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2/28/07 - The Grind
3/31/07 - The Return Of AH
4/30/07 - Requirements For ProgMetal
5/30/07 - RoadHead roadkill?
6/30/07 - Signs to BHP Music
7/27/07 - Zep Tribute, SymX
8/27/07 - Hurricanes 'n Shit
9/31/07
11/11/07 - WestFest
12/4/07 - Scrooge 'n Vids

1/31/07

Well here we are. Another new beginning. Another chance to improve ourselves. The proverbial slate has been wiped clean. Lucky us. A chance to reflect on the mistakes we made over the course of the past year and remind ourselves not have a repeat performance. Naaaahhhh. We're human we all learn from repetition, so we have to fuck up at least three times before we actually get it.

To be honest I can't believe its 2007.  I mean 2007 WTF? When I was a kid the thought of being alive during 2007 was pretty much inconceivable (hey I grew up in the late 70's and 80's, whaddya want).

 

At UMusic we had another great recital.  We had 18 performers including:

Shane Nolan - E Blues
Carolyn Lieberman - 24th Caprice
Griffin Irvine - Etude For Guitar
Matt Lapa - Minuet in G Major and G Minor
Rich Aufrichtig - Sonatina in C Major
Quinn Thomas - Rondo Ala Turk
Dan Lenkeit, Chris Chin - Blue Bossa
Hal DeGroat - So What/Impressions
Eric King - A Night In Tunisia
Dermot O'Kelly Lynch - Bourree
John Dwyer - Guardian Angel
Mayco Lungo - D Minor Swing
Steve Dinofrio - In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed
Jim Cobb - Celestial Terrestrial Commuters
Kenny Lyons - Evil Eye
Brian Carpenteiri - Hot 'Lanta
Chris Slagle - Satch Boogie/Medley
Brian Holt - Trilogy Dream Suite

You can see we had a pretty varied program.  Everyone did great and the place was mobbed.  We had people outside listening! Practically all the performers were video taped and their performances can be seen on the UMusic "Events" page. Another event coming up is the Allan Holdsworth Trio will be stopping by March 9th.  We are particularly psyched about this event as the great Chad Wackerman will be assisting Allan on drums and bass player extraordinaire Jimmy Johnson will be on board as well.  Looks like we'll be having a 2 set performance with a meet and greet within a symposium atmosphere.  Allan's awesome he has no problem hanging out after and chatting with the the audience. If you're interested in coming by and checking it out give UMusic a buzz at 914.736.7777 and we'll hook you up with tickets.

 

RoadHead is progressing well.  We are in the midst of writing some new tunes to add to our set.  Some very interesting stuff I might add.  As I mentioned in the last update we'll be playing at the Loft on 2/23 which is part of The Chance Complex up in Poughkeepsie NY.  We'll be opening for Joey Belladonna. If you would like to purchase tickets please email me and I'll get you the necessary info.  Here's the schedule for the Loft.

 

I've kinda decided to start to play some of my original material in a live situation.  Chris Saas has been helping me out on bass and Nick Vara (UMusic staff) has been helping out on drums. We are getting a few songs together hoping to perform at the next UMusic performance as a closer.  We're also thinking of putting together a full set for an all out performance there as well.  Nick has been a huge help and has really taken well to the material. He's a fusion head and has the technique to back it up.  While Chris is the dark lord of all that is subsonic. :-) and has the purest form of metal fused to his brain. At the moment we are performing with a sequencer to fill in the blanks and give the tunes a nice full, lush sound.  Tis quite the challenge.

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2/28/07

The grind is getting to me...bummer moronalogue to follow.

You know its interesting when your a kid all you do is look forward to the future.  You know, anticipating Xmas, B'days, Halloween, all that stuff.  Everything seem so much bigger and more exciting, almost magical.  I see that in my son.   He even counts his 1/2 birthday as a birthday.  When you reach your teens the weekends really take on a new meaning.   Getting some beer and heading out into the woods or someones' "unsupervised" house".  (disclaimer, I of course don't condone this behavior as an adult).  And don't even get me started with the whole girlfriend sex thing and the wackiness that ensues with that. Then comes the driving thing, and the work thing and finally being able to drink legally.  At this point those innocent kids who believed in the tooth fairy have begun their long process of what I call "jade-ation" or simply jadation..

In your mid teens you enter what's called the "invincible" stage. This is where nothing can hurt you or nothing really bad will happen to you.  The whole driving while drunk thing, doing drugs etc etc.  Hell you ain't gettin' caught, you're way to slick for that shit...maybe.  If you are lucky you leave this stage relatively unscathed, depending on how much common sense you have.  From there you then enter your 20's and this is where you start the grind.  At this point you have a few layers of jadation built up.  After the college bullshit and you really get out on your own and you realize that life starts to take on a large amount of sucktitude.  Your gf or bf starts lamenting about the future thus stacking more feelings of responsiblity on you.  You have to get a job and pay rent, utilities, car payment, cable, phone etc etc.  And you have the Monday-Friday work schedule, this is where you start to have thoughts about saying fuck it all.  But you look forward to the weekend and you play hard, drink hard and you git it on with whatever floats yer boat, in order to numb the pain that is Monday.  You find that time is moving...quicker.  In no time you hit 25...28...then 30. By now your steady gf is hitting you with marriage ultimatums and talking about how many kids she wants.  Meanwhile your youth is nothing but a guttering candle in a very breezy window. At this point you probably will have to deal with death.  Maybe a grandfather or grandmother.   Or maybe a father or sister. You begin to sense your mortality.  You lighten up on the drinking and recreational drug intake, hopefully.  You actually think about what you're eating, before you eat it.  You have quite a few layers of jadation on you that repels all that is whimisical and imaginitive.  Come 35 you're either married with a kid or trying to hook up and in doing so you find out that you're one of the oldest in the clubs that you go to.  Then you turn around and you're 40.  By now the grind is steadily wearing away at your sense of well being.  But those stubborn layers of jadation protect you and keep you snug and warm in your cocoon of despondency. You're life becomes a blur of work, responsiblity, paying bills, shoveling snow off the driveway and mowing the lawn.  Its hard to catch up on all the stuff you want or need to do.  Good times are somewhat hard to come by as you wonder where all the years went.  You're tired more often.  You wake up and bones are a poppin' and muscles are a hurtin'.  You can't run as fast as you used to and now your knee deep in battling the ever expanding midsection.  Maybe you go on meds to make you happy. But then you'd lose your sense of autonomy.  You lose your edge and you'd have a bandaid stuck on your brain alleviating the symptoms instead of dealing with the problem.  You begin to think about your self worth, then you get depressed.  Your pretty much half way through your life and then...50...60...?

(disclaimer: it has been brought to my attention that people think that I'm about to jump off the Tappan Zee bridge.  The moronalogue above is simply an observation of how life can quickly pass you by. It is by no means 100% autobiographical, just simply a somewhat generalized account of the different phases that people may go through as time passes :-)

 

At UMusic we will be having another recital coming up in April sometime. I'll mention a date when I find out.  And of course Allan Holdsworth and his trio will be stopping by on March 9th.  We are just about out of tickets so PLEASE call us if you would like to attend the show/clinic (914) 736-7777.

 

RoadHead did its gig at the Loft, and it was quite interesting.  Load in was at 7pm so we got there and proceeded to hump all our stuff up 30 odd stairs.  Now that was fun.  I'm just happy that we had a couple of friends helping out with the lugging. (Thanks Jeff and Bill you guys made our lives a lot easier!).  We were somewhat in our element as far as the bill goes.  The first two openers were pretty much hardcore and Joey Belladonna was going to be vintage Anthrax.  So at least we were in the metal genre. We had a great time though and the show went great til the end when my pedal board decided to shit the bed rite before the last song. Oh well, coulda been worse.

 

The project I've been working on with Chris and Nick has been going pretty well. We're currently working on 3 songs: Diminshed Returns off Wyrd, The Brawler off Homunculus and Tech Support off Azrael Block.  This has been a ton of work on everybody's part.  But things are coming together slowly but surely.  We'll see...

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3/31/07

An interesting thing happened at work (my teaching gig) the other day. A student came in and during the lesson he looked at me and asked "how long will it take before I'm better than you at guitar?" Now this is a nice kid prolly in his 20's but the question struck me kinda funny...the moronalogue ensues.

I told him that after a certain amount of time nobody is really better than anybody else.  Obviously when you first start out there is a bunch of basic skills that you have to get down, chords, scales etc.  But once you have your own style and you're somewhat comfortable with what you are doing guitar players aren't really better than one another, just different.  Nobody can really be better than someone like Allan Holdsworth because Allan is Allan. Same with Jimmy Page.  Sure some people maybe more technically proficient or more harmonically complex but as far as playing like Page nobody does it better then the man himself.  Its his style that got him noticed and the way he writes music that made him famous. Page was able to move a lot of people emotionally.  Also most guitar players, myself included, don't stop learning or striving to be better.  When you carve out your own niche you begin to develop it and add to your vocabulary.  You begin to see a common thread in your writing and playing that begins to show your style and identity.  Most guitar geeks can tell in a matter of a few notes who is playing a particular solo.  Players like Hendrix, Clapton, Page, Beck, Holdsworth, Gambale, Cooley, Loomis, Malmsteen, DiMeola, McLaughlin etc etc have a certain signature sound and vocabulary that make them who they are as players and thus become very identifiable. 

Now things get a little stickier when subjectivity gets involved. People may LIKE a certain player better then others but that doesn't mean that that player is "better".  For me I'll take Page's playing over Malmsteen's playing any day.  Same with writing.  Does that mean tha Page is better, nope, just means that Page's stuff moves me much more than Malmsteen's.  Or maybe Steve Morse and Zakk Wylde.  Both of them are very respectable players but for me Morse is the man.  He hits me on both an emotional and intellectual level.  Holdsworth and Gambale? Well that's tough because I like them both for different reasons. Again subjectivity is the operative word.  I think that any player can learn from any other player.  I learn from my students all the time.  Its all about perspective and realizing that you and me are very small fish in a very big ocean.

 

At UMusic Allan Holdsworth and his trio, Chad Wackerman (drums), Jimmy Johnson (bass) stopped by for a nice set and question and answer session. Allan was awesome as usual while expressing his own brand of humility and charm.  They played a great set including Water On The Brain, Fred and Proto Cosmos.  We had a packed house and the audience was real appreciative of the great talent that was on stage. Allan changed up his rig a bit this time around.  This time he was using 4 Yamaha Magic Stomps with a Hughes & Kettner Switchblade wired in stereo through two Mesa Boogie 2x12 cabinets.  It sounded huge!

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RoadHead is changing up its plan.  We are now incorporating a bunch of covers so we can play a full night and get a bit 'o change for our trouble.  We managed to rope in an additional singer, Leesah, who is an awesome and I mean AWESOME vocalist.  So we're going to be playing G'nR, Journey, Heart, Hole, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Fly Leaf, No Doubt and a shit load more.  To be honest with you I hate playing covers but the fact is that just playing with these guys is so much fun that it really makes it almost painless, almost. We'll still be including our originals to spice things up a bit and hopefully get a bit more exposure.

 

My original project has been moving along nicely.  We're currently working on four of my tunes and things are starting to gel. Its really been tough to figure out which parts to play and moving seemlessly between them has been challenging.  Nick has been doing a great job with the tunes and is starting to put his own spin on some of the parts.  And my rig has been sounding decent (knocks on wood).  I managed to pick up a Mesa 2:90 stereo power amp to hook up to my Triaxis.  The difference between the Mesa and my MosValve is like night and day.  First off the tone is warmer and has more body. Also the headroom is sick. I barely crack that thing open at practice and I'm cutting pretty damn good.  Another cool thing about it is that the amp has three modes, half power, modern, and deep.  You can access these modes via the triaxis so each preamp patch can have one of three power amp modes.

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4/30/07

I thought maybe we'd have a little levity on this update.  I managed to find the "101 Rules Of Progmetal" and well, I'm gonna post 'em and see if I abide by any of them. My tongue and cheek witticisms will be in italics. 

These rules were written by: Lars Peder Kallar Devold, with help from the members of the official forums of Symphony X and Jordan Rudess.

1. Insist that your definition of prog metal is sacred and that the only progressive bands are the ones you deem to be so.
- I'll buy that.

2. Accuse anyone who disagrees with you regarding rule 1 of lacking musical intelligence and not being a true prog fan.
- I'll buy that too.

3. Have contempt for mainstream music.
- Major league contempt.

4. Insist that most people listen not to the music, not to the lyrics but only the chorus and that is why prog metal is not mainstream.
- Never thought about that before, but it sounds good to me.

5. Accuse anyone who disagrees with you regarding rule 4 of lacking musical intelligence and not being a true prog fan.
- I'm down.

6. When showcasing a new prog metal band to a non-musician friend, put on the most technically difficult song, and skip directly to the solo part.
- Guilty.

7. If your friend says that it is cool, tell him that he has grasped the grandeur of prog and shown that his intelligence is superior to that of the mainstream sheep.
- Guilty, again.

8. If he doesn't, accuse him of lacking musical intelligence and not being a true prog fan.
- duh.

9. Renounce all contact with friend in rule 8. Racial purity isn't all bad.
- Nah, I don't buy it.  Besides I'd have to get a divorce. My wife likes the B-52's.

10. Make sure your drummer has a double bass pedal.
- check.

11. If he hasn't, kick him out and get another one who has. Single pedal is NOT prog.
- tr00dat.

12. Own every side-project a member of Dream Theater has been involved in. Listen to approximately none of them regularly.
- that's good. LTE is the best by far.

13. When a mainstream fool asks you what prog metal is, tell him something along the lines of "prog is the evolution of musical expression and experimentalism in rock." In any case, make sure that the person in question is left with no idea of what prog metal is. He wouldn't have understood anyway.
- true.

14. Insist that music should always progress, although as long as you write an album in the prog vein, you don’t necessarily have to.
- bah.

15. Accuse anyone who disagrees with you regarding rule 14 of lacking musical intelligence and not being a true prog fan.
- bah...bah.

16. Refer to progressive metal as intelligent music for intelligent people, preferably at every occasion where a mainstream group or genre is mentioned.
- I try not to force my point of view on others, but if I hear Justin Timberlake I'm out.

17. Note that the above does not qualify as arrogance any more than pointing out that wine is drink for the more sophisticated.
- Wine is for girls.  True progmetal men drink ale, or mead.

18. A song under four minutes is NOT prog. If you are stuck with a song under four minutes, insert a Phrygian solo trade-off between the guitarist and keyboardist as long as needed.
- good strategy. SymX does it why can't we all do it.

19. If a mainstream fool tells you that shredders are mindless wankers, tell him that "at least they can tune their guitars, har har", and walk away defiantly.

20. Spocks Beard is NOT prog. If anyone disagrees, kill them.
- Spocks Beard ain't metal.

21. Humming along with the melody to a prog metal song is forbidden. Burn all albums you own with hum-along melodies.
- check.

22. Loathe all music you used to like before you got into prog. This is not optional. When asked why, tell people that "I am into GOOD music now, why would I go back?”
- hrumph Zeppelin still rules.

23. Accuse any prog metal musician that cuts his hair of selling out.

24. Often state that you don't only listen to prog. Jazz is a good choice.
- now we talkin'.

25. Yeah...like you have more than 3 jazz CDs in your collection...
- I got a shit ton 'o jazz.

26. Never accept ANY Berklee graduates. The dropouts are so much better.

27. Riffs in 4/4 are not progressive. If you happen to come up with a cool riff in 4/4, alternate between 4/4 and progressive time signatures like 7/8 every other measure to ensure the musical complexity synonymous with prog metal.
- again another cat let out of the bag.

28. Be able to mention 20 bands no one has heard of, not even true prog fans. Own no releases of these bands.

29. Get an Ibanez. This is not negotiable.
- It is negotiable.  Carvin is cool 'cause its not a mainstream guitar.

30. Spend 5 hours every day critiquing other musicians on forums.
- I ain't got that kind of time.

31. Spend 5 minutes every other day actually practicing your instrument.
- It takes me 5 minutes to find my guitar.

32. Yell at people who head bang at concerts: They’re not prog enough to get the music, what do they expect?
- if they're headbanging in 13/8 they are more prog then I'll ever be.

33. Sus4 is your friend. To ensure that your album is a true progressive release, include at least one part where the keyboard plays ascending sus4 chords over a single-note broken rhythm in 7/8.
- hmmmmmmmm.

34. Make sure your band name is either an
a) Oxymoron

-Silent Noise
-Tender Harshness
-Healing Gun

b) Some geeky sounding name ripped from some obscure book.

-Deitronus
-Tarakoch
-Fentaran
-RoadHead - check.

or

c) Random combination of at least 2 three-syllable words.

-Eternal Twilight Tranquility (Can’t get much proggier than that)
-Redolent Arithmetic
-Evolution of Vernacular Domesticated

35. Don’t worry about if your band name makes any sense or not. Since 90% of your fan base is from Brazil and Japan, you can safely ignore conventional English grammar and instead focus on what's really important: The lyrics (see rule 36).

36. Write deep and ambiguous lyrics.
- Lyrics are for wimps who can't handle listening to tr00 music.

37. If unable to write deep and ambiguous lyrics, include at least one of the following phrases to ensure recognition as lyrical genius in prog circles:
"I’m staring towards ascension divine, caught in my own revelation, a nightly mystery of soul burning apparition"

"Mornings` gentle caress, a ray of sunlight enveloping the spirit of the sleeper ventriloquist"

"A timid, palatable genocide, turn towards the decline of mankind, the festering wound of ages past changes into the soul-spirit of vestigial sentences"

38. Use a non-standard instrument like violin, saxophone or kazoo, regardless of how idiosyncratic it turns out to be. This constitutes being prog.
- glockenspiel, check.

39. Make sure your bass-player has as many strings as possible. Don’t worry if he uses approximately three of the 11 strings on his custom Carvin 30 kg bass regularly, just give him a bass solo in the middle of your mandatory instrumental tune (more on that later) where he can really show the extent of his instruments capabilities. Imagine the range of scales on an instrument like that!
- he's only got six strings but at least its a Myung sig bass.

40. Release a live-album called "Live in Tokyo".
>- on my to do list.

41. Change time signatures. Constantly.
- every measure at least.

42. Accuse anyone who does not do so of lacking musical intelligence and not being a true progressive musician.
- done.

43. Your amp MUST be a Mesa Boogie. If a friend of yours tries to convince you're wrong and you should check out his Marshall tell him that his tone is thin and buzzy.
- done.

44. State that Metallica can't properly tweak the boogies. They're so... unprog!

45. Start a Dream Theater cover band with friends just starting out playing instruments. Spend half of the rehearsal talking shit about punk bands and how people don’t understand your music.

46. Play a shitty version of a humongously difficult DT song at a Battle of the Bands-type contest. Metropolis Part 1 or Dance of Eternity are both good choices, as is Erotomania.
- Hi Chris :-)

47. When your band ends up last, shift all blame over to the judges; hey, they have no idea what good music is! Why else would they let that boring pop band win? - but of course.  Lets get Simon on board.

48. Talking about starting playing an instrument; always start with the most technically difficult song you know. Remember, this is a testament to your immense talent, so be sure to mention this on every Internet community you happen to frequent.
- After 3 days of tuning my guitar I quickly tackled all of Paganinni's 176.3 Caprices.

49. When are you able to play something at half speed very sloppy, proudly state that you "nail" the song in question.
- ie the solo to You Shook Me.

50. People are bound to ask for a recording of the feat mentioned in rule 49. However, you are not able to provide it to them, because a) your recording equipment got dissolved by digestive acid yesterday, b) you don’t need to prove anything to people. Your word should be good enough c) you don’t know anything about computers (even though you sit by one most of the day), as you spend most of your day practicing your instrument.
d) - I don't have a computer.

51. Tool is NOT prog. If anyone insists they are, kill them.

52. Hate Falling into Infinity. If the feeling that you actually enjoy FII (even the "proggier" songs like TOT) sneaks up on you during a glitch of concentration, remind yourself that DT sold out.
- FII sux.

53. Actually, state that DT sold out on every good occasion. This means every time their name is mentioned.

54. Don't be John Arch. Insist that any pre-Alder Fates is 100% not prog.

55. Do not move on stage. Don’t under any circumstances forget that nobody at prog concerts pays attention to the audience, including the band.
- oh man I got this covered.

56. The best songs are those that are over 15 minutes, have multiple named sections, and have solos by everyone in the band INCLUDING the drummer.
- but of course.

57. Accuse anyone who disagrees with you regarding rule 56 of lacking musical inteli...Yeah, you’ve got it now, haven’t you?

58. Never ever under any circumstances say "Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence ruled."
- not even close.

59. Never let anyone tell you that Dave Weckl is better than any prog metal drummer. If they still insist, don’t kill them, but rather put on the Mike Portnoy drum solo from 1993`s "Live in Tokyo" vid, which still today is the benchmark for good drumming, REGARDLESS of genre.
- hmmmmmmmm ok.

60. It would still be a good idea to have that gun ready, though.
- yes it would.

61. Drummers: Huge kits are MANDATORY!!!! If all you have is a 4-piece with 3 crappy cymbals, then you don't belong on stage. A 5-piece single bass drum kit is the bare minimum and even that's on the edges of bare bones. If you have a tiny kit BUY MORE DRUMS AND CYMBALS!!!!!!!

62. No, 6 toms are not enough, MORE DRUMS AND CYMBALS!!!!

63. Reform with old members and release an album intended to make up for years of bad reception from fans (see Yes) or claim your next album will be a return to past glory (see Queensryche). If it flops, be sure to blame a producer or record company.

64. When someone asks you why prog metal isn’t more popular if it is so darned good, tell them that it is because "it is over the mainstream peoples heads".

65. Talent = Technical skill. Hail any band with lightning-speed solos for their immense talent.
- if it ain't 32nd notes its shite.

66. Publicly state that your band is non-religious, then make many religious and/or spiritual allusions in the lyrics.
- Allah be praised.

67. Stress your open-mindedness. State that you like all forms of music, except lower forms of music like pop, rock `n roll, blues, techno, trance, rap.

68. Accuse fans of the aforementioned genres of not being open-minded.

69. Get a Kurzweil. As the undisputed <<<GOD OF KEYBOARDS>>>, Jordan Rudess plays it; you have no choice but to get one yourself, no matter what synthesizers you actually like. ALL BOW TO THE MIGHTY 88-KEY <<<STEREO PIANO SAMPLE>>> KURZWEIL!!!
- A Continuum would be better, there is nothing more prog then a Continuum..

70. ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNO-KURZWEIL!!!! (Futurama fans will know what I’m talking about).

71. Show off with your equipment. Show off with your playing/singing. Show off with your *ahem* length. Show off with your girlfriend. Show off with anything you can think of. Show off with your DOG for god's sake.

72. Get a dog.
- done.

73. Play air-drums or air-guitar at concerts. This will make sure that other prog fans recognize your immense talent. - or immense stupidity.

74. Stuck in songwriting? Insert a part with a slow single-note gallop rhythm where the singer yells "ENTER THE SUUUNNNNNNNN" several times.

75. Note that you can substitute "ENTER THE SUUUNNNNNNNNN" for either of the following: "FATHER, MY ADOLESCENCY IS AGONNNNNYYYYYYY" or "THE APPARITION DIVIIIIIINNNNEEEE". All three are suitable choices.

76. What do you mean, you haven’t trigged your bass drum?

77. Remember, faster=more progressive. Slow songs cannot be progressive, best example would be Pink Floyd.

78. If anyone says PF are prog, kindly refer them to rule 1 while you prepare to do a "Varg", so to say.

79. During recording, make sure that you accuse the producer, the recording engineer and half of your band of not playing the song properly at least once.
- I'd only be talking to myself.

80. Make sure your album cover contains either a psychedelic computer-drawn image, a lavish painting with mythological figures, or is illustrated by Travis Smith.
- check.

81. Write epics.

82. In case you didn’t know, epics must be about adolescence, concerning a legend, or a deep dystopian tale where a cheesy fictional city/world/pizza shop serves as a metaphor for this world.

83. Have racks with loads of equipment.
- only if you carry it.

84. Have racks without equipment. Who is going to see them if you don’t display them?
- I'll carry those.

85. No intro for your song? Insert a single-note broken rhythm accented on the snare, with shifting keyboard chords underneath.

86. Refuse to lend prog CDs to mainstream friends. When asked why, tell him/her that (s)he "will understand when (s)he matures"

87. When playing ANY gig, from the lowliest bar to the most gargantuan arena, be sure that no member of the audience will leave without having heard every lick you are able to play.

88. Have at least 5 solo spots during a concert.

89. In case you have forgotten while reading this, prog metal is intelligent music for intelligent people.

90. No, Marillion is not prog. I kindly refer you to rule 20.

91. BOOOM!!!

92. Buy new albums from past prog-greats.

93. When they turn out to be crap and nothing like the old albums, hit yourself in the head with a hammer until you like them.
- ballpeen for me please.

94. Hold that there is no bad prog, only DIFFERENT.
- plenty of bad prog.

95. Of course, that only applies to bands you like. See Rule 1.
- of course.

96. In case you wondered, Dream Theater is and will always be the benchmark for prog-metal. The more something sounds like Images and Words, the more progressive it is.

97. Proclaim Rule 96 to people with a straight face in all seriousness. This is not optional.
- *starts laughing*

98. Have side-projects. Make sure that all side-projects consist of pointless jamming over endless repetitions of clichéd riffs.

99. Make sure that at least one of your side-projects feature Mike Portnoy on drums.
- only if you pay him.

100. If you cannot get Mike Portnoy, get someone who sounds like him.

101. You mean you have been reading this when you could have been practicing along to Metropolis Part II or composing a sidelong epic? For shame!!!!

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5/30/07

Well folks here we are again.  Another month has past and so I must come up with something somewhat entertaining and dare I say insightful? Nahhh. I'll just pick and choose what's bouncing around inside this very thick skull of mine.  Well what's to yap about? Oh yeah, I caught a cool seminar given by the great displacer of time himself Virgil Donati over at Alto Music in Middletown NY. Now talk about insightful.  He has so many cool rhythmic ideas and the chops to apply them, absolutely frightening.  I think I might have been the only guitar player there but I still really appreciated all he had to say.  He played some of the new PlanetX stuff and some of his solo stuff as well.  The big thing I picked up was about integrating time signatures.  I've known about the concept and even applied it myself in some basic ways but he really took the time to explain his ideas and applications which kinda took me up a notch. Well worth the price in gas getting there.  He even had some handouts with some exercises that he demoed. And the seminar was free, yes free. 

Speaking of free, 92 Free FM here in NY went through a format change and is now back to K-Rock.  Gone are the voices of Ron and Fez, Nick DiPaulo, The Radio Chick etc etc.  I like Ron and Fez, I used to catch 'em on the way home from work.  Now we get to listen to some bullshit rock music that's on every other station in NY.  Fuck that. Thank God for mp3 players. 

Speaking of mp3 players I need to pimp some killer music that I've been listening to.  Number one, Thought Chamber (just google 'em I'm to lazy to find their site), these guys put together an awesome album of material.  The guitarist is Michael Harris who has put out some cool instrumental stuff over the years.  One of his past releases is Sketches From The Thought Chamber.  I'm thinking that might have been the prequel to Thought Chamber's debut album Angular Perceptions.  I hear more than a few musical quotes off of Sketches peppered throughout their new disk.  Anyway great album, great musicianship and composition. Go buy it. Another band I've been listening to is Redemption.  Their new disk is called The Origins Of Ruin.  Very solid album. The singer is Ray Alder from Fates Warning.  His voice is somewhat atypical for this genre which is a refreshing change.  That whole operatic fucking vibrato thing makes me want to stick my head in the oven and press "clean".  Onto the fusion genre. One of my favorite collaborations, Uncle Moe's Space Ranch, came out with a new disk called Moe's Town.  Uncle Moe stars the guitar duo of Brett Garsed and TJ Helmerich, with Gary Willis on bass, Scott Kinsey on keys, and Dennis Chambers on drums. You can tell that these guys are having a great time with this music. Its wierd, quirky, groovy and contains a nice portion of virtuosity as well.  You can't go wrong with Chambers and Willis as your rhythm section, you just can't. 

 

UMusic hosted a recital on 5/12 which proved to be very entertaining. We had a great group of performers doing some excellent and diverse pieces.  Lets run down the tunes shall we?

1. Little Wing
2. Tribute to Elmore
3. Canon
4. YYZ
5. Jessica
7. Bach Etude for Bass
8. Moondance
9. Chitlin's Con Carne
10. Solfegietto
11. Bach Invention No. 8
12. Blue Rondo

So as you can see, all killer, no filler.  They all did a great job and we plan on having some videos of the performance up at the UMusic sight soon.

 

On to RoadHead. Unfortunatley things have been tough as far as scheduling goes. Its been challenging to get everyone together for practice and man we have a lot to practice.  Over the past month we've had to learn around 30 songs and while we're making it through the tunes it doesn't sound anywhere near polished yet.  Its a drag 'cause I was hoping to be playing out over the summer and well... I don't know, that may not happen. 

 

The side project of me, Nick (drums) and Chris (bass) has been going fairly well.  Nick has been hammering these tunes and is really getting them down and is now applying some of his own ideas. So far the setlist is The Jester, MahDah, Diminished Returns, The Brawler and Tech Support. It is actually starting to sound kinda cool.  I'm hoping that we may have a set together by late summer, early fall.  I'd like to have a performance at the school to kinda get this stuff in front people.

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6/30/07

This has been a pretty big month for me.  Lots 'o shit happening. Lets get the ball rollin' shall we?

First off they finally started the addition on my house in earnest. The thing is fucking huge. Like really fucking huge. Its absolutley ridiculous.  Well the sooner its finished the sooner I can move into my studio and finally settle in.  That ain't gonna happen for a while yet though.  Speakin' of studios I started working on some new material. Yeehaw!  Its really interesting working in Cubase (SX3).  The logistics can be a bit tricky but once you get the hang of it it's really a lot of fun. Very different from the VS1680.  The sound seems clearer, crisper and more defined, very articulate.  I also employed FXpansion's BFD drums with the Andy John's soundset.  Oh man what a HUGE difference.  Absolutely amazing.  I couldn't be happier with the way this program reacts and the nuances are innumerable. If you do your own drums, you have to check out this software.

Another cool thing is I a got a record/liscensing deal.  What?...yep...its the truth. I've been in contact with BHP Music. BHP is an indie that specializes in instrumental guitar music. Check out their site for the nitty gritty. It turns out that they were interested in my music and wanted to license out one of my songs.  So after I signed on for that deal they thought it would be cool if I put together a compilation. The compilation will feature tunes off of my first 3 disks Artifacts, Wyrd and Azrael Block. I had a great meeting with the owners, Brian Tarquin and Chris Ingram, and they were really enthusiastic about the project. The three of us fell into step really well and had a great time! In addition to the compilation I'll be contributing a track to a Led Zeppelin tribute cd that they are putting out. And also I'll be contributing a track to Guitar Masters Vol. II which is multi artist compilation. The Zep tribute will come out the 1st quarter of 2008, my compilation will come out the 2nd quarter and the Guitar Masters Vol. II will follow that. Pretty cool.

 

UMusic is going to be going through a bit of a makeover inside and out. I've been working on the website so feel free to go and check out the changes.  We still have a bit more to go but a lot of people are diggin' what we've done so far.  The school/studio itself will also be spruced up a bit.  A bit of paint, some new furniture and a major organizational upheaval.  We are also going to try to add an additional lesson room as well.

 

RoadHead. unfortunatley has been the victim of downsizing.  We decided to put the band on hiatus until the end of the summer.  From there we are going to see what's happening with everybody..

 

My original project is making some nice headway.  Our practices are much more consistent now and I think its showing.  We are starting to get much tighter and we are continuously adding to the repetoire.  I never thought it would be such hard work but I think the three of us are starting to reap the rewards. Chris has returned to one of his previous bands Sanction and we will be double billing with them to help further refine the live act.  No dates are set yet but stay tuned.

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7/27/07

July flew by didin't it?  Hope everyone had a great 4th.  Mine was a bit sedate as far as fireworks but very productive musically. If I remember right it rained pretty much the whole day (in the northeast) so outdoor activity was kept pretty much to a minimum. This months moronalogue is lacking I'm afraid so I'm going to have to go with a bit of a stream of consciousness type of thing. Here we go...

I really fucking hate it when cars pull into a parking spot on an angle and take up 2 or 3 spaces when spaces are at a premium. Dude your car isn't that great.

I've heard that the Police reunion hasn't been that great as far as performances go, yet they are charging an arm and a leg for a ticket...listen fellas get your shit down before going in front of a zillion fans who paid a shit ton of money to see you. Can I get an amen here?

The garbage man broke my garbage can.  wtf?  easy on the rubbermaid dude!

The "check engine" light is on...then its off...then its on...then its off...you get the idea.

I need another 5 hours per day to stay on top of shit.

Why do we keep our kids so busy?  Soccer, baseball, karate this, swimming that,..when I was kid we played outside and built forts in the woods and had rock fights.  I was out from after homework til dinner.  Kids need to slow down a bit.

I hate the mall.

...that's it for now.

I've started working on the Zeppelin track for the tribute album that BHP Music is putting out.  See the last installment for the details.  I think I've nailed the arrangement down for my version of "For Your Life". There are going to be a few surprises in it so I'm hoping people will dig it. I know I keep going on and on about the BFDs but I gotta tell you they really sound great.  Especially with the jazzy stuff.  You can pack so much nuance into your parts it's absolutely ridiculous.

 

UMusic is going to be at the Peekskill Celebration this year.  We'll be having a booth somewhere on the fair grounds, God only know where. We will be making some noise though.  There will be some playing and also we'll have some guitars/basses set up with some amps for some kids to come in and jam.  There will be some UMusic swag as well so come by and say hi if you plan on going.  We'll be there Friday 8/3 from around 5-9 and Sat 8/4 from 11am-10pm. 

 

I went to see Symphony X on July 14th.  What a great show!! I saw them up at the Chance in Poughkeepsie.  Interesting openers. The first was Shadow Image.  Solid band, good musicianship (bass player was an animal).  The singing, while appropriate for the music, was a bit cliched but solid nonetheless. Next band up was Echoes Of Eternity.  Ok this band was not really happening musically, at least for my taste.  Very powermetal, very repetetive. The only saving grace was the hot chick lead singer.  Think Arch Enemy. The last band was Sanctity.  They were very entertaining. The music was ok but the stage show was great.  They were running around like fucking lunatics and inciting the crowd to riot. Awesome.  They sounded like a cross between Nevermore and Metallica. Then Symphony X took the stage.  Pro all the way.  These guys were flawless. Russel did great with the crowd and Micheal Romeo was absolutely frightening on the guitar.  He just makes it look so effortless.  They played a great set and the encore was the Odyssey.  Sweet!!

 

The original project continues to progress.  We are starting to work on a new tune "No Solace" off of Azrael Block. Eight minutes of fucking mayhem.  This one is going to be a ton of work.  We're also going to integrate a couple of covers into the set as well.  We're thinking Protocosmos (Tony Williams Lifetime), Led Boots (Jeff Beck), and Fred (Tony Williams Lifetime).

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8/27/07

Looks like another summer is on its way out. Hard to believe it seems like it just started.  I guess everybody says that though. Anyway August is always an eventful month over here due to it being my boy's birthday which is challenging on many different levels. My wife insists on doing a big freakin' shebang every year while I kinda think its not really all that necessary.  We've done the basketball party where we had like a zillion kids meet at the local rec place and play, eat and carry on.  One year we did a pirate party at the beach on Long Island with a treasure hunt. Well this year while the preparations were not nearly as bad as some of the other shindigs we've thrown there was still quite a bit of fiscal activity involved. 

(the moronalogue ensues) This year we did the Sporttime USA thing. Basically Sporttime USA is a big place filled with arcade games, laser tag, batting cages, and a few rides.  They also have "rooms" in which to host b'day parties 'n such. Well we had prolly around 15-20 kids raising all sorts of hell. They did the laser tag thing ate crappy pizza and got a shit ton of tokens to play the games with.  Well first off the party was a great success.  Everybody had a great time (those 10 and under) and we all came out of the situation relatively unscathed. A few tips for Sporttime USA.  Fellas, lets try and clean the place once in a while.  The place was shkeevie (sp?) as hell. Everything had some sort of odd coating over it.  Kinda sticky and nasty.  Kids are nasty in general so the germs floating around that place could be bottled up and used for chemical warfare. (shut up Chris).  Also the games are like all antiquated 'n shit.  Lets get some good games in there.  Oh and the prize scam.  Every time you play certain games it spits out a bunch of tickets at you.  You collect these tickets and redeem them to get "prizes".  My kid had like 6000 fucking tickets and he got some fucking stupid pen or something.  That is prolly the most expensive pen ever bought.  Get some decent prizes, not junk from the dollar store. Jeez.

 

The Zeppelin track for the tribute album continues to make good progress. Drums are done, one clean rhy guitar track and two dirty rhy guitar tracks are down.  Still working on the bass track.  Sounds cool. 

 

UMusic had its booth set up at the Peekskill Celebration and all went...well? Read on, this is a good one:

So on Friday I get down to UMusic to help schlep stuff over to the celebration site which is rite by the Peekskill train station on what they call the "green".  Well the green ain't really so green in spots, but I digress.  So we brought over a bunch of shirts, brochures on the school, business cards, tables, chairs, a big fucking tent, generator, 3 amplifiers, a guitar and a bass with assorted rigging.  So the temperature was a balmy 99 degrees with the humidity bumping it up to 152 degrees. I could just stand outside and do nothing but breath and sweat would be pouring off me.  Weather conditions?  Not ideal. So we load up the cars/suvs and head over.  Since we are vendors we got a "vendors pass" which means that we get to park relatively close to the site upon giving our pass to the gate. We would then pick up our pass upon leaving.  On Friday we were lucky in that they let us drive up onto the lawn and over to where are booth was to be set up.  We were the last row before the river so we were basically on the beach.  Cool.  Ok now we start setting up our tent, tables, chairs etc.  Fire up the generator to power the amps "n stuff so Lou can do some playing.  Well we were hoping that being on the river would afford us a bit of a breeze but there was none to be had until...later. The place was pretty much dead.  Some people were around but most were hanging out by the stage to hear the illustrious singer from Three Dog Night and his touring band belt out tunes that are older than me.  So me, Emmalou and Lou pretty much sat there and sweated.  There weren't very many vendors that either. We were surprised because in the contract it stipulated that if you ain't there on Friday nite to claim your spot, you can forget about Saturday. 

So 8:00pm rolls around and we're thinkin' about packing it up for the nite.  I look out over the river and see that nice indigo hue with stars over half the sky and pitch black over the other half. Hmmmmmm I say to myself...strange.  Then as I continue to gaze upon the river I see lightening.  I turn to Lou and tell him about it and we start the official exodus.  I look out at the river again and then I start seeing bolts of lightening and then the wind picks up.  Then I see it... wall of water fast appoaching the beach.  It was a true wall of water.  We grab the amps and guitars and run for the cars.  On the way back I watched huge vendor tents taking flight.  I mean these tents were flying in the sky, high in the sky.  Merchandise is whipping past me as I enter this fucking deluge.  Emmalou was literally hanging on the crossbeams of the tent so it wouldn't take off.  It was like a huge sail.  The storm was so loud that we had to literally shout at one another in order to be heard.  So we struggled to get the tent down and folded and breakdown the generator and make another break for the vehicles.  So there's me and Lou, generator on a hand truck, one of us holding onto it while the other pushes, running across the lawn to the cars.  Tents are flying past us, people are freaking out, it was pretty crazy. So at the end of the night we're standing next to our cars completely drenched as in to the bone and we had to do it again Saturday. 

Well it turns out Saturday wasn't nearly as bad.  The thing that kinda pissed me off was that there were a lot more vendors that day then on Friday night.  Whatever.  Another thing that really pissed me off was that they wouldn't let me in to the vendor parking so I can offlload all my stuff to set up.  I didn't have my vendors pass because when we left there wasn't any gate or staff to give me my pass back.  So when that napoleonic fucknuts told me no pass, no entry I fucking unloaded on him el grande.  I asked him if he had the pleasure of enjoying the weather last night as much as we did and he said no. Then I asked him to get me the head of the proceedings because I wouldn't be moving my car until satisfaction was mine.  As I relaxed in the balmy 95 degree interior of my car the person in charge and I had a chat and I got my pass.  Napoleon then tells me that there is no room in the vendors lot and that I was going to have to park on the street.  Well as my ire was again raised to new heights we came to an accord that I would be allowed into the circle to offload and carry all my stuff to the site to set up. Well it took me a couple 'o hours to do that so my car remained a fixture at the circle for a while.  The rest of the day was relatively uneventful.

 

Original Project: No Solace is kicking our asses...that is all.

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9/31/07

Fall is nigh. One can see it from all the dead reptiles on the road. Poor bastards getting run over while sunning themselves.  Thank God we're not cold blooded, or maybe some of us are.  As I reach deep into the bowels of my brainbox to find some fetid pearls of wisdom I find that I'm pretty much all out.

 

I can't believe that there is going to be a Zeppelin reunion (of sorts). Amazing! I'm hoping for a DVD.  It'll be interesting to see how they do after all this time.  My money is on John Paul Jones for best performance.

 

UMusic continues its transformation.  We had a wall extended at the back of the stage and a door put in.  It looks damn spiffy. Still painting little by little.

 

Original Project: Things are progressing.  We are starting to sound relatively coherent, which is nice.  Possibly a gig in November. Stay tuned.

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11/11/07

So as I sit here in Mavis waiting for my tires I figured that I'd use the time wisely and update ye olde site.  Car maintenece is a fucking drag. 

Hope everybody had a good Halloween.  Nobody came to my place so we are inundated with candy, which is good and bad for the obvious reasons.  Nuthin really exciting happened in October so I didn't really feel all that horrible about skipping the month.  I guess this'll be more of an inbetween update.  I think my moronalogue this month will be for the musicians.  Lets have a look shall we?

I think its really very iimportant that we as musicians kinda step back and evaluate our playing.  Its easy to develop blinders and see only the little picture as far as the quality of our playing. I recently did this and found a bunch of holes in my technique that need to be patched up.  First thing you can do is simply record yourself playing to a backing track and listen back objectively. Where are the weak spots? I initially went for the mechanical aspect first because that is the most obvious. Things like alternate picking, sweeping, and legato. Then go for the more subjective things like the phrasing.  Do you feel that you are getting your point across musically?  How effective are the ideas you're putting out there?  These questions really make me sit back and rethink how I practice and what I practice.  As most guitar players we all strive to have killer technique in order to have the freedom to express our ideas to their fullest.  So most of us take out the old metronome and start playing our "moves" to the click.  A lot of times the goal is to increase our speed to dizzying heights.  A lot of times we lose perspective and just keep pushing, maybe slurring a few notes to get that extra bpm thus losing articulation in the process.  This type of practice can get pretty nasty if let go long enough. I'm guilty of this just like anybody else.  I found the solution is to simply reevaluate what I'm doing by listening to it objectively and play the phrase at a slower speed.  I know that goes against the grain of our very existence but its a necessary evil. I find a bunch of my exercises become much harder to play slower, especially the alternate picking stuff. 

I've found through teaching that some students are very habitual. They'll lock onto certain exercises and hammer them until they are satisfied with the results but they don't move on to new ideas. This will limit their musical vocabulary.  The other type of student I'll come across is the one that will maybe try a couple things, realize that it will take work and then move on to something else that's easier.  That also will limit their miusical vocabulary. You have to find a balance.  Playing any insturment is tough in that respect.  Its a juggling act trying to keep all your skills up to par while learning and adding additional stuff to your repetoire.

 

So the Zeppelin reunion has been postponed to Dec. 10th 'cause Jimmy Page fell and broke his pinky.  Come on!  He has to break his finger right before this show!  Man I can't wait for the dvd.

 

UMusic will be having a recital coming up on 11/17/07.  Should be a lot of fun. We have a great crop of students and they'll be performing some high quality material.  There's a good possibility that I might be playing a couple 'o tunes myself with the boys. We'll see.

 

The BHP Zeppelin Tribute Cd is finished.  I changed my song midway through the project to the Immigrant Song.  I made it a good deal heavier and switched it to a different key.  The main riff was in F# so I dropped it to low C#.  Sounds very cool! The record should be coming out in Feb of '08.

 

The original project is goin' good.  We've been workin' a bit on the covers we picked, Proto Cosmos and Led Boots.  On Led Boots we intergrated Mahavishnu's Vital Transformation into the tune. Sounds fuckin' nuts!  We still have to iron out some of the bumps but when its done it should be a lot of fun to play. We played a short set at the WestFest in the Croton High School. They had a great bill of bands and we really enjoyed the show! It was our maiden voyage so nerves were frazzled and the sound was less than optimimum but we still had fun.

Check out some of the harrowing vids.  Not so happening with the sound quality but you kind of get the idea of what's goin' on. I'm the bonehead on the left.  In the middle is our illustrious drummer Nick Vara and of course the man that plays the really thick strings, Chris Saas, is on the rite.  YeeHaw!!

The Brawler
Tech Support
MahDah

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12/4/07

Looks like the Holiday Season has officially begun.  How exciting is that (statement dripping with sarcasm).  Yeah, I know, I'm a big Scrooge.  Heck I thought Scrooge was pretty cool. He got to hang out with those three ghosts, re-live his past and even look ahead to the future.  Granted he didn't like what he saw but you can't have everything.  Xmas is for the kids anyway.  I would think it pretty odd if adults looked forward to spending a hefty chunk of change on presents for other people. I know, you're saying "but what about the Xmas spirit?" The Xmas spirit unfortunaltey got lost inbetween the mall decorations and all the little brats who keep screaming, "I want!" as their parents reluctantly pass by Toys R Us (sic).  Can you imagine being a sales person at Toys R Us during the Xmas season? A close friend of mine works over there and while I feel he is a compassionate and virtuous person I still see him breaking out a gatling gun and taking out most of the customers upon their first stupid question.  But I digress.  Even as your own children get older they see the holiday as simply a means of getting more crap to add to their evergrowing pile of crap.  Today's kids are so hung up on instant gratification that they feel that Xmas should be once a month!  Now the one thing that I enjoy about Xmas is that I get to go to my mom's house and she rustles up some serious vittles.  I'm a Xmas turkey kinda guy so that's my deal.  No fish, no ham, no fancy shmancy bullshit neuvo this or that.  Simply turkey.  Of course with all the hoo hah that goes with it.  We have a small family so the holiday is nice and quiet.  No chaos.  I don't like chaos during the holidays.  No chaos or drama.  Save the fucking drama 'cause I ain't up for any of that crappola.

So have a merry f*king xmas!!

 

The recital at UMusic went swimmingly.  I took a bunch of vids and edited them down and posted them on the site.  Me, Chris and Nick got to play a couple of tunes at the end to close the show.  It was a lot of fun.  Vids below:

 

It looks like I'll be on a Jeff Beck Tribute album coming up in 2008. I'm very psyched about this project there is going to be some great people on this release.  I'm going to be doing an arrangment of Led Boots with Chris and Nick.

 

The original project is movin' along pretty nice.


Diminished Returns


MahDah

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