Getting good and solid drum sounds at home is one of the most difficult things the home recorder can do. Getting the equipment you need to do it right is expensive and the time it takes to get it right is extensive. But if you have the time and money, and can figure out a technique that works, the plusses are many. You’ll be in the comfort of your own place, and there’s less pressure. You can relax and being relaxed is key to getting a good take.
Keith Dempster from New York’s Ground Control Studio spoke about some basics when it comes to recording drums at home:
What are the first things you do when you are getting drum sounds at home? Keith: Hide the bong. And hide all bonglike apparati.
What’s more important, good mics, or good preamps?
Well, the most important thing in home recording your drums is the room. The room dictates the drums' sound more than anything. If you want a big drum sound, you need a pretty live room. You want lots of reflection. People may only have a small room to use, or rooms that are carpeted. But there are still things you can do to liven it up:
Get three or four 4x8 foot sheets of plywood and put them up against the walls of the room. And place one on the floor, right in front of the kick drum. This adds reflective surfaces to that room.
Also, try the garage, if you have one. Try all the biggest rooms in the place. You want reverberation. You’ll need to get long mic cords so the mics can reach your mixer.
What’s a special Keith micing trick?
It’s not that special, but after you’ve mic’d the kit, tuned the drums, and there are no phasing issues, try putting an extra mic just outside the door. It'll catch additional ambient sound. It’s nice to have that when you’re mixing. It could give your sounds character.
Talk about phasing.
When two mics are picking up the same sound, the problem of delayed sound causes phase issues. Things get worse when outputs are added together at the mixing desk. When two signals are close in frequency and level but out of time with each other, there is a phase difference. The peaks of one signal are in time with the dips of the second signal and the result is a cancellation of the signals’ energy. Your drums sound weak. Someone told me it’s like someone pushing on a door at the same time another person pulls on the same door - it doesn’t move.
Out of Phase:
To get around phasing issues in multiple mic set-ups the 3:1 Rule is used:
Two mics should be placed apart from each other at least three times their distance from the sound source. In this way, the sound waves that each mic receives are different enough to minimize phase cancellation.
In Tacoma there is a man called DJ Mountain Purse. He is a mystery. His rap is what he calls ‘Rat Nibble’. It’s a combination of skank, Mad Lib fill in the blanks, Two $hort, and lo fi wherewithal. DJ Mountain Purse calls himself a con man, and he raps like he has a tick. He says he doesn’t need instruments or laptops or a backing band. All he needs is a street and his flow. He’s also really into Oxycodone.
DJ Mountain Purse self released his 2nd cassette called The Gazelle Will Spring and I Will Eat it Before it Hits the Ground. I don’t think he ever does shows. He recorded his cassette straight to boombox.
We spoke. Mountain Purse wore all white. He asked that I not take his picture:
Are you a gangster? Mountain Purse: I’m whatever you want me to be. Gangster, maybe. Politco. Street guardian. I am an unheard of brand of malt liquor. I’m the drama in Dramamine. I’m Sarah Palin’s daughter’s unborn son.
Are you high?
You say you don’t need instruments. Could you talk about that?
They get in the way. When I rap, I see things. Yesterday I was rapping behind the glass museum about one pimp lighting another pimp’s car on fire. I saw archways. Like Roman aqueduct archways. If there had been instruments, my words and their stream of free form release would never have escaped my mouth.
But you have beats and samples on your CD, where did you get your beats? (He sampled Soundgarden’s “Jesus Christ Pose”.) If you don’t need instruments and they get in the way, why didn’t you do the cassette as a vocal only thing?
Because I can do anything I want.
Do you think Soundgarden would be pissed you are using their sample?
You’re not one of those guys are you – all lawed out? What a drag it must be to suck that bad. Besides, I don’t use samples, they use me. Samples find me.
If you had a video, would there be a Yacht in it?
That is a perplexing question. I am not opposed to Yachts and or speedboats. I realize they are metaphorical representations of excess in the hip hop world. It’s just that I can’t swim. I think I would do my video in an aviary. I’d be rapping and sitting in a birdcage with parrots all over me. You would be below, cleaning my droppings and shit off of newspaper.
The indie-prog, Jamie Henkensiefken powered band H is for Hellgate have a new album coming out in November called Come for the Peaks, Stay for the Valleys. The band is named after a canyon in Missoula, MT and some have called their music tricky. Tricky as in quirky, maybe. Sincere as in full rock action, definitely. Their next shows are 10/30 at the Hawthorne Theatre in Portland, and 12/5 at the High Dive here for the CD release show.
Jamie spoke about making the new album:
What gear got you the most excited during the recording? Jamie: The gear that got me the most excited was some of the crazy older gear at the studios where the album was recorded and mixed. The engineer, Mark Mercer, and I did a lot of guitar overdubs at Click and Pop in Ballard where they have an Echoplex tape delay. We got all Led Zeppelin on a few of the guitar tracks which were treated lightly with the Echoplex. We mixed at Avast! Classic, and used both of the plate reverbs they have, but the most exciting plate was the old German one that's the size of a ping-pong table.
We stuck mostly with the instruments that we play live: two guitars, bass and drums, with the exception of some synth pad tracks on a few songs and the Wurlitzer on the song "Blood." I did have fun finally utilizing the pitch shift feature on my Boss PS-5 on the song "Copernicus and Me." I usually just use that pedal octave harmonization. Also on that song, I made some string noise with a brass slide in the intro and mid-song breakdown.
H Is For Hellgate - "Copernicus and Me"
Any weirdness during the sessions? Break down some sort of weird technique or occurrence.
I did some guitar overdubs at Avast with just Mark and I late one night through an old Fender Champ that sounded sweet, but had a loose tube. So, Mark had to hit record in the control room, run out to the amp and, with his sweater sleeve over his hand, hold the tube in place while I played the overdubs. It was a little fun extra pressure to nail the lines because I didn't want him to fry his fingers off.
Mark also had a contact mic that he stuck on the back of my guitar headstock to pick up the percussive string noises. Those tracks were blended in a few times throughout the album.
What was your process?
We recorded drums, bass, and guitars live with the drums in the enormous Studio A room at Avast!. We did some guitar overdubs, vocals, and keys at Click and Pop. We mixed at Avast! Classic in Wallingford because they have a board with automation. Plus, Sleater-Kinney recorded The Hot Rock at Avast! Classic, so I was able to dork out over being in the studio where one of my favorite albums was made.
How did the sessions go? What was the biggest challenge?
It went well. None of us in the band were that experienced in a "professional" recording environment and it was awesome to show up, play, and not worry too much about having to do my own engineering. I home-recorded our first album and, of course, there's the trade off of having a ton of time to record a lot of extra tracks and spend a lot of time on production versus showing up to a studio you're paying and trying to record as much as you can in your allotted time. But the quality of gear we were able to use totally made that trade off worthwhile. The production is really straightforward, but it sounds like our band. And, there were no emotional meltdowns or fights, so hooray for us.
The biggest challenge was staying awake and focused because, at about hour ten during our recording day, we would get tired, but Mark would just be waking up and getting really into things, so we ended up pulling a few twenty to twenty-four hour recording days. Seriously.
On the night of February 6th, 1970, Miles Davis left Columbia’s Studio B having laid down tracks that would become Big Fun’s nineteen minute “Recollections”. Miles wanted eggs. He, John McLaughlin, and Chick Corea walked three blocks down the street to Diana’s Diner. Eggs were consumed. Then Miles took a cab to the apartment where he was staying, fell asleep on the sofa, and had a fish dream:
A man fished, confidently, hungry to eat the catch. His baited hook dangled worm. A bass struck his line and the fisherman could immediately smell it being cooked. As soon as he started reeling the the rod to bring in the fish, the world turned upside down, dropped away into nothingness, and left him dangling on the end of his own line. The fish held up the fisherman. The fisherman plead and begged the bass not to drop him into the darkness below. He cried and screamed for help. Nothing was between his feet and forever. An endless void. The fisherman looked down and his stomach threw itself out his throat.
The bass laughed and said, "You were going to eat me, man. Why should I spare you?"
The fisherman replied, "You're a fish, I caught you. This can't be happening."
Heads be fed. Today we talk to Kelly Berry, one of Seattle’s finest sound engineers. Let us graze upon his knowledgeable and knowing ear-brain. Kelly owns and operates the sound systems at Neumos and Chop Suey and maintains and helped design the systems at King Cobra and Re-bar. He is also Mudhoney’s sound engineer, traveling with them to do their concert audio reinforcement. Kelly approaches what he does as a musician with sympathy for the needs of those onstage:
What is your general approach to designing sound for a room? Berry: Assess what its purpose is: live, dance, or spoken etc, and the type of music within the category. Look at the shape and acoustic treatment needs of the space and work out a plan utilizing the information.
What are the differences between the systems at Neumos, Chop Suey, and King Cobra?
All three rooms are narrow spaces with different architectural obstacles. Chop Suey has a stage built into a fake pagoda that the sound system has to fit into where you lose three feet of ceiling height. Neumos and King Cobra both have balconies on one side of the room and the other side is flat against a wall. This creates a potential for the stereo image to sound different from side to side and needs to be designed around. Sight lines need to be taken into consideration. Budget and income also potentially play huge roles in the design process.
What was the most challenging part about designing the systems for those rooms?
Money vs. budget.
Neumos did a sound system redesign last year. Why did they redesign? And could you talk about the beautiful Funktion One / Tannoy speakers there? They are beautiful. I kiss them.
It was assessed that Neumos needed to be more touring act friendly and there was a new ownership group that had a more music centric agenda. We worked out budget and got to work. The Tannoy IQ designed by Funktion One became the right fit for the room. Tannoy is a high fidelity company based in Scotland UK that utilizes their "Dual Concentric" transducer in a high definition sound reinforcement application. Very little electronic time alignment is needed in the mid to high band because the drivers are essentially in absolute acoustic alignment. The response I have gotten is very positive.
When you find a dead spot in a room, what can you do? Are there any dead spots at those clubs?
Most dead spots occur on the leading edge of the stage because to get coverage there would mean acoustical feedback before adequate gain in the main speakers. This is not as critical in playback music environments but is a huge factor in live music. There are dead spots in parts of the balcony in both clubs with balconies.
When you tour with Mudhoney, you bring your own mics, right? What is the key to doing Mudhoney's sound?
Yeah, I bring virtually all the mics for the band, it keeps them healthy from dirty smelly venue mics and insures at least that I know the beginning of the chain is good. The guitar sound is key and fitting it in the mix is an essential puzzle piece around all the other important pieces.
Please bequeath some form of Mudhoney story.
Most Mudhoney gigs are outside of this country in much larger venues than we play locally. The challenge is always to make the speaker system and the console that you are mixing on comfortable so that the "art" of mixing can take place. This can be a challenge night after night. The so called "digital" mixing console is omnipresent in many different flavors. I take to them pretty naturally because I have a strong fundamental background.
The tragic reality of these consoles became obvious on our last local gig at a KEXP Barbeque. The generator power started getting unreliable and at first some amps turned off. Then the electricity powering the console and all the recording gear out front went down. The digital console erased itself mid gig and I had to re-write all 19 channels as the band started to play again. Not fun to write EQ, gain, compression, gating, and routing for all those channels while the client looks on. I screamed some ugly things that night, I was not happy. But now I have most of the major digital console starting points saved on USB sticks, lesson learned.
Dragon Man: The Mescaline Making of Gills
October 1 at
Sunday, 9/28, 3:10 AM: A lone male soul from Hoquiam jacked on mescaline grasped onto the Neumos dumpster like it was a lifeline. His name was Dragon Man and he stared at the ground as if he were peering from a shaky ledge into the depths of the Grand Canyon. He was wearing sunglasses and was crying. After making sure he didn’t need to go to the hospital, I asked if I could interview him. He said OK and the dictation began.
As has been reported, Decibel Fest brought out minds and ears to experience and experiment. Like all large concerts and festivals, there are those that over do the experimentation. Mescaline, however, is not something to be overdone. Mescaline, or 3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine, is a naturally occurring psychedelic alkaloid of the phenethylamine class. It’s a different kind of natural:
What are you on? Dragon Man: Mescaline, the gill maker.
How did it go?
The puffer fish struck. Craig fought back. The aquarium was the amphitheatre with dragons doing chariot races. The dragons had gills too. I got dispatched.
What about Craig pulls you in?
The ocean strobe fuzz of his under-wang.
Did you get dispatched to this dumpster? Is that why you’re holding onto it?
Yes. You must think you’re pretty smart, all time traveled. But I say fuck it. This is the crux, the center pit fall of the molecular world. If I let go, you die. Your gills would carve themselves with razors.
September 29 at
A Moment of Drive-By Synchronization that Spun the Earth
Driving North past the bus stop on Rainier Ave. under the I-90 overpass, I saw a man yawning. He was seated, waiting for the bus. It was one of those all consuming yawns. He was a hefty Asian chef with silver slicked back hair. His head was tilted back, eyes were closed, and his apron was still on.
Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen” was playing on the radio in my car. “Just like the white winged dove sings a song, sounds like she’s singing / Ooo baby... ooo, said ooo.”
As I drove by the bus stop, the man’s yawn coincided exactly with the end of the song’s fourth of fifth verse. Stevie sings a long “oooooaaaaaaahhh”. The timing of the yawn perfectly matched the singing and the mouth movement of the “oooooaaaaaaahhh”. The guy couldn’t have tried to match it any more perfectly.
A hemisphere of realization came over me and I knew I was alive. Too much alignment was there for the instant to have occurred by chance.
Seven that’s: That song on that radio station, during that part, driving by that well lit bus stop? That man sitting there, happening to yawn at that moment, with identical mouth movements and duration to the singing of that of the part in the song?
It may have only lasted for three seconds, but it cracked me on the head.
Sometimes the littlest things have the largest resonance.
It may have only lasted for three seconds, but for those three seconds, it spun the earth.
The Reason to Hear John Bonham's Naked Drum Sounds Right Now
September 26 at
Might be unknown.
Yes, naked drum sounds are boring to some. Just drums? No other instruments? Why am I going to waste three minutes of my sunny Friday afternoon listening to that? Perhaps the last Friday afternoon like this for a while?
I'll tell you. What makes these drums different is that they are played by Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham. The greatest drummer of all time. That is why. The sun can wait. These drum sounds can not. Hearing this man’s clean drum sounds and strength of stroke, will in turn strengthen you, your day, and the Fall sun that is sliding down right now from the sky above. John Bonham’s naked drum sounds will cause your body to produce more white blood cells.
Thank you to U.S.E. drummer Jon E. Rock for sending these in. And thank you to Christian Cummings at MixMyMusic.net .
Mostly though, thank you to John Bonham. Sadly, John, you drank four quadruple Vodka’s and choked on your vomit in your sleep. But you left us drums sounds that uplift and produce white blood cells.
These are drum outtakes from Zeppelin’s 1978 In Through The Out Door. Recorded at Polar Recording Studios.
Earbuds: place them in now. Headphones: over the ears. White blood cells: flow freely. Play: be pressed.
A Man Played Jaw Harp Through a Chinese Megaphone at a Trailhead
September 23 at
The Dexter Street Stompers Jug Band played a Nature Consortium work party at a West Seattle trailhead this past Saturday. It was raining. Five people were working. The band performed under a blue tent. The Goodyear Blimp was not hovering above. The workers dug, raked, clipped, and bagged to the jug band’s jangling musical bounty.
As jug bands and work parties go, these workers were absolutely frikking rocked. The dirt and wet leaves were rocked as well. Band leader Levi Fuller attempted a split and said a cuss word because his groin had not been properly stretched for a split. It was during the song “Baby Jump”. Fuller apologized, then went back into the song. One of the workers got a blister on their left hand at the base of the thumb. She said a cuss word and apologized as well.
The Dexter Street jug player and washboard player are both in a band called Beaver Deceivers that has done some things with the consortium before. Dexter Street played the Arts in Nature Festival a few weeks ago and soon after, the trailhead work party show was set up. A paying gig.
It was muddy and the band played for a full hour. One highlight was their rendition of Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”. The band played their first two songs again at the end to pad the set.
Jaw harpist Casey Coulombe played his jaw harp through a Chinese megaphone attached to a mic stand for amplification. He lit into solos like a blowtorch artist carving up sheet metal into the face of Jimi Hendrix at his most psychedelic. Casey did not say any cuss words the entire outing.
Does this Band Suck? An Actual Exchange
September 22 at
In an Audience During a Show
Person 1) Does this band suck? Person 2) You mean the band that’s playing right now?
2) Why are you asking me? They’re right there, playing.
1) It’s too loud. I can’t hear the singer. I’ve had three Beam and Cokes. And beer.
2) You suck if you can’t come up with your own opinion.
1) I heard they’re supposed to be good. All these people said they’re great.
2) So what do you think?
1) They don’t sound like Radiohead or Blondie at all.
1) Someone told me they sound like Radiohead and Blondie. I think they sound terrible. I paid for these tickets and they sound terrible. But maybe it’s just the sound system, or they’re having an off night.
2) I don’t think they sound good either. I saw them the last time they played here, and they were terrible then too.
1) I’m still not sure.
2) Were your Beam and Cokes good?
2) So you can formulate an opinion.
1) Yeah but that’s a drink.
2) But it shows you have the power to formulate an opinion.
1) No, it shows I have the power to get intoxicated.
2) Well you’re the one who dragged me to this show. And it sucks.
1) I can formulate an opinion. Jack Johnson sucks.
2) You’re right. What does that have to do with this show?
1) Nothing. But I know sucky music.
2) Then you should know this music sucks.
Lovefoxxx came out in a shaggy silver King Dome sized parka. Her hair was up in a space tomahawk bouffant and her face was painted. She aerobically hopped, wriggled, contorted, and sang on her hands and knees to people in the front. She asked a front row muse what his favorite alcohol was. His answer was tequila. She was genuinely happy for him that his favorite alcohol was tequila. Lovefoxxx signaled for someone to bring him tequila but because the main level of the sold out Neumos was designated all ages, no tequila was brought out. Upstairs, where there was alcohol, body heat rose from the dancing packed-in horde and it felt good to sweat one last time before winter sets in.
CSS enjoy playing live. They enjoy their songs. They had fun and it emanated throughout the animated room. White helium balloons were tied everywhere on the stage and bass player Adriano Cintra had a Spongebob balloon tied on to himself. The all ages crowd leaned and screamed in unison to Lovefoxxx’s party howl. The Neumos vibe was enthusiastically soaked in soaking it in.
Lovefoxxx kept the parka on for a while. It wasn’t just a quick showpiece. She must have been absolutely sweating balls. Finally she shed it and revealed a leotard wrapped in fake flowers and vines - a onezie. The stage was spread with dual guitars, keytars, Korg, bass, and drums. Lovefoxxx brought out a cardboard cutout of Britney Spears. It was fondled and given a keytar solo. People poured water on their heads and for the encore, people frenzied and ripped at their own shirts. There was lots of eye glitter and estrogenic power. “Left Behind” was a highlight, although there really were no low points of the show. It was all delivered up and switched on. The set seemed fast.
CSS are beloved. Cansei de Ser Sexy. They belove back. They are donkey. Their performance for and interaction with the crowd imparts a true sense of party. The rock and disco sounds of this band from Sao Paulo, Brazil aptly get a crowd off.
September 18 at
Dan White from Seattle’s Arbor Audio is with us today talking about the Leslie speaker cabinet and the Hammond B3 organ that came into his possession (for a total of $300). Dan is skilled, schooled, razor sharp, and patient when it comes to recording and playing music. He’s also so nice it kind of makes you sick.
When I say the word gear, what comes to mind? Dan: That’s not really a fair question. There’s a lot of gear in the world.
When I say the word Leslie 122RV speaker cabinet, what comes to mind?
Ah. That I can do. Leslies are speaker cabinets that were designed by Don Leslie in the 1940s. In contrast to the stationary speakers we all know and love, Don was trying to design a speaker that would scatter the sound throughout a room. What he created instead was a totally unique sound, and coupled with the Hammond organ, one of the most ubiquitous organ sounds in the history of recorded music. The most interesting Leslies have two "rotating" drivers; the speakers don't actually rotate, but the treble driver fires up into a rotating horn, and the bass driver fires down into a rotating baffle. Some Leslies have single-speed rotation with fast and off settings; some have two-speed rotation with fast ("tremolo") and slow ("chorale”) settings.
These things are electromechanical, and therefore are difficult to emulate. They give off this localized doppler effect with both amplitude and frequency modulation. The two rotors, having different masses, speed up and slow down at different rates. I don't think Don planned to build so much character into his speaker cabinet! The Leslie 122 is a coveted two-speed, the -RV designating the mushy spring reverb that most people disable. Leslies are like large pieces of furniture, almost the size of a refrigerator.
Where did you get the Leslie?
My wife found it at an estate sale. She drove down to South Seattle at 7 AM and beat everyone to it. She called me and said, “I'm at that estate sale. They have a Leslie 122RV. Is that a good one?" It was too early for me to comprehend. She said, “The guy says there's an organ included with it. $300 for both.” She sent me pictures from her phone.” Unmistakably, it was a Hammond B3 organ. A Hammond B3, with the Leslie for $300.
What happened when you fired it up?
When we got it home the next day, the startup motor couldn't get the tonewheels spinning. It was anticlimactic, but I still had a "free" B3 sitting in my living room. Like most of my gear, I got it for cheap but later made up for it in sweat equity. A few months ago I saw Joe Doria playing in Fremont and he had his soldering iron out fixing some drawbars before they went on stage. It reminded me of more than one gig where I was replacing pickups in my Rhodes on stage. To be a Hammond owner is to be a Hammond tech.
Guitar Player Makes Voodoo Doll of Bandmate
September 16 at
This in from Jared:
I’m in a newish band and we have played a couple of house parties that went pretty well. We auditioned for a second guitarist a few weeks ago and found one that we liked, but didn’t know too well. After the last house party we played, there was a bit of a band argument over the money. We made $100. I thought we should pay for the posters that were made to promote the show out of the $100. The new guitar player just wanted to split the money up evenly and not have to pay for the posters. I paid $30 for the posters out of my own pocket. I think it’s ridiculous that I should have to pay for the posters myself and I am kind of the leader, so we split the remaining $70 evenly among us. The guitar player was not happy.
At the next rehearsal, I think I saw a voodoo doll of me in the guitar player’s backpack. I think it was me because I always wear a red jacket and I’m bald. The little doll I saw was wearing a red jacket and had no hair. I asked him what it was and he didn’t say anything. He just put it away really fast and acted like there was nothing there. He’s a really good guitar player. What should we do? – jared
Cut him loose. It’s not going to be worth it in the long run. Do not mess with anyone that messes with voodoo dolls. Guitar players that make voodoo dolls also huff model glue and prowl around playgrounds. I bet this guitar player goes to petting zoos for all the wrong reasons. He probably sharpens knives when he's nervous.
Was there a chicken claw in his bag? Was the doll skillfully made? Are you sure he doesn’t just play with dolls? Is he in a doll making class? Did you notice if he tried to get any of your hair? Does he have a neck tattoo of Cat Woman? I think voodoo dolls only work if they have some of your hair. Have you experienced shooting pain to your spleen or any other body part?
Sadly, this guitar player may be the second coming of Stevie Ray Vaughan, but if he made a voodoo doll of you, he could be sticking pins in your eyes right now, and chanting, and that’s bullshit, Jared.
Give him the $7.50 he would have made from your poster money for the show and let him go, gently. Then bathe in garlic and Epsom salt, stand in a helix made of crystal sand for eleven minutes and eleven seconds, and read the Book of Proverbs. You should be OK:
4:19. The way of the wicked is darksome: they know not where they fall.
4:20. My son, hearken to my words, and incline thy ear to my sayings.
4:21. Let them not depart from thy eyes, keep them in the midst of thy heart.
4:22. For they are life to those that find them, and health to all flesh.
4:23. With all watchfulness keep thy heart, because life issueth out from it.
September 15 at
Daedelus is Alfred Darlington. He spoke from his Moore Theatre dressing room at The Stranger Genius Awards and received Smarties Candy. He talked about meaning, his monome device, and Love to Make Music To.
The DFA superstars spliced up big, tight sections of 16th beats and tectonic shifting dance music. Maclean is an incredible theremin player, layering its spooky sound perfectly over the grooves with effects. Nancy Whang from LCD Soundsystem took the theremin’s space aged cue and was orbited in her vocals with some slap back delay. Whang is as nice a person as she can be.
After their set, drummer Jerry Fuchs was talking about these Simmons electric drums (the six sided pads) which he runs into a Tama brain. They give off such a bulbous tom sound:
In-ear monitors were then brought up, Maclean chimed in, and the argument ensued. Apparently Maclean once left Fuchs behind in Albuquerque, NM for complaining about sound and threatening to get in-ear monitors. Fuchs has some things to say about it.
Warning: this video contains profanity. Is the argument real?
Tucson: DJ Percocet. Train. Velcro. Dreads.
September 10 at
A man in Tucson swallowed many percocets. He opened his mouth like a gigantic blue whale and let the percocets float in like plankton. Then he tried to DJ. He was the opening act at a club called Plush. He drank bourbon. And had a drum machine. There were technical difficulties.
He lost sound to the main house speakers but he had headphones on, so he couldn’t tell. His music and beats had been new age and hip hoppy. There was silence for a good four minutes. Silence except for his heavy breath, and every once in a while he would sort of grunt, “Mmmh.” He was working hard, pushing buttons, and doing a hip sway DJ shuffle pill dance. He had no idea the people in the room could hear nothing. Whatever was in his headphone mix must have sounded phenomenal. A group of girls could be heard arguing, “I’m not going up there to tell him!”
Finally someone walked up and tapped him on the shoulder and told him no one could hear what he was doing. I guess the sound engineer thought it was part of the act. The DJ was horrified and tried unsuccessfully to fix the problem. That was the end to his set. People clapped and he apologized. He was almost in tears and said nothing like that had ever happened to him before.
Later he confessed to me about the percocets. We were in his car, crossing train tracks way too slow, and there was an approaching train. I’m not kidding. He was giving me a ride after the show. We were going over the tracks, and he said, “Yeah, I’ve been eating percocets all night. That’s probably why I fucked up earlier.” You think? Then I noticed the distant light of the train. Great timing to tell me about the pills, chief. For an unkind instant, I thought, “This is how I’m going to go. This pill popping plankton sifting whale of a DJ is going to end me.”
The instant prolonged and I imagined what it would feel like to have the momentum and tonnage and steel of an oncoming locomotive engine barrel through my body. My right arm and leg would be immediately decimated. No, my entire being would be immediately decimated. That’s when I noticed he was wearing velcro shoes. *Ding* VELCRO SHOES. It all made sense. He would get so messed up on pills he couldn’t tie his shoes.
The percocet filled DJ stepped on the gas. We cleared the tracks. No train barreled into the car. When we reached the destination, he tried to parallel park, which was like watching him compete in a decathlon. He dented the car in front of his and said, “It’s cool. I know her. She’s got dreads.”
Not too long ago, there was a convergence of food, musicians, drink, and songs, in an airplane hanger at Sand Point Naval Base. The evening of “Songs for Eating and Drinking” was put together by photography master Chase Jarvis and Micheal Hebb of One Pot.
The concept: Cook delicious bomb-ass food, get musicians around a long table, have candles, wine, and sangria, and let songs and singing break out. What happened: songs and singing broke out. Freestyle flew. Rapturous pastoral vocals echoed off the distant walls of the hanger. The theme was songs about eating and drinking, or songs about war, because we were at the naval base.
Around the table sat members of Arthur & Yu, Tiny Vipers, the Saturday Knights, Stone Gossard, Loch Lomond, and Fences. There was discussion and merriment. There was a smiling Cheryl Waters. Chase Jarvis hovered around clicking shots with various cameras. Mirth poured forth. Chef Hebb served up baby back ribs with mango scraps, garlic, onion, and fresh bay leaf. There was an uncanny succotash. For dessert, strawberry shortcake. And more mirth.
The acoustics in the hanger were depth defying. Tiny Vipers’ Jesy Fortino sat and adamantly strummed her guitar. When she sang, her warm sepia toned voice bounced off the walls one hundred feet away. The candles had melted down. It was incredible to sit so close to her guitar yet hear her voice echoing so far off. Live reverb. Tilson and Barfly got up with Stone Gossard and mirthed it up freestyle. It was the succotash highlight of the night:
Grant from Arthur & Yu was poised and eyes closed for a song about a dark horse:
And Loch Lomond, who are about to tour with the Decemberists:
Inside the Mind and Makings of a Gear Head’s Gear Head
There is a man walking among us here in Seattle who is addicted to gear. I sought him out to find out why. His name is Brandon Ivers and he doesn’t breath air.
Brandon Ivers breathes gear. He breathes knowledge of gear. He may inhale oxygen yes, but what is exhaled is a molecule of CO2 with an oscillator, a circuit board, and Ableton Live attached. Ivers is modular. He’s analog. He’s micro. He is a processor. A Rolodex of technical know how and interfacing abilities of the soul. Through his veins flows blood of Robert Moog, corpuscles inside a constant hum of how to make sounds. The guy sleeps and figures things out at the same time.
Ivers calls himself a geek. But he’s not geeky. He’s just a genius. A severe music appreciatist. A drum n bass historian. He understands electronics, programs, and manuals. But his extensive savant-ish know how really comes from hours and hours of experimenting and messing with equipment. He’s a Linux administrator and writes for XLR8R, URB, and The Stranger at times. He also reviews gear.
We sat for a talk and picked his gear-addled brain. Next to him was an Akai 4400 reel-to-reel tape recorder. He derived pleasure from the Akai's presence. He’d been bouncing audio tracks through it using its unintentional internal distortion and sending it back into his computer to get a tape sound. He broke quickly into a monologue on artifacting and what happens when the analog and digital worlds collide. When you go from an analog signal to digital, quantization happens:
Where did you come by this extreme knowledge of gear? How do you know so much about gear? Ivers: Because I’m an obsessive-compulsive nerd.
No you’re not.
Yes I am. One time I sat in a basement for thirty hours trying to emulate a drum n bass bass sound when I could have just used a Korg MS20 and gotten the sound in fifteen minutes.
Why do you mess around so much with gear? What is it about musical equipment that draws you in?
I don’t know if I have a choice. I’ve always messed around with gear and gravitated toward electrical circuits and nerdy things, things I can sit in front of for hours and try to figure out. It’s all a puzzle. It keeps my mind occupied and levels me out. It keeps me from thinking about all the terrible things that go on in the world. I’d get depressed if I didn’t have something I could sink hours and hours of time into.
So it’s therapeutic for you.
Super therapeutic. A lot of natural musicians aren’t good gear heads. Gear heads are a certain breed. One of the things I’ve tried to fight in my gear writing is the idea that gear is more important than ideas. Because really, the ideas are always going to be more important and you really should use the equipment that you’ve got. There’s nothing preventing you from doing the track on your laptop and taking it into a nice studio and using their high-end compressors and mixing desk. You don’t have to go buy all the expensive gear. But we gear heads have a way of always needing more. If I just had that one keyboard, I’d be set. But it’s never enough. You always want more. Hip Hop producers horde everything in their own studio, they never think about bringing it out to another place or doing the final mixdowns elsewhere.
It’s like gateway drugs. Except gateway gear. First it’s the Korg MS20, then the next thing you know you’ve got a down payment on a 56 channel Neve 8128 that’s bigger than your apartment.
You’re a drum n bass scholar. Where does your appreciation for drum n bass come from?
I was a DJ in Minneapolis and played drum n bass and used to make drum n bass. I guess at the time, drum n bass was the most technologically advanced music out there. It was like hip-hop but it involved a different structure. You kind of had to be a jack of all trades to play drum n bass and there wasn’t really anyone else doing it. I figured I should learn everything about it. I started out with Sonic Foundry Acid version 1 and then ended up going to hardware like the E-Mu E5000 and I did everything on that. It was my best friend for five years. I didn’t even have a mixing desk, I would just use the filters on the E5000. I would have a break beat on there and use the filter to shape the EQ sound. There was no compression or anything.
What’s an aspect of drum n bass that you find enjoyable?
The Reese bass sound. One of the original Detroit techno founders Kevin Reese Saunderson came up with it. The sound kind of has a mythical status in the drum n bass scene in terms of where he got it from. I’m pretty sure he got it from a Roland Juno 6. It’s that warbling bass you’ve heard a million times. He had it on a track that was out on KMS in '87 or '88 called "Just Want Another Chance". The first drum n bass track to technically use it was Ray Keith’s “Terrorist”. A lot of people call it the Terrorist Bass. Konflict’s “Messiah” is another D n B classic as far as anthems go.
Can you talk more about the d n b bass sound?
The sound itself is two de-tuned square waves with a low-pass filter. You get this sort of growly overtone if you crank up the resonance, too. To get the warble you de-tune the two oscillators against each other or you use pulse width modulation. The PWM gives it the movement.
September 3 at
Battles' John Stanier is a battleship of a drummer. A wrecking ball timekeeper. A jackhammer metronome. A pressure cleaner of meter. He puts his head down and cannon-balls into beats. Stanier a beacon, leading the Battles cry. Their sound is scattered and jumpy at times, but they gather and rebound under his mile high crash cymbal and his perma-steady playing.
Stanier talked about that high cymbal and tried to come up with a description of the Battles sound. I have the deepest of drum love for the man, a respectful battleship drum love:
There is a music man from Tijuana, MX named Memo. He sings and fronts a four-piece electrified rock band called Buddy Akai. Elements of 80’s dance mix with rhythmic distorted chords for their sound. Buddy Akai is extremely tight. Passages never squirm or fire off half assed. They’re confident and at ease, and from their first measure of notes on, they own it. People jump and contort into 360’s. On a Monday night at San Diego’s Casbah, they fill the room and distribute hits.
Memo stands spread eagle center stage, bobs his singing head, and tweaks a three-tiered synth tower with both hands screaming, “Oooooooooh Yeaaaaaahh”. Three of the four members of Buddy Akai live in San Diego, where they are officially from. Memo commutes from Tijuana, sometimes crossing the border twice a day.
Driving in caravan by the white sands of the Imperial Dune border, we talked gear and border life:
What's that synth tower you’re tweaking up there? Habla for me about your set up. Memo: I use a laptop with Ableton Live and Korg VST’s connected to an M-Audio Axiom 25 keyboard/ midi controller.
How is it all implemented into Buddy Akai?
I beat the hell out of it. For those who are unaware of the greatness that is Ableton Live. It lets me open an unlimited amount of channels. Half are used for samples and the rest for MIDI. I have fx running on each channel as well as knobs, pads, and triggers which I assign using the M-Audio Axiom. This lets me control parameters and manipulate sounds while we’re playing. I can loop on the fly. The Axiom is a 25 key controller so there’s only so much you can do with it. I do a lot of homework and pre-program arpegiated scenes to each key that I can sample, cut, and manipulate live. I can shorten or extend parts of songs, slow BPM or even transpose notes so we’re not confined to a certain track or time signature. For us it's all about being able to feel it. Since we play along to a metronome, it gets a little crazy.
What is it like going back and forth across the border so often?
Well, growing up so close to the border and having family and friends on both sides, it’s second nature. Legal drinking age in Tijuana is 18. It's easier to get an ID there, so we’d do most of our partying down there. Many shows in Tijuana are like raves, in that they go all night. People in Mexico are genuine and humble and it’s always been the band’s home away from home. Things have gotten a little more tense at the border crossing after 9/11. The security has really intensified.
How can American bands play in Mexico?
If you are planning on gigging down in the great Tenochtitlan Mexico, you definitely want to check in and register your gear. You gotta write down all your serial numbers and model names and you might have to pay a tax depending on how new your gear looks and how long you'll be visiting. Sometimes you can just wing it and drive and hope you get the green light. Buddy Akai is caught between two realities and were just trying to make the absolute best of it and the truth is, everyone goes through the same hassle.
Are there any Mexican bands you are into right now?
I have to say check out ex Nortecs Tijuana Sound Machine. It’s the same great Nortec sound, different name. We also just played with Kinky and they rock it as well. There’s also this other band called Buddy Akai. They might be latin, I don’t know. I heard they’re pretty good.
Las Vegas is 100 degrees, at night. It’s a heat lamp. The air is a parka. Breeze is fleece. Breathing means sweat. Sweating as in balls. Hydration is key. Beer dehydrates, especially 24oz PBR.
I lost my wallet. Unpacked the entire van looking for it. Even looked where the spare tire was. And my kick pedal case. Somehow it could have ended up there. Searched the club twice with a flashlight. Total complete loser, “Yeah, I just played, have you seen my wallet?” You know how you retrace your steps? I had it down to the exact spot where I had seen it last. Not there. They had it in the entire time in the office.
Beauty Bar is old Vegas and is part of a solid uprising of venues for touring bands. ATTENTION BANDS: Contact James at MetaMeta Productions for getting shows in Las Vegas. He will work with you, and for you, in order to make a good show happen. We played with Hawnay Troof. It’s the one man band of Vice Cooler. He’s a machine of dance moves and crowd stirring. He went down hard to the ground in a move and hurt his dick.
James the promoter is a smooth, happy motherfucker. He’s also a philosophy professor at UNLV. We know him from shows in New Haven where he taught at Yale. Now he’s in Las Vegas, teaching classes such as The Theory of Truth, and booking shows.
We went for a stroll through the casinos. There were three Elvises, two Jim Morrisons, and an exact Rod Stewart.
The theory of casino truth is that the chain smoking seventy-five year olds have grown umbilical chords right into the slots. They hook into catheters and gamble in hopes of jackpot sex. No getting up to go, for days. Just gambling. Tar and gin gimlets steady on the intake. You can hear the tar, filling lungs, like the Blob slurping its way across town. Suffocating alveoli. These elder Las Vegas lungs want to win. Stale emphysema faces stare. Lungs and livers, now just puddy. Lungs and livers whimpering at the same low, microscopic volume rose petals whimper at when their pedals are plucked.
The zombie gamblers don’t need nutrients. They just need the chance to win. Hit me. Defibrillation. Three cherries across the top – You Win. Holy Grail.
Ralph the Ralphing Everclear Otter Pop, Chubicabra, Russian Roulette, and All Ages Fun.
The Mormon presence shadows Salt Lake City with a stiff foreboding religious haze. There’s a quiet there. It’s not all choirs and polygamy though. There’s a music scene, and an adult novelty store with no windows called 'Mischievous'. The ad for Mischievous has a young stud of a blonde haired man having his ass shaved that reads “Expand Your Toy Collection.” So Salt Lake has caught up to the times. There’s the Mormon Tabernacle and now there are quarter mile long party-dildos for sale called the Deep Star Rex.
Salt Lake City streets are extremely easy to navigate and the Mexican food is delecticious. Alberto’s is the absolute shit.
For music venues, there’s an all ages compound called Kilby Court. Down its own dusty piece of road, there are practice rooms, art spaces, the show room, and a patio with well watered foliage and a fire pit. Foals play Kilby soon. Kilby is an all ages Mecca. There’s a ghost there they call the Green Man. It’s the ghost of a Chinese guy who shot himself in the head while playing Russian Roulette. A casket sits outside in the back of one of the Kilby buildings. No word on whether it’s the Green Man’s or not.
Another place to play is the 21 and over Urban Lounge. GZA, Greyskul, Silver Jews, Deerhoof, and Stephen Malkmus play Urban soon. Blue Scholars recently played there.
Head Like a Kite was supposed to play at Kilby Court but it was moved to Urban Lounge. It's cool to see different clubs work together to facilitate a touring band. It was Tate’s birthday. Tate is nice as can be. His band the Lionelle played and everyone danced and got scatter grooved. A pregnant woman was drinking beer out of a huge lager style mug. It wasn’t just a belly, the woman was pregnant, and drinking beer, and nobody said anything to her. Hopefully it was near beer.
The movers and shakers of Salt Lake City are engineering a new frozen alcoholic treat, never before attempted by man - Otter Pops with Everclear dripped in. The sure fire way to get your Mormonic vomit on. They call it the Alco-Pop. Instead of Alexander the Grape, it’s Ralph the Ralphing Flavored Iced Treat. Wait, Everclear can’t freeze. The Salt Lake movers and shakers will be enjoying Ralph the Slushie Treats instead. Good luck with that.
The owner of Kilby Court saw a Chubicabra beast about four years ago. Some sort of werewolf they say, or dog on its hind legs, gnarling. It was standing outside a window of one of the Kilby apartments looking in. The owner threw a hammer through the window at it. The beast made strange noises then ran to the other side of the place and apparently hopped on the roof where it made more weird noises. I believe the Chubicabra was an unshaven gnarling man who had dabbled a bit heavily into the Alco Pops.
We stayed with Steven that night. Steven was born in the United States, but has no social security number. He’s making a documentary about what his life is like. Somehow he has a passport, and he’s starting to invest in real silver and gold. The S in $, that’s silver. Thank you Steven. I held a real silver dollar from 1972, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the pregnant woman drinking beer.
Flugelhorn with Chris “C.D.” Littlefield
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Chris Littlefield is one of the best musicians in Seattle. Period. When he plays his trumpet and his flugelhorn, his sound dives into your ear. There, cities are made to your inner specifications as quadrants in the whole of the flow. Chris Littlefield is a complete player. His tone, his ear, his phrasing, his presence, and his stream of confidence are all there. His playing is able yet patient, appropriate as the centerpiece yet unafraid to support from the periphery if need be.
Wednesdays he plays at Lo-Fi with SEAllective (formerly Dasrut) and Thursdays, Chris is part of the Fremont ToST Institution of Marmalade.
Chris' instruments of choice are the B flat trumpet made by Lawler Trumpets in Florida and the Yamaha 731-ST flugelhorn. Besides Miles Davis, his favorite trumpet players are Woody Shaw, Freddy Hubbard, and Lee Morgan. Chuck Mangione’s “Feel So Good” is the song that convinced Chris he wanted to play flugelhorn.
I caught up with the man Chris himself before playing a Marmalade set to talk flugelhorn. He displays, plays, and talks about embouchure and spit valves.
Bus Stops Flawlessly Mimicking the Grand Face of Arena Rock Fire: A Conversation With That Fire.
This morning a drunk man named Hank treated the people waiting for the downtown 2 bus to Guns N’ Roses' “Welcome to the Jungle”. Hank’s version was “Welcome to the Jumble”. He definitely knew the next section, “We’ve got fun and games”. The games clearly being word puzzle games, such as jumbles. Then he sped loudly into, “You learn to liiiive like an aaaanimal in the jungle where we play”. And there, he faded into a bit of a mumble, but knew the melody. “You gotta take it eventually”. He ended with, “That’s the place where I’ll make my stand,” petering into a light hum. When the chorus came around again, he was back on track. “Welcome to Jumble, baby, you’re gonna diiiieeeeee. Jumble, welcome to the Jumble, it’s gonna take you doown…. Huh”.
Others were bothered by Hank. A few of us soaked him in. The arena of his CD Walkman headphones was packed. He ducked under a wet baseball hat and a hood so you couldn’t see his eyes. He made the mistake of nudging into a lawyerly looking man who was reading the paper. After Hank slinked into his space and made contact, the man ripped his paper away in complete disgust. I spoke to the lawyerly man:
Is he at this stop often? Lawyerly looking man: Tuesdays and Thursdays.
You don’t think he adds color to the city?
I think he needs help.
What do you do?
I’m a judge.
Then I spoke to Hank:
Do you like Jumbles? Hank: I love jumbles.
Do you like Guns N’ Roses?
I love Guns N’ Roses.
Who’s your favorite band?
Jim Croce. Operator, won’t you help me place this call.
Do you know that guy over there is a judge?
That guy over there is a total asshole. He’s here on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Usually he’s doin a jumble.
Brian Nelson from Elliot Bay Recording Company is with us today to talk about the importance of Sharpie markers in the recording process. EBRC Studio is located on Capitol Hill (932 12th Ave). They have an ample 2000 square feet of room to roam around in. The main playing room is 25'X45'X12' with cement walls for a nice diffused reverb sound. Can you say huge drums? There are three isolation rooms, a big acoustically designed control room, and the Sony DMX R-100 digital console is the centerpiece of the studio. For mics, they have Neumanns, Sennheisers, Royer, and Beyer.
What is your key to recording and mixing? Where does the magic happen? Brian: The key for me is having an array of fresh, quality Sharpie markers to color code the mixing board with. I don’t know what I’d do without them. No session can happen unless I’ve got the full spectrum of color available.
The magic doesn’t come from mic placement or a secret sweet spot in the live room?
No. The magic comes from the Sharpies. Bass is brown, guitars are green, cymbals are blue, female vocals are red, and male vocals are orange. I can look at the mixing board and instantly know where everything is. Even when I don’t look at the mixing board, I can kind of see it out of the corner of my eye. If I see something reddish, I know that’s a female vocal.
Do you ever use any other marker?
Nope. Only Shapries. Marks A Lot are too thick and they smell bad, and hi-lighters don’t cut it.
Where do you get your Sharpies?
Anywhere that Muzak is played.
On 8/8/08, 88 drummers played for 88 minutes at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles and in Brooklyn on the Williamsburg waterfront. The name they give the event / piece is “88 BoaDrum” and it began at what time? 8:08 PM. Lead by the Japanese psych rock band Boredoms, the drummers played full drum kits arranged in a spiral formation. Onstage in LA, under a clear sky, Boredoms were the spiral’s center. Yamantaka Eye conducted by banging colored polls into his seven fretted guitar tower. I was on the outer shell of the spiral, right next to the crowd, drummer 56, and the 88 minutes were a blur.
It went off. It was on. It was epic and singular and multiple in its armada of fury.
88 drummers playing at the same time, the volume was sheer. Loud enough to rouse the saber tooth tiger fossil found in the tar pit years ago. The beast the drummers raised sat there in the air, listing and leaning as I had hoped. Prowling. We, the 88, banged it home. That many drums playing together sound like a march toward war. But there was no war. These drums were banged for unison, for numerology, for eternity. However eternal that is.
In the Asian culture 8 is an auspicious number. It’s pronunciation sounds similar to a word that means “prosper.” There are also ties of the 8 to the eternity symbol of the sideways 8. Whatever the meaning and reason, there was no way to get around the bigness of the sound. No way to just play or watch without being taken in. No way to be unaffected.
I had a clear sight line to EYE. And Yoshimi. Yoshimi hits the drums with huge, roundhouse strokes which make it easy to follow her. There were points when I was lost. One glance toward Yoshimi and I was back again. It was strange to make EYE contact with EYE. His energy and mind come from someplace other than here.
EYE’s blue poll meant make an accent (hit a cymbal) and keep playing the rhythm. Red meant hit a cymbal and stop. The white poll, which looked like a trident, meant go nuts, or free form. Instructions for the white poll were, “Please play strong and powerfully.” The rhythms began with Boredoms in the center and grew out sequentially around the drum spiral. The rule was to follow the drummer to your right for the pattern and follow EYE for tempo and volume swells.
EYE said, “Last year’s 77 drum event in New York on 7/7/07 had such an impact on me I thought we should do it again. It is very enjoyable to be a part of such a large, plural, and united sound. There are so many drummers here, each with their own version of making the beat. I am honored. I want them to hear us in Osaka.”
Loud it was. As the beats made their way around the spiral you could feel them as much as hear them. Audience members were right behind the drummers and there was much interaction. Snare rolls ebbed and flowed like tides and 4/4 beats washed into cymbal swells. Then a white poll came out. Poseidon EYE with his Trident - and the drum world exploded 88 different ways. With all the vibration and noise, I was worried about setting off the San Andreas fault underneath LA, but the earthquake remained on the tar pit skins.
The 88th drummer, last in the spiral, was Zach Hill from the band Hella. The 88th drummer is a power position because that drummer needs to be able to hold the pattern the longest. Zach is powerful indeed. He’s as loud as twenty drummers. He and EYE were in eye contact communicating the end of each movement and the end of the piece. His volume alone roused a leg of the tar pit saber tooth. Zach said, “Ultimately the 88 BoaDrum is inspiring. It’s inspiring to be a part of. The pureness of the energy is inspiring to the crowd as well as the drummers. I think the drums are an under-celebrated instrument. See you in 09.”
Los Angeles, CA: The day has arrived. 8/8/08. It’s 8:08 AM. I post and wait for a cab. In twelve hours 88 drummers will play at the La Brea Tar Pits for 88 minutes. As stupid as it sounds, many will be one. How on will it be? Why do Boredoms do this? What’s this pluralized sound? What’s with numerology? How complex will the beats be? What does Nike have to do with it?
Conductor EYE will be syncing psyches and the drumming mind's-eye, multiplied 88 times. I am drummer 56, one of the outer electrons of the shell. I have my snare, my kick pedal, my cymbals, and sticks. I have brushed my teeth. The rest is supposed to be there. I’m ready to get clear wide. Ready to uncoil some kinetic beast with membranous wings and hover. I’m ready to let it lean and list if it wants. I’m also ready to bang this shit home.
The schedule as it has been communicated to me is:
9:00 AM: Drummer Arrival
9:30 AM: Drummers Load In
9:30 AM: Drum Build
10:30 AM: Drummers Meeting - All Drummers Present
11:00/TBD: Drums Taken Out To Field
12:00 PM: Lunch Break (lunch provided)
1:45 PM: Sound Check
2:15 PM: Full Rehearsal
4:00 PM: Rehearsal Ends
5:00 PM: Doors
7:15 PM: Drummer Meeting / Final Adjustments
8:08 PM: Piece Beings (s.i.c.)
9:36 PM: Piece Ends
9:45 PM: Load Out Drums
9:46 PM: Chug Liquid Beer (just kidding, I put that in there)
From 10 to 10:30 AM we are not supposed to move from our set up spot. We are not supposed to play. They need a bit of quiet to organize everything.
Lastly they reminded us to go to the bathroom before the piece starts.
Speaking of bathrooms. In the airport on the way here, I went before boarding the plane. I was thinking about the symbol the BoaDrum organizers are using. The winding vortex symbol, it's the way the drummers will be arranged. Then in the urinal, I saw a little winding vortex symbol. I wasn't imagining it. It's in all the urinals. I know I'm excited about this, but look, there are even BoaPissers. Seriously, what is that? Like the Hit It Here Cafe at Safeco? Pee here, and your urinating experience will be splashless:
KEXP DJ Troy Nelson Speaks, and Gurgles
August 7 at
KEXP DJ Troy Nelson is interviewed here about what goes on in the world of a late night DJ. Who’s calling KEXP at 4:30 in the morning? Troy has saved some of those calls and shows us. Has this KEXP thing gone to his head? What does he do to get ready for his show?
The KEXP BBQ is this Saturday on the lawn behind South Lake Union Discovery Center. Troy will not be gurgling.
Think of it: You, Vanilla Ice, and a Night on Meth.
A Hummer limo picks you up and a chilled 22 oz. St. Ides is put in your hand. Vanilla Ice is positioned on the other side of the Hummer shrouded beneath a white fake fur hood. He speaks into his Bluetooth and doesn’t say hello. Five women in bikinis giggle and bound around the interior of the limo. Kris Kross is cranked on the stereo. You are handed a glass pipe and for some reason, you inhale. Daddy Mac.
As the Methamphetamine enters your brain, a cascading release of norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin is triggered. The Hummer pulls through a Taco Bell drive-through and you order a grilled stuffed burrito with steak. Three cars are ahead of the limo in line. The music stops, Vanilla Ice takes off his sun glasses, looks you in the eye, and says, “That was bullshit what Suge Knight did to me. You heard about the balcony, right? He may have dangled my ass off the balcony, but I own a rare snow tiger. What I would like to do for you first is highlight the beginning of my life.”
You are handed a burrito and Vanilla’s voice fades into mumbles. Everyone is eating. They’ve grown teeth and shark mouths. All you hear is chewing. The bikini women thrash and throw beef around. A full week’s worth of Shark Week footage flashes high speed through your head. Your throat becomes chalky and you hallucinate.
You think you’re Moses.
You jump out of the sunroof and run into the street. You need to part the sea. If you can part the sea, the shark people won’t be able to get you. Oncoming cars swerve. You point your St. Ides can at the cement and command it to part. But it won’t part. The bikini women are yelling from the sidewalk. Their shark mouths have grown and they’re getting closer.
The sea isn’t parting so you run, as fast as you possibly can. The sharks and the Hummer don’t come after you. Forty-five minutes later you find yourself laying on a bench at a bus stop next to a man complaining about his problem acne. The St. Ides can is still in your hand.
You think you're safe, you take a breath, then you notice the acne complainer has shark teeth. He turns and says, "Stop, collaborate and listen. Ice is back with my brand new invention."
Greedtone Distortion at Trading Musician
July 31 at
A visit here to Trading Musician in the U District to talk with Michael Smith about theGreedtone Distortion Pedal. Greedtones are made by Seattle’s own Greg Williamson. He’s an institution. So is Trading Musician. Here’s Michael, he wants to dance with somebody:
North of Seattle, Aurora Avenue becomes the outskirts of town. Things go down, actions and transactions in the shadows of the alleyways. People twitch and jerk. Attempts are made to be unassuming. Cracks in pavement have vigilant eyes. They’re like scratches and flies on the wall. They see all: the laptop serial numbers being sanded off in the backrooms of pawn shops, the casino pit bosses pocketing chips, and the Cops being served pre lap-dance Vanilla Cokes.
Some things in the outskirts don’t get talked about. Like when a neighbor’s weed-ridden son nails a screw through a Natalie Merchant CD to a tree in your backyard.
There had a been a conversation at a barbeque. The neighbor’s son (a Nine Inch Nails fan) was told his taste in music was horrible. Unfortunately, Natalie’s 10,000 Maniacs band was on the stereo at the time of the dis. The next morning, there’s Natalie, nailed to a tree. Disturbing? Yes. Misguided? Very possibly. Funny? Perhaps.
A shunned Nine Inch Nails fan nails a screw through the forehead of an adult contemporary singer. To a tree.
So goes another iffy day in the life on the outskirts of town.
Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground have been recording. One of the new songs is called “My Friends All Passed Out.” Here, singer / guitarist Kirk Huffman talks about recording the song and its process. Kay Kay are the first mainstage band on Saturday at Block Party. 2:00!
How is the song being released? Kirk: It’s coming out as a limited edition 7-inch on VinylCollective.com containing two new songs from the forthcoming full-length.
Was there a process for the recording?
Kyle (O’Quin) and I spend a lot of time farting around with instruments. It's an obsessive compulsive thing. I don't know shit about music, but I guess that's the beginning of the process, bringing those ideas into Phil Peterson’s (House of Breaking Glass Studio), brainstorming instrumentation, and starting to mold the song. Phil, Kyle, and I laid down all the tracks then Thomas (Hunter) came in to do the guitar solos and steel slide work. Bobby and Tori (Parker) did all the horn and violin work.
What stands out to you about the song from your end?
Phil is in the middle of recording the new record from our friends in Thee Emergency and they had brought over some field recordings made in the early 60's for use in meditation sessions. Phil decided that the midwestern lightning storm would be a perfect tongue-in-cheek woe-is-me addition to the theatric mood of the song. I suppose I get my rocks off on shit like that.
Does your writing for this song differ from the writing you did for the last album?
It doesn't feel too much different. The process has been exactly the same just far more refined than the last go. Our concept for the new record is entirely different. I think the first record set the tone for who we are overall thematically, but it was purposely an opus and as far over the top as we could take things without losing our central focus on the album’s melodical flow.
The first record was one giant piece of music to be listened to as a whole and thought of cinematically. This one is a collection of individual songs with their own unique feel. We're doomed to forever hear, "Yeah, I mean I like it, I just get lost in the song." Heaven forbid you get lost in a song, right?! So we decided to take on the challenge of trying to pattern these new diddies alike. Only because all the writing that Kyle and I have done for the past four years or so has all been songs with no sense of structure at all and to try and sort of standardize the Kay Kay opus into 7-inch singles is a mind bender for us. Hopefully, this will set us up for a third LP where we can go back to doing whatever the bunk we want whenever the bunk we want.
Below the Fremont streets there is a bunker recording studio called The Toy Box. The Catch have been recording a new album there. Singer and guitar player Carly Nicklaus spoke to Toy Box engineer and co-producer Tyler Coffey about making the new album. Rough tracks for the song “In Box” are previewed. Carly checks Tyler for bogies and talks about how being in U.S.E. affects her song writing for the Catch:
The Catch also includes Amy Rockwell, Justin Harcus, and Garrett Lunceford. They will be playing the Toy Box 5th Anniversary Party on Sunday at the High Dive. Party.
With in ear monitors, you get the mix right into your ears. Be careful of the volume or you'll go deaf. You also need to watch the wax.
Here’s the box. The chances this guy is not singing Matchbox 20 are slim to none. There's nothing else he could possibly be singing:
Yes, it says Hybrid Bodypack. I asked my friend's eleven year old son to take my Sharpie and make the guy on the box look like a clown:
1. Turn up the volume control only far enough to hear properly.
2. Ringing in the ears may indicate that the gain levels are too high.
3. If you experience wax buildup in your ears, stop using the earphones.
4. Wipe the earphones with an antiseptic before and after use to avoid infections.
Luckily the earphones come with wax guards:
Note: Nozzles can collect cerumen (earwax), which can clog the earphone and lower the sound quality. Cerumen is the yellowish substance our ears secret. It lubricates our ear canal and gives some protection from bacteria and fungi. It also tastes disgusting.
Pyrotechnics are an evolutionary continuation of our humanistic quest for fire. Early man discovered fire. Then they discovered they needed to blow things up. Then they discovered they needed to blow things up while playing music. Somewhere on that timeline is the inception of spandex.
When pyro goes off at concert, the show is elevated. Especially when it’s Judas Priest. It’s a metaphorical hunt for meat. You are on the Masai Mara plane in Kenya, and you are stalking prey. You haven’t eaten in three days and there are virgins everywhere. A wildebeest strays from the herd, and you know it’s your meal. Flaming fireballs shoot off the stage, Rob Halford screams into the mic, and you leap for the kill.
“Out there is a fortune waiting to be had / You think I’ll let it go you’re mad / You’ve got another thing comin.”
Today we’ve got a pyrotechnics specialist with us named Glen. I called his company and spoke with him for a few minutes. Glen hung up on me twice. This is the transcript of that conversation:
Your company does pyrotechnics for big concerts? Glen: Yes we do.
Are you a pyro maniac? click. (Glen hung up.)
I call Glen back. He picks up. I apologize. He accepts.
What is your title?
I’m an explosives expert and fire safety specialist.
Which pyrotechnics get the biggest crowd response?
Usually fireballs. People always cheer. They are loud and bright.
What other types of pyro do you all use?
We use flashes, smoke, flames, fireworks, and other propellant driven effects. It’s all proximate pyrotechnics. Proximate refers to the pyrotechnic device's location relative to an audience.
Black powder is what makes it all go boom, right? Can you talk about black powder for me?
Some black powder is also called Perchlorate. It’s made by replacing Potassium nitrate with Potassium Perchlorate. It burns with an intense violet flame, but like other kinds of black powder, it only deflagrates. It makes a great propellant, and is slightly more powerful than its nitrate relative.
I see your company is contracted by the government?
Yes, they use our devices in training exercises. We’re more than just fireworks and concerts. We get hired for weddings too.
People have pyro at weddings?
Did you have pryo at your wedding, Glen?
Your company’s motto is “Watch the flower, Smell the powder, Feel the power”, correct?
Yes it is.
Are you sure you’re not a pyro maniac, Glen?
(Glen hung up again and I did not call him back.)
Are You Cooking Saturday Knights in There?
June 27 at
Here the Saturday Knights talk about their new album Mingle. There is a car ride. Lucky Charms cereal is eaten in two distinctly different styles. Olympic events are chosen. Tilson, Barfly, and Spence, nobody beats them. The Saturday Knights are a scent, they’ve become a fragrance:
The 12-String Bass: Callus Master Ralph
June 26 at
Yes, you read that right – 12-string bass. Just thinking about it can give your fingers calluses. Eric Corson from the Long Winters has one and has calluses. But he’s master of the callus. He’s also master of the bass:
What made you want to get a 12-string bass? Eric: I like weird bass instruments and when the opportunity to have a 12-string bass presented itself, I couldn't turn it down.
Where did you get it?
A company called Waterstone Guitars makes the one that I have. It's the Tom Petersson model. Tom Petersson is the bassist for Cheap Trick and he’s the person responsible for the invention of the 12-string bass.
Is it hard to play?
Yes, but you get acclimated to it if you play it often enough. Each of the four bass strings is accompanied by two additional smaller strings and the fret board is slightly larger to accommodate for that. That means you have to press down harder when hitting a note and you have to stretch your fingers a bit more when playing. It takes some getting used to, but it's worth it. That muscle under your thumb on your fret hand burns a lot at first. It can also be kind of hard to keep in tune.
Are you ever like, "Ah, this song needs the 12-string." ?
What happens is you end up writing something on the 12-string that you'd never have come up with on any other instrument. But I don't think, "Oh my God! I'm going to put 12-string bass on every song!!" Actually, I do kind of think that.
What do you play with it?
Currently there are no Long Winters songs featuring it but it's down in our practice space and we play it when we're messing around with new stuff. I once played it along with "Achilles Last Stand" by Led Zeppelin (from the Presence album).
Do you have a nickname for it?
No nickname for it. And now that I think of it, we don't really have nicknames for any of our instruments. Does that mean we don't love them enough?
No, I think you have love for your instruments. I will name the 12-string bass for you now. Henceforth it shall be called ‘Ralph’.
Do you know anyone else that plays one?
I don't personally know anyone who has one of these, although I think Jeff Ament plays one.
Do you ever sleep with Ralph?
No, I’ve never slept with Ralph. I’ll have to try that though.
Down in darkened basements out there, and rehearsal space bins, there are drummers playing and practicing. There are no windows. It smells of earth and stale beer. A small fan points from a corner. A Dorito from two years ago is crushed into crusty carpet. Over and over these drummers repeat beats, runs, rolls, fills, and paradiddles. Brains send signals through spinal cords. Patterns are instilled. They are trying to get unconscious with it, to play the beat without having to think about playing it. They are trying to build muscle memory. Listen and you can hear them. Letting the beat be sloppy, but playing on.
Being loud and off, this is why the drummer must isolate. It’s not something they want everyone to hear. The cacophony is a necessary prelude, but fine lines are forged. Forty times through the cycle the beat gets tighter, the fill closes in, the mitochondria in the muscle cells are beginning to learn. A pause is taken, water is needed. Then monotony of repetition is entered again.
Muscle memory is a neuromuscular facilitation. It means that motor skills have been memorized. Through repetition, muscles slowly learn movements to a point where the brain no longer has to consciously control the movement.
The thing is, is that our hands and feet can already physically play the individual parts of the beat, but our brain has yet to coordinate the movements. Once the brain understands what we should be playing, our body can follow the signals. Through repetition, playing the passage will gradually become easier while we think less about it. At some point our mind makes the connection between our body movements and the sounds they produce. Be patient, be loud, be OK with being off. Effortlessness will come.
Break the beat down. Practice slowly. Once you've figured something out at a slow tempo, resist the urge to speed it up. Do ten minutes of repetitions at that slow tempo, then speed it up. Some beats come easier than others.
The younger someone is, the less repetitions they need. At age five or six, movements become muscle memory with fifty or sixty repetitions. For someone who’s fifty or sixty, they need to repeat something five hundred to five thousand times. If you’re sixty, be more OK with yourself being off. Your rock will come in time. If you’re sixty, bird watch less, play drums more.
It’s noon on a Tuesday. Somewhere a drummer is midway through a fill, and they are off. In an hour they’ll be closer.