Month: April 2014

Fake Accents

I was listening to this going, what is going on here?

Mainly with her accent.  I had heard a bit about Iggy, but I was sure she is from Australia.  Turns out she is.  People have described her accent as Southern.  I’ll let her explain why she raps like this:

Have you ever rapped with your Australian accent?
Never. It feels weird to me. It’s the inflection at the end of a sentence when I take a breath. Obviously there are people who rap in all kinds of accents. But for me, rapping is like singing: The breath patterns aren’t the same as when I’m talking, so it’s easier to change into whatever I want. I couldn’t talk in an American accent—I could, but it would sound very fake—but I can rap in one with no problem.

OK, I guess.  This doesn’t really answer the question, but whatever.

It’s funny because earlier in the interview, she brings up the Rolling Stones:

Race has been an issue since you first got noticed as the tall blonde who rapped. Did you understand that some people in the U.S. would think you were fake?
Yeah, but it’s retarded. The Rolling Stones go to America, play “black” blues music, and nobody has a fucking issue with it or thinks it’s weird. But here we are, 50 years later, in the 21st century, and people are like, “This is so weird that you’re white, from another country, and you like black music.” Why is it not weird for Keith Richards or Mick Jagger, but it’s so weird and taboo for me? Do you think a kid liking my music is gonna make rap music some other thing, or that all of a sudden nobody’s gonna like Scarface?

The Rolling Stones weren’t above putting on a fake Southern accent:

I mean, as phony accents go, that one was about as hammy as it gets.

That being said, the Rolling Stones weren’t trying to be down with anyone at that point- they were basically making a joke.  I like the song, but I don’t think they were expecting it to be on any honky-tonk juke boxes.

I’ve never been a fan of the idea that someone has to be the exact person they portray themselves to be in their music.  Pretend all you want, I really don’t care as long as you do it well or you can make it amusing.  And it’s kind of ridiculous for rap listeners to complain about this since rappers faking Jamaican accents has been going on for decades- not on every song, but does that really matter?  I don’t know, maybe that’s why the Rolling Stones could get away with it.

I don’t know if I find Iggy amusing or not.  Her music is kind of odd.  I’ve made this point several times before, but rap, unlike pop, country, or even rock, requires you say some interesting things between the choruses but I feel like a lot of pop rappers disagree.  Or their producers disagree, that’s possible.

Iggy leans really heavily on growing up poor and coming to the USA at 16, working hard to make it a rapper:

That’s interesting but pretty much every rapper has made the same claim, to the degree that people who didn’t feel like they have to make it too.  Some day a rapper is going to have such skills that he or she can admit to coming from the suburbs and not ever having struggled and people will like that person’s music anyway and then the world will explode.

 

I’m not trying to make fun of someone’s struggle, it just strikes me as an odd thing to ask of the people who supply your entertainment.

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Every now and then I write a parenting post

And here’s one.  OK, so I have one child, a son.  We have three rules in the house

*go to bed on time

*be at dinner (and no electronics at the table)

*don’t cuss in front of grandma (even though grandma cusses)

I was laughing when I read this:

It’s Kind of Fucking Pointless to Shield Kids from Swearwords

Kids are “little language vacuum cleaners,” according to a new study that finds that children are pretty good at cursing by the time they’re 5 or 6 years old. While parents have an impulse to shield their kids from bad words, it might actually be an exercise in futility.

*My emphasis

Of course it is.  In 2014 there is no way you’re going to shield your children, North Korea style, from finding out that there are swear words.

Instead I look at is as lesson.  You can use certain words around certain people, but you have to be careful not to use them in front of others.  Life is like that.  I talk differently at work than I do when I’m out at the bar.  I trust my son to handle that.  I also want him to understand that if words have power based on context.  If I’m yelling at someone and cussing at them, that’s a different thing than making a joke using an inappropriate word.

Maybe I’m making excuses because I don’t feel like policing my language when I’m around him.  I’m not a perfect parent.

I try to be real when I’m with my son.  I try to answer his questions as best I can.  I try to show him that things aren’t always simple.  A word isn’t like punching someone in the face- a word can hurt more.  But words can be appropriate or not appropriate, where punching someone in the face almost never is appropriate.

I wouldn’t want my son walking around swearing like a sailor all day, because that’s not going to lead him anywhere successful.  He cusses fairly often at home, but only once have a heard from a teacher that he was cussing*.  I want him to have a big vocabulary, and to enjoy language.  But let’s be real- cussing is a form of cultural capital for kids.  No kid wants to be a square, and other kids can tell when you’re using a word awkwardly.  I’m just looking out for him, making sure he’s prepared for school.

 

*One of his punk friends tattled on him.  This too was a lesson- don’t tattle on your friends for stuff like that.  Go to a teacher if they punch you, but don’t try to get your own buddy in trouble for something they blurted out.  That’s not being a good friend.

 

Writer’s Block

I’m sort of dealing with writer’s block right now on two fronts, but really songwriting is where I have a worse time.

Let’s be real- not every post here is a keeper and some of the posts that I think are keepers turn out not to be.  But for the most part, I write something, put it out there.  If some people comment, that’s great.  If not, then the post sort of disappears.  Sometimes I’ll go back to it if it’s about someone or something I care to expand on, or if it’s part of a series.

On the other hand, if I write a song, I have to look forward to hearing several times at the very least.  I write it, practice it enough times that I can show it to the band without fumbling.  Then I teach it to the band.  If it’s a terrible song, then it ends right there.  On the other hand, if everyone likes it, the band learns it, tries to perfect it and then play it at shows.  If the audience likes it, we keep playing it at shows.  There’s one song in our set that I think I’ve played at every show since at least 2009.  Maybe earlier.  That’s 5 YEARS.  So if I write  a song, I have to put some extra effort into it.

And most of the time, since we’re a for-fun band we aren’t expected to play something we don’t want to play.  So we’re not going to have angry fans demanding to know why we didn’t play that signature hit that the band got sick of or the early hits that the band grew out of.  If we don’t like it we stop playing it.  That being said, there are at any given time a handful of my songs in the set that I’m not that big on, but I’m playing them because other people like them or they came up with interesting parts they like to play.  I shouldn’t say “a handful”, usually it’s more like one or two.

My process for writing songs is pretty simple- I get an idea, usually while walking around or driving, and I write it down.  Most of the time I’m like Eminem in 8 Mile carrying a piece of paper full of scrawled notes in my pocket.  I eventually transfer that to a notebook.  If it’s a good idea I try to add music.  Then I put it away and come back in a week or so.  When I get time I’ll sit down with my guitar and try to build the rest of the song around it.  Then I usually put it down again and come back a week or so later and fill in lyrics.  Or a month.  I band out the occasional song in an afternoon (almost always a terrible one) but for the most part it takes me a few months to finish one.  Just so I don’t get too behind I have multiple ones I’m working on simultaneously- something I also do with books.

Right now I’m feeling some pressure because we’re planning on recording this summer.  I have a couple of songs I want to record, but just to be sure I want to finish some others just so I have options.  I also am planning on playing keyboards (since we fired our keyboard player) and I need to have my parts planned well in advance so I can practice.  It’s kind of stressing me out a bit.

Writing blog posts is usually a process of having an idea in the morning, rolling it around in my head all day, trying to hold onto it until I have a block of time to write, then writing.  I edit a bit, then hit publish.  Sometimes I don’t edit much.  Every now and then I’ll have a big idea and I’ll spend days thinking about it and even a day or two writing.  But not much.  A lot of the time, this being one of those times, I am just trying to keep the rhythm of writing.  It can be tough.

I haven’t gone anywhere I just have writer’s block

and a ton of things going on.

My seldom seen co-blogger is in town this week so I’m hanging with him.  My band has a show.  I’m catching my first baseball game of the season and my beloved Padres are at 6-7, which is not bad for them.  Plus it was my son’s birthday and he’s got two pairs of grandparents to meet with.  And I’ve got some other things going on.  Too much.  I need a break.

Dev

Like I’ve said before, I don’t usually say I’m a fan of famous pop singers.  Obviously, since their music isn’t really made for me.  I can appreciate it, but I doubt I’d even go to their concert if someone gave me tickets.  When a radio announcer says “we have a new song by…” my ears don’t perk up.   I don’t even think it’s cause I’m too old, although that could be a part of it.

But I like Kesha and I like Dev.

Dev first came to my attention in the most played song of 2010:

The hook from that song actually came from an earlier song she put out:

I don’t know if I could put a finger on exactly what I like about her.  I know she gets compared to Kesha (and apparently doesn’t agree with this), but I’d say they’re only similar in the sense that the Sex Pistols and The Damned are similar.  Yeah, the two women are kind of working the same genre- trashy white* rapper/singer, but they don’t sound alike and they’re from different backgrounds- Kesha the daughter of a Nashville songwriter, Dev from central California.  Manteca, wherever that is.

Maybe that’s what I like about her- she reminds me of someone I might have gone to high school with.

I also like that she doesn’t oversing.  Pop Music is (sort of) part of what I consider The People’s Music.  It’s made for everyone to enjoy and everyone should be able to sing along.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the occasional Mariah Carey, but no one should try to sing along to that.

For a while Dev was being ill-served by whoever was making her videos.  I like this song, but the video was derivative.  Who does this remind you of?

So I really liked her latest:

It’s not a great song.  It’s basically a one-hook song, with the hook borrowed from a children’s lullabye.  But it’s fun and the video is trashy (have I mentioned I like trashy stuff?  I do).

Maybe I prefer things that are low-key like this.  It’s just a fun song that pretty much anyone could have sang.  It’s not profound, not particularly shocking.  That’s how I like my pop music.

*Dev is arguably a Latina.  I don’t know how she identifies.

The Definitive Guide to Guitar Moves Part 2

OK, so now you’ve got your stance and strap length down, it’s time for some moves.  Let’s start with the classics:

Jumping

Keith Richards compares being a band that’s playing really well to flying.  Jumping can translate that feeling to the audience.   There are a lot of variations here and I’d like to just focus on two- tucked leg jumps and scissors kicks.

Tucked Leg

This is a Pete Townshend classic.  Actually, there probably isn’t a guitar jump that Pete Townshend didn’t master at some point.  He’s basically the Michael Jordan of jumping around while playing guitar.  He should have his own Air Townshend shoes.

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Benefits: Looks cool if done right.  Less likely to kick nearby band members.

Difficulties: If that doesn’t look hard to you then you’re a young person.  Danger of not getting your legs back under you in time.  Guitar smashing into your crotch.

For Extra Coolness:  Do it off something high

Scissor Kick

Another Townshend classic.  There was no stopping this guy.

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Benefits: Ability to jump kick nearby band members.  If you mess it up and don’t get your feet totally beneath you, you can play it off like you were jumping into your Power Stance.

Difficulties: Guitar smashing into your crotch.  Retaliation from kicked band members.

For Extra Coolness:  Tuck your Legs while doing a scissor kick.  Do the air splits.

The Definitive Guide to Guitar Moves Part 1

What are guitar moves?  They’re things you do on stage to make your show more exciting.  In this case while holding a guitar.

There are two basic secrets that I will share from you.  They come from an Ancient Japanese Master.  Actually they come from my Japanese buddy who owns a rock and roll club and told them to me.  He’s not really ancient either.  Just a few years older than me.

They are:

Do Everything Like You Meant to Do It

Do it quickly

I’ll get back to these, but these are the two basic rules that must guide every move you make.

For all these moves, I also suggest practicing them while you are practicing.  This is super important- you have to make your situation in practice just like you expect the show to be, because you don’t want to be figuring out that your moves look stupid in front of an audience.  Also, if you like to have a drink before playing a show, you should have one before practice too.  Whatever it takes.

Also, these are applicable to bass too, if you are so inclined.  There is a whole separate school of Bass Moves, mostly created by that dude from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Some people have adapted them to guitar playing, but for everyone’s well-being I’m going to pretend that the 90s never happened.

There are two things to consider before you start busting out moves.  They are strap length and guitar stance.

Strap Length

This will have a strong effect on your ability to perform your moves.  Try to avoid what I call The Beatle Length

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Yes, you can probably reach your strings better.  Yes, you will look dorky.

Ideally you want your guitar centered right around your belt buckle.

I’ve seen people go lower than this

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But frankly, it looks awkward, like you’re shuffling around on stage with your pants falling down.

Guitar Stance

Let’s start with guitar stance.  There are two basic stances.

Standing Up

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Benefits: being able to move around

Difficulties: none really

For Extra Coolness: Move around.  Bend your knees.  Do a little dance.

Power Stance:

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Benefits: if your guitar is slung low you can reach your strings.  You look cool.  You won’t fall down if other musicians bump into you.

Difficulties:  None if you don’t get too low.  But if you do get too low you might have trouble getting back up again

For Extra Coolness:  Face the audience, stare them down and plant your foot on a monitor, if there is one.