Video Progress Report

Do you believe in love at first bullet?

First thing:

This is not a proper video progress report by any stretch of the imagination. There’s no chopped-up public domain film content, no introductory music video, and no Elliott. It’s just a bit of talking and a bit of music. I thought I needed to make at least some kind of stopgap gesture until the real thing comes along again. As the video says, it’ll show up by the year’s end, and when it does, it just might be the most packed progress report there’s ever been. I need to make up for lost time, and tying it in with the album I’m going to try my best to finish by December is an opportunity I just can’t pass up.

Second thing:

Some months back, when I had the inserts printed for the first two discs of THE ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE, I took the liberty of giving the music a copyright/release date of 2012. I’m only realizing now how I may have shot myself in the foot by doing this. Now I really need to finish the album before this year trickles away, or else I’m going to have to eat the cost of those inserts and print them all over again with a new date. Maybe it’s a blessing incognito and it’ll serve as motivation to really step up the pace. Or maybe I’m screwed.

Third thing:

The song that gets broken down a bit sounds a little like an older cousin to “To Be Frail Is to Begin to Be Free”. That’s mostly down to the drum part. My initial idea was something very different, but sometimes you find yourself playing something that just feels right, and then there’s no going back. I think the guts of the song, along with the cheekbones and chest hair, are different enough that it doesn’t feel like a retread.

Fourth thing:

Yes, my songs have insecurities and psychological issues. They’re just like people. Some love me, some hate me, and some are more or less indifferent.

Last thing:

You don’t get to hear it in the video, but I really like the way the phrase “war of attrition” found its way into the final stanza of the song. I think it makes for a good ending.

The tuba and the frog.

I’m posting an end-of-the-month progress report at the end of the month said progress report is meant to represent. When was the last time that happened? It feels a little funny to be on time again.

A few things to mention about this one.

The initial idea was to have the intro be one of those real-time in-studio music videos, but I haven’t yet got around to making another one of those. The progress report itself addresses how it almost-but-didn’t-quite happen.

The trade-off is, there’s some footage of a few unreleased songs being broken down a little on the mixing board. I haven’t shot any video of that sort of thing in a long time. In the past I was limited to shooting so you could see my face but not my hands, or doing it the other way around. To get everything in the frame, I needed to place the camera far enough away that the sound suffered.

Now I have two little Flip cameras instead of one, allowing me to shoot two angles at once. For about five seconds I toyed with the idea of showing the mixing segments in split-screen, but I thought it might be a little easier on the eyes and brain if I just cut back and forth between the two angles at the appropriate times. So I stuck with that approach.

There were other songs I meant to include some footage of, and I would have, if I hadn’t run out of recording time on both cameras halfway through and then been too lazy to set everything up again for the second go-round. Probably better not to reveal too many secrets before their time anyway.

The skewed public domain film content comes from three shorts this time, all of them about as different from one another as possible.

Of the three, the 1903 silent version of Alice in Wonderland has to be the most interesting. The print is in terrible shape. The “restored” version I’ve seen isn’t much better than what’s here, aside from featuring some colour tinting not present in my black and white copy. Flawed as it is, there are some pretty cool images there. I like the bit when alice encounters the deck of cards and they start chasing her. A strange, sobering thought: every person involved in any aspect of making this film is now dead, even down to the children who play the walking cards.

Watching it now is a little like opening a time capsule.

Elliott, true to his word, made it clear he wasn’t coming back until he got a brand new intro song. I did what I had to do and got a few of the other guys to help me out. In a show of appreciation, after turning in a number of pretty laid-back segments and threatening to turn into a music critic, Elliott responded to claims that he’d lost his edge by getting back to some of the good old-fashioned bitterness he used to let loose with when these video progress reports were young. I think this might be the most confrontational work he’s ever done in front of the camera.

What he’s got in store for future videos is anyone’s guess. I figure as long as I give him a new theme song every few months I should be able to keep him happy.

And I forgot to make a note of the snippet of “Lose My Breath” by My Bloody Valentine that shows up around the halfway point in the end credits. I’d go back and fix that, but I don’t feel much like waiting another three hours for the video to process all over again, and then another two for it to upload here. Apologies to Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher.

On an unrelated note, I reactivated my Facebook page a week ago so I could tell people CDs were available again at the usual places, since I’m pretty sure most of my contacts there aren’t regular visitors here. It took about five minutes to remember why I spent four months Facebook-free. Once I finish sending a few more private messages I’m getting rid of that shit all over again and staying away until the next album is finished.

Late again.

I was going to backdate this to December 31, because all the video footage was recorded before the New Year and the editing was only delayed this much thanks to some corrupted data. But I don’t like cheating. So no backdating for me.

As the eldest member of the Fuzzy Duck Clan says at the end, it’s all a little anticlimactic for a year-ending video progress report. It’s the shortest one there’s been in a year and-a-half. Instead of the extravaganza that ended 2010, it’s more of a “get the last little bit of the year out of my system” hiccup. And I think that’s kind of fitting, given the strange 2011 I had.

Still, it has its moments. Instead of wasting new public domain film discoveries on such a lean progress report, I thought i’d return to Bride of the Gorilla, the very first film I ever chopped up back when I first thought to try doing this sort of thing. I guessed (correctly) that I might have missed some good bits the first time around, since the whole re-contextualizing thing was new to me then.

I think the intro works pretty well in the absence of the insane stuffed animal/puppet sing-along I was planning on filming. And the very end of the video, when I’m singing, “I am unwittingly providing you with the means to escape,” as Raymond Burr runs away — I didn’t plan that at all. I just grabbed a bit of video that seemed like it might work well with music on top of it and threw it over there. Only after the fact did I notice the synchronicity.

That seems to happen a lot.

So, welcome to 2012. I hope you enjoy my crooked glasses.

Give your dead evil brother a hand.

This video progress report is showing up a little later than usual for a few reasons.

For one thing, Dead Men Walk is an awful, awful film. The bits I chopped up and used to break up the talking work well in the context of this video, I think, but man, did I have to dig deep to find them. It was a chore to even watch the movie to the end. I think it’s the first time I’ve watched a public domain film and thought to myself, “There’s a good reason this thing is free.”

The summary on IMDb tells you all you need to know about the story: “The twin of a kindly small town physician returns from the grave for vengeance against his brother, who secretly killed him because the twin served Satan”. Some of the acting is just brain-melting in its hideousness — especially that of Nedrick Young, who apparently was just fine in other films but here manages to make a desk look like a brilliant method actor by comparison. At least George Zucco does a serviceable job as both the good and evil brothers.

For another thing, I had some trouble getting the video to render after I finished editing it. Long ago I settled on WMV as the best file format for any videos I make. It seems to offer the best balance between keeping the file size reasonable and not sacrificing much of any noticeable audio or video quality.

I’ve never had a problem with WMV files, and ever since I started using Sony Vegas a little over a year ago I’ve never had trouble rendering a video. It was a very different story back when I was using Windows Movie Maker for the first few progress report videos.

This time I found I couldn’t render the video as a WMV file because I didn’t have the necessary audio codec. Or so Vegas told me. I assumed something must have gone wrong with my version of Windows Media Player. Maybe I accidentally deleted the relevant codec while getting rid of unnecessary cobwebs on my hard drive. Nothing I tried fixed the problem.

After a lot of frustration and fruitless troubleshooting, I took another look at the rendering settings and noticed a surround sound option was selected. When I imported Dead Men Walk into Vegas, it came bundled with a number of different audio options I had to collapse into mono for the best sound. When it was rendering time, Vegas decided I wanted to publish the whole video with surround sound. The trouble is, I don’t have a surround sound codec, because I would never have cause to use it.

I switched back to the normal stereo mode, and all was well.

I also spent some time trying to find a better-quality clip of “Out of Touch” without a logo at the bottom of the screen. All the really nice-looking logo-free versions on YouTube must have some sort of encoding that prevents them from being downloaded. Even my old friend Tubeminator couldn’t help me there. So I had to settle for lower quality and a stupid logo. The passion still comes through, anyway.

I think the intro “music video” segment here is one of my favourites out of all the different ones I’ve put together so far. Tim Fort’s kinetic art is wicked-cool, “Knee-Jerk Howl” has always had an autumnal feel to me, and somehow the two things work together, with some strange moments of music/video synchronicity that weren’t planned or manipulated. The only editing I did involved shortening a few things to fit the length of the song and then speeding up the video a bit for the reprise at the end.

I’d forgotten how much I like the song off of WHO YOU ARE NOW… that plays over the end credits, too. It doesn’t sound like anything else on that album. Now it almost sounds like an embryonic precursor to a few of the things I would be doing on CREATIVE NIGHTMARES four years later.

As mentioned in the video, my friend Joshua Jesty is playing at Taloola on Friday, November 11th, at 8:00 pm. If I hadn’t deactivated my Facebook page (a decision I’m not regretting even a little bit), I would be talking about it over there. If you’re in the area and are looking for something to do, you should come out, grab some tea, listen to some good music that you may not get to hear in Windsor again, and support a touring musician.

Elliott’s tender moment in this video is one of the shortest segments he’s ever done, and there’s a marked difference in tone from the rants he tends to go on lately. I think he’s still a little miffed that I haven’t recorded a new intro song for him yet. Still, I think on the whole the video moves at a pretty good pace. There’s even a little callback to a joke that was buried at the end of the second progress report video (if anyone catches what it is, I will bow before you in awe).

At this point I’ve fallen into a pretty comfortable groove with these things and settled back down around the twenty-five-minute range again. Be warned, though, that when I do finish THE ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE the accompanying video progress report will be suitably long-winded. And I’ve got something big planned for the one that should be showing up around Christmas.

I’ve been feeding the rhythm.

Again I’m a little bit late with the progress report. I blame beef jerky, because it’s easier that way.

This isn’t one of the more bloated entries in the series, and there’s only one chopped up public domain film instead of the usual three or four, but I think it flows pretty well. The “filming a song while it’s actually being recorded” music video intro has to be the best editing job I’ve done on that side of things up to this point by some distance. And Elliott’s segment is unusually long and reverent. I think he’s just feeling a little funny because he really wants that new theme song and introductory bit.

The Lady Vanishes is pretty interesting early Hitchcock. While it’s not at the level of a masterpiece like Vertigo, there’s some witty dialogue, and the almost complete lack of incidental music throughout is a pretty daring touch for the time.

Some people find the film boring because it takes a good long time establishing the characters before much of anything happens. I like it when a film has the audacity to take its time. It means the person who made it expects something of the audience beyond turning off their brains and masturbating with their popcorn while drooling over special effects.

You creep around.

For most people who maintain music-related personal blogs and websites that don’t depend on reviewing anything for their content, it probably isn’t unusual to go two weeks or so without an update. For me, given the standards I’ve established for myself here, that constitutes blog neglect.

Here’s the slightly belated video progress report for August to explain, sort of. You also get some talk of the Shores of Erie Wine Fest show (we go on at 1:30 in the afternoon on Sunday, September 11, for anyone who’s interested), some ideas about what the next album may or may not sound like, a cat and a bunch of mice sparring with jazz and classical music, Elliott talking about Idaho in general instead of focusing on the new album like he said he would in the last progress report, and a whole lot of other stuff.

I’m thinking about writing something that gets into more detail about a few old games for various now-obsolete home entertainment systems and what I think of their music. Particularly the first entry in the Ninja Gaiden series for the NES, Strider and Valis III for the Sega Genesis, and a few random games that are kind of stinkers but feature at least one piece of music that grabs me in a strange way (like, say, Time Lord — a nintendo game that makes you wonder what kind of crack the developers were smoking, and what kind of genius David Wise was to come up with such ridiculously creative music).

For what it’s worth, I don’t anticipate the blog neglect being a protracted or recurring thing, and as of this video progress report I should be back on schedule. Rejoice, you three people who still read this stuff. Rejoice.

Hey there, creepy Mr. Clownface.

After being a day or two late with the video progress reports for the past month or two, here’s one that’s right on time. It isn’t as action-packed as some of the others have been, but in a way that’s probably appropriate, since I’m at a bit of a transitional stage right now, working out where to go next. Have I really been making these things for a year now? Yes. Yes I have.

I thought I’d try filming the spoken segments in part of the studio this time. I don’t think I’ll be doing that again. There’s more ambient room sound in there than I’d like, at some points you can hear the whirring of the central air, and I prefer the clearer, crisper sound I get in the sitting room upstairs. It was worth trying again, anyway (the last time I filmed any of my rambling in there was way back in July of last year for the second-ever progress report).

It looks like the opening “music video” segment has become a mainstay of these progress reports. This time the intro song is “Midland Michigan” off of IF I HAD A QUARTER. For some reason it’s always been one of my favourite songs on the album, low-key and venom-free as it is compared to the cathartic and unhinged energy that surrounds it. The production quality has improved since then (just compare that song to the brief clip of “Sexual Vertigo” later in the video), and if I were to record it today it would probably be a much denser, more layered affair, but I like it just the way it is. It has a dreamy quality to it. And in an odd way, I think it compliments the part of Carnival of Souls I threw it up against.

I forgot to list that 1962 film in the end credits, but I don’t think i have the motivation to go back and fix it right now. And I didn’t use much of it anyway. There were no quotable bits for me to break up the talking with, because it’s such a low budget affair the sound is horrible — to the point that you often can’t even understand what the characters are saying. And yet there’s something compelling about the film. Even with all of its limitations (or maybe in part because of them), it weaves a spell and manages some effectively creepy moments without much in the way of special effects or typical shock tactics. It doesn’t hurt that Candace Hilligoss has one of those faces the camera likes to regard.

The main action in the realm of chopped-up public domain films this month is Jail Bait, a surprisingly not-as-horrible-as-you-would-expect Ed Wood film. It’s no masterpiece, to be sure, but it’s a pretty decent little noirish B-movie. I almost can’t believe it. There’s even a neat little plot twist at the end, and some witty dialogue. And I couldn’t resist tossing in a few more bits from that scary anti-pornography propaganda film I’ve used pieces of in two previous progress report videos. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Some months back I suggested to myself the idea of sitting down and watching every video progress report at the one-year mark, just to get a feel for how much I accomplished in that time and how things have evolved in terms of the way the videos are put together. I think I might do that. It’ll be me-tastic. I’ll watch with wonderment as my facial hair grows more and more unruly until it’s finally tamed for all the wrong reasons. I’ll swoon to Elliott’s tender moments. And Fuzzy Duck will drive my soul.

Wait…did I just sort-of quote a Lights song? That ain’t right. I apologize.

I’ll be throwing eggs at the wedding of Jack and Jill.

Though it’s a tiny bit late, here’s May’s progress report.

Something I didn’t mention in the video (or I did, but I snipped it out because it was getting a little long) was what a sequencing headache this album turned into. Literally. It led me to a deeper understanding of the way I put an album together.

With most other people, it works something like this: you write a bunch of songs. You decide the songs will combine to form an album. You probably have a rough idea of what order the songs should be sequenced in before you even record the first note. Then you record the songs and you make your album.

For me, it’s never worked that way. I record a bunch of songs, I stop when i feel like I’ve said what I have to say, and then I start carving out what the album will be. Sometimes the best songs are written at the very last minute and added when I already thought I had the whole thing finished. A lot of thought goes into sequencing, but it’s the last thing I ever figure out.

If I were a maker of films, it would be like starting with a rough idea of the script but writing a lot of new scenes during the filming process, getting rid of entire chunks of narrative I thought were pivotal to the film, eventually throwing out the old script altogether, and changing the entire flow and meaning of the film again during the editing process while deciding what kind of film I’ve made. John Cassavetes worked like this, shooting far more film than he could ever use and trying many different things so he could go about discovering just what his films wanted to be during the editing process. I guess I go about it in a similar way, but with music instead of film.

I could probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve started working on an album with a concrete, far-reaching idea of what I want to do, and even then I didn’t always end up with something that had much to do with that initial idea, and I never went into it with all of the songs written before I started recording. My music is always evolving and changing, not only from one album to the next, but often within the time it takes to record a single album. There isn’t a better demonstration of that than this one, where I threw away an entirely different album so the album that now exists could be born.

When it comes to sequencing the songs, for years I just threw everything on CD in the order it was recorded. That seemed to work fine until more thought and craft began to seep into what I was doing and I decided it was time to start putting more thought into the flow of an album. After a while I arrived at a process that seemed to work well for me. I would brainstorm rough ideas of what order I thought the songs should go in, making tiny changes every step of the way throughout the process of recording an album. As the music shifted and some songs were pushed aside to make room for new ones, my sequencing ideas would keep shifting as well.

Finally, when I felt all the songs I needed for the album were in place, I would sit down and hash it out with more commitment until I arrived at a sequence that felt like it worked in my head. Then I would try it out on CD. And almost without fail, that running order always felt good to me, and I never felt a need to do any tweaking beyond adjusting how many seconds of silence there would be between the songs. The one exception was THE BITTER SIDE OF SWEET, where I had a little bit of trouble with the sequencing. But then, I had mixed feelings about that album even at the time, and it’s due for a re-evaluation.

This time things got a little slippery. I arrived at my final sequence on paper, tried it out on CD, and and it didn’t feel right at all. I had to throw out all my sequencing ideas and start from scratch, getting rid of a few more songs in the process when I realized they didn’t really add anything to the album.

Now I think I’ve arrived at a sequence that works. I’ll know for sure in the next day or two, and the album will be packaged and in CJAM-ready form next week, one way or another.

I didn’t want to give too much away in advance, so I kept snippets of new music in the progress report video to a minimum. More music and info (along with the lyrics) can be found on the proper album page, for anyone who’s interested.

As for the context-warped public domain film content in the video, the most interesting piece by far is The Terror of Tiny Town — an all-little-person Western. I think it’s kind of brilliant in its own bizarre way. The barbershop sequence I grabbed and used for the intro is like something out of a David Lynch movie, filmed before Lynch was even born. You’ve got the typical Western archetypes (the grizzled old men who can’t see past old prejudices, the hotshot young cowboy who falls for the niece of one of those grizzled old men and stirs up more trouble without meaning to, the villain who plays each side against the other and sits back to enjoy the chaos he creates, the prostitute he mistreats who has her revenge in the end, the corrupt but conflicted sheriff he has under his thumb), all viewed through a slightly different prism and skewed, because they’re all played by little people. I especially like the German chef who serves as the comic relief.

A Tale of Two Kitties is a cartoon I remember seeing as a kid, featuring a very early appearance from a bird who would soon become Tweety. Experiments in the Revival of Organisms is a Soviet-made short film narrated by a British dude, and something animal lovers should stay far away from. Whether it’s real or not (and it looks real), there’s something disturbing about watching the decapitated head of a dog responding to external stimuli as if the animal were still alive.

I’m always surprised by the stuff I find on the internet that’s fallen into the public domain, and how much fun it is to twist bits of it out of context. Sometimes the music and the images combine in such a strange way, it’s almost as if they were meant to find each other. I mean, who knew a little person standoff and dreamy non-pop would go together?

I can feel my wet teeth bleed at summer’s speed.

Here’s April’s progress report video. It’s a day late, but technically I finished it yesterday, right on time (hence the “see you in May” comment at the end).

I think this could be the best editing job I’ve done yet. The intro in particular turned out better than I was expecting. I just started cutting up a bunch of stuff and throwing it together, and it had the strange effect of making that new song seem a little more interesting that it is. Almost none of the subtitles I added have anything at all to do with what the characters in Abel Ferrara’s The Driller Killer are actually saying, with the exception of the bit where he asks a cab driver to keep the meter running. I just added a bunch of random things for fun. It’s almost like a real music video! Hooray for chopping up films that have fallen into the public domain, I say.

The Driller Killer is an interesting glimpse at very early Abel. A lot of the themes that would figure prominently in his later work are there already (inner turmoil, Jesus, death, redemption or a complete lack thereof), and the movie has an interesting, grimy feel to it. Some Bach via Wurlitzer electric piano on the soundtrack is a nice little touch. It’s not a masterpiece by any means — it can’t seem to decide whether it wants to be an exploitation/slasher flick or a low-rent art film — and some of the acting is really bad…but that seems somehow appropriate.

Baybi Day is almost painfully beautiful, and I thought she did a good job playing that “somewhat dimwitted but well-meaning, sort of, sometimes” kind of character. I was positive I’d seen her in other movies, but it turns out this was the only thing she ever did in the realm of cinema. It’s a shame, because she had a face for the movies. It’s also amusing to see Ferrara himself in a starring role, under or over-emoting depending on what’s going on inside his character’s head.

From what I’ve read, Abel’s commentary track on the DVD is pretty amusing. He spends most of the movie’s run-time making fun of it and himself. Evidently he fell for Baybi too. According to the IMDb trivia section, she was asked to return to Ferrara’s fray for Bad Lieutenant and declined (it isn’t clear why). It would have been interesting to see what part she would have played in that film.

Perversion for Profit is, as the end credits say, a scary-as-hell propaganda film from 1965. It was meant to be an exposé of the evils inherent in literature and pornographic/nude images, but the great irony is that in its homophobic, Bible-humping absurdity it’s far more offensive than any of its targets ever could have been. I left out most of the really offensive parts. I used a few little bits of this in an earlier progress report video some months back, but there were too many great moments ripe for context-warping that I missed the first time around, so I felt a need to bring it back for an encore. This time George Putnam really gets to shine.

I usually seem to end up looking pretty serious whenever I’m addressing the camera, and I might look even more humourless here than usual. I think it’s just because I’m talking off the top of my head and trying to keep track of what I want to mention, hoping it comes out of my mouth making some amount of sense. This one is a few minutes longer than the last progress report, though I say at the end it feels a little short. to me Just goes to show that Iggy Pop was right about the TV eye.

Also, I didn’t even realize this until after I finished editing the whole thing, but after I sing, “Nobody loves you, baby…” during the opening song, there’s a quick shot of Baybi. Kind of a neat little coincidence.

Beware the man with wild hair and a paralyzed eye.

Things have been a little slower than usual here on the blog over the past few weeks, mostly because my life became a lot busier and more complicated once March rolled around. Here’s this month’s video progress report video to help explain.

You get to see Sappy Romantic Johnny Who Has a Girlfriend transform into Cynical Single Johnny in record time. Get out yer popcorn and Sprite.

I’m pretty happy with the way the introductory little “music video” turned out. My face never really appears in the frame, but that was intentional. I wanted you to see what my hands were doing more than anything else. I think I did a bit better with the editing and filming this time, though I still think my first attempt turned out pretty decent.

The bulk of the public domain film content comes from the 1953 film The Hitch-Hiker, which is a pretty effective little thriller. It’s surprising how low-key and realistic it is for its time. The two men who are being held hostage by the psychotic killer are not macho heroes. They don’t make any daring escapes. They’re uneasy and they try to play it smart, as most people probably would in a similar real-life situation. It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but there are far worse ways to kill an hour and ten minutes.

One thing I didn’t mention in the video — the box of CDs at Dr. Disc is pretty much empty again. I’ll fill it back up sometime this week. Also, somehow MEDIUM-FI MUSIC… is back on the CJAM charts again.