Month: June 2008

How Johnny got his groove back.

I put another new song up on Spyspace just now. I have to make sure I don’t do too much of that, or people will end up hearing a whole album in bits and pieces before it’s even finished, and then the new CD will have nothing surprising on it at all. Gotta keep some mystery alive.

The new song that’s up on Myspace is a bit of a funny one. I recorded the Wurlitzer and vocals yesterday and then put it aside to work on other songs. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Late last night I got an idea for the instrumental part. I thought drums and other instruments could come in there, layered into something atmospheric and kind of lush, at least by my standards.

It didn’t quite work out the way I expected. But it rarely does. At least it sort of turned out the way I thought it would. Today I added bass, drums, a bit of additional singing (I guess I have some sort of compulsion to sing words that aren’t words where other people would just leave things instrumental for a while…I’ve learned to embrace it and let it happen), and messed around with recording the Teisco for the first time.

The plan was for there to be several guitars in there, but one seemed to do the job just fine. I dig that tremolo arm.

I played with the mix for a few minutes and then committed it to CD.

Over the past few days I’ve worked on about a dozen different songs. At least a third of them have been mixed and are more or less CD-ready. I think the best plan now would be to commit to putting together THE CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN WITH A TRIANGLE, because I seem to be recording a lot of things that would work well in the context of what that album looks like in my head, and maybe if I work at it I can get the thing done by the end of next month.

Having a new CD to give people would be a pretty strange experience at this point. It’s been a long time since I was in a position where I could say, “Here’s something. Eat it!” Not that many people have attempted to ingest my music. Or at least not to my knowledge. But you never know what goes on behind closed doors and on shiny hardwood floors.

The main thing is I’ve been more productive over the last few days than I have in the past month. If I can just keep my stupid sleep in halfway decent shape I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t continue.

Swear on your daughter’s eyes.

New song that almost died magically come back to life! Now on Spyspace! Make you dance with purple pants! Make you crave many air-fresheners for vehicular sustenance!

It’s kinda rough. Things speed up a bit after the second verse because I didn’t use a click track, the singing could be better, and Bono’s planned vocal cameo didn’t work out. But it feels right. And it ain’t quite a tiny song this time. More like medium-tiny.

There’s a whole lot more on the way. I just need to do a lot of recording and mixing, and in about four years and thirty-seven CDs it’ll all be over and I’ll be able to rest in the arms of a Jamaican chihuahua. Does such an animal even exist? I think not. But I can dream.

Sleeping with the television on.

Hello. My name is Johann Westoffovich the Third, and I’m a budding vinyl addict. It’s an illness for which there exists only one cure: beersicles. Lots and lots of beersicles.

That’s frozen beer on a stick, in case you were wondering.

Here are some of the most recent additions. Some of these albums are so unhip they’ll make you cry, but I hear a good cry every now and then is good for you. Cleansing for the soul and all that.

yma sumac // voice of the xtabaycharlie parker // encores vol. 1gary burton & chick corea // crystal lightbruce springsteen // live at the roxy 1978roxy music // strandedeurythmics // sweet dreams are made of thiseurythmics // touchthe 4 seasons present frankie valli solo10cc // how dare you!10cc // the original soundtrack10cc // sheet musicsinatra // try a little tenderness supertramp // crime of the centurysupertramp // crisis? what crisis?supertramp // even in the quietest moments

In other exciting news, after wading through leftover lethargic goo from sickness stupidity and untangling messed up sleep for something like the thousandth time, yesterday I tentatively got back in the swing of things and did some recording. One song had been kicking around for a little while as just acoustic guitar and vocals, and I finally added some more instruments. It took some messing around. I meant to add some electric guitar and bass and drums, but I couldn’t quite get the drums to mesh with the arrangement the way I wanted. In the end it was bass, Wurlitzer, some additional vocals, and a bit of impromptu melodica at the end, and suddenly the song came to life.

Then I went to create a new song on the mixer so I could start recording some of the things I’ve been writing on my new seventy-six-year-old guitar, and everything froze up. I had to turn the thing off manually. When it powered back up again all the songs were there but none of them would let me in. “FUNCTION FAILED!” it said. I could do pretty much anything as long as it didn’t involve any of the songs. It seemed like they were still there. The same amount of time that had been remaining on the hard drive before the glitch was still showing on the screen. All the dates and times were correct. And yet the file size for each song read as “- – -” — which wasn’t exactly encouraging.

Given the nature of the mixer, it didn’t seem like there was much I could do. Short of finding some magical solution, I would have to reformat the drive and wipe out everything in order to restore things to proper working order. This wouldn’t be so bad if I had everything backed up, but there were at least a dozen new songs in various stages of completion that weren’t backed up or on CD in any roughly-mixed form. All of them would be dust in the wind, and Kansas would play a solemn version of “Carry on My Wayward Son” rewritten to address my plight. I wasn’t about to re-record all those songs from scratch, so I made plans to shave, cut my hair, and go to Yale, majoring in waffle cone research.

This morning I discovered you can do something called a “drive check”. I did this, and it told me there were some errors. Corrupted data and so forth. I could attempt to repair the damage but would certainly lose some data in the process (the mixer made no bones about it: “YOU WILL LOSE DATA!” it told me). Every song was fine except for the one I most wanted to save, and it was impossible to say how much of it would remain after whatever data had gone bad was erased. Bracing myself for the worst, I said yes to “repair drive try?” (because how can you resist a question that’s worded in such a way?).

Too bad I didn’t figure this whole process out sooner and do it yesterday. Seventeen hours of muted fury and defeat were undone in about five seconds, and I soon found all the songs were still there. As for the one I was worried about, the only thing missing was the bass track. All the settings were just as I had left them. Only the bass track itself was missing. I was more worried about the Wurlitzer and melodica parts, since they were improvised additions I would be hard pressed to replace without altering the race-rhyme continuum. I re-recorded the bass in about two minutes.

So all is well. The moral of the story: never invite Billy Idol to your stag party. That’s just asking for trouble.

I should have a new song or two up here or on Spyspace sometime this week. I would probably have something to share today if that little glitch hadn’t happened yesterday, but as I like to say, beggars can’t be booze hounds. Also, it seems I may have been a little over-optimistic with my whole “new album by June!” proclamation. It would have been realistic had I not been knocked out for a while by the unexpected sinus infection attack.

Maybe I’ll shoot for July instead.

How glad the many millions of Annabelles and Lillians would be…to capture me.

Having lived a life of violent emotional contradictions, I have an over-acute capacity for sadness as well as elation…whatever else has been said about me is unimportant. When I sing, I believe.”

Frank Sinatra said that.

For a long time, I wasn’t interested in Sinatra or any of the “crooners”. From what little I heard on oldies stations as a kid, it all seemed kind of corny to me. Johnny Smith suggested picking up one of Frank’s albums a few times, but I never really saw the point. Torch songs weren’t cool to me.

Then I heard part of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” in that life-altering movie starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt called What Women Think They Want (He May Be Anti-Semitic and Kind of Crazy, But You’ll Find Him Endearing When He Reaches Out to Britney Spears Years from Now, So Hold Your Tongue). And I thought to myself, “That’s kind of catchy. Maybe it’s worth it to pick up a CD after all.”

As luck would have it, the Emporium of Musical Depravity at the mall (also known as HMV) had Songs for Swingin’ Lovers in stock, along with some useless compilations. So I grabbed the album that wasn’t a useless compilation, with Frank smiling on the cover, hat in place. What seemed corny to me as a kid wasn’t so corny anymore. That was a few years ago, and today I’m an unabashed Sinatra fan. Seems kind of silly now that it took me so long to appreciate this kind of music.

Frank was an interesting guy. Complicated. Flawed. Full of contradictions. But man, could he sing. Every time I’ve heard someone else try to sing a Sinatra song — because even though he didn’t write them, they became Frank Sinatra songs once he recorded them — it just sounds wrong. If the singer isn’t a straight bubblegum Sinatra clone like Michael “David Foster loves me so why don’t you?” Bublé, they’re…well…kind of rancid.

Now, if you want to hear something a little surreal…apparently Frank lost his voice due to some serious and unexpected vocal cord hemorrhaging while in the middle of performing live around 1950, right when his career and marriage were in the process of falling apart. I’ve read when he came back and reinvented himself a few years later his voice was changed. But I’d never heard any really early Sinatra to compare.

Well, I found a few things on YouTube. And it’s a little weird to listen to. I just can’t reconcile that face with that voice. It doesn’t feel quite right.

He might have lost a little bit of his upper register, but I think Frank’s second voice was a lot more interesting and capable of emotional grace notes the younger voice wouldn’t have known what to do with. As horrible as the experience of suffering traumatic vocal damage mid-performance must have been, in a way I think losing his voice and having it come back different was maybe the best thing that ever happened to him. It’s impossible to imagine Frank singing any of the great songs he inhabited in the 1950s and ’60s with this voice. It just isn’t lived-in enough.

Well, throw a potted plant at my head and call me Reginald.

My ears have returned to me from their unpleasant bout with congested stupidity. There has been much rejoicing and love-making. Well, minus the love-making. In celebration, my ears and I paid a visit to Dr. Disc today and decided to take more than a cursory glance at the vinyl section for the first time ever.

This is what we ended up leaving with:

Harry Nilsson // Son of SchmilssonFrank Sinatra // No One CaresPeter Gabriel // PG3/MeltPeter Gabriel // Shock the Monkey (maxi single)Roxy Music // For Your PleasureKate Bush // The Kick InsideKate Bush // The DreamingDavid Bowie // Aladdin SaneFleetwood Mac // TuskLindsey BuckinghamBruce Springsteen // Darkness on the Edge of TownBruce Springsteen // Cover Me (maxi single)Neil Young // Everybody Knows This Is NowhereCaptain Beefheart & the Magic Band // Lick My Decals Off, BabyLou Reed // Sally Can\'t DanceTalking Heads // More Songs About Buildings & FoodThe Carpenters // s/t (tan album)Todd Rundgren // A Wizard/A True Star

There wasn’t time to check out the jazz vinyl section, but next time…look out. The prices for a lot of these albums are absurd. Tusk, for example, is a double album. It’s in more or less mint condition, complete with each individual album’s packaging and the slipcase (or whatever you call the thing that houses the record and will sometimes have lyrics and pictures on it). Everything that ever came with the album is present and accounted for, in great condition. I paid eight bucks for that. Some records I got for three dollars a pop.

I can get several times the amount of albums I would normally buy on CD and spend less money doing it. The selection is ridiculous, too. Pretty much anything you might be interested in looking for on vinyl is probably around there somewhere, or if it isn’t it’ll probably show up soon. It’s kind of fun having a record collection when some people my age probably don’t even remember what records are, and maybe someday in the not so distant future I’ll manage to have an impressive one.

I don’t really weigh in on the whole analog vs. digital sound quality debate. I just like records and think they’re cool to have. As I mentioned in a post a few months back, the artwork is so much more interesting to look at when you can actually see it in some detail. CDs seem pretty tiny and insignificant in comparison. This is part of the reason why I’d like to do something different with the packaging for my CDs in the future. I don’t ever want to compromise artwork again for the sake of modifying it to accommodate CD jewel case sizes. I’m not entirely sure yet just what I’m going to do to break away from the conventional sizing and packaging, but it should be fun experimenting.

Most of the album titles on the album pages now link to their own respective pages. That was something I probably should have done to begin with, but it seemed rather tedious and time-consuming, so I put it off. When I was sick, though, I had nothing better to do, so I gave it a shot. It was…tedious. And time-consuming. But it didn’t take nearly as long as I expected it would.

This weekend I plan to look for a scanner and possibly/hopefully buy one, so there should be album cover art and other such things up here soon. Maybe I’ll put up some handwritten lyrics and random things like that. The possibilities are quite possibly possible, and maybe even numerous. It’s an exciting time to dream of beehives.

It takes a little thyme sometimes.

Things I have learned over the past week while getting sick for the first time in years:

  • Benylin is disgusting, but it works pretty well. Anyone who can drink enough of it to get high must be pretty sadistic or have no sense of taste. Two spoonfuls is about all I can take. I think I actually prefer the taste of Buckley’s. And anyone who drinks enough of that stuff to get high probably sees God and grows tentacles in the worst possible places.
  • Muffled hearing is not much fun to experience. It’s especially frustrating when you need your ears to record and mix songs with any degree of skill.
  • Fun House by the Stooges will get your ass moving no matter how lethargic and icky you feel. You tell ’em you’re a real low mind, Iggy. You get down with your bad self.
  • Be careful what you fish for.
  • Don’t try to ride it out. Instead, find its hideout, and then shoot it seven times or until movement ceases.

I just realized I haven’t put a new song up here in something like a month. Hopefully I’ll be able to rectify that soon. I’m just waiting for my stupid ears to return to their normal working order. In the meantime, I’ve put up a bit of music in a few places that didn’t have any before, like here. And here. And also here. The Adam Russell stuff is pretty ridiculous and not something I ever listen to, but I thought I should at least put a song up on the album page in case anyone wanted to hear what high-functioning drunk people sound like while improvising.