right she is. Ramon is an illegal alien – from Mars.

On his way home from covering a story on SpaceX’s latest launch, Carlos encounters Ramon’s downed craft, which has been damaged by space junk in Earth’s orbit. Ramon moves in with Carlos while he repairs his space ship.   Staying one step ahead of Elon Musk, NASA and US Immigration, Ramon keeps up a snarky commentary on humanity’s foibles, including how easy it is to mess with the Mars Rover and the misguided notion that all humanoid extraterrestrials are blue, green or Caucasian.

 

Gilligan’s Island

The Premise

The Horrible Reboot

Gilligan’s Server

Skip and Gil invite five random people to check out their new Minecraft server. Everything is going well until they discover they can’t log off. Also none of their mods work. Even worse, the five random users turn out to be noobs who ask the same inane questions over and over again in chat. Hilarity ensues.Gilligan's-server-title

 

 

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!