Friday, February 29, 2008

Freakin' Bars

So I quess we're playing this place or maybe not or ... huh? Right so I sent them a note and asked can we play and they said sure they've got a Friday and Frank and Eliot said we could get more people if it was a Saturday so I asked them if we could play a Saturday and they never responded. Then a guy sent me a note and said we can play on Friday March 15 and if we had a good response they'd have us back and I asked if they could have us on late like 10 or 11 so I wouldn't have to take too much vacation time at work and they never got back to me. Then some other guy sent me a note and said he's booking a show on the 21st and we're good to go. So I'm like who the hell is this guy and I sent a note back to the other guy and asked if we're playing the 15th the 21st both or never. Who freeking knows? I'll let you know when I know. By the way I'm experimenting with limited punctuation and run-on sentence structure to see if I can capture a true sense of the frustration I feel when dealing with the local music scene. Let me know if you think I've been successful. Does this stream of consciousness writing technique have the kind of on-the-fly style you would associate with say french avant garde film making or is it merely pretentious and annoying and/or is pretentious and annoying something you just can't get enough of? Gosh I'm dying to know!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

This Guy

Okay, I've been listening to this guy play since I was 15. I thnk it was 1977 when I saw him play with Frank Zappa (and Bozzio, the Brecker Bro's, and Eddie Jobson). In 1980, I heard the King Crimson album Discipline and I was completely floored. In 1983 I saw KC in concert for the first time. I've seen Belew play with KC twice since. I saw him play tonight at The Rhythm Room in Phx, AZ and I was absolutely blown away. He is a mad scientist of guitar. Absolutely unique. He has a voice on his instrument that is instantly recognizeable. As such, he has grasped the Holy Grail of music. But more important than that, he comes across as a genuine, humble, really nice guy. I smiled through that whole concert. If I could play music and just make people smile the way he made me smile tonight, I would be completely satisfied with my career.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Thumb Ring

I went to the Scottish Highland Games in Phoenix Arizona (he he, that's funny). I saw a lot of kilts. I drank some beer. Some burly guys threw telephone poles around. I got a thumb ring (it could be worse) from a tatoo'ed wench dressed like a renaissance prostitute. My wife didn't mind. So, if you were ever wondering about it... no, it really doesn't interfere with the drumming at all, providing it's loose enough. What it does interfere with is opening beer bottles. I find I have to take it off when I want to twist off a lid.

Random Studio Pic

This is my teaching studio. On the left is a six piece Po' Boy birch kit. On the right is a four piece 1967 Ludwig with a maple picolo snare. Between them is a music stand with the book Fundamental Studies for the Snare Drum by Garwood Whaley. On the far right are a bunch of drum cases. Between the sets is a little table with two pairs of isolation headphones. There is often a cup of coffee on the same little table. Sometimes there is a glass of Jack Daniel's on the little table, but only when the little students aren't there taking their little drum lessons. There is cardboard covering the window because I am Nosferatu and I fear the light of day. In the picture at the top of my blog (the blog profile picture) is a low budget Pearl Export with a pair of Reme Roto Toms. I don't really use that one any more. Wanna buy it?

Friday, February 22, 2008


You gotta love this guy. He sends me a note on myspace out of the blue and says, "Hi, my name's Adam and I'm a local promoter . i do booking for bigtime and im working on an all ages show at the sets that i think your sound would fit well onto. its on 4/6, would yoube able to play that show?i can get you all the info and stuff, just email me at my booking email account phx@bigtimeentertainment. net (i cant really do any booking through my myspace account, the myspace inbox is horrible to work in) didn't see an email address so i figured best to just msg you to get the ball rolling. -adam"

What a pile of crap. Here's my response,

"Okay Adam, I'll bite (mostly 'cause that date's a Saturday and we like to play Saturdays). How come you think we'd be a good fit for this gig? Who else is on? Do we get paid? What's Phx bigtime entertainment? Do you want me to sell tickets, 'cause I'll tell you right now I don't sell tickets. I play music, I get paid. Promoters sell tickets. Bars sell beer. I play music. I get paid 'cause people pay money and buy beer to hear me play music. So don't scam me, don't sham me. If you're legit, I'm okay. If you're shit, go away. Simple as that.

Michael, Anima Obscura

P. S. our bass player says The Sets sucks. Better be good or he won't even think about it."

What d'ya know. Adam hasn't responded.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Happy Butt

Ahhhhh....! My butt is very happy now for I just purchased a new ergonomic pneumatic Roc-n-Soc drum throne. Not just any drum throne, this baby features a big cushy padded saddle seat AND a fancy little lever on the side for to give you a happy ride up and down. Oh the myriad blessings of a truly comfortable drum throne. My butt is filled wity joy.

Spooky Weirdness

This doesn't happen every day. Last month we played a gig at a local favorite called Hollywood Alley. The opener was Thankful Birds. The T-Birds were scheduled to play a new club called The Haunted Castle. They told me who to write so we could play there too. I emailed and sent messages through myspace. I called the number and I drove by the place. This went on for a couple of weeks with no response, no results. Then my buddy Ken sends me a news article about a guy who wanted to open a Halloween themed bar called The Haunted Castle. It so happens that when the city of Tempe turned down his application for a liquor licence, the owner of said house of horror snapped. He sent letters to city officials and newspapers saying that he planned to teach them all a lesson. He was planning to go to the Superbowl with a high powered rifle and start shooting football fans. He drove all the way to the Glendale Sports Arena armed to the teeth, then changed his mind at the last minute and turned himself in to the police. I still haven't heard anything back from those guys. Guess we won't be playing there any time soon. Neither will the T-birds. But hey, the bar's myspace page is still up if you want to send 'em a note:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Odd Time

Alrighty, so I have a student who's interested in exploring music, particularly drumming, in odd time signatures. My first reaction is to say, "Cool, listen to this piece by Gentle Giant. The verse is in 13/8, the chorus is in 5/4, and then there's a polyrhythmic fugal bit that's really catchy", but I know better. I want to put together a sampling of stuff that grooves. Music that you tap your foot to and don't even realize you're in an odd time signature. I also need it to be stuff that a fourteen year old, albeit with sofisticated taste, may actually enjoy. That pretty much eliminates most of the latest pop. Furthermore, while Tool and The Mars Volta would probably interest, I'm afraid they're way over the top. That leads me to think it needs to be classic prog rock and fusion jazz. Something she can tap her foot to and have a chance of figuring out. Tunes that tend to maintain the same groove throughout. Here's a tentative list. If you can think of other suggestions, please post.

Living In The Past (Jethro Tull, very catchy 5/4)
Take 5 (Dave Brubeck 5/4 swing)
Everything's Alright (Lloyd Weber's Superstar 5/4 swing)
Money (Pink Floyd very catchy 7/4)
Salisbury Hill (Peter Gabrial 7/4)
Frame By Frame (King Crimson 7/4)
Observations And Reflections (Billy Cobham, very cool 9/8)
Beelzebub (Bill Bruford 9/8 again)
Birds Of Fire (John Mclaughlin 9/8)
Watcher Of The Skies (Genesis, a very interesting 12/8)
Spectrum (Billy Cobham, excellent stage band tune in 15/16)


Hooray for me... Hooray! I finally managed to play measure twenty-six of The Black Page. The method I outlined below in the post titled "Driving Me Mad", has worked beautifully. That leaves only two measures. Measure twenty-seven is just a triplet (thanfully actually only three notes in it this time) over a half note, then a half note roll. Measure twenty-eight on the other hand is rather a bugger consisting of a slight variation on the half-note-triplet-nested-polyrhythm-thing and two undecuplets. Since I've already learned how to play very similar figures in the previous measurs, I think this will be downhill from here. There is, by the way, a measure twenty-nine, but it's just a roll and hardly worth mentioning.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Tabla Effect?

So, maybe you're asking yourself why I would put a picture of W. A. Mozart next to a picture of percussion master Trilok Gurtu. It's because I'm currently in a class called Learning And The Brain and I keep reading these studies that talk about melody and harmony helping to create neuronal connections in the brains of infants and toddlers, particularly with regards to the music of Mozart (the so called Mozart Effect). Now, please don't think for a moment that, as a drummer, I feel slighted by this research. My interest here is one of curiosity, not hurt feelings. I would like to point out, however, that music has three principle dimensions: melody, harmony, and rhythm. I'm wondering if anyone has bothered to study the effects of rhythm per se on the brain of a child. When you consider that percussion (aside from tympani) was not seriously studied in western music until the nineteenth century, and the first exclusively percussion compositions were not heard until the twentieth century, it would not surprise me to find that rhythm, percussion, and particularly percussion education were not considered by researchers seeking to find connections between music and early brain development. In the western music tradition, eastern percussion was largely ignored until the twentieth century. However, in the east, percussion has been an integral aspect of music for thousands of years. Compound meters, polyrhythms, and complex counting systems in eastern traditions are at least as old and advanced as equal temperment and triadic harmony are in the western tradition. Since we know that all early, and particularly repeated, stimuli affect the developing brain, there must be some measurable effect on the brains of individuals exposed to eastern rhythms since infancy (or earlier). Furthermore, the drumset, an instrument that is only about a hundred years old, has thrust percussion into the foreground of western culture. Surely this has had some some impact on the brains of those exposed to it since infancy or earlier. Perhaps there has been an unintentional bias in the research, an anglophilia that has tipped the research away from rhythm. After all, aside from tympani, the advanced percussion developments in music history have come from non European traditions. Hand drums have developed predominantly from African and middle eastern cultures, the steel drum from caribean culture, the drumset from African American culture, and yes, even tympani comes from the middle east (used for tiger hunting). Could there be a cultural bias in the research?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Anima Obscura

The name of my band is Anima Obscura. Here's the meaning. It's Latin. Anima means "spirit". Obscura means "shadow". Anima Obscura means "dark spirit". But there's more. Anima Obscura is a play on the term Camera Obscura. These words are Latin as well. Camera means "room" and obscura means "shadow" i.e. dark room. It comes from a phenomenon in physics. If you have a dark room and you put a tiny hole in the wall, the bright outside world will be projected on the oposite wall of your dark room. This occurs because everything we see is a reflection. Light bounces off of stuff and goes into our eyes. If what we're looking at absorbs all light waveleanths but green, then green bounces off the objects and shines into our eyes and we see green. The same thing happens when you have a dark room with a tiny hole in the wall. light, reflected off the objects outside, streams through the tiny hole in the wall and shines onto the opposite wall. Now, here's the weird part. The image shining on the opposite wall will appear upside down and backward. The same thing happens in your eye. Sometimes I think I see everything upside down and backward in a dark room.

Stunning Acumen

So has anybody noticed the trend here? I've decided that blogs are boring if they don't have some kind of visual stimulation involved. Nobody wants to just read your babbling crap, but if you put a picture with it the whole blog looks more interesting. Amazing phenomenon. So I've decided that, no matter what I'm blabbing about, I'm going to include some kind visual element, even if it has absolutely nothing to do with what I'm blabbing about. I will attempt to make some kind of connection, that will hopefully create an added level of meaning, but even when I can't connect, I think I'm still going to put something visual up so the blog won't look like just a bunch of words. I mean, how interesting can just a bunch of words be? So that kind of weird eye over there is representative of the sudden keen insight I've just conveyed to you.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

After Gig Blues

Wow. I'm suffering with that odd depressing melencholy that sometimes follows a really good show. I'm asking "what now?". We had a great gig, but we have no shows scheduled to follow up. We have no recording time scheduled. We have some new song ideas, but nothing's worked up and it's kind of left me feeling a little weird and kind of blue (thank's Miles). Being an artist is so bipolar. I get this incredible high from performing, be that on the stage or in the gallery, it doesn't matter. Then a day or so after the performance or the opening, you kind of go, crap... now I have to work again. I have to practice, or write, or paint some shit. And I like practicing and writing and painting, obviously, but still there's this transition period that always occurs right after the performance or presentation. As an artist, I have two strangely seperate personalities. There's the guy on stage and there's the guy in the studio and they are very different individuals. That strange period in which one personality is forced to give over to the other is, at times, very disturbing. That's why I stuck disturbing art with this post.

Driving Me Mad

Well, here we are back at measure 26! I can play the entire Black Page except these last few measures. Okay, so how do you tackle something like this? Here's my approach. First, I'm going to ignore the time signiture and the tuplets. I'm just going to think of this as a string of 16ths. I'll just work out the sticking and play everything evenly spaced. The next step will be to nail the timing. I think the thing to do here is to imagine every note as writtin on the snare drum line. Tap my foot and try to just play all of the notes like a march (so to speak). I think if I can go back and forth between these two ideas, in a short time I'll be able to put them together.

Very Good Gig

Wow, that was one cool gig! Wok Star is a crappy little bar on a crappy little restaurant, but what the hell. That was a lot of fun. We had, at the most 25 people, but they loved every note. Marc Rizzo was humble, gracious, and complimentary. Not only that, but he is one freaking outstanding guitar player! It did not rain on us, although the awning did drip water on my drumset. Oh well, nothing a towell can't take care of. Friends from work came out and they were blown away by both Marc and us. Eliot thought he played like shit, but only he and I know that. Most of the audience hasn't heard this stuff and has no idea anyway. Were we electrocuted? No. Was our equipment ruined? No. Did we make any money? No. Oh well, we're alive, our gear is ok, and we had a good time. Enough said. Oh, I also had a very tasty sixteen year old single malt islay called Lagavulin.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Show Must Go On!

40% chance. It's currently sprinkling on my house. It's 5o degrees fahrenheit and we're still scheduled to play outside at 10:40 tonight. We have a one hour time slot and Marc Rizzo is set to play immediately after us. A lot of my friends from work have taken off early to catch this show. My buddy Ken is letting me use his Suburban to transport gear so it will be dry and safely locked up while I hang to hear Marc Rizzo tear it up. Frank (my guitar player) says there is an awning over the stage and everything is grounded (that's nice!). He also tells me Marc is a super nice, humble guy, not a prima donna at all. All my friends have said they're going to buy me a drink after we play... which definitely means someone else will have to drive that damn Suburban! Okay, it's all hinging on the rain. This could rock or this could suck. If you can't be there, be here and I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I'm melting...! Melting...!

The national weather service says there's a 60% chance of showers tomorrow night. Crap! Our gig with Marc Rizzo tomorrow is OUTSIDE! Hell, this may be even more fun than I first thought. Maybe it will rain, our gear will be ruined, and we will be electrocuted! You have to make sacrifices for rock and roll. Or maybe we won't play. Or maybe it won't rain. Who knows what will happen. Aint life full 'o mysteries?

Darbuka Boy

One of my students recently purchased a darbuka. Yes, a darbuka. You may know it as a doumbek, but I still call it a darbuka because that's what the Turks call it and I bought mine at the grand bazar in Istanbul, so there. Anyway, Blake bought a darbuka and wants to learn eastern rhythms. Bless his pointed little head... only 12 years old and he already wants to play in 13! Nothing warms the cockles of my heart (whatever the hell they are) than a kid who wants to count "one, two, one, two, one, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three", it's sooooooo cute! BTW, that's a picture of me playing the darbuka, not Blake. He's 12 remember?

This Friday's Gig

Okay, I love to write about what's going on, what my expectations are, and then what actually came of it! This Friday, my band Anima Obscura is scheduled to open for The Marc Rizzo Band. Rizzo is an international recording artist - lead guitarist for the metal band Soulfly and the death metal band Sepultura. It so happens Marc resides in my home state, Arizona. It also happens his cousin works at a restaraunt/bar owned by my guitar player's Brother In Law. Marc Rizzo is touring a new CD and is going to be in Phoenix for a day. The Cousin asked him to play at the Bar. The Brother In Law told him he knows a band that would be great to open for him (mine). The Rock Star said, "Yeah, whatever". The Brother In Law told us, "You go on at 10:00 or 10:30". The Rock Star's website says the show starts at 8:00. The cover charge is $5.00. Will we get paid? God only knows. Will the Rock Star play at 8:00 or let us warm it up? Will anybody show up, since it hasn't been advertised? Will global warming wreak such havoc on the environment that the show will be cancelled due to catastrophic weather conditions? Will the Israeli's and Palestinian's ever admit that they love each other and long to consumate their relationship? Is the Great Ziggurat at Ur actually the first Pyramid, or is it merely a megalithic mastaba and not an actual architectural precedent to the Egytian pyramids of Khufu, Khafre, and Cheops?

By the way, the restaraunt is called The Chop And Wok (Chinease take out) and the bar is called Wok Star (he he). Between the restaraunt and the bar is a small, open air courtyard. The owner got a permit from the city of Scottsdale to have an open air, live show. This should prove to be an interesting experience indeed. I will be sure to let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Decidedly Non Prog

A band director in junior college once told me that only liking one kind of music was like only eating lettuce. I could not agree more, and while my prefered style to play is prog, it is definitely not all I like. At the moment I am watching a performance by John Fogerty on Soundstage. Kenny Aronof is drumming and he is kicking ass. This is music from my childhood, music that reached me on a gut level before I knew an eighth note from a hole in the ground. This is the music that made me like music and there's more of it out there. Before I ever heard Gentle Giant and Rush; I had heard John Fogerty and Johnny Cash and Tom Jones and Elvis Presley and Marty Robbins and Gordon Lightfoot and Frank Sinatra and Petula Clark and Shirley Bassey and The Kingston Trio and Sam & Dave and Englebert Humperdink and Dave Clark and Roger Miller and by god THEY'RE ALL GOOD! Granted, when I heard Rush 2112, I was floored. When I heard The Mahavishnu Orchestra's Birds of Fire , I was stunned. But you know what? When I heard John Fogerty sing Have You Ever Seen The Rain and the emotion of it touched me, I was just as stunned and I was just as floored. I could be a snoot and a snob and I could poo poo the simplicity or formula of such music, but if I did so I would be lying. The fact is, that music formed me, made me love music, and will always be a part of me.

Black Page Update

Okay, so Andy want's to know where I am with The Black Page. Well, I am pretty much about where I was the last time I posted! I have three measures left to learn and it's really slow goin'. I've just been working through measure 26 trying to work out the sticking first. Once I know what to hit with which hand when, I will start to actually work with the metronome to get the tuplets down. This is gonna take a while, so bear with me. I have a family, a full time job plus 14 students, six college credit hours, and a band to write for and rehearse. I get about 15 minutes a day to work on this thing. I will not be ready to play it at this Friday's show.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Captain Beefheart

Did I ever mention that I love Captain Beefheart? Right now I'm listening to Trout Mask Replica and I love it. The other guys in my band hate it, but I think it's brilliant. Granted, the guitars are marginaly in tune and the drums are sloppy, but that's part of the charm. Zoot Horn Rollo is just a fantastic free form slide wierd nut case guitar player and Van Vliet's lyrics are the most sublime beat poetastery around. His words are like a free associative Roershack Dali improv acid trip. I love it. I was exposed to Trout Mask and Clear Spot years ago along with the Zappa collaborations, but I was only recently introduced to the masterpieces Shiny Beast and Doc at the Radar Station. Great twisted demented stuff. Maybe Tom Waits and Les Claypool come close.

Local Proggy

Okay, I've been playing around the Phoenix area for a bit and I've noticed that there are actualy a few local bands who are proggy. Since none but about three people read this blog, I think I'm safe to mention them (I won't mention the definitely non-proggy bands we've played with). First up I'm gonna say Straylight. They have a very prog vibe, very experimental. Maybe that's why they're playing more underground clubs. They have a nice blend of commercial heavy rock vocal and rock jam band. Very good stuff.

I also like Attack of the Giant Squid. They have a really tight fusion jazz jam sound with a very Zappa improv edge. Very fun stuff that is definitely not commercial. To make matters worse (commercially) they're instrumental and they have some horns. Oh my god, talk about the commercial kiss of death. What the hell are they thinking!? Please keep it up.

Another I like is Thankful Birds. They played before us at Hollywood Alley last Friday. Unfortunately, I had to stand by the stage door with drum cases while they played (the drummers bummer). But what I heard through the door, and subsequently on their myspace, was blissful. A real Nina Simone kind of vocal with some sweet fusion backup. Like the Squids and Straylight, they're too good to be popular, but if you want a treat check out their myspace site. I think you'll like what your hear.

Please, if you're reading this blog, go hear these bands live. Music is a performance art and it is best experienced live. Sometimes best experienced in crappy little dark bars with shitty sound systems where the bands only get paid a piece of the door. Please, support live music.

Prog In Bars

I played a show at a local club last Friday night and I was pleasently surprised to hear prog on the PA while we were setting up. First I noticed Night School from Zappa's Jazz From Hell playing while I was hauling my drums in. Then, while I was setting up, I heard The Construktion of Light by King Crimson. While the sound tech was miking my drums I asked him if it was his mix. It turns out he's a huge prog fan and he actually knows Emmet Chapman. Very cool. He was stoked to see that I would be playing Chapman Stick and he did a very good job mixing it (I ran direct). I find that few of the bars we play actually know what prog is, so this was a very nice change. I had a long chat with members of the first band, Thankful Birds, and it turns out they love prog. They stayed around for our set and they were very complimentary. All in all it was a very good gig. Gives me hope for the future of America.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Favorite Books for Beginners

I have three books that I like to use for beginning drum students. The first is the classic A Funky Primer by Charles Dowd, written in the '70s but just as relevent today. A simple book of straight eighth note grooves in 4/4 time that gets beginners up and playing fast. The section comprising just hi-hat and snare drum is very versatile. When I teach this section, I have students switch hands, invert the exercises, and play it with feet only. I also have students play the last quarter note of each measure twice, or drop off the last eighth note so they start learning odd time as well.

The second book is another oldie (1973) called Fundamental Studies For Snare Drum by Garwood Whaley. It contains exercises comprising all of your note/rest combinations from whole notes to sixteenths. The exercises are all multi-measure etudes in assorted time signitures. There are several duets and the last section introduces flams, drags, and rolls. For me, this has been a great book for prepping students for junior high and high school band.

Finally, I like The Drumset Musician by Rick Mattingly and Rod Morgenstein. A more contemporary publication. I like this one because it has several complete drum charts and a play along CD. Again, this is a great book for getting students ready to play in stage band.