Archive for the ‘Music’ Category


(First off, apologies for any grammatical or other lapses in the following: I haven’t slept for two nights, now, and am feeling a bit tetchy.)

Anyway, getting to the topic at hand, I played two-and-a-half sets at one of the local bars on Thursday night, and two songs in I wanted to kill the bass player (no drummer).

Why? His time sucks. He was pushing the tempo in almost every song. And that was exhausting for me, trying (unsuccessfully) to hold him back. His poor sense of time/rushing robbed me of most of the joy of playing music. I felt like King Canute, trying to hold back the tide with a pitch fork.

And that’s totally unnecessary.

It’s easy to develop a good sense of time. It’s boring, but it’s easy. Spend fifteen or twenty minutes a day on it for maybe three months, and you’ll have at least a decent sense of time. Most amateurs never attain that, which is why they remain amateurs.

My pal/bassist told me something the other night that was incredibly revealing: we were playing with another friend, a drummer, and the bassist was screwing up all over the place. At one point, when I waved my hands and said “Stop!” he was half a beat in front of me. His excuse? He couldn’t hear the bass drum — as if keeping time wasn’t his responsibility (as it is for everyone; but in a band it comes down like this: drummer first, bassist second; guitar/keys third; and in the absence of a drummer, it’s the bassist’s job.)

So, how do you develop a good sense of time? As I said, it’s easy but boring. Here’s how to do it:

  • Use a metronome. Play scales, play along with tunes (the drummer is almost certainly playing along with a click track). Metronome apps are easy to find and are free. There’s simply no excuse for not using one. Use a metronome or metronome app fifteen minutes a day for three months, and you’ll have decent time. You’ll find it boring, but it won’t kill you. And other musicians will want to play with you. If your time is crap, the good ones won’t. Suck it up and do the necessary work.
  • Subdivide. Get in the habit of doing it. In straight time, count 16th notes (“one-e-and-a two-e-and-a” etc.) or in swung time (“one and a two and a” etc.). I went out dancing with the GF recently, and she told me she could see me mouthing the subdivisions. It’s a great habit to get into.
  • Play slow. And count. It’s way easy to get into playing fast passages and then telling yourself, “Damn! That sounds good!” Slow it down, count it, and you’ll have it.

If you think that’s too boring, and won’t do it, you’ll never be any good.

 


No, we’re not talking about Trump, for once. We’re talking about the disgustingly dishonest ads claiming that Medicare for all will increase healthcare costs.

How stupid do they think people are? (The question answers itself.)

The insurance industry is buying tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions in ads attempting to convince morons that having a parasitic middle man in the healthcare-supply chain is somehow good, that it’s somehow good supporting a parasite whose only function is to extract the maximum amount of dollars in return for providing the minimum amount of healthcare.

You can gauge how effective that system is by realizing that the per-capita cost of healthcare in the U.S. is twice (often more) that of any other industrialized country, and that, in contrast with those countries where healthcare is universal, we have close to 40 million uninsured people and half-a-million medical bankruptcies annually.

The insurance/pharma vampires are spending massive amounts of money on online ads: Last night, while I was accessing on Youtube the Alacranes Mojados tune “Chorizo Sandwich” and Jonny Chingas’s “Se me paro” and “El Corrido del Bato Loco,” (yes, “bato” — perhaps the funniest tune ever recorded; the other two are close), I was assaulted with corporate ads opposing universal healthcare. These corporados, these merciless assholes, are targeting the people who have most to lose if they buy their death-dealing/profitable bullshit.

If you ever wanted proof that capitalism is inherently evil, this is it. Death and misery in pursuit of profits. Those responsible should simply be singled out, lined up against a wall, and shot. I’d happily pull the trigger.

Robert Cray review 9-2-19 Tucson

Posted: September 8, 2019 in Music
Tags: ,

Technically, all of these guys (especially Cray and the keyboard player) were great. Sometimes it’s just nice to see good players do their thing, no matter how predictable.

Having said that, I was bored shitless. Cray played somewhere between 16 and 20 tunes (counting the two encores — kudos to him for that) but all of the tunes were in a very narrow tempo and rhythmic range: all in straight time, but for a single song, and all in very narrow tempo range I’d estimate at about 100 – 120 bpm. A lot of the time the drummer was just playing a standard rock beat and minor variations thereof. That ain’t blues, no way, no how, nowhere. The only remotely interesting beat was one the drummer did on the snare and floor tom, shuffling the first beat, and then doing the rest straight (One …. a 2 and …. and 4) while using a shaker in his right hand.

The horrible part is that most of the audience loved it (including the GF — about 10% of the audience walked out, to their credit). The only changes in the tempo were in the final tune before the encores (about 140 to start and ramped up a bit from there) and the second, slow encore, which was probably in the mid-80s).

I’m very glad that I got comps for this — yes, I’m biting the hand that fed me — but Jesus Festering Christ, seeing Cray playing this formulaic crap is pathetic. He’s so much better than this. Or could be.

If he continues this crowd-pleasing crap, I wouldn’t drive across town to see him.

 


“The only thing hurts now is the pain.

 

My good bud Al Perry will have a new CD out soon, and I’ll be doing the graphic arts design for it, but for the cover graphic by Winston Smith.

As if to prove that Tucson is the smallest million-plus town in the country, one late recent night I met a guy at a Q-T to buy an equipment rack in the parking lot around midnight off craigslist. He stepped out of his truck, and it was Loren Dircks, guitarist from Gila Bend. One of Al’s longtime close friends, and a fantastic guitarist and good guy.

Another thing about another good guy — I wrote to Junior Brown recently and heard back from his wife, Tanya, about the guitar stand he uses in place of a strap. (I could probably use four of ’em — one for a solid body, another for an acoustic-electric, a third for a six-string banjo, a fourth for another acoustic-electric or solid body tuned in open A.)

The guy who built Junior’s stand, Michael Stevens, was good enough to write back and tell me how to build such stands. He didn’t have to do it — it was just out of the goodness of his heart. What a nice guy.

Yeehaw!

This sort of shit happens all the time around here. You think Austin’s cool? It is, but welcome to Tucson.

 


It’s been a while since we’ve posted one of these, so this’ll be a bit longer than usual. Given these dark times and the need for comic relief, we’re mostly featuring Funny Internet Crap this time around. We’ve found some choice items so, as always, hang onto your hats and enjoy.

* * *

  • Deadstate is always good for a few laughs amidst the political and religious horrors it tends to cover. Our current favorite story is “University psychiatrist: Saying Trump is mentally ill is a ‘terrible insult to the mentally ill.'”
  • Rudy Rucker’s Juicy Ghost is a  “a political sci-fi story,” that the standard sci-fi magazines thought was too hot to handle. (Rucker is a very well established sci-fi author — normally the mags would gobble up any short story he submitted.) So, because none of the magazines would publish it, Rucker put it up in its entirety on his own blog. It’s short, but highly enjoyable.
  • Everyone loves a good prank, and for some fun examples see this story about Jeff Wysaski’s “obvious plants.” They good, but not as good as the following fake poster plastered all over Santa Cruz a couple of years ago:

  • And everyone loves to indulge in schadenfreude (feeling joy at another’s misfortune). And it’d be hard to top the amount of pure joy one feels when viewing this video taken inside a restaurant in China by a live-streamer who filmed herself trying to eat a live octopus. By far the best thing about this is that she did everything from planning this animal-abuse atrocity to attempting to execute it herself. Bon appetit!
  • Speaking of animals and sheer nuttiness all wrapped up in a conspiracy theory, check out this story about the Birds Aren’t Real campaign. (Yes, birds have all been replaced by surveillance drones.)
  • If you think most modern pop music utterly sucks, you’re right. For an entertaining exposition on just how and why so much of it does, check out Axis of Awesome’s “How to Write a Love Song.”
  • And what better to finish with than what might be the funniest short video ever posted on Youtube dealing with fishing, rednecks, and beer. You’ve gotta love this guy.

And as we’ve said before . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . That’s all folks!

Porky Pig


My longtime close friend, since the mid-’80s, and bandmate in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Mick Berry — drummer/actor/playwright/stand-up comic extraordinaire — will be at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival performing his masterful one-man play, Keith Moon: The Real Me. In it, he recreates the alternately very funny and tragic life of Who drummer Keith Moon. There are many blurbs praising Micko’s playing and performance, but perhaps the best is from Keith Moon’s daughter Mindy, reflecting on Micko’s faithful recreations of her dad’s drumming: “Now I know what my dad’s drumming sounded like.”

Drummer’s Bible front cover

Micko is also the co-author of what is almost certainly the best-selling drum book of the new millennium, The Drummer’s Bible, a guide to playing every style under the sun from Afro-Cuban to Zydeco, along with our mutual friend and Micko’s co-author Jason Gianni, instructor at the Drummer’s Collective in NYC (which changed its name relatively recently, but I’m too lazy to look up the new name) and winner of a Platinum Record with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, (Micko is a master of Afro-Cuban and New Orleans-style drumming, while Jason is a master of off-time/compound-meter drumming; but they can both play almost any style to perfection — yes, they’re that good.)

Micko is also the co-author of Stage Fright, with Micheal Edelstein, PhD, a book on how to beat stage fright. with interviews from performers including Melissa Etheridge, Robin Williams, David Brenner, Mose Allison, Jason Alexander, and Maya Angelou. An expanded edition under a different, more accurate title, with a different cover, will appear in 2020.

As for the Fringe Fest, ticket max out at about 12 pounds ($16 dollars), so if you’re there and want to pay about what you’d pay for super-hero schlock from Hollywood, check it out. You’ll be glad you did.


Yep, that’s $155 combined for the guitar and the amp. Both were made in Meridian, Mississippi back in the late ’70s to mid ’80s, and the guitar cost me 75 bucks, and the 55-watt amp $80 off of Craigslist.

And they sound fantastic, proof that you don’t need a $2000 boutique tube amp and a $2000 ultra-high-end boutique guitar to sound good. I think my $155 rig would beat the crap out of any such combo. (Check out the video of tonight’s gig — which should be coming within a day or two, friends willing.)

What are the magic ingredients? A slightly upgraded Peavey Patriot solid body electric guitar, with SuperFerrite pickups (a beginner-level bolt-on solid body with ultra-hot, quiet pickups) and a slightly downgraded Peavey Bandit 65 solid-state amp. (“Downgraded” refers to the speaker.)

Tonight, I played a gig and ran into the guy I bought the Patriot from seven or eight years ago. He did me a huge favor by selling me that guitar for 75 bucks; he wasn’t mercenary, and decided to do some random guitar player — me! — a solid. I love the guitar: it’s fantastic; since then, I replaced the original crappy toggle pickup switch with a high quality knife switch, replaced the scratchy volume pot, and had it professionally set up. That’s all. Another 75 or 80 bucks.

As for the amp, it cost me 80 bucks off of Craigslist about ten years ago. These things originally had very high quality Sheffield Scorpion speakers, with heavy magnets. For no apparent reason — I hadn’t played it above about “5” and no one else had touched it — the speaker started buzzing a couple of years ago. I disassembled it, reassembled the magnet assembly a couple of times (yes, you can do that with these speakers), and the buzz didn’t go away, so I pulled the speaker, checked out what I had on the shelves, and replaced it with the only one that’d fit: a cheap, no-name 12″, 50-watt Chinese speaker (yes, lower wattage than the 55-watt Bandit’s rating) from a complete piece of shit Crate tube amp (but I repeat myself) I’d cannibalized years earlier after the power supply blew up because of construction defects. (As an aside, don’t bother with the more recent Peavey “trans-tube” models.)

Anyway, if you’ve ever heard an old Silvertone Twin from the 1960s, with tiny output transformers that super-saturate very easily, and deliver an incredible blues-distorted tone, this rig with the shitty Chinese Crate speaker essentially delivers the same. This is probably a one-off, so please don’t buy a Bandit and pull the high quality Sheffield and replace it with a random piece of shit speaker — you’ll likely be very disappointed. Bandits typically go on Craigslist for between $75 and $150, and they sound way-good as is.

As for the guitar, the Peavey Patriot comes in two flavors: one with two single-coil pickups, the other with a single bridge pickup, which is as useless as you’d suspect. (Anyone who’d buy such a guitar is forgiven as a 14-year-old moron who might eventually learn better, but it’s useless nonetheless.) Look before you buy. You should be able to find one on Craigslist for somewhere in the $100 – $250 range depending on condition and on whether it has a case.

There’s a near-equivalent model, which should sell for about the same: the Peavey T-15, which has a slightly shorter neck and slightly different body shape. Other than that, they’re identical.

As for the other Peavey “T” models, the Peavey T-60 has become fashionable in recent years, is the most in-demand, and typically sells in the $500 to $600 range. It’s the guitar Jerry Reed used on the “Smokey and Bandit II” album — with the great cut “East Bound and Down.” It has the two SuperFerrite humbucker pickups, but with a split switch to give you a single-coil tone if you want  it. The downside is that these thing play great, sound great, and, unless you’re young, strong, and will learn better by the time you’re 30, they’ll give you major back problems. The weight varies, but they’re far heavier than Les Pauls, with some weighing over 13 pounds. If you have the money and will use it only in the studio, get one. For day-in-day-out bar gigs, get something lighter, unless you have masculinity issues.

As for still other “T” models, I’ve owned Peavy T-25s, T-26s, and T-27s. I didn’t like any of them. The Strat-like T-27 (I believe, could be wrong about the model number) wasn’t good — equivalent action, but noticeably worse tone than my standard Strat. I’m rebuilding the one with SuperFerrite humbuckers (I believe the T-26), and, once I have new tuning machines in it, will set it up for slide (which is about all humbuckers are good for). Sorry for the confusion about the “T” Peaveys — the only ones I like are the 2-pickup Patriot, T-15, and T-60.

Enough for now. Time to pull apart my Peavey Classic 30, see why it’s howling, and fix it.

Cheers, Chaz

* * *

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (pdf sample here). He’s currently working on the sequel and an unrelated sci-fi novel, and is the author of An Understandable Guide to Music Theory. He also was the guitarist in Ass Deep In Hippies (in San Francisco), Pinche Blues Band (In Tucson), and is the guitarist in an upcoming a yet-to-be-named blues/rock/jazz/country band, mostly featuring old bandmates and both originals and covers in Tucson. Should be huge fun. For a sample of the originals, click here. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the free mp3s.)

Free Radicals, by Zeke Teflon front cover