I Am Ozzy!

I did something for Halloween that I haven’t done in years. I actually put a costume together, no not just slapping together a few random items, but I came up with an idea for an actual person to become for Halloween and on Halloween, I was Ozzy Osbourne.

I forgot how much fun dressing up for Halloween can be and when I was out and walking around, not going from home to home, but actually walking around in the commercial areas of the city it was almost magical. People were stopping me and taking pictures of me as well as taking pictures with me. Of course no one really believed I was Ozzy, except for the people working at the local taqueria I went into which was pretty surreal.

I can imitate Ozzy fairly well so I went in and asked for a bat burrito. Some of them looked horrified at my request and others laughed. All of the patrons got a big laugh out of it and I finally picked up a couple of steak burritos and headed home. I had forgotten how much fun I used to have dressing up on Halloween and this brought back to me that no matter how old you get, you’re never too old to have fun on Halloween.

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!


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.


Heavy Metal Never Dies

After reading about Ozzy and Mötley Crüe and how they tried to kill themselves I thought it would be nice to have a book about Metal in San Francisco from it’s start in 1980 to where it is in present day.  So I’ve decided to write a book on the subject and have it self published.

What I need is to hear from the bands and people involved in the scene because there’s some parts that are a bit foggy for me and some that I missed out on. I want to do interviews for the book with the people who also pushed the scene along like Ron Quintana, Danny D and all of the others. Pics will help as well. I’m hoping you’ll all provide the words and stories that I missed out on, like the East Bay scene which I was only a peripheral member of, mostly seeing the bands when they came to play in San Francisco. Remember some of the old Waller house parties?

San Francisco was the spawning grounds for Thrash Metal that defined San Francisco as one of the big thrash metal scenes, so please contact me with information so I help all of us remember who was who back then.

What the HELL happened to radio?!?!?

My wife and I have been having trouble with radio in the car. We’ve got three stations we hop between and can’t really figure out which one to stay with. Here’s our choices:

  1. 107.7 The Bone: The all Metallica, AC/DC, ZZ-Top station and if you listen long enough you might hear some else, like Led Zeppelin or George Thorogood.
  2. Live 105: We’re Modern Rock. We don’t know what the hell we’re playing, but we have lots of emo sounding crap that we mix in with old rap and here’s an AC/DC song for you!
  3. The Band 103: OK, we admit it we’re old enough to admit we’re old and listen to classic rock, oh, here’s an AC/DC tune for you!

ACK! It’s bad enough that the top radio station in the city by the bay has always been an AM talk radio station, but COME ON! This was the center  of the summer of love bands in the late 60’s, in the 80’s we were thrash central and the music stations were all very defined. I think I’ll have to blame it on grunge music from the 90’s.

When grunge came out the hard rock stations like 107.7 said, well, we’ll have to adapt and there’s distortion on the guitars so we’ll live with that. Then Live 105 must have said, well, we don’t have new wave anymore and it’s quickly becoming old wave so I guess we’ll mix in some grunge. The band doesn’t really count because they just showed up one day with, hi we’re going to copy you, but with a softer hand. We’ll focus on Bryan Adams and John Cougar (Mellencamp half decaf latte with soy milk). Oh and here’s an AC/DC tune!

When I have to listen to radio on the internet to hear new bands or even to find out that old bands I liked are still around is ridiculous. We’ve already seen the music business going to hell in a hand basket quick style and I guess that means radio has to follow along. I worked for two local radio stations in the early 80’s and both of them could define their music style in a sentence, KFRC was “Top 40”. You knew what that meant. K101 was “Love songs, nothing but love songs.” Well, until people realized that wasn’t going to sell, but at least it was defined. Now if I could figure out how to stream internet radio in my car I’d be fine because for most of them there’s no bottom line, it’s only that they love the music they’re playing. I wish I could say the same for commercial radio here in SF.

Why I’m Glad I’m Not a Touring Musician

Ted Aguilar: Death Angel

Since music’s been on my brain a bit lately I  remembered a conversation I had with my old friend Ted Aguilar. He and Will Carrol were in a band I managed called Warfare D.C. in the 90’s. Now they’ve moved on and have joined Death Angel and are going around the world on tours. These are big tours as well. We’re talking the thousands of people at Wacken, Tuska, No Mercy, etc. I figured now that he’s in a band that’s opening for Metallica, Anthrax and other huge bands that he must be living large. Well, apparently the music business has changed a lot since i was involved with it outside my home studio.

You see in the old days we had what was called pay for play. That meant that they local club would give you say 100 tickets to sell for your show and you had to give them half the value of the tickets back. If you sold all the tickets you got to play. The problem was that a lot of new bands had to sell the tickets for half price just to move them. If you were a bigger band you might be able to sell for 3/4 of the price and make a little money. Hell, we even got Morty’s club to give us dinner and a 12 pack of beer. Those were the good ole days. If you were a signed act they’d just pay you because it made the club look better.

Well apparently when you get bigger you used to make a lot of money from the touring and that’s why some big bands toured so much. Now I wouldn’t put Death Angel on the same level as Metallica, but still they were pretty big in the 80’s and they’re getting bigger today. You won’t hear them on any local radio station, but they’re all over internet radio stations [I won’t get into my hatred of corporate radio now so consider yourself spared.]

Apparently today because it costs so much to fly the band and crew and lodging, etc. That the record labels and the venues aren’t paying the bands to play, but they’re letting them sell merchandise [i.e. t-shirts, patches and anything else they can think of.] From that is where they get the profit and it isn’t that great. So when these bands come home from a world tour they have to find real jobs like the rest of us just to pay the bills.

In the pay to play days you could sell your merchandise as well and come out even better. Now it just looks like the record companies and their falling apart business models are taking in out on the artists who are keeping them in their fine offices. Friends of mine have been pushing me to get a band together and start touring at least in California. I even have one fan in the “adult industry” who’s been begging me to play down south, but while tempting as it may sound to get to hangout and have pictures taken with porn stars, there would be just too much money involved to make it worth while. It might happen someday, but things have got to change big time. For now I’m just going to have to bang out my music in my house. Besides, I’m a real pain in the ass when I’m touring.