Drunken Owl

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It’s not the fanciest gear, but it does its job.

First, here’s a video of The Smithereens playing “Blood and Roses”, one of their first hits and one of my favorite bass lines of the 80s:

Whenever I’m in a guitar store and checking out basses, I usually use that riff to test it out. It’s a relatively easy lick (even if technically it’s dropped down a half-step to E-flat) and if I can pull it off without my fingers cramping, then it’s a bass I can use.   I’m posting it here because it’s also a riff that I like to use when I’m practicing.

So what’s the deal here? Drunken Owl? What?

That’s the name of my current music project, named from the 18th century British slang term “drunk as an owl” (thanks to A.’s wide-spanning reading material for the source). It’s one of those phrases that doesn’t quite sound right logically, but makes for a good band name.

I’ve been meaning to return to playing and recording music demos for quite some time, though, like with most of my other grand creative plans, it was put aside so I could finish the Great Trilogy Revision Project.  So!  Now that that behemoth is out of the way, I can finally move forward with it.  I don’t plan on any grand masterpieces or anything…all I really want to do is lay down my songs.  I’ve amassed a decent amount of them over the years, and I’m itching to write and record some new ones as well.

And like my books, I want to see how far I can DIY it.  I’ve recorded a few demos on my phone, for starters.  [The sound is mono, but the quality is actually pretty good, considering!]  I plan on using the instruments I have already: the basses, the guitars, the keyboard, the funky lo-fi drum pad (it’s hiding behind my camera bag on the floor under the keyboard in that picture up top), and maybe some slightly better (but still relatively cheap) editing-mixing software.

Any plans on releasing them on Bandcamp or whatever?  Eh, probably not, but we’ll see.  I may just upload them to Soundcloud and share them here or elsewhere.  The main reason for this ongoing project is mainly to make good on my lifelong loves of writing, music, and art.  [Yeah, I’m trying to get my art up and running again as well.]  The main goal here is to have fun with it!

[Edit: Just learned this morning that Soundcloud is going kerflooey.  Guess I’ll have to find a different embedder!]

More than just the music.

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The trusty Jonzbox — before the internet, this radio showed me what the rest of the world was about.

I was thinking about this yesterday, during the furor over Trump’s administration suggesting cutting the funding for ‘frivolous’ things such as the National Endowment for the Arts.  I mean, aside from my anger and annoyance that, once more, the arts gets the shit end of the stick while other things get overfunded.  [You know my feeling on that: ‘oh, we don’t have the money to support arts at your high school…but god forbid we get rid of football!’]

It occurred to me that there are numerous reasons why I got into college rock, and in effect fell headlong in love with alternative rock, a crazy infatuation that sticks with me thirty years later.  It’s more than just the sound of the music.  Sure, a big part of it was that it introduced me to a circle of great friends that I’m still connected with to this day. And it’s more than realizing that I could be a goofy self-professed nonconformist in a small town high school.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that college rock, and in effect college radio, made me realize there’s a much, much bigger world out there than what was being given to me.  In the afternoons on through the late evenings in 1987 through 1989, I’d hear the brutalist electronic dance music of Belgium, Slovenia and Germany, the Thatcher-era malaise of the UK, the high weirdness of Californian experimental bands, the several versions of American punk, right alongside the local collegiate sounds of Boston and the Pioneer Valley.  Sure, I loved what I was hearing, but I wasn’t just listening to everything that was played; I tried to understand the emotions and the meanings behind it.

Years later, and I have the internet at my fingertips.  As of this moment, I’m listening to Radio BDC, an online station on the opposite coast, playing a song by a band from Denver.  My current music purchases include bands from London, Oklahoma, Boston, Tennessee, and Los Angeles.

Why do I bring this up?  What has this got to do with anything?

Well, this is because apparently I’m an elitist..  Or a snowflake.  Or a libtard.  Or an overly sensitive, politically correct cuck.  Or whatever the hell else they want to call me.  At least that’s what the self-proclaimed Deplorables want to label me.  In 1988 I was probably called a fag a few times by the local jocks.  In the 90s I was a slacker.  In the 00s I was un-American.  And this decade I’m a lazy-ass looking for a handout.  [I mean, really, people.  Why are you so proud of being deplorable?  When Denis Leary sang “I’m an asshole, and I’m proud of it”, he was making a joke.  In fact, I’m 99% certain he was making fun of people like you.]   And there’s one thing conformists hate the most, and that’s the square peg that won’t fit into their mold.

Call me what you want, I don’t care.  I’m proud of the fact that I’ve kept my eyes and ears open to new things, thanks to those formative years.  I may have made a few mistakes, said a few stupid things, but I’ve owned up to them eventually.  I’m a work in progress; I don’t want to be stuck in a mold at all.  Nor do I like to be passive, not like I once was in my preteen years.  I hate being easily influenced.  I hate being ignorant.

This is why I keep my eyes and ears open to new things all the time.  Music, books, movies and TV, news, whatever.  Seeing things from different points of view is not an elitist action at all.

It’s about learning what the world is truly about.

 

Down the Rabbit Hole Again

Every time I think I’m escaping the rabbit hole of 80s college rock and moving on, I end up slinking back in again!  Well, this time I’m not working on a related writing project…I’m just enjoying the music this time out, while I wait for new releases to come out.

Plus, I get to listen to some of my radio mixtapes from back in the day!  It was a little over thirty years ago that I decided to put a blank tape in my Jonzbox and let it record 30 to 45 minutes of whatever WMUA was playing that evening, just to get a taste of their playlist.  I’d just bought a six-foot retractable antenna for the radio, which boosted the signal considerably, so I could go nuts at any time of day.  Soon I’d expand to other stations, with WAMH becoming my home base for the rest of the decade.

By early 1987 I’d changed things up in my bedroom.  It had gotten a new coat of paint, I’d gotten rid of some furniture I’d grown out of, and my radio had moved across the room to the top of the bookcase, where the few books that I had were slowly being shoved out to make way for my growing cassette collection.  I was hanging out with the Vanishing Misfits gang, which meant that a goodly amount of my collection at the time was borrowed albums dubbed onto tapes of questionable quality and age.  But hey, as long as I had the tunage, that’s all that mattered!

Interestingly, I only made one college radio tape that year, but I think it was because all my hard-earned money was going to buy albums down in the Pioneer Valley!  I did make a few mixtapes that year, though, mainly commercial radio stuff, but by the end of that year I was itching to make more.  I had one of my buddies who was into the hardcore punk/metal scene (he also introduced me to Slayer’s Reign in Blood…at catechism class, no less!) make me a mix on the back of a cassette dub I had of The Sisters of Mercy’s Floodland (my favorite album of the moment and possibly my number 2 favorite of the year, just under Music for the Masses).

Thinking back, 1987 was definitely a sea change year on multiple levels for me.  Changes in friendships, tastes in music, personal and emotional outlook.  My writing was still crap, but it was better crap than what I’d been writing just a few years earlier.  Hell, I was even changing the way I looked, letting my hair grow longer (no more 80s spike, thank god), wearing concert tees and pins of alternative bands.  Taking myself a bit more seriously.  Sure, I had a hell of a lot more growing up to do, but that was the year it took hold.  I was no longer the annoying nerd trying to fit in.  I was the kid with the Walkman, listening to bands you’d never heard of.  I was the kid who spent his study periods in the library, writing away in a notebook.  It was the year I’d finally figured myself out and didn’t give a shit what anyone thought about it.

 

A bit of listening

The one downside to listening to new things this early in the year is often that there isn’t anything new out to listen to.  So I’m often bouncing around my music collection, throwing on whatever happens to pop into mind at the time.

As usual, I’m writing this just before my evening writing/editing session, and I was in the mood for a bit of Porcupine Tree — a band I’d discovered while at HMV (their 1999 album Stupid Dream had just been released) and one that would often be a go-to for my writing sessions during the early 00’s.  In this case, 2002’s In Absentia came to mind, so I popped it on.  It’s a lovely album, recorded at the point where they’d decided to morph from dreamlike, guitar-based prog rock to a more prog-metal influenced sound.  [Note: lead singer/band leader Steven Wilson would be the first to slap me for labeling them prog, as he quite loathes the term.  But I digress.]

I’ve posted numerous times before about some of the key album releases over the years that influenced, or at least gave a soundtrack to, the Bridgetown Trilogy.  This album, Dishwalla’s And You Think You Know What Life’s About, Mansun’s Six, Beck’s Sea Change, and so on.  They’re all great albums that I’ll still throw on now and again while I’m writing or editing.

Does music distract me from my work?  Well, yes, sometimes it does.  Especially if I hear a song like Silversun Pickups’ “Panic Switch”, which often sends me across the room to pick up my bass to play along with it.  But more often than not, just as it has since I was a scruffy teenager first attempting to write novels, it serves a dual purpose: it’s background noise to help me focus on the task at hand, and it’s also a sound that, if I choose correctly, influences whatever it is I’m working on at that moment.  I’ve listened to music for so long, and for such long stretches, that if I don’t have anything playing while I’m working, I kind of feel naked in a way.  The silence makes me self-conscious.

But you know, that’s why I have such a large collection as I do, and why it’s 99% digital now.  I have a library of sound that helps me through the day, in whatever I’m doing, whether it’s writing, editing, or the Day Job.

And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

Fly-by: Q4 Madness

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Seriously, Q4 would be a lot better if it wasn’t so damned busy.  Then again, it wouldn’t be Q4 if it wasn’t.

Sorry for a lack of update today, folks!  I’m attempting to dig out of an avalanche of Day Job inquiries, as well as catching up on Book 3 editing and preparation.  I should have some tunage-inspired posts for you next week.

*deep breaths*

Do I really listen to that much music?

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The new 4TB external doing its thing on top of my dusty PC

So yesterday I started to move my mp3 collection to my new external hard drive.  Originally I thought, hey, why not just do a block copy-and-paste all at once? and tried copying bands A through M.  After about twenty minutes the status said ‘5% done; time remaining, 11 hours.’  That lasted until Depeche Mode, when the PC went to sleep last night.  That was easily rectified of course, and I’m now going via small blocks of letters (it just finished N through P a few seconds ago).

So why am I doing this?  Well, I think my externals are just getting worn out.  Currently the collection is on two smaller 1TB externals and I’m starting to have issues with the PC reading one of them.  It’ll work, but if the PC happens to go into sleep mode for any reason, the connection will get all wonky.  No fear, though!  Every mp3 is also copied to a third 2TB external whose sole purpose is to simply be backup storage.  Nothing has been lost!

But seriously, though…why 4 terabytes?  Isn’t that a bit excessive?  Well, no.  It’s a very comfortable amount of space for a collection that’s slowly been expanding for almost forty years.  It gives me space for what I have already and an equal amount of space for any future purchases, rips, or downloads.  [Especially now that I rip my cds at the max bitrate of 320 kbps.  I’m not too snobbish about bitrate, but the higher it is, the better, clearer and louder the sound quality.  And I usually stick with mp3 format instead of FLAC or anything else, simply because it’s space saving and I don’t hear too much of a difference.]

But that still begs the question: do I really listen to that much music?

Well, I don’t listen to every single song in my collection on a daily basis, no.  That would be impossible.  It’s more of a library than just a collection, anyway.  I use it not just for entertainment but for background while I’m writing.  I use it for reference with my music-related writing.  And I share it with a few people on my Plex server so they get to listen and enjoy my tunage as well.  A. likes to listen to stuff occasionally via that route while she’s working.  Not everything gets heavy rotation play, but my library is big enough where I can shift that rotation and keep it fresh.

But yeah. I really do listen to that much music.  If I don’t have a streaming radio station going, I’m probably listening to a certain batch of albums.  Currently I’m going through a bunch of the 2016 albums in preparation for my eventual Best Of list next month.

Some people love vintage cars.  Some love special edition books.  Some love collectible figurines.

Me?  I love music.