Category: Keram

I don’t expect this to be comprehensive in terms of expressing my feelings because that would be impossible, because I am tired, a little tipsy and the events leading to the creation of this next album are essentially indescribably complex, but I would be remiss not to catalog, in some way the legacy of its manifestation.

Hrm, I will endeavor to turn off my verbose brain I think to get this across.

As I write this it is 5am in Los Angeles, my sister left for Toronto this morning en route from a pilgrimage to the mystic ancient city of Machu Pichu in Peru to a Tech trade show in Canton, China.  My uncle Paco is visiting from Ecuador and is sleeping in my bed, my girlfriend is sleeping on the floor (her grandfather is being taken off life support in the morning) and Josh Joudrie, my co-producer and soundman for Blue Dog Pict, visiting from Toronto, is sleeping on my couch.  Having nowhere left for myself to repose, I am up typing this chronicle.

We started this album three years ago.  An effort to continue to the work we did with BDP almost a decade ago.  Lest you don’t know me, I am not some balding wannabe ex-rocker seeking former glory days.  I am a kid who didn’t feel like I had yet reached the root.  So I decided it was time to move to the next set of songs and find a way to tell their unique stories.  I had no money in my pocket, I still don’t, but I have found in that, some amazing benefits – restrictions engender innovation, experimentation, cunning, tenacity, faith and play, and all of those put together lead to extraordinary ideas that may have otherwise been circumvented.

I would not trade a single moment of my tumultuous journey for any other.  I have learned so much and continue to learn.

household percussionBecause we recorded this album piecemeal – parts in Toronto, parts in Los Angeles, parts in England via email – it has been a fascinating jigsaw puzzle to assemble.  After months, even years of configuring arrangements, painstakingly lining up different audio sources and trying to find their relationships, something as simple as bringing a completely new voice like Marc Thomas (of LA band Madras) to play guitars can re-liberate a song  and make it feel totally alive all over again.  You see, in the editing process, we find all the various pieces that we have recorded and build a comp. After cleaning it all up it feels a little stilted and after the fact.  Having a new musician with fresh ears come in and just replay it with their own unique brain makes it feel completely inspired and in-the-moment.  And that is because it is.

Last week, Ryan Brown came in to replay some snare and cymbal parts.  Instead we ended up playing brushes on the windscreen, chopsticks on pots, pans and coffee jar lids and throwing things around the room while Pro Tools was faithfully recording at 24 bits in the background.

Marc brought in a heap of pedals and I added my own to his arsenal.  We spent four separate days tracking guitars just for Killing Days; primary melodies, harmonies, swirling ambient washes, whatever occurred to us in the moment.

I would then assemble all of this discovery into a variety of stereo tracks, line them up, make a hundred decisions, and then when I would retire as the sun came up over Santa Monica Marc Thomas works guitar pedals for Come To LifeBoulevard, Josh would wake up and take over, making sure the drums, bass, guitars, keyboards and vocals all lined up, that their phase relationships were coherent and so on.  He is the ultimate audio tech head.  It’s why I keep him around 😉

Now, almost two, three years later, we are closing in on seven amazing opuses. Sonic journeys.  I have no idea what they sound like in relation to what plays on the radio.  None.  We even recorded “Box“, an acoustic album comprising several of my songs that didn’t want to be played by a band while doing vocals for this record – for me and for you – just to tide things over while we sorted out the rest in the meantime.

Sure I listen to stuff coming out now, but that has nothing to do with this other journey I have been on – that of making this record I decided will be called “Come To Life” about a year ago.  The name comes from a catchphrase for the annual Sky Pirate holiday (celebrated August 4th) I created called Robot Pride Day – “My daddy builds robots; we don’t tell anyone.  They have come to life.  Come to life.”

The lyrics are poems I wrote at some point (of trouble, typically) to remind my future self that I have endured in the past, and that I will endure again, and every time come out the wiser, the stronger and the richer.  They are about the soul, about the death of some of my closest allies, about faith, about us, about the future, about the past, about mystery, reason and benevolence and fear.

I don’t know if and when you will ultimately hear the fruit of all this labor and play and duress and fascination.  Maybe it will be your children.  Maybe it will all be buried under the ground.  But if you do, drop me a line and let me know if you tapped in to everything that is going on with it.  It is all bigger than me; the amazing talents of those involved, the adventures that led to its creation, and whatever encompasses the sum of its parts.  I want to know what it is and what it did.

I hope to have Come To Life ready by the end of 2009.

Thanks for listening.  Really.  Every time you let me know your ears are receiving these transmissions, they fill up some little emptied battery cell in my soul.

los angeles, april 6th, 2009

In late 2008 I wrote an article about some of Hollywood’s most powerful and influential A-List actors opposing their own guild’s vote to strike in its ongoing negotiation with the AMPTA (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers).

Now I present the other side of the argument by way of several videos featuring well-known actors including Elliot Gould, Rob Schneider and Martin Sheen strongly arguing for a YES from fellow guild members on the vote to strike.

Rob Schneider revealing how FOX TV plans to broadcast reruns exclusively online and not on TV airwaves (but without paying actors their current royalty/residuals rate, but instead only 3% of that for online play)

Elliot Gould makes an emphatic appeal and argument in favor of SAG moving to strike as he explains the media wash employed by the AMPTA to control the perception of the actor’s fight for a fair deal.

And Diane Ladd:

And Martin Sheen:

And me, Keram, who has been a professional actor for almost 30 years and who has given seminars and been invited to speak at conferences about the arts and new media can strongly state that SAG has my full support in moving to strike if it should require it.  The AMPTA claims that it needs time to understand and assess its online broadcast strategies and will be willing to renegotiate in three years.

That’s what they said about DVDs and it never happened.

Presently, the broadcasters are already streaming their programs, even the newest episodes in high-resolution, full screen, online and forcing the viewer to watch 15 second ads at regular commercial breaks, and yet they do not feel that actors should receive the same royalties (or in some cases, any at all) for these presentations.

SAG represents some 150,000 actors nationwide of which roughly 2% earn the majority of the money.  When one considers that the top 1% is earning twenty million dollars per picture, then it clarifies that the remaining percentile are not necessarily slouches, but they are mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and people who contribute to society and work many other jobs.  The idea that actors live some sort of fantasy life or that they would want to strike out of greed is a gross misrepresentation of the reality.

The concern that many actors presently share about the downturn in the economy and California’s massive financial crisis making it a bad time to strike must remember that the renegotiation of this contract has been known for several years and the possibility of a strike has already slowed work for as long.  My feeling is – we are here, lets get it over with: thinking that delaying this for another three years will suddenly create confidence in the production landscape seems absurd – the only thing we will lose is the momentum and bargaining position.  As cinematographer Steve Gainer said on my podcast (and I am paraphrasing here) – do what we have to do, but let’s just get it sorted out so we can all move forward.  I agree – once a fair deal is struck we can just go back to making movies, television and online content and not suffer from the concern of mounting a production that could fall apart as the result of a looming strike.

So if you read this and are an actor or have dialogues with people who have the ability to vote on this, consider both positions but recognize that the time to get this deal done is now and the the guild needs the support of its members.