Monthly Archives: July 2009

Blast from the past …

Thoroughly enjoying listening San Pedro’s own Minutemen. Haven’t listened to D, Mike and George since, well, since the 80s in San Pedro, remembering how cool it was for punk intellectuals when the skinheads weren’t around.

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Our musician compability

1. Have you ever played in a band that performed original material? If no, then stop. We’re probably not musically compatible.

2. Name ten bands that have influenced the music you’ve played/written in original bands, in no particular order. For example, mine might be:

The Beatles

Bauhaus

Black Sabbath

The Cure

Lou Reed or maybe more like Iggy Pop

Elvis Costello

Jonathan Richmond

David Bowie

Black Flag

Bob Dylan

If you don’t match at least three of these, stop. We’re probably not compatible.

3. Name at least 3 bands not listed above whose style you’ve considered, but never had the opportunity. For example, mine probably would be:

X, Yes, Blondie, the Damned

If you don’t like at least one of these, stop.

3. On a scale of 1 to 10, how important are the lyrics of an original song you’re performing? If less than 6, stop. We’re definitely not compatible musically.

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State of the Union

OK, so I’m now 45 years old. I’ve been playing music onstage since I was 8. That’s 37 years in some kind of band or another, on stages of all kinds, in six different states and on at least three TV channels.

And here’s the bottom line, for me.

I don’t want to play in any more bar bands. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to play at any venue (except as a huge personal favor to a good friend or two) where the main purpose for attending wherever the music is playing is something other than the music onstage. And that includes places that use as their marketing campaign something like “Fridays and Saturdays, live music” as if the music were some kind of gracious amenity that attendees got as a bonus. No more gigs where you show up to do something else, and there just happens to be a band playing.

I’ll go one further. The audience (which we’ve already stipulated has to be primarily motivated by wanting to hear live music) also must be there to see me. Not accidental live music, not breezing through town and luckily catching the only live music in on that particular evening, but deliberately coming either because they know me (or have heard of me) or because the venue has specified “ME – live and in person” and is likewise excited (to some degree) about having, promoting and paying for non-anonymous performance.

I’m not so foolish as to think it must be exclusively ME. It could be me solo, me as or in a band, or even me opening for another band that folks also are interested in hearing. It’s also not about the money – although if you’re coming to see live music, and not just getting it included in your meal (solid or liquid) like a free dessert, you ought to be willing to pay for it. It’s a privilege, not a right.

One final stipulation … when you come to see me play, it’s to hear what I WANT TO PLAY. I’m not your human jukebox.

I think that covers it. If your gig doesn’t meet this criteria, don’t call me.

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Difference Song

Just shut your eyes and zip up your lip;
let the illusion of indifference slip

you in a coma of the beautiful life

you pretend.

It doesn’t matter which way you choose.
Your revolution is yesterday’s news,
lost in a column on the bottom right

of page ten.

Here it comes again…

the feeling you should not be feeling,

the knowing right from wrong,
the urge to find the answers,
the make a difference song.

Just keep your mouth shut, don’t say a word.

Don’t let on that you think it’s all absurd, 

a trick of light and mirrors meant

to fool the marks.

It doesn’t matter, those who get paid

are on the right side of the barricade.
The choice is death by drowning,

or life with sharks.

And here it comes again…

the feeling you should not be feeling,

the sense that something’s wrong,
the need to turn the light on,
the make a difference song.

09 JUL 2009

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Not my favorite bands of all time, but …

Even though they’re not necessarily my “favorite bands of all time” there is certain music I’ll never turn off if it comes up in rotation (on the radio, on a random play through my collection, on internet sites, in a friend’s car, wherever). Because for whatever reason, their music is infinitely interesting to me. I’ve discovered that this music, with the exception of the Beatles or Lou Reed (who I’ll listen to anytime), is largely alternative-goth-post punk oriented, strangely enough. Well, maybe not so strangely. The greatest band (in terms of the enjoyment and creative juice I got from it) I ever played in was a post-punk LA band called Faith Assembly. So maybe the music I listened to extensively during that period still resonates strongly with me:

Gang of Four

Joy Division

The Cure

Love and Rockets (including Tones on Tail, David J and Bauhaus)

Cocteau Twins

and let’s not forget:

The Damned

The Chameleons UK

New Order

The Jazz Butcher

Christian Death

Siouxsie and the Banshees

Wire

Television

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The soundtrack to our lives

Watching the Michael Jackson memorial in bits and pieces in between work, I noticed that so many mentioned his songs as the “music they grew up to”. And it made me think of two things:

First, I’ve always said the music you listen to is the soundtrack to your life. But thinking about it today, I realized that as a musician I deal with that differently than maybe a lot of non-musicians. You might think key moments, and the songs that are associated with those times, are like “the song that was playing when I lost my virginity”, “my first slow dance”, “music from that summer by the pool”, “my wedding song”. Maybe. But for me, the key music always involves my being a musician – the first song I performed for a girl, the first song I wrote, the song I wrote when my father died.

Second, “the music I grew up to”. Because it transports you to a different time, a time of “innocence”. Because you don’t listen to music anymore? Because music changed and you never did? Because you just “don’t understand kids today and their music”? REALLY? The first record I ever heard was Elvis. The second, the Beatles. But those records don’t inform or make who I am any more than Bauhaus’ Bela Lugosi’s Dead (the first time I heard it) or Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 4 or Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert or James Brown Live at the Apollo. Unless the movie is over, or you’re in a constant state of flashback, the soundtrack (which has to play at the speed of now, or die) is constantly changing. It evolves, or your storyline (and your character) never do.

I’ve always hated nostalgia, “oldies” radio formats, and revival musicals (like Grease or High School Musical X, that dare to presume that anywhere near the majority of people had a positive experience in high school, regardless of the decade they attended). Like Satchel Paige once said, “don’t look back…something might be gaining on you.”

I think it was Chris Rock who said that the music that is the most important to you in your life, that you remember the most fondly, is whatever happened to be playing at the time you first had sex.

Is that true? Personally, no.

My soundtrack is on an entirely different level.

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