Month: March 2009

It’s about love.

Thursday night was Tara’s CD release show at The Room. Martin Schiller (aka 87 things for the future) played, The Locusts Have No King played (with Tara playing acoustic guitar and singing harmony), and then Tara took the stage with her merry little band of sharply dressed men. I think we were all looking pretty stylish and dapper.

It was a lot of fun, man. If you weren’t there…then you were probably somewhere else. But if you were there, maybe you saw me wearing Extreme Isolation headphones at some points to shield my ears from the high volume situation. To hell with looking hip. Protect your ears, I say! I need to get some of those custom-made “musician’s earplugs” so I can be more discrete about it. Temporary threshold shift is not our friend.

Also, I’d like to thank the man behind Photo404 for letting me use some of the pictures he took. Many thanks to Adam as well for letting me borrow his keyboard for the show. I’m in love with how lightweight that thing is.

Starting at 11:00 pm there was a simulcast going on and the music was broadcast live on CJAM (I should pause to note that their proposal to be moved to 99.1 on the FM dial, complete with protected status, has been approved!) as it was being performed. So even if you weren’t there, you could hear it live on the radio. And you can hear it here now. Because I’m all about sharing the love.

The recording quality is a little rough, at least in its current MP3 form. I wish Brendan’s bass came through with a lot more clarity. I do like the way the drums sound. There are some feedback issues, but I think they were mostly happening onstage and probably not so obvious out in the audience. At least I hope they weren’t. I’m pretty sure most of that came from my banjo mic. I need to get a pickup or start playing electric guitar instead. Mic’ing that thing in a live setting is a nightmare. I had to be turned down so low in the monitor I couldn’t really hear what I was doing at all, and what I could hear of myself sounded hideously out of tune. And even then, there were still onstage feedback issues. So it’s a relief to hear from the broadcast that not only was I pretty much in tune, but aside from a drop-out during part of the first song and not being that high in the mix initially, I was also pretty audible.

Fun bits included an unexpected last-minute change in the setlist that had me hitting a piano chord before realizing I played banjo on the song and had about three seconds to grab it and get the mic in place for an opening solo bit (hence the feedback and hasty fade-in), Chad’s twist-style drumming fake-out at the beginning of “100 Years” (which cracked me up), and Tara’s parental advisory bit before “Over-Eager Heart”. You can hear me in there at a few points, asking if I’m in tune, trying to clarify what song comes next, and talking about the need to boogie and Taylor Swift. Minus the Taylor Swift.

We only had time to squeeze in a few rehearsals before the show, and we’ve only really been a band for a matter of weeks, but this was by far the most fun I’ve had playing music in a live setting in quite a few years. I hope everyone who came out had a good time and grabbed a copy of Tara’s album.

tara-and-me

The set is in two parts here. That’s because CJAM’s MP3 archives are split into one-hour increments. It works out well, though, because the second part begins with “S.O.S.” — a new song that ended our set before Tara’s solo encore — and I think that was probably our best performance of the whole night. It’s so new, we only got the chance to rehearse it once or twice, and I’m still not sure how well we all know it, but it sounds pretty wild to me. It was fun to have an opportunity to go a little crazy on the keyboard, and I really dig Chad’s drumming, and Brendan’s tasty bass runs, and the way Tara sings like she’s kind of possessed.

Fun times, my friends. Fun times. Hopefully there will be more to come in the future. I think the four of us make a good team. Maybe next time I’ll even try my hand at singing more harmony if it feels right.

Congratulations to Tara on the successful launch of her first album! And long live Jason the Boy’s Man.

Tara Watts CD release show 3/26/09 (part 1)

Tara Watts CD release show 3/26/09 (part 2)

Huey Lewis with a gun.

I have been rehearsing a bit with a band. That’s right…a band.

I haven’t played in such a setting since back when I couldn’t grow much of any facial hair, so that gives you some idea of how long it’s been. The difference this time is that I do have some facial hair, and more importantly I’m not the front person. Tara Watts is. Hooray! Me not be in spotlight!

It’s fun playing with her, and her brother Brendan (on bass), and Chad Howson (he of ASK fame, on drums). It just feels comfortable, all of us together. They’re great people, so it would be fun hanging out even if we didn’t connect musically, but I think we play well off of one another. Anytime you can break into a bit of “Miss You” by the Stones completely randomly between songs just for fun, I think that’s a good sign.

It’s a bit of a switch for me, being the “lead” player and actually playing solos and fiddly bits when most of the time I prefer to kind of fade into the background like a colourful character actor with a stylish hat. But I think I can hack it. Or hock it. Whichever comes first.

Tara’s big CD release show is coming up on Thursday at The Room. Details are on the poster up there. Should be fun. I’m kind of all over that album, playing either keys or six-string banjo on nine of its eleven songs, and singing a bit of third part harmony on one of them.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Holy macaroni!” And it is right to give the Cosmic Noodle Stuff thanks and praise.

But what I really mean to say is thanks to Tara for letting me be a part of her album. I enjoyed playing on it. A few of my piano parts are pretty low in the mix, and one of them was manipulated after the fact to sound something like a harpsichord (not my choice), but I assure you I’m there, swaying in the breeze like an affluent tree. I think I’m pretty happy with most of what I played, even if some of my ideas are a bit more refined now that I’m rehearsing the songs and not just winging it blindly without having heard half of them before, which was basically what happened at the recording stage. Who knew I could do the session musician thing and wing it and not have the whole thing end in tears? My favourite contribution to the album might be the banjo part I came up with for “Camels in Canada”.

Also, tenor banjos are neat little things. Especially this one.

banjo2

That’s a 1922 Gibson TB. It must have found the banjo equivalent of the fountain of youth, because it doesn’t look even close to eighty-seven.

I wasn’t in any hurry to get any sort of “proper” banjo. I think the six-string does a good job of covering most of my banjo bases, even if I should take it in for a setup one of these days to fix the occasionally dodgy intonation. But Guelph is a dangerous place. Whenever I pick up an instrument and immediately start playing things I’ve never played before, I know there’s something worth pursuing there. An instrument that inspires you within seconds to start forming new song ideas is something special. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also maybe the most comfortable banjo neck I’ve ever played. I’m sure it’ll work its way onto the next album that’s still in-progress.

Old stringed instruments in general are inspiring things. Take this one, for example.

archtop

It’s a very cheap old archtop with copper back and sides. And yet it’s got a funky voice to it that no other guitar I’ve found — certainly not any new guitar — can come close to matching. Any guitar that will tolerate weird-ass tunings and still intonate properly is a friend of mine. It also sounds pretty cool with a slide, as “Centipede Marriage Proposal” on AN ABSENCE OF SWAY will attest to. Pity I didn’t take a better picture of it, but what can you do in these troubled times?

Sinus infections are stupid.

penis-penis-penis

You tell it, Cookie Monster. You preach the truth.

Did I mention in my last post that sinus infections are stupid? Well, they are. I hate them almost as much as I hate the soulful musical stylings of Paris Hilton. Almost. It’s a tight race, but I think Paris just wins by a hair.

In more exciting news, I am in the paper today. It’s pretty strange and surreal. The thought of me. In the paper. That people read. I never thought I’d see the day. For once there’s a picture of me that doesn’t make me wince in pain. I look kind of scholarly and short-haired, like a professor of dulcimer theology in especially casual attire. Maybe it’s the glasses. In any case, huge thanks to the Windsor Star and Dalson Chen in particular for being interested, and for writing some very nice things about me. Flattery will get you almost everywhere.

But seriously, I have to quote this one bit: Dalson describes my sometimes odd song titles and surface weirdness as being “only a quirky wrapper for the beauty within, like a goofy T-shirt on a pretty girl”. That’s too good, man. I want to meet that girl. I’d buy her popcorn and take her to see a Spanish film with great subtitles.

Okay, so I would make the popcorn myself, and I would probably burn it in the process of realizing far too late that I was supposed to stop the popping before every kernel had given up the ghost completely. And if we watched the movie in my room I’d have to clear off my cluttered bed, because there’s nowhere else to sit. But I could make that sacrifice for the right person. And it would be a DVD from the Criterion Collection.

You know it’s love when the restoration makes a movie that’s several decades old look vibrant and new again.

Why did I lapse into hypothetical dating talk? Nobody knows.

Something I do know: I better replenish those little red plastic basket-boxes of CDs at Dr. Disc and Phog in case anyone who reads the article decides to head out that way in search of my CDs in the days and weeks ahead. I hope some people who haven’t seen me in a while get a kick out of seeing my hairy face in the paper. Maybe that girl I met once at the Loop some years back who was a dead ringer for Kim Novak will find herself with a sudden uncontrollable urge to get in touch with me. Maybe that guy from Slipknot will want to grab a beer and throw some darts. You know, that guy. He wore a mask and did stuff. You know the guy I’m talking about! He went to Rome to see the pope.

If anybody else in the world has ever heard the silly song I’m referring to, feel free to raise your hand.

Sinus infections are stupid. Did I mention that already? It’s especially fun when you’re right in the middle of working on an album and you find your momentum completely derailed by said stupid sinus infection. It’s kind of difficult to record and mix things when your ears are clogged up and you can’t hear all the nuances of what you’re doing. Of course, the exact same thing happened to me during the summer when I was working on CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN. I guess I should be thankful I only get sick once a year these days.

It would be nice if it was a typical cold that was gone in a few days instead of a sinus infection that hangs on for a good week or two. I still aim to have the next album finished sometime in April. I just would have preferred not to lose more than a week of recording time because of stupid sickness crap. At least it seems to be on its way out now, sort of, so rejoice, and let the little children come to me. Or maybe don’t do that, because even though I seem benevolent, there’s a chance I could warp their young and impressionable minds with all kinds of wild ideas about proper balloon etiquette.

On the bright side, I did get to watch The Shining at something like two in the morning when I was at my most congested. It’s always fun watching Jack Nicholson lose his mind at a time when he didn’t just sleepwalk through movies with his eyebrows raised all the while. And I’d kind of forgotten how Stanley Kubrick completely subverted the typical “thriller” ingredients while gutting Stephen King’s book and adapting it to suit his own vision. The whole thing moves at a snail’s pace, with very few sudden “scary scary boo boo now now!” moments that will make you jump, aside from the obvious aerobics segment during which viewers are instructed to perform jumping jacks. The slowness is part of what allows the movie to weave such a unique spell, I think. It takes its time in a way few horror films do anymore. It’s always nice to see Scatman Crothers strut his stuff too.

I also caught several episodes of Oz late at night. Now there’s a wholesome show for the whole family. I still have fond memories of staying up late on weekends to catch new episodes back when I was in high school, eating Combos and drinking orange Gatorade, wondering what machiavellian twist would come next in the Nappa-Adebisi rivalry.

Speaking of Cookie Monster, did you know he’s basically the godfather of death metal? The guy is a force of nature. His influence stretches out through the years like a knotty tree branch uncoiling its fist. Or maybe it’s a naughty tree branch. The point is, it’s a tree with an arm you can’t deny.

Hey Mickey, you’re so fine. You’re so fine, Minnie wants to get with you.


My article isn’t in the Windsor Star today after all. Now I’m told it’s going to be next Monday, the 16th. I guess we’ll see.

The next album continues to move along, in spite of this stupid cold I have right now. So far there are fifteen keeper tracks that have been recorded (I think they’re keepers, anyway), along with a few out-takes. Some of them still need a little extra decoration, and a lot of them haven’t been mixed yet, but I’d say I’m a little over halfway there. Maybe creeping up on two-thirds of the way there. And when I get there, we’ll all dance together and donkeys will weep tears of joy.

On a random note, a few years back I thought it would be interesting to hear what some of my songs sounded like backwards. In most cases it’s just kind of funny. But when I reversed “Fidget” it became something else…like a strange cousin to its former self. So here it is, for your amusement — “Fidget” in reverse. It also provides us with the revelation that “she gone” backwards is somehow “neye-gish-uh”. Now there’s something you want to shout at random people, so when they reverse your words at a later date they’ll know what you were on about.

Fidget (in reverse)

The tongue rests within the cheek no longer.

Lately I’ve been saying a lot of silly things here, because it’s fun to be silly. This time I have nothing silly to say.

Earlier tonight someone called and left a message on my phone telling me they were going to blow up my house because I bought the turntable they wanted from Audio Two.

Obviously it was a joke, delivered in a fake accent that sounded kind of like it was supposed to be Middle-Eastern. But where you would expect someone to say, “Haha, it’s me…here’s my real voice so you know who I am…give me a call back,” this person just hung up without revealing who they were or dropping the act.

At first I just thought it was weird. Then it started to piss me off.

I haven’t said much about this here outside of dropping a few vague hints that something messed-up happened, but back in October two guys broke into my house and made it clear they intended to rape and kill me. Whoever left this message probably knows that. I mean, it was in the newspaper, even if the idiot writer got most of the details wrong. And yet here they are “joking” about how they’re going to blow up my house, after my sense of security and wellbeing in my home was obliterated by two drug-hungry fucks who should have died in the womb from umbilical cord strangulation at the moment they thought they were going to be born.

I can’t for the life of me place the voice or figure out who would make a joke like this. But whoever left the message, they must read this blog at least once in a while. Otherwise I’m not sure how they would know where I bought my turntable from, or that I bought one at all.

So, jokester, this is directed at you:

You’re lucky your number showed up as “private” and I don’t know who you are. Otherwise I would give some serious thought to having you criminally charged with uttering threats. I don’t care that you think it’s a joke. You try having two guys break into your house and scream at you about how they’re going to shoot you and fuck you up the ass because you supposedly slept with some girl you don’t even know (difficult to do when you’re a virgin), try dealing with PTSD in the aftermath of that fun experience and thinking you’re going to die of a stroke or heart attack while experiencing daily panic attacks, and then see how amused you are when someone anonymously leaves a voice mail message telling you they’re going to kill you a few months down the road.

Whoever you are, you’re no friend of mine. But I hope you got a good laugh out of your little joke.

Pink is the colour of my peppermint splinter.

I found my ten-year-old harmonica! The one that’s been missing in action for well over a year now! I can’t believe it. This whole time it was sitting in the external pouch of a guitar case, leaning against the wall right behind the six-string banjo. Countless times, I was standing three feet away from it and had no idea it was right there. Talk about silliness. I feel it’s only appropriate that the next album should feature eight-minute harmonica solos on every song in celebration of this discovery/happy accident, so I guess I’m starting over from scratch.

Or not.

I do know what I’m going to call the album and what I’m doing for cover art, so that helps to eliminate some potential last-minute scrambling. The title is a bit of a mouthful, but I like it and think it’s strangely appropriate for the material. I think you might get a kick out of it, whoever you are.

Also, watch out for my scary, hairy mug in the Windsor Star on Monday, March 9th. It could be scintillating, or it could all end in tears. Only time will reveal to us which way the pendulum swings.

The album — the one I’m focusing on at the moment, anyway — is coming along pretty well. Quite a few songs have been recorded, but a lot of them need some work before they’re CD-ready. I’m still aiming to have it finished and available sometime in April. I think it should be doable.

Yesterday I unexpectedly found myself writing a piano ballad. Yes. A piano ballad. And I think it might somehow turn out to be one of my favourite things on the album, once it’s been dressed up a bit (right now it’s just piano, vocals and bass). But fret not — the opening line is, “Sex seed particulate.” So you don’t have to worry about things dipping into MOR territory. Yet.

I seem to be turning into something of an accidental unpaid session musician these days. I kind of like it. It’s fun playing on someone else’s songs for a change. It engages the brain in different ways than working on your own material does. It’s also fun to be given the freedom to improvise, and to come up with ideas in the process that probably wouldn’t have ever presented themselves if not for the unfamiliar music you’re working off of.

So far there are two pretty high-profile forthcoming albums by local artists that I’ve played on. There’s the Field Assembly album, which will be coming out on June 5th. I played piano on a few songs on that one, and a little sprinkling of glockenspiel in one song. Because sometimes the glock is just what a sog needs. And then there’s the Tara Watts album. I recorded a whole whack of piano and six-string banjo for that one on Sunday. That’ll be out there on March 26th.

It seems I’ll also be playing in Tara’s band at the CD release show, which will be at The Room. You know the one — that Room where things happen and glances that seem pregnant with meaning are exchanged. Really it’s just indigestion misleading you, but in the moment you feel a connection has been made, and who am I to take that away from you?

It’s funny. I don’t mind playing live so much as a sideman. You’d think there would be more pressure not to screw up in that setting, because the songs aren’t mine and any mistakes I make will be much more obvious and harder to work around, but I find it all a lot more enjoyable than being up there playing my own material. Dolph Lundgren understands. I know he does.