Sunday, May 31, 2009

And, we’re back.

You know, it’s not easy being an unemployed layabout. What with doing the dishes and volunteering at the library and staring, vacant-minded, at half-finished scripts while saliva drips from your slack jaws, the days fly by and you realize you’ve neglected your one-man musical variety show operation, not to mention blogging about said one-man musical variety show operation.

But a man’s interests are like a great burning wheel, turning slowly through the cosmos, crushing worlds like inhabited grapes. And once in a while, such a man comes down from his mountain redoubt, knocks the dust from his sandals, and sets himself to work once again. Is this man … ME?

Maybe! I make no promises, but I'm feeling the bug again. It’s gnawing on my flesh, and I like the neurotoxin in its saliva that is trickling into my brain, paralyzing the plump neurons therein. It feels like fizz.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Note to self:

Stop drinking and blogging!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Nobody told me Web 2.0 would be so much work!

Ugh. Blogger, Twitter, my own RSS feed, email, Facebook ... fuck! All I want to say is that my month of toil on After: A Post-Apocalyptic Rock Opera is complete, and you can download it directly from this post or from the big pink banner on the front page of www.musicintheevening.com. It's the reason I've been absent from this blog and things in general, and busier than any unemployed schlemiel should be.

I intended this to be a noisy, shoegazy indie concept album, but it turned into the six-armed bastard love child produced by an unholy orgy attended by Jesus Christ Superstar, Elf Power, The Who, T-Pain, and Elton John. Which would be quite a party indeed.

The story goes:

Society has collapsed. Why? It's not important. Whether it's somebody's finger slipping on the button and our demise is to the backdrop of thermonuclear fire-blossoms, or the ravaged environment at last turns her ragged claws on her thoughtless rapists and drowns us in a biblical deluge, or space aliens throw up their six-fingered hands and wipe this pollution named Man from the Earth, we are mere bedraggled remnants, and it's our fault.

In the wasteland, two dazed and bruised souls meet, uneasily, at the barrel of a gun. Every hard-fought step won during the difficult, determined advance of feminism has yielded to the brutal impulse yearning to be set free, and our heroine has had to live like a rat - fearing the light, and clutching a shotgun. But our hero - although no Olympian superman - has determined to cling to certain principles of behavior as tenaciously as Messrs. Paine and Jefferson ever clung to theirs, and the two agree to travel together. We people need companionship.

We need other things, too. The Techno Brigade has formed in the blasted wastes, dedicated to the proposition that the way of life at the turn of the 21st century - mass production, mass distribution, mass, mass, mass consumption - was the ideal way of life. Can you blame them? We could manage AIDS, for Christ's sake! We could banish such medieval evils as dysentery and polio. Our McMansions staved off the cold. Our Range Rovers staved off the mild discomfort of not having as much property as the rappers on MTV's Cribs! They sing about it. They want our heroes to join them, to labor to recover the rusted hulks of Chinese shipping containers full of Dora the Explorer dildos and Super ExXxtreme Lunchables. Our heroes, disgusted, move on.

The Society of God took the disaster as a sign. Modern ways were foul! And heavenly punishment was delivered. This has been the way of human thought for two hundred thousand years, has it not? To deal with the powers we don't understand as though they were other people. whom we do understand? Message received, God. We will grow plants with our green thumbs. We will accept our illnesses as Your judgment rendered upon us. And we will look to the Preacher to lead us. But what goes on in the Preacher's mind? When he realizes that the speeches he gives can move thousands? When he realizes he can have whatever he wants? When his mind drifts idly back to uninterested glimpses he caught of the reliefs of Ashurbanipal shooting lions from his stone chariot, his beard perfumed, his might unquestioned? What happens when the Preacher sees that he can become a god-king?

Our man and woman sing of their love, and its transformative power. They see that the Robot and the Preacher have built themselves three-walled castles, that one ignores the lessons of the recent past and one ignores the lessons of the ancient past. They will strike out on their own, find a patch of ground in the empty Earth to tend, to raise children upon, to live on and take the risks of life, to brave death with the formidable armor of love, the flinty weapons of sense.

But the Techno Brigade and Society of God are angry. How dare they be refused, repulsed? They chase. And when they meet, they must battle.

***

I love the '70's, and I don't mean that snarky nostalgia show on VH1. I mean Jesus Christ Superstar, Zardoz, Jethro Tull, The Omega Man, Silent Running, La Planete Sauvage. I mean experimentation, passion, authorship, hope. My more knowledgable cineaste readers can better extol '70's cinema, but we've lost something since then. Major labels and studios are so much more crass now. And whatever happened to rock operas? Personally, I think they're a great idea. Say something. Despite my incessant self-criticism, I have a CD and a cover I made myself with pastels and it says something and fuck it, that's good enough. Long live the amateur. Long live the desire to create and contribute in whatever its form. Long live love and decency and desire and hope, no matter what befalls us. Amen. Good night. Hallelujah. And mannyyyy moooooooore.

Ba dump.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Progress Report

The first full day of working on my RPM project has resulted in one track being pretty well laid out. I'll hold off on mastering-phase EQ and limiting until I'm assembling everything toward the end of the month.

Thanks to recently beginning the book Riddley Walker and recently playing Fallout 3 and recently taking in arguments over whether this is The End of Capitalism, I've decided to make a concept album about the survivors of society's collapse. I'm working out a vague storyline, and made a 5 1/2 minute-long song for one of the factions that will emerge "After," which is what I think I may call the album. This song draws on Red King-era Elf Power-style psychedelic chuggy rock, and I have a couple other songs laid out in rudimentary form in my DAW. Uh, that's Digital Audio Workstation for you Normals who don't bother cramming five zillion obscure irrelevant recording terms into your brains because you're busy with things which are actually important.

Anyhoo, I'm certainly having fun and it's keeping me out of trouble. I'm getting slicker and faster in setting up tracks, assigning buses, using effects. The problem is, "album" makes me want to fidget endlessly over every detail, and this is a month-long challenge here, people! I'm just gonna wing it, like Winger winging his wingtips over the wigwam.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

RPM challenge

I've decided to do the RPM challenge - make an album in one month during February. Because, why not? I don't expect it'll harm MitE much - I don't need to do much songmaking for the next episode, it's a matter of writing something I find acceptable (as usual.) I think they have little blogs and such you do at that site; maybe I'll do one. I'm already getting confused what with the Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, my website, my RSS feed ... sheeit.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Only Good Episode is the Next

Hello, I'm back, and in control of my faculties again.

One could describe me as "driven." I've got the high-powered executive job, the Bentley coupe, the carbon fiber cigarette boat, the three wives and twelve beautiful blonde children, the title of Holy Roman Emperor, five thousand houses, a jacuzzi powered by slaves in breechclouts, and shoes with wheels in the heel. I don't take no for an answer and know in my lizard brain that I've got to Self-Actualize my Me Potential if I want to crappe the per diem.

Maybe that's why I'm never satisfied with the NOW. I need the NEXT. Every MitE episode I do is excellent while I'm working on it. But then, soon after completion, it enters this strange gray area where I'm sick of it and can only hear the mistakes, the slips in editing so the timing's off. The music is unbearably sloppy, the scenes are tiresome and hurriedly non-acted, etc. Then, even more strangely, a few months go by and I get a fuzzy, nostalgic feeling about it, as if it were an episode of I Love Lucy.

It's yet another of my inscrutable emotional idiosyncrasies, but it does keep me motivated. Speaking of which, I think I need to attend to a certain script. I'm pretty sure about which I'm going to pluck from the "Workin' on it" puddle and focus seriously on, and I've got songs more or less lined up already. Excelsior!

Friday, January 16, 2009

A brief but spellbinding anecdote

I'm listening to episode 4, and have two discoveries to relate.

1) Snobberson's voice didn't really settle in for a long damn time, huh?

2) As I read Snobberson's closing lines, I was drunk and had a tooth falling apart, which later required an unpleasant root canal. It's the reason that when Snobberson says, "is better than deathhhh" in his goodnight speech, the "th" is all spitty. My tooth was falling apart and I was spitting and sputtering like Ol' Dirty Bastard!

2.1) The lo-fi recording at the end of "Golov" actually predates MitE by several years - I recorded it on a Creative MuVo Slim MP3 player while driving a car I no longer have in Los Angeles. Memmmmmoriiiieees, like the thingies of my stuffffff.

2.2.) Christ, when I used the SM58 dynamic mic for the mice dialog, it was WAY too obvious I was speaking into a mic.

2.3.) OH MY FUCKING GOD, TIMEPASSES AND SOON I'LL BE THIRTY!

2.4.a.) I have to go hit the brandy againand then hit the sleeping bag.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Secrets of Modular Songmaking

I admit it: I cheat. My skills as a musician, or "chops," as they say in the business, are gristly and fatty, i.e. bad. If I were to try to play each take all the way through, the errors would mount until the entire thing was a tremendous mess. Plus, if I expect to get episodes out even monthly, I've got to restrain my ambition in songmaking and crank shit out at a serviceable level of quality. So, I do it in pieces.

That's not technically cheating. Shit; punch-in, punch-out recording has been done for decades, and engineers regularly assemble final tracks from pieces of various takes. But I have been known to pick up the instrumentation for an entire chorus or verse and, pausing to look around to make sure nobody sees, I ctrl+C and ctrl+V my way to getting done quickly. Difficult backing vocals (which are nearly ANY, although I've been getting better recently) are prime targets for this.

Of course, this means that you can hear the suspicious similarities in performance from chorus to chorus, and getting the ends to match up cleanly is difficult. But hey, nobody's payin' me, right? If I can ever manage to spend months honing some serious songs, I wouldn't do such things, but I don't think I really want that, at this stage at least. I need to be behind a mask, puppet, or silly voice, because the kind of music I would want to make demands a kind of confidence and emotional honesty (debatably, arrogance) I don't have. Well, I may be arrogant, but in some other way that doesn't make me dress cool and get laid.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Another post of musical fondness

I've been listening to more classic music. This time it's the Wu-tang Clan's 1993 debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). A slight change of gears from the Beatles, yes, but notable all the same. I never paid much attention to hip-hop, because what business does an upper-middle class (well, not lately) white kid really have getting into hip-hop? It's like wearing leather belts because you think cows are cool. I'm more the problem than the solution, in the grand scheme of things.

But the RZA's production overcomes my Caucasian squeamishness. I, too, enjoy Shaw brothers chop-socky movies from the '70s and share a love of warm, gritty analoguery. I'm working on an upcoming episode of MitE featuring Streetfeld becoming involved in a rap confrontation with his nemesis, a history-quoting MC named Da Professa, and the often-imitated-but-never-equalled style of the RZA (who also scored the weird and endearing Jim Jarmusch film Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai) is a huge influence. We'll see if I can get close enough to it to provide some entertainment.

I read the news today, oh boy...

I realize I'm 41 years late to the party, but has anyone noticed that Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is fucking astounding? You grow up with these songs floating around and you know the melodies but good God. We're up to our titties today in avant-guarde art rock, with carefully coiffed hipsters banging on shit out of tempo and shouting incoherently in an attempt to display enough creativity to get laid. But this is the grandaddy. This was the wild sonic drug trip so memorable we're still working in its shadow.

Also, now that I am a Genuine Amateur Recording Artist, I can appreciate much more of this kaleidoscopic opus, from the ingenuity in wresting innovative recording techniques from big heavy tube gear and analog tape to the sizeable brass willies it must have taken to present a "rock n' roll" song orchestrated like a straight-up classical Indian raga. "Remember Hard Day's Night, folks? Well, fuck you!"

I can't even figure out what some of those instruments are. And God bless George Martin - lest we forget, he arranged all those string parts and played the fancy keyboard shit Paul couldn't manage.

Must be something about the intimacy of headphones, but it's like I'm hearing it all for the first time again tonight. Also, long live the album, even in the age of MP3s and ringtones. That is all.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New Crap

Christmas and its aftermath brought lots of new equipment and instruments into my life: a ukulele, a 12-string acoustic guitar, a new mic and recording interface that are a marked improvement over my previous heap of shit. The revamped "Bigamist's Christmas" features the 12-string, for example, and I have the Rabbit and Monkey theme ready to go featuring some epic uke, if I can ever get around to actually making the video.

Episode 17's dialog was already "in the can," or more precisely, "preserved as a digital pattern of states of magnetization on the disk" before I got my paws on this shiny new junk (P.S., the M-Audio Nova is a ridiculously good deal for a large-diaphragm condenser if you're in the market and very broke).

You'll be hearing much of this new shizznit on upcoming releases. In the meantime, I need to get after getting singles "mastered" (as much as a rank amateur can use the term) and uploaded and linked-to. It's just all so dreary! Type type type type. And it doesn't help that I've injured my space bar in one of my occasional rages. I forget what I was angry at, but the keyboard won't be forgetting any time soon, and I have to be very deliberate in my presses of the widest key.

Friday, January 9, 2009

June 25

Everyone in the blogosphere (at least, my immediate blogosphere) is Wikipeidia-ing their birthdays to see what interesting stuff happened thereupon. So shall I.

Born with me on the 25th of June were George Orwell, who tried very hard to warn us about how governments will use language to control us; Peyo, creator of the Smurfs; Eric Carle and Carly Simon. Also, George Michael.

George Armstrong Custer, Johnny Mercer, Michel Foucault, Warren Burger, and Jacques Cousteau all croaked on my birthday. Sorry, chaps. My bad!

But cheer up, you dead shades! On my birthday Mozambique celebrates its independence, plus it's National Catfish day! Save some hushpuppies for me.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Scenes from the Economic Wasteland

I've been back in town for a few days now, so it's high time I get cracking on MitE again, since my job search is still fruitless and I may as well occupy my time with something I can be pleased with before I die of consumption in debtor's prison.

That said, one of the goddamn songs for the fuck-titted Christmas episode has completely stymied me. I'm simply too poor a musician to achieve what I want, and I don't know what to do instead. I've reconciled myself with not having the Christmas episode out in time for Christmas, because 1) no money changes hands here, 2) I would never forgive myself for leaving a song that horrendous in there, and 3) in years to come you can look back and squint and pretend it was out for Christmas.

I've got some new instruments and doohickeys to help make more silly songs full of swearing and Humorous Vignettes also full of swearing, and I'm also getting itchy to make more videos. Some Christian is all fluffed up and bothered about the Father Andorr video, and if he actually thinks it's serious, I may as well just enjoy the entertainment value.

1UP.com was sold off to the video games journalism equivalent of those syndicated video clip shows with the snarky announcer trying to sound young and cool, UGO.com. Half the staff, and most of the recognizable personalities, lost their jobs. My favorite podcasts have been suddenly silenced. It's a disheartening blow, because one of my many daydreams was to write for or have something to do with their operation. As my various dreams wink out one by one like so many collapsing stars, it's only a matter of time before they find me face down in a gutter somewhere clutching a bottle of inexpensive fortified wine with three days of beard and a cucumber up my butt.