Archive for the ‘Music’ Category


Here’s one from my old pal and ex-bandmate up in S.F.,  Mick Berry, who’s the co-author of The Drummer’s Bible: How To Play Every Style from Afro-Cuban to Zydeco:

“There are two types of people in this world: musicians, and other people who are even more unhappy.”

If you think that’s dark, here’s an earlier one: “Why don’t people who don’t play music just get it over with and shoot themselves?” (He wasn’t kidding.)

Micko, who just turned a spry 60, will be in Austria in May performing one of his one-man plays, Dad fought Hitler and Me, and will be in Los Angeles performing his latest one-man, Keith Moon: The Real Me, at the L.A Fringe Festival in June and then in Europe at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival a couple of months later.

Not that anyone cares, but he’ll also be in Tucson sometime this summer along with Bassist’s Bible author Tim Boomer to do some recording and to play a couple of jobs at the local blues dives along with yours truly and some talented local friends. It’ll be huge fun for either a no- or five-dollar cover featuring two great musicians.

(In the meantime, the surviving members of my 20-years-past blues band, Green Bullet Band, will be performing at House of Bards in early June, featuring my good bud, musical collaborator, and brilliant front man Brian Hullfish. The only front man I’ve ever seen who I though was better was David Byrne, with maybe Mick Jagger on a par. I’m not kidding. If you’re in Tucson, do yourself a favor and see this performance that will be free on a Sunday night. Stay tuned.)

 

 


It’s hard to boil these down to a dozen, fifteen, whatever, but here goes, not necessarily in this order; and these are only the first ones that come to mind, If you’ve never seen these, I think you’ll enjoy a lot of ’em:

  • The Wild Bunch (director’s cut). Sam Peckinpah’s bloodbath western, probably the first film to ever show the true brutality of the American West. Great acting, great dialogue, great cinematography. The political subtext is priceless — absolutely right on. You walk away from this one wanting to pick up a gun and slaughter the forces of repression. The best anarchist western. Absolutely inspiring. My favorite film.
  • The Producers. Mel Brooks’ funniest film. I defy you to watch the first fifteen minutes without falling out of your seat laughing. The musical number “Springtime for Hitler” is worth the price of admission.
  • Deconstructing Harry. Yeah, Woody Allen is creepy. But he’s a genius. This extremely funny film is Woody’s “fuck you” to all those who try to dismember him. Maybe his funniest film.
  • Crimes and Misdemeanors. Woody’s realistic drama for adults, showing that evil does sometimes triumph. Widely hated because people can’t handle the truth.
  • Double Indemnity. The film that proved that Fred MacMurray is a great actor. Intricate and well plotted. One of my favorite films noir.
  • The Third Man. Another great film noir. The cinematography is incredible, as is Orson Welles in one of the starring roles.
  • The Life of Brian. The Pythons’ most coherent and funniest film. As much a political as a religious satire.
  • Apocalypse Now. The surrealistic adaptation of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness — some of the dialogue on the river is word for word. Mind boggling.
  • Platoon. Oliver Stone’s depiction of his time in Vietnam. I cried uncontrollably while and after watching this. I will never watch it again. Never.
  • Downfall. Probably the best film since 2000. A gut-wrenching depiction of Hitler’s final days in the bunker. Brilliant acting.
  • Blue Collar, with Richard Pryor, Yaphet Koto, and Harvey Keitel.  One of the most brutal, accurate depictions of corruption in working-class life and organizations ever filmed. An unacknowledged masterpiece.
  • Taxi Driver. You talkin’ to me? . . . . .
  • They Live. With — ta da! — wrestler Rowdy Rider Piper, which strips away the illusions from the everyday bullshit we’re constantly subjected to.
  • Walk Hard. Almost certainly the funniest mockumentary about musicians short of Spinal Tap.
  • Speaking of which . . . smell the glove . . . . .
  • Ran. Kurozawa’s Japanese-adapted version of Lear.
  • Throne of Blood, Kurozawa’s Japanese-adapted version of MacBeth.

Enjoy! More to come . . .

Still another musician joke

Posted: November 25, 2018 in Humor, Jokes, Music

Two musicians on a way to a gig got in a head-on crash and died horrible deaths, mangled.

They’re standing in front of St. Peter, who says, “You’re good to go. Come on in.”

One of them stops and asks, “What about hell? Is it much worse than this? This sounds boring.”

St. Peter pauses and says, “You don’t want to know. It’s horrendous, horrible. Eternal pain, torture, screaming, Loose bowels, roasting flesh. Forever.”

The musicians look at one other, and the first one asks, “Do you know who books it?”

–and, yes, for once, I know who wrote this joke: Mick Berry

 


Pinche Blues Band and Michael Zubay

Pinche Blues Band at Boondocks Lounge a few years ago. Michael Zubay is at left playing bass guitar.

My good friend and on-again-off-again bass player for the last eight or ten years, Michael Zubay, died last night from cancer. I loved him. We clicked both musically and personally. If I wanted someone to talk to who I’d trust, Michael was the guy. He was honest, helpful, tremendous fun to be around, and tremendous fun to play with. He also was funnier than hell and had a good, dark sense of humor. He was a very good friend and a very good musician.

Michael was an atheist, and in place of a religious service there will be a day-long jam session and party for all of the musicians he played with over the years. No date yet, but I’ll post video if and when it’s available. (Update: The jam happened yesterday on November 11; Jay Werth videoed it, and I’ll post links to some of the videos once Jay has them up on Youtube.)

Here’s probably the best recording I have of Michael from back in 2014 when we had the Pinche Blues Band together. His bass lines are absolutely wonderful (check out the syncopation and how much the bass line drives).

Michael wrote a number of songs, and we’ll record his best one, “No Job Blues,” on our next CD (probably as Stone Dead). I’ll post it once it’s available.

More later.

 


“Without music, life would be a mistake.”

–Friedrich Nietzsche (can’t find the source for this, but widely attributed)

* * *

“Why don’t people who don’t play music just get it over with and kill themselves?”

–Mick Berry, co-author of The Drummer’s Bible

* * *

“Real musicians don’t dance.”

–bumpersticker sighted in Tucson circa 2010

* * *

“Women dress for women, musicians play for other musicians.”

— G. Michael Turner

(The only quibble I’d have with this is that there’s also a certain feeling of power when you’re on stage and have lots of people up dancing — “Hey! Heh, heh! I’m making them do that!” — and it doesn’t matter if you’re up there in a 7-piece, it’s still “I’m making them do that!” — which probably tells you more than you want to know about the mentality of musicians.)


Cover tunes are the mainstay with bar bands. A lot of bar bands do nothing but cover tunes. There’s nothing wrong with that; a lot of bands, including the Beatles and Stones, started that way. But it’s limiting, especially if you slavishly copy the originals.

It’s more fun to play a mix of covers and originals, especially if you do the covers in a manner different from and preferably better than the original recordings. The prime example of this is Devo’s version of the Stones’ Satisfaction. Unless you listen to the lyrics, you’d never guess it’s the same song. It’s a masterpiece on both counts, probably the prime example of “making a song your own.”

And then there’s the problem that audiences do not want to hear your originals, and they’re really not thrilled with greatly differing versions of tunes they know. So pander. Play the covers that you love and they love, but don’t waste time playing them note for note: as long as the rhythms are right and you’re hitting the signature licks, they’ll applaud.

With the bands I’ve played with, that means playing a lot of Doors covers. They’re huge fun to play (I love playing them without keyboards — filling in everything on guitar), and you can improvise your ass off as long as you hit the signature licks.

Sometimes even that’s not necessary as long as you keep the lyrics right. Sometimes not.

If you’re playing in a bar band, are doing both covers and originals, the best way to go is to copy the signature licks on covers, and then play in the same style. Or not (Devo) if you can do better.

Then listen some more, and find other covers. Then listen some more and make more improvements.

The punters (sorry, I’ve been corrupted by Brits) will love it, and they might not even hate your originals, no matter how good and original they are. Play ’em if they’re fun; ditto with covers. Just have fun — don’t slavishly copy — and have fun with all of it.

Cheers,

Chaz


Cover of "The Bassist's Bible: How to Play Every Bass Style from Afro-Cuban to Zydecoby Tim Boomer, author of The Bassist’s Bible: How to Play Every Bass Style from Afro-Cuban to Zydeco

The most common role for a bassist is, of course, to support his or her band rhythmically and harmonically. Bassists are not limited to any specific role, however, as we can do considerably more, such as playing the hook (or the melody) and soloing, improvising, and comping.

Providing a solid foundation for a band is still, however, the usual role of the bassist—especially if you play in a dance band. The bassist is the bridge between the melodic players and the rhythm section. You live in both worlds: melody and rhythm. You are that bridge.

There is truth in the saying that “You make most of your money below the fifth fret.” You establish the chord being played and the basis of the pulse simultaneously by playing the root note of the chord on the first beat of a measure (and at most chord changes). Next in importance to the root, usually, is the fifth, then the third or seventh. Pretty simple stuff, but it works.

It is also common to play patterns. Bass lines. This does not prevent you from varying the pattern in a musical way by slightly changing the notes played, note duration, or by adding a little syncopation, but over the course of a song there will still typically be a pattern. This might seem obvious, or easy, but you need to lock in with the drummer, be aware of solos, notice when the lead singer changes the form, watch the dancers on the floor, try not to knock over your drink, and still keep it interesting.

You can learn a lot by watching the dancers and seeing the effects of your playing. A groove is a pattern, a predictable sound that dancers can follow. Watch them. Bassists (and the rest of the band) may get bored playing the same lines over and over again, so, of course you’ll fill and vary the pattern in other ways, but if you break the groove too often, dancers will get out of sync, the thread will be broken, and the dancers will stop.

One way to be creative, and keep dancers happy, is to understand playing “in the pocket.” This is often described as playing in such a way that the groove is very solid. The bassist locks in with the drummer and never wavers. Using the standard rock beat as an example, the drummer plays kick drum on beat one (the downbeat) and also on beat three, and the snare on beats two and four. The bassist also plays precisely on the downbeat, followed by a pattern. That pattern can be a little ahead of the beat or behind the beat or exactly on the beat. As long as the drummer and bassist are in sync with each other, and play/feel the downbeat at the same time, they are in the pocket. You know it when youre in it, as it feels like the music is playing you, or the entire band is one instrument.

If you are not playing for dancers, you can leave the groove at any time—but returning to it provides resolution in a song. For instance, in jazz, the bassist (or more often a horn player or pianist) plays the “head” (the melody played in the first verse of a multi-verse song) after several choruses of solos to bring the tune to a close. And the audience will recognize it—“Oh look, theyre playing that theme again”—and any improvisation that came before the final statement of the head will seem intentional.

In the same way, once you have established the basic foundation of a song, look for holes where nothing much is happening—a sustained note or chord perhaps, or a straight groove. You can then find a space to develop an idea—either melodically or rhythmically. You can repeat a note, syncopate, or play (a) note(s) outside of the pattern you’ve established.

You can also intentionally leave holes by resting, as in Reggae bass lines. This sets up a pattern that extends across measures rather than a pattern that repeats within a single measure. It still allows complexity, but in a relaxed context. It also allows your bandmates a lot of space. Study Miles Davis to learn about the spaces in music.

Developing your own style has a lot to do with knowing when to play and when not to. In a few words: “If in doubt, lay out.” Typically, if there are vocals, you simplify and come down in volume to allow the focus to be on the vocalist.

Another important aspect of playing bass is to learn to use fills tastefully. Fills are usually played at the end of four– (or eight- or twelve-) measure patterns that lead to a new section of a song or the repeat of a verse. They are not played in random places.

This doesnt mean that a bassist must strictly follow rules. Jazz musicians and jam bands often break rules, and often get away with it—sometimes with brilliant results. It is simply helpful to know that some styles sound better when you play patterns typical of them.

The bass now encompasses everything from standup bass to electric bass to synthesized and sampled bass. Basses themselves now feature not just 4 strings, but 5, 6, and even 12 strings; theyre produced with up to 28 frets. There are both fretted and fretless basses, acoustic bass guitars, piccolo basses, and onboard-MIDI basses. And its certain that more variations are waiting in the wings.

The technique of playing these instruments has also evolved greatly over the years. Bass technique is virtually unlimited now. You can combine nearly any style with any other, from anywhere in the world. You can use effects, tap, slap, pluck, pick, thump, play with a bow (or an e-bow). You can lay down an unmistakable heavy groove or take extended solos in a jam format. You can also just play roots, fifths, and octaves on a standup or a P-bass and be happy.

As one of my deepest influences, John Entwistle from The Who, said when asked what he thought when he saw another bass player, and what he felt about the camaraderie of bassists: “The first thing I think of is poor fellow” (and, paraphrasing, “poor bastard”). We are underrated and underappreciated, but essential.

I love bass. Thank you all for being bassists. We need more of us.