Month: April 2013

Recording

Day one of recording is over!  We’ll probably only spend one more day on our demo so we’re halfway there.  Almost all my stuff is done.

We’re a punk band on a tight budget and we’re just trying to get enough songs together to play for people to get shows and/or have something to take home after they come see us play.

I don’t know how huge stars record, but for us we go in, play our songs together as a band, the producer mikes every instrument separately.  Then we listen to what we’ve recorded and everyone but the drummer has the chance to go back and fix things, or add extra tracks.

People usually like to sing through better microphones, but since they take time to set up and are extra sensitive, the producer will set up a lower quality mike for the singer to sing through, just so the band doesn’t get lost while playing.  This vocal track is usually called a “scratch” track because most of the time it gets thrown away.

This is my third time recording at this studio, so I am super lazy with my scratch track.  They sounded awful.  Our bass player sings lead one some songs and this was her first time in this kind of setting and she wasn’t nearly as sloppy as me.  She sang so well we may use her scratch tracks, which is pretty rare.  I took an hour or so to re-record all mine.

I’m actually a pretty lousy guitar player, and this was the first time I had to do all the lead guitar parts (all my previous bands had a better guitar player in them).  It wasn’t my finest hour.  But it’s punk rock, so fuck it.  Or so I tell myself.

In the end I got most of my stuff done, and now our keyboard player and bass player have a few things to do and then it’s time to mix.  Mixing takes almost as long as recording the things in the first place.  We’re scheduled to go back in and do that a month from now.

Things that suck about being in a band: kicking people out/having people quit

Few things about being in a band have sucked more than trying to kick someone out who doesn’t want to go.  I’d rather not share any tales, but I do have a few observations-

People who are new to playing music tend to take it the hardest.  This is probably like dating.  Get dumped in high school and it’s the end of the world.  Get dumped when you’re 25 and you’re like “yay, more time for video games.”  Having observed this, at age 36 I very rarely want to have anyone in the band who hasn’t been in other bands before.

If you’re playing music in your bedroom or on your couch and have been thinking- maybe I should join a band– my advice to you is- do it soon.  The longer you wait, the more people you are going to meet who will think, I don’t know if I want this person in the band, they might act like a big baby if it doesn’t work out.

Be nice about firing people.  If you play punk rock, you are part of a scene that gets smaller every year.  It’s no good making enemies.

That being said, I have not always kept my own advice.

I have told people they suck.

They did not take that well.

As far as being kicked out- I don’t know, it hasn’t happened to me.  That’s one of the perks of being a frontman and the person who puts bands together.  Usually I have the opposite problem- people quit.

If you’re in a band and you want to quit, just pick up the phone and do it.  It’s not that hard.  Here is your script:

Bro, it’s been fun playing with you, bro, but the band’s just not working out for me, bro.  Later.

Or email.  Not hard.  At least no one will be counting on you for studio rent.

Things that made me, me- Joan Jett

This may or may not be totally true, and I may be misremembering, but damn it this is my legend and I’m going to tell it.

It was in the early 80’s.  My parents got cable TV.  Back then cable wasn’t something everyone had, and my parents weren’t all that in to TV to begin with.  Plus there were only a dozen or so cable channels plus HBO which cost more money and I don’t think we had it.  Our TV was roughly the size of the monitor that I’m typing this one.  My brother and I still spent more time in front of the TV than my parents were comfortable with so they cut off the cable after about a year.

One of the early channels was the rightly maligned MTV.  MTV is dumb and it always has been.  People complain about how they never show music anymore, but it was always shitty and full of stupid shows.

I hated the 80s.  I still do.  I hate the garish colors, the fact that every producer forget there was a bass dial on their mixing board.  I hated the synth sounds.  I hated the ridiculous clothes.  I hated hair metal.  I hated pretty much all of it.

But one day, this came on:

This was something different than the 80s junk that MTV always had on.  It was in black and white, in some gritty place that I had never been inside.  It was raw, it was loud, it was nasty.  Everyone in the video, even the people watching had attitude.

I didn’t know who this woman was.  I didn’t even think of her as a woman.  I thought of her as the awesomest person I had ever seen.  I wanted to be her.

That’s not to say I wanted to be a woman, but I didn’t think of it that way.  I wanted to join that world.  I wanted to be in that bar, I wanted to play the guitar like that.  I even wanted to have my hair like her, even though it took me decades to get around to make most of that happen.  But I don’t think I would have ever loved Rock and Roll like I do without Joan.

Update

Damn, forgot the include this- it wasn’t until a few years back I knew Joan’s biggest hit was actually a cover-

The original’s not bad, but Joan definitely did the better version.

Book Review: Green Mars

Greens Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Green Mars is the second book in Robinson’s Mars Trilogy.  My thoughts on the first book are here.

I haven’t got to the third book, obviously, but this book seems like a middle book should be- things are happening, but not at the pace of the first.  There’s a lot in here that reads like it’s a setup for the final book where presumably all the conflicts in the first two will be solved.

At this point in the series, there is still an ongoing conflict between those who want to make Mars fully habitable by humans and those who want to keep it as much in its original state as possible.  The latter are clearly losing- Mars now has an almost breathable atmosphere, liquid water on the surface and plants growing outside of the domed cities.   But they haven’t given up.

It’s an interesting discussion to have- what degree is it ethical to terraform a planet that has no biological life?  I don’t know.  As someone who loves the desert, I can imagine Mars as a beautiful place in its current state.  I probably wouldn’t want to live there though.

There’s also the question of who will govern Mars.  The first book closed with an unsuccessful revolution, with the revolutionaries scattered and demoralized.  The survivors of that revolution are in constant conflict with the young people born after the revolution who are eager for another fight.

I like this part, maybe because Americans love to throw around the idea of having another revolution.  Don’t like some new law?  REVOLUTION!  I have only lived in 2 countries as an adult, so I don’t have much to go on, but I don’t remember anyone in Japan, ever, not even on TV,  suggesting revolution for any reason.  It’s just not done.

I know we had one successful revolution in America so maybe people think it’s just something you do.  I’ve tried to point out to people that there is an important distinction between a war of independence and a war to replace your government.   That the track records of these two things are wildly different.  But back to the book.

I enjoyed that discussion.  Some of the other discussions I wasn’t so interested in- what kind of religion Mars people might create, what kind of economic system could they come up with to replace capitalism, what kind of political organization they would have.  It’s not that I never find these things interesting, I just don’t really care for them in novel form.  To each their own.

The new Taylor Swift Song is just like every other Taylor Swift Song

Have you heard the new Taylor Swift single?

This is trenchant self parody or Taylor has just run out of ideas:

It feels like a perfect night to dress up like hipsters
And make fun of our exes, uh uh uh uh

Isn’t this every night for her?

It feels like a perfect night for breakfast at midnight
To fall in love with strangers uh uh uh uh

Falling in love with strangers.

Isn’t this every night for her?

We’re happy free confused and lonely at the same time
It’s miserable and magical oh yeah

Miserable and magical.  One of these describes what I feel when I listen to this.

Tonight’s the night when we forget about the deadlines, it’s time uh uh

Previously she had deadlines for making fun of exes and falling in love with strangers, but she’s setting those aside for now.

OK, I’ll stop.

No, one more

Notice the twenty too eee ooh hoo hoo?  Doesn’t that sound familiar?

OH THAT’S RIGHT, SHE ALREADY USED THAT HOOK ON A SINGLE.

REMEMBER?

That was last year for crying out loud.  Can’t she go quit music to focus on acting already?

Update:

You know what, her limited talent isn’t really the problem.  The real problem with this song is the same one I had with that stupid fucking Cee Lo “Fuck You” song- it’s that she’s a wealthy successful person who is writing whiny songs about being victimized.

And I’ve said it once I’ll say it again, I don’t expect musicians to be “authentic” anymore than I expect actors to actually be like the characters they play.  But bad acting is bad acting.  Cee Lo singing “I’m sorry, I can’t afford a Ferrari but that don’t matter if it get you there” is obnoxious when I’m obvious he can afford a Ferrari.  It would lead a normal human to think, maybe it’s not the Ferrari that got you dumped Cee Lo.

Likewise, when pretty Taylor Swift is singing things like “she wears short skirts, I wear T-Shirts” most of us think, nope that ain’t the reason he’s not into you.  Like I said, I don’t care if Taylor is making everything up, but pretty people shouldn’t write songs complaining about not getting noticed, and rich dudes shouldn’t write songs blaming their lack of dating success on lack of money.  It’s just rude to those of us who aren’t good looking and/or wealthy.

Look people, if you want to get in with the little people by complaining about out your faults, ADMIT YOUR ACTUAL FAULTS.  Like this:

Taylor- She wears short skirts, I’m annoying

Cee Lo– I’m sorry, I’m way too dorky, but that don’t matter if I get you there.

You see what I’m saying?  Maybe I’m not in the target demographic.  Maybe I don’t get it.  But it bothers me.  So there.

Update II- I was going to write something else, and I put a photo in.  But I changed my mind and forgot to take the photo out. 

Random Thoughts

I’ve got a lot on my mind right now because the band is recording this weekend.  It’s a lot of pressure and I hate the way my voice sounds on recordings (probably because I have never recorded often enough to either be able to improve it or… accept it).  And there’s money on the line, so it’s even worse.

Why do they never play any good songs by The Who on the radio?  Who Are You is their worst song.  Even worse than You Better You Better You Bet (a song which isn’t really that bad).

And how did The Who go from these stylish young dudes:

To these guys:

I’m not talking about the song but the clothing.  Who dressed these men?

DAD!  STOP IT DAD YOU LOOK SILLY!

The Who were ahead of their time.  The rest of their contemporaries waited until the 80s to start dressing badly:

(Charlie Watts’ look at the camera in this video says it all- total disappointment with the rest of his band)

How did I happen on this song?

This is super cheesy, but I give them points for rhyming “avaricious” and “so delicious.”

I kind of like this song, but the part where they’re supposed to be harmonizing is a little shaky.  Being able to sing well with others is tough.  Even people who can sing well on their own struggle with it.

Of course how well Rihanna can sing is an open question.  I’d bet that if you spent the evening at your average karaoke place you’d heard at least a few people who can sing better than her.  But being an exceptional singer is pretty rare amongst pop stars.  There’s basically Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera and who?  Pink?  I don’t know, not a ton.  I’ll get into that another day.

Songs ’bout ‘batin’

The death at the relatively young age of 53 of Christina Amphlett of the Divinyls got me thinking about songs about masturbation.  There are tons of punks songs about ‘batin’ but as far as pop hits go, I could think of only three.

The Divinyls’ best known song:

I don’t remember ever seeing the video, but wow is this song laying it on thick.

I touch myself

I honestly do

Got it.  We believe you.  She likes someone, and masturbates when she thinks about him or her.

I don’t really remember the controversy around that song, I was in high school at the time, but wasn’t really following pop music.  I do, however, remember the controversy of this song:

It made the Filthy Fifteen!  The meaning of the song isn’t quite as in-your-face as the Divinyls, but there’s plenty of innuendo in the video.  The message- everyone does it!  This is a frank discussion of masturbation we rarely have in music.

The final one I could think of was this:

This one paints masturbation as something lonely bored people do.  Nothing sexy about this one.  It’s actually kind of a bummer.

Am I the only person who finds the bass line oddly evocative though?

badum bum bum bum…

Is it surprising that more male artists haven’t written songs about this?  No, not really.

Think about this- I can imagine a ton of women singing “I touch myself.”  Male singers?  Who could pull that off?  Maybe Prince.  Any other male singer would be either gross or sad.  Why?

I’d venture it’s because dudes like to use masturbation as a weapon.  Other than some crazy lady in Florida , most women aren’t likely to do it in front of anyone who didn’t ask them to.  I’m a dude and I’ve had a man expose himself to me.  It was late night in the bathroom at Denny’s.  I was looking at the mirror and a dude behind me had his dick out, nowhere near any toilet.  He was shaking it up and down.  I told my girlfriend  at the time about it and she said, “at least he wasn’t masturbating.”  Apparently she had recently seen some dude on a bus doing just that.

Porn is not helping this either.  You know what I’m talking about.

I’m not trying to make a case for dudes to go out and write songs about masturbation- every human in the world is free to write songs about whatever the hell they want to.  Nor do I have some song about masturbation that I’m afraid to play because of the reception it might get.  I’m a brave human when it comes to that, if I ever do write that song I will play it loud and proud.   But I am trying to make a case for men to fucking behave.

Anyway, there’s the whole of songs about masturbation that you can hear on the radio in the USA.  At least, the ones that aren’t metaphorical- like this:

Can anyone think of any others?