May 31st, 2007 |

I was listening to NPR today and I finally figured out why I’m such a crabby zombie: I don’t sleep. They did a whole bit on sleep and why we don’t get enough.

Over the years I’ve had different reasons for staying up too late. They’ve ranged from partying, to video gaming, to pointless Internet gazing. The later has been the case for quite a while.

My alarm goes off at 5:00 AM. Of course the first question that pops in your head is going to be “You get up at 5:00 AM to be a rock star?!?” Well, yes and no—except for the yes part.

For me to get the required eight hours of sleep that means I would have to be in bed by 8:45. There are a couple of problems with that. First of all, musicians who fancy themselves hipper than the average schmuck do not go to bed at 8:45. The manual clearly states that 10:30 PM is the absolute earliest we can go to bed and that’s only if we plan to read for a while.

Another problem is that even Riley isn’t asleep by then. We usually put him to bed around 8:30 but then he lays there and sings for at least 45 more minutes.

Then what about this? Angel’s alarm is set for 7:00. That means she doesn’t even need to go to bed until 11:00, which is still a little early for her considering that she is also of the zombie lot. So that means if we both intend to get eight hours of sleep and not change our alarms we will spend exactly zero hours in bed together while awake. Maybe you can see why that would be a problem.

I’m not trying to be cute here. I’m completely serious. How do we solve this problem? Something has to be done. We’ve talked about it a lot but we can’t seem to come to any real agreement. I must start getting more sleep. I’ve been living on five hours of sleep for at least six or seven years and it’s going to send me to an early grave.

Speaking of early graves, we have this woman in our neighborhood who is constantly walking her dog up and down our street. I don’t mean she walks the dog every day. I mean she walks it incessantly. I’ve seen her walking when I leave the house in the morning. I’ve seen her walking when we’re about to go to bed. It’s non-stop. We’re convinced it’s some sort of obsessive disorder. She looks like she’s about 60 or so, about 5′ 11″, and maybe 100 LBS and dropping. She been doing this for years and she’s now on her third dog. I don’t know if the dogs are dying or what. I know I couldn’t hang.

So now Riley yells “Hi!” out the window to her every time she passes the house. This is about once every hour. Angel told him just a few minutes ago to stop yelling and he said “…but I love her!”

Nice! Harold and Maude and Three Dead Dogs.

Maxtone Mayhem

May 29th, 2007 |

Good grief, it’s been five days since I’ve written anything. Maybe it’s been five days since I’ve actually had a thought. That’s probably it.

Friday night Angel and I went to The Maxtone Four‘s CD release party. What a great show. I was asked to sing on their song ‘Just Say I Know’ and that was a blast. The camera crew from The Set was there filming the whole thing so I’ll let you know when that will be airing.

This was the first time Angel and I had been to a club since the last Formula Kid show, I think. It was very nice to see some old friends and familiar faces I hadn’t seen in a long time. I got to hang out with Christopher Gustave for quite a while which was very cool. I hadn’t spoken to Chris face to face in far too long.

The whole night was kind of weird though. I had a sense of nostalgia like I was visiting a former life. Which I was in a way, except sober. It’s better that way. I realized how much I really love those friends that I see so little of. If I had been drunk I would have had an easier time telling them. I hate that. I really want to make it a point to tell people I love them more often.

I was very surprised at how tempted I was to buy a pack of smokes on the way. I was very surprised at how much I wanted to get tanked. I was very glad no one offered me a cigarette or a drink. Thanks. I made it through the entire evening without giving in but it wasn’t easy. I wouldn’t have missed that show for the world but in the future I should really avoid situations where I’m setting myself up to fail.

MIDI and Me

May 24th, 2007 |

My keyboard came today. Upon opening the package it suddenly occurred to me that I know absolutely nothing about MIDI. That may be a problem.

OK ‘absolutely nothing’ may be hyperbole.  I do know a little. For instance, I know that MIDI can take my remedial piano skills, mathematically alter them, and leave you believing that I am the second coming of John Tesh. Any computer-generated replacement for practicing your instrument gets a big thumbs up from Johnson.

My plan is to learn MIDI by using an ancient technique that musicians haven’t used in centuries. That is, I plan to read the manual. Yes I am that guy. I read manuals. So sue me. This keyboard has enough faders and knobs and blinkies (oh my) to ruin a perfectly good song in record time. So I will attempt to thwart that sort of tastelessness by spending some time with the instructions.

—American Idol—

Jordin Sparks was far and away the obvious choice to win. Well, at least the obvious choice between her and Blake “I’m so sexy that my lips are slipping off my face” Lewis. The girl who came in 3rd was definitely the best singer out of the lot but Jordin will look better on an album cover so she gets the gig.

This time next year Jordin will be brought back to perform in the ceremonies and she will weigh at least 40 pounds less and will be showing 40 pounds more skin. Guaranteed. Carrie Underwood looks like she’s lost 40 pounds and she did have 40 pounds to lose. Viva fame!

Hey Hey Do It Anyway

May 23rd, 2007 |

Sitting in front of me on my desk is a spanking new copy of The Maxtone Four‘s yet unreleased album ‘Hey Hey Do It Anyway’. How might one go about procuring such a treasure you ask. You mightn’t. Not yet. Unless your extra tough and cool like me.

The CD release party is this Friday night at Blueberry Hill and Brian (band leader) asked if I would come out and sing on one of the songs. Of course I agreed. So I went by Maxtone headquarters tonight to run through the song a couple of times. On my way out Brian hooked me up with the CD. It’s excellent. Pure Pop from when ‘Pop’ was a good thing.

Dino and I have talking for the past couple of weeks about when we are going to get started tracking his drum parts for my solo record. Needless to say I’m chomping at the bit to get him in here and get it going. I’m thinking that my shipment of recording gear will most likely be here tomorrow so I hope that will translate into us being able to start tracking drums in the next couple of weeks. I’m very anxious to get started.

For those of you who might not have heard, Dino’s wife Gina is pregnant with their second child. This is actually pretty old news but I know many of you are a little out of the Nicastro loop so I thought I’d catch you up.

No Deal

May 21st, 2007 |

Can anyone recommend a upholstery cleaning service? We’re going to need a good one. I lost control of my bladder tonight after watching a dude on Deal Or No Deal turn down a $305,000.00 offer only to walk away with $25.00. That’s just plain old bad baseball dude. Maybe he can use that $25 to pick up a sense of logic and reason.

Today I ordered all of the stuff I talked about yesterday. That felt really good. I haven’t spent a bunch of money on gear in a long, long, long time. Then again, I haven’t been without a world class guitar amp in a long time either. Small price to pay. And my “small” I mean “enormous”. Priorities my friend. Priorities.

Ebay and Heartsong

May 20th, 2007 |

My Dr. Z is packed and on its way to South Carolina as I speak. It sold for — wait—is it tacky for me to say how much I got for it? I don’t think so. Is it? Whatever. I expected it to sell for around $1,250. It sold for $1,157. Not too bad.

Here’s something I learned from the whole experience that I’d like to share with Ebay virgins. If you’re going to sell an amp that weighs close to 80 pounds, don’t use Ebay’s shipping-cost wizard thingy. That little rapscallion estimated that it would cost $43.92 to ship the amp to S.C. So that was what I charged the buyer. The actual cost: $132.28. So that was about $90 that I just had to eat. I always prefer learning lessons the hard way. They’re just so much more memorable that way.

Here’s is how I’ll be spending some of the money.

Sonar 6 Producer Edition – $399 is almost a too-good-to-be-true price for this program. Little nervous about that.

Edirol PCR-M80 MIDI Controller – Learning MIDI will free me from having to deal with those pesky little musicians.

Rotosound Bass Strings – I haven’t put new strings on my bass since I bought it so I figure I should probably do that soon. I don’t know if these particular strings are any good but the picture of Sheehan’s pink bass against the backdrop of his chest hair on the front of the package makes these strings particularly irresistable.

1GB of RAM – This will bring me up to 2GB, which is as much as my motherboard will handle or I’d buy more. I don’t know how heavy of a program Sonar 6 is going to be but I want to make sure that my PC isn’t going to sweat bullets every time I try to run a reverb in real time.

So that should get my studio back in business. Thank the good Lord.

This morning at church a group from CBC called Heartsong did a mini concert. Mini concert – gigantic band. Guitar, bass, drums, percussion, piano, keyboard, two trumpets, tenor sax, and roughly fifteen singers. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a live band just blow me away but I have to say Heartsong really, really impressed me. They’re getting ready to release a live album and I’ll definitely be picking that up. Wow. Nice.

This afternoon our worship band had a rehearsal and I made it a point for us to talk about Heartsong and what we can take away from seeing them play. I think it’s very important for bands to do this. We’ve always done it in my bands and I consider it an essential part of moving forward. Why did Heartsong sound so good? What did they do right? What did they do wrong? (very little from where I was sitting)  It’s just like watching Pujols play baseball. You may never hit 40 home runs with 125 RBIs but there is a world to be learned from how the guy approaches the fundamentals of baseball. Keep your eye on the ball. Use two hands. Play hard.

There are fundamentals for bands too. Listen. Blend. Listen. Relax. Listen. Be confident. Listen. Pay attention. And most importantly, Listen.

Whenever I find out how to get my hands on their new album I’ll pass the information along. There are so few bands that seem to do everything right, this band is in that category.

Innerwebs Killed the Radio Star

May 15th, 2007 |

Remember when Al Gore invented the Internet? Me too. Remember when your IT guy at work said he could totally design a website for your band? Remember how easy it was going to be to develop a worldwide following now that you could reach your yet undiscovered Australian fan base? Me too. Know how many Aussies will read this post? None.

The Internet, the great white hope of the struggling musician, has in some ways turned out to be (for said musician) little more than a new delivery method for handing out demo tapes to your friends. In doing so, I believe that the Internet has drastically de-valued music. We all thought it would make us rich but it has only proven to make us even poorer.

Remember the one guy who got famous because of his success on Garageband.com. Me either. See?!? Me either! I remember reading about him a couple of years ago and what a phenomenon it was that he landed the big record deal from putting his music on a website. He proved it could be done. Whathisface actually did it. What was his face anyway? I forget. And so did you.

The Internet has brought us everything for free. The browser I’m using right now is free. The software I use for blogging is free. The software I use to edit the pictures on this site is free. The software I used to record all of my music for the last few years was free because the Internet made it easy for me to steal by providing free software to search for it. The software I used to rip the mp3s that I put on the Internet was free. The FTP program I used to upload them was free because I stole that too. The cell phone I used to text my friend to tell him my new song is available for download from my site came with four gazillion free mp3 downloads from Napster but I can’t figure out why he’s not racing to download my masterpiece. It’s free man. Go get it!

The Internet has provided this incredible means of sharing information and art. Now it’s all so easy to get that we forget how valuable it all is. It makes me sad when I think about it. I don’t even really care about my music having less monetary value. My music has never made me any money so, dollar for dollar, it’s holding pretty steady. But the thing that does bother me is that offering music for free often implies (even if it’s only subconsciously) reduced relevance, or less legitimacy. It makes people care less.

But with all of that said, I like being able to post a song on this site immediately after finishing it. I like being able to think that just adding a sax part to a demo is reason enough to put another mp3 out there. I like the immediate feedback. I like for people to know that I’m still making music even though I’m not in a band any more. I like using the abilities God has freely given me and freely giving you the product of those abilities. If your God-given ability is carpentry, I expect you to do as I have done and give me a free house.

I look around and see how many people have forgotten what an incredible treasure music is. That’s a drag.

Stranger than Fiction

May 14th, 2007 |

I should really take blogging more seriously. I have precious little time to commit to this writing exercise so it would just make sense for me to be thinking about it during the day. Maybe scribble out a rough draft. Jot down a couple of notes. Something Johnson, ya bum!

But alas, no.

I usually wait until I’m far too sleepy to be entertaining. Like now. See? This is actually the opposite of entertainment.

Hey! I got it!

OK here.

We rented an incredibly refreshing movie this past weekend. We watched it twice we liked it so much. It’s ‘Stranger than Fiction’. Awesome movie. Some of the most innovative and fresh writing I’ve seen in a long, long time.

Have you seen it? Go check it out. I’ll wait.

See? Awesome wasn’t it. Totally.

There is one extremely profound line in the movie that I think could be applied to the Christian life. (If you haven’t seen the movie this will make no sense. Wait a minute. I told you I’d wait. Why are you reading this part if you didn’t go see it?) Will Ferrell says to Emma Thompson “I love your book. I think you should finish it.” The way the movie is written this scene could work like a person talking to God. I like what you’re doing. I don’t always understand it but I surrender to it. Whatever may come. It’s your book God. Write it.

Of course I watched the special features – twice. The company that did the special effects is MK12. The director of the movie said that this short clip is what made him decide to give MK12 the gig. Very cool stuff.

Happy Mother’s Day

May 13th, 2007 |

I’ve never actually been a mother myself but I’ve heard from sources that it’s a lot like being a father but with less yelling.

I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve always been very close to my mom. I’m sure people always meant it in the nicest way when they called me a ‘Mama’s boy’.  Back at ya, four eyes!

To Mother From Her Son pretty much sums up everything I could say here so just go listen to that and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Riley 4.0

May 11th, 2007 |

Last night we attended Riley’s pre-school graduation ceremony. Pre-school graduation? That’s a bit of an oxymoron isn’t it?

He graduated with honors. As we expected, all the elementary school scouts were there. Buzzards! Each one of them promising to have Riley filled with insecurities faster than the next.

I was very proud. Angel cried through most of the ceremony. It struck me as odd that it never dawned on me to cry. And it always dawns on me to cry.

We took a bunch of pictures, none of which were really web-worthy. Web-worthy means that I looked really good and did not show my yellow teeth.

The Ebay bidding has started on my Dr. Z. Can I get a what, what? I’ve been watching the bidding on other Dr. Z amps for a few weeks just to make sure I knew what to expect. Well I definitely didn’t expect the bidding to start so quickly. Hopefully that’s a good sign.