Monday, January 11, 2016

Something Happened on the Day He Died

David Bowie had a huge impact on rock and pop music. I'm always sad when any real musical talent passes away, and I use the term 'idol' very sparingly, but to me Bowie was one of those artists who earned the right to be an inspiration to many, and I'm definitely feeling the loss. Whether or not it shows in my music, he was an inspiration to me.

I'm pretty sure the first chords I really learned to play on guitar, when I was still a teenager, were the C major and E minor that open "Space Oddity." As a young man, I used to get occasional comparisons to the young David Bowie, and for Halloween in 1992, I shaved my eyebrows (again - but that's another story) and made my own jumpsuit and dressed as Ziggy Stardust.

I played it left hand...

Some of my friends called me Ziggy for a while after that. My first Yahoo! E-mail account was ziggysdust. In '97, I started working on an ambitious cover of "Heroes," which I eventually shelved because the computer hardware and software I had at the time wasn't able to handle 6+ minutes and 10+ tracks; I did end up covering "Rebel Rebel" some months later, and while it's hardly my best work and the drums still sound like they were borrowed from the Human League, I'm kinda proud of it.

When Bowie announced he was starting his own ISP, BowieNet, in 1998, I eagerly prepared to switch Internet providers. It was pretty awesome to be for a few years! Anyway, I'm not claiming to be the world's biggest David Bowie fan. I never got to see the man in concert, and I don't have every album (though I do have seven on vinyl, and eleven on CD). I actually just bought  today, and I imagine many others have or will, too, in a fitting tribute. It's another incredible album, and if you haven't seen the video for "Lazarus" yet, well... here.

What I admire most about Bowie is changes. Yes, the song is great, too, but I mean the fact that he constantly reinvented himself, and wasn't afraid to completely alter his look and his sound and risk alienating his fans. "Space Oddity" and "Changes" and "Suffragette City" and "The Jean Genie" and "Diamond Dogs" and "Young Americans" and "Heroes" and "Fashion" and "Let's Dance" and "Blue Jean" and "Jump They Say" and "The Heart's Filthy Lesson" and "I'm Afraid of Americans" and "Slow Burn" and "Sunday" and "Reality" and "Dancing Out in Space" and, yes, "Lazarus" and so many more are all amazing works of music... and that they were all created by the same musician makes them all the more amazing. The man had conviction.

If you want to hear six seconds of that abandoned "Heroes" attempt, I've got it posted on my Vine account:

I'd like to think that I've picked up a little of that willingness to experiment musically. I'm focusing on finishing I'll Live, my own album of original music, of course, and I don't really spend time on covering others' songs these days, but I was inspired to finally play around with the Acapella app this morning and record this 30-second video of the beginning of "A Better Future," from Heathens. Not one of his better known songs or albums, but I'd rank both as among my favorites, and the time just happened to run out after I sang "Please make sure we get tomorrow..."

Friday, January 1, 2016

...And A New One Just Begun

Happy 2016, everyone! Hope you enjoyed your New Year's Eve, whether you stayed home and crashed before midnight or went out and didn't get to bed 'til after the sun had come up. I was closer to the latter, having caught They Might Be Giants playing two sets (and two encores) at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. This was my third time seeing them, and they're still so funny and full of energy and simply an amazing live experience. Pictures from the show, and from everything else I've seen and done in 2015, are of course in chronological order in the Gallery... of Death!


No resolutions for me, thanks... I'm driving. 2016 will be the year I finally get a second album done and released. If it turns out to be my last, I think I'll be OK, more than OK, with that. I'll continue to write and record songs as the fancy strikes, but in the future I'll probably just put out the occasional single or EP rather than being overwhelmed by the concept of an album. For now, though, I'll Live is moving along nicely and still earmarked for a springtime release.

I've gotten some feedback on one of the songs (from strangers... because my friends don't seem to listen, or at least to share their thoughts). It's somewhat humorous that the elements some people like are the same ones that others don't, but I get it; art is subjective, and music is art, and not everyone is going to enjoy the same things. My music is, well, my music. It's not intended to sound like Top 40, and so it's never going to make it on most (maybe any) radio stations. I'm influenced, I think, by the Beatles and David Bowie and Talking Heads and Nine Inch Nails and other musicians to varying degrees, but I don't sound like any of them, except possibly for this little bit here or that riff there. I'm no more interested in being a tribute act than I am in writing huge pop hits, and to me music is more than one sound.

So, more music, more running, more fun, more focus on the future, and less dwelling on the past. That's the plan for 2016. I wish you happiness, good health, and good fortune for the New Year... even if you don't wish it for me. Especially if you don't wish it for me. And hey, maybe 2016 will be the year some of you start interacting with me here and giving me some feedback. It could happen... Heh.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I'll Live

Time to dust off "Christmas Lonely," but I have newer and older songs to which you should listen as well. I've finally decided to call the next album I'll Live, and I've posted ten of the tracks (including that holiday song) to SoundCloud, Bandcamp, and of course ReverbNation.

A number of songs from Joy in the New will be included on the new release, though they'll all be getting a fresh mixing and mastering. A few of my already-recorded tracks are benefiting from vocal and/or instrumental tweaks; for instance, "Heavywait" finally sounds right. And then there are the new ones, such as the title track. I don't expect I'll be posting any more songs from the album until it's ready for release (I'm thinking April), but you never know.

The album was going to be called Tougher Than Flannel for years, and then I abruptly started considering I Can't Possibly Give More Than I Can Give early this year. That eventually gave way to The Unfortunate Truth (from a line in "I'll Live"), which jockeyed for position with Signifying Nothing. When I began thinking in terms of including a lot of the older material and making it a double album, I even considered using both names. In the end, though, I think I'll Live is the title it should've had all along.

This probably won't be the album art, though, just a temp

The song "I'll Live" is influenced, at least lyrically, by the Who's late bass player, John Entwistle, and the dark, sometimes macabre sense of humor he often showed in his songwriting. Songs like the Who's "My Wife" and "Trick of the Light," or his solo "I Believe in Everything," inspired me to write my own song about a guy having a string of really bad luck, for whom "I'll live" is not an affirmation but a curse.

For me, though, it feels like an exclamation of defiance. That's right, I'll live! So there! Heh-heh. I hope you will, too, and I hope you'll give my tunes a listen and give me your thoughts. Later.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Nah... No WriMo

I wrote the lyrics to three songs today. I opted against trying to do NaNoWriMo this year, because frankly I've got enough on my plate without stressing myself about writing 1700 words a day for the month of November. I'd still like to try my hand at writing a novel, and I've got an idea about taking some of my previous ideas and putting them together with an old short story idea; I don't know if I'm going to attempt this for the next NaNoWriMo, or just do it at my own pace...

...but right now, the album is my creative focus, and so I finally sat down and wrote "Morning, Doves" and "A Blurb" and "A Blur" today. The first was inspired by the loss of a friend (in that most final sense) as well as the end of a romance; the second and third are intended to bookmark the album as its opening and closing tracks respectively, and were inspired by my quote: "Better that your life be a blur than a blurb." I added a few more lines to a fourth song, "They Might Be Roses," too, but that one's not quite done yet, and I'm not sure if it's going to be on the album anyway. Perhaps it will; that would bring me to 42 tracks, and we all know how relevant that number is.

Yes, this thing is going to be a bit gargantuan. I'm planning on using a number of the songs from Joy in the New (remixed and mastered), a number of the songs I've recorded since then, and ten or so that I have yet to record. I've been working on the remixing, and I was quite happy to find the original multitrack recording of "Hole in the Wall," which I'd thought I'd overwritten well over a decade ago. I've also been working on demoing and recording some of the new stuff.

I haven't quite settled on the album title yet, but I may go with The Unfortunate Truth, Signifying Nothing. A reference to myself, a reference to Shakespeare... what's not to like?

I'll tell you what's not to like: Daesh. Fuck Daesh. I don't have very positive feelings for anyone who lets them win their games and gives them what they're after, either. Islam is not at war with the rest of the world, and refugees fleeing from death and destruction are certainly not at war with the rest of the world. It's Daesh, the bigots and sowers of discord, who want to kill anyone who doesn't think exactly like them, and anyone like that deserves our contempt, all of our contempt.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Rainbows Are Visions

I love the Muppets, having grown up with the original "Muppet Show" and enjoyed "Muppets Tonight" as well. Laura was a big fan, too, and we saw an exhibit on the Muppets at the Museum of the Moving Image together before we were really dating. The first movie we went to together was "The Muppets," and we watched many of the old episodes and films at home (and had a habit of singing "Mahna Mahna" together). She and they are kinda inextricably entwined in my mind now, which is both a happy and a sad thing. As a result, I couldn't bring myself to go see "Muppets Most Wanted" when it came out, and I was hesitant about checking out the new show that debuted tonight (and it doesn't help that yesterday would've been our two-year wedding anniversary)... but I decided to watch it anyway.

"My life is a bacon-wrapped hell on earth," indeed. And the "passionate bear" reference... lol This is certainly not "The Muppet Show" or "Muppets Tonight." I'm still adjusting to the "reality TV" angle, but I have to say I enjoyed the premiere very much. "Ivan the terrible... dancer!" "Maybe you're grumpy your spray tan's too orange..." Glad to see the jokes are as good and as bad as ever. Poor Tom Bergeron... As great as it was to glimpse Uncle Deadly using a lintroller on Kermit, though, I do need to see some of those Muppet penguins again!

Boston was nice, thanks for asking. I could definitely have used more time there, but the weather was perfect and I enjoyed the time I did have. I also got some me time in NYC on Saturday evening, opting to celebrate first Oktoberfest (because I'm part German) and then the Feast of San Gennaro (because I'm also part Italian). Weissbier, bratwurst, and zeppoles... yum. I attended another of Tania Stavreva's musical performances, too. Pics, as always, are in the Gallery... of Death!

Yes, I'm making some progress with the album. I've been digging out old files for remixing and mastering, and I'm working on writing a few new songs to be recorded. Slowly but surely. So I'm movin' right along...

And yeah, I think I'll have to sit down and watch "Muppets Most Wanted" soon.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Consider Me Gone...ish

You will not see me much on Facebook / Twitter / Google+ anymore. Read on if you want to know why...

When I started creating accounts on various social networks back around 2006, I was thinking mostly in terms of helping to promote my music. Nine years later, my pictures and snarky comments generate some online interest, but gods forbid I post something about my music... While a few of you do seem to have read my last 'blog post, about the next album, no one had anything to say about it at all. Fine. I have a finite amount of energy, and I've decided it can be put to better use working on the album, and promoting the album and my music in general, than in trading in likes and favorites and pluses. While I appreciate the friends and followers, I need to focus on getting more fans, which most of the friends and followers don't seem to be. And frankly, social media is starting to drain me.

I was going to rant about the level of political "discourse" online (mostly insults and/or threats, because of course the people who don't agree with you have to be stupid, or evil, or both), and about how people are mangling the English language more and more in their tweets and status updates and posts (and even allegedly professional articles), and about how I feel like I've taken a half-step back toward depression just lately... but it's OK. I've said most of it before, you most likely don't want to hear it, and, in the words of Andersen Silva, "The unfortunate truth is that I'll live."

And in the words of Gordon Sumner, aka Sting, "After today, consider me gone." I'm not deactivating any of my accounts, and I'm not saying I'll never look at my Facebook Wall or personal Twitter timeline again. Say something to me directly on social media, and I'll probably respond. I won't be posting those pictures and snarky comments for a while, though. Well, the pictures always get added to the Gallery... of Death! so you can visit there to see 'em. But I think I need some more time away, for my tunes and my sanity. I have to prioritize, and the pictures of your cats and your guns and your meals, the posts about Christie and Obama and Trump and Bernie and Hillary and Paul, the ridiculous and obviously untrue "news" articles... in the words of Sweet Brown, "Ain't nobody got time for that."

My music means something to me. I'd like to think that it means something to someone else out there, too, maybe even some of the people who actually know me, but even if it doesn't, I have to get it out and at least try to get other people to listen, and tell me what they think. It's not about becoming famous, or making money, or earning the respect of any community. This is something I need to do for myself, and (as with all too many things these days) by myself. Like it or not, I'm an artist. Feedback, constructive criticism, encouragement, a dollar... all would be welcomed, but I'm doing this regardless. At the end of this month, I'm turning 45, and I'm determined to have the new album (probably going to be a double) released before I hit 46.

So, no, you won't see much of me on Plusbook or Twitgle or Faceter, other than posts about working on the album and playing guitar. You know where to find me if you really want to. I'm sure I'll be back eventually, but for now, after today... after today... consider me gone.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

My Tunes

The itch to release new music has turned into a fire. After years of sporadically recording songs just to get them done, I realize I need to 'drop' a new album, for my own sake. Of course, I'd like it if you wanted to hear it, too.

Even before I finally finished and released Joy in the New in 2004, I had additional songs written, and several months later I'd begun recording again. The goal was to put out a second album, to be called Tougher Than Flannel, within two or three years. I lost momentum, and a little more of my sanity, however, and as the years passed, I still wrote the occasional song, and recorded as the muse dictated, but the idea of "the album" seemed distant and vague, and eventually I lost whatever commitment to it I might've had.

In late 2014/early 2015, after I recorded "Everything's Different Now" and made my first video, I started thinking in terms of completing an album again. Though the title Tougher Than Flannel still gets a grin out of me, I felt like the songs were generally going to be a bit more somber and dark than I'd originally been anticipating, and I decided I'd name the collection I Can't Possibly Give More Than I Can Give instead. Kind of a throwing up of hands in resignation and also a poke at those who exhort you to "give 110%!"

Lately, however, I've been rethinking the whole idea. I'm starting to feel this next release will be my last in "album" form. I will probably continue to record, but I think it would make more sense to put out the occasional EP with three to six songs on it than to agonize over larger sets of songs, especially when I don't have a fanbase clamoring for them.

With that in mind, I started considering the songs I've recorded thus far, both the new ones and the ones on Joy. There are some that I really enjoy and think are great, but others that frankly need either more work or discarding.

So... what I believe I'm going to do is take the best of the Joy songs and the newer material, re-record some bits where I feel it's warranted, finish another song or two, put more effort into mixing it all better (and actually try my hand at mastering, now that I've got software for that sort of thing)... and put it out as a new, defining album. Possibly a double album, if I feel there are enough good songs to justify it.

I have yet to sit down and cull the material into a list. (As you may have heard, I did some tinkering with my MacBook Pro's disk partitions the other night, and rendered it unbootable for a few days.) I'm going to get to that shortly, though. I've also changed my mind on a title again.

Before I'd completed Joy and settled on its title, I'd contemplated several options, one of which was Straight Outta Nutley (where I lived while some of the tracks were being recorded). I know the "straight outta" thing is simultaneously popular and reviled right now, but no, I'm not going to call it Straight Outta Lyndhurst. Go ahead, sigh in relief... I'm leaning heavily towards The Unfortunate Truth, a line from "I'll Live" (which will definitely be included). I also like Signifying Nothing, however (and award yourself 17 points if you get the reference). If I do end up making it a double album, I could conceivably use both in a double name... we'll see.

I was hoping to complete the album before the end of 2015, but I'm going to shoot for having it released by the first quarter of 2016; if it's ready before then, so much the better, but I'd rather not rush myself. I may set up a GoFundMe with a modest goal, $1000 or so, where every donation of $10 or more will get a copy of the album. Haven't really made a decision on that yet, but if I do it, it's going to be to help with the costs of getting CDs (and maybe posters or buttons or something... maybe even some vinyl?) made, not for pocket money.

That's my story. What say you? I'd love to hear what you think about me putting out a new album, my title ideas, any of my particular songs or my music in general... Please let me know, thanks!