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My Thoughts Since the Passing of Walter Becker

It seems we rarely give pause in respect to the passing of time, until we reach a certain point in our lives, and only then do we regard it peripherally. Additionally we give little thought to the passing of time in the lives of others as well. Especially those figures who are of the semi high-profile sort. As much as some of us like to think that we know about what they do, in the end, we find that we know very little, and that in reality they were little more than punctuation in our own lives.

The weight of this observation didn’t hit me until this past Sunday evening as I lay in bed. I had, as one could guess, been preoccupied with listening to music the majority of the day, and had not listened to the news until switching on my radio that night.

As soon as I heard the announcer mention the name of Walter Becker, I knew what words were to follow. Walter was one whose name would rarely be mentioned in context with anything else within the past forty years. One had to know who Walter was in order for his name to be familiar.

Walter looked like the guy you’d see in the seventies, sitting outside the mall waiting for a ride. One of the most unassuming bottom-to-top-to-bottom-to-top-again success stories in modern American music, Walter lived out his life in obscurity, in plain sight.

It occurred to me that this man had lived and died within a period of 67 years, and all that I knew about him could easily fit into a thimble. Even though throughout the years, I had painstakingly reverse-engineered his guitar leads and his bass licks, and had attempted to capture his ultra clean, rich lead tones to no avail.

Had Mr Becker not partnered with Donald Fagen during college, both men may have easily faded into the backdrop which is composed of the rest of us, and aja, one of my ten favorite albums of all time would never have materialised.

With the death of Glen Campbell last month, and now that of Walter Becker, the passing of time has become all too apparent to me.

We never know when we’ve caught our last trout, or completed our last composition.

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What Is True Will?

You’ll often hear ads on television and radio which promote motivational speakers. These speakers often focus on the use of ‘will power’ in order to get monumental tasks accomplished. Thousands of posters, and countless memes have been dedicated to the use of positive thought and will power.

But what is will power, and is anyone actually in possession of true will?

How many times can you recall yourself saying something to the effect of, “I’ll never do that again”, or “From now on, I’m going to______________”? But how many times did you find yourself doing ‘that’ again, or forgetting the vow you solemnly made to yourself ‘from now on’?

These sorts of shattered illusions are what expose the true measure of our will.

When I was twenty years old, I made a short list of objectives that I fully intended to accomplish by the time I was thirty. I didn’t reach any of the goals. Not a single one.

But my intentions were good, of course. It seems that we always start out with the best of intentions in whatever we endeavour to do. Right before things go straight to hell.

So for the next thirty years, I was determined to see if there was one thing in my life that I could see through from beginning to end. One thing – surely couldn’t be too terribly difficult to accomplish. What, then, was the one thing that I was certain that I could devote the rest of my life to? Well, the one thing that I valued among everything else was music. I had begun my quest as a songwriter around the same age that I’d made my list, and it is true that I had not abandoned the journey. The fact was, that I had yet to be come successful at it. My dream was to be able to play several instruments tolerably, engineer sound, and produce my own material. Bands such as Todd Rundgren and Steely Dan were huge influences in this respect.

Success is a term that is generally associated with money and being well-known, respected among one’s peers, and the like.

Nonetheless, I persevered, and although I had learned a great many things in relation to the field – I was working in a retail establishment which sold musical instruments and sound equipment – I had still to make the strides that I had intended by the time that I was forty. Often it was necessary to remind myself why I had begun in the first place.

Throughout the course of rearing two children, and working all kinds of day jobs, I redoubled my efforts to set money aside for musical gear, and recording equipment. I also set aside one hour a day to practice at my craft, this was apart and completely different from the actual playing of music, which would consume even more of the time that I had precious little of.

By the time I was fifty years old, I had become connected to my Muse, and was writing profusely. The musical path that I had begun was a bit of a surprise, but I followed my Muse wherever it led without question. I completed my studio, which I christened Good Intentions, and chose ‘Hell Paving Company’ for the name of my publishing domain. It cannot be said that I was not acquainted with the irony of it all by this time.

In 2014, I tore my studio down with the intent of erecting it in another, more suitable room of the home. All of my gear sat in a corner collecting dust for the next three years. Chronic Fatigue is a cruel mistress, and my life had been slowing to a crawl since I had contracted it in November of 2007.

Then one night last month, while lying in bed, I was listening to the 20 odd sketches of tunes that I had recorded into my Android. I stared over into the dark corner that hid all of my recording equipment.

“Starting tomorrow, I’m going to start putting my studio back together, even if it kills me.” I told myself. The task was daunting.  But I knew that if I died before getting the tunes – which the Muse was still being so charitable in supplying me with – properly recorded, I would go to hell. Hell is a completely different place for writers. I imagine it to be a place where only poorly maintained manual typewriters exist, paper is at a premium, and the thoughts come too quickly to transcribe.

Mainly, however, I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving these tunes orphaned. Nobody except I had heard them, and my task was to get them recorded and give everyone else a chance to hear the wonderful imagination that the Muse is so blessed with, for you see, I do not feel that these pieces of music are mine. I have been assigned a task, and it is up to me alone to complete these pieces.

Eight days later, although my back and shoulders were killing me, the studio was together, and I found myself becoming painfully reacquainted with the plethora of cables and the routing of which I had all but forgotten.

Today I fired up all of the components, and with the exception of the ancient synthesizer, everything seems to be working. Maybe if I just jiggle the handle….

So I have discovered that perhaps there is indeed a bit of true will left inside of me at the age of 61. And that I may have, in fact, discovered the meaning of true success.

 

Recording Mythology, Pt. 37 / Lend Me Your Hands

The following is what it is.

Some years ago, a few college students were given the chance to go backstage and introduce themselves to Andres Segovia following a recital he’d given. The maestro looked intently at the boys. “Are you boys musicians?” he inquired of them.

“Yes we are, maestro,” they answered.

“PRACTICE!” he responded sharply to the first student. He turned his gaze to the second student, “PRACTICE!” he again commanded. Looking at the third, he repeated, “PRACTICE!” Then he became docile and sighed, “That is enough for now, let an old man rest.”

The preceeding story is the long and the short of it, but for some reason, people are left still wanting more. The meaning of the term ‘more’ has time and again proven itself elusive. Many of us become confused as to what this ‘more’ consists of. The greatest impediment on the path to discovering ‘more’ lies in our inability to find it on our own. Sometimes we may even be lucky enough to find it, but lost in our imaginations and preconceived notions, we walk right past the thing which we are after, assuming it is something besides that which we are seeking. In our search, the assistance of a teacher may become invaluable. Recognising a teacher may prove to be a difficult task within itself.

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Dr. Michio Kaku, when occasioned to discuss String Field Theory, once stated that if science ever ‘found God’, it may find that God resembles music. This resonated with me on many levels.

In music, we are presented with two possible paths. Sometimes an individual may desire to ‘play music’ in a subjective sense. Although it is true that many people in this world who ‘play music’ survive, if not proliferate, utilising little or no Practice, there are others who would benefit greatly in more ways than I am capable of elucidating.

Some individuals may eventually formulate an Intense Desire, or Centre of Gravity, within themselves, and therefore consciously decide to immerse themselves in Music. Once immersed, it becomes immediately apparent that the Music was already there, and the Musician, in the objective sense, merely makes himself a fitting conduit through which Music may then flow. Only the individual can decide which one of these types of people he or she happens to be, or desires to become. I would like to expound upon the second path for those who recognise something in themselves resembling it.

Of supreme importance on this path is the act of Practice.

If one choses to Practice, it will be an act requiring special commitment which should be carried out with the whole of one’s being. This will not be the same sort of obligation that one takes on one day, only to discard the next. If one is not prepared to make big sacrifices in order to achieve results, Practice is not for them. Practice will not lend itself to aiding one to become more like one’s contemporary idol. It will, on the other hand, assist at the realisation of one’s Self. Practice will not guarantee money, women, or success. These things do not require Practice. Music requires that the ‘musician-to-be’ become a Practitioner first. Then, if one practices sufficiently, and if one makes oneself available, Music will pay a visit, and for a time, one may become a Real Musician. One can only become a Real Musician while one is immersed in Music. The rest of the time we are only under apprenticeship, willing Practitioners awaiting the next visit.

So, how does one Practice?

First, I’d like to point out that these ideas are not mine, otherwise they would be totally worthless.

Sometime after one begins to exercise Practice, it will become apparent to the Practioner that some things are because they cannot be otherwise, and that these things conform to a higher order, or law, which all other things must operate within. Some laws are capable of being broken, and some are not. These laws may be recognised as Absolute Truths.

By its very nature, Practice requires a certain amount of sacrifice and willful suffering. There are several good analogies that can be used to discribe this. A good comparison would be to that of a butler whose job is to keep the home in order, awaiting the master’s arrival. The butler can never be certain when the master will return, so the house must be kept ready to welcome him at any moment. In this example, the Practice is the butler, the Music is the master, and the Practitioner represents the orderly house. Practice maintains a particular level of order over chaos within the Practitioner. So if the objective is Music, one must first organise. This may be accomplished in 1) an objective sense by appointing a space and time specifically for Practice, and 2) a subjective sense by performing specific exercises during this time which force us to acquaint ourselves with ourselves, our abilities, and our limitations. This is achieved two ways through special exercises requiring us 1) to observe ourselves during Practice, and 2) to train the fingers to do as they are instructed. This is the goal when one begins to Practice.

Therefore, the question is not how does one Practice, but is one capable of Practice?

One has to constantly be on guard against lying to oneself. If an individual convinces himself that he is already in possession a particular ability, he will never attempt to truly acquire it. One must be sincere when asking themselves if they are willing enough to suffer Practice.

“Are you good with a click track?” I once asked friend who had come to the studio to record. He assured me that he was up to the task. When it came time to record, his perceived ability was tested. He proved incapable, however, insisting instead that the click track (which had been laid down electronically) was slowing down and then speeding up. His perception of real time had been distorted via his subjective reasoning, and was now causing him to suffer unnecessarily. Had he willingly imposed ‘internal suffering’ on himself through Practice, he’d not have had to experience this ‘external suffering’ at a later date.

Discipline may only be achieved through Practice. Thus, it will become necessary for the student to approach Practice much as a Holy Man approaches his religion, and I mean this in the strictest sense of the word. The attitude must be one of that approaching faith. One must will oneself over, ‘whole hog’ to the act of Practice. It goes without saying that if ‘other very important stuff’ takes priority over Practice, one will not be capable of making a true commitment to Music. Insincerity is of no good use in any religion. If one forsakes their religion, they will go to Hell. To paraphrase, Practice Saves, but if an individual half-heartedly commits to Practice only to later fall short of their commitment, they have, in effect, sinned against themselves; taking the name of Music in vain. In Music, there is only one all-inclusive Sin, but it is a very big one. The insincere disciple betrays Practice, and eventually commits musical suicide. ‘Believing’ that one is a ‘musician’ is hope against hope. If one can only ‘do’, one need not believe, yet perhaps ultimately Become.

Allow me to explain.

I once spent a great deal of time in translation of the New Testament from Ancient Greek. I discovered to my chagrin (and enlightenment) that some things were not as I’d been informed via good ol’ King James. I discovered that ‘taking the name of God in vain’ meant to ‘misrepresent oneself outwardly as a adherent’, while inwardly remaining the unchanged. It did not mean to utter some silly remark. I found, in particular, a specific meaning in the word ‘sin’, and that in Greek, ‘sin’ (σιν) meant ‘to miss the mark’. Well how many times had I done that? When one is plagued with obsessive compulsive disorder, it always seems that one is ‘missing the mark’. I finally overcame the most distressing manifestations of my affliction, but it survives in other ways. Luckily, my OCD thrives within the realm of Practice.

When one intends to Practice, the necessities are few, but essential. As I outlined in the last article, a Metronome, an instrument, and the Willing Participant make up the short list of requirements.

Insofar as the Metronome is concerned, the Practitioner must become subservient to it, perhaps for an hour or longer at times. Pinging electronic ‘metronomes’ can drive one to the fringe of lunacy within an hour. The organic ‘cluck’ of a wooden Metronome is much more tolerable. During the time that the Metronome continues to run, we must Practice in no other speeds other than those in which it permits. Whole notes will be the primary concern, but as things progress, half, third, quarter, and even fifth note exercises will be prescribed. Bearing this in mind, one must not be enticed to set the Tempo too fast. Since it is much more difficult to Practice slowly, and since slow Practice cultivates Attention, we should begin with our Metronome set at or near 60 beats per minute. What one will be attempting to do is to divide one’s Attention, primarily between the Metronome, the act of plucking, the act of fretting, and the quality of the note being sounded, however, all minutia during the exercise must be scrutinised.

If a guitar is being used for the exercise, the proper choice would be an acoustic guitar. Acoustic instruments (and Metronomes) are always preferable. Neither extremely cheap, nor exorbitantly expensive guitars, are of any advantage. Whereas cheap instruments are difficult to play; an old salesman once told me that expensive guitars were manufactured for two types of buyers: 1) the mediocre, and 2) the egotistical. My sales experience proved this to be solid psychology. In any case, a decent instrument will serve adequately. If electric instruments must be utilised, there should be no effects of any sort in the signal chain, and the guitar should be plugged directly into the amplifier. The volume needn’t be set to ‘eleven’. The goal is to Practice, not to ‘play’. The guitar should be properly tuned in standard tuning. In tuning the guitar, we are, in effect, tuning ourselves. If we tune our instrument in the fashionably trendy ‘Drop Dead’ tuning, we ‘detune’ ourselves.

The participant must be prepared to sit in order to Practice. A great deal of Attention will be needed to participate in the exercises, and one will not be able to maintain the required Attention in a standing position. If one was to apply the proper Attention that is demanded for Practice while standing, one should immediately fall on one’s face. Besides, the proper position for the guitar will be automatically acquired in the sitting position. (If, in an earlier ‘playing’ mode, one has acquired the habit of wearing the instrument below the belt in ‘guitar slinger’ fashion, this nonsense must cease. Practice does not concern itself with appearances.) Great care must be given to avoid unnecessary tension in any other part of the body, from the top of the head to the tip of the toes. Feet should remain flat on the floor.

A plectrum will also be required for the exercises, and one should purchase the stiffest plectrum available. If, over time, one has gravitated towards the use of a plectrum which more closely resembles a butterfly’s wing in thickness, it will be necessary to readapt. Picking action, or ‘english’, must be developed in the hand and wrist, thereby gradually allowing one to increase picking speed, and the ability to persue this goal is severely limited by employing a floppy plectrum. The plectrum will become the extension of the musical soul, and in true Practice, one does not desire a ‘rubber soul’. The picking hand should fall naturally across the guitar body and float above the strings. No portion of the hand should ever touch the top of the guitar. (The habit of ‘anchoring’ the hand on the guitar as reference hampers the ability to increase ones picking speed.) The plucking exercise utilised is that of a down/up motion, with a string being sounded once with each motion.

Remember that the goal is to destroy all bad habits in relation to the guitar. If one has ‘played’ their instrument for many years before beginning Practice in earnest, it will become necessary to forget everything that one already knows. Years of ‘playing’ will have succeeded in building a number of useless habits in our bodily machine which must be ‘erased’. The more willing the participant is to dispose of ignorantly acquired worthless habits, the more he or she will suffer during readaptation, but there awaits great reward for great suffering. Throughout Practice however, the student must have no expectations, only commitment.

As Mr. Fripp once stated, “Assume the virtue”. In Practice, everything is done for a reason. There is no ‘half-assed’ Practice. Either it is, or it isn’t.

So that ‘household order’ may be maintained, a set list of exercises must be prescribed. This list will gradually evolve, depending on the skill level of the Practitioner, but the only place to begin is at the beginning. Thus, it will be sufficient and necessary to begin at the seventh fret. If one is holding their instrument in the proper fashion, and the fretting hand is raised in a natural motion, it should come to rest near the seventh fret, so, (especially with comfort in mind for the beginning student) the seventh fret is a logical place to start, and then move outwardly from in both directions. All four fingers of the fretting hand will be used in the exercises. Each finger is assigned its own fret in each movement, and this finger will repeatedly be used for this position only. For the time, slides, slurs, and bends will be unnecessary. These devices fall into the realm of Feel (in the musical sense), and for these exercises, Feel will not be required. With the fretting hand, the Practitioner may ascend notes in one of two ways, either 1) by the finger or 2) by the string. One may also descend using either method. A combination of both movements will ultimately be required. In The Beginning, one will not need to concern oneself with melody nor harmony, only controlled movements while performing the exercise. The purpose of the exercises is to begin at the possible and to progressively move toward the impossible.

The fretting exercises must be executed in the order and manner prescribed, and should be thoroughly assimilated by the brain as well as the hands before moving on to the next exercise. This requires that the Practitioner perform each step patiently and steadily, and not to attempt to ‘rush’ in order to move on to the next step, nor assume that one ‘needn’t both’ with a particular step, for this does nothing to help accomplish the goal. In this respect, the beginning student has an advantage, as they have not spent fruitless hours instilling worthless ‘playing’ habits in themselves. For the recovering ‘player’, reprogramming takes more time.

The exercises are simple to describe:

Exercise 1:

1) Beginning with the index (p) finger positioned at the seventh fret on the low E (or sixth string), one begins the ascending exercise as the middle (i) finger then naturally falls on the eighth fret, the ring (m) finger the ninth fret, and the pinkie (a) on the tenth fret. Progressing to the A string, then the D, the G, the B, and the high E, the same order is observed. The reverse order is observed in the descending exercise. This exercise is carried out, sounding whole notes (one note per beat) for the duration of the alotted time. This exercise is performed daily until the Practitioner performs the movements perfectly and smoothly. The Practioner must strive to be present with each note.

2) At which time the student progresses to sounding half notes, (one note on the downbeat and one note on the unheard backbeat) with each beat counted as one-two, one-two cadance during each daily exercise in the same fashion until the Practitioner achieves the aforementioned perfect and smooth execution.

3) At which time the student progresses to sounding third notes, (Three measured notes within one beat of the Metronome) with each beat beginning with a one-two-three cadance during each daily exercise as directed above. The student at this time is required to count aloud the beats as he or she progresses through both ascent and descent. This step will require more time of the student, as well as an additional measure of Attention. This exercise is performed daily until the Practitioner performs the movements smoothly and sounding each note perfectly, without slurs.

Exercise 2:

1) At which time the student reverts to sounding whole notes as in step A1, however this time the fingers will alternate between ascending and descending patterns when proceeding to every other string in both the ascending and descending mode.

2) At which time the student begins to sound half notes in the same fashion as in step B1.

3) At which time the student begins to sound third notes in the same fashion as in B2, except that the student is required to count aloud each beat during both ascent and descent.

Exercise 3:

1) At which time the student begins with the (p) finger positioned at the seventh fret on the low E (or sixth string), and begins the ascending exercise (in whole notes) as the (i) finger then naturally falls on the eighth fret, the (m) finger the ninth fret, and the (a) on the tenth fret. However, in this exercise, when progressing to the A string, the index finger descends to the sixth fret, the middle on the seventh fret, and so on as before. With each string in note ascension, the (p) finger continues to descend one fret per string until arriving at the B string. Fret descent is suspended here, and this string is fretted precisely as the D string was fretted. Then, at high E, the fret descent is resumed at the third fret with the (a) finger coming to rest at the sixth fret. This pattern is referred to as a Chromatic Scale. Upon arriving at this point, the note is once again sounded with a downward plucking motion, and the descending scale is sounded in the opposite manner that it was ascended.

2) As C1, but in half notes.

3) As C1, but in third notes. (yes, counted aloud.)

Exercise 4:

1) At which time the student reverts to sounding whole notes as in step C1, however this time the fingers will once again alternate between ascending and descending patterns when proceeding to every other string. This, again, is to be carried out in both ascent and descent modes.

2) As D1, but in half notes.

3) As D1, but in third notes, counted vocally.

Exercise 5:

1) At which time the student reverts to the Exercise A mode, addressing all three Tempos, however, this time the order of the notes sounded will be (p, m, i, a) during ascent and descent, until all three Tempos are mastered.

2) At which time the student, continuing in the Exercise A mode, addresses all three Tempos with the note order being that of (a, i, m, p) during ascent and descent, until all three Tempos are mastered.

3) At which time the student, continuing in the same mode, addresses all three Tempos with the note order being that of (p, m, i, a) on ascent and (a, i, m, p) on descent, until all three Tempos are mastered.

Exercise 6:

1) At which time the student reverts to Exercise C mode, mastering all three Tempos in the order as specified in Exercise E1.

2) At which time the student, continuing in Exercise C mode, mastering all three Tempos in the order as specified in Exercise E2.

3) At which time the student, continuing in Exercise C mode, mastering all three Tempos in the order as specified in Exercise E3.

Exercise 7:

1) At which time the student reverts to the Exercise A mode and order, sounding quarter notes.

2) At which time the student reverts to the Exercise C mode and order, sounding quarter notes.

3) At which time the student reverts to the Exercise E 1, 2, and 3 order, sounding quarter notes.

Exercise 8:

At which time the student reverts to Exercise F modes and orders, sounding fifth notes while counting aloud.

Exercise 9:

1) At which time the Practitioner increases Metronome speed by five bpm and begins anew all exercises as prescribed, using all Major mode scales, one at a time, to execute all eight exercises in each variation thereof.

2) At which time the Practitioner begins anew all exercises prescribed, applying all natural minor mode scales, one at a time, to execute all eight exercises in each variation thereof.

3) At which time the Practitioner begins anew all exercises prescribed, applying all melodic minor mode scales, one at a time, to execute all eight exercises in each variation thereof.

Recording Mythology, Pt. 36 / Train the Brain and the Hands Will Follow

Why didn’t I just listen to my mother?

I tried to play guitar for eleven years in a wasteland of stupidity. Learning the hard way only taught me one thing: that I shouldn’t have wasted a lot of time learning the hard way. But as they say, experience is the best teacher.

At the age of thirteen, I wanted to play the bass guitar. My mom, sensing temporary infatuation, said, “We already have a piano. If you want to learn music, you should take lessons and practice, and then once you learn music we can see about a bass guitar.” Shucks. I didn’t want to learn music, I wanted to play the freaking bass.

A few years later, I scored a very cheaply constructed acoustic guitar. In the Nowhere family tradition, I opted to teach myself rather than locate an instructor who would tolerate my guerilla hard-headedness. I slammed around on the damned thing in total darkness for a couple of years. Finally, a kind-hearted soul showed me how to actually tune it. I had to relearn how to play real chords. An additional diffculty to be sure, but I persevered, despite terribly sore fingertips. Over the next three years, I learned how figure out several simple major chord tunes.

In the interim, I landed a gig singing in a local band. The guitarist showed me some minor chords and a whole new world was opened to me. Spurred onward by this revelation, I finally bought a chord book began writing a few songs. I obtained a better guitar. ‘There,’ I thought, ‘I’m set’.

I continued to learn chords until somewhere along the line, I ceased to add new knowledge, assuming that I’d ‘learned’ how to play. Codswallop.

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Sir Issac Newton overlooked one very important law in the science of Physics. Science sometimes tends to overlook the obvious, in its undying search for exactitude. There exists, however, the law of Accident. As my grandfather used to say, ‘Even a blind pig will find an acorn every now and then’. This aptly explains the law of Accident. a much later version of the law appeared in the slang form of ‘Shit Happens’, and it’s true.

I happened to discover Practice completely by accident. I knew, well into my first decade of playing, that there was something missing, yet I knew not what this ‘something’ was, nor how or where to find it. A teacher would have been invaluable, but I eschewed convention, and paid dearly for my bêtise over a period of several years. I kept assuming that something else would occur, and that one morning I would awake to some startling, and newly acquired skill.

That something came, but in a wholly different form than I was expecting. And it took several years to develop.

I was reading an article that Triumph guitarist Rik Emmett had written for Guitar Player magazine, in which he was describing practice. His article seemed to centre around something that was foreign to me. Rik expressed a great deal of reverence on this particular subject, and my interest was piqued. Within the month, the article had prompted me to purchase a book entitled Harmony by Walter Piston. Another article in the same magazine, written by Howard Roberts, prompted me to construct ‘box scale’ charts, and fervent searches at antique stores rewarded me with a killer Seth Thomas metronome, constructed of solid mahogany.

After acquiring the basic devices, I obtained a footrest, a music stand, and a new nylon string guitar. I grew my fingernails out and began to Practice. Later, I was introduced to Robert Fripp’s excellent and insightful Guitar Craft lessons, and continued my practice in ernest. One may wonder why I suddenly decided to practice using a classical guitar. I became aware that all of my old habits must mercilessly be destroyed. Beginning anew was not merely symbolic, it was Reality, and a new approach only made sense.

After a prolonged period of time, after which new habits had become ingrained in my head as well as my fingers, I did away with the classical guitar, the footrest, and the fingernails, all of which were perceived as stepping stones to a new way of thinking, rather than becoming the goal.

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The actor Hugh Laurie once stated that music was his religion, and I’m hip to his analogy. Practice, as I’d sensed from Emmett’s article, must be approached with reverence. For instance (and according to Robert Fripp), one must be able to ‘do’ nothing before one can expect oneself to accomplish anything. This may at once sound oxymoronic, but I can assure you that truer words have never been uttered nor written.

I had failed to realise that in music, as in every other persuit, there exists an unseen Octave of Progression. After having learned a handful of chords, I had expected the rest of the Octave to complete itself. Only after beginning to Practice did I discover that I had remained in the C note of my Octave of Progression, succeeding only in chasing my tail.

The beginning of every natural progression starts with the note, or Force, of C Major, and there is no other way. This is a very important point to understand, and has been taught among the learned since antiquity, but the cause has never been expounded on. ‘Why not start at A?’ one may be tempted to ask. Because A and B forces already exist.

C represents the beginning of something new. Imagine A as the father and B as the mother. C is thus the child. This C is also known in some arcane schools as the Neutralising Factor. None of the whys and wherefores are important, only to realise this is a big thing, because it gives us a place to start.

Practice is also represented by C, so before Practice, two other qualities must be present: Intense Desire, represented by A, and Patience, represented by the B force. Practice, along with the necessary Attention (a prerequisite, and self-inflected ‘shock’ of self-conscience), brings on a certain type of friction, resulting in the formation of the next note in our Octave, the D force, which becomes Discipline. This note offers, in and of itself, a new branch of knowledge.

In music, the A force represents Tempo, or Time, B represents Pitch, and C represents Feel. Together, these three qualities are akin to what the Holy Trinity represents in religion. Even God represented Himself as Three Forces: The Alpha, and the Omega, of course, but the third force was the unobseved and ignored ‘everything’ in between, the Octave of Progression. This is the real meat. It doesn’t matter from where this knowledge originates; it would be of no use to our senses. It is enough to realise that it will become more or less apparent after an extended period of time, during which one must attempt to ‘do’. Suffice it to say that if we wish to persue music, we must first develop the aforementioned Intense Desire which must become what may be called our Centre of Gravity, afterward, no other activity will displace practice and then music as paramount. I’ll expound on this centre of gravity at a later date.

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When we intend to Practice, we want to sit quietly with our instrument of choice in our practice space for ten or fifteen minutes first, and use this time to centre ourselves and reflect on that which we are about to participate in. This act has been carried out by countless disciples of music since time immemorial. It pays to bear this in mind. Next, we tune our instrument; in this we will be tuning ourselves. Then, when we are ready, we start our metronome, and begin the session. During this period, we must not allow anything to sway our focus or otherwise interrupt us. As Mr. Fripp stated, The quality of our Attention is reflected in the quality of our Practice.

As I stated earlier, Practice is an art unto itself. Attention must be paid to every detail: No part of our plucking hand should never touch the top of the guitar in order to anchor our hand down as a point of reference. We must learn to instinctively know where the strings lie beneath our floating hand. When using a plectrum, our picking strokes should begin on the downstroke and progress in an alternating up and down style. Regarding to our fretting hand, we should ascend one finger at a time, leaving the fingers on the string until all four fingers have been applied, then we should release the string, ascending or descending to the next string in the same manner. Within a given scale pattern, the same finger should be used in the corresponding position whether ascending or descending with our fingers, or in the strings we are plucking. We should not allow our fingers to bounce around aimlessly to first one fret and then the other: we are attempting to establish order out of chaos. Of primary concern is the peculiar runaway pinkie syndrome. The amount of control we are capable of exercising over ourselves can be measured by how much control we are capable of exercising over our little finger, especially as our fingers are in the descending mode. Odds are, our pinkie is want to fly about wildly. We want to restrict our movements to as little as possible, but as much as necessary. Order and Control is what we are undertaking to instill. The devil is in the details, as they say, thus we shall attempt to give ourselves hell.

If you are new to this approach, and you think that the above sounds demanding, actually I haven’t even scratched the surface. Next time I’ll go farther into this underappreciated facet of the craft. It will change everything that you think you already know about yourself. You’ll be a better person on account of it, though. Maybe even a better musician.

Recording Mythology, Pt. 33 / An Unorthodox Approach? Hardly.

I’ve been involved in what is called the ‘liberal arts’ for the majority of my life, albeit I have never had much to do with the ‘art community’, because to me, most of its members seem to be long on attitude and short on talent. The community seemed to be filled with a bunch of duckheads who were more concerned with ‘looking like artists’ than they were with the art itself.

As someone who considered himself a normal guy who painted portraits, I was put-off by the apparent facade of those who were in what I referred to as ‘The Warhol Clan’: those who had to ‘advertise’ their ‘weirdness’ through their dress, their consciously contrived physical tics, such as slurping their coffee or holding their cigarette in some stupid fashion, or some other such ‘abnormality’. Whenever I was around these fakes they exasperated me. Whoever propagated this nonsense about ‘artists on the fringe’ deserves to be shot.

Likewise, musicians have always been a notorious lot for keeping late hours, waking at noon or thereafter, gigging well into the night and tearing down their rigs long after the crowd has filtered into the darkness. This is primarily a matter of necessity, however, yet tends to create a routine which carries over into life and studio time, where many sessions are booked during these ‘peak performance’ hours, primarily to maintain some semblance of a schedule. It becomes common practice to such an extent that many of us think that this is simply the ‘lifestyle of a musician’, but this may not always be the case.

It has been indicated by others that yours truly observes an ‘unorthodox’ approach in contrast to the perceived norm, but throughout the years, I have discovered a slightly different routine more favorable to my creativity. I am simply not a night owl. I held to the generally accepted norm until I could not otherwise, then discovered quite by accident that the early bird system simply suited me much better. And I like to play to my strengths.

I stopped gigging years ago, and as a result I have probably become notorious for not being at the ‘right’ places at the ‘right’ times. In other words, I’m Johnny Nowhere, dammit. When I went into business for myself, I naturally (at least for me) preferred getting an early start, primarily because knocking off earlier appealed to me. After a couple of decades, this became an ingrained habit. I attempted to burn the candle at both ends for some time, jamming well into the night, but it didn’t jibe with the early morning ritual. Besides, I always felt my evening performances lacked a certain edge, mostly because I was tired as hell. After a couple of major life adjustments, I retired from the work force but, in accordance with the aforementioned ingrained habit, I continued to rise early. First, I simply love to go out very early before dawn, when all is peaceful and quiet, and meditate on the breaking day. High octane coffee is a prerequisite, of course. Second, I live in an area which occupies several acres, and is surrounded by lush summer greenery. On account of this, I am able, due to local ordinances, to keep chickens if I so desire.

And I so desire. I dig fresh eggs. They are worth the following caveat.

A flock of hens is not complete without a rooster. Chickens have very sensitive eyes, and can see first light twenty minutes before the human eye. When roosters sense the dawn, which in summertime is about 5:30 a.m., they do what most other birds do and begin to ‘sing’. Of course, roosters sing by ‘crowing’. Loudly. The coop is behind the casa, in close proximity I might add, within a larger enclosed portion of the yard. This, taken with the fact that I prefer fresh night air to cold, dry, ‘processed’ air, means that our windows are wide open. When the rooster crows, I awaken. It is still dark. No matter, I get up. Nothing unorthodox about that.

But what the hell can anyone do so bloody early? That part is easy for a songwriter who wakes up to tunes composed largely in his sleep. Don’t ask me how it works, but it’s pretty freaking convenient.

Subsequently, my gear gets switched on soon after I rise so that it is afforded time to stabilise. The soft yellow glow of the VU meters and the gentle whirring of the motor is inviting. My body is refreshed, my ears are rested, my mind is clear. Years of playing having taken their toll, my carpel tunnel takes about an hour to expand enough so that my chording hand doesn’t go to sleep five minutes into a take. By this time, the first organic notes on the acoustic guitar suit me much better than the late night roaring distortion at 90 dB through tired ears and a stressed body. Headphones on, and I’m effortlessly in the zone. One hour after sunup, I’ve gotten two acoustic takes, as well as a gently gurgling B3 bed tracked. By 9:00, my ears are becoming attenuated to the growing volume as the tracks stack up, and after adding bass and drum programming, I am, by now, more sonically prepared to hear my Tele’s choking top-end whistle through the headphones, or my own wailing vocal howl. By six bells, I’m hungry, the tune is in the can, and I’m proud of a job well done before many of my late-night colleagues have even begun to stir.

It might not work for everybody, but for those who are willing and able to break ‘tradition’, a revelation may await you in an early morning reveille.

Works for me.

You Can’t Think Of A Band Name? Are You Serious?

Back in 1993, there were establishments known as ‘record stores’ and at that time I was attempting to hold down the assistant position of ‘managing’ one. In those days, there was an individual medium of storing and selling music that didn’t involve earbuds or smart phones. This medium came in the form of a little silver platter called a ‘compact disc’. These ‘CDs’ were sold at such stores.

Richard, the manager, upon arriving to work one afternoon, mentioned on his way back to the office that he needed a new band name. “We can’t think of one. Why don’t you guys come up with one for us?”

“You can’t think of a band name? Are you serious?” I prodded from behind the front counter. “Hell, Gregoravich and I can come up with one for you. Ain’t that right Pete?”

Petior just gave the grin of the mischevious twelve-year old boy that permanently dwelled inside him. Petior’s parents were rocket scientists, and they had defected over to the States from the Soviet Union when Pete was a youngster. NASA, being greatly interested, paid them prodigous sums of money for the honour of systematically de-programming them of all things Russian and rocket. As a result, Pete spoke both Russian and English beautifully, but it had cost him his sanity. He was capable of coming up with the most ridiculous combinations of English words I’d ever heard.

I picked up a legal pad said, “Okay everyone,” I stated aloud in faux-commander fashion, “Richard’s band needs a name and it has become our responsibility to arrive at a suitable one. When you think of something acceptable, write it down on this legal pad. That’s an order.” and then tossed the pad back down on the counter.

“This is the reason no work ever gets done around here, Sven”, announced Hell Mary, the goth waif with the black-hole hair, rolling her eyes, ” I don’t want to play your insidious games.”

“You must, or you’ll be taunted and severely beaten.” I informed her.

Yian walked up to the counter. Her parents were first generation Chinese immigrants and she spoke a lovely mixture of Chinglish. Yian was another lunatic. “Do we get spanked if we don’t do it, Sir?” she asked with her illustrious smile.

“So let it be written, so let it be done,” I declared, “as employees here, we…”

“PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE COUNTER. I AM THE GREAT AND POWERFUL OZ!!” Richard’s voice blared through the phone intercom.

We were a crew of the aforementioned plus a confused seven foot tall stickman who was infatuated with fat women, a self-centered redheaded Irish lass, a perpetually depressed drama queen who promptly severed every rope I’d throw down to her, and a self-deprecating example-of-genetic-engineering-gone-awry mulatto who insisted on being called ‘Tarbaby’, who also had the coolest looking green eyes I’ve ever seen.

The customers were eyeballing all of us suspiciously. I had to work with these people.

Later on, when I was back up front, I’d noticed that someone had dutifully begun the list in ernest, and sensing great fun, I scribbled down a couple of my own and went about my work. As the day passed, the list grew, and as time went on, the pad became a more or less permanent fixture on the counter for the duration of my tenure at the store. The list soon became a medium of vague social commentary, and no one ever complained except once. They were quickly informed that everybody was having too much fun for some crybaby to start running interference.

Fortunately, I had the forsight to abscond with the pad when I left that retail establishment for a more promising future by securing a job at a ‘music store’ which sold all types of instruments, mixing boards, and outboard gear. It was a ‘picks and sticks’ kind of place. Everyone in town that played music came there. (FYI, instruments and ‘gear’ came along before computers, software, plug-ins, loops, and beats. They were the only things that people had to make music with at that time. It took years to learn to play an instrument or run a board. Only then could you refer to yourself as a musician, an artist, or a ‘producer’. Back then, you actually had to know what you were doing. Cutting was done with a blade & block, and pasting had been left behind in grade school.)

Work on the list progressed farther there, assisted by those whose input reflected their chosen field. Sometimes the stuff got pretty weird if not downright questionable when a theme would begin to emerge.

Twenty years on, I still have the old legal pad. It is a sight to behold. The original pages were eventually filled up and new, additional pages stapled on top in order to accomodate the ever-expanding list. There is a black Dymo label on the top spine that proclaims:

THE BIG PAD OF USEFUL BAND NAMES

While trying to locate an old back-issue of Recording magazine this morning, I came across the list and began flipping through it. (For those of you who may not know, before there were smartphones and iPads, ‘magazines’ were a medium commonly referred to as ‘periodicals’ or ‘publications’, consisting of several pages of paper, wherein ‘articles’ {which is something that predates blogs} covering different subjects were printed. These magazines were regularly subscribed to, delivered to the home through what was called the ‘mail’, and read voraciously.)

Re-reading the band names list, I am at once amazed at how everyone has a comedian deeply hidden somewhere inside of them. I have decided to forgo the formalities, choosing to waive exercise of copyright for this occasion, in order to share some of these ‘band names’ with my readers. (Band names cannot be copyrighted anyway, only trademarked. Feel free to make use of any if you dare. I don’t believe that anyone else ever did).

As is said, without further ado, and in quasilogical order, here they are:

Plastic Casket Gasket

Mama Casket

Pipi Longshoreman

The Mate Baiters

The Bait Maters

The Toe-Maters

The Poe-Taters

Semen Fraud

The Tennesseemen

My Dixie Wrecked

Spermicidal Maniacs

Autoejaculating

L.A.G.N.A.F.

Death Grows Old

Princess Die

Hopped Up On Goofballs

Ebola Cola

Uteri

Dapper in Diapers

Smokey Mountain Gigolo

Huban Rebains

The Innocent Bystanders

Flying By the Seat of John Denver’s Pants

Tanked, but Empty

I Puff Hashenstuff

J.R. Tolkenstuff

The Locksmith Monsters

Appear Up Here

Striking Posers

Karen Carpenter’s Sad Luck Tapeworm

The Skull of Frank Sinatra

The Emperor and The Whimperer

Impervious to Submission

Spit Pee Soup

Sugar Ray Cyrus

Cunanan’s Ill-Fitting Trousers

The Banned

Duck Shovel

Chicken Horn

Allen Wrench and the Truss Rods

Don’t Lick a Dead Horse in the Mouth

Norman Cunningham and the Clever Swine

Damn the Tortillas

Damn the Tomatillos

Screature

Wallowing at the Edge

Addicted to Myself

The Blank Stare of Lyle Alzado

Grandma’s Chains

Jose Julian Marti’s 24 Hour Party Club

Castro’s Overinflated Self-Importance

The Wrath of Cecil

Deaf, Dumb, and Astigmatic

The Stoned Temple Co-Pilots

God Is My Stone Temple Co-Pilot

The Shirley Temple Pilots

Hung Like an Angel

The Amish Electricians

The Horse Mechanics

Pastor of Muppets

God Wears a Bowtie

Christian Restraint Device

The Forever Endeavour

Jimmy Staggard

Dying is Not an Option

Anal Roberts

God Jam (christian rock band)

FLATHEAD

God Is My Washroom Attendant

Go Forth and Subtract

Out Of My Way, You Offend Me!

Jesus Swept

Loincloths of Distinction

Sister Grecian

Christian Formula 44

The Chosen Juans

Juan On Juan

Don Was Juan?

Juan Tortilla Rides Away

Bubba Lopez Sippin’ Tequila

Pato Hernandez-Vega-Francisco-Garcia-Smith

Seeing Eye Cat

Dead Man Drumming

Mrs. Doubtfire Goes to Sweden

Swedish Hendrix

Hey, Sven

Bjorn Under a Bad Sign

Swedish Army Knife

Blue Swede Shoes

Blue Wazoo

The Blue Dads

Blue-Eyed Hog

Dirigible With An Ankle Tattoo

Ballerina Sweathog

Bloated Beyond Redemption

Slowly! To the Fat-Mobile!

The Bogus Highlights

Hellbent For Spongecake

Eat Beastily

Walking With Wood

Paraplegics On Parade

Quadraplegic Uprising

The Crippled Bastards

I’m Super-Special, Get Out Of My Way, Too!

God Was Mean To Me

Eddie and the Tweak Freaks

The Gay Headhunters

The Mighty Dykes

Bi For Now

I’ll Be Homo For Christmas

I Left My Masculinity In San Francisco

Out Of My Way, Honey, I’m Special, Too!

The Sweet Police

Queer Wizard

Queen of the Wild Frontier

And Flamboyant, Too!

Flambuoyancy

Swollen Hose

Inflates On Impact

The New World Orderlies

Haulin’ Oats

Stovepipe Stuffing

Dingle

Elevator Silence

Toe Clevage

Amy Grunt

Rage Against the Coke Machine

Podunkus

Mice Capades

The Sparrowkeets

Agony Is My Playground

Monkey See, but Play in Ab

Interstellar Dust

CHOICE NOISE

Chuck Wagon and the Buckboards

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Hell

Flabberbastard

Saginaw Over

Freeze-dried Raindrops

Bass Cleft Pallet Jack

Good, Clean Fun

Nashville Triple Bypass and the Passers-by

Flamingo Mandingo

I’d Still Deep-Six Number 9

I’d Still Deep-Six Julie Andrews

I’d Still Deep-Six Emma Peel

I’d Still Deep-Six Greta Garbo

Garbo is dead, you dumb ass.

Skippy the Conqueror

Mississippi Churning

Adobe Shithouse

Tortilla Shingles

The Deep-End Rowdies

Under the Overpass

Over the Underpass

Under the Passover

Pass the Overalls

Lass in Underalls

My Dad Can Kill Your Dad

My Dad Can Die Faster Than Your Dad

My Dad Was A Dad Before Your Dad

My Dad Is Your Dad

My Dad Is Your Brother’s Sister

My Dad Never Met My Mother

My Dad Was A Coolie

Yian, I Am Your Father

Whore Monica

Attila the Clown

I Tilla the Ground

I Ground the Tortilla

(what’s your deal with tortillas, dude?)

Keebler Death Gods

Elfen Secrets

Tantric Elves

Elvis’ Twelve Shelves

Velvet Elvis

Afghanistan Banana Stand

Time for Your Daily Compounding

Silent Horse Whistle

Whispering Whistlers

Sleeping Lispers

Pumped Up Has-Beens

Bellowing Zero

Topless Miners

Mopless Two-Timers

Doppelgänger Moonshiners

Bermuda Love Triangle

Lesbos Sextangle

Falopian Tube Driver

Tubular Hell

Edward Rock, Scissor, & Paper Hands

Kenny Loggins Drives an Aerostar

The Salt & Pepper Factor

Spike-Haired Judas

Enormous Disappointment

Kenny Loggin’s Menopause Hangover

Chew With Chagrin

A Streetcar Named Pestilence

Hand-Me-Down Dentures

I Inhaled the Heir To the Throne

Herd of Mexican Sea Cows

Spanglish Jugglers

Debutante Brawl

Beers of a Clown

The Zantax Man

The Subliminals

Anti-M

A Pit To Hiss In

Opie From Muskogee

Fugly Ucklings

The Absent-Minded Proctologist

The Overly Aggressive Breeders

Ghandi’s Playhouse

Honking Donkeys

Damn Hammer

Wattage By the Pound

Trampled By Horsemen

Around the World in Jennifer’s Bedroom

LILAC ALE

I See Your Daughter and Raise You a Grandson

Karaoke Queen

The Cynic Route

The Brick Pitchers

Glutton Mutton

White Knuckled Meat Packers

Hell Razor

Funt Cunnel

16 Tons Is What You Get, You Dumb Ass

The Accumulators

Waltzin’ the Dog

Handmade Lovin’

Crazy About Sanity

Scratch N Lick

Substance Abuse Remover

The David Lettermen

That Weird Jackson Thing

A Double Shot of My Baby’s Mother

Endangered Feces

Jurassic Parking Lot

Tom Waits For No One

The Significant Others

Hotter Than a Urinary Infection

Dick’s Hat Band

The Used Rubber Band

DRUGNET

Dragnut

Warped Fork

8 Women Who 8 Women

Unidentified Obscenities

Nursery School Flak

Spank Me In Chinese

Confucius Say ‘Undress’

Wok Like A Man

Duck Sausage

The Gooks of Hazard

Eschew Lao Tzu

I’d Lao Tzu

Sizzling Happy Family

Seoul Food

Chau Daun

Chu Yu

Dong Hang Lo?

Yu Chau Sum?

Mi Chau Yu

Dong Go Long

Cantonese Peachfish

Johnny Boom-Boom

The Eternal Yee-Haw

Johnny Everywhere

Sven Johnny

Johnny Narwhale

Midget Whale

Aloha, Dead Man

Doc Martin Boots & Black Hair Dye for Everyone

Jesus Had A Stunt Double

Jewsus

Judas-On-A-Rope

Jesus Crust Self-Rising Flour

God As A Kid

My Brain Is God’s Wastebasket

Armed Like A Guerilla

Waltzing Guerilla

Dr. Kevorkian for Surgeon General

The Wick Dippers

Bend & Deliver

Come & Stumble

The Cat Slingin’ Seamen

The Rolling Boils

Squid Man of Alcatraz

Granny In Jackboots

Cranky Face

The Rattling Pipes

Goose Motif

Stormin’ Norman Rockwell

Stormin’ Mormon

Mormon Nailer

Ray Charles Staredown

The Five Boys Who Can See Just Fine

Cellular Redneck

Goat Ropers Annonymous

Cow Tipping Homies

White Boys Can’t Rap

Dead Men Can’t Rap

Gold Vest on a Dead Man

Cracker Smack

Black Boys Can’t Speak English

Whack Cracker

All Smoke, No Fire

Gatsmoke

Are Those Your Pants or Is Your Diaper Just Full?

Slim Whiteman & the Funky Caucasians

Tipper Gore Can Kiss My Red, White & Black Ass

Darwin Never Met Puff Daddy

The Lawn Jockeys

The Cotton Pickers

Pavlov’s Homie

Honky Sage & His Jazzy Ass Crackers

Low-Tar Baby

The All-American Niggers

*how about Simply REDNECK*

(how about “Go To Hell If You Can’t Roll”)

yo, he mean “The African-American Negroes”

“The Touchie-Feelie Colored People”

No Rules Allowed

Meaningful Dialogue

(hahaha! “The Politically-Correct Non-Offensive White Girl Band”)

Spoil Sport

Bitchcraft

Civil Whore

Hoe Cake

Fiddle-dee-dee!

Feminist Fartblossom

…And Fairness For All

Click Your Heels Together

Disneyworld Imagination

Heaven On Earth

White Guilt Was Killing My Marriage

The Self-Effacing Whities

It’s My Parents Fault That I’m White

Reluctantly White

We’re White But We’re Terribly, Terribly Sorry

Kick Me, I’m White

Kick Yourself, You’re White

(on “Appearing Tonight” street marque) No Colored People

(ditto) Irish Need Not Apply

(Ditto) No Irish Swine

(ditto) No Fat Chicks

(ditto) Nude, Hot Girls

(ditto) Free Russian Roulette Nightly

(ditto) No Cover Charge

The Riffmeisters

The Guitar Pounders

The Quarter Pounders

Agrosnack

Jimbo and his Corn Squeezin’s

Neil Jung

Drastic Sludge

Whiskers

Toothless Cheese Eaters

Futt Buck Ugly

Broad Daylight

Sound Funnel

Solar Windsock

The Cocky Pops

Chick Dinner

BRAT POISON

Belch Metal

The Slammers

Trumpet Lullaby

Jockstrap Molasses

Daddy House

Son Duplex

Sister Complex

Acid Reflux

Save The Flashdance For Me

Tube of Plenty

George the Wondergoose

Ex-Wife’s Worst Nightmare

Hitler’s Cookbook

Swollen and Angry

Hitler’s Prerogative

Free Train Rides

Steely-Eyed Stare

Insane Maestro

Kruschev’s Shoe

Red Faced Raging Fury

Slap Happy Goose Steppers

Sherman’s Bataan Death March to the Sea

My Beautiful Ego

Rapid-fire Magic Wand

Knocked Unconscientious

Hot Glue Enima

Public Enima

Public Enigma

ACID BERNE

Canadian Cakewalk

Canadian Tubeswallow

Bullwankle

The Flaming Hosers

The Blazing Cadillacs

The French Foreign Lesion

Nose Trombone

Laughing At Dumbo’s Mother

The Spam Doctors

Eating Juice

The Test Ticklers

Jocular Fallout

Flaccid Fallout

Vomicide

Custer’s Soiled Pantaloons

Schopenhauer’s Soiled Bermudas

The Cockhounds

Hard Discharge

Oedipus Tex

Rogue Hacker

Throes of Chapter 13

Godspeed Galore

Hidden Valley Raunch

Linda Evan’s Big Valley

2 inches of fun, 3 feet of remorse

Death Sneeze

The Unabashedly Gay Power Rangers

Whoopee Tampons

Social Senility

Bells of Madness

Gin & Lyme

Shining Brightly on the Electric Dress

Shimmering Zebco Halo

Fuck Tourette and His Goddamn Syndrome

Mauled By Tarbash

Balsa To the Waltza

Ghandi Khan

American Injunuity

Indian In-Law

Womb With A View

The Lackluster Muffbusters

The Skinboats of Tuna Lagoon

Pump, Jiggle, Quake & POP!

Dripping With Gratitude

Trailer Park Triplets

Mister Corrugated’s Neighborhood

Happy Valley Hellraisers

Trailer Park Hotheads

The High-Rise Trailer Park Highbrows

Clipper Madness

Hip Hair Mestress

Shearlock Combs

The Hobbling Felines

Possum Death Mask

Tar Pit Tango

Shut Up, You’re Next

Shroud Of Turin Beach Towel

Accidentally Gorgeous

How Much Is That Doggy Inuendo?

She’s On the Tip of My Tongue

Deep C Diver

The Yankers

The White Sox Monkeys

The Black Sex Junkies

The Pocket Fishermen

Splay Footed Toe Tappers

The Pistil Packing Stamens

Smells Like Teen Chlamydia

Lap Sap

Stone Mountain Oysters

The Mimekillers

Obnoxious Stuttering Oxen

Coveralls of Shame

Possum McNuggets

Vengeful Possum

Blackie Clueless

Slackie Jawless

Manson Family Values

The Maimtones

The Things I’ve Done With a Singlecoil

The Indigo Guys

Color Me Invisible

Hammertoe

The Coagulators

Videl Bassoon

Fidel Baboon

Infidel Bistro

Interuterine Chamber Orchestra

The Vienna Sausage Boys Choir

Swollen Colon

Agent Orange

Mohammad Smoked Camels

Mad Mohammed’s Diary

….and they continue, far into the night. Believe it or not, I actually omitted a few as I was making the transcription for fear that some folks may become…offended. (as if some of you aren’t already).

Oh, well, the truth, as they say, hurts.

Recording Mythology, Pt. 23 / Buying New Gear vs. Developing New Talent

A famous producer once stated, “I’d rather record the best drummer in the world on the world’s worst equipment, rather than record the world’s worst drummer on the best equipment in the world.” I’m good with that statement.

Every so often, whenever I’m feeling stale, I take a few steps back and look over my original intentions. I can always tell when I’m hitting that ‘wall’ because I want to start looking on all of the websites for a new piece of gear. And it always seems to be the stuff that I can’t afford. Just like when I was a kid and Sears sent out their Christmas catalogues, nothing has changed. But I usually resist the temptation to place an order, because I’ve learned that generally a new wave of inspiration hits soon after every lull. Lots of people, however, yield to the temptation and find themselves in a roomful of new, expensive and, mostly under-utilised, gear.

If this phase doesn’t soon correct itself, we need to re-examine what the cause of this ‘gear acquisition syndrome’ is. We need to ask ourselves if indeed we are heeding a deeper calling, or if we are simply looking for a quick fix. It is my belief that if we are simply trying to ‘be a musician’ rather than constantly struggling to become one, we are out of allignment with the way that things are designed to work. Our main objective should be to listen to what is calling to us as songwriters and musicians, and to produce, as faithfully as possible, what we hear. If we hear Tchaikovsky and attempt to turn it into Nine Inch Nails, we are betraying that voice, attempting instead to please others in order to be ‘popular’, rather than satisfying our inner Muse, and in doing so, we will never be satisfied. Finally the voice will stop speaking, because we have stopped listening. We must realise that we have to sacrifice ourselves, but this is, unfortunately, a sacrifice that far fewer are willing to make. Joni Mitchell didn’t get famous because she could bust moves. It was only because she was an absolutely kick-ass writer who sacrificed herself to her work. The things that she heard didn’t come to her in standard tuning, so she tuned her guitar to what she heard. She didn’t ‘tune down’ just because it was the current fad. In becoming her own voice, she gave her voice to the Muse, and she was repaid tenfold. Her back-catalogue is astounding, and she never gave a second thought as to what was ‘hip’ at the time. She appealed to those who accepted her on her own terms, and fame took a back seat to her Muse.

This is how it should be with every one of us.

There is an ancient verse which states: “To he who has, it shall be given, but to he who has not, that too shall be taken away.”

Nothing is more important than practice. Nothing. Nothing.

Practice is the sacrifice that we make to the Muse. Whether we practice writing lyrics, or practice scales on our instrument of choice, this is the sacrifice that must be made in order to ‘make it over to the other side’.

My advice to everyone, is not to concern yourselves with how big an impression your studio rack makes on all of your colleagues, but how big of an impression you can make on the gear. One must remember that the gear is simply the highway. You are the vehicle. Whatever model, new or old, slow or fast, sleek or clunker, you are only trying to arrive at your destination. The way to keep this vehicle running is through preventative maintenence, and this maintenence is called practice.

If you ‘don’t have time to practice’ because something else is more important, whether it be watching a football game or going out and getting blazed with a group of friends or surfing around on b all day and night long, you don’t have time to be an artist in the true sense of the word.

And there isn’t enough gear in the world that you can to sacrifice to the Muse in order to save your soul.

Johnny is a songwriter first, excelling at philosophical analogy, and publisher second at Hell Paving Company (ASCAP)