Latest News And Updates
So May has rolled around and the weather is steadily improving (ie snow shovel has been put away ...thankfully). Looks like 2016 took another icon awayfrom us in the form of Prince. While I wasn't a big fan I certainly respected his talent, business sense and the ability for reinvention. Fifty seven certainly seems like a bit too young, Apparently drugs were the culprit. Such a shame.
As I've gotten older I'm finding that one by one we are losing the musicians that have truly broken the mold on popular music and changed the paradigm of how the industry had been run. Music became a huge part of my life very early on. My dad gave me Led Zeppelin I and II when I was just 9 years old. The next weekend I saw him we immediately went to Korvettes and bought Physical Graffiti. I have all the Zeppelin records that he bought or gave me framed and hung in my studio. I get to look at them and think back to when times were simpler and when high quality rock music ruled the air waves. I recall when I was first affected by the mortality of our musical icons. I was a little kid in elementary school when a good friend of mine told me that Lynyrd Skynyrd's plane went down and that the lead singer and guitar player died. I was a pretty big fan when I was a kid and learned how to play the solo to Freebird when I was 11 years old. (Of course I had, and still have a great teacher.) I was pretty bummed out that Skynyrd was pretty much done as a band and no more music will be coming from them in their original form. I believe this was around 1977. I remember thinking to myself that I was so relieved that this didn't happen to Led Zeppelin, my favorite band of all time. I thought nothing would happen to Zeppelin ...they were invincible and they will keep making the music that I love forever. Mind you these were the thoughts of a young and naive brain. I of course knew nothing of the drugs, depravity and debauchery that ran rampant through the Zeppelin camp. All I knew was that Jimmy Page was the coolest goddamn guitar player I ever heard, and that I wanted to learn how to play every song they wrote...and very nearly did! Zeppelin truly was a fixture in my life. I literally wore their records out. I connect certain songs to certain experiences in my life. I remember working on an 8th grade social studies project and listening to Zeppelin III over and over. I found that the acoustic songs on that record helped me concentrate better. When 1980 finally did roll around and Bonham was lost, I was truly stunned. I couldn't comprehend how something like that could possibly happen. He was only in his 30's! Then the rumors flew. Who would be replacing him? I remember hearing all sorts of possibilities on the radio. Of course there was no internet back then so it was either FM or magazines. Well we all know how everything ended up. Zeppelin disbanded, released Coda and Robert Plant went on to a fairly lucrative solo career.
Its funny how I/we take these icons for granted. We think they're going to live forever but as we can see they don't. Losing Chris Squire was another lesson in mortality. The progressive juggernaut that is Yes now feeling the ravages of age is just plain sad. The loss of Pink Floyd's Rick Wright was, I thought, monumental. Soft spoken, humble and appreciative of his fans. A huge talent at creating the texture and ambience littering Floyd's music. Another extraordinarily sad story is that of Keith Emerson, the keyboard legend of ELP. He was living with a debilitating disease that was gradually robbing him of the use of his hands. A musician's fate worse than death. The time, effort and sacrifice put into pushing your physical and mental abilities in order to create the music you hear in your head. Thousands of hours of practice until you reach that pinnacle in which you feel you understand your instrument enough that it becomes an extension of yourself. Then fate steps in and decides to rob you of all your efforts. This of course led to massive depression on Emerson's part. He felt that he had let his fans down. I guess he felt that fate took more than he could handle and he chose to succumb to it. Can I understand that? Yes. Do I condone it? No.
The once legendary bands of our time going out with only one or two original members with a bunch of stand ins and ringers is something that I just can't abide by. I think moving on and perhaps doing new and interesting projects would be a better choice. A good example would be Robert Plant. He has been exploring the musical landscape for decades. Reinventing himself and delving into all sorts of musical forays has only bolstered his resume. Growing old gracefully without losing face is next to impossible in the music industry. I see these classic rock bands going out and just not having the goods. I say try not to relive the past. Just embrace the future with new and different ideas. Leave your legacy intact and go exploring!
I guess mortality touches each of us in different ways. As we get older as fans and watch the iconic musicians of our time gradually leave the planet we can be thankful that we still have the great music they left behind. I think it might be time for me to put on some Zeppelin. I"m thinking the Presence album may be in order...Achilles Last Stand is a great place to start.
This is going to be a fairly comprehensive as I have been remiss about my updating. First lets start off with the traditional moronalogue...shall we?
<moronalogue> The election. Oh man, where to begin. I've been around for a while but haven't really paid much attention to politics until the last 10 years or so. Nothing has really prepared me for this circus. Its absolutely breathtaking the amount of divisive rhetoric and media mind manipulation that's been going on. On the republican side, starting off with 17 candidates...17! That's more people than in most classrooms! Let's face it a good chunk of those people never really had a chance. C'mon, Pataki? While a decent governor, if I remember right, his polling stayed at a steady 0. Jindal? I don't even remember him being mentioned at all. Perry dug in his heels but eventually fell by the wayside. I think Walker did ok in the beginning and was beginning to look like a viable option but he also lost steam. To be honest I didn't even know who Gilmore was. Lindsey Graham? Gone. Huckabee? I think he tried to stir things up by latching onto that lady who ran the post office who wouldn't sign gay marriage certificates or something like that. He was relevant for a few minutes and for one delegate but when that story passed...so did he. Rick Santorum. Done. Zero delegates. While I agree most with Rand Paul, he unfortunately couldn't make the cut as well. Only 1 delegate for him. Chris Christie, while mildly entertaining finally called it quits with a gigantic 0 delegates. I thought Carly had some fire. I liked that she didn't take any shit and stood up to Trump and his bloviating. Insulting her about her face... that's just stupid and not very presidential. But nothing about this election has really been presidential anyway. Jeb Bush. He really stands for what a lot of Americans are pissed off about, the status quo, the establishment, blue blood country club mentality. His era is over. For that I'm thankful. Ben Carson was interesting as well. I think he came across a little too nice. A bit too soft spoken. When I size up a candidate I imagine them trying to stand up to guys like Putin. Can they hang with Bibi? What about Iran? Are they gonna let them take advantage of us... Again? I just don't see Carson being that guy. I could see him as part of an administration. He's thoughtful and comes across as pretty level headed. Now he and Christie are endorsing Trump. Politics makes strange bedfellows indeed. Rubio, the latest casualty of the establishment, gave it the old college try. He seems like a decent enough guy but he couldn't win his own state. That's gotta say something. He won Minnesota, I think, and Puerto Rico? But not Florida? I believe he's a freshman senator. He needs a few more years of maturation. We already elected a freshmen senator...look how that turned out. Kasich seems to try to be an outsider but I'm kinda thinking he's more of an insider. He had an 80% approval rating in Ohio. That says something for sure. He really doesn't seem so charismatic to me though. Some people have a way of talking that is compelling. He's not compelling. Seems nice enough though. I have very mixed feelings of Ted Cruz. I like the fact that he's a constitutionalist. I'm a fan of the constitution. Its what makes our country great in a singular way. I'm also pro 2nd amendment, but not in a lunatic fringe kinda way. I feel that I should have the right to protect my family, myself and my stuff from people who want to do me harm and take my stuff. What throws me about Cruz is the way he speaks or shall we say orates. He talks like he's preaching to his flock. Like a pastor. As soon as religion makes its way into politics I'm out the door. I think Putin would squash him like a grape. Trump is the biggest enigma. A total populist. He feeds on discontent, frustration, fear and general anxiety. He tells people what they want to hear. He feeds into the frenzy. He comes across as total stream of consciousness when he speaks. Throwing out barbs, insults and creating a bit of mayhem in the process. I have mixed feelings about him as well. I appreciate the fact that he understands business and could possibly apply those general ideas to the country. I'm so fed up with hyper politically correct behavior that a snide remark or barb could make me crack a smile. Does that make me a bad person? I think it just makes me a real person. I also feel he's a loose cannon. Impulsive. Possibly dangerous if left alone too long. I also feel like he could be running the best con game America has ever witnessed. Are we being played? I have feeling we will find out. That's only the republican side, now for the Democrat side...
I'm gonna try to keep this short. It looks like O'Malley was a non starter. He really didn't register with the people so much. Sanders on the other hand has really struck a nerve. There are a few parallels between Sanders and Trump that I find fascinating. First off they are both non-traditional candidates. They both have ideological views that are kinda out of the mainstream establishment thinking. I feel they're both populists. Their ideologies are pretty much the antithesis of one another's. Sanders is all about the government taking care of the population from cradle to grave while Trump seems to have the more mainstream, free market conservative ideals. An interesting similarity is the fact that they both have not taken any contributions from corporations or any "Wall Street" entities. That is something that I can get on board with. The only trouble I see is that pretty much every congressman and senator is bought and paid for by some lobbyist or corporate/Wall St. entity. So while the president may be clean of pandering to lobbyists etc the legislative branch unfortunately is still beholding to them. Its a scary thought how far government has gone from being an institution of laws made by us to laws shaped by the highest donor. While I think Bernie means well I'm just having a bit of an issue on how he's going to extricate all this bread from Wall St. to pay for his programs. Free healthcare, free college etc etc. Now Hillary well she's a pretty controversial figure. I have to say she has quite a set of balls for throwing her girdle into this race. Whitewater, Troopergate, Paula Jones et al. Issues with the Clinton Foundation, paid speeches on Wall St., Sidney Blumenthal, the private email server, Benghazi, and all the new classified emails found on her server. I'm inclined to say that she has more than a few skeletons in her closet. Now since Trump I'm sure has a bunch as well I'm thinking that if these two do end up facing off we will be up to our knees in bone fragments for sure. So who am I for? Well...that's a good question. I'm more libertarian than anything so I have major issues with each candidate. I can't find it in my heart to tow a party line and just drop what I believe. <moronalogue>
A sad thing that seems to be prevalent in this new year is the loss of so many of our iconic musicians. We think none of these artists have an expiration date. They've been in the public consciousness so long that they almost seem immortal. Keith Emerson being the most recent, and the most heart breaking. He of course was the keyboard juggernaut of the progressive rock group ELP (Emerson Lake and Palmer). They fused classical, rock and jazz with odd time and insightful lyrics to create a heady mix of powerful music. Emerson was a great showman as well. As time progressed he unfortunately came down with what is now becoming a more common disease amongst musicians called "focal dystonia". He was gradually losing facility of his right hand and fingers. As he was someone who sacrificed a lot for his art he then became depressed due to this debilitation. He felt that with a tour waiting in the wings he would not be able to properly play all the great music we've come to know. This disease mixed with depression is an extraordinarily dangerous combination. He took his own life to release himself from his suffering. Such a shame.
Another icon George Martin recently left us as well. Living a long rich life its nice to think that he will be remembered wistfully as the producer of so many of the Beatles greatest hits. He also worked with greats such as Jeff Beck, Cheap Trick, America, and Elton John.
Maurice White who was the brainchild behind Earth Wind And Fire just passed at 74. He had been battling Parkinson's disease since the late 80's. He was not just the drummer but also the primary songwriter behind all their hits.
I was never really a big Jefferson Airplane fan but Paul Kantner really was at the forefront of the hippie music movement. Besides being the guitar player for the Airplane he also helped found the Jefferson Starship, a more modern pop related project in the late 70's and 80's.
David Bowie was a big surprise to me. He looked liked he never aged! He left this world in style for sure. Being not just a musical influence during the "glam" era he continued to morph his persona throughout his career continuously reinventing himself. His last album was a fitting message to his fans.
Glen Frey was a mainstay on FM radio with the Eagles and as a solo artist. Dead at only 67. Again I wasn't a big fan but he wrote a ton of hits and the vocal harmonies in that band were really top notch.
Here are a few more:
Dan Hicks: country player
Signe Anderson: original Airplane singer
Jimmy Bain: bass player with Rainbow and Dio
Mic Gillette: trumpet player with Tower Of Power
Dale Griffin: founding member of Mott The Hoople
Robert Stigwood: manager of Bee Gees and Cream etc
Of course we lost Lemmy Kilmister of Hawkwind and later Motorhead late last year. He had to be on this list for sure.
Things continue to be fun and interesting at the Hudson Room. I'm thinking I've mixed over a hundred bands!
Below are a couple of shots of the place and some bands in action.
Its really been an interesting journey so far mixing live music at the Hudson Room. I've learned a lot about sound, frequency range, compression etc and how it applies to live music as opposed to a more controlled studio environment. Its challenging at times for sure. For the most part the bands have been great and take my advice on how loud they should be and tweaking their settings to really fit the room. Its a tricky room to play in because its big enough to warrant a fairly powerful sound system but not big enough for the instrumentation to be completely isolated for monitoring purposes. Its a bit of a battle trying to explain how the amps on stage are only for the band members to hear themselves and each other. Since everything is miced and put through the system they don't have to be loud. I'm providing the proper sound levels for the crowd in the audience...but I digress. I've made a lot of great new friends and met many "interesting" people. The staff is great and the food is excellent. The owners and managers are all good people and I'm happy to know them.
Teaching at UMusic is going well and have some great new students who have been a lot of fun. Beginners are great. They have that ambition and excitement that is contagious. Its great when young kids come in and for some reason have gone for the older music that made guitar great. I have a new 8th grader who loves ACDC and Steve Miller. Its funny hearing these kids talk about music that is almost 40 years old! It goes to show you that the quality, thought and conviction that has been put into these great songs of our past really stood the test of time.
I've also started teaching production and engineering besides guitar and bass. I go over stuff like proper use of compression, proper EQ technique, panning, gain staging, parallel compression, side chaining, effects use, and how it all relates to mixing down a track. A lot of musicians have been experimenting with the readily available technology but don't get the results they're looking for. I help out with that. If anybody is interested in stopping in for some help feel free to give us a call at 914-736-7777 for more info.
At the end of last year I started getting the itch to start recording. I've had a few false starts the past months so I wanted to make life easier in that department. First thing, I was in desperate need of a new recording computer. The last machine I went with was from a company called Sonica, who I believe is now defunct. It was and still is a great machine. Unfortunately it is still running Windows XP. Don't get me wrong I love XP. In fact I think it was one of Microsoft's best operating systems. I was looking for more freedom and the ability to use today's software easily and without any technology issues. I priced some "build to order" machines and found them to be a bit expensive so I started specing out my own. After hunting around I found a great site called PC Part Picker. This site really was a time saver. If you're into building your own machine check it out and see how much time and aggravation you'll save. Building this machine was an education for sure. It was great fun and I saved a ton of money. If you're looking for a new computer, for any purpose, and are curious to see how all this stuff fits together, I highly recommend building your own. There's a ton of great tutorials on the web.
I also changed up recording software. I've had experience in ProTools, Cubase, Reaper and Samplitude. All are great for different reasons. This time I went for a new comer called Presonus Studio One. It seems the longer a particular software program is around the more bloat is written into the code. S1 is lean, works well, has excellent workflow and is easy on the eyes. It comes with a ton of instruments, effects, and content. It's been a lot of fun working with it and I've even been experimenting with some electronic music.
I've also gotten some tracks down for a new project I'm recording. It'll be the psychotic, heavy fusion stuff that I love to write and play. It'll be a challenge but it'll be cool too. I have around 5 tunes charted out. I'd like to do 5 or so more.
I've been working pretty hard at my improvisation as of late. I had a small epiphany, or maybe is was a stroke, not sure, but I was thinking I was doing a bit too much practicing while not really applying what I've been working on directly to my improvisation.
I've found that learning other people's lines note for note is not the way to go. First off its not my line. Secondly it ends up sounding kinda patched in. The improv loses the flow. That's not to say its utterly worthless to explore other player's ideas and melodies. It really comes down to extrapolating their idea and absorbing it into your vocabulary. I find that I can absorb up to around 8 notes and feed it into my brain relatively easily. It does take some time for those 8 notes to become fully assimilated into my playing though. So basically I needed to hear what I was doing so I figured I'd tape myself playing over some chords that I really wasn't all that familiar with. One of my New Year's resolutions for 2015 was to imprint the Altered scale and the Melodic Minor scale into my head so I figured the harmony for those scales was a good place to start. So I'd pick a chord that worked with the scale, pretty much in any key, and do my best to play all over the neck. Since my vocabulary with these scales was and still is pretty limited its been a challenge, but a good challenge.
So that's what's new. :)