Day One

March 15th, 2009 |

Day one of tracking went extremely well, better than I could have hoped really. Joe Meyer (Drums) and Eric Grossman (Bass) both turned in some rather outstanding performances. Today we went back in and recorded some more drum tracks for about an hour, got what we needed to get done, and called it a day. I can’t tell you how excited I am with what we’ve got so far.

I took my camcorder with me to capture some of the weekend but the thing died on me. I was able to get a little bit of video with my digital camera but not much. You’ll get to hear a little of the new music and a lot of the rhythm section/comic duo of Joe and Eric.

And So It Begins

March 13th, 2009 |

Tomorrow we’ll begin tracking my new album. That means I won’t sleep tonight. I will most likely spend my night lying in bed, staring at the ceiling (like I can even see that far), and praying. My prayer will probably go something like this:

Dear heavenly father, creator of heaven and earth, please, please, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t let me freak out tomorrow. I am but a lowly, sinful worm. I am chief of all high-strung killjoys. Let me not acquiesce to my jerk-faced flesh. Let me have fun, though fun is often the first to fall victim to my unwillingness to waste time even for a righteous cause. Let me let music happen. Let me not happen to music. You are the creator of music. Help me to remember that. Dear God, let my music glorify you and not me, even though I’ve been working on that one lick for two years now and it might be nice if someone actually noticed. Anyway, you get my point. Lastly, let the musicians like me. Let me be likeable. Don’t let me take any of this too seriously even though there are few things I cherish more than the gift of music. Help me to listen more than talk. And please help me to sing in tune. In Jesus name, Amen.

This week I spent some time putting together some charts for the new tunes. With one tune in particular, called The Temptress, I realized that writing out the chords made the song look quite a bit more complicated than it actually is. It’s certainly not a simple tune but it’s nowhere near as hard as these chord names make it look. Check out the pdf file here.

I finally got the needed repairs done on my saxophone and picked it up from the shop this week. It’s all back in working order now so I took some pictures. Here’s one.

Pretty huh? Word. It’s the real thing. A Selmer Mark VI made in Paris in February of 1958. I just thought I’d let you see it now that it’s been pulled out of retirement.

Vocal Exercises

January 10th, 2009 |

Here’s my first attempt at vlogging.

Happy New Year

January 1st, 2009 |

Did you see Robbie Knievel’s death-defying vroom vroom of doom last night? Yeah me too.  That’s the only motorcycle jump in recent memory to which I reacted with an emphatic “…”, then a “???”, then a “Lame!”

I’ve performed far more hazardous feats on my Mongoose at age thirteen. You make a ramp with an old piece of plywood and a couple of cinder blocks then wisely command all of your friends to lay down in front of it and shut up. Then the pansies just argue over who has to lay the farthest out from the ramp. I don’t know why they always insisted on fighting over this most brave of duties. We all know it’s going to end up being Tommy’s little brother Shawn. He’s, like, seven or eight or whatever. Just make him do it. Tell him to forget about last time and get on with it.

The one thing about the whole Knievel fiasco that I thought was super sweet was the digital renderings of all the disastrous possible outcomes. They showed him catching on fire. Then they showed him catching on fire and over-shooting the landing ramp. Then they showed him catching on fire and never reaching the landing ramp. Then they showed him catching on fire and plowing face first into the front of the landing ramp. Then they showed him catching on fire and then plunging into the volcano thing and then catching on fire even more. Good grief! It’s enough to make a boy explode with fiery anticipation.

Then he nailed it. Pfft!

Here are a couple of pictures from the last minutes of 2008.

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before but that wreath made of nails (created by Christopher Gustave) over the TV is the cover of “Invention of the Wheel.” 

Camera Dump Day

December 27th, 2008 |

First of all I want to wish my brother Taylor a happy 19th birthday today. He’s going to be a famous actor some day so get his autograph now while it’s still relatively cheap.

I dumped all of our pictures from Christmas today so I’d thought I share.

Here’s Riley helping Angel decorate cookies…and the table…and the floor…and his clothes.

Here is some of what they came up with.

Riley’s bribe for Santa.

Here we are at my Mom’s house. You might notice that Angel and I are wearing the exact same clothes as we were in the pictures from Thanksgiving. That’s only an optical illusion.

The only thing that could make Riley look any sillier than these antlers is that he’s also wearing a Ram’s shirt.

This is me and my step-dad wishing we had engineering degrees.

Here’s the key to smelling like Angel.

This is Riley trying to look happy as he ponders the idea that mom and dad only got him this stinking snow globe for Christmas.

This was right before I got out my chainsaw to open these stupid, bullet-proof, toy packages.

This is Angel trying to figure out how to build a 35-point word using only vowels.

This is her failing.

I was backing up our server the other day and came across some pictures from when Riley was a baby. Here are a few that I really liked.

Does this butt make me look fat?

Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he’s old he’ll wish he would have finished college.

1st birthday.

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas.

Suvivorman and Pixar

December 19th, 2008 |

Tonight the Johnson family gathered around the television to witness one of the saddest events in television history: the final episode of Survivorman. Not just the final episode of the season, the final episode period. Why?!?

The only show that could even remotely attempt to fill this vacuous void in our lives is Man Vs. Wild. You know, the show where the guy drinks his own urine at the drop of a hat. The helicopter drops him off in the desert and not ten minutes later he’s drinking pee because it’s the only way he can possibly survive. Yeah, that show.

Speaking of drinking urine, I think the folks at Pixar are geniuses. We rented Wall-E the other night and there is one of their “shorts” on that DVD and it is absolutely hilarious. It’s called “Presto.”

Check it out, along with a couple more of my all-time favorite Pixar shorts.

The music in this next one is incredible.

John Mayer Made A Stinker

December 2nd, 2008 |

There is a part of me that bristles at the thought of publicly admitting to the fact that I love John Mayer. I think it’s the part of me that is the financially unsuccessful musician. It could be argued that that part is actually the whole. Whatever. I love John Mayer.

I love John Mayer though he is immeasurably arrogant. I love John Mayer though he is far more handsome than I am. I love John Mayer though his guitar playing buries mine. I love John Mayer though he is wittier that I am. Maybe I love John Mayer because of those things and not despite them. Whatever. I love John Mayer.

John Mayer’s album “Continuum” is one that should be in everyone’s collection. The song writing is (by and large) far above average, it sounds absolutely stunning from and engineering and mastering perspective, and the guitar tones sound incredibly expensive. But, with all that said, there is one song on that album that shouldn’t be.

A few weeks ago Angel and I were listening to “Continuum” and the song “In Repair” came on. I told Angel I was very surprised that song made the cut. Among a bunch of really good songs this one really stuck out as a stinker. It just sounded thrown together.

Last night I found out that it was indeed thrown together.

There is a two part documentary on this song on You Tube. I found it very interesting and entertaining but after watching it I can understand why this song doesn’t really work. It was written and recorded in one day.

Now, I’m not saying that great songs can’t be written in one day. I remember hearing Elton John say that “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” was written in less time than it takes to play the song. Great songs can certainly be written quickly but I would argue that this is the exception rather than the rule.

Check out this documentary and dig Mayer’s pride in all its glory. I love John Mayer.

Lou the Lyricist

November 8th, 2008 |

Yesterday I got and email from our drummer Lou. Near the end of the email was this:

On another note I have some lyrics I would like to run by you guys.  We could put these to any of the tunes that don’t have lyrics or maybe a new tune all together.  I was pretty excited about these so thought I would let you guys critique them.  Here goes:

Verse

I’m a pretty, pretty princess
It’s a full time gig
everybody wants to be my friend
and it kind of makes me sick

when I’m not in my canopy bed,
I fill my diary with stickers,
when my mom yells “get down here Louie”
I just say “whatever”

Chorus

Cuz I’m riding with the rainbow Unicorns
don’t you wish you were me,
yes I’m riding with the rainbow Unicorns
and I want everyone to see
Hey look at me.

So what do you guys think?

This email put me in a serious quandary. How was I going to get out of this one? Was this a joke? The rest of the email gave me no indication that Lou was in a joking mood. It had to be a joke. What if it’s not? What would be the nicest way to say “You are never allowed to speak in my presence ever again. Ever! Without exception.”

So I said to Angel “listen to this” and read her the lyrics. She laughed and said “That’s awesome.” Then she opened up her browser and played me this.

Oh yeah, it’s funny now.

My Weight Loss So Far

October 22nd, 2008 |

Three weeks ago I mentioned that I was participating in a weight loss challenge sort of thing with a bunch of folks from work. The thing goes for twenty-one weeks. My goal was to lose two pounds a week for twenty-one weeks.

Today was the day to turn in our results for the first three weeks. I haven’t been weighing myself as I go because that’s too frustrating for me. But this morning I had to turn in my numbers so I had no choice. I was pretty nervous because if it turned out that I hadn’t met my goal (six pounds) I was going to be rather furious. Well, I have good news. I’ve lost 9.5 pounds so far and my exercise total was 914 minutes. Woot! At this rate I should be gaunt and sickly in no time at all.

I decided not to do any sort of designer or name-brand type of diet. Those definitely work but what I really needed was a change in lifestyle that I could stick to indefinitely. So I’ve just been eating a bunch of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat. I’ve also been walking and lifting weights quite a lot. It’s working so far.

Last night as Angel and I were headed to bed I peeked in Riley’s room to make sure he was still breathing and all that. Here’s what I found.

He is sound asleep. That kid is the most sound sleeper I’ve ever seen.

When I got up this morning I found them like this.

That’s a little more like it.

What Kind of Software Did Mozart Use for This?

October 20th, 2008 |

Hey, I almost forgot, I’ve got a blog. Weird. Have you been here the whole time? You could have knocked Carl.

I’ve been working non-stop on this orchestral piece I’ve written. There’s always a race to finish a song before you start to hate it. I’ve lost the race.

When I first recorded the demo for this thing I knew that it would take a very long time to finish. But I figured that would be fine, I don’t really have anywhere I have to be this year so I’ll just mess with it a little bit at a time and it will eventually get done.

The whole “a little bit at a time” thing doesn’t really work for me. I’m more of an “until Angel stops taking your calls” kind of guy.

With a song like this the sheer volume of it can be intimidating. I try to make myself sit down at the computer, decide on two or three problems to fix, fix them, and then stop with a sense of accomplishment. What usually happens is I sit down at the computer, identify 348 problems that I hadn’t identified the last time I sat down, try to fix all of them all at once, realize I haven’t eaten, realize I have to be at work in five hours, and go to bed frustrated.

So I’m taking a break to “get some perspective” as J. Christopher Hughes always says.

This reminds me of an interview I read many years ago. The interview was with an audio engineer/producer who was working with Eric Johnson on his Venus Isle album. Eric Johnson is known to be a perfectionist to a crippling degree. The engineer said that there was this one lick that Eric kept playing over and over and over trying to get it just so. The engineer (geez I should just look the guy up) decided that he would show Eric how to run the equipment so Eric could work on this lick to his heart’s content without the guy having to be there for the whole thing. So the guy told Eric basically “I’ve got a few Jazz albums I need to go record this weekend. I’ll be back on Monday.” He said that when he returned on Monday Eric was still working on that same lick.

I got to open for Eric a few years ago at The Pageant. Steve Nowles and I did a short acoustic set. I was scared out of my ever loving mind. Playing the guitar in front of a couple thousand guys who play guitar is not my idea of a good time. To make matters even worse, we decided to play Van Halen’s “Take Your Whiskey Home.”

Playing an Eddie Van Halen guitar part while singing a David Lee Roth vocal at the same time in front of a packed house packed with guitar players, 90% of which can play circles around you, is really more than a guy should ever ask of himself. We pulled it off though. The response was great.

But that’s not the point really. The point is that I’ve never seen anybody do a more ridiculously, painfully, exhaustively thorough sound check in my entire life.

He would say stuff like this: “I need you to cut 2dB at 1.5K in the top side-fill monitor stage right.” Then he’d play every blazing minor pentatonic lick in the book. Then he’d say “I need you to boost 4K on the second rack tom 2.5 dB and bring it down .5 dB in my second from the left floor wedge.” Then more pentatonics. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

This went on for what seemed like hours. Then about five minutes before the doors opened Steve and I got our sound-check. It went something like this: soundman – “I need you guys to play like half of a verse of a song.” Which we did. Then he said something like “OK we’re good, thanks.”

Oh the life of a TBA.