You are my candy, girl…and you’ve got me wanting you.

Max came over this afternoon, and love — I mean music — was made. Here’s a little bit of what we ended up doing.

I recorded about half an hour of video, and a bit more than that on digital tape. This right here is something we improvised out of thin air, followed by a bit of goofing on Dan Hill. Later on we goofed on “Lean on Me”, complete with beat-boxing, and Max provided some warped singing for a version of “Sugar, Sugar” unlike any you’re likely to have heard before. It was kind of sinister. There was a lot more jazzy improvising in-between, but I think the song in the above video might have been the best thing to come out of the afternoon.

I like how the music is evolving every step of the way. It starts off pretty free and a little dissonant, it floats around without any firm rhythm or direction for a while, and then rhythm is introduced and things start to take shape, only to keep on shifting until rhythm floats away again and the whole thing wafts away into nothing. It’s a nice feeling, being able to play with someone where you can improvise without any idea of what you’re going to play or what’s going to happen, not working from any preconceived musical ideas at all, but because you’re listening to each other and always changing and refining what you’re doing based on what the other musician is doing the results tend to sound more like songs than aimless noodling — all without anything ever being the least bit “written” at any point.

I might start out following what Max is doing on the bass, or he might start out following me. Then we might switch places when the other person introduces a new musical idea. Before long it becomes impossible to tell who’s following who. It’s an organic process of mutual exploring.

And just like back in the band days, listening to what was recorded is like hearing the music for the first time — a wholly unpredictable experience, because once we’ve finished playing we’ve already forgotten what we just did, since it was just growing out of the moment anyway. This is a universe and a half away from anything I was doing with the band, though, and I’d feel wrong trying to sing on top of this music. Seems like it should stay mostly instrumental to me. It’s also fun to concentrate on one instrument, challenging myself to see what I can wring out of it, instead of playing thirteen different things.

I guess this is my roundabout way of saying, “I like making music with Max.”

We came full circle just as I ran out of time on the camcorder with a mantra-like improvisation that had both of us singing and making odd noises, complete with Max speaking ethnic-sounding nonsense in a Stephen Hawking voice and some unexpected but somehow perfectly-timed vocal harmonies. It was epic. But we need to overdub some additional vocal nonsense before it’s ready to leave the womb. We weren’t using any vocal mics, so our voices aren’t as present in the mix as they could be. They’ll need a little help.

Again, apologies for the crummy cinematography. I ended up cutting Max’s head off in an attempt at getting both of us in the frame, and trying to work around the microphones didn’t make it much easier. Next time I’ll make sure both of our faces can be seen, or else I’ll hire someone else to work the camera and provide some movement and a more interesting visual representation of whatever we’re doing musically (not a bad idea, come to think of it). But I’m really digging being able to capture video footage of stuff like this and then being able to put it up here so you can see it.

While the sound of the recording is much better than this, the little video camera does a surprisingly good job with the audio. If you’ve got a decent pair of headphones, or computer speakers with a good amount of dynamic range, the bass and piano should both come through pretty well. You don’t quite get all the nuances (some of the bass harmonics aren’t that well-represented), but you don’t come here for nuance anyway. You come here for the steak and baked potatoes.

(Edit: I later came back to the raw video and synchronized it with the recording proper, making for a much nicer audio experience. You lose our “Let It Be”/”Letter B” silliness at the end, but gain a whole lot of sound quality and — you guessed it — nuance.)

I don’t know if anyone around here (or elsewhere) would be into listening to more of this sort of thing, but I’m tempted to put together a whole CD of instrumental improvisations like this with Max. A few more jam sessions and there might be enough for a full-length album. As much fun as it might be to add all kinds of other sounds and instruments to the mix, I like the way things sound with just bass and piano. There’s lots of space.

I like space. It tastes like…spaciousness.

It feels like we can do more with just the two of us than we could if other musicians were involved. And if we played at a place like, say, Taloola, I’d have half a mind to throw out any existing songs of my own and just unleash an hour of heavily-improvised instrumental explorations along the lines of what’s in this video.

I don’t know. Something to stew on. I can tell you right now, if we do end up playing another show I’m renting a real piano for the occasion. Upright piano, upright bass, and a relay race. Who could ask for anything more?

In other news, CREATIVE NIGHTMARES is on the CJAM charts, much higher than I thought it would be, right here. Madness, I tells you. Thanks, as always, to everyone at CJAM for all of the support — particularly to Adam Fox, Cassie Caverhill, Adam Peltier, Jan Blondin, Mike Whaley, Jon Nehmetallah, Max himself, Nicole Markham, Cristina Naccarato, Jim Meloche, Eric Arner, Dale Jacobs, Kyle Lebel, Murad Erzinclioglu, and if there’s anyone else who’s been playing my stuff and I don’t know about it, thanks to you too. I’ve had more booklets/inserts made and am in the process of rebuilding my stockpile of CDs, because they seem to be going a lot faster than usual. Must be because my face is on the cover for a change.


  1. Wow! Great Music Johnny and Max. A little birdie told me that you guys may be playing live at Taloola on october 24th and that you guys might consider doing a Christmas show and CD. Hmmmmm any truth to this?

  2. hey ya
    i wouldn’t mind a copy of that keith jarret/gary peacock recording, for the proper low end theory….
    definitely nicely spaced vibe, very balanced between the two…..

  3. Love it 🙂 Especially the last few minutes. You guys are funny together, and make interesting randomsongs.

    Oh, and like I posted on myspace, I got your mail! Thanks.

  4. when you started singing about “highest G” i almost spat out my invisible beer.

    also, i’m surprised you hadn’t heard “letter B.” it’s a classic, right up there with “everybody eats” and “born to add.” (incidentally though, i think the lyrics you improvised are pretty similar to the real ones.)

  5. wait, i had actually thought “everybody eats” was a play on “everybody hurts” but alas, it isn’t. it’s still a useful song to us all, though.

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