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.