Cakewalk Pro Audio 9

April 15th, 2007 |

Living sans puter for the past two months means that my narcissism was placed on a serious diet. The biggest drag was not being able to listen to the tunes I was working on. My favorite thing about being a songwriter (other than the self doubt and incredible insecurity of course) is being able to crank one of my finished songs and just listen to it over and over. Sometimes the repeated listening is a search for where I went wrong but more often than not it’s just enjoying the sense of accomplishment.

Being away from my new songs for two months afforded me the chance to listen to these songs and their mixes with fresh ears. I’m happy to report that they still sound great.

I installed Cakewalk Pro Audio 9 yesterday. This is the audio engineering equivalent of digging out the Atari, or the Flobee, or the Mr. Microphone, or your parachute pants (your parachute pants not mine. I had the glove, not the pants) except I’m not just doing it for the nostalgia trip, I’m doing because I intend to use it to do some serious tracking. In truth it’s perfectly adept at performing the task, it just does it with feathered hair and a gigantic mustache.

I bought this program to record “Invention of the Wheel“. We used a 500MHz Pentium 3 machine. That means that if I wanted to put a reverb on the vocal I had to wait for the computer to render the entire track with the reverb so I could see if it sounded right. If not, Undo, change the reverb settings and re-render the track. Rinse, wash, repeat. The problem was, it took anywhere from one to sometimes five minutes for the thing to render the track. This is why it took two days to track the rhythm section and nine months to mix.

I’ve Got My Computer Back

April 13th, 2007 |

My PC and I experienced a tearful reunion this afternoon. We’ve been making out and catching up for the past couple of hours. It’s been almost two months since it died and I am incredibly happy to have it back. It looks like all the data was salvaged for which I’d like to say a gigantic thank you Lord.

I thought it would take a couple of evenings to get all of my applications and drivers re-installed but it actually only took a couple of hours. I decided to only install the programs I really need and it turns out there are only a few. So I think I’m done.

I had mentioned a while ago that when I finally got my computer back I wouldn’t install any of the recording software that I had stolen off the Internet. I’m going to stick to that. So that leaves me with the only recording software I ever actually paid for: Cakewalk Pro Audio 9. This is the program I used to record “Invention of the Wheel”. In computer years this program is approximately a gillion years old but it will do 24-bit recording. That means I can use it for tracking until I can round up enough money to buy the software I want, then I’ll just transfer everything over to the new software to process and mix it. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to install it on XP or not but I think it should work. We’ll see.

I Should Make A Record

April 12th, 2007 |

I took Riley to register for kindergarten today. That’s just bizarre. I can’t believe he’s old enough to start school. I can’t believe the amount of money I’m going to save on day care. Viva kindergarten!

I want to record a worship album. I want the songs to be in the gospel/soul/southern rock style. I want the album to be engineered to sound like Al Green’s “Love and Happiness“. I want the guitars to sound like Joe Walsh’s guitar sounded on The James Gang’s “Funk #49”, which is my favorite guitar tone ever recorded. I want there to be a choir but I don’t want them to sound big and open like most choirs do, I want them to sound like they were recorded in your living room. Really tight and really present. Wouldn’t that be super cool? Fifty voices right up in your face.

Some of the stuff on Jonny Lang’s latest album has this sort of vibe but the songs would never work as worship songs. I think worship songs should have about eight to ten words, two or three chords, and a wickedly memorable melody. That’s what I like anyway.

That would be such a cool record to make. I’ve already got one tune written that would be perfect for it. I should do it.

Let There Be Pocket, And It Twere Good

April 11th, 2007 |

I want to get back to talking about my worship band because the subject of worship music has become extremely fascinating to me over the past few months. Since Rock (I’m using that term loosely) music has been introduced into worship services it has created and entirely new subject for Christians to be offended by. No one every really asked the question “What is the purpose of the worship band?” until they started playing a more modern style of music. Now the question is implied in almost every discussion about modern worship music.  Is the band for entertainment? Is the band supposed to “perform”? Is the band drawing attention to themselves? Does the band even understand what it means to “lead” worship?

Now that we’ve got a big drum kit and a Marshall in the sanctuary somebody’s bound to lose an eye, not to mention a soul. I get it. Rock music is an incredibly powerful thing, which means that a lot of people are going to misuse it, or at lest not know what to do with it, when it’s brought into the church. Here’s the thing though. I do know what to do with it.

The reason I want to push our worship band to be as awesome as we can be is because I know that an excellent band playing excellent songs excellently is an extremely engaging thing (I get paid by the “e”). When the energy of the individual musicians starts to melt into one big mass of funk, people want to physically get involved with the noise.

I’ve heard people say that a worship band should not try and manipulate people and should not be out to provide an emotional experience for people. I understand that. Sort of. We ask people to stand for worship service. Why? Because we want them to be physically involved with the service. That’s what I want too but I don’t just want them to stand up, I want them to move, and I guarantee you won’t get that from a mediocre band playing mediocre songs mediocrely.

Two songs immediately come to mind when I think about songs that make me want to move. James Brown’s “Sex Machine” and The Beastie Boys’ “Sure Shot”. When James says “Get Up” I can’t help but get up because it sounds so good. We can do this same thing in worship services. That’s what I want. I want to engage people. The energy of a smokin’ band is so infectious. And if we’re doing it with an attitude of worship I believe God will honor that and I believe people will see our sincerity. The point is not that people will think we’re such great players but I do believe that the band should strive for excellence so we can achieve the kind of energy and momentum a worship service can thrive on.

Ketchuping

April 9th, 2007 |

I see the Innerweb got by without me. Drats! That’s alright. It won’t keep me from drastically overestimating my importance to the world.

I got a new modem today. Charter offers one for $40 and guarantees it for two years. That’s pretty hard to beat. Especially since I don’t have to pay late for it until my next bill.

I’ve completely lost any momentum I had in talking about band-building and atheism so for now I’m going to resort to the blogging version of playing some Skynyrd: pictures. We dumped the camera for the first time in a long time tonight and found a few that were interesting.

This first picture shows the cake I bought for Angel’s birthday. It’s by far the most expensive cake that has ever made me want to spit it out, but my caption made the sarcasm taste so sweet.

Angel's Cake

This is a pancake Johnson style: syrup, Nerds, licorice, and M&Ms. Riley’s hyperactivity is still a total mystery.

Johnson Style Pancakes

This is Riley levitating a large school of caramel popcorn.

Popcorn Steak

Friday night our friends Rich and Eryn delivered this weight bench behemoth type thing. They told us it was nice but we had no idea it was going to be like new, and gigantic. We are extremely pleased but all my muscles just rolled their eyes when they saw it. Rich and Eryn have always been such great friends to us. They are extremely generous people. Two of my three computers were given to me by Rich. They became Christians not too long before we did. It still blows my mind to think of what God has done in all of our lives.

Saturday morning my buddy Joe and I went caving. Is that even a word? Whatever, it was awesome, and far scarier than I expected. Of course I am a complete pansy so you may have to judge my “scary” review on a curve. We actually got into a bit of a search and rescue mission. A girl had gotten separated from her group so Joe and I set out to find her hoping there would be some sort of cash reward involved. There wasn’t. We found her. No one was all that impressed. Maybe that says something about her value to her friends.

Lastly is Riley in his Easter outfit looking so grown up that it makes me cry.

Riley Johnson

Going Without

April 8th, 2007 |

I have been without an Internet connection for three days now. I thought it was a problem with my ISP. It’s not. My cable modem is dead. I am borrowing my mom’s modem for the moment just to see if the Internet has been looking for me. I don’t know when I’ll be back online. Hopefully soon.

Brotherhood

April 3rd, 2007 |

Does anybody know who this is? Merican Music. I’m one of their links and I can’t figure out who it is.

OK back to yesterday’s thing about brotherhood and stuff. This is actually going somewhere, it’s just going to take a few days to get there.

The brotherhood effect can be plainly seen when comparing The Police to any of Sting’s other bands. Was there any rock band leader in history (except Zappa maybe) who could put together a more powerful band than Sting? He was the Miles Davis of popular music. But! It was always more exciting to watch The Police play because there was that brotherhood, co-ownership. In Sting’s bands after The Police he was the guy signing the checks, calling the shots. This makes a huge difference.

It was the same thing with David Lee Roth’s band he put together right after he left Van Halen. Vai and Sheehan in the same band? Are you kidding me?!? Who could pull that off besides Roth? But it still was not as powerful as the musical dynamic of Van Halen, despite that fact that the sum of the skill in Roth’s new band buried the sum of the skill in Van Halen.

The importance of establishing this camaraderie’s can not be overstated. Sometimes it might come naturally and sometimes it might not. Since it is my pursuit to have a kickin’ worship band at my church, this is (in a roundabout way) where I’m starting. But I’m having to take a slightly different approach than in other band’s I’ve played in.

Bed time.

Sleepy.

More to come.

The Drew Johnson Band

April 2nd, 2007 |

When I think about the caliber of musicians I’ve been fortunate enough to play with over the last seventeen or eighteen years it kind of blows my mind. I remember when I was in The Drew Johnson Band I would always worry about what would happen if Steve and Dino ever figured out that I was actually not much of a guitar player. But high skill level is not what made DJB stand out. The thing that made that band great was a passionate commitment to musicality. Three guys focused intently on a singular purpose. Brotherhood.

One thing we used to hear a lot at our shows was “I can’t believe there’s only three guys in the band and you’re able to have that big of a sound.” You know how we did it? No really. Do you? Because I never thought we sounded all that huge but it always made me feel good to hear people say that.

Of all the bands I’ve played in, the ones that I enjoyed the most and am most proud of weren’t necessarily the bands with the best players. The bands that I think of most fondly are the bands that had sincere camaraderie. That was always my favorite part of being in a band: the brotherhood. That will always propel a band much farther than skill.

There used to be a really great band in St. Louis (around the time that The Drew Johnson Band was in existence) that shall remain nameless but the band name had a flower in it. This was one of my favorite local bands at the time. Wicked players, great tunes, great show. But when I found out that the leader(s) of the band paid the other members like hired guns instead of equal shareholders (as it were) I was stunned. Not that it was even that big of a deal. It’s not like it was a secret. But it just bummed me out because it killed the illusion of brotherhood and camaraderie for me.

Now that I’m older and slightly less naive I can see the advantage of running a band that way. “I wrote the songs. This is how I want them to be played. Yes, I’m willing to pay for it. No your sister can not be in the video.” The dynamic is certainly simpler this way but it just doesn’t trip my trigger. For me, the essential element is missing. Brotherhood.

More to come.