Archive for the ‘Music’ Category


(We’re all  under a lot of stress right now and could use some comic relief; there are many other pieces on line showing exactly how Il Douche, Dumbasso Cheetolini, has royally screwed up America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic (here’s a good one from today), so I’ll be keeping the posts mostly on the light side for at least the next few weeks if not months, and also will be dipping into ones from the past. (We have over 1,500 archived posts, including over 500 in the humor category.) Here’s one from about five years ago that is, unfortunately, all too relatable — or at least will be again soon, I hope.)

MUSICIAN, n. A guy who spends five thousand dollars on instruments so he can drive a thousand-dollar car a hundred miles to make fifty bucks.

–Thanks to Mick Berry (former bandmate, drummer extraordinaire, and co-author of The Drummer’s Bible)

for this one


An Open Letter to the president
from Tommy Lee
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Dear Fucking Lunatic,
At your recent press conference – more a word salad that had a stroke and fell down stairs, you were CLEARLY so out of your depth you needed scuba gear. Within minutes of going off air your minions were backpedaling faster than Cirque De Soleil acrobats… In India a week ago, i couldn’t get past the bit about your being the most popular visitor in the history of fucking India — a country of a BILLION human souls that’s only 3000 years old, give or take.!!! Trust me – Gandhi pulled CROWDS.. You pulled a cricket stadium and half WALKED out…

Do you know how fucking insane you sound, you off-brand butt plug? That’s like the geopolitical equivalent of “that stripper really likes me” — only 10,000 times crazier and less self aware.

You are fucking exhausting. Every day is a natural experiment in determining how long 300 million people can resist coring out their own assholes with an ice auger. Every time I hear a snippet of your Queens-tinged banshee larynx farts, I want to scream!
We are fucking tired. As bad as we all thought your presidency would be when Putin got you elected, it’s been inestimably worse.

You called a hostile, nuclear-armed head of state “short and fat.” How the fuck does that help?

You accused a woman — a former friend, no less — of showing up at your resort bleeding from the face and begging to get in. You, you, YOU — the guy who looks like a Christmas haggis inexplicably brought to life by Frosty’s magic hat — yes, you of all people said that.

You attempted — with evident fucking glee — to get 24 million people thrown off their health insurance.

You gave billions away to corporations and the already wealthy while simultaneously telling struggling poor people that you were doing exactly the opposite.

You endorsed a pedophile, praised brutal dictators, and defended LITERAL FUCKING NAZIS!

Ninety-nine percent of everything you say is either false, crazy, incoherent, just plain cruel, or a rancid paella of all four.

Oh, by the way, Puerto Rico is still FUBAR. You got yourself and your family billions in tax breaks for Christmas. What do they get? More paper towels?

Enough, enough, enough, enough! For the love of God and all that is holy, good, and pure, would you please, finally and forever, shut your feculent KFC-hole until you have something valuable — or even marginally civil — to say?

You are a fried dick sandwich with a side of schlongs. If chlamydia and gonorrhea had a son, you’d appoint him HHS secretary. You are a disgraceful, pustulant hot stew full of casuistry, godawful ideas, unintelligible non sequiturs, and malignant rage.

You are the perfect circus orangutan diaper from Plato’s World of Forms.

So fuck you Mr. President. And fuck you forever.

Oh, and Pence, you oleaginous house ferret. Fuck you, too. You’ll be as useful as a chocolate teapot against a medical crisis you Bible thumping cock socket.


I’m going stir crazy, and I presume damn near everyone else is too — and after only two weeks.

After thinking about how much you dislike this mild form of isolation, please think about all of the prisoners subjected to total isolation for months or years on end think about how they feel, what it does to them. And then think about how the government you support subjects people to such psychological torture.

Whatever. Here are a few things that might help you pass the time in your mild form of lockdown:

  • Archive.org  has a very large library of classic films, including a very nice collection of films noir. All are free.
  • Kanopy features the Criterion collection of films and many others, and is free on many public library sites. The film I’ve seen most recently that I’d recommend is Harrod Blank’s (son of legendary countercultural director Mel Blank) Wild Wheels, a wonderful documentary about art cars and their creators. If nothing else will do it, this will leave with a kinder view of humanity, its creativity, and a smile on your face.
  • Learn the night sky. The best free tool to help you do this is Stellarium (free download). Probably the best planetarium program, regardless of cost. Even if you just have your naked eyes, you can learn the constellations and follow the planets. If you have even cheap, small binoculars, Stellarium will open a whole new world of deep sky objects to you; and if you have even a cheap kid’s 60 mm telescope, wow are you in for some fun — especially as both air pollution and light pollution abate with the coronavirus tragedy. (Always look on the bright side of life.)
  • Learn to sing or play an instrument. Even if you just have your voice, there are a lot of vocal lessons available on Youtube. Singing is also a great shame-attacking exercise. If you have even a cheap instrument available, there are likewise a hell of a lot of useful instructional videos. One Youtube channel that I’ve found particularly useful is GuitarPilgrim, though to take full advantage of the videos you need to be at least an intermediate-level player. Whatever, the guy is an incredibly good guitarist and also incredibly good at explaining how to do things. I can’t recommend this more highly — it’s head-and-shoulders above all of the other instructional guitar videos I’ve seen.
  • Write. If you’re reading this, you have the means to do it. Nowadays, there are an incredible number of aids available, both in your word processing program and online. My favorite tool is probably the self-explanatory thesaurus.com. And buck up — today, you have it good: take advantage of all the tools. For both nonfiction and fiction, it’s a great idea to write a highly detailed outline before you start writing. You won’t follow it, but it’s a great jumping-off point.
  • Garden. As long as the water stays on, you’re good. Even if you’ve never done it before, it should be pretty easy. I live in one of the most hostile environments in the U.S. for gardening (alkaline, nutrient-deficient soil, low rainfall, brutal sun), and I still get good yields. If I can do it here, you can do it anywhere. A lot of public libraries have seed catalogs which will help to get you started. Helpful hints: start small — if you’ve never gardened before, start with a garden of under 100 s.f.; buy seeds or get them free from a seed catalog — do not buy individual plants for $3 or $4 apiece from a big-box store. They’re an incredible rip. Six-packs for $3 or so aren’t a bad way to go (far from great, but not terrible), but spending three bucks or more for a start is obscene. And then start saving seeds and saving money next year. (Sorry to sound so mercenary, but cost is a consideration, even with treating Mother Earth well. And I hate ripoffs.)

Much more on all this later.

For now, please meditate on how the government tortures your fellow human beings with solitary confinement.


A couple of nights ago I was talking with my longtime friend, ex-stand-up comic, and ex-bandmate, drummer extraordinaire Mick Berry. We’ve both been working on our vocals recently, but for very different reasons: me, because I’m sick of dealing with egomaniac vocalists; Micko, because he’s sick of dealing with musicians period, and wants to go out and do solo gigs playing piano and singing.

Anyway, he suggested that I do some singing and let him critique it. I panicked. Over the last year, I’ve sung several times during jobs at bars and thought nothing of it, but this spooked me: Micko actually has ears and I value his opinion; this is in stark contrast to audiences, who (god bless ’em)  tend to be way too forgiving.

Anyway, Micko finally talked me into it, and I reluctantly said, “I’ll do it as a shame-attacking exercise.”

He replied without missing a beat:,”You didn’t realize that all music performance is a shame-attacking exercise?”


The good news is that we’re not out of biz. And if we (See Sharp Press) can survive this, we can survive anything (barely).

We have a couple of really good new books coming up within the next few months (release date depending on the pandemic), Chris Mato Nunpa’s Great Evil, about Christianity the holocaust of Indigenous peoples and the ecosphere, and the Bible; and the conclusion of T.C. Weber’s Sleep State Interrupt anarcho-thriller trilogy, Zero Day Rising.

Beyond that, since I have little else to do in self-quarantine other than tend to my pets/owners — at times an inverted relationship — play music, write music, and work in the garden, I’m pretty safe. According to the CDC, Arizona is one of the states that has widespread community transmission of the coronavirus, so I rarely go out. When I do, I bump doors with my shoulder, and punch screens with a plastic bag between my hand and the screen. I still want my IPA, but hey, I’ll live (or not) if I don’t get it.

As for books and blog posts, Dakota elder Chris Mato Nunpa’s The Great Evil will be out in June; and I’m making huge strides with 24 Reasons to Abandon Christianity — about 30,000 words in at present.

Also, I’m well on my way to recording two music CDs. Between mine, my good bro’s Michael Turner’s, and the ones I wrote with my friends/ex-bandmates Brian Hullfish and Michael Zubay, we have two full CDs+ of original material. We’ll probably use the name Blues Evangelists (spreadin’ the good news of the blues.)

Other than that, I’ll be finishing off the graphic arts work for Al Perry’s new all-instrumental CD., for which Winston Smith did the cover graphic, after a water color by Al. I’m doing everything beyond that, and Al did me the honor of asking me if I’d play second guitar when the CD release finally happens sometime this fall down at Club Congress. Of course I agreed. (Here’s a link to one of Al’s funniest recent tunes, Jukebox Jihad.)

Enough for now. I’ll put up another post within a day or two with a lot of actually useful shit.

It’s going on dawn, and Red is rising. “Red” is the formerly skeletal, now plump, Rhode Island Rhode Red rooster who showed up here last June, and rooted around in my garden for a week or two, until I started feeling sorry for him and started feeding him. The neighbors did, too. He became the neighborhood pet. Dumb as a box of rocks, but still pretty and lively. They’re talking about buying some hens and putting up a hen house in their backyard.

I hope they do it soon.

 

 

 


An Understandable Guide to Music Theory front coverby Chaz Bufe, author of An Understandable Guide to Music Theory

Yeah, I know. This would carry more weight if I were better known, but I’m not. I think this is good advice, anyway.

Here are a few samples of my songs for you to pick apart. (A note on the first song: I am a former postal worker.)

Hemingway once said, “Write drunk. Edit sober.” That’s great advice for writing fiction and for writing songs (not so much for writing nonfiction). The takeaway is not to self-censor: knock the “what are you doing!? that’s awful” devil off your shoulder and just have fun. Who knows what you’ll come up with?

Of course, most of what you come up with won’t be good. So what? If even 5% of what you write is decent, let alone good, you’ll be ahead — you’ll have written something you wouldn’t have written if you’d self-censored. (The self-damning, self-censoring devil is far from infallible.)

Beyond that, here are a couple of other ideas:

  • Record every session where you’re trying to come up with songs
  • If you can’t record yourself and come up with something you like, play it over and over again, at least a dozen times: that way, there’s a decent chance you’ll remember it.

And another:Front cover of The Drummer's Bible Second Edition

  • Either have a lot of beats down in your head (e.g., standard shuffle, 12/8, standard rock beat, polka, samba, standard swing beat, 3-2 clave, soca, waltz) when you write songs, or listen to rhythm tracks with the various beats. (Self-advertisement: About 20 years See Sharp Press published a still-unmatched encyclopedia of beats with close to 200 of ’em on CDs, The Drummer’s Bible).

That’s it. Some people claim to come up with good songs by writing something everyday, which is plausible — and will mostly result in crap; but again, that 5% that might be good . . . — but the best ones just seem to come to you whole. They usually take no more than a half-hour to write. The two examples above being Postal and Abductee Blues.

Don’t self-censor and have fun.

 

 


No, I’m not going to name the band or the bar, which would give it away.

They were incidental to why I went up to the local dive to watch the ‘9ers game. Unfortunately, the band came on during half-time, so I had no choice but to listen to them.

All of them were good to very good players (the bassist), and I haven’t heard so much wrong with a band (maybe three bands combined) in ages.

Here’s what was wrong:

  • They were way late setting up, the earliest of them arriving half-an-hour before they were due on; (normally you want to be there at least an hour before);
  • The drummer didn’t arrive until 20 minutes before they were due on;
  • He was so late they didn’t do a sound check;
  • They didn’t have monitors;
  • All they were miking was the vocals;
  • And as a result, the mix was way off during the first set, with the snare way too loud during the first three or four numbers;
  • Because they didn’t do a sound check, the vocal mics were feeding back, sometimes painfully, for half the set, and they didn’t have anyone riding the board so they didn’t adjust for it;
  • Despite the feedback problems, the vocals were too far down in the mix (yes, it is possible);
  • It sounded like the vocals were dry (i.e., no reverb or other FX);
  • On the final two or three tunes, they had some idiot sitting in playing claves badly — think the clunk, clunk, clunk of “Magic Bus” rather than the
    clink, clink, clink that you want — and just enough off the beat, and irregularly so, that it was annoying as hell;
  • They had two — not one, but two, count ’em, two — keyboard players, and on many of the numbers the keyboard player playing lead was using a soul-sucking artificial synth sound a la The Cars that was abandoned for good reason back in the early ’80s;
  • I didn’t like the guitarist’s tone (too muted in an attempt to be pretty — but that’s just me);
  • And (a more general whine) they advertised themselves as a “soul” band, but they didn’t do soul — they did lounge, the closest thing to soul being their closing number, Al Green’s “I’ll Be There”;
  • And, of course, just covers, no originals — it ain’t that hard to write originals, but writing good ones is another matter; why most musicians don’t even try it is beyond me.

At the break, they finally did a sound check. I had to sit through their first couple of numbers in the second set before the ‘9ers kicked the winning field goal in the final seconds. (Go ‘9ers!)

What I noticed was:

  • The feedback was finally gone;
  • The balance was a bit better
  • The vocals were still too far down in the mix;
  • They were still dry;
  • And their material was almost as awful, non-soulful ands non-original as in the first set.

The lessons here are pretty obvious:

  • Get there early enough to do a sound check;
  • Do a sound check;
  • Use monitors;
  • Mic everything (and I mean everything);
  • If you’re not competent to do a good mix, have someone along who’s competent to do the sound;
  • And above all deliver what you promise: if you promise blues, play blues; and if you promise soul, play soul.