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Have started recording again. Not a new full rock album or anything like that (although me being me – I’m already thinking of it), but have been itching for quite some time to put all the acoustic/solo type songs that have been scattered across my music universe for years and years into one setting, recorded the same way – even with some of the old band songs stripped to just a solo performance.
Me, a room, a few mikes, a guitar, and maybe a harmonica. Like the idea of keeping the recording and mixing so elemental and raw. Probably just a bit of compression, room reverb and cut EQ in places.
On one hand I thought for a moment that I’d be able to knock the whole thing out in one weekend, but there’s been a couple hurdles. For one, some of these tunes I haven’t played in … years. So there was a bit of refresher needed. On the other, I’m starting to like the notion of doing take after take after take – over a period of time, and as you do so, you find that the solo performance of the song evolves. Your strum pattern changes, how you sing it changes. It goes from being the song you played exactly the same with the band just without anyone else, to its own presentation and arrangement.
Here’s some of the songs (a few dating back to Varied Carols days)
Your Bail Bondsman
Sleep in the evening
Jerry and his Entourage
Anna the Grape
Wildfires of Tehema County
It’s also nice to get the acoustic down off the wall for a bit and to get that tension back into your finger tendons. There’s electric guitar callouses, and there’s acoustic callouses, and one is deeper and tougher than the other.
Fall is here, taking the kids to get a pumpkin and we’ll make jack-o-laterns for the first time ever tomorrow. Happy fall – the greatest time of the year!
First video from Rancho Seco Victory out now on our YouTube channel
September 21, 2018
Of course I have the flu. Seems to be my murphy’s law that always after working several weeks hard in a row, and then you decide to take a well-earned day off to spend with family – you end up having run your immune system into the ground. Was supposed to take the kids to a little zoo today and see animals – and we still did – just felt like crap the whole time.
Happy to report however some very nice early reviews of Rancho are in – you can see them over on the reviews page. Also an interview with me at Vents Magazine.com you can read here.
The whole process of putting out CDs these days in the 21st century is just godawful. (and by the way – one of the tunes on the next record will certainly be called something akin to Another Reason to Hate the 21st Century). Videos, reviews, social, itunes, spotify, yada, and yada. It’s days of work but I suppose it is worth it. I’d rather just record and play shows at some point. But to the videos – I suppose trying to do them yourself is the problem, just not enough time to edit, conceive, shoot etc. Nearly there with ‘This Machine Kills Fascists.’ Next one up will be a black and white vid for ’45.’
Had an idea recently to revisit my inner Neil Young and do a quick distillation of all my solo acoustic songs. Seems a nice way to blow some dust off the acoustic while Rancho is making its way to the world, and while I’m trying to get the live band together. Set the mic’s up in the studio the other night and did a take or two of ‘Little Ginger’ – which in other incarnations of the band was on an album called ‘Northern California.’ I’ve never done a record in anything less than basically a year, so it seems a good bit of fun to try and bang out a small, intimate disc in say … two days. No overdubs, just me, acoustic, and maybe harmonica. But I need to get over the frickin flu first.
Until next time.
August 23, 2018
The new discs are in! And Rancho Seco will be on iTunes and Spotify tomorrow.
So now what? Been rehearsing live versions a bit and ears are ringing for the first time in a while. It’s great to get loud and I miss it. It’s great to live in a house/neighborhood where it can get loud. I sometimes think about all the years I've had to wait in order to get to a place where I can have a studio downstairs and be loud on a weekday night and not have to worry about it - that seemed to be Nirvana when I was just starting out. I know too there are, in fact, quite a lot of folks out there who don’t quite want to feel that wall of sound pressure against their chest, to experience rather than just simply hear the swirling cacophony created by those Celestion speakers, that emotive lather of sound waves in dbs that make one's eyes water. But I am not one of them.
Granted, every single band has battled one common enemy: At some point, the band is louder than the PA. At some point, the PA starts feeding back. At some point the vocalist can barely hear themselves over the monstrosity of instrumentational exception. It's the price you pay. Once in a while I just want loudness that makes the paint on the stairwell peel. I want sawdust emanating from the drum stool as sticks are pulverized into mash.
And, at the end of the day if you can’t hear the cops banging on the front door. So be it.
But now what? We're already recording something quiet and acoustic. So stay tuned.
July 13, 2018
Some personal news. I am now the father of a son. Charles was born June 30th and joins his older sister Frances, who’s two. I am damn, damn glad we got this record done before the birth as suddenly I haven’t slept in about two weeks and have been preoccupied with family visits, changing diapers and just enjoying family and being a father. This is truly the great joy of life to see your kids grow, press their little hands to yours, and at times even, engage in music.
Rancho Seco Victory has now had a first run at Mastering, and I think we’re close now to popping it out to ITunes. I want to have at least one video done to make the push and that will be “This Machine Kills Fascists” first. Finding time to do videos now is tough, and I’d prefer to make videos that aren’t the classic “people playing in a practice space” type – so it takes a bit of inspiration and thought to figure out what the hell we’re going to shoot.
What is Rancho Seco Victory by the way? For those in other parts of the country or elsewhere, Rancho Seco was a much maligned institution of electrical generation in the Sacramento valley. A nuclear monstrosity that was a testament to a previous American hubris. It was often shutdown due to mismanagement and other issues, and now rests as an icon to an earlier dogma of Americana. Sounded appropriate to me when writing this album as a metaphor for what this record is about.
June 29, 2018
Final, final few hours left of mixing this new record. As I said in an Instagram post, I’ve never been good at tooting the horn, promoting myself or my bands or whatnot. But I am really, really happy with this record and honestly feel it is the best record I’ve done in my career. Ok, enough of that. Just little slight things now – slight re-exports with guitars up or down, vocals up or down, de-esser on the vocal bus? Which type of compression on the Master? Does the kick still cut, does the bass need ducking, Etc.
I also feel that for the first time an album I’ve done has really hit a unified sense of how I’m interpreting the environment I’m in. And that environment now is midlife in this suddenly unique kind of American experience. Of course I’m talking politics a bit; of course I’m feeling jaded and dystopian about what’s going on in Americana. Of course I’m worried. I think all of that is conveyed in this record. You can’t listen to ‘This machine kills fascists’ without hearing that kind of concern – it’s pretty obvious there, but also in more subtle songs like ‘Boreal.’
Today, I might add, some nut went on another shooting rampage, this time at a newspaper in Annapolis, MD. Shortly after, a cable news anchor blamed it on a politician.
We still have hope. We have hope in the many, many things that are still so extraordinary about the American experience from the coasts to Texas, to wonderful Wyoming, to the Sawtooth mountains, to the Mississippi delta blues swamps. We have innovation and expression other countries are envious of, we have an institution that says a guy in a reality show can be elected (think about that – that cannot happen in Russia). In Russia that guy would need to have been part of the party and worked his way up through the system for decades.
That is part of the beauty of America. Anyone can still come from nowhere to have a voice. Troubling voices may emerge, that's true. And fights the we fight are tough, but so were the fights fought in ’64 and ’68 – and then literally entire neighborhoods were set ablaze.
And, we still can vote. And vote you should. To not vote these days borders on negligence. Elections matter. Votes matter.
And, buy this record pls.
Today – finishing some backing vocals for both This Machine Kills Fascists and to the song tentatively called Woman. Backing vocals always seem like they should take 5 minutes, but to do them well always become a total pain in the ass. How did bands from The Beach Boys to Alice in Chains get their harmonies to be so damn cool. I don’t want to cheat, I don’t want to use the computer to figure things out – I just want to hear it, but sometimes you don’t, and sometimes things sit there for weeks with a crappy backing vocal on it, and you know it sucks, and maybe there will be the day that the part comes to you while you’re driving or in the yard, and you got to record a version of it RIGHT THEN, or you’re going to forget the damn thing.
Really happy to get rights to use incredible picture by Christopher Henshaw for the album cover. Title right now: Rancho Seco Victories. More that to come.