Posts Tagged ‘Tucson’


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

 

 

 

 

 

 


Tucson has a supposedly liberal city government — which okayed the brutal crackdown on Occupy Tucson six years ago — and a seemingly genuine good-guy, community-policing chief of police, Christopher Magnus, the gay former chief of police of mostly black Richmond, California.

One of my neighbors just passed her citizenship test. She’s over 50, so the government charged her a mere $1200 to do it, rather than the standard $1700.

Yes, they charge people $1700 to become citizens.  We’re talking about people who are mostly low income and an asset to society. How wrong is that?

Three weekends in a row my neighbor and/or her kids were racially profiled on First Avenue. Stopped in the university district for bullshit reasons. Nothing stuck. They were stopped for Driving
While Mexican. (In contrast, I’m an old long-haired redneck with peeling bumper stickers all over the tailgate of my 20-year-old truck — when I bought it I immediately de-choloed it for fear of racial profiling — and I haven’t been stopped in decades.)

The reasons? Apparent lack of insurance (wrong) on two occasions. On one of them, my neighbor, a 56-year-old woman living here for the last 20 years, who just passed her citizenship test this past week, was cuffed and stuck in the back of a squad car. For total bullshit reasons. They let her go after 15 minutes, but can you imagine the trauma? Can you imagine how she felt and how her 21-year-old son felt seeing his mom cuffed and tossed in the back of a squad car?

Now, my neighbors avoid the university district. They stick to Stone for the north-south corridor. At least there they stand a decent chance of avoiding racist cops.

Can you imagine how you’d feel seeing your mom treated in such a manner. Can you imagine it?

Yeah, imagine it — imagine seeing your mom in cuffs, treated so disrespectfully, and you’ll start to get what it’s like being black or Mexican in Tucson, in America.

And, yeah, as you’ve probably guessed, there’s no way on the Tucson PD site to contact Chief Magnus directly.

I did eventually find a complaint form on the TPD site and did fill it out, essentially setting myself up as a target. I think there might be as much as a 25% or 30% chance that the TPD will do something about the racial profiling rather than just put a bulls eye on my back and fuck me over, but I’m so angry about this that I’ll take my chances.

 


Sharp & Pointed: You grew up in Phoenix, but I can’t imagine you as a shitkicker. What kind of music were you listening to back then?

Al Perry: I don’t know about that. I have some definite shitkicker elements. I’m an intellectual redneck! (Someone else called me that). So it was country around the house, like Marty Robbins and Eddy Arnold. Spent a lot of time in my room with a little transistor radio listening to the AM top 40 of the Sixties, and what was considered oldies back then.

Sharp & Pointed: Who were some of your favorite bands and solo artists then?

Al Perry: I started out with the Beatles, like many of us that age. Then went to Cream, Airplane, Hendrix, and such.

Sharp & Pointed: Has your opinion of them changed over time? If so, how and why?

Al Perry: I don’t like hippie or psychedelic stuff so much any more. Hendrix is still good though I didn’t listen to him for many years. Some of the Cream stuff is too self indulgent for me now. Still like the Beatles, though now I don’t pay as much attention to them as I did. You could not escape them then. They were on the radio all the time. Same with the Beach Boys, who I’ve loved for a long, long time. I don’t even listen to hardly any rock anymore. Bores me. I got through the Seventies on jazz and blues. Parker, Coltrane, Dolphy, Muddy, Clifton, and the like.

Sharp & Pointed: When did you start playing music? What instrument(s)? What styles were you playing?

Al Perry: Had piano lessons for a short time, then guitar. Like this was in third grade. Glad I had them though, they really helped out later. But really, it was well after high school before I became interested enough in playing to take it up. By that time I was sick of rock and was starting to explore blues and jazz. Seventies Rock got REALLY stale. ‘Til the Pistols shook everything up and got me interested again.

Sharp & Pointed: When did you start playing in bands?

Al Perry: In college.

Sharp & Pointed: What kind of music?

Al Perry: My first band was the Subterranean Blues Band here in Tucson. We did OK for the short time we were together. Played parties then later got some great opening slots: Roy Buchanan, John Cougar, Blasters, Fabulous Thunderbirds, maybe more. Don’t remember. Then I was in the Hecklers, a sort of “roots punk band” that was very loud and pretty fun, we were reviewed in Maximum Rock n’ Roll, and Jello Biafra was a fan. I’ve known him for decades now. The Hecklers morphed into the Cattle.

Sharp & Pointed: Who were some of the bands and musicians you were playing with then?

Al Perry: George Howard was vocals and drums in the Subs. Also the late Pat McAndrews on guitar. My buddy Lee Poole. We are still in touch a lot. Same with George.

Sharp & Pointed: Did you do vocals when you started playing in bands, or did that come later? If so, when?

Al Perry: After the Subs I played bass for a couple months in a Southern Rock Band. We actually did an album. Whoa! My first record. Highly prized collectable now. Not. I was only meant to be temporary and left. Lack of interest in that stuff. Then it was the Hecklers. I sang a little in that and wrote all the songs. That morphed into Al Perry and the Cattle.

Sharp & Pointed: You moved from Phoenix to Tucson ages ago. When and why?

Al Perry: I moved away at the first available opportunity, which was school. Had to get out. Hated it in Phoenix.

Sharp & Pointed: Why didn’t you ever move back to Phoenix? Why not?

Al Perry: Haven’t you ever been there? It’s HORRIBLE. Even when I go up I come back as soon as I can. I still have many great friends there though. It’s gotten better there, but I would not want to actually live there. 

Sharp & Pointed: When did you start playing cowpunk (alt-country? whatever)? Why?

Al Perry: I guess that was the Hecklers and then Cattle. Both bands explored roots type music, doing that stuff but with a modern energy. Punk was happening and that injected some fresh whatever into rock. I did not really think that mixing stuff up inappropriately was unusual. It was just what you did. I didn’t try to do anything, it just sort of happened. I guess I was an early inventor of “cowpunk” or at least it’s fun to frame it that way. HAW!

Sharp & Pointed: What’s the best experience you’ve ever had playing music?

Al Perry: Too many to mention, my friend.

Sharp & Pointed: What’s the worst experience you’ve ever had playing music?

Al Perry: WAY too many to mention! HA!

Sharp & Pointed: You play both in bands and as a solo performer. Which do you prefer, and why?

Al Perry: I like bands of course. It is fun to hear your songs fleshed out. It’s also like a gang. I only do solo because I am so lazy anymore.

Sharp & Pointed: What do you like about playing in bands?

Al Perry: Fuckin’ rockin’ out LOUD dude.

Sharp & Pointed: What do you dislike about playing in bands?

Al Perry: Guys messing up my vision. Idiots who don’t have musicianship. It is important to play for the song, not for yourself. Some clowns don’t get that.

Sharp & Pointed: What do you like about solo performing?

Al Perry: The only thing I like about it is that it’s ME and me only that is responsible for the success or failure of any given performance.

Sharp & Pointed: You’re a prolific songwriter. What’s your songwriting process? Or is there more than one?

Al Perry: I am absolutely not prolific, unless you count these instrumentals and stuff, that I just consider thrown together. To me, songwriting is really a vocal, lyrics, verse chorus kind of thing.

Sharp & Pointed: How has the music biz changed over the years?

Al Perry: No one is interested anymore and there are way way way too many people in bands.

Sharp & Pointed: Is it harder or easier to make a living playing music now than it was 20 or 30 years ago? Why?

Al Perry: Much harder. People are not interested.

Sharp & Pointed: Has American pop music (everything from jazz to rock to country) been getting better or worse during your lifetime? Why?

Al Perry: Worse, of course. But I am interested in so many things, there is always something new to discover.

Sharp & Pointed: Are there any aspects of current American pop that you particularly hate?

Al Perry: I actually like some current pop stuff. That comes as a surprise to a lot of people. Kelly Clarkson, Meghan Trainor. Super cheese factor stuff.

Sharp & Pointed: Among relatively recent American bands and musicians, are there any that you particularly like? Why?

Al Perry: I mostly like the groups of my friends. As I said I’m not so interested in rock anymore.

Sharp & Pointed: You have a Youtube channel. What’s its name and what kind of stuff are you putting up on it?

Al Perry: It is alperryism. I put up these dumb little videos I make on imovie. I do some instrumental soundtracks, those are fun.

Sharp & Pointed: What are your musical plans over the next year or two?

Al Perry: I’m officially old now. I find my interest is declining.

Sharp & Pointed: Do you have any advice for young musicians? If so, what?

Al Perry: Buy some drywall tools and learn how to use them, because you are never going to make a living with music. Go into real estate. You are in for a lot of heartbreak and frustration otherwise. Unless you have a trust fund.

Sharp & Pointed: You also do artwork in addition to music. When did you start doing that?

Al Perry: I have always dabbled in it. But in the last few years I started doing these watercolors. It’s actually gone pretty well, and I have even sold some. I was part of a group show at the Fleicher/Ollman gallery in Philadelphia, an established gallery, and it was quite an honor.

Sharp & Pointed: Where can people see some of your artwork?

Al Perry: I think you can look around online. Or get hold of me. I’ll mail you a postcard.

Sharp & Pointed: Other than music and art, what are your other interests?

Al Perry: Drugs, alcohol, contempt, boredom. What kind of question is that? Music and art? Hello! What else is there?


Photo of Women's March in Tucson 1-21-17, by Nicole Hennig

(all photos in this post courtesy of Nicole Hennig)

The women’s rights/anti-Trump protest in Tucson on January 21 was probably the largest political event in the history of Tucson, despite nasty weather — rain, wind, and temperatures around 50 degrees F (10 C). (The previous largest event was an anti-SB 1070 — “papers please” law — march in 2010 that drew 10,000 people.)

Photo by Nicole Hennig of Women's Rights march in Tucson on 1-21-17My estimate of the number of participants was somewhere north of 10,000, which, strangely enough, was, as I learned later, also the estimate of the Tucson Police Department. (Either I’m losing my touch when it comes to estimating crowd size or the cops are becoming more honest.)  Other estimates put the total at 15,000 marchers, which given that people were coming and going throughout the multi-hour event could well be a more accurate estimate.

As always at such events, one of the best things about it was seeing the often inventive and sometimes hilarious signs carried by participants. Of course, there were a lot of “Pussy Grabs Back” signs along with those referencing Trump’s tiny hands (“Keep your tiny hands off my reproductive rights”). The signs, in addition to mocking Trump, advocated for the familiar good causes: reproductive rights, action on climate change, increasing the minimum wage, universal healthcare, ending racial discrimination, LGBT rights, etc., etc.

My favorite sign (unfortunately no photo available) was a small one reading, “Thou shalt not control the body of another.” I Fallopians 1:1.

Sign from Women's Rights march in Tucson 1-21-17, photo by Nicole Hennig

The other good thing about the march/rally was seeing old friends. It’s a reminder that we’re not alone and that there’s strength in numbers. Conversely, I found it encouraging that out of the thousands and thousands of people at the march I only saw two that I knew plus a couple of familiar faces that I couldn’t put names to. It was another reminder that we’re not only not alone, but that there are many, many other people on our side who are doing good work, but of whom we’re unaware.

That brings up the question, “Where do we go from here?” That’s a complicated enough question that it deserves a post devoted entirely to it. Expect one tomorrow.

Sign from Women's Rights March 1-21-17, photo by Nicole Hennig


No, I’m not going to belabor the obvious. I’m not going to talk about the difference between language and lashing, between pious preaching and priestly pedophilia.

As those of you who haven’t unsubscribed might have noticed, I dropped an “F-bomb” for effect at the end of the next-to-last post.

Why? Precisely because it had an effect.

It’s still an effective means of shocking people, sometimes for the sheer sake of shock (as in that post), and sometimes for the sake of accurate portrayal of everyday language.

A few days ago I was talking with a friend who’s done construction work for decades. He recently worked on the new Mormon temple up in the foothills.

It is, of course, a monstrosity. A raised middle finger to the environment and the people of Tucson. As are all Mormon temples. (And yes, the ugliness is deliberate: they build temples according to pre-ordained plan.)

To add insult to injury, they demanded that all of the construction workers building their temple have no visible tattoos and refrain from cursing while on the job. (No, I’m not kidding.)

I asked him, “Do they have any fucking idea of what construction workers are like?”

Apparently not. (used to be one myself)

Decades ago, for an environmental organization, I canvassed the neighborhood downhill from the recently constructed Mormon temple in the Oakland foothills.  The Mormons had capped a number of springs on their property, and the water, as one would expect, found a way out, destroying several houses in the process.

The Mormons, of course, refused to admit that their tax-exempt temple was in any way responsible for the destruction of the tax-paying properties below them.

Now that’s obscene.

(Sorry, couldn’t resist pointing out the obvious.)

 


(Names and most other identifying details have been omitted from the following amusing if appalling story in order to protect the guilty.)

I was sitting around a few days ago talking with a friend. His wife is a really good cook, but she’s been on a health kick the last couple of years, as have her three sisters.

It’s the time of year to make Christmas tamales, and he told me that since his wife and her sisters have gotten into “healthy eating,” the tamales have been “horrible.”

This year he decided to take preemptive action. As they were preparing to make the tamales, he walked in with four 5-pound blocks of Snowcap lard and said, “Here. Use this. All of it.”

(Lard is the key ingredient in Mexican food, at least in good Mexican food.)

At that point, his wife said, “We’re trying to eat healthy. We don’t want to get fat.”

His reply: “You’re Mexican. You’re gonna get fat anyway.” (This isn’t quite as bad as it sounds, as it’s also self-referential: he’s 5’10” and weighs a good 270.)

He escaped with his life, and he and the rest of his family will be chowing down on delicious, lard-drenched tamales well into the new year. He might weigh 280 by the time the tamales run out, but it’ll be a happy 280.

 

 

 


Don Lacey, state director of the year (Arizona) for American Atheists, had a great idea and put it into practice. (We do not endorse American Atheists.)

Don’s insight was that the most important thing atheists can do is to build community, and have fun.  And everything else will flow from that. (The AA hierarchy gave him an incredible amount of grief about this.)

So, Don started the Tucson atheist meetup groups a few years ago. Purely social groups, and they grew.

There are now about 1,300 members of the Tucson Atheist Meetup groups. Some have moved beyond the purely social and are doing good, everything from lobbying the legislature to picking up trash along the highways.

Would they have done it without Don’s initial push? I don’t think so.

Years ago, a friend of mine, Jon Russell, told me that social-change groups were doomed unless their activities were at least 80% fun. People would do the work after that.

Jon and Don were right.

I’ve been involved with leftist/anarchist and atheist groups for about 50 years now. The universal constants are that the internal dynamics are the same: joyless work is the raison d’etre for damn near all of ’em, and it’s the reason that damn near all of ’em fail. A big part of that is that the people into self-sacrifice almost invariably also  expect others to sacrifice themselves.

This is what people joining atheist and other do-good groups typically face when joining: “Give up all hope ye who enter here. And don’t whine about it.”

Is it any wonder that people join atheist and other social change groups, hoping for something different, something better, and then leave in droves?

Don Lacey defied the leftist/atheist puritans, and founded the most successful atheist group in the country. A group based on voluntarism, on simple attraction, on voluntary cooperation — a group that gets things done, in contrast to damn near every other puritanical, self-sacrificing atheist group in the country.

* * *

If you’re down here in Southern Arizona, please join us. You’d be a welcome addition. And if you’re not around here, please consider starting your own purely social Meetup group. Trust us. You’ll have fun, and you’ll get a hell of a lot more done than if you start a joyless, self-sacrificing cause-oriented group.