I received for my birthday yesterday an advance copy of Hitmen by my friend Big Boy Pete. I’ve written about him before and he’s an excellent musician as well as a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who taught me some of the best secrets to recording music. I have to say that upon listening to the CD I was pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of the album.
While the liner notes are ridiculously silly because you’ve got a couple of psychedelia musicians recording an album together based on flashbacks from their 60’s acid daze. You’ll definitely hear the styles of the bands of the day, but not copying the bands, but doing it in their own style. The first thing that hit me was the first song which is a good opening track called American Dream which the lyrics where re-written to express today’s political situation. They followed it up with Trailer Trash that sounded like it was T. Rex, except that the song was written three years before T. Rex was started. I hear some references to the style of the Beatles and Rolling Stones, but again they were in their beginnings when these songs were written so they aren’t a rip off on them and they’ve got keyboards in there that modernize these retro psychedelia songs.
While I don’t know anything about The Squire, I’ve known Big Boy Pete for years and he’s become a San Francisco landmark for recording many of the local punk and metal bands in the late 70’s and 80’s. He was one of the small recording studios that allowed many small bands to come to prominence in the local Bay Area music scene while he recorded his own music as well.
To give you an example, I’ve included the song Amber to give you a taste of the album. Click the link at the bottom to hear it. The CD is currently going to be publicly released shortly and I’ll let you know where and when you can get it.
I knew that day in New York that they’d won. Our viral spiral had just begun. ‘Cos the White House was focused on catching the villains And no-one was watching the bankers steal billions. Now is the time for American Spring.
A man very dear to my heart has died. Jon Lord, the keyboardist for Deep Purple died today of heart attack on top of having pancreatic cancer. He was the person who influenced me enough to play the piano and then move on to synthesizers. I still have a program on my keyboard that I made called Jon Lord that specifically reproduced his Hammond B-3 organ with all the grit and distortion. I can still to this day play his solos from Highway Star or the intro to Child in Time. I will miss the fact that he is no longer around to play music, but at 71 he had a good life I hope. He was one of my musical heroes that I unfortunately never got to meet. The following is about him from sfgate.com and the story does him justice.
Jon Lord, the keyboardist of the pioneering British hard-rock band Deep Purple, died Monday in London. He was 71.
The cause was a pulmonary embolism, said his manager, Bruce Payne. Mr. Lord announced last year that he had cancer.
In songs from the late 1960s and early ’70s like “Smoke on the Water,” “Hush” and the epic “Child in Time,” Deep Purple laid much of the groundwork for heavy metal, drawing a blunter and fiercer sound out of the blues-based riffs common in the British invasion’s first wave.
Mr. Lord’s Hammond B-3 organ – with its signal routed through a Marshall amplifier to give it a distorted tang – was key to Deep Purple’s style. It locked into formation withRitchie Blackmore‘s guitar, Roger Glover‘s bass and Ian Paice‘s drums, forging catchy lines like the four-note motif of “Smoke on the Water” that helped the band sell tens of millions of albums around the world.
But Mr. Lord did more than pound out chords. His fast, wandering solos reflected a lifelong interest in lyrical classical music, and in the band’s early years he composed several large-scale pieces for the group, including “Concerto for Group and Orchestra,” which was recorded with the Royal Philharmonic in London in 1969.
Born in Leicester, England, on June 9, 1941, Mr. Lord studied classical piano from a young age and became a fan of piano rockers like Jerry Lee Lewis as well as jazz organists like Jimmy Smith. After moving to London in 1959, he played in various jazz, blues and pop groups throughout the 1960s, until in 1968 the first incarnation of Deep Purple was formed in Hertford.
After its first singer, Rod Evans, left in 1969, the group recruited Ian Gillan, who had sung in “Jesus Christ Superstar” and had the vocal prowess to match the band. In the early 1970s the group released a string of hit albums, including “Deep Purple in Rock,” “Machine Head” and the live “Made in Japan.”
Mr. Lord remained in the group despite numerous personnel changes until it finally disbanded in 1976. He then formed Paice, Ashton and Lord, a short-lived group with Deep Purple’s drummer and the singer Tony Ashton, and joined an early version of the band Whitesnake. Deep Purple reunited in 1984, and Mr. Lord stayed until 2002; since then he has continued his composing career and collaborated with musicians includingAnni-Frid Lyngstad of Abba.
Yes, I know I haven’t posted anything in a week, but I needed a little vacation. Sunday of last week [not yesterday] I dropped in at the SF Surfrider’s Earth Day celebration out at Ocean Beach at the foot of Taraval. I actually did it twice because like always I don’t tend to make a fashionably late entrance. While there weren’t too many people there in the beginning, when I went back i really got to learn a lot about the group and what they were doing.
Now I’ll admit that at first I thought the SF Surfrider’s hit me kind of like the SF Bike Coalition, but since most people don’t drive on the waves the whole hooligan attitude is missing from them. The whole Earth Day part started at 10am at Ocean Beach with a bunch of people from the group and supporters gathering to clean up the beach. This is always a good thing as there are lots of nasty bits you can find on the beach. I actually saw a picture this morning of someone’s dog who had manage to find a rather large, umm, well, sexual device let’s just say and was bringing it back to his owner like he had a bone in his mouth. While that was one of the rather least offensive things found the beach there have been syringes that people dump into drains or flush down their toilets that don’t properly get processed or someone digs a hole and toss some briquets in to have a beach barbecue and then some one like a cousin of mine sits on the beach and ends up with 3rd degree burns on her feet because old hot coals look like sand.
I have to applaud them for this because they love to surf and why would anyone want to surf in a garbage dump? They are also concerned with the erosion that’s occurring on the south end of Ocean Beach and I have to say that my wife and i used to like to run out on the weekend and get coffee and danish and then drive out the parking lot by the zoo to have our breakfast. There’s not too much left out there now and the SF Surfrider’s are trying to find a way to fix the problem.
I got to talk to a couple of people from the group and told them that I’d be mentioning them and I really have to say that the party they organized [after I went back for the second run] was a lot of fun. SF Surfrider’s is a very eco-friendly group and they were even using blocks of eco-friendly surfboard wax to hold down their materials and giving out roll up eco-friendly grocery bags made from recycled water bottles. They also were having a raffle for a surfboard, but I decided that I’m a bit out of shape to start up my old surfing days again. Give me a few years and maybe I’ll get back in shape for it though.
While they were the focal point there were also a couple of food trucks, Seoul on Wheels and Cheese Gone Wild as well as well as a beer garden that got bigger as the day went on sponsored by Trumer Pils. I did happen to notice for the celebrity gossip column angle that the ever sexy Nikki Blakk of 107.7 The Bone was there early on, but I couldn’t find her on my second trip down there. She might have been in the RipTide that was packed to the gills while having the Mermen entertain everyone. I was a bit bummed because I was hoping to slide a copy of my CD into Nikki’s hand so that, you know, I might get a mention or something like that on her show. Oh well, things don’t always go my way, but the party at the beach was pretty fun and I salute the SF Surfrider’s for give us a chance to see what they’re all about.
Well I finally finished everything up and I’m hoping by Monday that my new album will be available in iTunes. In the mean time you can listen to the album down below. There should be actual CD’s available within a month. If you like Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen you’ll probably like this album. If you don’t, well you may not, but that doesn’t matter to me.
I recorded the album myself in my home studio that I wrote an article about on my music website saundhaus that talks about how when I first graduated from college with my new degree in audio recording it would have cost me over $500,000 to have what I have today. Over time prices go down and now I think my entire studio cost me less than $5000.
I played all the instruments on this myself and created the artwork for the album and now I’m doing all the marketing myself. I don’t have time to put a band together and play live anymore, but I still have a need to make music. My hope is that at the very least people will like my music and purchase it. I’m kind of a nobody so there’s not going to be having a record release party at Amoeba Music, but I might try and get them to stock a few CD’s at least. When the CD is finished it will be available through my saundhaus website, amazon.com and supposedly Target as well.I have yet to find my previous CD at Target, but I still check every time I go. Enough of that though. It’s time to stop talking and start rocking. Enjoy!
Oh, and if you follow me on Twitter you’ll get a code as soon as the CD is out to get a 30% discount off the CD.
Well, I spent my labor day weekend laboring and I’ve finally got enough songs to put out my next album. It is going to be called Exile in the Sunset because no matter where I go I always end up back in the fog and gloom of the Sunset District. This is another hard rock album that if the names Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen and Stevie Ray Vaughn are names you know then you’ll want to check this one out, because they’ve all influenced me.
I’ve got thirteen songs this time and they cover the hard rock versions of blues, classical and just plain guitar wanking/shredding. Part of this is probably due to the fact that for awhile in the late 70’s/early 80’s I had a guitar teacher when I was a teenager who was Joe Satriani. He came out to San Francisco and with a band called the Squares and was teaching guitar to earn a few extra bucks. It was the best money I ever spent. Joe taught me how to move my fingers on the guitar as no other person could. He also taught me how to coordinate my two hands on the guitar to work together which took me awhile to figure out how to make two different parts of me do the exact same thing at the exact same time which made me play much cleaner.
I also have to thank my college professor, Dr. Robert Mortenson who taught me composition. Granted, it was from a classical background, but he taught me how to think about what the other instruments would and should be doing when you composed a piece of music.
Note that the picture isn’t the actual album cover, but more of a place holder for the actual cover that I’m working on right now. If you click on it you can get a free copy of a song on the album called Day in/Day Out. It’ll give you an idea of what the album will sound like. If you’re interested in my music you can find it in iTunes and you can purchase CD’s if you still believe in that ancient format can visit my website: wwww.saundhaus.com and actually purchase CD’s by clicking on the cover photo of the album. Not all of it is rock as I’ve got an odd Danny Elfman, orchestral composer side to me, but check it out. I hope you enjoy it!
Oh and last, but not least…HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! I’m another year older, but I feel like a kid.
As many of you have been aware, I’m a musician. I started playing piano at seven years old and moved over to guitar at 15 and have played in addition trumpet, flute [which taught me how to fight], harpsichord, organ [no jokes!], clarinet and cello and got into symphonic music so I moved on to synthesizers. In the beginning synthesizers sort of imitated the instruments they were supposed to sound like, but never quite did a perfect job. There were a few people like Isao Tomita and Wendy Carlos who could do classical music that was passable. It even got them quite a bit of fame. Tomita was my inspiration behind my version of Mars, Bringer of War by Gustav Holst.
Inspirational people like this led me to study music composition in college. I ran the electronic music studio as San Francisco State for a couple of years that led to me creating a piece called Armageddon that was featured at a World Electronic Music Convention in Italy in the early 80’s.
That still wasn’t enough. That was electronic and experimental not orchestral. He’ll, I didn’t want to be the orchestra leader, but the entire orchestra myself. So I decided to start out easy in the SFSU Electronic Music Studio by recomposing the Brandenburg Concerto by Bach. I wasn’t really playing anything because back then I didn’t know enough about being an orchestra to play parts of a larger piece that weren’t the melody. So I actually typed in the entire piece on a musical keyboard. Instrument, by instrument. It took me a couple of months and when I was finished I played it and realized, I had lots of typos that while you can excuse them a bit in writing, in music it becomes painful to the ears. So I went back and checked my musical typing into the sequencer, found the mistakes and corrected them. Then I carefully chose the sounds to use to for the strings, flutes, clarinets, trumpets and all the other instruments. Sometimes I had to tweak the patches to make them sound better. In the end, it sounded electronic, but much better that what I had heard before. I felt like I was now in the same category of Tomita and Carlos. Then the day came that I presented it to the class.
The teacher scowled at me, THAT’S NOT ELECTRONIC MUSIC! THAT’S JUST REPURPOSED CLASSICAL! He and everyone else in the class thought it was very good though. He did have a point. Most of the other electronic music was atonal, arhythmic and sort of sounded like banshees and noise on a bad day. But what could I say, I was a pop star of a weird music genre.
OK, I didn’t write it, I didn’t even play it, but it was a start. When I finally got my first pair of real synthesizers and now had an understanding of how to create the sounds I started tinkering with them. It was late one night on a weekend and I had a few shots of scotch in me at the time and a melody came into my head. It had me at first thinking of a battle scene in a movie starting out slowly like when you hear the sound of horses running off in the distance and then they get louder as they get closer and closer and the music get’s louder until you see a large group of warriors on horses coming over the hill screaming and entering battle. All the other parts just fell into place and I think the entire piece was finished in an hour. I called it Victory. It had a feeling of some of the impressionist composers that caused riots when their music was first played along with a nod to Danny Elfman’s orchestral work. It was only about four minutes long. Not exactly enough to be released as a single, so I thought up an idea of turning it into a nine part symphony even though most symphonies had four parts and sometimes three. In the end it was called Symphony of the Nine Angles and I ended up using inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft and the derivative writings of Dr. Michael Aquino and Don Webb. It’s a pretty dark sounding piece of music, but since I was into the darker shades of hard rock and metal it sort of fit.
Next came my CD the Vampyric Suite which was four pieces expressing different aspects of vampires [Anne Rice and all her spin off fanatics were popular at the time] plus Munsalvache [a torrential sounding solo organ piece] and my versions of Night on Bald Mountain and Mars, Bringer of War. So there I was surrounding myself with darkness once again. After that I sort of hung up my classical composing for a long time focusing on getting my hard rock album out. Now that I have a daughter she likes to play on my keyboards and make her own music that I have to say at four years old sounds a whole lot better than some of the stuff that was coming out of the SFSU studio in the 80’s.
This got be back to playing with the synths again and there’s always been one piece that I’ve always loved as a child that I’ve tried in the past, but never been able to do well — The Sorceror’s Apprentice by Georg Dukas. I present that to you now. It will need to be reworked though because unfortunately my synths are at least 15 years old some even older. So the sounds, while good aren’t that good. Hell, you don’t even need synths now, just a keyboard to trigger the sounds on a software synth or sampler that’s running on your computer. So I’m saving up my money to get a copy of MOTU’sSymphonic Instrument. These sound great and they will do this piece justice so that I won’t have to deal with the woodwinds sounding like an accordion. I’ve always been a big fan of MOTU’s products and have used them since the beginning. I run Digital Performer and use their MOTU 828 interface to my computer and the sound is excellent. I’m not going to ask you for donations to get it. I’ll find a way to do it. Hopefully this will inspire me to produce another orchestral album in the near future. While retro music is great for some people, I really need to get my sounds into the 21st century. Give a listen to my version of the Sorceror’s Apprentice and tell me what you think. It’ll get better with the new sounds.
After an experience I had yesterday morning I decided that a look at musical technology was in order. Being a guitarist and keyboardist I’ve got an arsenal of gear in my house. It used to take up a whole lot of space and it cost me an arm and a leg to get it. I’ve pared down over the years because the technology has increased. I used to have a Marshall Stack that cost me $800 for the head and $400 for each of the two cabinets. I sold them both to get a PODxt Pro which gave me a choice of 32 different amp models plus 22 different cabinets plus a huge selection of effects and modeled mics for the cabinets to get the same studio sound for $799. They now have a newer version that does even more for $300 less. They say modeled because they can’t say duplicated, but when a friend of mine came by and told me the amps he wanted to play through and what setting to give it he was surprised at how close it came.
Now it’s time to up the ante. Yesterday I just happened to run across a few iOS apps for the iPad that bring the price barrier down even further. In the early 80’s there were two synthesizers that were vying for the top of the heap as being the best and most expensive synthesizers in existence. These were the Synclavier and the Fairlight CMI. You have to remember back in these days most computers had about as much power as your bottom of the line cell phone and they were big, fat and ugly. While the Synclavier has sort of fallen away into the history books, Fairlight CMI decided to take a step forward. The original Fairlight CMI cost around $40,000. Well outside the range of the average musician. Now Fairlight has release the Fairlight CMI II as an iPad app for $9.95. You can get the pro app for $49.99 or if you bought the cheaper version through an in app upgrade of $39.99 and this included the entire CMI III sound banks.
Granted you have to deal with 80’s styled synth sounds, but retro has always been cool. The other downside is that you have to deal with the same interface as you did in 1980, but at least it’s on an iPad which makes it a bit cooler. The original used to take up the equivalent of a six foot table with a large box underneath that you had to insert 8″ floppy disks into that were a bit on the fragile side. Now you can hold the entire thing in your hand and walk around using it. Very cool in my book and I’ll be getting a copy of it soon.
The next piece of software is the Mellotronics M3000 that recreates the original Mellotron built by a British company in the 60’s that you’ll all know as the flute sounds in the Beatles, Strawberry Fields. It was the first sampler that used blocks of audio tape that had the recorded samples of the instrument and it was rather fussy at times and the tapes wore down. Now it’s on the iPad and you don’t have to worry about the tapes wearing down because it’s all digital. This is a really good version of the original seeing as the builders of this app have joined forces with the original Mellotron makers to perfect it.
There are lots of other synth programs for the iPad like NLog and Rebirth [being a fraction of what the desktop version is] that offer MIDI interfacing so you don’t have to use the iPad screen to make the music and there are lots of apps out there for the iPad that works as recording studios letting you record anywhere from 4-16 stereo tracks. This is something twenty years ago that no one would have believe to be possible. If you’re not a synth wizard, but a guitarist or bassist you can always download Amplitube and turn your iPad into any one of a number of amps for literally pennies. Granted for most of these things you’ll need a few extra bits of hardware, but I can definitely see now that we’re entering into the post-PC world as Steve Jobs said that in the next few years recording studios are going to shrink down to a table with an iPad or two plugged into a speaker system and be very streamlined.
Somewhere in the mid 90’s I wrote an article on my music website, saundhaus.com that talked about Audio for the Masses and how at the time for under $5000 you could put together a recording studio that would surpass the level of studios from the 70’s and even 80’s. Now today you can get an iPad for $499 and for another $100 add in what you need to make it pretty awesome. If you search youtube.com you might find a few people like this who are already using iPads to play concerts [now if they could just get the singers on key]. Life can be weird, yet amazing at times.