Month: July 2010

Who’s gonna shave my hellhound crooked heart?

Is it just me, or have Frosted Mini-Wheats been getting progressively smaller over time? Maybe it’s just a perception thing, with the cereal seeming smaller as I grow larger, but I distinctly remember the individual pieces being much bigger when I was younger.

The new album is now available at Dr. Disc and Phog for anyone who wants it. I may, however, be a little slower than usual with getting CDs out to people in the mail. A double CD means twice the workload, and on top of that, my CD design this time eats up ink like someone who does unpleasant things to the matriarch of the family. As such, there will be a limited amount of copies to go around until I get more ink cartridges next week. But at least I’ve got enough for a good start.

This is my thirtieth official solo CD. Fitting, then, that it should be a larger-than-usual musical statement. The packaging side of things turned out better than I was expecting, and I think it might be one of the best-looking things I’ve ever done. The booklets came out really nice. It’s sometimes hard to predict how well your designs will work in a CD case when you’re looking at them in pieces on a computer screen, but I have to say I’m really happy with the end result.

The lyrics are in the booklet once again, though some songs are absent, and intentionally so — they’re either instrumental, the words were improvised, or there are so few actual words it didn’t make sense to me to print them.

Two things I vowed I would never do are now threatening to become repeat offenders — including the lyrics with the albums, and putting my face on the cover. Funny how things change.

Video progress report #2.

Time for your mostly-friendly monthly video progress report. This one even comes at the end of the month like it’s supposed to, unlike the last one, which came a few days late. Hooray for punctuality.

This is without a doubt the most ambitious little video I’ve ever put together. I didn’t plan it that way, though I figured this one would come out a little more polished than the last one. I use the word “polish” loosely. This is still very rough, DIY, entirely self-shot-and-edited stuff, and I should have thought to use a tripod for the nighttime footage to prevent the camera from shaking. I’m still working with the tiny Flip camera and the free, no-frills version of Windows Movie Maker that came with this computer. I think I just get a little better at this sort of thing each time I make a video.

This one feels like a pretty big leap forward all the way around. The last one was mostly me talking. This one is still made up of a whole lot of me talking, but it’s broken up with a fair bit more music, more images that aren’t necessarily of me speaking to the camera, and I think in general it’s more interesting and better-put-together than the last progress report. It feels like it flows a lot more smoothly. I wanted to include more “studio” footage, but when I get sucked into recording I’m not often thinking about filming myself, and when I do give it a try it tends to take me out of the moment and slow me down a lot. Even so, this sort of functions as a “making of” and “introduction to” video, giving anyone who’s interested a bit of idea of what to expect from MY HELLHOUND CROOKED HEART and a window into a bit of what I think about it.

I have no idea why I always end up looking so serious when I’m talking to the camera. Maybe it’s the blue shirt.

The thing I keep getting a kick out of is the editing. I figured out how to cut things in such a way where I’m talking, and then I keep talking while you see some images that are relevant to what I’m saying, and then I come back and keep talking, without things being broken up or seeming unnatural. I didn’t think this was something I could do when the audio was recorded by the camera’s little built-in microphone and attached to the file itself, nor did I think I would get much help from such a basic program, but it turns out it’s pretty easy to pull off. I think it makes things a lot more interesting.

Some of the visual effects I used are probably unnecessary or cheesy (or both), but I feel a need to do something to mix things up a bit when most of the footage is a static shot of my hairy face talking. I especially like the part around twenty-three minutes in when I talk about the cover art and the editing shows you the gradual transformation of the image from a rough sketch to the finished product. That’s almost like something you’d see in a film made by someone who actually knows what they’re doing! Crazy. You even get some out-takes at the end over the credits, and a teaser for next month’s progress report.

I should mention that the video is almost half an hour long. That makes it about three times as long as the last one. I could have made it even longer, but I thought it was best to keep it from rambling on for too long. Hopefully it’s about the right length to feel substantial without overstaying its welcome.

But yeah. I put a bit more time and a lot more thought into making this one, and though it’s still rough-around-the-edges and sometimes grainy-looking (this camera doesn’t like low light situations very much and doesn’t flatter me at all when I shoot myself in dimly-lit places), I have to say I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of putting something like this together at the end of every month. It’s fun. Maybe eventually there will be enough of these video progress reports that it’ll make sense to put them all together in one designated place. It’ll be interesting to see how things develop over time.

One thing I should mention — the beginning is meant to be a dream sequence. Originally there was a brief insert of me in bed, waking up in a stupor, mumbling, “I’m not a snail”. Then it kicked into the mini-music video. Unfortunately there were a few small problems with my first cut of the video (a few edits were a little too choppy), and I didn’t catch them until I finished and “published” it on the computer.

When I went back in to clean that stuff up, things got a little strange. That little five-second insert explaining the whole dream thing mysteriously vanished from my hard drive, and somehow it ended up being replaced with some random footage of Fuzzy Duck. Even stranger: the replacement footage was exactly the same length as what had originally been there, so it kept everything that followed in sync with itself. I had to reshoot the lost “scene”, which was easy enough, cut it so it was just the right length, slip it in Fuzzy Duck’s place, and finalize the whole thing again. Which I did.

And here’s where Windows Movie Maker decided to become a pain in my ass.

The program stopped working. I would sometimes get 50% of the way there, but something would always cause an error during the publishing process every single time. I wasted almost an entire day trying to fix this with no success. I freed up space on the hard drive and restarted the computer. I tried saving to an external device. I made sure none of the other files had gone missing (and none of them had). Nothing worked. The program just didn’t seem to like me anymore, and I didn’t want to post the video with the brief fuzzy duck scene throwing everything off.

My alternative was to cut out those few offending seconds and just not have an explanation for the dream sequence at all. Problem was, I couldn’t do it with the program I used to make the video, because it wouldn’t let me do anything anymore. And if I used another program, it wouldn’t let me edit the video without compressing it, which would mean the quality would take a pretty serious hit and the video would end up looking like sunburned ass cheeks. Relatively speaking. I already compressed the file a bit so I could get a 29-minute video up here in one piece without causing my server to explode. That first time didn’t shave off much in the way of quality, but compressing it a second time would be a mess no matter how it was done.

My last idea was to try and find some sort of freeware online that would solve the problem. I already paid good money for a video editing program I don’t use — I asked for something pretty utilitarian and simple to operate and was sold something with too steep of a learning curve for my taste/patience — and didn’t feel like doing it all over again when all I needed to do was trim five seconds from a video. I just wanted to be able to do it without the quality taking another hit in the process.

Turns out this is a tall order, and something no commercially available software allows you to do as far as I know. Which I think is pretty dumb. I tried a number of programs that didn’t do much to help me, hoping I might get lucky.

I found something called Movica that seemed like it might do the trick. This was even more of a pain in the ass. Supposedly you just set set the start and end time and then trim a video, or split it into several separate videos, wherever and however you like. Sounds great in theory. In practice, what was cut out of the video had very little to do with where I set the markers. It was completely random. I tried at least twenty variations, and each time the timing was off. I would have even settled for a second or two of silent fuzzy duck…hell, that would fit with the weirdness of a dream sequence. But I always got some of him talking in there, and it was far too loud to use without throwing everything off.

Finally I managed to get something close to what I wanted. The edit wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked. Part of the scream that starts the song is cut off, and there’s now a pretty abrupt jump-cut between the end of the “dream” and the beginning of the musical intro bit. But it’s good enough. Best of all, i was able to do it without adding any extra compression to the file at any part of the process.

Performing a tiny edit in a video — doing what amounts to plucking a single eyebrow hair from its face — shouldn’t be so difficult. On the bright side, at least I only wasted a day, and I managed to get rid of the offending bit of footage. You just don’t get to see me shirtless for a few seconds pretending to wake up from a weird dream. Sadness.

That’s probably far more than you wanted to know about a part of the video so inconsequential it barely has any effect on anything. But such is my dedication to my craft that I fought tooth and nail to make it right. Actually, that’s a lie. Dedication has nothing to do with it. I just don’t like stupid shit, especially when it interferes with something that has any connection to my music, and I will keep throwing punches and swearing at it until it disappears. Persistence is the spice in my armpits. So said Nicolas Cage.

Okay, so that’s a lie too. He said no such thing. It was me all along.

Anyway. If you didn’t watch the video, I’ll just tell you that the album is finished and I’m working on post-production and packaging stuff now. With a little luck and profanity through gritted teeth, it should be available for anyone who wants it by the weekend. In the meantime, the video should give you a little taste of what to expect. I would have included more music, but I’d rather be flirtatious and hintatory.

That’s right. I just made up a word: hintatory. For those times when you don’t want to give too much away but no existing word will adequately describe your sneaky ways.

Censor thyself and dance.

I’ve been thinking a bit about censorship over the past day or two — but not the kind imposed upon us by anyone else. The kind we impose upon ourselves, for various reasons.

Self-censorship is a funny thing. I think I’m generally pretty loose-lipped (or fingered) around here, but every once in a while I stop myself and think, “Should I really say this?”

A month or two ago, for example, I wrote a long rant about the strangeness of hype and how rarely I think it’s justified. I thought it was pretty well-written, well-thought-out, and it raised some good points, with some personal experience thrown in to quantify my observations. Even so, I didn’t post it. Some opinions could be construed as insults to people I have no bad feelings about and no desire to offend.

So let it just be said that I think hype is pretty silly, I think some folks take themselves way too seriously, and people with two faces should just pick a face and stick with it for a while to see what it’s like.

Last week I found myself writing a song that addressed a few naysayers, and it came just short of calling them out by name. It wasn’t an exercise in bitterness, but rather something I was having a bit of a laugh about. I had no ambition to record the song. Then I thought, “You know what…this is a pretty catchy tune. Even if the words weren’t about anything, I like the music. Why shouldn’t I include it on an album that’s already going to fly all over the place?” So I recorded it the other day, and it’ll turn up somewhere on MY HELLHOUND CROOKED HEART.

Part of me thinks it’s entirely unnecessary, because there’s a pretty good chance those select few people I’m referring to know what I think of them by now if they’ve ever read my blog, and I think most of their grumblings have died down to the occasional soft moan. Most of the people who listen to the song will be those who have been nothing but supportive and enthusiastic about what I do, and they might wonder who and what I’m singing about, and what crawled in my coffee and died. It might come off as seeming a bit vindictive, and needlessly so, when I’ve already said my peace here. But the thought of one of the people I’m singing about potentially hearing the song and realizing it’s about them cracks me up.

In a way, you could look at it as a compliment. How many people get to experience the wonder of hearing a song that’s been written just for them? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing, really. For most of us it doesn’t even happen once. And at least you can’t say I didn’t respond to the criticism. I think it’s more respectful than talking smack behind someone’s back. This makes it pretty clear what I think and puts it right out there in the open.

I felt a brief twinge of something that may have been my long-dormant conscience stirring and asked myself if I should really release this song. It uses some strong language and pulls no punches. I’ve written songs with much more foul language in them before, and with much more aggressive vocal deliveries, but this feels a little different. It’s taking the sort of things you’re not supposed to say even if you think them and putting them in a song, with no attempt made at being poetic or cryptic. I wondered for a moment if I might regret putting such a song on an album where a fair amount of people would hear it.

Then I thought about some of the old Guys with Dicks and early post-band solo material I recorded. There are some really nasty songs there that leave nothing to the imagination. Some of the people I was singing about heard some of those songs. Do I regret being that honest about what I felt, even when it wasn’t very nice? No. Not for a second.

The whole point is that the music is honest about who I am, where I am, and what I’m thinking and feeling in the moment it’s made. Otherwise why make it? I’m fascinated by being able to look back at the music I’ve made over the years and being taken right back to where I was then. All of these CDs are a sort of musical record of my life. Even when I’m not singing about or to anyone who actually exists (which is often the case these days), I’m still there in the songs. To start sugarcoating or editing things now would make no sense at all.

Does the song refer to anyone by name? No. Will it offend a few people? Maybe, but they have it coming. Will it piss off anyone I actually care about? I doubt it.

So it gets to stay.

It’s an interesting thing to think about, though. And it’s funny how it works in different ways on different levels. In my music I feel no need to censor myself or hold back, and there’s no such thing as going too far — short of making racist or homophobic comments, which I would never do in the first place, because I don’t have any of those feelings. I’ve dedicated entire albums to spitting venom at people who I feel have wronged me in one way or another, knowing they would probably hear the songs at some point and it would be pretty obvious to them what I was singing about. There’s never been any fear of reprisal. It’s a simple a matter of what needs to come out…coming out.

But on the blog here, every once in a while I feel a need to hold back a little, whether it’s reigning in a bit of the profanity occasionally (fuck piss shit what?), or just not expressing an opinion I know may ruffle some feathers. Like, say, being upfront about how I think some music is pretty unimpressive when it’s touted as being earth-shattering in its goodness. With cookie-cutter pop music, I feel it’s pretty safe to go to town. Elsewhere it’s a different story. It’s not that there’s a fear of reprisal here. Maybe it’s something about seeing the words on a screen and knowing other people will read them that gives me pause, while singing or speaking them is a different experience, because in that case there’s music to add to (or soften, or twist) the experience.

And I’m not sitting over here with piles of posts I’ve held back for fear or pissing people off. 99% of the time I say exactly what I think, unencumbered by any thoughts of, “Who might be offended by this?” The long-winded posts stretching all the way back to the beginning, attacking anything from Ashley Dupre’s five-second music career to being misquoted in print by a coattail-humping idiot with an agenda, will attest to that.

In the two and-a-half years I’ve been writing this blog now, I think I’ve only had about three drafts that have found themselves sitting around collecting digital dust. It felt good to get out my thoughts and purge some things, but there was no need to make those posts public, and there’s no need now. I think there’s a fine line between speaking your mind and becoming one of the shit-talkers my tender new song is about. Maybe that’s what makes me think twice before I say certain things. Some opinions are best kept to yourself. Like, say, the opinion that Mel Gibson might be a raving lunatic. Oh, wait…everyone in the world thinks that now. No matter, then.

Still, I keep wondering what it is about music that makes this occasional self-censorship disappear. There’s another song going on the new album called “Those Who Hunted Passenger Pigeons Are Now Burning in Hell”, sung from the viewpoint of a member of a species that has been extinct for almost a hundred years. The title on its own is a pretty bold statement, but it was what I felt in the moment. I was reading about these birds and how they were killed, I got angry, and out came a song. The anger isn’t in the delivery of the song itself so much as it’s in the song’s title.

And yet, I would never write in a blog post, “I hope anyone who massacred those birds in such a cruel and disgusting way is now burning in hell, regardless of what my spiritual beliefs are or how decent they might have otherwise been as human beings.” It would feel like I was going too far, while to sing about it in a song feels reasonable and gives me no pause at all.

Maybe Mel Gibson knows the answer.

I guess the point is that self-censorship is sometimes necessary, and sometimes a good idea, particularly when it’s done in the interest of not hurting people who have done no wrong. But I think it’s important to have an area of your life where there is no censorship or compromise of any kind, and music fits the bill for me. I’m not a political writer (nor do I ever think I will be), and I don’t really do love songs, but I’m always there in the music, with no holding back.

Speaking of the new album, it continues to inch ever closer to the finish line. The pace is seriously picking up now, as I’ve made it my goal to try and have the whole thing finished and sequenced by the end of this week. I think I just might be able to pull it off. There are a few songs I need to record, a few songs I need to add a few things to, a few mixes I need to tweak, and then it should be ready. Assuming I can come to a comfortable decision on how to sequence thirty-two songs or so over the space of two CDs without taking too much time to figure it out. Then I just have to take care of the post-production stuff, printing inserts, copying CDs, and putting it all together. Hopefully, with a little elbow grease and bellybutton lint, it’ll be all packaged and release-ready by July 30th. I’m gonna give it the old high school try. If it doesn’t make it there by the end of the month, it should definitely appear in early August.

Then I can get back to working on THE ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE and trying not to drown in a sea of songs that keep saying, “What about me? Pay attention to me!”

There will probably be an especially long video progress report for the end of July, and it might kind of turn into partial “the making of MY HELLHOUND CROOKED HEART” affair. We’ll have to see where it goes. I can tell you right now it will feature a dream sequence and a mini-music video, and that’s just the first three minutes or so. It’ll change your life, or make you laugh at the audacity of someone who doesn’t even attempt to hide their hands manipulating stuffed animals on film.

Back to Mel for just a second. Jon Chattman wrote a tongue-in-cheek article about how the dude might theoretically rescue his career, and the phrase “jumping the Christ” is one of the funniest things I’ve heard in a while. Who wants to jump a shark when you can jump a whole deity?

On yet another note, that’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” by Johnny Cash in a new car commercial. Johnny Cash. In a car commercial. I mean, how low can you go?

“Hey, need music for a commercial? Just get rid of the singing and make a loop of one or two bars of the music. Johnny’s dead. He won’t care.”

I’m sure when Johnny Cash was writing a song, in the back of his mind he was thinking, Man, I hope this gets used in a car commercial someday. Maybe I should change the lyrics from, “I walked into a burning ring of fire,” to, “I bought myself a shiny new Ford Taurus.”

People who make these decisions and create these commercials should be lined up in a fast food restaurant’s parking lot and shot. With a gun.

Now there’s some self-censorship for you. I mean, I could have said, “They should all watch in horror as their genitals are slathered with the worst-smelling cologne in the world while they’re bound and gagged and then forced to endure a senile old woman repeatedly squinting up at them and saying, ‘Your naughty bits smell funny,'” but I held back. Willpower, you see. Willpower.

ETA: A Nick Drake song is in a new AT&T commercial. I just saw it on TV. Kill me.

Rock over, London. Rock on, Chicago.

At last, I deleted my Spyspace page. Praise rhesus monkeys. A very foul-mouthed friend of mine had this to say in response (it’s subtitled, because he can be difficult to understand).

I think someone needs to wash that little dude’s mouth out with soap or something.

For anyone who noticed my sudden disappearance from their friends list, it’s not you. It’s me. I just don’t see the point in having a Myspace page anymore. maybe I log on once a month, if that, and I never feel any motivation to update the blog there or do anything at all with the profile page. It’s not that Myspace is no longer cool, though some people will tell you this is true. I just never really felt at home there. This place always seemed a lot more worthy of stuff, so I generally kept my stuff here and only occasionally sent some residual stuff over to Myspace.

Now I can keep all my stuff in one stuff container.

Work on one of the new albums has slowed down a bit while I focus a lot of energy on the other one. You know the one. It’s got stuff on it. At the same time, I’ve been continuing to play around with cover art for CDs from the back catalogue, and at this point just about every “official” CD (and even a few unofficial ones) has new artwork. You can check out the Discography page if you want to get an idea.

Some things are crude on purpose. Some things look a lot cooler than I expected they would. Some things are frustrating, because the CDs aren’t really worth “reissuing” but the new cover art almost makes me want to go ahead anyway. Take the SICK SHIT EP for example. As an album, it’s really just a dumping ground for out-takes, and not something I would want to give to anyone. But the cover art I came up with is so perfectly stupid, it makes me laugh hysterically, and I’m almost tempted to get inserts printed even though the music on the CD isn’t worthy.

There are also some things that were low on my list of priorities, but now I’m really looking forward to repackaging them because of how they’re going to look. The LIFELINE / WOHIS two-fer wasn’t something I planned on including in the invisible reissue campaign at all. Then I started scanning some old pictures, felt an unexpected surge of inspiration, and found myself changing my mind once I’d made the cover art. The CHINESE BUBBLEGUM EP was definitely worthy, but I couldn’t for the life of me come up with a cover image I liked. Some of the pictures I unearthed took care of that too, and now it’s one of my favourite-looking CDs of the bunch. The SLEEP-DEPRIVED EP wasn’t on my radar either, but now I may have to throw it in there, again, because of the cover art. Sadly, I made the little video on the Who the Hell Is Johnny West? page before some of these new cover images were put together, so they don’t all show up there. But I’m too lazy to go back in and re-edit the thing to reflect the changes I’ve made. Maybe some other time.

Speaking of pictures, there were some I’d been meaning to scan for a while but I thought they were buried in the basement somewhere and didn’t feel like looking for them. Turns out they were sitting at the bottom of one of my dresser drawers all this time. Check out some photos Johnny Smith took of me circa 1999.

Something was wrong with the camera, and it didn’t properly expose the black and white film, so one half of every image came out as nothing but black space…with one exception. In this picture here, the black space is tempered with a little bit of what should be in the image sneaking through. I kind of like the unintentional effect it creates. Yes — there was a time when I had short hair and no beard. Here’s proof.

I look about twelve here. I was fifteen. I was tall and didn’t really look twelve, I assure you. In fact, when I was fourteen, seniors at my high school asked if I would buy cigarettes for them, thinking I was older than them because of how I looked. Not that you’d guess on the basis of this picture.

And look at me, trying to make it look like I play guitar the proper way! That right there is the infamous Vantage shitbox I took to calling a kleenex box with strings. The first guitar I ever bought, probably made out of the cheapest synthetic wood ever created. Still, it served me well, and for the first little while it wasn’t like I could really play, so I wouldn’t have sounded much better on a good acoustic guitar. This thing is all over the early solo CDs, most of the Papa Ghostface albums, and it even popped up occasionally once I had better guitars on the odd track like “Peachy Pear” (on BRAND NEW SHINY LIE). I don’t think I’ve even picked it up to play it in at least three years now. I should dust it off and see if there are any new dead frets.

That’s the Arp Omni-2 behind me, in the tiny music room at the house on Kildare.

I’m a serious dude. Never mind how within a few months of these pictures being taken I would be recording songs with titles like “Kemit Got Laid” and “Yer Boobs”.

There’s something about these pictures I’ve always liked. Even though they were taken on a consumer-grade camera (and a malfunctioning one at that), once you cut out the black space they’ve got a certain something about them. Plus there’s the novelty of me being all clean-cut and stuff. I think I might use one of these pictures for a future album. There’s one in particular that looks really cool when I put a certain effect on it. As it stands, a few of them are now a part of CHINESE BUBBLEGUM.

Four years or so later, at the time of OH YOU THIS, I looked a little…different.

From there, it was a whole lot of hair. And damnit, I miss that fucking shirt. Thanks for keeping it or yourselves, or giving it to someone else by mistake, stupid cry cleaners. Thanks a lot.

Too hot to plot.

I used to love the summer months when I was a kid. Having a huge in-ground swimming pool for a good six years or so didn’t hurt. I don’t know if the summers keep getting hotter or if I’ve just become a complete curmudgeon, but the absurd humid spell we got for a few days this week almost had me wishing the whole summer season ceased to exist and we just got something called “sprawl” between spring and fall. I hate the heat with a passion that has no loins.

Now that’s passion.

I probably wouldn’t feel this way if the ass-face who leases us this house hadn’t lied about the central air working on all floors. We were left to discover after we moved in and signed the lease that there’s no air circulation upstairs at all due to shitty ducting. According to him, the people who lived here before us didn’t complain about choking on their own sweat for three months out of every year, so he didn’t see a need to tell us about it.

For the past few summers a window air conditioner in the room across from my bedroom has done a decent enough job of keeping things tolerable, but in this heat it just isn’t cutting it anymore. I’ve got no less than three fans going up there in different places in addition to the air conditioner, and it still feels like my bedroom is a furnace’s anal cavity on those days when it’s a sauna outside. I can’t even start cleaning my room without sweating like a pig within about thirty seconds. I suspect it wouldn’t be much better even if I cleaned my room naked, though the novelty would make it a bit more interesting.

Maybe someday landlords will stop lying and we’ll all hold hands and sing songs about celery sticks while working central air cools our naked bodies. Until then, here’s hoping a more powerful air conditioner will do the trick.

In other news, work on MY HELLHOUND CROOKED HEART continues to move along at a healthy clip. I’m now about two-thirds of the way to the finish line, and I think my goal to have it finished by the end of the month might just be realistic. It might not actually appear until the first days of August, since duplicating the CDs, getting the inserts made, and putting the packaging together will take a little while, but I think I can probably get it finished and sequenced just before this month is over.

I wasn’t expecting HELLHOUND to turn into a double CD, but I’ve already got more than enough material recorded and mixed to fill one CD to the breaking point and it feels like there’s still a lot more to say. So I’m going to keep recording until that little purple guy who sits on my shoulder tells me, “That’s enough now. I have no son!”

That’s right. Some people have a parrot on their shoulder, but not me. I have an Elliott on my shoulder. a

As for THE ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE being finished sometime in August, I’m not sure I can pull it off. But I can probably put a good dent in it. Hopefully at the latest it’ll get out there before the summer is gone.

I guess we’ll see how far along I am when the next end-of-the-month video progress report comes along.

I still feel like the songs that will be showing up on HELLHOUND could be some of the best I’ve written in a while. The other day I took a stab at one I’ve been itching to record called “Everyone You Love Is Dead”. I don’t want to say too much about it, but I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out, and it’s much more lyric-driven than my music tends to be lately. There’s nothing vague or fragmented about it, and much like “The Cost of Allowing Yourself to Remain Living”, it doesn’t sound like the sort of thing I would normally write. It didn’t come out of any desire to do anything different. It just came pouring out, as things tend to do. Who knew I would one day write a song about the mystery of what happens after we die and there wouldn’t be anything the least bit silly about it?

I have cover art all ready to go for the next few albums, thanks again to the accidental discovery that I can sort of draw stuff using the same program responsible for designing and printing CDs. I was positive I’d settled on what to use for the cover of HELLHOUND, but I thought I would play around with another image to maybe put on the back of the booklet just for fun. Now i don’t know which one I like better, and I think they would both work as a front cover.

My initial idea was this.

And my second idea was this.

The second one is more colourful and busy, while the first one is cleaner. I think the first image still has a bit of an edge (it just looks like a good album cover to me), but I really don’t know. I like both of them. The second one almost looks like it would be more suited to an advertisement, if I ever did that sort of thing. Like so.

Don’t think I fail to see the irony here — both HELLHOUND and ANGLE will probably feature my hairy face prominently displayed on the cover, when not long ago I said I would never let my face appear on the cover of another one of my CDs as long as i lived. What can I say? I changed my mind. And it seems fitting to me that I should be there when both of these albums are pretty big musical statements. And by big, I mean long. And when I say albums, I’m really talking about my pe…uh, never mind.

The invisible reissue campaign continues to move along. A few days from now I will have fifteen different albums from the back catalogue staring with bewilderment at their new clothes. I’m still getting a kick out of doing this, and some of the CDs are coming out looking better than I anticipated. Some of the cover art cracks me up, too. CHILDREN HAVE NO EYES has a pretty insane cover for an album that’s decidedly not so weird.

I’m already throwing around ideas for the July video progress report even though I won’t be putting it together for a few weeks. I think making a video like that at the end of every month to keep track of what I’ve been up to and where I’m at is one of the best ideas I’ve had in a long time. The next video will be a lot more ambitious and should feature a few new additions to the puppet/stuffed animal roster.

On a random note, even though I’m not posting something here every other day like I was for a while there, sometimes I feel like one of the only people who still keeps their blog/site updated regularly. I mean, in more than two years now, I think the longest I’ve ever gone without an update of some sort is maybe a few weeks, and that’s been pretty rare. Kind of funny that I started this thing mostly as a lark, not expecting to do much of anything with it, and now it’s this huge collection you see before you of music, images, videos, and rambling. I guess it’s fitting then, if not a little insane, that I now find myself working on a double CD and a quadruple CD at the same time.

Hopefully nothing explodes along the way.

Born free…died slightly less free.

Someone was selling AN ABSENCE OF SWAY at Value Village for three bucks. Thanks to Danny for letting me know.

To most artists, this would either be amusing (the thought of your CD sitting beside the likes of Celine Dion and Bryan Adams in a glorified bargain bin is pretty funny if you have a sense of humour) or insulting (the thought of your CD sitting beside the likes of Celine Dion and Bryan Adams in a glorified bargain bin is pretty offensive if you’re a self-important douchebag with an inflated ego and no sense of humour, as is the lower-than-low price).

For me, it stirred up some different feelings.

First I thought it might be a joke, poking fun at how adamant I am about giving my CDs away for free. Just to be sure, I went to all three Value Village locations in the area and combed through the CD sections. I found a cheap copy of Bad Music for Bad People by the Cramps, which was a nice surprise, but nothing of my own.

Then I learned it wasn’t a joke after all.

I guess one of two things must have happened here. Either someone found out about the free CDs at Phog and Dr. Disc and saw a way to make a few bucks by taking them for free and then turning around and selling them somewhere else, hoping no one found out about it (if this is the case, way to make enough money to buy a pack of gum, and good job spitting in the face of what I’m trying to do in the process), or something else happened.

I remember being at Dr. Disc a few months back, at the old location, and running into a guy who said a lot of nice things to me about my music. He said he would send anyone who was interested over to the black box of free CDs as sort of his way of “getting the word out”. Sure enough, a few minutes after leaving the store, he returned with an older guy and told him to grab some free CDs. “How many can I take?” the guy asked. He must have grabbed a good half a dozen CDs when he found out it was alright.

This isn’t meant to be judgemental or bigoted in any way, but he kind of looked like someone who might not even own a CD player to listen to the music on. With the clothes he was wearing and the look of hard living etched into his face, he appeared to be potentially homeless, and he didn’t seem to have any genuine interest in the music. He had no idea who I was and no desire to find out or talk to me. He grabbed a bunch of CDs without even looking at them.

It’s possible he went to Value Village and got some money to eat or something in exchange for my music, though even for five or six CDs I doubt he got much, since the most anyone’s CDs seem to sell for is three bucks a pop. And I’m no Celine Dion.

It’s impossible to say for sure what happened and how my music ended up there. All I know is, somehow, through someone’s intervention, CDs that are supposed to be free ended up at Value Village, and someone paid for them, perhaps not knowing they could get them for free somewhere else. It doesn’t matter that it only cost them a few dollars. It’s the principle of the thing.

Now I’m wondering if I need to put a disclaimer on the box at Dr. Disc and on my CDs themselves making it clear that I in no way condone anyone selling the CDs, and if I discover this sort of thing happening anywhere I will go after whoever’s doing it and serve them with a cease and desist letter, and if they continue selling my music I will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law for copyright infringement and unlawfully distributing my intellectual and creative property without license or permission.

Just because I make a point of not making money off of this stuff doesn’t mean anyone else is allowed to, and it certainly doesn’t mean I don’t own my music. The whole point of giving the CDs away is to take money out of the equation. Anyone who brings money back into things is acting in direct opposition to my wishes and defiling everything I stand for. I consider anyone who does this to be an enemy and will act accordingly.

I’d rather have someone destroy my CDs or throw them in the garbage than sell them anywhere. If I ever come in contact with someone who ended up paying for my music somewhere, I will reimburse them whatever they paid.

My music is not for sale. It never will be. End of story.

Here I thought this would turn into a three thousand word rant full of profanity, but I guess I just don’t have it in me right now. Still, I think the point comes across. Or gets across. Or plays lacrosse.

Stick a sausage in the tenderloin.

I like Myron Mixon. He barbecues stuff that looks tasty, and there’s something funny about hearing a low-key-seeming guy with a Southern accent saying, “Now, to stick a sausage in the tenderloin, you need to get a hole started.”


Oh, hey…half the year is officially over now. We’re standing on the dividing line. So I thought I might start doing something a little different and make a video progress report at the end of each month. The idea is to do this every month, regardless of what I’m working on, so anyone who’s interested can get a somewhat more tangible idea of where things are at. This is not intended to replace my normal rambling about whatever I’m working on. It’s more of a supplementary thing. It should help to keep me motivated, and it’s just fun to make silly videos and hone my half-assed editing chops.

Here’s monthly progress report #1.

There should be another one at the end of July, though it may not appear until the first few days of August. Expect more profanity, more snippets of music, and maybe a choreographed dance or two.