August 29 notes

  • Fifty Bears’ guitars are finished.  Drew has done an amazing job, and even the rough mixes sound rad.  Next: vocals and mixing on 4-6 tunes, band practice (for the first time in six months!), and prepping for live shows and an initial release of the same 4-6 tunes.
  • I’m discovering Imogen Heap’s “Speak For Yourself” album this morning, based on Bob’s recommendation of her as an artist in general.  “Speak…” is freely available on Skreemr, if you’re willing to assemble all 12 tracks.  I’d say I’m a little late to the party, but it’s never too late for good jams.
  • Still mixing “…not nothing.”  Good progress.  I plan to have a new reference disc done today.
  • MFR’s fifth birthday is rapidly approaching…  I’m starting to think we’ll celebrate with some charts ‘n grafs.
  • Inspired by Cari Ann’s comment that we should put Dorothy Lynch on tacos, I invented an amazing taco recipe; last night’s first test was a massive success.  I’ll post it to MR|Kitchen soon.

Mixing "…not nothing."

In the past few weeks I’ve been making steady progress on the mix for the next Sally Ride album, “There is Something and not nothing.”  It will definitely be out this fall, though I’m hoping to get one other release out first.

Final tweaks include inching up the vocals, adding a couple last-minute synth parts to flesh sections out, and generally making sure the metaphorical narrative arc of each song is coming through.

It’s been fun to see songs I wasn’t sure about come alive in their own ways.  Matt’s second round of drumming really took tracks like “Yr Right” and “Turning the Wheel” to the next level, giving them their own story to stand alongside stuff that jammed from the very beginning (“Out,” “The Biggest Choice You Make (Every Day)”).

On my last round of mixes I roughed in some mastering settings too, and they’re really killing right now; I can’t think of anything I want to change.  So I’m looking forward to the mastering being easy.  The mixes are really punchy and have a lot for the ears to grab on to, and I don’t want to lose any of that.  Individual sounds are fairly distorted, so I don’t want to over-do that, either.  Just some reverb and EQ mostly, level the song-to-song volumes out, widen the stereo image, and call it good. -h

Wax Trax Records

Wax Trax in Denver was very kind to me last weekend.  With an phenomenal selection of used and new vinyl for great prices (esp. the used!), my stack of records grew and grew until I had to get out before it got to be too much to carry back to the car several blocks away.  I found some stuff I’d been looking for in KC (The Pretty Things and “Who Are You”) for over a year.

The used records were in beautiful shape, and I only paid $3-4 for each!
The only disappointment; no “Kinda Kinks” or other early Kinks stuff I’d have liked.

Here’s the full list:

  • The Pretty Things, “Savage Eye” and “Freeway Madness.”  Drew’s gotten me into The Pretty Things, a ’60s-’70s British band that was psychedelic before The Beatles, sprawling before Pink Floyd, heavy before Led Zeppelin, and somehow managed never to break in the U.S.  These two albums are mid-’70s stuff, right before some personnel changes, and so they’re not classic like “Parachute” or “S.F. Sorrow” but have some solid tunes.
  • U2, “Boy,” “October,” “War,” and the “Where The Streets Have No Name” single.  I already have most of this stuff on CD, but the condition of the records and low price were irresistible.  The “Streets” single has two B-sides I haven’t heard, which is cool.  Old U2 really comes alive on vinyl; it can seem kind of bright and empty on CD, but the LPs fill in the space around Edge’s ringing guitars and make it all gel.
  • Art Tatum, “Gene Norman Presents Art Tatum at the Piano,” vols. 1 and 2.  Tim loaned me a two-disc Tatum compilation a year or two ago, and I loved it.  I’ve been looking for some Tatum at a good price ever since, and these seemed like a good place to start.  His piano style is fully his own, taking familiar tunes and embellishing, improvising, and ultimately transforming them into music more original than most artists’ own compositions.
  • The Who, “Who Are You.”  Besides being a great rock record, I’ve wanted this to continue filling in the gaps in my Lifehouse playlist.
  • Bruce Springsteen, “Nebraska.”  I’m not a huge Springsteen fan yet (“Born in the U.S.A.” is my only other Boss record), but this seemed essential for several reasons: the title, the yin-yang it makes stylistically with “Born…,” and its reputation as a masterpiece.
  • Neil Young, “Hawks & Doves.”  Young’s discography is intimidating, but I have a start, and this seemed like a good next step.  It’s pretty classic Young.
  • The Cars, “The Cars.”  Six of these nine songs are on a Cars “Greatest Hits” comp, but again, the pristine physical quality of the LP and low price seduced me!
  • Billy Joel, “Cold Spring Harbor” and “Storm Front.”  Neither of these are Joel albums I really planned to pick up, but there they were, calling out.  “Cold Spring Harbor” was his first as a solo artist, and most copies of it were pressed at the wrong speed; Billy was famously unhappy with it.  “Storm Front” is late-period Joel, so my expectations are low, but it does include “And So It Goes,” which I love.

MFR Listening Project 018-019

Here’s the fourth part of the Listening Project series (pt.1pt. 2pt. 3); As our fifth birthday approaches in September, I’ve started listening to every release roughly in order, making notes as I go.

  • MFR018 – howie&scott, “Summer’s End”
    • It had been a little over two years since h&s had been regularly playing shows when we did this day’s worth of sets for Scott’s band students at Plattsmouth Middle School.  Now it’s been almost 3 years since “Summer’s End,” but it feels like it’s gone faster since; “Summer’s End” could feel like just a year ago.
    • We played and recorded 4-5 sets through the day, and picked the best for “Summer’s End.”  The tracks *are,* however, in chronological order among the sets; each song was played earlier in the day than the following one.
    • Engineering-wise, this record was made using one condenser mic placed at the back of the band room.  Bone-simple!  My bass synth ran through my guitar amp to give some presence, and vocals/sax through a PA.
    • The vocal monitoring situation was… non-existent :-(
    • We planned to record that night’s show at Doane, but technical problems prevented that.  It’s kind of a beautiful shame; that night we played some of our best-ever electric performances.  Thanks to those who were there!
    • We just practiced for an hour or something the night before the sets.  Scott and I have always been able to pick back up after a break with minimal rehearsal.  I mean, we’re not The Tightest Band Ever, but we slip back into the groove easily.
    • I don’t know why the photo of Mars seemed perfect for the cover…
    • I should re-learn “Berlin.”  Listening back, I’d forgotten that it’s a pretty good song.  Scott’s clarinet and drum patterns have a lot of character.
    • The toms sound sweet!  See “Berlin” and “Houston.”
    • I’m still searching for the right recording of the “signs” material, still hoping to take another shot at it someday.
    • Hearing the Easter III riff is bittersweet.  I woke up once with an amazing riff from a dream in my head, and actually figured it out accurately, and I thought for sure I’d remember when I got up in the morning.  But didn’t.  The EIII riff is what I worked out from what I semi-remembered, not the original, so hearing it I’m reminded that it’s just an echo of a perfect dream-riff… but it’s an echo I love.


  • MFR019 – Sally Ride, “It’s a Trap”
    • The guitars were recorded at 5*Matt’s (sister’s) house, Cory’s overdubs in an attic bedroom filled with Barbie dolls.
    • Since the album had a political element, I was working to get it out in time for the ’06 elections, but didn’t make it.  Which took some of the piss out of it, I think, hearing it after the events it was written to affect.  Still, today, we haven’t seen near enough genuine outrage at the actions of the Bush administration.  More than plenty faux-liberal self-righteous indignation, but not enough true anger.
    • This has been my biggest experiment in production to date; not only the synth-drums, but no bass guitar – just organ.
    • This album is the middle of my “Kansas City trilogy.”  “Ventura” is about moving to KC, “It’s a Trap” about living here, and “You Have To Wear The Boots” was written as I was mentally preparing to leave.  (But I haven’t.)
    • I’ve told before how “Holy Moses” was the first Sally Ride song after “Don’t Let Them Take Us… ALIVE” and a complete surprise, but its roots are in the tune “Abilene” by George Hamilton IV.  I learned a campfire version on a house-building trip to Mexico, and heard something in an A/Am chord change that triggered my imagination.
    • Not sure what to make of the nautical/military themes… they weren’t conscious when I was writing, they were just how I was making sense of things in terms of narrative and character.
    • I always love to hear my friends singing! (“Holy Moses” / “Back In The Fire”)
    • “Lookers” / “Baby Bells…” – There’s an interesting use of artistic voice here, personifying an organization with malicious intent toward the listener.  I guess the goal would be to give the listener a fictional experience that would provoke a real-life response.  (A similar trick happens at the end of “David S. Addington…” except the group is an “us” instead of a “them.”)
    • “Just Observing” is written with a terrifying detachment.  I guess I still care enough to sing, which is a bare hope, but hope.
    • The album as a whole is deeply skeptical.  Not quite wholly nihilistic, but it’s… rough.
    • I’m not too thrilled with the overall mastering, but I can’t pinpoint what’s dissatisfying.
    • On the third line of “We The People,” I wish I could go back and enunciate “We’*RE* all living…”  It sounds like “We all…” which would be a lame attempt at… I don’t know, rural authenticity or something, but was not my intent.  I don’t know how I missed it in the mixing.

Lincoln, NE – Songwriter Power Ranger Series: AUGUST

This month, we have a slew of excellent performers for you (see attached). As always, it’s 6:30 – 9 pm at the Bourbon Theatre, located on “O” Street in between 14th and 15th on the South side of the street, right next to Yia Yia’s.

This month, there will be no SWPR on Monday August 10th as there will be another show going on that night. However, SWPR will resume on Monday, August 17th with Ali Harter, Ingrid Blood (Teal from UUVVWWZ) and Zane Peters (The Candle Simon). Cover is $4, gitcher beer, gitcher bourbon, gitchee some coffee, and come rock out. F*ck, tell all your friends! The atmosphere is cozy and low key. The chairs are comfortable. The drinks are weird and delicious. The lighting is downright welcoming.

As the month goes on, reminders about shows will happen as they happen. Remember to show up in a revealing burlap sack, and you will receive one (1) free drawing of a horse, provided you are not a horse yourself.

Come rock with us!


Cory, Ember and the Bourbon. And BJ and the Bear. And Turner and Hooch.

Punk from Sand

The Production Advice blog posted last week on Diego Stocco, who makes music from sand and trees and burning pianos.

(Not all at once.)

Diego Stocco – Music From Sand from Diego Stocco on Vimeo.

Update, 5 August: I don’t know why the video is now unavailable to embed, but Diego has posted for free a longer mp3 of “Music From Sand” and one other track!


Why do I love it ? Because it’s:

* Beautiful
* Musical
* Witty
* Unique
* Original
* Punky

– wait, punky ? [Insert FX of record scratch/car screeching to a halt/etc]

What the hell am I talking about ?

Punk means something different depending which side of the Atlantic you grew up on, but either way, what do these delicate ambient textures and found sounds have to do with either the Ramones or the Sex Pistols ?

The answer is – DIY ethos.

Regardless of what it sounded like, a key element of punk was that anyone could make music – provided they sing a bit, or strum and hit something.

Ian, unknowingly, has become an accessory to our conversation on punk.  I think his answer clarifies the connection I have been trying to draw between punk and Tillich’s “Protestant Principle;” in both, the point is that we need to have and create the raw experience for ourselves.

We don’t need gatekeepers, whether they’re the priesthood of the church or of the music industry.

And this is why punk always has the potential to rise from its own ash, phoenix-style, even if it’s under another name.