September 30th, 2008 |

Tomorrow is the first day of a twenty-one week you-should-really-do-something-about-how-tubby-you-are weight loss challenge thing at work. There are about eight or nine of us in my department who are on a team and we will be competing against other teams from all over the state.

A year and a half ago I looked like this.

I now look more like Jabba The Hut.

In that picture I think I probably weighed about 190. I now weigh 223. My goal is to lose two pounds a week for twenty-one weeks. That will get me closer to my ideal weight. My plan is to eat nothing but straw and drink nothing but black coffee. That should do it.

Wish me luck.


September 29th, 2008 |

Last Friday was my 36th birthday so Thursday night Angel took Riley shopping because he wanted to get me a gift from himself. As they were walking around K-Mart Riley was thinking out loud (he actually does everything out loud) saying “Let’s see. How about some guitar strings? Naaahhhh. He’s got plenty of those. Maybe some guitar picks? Naahhh he’s got lots of those. Hey, what about a new guitar?” Angel had to inform him that a new guitar would cost a smidge more than he could spend. Riley continued “OK then, what about a new bike?”

He ended up getting me some Spongebob pajama pants. They’re awesome.

Last night we dumped the camera and found another picture that would seem to indicate that Lilly might be a threat to Riley’s life. We think she may be a vampire judging from this picture.

The Lost Sax Solo

September 28th, 2008 |

It seems like many of my posts have started off like “I was going through some old recordings” or “I was digging around in my basement.” That’s because I have various hard drives on various computers containing recordings from various eras of my musical past. And it seems like by the time I make a complete pass through all of these recordings I can start over and will have completely forgotten what I found the first go around.

The thing I’ve found about all of this is that I have a precious few recordings of me playing the saxophone. I’m always talking about the things I learned as a sax player, which represents a huge chunk of my life, but there is really very little evidence that I ever even played the sax. So the other day I found another instance of me playing the horn that I had almost forgotten existed.

This is a thing The Drew Johnson Band did with Chad Rycenga. Chad is a singer/songwriter who used to run in our circle of friends back when we were playing around town a lot. Chad created our very first website for us and this recording was a little bit of us trying to return the favor.

Chad had a song called Thursday Night Song that was a favorite among his fans. A friend of his wanted to use the song in their wedding so Chad asked if we could do a proper recording of it.

This is Chad on guitar, Dino on drums, Steve on bass, and me on sax. I haven’t seen or talked to Chad in a long time so I don’t really think it would be right to post the entire song without his permission but this is the sax solo section which is started with a lick I stole verbatim from John Coltrane.

Download the mp3 here.

The Antinomian Strain

September 25th, 2008 |

A month ago I posted a little recording experiment I did and Kristopher Curtis asked if I could do more of the same. So I have – sort of.

The experiment involved playing a drum solo and then taking the MIDI notes from the drums and applying them to different instruments. The results were pretty bizarre and not terribly musical but it was at least interesting. This new one is far, far better and much more musical. This time I went for an orchestral type of thing and the results a pretty exciting I think.

Tuesday night I sat down and recorded about twenty minutes of me playing a very free-form drum solo. I then picked out everything that I thought was interesting which ended up being less than three minutes. Then last night I started applying the MIDI recording to various other instruments. I did quite a bit of rearranging of the notes to make it more melodic because in a MIDI drum solo there are basically only about eight notes that are used. However, everything you’ll hear came from the drum part. There was no further recording done after the drums were tracked. Then tonight I mixed it and giggled.

If you’re not a frequent downloader of my music I should encourage you to make an exception this time. This turned out much cooler than I thought it ever could.

This is “composed” in a linear fashion so it ends up sounding like the orchestral soundtrack to an old cartoon, only much more sinister. So you have to make up your own cartoon or movie scene in your head as you listen.

I am going to make the wav file available as well as a high quality mp3. This is an extremely dynamic recording so don’t get carried away with the volume right off the bat.

The Antinomian Strain

Download the mp3 here.

Download the CD-quality wav file here.

On a completely unrelated note: Happy Birthday to Dino Nicastro, one of my very favorite people.

Playing Purdie

September 23rd, 2008 |

One of the first things I remember my saxophone professor teaching me in college was that every musician needs to learn to play the drums. He said that Jazz was made up of three parts. In order of importance they are rhythm, melody, and harmony. Nobody cares how many notes you can play or how perfectly they fit over the chords if it doesn’t swing. I took his advice to heart and have now been playing the drums for probably about seventeen or eighteen years.

One of the most valuable things I’ve found about playing drums (from a singer/guitar player’s perspective) is the ability it has given me to play complex guitar parts while singing over them. Obviously one of the hardest things about playing drums is learning to have one part of your body do one thing and another part do another thing and another part do another thing and so on. This same discipline applies to singing and playing at the same time.

A few weeks ago I talked about the Purdie Shuffle. Since then I’ve been practicing it almost every day and I’m finally starting to get it. This is a beautiful beat and for someone who is not really a drummer it is much, much harder to play than it sounds. I still don’t have it swinging like it should but I’m at least in the ballpark. The next step is to get to the place where I can freely change up the kick pattern, but that’ll take a while.

Here is a short mp3 of me playing a simple version of the Purdie Shuffle.

Download the mp3 here.

The Experience Pedal

September 17th, 2008 |

I was playing around with my Experience Pedal tonight and I think Angel took it as an attempt to run her out of the house but it sure sounded cool.

I’ve had this pedal for probably twelve or thirteen years and I just never get tired of it. It’s got to be one of the greatest pedals ever conceived. I talked a bit about it in the Lulu’s Machine commentary because of its extensive use in that particular song. The type of sound it gets is very similar to the tone Daniel Lanois used in the videos I posted a few weeks ago.

I recorded a little bit of my messing around just so you could dig its wickedness. This is a rough interpretation of the ending section to one of my new songs. Check it out.

Download the mp3 here.

Keyboard Players

September 16th, 2008 |

I talked to my cousin Bryan for a few hours on the phone last night. We talked about compression ratios, computers, and solved all the mysteries of the Bible. We ended the conversation when I realized that I had to get up in about four and a half hours.

I had emailed him earlier that evening to ask about this piano player we used to know and asked if he thought the guy might work for the new band. He said he thought he should call instead of reply by email so I didn’t mistake his emailing tone as too harsh when he spoke less than highly of the guy’s playing.

When Lou and I decided to put together a band I thought that we would probably come across a whole slew of keyboard players right off the bat since every Christian I kid I grew up with was forced to take piano lessons. I envisioned me and Lou sitting at a table in front of a line of keyboard players (wearing those keyboards you wear like a guitar) waiting to show us how awesome they sound playing Michael W. Smith’s “Friends”.  But apparently God has waived the requirement of owning a DX7 to inherit eternal life because it seems that there are no keyboard players to be found.

Adding a keyboard player to a rock band is a pretty tricky thing. Adding the wrong guy can turn Jellyfish into Night Ranger in a big old hurry. But finding the right guy can turn AC/DC into the Black Crowes. See how that works?

I was one of those kids who took piano lessons for years. I hated them. I was eventually able to convince my folks to allow me to take sax lessons instead. But now I have a keyboard sitting right here on my desk that I play all the time and a sax that’s worth more than both of my cars put together sitting untouched over in the dark corner of my basement. Go figure.

Genesis 7

September 14th, 2008 |

Instead of going to church this morning we decided it would be much more fun to bail water out of our basement for four hours.

We learned the hard way that the drain plug in our basement floor needs to be replaced. It rained so hard and for so long today that the rain water was pushing itself right up through our compromised plug.

We would fill a five gallon bucket and a trash can with the water and then lug them upstairs and dump them out in the sink. We did this from 8:00 until 12:00. Luckily we were able to stay ahead of the rising tide just enough to keep the water from the carpeted part of our basement where all of my musical equiment and computers are.

While we were bailing, Riley sat at the top of the steps and played with his Noah’s Ark toy. Smart ellic!

El Moustachio

September 11th, 2008 |

More Lanois Imitation

September 10th, 2008 |

When I was looking around for that demo I posted yesterday I came across some short recordings I did a couple of years ago that I had forgotten about. Here’s one of them. This is another Daniel Lanois rip off. I really dig the guitar tone on this. It may have been my Dr. Z but I’m not sure.

Download the mp3.