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Posts Tagged 'hard rock'

The Case Of The Unknown Guitarist…

I was never much of a conspiracy theorist, but sometimes something happens that you just have to say, WTF?!?. The latest started one day when I was cleaning out my cabinet in my recording studio and came across some CD’s that didn’t have any labels on them. This was unfortunately normal for me several years ago and I started to pop them in and try and identify them. I came across a song I had forgotten about from back around 2001 that started with a strange call I received and that’s where this story begins.

I need to give you a little bit of background so you can understand the head space I was in then. While I had been in a band that played around the city and I was always hanging out in the local clubs that was in the 80’s and early 90’s. After I got married, while I was still a musician I wasn’t playing live or in a band. Hell, my band broke up in 1985 before the local scene really started to get big actually.

I still had lots of friends in the industry that I’d be in touch with and occasionally I’d get a call to help them out with a recording they were doing. I wasn’t really on the pulse of what was going on anymore.  I actually didn’t know that several of the bands that I liked from the 80’s were still together and releasing albums until recently.

This is where it starts to get interesting. I got a call one weekend from a friend of a friend. He told me that he was recording a band at the Record Plant and their guitarist got in a car accident and they were burning studio time. I hadn’t really played with a band in almost 15 years at this point aside from some small side gigs in a studio and I was told that this was pretty much all it was. I was suggested because they needed someone who played like guitarist X. I have to use an X here because I don’t really have enough to go on so I can’t name the guitarist, but I figured it was some sort of cover band or a band covering one of X’s songs and I was pretty much known for being able to play like this guitarist because, well he was kind of my idol in the 80’s. I said, let me grab my guitar and find some extra strings and I’ll be right over. Don’t worry we’ve got everything you need just come right now.

I didn’t think much at the time, but I drove over there and was handed a guitar that I noodled around with for a few minutes. Mind you this was a guitar very similar to the guitarist’s I was supposed to be emulating so I figure wow, they weren’t kidding. It was actually the same brand guitar I played. I started to adjust the tone on the amp to get it to where I thought it needed to be and I was told, don’t touch it, we’ve got his tone dialed in.

OK they had everything figured out, no problem, I just chalked it up to being professional. The bass player and drummer where there, but they had pretty much recorded most of what they needed except they needed more guitar. I jammed on the song a couple of times with the band and then we went straight to recording. It was only a couple of takes and then I went back and re-recorded the rhythm parts. They liked what I did and told me that it was perfect and no one would know that their guitarist missed the session. Cool. I was supposed to get paid $250 for the job and they ended up giving me $500 and asking me not to tell anyone I covered for their guitarist.

I actually knew so little about the band that I didn’t know the name of the guitarist, let alone the band and just figured I was getting paid to play guitar and I headed home with my money. Time spent about three hours total.

It was fun being in a big studio one more time in my life and playing the CD they sent me on this day reminded me of that time. So much so that I decided to post it to some friends in a sort of, remember back when sort of thing. It was when I got a call from a friend I hadn’t talked to in years that the story got interesting.

It turns out that somewhere around this time he was one of a few people called to see if they knew anyone who could play like this guitarist. It turns out the guitarist had fallen on hard times and had well, gone missing during the recording and they needed someone to cover for him. I honestly didn’t even know this guitarist was still recording and thought he was just another guy who’d show up for a guest gig here and there and that was it. Now this was only one song I played and like I said it was an in/out kind of thing so who knows how far this could have gone. There could have been several guitarists called in and they just picked from what they liked the best. I found the album that the song could have been released on and I have to say that it does sound like me to a certain extent. Well, me sounding like him. The worst part is that it was 12 years ago so I can’t say for sure. I notice things that are different between the two, but the singer [who I never met] sounds exactly the same. That’s one of the problems when you’re doing a cover tune is that people try to sound exactly like the original. I did have a bit of a habit of overplaying a bit and there were signs that what I played were there, but that was also based on a few changes the band I was playing with had added to the song. On top of that the song was originally recorded in the 70’s so even bands from the 70’s update their sound a bit over the years.

It all comes down to the question of was it me being asked to cover the part of one of my idol guitarists who couldn’t make the session or was it a band doing a cover of said guitarist? I can’t say for sure. I definitely can sound like him because he was a big influence on me, but the whole idea of me being him on his record is just too hard to imagine. Probably the worst part is that if it was me, I’ll never get recognized for it because no one would ever be able to admit it was me.

SFGate gets Internet Radio

I caught a tweet today from Earbits that their deal with SF Gate [the Chronicle] has gone live. I was contacted a couple of weeks ago by them because I’m a San Francisco musician and asked if I’d like to have my music streamed through their website to readers of sfgate.com [hell YES!]

Well, I believe the tweet was a bit premature because if you go to sfgate.com you won’t find any mention of it, but if you go to sfgate.earbits.com you’ll get the station. I’m currently clicking through the songs in various categories and found it odd that for a station that is supposed to be based around the SF Bay Area indie bands that bands from Los Angeles, San Diego and Chicago are popping up. I did find some San Francisco bands though, but I feel there should be more. If any San Francisco bands are out there that read this contact me and I’ll hook you up with earbits so you can get your music heard.

I have my album I’ve Got a Guitar and I’m Not Afraid to Use It! on their playlist as well as my recent single Funk U, but I haven’t heard it yet on the station yet. They definitely need more local talent on there. I’m also a bit surprised at how they classify the music. I currently have the Hard Rock and Metal channel playing and there seems to be a definite lack of hard rock and metal there. I’m hearing a few ska bands and whinny emo-like bands with the occasional metal band thrown in and every other song seems to be from Santa Cruz punks called Seduce the Dead.

Earbits also includes a social networking aspect linking in with facebook and twitter so that you can share the bands you like with your friends and followers. It has potential, but needs more local bands to make it stand out as significant to the Bay Area. They also have apps available for the iPhone and Android so you can listen on the go.

 

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My First Music Video!

Well it took me 10 years to put out my first hard rock album, so I guess I can be cut a little slack for taking three to get my first music video out. It’s for my song Seaside Strut from I’ve got a guitar and I’m not afraid to use it!

Oddly enough, while I’ve always been a big early adopter, I’ve had to cut back of late being married and having a daughter so I was really happy when HD cameras became available, but I actually didn’t even have to use on for this. I had some friends in Hawaii set me up with some footage of them surfing that they recorded in HD. It was really easy for me to put this all together. Why surfers? Well, when I wrote the song it kind of came to me after watching the surfers one day and San Francisco doesn’t have the nicest beaches for surfers. They’re pretty angry waves even if they’re small so they needed some angry music. Unfortunately filming at Ocean Beach gets kind of rare because I don’t surf anymore and the sunny days are pretty hit or miss. My friends had the waterproof cameras and did a great job on what they shot.

For me what’s the most interesting part is that prior to 2000 this wouldn’t have been so easy. We’re only talking a little over 10 years and now, today you can buy a computer that comes with audio recording software that’s decent, but not the best [it’s still better than what you could do 20 years ago] AND you get video editing software that comes with it. It’s only been a few days, but you’ll probably be able to do all this on the new iPad 2. How good it will be I’m not sure yet, but it’s definitely going to be a new wave for multimedia people. So on that note, enjoy the video and leave me some feedback. I know some of the readers are old friends of mine from college who went through broadcasting just like I did, so I’d like to hear what you think for my first time go around.

For those who want the technical specs, the song was recorded in Digital Performer and I played all the instruments. The drums are actually built in touch sensitive samples that I triggered through an external source [i.e. an old electronic drum kit]. The amp for the guitar & base is a podXT Pro which can replicate pretty much any amp out there. Final mixdown and mastering was also done through Digital Performer and then I brought the music into iMovie and basically tapped along with the song to determine where the cuts will come. Total time for getting the video together: 3 hours and mostly that was because I exported it twice and realized I had made a couple of errors. Enjoy!

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Where has all the music gone?

San Francisco used to be THE place for live music. We had clubs all over the city that had bands playing their own music, not just house “cover bands” but music that would end up leading them somewhere. We used to have big clubs like Wolfgang’s and the Stone that were the center’s of the metal scene to some smaller clubs like Mabuhay Gardens that was the center for the punk scene. You had bluesy bands like Tommy Castro and Johnny Nitro playing down at some of the bigger bars on Fisherman’s Wharf with the occasional shot at one of the dive bars in North Beach.

Today? What happened? My friend Jimmy Arceneaux shared a video on facebook a few days ago that had me thinking about this. Jimmy was one of the guys who did the booking for the bands that played at the Stone, Keystone Berkeley, One Step Beyond in Oakland and for the life of me I can’t remember the name of the place in San Jose as well. All these places are gone today.

Broadway Street in San Francisco had 5-6 clubs mixed in with all the strip clubs that were running full strength through the 80’s – 90’s and now there’s nothing. There would be other clubs that would pop up for a few weeks or months and then fade away. Why was that?

Well, I can only blame two things. Industrial music and hip hop. Industrial music was kind of like heavy metal with sounds of machinery added in. It was very heavy and raw and at first the bands played live. Then as they go more technologically proficient it became pretty close to impossible to perform live what they did in the studio because the electronic equipment didn’t put on as much of a show as four guys in jeans or spandex and leather depending on which decade you’re looking at. Hip hop was a bit different in that they would record their CD and then do another mix down without the vocals so it was more like karaoke for an established band. The first time I had to do sound for a hip hop band called Aztlan Nation they handed me a cassette tape and told me, “play it”.

I didn’t know what to do so after the first song ended I stopped the tape and one of the guys runs over to me yelling, “just let it play!” OK, that’s an easy job for an engineer to do. Drop in the tape, press play, kick back and drink your beer. I didn’t really have any work to do anymore. The clubs didn’t have to worry about having the right or enough mics for the band. You just hit play and sat back. I think I finally walked off the side of the stage at some point because they didn’t need me anymore.

Eventually, this led to the “dance club” phase where bands had become kind of irrelevant. If you had enough space to pack in people and didn’t need to have a stage or a band to argue with over payment [which was rare] you could just give a DJ $50 to spin some records [remember those black 12″ things and no, I’m not referring to a porn film] and people would still come. It was somewhere in the 90’s that the live music clubs started to close or turn into “dance clubs” where you just had a DJ. Bands now had a tough time to make it.

You could fill out lots of paperwork and throw out some of your hard earned cash to get city permits to play a free gig in the park, but that started to get old quick when bands had to pay money to get people to hear their music. None of the DJ at the clubs played much if any of the unsigned acts at the clubs. Bands that used to play at the bigger clubs like the Stone or Wolfgang’s now were left with playing at very small bars like the Nightbreak on Haight St. and they were lucky to get a free beer for playing.

Live music will never die though. There are starting to be a few places popping back up for the bands to play again. Slim’s has come back from the dead and there’s the Avalon and Thee Parkside, but we still need places for live bands to play that have a capacity of more than 100 people. If you find some places other than little dive bars let me know because a lot of the old bands are coming back and there are new bands popping up that need a place to play.

So now I want all of you to step away from your computers on Friday and Saturday nights and go out and find some good live music and post comments about it here. Any upcoming shows you think people should know about, let me know and I’ll let everyone who reads this know about them.

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