Month: November 2008

Bless me father, for I have shins.

THE CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN WITH A TRIANGLE is now available at Sanctuary Coffee Lounge. Thanks to Renée and Travis for making that happen.

If there’s anyone left out there who still wants the thing, you can get it there now. And even if my music makes you break out in hives, you should pop over there on the corner of College and Campbell just to buy some great coffee and watch Dr. Phil on the large TV screen. That man is always there for you when you need him.

I’m still not sure if I’m going to be able to get this new album I’m working on finished and out there before the year’s end, but I’m giving it the old college try, even though I never went to college.

There’s about half an hour of music in finished form so far that’s definite CD material. So there’s enough right now for an EP. But I’m not really feeling the shorter format at the moment. There are also a lot of songs in various stages of completion, and some that are finished but won’t be making the cut because they don’t quite feel right.

The other album I planned on tackling at the same time is still sitting on the back burner while this one starts to take shape. In some ways it feels like a logical progression from CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN. In other ways it feels like a pretty different beast to me.

I don’t think there are going to be as many have-a-brief-coughing-fit-and-you’ll-miss-them tiny songs as there were last time, but I’m sure there will be some that insinuate themselves. Yesterday I improvised and recorded something that sounds like a warped blues song run through a cheese grater. It’s forty-four seconds long.

I have no idea what I’m going to do for cover art once this album is finished, but I hope to figure that out at some point.

On a different note, I randomly stumbled across this site called CLLCT a while back, forgot about it, remembered, forgot again, remembered again, and now I’m thinking it might be fun to put some music up there, maybe.

I like how no one pays for anything and the emphasis is on building a community and sharing all different kinds of music with anyone who might care to hear it. I still prefer a physical album (CD, vinyl, cassette, Flintstones Vitamin sound capsule, or what have you) to MP3s, but I could always just offer to send people CDs in the mail over there if they wanted them. Something to think about.

Oh yeah — almost forgot. I ordered a saw. Not for decapitating people, but for musical purposes. The thought of playing a musical saw never even occurred to me until yesterday, when reading up about the theremin led to reading up about the saw and I learned they’re pretty cheap. They also have an eerie and unique sound to them that isn’t quite like anything else, and I think it would be a fun thing to be able to play around with.

So don’t be too surprised if some otherworldly singing saw sounds crop up in a few places on the next album.

Moo, cow. Moo like ne’er you moo’d before.

Sherman has moved on for greener pastures, or maybe just someone else’s house. My life is dismal and empty now. Sherman! Where you be?!

But seriously. It struck me after the fact that the “thank you” section at the end of the MISFITS booklet doesn’t thank everyone who’s deserving. I’m not used to writing those sorts of things, and there’s a good chance it’s the only time I’ll ever make an attempt.

One thing I want to address is the bit where I call out some people who have been flakes and absentee friends — the people who have occasionally made me wonder why I bother trying to connect with anyone. There are a lot of them (far too many names to list here), but then there are also a lot of people — aside from those thanked in print — who have bucked the trend and managed to make it seem like maybe it was worth experiencing all of the ceaseless indifference and rejection after all, if only to find a little strobe light at the end of the tunnel. You know who you are. And if you don’t, well…I will appear to you in a dream and tell you how wonderful you are.

While we’re on the topic, it’s come to my attention that the silver CDs I used for some copies of MISFITS may be a little dodgy. Normally I’d stick with the white Taiyo Yudens I used for CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN, but I don’t have many of those left (gotta order more) and thought I’d throw in some silver ones, since they’re supposed to be up there in the pantheon of high quality CD-Rs as well. Apparently they’re not.

So if you end up with silver CDs and they give you any trouble, let me know and I’ll get you some replacements pronto.

Remember when I thought I’d never need to order any more Taiyo Yuden CDs for the rest of my life because I had a few hundred of them and I didn’t think I’d go through many copies of CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN? Yeah. Those were the days.

The misfits are here. Don’t mind the blurriness.

a stack of cds

At long last, the first thing i’ve ever done that comes with a proper booklet is all packaged and ready to go. Hello Julia. I’ve been a little busy today folding inserts and putting jewel cases together, as you can see.


It didn’t really hit me just how packed with text the booklet was until I was holding the finished product in my hands. There are no suggestive pictures of me inside. Sorry to disappoint anyone who was hoping for that sort of thing. But hopefully there will be a few things of interest in there for those who are curious about where some of the songs came from.

I grabbed the opportunity to take a few shots at usurpers from my musical past in the booklet. Not that there’s a very good chance any of them will ever read the words directed at them, but still. Score!

One thing I’d like to point out for anyone who bothers to read the thing — I caught this after the fact, and it isn’t exactly a typo (I don’t think I made any of those), but it’s something I should have worded differently.

Early on, while discussing the song “Bloody Chicago (Morning)”, I write that it doesn’t sound half bad for being “one of the first things I ever recorded, using equipment that was still foreign to me at the time”. The emphasis should be on using equipment that was still foreign to me. That comma shouldn’t be there, because it makes it sound like this was one of the first things I ever recorded, period. And that’s very far from being the case.

What I should have written was something more like, “This doesn’t sound half bad for being one of the first things I ever recorded digitally.” I’d been recording albums on cassette tape for quite a long time at that point. They just weren’t things anyone ever got to hear, and it was exciting to finally be able to record in a more professional way, or at least in such a way that the end result would be on a CD instead of a cassette.

Glad we got that cleared up.

The important thing is I’ll be able to start spreading this thing around tomorrow, sending CDs out in the mail, giving them to people in person, and all of that fun stuff. For anyone who was sitting around thinking, “I hope that weird guy who made that weird CD with a Chicken Angel Woman on the cover puts out a bloated collection of songs that have fallen by the wayside over the years and throws in a thick booklet completely free of photographic content,” your prayers have been answered.

We’ve got earmuffs for your cold baby toe.

A few days ago I stumbled onto a sound that I think will inform the next CD to some extent: piano and ukulele. Together.

See, it hadn’t ever occurred to me to throw those two instruments into the same pot and see what happened. There are piano songs, and there are ukulele songs. Both tend to end up decorated in one way or another, but for whatever reason I had this unarticulated idea that piano and uke should be kept away from each another within the context of the same song.

Then I got to messing around with one of several songs that’s still in an embryonic state. The writing of it is finished but the recording isn’t. This particular song is piano-led, with bass, drums, vocal cords, and some melodica. It felt like it was missing something.

I’ve been trying to stay away from automatically adding some electric guitar to a song when I feel it needs some dressing up. That worked well on the last album, and it’ll work well in a lot of other situations, but I don’t want to fall into the trap of getting lazy just because I know a certain approach will yield results that are good enough.

Thought I’d try adding some ukulele, almost as a joke, using half of my ass and not intending to keep anything I did. It ended up forcing me to rethink the entire arrangement of the song, and now I think I need to re-record the drums and maybe add a few more bells and whistles. It’s funny — within this one little song that I pretty much decided wasn’t even CD material, I’ve accidentally found a whole new musical direction to mess around with.

If it had to be given some sort of name, maybe I’d go with “semi-psychotic piano ballads with flamenco-style ukulele strumming”. Or “semi-psychotic ukulele ballads with piano flourishes”. Not that it’s all going to be semi-psychotic, or wholly psychotic for that matter, but you get my drift. Or maybe you don’t. The important thing is you’ll hear what I mean before too long.

Today I started — and finished — work on a song I’ve been wanting to tackle for a long time now. It’s existed in mostly finished form for quite a while, but only now did it feel like it had been soaking in its own juices for long enough that I knew what to do with it. Of course, it came out a little bit different from what I was planning all this time. But I’m kind of used to that happening by now.

I’m glad I waited to record the song, because now that I hear what a real piano does for it I know if I tackled it earlier it would be missing something. There’s a sense of weight there that wouldn’t even exist if I used a digital piano sound instead. It continues to surprise me how easy it is to record that instrument. I’ve read all about how a real piano is one of the most difficult things to record well (which makes sense, given all the complexities of the sound and the design of the thing), but all I have to do is stick two small diaphragm condenser mics where I think they ought to go and it sounds pretty spiffy to me.

After the piano pulled the song in a different direction, I ended up almost unconsciously throwing out a part that was supposed to be played on the Arp Omni-2. I think the whole thing probably works a little better without it. And it’s still the longest thing I’ve recorded in a while, clocking in at about six minutes. While that’s pretty tame compared to some of the marathon songs of old, it’s practically a rambling song-suite compared to some of the recent songs I’ve been recording.

It’s nice to get back to working on things with more unconventional structures, too. If your typical song follows something like an A-A-B-A-C-A-B structure, this song is more like A-B-C-D-E-F-G. I like subverting form, throwing out the idea of repeating sections of music at predictable moments and writing traditional choruses. I guess I’ve enjoyed doing that for a while now.

I’ve got a funny feeling about this album. I don’t think it’s going to have as many songs on it as the last one, given the lengthier nature of some things, but I like where it seems to be headed so far. Maybe I’ll even make good on the idea to get a few friends to play and sing on some things. It’d be fun to have some “guest musician” credits on a solo album again for the first time since 1999.

Pancakes can be lovers too.

little green guy

So, there’s been a slight change in plans.

The goal to get two more albums of new material out before the end of the year was a little insane. Under different circumstances it might have been somewhat realistic, but this isn’t the year it’s going to happen. At least now OUT-TAKES, MISFITS & OTHER THINGS is no longer a fuzzy thing stuck in my hair saying, “Hey! HEY! Why don’t you finish me already?” and I’ll be able to start giving it to whoever wants it early next week.

In the realm of non-compilation stuff, allegiances have shifted. Hearts have been broken. The album that will house songs like “Don’t Be Tense” and “An Avalanche in Hell” has been pushed aside for the moment, and the piano-heavy album has taken over.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure I’ll keep recording songs that will end up on the guitar-heavy CD, whatever it ends up calling itself, whenever it emerges in finished form. But right now I’m feeling the pull of the piano, and I think it’s only right to give the new beast some love. It’s not all about the piano and nothing else — I’ve been giving my new ukulele some action too.

Got two uke songs finished yesterday, and I’m tempted to put one of them up on Spyspace for a little bit because I like the way it came out. It’s probably one of the catchiest things I’ve done in a while. It’s very strange playing a ukulele that actually stays in tune up the neck. The wonders of proper intonation!

As with CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN, I can sense a certain ethos starting to come into focus. But I don’t want to tell the album what to be. So I’ll just try to stand back and let it do what it wants to do.

Whatever the end result may be, expect to hear lots of quirky instruments, a ton of piano, and the occasional bit of intentionally off-key bugle flatulence. I’m going to try with all my spite to get the whole thing finished before 2008 trickles away. I can’t promise I’ll pull it off, but I think I’ve got at least a 50/50 chance. Worst case scenario, MISFITS should keep you raising your eyebrows and questioning my mental health for a while.

As for the picture up there, that’s a new friend of mine. I have no idea what kind of insect he is. I’ve never seen anything quite like him before. He’s about the size of a ladybug, if that, and I’ve seen him crawling around on the walls upstairs over the past few days. He moves incredibly slow for someone with as many legs as he has, as if it takes a great amount of effort for him to work up any amount of momentum, but he eventually gets where he wants to go.

I tried taking a picture of him head-on, and it came out kind of blurry because he’s almost always in motion and it’s difficult to get a full frontal shot of someone when they’re moving all vertical-like on the wall, no matter how slow they are.

little guy blurry

I’m not sure where he came from or how long he plans on hanging around here, but I think he needs a name. I bet he’s a Thelonious Monk fan too.

Sierra hotel India tango.

An excerpt of the interview Adam did with me a few weeks back (available in its entirety right over HERE) is in this month’s issue of WAMM in transcribed form, along with a picture of me looking intense and jazzy. Thanks to Stephen and Adam. I’m not so sure about all that “genius” talk, though. I think the appropriate word is “gesundheit-ish”.

Oh, and look — it’s a hammered dulcimer!

I picked this thing up in Guelph on Friday. Every time we go to Folkway I end up leaving with something completely different from what I plan to get. I never thought I would have any interest in a dulcimer of all things, but Johnny Smith pointed it out to me when I was staggering around without much direction, I started playing the thing, and the rest speaks for itself. Or it would speak for itself, if it was blessed with the gift of speech. Instead it just grunts.

I doubt I’ll ever come close to mastering the instrument in any conventional way (check out this lady — how do you even do that?), but I can at least get some interesting sounds out of it, and it’s a fun tool to add to the belt. The belt of tools, I mean. It’s even somewhat portable, which doesn’t seem possible given the design of the thing. In a hard shell case it somehow isn’t much larger or heavier than a vintage bass.

I think it’s safe to say the MISFITS compilation thing will be release-ready within the next week or two, once the packaging side of things is taken care of. So I should be able to start spreading it around by the second week of this month. Hopefully. I put a few of the tracks up on Spyspace just for something to do.

As for the plan to get another two albums of new material out there by the year’s end, well…that might have been a little optimistic. But I’m going to try to get at least one of them finished before bells start jingling and undead choirs start singing.