On Songwriting On Blitzen

February 28th, 2007 |

A few minutes ago I was replying to an email from Dino when I realized that I should use it here. We were talking about songwriting. I was comparing the relationship between Free Jazz and Bebop to the relationship between composing ‘mood’ music (for film or whatever) and writing songs. Here’s part of what I said.

[The reason I think a person should practice] writing complete tunes is sort of the same reason a person should learn to play traditional Be-Bop before learning to play Free Jazz. The ‘Free’ stuff sounds so inviting because it apparently has no rules and you just kinda freak out and go for a vibe. But I believe it’s much harder to be creative when there are no rules or structure than when there are. I think that’s why Phish is such a great jam band. It’s because they understand traditional songwriting and understand how to create form on the fly. On the other hand you have all these kids starting up jam bands because they think that jamming is so easy and they totally reek because they haven’t learned the rules enough to be able to play without rules.

So I said all that to say that atmospheric music can be deceptively inviting because all you have to do is create a vibe or a mood. But it’s not easy at all if you don’t have a solid songwriting foundation. Grooves still have to go somewhere. They still have to develop. They still have to have a beginning and an end. That’s what makes them compelling.

That reminded me of a great quote from Igor Stravinsky. “The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution”.

Happy Birthday Angel

February 27th, 2007 |

My wife Angel turned into a 30 year old today. The Bible clearly states that I am now free to trade her in for a newer (super) model. Finally!

Here are my requirements.

1 – Must be willing to be poor.

2 – Must get excited at the thought of celebrating a birthday by eating Taco Bell and watching ‘How It’s Made’.

3 – Must be extremely attractive.

4 – Must think I’m funny while be funnier than me.

5 – Must pretend to understand my crippling fear of dropping an uncontrollable deuce in the car on the way to work every morning. (For more info click here)

6 – Must like guys with gigantic moles on their faces.

7 – Must be a serious Cardinals fan.

And those are just off the top of my head.

I’m a lucky guy. Few guys get to marry a girl who is funny, smart, and foxy. And of the few who do, even fewer get to keep her for very long. Angel and I have been together for almost fourteen years. That’s a miracle. I mean it. It really is.

When I told Riley that we were having Taco Bell to celebrate mommy’s birthday he said ” Yay! Because when we eat Taco Bell our poo poo is really soft. Yay!”

I Am Losing My Red Paint

February 26th, 2007 |

A couple of days ago I got a very nice email from an audio engineer who had heard the Six Comforts album I did with Christopher Gustave back in 2002. He talked in particular about a short piece called ‘I Am Losing My Red Paint’ saying that it was very well done. I didn’t remember exactly what we did on that piece so I got out my copy of the CD to find out. He was right. It is very well done. I should be proud.

This is a spoken-word piece written by Christopher Gustave and read by Elani Myers. I did all the underlying audio and the mix.

You may notice that the thing begins rather abruptly and that there is a song fading in at the end. The reason for this was that the entire album had no spaces between songs. It was just one big long thing. So for me to just grab the audio for this one piece it has to start and end a little weird.

Download the mp3 here

Early Onset Rockness

February 23rd, 2007 |

One of these young boys grew up to be a highly successful attorney. One of the boys grew up to be a struggling musician. See if you can guess which is which.

Drew Johnson and Craig

I told you I was hardcore.

Blogging from Angel’s computer is an act of sheer will. My computer is still flatlining just an armsreach away from me. If Dr. Gregory House were here I’m sure he could do something. It would probably include a misdiagnosis of lupus, or maybe something to induce a seizure – my personal favorite.

You can always tell when I have nothing interesting to say because I either post some stupid picture or I post some bad demo of a song I’m working on. Such is the case tonight. But the well is quickly running dry because Angel has so few interesting pictures of me on her PC. What gives?

One thing I know is that anyone who hasn’t deleted their browsing history since 2003 cannot be trusted. The fact that she has nothing to hide is a sure indicator that she’s hiding something. She also doesn’t use Firefox. She uses IE! For the love of Bob Sagget! Did I not raise you better than that?

My mom threw a wicked birthday for Angel tonight. We all wore black in mourning of the death of Angel’s youth. She got a bunch of soap. I think people were trying to tell her something. Bathe already! Geez.

I ate so much home made ice cream that it made me want to spank Riley. So I did. “That’s for nothin’. Watch what you do.” That’s how I roll. I asked Angel if she thought Riley might be hyperactive. She said no. Angel never went to college.

The Nashville Cover-Up

February 22nd, 2007 |

I have come to the conclusion that the story of what happened in Nashville may be better left untold. The task of circumlocuting the truth in order to make the guilty appear innocent is not one I’m willing to tackle. Especially on the web.

The Cliff’s Notes version is that I showed up in Nashville, TN in 1993 and learned that the Christian music industry was not at all what it appeared to be from my cassette player back home in Granite City. At the age of 34 I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise. At the age of 20 however, I was thrown into a complete tailspin.

So at this wise old age of 20 I was left to decide on what version of truth I would chose to believe, because at that time I started to think that there was actually more than one. The questions I would ask myself started off something like “Is it really a sin to have a beer”? I was a bit of a late bloomer to this brand of questioning I know. Most guys my age had breezed past that one and were racing toward “Should I really be embarrassed that I just barfed a keg of beer in the back of dad’s BMW after eating seven hits of blotter?” With that said, my questions jumped from the “Is it a sin” type straight to the “Is there a God” type. It’s not really that big of a leap. When you start to believe that less and less things are sinful you start to have less and less of a need for God…or a god as it were. If there’s no such thing as wrong then why do I need an ultimate and eternal right?

I followed that line of questioning for the next thirteen years. It led me straight to the doorstep of a marriage that was collapsing under the weight of my addictions, fears, and insecurities.

Over those thirteen years I asked all the same questions that the skeptics and atheists always ask. They’re the theistic version of the “If a tree falls in the forest…” question. We all know them. If there is a God then how do you explain the Holocaust? If God is really a God of love then why is there a hell? If  there is a God then why did my Uncle die of cancer? I knew them well. I asked them often.

I wanted scientific proof of God. Then I’d believe.

But there is a problem with that demand. I don’t believe God wants us to be able to prove his existence scientifically. It would be like me telling Angel that I’ll believe she loves me when she can prove it with Calculus. I’ll believe she enjoys my company when she can chart it out for me. If we could definitively prove that God exists then why do we need faith? The Bible says in Hebrews 11:6

 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

God wants us to chose to believe, not to prove that he’s there. I cannot prove to you that God exists but if you look at my life now and compare it to who and where I was this time last year, I think people would have a hard time denying that whatever Johnson’s on actually is real.

A Johnson Must Rock

February 21st, 2007 |

Riley Johnson

He’s just like his dad. He did twenty three unusable takes of the lead vocal before he threw the headphones across the room and started crying. That’s my boy.

I’m still this cute

February 20th, 2007 |

Drew Johnson

…and music still punches me in the face.

My PC Dies to Die Another Day

February 19th, 2007 |

I think the good Lord is trying to teach me something about my computer reliance. Sunday morning He reached into my tower and pulled out my Windows kernel. All of my computer’s pain and suffering was immediately taken away. Now it just stares off into the distance.

My computer is dead. This has happened before, sort of. I built this computer myself to save some money and it’s been nothing but one headache after another ever since. As of right now I’m not sure what I’m going to do. As long as that computer is dead that means no recording, no posting pictures, no posting demos, and no sleep at night.

For now I’ll just be blogging from Angel’s computer, which I hate. Her monitor doesn’t even show black right. It’s probably a race thing.

Milkshake Mashup

February 17th, 2007 |

When I told Angel that I could make a milkshake without a blender she visciously mocked me and grabbed the camera.

This is how the cavemen made milkshakes.

For you gentle readers who might be offended by the apparent appearance of a four letter word in this video, I am actually saying (Scouts’ honor) “Mish it up a little bit”.

This was shot in August of 2006. Which explains the fatness.

I am going to get back to the Nashville story soon. I’m just trying to think of the best way to navigate it so as not to implicate anyone but myself.

What do you care?

February 16th, 2007 |

Drew and I used to have a friend that we hung out with. We smoked and drank together with our other friends, and everything was cool and happy. Then one day, this friend calls us up, at a pretty crucial moment, and announced that he had done a most horrible thing. He had (gasp) become a Christian. You really can’t imagine how angry that made us, and all of the rest of his friends. No, really… I’m serious, here. We couldn’t imagine why he would do such a thing, and we were angry, and laughed at how stupid he was, and said things like “It’s just a matter of time… he’ll get over it and be back”. He never came “back”.

What I don’t understand is why we got so angry. It was his choice, and he was happy, and had hope and peace, and freedom from all of his former addictions. And we were mad at him for that. Were we jealous? Maybe. I think we just thought he was stupid. After all, we had “outgrown” that phase, and were smart enough to not be fooled by myths like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and a God that we have never met, who was supposed to love us like his own child. Everyone has differences in opinions and beliefs, but this particular one drove a wedge between him and all of us, and he knew he wasn’t welcome in our group anymore. If he had announced any other lifestyle change that day, everything would have been cool, but he chose that one.

When I was in my pre- and early teens, I had a lot of friends in church, and spent most of my time there. I would hear about the modern day persecution of Christians, but since I was never around it, I figured that the grown-ups were just overreacting. Now that I am an adult, though, and have become a Christian again, I see it everywhere. When people find out about your faith, they slowly stop coming around, and inviting you out, and talking to you… some try to provoke you, or make you feel stupid, or say things to hurt or offend you. I don’t know if these people are testing me, just to see how I’ll react, or if they are just trying to provoke me into saying or doing something “un-Christianlike” to catch me, and tell me I’m fake, or I’m not perfect enough. Nobody is perfect. Not me, not any other Christians. We are just people who are trying to follow the teachings of Christ, and we know that when we mess up, we can be forgiven. What if we are wrong? Does that hurt other people, somehow? What do they have to lose, that it justifies hurting us to change our minds?