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1/19/05 - Rhythm

2/21/05 - Technique vs Melodicism
3/26/05 - High Speed!
4/26/05 - All about the cable
5/28/05 - Band/Recording Workshops
6/21/05 - The Pros 'n Cons of Heat
7/11/05 - Hanging out with Holdsworth
8/23/05 - Those Damn Kids!!
9/21/05 - Guitar vs Bass
10/19/05 - Progression
11/19/05 - The Well Be Dry
12/17/05 - Merry Freakin' Christmas!

1/19/05

I hope all of you had a great holiday season. I find myself relieved that it is over. I've found (through my students) that Half Life 2 and the IPOD were pretty much the biggest gifts. Christmas for me was...shall we say challenging. At that point we were still pretty much living out of boxes while trying to set up the tree and preparing for the onslaught. Murphy's law did rear its ugly head as I caught a major cold/virus a day or so before Christmas Eve. So needless to say it fully bloomed over the holiday which sucked butt chicklets. I did receive some nice gifts such as Half Life 2, a shitload of Peanut M&Ms, and assorted financial contributions. I also received some nice gifts from my students (thanks again if you guys are reading this). I really appreciated the thought. New Years was fairly uneventful as I pretty much stayed home and blew my nose constantly.

The house is coming along pretty well. I've been doing stuff like putting down plywood in the attic, hanging towel racks and trying to organize my worldly crap.

Work has been busy as hell lately too. Many projects have come down the pike so things have been chaotic on that front. I've also taken on quite a few new students as well. I tell you it's a lot of fun watching these kids progress. I have a couple of real animals who I think will be top notch players in a few years, (that is if they keep practicing :-). One thing that I've found to be challenging to teach is rhythm. I find that many students/musicians take rhythm for granted, especially bass players. Most guitar players just want to get to the meedley meedley meeee, instead of taking the time to develop a good sense of rhythm. If I'm going over a particular lick or exercise I always try to use it in a musical context. It's one thing to just practice an exercise but it's another to be able to apply that exercise, or derivative thereof, to a progression with a beat. As far as chords go it's pretty much the same deal. It's one thing to be able to play a progression straight but it's a whole other ball of wax if you are going to try and float it over a drummer and bass player. I think listening to James Brown can be a great lesson in rhythm for a couple of reasons. First is that funk very rhythm oriented. Essentially it's the drums and bass that drive the music. And second is the way James Brown conducts his jams. Most of earlier stuff (60s & 70s) were recorded live in the studio. There was very little, if any, overdubbing. So he would call out certain instruments at certain times to either play or stop playing. This for me was very interesting because I was really able to see how groove/rhythm works by listening to these instruments and how they interlock. The funny thing is that a lot of the time the notes that remain silent are just as important as the notes that are played, especially guitar. Leaving space to let the other instruments breath through makes all the difference in the world. Most of Brown's band members were decent musicians but none were virtuosos. It's the collecive effort, the proverbial "sum that is greater than its parts" deal that really exemplifies Brown's schtick. A couple of modern bands that come to mind who do this well are Rage Against The Machine and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Ok enough pontificating.

How about that tsunami? I've been following the coverage on the net and it's pretty horrific. I've checked out some video of people being pulled into the ocean and it definitley puts things in its proper perspective. I don't think I've seen such an outpouring of aid before in my life. And now they have all sorts of food and supplies but no infrastructure to distribute it.

I finally connected all the necessary little wires together in my studio to make everything work so progress has improved. I'm still on number 8 but now I have a bass track down and 4 guitar tracks. The freakin' tune is 8:30 minutes long. WTF?

 

What I've Been Listening To -
The Human Equation - Ayreon

When I first heard about this recording I was pretty intrigued. It had a lot of great vocalists on it but since I'm a geek guitar player I didn't really notice any guest guitarists on it so I kinda blew it off. Big mistake. The production on this disk alone is worth the admission. The only real thing that bugged me about it was the triggered bass drum. Other than that the word pristine comes to mind. I picked up the special edition (it was the only one there), which has the DVD. The DVD is pretty damn cool 'cause it has all sorts of info and behind the scenes shenanigans with the cast 'n crew of this project. It gives you some great insight on how Arjen Lucassen brought all these people together to make this thing work. The story behind the music is simply that a guy gets into a car accident and while in a coma for 20 days he confronts his feelings (fear, rage, pride, reason etc etc). Through this he relives parts of his childhood with his not so nice father and he kinda finds out why he himself is a bit of a schmuck. Let's look at the cast shall we?

James LaBrie (DT) - plays the main character. If you are a fan of his voice than you will dig it, if you ain't then you won't (duh). Mr. Lucassen has James tone it down a bit and focuses more on his softer vocal stylings. So he doesn't really belt it like in DT but I think he does a nice job nonetheless.

Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth) - plays fear. I'm not sure if anyone better could be cast for this part. Fear is subtle yet carries a big stick as does Mr. Akerfeldt's singing. He does a bit of growling but it is appropriate and adds to the emotion of the music. Afterall he is playing fear.

Eric Clayton (Savior Machine) - plays reason. I never heard this guy before but his style fits "reason" to a tee. He has a very forceful almost, dare I say, evangelical way of singing. He comes across as having the voice of truth.

Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn) - plays love. Again a new vocalist for me. She has a very compelling voice, awsome. I'm thinking that she is in the top 3 for me on this disk.

Irene Jansen (ex-Karma) - plays passion. And a passionate singer she is. Ms. Jansen has a powerful almost operatic style which lends itself to her role.

Magnus Ekwall (The Quill) - plays pride. Mr. Ekwall's voice is very reminicent of the "classic rock" style. Comparable vocalists that come to mind would be guys like Robert Plant, Ian Gillian and Chris Cornell. While he does not ape any of these artists directly he does reside in the same vein. He does a great job and mixes in great with the cast.

Devon Graves (ex-Psychotic Waltz, Dead Soul Tribe) - plays agony. Mr. Graves' voice has a very interesting quality. It's kinda of high and lilting yet eerie. Like something is inherently wrong with the person who owns this voice. He makes a great agony.

Marcela Bovio (Elfonia) - plays the wife. Ms. Bovio has a very sweet voice but also has the ability to really belt it out when necessary. Kinda like a mix between Heather Findlay and Irene Jansen. She has great range and character in her voice.

Arjen Lucassen - plays best friend. While Mr. Lucassen admits that he is not a "singer" he does a reasonable job. His voice is heavily effected and layered, not sure why 'cause he sounds like he can handle it without all the effects 'n stuff. On the DVD he made note that he tried very very hard to cast this role but if finally came down to him doing it.

Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery) - plays father. The father is a real dick and Mr. Baker sings with major attitude in his role to illustrate that. While he doesn't really live up to his potential he gets the job done with zeal.

Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad) - plays rage. 'Nuff said

As far as instrumentation goes there are a couple of cool guests on this project. One being Oliver Wakeman the son of famed Rick Wakeman. Another being Ken Hensley who is the B3 wizard from Uriah Heep. Both players add some very cool spices to this recording. Wakeman with his analogue sounds and virtuosity and Hensley with his Hammond madness. Also Joost van den Broek adds his synth touches as does Martin Orford. Lucassen also employed a bunch of classical acoustic instruments such as the cello, violin, flute, panpipes, bassoon, recorder and the ever popular didgideroo. A great mix of the the old and new. Rounding out the musicians is Ed Warby, the lone drummer. Quite a task for one person to be able to play all these pieces. He does a very impressive job and I give him a lot of credit.

The songs themselves vary wildly. From a folky mellow style to all out metal to straight up progressive. You can really hear a taste of every style under the sun in this project. You will not hear DT style instrumental virtuosity or a host of odd time signatures. You will hear a slickly produced orchestral/metal concept album that is well worth the price.

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2/21/05

This months moronalogue is going to be about my take on the age old debate on technique vs melodicism (feel) in the context of the guitar. Recently on a forum I visit I saw a topic mentioning Led Zeppelin. The poster said how he was recently getting into Led Zeppelin and found them to be quite the compelling band. Now the forum that this was posted on was of a very popular progmetal act so guitar wankery is chatted about quite a bit. As I'm reading the post I'm starting to see a trend develop. People are posting on how sloppy Jimmy Page and how detrimental his technique is on the music. This really bummed me out. You have to put the tunes in the context of the time in which they were written. The first album came out in 1969. Most people think that he simply "ripped off" a lot of the earlier blues guitar players. Well at that time Page was a product of his influences. Musicians continuously rip each other off to one extent or another. I don't think I have enough time to count off the amount of people who ripped off Zeppelin's style. Anyway back to the "sloppiness factor". When Zeppelin played live they took on a semi-jam band approach. They included a lot of improvisation in their program. Improvising while under the influence of either recreational drugs/alcohol can be a tricky situation. The question is was he sloppy, the answer is simply yes. But is this a negative thing? Nope, not in my eyes. He was simply playing what he was feeling. He wasn't trying to blaze through an arpeggio sequence or nail a tapping figure. He was playing from the heart. Technique wasn't #1on his list, playing on a melodic and emotional level was. Now before you all say how hypocritical I am..."why Greg aren't you a technical player?" In a sense I am. I use technique to enhance and express my playing as do many other players. That simply wasn't Page's scene. That in no way makes him any less a guitar player then Yngwie, Petrucci or Gilbert et al. Besides playing live was only one of his sides. In the 10+ years they were together they put out the most creative and varied catalogue that I've seen. Each album had a winning formula so what did they do? Why they changed it of course. They didn't stagnate or recycle stuff. They would turn around and do something completely different. Their music progressed. When you think about it Zeppelin may hold the true definition for "progressive" music. No they didnt have a B-3, or odd time signatures galore. What they did have was balls enough to change with each album, challenging themselves as well as their audience. It's hard to imagine that a tune like The Song Remains The Same and Your Time Is Gonna Come were written by the same band. I dunno. Maybe I'm too old school. I just think that all the nay sayers should listen again or listen to more of their stuff.

 

A quick update on recording stuff:
Track number 8 is a done deal as far as rhythm tracks go. Track number 9's drums are done so my next feat will be to be able to play this monster and record it. This one's a pain in the ass. I hope it'll be worth it.

 

I've also been lucky enough to be interviewed on Nucleus which is a progressive rock website. If you are interested in checking it out click here. It's a cool site with many cd reviews and interviews. It's done initially in spanish then translated to english.

 

What I've been listening to:
Yes - Relayer

This is a tough review. I really enjoy a lot of Yes' early material, including this one. But I guess over time I've gotten a little spoiled with super tight prog metal bands. There is a sense of looseness on this record that kinda bugs me a little. I believe that this is probably their most experimental cd. There are a lot of extended instrumental sections which are adventurous and fun to listen to though they can meander a bit at times. There are only 3 tunes that were originally recorded for the album, "Gates Of Delirium", "Sound Chaser", and "To Be Over". To me the disk has a bit of a King Crimson vibe to it. There is that element of dissonance that floats around a bit and adds a bit of a sinister feel. The production is great for its time (1974). Everything is where it should be in the mix (in my humble opinion). The guitar is a bit to dry and up front for my taste but that is part of their sound so why mess with it. As far as the members this album marked the end of one era and the beginning of another as Rick Wakeman left after the previous album (Topographic Oceans) and Patrick Moraz stepped in to take over. The rest of the cast remained the same (Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, and Alan White). The tunes: Gates of Delirum is a nice epic piece clocking in at just under 22:00min. The piece is based on Tolstoy's "War and Peace". In the middle of the song there is a sonic battle between keyboards and drums which makes for some very interesting listening. In the cd jacket Alan White mentions that on the way to Chris Squire's house they would stop at a junkyard and pick up parts of cars. They hung clutch plates, springs and random pieces of metal and would bang on them to simulate the battle sequence. At the end they recorded tipping over the whole apparatus as the "big crash". Very cool. "Sound Chaser" is the next tune at 9:27min. This song has a cool question and answer type of arrangement between the keys and the guitar/bass. You can really here Moraz dominate on this track. Also you can hear all the Yes elements as far as quick changes and odd time sigs with cool sounds and textures. The last song "To Be Over" is another moderately long tune clocking in at 9:19min.This song is a bit gentler in nature and the much less dissonant. This tunes is dominated by Steve Howe as it is filled with a lot of guitar themes and melodic solo lines. I think I like when Howe plays a bit slower and more lyrically. He has a great sense of phrasing which I really enjoy and can learn a lot from. Overall while this album isn't really on par with "Fragile", or "Close To The Edge", though it is a very significant and defining moment in Yes history.

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3/26/05

Yes, I know I've been a bit remiss about updating my site. It's been over a month so I figured I'd better do something. I've been thinking about what to chat about in this month's moronalogue. How about the hockey season? Nahhh, I really don't follow hockey. Steroids 'n baseball? Pfffft who cares just scratch the guys name off the record book if he juiced. The Terry Shiavo case? Too depressing. Hey, how 'bout Dan Rather? Old news. Michael Jackson? Bwahahahahah!! That dude is done. Jennifer Aniston divorcing Brad Pitt? Yawn. March madness? I don't have cable so I wouldn't know...wait. I got it. I'm having cable installed on Monday!! This months moronalogue will be on "paying" for TV.

I think paying for TV is bull. When I was growing up we had the network and that was cool. TV was decent when I was a kid. They actually had relevant programming. All In The Family anyone? How about MASH? While these programs fall under the catagory of sitcom they still were ground breaking in their own right. I don't even know what's on TV anymore. The last time I watched the tube Friends was new and the X-Files was fairly new as well. To be honest with you I really don't miss it. I've been able to concentrate on other things. TV to me can be quite the time leech. As far as cable the thing that I don't get is that they have commercials so why bill us? People are paying to get their ads on the air. What's with the double hit? Plus not for nothing but cable ain't cheap. I have friends that pay $100+ for their cable. That's pretty steep. They do offer what's called "Broadcast Basic" which is essentially network TV. This goes for $15.00 a month. I can here you saying, "quit yer bitchin' and get the Broadcast Basic". Well I have a 5 year old and he ain't gonna be into the "Broadcast Basic". He's gonna want the Cartoon Network, Nick Jr. and all that other crap. And to be honest with you with the crap on network I don't really blame him. So now you have to go to the next level which is "Family Cable". Now "Family Cable" is $30 per month but dig this you have to add the price of "Broadcast Basic" on top of that which brings it up to around $45/month, not counting all the bullshit surcharges, renting the box, and tax stuff. In addition I would really like cable internet access. Hey i do this computer stuff for a living so a high speed connection is pretty much a necessity these days. Well that'll be another $45 on top of the TV so that'll put me around the $100 mark. End of story. I know there's nothing I can do about it and that it's almost a necessary evil these days but it still bugs me.

 

A quick update on recording stuff:
Last month I had just about wrapped up the drums for tune #9. Well I recorded four guitar tracks (two dirty, two clean) and the bass. Man what a pain in the ass. Don't you hate when you can play a particular riff no problem but as soon as you press the record button the shit just don't happen? Well that was this song all over. There were two reasonably tough parts that I had this problem with. Also doubling the parts was pretty challenging as well. It bugs me when parts are double tracked and they aren't in sync or they have different nuances. So out come the headphones and the nitpicking begins. After all is said and done it is worth it though.

 

I was introduced to a new site www.sevenstring.org through a fellow bbs member at the Carvin forum. He was into some of my music and asked if I'd be interested in doing an interview for the site. The interview (30 questions) should be up soon. Definitley stop by the site as it covers all things seven string which is very cool.

 

What I've been listening to:
Derek Sherinian - Mythology

First off I want to say that the production on this disk is a HUGE improvement over Black Utopia. I really gotta hand it to Mr. Sherinian he has really been such a proponent of progressive instrumental music. He happens to mix two of my favorite genres, fusion and metal. He also has quite the impressive guest list this time. The ol' standbys are present (Zakk Wylde, Steve Lukather, Tony Franklin, Brian Tichy, Jerry Goodman, Simon Phillips etc). Some new faces include Marco Mendoza, Steve Stevens and none other then the great Allan Holdsworth.

Day of the Dead - Mr. Wylde deals out the chunky rhythm on this 8+ minute piece. While a fairly unoriginal composition it is very interesting to listen to Holdsworth play over such an aggressive rhythm section.

Alpha Burst - this tune was written by Steve Stevens and is a decent instrumental. One thing is for sure Mr. Stevens knows his way around the fretboard. I think playing with Billy Idol pigeon holed him into being labeled as more of a straight ahead rock/punk player. There is alot more to him than meets the eye.

God of War - Mr. Wylde again deals out the crushing rhythm while John Sykes deals out some very nice solos. The head has a nice pedal point riff and there are some nice changes as well. Derek Sherinian plays some very aggressive solo lines as well. Again another player that is a bit deeper than people think.

El Flamingo Suave - Interesting change up with this tune. As you can tell by the title it has a bit of a latin flair to it. Cool percussive instruments prevail through this piece as well (timbales, udu, bata, shakers). It's also kinda cool hearing Sherinian playing with a straight piano sound in a latin context. Steve Stevens shines quite brightly on this track with his flamenco stylings. He's no DiMeola but very respectable nonetheless.

Goin To Church - this tune don't cut it for me. It's repetitive and drags. I know that it's supposed to have a bit of a classic gospel feel to it. But to me it lacks heart. Lukather's lines are decent but not enough to make the song happening.

One Way Or Another - this tune is the high point for me on the disk. Classic aggressive fusion. Jerry Goodman rips it up on violin and Holdsworth is all over this track like white on rice. It's got the odd time sigs, syncopation and attitude that make it top billing on this disk. Holdsworth's phrasing is really inspiring on this cut. *puts it on again*

Trojan Horse - more metal than fusion with this tune. There is a nice bass solo toward the end of the song, 'bout time. Fast, aggressive and a fun ride.

View from the Sky - this song features Steve Stevens again. Mellow with some nice lines from Stevens. He really shows that he is quite a multi dimensional player on this cd. From shred/rock to flamenco and now to a mellower melodic motif.

The River Song - ok I'm at a loss with this one. This tune features Zakk on vocals. 'Cept it doesn't really sound like him. It sounds much more like a cross between Layne Staley and Ozzy Ozborne. Now I don't really get why this is on the disk. It's more of a BLS (Black Label Society) tune, slow, sludgy and heavy.

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4/26/05

So I'm surfing with the broadband these days. And oh what a difference it makes. Downloading the Virgil Donati vids, checking out the NAMM show coverage, making full use of MSNBC. Finally I have entered the 21st century and goddam I like it! Last week I had to make an animation/video for one of those huge LED screens at Shea Stadium and the file was 100 megs or so. So how did I deliver that file? Why I uploaded it of course. We don't need no stinkin' cds and FedEx anymore. I haven't even entered the realm of online gaming yet. Actually I'm a bit nervous about that due to the "time leech" factor, but man the temptation is there.

Now while the cable internet connection is quite the boon the negative side is the cable tv. *the moronalogue ensues* There isn't really much to watch. I find myself gravitating to the History Channel, OCC, sprinkled with a bit of Sponge Bob. I have searched, believe me. A couple of things that I don't understand is how they dedicate show(s) to the most inane subjects. Take for instance the show that lets friends redo eachothers house. I can see dedicating one episode of a show to this but the whole series itself? I saw this other show where a group of people came in and re-did a whole town. WTF? Also the staff on these shows (designers, carpenters etc) are too damn bubbly. I was a carpenter for loooonnnngggg time and we did not have any bubbly people on our crew. And if there was a bubbly dude on our crew...well let's just say that he prolly would've gotten a couple of nails shot through him to deflate that bubbliness, *mutters*. The thing that perplexes me even more is that they actually decide to have a "marathon" of these shows. Well I surfed into the middle of one of these "marathons". Oh boy. On one of the episodes I watched involved an "art project" that was going to be used in a re-do of some poor bastards den. Basically they made a wall hanging out of wood, beer cans and glue in the shape of Texas. They painted this thing a few shades of brown and proceeded to hang it on the wall. Then beer and backwash starts dripping down the wall. Oh yeah, I want these dudes redoing my house. On another installment they re-did one of the rooms in a beach motif. So they dropped a yard or two of sand in the house and put up some umbrellas. Mind you the room had no windows. Need I say more? Hey I'm all for being creative 'n stuff but some of this stuff I think they just do for shock value and sheer stupidity.

 

Things at UMusic are going reasonably well. I'm tipping the scales at 35 students over 3 days. I've actually accumulated a bit of a waiting list so I may open up another day. Who'da thunk it? I also hosted my first recording workshop. Basically I covered analog vs digital in the context of recording and effects. I also covered the difference between tube and solidstate preamps. I had a nice group and they asked a lot of good questions. I'm going to be doing another workshop on May 21st. This one is going to cover dynamic signal processing (compression, multiband compression, expanders, noise gates etc). It's also going to be a bit more intense and a bit longer as well.

 

The new album is going well. I had to take a bit of a break 'cause I came down with a shitty cold so my motivation went down the tubes. As of now I've been working on the drums and arrangment of number 10. I've also been doing some synth work on my existing tunes.

 

What I've been listening to:
Shadow Gallery

I have a few of their albums and what I have noticed as each release has come out is that the production gets much better. Shadow Gallery consists of six members (Carl Cadden-James - bass, vocals, flute; Brendt Allman-guitars, vocals; Chris Ingles - piano, synthesizer; Gary Wehrkamp - guitar, piano, synthesizer, vocals; Joe Nevolo - drums; Mike Baker - lead vocals.)

If I have my info right these guys are a non-touring band so seeing them live ain't gonna happen anytime soon but a lot of their material is very cool. They are a progressive metal band with some symphonic elements thrown into the mix. They have great vocal and string arrangements as well. While the lead singer, Mike Baker, seems to take a lot of flack I think he has a great voice and sings with conviction and attitude. Now as far as the lyrical content goes there is a bit of cheese factor but I generally think that it fits the song and the image of the band. His voice lends itself to a more rock vibe then the typical operatic progressive vibe. All these guys have some serious talent and work great together as a team. The end result is solid and fun to listen to. I currently have 3 of their albums, " Carved In Stone", "Tyranny", and "Legacy". They should be releasing a new disk some time soon. I'm not going to review all three I'm just going to highlight some of the tunes that I like and talk about each album in general.

I believe "Carved In Stone" is their second release and while it contains some great tracks the production ain't that great. The guitars sound small and a little to focused and the drums sound a bit weak. Ironically this album is the most consistent in what I like about their music. Stand out tracks for me are Cliffhanger, Crystalline Dream, Warcry, Deeper Than Life and Alaska. I really think they should re-mix/re-master this whole disk. Very high quality stuff on here. Tyranny was there second release and the production value shot straight up. The guitars are big the drums are more present and punchier. The disk is split up into two acts. The first act is much more intriguing then the second. The material is very strong but the album is not cover to cover for me. Some stand outs include "Stiletto In The Sand, War For Sale, Out Of Nowhere (which is kind of a continuation of Cliffhanger), Mystery, Hope For Us?, and Chased. On their most recent release, Legacy, again the production was even more detailed. All the vocal arrangments are lush and the mix is spacious and powerful. And they dialed in a killer bass sound. The material in general is very decent although they lean on the power ballads a bit too much for my taste. My favs on this disk include: Cliffhanger II (which is the logical extension of the previous with a few interesting twists and turns), Society Of The Mind, and Legacy.

 

A quick bulletin here for musicians with injuries:

Since I've had to deal with musician related injuries I'd like to post a workshop dealing with Injury Prevention and Intervention that is going to be happening at Ithaca college (Ithaca NY). Level I June 17-19, Level II June 20-21.

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5/28/05

I know it seems later and later that I'm updating this site. I tell you time is a hard thing to come by these days. But I shall persever 'cause I'm just that kinda masochist. Well Memorial Day weekend is upon us and I just got back from ye olde 5 mile trot around the lake. The weather is warm 'n sunny...finally. So I saw the new Star Wars flick. And after all the hype and hoo ha about the last installment in the Star Wars series I must say that I was a bit disappointed. I think that this movie is for the tr00 Star Wars fan and not for people like me who aren't really into it. I remember way back when when my dad took me to see Star Wars when I was a little kid and he fell asleep. Well I must say that the apple did not fall far from the tree in this respect because I fell asleep as well...twice. The movie was supposed to be darker, scarier and better. At least that's what it said on the cover of Time. To me the movie was more of the same shtick. I dunno I guess I'm not a true fan.

 

We had our first "Band Workshop" over at UMusic. I found it to be quite interesting and Lou did a great job running it. We had a guitarist, bassist, keyboard player, drummer, and a 3 piece horn section. They were getting ready for some sort of talent show. They worked on two songs, "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Louie Louie". They pretty much injected a healthy dose of ska into the tunes and they sounded pretty decent. Mind you these were like 13-14 year old kids. It seemed like they had a lot of fun and they definitley showed quite a bit of improvement throughout the workshop.

We also held our second "Recording Workshop" which I think went over reasonably well. I focused mainly on dynamic signal processing (compression, limiting, gates, expanders etc). The guys asked a lot of great questions and I tried to apply the theory to as many situations as I could.

 

The new album is progressing. Tune #10 has all the basics recorded. I finally came up with a decent bass line. The tune is syncopated as hell and is fairly concise.

 

What I've been listening to:

I really haven't been listening to anything new and exciting. I am psyched about all the new albums coming out this summer though. Dream Theater's Octavarium is coming out in June. Shadow Gallery has a new one coming out and I think Symphony X has one that's due soon as well. I did manage to pick up Porcupine Tree's new one "Dead Wing". I've only listened to it a couple of times though so I haven't really formed a solid opinion on it yet.

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6/21/05

As the warm weather ensues let us all be thankful for all that is summer.

1. Summer means less clothing = better scenery (for the most part).
2. No more dry heat in the house and lets not talk about savings on the ol' oil bill.
3. My fingers can actually move without warming up for an hour.
4. Running, in general, is a more pleasant experience.
5. Being able to play soccer outside with my boy after school.
6. Not having to have to put on 12 layers of clothes to take out the dog or put    out the garbage.
7. Lightnening storms.
8. Watching my dog chase the geese in the lake.
9. Sleeping with the windows open.
10. The smell of BBQ.

And now some of the things that we must take in stride during the summer months.

1. It's so fucking hot!
2. It's so fucking humid!
3. Following a garbage truck leaking liquified putrifaction while running.
4. Yardwork (and man do I have a lot of that)
5. The joys of poison ivy.

Hmmm not bad, 10 good things 'n 5 bad things. I must be slipping.

 

Big announcement concerning UMusic. On July 4th we will be hosting a performance/clinic featuring one of the best guitar players on the planet, Allan Holdsworth. Yes you heard right Mr. Holdsworth will be gracing our presence with his other wordly legato and phrasing. He'll be bringing bandmates Ernest Tibbs (bass) and Joel Taylor (drums) and will perform a set of his music and answer questions concerning his playing and music. If you are interested in attending give us a call at 914-736-7777 and make a reservation. We are keeping this very small (only 30 or so people) so jump on it quick.

 

The new disk is moving along. Track ten has all its rhythm tracks in da can and I actually started laying down some solos. I've also been messing around with the artwork a bit trying to come up with some interesting visual ideas that'll go with the music. Makin' some headway.

 

What I've been listening to:
Dream Theater - Octavarium

The first tune "The Root of All Evil" is a nice opener. Fairly straight ahead rocker. From what I can tell it sounds like Petrucci is still using his Mesa Road Kings. The guitar sound is kinda dry and crispy. Labrie sounds very good. It seems like he is getting better album to album. Not necessarily better in technique but better in feel and less operatic.

The Answer Lies Within - is a slow ballad (piano based). Not too much to talk about here. There is nothing really popping out here. Generic melody, generic chord progression. I dunno, seems like filler to me.

These Walls - while the initial riff is a bit stock I do like the interplay of the bass, guitar and keys. This particular section rears its head again as the chorus. The verse section is decent and again Labrie is mixing well with the band. I really like the fact that he's keeping the vibrato reigned in. The bridge section is fairly stock as well.

I Walk Beside You - This is a pop song in the vein of U2. And I'm not really fond of U2. 'Nuff said.

Panic Attack - This is a cool tune, nice aggression. Labrie does on nice job intergrating his vocals rhythmically with the music. The lyrics are a bit cheesy though. This tune draws a bit from the band Muse. They even go as far as to mention one of their tunes in the lyrics and Labrie cops the vocal style as well. Apparently DT found this band to be quite an inspiration.

Never Enough - This song also draws pretty heavily from Muse as well. The dirt is that the lyrics are a dig against "unappreciative fans". Portnoy puts together a cool rhythm during the verse section. It's actually a bit funky, 'n I like da funk. The chorus makes a nice contrast against the verse with a straight ahead beat and also posessing more air. The bridge/interlude is stock, nothing to really write home about. Jordan does a nice job accenting with a semi-classical melody line though.

Sacrificed Sons - starts off with a minute of samples relating to the war in Iraq. I think this is a nice gesture toward the victims of the war. I definitley hear a Pink Floyd vibe coming through this tune. They slip a nice instrumental interlude in here that is again somewhat Muse influenced. Petrucci does some nice lead work in here, he accents shred stuff with some nice wide intervals and wacky atonal stuff. At the end of the interlude they go into this cool "Diary of a Madman" type riff which is a nice closer.

Octavarium - this is the big 24:00 epic. The intro takes a bit from Pink Floyd with the soft synth padding and very small sounding guitar noodling in the background. It definitley sounds like it can be off "Wish You Were Here". This noodling goes on for about 3:50 which may be a bit too long. I understand that this is a 24:00 minute tune and y'all are trying to set the mood but lets get to the good stuff. We then begin to hear a nice acoustic passage with a flute like accompaniment and Labrie chimes in. The song starts to kick in at around 8:00 so I hope you have a long attention span. At around 12:00 Jordan kicks in with a very cool old school analog sounding sybth solo. Portnoy also lays down some nice fills, he's still got it which is great I just wish he showed it a bit more on this album. Things get a little grittier at around 14:00 and Labrie comes back with a little Beatles reference, among others. The tune, I feel, takes off at around 16:00 with some nice instrumental riffing remiscent of old style DT. There's also a nice unison solo with Petrucci and Rudess. At 18:43 Labrie comes back in with some spoken word stuff. No matter how hard he tries he just cannot sound evil. You have to leave that up to the Akerfeldts and Townsends. The tune closes with the big 4:00 bombastic crescendo and so it is.

My random commentary:
Ok first off I think this disk is a solid effort. Is it up there with Awake, Images and Words and Change of Seasons? Nope. These guys work really hard to put together these tunes. Also you're dealing with a group talented individuals. All these guys can play, no doubt.
.............................................................BUT
nothing on this album grabs me by the nads. It seems that they'll pick a band and emulate them, ie Muse, U2 etc and run with that. Or they'll quote some of their older stuff either lyrically or musically. I want DT and only DT. I don't want Muse, U2, Tool, Styx or whoever. What made me get into them in the first place was their interplay and unpredictability. To be honest with you I think the best part of this album is between 16:00 - 18:00 min. That is where the DT of old pops out and shakes you around a little.

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7/11/05

Let me take you through a very non typical July 4th that I recently had.
It all started on...well...July 4th at around 10:00am. We were scheduled to have Allan Holdsworth and his bandmates, Ernest Tibbs and Joel Taylor, stop by for a clinic and to perform a set at UMusic. Now we were pretty damn psyched about this and Lou managed to sell 40+ tickets (prepaid) to help finance the clinic. So like I said its about 10:00 am and I'm practicing and lo and behold I get this email from Mr. Holdsworth's agent saying that he would not be able to provide transportation for Allan and his band to UMusic due to an "emergency". Well we had a bit of preparation that still needed to be done at the studio so I became quite concerned. I tried Lou but I couldn't reach him so I had to sit with this news for about an hour corresponding back and forth with the agent trying to find a workaround. Finally I got a hold of Lou and he phoned the agent and basically confirmed that Allan needed a ride. At that point I came to the conclusion that it would be best if I went and picked him up and my suggestion was well received.

It turns out that he was staying at a small hotel up in New Milford CT. I'm somewhat familiar with the area as I have family up there. Lou arranged for another volunteer to pick up Allan's bandmates and their equipment. So as I'm driving the thought that I'm going to be hanging out with one of THE greatest guitar players on the planet entered my head and I kinda got a bit nervous. Afterall the ride is about an hour and a half. Hmmmmmmmmm what to talk about...

So I get up there, park the truck and walk in the hotel and told the lady that I was picking up Allan. Kinda surreal. Anyway in he comes looking a bit tired but ready to go. I drove around the side to help pick up whatever equipment he was bringing. At that point I also met the bass player, Ernest Tibbs. So there I am driving one of my biggest influences on guitar back to Buchanan.

There was that initial bit of awkward silence but then I turned to him and asked what it was like to play with Tony Williams. Well from that point on we chatted pretty much the whole way back. The thing that's very cool about Holdsworth is the history he has. He himself being an icon in the fusion genre also played with the best players of the fusion era. Guys like Bill Bruford, Jeff Berlin, Gary Willis, Jean Luc Ponty, Jack Bruce, Vinnie Collaiuta, Stanley Clarke, Billy Cobham etc. He had some pretty interesting stories. One thing I didn't know was that Jaco Pastorius tried out for the Tony Williams band and Tony passed on him due to the fact that Jaco was a bit too "notey". We also chatted about cycling, beer, chicks and muscle cars. It turns out Allan invented a beer dispenser that aerates the beer as it comes out as opposed to filling it with CO2. He sold one to a local bar and it's become very popular. We also talked about recording technology which he's really into. He also dabbles in electronics as well.

Allan Holdsworh is pretty much known for his humility as much as his prowess on guitar. Well it turns out that he is quite humble and doesn't really understand the impact he's made on guitar. Another thing is that he really believes that there is room for all players and he doesn't feel that he is "better" then anyone else. I think a lot of players can learn from this approach. I think there would be alot more great music out there if people would put aside their egos and dedicate themselves to the music. Granted I'm not saying that we should be all soft and fuzzy because an edge is a good thing to have but just being able to realize ones strengths and weaknesses would be a great start.

So we arrive at UMusic and a few people were already there. The looks I got when I drove up with Holdsworth were priceless. It was pretty funny. So we loaded him in and started to set up his equipment. Now I figured he had some magic box or something that enabled him to get his sound and play the way he plays. Well I was wrong. He basically uses a stereo power amp with a Yamaha DG-1000 digital preamp (yes digital). He also has two UD - Stomps he uses for effects (I think) and a limiter and some other stuff. The other interesting thing is his guitar. It's custom made by Bill Delap. The thing is really small and his hollow with a humbucker. Kinda remiscent of a Steinberger in that it's headless. The funny thing is that it even isn't his! He borrowed it from a friend.

After awhile the rest of the band showed up and got set up and the fun began. They played a great set of old and new stuff. They even dug out Proto Cosmos which is one of my faves. Then they took time to answer questions and hang out for a while. They were a great bunch of guys and very down to earth.

At the end of the clinic Ernest hopped a train to the city and some friends picked up Joel. So me, Lou, Allan, Mike (Lou's brother) and Julian (Lou's son), went out for a bite at a local seafood place and had a nice dinner. I got home at around 9:30pm. I then proceeded to pick up the guitar and see if I could remember how to play anything. Lou and Julian then drove Allan back to New Milford.

A pretty amazing day to say the least.

 
Lou and Allan setting up
 
The stage pre-show
Allan's gear
 
Joel Taylor
 
Julian, Allan and Lou
Me and Allan
 
 
Ernest Tibbs
 
Allan Holdsworth
 

 

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8/23/05

So here we are, the end of another summer (kind of). Although I'm not sure that we are through being tortured by the heat I do believe I see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

I think this month's moronalogue will be on the younger generation and the idea of instant gratification. In my experience when I get a younger student, in the range of 8-15 yrs, they are absolutely mystified that they can't seem to play the guitar after the first week. They kind of look at me and wonder if I'm holding back some sort of ancient tome that would enable them to... *cue epic music and deep voice* ...be fleet of finger and melodically majestic! *end music*. Anyway, when I tell 'em that it takes years of practice and experience they look at me like I have 6 heads or something. Now I don't blame them, it's simply the enviroment and times that they grew up in. Since I'm in my 30's I basically grew up in the 70's and 80's. Let us think back shall we?... *cue harp music, fog and spinning stuff *

- I remember when the microwave first came out. Holy shit! Soup in two minutes!?! You mean I don't have to wait 15 minutes for it to heat up on the stove? Hot dogs almost instantaneously? Granted back then the microwave looked like it belonged on the Starship Enterprise and was as big as a small building but it did work as advertised.

- I also remember the advent of cable TV. Perfect reception? A gazillion channels? Unbelievable!! I grew up watching 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, and sometimes 13! Now I could surf during commercials and not have to watch another "more Ovaltine please!!" advertisement. (I never tried Ovaltine, so much for corporate advertising).

-How about CDs. When I was a kid my dad would take me to Korvettes (now defunckt) and he'd buy me an album once in a while. Later on I'd tape the album that way I could listen to it in the car or on a Walkman. So when CDs came out I found it astounding that all that music could fit onto that tiny disk. And wait...you mean I don't have to hang around waiting for the it to rewind? All I do is push a button and jumps automagically to whatever song I want? I gotta sit down.

-My last example is prolly the most prolific. And that would be the computer. Now I'm not really talking about when it was invented, I'm talking about when it became mainstream and widely available to the public. I remember when my family got our first computer. Ye olde Macintosh. With only 128k of memory, and a single-sided 400k floppy drive this thing was a $3,000 miracle. I think it had a gerbil inside performing all the calculations on an abacus and drawing the answers on the inside of the monochrome screen. And how could you forget early text based internet? Prodigy anyone? Logging on at 2400 baud and waiting for very very long time for a small picture to download? Like that would go over with kids today. Man times have changed.

 

Well I have to tell you that I've actually been quite productive with the new disk. I'm having a hard time believing it myself. I'm wrapping up solos for the fifth tune. I think I'm seeing a pinhole of light at the end of the tunnel. Anyway, the solos are taking on a bit more of a technical nature in parts. I've kinda upped the amperage a bit.

 

Things at UMusic are convulsing again with school coming up. Schedule changes galore. College kids leaving, new students coming in. It's going to be quite hectic for the next few weeks. We will be scheduling workshops in the near future. And we are going to be having another clinic coming up at the end of September. The guitarist from The Breakfast ,Tim Palmieri, will be coming in which should be very cool. They are a jam band type outfit and have made quite a name for themselves. If you are into that type of music give us a call at 914.736.7777 for ticket info.

 

What I've Been Listening To:

Well I managed to drag my old decrepit ass out and went to Gigantour at the Mid Hudson Civic Center. I went with a couple of my friends, Chris 'n Dale. Believe it or not we were not the oldest ones there. We managed to fit pretty much in the middle as far as age goes. Kinda weird. Anyway, I met Chris up at Dale's place and we got there before the doors opened at around 4:30 or so. Got on line, checked out the new metal youth. I think I might have been the only person not wearing black that day. I know that's very unmetal but I never said I was tr00.

First band up was Dry Kill Logic. Good aggression, but the music didn't really do anything for me. Alot of jumping around with not a whole lot of substance. Next up was Symphony X. Now were talking substance. They played a great set and they were flawless. Next up, if I remember right, was Nevermore. Jeff Loomis it really making a name for himself as a guitar player. He plays with such attitude and balls kinda reminds me of Dimebag in that way. They were a great mix of substance and showmanship. Absolutely punishing. After we checked them out we went out to the lobby for a break. The sound was REALLY fucking loud. (btw thanks again for the earplugs Chris!). So we checked out the overpriced merchandise and went outside for a bit. Needless to say I missed Life Of Agony which was ok by me. But we also missed Dillenger. I kinda wanted to see those guys because I've heard that they are quite "energetic" on stage. While I am a fan of their music I think that the room and overall sound quality wouldn't lend itself to their musical stylings. We decided ot head back in for DT which was co-headlining with Megadeth. We caught the end of Fear Factory and they were pretty cool. Cool riffs with nice grooves. DT finally came on at 8:30. They did a great set with a couple of oldies which was refreshing 'cause I'm a bigger fan of their earlier albums. They were tight and it looked like they were having a great time. The light show while not extravagant really added quite a bit to the whole vibe. At the end of the set we kinda looked at eachother and said lets get the hell outta here. By that time it was around 10:00 and we were starving. So we hit the diner.

Thoughts:
-I think the premise of this tour is great. Musicianship is gradually coming back into vogue and there are a lot of great musicians out there that could use the exposure.
-They have to do something about the sound. It's waaayyyy to loud. It's loud emough that you can't really discern the music all that well.
-I think the fact that you were able to meet the bands and stuff was awesome.
-While the tickest were modestly priced ($37.50 gen adm) I was wondering how these bands were getting paid. I doubt that there wasn't anymore then 1500 people there. These guys gotta eat.

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9/21/05

Ah the Fall Solstice!! I'm very much looking forward to the cool weather and the changing of the leaves. It's funny, when I look back at what I did over the summer and all that's happened the past few months it's amazing how fast time has flown.

I'd like to take a minute and send positive vibes down south to the gulf coast to all the unfortunate victims of Katrina. An absolutely horrible tragedy. Unfortunatley as of today it looks like another monster "Rita" is heading your way again. My thoughts are with you.

This months moronalogue will cover something near and dear to my shriveled black heart. And that is the guitar and bass. One of the biggest misconceptions of these two instruments is that the bass is "easier" to play then the guitar. WRONG. Each instrument poses its own challenges and steep learning curve. Let's examine this common misconception...

Now I don't want you to think I'm back pedaling here but initially the bass might be a little easier to play then the guitar because you don't have to focus on chords. On guitar you do, and it takes a tremendous amount of patience and tenacity to jump that hurdle.

As more time is spent with each instrument their roles become much more defined. As a bass player you really have to listen to the drums much more intently than a guitar player would. It's really important to focus on being in time and understanding and internalizing rhythm. Also the bass player acts as the bridge between the drums and guitar which leads to the fact that he has a dual role. The first role is that of a percussionist. *Percussionist? What the hell do you mean?* I mean that all those ghost notes and slapping and popping that a bass player does adds a level of complexity to the rhythm. So if you plan on adding to the rhythm you better be tight or else you'll be getting a drum stick thrown at you. As far as the second role that's more of a melodic nature which is self explanatory. The guitarist doesn't have to be quite as concerned as he has the luxury of being able to be a bit looser and float on top of the rhythm section.

Let's look at ease of playability. The guitar player has all sorts of little tricks that can help his technique and make his job a bit easier. First and foremost is distortion. Distortion is a convenient veil that can be used to help hide mistakes and cover overall sloppiness. A bass player doesn't really have that luxury. Also some guitarists have their sound dialed in so well that all they need to do is breathe on the guitar and it plays. Bass players do have a few tricks of their own. The big one being compression. Compression can help with sensitivity and make all the notes sound even no matter how much force he/she uses to pluck the note. While that does help with ease of playability it won't cover any mistakes. The only real caveat is that if you over use compression it can make your playing sound one dimensional and flat.

Each instrument is a huge challenge in its own respect. And trying to be half way decent at both is a royal pain in the ass. But I love it anyway.

 

Progress is slow 'n steady on the new disk. I'm in the process of wrappin' up some solos on tune #7.

 

Jeff, Dale and I made it down to Mt. Vernon's "Bayou" and did an open mike. I gotta tell you it was a lot of fun. Jeff brought his posse from work and we played 3 of Jeff's tunes and a little jam to warm up. Nice vibe down there... long ass hike, but nice vibe.

 

Things at UMusic are starting to smoove out a little bit. I got some new students and things are getting into that school time groove. By the way there is an Improvisation Workshop on Sat. Oct. 15 at 4:30pm. Give us a call to sign up if you're interested. 914-736-7777

 

What I've Been Listening To:

Alot of cool shit has been coming out as of late. First and foremost is... Nevermore - This Godless Endeavor
When I saw these guys at Gigantour the sound quality did not do this band justice. This album is kick ass probably tieing Dead Heart In A Dead World for 1st place in their catalogue in my opinion. The production is super solid. I believe Mr. Sneap worked on this disk, and it absolutely blows Enemies Of Reality out of the water. Loomis turns it up a notch on this recording and plays with attitude reminiscent of Dimebag. Mr. Williams on drums is relentless. He's able to maintain an aggressive feel yet still be creative and interesting. Newcomer, Steve Smythe, is a welcome addition to the band. He really seems to fit in really well on a musical level. He adds some dimension to the songwriting and compliments Loomis' soloing with a more traditional thrash style as well. Warrel Dane's vocals will live up to your expectations and more than likely pass them if you are a fan of his voice. (Which I am). A lot of vocalists seem to just stylize lyrics, kinda trying to make them fit with the music. Dane really sings from the heart. You can really feel the conviction. Also I think he's one of the best lyricists in metal today. Mr. Sheppard does a rock solid job of holding down the groove while putting in some of his own melodic sensibility as well. The album as a nice range of tunes opening with the brutal "Born", slowing up for "Sentient 6" and finally closing with the semi progressive thrash epic "This Godless Endeavor". This album is topnotch modern thrash with major fucking attitude. A must buy in my book.

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10/19/05

This months moronalogue is going to be mainly about some experiences I've had with nonprogressing students. I'll be mainly dealing with kids and teens. Initially most students come in all sorts of gung ho, ready to learn, ready to practice, ready to succeed. Yet after a mere two or three weeks they start to suck wind. Their parents make the monetary sacrifice and even more importantly sacrifice their time to provide the transportation and hang out during the lesson. But yet the student flounders, flails and stagnates. I think this has happened to every teacher at one point or another. You have to think to yourself "why is this kid even here?" I've come across three broad scenarios that usually fit the bill.

First one is -Are their parents pushing them? Second. - Are all their friends taking up the guitar or bass and they would feel out of the loop if they didn't? And lastly, are they into it for the "image and "coolness" factor? As instructors we have to crack through the facade and figure out what the story is. If a parent is pushing the student it can really put the teacher in a precarious situation. You have to sell the kid on the instrument before you can even begin to teach them how to play it. And not for nothing but the guitar is damn hard. Teaching an unwilling student is a kin to trying to have an intelligent conversation with 1/2 pound of ground beef. Also more than likely you are dealing with a controlling parent and getting in between a parent and their kid is dangerous indeed. I find the best solution to this problem is simply talking the student about it. Then having a tactful conversation with the parent about how they are wasting their money and their time.

The next scenario is - All my friends are playing so I better play too. This can be tough as well because the student has some initial enthusiasm but they want to find the easiest and quickest way to get good and more importantly better than their friends. What eventually happens here is they realize the guitar or bass is not as easy as those guys on VH1 make it look so they don't progress, eventually become disinterested, and fall by the wayside. Essentially there is not much you can do in this situation except let it play out.

The last and perhaps the most ridiculous scenario is someone may take up the guitar is for strictly the image that supposedly goes with it. These people are thankfully weeded out fairly quickly. If a student comes in saying how famous they are going to be and how much money they are going to make I'll do my best to set them straight with some candid thoughts of my own. Also it is of major importance that the student walks the walk before talking the talk. 'Nuff said. Chances are when they try their first Barre chord they'll bail. Just being able to squeeze out all the notes can challenge even the most enthusiastic student.

As a teacher the 3 scenarios I've described above can really jar your confidence. You start to wonder if its you that's the problem. Thoughts like "does my approach suck" or "am I making it too challenging? Am I not communicating properly?" or the dreaded "Am I simply boring the hell out of this poor kid", run rampant in your brain. We as teachers have to remember that our job is to help guide the student. Relate musical concepts in an easy and concise way. Most importantly we have to do our best to make it fun. It's the student's job to practice and also ask questions if they don't understand something. I always make sure that the student has a notebook that way I can write down exercises and ideas for them to take home and go over. It's their responsibility to go over these things and get them down. You can't progress without nailing the basics. It would be like building a house on a pile of quicksand. The notebook eventually becomes an invaluable resource because it's a collection of all the exercises and ideas that they were interested in. But I digress. Now I'm not saying that every teacher is infallible because there are some really shitty teachers out there. Generally a student can see right through a bad instructor in which case they should dumpe 'em ASAP and find someone better. In addition I'm not saying that I'm the best instructor in the world either. I have a lot to learn as far as teaching music and learning about it as well. It's a mighty long road.

 

The new disk is progressing well. As of now I have eight tunes with solos which is pretty good. I'm also in the process of cleaning tracks and putting some mix ideas together. So everything is damn spiffy on that front.

 

Things at UMusic are solid. We had an improv workshop a few days ago and all went well. Had a few students come down to do a bit of playing and talking about how to better their skills. Also this sunday we are going to be hosting another clinic. Tim Palmieri of "The Breakfast" will be stopping by for a bit to talk about his approach to guitar and music in general.

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11/19/05

Well looks like we had our first "official" freeze last night. At least there was frost on my lawn. Anyway the chill is on and colds are about. So as your mom used to say "wash those filthy hands before you eat!" Anyway...

I'm thinkin this months moronalogue will be on creative dryspells. You can prolly guess why I chose this topic. I just went through a massive one. I'm trying hard to wrap up this project but man I hit the wall at 80 about two weeks ago and I got nothin', and I mean nothin'. Usually when I hit a rut if I just stay away from it for a few days something will break through. Not this time. Frustrating isn't quite the word for it. I only have two more tunes to put solos down for! So close yet so far. Also you don't want to lay down something that sucks to try to force it either. Unfortunatley most people judge your playing by your soloing ability instead of the whole song. But hey that's another rant. So what to do, what to do? Well the first thing is I try very hard not to let it affect the other parts of my playing. Practicing is hard enough, trying to practice while bumming out in the middle of a rut can really take its toll. So I try and seperate the two and approach the guitar pragmatically. Maybe I'll take on a new piece to work on. Or I'll explore a new technique. (which I did). This kinda stuff helps take your mind off it. Also I've been listening to a lot of metal lately, prolly saturated my brain with it so I put on some be-bop and fusion to shake up the 'ol noggin a bit. Other things that may help are things like going to a movie, starting a new book or even playing a video game. The weirdest things can lead to new inspiration. Hell even watching the Munsters may prompt you to come up with tne newest lick of doom that your friends can drool over.

 

Things at UMusic are going well. We have another improv workshop on Sat. 12/3/05 at 5:00pm. We also have a piano recital on 11/20/05 as well. We finally got our new sign up so you can actually see us form the road. Also we've been bouncing around the idea of hosting UMusic open mics on the premises. Students would be able to come in by themselves or with their band and do a few tunes. We've also been thinking about having some sort of songwriting contest and the winner would receive free recording time to put down their song on a cd for posterity. We're still ironing out the logistics though. Lastly we'd really like start to feature students on the UMusic website with a recording of a piece they did and a write up. I think that would be kinda cool. I've already picked my first victim.

 

Jeff, Dale and I checked out an open mike at the Lazy Lounge in White Plains. It was hosted by the Curtis Winchester Blues Band. They were decent but I tell you if you're not really into the blues, after 15 minutes of the same I IV V progression you'll want to stick your head into a chipper. Jeff named us Dr. Device and after a fairly long wait we got up there and beat the crowd into submission :-). That was fun.

 

I'm finally getting close to wrapping up cover art for the new disk, which will be called Husk. It's pretty wacked out looking. I still have the inside to work on, which shouldn't be so bad, the back and the tray card. I have some pretty solid ideas so I'm hoping it won't take long. I also started the new website and that is making some progress as well.

 

So I checked out the new Harry Potter movie, Goblet Of Fire. A quick synopsis shall we? First off, overall the movie was good. Very entertaining. What can we say, the kids are growing up, especially the twins (who were very funny by the way). The movie again retains a dark vibe and unfortunatley lacks that aspect of "wonder" that I enjoyed in the first two. It's also a bit piecemeal dueto trying to condense such a large book into a 2.5 hour movie. Unfortunatley the "condensing" took away most of the school aspect which I think is pretty important and damn funny at times. As far as the acting goes it was a wee bit over the top. I little too melodramatic at times. Especially Emma Watson's character, Hermione. She's gotta chill out a bit. To be honest I think Ron Weasley stole the show. He actually tells Harry to "piss off", which I think is great. I mean c'mon poor Ron. He's always playing second fiddle to Harry. Give the kid a break. To be honest I think he had the worst time of it throughout the whole movie. Especially at the Yule Ball. He obviously has a thing for Hermione but he wimped out and asked someone else to the ball. Man he paid for that fuck up. Another thing that kinda bugged me about the movie is Dumbledor. Man I just can't get used to the "new" Dumbledor. He lacks the warmth and compassion of the old one. He's actually kind of a hardass in this movie. Snape was decent but kinda lacked his usual ferocity. But it was funny when he kept wacking Potter and Weasley on the head in class though. The standout character for me was Mad Eye Moody. He was a lot of fun to watch. The mechanical eye was genius and his overall portrayal was on the money. Another cool character was the dragon. Great special effects. The chase was awesome and I tell you that thing looked pissed off! Voldemort reared his ugly head (sans nose) in full regalia this time around. He was pleasantly menacing. I was hoping for a bit more but this is a kids movie too so I guess they had to tone it down a bit. The ending was a bit anticlimactic but hey whaddya expect?

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12/17/05

The holidays are upon us again as we enter the latter part of December. We got the cold, we got the snow, we got the ice but what we don't got is the peace. I want to take a small chunk of time here to wish our troops well and for you all to have a safe if not somewhat happy holiday. Also I want to say thank you for all the sacrifices you've made to keep all of us secure at home.

There is one thing that's been kinda buggin' me a bit lately and its been getting quite a bit of press as well. It also happens to be the subject of this month's moronalogue. Read on...

What is the deal with not saying "Merry Christmas" in order to maintain a certain level of political correctness. 85% of this country is Christian so I don't necessarily see why saying "Merry Christmas" is politically incorrect. Is it that we will insult people with different religous backgrounds? I'm half Jewish and I don't get insulted when people wish me a Happy Chanukah or Merry Christmas, it's all good. I also can't believe that the department stores changed their decorations to say Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings instead of Merry Christmas. Man, I get nauseous even thinking about it. How about this, in Boston they changed the name of their "Christmas" tree to the "Holiday" tree. In communities across the country they are banning nativity scenes. Also dig this, last year schools started banning the singing of Christmas carols that mentioned Jesus or Santa Clause. What the hell!! Everybody was nervous that other denominations would feel left out. Well how about including whatever songs necessary to fill the religous gap. Not for nothing but this country was founded on the basis of Christianity. And we also have freedom of religion so if I wanna say Merry Christmas, I'm allowed, and so are you. Now I'm not some sort of religous zealot or anything. I don't go to church, and to be honest organized religions make me a bit nervous. But I remember when I was a kid we had Christmas vacation from school, and we had a Christmas tree and we all got Christmas presents. Not some watered down Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings bullshit. Enough already with the political correctness. There is room for everybody's religious beliefs and practices in this country. Nobody should have to give up their ways for fear of insulting the people next door.

 

The improv workshop we had at UMusic on 12/3 went swimmingly. The place was packed and there was a bunch of great players that got up there and kicked some ass. We got a lot of different perspectives on how we each approach improvisation. I backed up some students on bass and Lou got on the drumkit and we had a blast. And we even had donuts too, woohoo! :-)

 

Jeff, Dale and I have been having a great time puttin together this wacked out Zeppelin medley that we're hoping to play somewhere...sometime. If you ain't been following the story...I've been playing bass for Jeff on his original project for awhile now. We have around 4 tunes down and we hit the local open mics and harass everybody. It's been fun and since I've been playing with those guys forever it's not a chore at all.

 

The new CD cover art is done and the traycard is done as well. I've also been working on the new site which is now on its second rendition. I finally broke out of that dryspell and I'm starting to put down some decent ideas as far as the cd goes.

 

I really haven't been listening to anything new or different as of late so I was going to talk about one of my favorite TV shows, American Chopper. Its really the only one I watch since I ain't really much of a TV person. Let's introduce the cast. First there is Paul Sr. This guy is a lot like my dad was, which is probably why I watch the show. My dad had similiar physical features but most of all he had a lot of his personality traits. He owned and ran his own nightclubs and restaurantes. And when I'd be hanging out with him he'd be yelling at his employees much the same way Paul Sr. does. I find this most comforting.

Next up is Paul Jr./Paulie. This guy while a bit egotistical is very talented at designing and fabricating bikes. The funniest part about him is how he bastardizes Nub's name (vendor they use for paint). A few off the top of my head include, Nubby, Scrubby, Scrublin etcetc. Obviously it doesn't take much for me to laugh.

Next up is one of my faves and that would be Mikey. This poor kid is probably going to be the most successful out of all of them. He is truly the underdog and is the perfect foil for the show. He has a great sense of comedy and he knows how to push everybody's buttons.

Vince, who is another fabricator, seems like a great guy. Putting up with Paul Jr's shit as well as Sr's yelling gets him the "most tolerant" award.

Lastly Rick, another very tolerant one, gets the "dedication award" for having to have to drive all the way from PA to be at OCC by 7:00am.

The show is a hell of a lot of fun to watch and they're great bike builders as well. They also do a lot of charity work and they really feel lucky about all their good fortune. In NY it's on Monday nite at 10pm on the Discovery Channel.

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