Monday, December 12, 2016

On Brazil and Christmas and the Album You Haven't Been Waiting For

Groot says, "Happy holidays!" Groot also feels that this would be an ideal time of year for you to buy my new double album, I'll Live.

Groot made me take seven photos before finally being happy with one

Christmas isn't usually the happiest time of year for me, but family and friends help me stumble my way through it. Thanks in advance. I've written two songs, "Christmas Lonely" and "The Discontent of My Winter," about feeling cold and abandoned during the holidays... and they're both available on I'll Live, which you can purchase from iTunes or Google Play or CD Baby. Yes, that was a shameless self-promotion. I may have released the album due to my own creative urges, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to sell some copies and to have other people hear it. If you're interested in a CD copy, I've got a bunch, so let me know!

I recently spent three weeks in Brazil, and I have to say I had a blast, and I'm so, so glad I got to see and spend time with family on both my mom's and my dad's sides. Despite mom breaking her foot after we'd only been there a week (true story), she was only slowed down, not stopped; of course, she ended up staying in Curitiba and not coming to Rio for two days with me as planned... but I did enough walking and eating and drinking (and getting sunburned) for the two of us. I even made it to the top of Corcovado, though visibility was poor and so was my timing; I ended up just missing my flight back to Curitiba!

I was not ready to head back to the States after twenty days. My aunts and uncle and cousins and everyone were so good to us, in Curitiba and in Ponta Grossa, and there were still so many more I didn't get to see... and more caipirinhas to drink! But I suspect it won't take another 15 years for me to go back again, and while I probably won't get to stay as long next time, I can hopefully see some places I didn't get to see this time around.

Speaking of seeing, the pictures from Brazil are all uploaded to the Gallery... of Death! and there are a lot of them! (Sorry, Facebook, but I'm just not going to post all my pics with you.) OK, I've fallen behind on actually captioning the Gallery pics... but they start with the one of the Universidade do Paraná, captioned "Curitiba, Paraná, Brasil." Take a look!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

It's My Birthday; You Won't Believe What I Do Next!

It's my birthday, and I'm giving you a gift: an MP3 version of "The Bite," the first single from my forthcoming album, I'll Live.

"The Bite" was the first song written/created by Greta's Unmentionables, the band for whom I play rhythm guitar (whenever we can get together).  The first day the four of us went into a rehearsal studio together in March 2014, I played them the opening riff, and we quickly built a song around it.  I finished up the lyrics later.  While we still haven't recorded our definitive version yet, I decided (with the band's blessing) to cover the song myself.  Let me know what you think!

Thirty-five of I'll Live's forty-two tracks are completed.  Yes, it's a big frakkin' album!  Another three are mostly done, and I should be able to finish the last few shortly.  While I do intend to create more music in the future, I may opt for EP and single releases rather than putting out another album, so I wanted to make this definitive.  The better songs from my 2004 debut, Joy in the New, will be included alongside tunes I've recorded since then.

For those who haven't really heard my music before... it's my music.  I've heard that my voice sounds a bit like Lou Reed or Frank Zappa or early David Byrne.  My sound has been compared to Talking Heads, R.E.M., Pete Townshend...  I think you can definitely hear certain influences in certain parts of certain songs, but in the end, I'm pretty sure I only sound like me.  I don't have a polished voice.  I don't play a lot of lead or solo guitar.  I do like to dabble in different genres of music.  I'm OK with all of this.

Oh, right, the song...  You can download "The Bite" here at ReverbNation until September ends; you'll still be able to stream it on the site after that.  I hope you like the track (which I will probably make available as an official single soon), and I'd love to hear your feedback.  And I won't bug you with another newsletter until the album's ready, before 2017 is upon us...

Happy birthday to me, and 'til next time... rock on!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Broken, Bruised, Forgotten, Sore...

I saw the Prophets of Rage on Saturday night, and went to the AFROPUNK Festival Sunday, and the aches and pains are finally subsiding now.

Saturday's show was my first time at Brooklyn's Barclays Center, and it's a decent venue for live music. My general admission ticket and I arrived early enough to get a spot very close to the front, as has been my wont lately, but in hindsight this wasn't the best show at which to do that. Things were fine when WAKRAT, one of Rage bassist Tim Commerford's side projects, took the stage; the vocals weren't always as loud or clear as they could've been, but it was still a damned fine set by a pretty hardcore three-piece, and the audience was fairly polite and enthusiastic. AWOLNATION turned down the rage a few notches but still offered up some great music. The Prophets' DJ Lord did some pretty phenomenal stuff with his turntables, offering props to Brooklyn's own late MCA and Jam Master Jay in the process, before the rest of the Prophets joined him on stage for an energetic "No Sleep till Brooklyn." 'Twas incredible to see Chuck D prowling around the stage and booming out his vocals, and B-Real's rapping and Tom Morello's guitar definitely brought the Rage.

After that, though, the crowd on the floor went berzerk and brought their own. Understandable, I know, and I really should've anticipated it, but I found myself being pushed forward, hard, and had to put a hand up against the barricade to keep myself from being crushed against either it or the guys in front of me as the band played "Prophets of Rage." The audience kept surging to the front, and we got packed tighter and tighter. By the time I realized my UP by Jawbone band had been scraped off my wrist by the mass of bodies, there was no way in hell I'd be able to see it on the floor, much less retrieve it. Oh, hell.

I tried my best to grin and bear it. I'd paid for my ticket, I wanted to see the band, and hey, I'd been in rambunctious crowds before, right? Uh-uh. Things got worse when they got to "Bombtrack," and I could feel the bruises forming as my shoulders, back, and sides were getting pummeled. By the time they started playing "People of the Sun," I was finding it hard to breathe, partly because I was being compressed against all the people and partly due to anxiety. I admit it: I decided to get out of Dodge, though once I'd squeezed my way off the general admission floor and found myself able to breathe near one of the stairways, I stood and watched as they performed another two songs. I ended up seeing a bit less than half their set, which was disappointing, but I don't think I could've put up with that for another hour.

the Prophets of Rage
Sunday at AFROPUNK got pretty intense at moments, too, but I didn't feel as unsafe or anxious as I did on the floor at Barclays. After grabbing a few empanadas from the Nuchas truck, I made my way over to the Green Stage and caught the tail end of the Suffers' set, and then Skye & Ross (from Morcheeba). They sounded great, but had nothing in common with the whirling dervishes that came next: Skunk Anansie! I'd heard good things about the band but had never really listened to their music; before they took the stage, a guy in the audience informed me that he'd waited 15 years to see them again, and they were amazing. And he was right. When their set started and Skin started running around in a shiny silver outfit, screaming like a banshee, I knew I'd found a new band to follow. People moshed, she crowd-surfed (and I got to help), and eventually, even with my calves still sore from the night before, I found myself needing to pogo, and so I did. Not alone, either. Then Skin came back out into the crowd after urging us all to crouch down, then she screamed at us to start jumping, and for a few brief seconds, I was in the same mosh pit she was. :-D I may, may, be in love with Skin. She's certainly gorgeous.

I think she was checkin' me out, too...
It took forever and a day for them to get the stage ready for the extravaganza that followed, but it was so worth it. Living Colour finally came out and did some of their hits and non-hits, including a Notorious B.I.G. cover, "Who Shot Ya?" They looked and sounded as good as the first time I saw them live waaay back in 1991, and Corey Glover still has some amazing pipes. The members of Fishbone started making their way onstage as the band lurched into James Brown's "Sex Machine," and Angelo Moore and the guys took over with a set of their own tunes after that. Angelo played a fucking theremin. And sax, of course. But a theremin! I'd never seen one played live, and even if I had, I doubt I'd have seen one played the way he played it. So much fun. These guys know how to party at ground zero, all right.

Bad Brains' guitarist Dr. Know, bassist Darryl Jenifer, and drummer Earl Hudson came out to raucous praise, and they did several BB songs along with Corey and Angelo and some of the other musicians. Yes, of course they started with "Sailin' On." Heh. All three bands rocked hard, with their own sounds and influences. And speaking of influences... George Clinton... George Clinton... the George Clinton joined this monster three-band-jam for a Funkadelic finale. More crowd-surfing, more moshing...

Night of the Living Fish Brains, with George Clinton!
I had to half-limp my way back to DeKalb and onto a Manhattan-bound R train, about an hour later than I'd expected to be leaving Commodore Barry Park, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Even with all the dust I inhaled (the dancing and moshing kicked up an unholy amount of the stuff) and the additional bruises I gained and the ringing in my left ear. And the lost UP band, which is taking some getting used to (I think I'm probably just going to wait and replace it with an Apple Watch). It was certainly a hell of a weekend for live music.

As always, more pics of these (and other) musical performances, and other stuff in general, can be found in the Gallery... of Death!

Monday, August 1, 2016


I seem to have made an unconscious decision to make my life as much of a blur as possible lately. Maybe I want to get everything in before the impending Politipocalypse... In July, I went to three parties (despite knowing fewer and fewer people at each subsequent party), took in a few musical performances, saw "Ghostbusters" and "Star Trek Beyond" (both were very enjoyable), and trekked back out to Coney Island for some beach time. Made several batches of guacamole, too! I've got Dead Sara, the Boston Comic Con, Goli, the Prophets of Rage, and AFROPUNK lined up for August. September and October will see me attending a few more shows, including Amy Schumer the night before my birthday and Billy Joel the night after, Lindsey Stirling, Tania Stavreva, and Hinds, and hopefully a trip or two to the New York Renaissance Faire. And there'll be another trip in November...

Still working on my album in the middle of all this, of course. I'll Live is still comin' along, and I still anticipate releasing it before winter arrives.

In my last post, I'd asked if any of my musician friends and acquaintances would be interested in contributing a seven-second section of music and/or vocals to "A Blur," the song which will close the album (as opposed to "A Blurb," which will open it). I got one response. I love all of you, too. Heh. Regardless, I dig the way the music is turning out. From the pop punk of "Blond on Blonde" to the mellow jazz of "Too Loud to Be Eaten with the Naked Eye," from the surf rock (with electronic undertones) of "Down the Shore" to the holiday pop of "Christmas Lonely," from love and loss and life to politics and penguins and... giant giants, this album will run the gamut. The "Hate Theme from 'Waiting for X'" and "D.V." will finally see the light of day, and there'll be a new recording of the Aimee Mann-inspired "That's Just What I Am" and my own version of Greta's Unmentionables' "The Bite." I'm looking forward to getting this music out, and I hope you're looking forward to listening to it.

I've also been trying to drum up interest in an outing during Labor Day weekend to the Renaissance Faire. I always enjoy going, even alone, but I know some of my other friends are fans, too, and I think it'd be a lot of fun if a large group of us converged on the place and spent some time there together (and some time apart). Only one response to this so far, too... well, and also the one person I know who's at the Faire all the damn time anyway, so I know I'll see her. Heh-heh.

Some days, it gets wearying to do almost everything alone. Some days, it's hard to go to the party knowing that you're the odd man out. Some days, it'd be nice to have someone sitting opposite you at that table for two. Some days, friends seem so far away.

And you ask me how I'm doing... the unfortunate truth is that I'll live. ;-P

Monday, July 4, 2016

Join My Song?

Happy Fourth of July! How would you like to add seven seconds of audio to one of my songs?

I've gotten a lot of work done on the tracks for my upcoming album, I'll Live, over the past few days, and I had an idea for one of them, "A Blur." I know a lot of musicians and singers and dabblers in the musical arts; it'd be awesome if I could get some of them to contribute their own short bits to the song, in the repeated verse at the end.

It's a very simple piece, and you can download stem files for the drums, bass, guitar, and vocal parts I've recorded here. It's just an E5 and an A5 chord, and the line "Better that your life be a blur than a blurb!" at 136 bpm. I'd be delighted to add your vocal and/or instrumental recording to "A Blur," and of course your name (and URL if you want to share one) would be credited in the liner notes once I self-release the album later this year. Whatever you want to do that fits with the tempo and idea would be welcome, as simple or as complex as you want to be, and it doesn't need to be perfectly quantized and recorded at the highest bit-depth known to man or machine. And hey, it's only seven seconds...

Anyway, thought I'd ask. Please drop me an E-mail ( if you'd like to take part or have any questions, and have a great July!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Juneteenth III: Music

Got a lot to say this time around, so I've separated it into three 'blog posts: life, politics, and music. This is the music edition.

A new version of "Dangerous Babies" might be a great idea depending on how things turn out in November. I've been doing more work on the album, I'll Live, which I now intend to release in late summer or early fall. Still a little bit of recording to be done, but I'm happy with the way the songs have turned out thus far, and I really like my rendition of Greta's Unmentionables' "The Bite." Take a listen to parts of this song and three others below, if you like.

Maybe "The Bite" will have to be the single off the album, assuming I decide to release one. Heh. I like that it still sounds recognizably like the song I've worked out with Jon, Anthony, and Mike, but it's definitely got my own vibe to it. I also like that there'll be a GU song and a Not An Exit song (y'know, the eponymous one). If the Hellevators had ever written anything original (had we been capable of writing anything original), maybe I could've thrown that on there, too... The Unmentionables need to get ourselves back to the studio, to jam again but also to record some demos of "The Bite" and the few others we've been working out. And to come up with more! I'd love to do some gigs with Greta's Unmentionables.

I have no intention of changing my plans for I'll Live by writing any new political songs for it, but "Dangerous Babies" is relevant at any time, regardless of who's in the White House or Congress (I think). Ditto for "Human Thing." I do need to finish writing the lyrics to "They Might Be Roses," and then get it recorded. I think the last of the recording for the album should be done within the next month. I'm looking forward to being done with the process as much as I am to having a new album. As I've said before, I think I may retire the idea of recording full-length albums after this, and just put out the occasional single or EP if new music comes to me...

Although I may do a shorter album (or longer EP) towards the end of this year or the start of the next, featuring stripped down and/or remixed versions of some of the I'll Live songs. That'd give me the opportunity to revamp "Dangerous Babies" for the next occupant of the Ova Office. Heh. We'll see. As always, please feel free to comment on anything or everything.

Juneteenth II: Politics

Got a lot to say this time around, so I've separated it into three 'blog posts: life, politics, and music. This is the politics edition.

I've been trying to steer clear (mostly) of political posts and discussions on social media. Mostly it's because I know most people care as little for my opinions on the subject as I do for theirs, but increasingly it's also because too many people are getting way too incensed and enflamed when others don't feel the same way they do. I've got my convictions and my beliefs, too, but that doesn't mean I have to hate you or think you dangerous and/or an idiot just because you feel differently.

Much as the Prophets of Rage have declared that they "can no longer stand on the sidelines of history," however, I've decided that I can no longer stay silent - though I'll try to contain it to just this one post. Yes, I think Donald J. Trump would be bad for this country, and I don't think my opinion comes as a surprise to anyone who knows me even a little. No, I don't think Trump, or Clinton, or Sanders would be able (maybe not even willing) to fulfill all the campaign promises made. The people yelling shrilly about how Trump will destroy this country and the people yelling shrilly about how Clinton will do the very same thing are as reactionary as each other, and all part of the problem.

While I would love to see a real change and shake-up in Washington, D.C., I don't think Trump is the change we need. (In the interests of full disclosure: yes, I voted for Sanders in the primary, but I don't agree with everything he says, either. Still prefer him over Clinton, though.) I'm not going to level charges of "fascist" against Trump, but don't think he'd be the great leader that some seem to think he would, and it's clear that he doesn't hold the same inclusive views of what makes America great that I and many others in this country do. To be fair, it's clear that there's no overwhelming consensus in this country about what makes America great. (And yes, I do think America is great, even with its flaws and problems.) That's not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but the fact that there's so much anger, so much rage, about these conflicts of opinion should give us pause.

I consider myself pretty liberal and progressive socially, though I've got a few libertarian and even conservative stripes. I think everyone should have the right to live the way they want, worship (or not) the way they want, and love the way they want as long, as long as they're not harming anyone else or infringing on someone else's rights in the process or forcing others to do the same. (For those of you who don't get the "Juneteenth" reference, it commemorates the date the Union Army announced the abolition of slavery in occupied Texas after the Civil War ended, and ideally should be a day for recognizing equality and freedom for everyone in the US.)

I think free speech covers the right to be offensive, but I also think there can be circumstances where that offense might be considered threatening; also, the right to free speech is not the same as a right to evade consequences for what you say. I think adherence to law should trump party politics. I think corporations and lobbies need to have far less influence in the political and legislative processes. I think government needs to be smaller and more cost-effective, but I think a helping hand and a safety net of sorts for people truly in need is just human. I don't think everyone should make the same amount of money no matter what they do, but I do think that too many people make too much money for not doing enough, and too many people make too little money for doing so much. I think this nation should strengthen its own position in the world and its own citizens' security and standard of living before giving billions of dollars in aid to other nations... but I don't believe we should isolate ourselves, or build a wall, or pour billions of dollars and thousands of lives into wars and conflicts that haven't been thought through and linger on, and on. I know that there are radical Islamists committing acts of terror, against the West and against their fellow Muslims and others, but I also know that the percentage of Muslims committing or supporting such heinous acts is small, and portraying these events as a jihad of Islam versus the West only bolsters the arguments and the appeal of Daesh and al Qaeda and the groups like them. I think a licensed handgun (or a shotgun, or a rifle) and a small quantity of marijuana for personal use are equally OK; my eyebrow is raised when someone wants larger quantities of drugs or magazines holding larger quantities of ammunition. I think most police officers, and most deployed members of the military, are doing an extremely difficult job to the best of their abilities, and being human they're prone to making mistakes; honest mistakes should be addressed appropriately, but bad apples will turn up everywhere, and bad apples in law enforcement or the military (or Congress), who forsake their oaths and treat the lives of others with impunity, need to be dealt with severely and stripped of the ability to do so again, after due process of course.

Bottom line is, I don't have all the answers. Hell, I don't have any of the answers. But I do know that we all have to stop screaming at each other and accusing each other of ruining America and being responsible for Americans being killed. It's not that simple, and if you truly believe it is, you're not thinking for yourself and you're not actually listening to the sane people on the other side of the argument. Yes, there really are sane people on both sides, no matter what some would have you believe. Don't get all your news from one source, and don't build yourself an "echo chamber" where you only hear one side of every issue. I'm subjected to opinions with which I disagree on social media every day, but I'd rather hear them, and maybe think about the issues differently, or at least consider how other people view those issues, than convince myself that I'm right and they're wrong and that's that.

Anyway, that's that. Don't forget that everyone you talk to is human, too, and that most of them do want what (they think) is best for this country, too. I'll stop ranting now, though maybe it's time for an updated recording of "Dangerous Babies. Then again, perhaps I should wait 'til November...