Archive for the ‘Music’ Category


Within the last two or three months, after decades of playing guitar, I’ve begun playing bass in one of my musical projects (Borrowed Time).

Until then, my attitude toward bassists was, “fine, play the damn root on the one, after that, whatever.”

I had no idea.

The Bassist's Bible by Tim Boomer front coverI thought it absolutely pathetic that the most popular part of The Bassist’s Bible was the appendix in the back listing the bassists in various bands over the last few decades.

Who could give a shit?

Bassists. That’s who.

Everyone else should, too.

As I’ve discovered recently, while learning to play bass, there’s a reason for that: bassists usually get no credit  at all, and they can be incredibly creative and vital to the success of a band.

How many bassists can you name right now? I’ll bet you can count them on the fingers of one hand. The really good ones you’ll probably name are Paul McCartney, John Entwistle and, if you’re a jazz freak, Ron Carter, Charlie Mingus, and Jaco Pastorious . . . and beyond that? Probably few if any.

Why are they so important? They anchor a song and more importantly drive it and can provide counterpoint to the lines above.

Check this tune out from the last Pinche Blues Band CD: Life Is Good. My pal Michael Zubay drives the hell out of it. It would be nowhere near as compelling without his driving bass line.

On this song, people tend to just listen to the vocals (Abe), my (guitar) solo, and Fred’s (organ) solo. NOT the bass line which drives the whole thing.

How does he do it? Rhythm. It’s one . . . AND (of 2nd beat — hammering it) . . . and four and one . . . AND . . . etc.

It’s only since I began playing bass myself, after decades of playing only guitar, that I really began to appreciate bass players.

Thanks guys. Over the decades, I’ve never properly appreciated you. I’m proud to join your ranks. It’s the most musical fun I’ve had in a long time.


Willie Edwards, "Everlastin' Tears"

Condemnation

To the global plantation

Bring it up

Elimination

On the road

To the company store

Won’t somebody tell me

Where I’m headin’ for

–Willie Edwards, “Company Store,” on the horrors of being enmeshed by the global corporate octopus, from the CD “Everlastin’ Tears” — a CD so rare that none of its cuts are up on youtube


According to a detailed analysis in Slate, it appears that Bob Dylan plagiarized portions of — yes — his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

A subsequent piece on BBC.com notes that he delivered the speech “just before the deadline on 4 June,” at which point he would have forfeited the approximately $900,000 in prize money.

If Dylan did plagiarize parts of his speech, and it certainly appears that he did, it’s both disappointing and highly ironic — irony so thick you could spread it with a trowel.

This whole sorry affair brings to mind Jill Sobule’s biting, very funny, and highly original song, “Heroes.”

Enjoy the song, if not the irony.


by Chaz Bufe, author of An Understandable Guide to Music Theory

Decades ago, in my 20s, I took up piano en route to getting a degree in music theory/composition. I’d taken a couple of years of lessons as a ‘tween with an incompetent teacher who hadn’t even taught me to count, and then gave it up in frustration a couple of years after I started, thinking the problem was with me.

When I hit 25, I decided to go to school, and rather than choose a money-making, academic-track, or scientific career, I decided to do what I really wanted to do: music. I was essentially at ground zero, and had to learn an instrument. I chose piano, because I at least had some technical rudiments.

For the next five years, while taking a full load, working 20 to 40 hours a week, and shutting down the bars two or three nights a week (hey, I was in my 20s), I practiced three hours a day on piano damn near every day. I was fairly decent by the end of those five years.

For the next year and a half I was a t.a. in grad school (since you asked, Washington State), where I continued to practice three hours a day, while teaching 9 credits per semester (ear training and class piano) plus assisting with another 8 credits of classes in theory, all for $350 a month, out of which they took tuition. I spent an entire winter walking up the hill to the department with one of my feet in a cracked boot, with my foot wrapped in plastic bags to avoid the wet, but not the cold.

At the end of that time I was utterly disgusted. I hated two of the three people on my committee, they hated me — the department was giving m.a.s to outright incompetents, but me? Hell no; they simply wouldn’t do it — and I was tied to the written page. I could sight read like a son of a bitch, and could also realize figured bass at full speed at first reading, but could I improvise? Not a chance.

More importantly I was nauseated by the snake pit, by the departmental politicking, so at the end of my third semester I took my loan for the following semester, bought a 1961 Rambler, loaded all of my shit into it, and took off for San Francisco.

An Understandable Guide to Music Theory front coverThen I quite playing for eight years.

But two years after I escaped academia, I decided to put my time there to good use, and wrote An Understandable Guide to Music Theory: The Most Useful Aspects of Theory for Rock, Jazz and Blues Musicians. It was a wise move, as the book was well reviewed and has sold considerably north of 10,000 copies over the years.

A few years after I wrote the book, I started playing guitar in a regular jam session with some other SF musical hippies. My technique was nonexistent, but my time and phrasing — thanks to my time in academia — was right on. We were doing a lot of off time and compound meter stuff which was all over the map and which, thanks to Bartok, I had no problem with.

Front cover of The Drummer's Bible Second EditionAt that juncture, I talked my longtime pal Mick Berry, an excellent New Orleans drummer, who hadn’t played in ten years while pursuing a futile career in stand-up comedy, into coming out of musical retiremen and playing with us. That eventually led (with co-author Jason Gianni) to See Sharp Press’s best-selling music book, The Drummer’s Bible: How to Play Every Drum Style from Afro-Cuban to Zydeco.

Two years after that band started, by which point I was almost a semi-decent guitarist, my dad had a stroke, and my parents wanted me to move to Tucson to help. (A horror story all its own, which I won’t get into here.)

Once in Tucson, I realized there were only two ways to go: blues or country. (Jazz/avant garde shit was out of the question; punk paid as badly — not at all — as it ever did.) The choice was easy.

I shortly started making musical friends and playing in a blues cover band (yours truly, bassist, drummer, and vocalist). A few years into it, I started, in my late 40s, to write tunes.

Since then, it’s been a succession of ever-evolving blues bands, involving people I barely knew to people I loved dearly who killed themselves with booze and hard drugs. (See Slow Motion Suicideabout my closest friend and longtime bass player Randy Oliver.)

After that, more evolution. First as Pinche Blues Band, with just me, wonderful bass player Jaime DeZubeldia, and my now-longtime friend and musical partner Abe Acuña doing both drums and vocals. I loved it. So much fun. I could just stretch out whenever I wanted, without fear of running into anyone else.

Following that we went through a lot of permutations, most notably with the addition of extremely good player and nice guy Fred Hartshorn on keys/sax. Following a bunch of personality b.s., we just reformed and will be hitting the circuit shortly.

Throughout this time (2005 to present), I’ve been writing more material, sometimes with Abe, sometimes by myself, and sometimes with former bandmate, great vocalist, and lyrical genius Brian Hullfish.

Lately, I’ve also started playing with Paul D, a former session guy from NYC, who’s an extremely talented bassist, guitarist, and vocalist, plus Fred and drummer Dave Miller.

I’m mostly playing bass, plus doing occasional lead vocals, which has given me a fresh appreciation of how good the bass players I’ve played with over the years have been, and how hard vocals are.

It’s a revelation. Bass playing at least is a hell of a lot of fun. (At least so far, vocals not so much — I’m filled with shame.) And bass playing is challenging. Here are probably the best examples of the bassists I’ve played with:

I hope you find this at least interesting if not useful.

Hail to the bass players, if not Hail to the Chief (and fuck that lying, bullying, narcissistic, seriously mentally ill piece of shit).

Cheers,

Chaz

 

 

 

 

 

 


My pal Al Perry has just put up a much improved version — in terms of both audio mix and background visuals — of “Jukebox Jihad” on Youtube.  If you’re up for some high energy rockabilly and guilty laughs, click on that link right now.

(In accord with our strict adherence to the FCC Fairness Doctrine, we’d urge you to also check out Chuck Maultsby’s “Ballad of the USS Liberty.”)

USS Liberty after Israeli attack

Finally, the track that comes on Youtube after “Jukebox Jihad” is Al’s cover of the old folk rock tune, “The Snake,” which is also worth a listen.

Check it out.


by Zeke Teflon

My longtime friend Gary Lee Russell, best known as the guitarist and songwriter for the punk/new wave band Killer Pussy, died yesterday. I knew him for over 45 years. He was a really nice, funny, talented guy.

We first met in Phoenix in the early 1970s via mutual friends, and were soon involved in various types of drug- and alcohol-fueled insanity. One version of that insanity was KDIL (“The Big 16” — “Getting it said for Satan!”), a pirate radio station that took its name from a paperback book one of the DJs found at a book sale, “Dildo Torture.”  After a period of gathering equipment, we were on the air in early 1972. (One polluted late night shift a few days after we went on the air — I don’t remember a thing about this, but my brother swears it’s true — Bob the Gimp and I read the entirety of “Dildo Torture” aloud over the air.)

Tunein.com has a good description of KDIL, using phraseology from the station itself.

KDIL’s studio high atop the Satanic Tabernacle of Wickenburg

“KDIL is a pirate broadcaster from the 1970’s in Phoenix and Tempe, AZ. A religious broadcaster, the legacy broadcast originates from the Satanic Tabernacle in Wickenburg, AZ. KDIL features Rock, Rap, Dance, Swedish Blues and the inspiring German vocals of Heino. The KDIL DJ talent lineup includes Buster Hymen, Roger B. Protection, Ellis Dee, Harley Farley, Hal Murray, Eddie Satan, Dick Nixon, Rollo Sabatello, and The Countess. [Gary, among his other DJ monikers, was “Richard Nixon”: “This is Dick, sticking it to you.”]

“KDIL has run many great contests, including the ‘Acid Swarm Phone Ripoff’ and the ‘Off the Pigs Weekend’ with big prizes. KDIL’s sponsors include Mr. Rory’s Hyena Tripe drive-thru restaurants, Cactus Patch Citizens Band World, and Zorba’s Adult Books in Scottsdale, AZ.”

Of these “sponsors,” Zorba’s is the only one that actually existed. Gary worked there around the time KDIL was on the air, and we would often hang around after the place closed smoking dope surrounded by skin mags, dildos, and autosucks.

One evening, for lack of anything better to do, we decided to pay a visit to John Sage during his evening talk show. Sage was the local equivalent of Rush Limbaugh, and broadcast on, as I recall, KPHX. The studio was a tiny glass booth in the middle of a mall on Central Avenue, and the place was entirely deserted in the evening except for Sage ensconced in his booth.

To prepare for the visit, we looked through the skin mags at Zorba’s searching for the most disgusting, most explicit ones we could find, and finally settled on a gay fist-fucking mag and one titled “Truckin’ Mamas,” featuring 400-pounders.

That evening we drove with our pal Harley Farley in his pink Cadillac from Zorba’s on Scottsdale Road over to the KPHX booth on Central. Once there, we carefully removed the centerfolds from “Truckin’ Mamas” and the fist-fucking mag and taped them up on the glass booth, at eye height, directly in front of Sage. He was the only one there, so he had to either avert his eyes or look at the photos at least until the next commercial break. (This was well before surveillance cameras were the norm, so we didn’t even try to disguise ourselves when we taped up the photos.)

At the time, in addition to DJing on KDIL, working at Zorba’s (and previously, along with yours truly, at The Back Door Theater — “Parking and entrance in the rear, for your privacy”), Gary was playing guitar in funk bands. The one I remember best was 30 Weight, in part because one evening I saw them playing at Fridays & Saturdays, a sleazy rock joint (black popcorn ceiling, red velvet on the walls, shag carpeting, tiny little tables, half-clad waitresses in slit skirts) on the river bottom between Scottsdale and Tempe. That evening, their drummer got loaded on reds and passed out, slumped over his drum kit in the middle of a set.

30 Weight were a popular band, and in 1971 or 1972 Gary told me that they got hired to play the Miss Watts Festival in L.A. He told me that he was the only white guy there out of five or ten thousand people.

In 1974, I escaped from Phoenix, and saw Gary only sporadically over the coming decade, usually when I made my once-a-year obligatory holiday trek to visit my parents over xmas.

Toward the beginning of the 1980s, Gary had his nearest brush with fame, as guitarist and songwriter for the very much tongue-in-cheek Killer Pussy. They were part of the early ’80s Phoenix punk scene, along with The Meat Puppets and The Feederz (biggest hit, “Jesus Enters from the Rear”), and were quite popular. Not enough so that any of them didn’t have to have day jobs, but popular nonetheless. Among other things, they toured California and appeared on “New Wave Theater” on the USA Network.

Around the last time I saw Gary in the ’80s, Killer Pussy had their biggest hit, “Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage” (1982), which subsequently was packaged by Rhino Records as part of its “worst records ever recorded” CDs. Shortly after the release of “Enema Nurses,” the band disintegrated, largely because of people quitting and because of the death of the band’s drummer and Gary’s good friend, John E. Precious (another nice, talented guy who died far too young).

After the band expired, Gary went into a downward spiral of alcohol and drug abuse (crack, meth, tobacco), and ended up on the street for the better part of a decade. The drug/alcohol abuse and depression were due, in part, to his musical dreams crashing; he had always thought he’d make it as a musician, never developed any job skills, and ended up working awful, low-paying jobs. When he worked, he work as a cabbie and later, when he could no longer do that, as a dispatcher.

To avoid jail, because of DUIs, he eventually left Phoenix and moved to San Diego to be near to his sister.

In the early 2000s he pulled himself out of his nosedive, got on SSD, and quit drinking and doing drugs for several years, while living in a trailer park in Lemon Grove. During those years I talked with him on the phone on a regular basis, mostly joking around, talking about old friends, and shooting the shit about music. He even got it together to record two self-produced CDs, as the Turquoise Orchestra, which never went anywhere.

Then things went to hell. About five years ago he started drinking again, and was soon drinking heavily (cheap whiskey and malt liquor). He continued to smoke heavily, and two years ago got rid of his phone so that he’d have more money for cigarettes and Steel Reserve.

I never spoke with him again. There was no way to reach him, and he never called me (or any of his other old friends).

Last year Gary could no longer care for himself and went into custodial care.

He died yesterday.

What a damn tragedy.

* * *

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia. Its protagonist, “Kel Turner,” is based, in part, on Gary Russell.

Free Radicals front cover

 


Of late, every vocabulary-deficient knuckle dragger on Craigslist seems to use the word “vintage” — often several times — when posting an ad for music gear. (I’m waiting with bated breath for them to start using the term “artisanal.”)

So, it seems like an appropriate time to remind readers of what the term actually means.

* * *

VINTAGE, adj. As used on Craigslist, old, overpriced, beat to hell. More simply, “shit,” as in “vintage guitar amp.”

* * *

–from the revised and expanded edition of The American Heretic’s Dictionary, the best modern successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary

American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover