Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Roman Holiday blather...

So we played The Light Bar. It was relatively fun, but load in and load out sucked.

I saw a dude I work with there. It was funny seeing him out of context. It was funnier seeing him singing along to the songs I was singing. The staff at the Light Bar was great - especially Jennifer. It's a cool place, and probably a really fun "hang" if you aren't working (as in, playing music in the heat and humidity on the roof).

It was probably our last gig with Mike, which is sad. We've got a gig Thursday evening at Stubb's to play for two hours for a private function. It should be cool - especially since Casey's going to play with us (Casey was the drummer in Roman Holiday up until February).

It's an uncertain future, though. We want to have good people who can also play to add to our little family, and so far, the guys we've auditioned have been good people, but none have been all that right for the band (either from their perspective or ours).

We've got another audition on Wednesday, and then we'll rehearse with Casey for Thursday's gig. It should be an adventure of sorts, since I haven't played with Casey in months. I'm looking forward to it, though. The drummer we're auditioning seems to be quite excellent from the stuff he's recorded. We'll see if he wants to play with us.

Well, off to do some more work...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I was listening to some XTC yesterday (a great and highly underrated group) and reading an interview with principal songwriter and lead singer Andy Partridge, and something he said struck me as interesting.

If you want to become a better songwriter, you should pick apart your favorite songs and analyze why they work, structurally. Eventually, you'll come upon formulas that will help you express what you want in your own writing.

I realize that this isn't something I've ever done consciously, but I've always done because that's just the way I am - I pick things apart to better understand them as a whole.

I think that's why when I listen to even the first songs I ever wrote they had good structure - distinct musical themes, good bridges between sections, the strongest hooks in the chorus, etc.

I guess it's just the way I always thought songs should work, and so when I started writing, that's how they came out. I even plot out rhyme schemes sometimes.

I wish I could have the same discipline with my technique. Then I'd be able to execute the songs a whole lot better.

Guitar World magazine just published Steve Vai's 1990 workout again, which I'm going to accept as a sign that it's time for me to really get into practicing guitar again and getting my fretboard memorization together. I want to shred. I'm tired of being a half-assed guitar player. I have all the relative and perfect pitch lessons (the David L. Burge stuff), and I want to work on those, too, especially the relative pitch lessons, because not only do they teach you great relative pitch, it's a rigorous theory curriculum as well.

So in concert with the discipline I've always had as a songwriter, it's time to achieve it as an instrumentalist.

After I tackle all that stuff (especially the fretboard memorization), I'll work on reading music again.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Audition weekend...a partial (and potentially complete) bust.

So we had two drummers and a bassist audition on Saturday, and I really liked all the guys who auditioned.

Of course, that doesn't mean that they'd want to play with us or we'd want to play with them.

The bass player didn't have any time at all to learn the material, so he was forgiven for his mistakes. He had a good enough ear that it wasn't terrible, and was a heck of a nice guy. The jury's out on whether he'll want to play with us, though we liked him enough to want to hear more, for sure.

The first drummer brought my monster to the surface. I really did not enjoy playing with him. Talking to him, sure. Nice fella. BAD drummer. I kind of knew it when I heard the way his drums were tuned, but I felt like giving him the benefit of the doubt (sometimes drummers are quirky). My suspicions were true, however, when we started to go through the audition songs. It was just a mess. Within the first song I knew he didn't have the ability we were looking for, and I have to say I honestly felt Simon Cowell coming to the surface - I had this desire to ask him "why are you here?" because it was obvious that he just didn't have the man-hours (or perhaps the talent) to be able to cover the various styles we needed for the band.

His time was nonexistent, his drums were all tuned too high (which sucked all the tone out of them), and it was just a slopfest.

As you can tell, I'm just talking about his playing - let me say again that he was a nice guy and definitely a personality fit - he just wasn't there, skill-wise.

The second drummer was a pretty nice dude from San Marcos. He came in with a reissue sparkle Ludwig drum kit, and played it really well (with the exception of playing almost every song too slowly). I don't think, even with his skill, he'd be happy with Roman Holiday, because he seems to be much more interested in funk and dance music, and that's something this band will never be. Which indicates to me that he should find something that suits him better. I don't want him to expect something that's not going to happen.

He seems to be a bit younger, and still thinks bassists who play with picks are not worth his time. He'll learn. I think Carol Kaye, Paul McCartney, Mike Gordon and the ghost of Allen Woody might take him to task on his criticism of pick playing. It's an extremely silly thing to be anti-pick. If it grooves, it grooves, no matter what you're using to strike the strings. Half of the best soul bass lines were recorded with a pick. I play fingers, thumb, pick, and slap because the songs that we play were recorded with those techniques. Bassists in cover bands who don't master all the techniques cause the sound of the band to suffer. It's similar to a drummer who never learns rod or brush technique, but plays songs that require it using sticks. It's never quite right. But I digress...

In summary: Good drummer, probably would hate being in our band. We've been through a situation like this recently, and the sad part is, we really need to have someone who WANTS to be in the band as it is, and doesn't need it to completely change for them to be satisfied, because that simply is not going to happen.

So we didn't find a drummer fit at this audition. Both guys are great, personally, but neither seems to be right for the band.

If my honesty is painful, remember that I named no names, and if pressed by these gentlemen, I would be glad to share these criticisms to their face. I just needed to confer with my co-conspirator in all things Roman Holiday (Ned) before I could comment.

I'm seriously wondering if this is at all worth it anymore...can anyone blame me?

Friday, July 20, 2007

M-Audio IE-10 Earphones...and other ramblings

So, I broke down and purchased a new pair of isolation earphones, because the cheapie Philips ones I bought sounded like horsecrap.

Talk about night and day...these things are AWESOME! I hope they sound as good when I use them in the band, because they sounded fantastic even with the mp3s on my iRiver H320.

The only thing that worries me is the size of the cable - its length - but I'm no size queen...I'll make it work.

I changed guitars at work. I brought my Ibanez. It's cool. I use it with my old Korg Pandora (the PX-2 from many moons ago). People always look at me weird when I crack it out, though. Such is life as a guy who doesn't really give a hoot what the folks at work think. If I've got to wait around for a computer that won't run fast enough (or co-workers who aren't working fast enough), I'm going to have something productive to do while I wait.

There's a patch I made on the Pandora that sounds utterly fantastic. One of these days I'll record a sample and post it. I didn't think it was capable of that good a sound, but I managed to make it work. Yeehaw!

Next gig is a week from Saturday at The Light Bar. We have two drummers coming in tomorrow for auditions. I really hope we find just the right guy...I'm tired of looking.

No progress on the creation front, but I think I'm going to start writing lyrics just to write them at work. More "be productive with forced downtime" activity.

Oh yeah, and I do love music. It just doesn't always love me back. Reminds me of a girl I once knew...who am I kidding? Most of the girls I once knew... :P

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I can't stand music.

I think I've finally figured out my problem.

I have musical ADD.

Even with music I love, I always end up changing the track before it's over.

I think about the task of creating something in a studio, and it makes me go, "that takes too long".

I think about spending time learning the words to the songs I have to sing, and I go "I'll memorize them eventually" because I simply do not have the patience to sit through the original recordings of the songs we play for any amount of time, especially not over and over again.

I'm constantly flipping stations on the radio, and I can never decide on a CD, and when I do, it usually goes in for about four tracks and then I move on to the next disc...

So it comes down to this: I can't stand music...and yet I love it.

It really has become the PITA girlfriend of my life. You love her, but she's a bitch that treats you like crap.

Thank God my wife isn't like that...then I'd have two.

I keep thinking of a silver lining in all this, or at least an explanation, and I think it comes down to these two things:
1. I'll still do it, no matter how much it wrongs me, because it is such an important part of who I am.
2. The reason it happens is just an overabundance of stimuli in my life, from work to traffic to kids. Sometimes peace and quiet is in short supply, and music isn't exactly peace and quiet for me.

So let it be known that the MUSICAL Schizo can't stand music. A truly Schizo behavior...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Jesus F. N. Christ

Apparently Jesus can't forgive bad language.

We had a drummer come through who we loved, who we really wanted to be part of the band, because he seemed like a "bro". Apparently that's not the case.

You see, he's a "Christian", and it would look bad if he played drums for songs with dirty words or dirty messages. They're not satanic messages, even, just songs about crazy bitches who like to fuck and the expression of the man who is hated - fuckin' hated.

"Christians" apparently don't think God can handle bad words or bad messages expressed in music. So much so, in fact, that they think a bad word or hanging around drunk people is going to harm their faith and bring them closer to eternal damnation.

A long time ago, I invented a word to describe this phenomenon, where "Christians" are more concerned with how they look than their actual relationship with God: Christivanity.

I've only ever seen it one other place, and that was years after I invented it. I hope it becomes a word people use to describe those sorts of folk - members of churches concerned with looking good in the face of other humans.

If I may be flip and assume I know God for a second:
God knows YOUR deeds. Concern yourselves with that.
God knows YOU didn't say those words you found objectionable, and I think he can handle bad language - after all, his son hung out with the dregs of society.

Although, he did say to not use his name in vain, so maybe he is a big pussy after all.

I'm sad that Jesus (to me a fairytale with a nice message, for the most part) is such a domineering force in people's lives. It's sad that these folks can't even comprehend that their avoidance of things their pastor told them are "evil" is childlike behavior at its peak.

God gave us a brain, we should use it.
God gave us a moral compass to know what's right.
God gave us reason to help us avoid things that are bad for us.
God also gave us compassion to understand the weaknesses of others and to let us know when to help.

Of course, I say "God gave us" but I really mean "our parents gave us" or "nature gave us". If I was really wanting to be controversial, I'd say "Evolution gave us" - but I know that's a non-starter for Biblical literalists.

Coming right down to it, though, it was his choice, and I understand why he made his decision. I'm just not as beholden to a fantasy man in the sky (or the opinions of my fellow church patrons and "friends"), so it's hard for me to understand the logic behind it.

He could have just lied and told us we sucked. That would have been easier to take... :)

Corporate Parties and IEMs

I love playing corporate functions.

This weekend the band played a pool party in Belton, and it was hot as balls, but it was worth the drive and effort, as the client seemed pretty happy and we all walked away with a fat check at the end of the show.

I keep going back and forth about the in-ear monitors, though. Sometimes they just sound like complete garbage, and my guess is that it's the pathetic excuse for headphones I'm using with them. They're "isolation" earphones, but it just helps you hear their pathetic fidelity even more explicitly.

I really need to just break down and get myself a pair of Ultimate Ears or something similar. I can't afford to drop more than about $100 on a pair, so the molded ones are out for now.

I will say that any singers out there who really want to hear themselves on stage should invest in a good pair of IEMs - it's so much better than trying to hear yourself over the din of drums and loud guitarists. Used with care (and not blasted), your ears will thank you at the end of the night - I haven't had ringing or a headache since we started using them, because they take the levels of the drums down between 10 and 20 dB - helpful for those of you with loud drummers (like my band).

The side benefit? They're AWESOME headphones! I wouldn't use them if you were out running or biking, because they'll most certainly keep you from hearing your surroundings, but on an airplane, or any time you want peace, they're incredible. They're a much better concept than noice-cancelling headphones, because instead of electronically messing with your surroundings (and therefore your music), they just give you a direct, clean version of the sound. Get a pair with more than one driver and it's even more amazing, because the sound is clearer and often has more bass.

Okay, enough raving for now. I'm going to go write another post on another topic. You probably already read it because it'll show up above this one.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Well...after giving it some thought (and listening to some convincing begging...)

I've decided to "un-quit" the band.

Why, you might ask? Well, it's pretty simple. The band's demands were becoming too much for me, and I really wasn't all that excited about it anymore (when it becomes WORK, it's time to move on).

Standards have been put into place that will make the time worth it for all concerned.

So, I'm back as lead singer of Roman Holiday. The jury is still out on whether I'll remain bassist/lead singer or move to guitarist/lead singer, but I will be the lead singer.

We don't have many gigs booked, so we're in a major period of rebuilding. We need a drummer and a bass player.

If you know anyone, send them to www.myspace.com/romanholidayband or www.romanholidayband.com.

I'm still going to do all the other things I want to do musically, I'm just going to work with Ned to try and keep this band going, because we sound really good, and we can sound even better.

Next gig is July 28th at the Light Bar in downtown Austin (4th and Congress). Probably the last one with Mike on drums...who knows if we'll have a new bass player by then. Ah, life in a cover band that's falling apart...

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Bourbon Rocked

So we had a pretty good show last night at Bourbon Rocks.

If there was any script I'd write to the last few gigs leading up to some time away, this would be an acceptable draft - we had a few really nice fans hang out all night, and the flighty BR crowd hung out for a while to begin with, then almost all the way through the second set, and bailed before the third set. After that, the second wave came in at about 12:45 a.m. and went APESHIT.

Special thanks go to the nice ladies who I will call "Pittsburgh D.C." and "You're a CPA?" (because I am so tired, I have no idea what their names were). They kept it fun all night with their enthusiasm and their kindness. (And PDC's Oneders jokes...)

I actually drank three beers last night, too. I don't generally drink more than one.

My voice held out through all the abuse until we tried to do "Any Way You Want It" by Journey - it was pretty horrible and hilarious. The voice came back after massaging it with some Sublime ("Santeria" and "What I Got"), and I was fine for the whole show. That's pretty good vocal endurance for a guy who generally doesn't have much time to work on it.

I was listening to my songs at work today, and I realized I need to go in and re-sing just about everything with vocals on it. I've improved so much vocally in the past couple of years that the recordings I made before that sound like crap to me.

So I think that's the first thing I'm going to tackle - re-singing (and in some cases, re-arranging) my songs I've already finished.

Then, I'll go through and make good demos of every song that doesn't have one yet.

THEN, I'll do some more writing.

Unless inspiration strikes first...

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Further contemplation

I've been thinking a whole lot over the past few days about my decision to step away from being in a band, and I really feel it's right for me right now. I still want to play live, and I'll miss the money, but to be honest, I want to be better than I am, and I want the people I play with to be even better than me.

So many times in my musical life I've accepted the fact that I'm going to probably be the best musician in the band (the kind that can show everyone else how to do their job or play their role), or at least the guy with the best ears. It's been a compromise, because it leads me to behaviors I don't really enjoy, like being in people's faces about getting things close (if not exactly right) or about the arrangements or timing. I hate it. It feels like babysitting, only the kids are adults and they don't need to be babysat, so I just seem like a complete prickazoid.

I think it's time for me to be in a situation where it's just me for a while, so I can avoid being "Captain Know-it-all" about stuff. I really hate that side of my personality. Having it reflected back at me recently (by a new band member that quickly became an old one) was bizarre. The thing is, I think it's just a complete misunderstanding of where it comes from that leads to people assuming I'm such a dick about this stuff.

But back to the music...time to get good and write something profound (unlike this tripe).