Category: new releases

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

Let’s just hope Sprint doesn’t blow it.

Here is how Geoff Hammill, writing for The Museum of Broadcast Communications, summarized the incredibly popular award-winning sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show:

As Mary Richards, a single woman in her thirties, Moore presented a character different from other single TV women of the time. She was not widowed or divorced or seeking a man to support her.[1]

Felicia Day’s eight-minute webisodic-turned-cultural-phenomenon The Guild revolves around the character Codex, a single woman in her late-twenties, early thirties who is not widowed or divorced or seeking a man to support her, but who holds a position of great importance in her online guild – that of the Healer.   The show can similarly assert itself as a pioneer in the new post-TV era entertainment spectrum.  Originally broadcast via YouTube and The Guild’s own website, the show was subsidized by viewers like you sending donations through PayPal.

The Guild from Sprint

The Guild centers around a group of regular people who know each other singularly via their membership in an online guild of adventurers in an unspecified MMORPG (massively multi-player online role-playing game), but that any former Azerothian would quickly identify as World of Warcraft.

WoW Syndrome

Day, the show’s creator, producer and star, confessed that she created the show out of her own two-year addiction to the game. I completely empathize; I myself spent two years as the founder and leader of a WoW guild that had up to two hundred and fifty members at any given time. I would spend entire nights with my then girlfriend, side-by-side on separate computers, grinding away for loot. It defined the entire second year of our relationship. I think it was when I looked at the clock reading 1PM and I was still up from the night before hacking away at giant wasps in a virtual desert in hopes of finding some sort of epic ring that had a .01% chance of dropping that I bypassed all suspicion and went straight to absolute certainty, that I had a terrible debilitating addiction and that I had to stop.

A Night Elf from World of Warcraft
A Night Elf from World of Warcraft
Creative Commons License photo credit: antigone78

Stopping wasn’t easy; my strongest social ties now existed by virtue of the Dwarves, Elves, Orcs and Tauren that I had befriended in the game almost two years prior.  Using Ventrilo and TeamSpeak to talk over headsets, their real-life voices were indelibly linked to the image of their respective avatars. We had laughed, fought, in some cases hooked up (not me, and not necessarily exclusively in the virtual domain), broken up, mutinied, reunited, cried, lost everything, and fought to win it back again.  I could simply hang up the receiver and pretend it had never existed; that it was just some misstep in the way I spent my time between jobs.  This wasn’t some bad, obsessive Bejeweled habit – this was a real part of my life, my memories, my emotional landscape.  I would dream of Azerothian locales at night, of my friends and what we had said to one another.  My fingers would absently tap out key commands when I met someone for coffee.

Transcending the Micro-Niche

Felicia Day decided to go public with her story and is now reaping the rewards for her courage.  The eight-minute episodes were picked up by Microsoft and are available for instant download (free at that) on their Xbox Live and Zune platforms.  Episodes center around the interactions between the Guild members in the Meatverse (that’s the offline world for you newbies/n00bs/nubs) and how they feel at once awkward and entitled amongst themselves as they attempt to reconcile their alter-egos with their Earthly counterparts.

Largely populated by unknown actors (Day herself used to have a recurring role on cult hit TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer), the episodes are not only legitimately funny and clever, but in their second season have started to branch out into the downright avante-garde. In a recent episode – titled simply “Fight!” – Day, who plays the ineffectual, self-conscious character “Codex” (we only know the characters by their online handles) confides to her webcam that she is both torn and flattered by the competition between Zaboo and a local stuntman hottie for her hand.  When things go awry and she ends up empty handed, a spectral version of herself leaps from her body and runs away from the scene as we reach the closing credits.

In much the same way, the show is beginning to trascend it own campy micro-niche origins and drawing an ever larger crowd of onlookers.  Bookended by a sponsorship page from Sprint PCS, the show runs commercial-free, but nothing about its eight-minute per episode length feels unsatisfactory; in a time where attention spans and available mind-share is running at a deficit, this show is a quick entertainment bump that quells the hunger as readily as a Snickers Almond bar between meetings.

Give It Away Now

The music industry was ambushed by a lethal combination comprised of the mp3 compression technology and high-speed internet access for less than a monthly cable bill.  As it struggled to plug the holes in its sinking ship, it fought to maintain control, when in fact it should have done the counter-intuitive thing and just given the music away for free like radio had done for so long.  Sure, radio has ads, but not all radio: jazz and classical stations, NPR, they are funded by donations much like The Guild was in its early days.  If people appreciate the content you are creating, they will rally behind it.  But hindsight is 20/20.  The music industry could not possibly have projected the way out once the gates were overwhlemed by the Barbarians, any more than it could have imagined that Napster would evolve into Twitter.

In its second phase, The Guild has moved from the PBS model of public funding to the early television model wherein a show’s content was intertwined with content involving its sponsors.   With Sprint as its modern day Ovaltine, The Guild has a much larger, focused target group.  But the public is far more ad-blind than it was back in the days of Gunsmoke.  So long as Sprint doesn’t get greedy by asserting its product placement too heavy handedly within the midst of the video, they may very well have a new kind of success story on their hands.

The respite that would bring, after so many thousands of short videos consisting of people getting thwacked in the head with a two-by-four, is like mana from the gods.