Sunday, December 25, 2005

The wisdom of Neuhaus

Greg Neuhaus was the singer of Karl, our post-PG13 protofunk band. He went to MCAD, and was wildly creative... well, fearless anyway. Two Neuhaus stories for you today.

1) Some classic Neuhaus Lyrics:
"South Africa" - our "apartheid awareness song"

there's trouble... in South A-fri-ca
oh there's trouble... in South A-fri-ca
there's white folks... in South A-fri-ca
and there's black folks... in South A-fri-ca.

ooooooooo South Africa! (repeat 4 times)

2) Greg's Lie to me about the St Clair Broiler.
When I met Greg, I was a senior, getting ready for College, and Macalester in St Paul was going to be my home. When I made that decision, Greg said "Oh right, it's by the St Clair Broiler! I love that place!" "I've never been there" was my reply... which led to this:

"Aw man, that place is AMAZING. It's going to be your new hangout. The Broiler's ok, but you gotta get in to the back, which is where the ACTION is. Here's what you do. Walk in, right past the hostess counter, take a right, and there's a door past the kitchen. Open it up, and you'll see the back room. Walk right up to the bar and lay down a wooden nickel and ask for Doris. Say I sent you, and you'll be IN, baby."

Now, the "wooden nickel" should have tipped me off, but being the kind of kid who took vacations to Wall Drug, I actually had more than one wooden nickel in easy reach. I actually took one to the St Clair Broiler my first week of school.

Fortunately, I went alone, and nobody saw me try to get in the broom closet.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Been Hyp-mo-tized

I was in the mood for a "hypnotizing" movie tonight. A movie that would take me to a state and just let me be mesmerized. I had two likely candidates - Andy Goldsworthy's "Rivers and Stones" documentary or Tasha Tudor's Take Joy. Alas, I could find neither in the clutter of the closet.

But I did find Solaris.

This is one of those movies that is hard to recommend to people because it's not really a sci-fi movie, not really a romance, not a lot of drama, but it's 1000% atmosphere - it demands that you give over to it and just LIVE it. But I'd say that it just doesn't WORK on most people. The only people I know who love it as much as i do are the people who demanded I watch it - Paul and Nick.

I've watched it 4 or 5 times, and each time, it just flies by - I don't look at the clock, I don't need to use the restroom, I don't sip my water... I just watch it. And I do get a bit weepy too...

So I've been hypnotized this evening, and I feel refreshed.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Soundtrack Details

Justin seems to dig the tracks I did for Prick the Movie, and I've got some nice other feedback. If you're curious, it's 100% virtual, of course.

The Main Theme has mostly Logic instruments (EVP88 electric piano, Sculpture for the fragile bells, EXS24 for samples, ES2 for one synthy part, ESP for another synth pad, UltraBeat for the synth drums) I did use NI Battery 2 for the "Real Drums".

The Fight Scenes: Battery2 for the drums, Logic ESM for the 303, Sculpture for the bells, and ESP for the Prophet Pads. No loops on Fight 1, but lotsa loops from EastWest STORMDRUM for Fight2 - Eastern Loops, TomTom samples, Taiko Samples...

The Club Scenes: I'm embarassed to say this, but there's a lot of AppleLoops in there - From GarageBand Jam Pack 2. Some played parts (EVP88 electric piano, ES2 basses, ESP Strings, Battery2 Additional Drums), but the core beats and some of the textures are from the Apple library. I got to give respect to Apple there - they sound GREAT!

The Fantasy Transitions:
All played by me - 1 is ESP Pad, and EXS24 Harps. 2 is Arturia CS80 and Minimoog V, played - this was not a one finger evolver. 3 was an EXS24 harp, played (not a strum sample).

For all of this I have to say the G5 has done me proud - on none of this work did the CPU meter ever peek past 25%. And there were a LOT of effects present.


Side Note: Bella lept up to give me a hug tonight and almost broke my nose... it was VERY hard not to yelp or make her feel bad.... so I just sort of went "hoooo boy... well.... ah.... I'm ok, darling!" She seemed not to be overly concerned, which is actually the best way to handle it.

Poor iMac

Pamela's iMac has had a rather rough history. It was one of the first G5 ones, and it had the rattly fan issue, so I had the whole guts replaced once. Then this summer, it started acting funny, and the HD got a big error, and I had to reformat it (fortunately I had a full backup!).

Two months ago, it died completely, and the Apple Store replaced the guts again. But it wasn't really acting fully kosher. Apps were taking a looong time to process, and there was some flakey behavior... also the fans were on ALL the time - sort of noisy. This past weekend, I decided that the strangeness was sufficiently odd that I ran another full backup... and literally as soon as it finished, I got a very odd error message saying "Disk out of space", the screen went blank, and it refused to boot up.

I connected via my laptop, and it said "dude, this disk is FRIED".

So I brought it into the Apple Store, and they put in a new hard Drive and returned it to me in less than 2 days. I'm restoring all of the old files now.... And what they told me is that ALL of the strange behavior I had seen recently was pretty much typical of a disk on it's way south. They said they tried to hook up the old drive to see what data they could retrieve, and it started making a shrieking and clicking sound... complete brain death.

The lesson, my friends, is to BACK THAT STUFF UP. And while I've been frustrated with Pamela's iMac's health, I also concede that Apple has been VERY responsive to fix it when problems have arisen - and turnaround is VERY fast. So I say, THANK YOU for making it right.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

More Soundtracking

Well, Pamela's ready to kill me for disappearing all week... but I'm finally done with my work for the premiere next week. My songs can be heard out at Jimmy's Website. The movie website is

Of course my songs aren's the score for the WHOLE movie - Justin is using a ton of his favorite songs in the movie too. Since it's small, he can do that and not "clear" everything... but if this gets bigger, I'll need to sub out more music.

In the process, I've really enjoyed reconnecting with my musical side - I remember that I used to work FAST - a song a day for weeks at a time. Nick has heard the proof - 300+ songs on DAT from 1989-1995. For the past few years, I've been able to point to 3-4 finished works a year. But 2005's looking pretty good now! Over 9 Songs! (Abuse, The Metro, Anyone Out There, TrailerFun, and Prick Songs - Theme, Club 1, Club 2, Fight 1, Fight 2, and some ambient bits.

So that's "done" for now, I can go back to enjoying Eggnog or scotch in the evenings, watching movies, and taking my proper turn putting Bella down for the night!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Soundtracking and OTT

Hey now - what better way could I have to spend this busy holiday week than to do 8 cues for a temp score for an independent motion picture? Our Manny Justin finally got me a rough cut of his magnum opus, and he has a screening NEXT WEEK. I was always going to score the dang film, for sure, but he has these 8 cues that REALLY need something original. So I have two done now, and will really have it nailed by the weekend! Then in the new year we can revisit the rest of the cues (and rip out the temp music he's using in there....)

But it keeps things interesting!

Back in 1984-86 when I was just getting geeky about keyboards and technology, Schinder's had a magazine called "One Two Testing" which was a forerunner to today's Sound on Sound or similar - a british music technology magazine where the stars got nerdy (Phil Oakey of the Human League moaning about quantization on a Synclavier), and the reviewers were gum snapping sassy (unlike the american magazines of the day, they weren't afraid to say "it's CRAP")

When I moved out in 1986, my trove of magazines was doomed for the dumpster: To be fair, I don't recall even thinking about them until the mid 1990s, so any housecleaning that took place, I have no resentment.... but I've also had a devil of a time finding them.

Until yesterday, when my Ebay Trophy of OTT #28 (with Blancmange and the Thompson Twins) arrived from the UK, a fresh Ebay acquisition. I have been EATING IT UP. I think I'll have to keep an eye on Ebay for a few more. Of particular delight is an ad on the back with an african tribesman gleefully beating on an electronic syndrum with a bone. No freaking lie.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

PS - It's Spanish

Yep, I've started my Spanish Lessons. Just finished lesson 7 today. I gotta say they're a bit more intense than the German ones were for some reason - the lessons are a full 1/2 hour, while the German 1 series were 23 min each. But I am really sinking into it. And Pamela seems thrilled - I'm trying my new words out on her, and she's coming right back at me.

I will also say that I started Spanish with downloaded lessons, but purchased the full set to go legit for three reasons:
1) There were skips and glitches in the MP3s which were annoying.
2) The Bookchip medium is way better - it remembers where you stopped, and it it techno cool.
3) They worked hard on these excellent lessons and deserve proper compensation.

On the other hand, my anti-DRM (copy protection) rant on the previous post could apply to these bookchips, I should be able to back them up, right? Well, I did lose a bookchip (German 3) and they replaced it for me for a very small fee. So they have their act together.

Japanese, cool as it is, will simply have to wait until spring.

Roku Soundbridge and DRM

This morning, Pamela reminded me that we actually do have a stereo in our bedroom - it's attached to the TV, so I tend to forget it exists, since we so rarely watch shows up there. But this morning, she was listening to the radio, and I thought - hey, I should be listening to music up here, no?

So out on some errands, I stopped at Best Buy and got a new gadget - a Roku Soundbridge 1000. This little unit has built in WiFi, and it connects to your ITunes library and to your stereo - it's super slick, and WAY cheaper than another computer, and easier to use than another Airport Express.

I was testing it out and WHAM got hit with the message "this unit can't play Itunes Music Store protected files". Boom, can't listen to Althea and Donna "Uptown Top Ranking" in my bedroom?

I may be something of a downloader sometimes, but I'm also a fervent music BUYER, be it CDs or through the iTunes Music Store. I've got a few hundred tracks purchased through ITMS. And suddenly, I've decided that DRM blows. It never REALLY affected me before - IPods can play these tracks no problem. And until now, I never tried to use something I couldn't "authorize" for iTunes.

Fortunately, if you have a handful of CDRs, it's really no problem to convert these files - just burn to CD as Audio, then re-import. But what about the Tags you ask? Two discoveries: First, if you name the Playlist and CD 8-characters or less, Itunes will recognize the CD when you reinsert it and all your tags will still be there. Or there are some utilities for copying tags wholesale.

So I'm 75% done De-DRM'ing my library. Information wants to be free.

End result, I can listen to The Postal Service, Mum, Althea and Donna, and Desmond Dekker anywhere in my house on any machine. YAY! Also, the Roku Soundbridge is REALLY REALLY REALLY COOL and I recommend you try it out. SHOCKINGLY COOL.

In related news - Isabella has decided on a unilateral diaper boycott this afternoon. I am waiting waiting waiting for the accident. It's going to happen. I'm on tenterhooks.

UPDATE: The accident did in fact occur within 2 minutes of Mommy coming home, naturally, after ALL afternoon with me, no diaper, and no accidents. ON THE COUCH.

Just sharing my geekness with the world.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

On an "Audience"

Twice in the past year, I've come up with rather nutty song ideas - one was to do a cover of "Wild Boys" by Duran Duran with the lyrics changed to refer to a restaurant in Tokyo called "Checkers", and the other is to do "Ooh to be Ah" by Kajagoogoo with robot voices.

In both cases, my nemesis Caesar accused me of pandering to my fan base, because god knows, the world is just WAITING for almost-40 guys to do strange 1980s covers that require extensive backstories to make sense.

It got me thinking - what really is the GOAL of doing music when you're 38? Who IS your audience? You really do need to re-examine the old rationales: Girls? we're all happily married. Admiration of Peers? Most of my peers have no idea what I do, and the ones who I'd want to impress with music I actually tend to work with on songs.

It's mostly for self gratification, for putting in your own car, and maybe sharing with other pals...

But it feels good.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

No more Hatin'

I've put my last bottle of Haterade away. I've decided that BT, Brian Transeau is not for Hating anymore.

Oh yes, I've had my issues. His insanely anal mega-editing techniques, his microscopic mix detailing, his surfer-dude-at-Berklee persona, his constant references to 12-tone, Stockhausen, and Cell Theory in his interviews... I won't lie to you - I've thrown magazines down in disgust in the past.

But I've decided that despite his pomposity, he's actually a geek like me, and if we ever DID meet, we'd probably have a great time talking. Also, he's prolific AND successful, and he does seem to want to stretch himself, so you know what, BT? I'm calling off all the hate. I'm sending out the love.

It's official.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Batman Dream

Me and 2 friends (Mark Loesch and Paul Sebastien actually) are busboys at a Las Vegas comedy club, and we're standing around backstage just joking with eachother - and suddenly Paul Sebastien turns to me and says "man, our act is SOLID - we should just go out there and DO THIS!"

So we rush the stage and push the performers off. Cut to a montage of us telling jokes, singing, doing little skits... then cut to us at the side of the stage, giving eachother high fives and whooping, while the Manager is up on the stage, apologizing to the audience and promising refunds. Clearly we were actually terrible.

After the show, we return to our "crash pad" - it's a an old building with a decrepit Lamp shop on the first floor and a big "Real World" style apartment upstairs. Everyone's going upstairs, and I pause at the lamp shop.

Dang it, I'm going to clean up this shop and really make something of it!

So cut to a few hours later, I've swept and dusted, and replaced bulbs, and got the power working, and turn everything on - it's a beautiful shop.

My friends come back downstairs, and say "uh oh - you weren't supposed to do that". Why? Suddenly the floor opens up and the BatPlane raises up from the basement. Batman is standing there.

"Man, this place was a great cover - now there are going to be people wanting to buy lamps - how am I supposed to get in and out of here secretly?" Batman is VERY mad at me.

And then I wake up.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Harry Potter and the Lost Shuffle

So we had a babysitter for the night, but Pamela had to go decorate church, so I decided to take a boy's night out - just me - to see the new Harry Potter, and boy and I glad i did - it was FANTASTIC. Not a good one for someone who hasn't seen any of then yet... it relies on a LOT of foreknowledge, but it is very rewarding.

And Ralph Fiennes was BRILLIANT as Lord Voldemort - as creepy as you could imagine ever.

And the Shuffle: I came home yesterday to find my iPod Shuffle sitting on the counter. It's been missing since spring. I had NO idea where it was. But Pamela found it. So I plugged it in, and loaded the "random play", and spent the evening enjoying a random "slice" of my music collection, and I gotta say, there's something intelligent in those shuffles - it was mixing some of my favorites somehow! Cibo Matto - you gotta know your ckicken, Japan - Life in Tokyo, Simple Minds - Promised you a Miracle, Depeche Mode - Now this is Fun.... Not songs that would spring to mind if you were making a mix tape, but there they were.

It reminded me that Steve Jobs is a fricking GENIUS.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Finally Better

So whatever crud Bella had for a whole week was somehow transferred to me (I do have a memory of a cough being delivered directly into my eyeball), and it knocked me OUT for this entire week. I was working 1/2 days M-T-W, and was asleep most of Th-Fri, and only today can I say that my mojo is in fact working.

This made for me only half-participating in the two great celebrations of November: My Birthday and Thanksgiving. As far as Thanksgiving goes - I was material support while Pamela was the cook mistress... though I did have to leave the celebration early and pass out, alas.

On the day before my birthday, we did go out to dinner, but I was out shortly after that. On the day of, we combined festivities with my consulting firm's "thank you" for me smoothing over a situation where one of our people failed to deliver for many moons, and cost us thousands... My thank you was dinner at Morton's!

So they came with a Limo, and whisked us off to Morton's and the meal was delightful, but I was basically watching the proceedings from behind a veil of haze... and milliseconds after being dropped off, I was out again.

I'm quite ready for this crud to be thoroughly gone - but even today there was a lingering ache... UGH.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The end of PG13

In 1986, PG13 had just released our "Album", and spent the summer playing for drunk frat brothers. In the previous year of our existence, we had done a bunch of shows where we would rent out a VFW hall or a park center, and would have a show for underage friends.... but this final year, we were too "big" for that, so we played bigger shows - once at First Avenue... lots of college parties.

In this time we grew VERY far apart, and split into a few factions:
- The Clique: Myself, Mike the Singer, and Tim the Replacement Bassist (who I went to art school with).
- The Oblivious: Jon the Drummer was deeply into collegiate drug stupor.
- The Resentful: Dan the guitarist and Matt the Sax just hated us.

Our final gig was in August 1986: We played a Bath Mitzvah: We were set up in an aerobicize room in a health club... and were playing to semi-adoring 13 year olds. We were mostly drunk and totally hating eachother by this point. For the final gig, Paul the original Bassist came back in, though Tim the Replacement Bassist (V2, actually there was an interim Tim the Replacement Bassist as well, but he didn't work out)

In the end, Mike wound up stealing Paul the Original Bassist's Bass Amp. The kids were disappointed because we were mostly drunk and very spiteful - we thought we should have been STARS - we had a VINYL ALBUM for crisssakes.

But out of this, were born two new bands formed by The Clique: KARL was a thought experiment - we did street busking for money, and throughout 1986-87, we actually got a LOT of gigs. We were a garage funk outfit, and I played drum. Just a ride and a cymbal is all they gave me. Karl kept on going for two years, following me to College where we played many many parties. The other band was "The Great Divide", which was us trying to be serious pop people.

For more on The Great Divide, I point interested parties to my other site at:

Karl was regrettably never properly recorded - but it's likely for the best. you sort of had to be there.

To close this blog on PG13, I point to a quote given to me by Mike, who is now singing with the Derek Trucks band: "You are very kind to tip-toe around the 800 lbs. gorilla in the room -- after a few heroic tries, we just ended up sucking."

So true. So true.

More on Language

So this week, I finally finished my Pimsleur German - all 90 lessons, and it was almost bittersweet - the last two lessons were focused around conversations of saying goodbye and thank you, and give our best to your family, and I couldn't help but believe it was my instructors saying goodbye.

So how to celebrate? RUN LOLA RUN. Beautiful Franke Potenta action, lots of German... And I'm proud to say that even though I did have the subtitles on, I also "heard" about half of the movie correctly... I'm going to rip it to Ipod video without subtitles and knowing the whole movie will be my trophy.

I started Spanish this week, mostly because Pamela speaks it, and wants me to have a language in common... but I know I'll be able to speak it with Ana our housekeeper and Carrie, my lovely sister... so I figure I'm just going to be one of those "can speak many languages" kind of guys.

I'm sticking with German, though - I downloaded Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire e-book in German, and am reading it out loud to myself... also I have a few books to keep learning the language. I'm sticking with the Podcasts too.... god bless with their free resources.

After Spanish, I'll do Japanese again... But the practicality of Spanish is finally sinking in...


Sunday, November 13, 2005

On the 80's

1) It appears that the Madonna album I was reviewing actually will not be released until later this week. I cannot explain then how I came to believe I heard it and passed judgement. Must have been a VERY vivid dream. That's the most likely solution.

2) One of my pet peeves about the Sirius 80's First Wave station is that when playing Alphaville Forever Young, they use the horrid 1989 remix where they got their grubby hands on a Fairlight or something....

3) I am continually torn about Duran Duran: Are they actually good, or do i love what they make me REMEMBER about life back when they were new? I remember drunkenly shouting "Ba-bada-ba-ba-ba-bada THIS IS PLANET EARTH" at more than one party. My love for Notorious had more to do with the fact that Nick's Emax had the riff sampled in it and we played it endlessly. And it's possible my love for the two 90's hits (ordinary world, come undone) was because I was working as a music sequencer and had to do those two for cash, so I got very familiar with them.

I'm leaning toward the "nostalgia love" bit, actually. Though their first two albums did work SO very well... But then it was also because they were expermenting and pushing envelopes.

So, no decision there.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Wither my 80s heroes?

So in the past month, I've acquired new albums by Depeche Mode, Heaven 17, and Madonna. Here are my capsule reviews:

Madonna: This is a perfectly passable Kylie album. Really not much more than that, however. I'm glad she's getting in touch with her disco roots... without Mirwais' belaboured quirky mixes. Some very chunky big synthbass however - nice 16th notes that sound very Jupiter 8.

Depeche Mode: Some very good stuff on there, but here's my recommendation. GET FLOOD back. And somebody please apologize to Alan Wilder and get him back to the band. And finally, will someone please rein in Martin's horrible ballad-istic tendencies? This album reminds me of "A Broken Frame" - not very hooky, a couple of very bad songs, and a few that will sneak up on you.

I think Dave Gahan's songs are great - maybe just maybe Dave and Vince Clarke could get together and do an album? Vince has been playing the same damn song since 1985, he could use a change of scenery.

Heaven 17: This one's tough. Bear with me. Way back in 1980-1983 H17 did some great audio experimentation with modular synths and Fairlights, and the sheer exhuberance of that experimentation outweighed their occasional cheezy indulgence. Then their albums grew more and more "professional" sounding - using more session players, and then their cheese was more and more apparent.

Flash forward to 1999, they released "Bigger than America" - done on an 8 track with their old Roland Modular synths. It was brilliantly edgy, and very reminiscent of their very first efforts.

And then in 2001-2003 they worked on a new album that was only just released called "Before/After". And somewhere, they lost that spirit again - this new album has them working with looped drums, and more generic synth sounds... and basically they jumped RIGHT BACK to their late 80's cheese. There are good moments, but really, Glenn Gregory could be singing over almost any producer's work.

I'm going to leave it at this: But one final note: Annie and Dave, what are you DOING? I listened to the newer tracks on the new Eurythmics Greatest Hits album... and I woke up a few hours later. Jesus.

Studio Reminiscences Part 3 - the album

By early 1986, PG13 had decided to release an ALBUM. Vinyl baby. Whereas the first and second sessions were recordings of our established "live" repetoire, we set out to write songs just for the album. The pressure on the band was incredible - For a teenage cover band to write 5 new songs for an album, when we'd already written 10 originals, and all we ever got to play live was 90 minutes, and our covers were what people liked best... let's just say that these songs were entering re-tread territory, and we had pretty well exhausted the creative capabilities of a few of our band members.

Add to this that more than a few of us had begun playing with other bands "on the side"... there was a lessening concern for the quality of this work across the board. In addition, the few people who recall our band will vouch that our 'sound" was "everybody write a riff within the chord progression, and play it non stop".

We picked the same studio that our local idols "The Suburbs" had recorded at several years earlier. This was a "real" studio where you could do a "real album". This thing was budgeted 10x any of our previous efforts ($5000, versus $500 for each of the previous sessions). We were all there only one evening, to do basic tracking for drums - we played together only to help Jon play his drums. After that night, no more than 3 people from the band were together in the studio at any one time.

We were "remaking" several of our earlier "hits", and recording several new songs as well. Working with the instruments in isolation was a pretty grim experience - we heard every dropped beat, every flubbed note, every mistuned string. So we spent extra time polishing the turd.

Then it came time to mix it all. Now's the time to explain that the studio was owned by two men who were very very into their marijuana. I remember going upstairs to the restroom and being confronted by several ziploc freezer bags filled with "oregano". This meant they didn't really think too fast, and had a pretty laid back work ethic.

Add to this, they had their "studio process" down - we ran the snare track alone several times while we got the exact right reverb sound... then printed that. Then worked on the Kick. As we worked on the drums, we discovered that the drummers' simmons kit had been cross triggering all over the place. This had probably always been happening, but hell, we never heard it before, because we had never spent time listening to individual PARTs.

The engineers were about to get the drummer back in to rerecord all of his parts, when I had the idea to rent a Linndrum, gate the tracks, trigger new sounds... At the time, I was thrilled to have that tight Linn Kick going, but in retrospect that 20ms delay really made the tracks drag... We should have just washed it all out with extra reverb...

In the middle of this, I got a horrible Flu. But every night, every single person in the band called in with a very important excuse of some sort. So the whole album was basically mixed by me with a stuffed up head, and two engineers with a head full of zombie.

In the final analysis, the album sounded ok, but it lacked all of the spontaneity of our earlier efforts. We sold maybe a dozen of them TOTAL. We broke up not 6 months after this ordeal. The whole thing cost us $10,000, but it was all paid for by the drummer's dad, who wrote it all off as a business expense.

Several years later, I was at a St Vincent's De Paul store and found an entire box of the album for $.25. I sort of wish I had bought it, because I actually do not have that album anymore!

Studio Reminiscences Part 2

PG13 decided to record 4-5 more songs a few months later in early 1985. This time we were referred to a studio by some people in another band called "No Hands Clock". This studio was in the back of a huge warehouse and had great natural ambience, and more importantly, they also had some effects available - reverbs, delays, compressors... and more excitingly for me, they had a Prophet V for me to use too!

The industrial setting was very condusive to our creativity - there was a basketball hoop out back, and the landscape was so bleak, we thought we were on the moon.

These songs wound up being some of our favorites - in contrast to the first 4, these sounded much more like the music we actually liked to LISTEN to.

With 8 songs recorded, we decided it was time to "release a cassette" - we mixed the studio tracks along with one horrible horrible live track (which at least does capture the extremely loose timing and questionable tuning we engaged in).

We actually sold several dozen of these cassettes! We thought we were kings of the world. Talk started to turn to... an actual ALBUM.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Studio Reminiscences Part 1

Way back in 1984, I was keyboardist in a band called "PG13" - and back then, the rating was brand new, so it wasn't quite so stupid of a name. We did covers and originals... My gear included a Rhodes Chroma Polaris and a Juno 106.

We did the high school dance circuit... well, actually just our schools, and a few parties. But we were liked. So we decided to make a cassette.

We decided on 4 songs: 3 originals, and 1 cover. And it would get us gigs and lots of love. I cannot recall exactly how we wound up at "Custom Recording Studio" - an 8 track studio in the basement of a suburban house outside of Minneapolis, but there we were.

In retrospect I should have known there would be issues... he had some gorgeous microphones (more on this later), but his only effect available was a spring reverb. NO effects - no delay, no verb. And a very dry, well insulated basement.

Enter our drummer, with a Simmons SDSV kit, which the guy had never seen, and had no idea of how to record. He ran the kit direct to the board, dry as a bone. The mighty "Pssssh" of a Simmons reduced to the sound of a finger tapping on paper.

Recording went predictably - the whole affair was done in an afternoon. Midway through tracking vocals, our good friend and evil nemesis Tom Baxter walked in, surveyed the situation, and decided to take his finger and tap-tap-tap on the Neumann U87 microphone - and the engineer actually began screaming at him. Tom was a band buddy, but was not a musician - he just came to gigs and smoked backstage and pestered people on our behalf (he really was annoying - my sister tried to push him out of a moving car once).

Tom tried to pull a "what's with this guy" routine as the engineer screamed, but we knew, he had done a bad thing. Tom had to leave. We never invited him to a studio session again.

In the end, the recording was extremely two dimensional and crispy - everything was eventually fed through his one spring reverb, to add some minor ambience...

Did the tape get us gigs? Not so much. But the Engineer did pass the tape along to a friend who had a public access radio show, and we got played on the radio exactly once - as "James Reee-ay and his Band". On a public school station.

And that's the first PG-13 recording story. Still to come - the second cassette, the LP, and the "side Project".

Friday, November 04, 2005

Tonight on MPR

I have a recurring fantasy where Mishelle Norris, Melissa Block, and Terri Gross are in the NPR lunchroom discussing the day's events, and I'm at the table next to theirs, leaning in to hear their sassy, caring, but even and modulated voices....

And they talk for like 15 hours.


(UPDATE - My wife informed me that the only way this could be "hotter" would be to have Nina Totenberg hanging out with them. I concur WHOLEHEARTEDLY)

19 days of no Pacifiers....

Almost 3 weeks since the Pacifier Fairy came and took Bella's Pacifiers away, we're still having some LATE nights where she's waking up and isn't able to settle herself. We are definitely conflicted on how to help - if we let her cry, she sometimes goes down, sometimes escalates. But if we go in, she seems to get even more revved up. Last night she was standing in our doorway screaming for us to "Go Downstairs!!!", until she collapsed in a heap.

Every day I think... maybe I should let her have a pacifier. But no, this is the right thing.

So tonight, for her sleepover with Jenny, she was getting ready for bed in her old crib (Jenny's much taller, so she wouldn't fit), and she actually found a pacifier in her old room. And POP it went into her mouth. And I had to talk it back out of her mouth... but more importantly, she actually seemed to be disappointed in the feeling of the pacifier, that it wasn't quite the magic she remembered.... So maybe this is a good thing.

(rereading this, I did mean "talk" it out, not take it out. She gave it back to me.)

Parenting is great, but sometimes these "lessons" are not so fun.


Welcome Friends

So I've finally told people about this thing. It's just for random firings of my synapses.

Please direct all complaints and inquiries to ""


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Learning German

When we were going to Tokyo last spring, I took it on myself to do the 8 lesson Pimsleur "basic Japanese" course to get some basic words. I found that I was TRULY enjoying learning a new language with the aural method Pimsleur uses.

So this summer I decided to stop making up German sounding words, and actually learn some German. I got the 90-lesson full Pimsleur course from Audiofy on 3 DRM'ed SD cards that fit into my Treo Phone, and did a lesson every morning during my commute.

A few months later, and I'm on lesson 81. I can talk all SORTS of crazy German. I download German language Podcasts and try to understand them (yeah, not so well yet, but I'm getting better - the Hans Zimmer interview with Traumen Fur Deutschland is great).

Perhaps my best moment was at my rewedding being able to tell Kate Dowling, a woman with a Masters in German and family in Bavaria, that "me and my wife have been married for 10 years and we love it!" (Meine Frau und Ich sind zeit sein Jahren verhairatet, und es gefelt uns SEHR!) - she was stunned.

What's next? I'll be scheduling some conversation lessons with Kate, keep on with the daily podcasts, go to Germany next year.... but then it's off to another language. I'm still debating between hitting Japanese again and Spanish (which might actually be useful. But utility has no place in this decision).

Finally, what started me on this jag: today's lesson had a phrase that almost made me drive off the road: Shall we go to Castle Frankenstein?

(Wollen wir zum SchlossFrankenstein gehen?)

Jimmy OUT

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Neighborhoodies at Halloween set me up PROPER - this post shows both my lovely wife wearing the custom job (with the optional drop-shadow and heart graphics), and my daughter dressed as a Pink Poodle for the Treat Day. By the time this pic was taken, she was getting a bit tired of being on display, and was pulling a Greta Garbo.

T-Shirt Life

Good buddy Caesar (who is still "on notice" as far as I'm concerned) forwarded me this link to "ninja T-Shirt Folding":

After a few tries, I was able to get this working no problem, and thoroughly impressed my wife... and we'll see how that pans out!

It does work with long sleeved shirts, but you need to manually fold in the sleeves during the flip-over phase.

Jimmy OUT.

Saturday, October 29, 2005


Last night, I was Messenger Chatting with Paul Sebastien: He was at his desk in Seattle, me in my living room in Edina. Suddenly we saw that Caesar was available for chat, and added him in. He was in an airplane over northern Canada coming back from Finland.

And the three of us used this miraculous technology in a way that would have made Alexander Graham Bell proud:

I believe the subjects were Whiskey, Stewardesses, Poo, Puppies, and Poo.

Welcome to the future.

Friday, October 28, 2005

In the Studio

Here's a promotional picture of me in my studio. We took it for our Adoption photo album... Note the spartan environment.
Revision of The Metro is done. I'm still on the fence about whether I'm doing Love Plus One, Life in Tokyo, or something... else...

Reasons I Hate Caesar

1. He can play guitar and bass and sing AND play keys and produce. He makes me look lazy. Who does he think he is... Prince? Jesus.

2. He got to go to Helsinki on the company dime in Business Class, and got WIFI on the airplane. When I went to Tokyo in Bidness Class, there was no freaking WIFI. He had to one-up me.

3. He will have in-laws in Japan by next year, and will have an endless supply of Hibiki Whiskey if he so desires.

4. He is taller than I am. AND I AM TALL.

That's enough for me.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

In the iPod

Can't get enough of Boards of Canada's new one - The Campfire Headphase. Totally BOC, but with some new elements. They didn't go get Bjork to sing or anything. They kind of discover guitars on this, but process them in such a way as they sound vaguely like they were recorded on a portable cassette deck in 1975. In the attic.

Also, Saint Etienne have come back in a big way for me. Sarah Cracknell is the new Julie London, as far as I'm concerned. Sweetly singing songs of heartbreak.

Jimmy out.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Platypus Railroad Dream

This was a dream I had in July 2002: Documented for posterity and
blogged for all to see.

I was at Stanford University, staying in a dorm room run by the guys
who run the AppleTurns website. I was in trouble because I had answered the phone incorrectly, and was on my way to class.

Out a window in the courtyard, I saw a man with a bear-sized platypus on a leash. The platypus was actually very bear-like and was strangely feral. But it was undoubtedly a platypus.

I entered my classroom, and was excited to find that the Platypus was destined for a visit! Our professor told us about the great Platypus Line of trains, which are powered by the gaseous emissions of Giant Platypuses.
These are the finest trains in the world, our professor told us.

The man with the Platypus came to the classroom door, and I saw he was dressed in a Casey Jones-like engineer outfit. The Platypus paced angrily outside.

The Engineer pointed at the Professor and declared that the Professor was not a professor at all, but rather was a disgraced Platypus train engineer himself, who had been drummed out of the industry for getting "high"
off of the Platypus fumes.

Our professor confessed that this was indeed the truth, and that he had only invited the Platypus to join us in hopes of getting a contact high, to remember his old days.

And then I woke up.

A Fantastic Invention

I had a pair of corduroy pants rigged up so that whenever they "whiff" from friction, it creates a minor electrostatic circuit that powers a series of LEDs that spell "whiff whiff" down my legs. I did this so that deaf people could also enjoy my corduroy slacks.

And then to help the blind, every time the LEDs light, a synthesized "whiff whiff" is activated on my pant-leg based MP3 player. This is just in case the whiff whiff from the actual pant leg is not "optimal" - the MP3 is the platonic ideal of corduroy rubbing corduroy.

I don't actually like to wear corduroy however, so I have created a version of the 1970's Lee Jeans testing robots what simply moves it's legs as I walk. So it wears the pants, really.

But it's pretty cool. You should see it.