Friday, May 30, 2008

days disappear

"days disappear" was the last song recorded for snowing in my heart
i had already decided on the song sequence
but track number 4 was giving me fits
i imagined it needed to be
a jangly 12-string electric affair
melodic and melancholic
and "golden"
for any old MF fans out there this tune begs the game
"can you spot the re-cycled tune?"
i completely re-wrote the words to one of my best
old songs
"p_______ f___"
then changed the key
changed the tempo
made it into a brand new song

i didn't expect for this experiment to work
but i was pleasantly surprised by the results
a far superior lyric
to those penned by me 12 years earlier
maybe this line is a thinly veiled reference
to the "old" SN (whoever that was...)?

"so much i wanted to say
but the words came out wrong"

rip and i worked many hours on this recording
(maybe too many?)
he might agree
i wanted the drum loop bits in the breaks just right
i think they ended up just right
check the tick tock on verse 3
pretty nifty if i do say so myself
thank you pancho for your diligence!
in the end i think we had around 110 tracks total
rip started joking about adding more stuff
"you're never gonna believe this...but i'm hearing something we need to add!"
a lot of the 110 tracks were muted
what happens when you record songs that no one has ever played before
is you end up tracking a lot of stuff just to get to parts that are usable
in essence you're recording while people are still learning the song

"days disappear" ended up a bit of a electric guitar epic
and i don't mean in a bon jovi sorta way
carter albrecht played the evocative 12 string electric part
i ended up basing the whole song around
on his white daisy rock
john lefler was there too with some nice verse counter melodies
chris holt contributed a great lead line on the bridge
very "king tide"
and once again the rhythm section of dufilho and deshazo
kept it simple and very effective
a more talented group of musicians on this track
than one could ever hope to find

thanks guys - i love you all

Thursday, May 29, 2008

the wicked are winning

so billy harvey now makes an appearance on snowing
in the role of "foreshadowing"

on june 18th 2005
i distinctly remember sitting in bend studio
and watching billy absolutely kill the audience
don't worry...not literally
what i mean is
he was really good
he was simultaneously hilarious
and thought provoking
he ran the gamut of human emotions
from melancholia to lightheartedness
and then back again
all effortlessly
plus he never once lost the audience
they were with him all the way
and i was blown away
i sat there and listened
in silence
in awe
but because i'd also just finished playing my own set
i spiralled into a mental comparison of my songwriting shtick to his
and in doing so
began to feel very self-conscious
and crappy
the lyric

"everybody wants to hear something that makes them happy"

came to me as the audience laughed at his song "piggyback ride"
at that moment i thought
what people really always want
is just to feel good
that's why party music is always gonna kill live
believe me
i like a good party every once and a while too
just not all the time...

the rest of the song came to me 10 days later
when i wrote "the wicked are winning" in its entirety

"send your thoughts out in the universe
contemplate the meaning of life on earth"

the above lyric reveals part of what i want music to do for me
it's what i've always wanted
ever since i was a kid
i want music to send me somewhere
help me temporarily transcend this mundane place
where we eek out our days
give me an interesting melody
cool words
create a little sonic world for me to go to for a bit
give me something to think about
something to feel
i'll never forget the first time pop music blew my mind
i still crave that feeling
over and over again

so how do those lyrics tie into

"everybody wants to hear something that makes them happy"

well i'll tell you my friends...

i think the masses generally consume insipid crap
especially when they "rock"
most of it is useless dribble
with the depth of a valentine's day card
written by a narcissistic jock
the masses want to be-bop along or bang their heads to empty nothings

i don't think that music should be depressing
or lyrically heavy all the time
but i do think that party over substance has ruined much of popular music today
if all you ever wanna hear is something that makes you happy
then all you're ever gonna get
is fluff

billy harvey is a genius musician
who should be heralded in all corners of the globe
my friend carter was too
and i know more than a few others as well
but it seems to me
that when you spend more time working with dark and subtle hues
without mining the obvious
a lot of people tend to miss the gist of what you're getting at

"everyday’s a struggle, a battle
chasing after something you’ll never catch"

don't worry
i'm not angry
i'm just opinionated
maybe this song should've been called
"the idiots are winning"?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

so down

i wrote "so down" only 4 days before "hang on"
what a week i must've had...

"we squander all the lucky years
to draw them in a bath of tears we cry for ourselves
because this world hasn’t given us what we want"

no small irony that on the day of this post
i find myself in the throes
of a deep crushing depression
i don't understand it
i don't know where it came from
i was riding high for weeks
but it's here now and i feel crippled inside
maybe i should listen to this song?
my own message to not take this world
or the people i love in it for granted
but i know this, i's just wiped me out
and i feel like i have no control over it
this song is powerless to change the way i feel today
none of them or their messages matter to me right now

i started playing "so down" at acoustic shows right after i wrote it
i was excited
i felt like it was an important one
my friend anju heard it maybe 2 or 3 times
she told me she loved it
that its message immediately impacted her
she related to it
she told me she wanted to talk to me more about the song sometime
we never got the chance

anju ended up taking her own life in april of 2006
only 2 months after i'd started recording
snowing in my heart
she never got to hear my recording of this song
or any others
i wish she'd had...i wished she lived and we could've spent
more time together
she was a wonderful soul

this was the first song i started tracking
in february '06
i would end up working exactly one year on the record
the longest i've ever worked on anything

i wish i could heed my own words today...

"get out, get up, shut up
it's a beatiful day"

Monday, May 26, 2008

hang on

lucky you...

if you peruse this here blog from time to time
you might've found my track by track musings on
the making of beautiful noise
done in november of '06
plus polaroid and nourallah brothers
which i covered way back in august of '06
but now
hot off the presses
is the mother of your brother
snowing in my heart
you're gonna get it straight from the savant's mouth
the track by track dissection
the blow by blow
the who did what when and why

up first is snowing's opening track

"hang on"

"you gotta love this life
even when it has you beat"

it says in my notes
that i wrote this one on july 21, 2005
i don't have much memory of doing so
but i do know
that after it was written
i knew this song would be central to the theme
of my next record
the struggle to overcome all things that threaten our
ability to lead a happy fulfilling life - mainly

"it's just like me to remind you of these things
when the sun is out and blue skies are reigning down"

"hang on" was partly inspired by the suicide of paul hester
who hung himself in a park in australia
in march of 2005
the second verse contains lines that only i would know
related to this incident
i also vaguely referenced "strawberry fields"
which i always suspected was about depression

"the lowest branch with ease
we’re swinging from in our tree"

our friend anju gill had also just taken her own life
in april
so the subject was weighing heavy on my mind
and in my heart

"hang on" came together pretty easily as a recording
john dufilho's crisp, simple drums drive it along
rip captured the exact drum sound i'd had in my mind
dry and dead
i was really pleased after we cut them
a classic chris holt guitar melody takes hold of the chorus'
i think it's one of his best ever
and a marvelous example of his immense knack for coming up with
definitive guitar melodies
i think we cut the guitars on this one just like BN's "sunday morning"
before we ever did the drums
sort of "backwards"
richard martin added some nice lennonesque piano
rip works the mellotron to brilliant effect
especially on the soaring final chorus
as i scream "hang on" over and over
david deshazo added the bass last
to finish it all off nicely
it came together without much of a struggle really
the way it should be
all done with more than a little help from my friends

"another day is here
another day already gone"

ain't that the truth...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

the story of pancho and lefty (part 3)

at the end of finishing polaroid
right before gavin's birth
in the summer of 2003
i happened to call rip up one day
to tell him i'd decided to tack a control room onto the garage studio
and try to start recording bands for a living
he instantly said
"well, if you want me to bring all my recording gear over - i need a place to store it..."
at the time
i had some amps and guitars
but not much in the recording department
so rip's involvement was major
he brought all his stuff over
and we combined forces
with his help we were up and flying in a matter of days
in fact
within the first week
rhett miller was doing demos
while G money was only 7 days old
we dumped a few of my 16 track recordings from polaroid
into the new computer system
and rip helped me finish "a way to your heart"
"the skepticians"
both off of the A.W.T.Y.H. ep
and "a family disease"
as well as "one foot stuck in the past" "polaroid" (the song) and "1978"
then he mastered and help me sequence both
a way to your heart and polaroid
we were now kind of unofficial partners in running a studio
he still had a "real" job
and still wasn't totally sure about whether or not he wanted to rely
on the flakiest demographic in america to earn a living
he was wise
but still i kept pulling pancho deeper into the quicksand
when i landed my first big recording project
the deathray davies
at the beginning of 2004
rip helped me learn the ropes of computer recording
he taught me everything
patiently and graciously
never once getting edgy with me for being slow
i learned sonar while tracking that record
and rip put in countless hours tracking and mixing it
while he was also working 70 plus hours a week
at his regular job

since then we've gone on to work together on countless recording
everything from my last solo record snowing in my heart
to the old 97's blame it on gravity
he has been my best friend
and recording comrade for over 11 years now
without his support
i don't know where i'd be
when i toodled off to europe this past fall
rip is the one who stayed behind and oversaw
the studio rennovation
it couldn't have been done without him
he worked 12+ hour days for 5 weeks to keep costs down
while we walked paris
rip cleaned the wreckage from 2 storms that flooded the studio
while we went to the opera in vienna
rip wired
while people cheered and threw rose colored schnitzels at my feet
rip consulted
babysat our designer
supervised contractors
and sweated even more
this went even beyond being a labour of love
the stress was also immense
as we had the old 97s scheduled to come in and start
their record only 10 days after i returned from abroad
when i got back from europe rip had miraculously moved the whole thing
along right on schedule
a studio that should've been built in 3 months
was built in 5 weeks
the old 97s showed up while the paint had just barely dried
without rip it absolutely couldn't have happened
that's a fact

i'm writing this because rip rowan has never sought out the spotlight
he's lived a private and un-frivolous lifestyle ever since i've known him
that's why you might not have even heard of him yet
though if you've paid attention to the liner notes on all my records
i'm sure you're more than well aware of his presence
so while i've been the poster boy of pleasantry lane
johnny on the scene
sean cassidy with a polka dotted suit
rip has quietly and solidly amassed a body
of excellent recording work
we've done it together
a pretty good team we've made - pancho and lefty
i owe him so much...
along with jayme he's help me find this idyllic life i always dreamt of having

thank you for being such a dear friend rip
the best one i've ever had
i love you so much

here's to the next 100 records we make together!
here's to a lasting friendship that's endured even the lean years!
here's to the future of our pleasantry lane!

with love


Saturday, May 24, 2008

the story of pancho and lefty (part 2)

recording "avenue" at rip's house
was technically the beginning of my "solo" career
although i didn't actually realized it until 3 years later
when i finally got the nerve to swear off band life
i'd phoned rip outta the blue
during a particularly bad patch
and asked him if i could come over and record
i'd just written the heavy "avenue"
of course he said "yes"
and we put it down
in early 2000
(it wasn't actually finished until 3 years later)
it had been about a year since we'd last worked together
this was the beginning of my comeback to music
but i still wasn't in a very good place
and rip was going through difficult times too
our friendship was deepening though
we shared the bond of music together
to get us through the tough times
and we were fast developing a method of recording with each other
that was not only effective
but fun and easy
i always felt comfortable when i was working in the front room
of his house
it was always peaceful
and we had a good chemistry together
at the time though this collaboration was short lived
due to the unstable circumstances surrounding both of our lives
at least i'd made a mental note
that i'd found my greatest musical ally when the time was right

the happiness factor eventually followed
in the spring of 2000
paul averitt
john jay myers
and (at the very beginning...F who was back from portland)
he played one show on july 13th at trees
and then bailed
steve duncan replaced him
again - i don't remember much from this time period
there was still a lot of drama going down
but i'll never forget how good it felt when i was finally
able to call rip up and tell him about my new band
"you gotta see these guys - they're incredible!"
we recorded some crappy jam box demos at our rehearsal room
in deep ellum
then i drove them over to rip's house in a rush
so he could hear the songs
somehow through the terrible sound quality
rip still heard something in there that he wanted to be a part of
we did all of self improvement? at his house
with him engineering producing and mixing
after that we went on to work on our 2nd cd
we spent over a year working on it
but it ended up being unreleased
by the time we'd finished it i had shifted musical directions and decided to move on
what a beating that must have been for not only my band
but rip
who had devoted countless hours to the project
for no personal gain whatsoever

although when i called him up to come over to P.L. to help me with avoid danger
in the fall of 2003
he was there in a heartbeat
with new pre-amps
and a pair of headphones to monitor the sounds
(as i had no isolation (control room) in my makeshift studio)
we had exactly two weeks to track a record
with a bunch of guys who'd never played any of the songs
rip jason garner and chris carmichael played drums
paul averitt steve duncan and danny delamatyr guitars
danny balis and paul played bass
carter albrecht even added some keys
they all showed up and killed it
rip was under the gun to get capture it all on the first take
i challenge you to listen to how good that record sounds
done with no iso whatsoever
that's a testament simply to rip's world-class abilities as a recording engineer
then he mixed it at his house in january of 2003
while i was out on the road whoopin' it up with rhett miller

by the time i started my first solo record polaroid
in 2003
rip and i had made 4 records together (2 unreleased)
most of the initial recording sessions
that would go on to yield polaroid
were done without rip's assistance
but i must admit
i was terrified
i had so much respect for him as a musician
producer and recording engineer
"what am i doing going it alone?" frequently entered my head
but he encouraged me to do so
and never once stiffled my desire to branch out
in fact
he taught me just about everything i know about recording

Thursday, May 22, 2008

the story of pancho and lefty (part 1)

going waaaayyyyy back
to the late '90s
back back back
back past the "we steal music" generation
and cell phones
back past
and myspace
i mean waaaaayyyy back man
spring or summer of '98
the dark ages
you got it
back when your granny still had the moves
and america wasn't blowing the rest of the world up
(ok - i'm not sure about that one...)
back in the hazy days i get a phone call from a guy named daniel
yeah this was real caveman stuff
no email yet
him and his friend rip rowan
had been in a band called the bad haskells
we'd all traversed much of the same ground over the years
but never really crossed paths
he said they'd heard nothing but good things about the MF
(i wonder what press he'd been reading!)
as their band had recently broken up
they were looking to start up a new musical partnership
rip had a recording studio in the front room of his house
and daniel wondered if we'd be interested in coming over sometime
i said "sure"
the MF was on it's last legs anyway
bill shupp the last of our combustible drummers
number 14 i think...
ok - i'm exaggerating now
i guess it was more like number 7
F had been grumbling at me (and rightly so)
for a couple of years now
that we needed to get into home recording
rip happened to already be doing this
we sorta hit it off from the get-go
lot's of similar taste in music
daniel was a lefty too
just like me
they played us some of their recordings
they sounded GREAT
daniel was a world-class talent on guitar
i also knew instantly that rip had a special knack for recording
and playing music
his main instrument was drums - mine bass
with faris and daniel on guitar
we had a ready made band
done - bam
good to go!

F didn't trust daniel from the start
and i must admit
at times
he was a bit hard to handle
i think my brother reluctantly agreed to come over to rip's a few times
but soon afterwards said "no mas!"
i vaguely remember tracking a couple of late MF tunes at rip's with shupp
we did "stupid girls anonymous" and "party girl" (see a trend there?)
i'm not sure what else
but daniel played guitar not F
soon afterwards my brother instigated the purchase
of an 8-track minidisc recorder
that would eventually yield the nourallah brothers recordings
we worked on those in the fall of '98
but i'm not really sure what happened with d.h. (not hopkins!)
and r.r. while we did
what i am sure of is that i bonded especially with rip
i was not only drawn to his musical talent
but i also just plain liked hanging out with him
he seemed to have almost no ego
which made him really easy to create with
he also carried no muscial baggage with him whatsoever
so sans F
rip daniel and i soldiered on for a bit
unofficially dubbed rockingham by daniel
(remember oj?)
i think i was simultaneously recording with them
and F
i have notes that sight october '98 as the date of writing
"coming attraction" one of r-ham's last tunes
oh my poor hazy memory
i wish i could extract more...

rockingham finished about 10 songs
and F and i worked on what would eventually turn into the NB cd
i believe my brother was hurt by my collaboration with d.h. and r.r.
i'm sorry he was but i guess i felt my recording project with them
was worth pursuing
it all came to a head though when F quit the moon festival
and shortly thereafter
the nourallah brothers 10 year run
of playing music together
came to a screeching halt
this was sometime around the start of 1999
(as well documented on this blog and other places)
we split to pursue simultaneous personal melt downs

i immediately formed the happiness factor (version 1.0)
with bill shupp on drums
ex-MF guitarist tommy roberts
and david deshazo splitting bass/songwriting and vocal duties with me
we played one gig
after 2 or 3 months of rehearsing
we opened for blondie
then broke up in the spring of '99
because shupp want d.d. all to himself in stereo rookie
i understood
d.d. was brilliant
but i was crushed nonetheless
so i decided to quit music
and tried to re-build my fractured life

when i was finally ready to make my musical "comeback"
almost one year later
guess who the first person i contacted was?

you guessed it...
or did you?

rip rowan (a.k.a. pancho)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

saint georges

the piano tuner tuned the hell outta billy's U1
and talked a lot about uriah heap
while bob and billy ate phil's burgers
and i sat on the funmaker bench
bob took my advice and went with the 78704
a wise choice
from a very wise man
once the piano was ready to go
billy moved his drums into the control room
while bob and i ran over the song a couple of times
i stood behind him and strummed along
at least i know "saint georges" pretty well
it has a lot of words but i've played it live
more than any other song in the bunch
bob and i sounded pretty good together right away
no real surprise there
the guy's a major talent
it did feel a bit weird to think the last time we played
one of my songs together was in el paso
in 1988
a lot of life had certainly happened to both of us
since then
i wonder how he felt
he never said...
maybe i should've asked him?

anyway after 15 minutes of rehearsal
i went to the back of the house
where billy had set up two mics for me in the amp room
we started recording
billy on drums in the control room (front bedroom)
bob on piano in the living room
me in the back singing and strumming the acoustic
before take 5
a little song came to me
and i started singing it
bob and billy fell right in behind
it was kind of a magical moment
billy hit record and we got it all
i'm gonna use it somehow
after take 5 of "saint georges"
we all agreed it was good enough
and we started overdubbing on it
bob played a second piano part with an unbelievable cool
manic ending
i was really happy with it now
he'd plugged into the "crazy" side a bit
and i relaly suited the story
then i asked him to sing some of the chorus vocal lines
"what is your name...what was your game?"
the plan was to stack his voice with billy's and mine
for our gang style backups
"the kids" asking saint georges about her life
i think it pretty much turned out exactly how i'd envisioned it
which is actually rare
bob's piano a little skewed in all the right places
billy thumpy kick drum and floor tom
perfectly sparse
we'd accomplished exactly what i'd hoped
bob was gone by 5:30 to hang out with his son
billy and i still had a lot to do
since it was our last day
we fixed some vocal lines on "georges"
and did a rough mix
then billy wanted to put drums on "it's not enough"
within 20 minutes we had a smokin' backbeat on the verse
that remind me a lot of ringo on "everybody's got something to hide..."
it was totally not what i expected
but worked strangely well
billy was looking really tired by now
when i left at 10 he was completely spent
we'd blown it out real good on the last day
real good indeed...

tomorrow it's back to dallas
and into the frying pan
J leaves for london
old springs pike is coming in from new york
for some mixing
i gotta be mister mom too
and try not to destroy our house while she's gone
wheels off!!!!!!!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

gang style

remember the song i dreamt?
"love is all around"
well we re-visited that one today
billy played the taylor 12-string
it gave us that phil spector wall of sound thing
that we were going for
(thanks again ron!)
it was just what the docotr ordered
that 12-string is our secret weapon
i added a little rhodes bit on the chorus'
billy sang some backups
then we made rough mixes of all 11 songs
it was a lot of fun hearing them all
"western hills" blasted out of the speakers like
"1978" meets "haevy metal drummer"
billy's soaring vocals on "endless dream days" gave me the chills
after hearing it i said
"now tell me if that sounds like anyone else?!!"
"in the blink of an eye" is still my favorite
i can't wait for you to hear it
"be here now" sounds like the "single"
yeah - right...
but more importantly
a message i need to hear daily

billy suggested going to jack rock's studio
at the end
to run the vocals through the fairchild compressors
(beatles fame)
and use spoon's engineer jim valentine to help us tweak
the mixes
we'll see what happens
things changing daily
no real plan even set for when i'm supposed to come back again
maybe early July?
i really hope so
right now that feels like a long time to wait
it's gonna be tough waiting that long to come back

tomorrow bob s. is supposed to come over
to help us put down "saint georges"
i'm really happy about this
we've known each other 23 years
and never played a note on one of each other's records
it's about time
it's gonna be fitting
doing a song about a lady i knew in el paso
with my friend
and ex-bandmate
from the el paso daze
i have a plan for bob billy and i to all sing along
togther on the chorus'
get ready world!
background vocals

gang style!!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

endless dream days 2

lisa and lee
took me out to the madras pavillion today
you guessed it
i may come back to dallas a sikh
or better yet

billy and i re-visited the first song we started in april
"endless dream days"
i had made a not that it needed some acoustic guitar
to build up the chorus'
billy played it
as always
it was great
then he sang some harmony vocals on the AM61
that took the soaring chorus' to new heights
the song was already greatly improved
we talked about maybe trying to find someone to play acoustic bass
on it
something i'd never thought i'd hear my self saying
for one of my own records
but it seems perfect for the wide open piano
vocal and floor tom verses that are right now making me feel the mood
of low clouds at dusk
i asked billy to let me take another stab at re-singing
the lead vocal
this time on the korby c-12 mic
we tried it but it sounded great on the mellow verses
but terrible on the really loud chorus'
back to the shure SM7 we went
something about this mic was bugging me
that i couldn't put my finger on
kind of a muffled or a dark high end
we both agreed it was more sensible just to punch in the bits i didn't like
in the end i was happy with it but the vocal to this song
is so important
i'm still not sure
i'll have to live with it some more
around 6 we went out for dinner
phil's on burnett again
i had the 78204 jalapeno veggie burger
it was as good as the first time!
when we got back we brought up "don't mind me"
billy re-sang one harmony vocal he didn't like
i re-cut my acoustic and then both of us scratched our heads
"is it really any better?'
next up was the magnus air organ
to tack some nice chords on at the end of the song
it sounds kinda like an accordian meets a harmonium
it added a nice touch
billy was going back to craig's house ot work on his record
at 9
so i'm home a bit early
time to blog blog blog my friends

i hope all of you are well
i miss you all



Sunday, May 18, 2008

dreaming of carter

something happened to me this morning
that's never happened to me before
not once in 14, 600 days here
i woke up crying
sobbing in fact
i was dreaming of carter
begging him not to leave
he was there
clear as day
we'd been hanging out talking
but then he said he had to go
when the light hit my eyes
tears were streaming down my face
it was terrible

i got to billy's around 1:30
we decided to turn our attention ro "the man who learned to love"
as it was the starkest of the bunch
only some fingered picked acoustic guitar so far
lead vocals and a slight bit of synths billy had put down quickly
at the end of last night's session
it wasn't "doing it" for either of us
something was just slightly not kick ass enough
so billy said
"how 'bout we start over?"
sounded good to me
so i re-cut my acoustic part
this time on an epiphone he's strung with flat wound strings
to give it kinda of a duller more muted sound
i re-sang the lead vocal
on the groove tubes AM61 again
this vocal was a definite improvement
already the song was sounding a lot better
then i asked billy to sing the harmonies instead of me
we doubled tracked a few throughout the song
and once again the mojo of our two voices together
was working in spades
the song was really beginning to sound good now
but the real push over the top came when billy started playing his
j-45 acoustic
he instantly came up with a part that took what we were doing from
pretty good to pretty badass
we worked on that for about an hour and then decided to take a break
it was around 7pm now
we went up to a bohemian coffee shop
the kind that you would only find in austin
all kinds of arty bored kinds hanging about
listening to music
and killing time
it was actually kind of an amusing scene
like we'd stepped into some sort of '80's john waters film
but i enjoyed getting something different than what you get in dallas

post zen bohemia we went back to billy's house
we only had half an hour before he had to leave
to work on his own record
at craig ross' house
i asked billy to put some harmony vocals on
"in the blink of an eye"
i turned the lights down in the front room
and opened the front door
the cool breeze blew in
while i sat in the orange striped chair
and listened with headphones
the song took me back
it sounded so inviting and warm
i thought of carter again
and how much i miss him

Saturday, May 17, 2008

starbuck's on the moon

we started the day around 1:30
when i entered billy's living room
he said
we're gonna i-chat barry today
i was stoked
barry bergman is billy's manager
but much more than that
one of the sweetest soul's on the planet
no shortage of personality in this man
he's been in the "biz" for a long time
he was with united artists back in the 70's
when they broke meatloaf
and acdc (just to name two)
he's been there
done everything
barry always gives me my zodiac reading when i talk to him
he even called and sang "happy birthday" for me
on my answering machine last week
"happy birthday dear saaaa-laaam - happy birthday to you!!!"
a very kind and loving friend
it's been fun getting to know him these past few months

we chatted for about an hour
i had to video tape it for jayme
she loves barry
in fact
if she ever leaves me for another man
she said it'll definitely be for barry
we talked about the "opposition" my zodiac chart says i'll be facing
until february of next year
barry assured me it was not necessarily going to be a bad thing
he tried to figure out what it could be
impossible really
but he had plenty of theories
he told me that right now is the best time in my life
"it's all downhill from here baby!"
but things are changing
and i don't like change
believe it or not...
do you?

a lot of things b.b. told me were bizarrely right on
he said i didn't let many people truly "in"
but once i do i'm fiercely loyal
and they are in for life
also if someone else tries to hurt my friends
it crushes me
i will jump to their defense in a heartbeat
he told me that without a doubt my family was the most important thing
in my life
more important than money
notoriety or a nice pair of chucks
he then said i try to finesse my way through impasses
with other people instead of confronting them aggressively
i don't know
it all sounded right on to me
after our lovely chat with b.b.
we got back to "pictures"
i cut a vocal through the groove tubes am61
just like the one back at P.L.
the one i cut all the vocals on polaroid with
it was weird that billy pulled it out
i didn't even know he had one
not a common mic
but it just sounds good on my voice i guess
a nice high end and kinda crunchy
billy then did harmony vocals throughout
and it was jaw dropping how good our voices sounded together
if he hadn't suggested moving the key around
i don't think we would've gotten this fantastic result
euphoria kinda gripped me at this point
and then billy said
"how 'bout we turn on the optigan?"
oh yeah
now in the throws of geek out euphoria
i lept for the video camera
we spent about an hour going through all the optical discs
"polynesian rhythms"
"gay '90s waltz" and "big organ and drums"
just to name a few
i made notes of sounds we could potentially use
and from what discs they came
of course
two important buttons on the thing malfunctioned
when he turned on his other optigan
(yeah - he actually has two - ridiculous)
it didn't work right either
way to go mattel
i spotted all kinds of things on these discs that i heard before
stuff on beck records
neil finn
even stuff in TV commercials

after optigan city
i talked to rhett on the phone
they had just gotten done playing a waterloo records in-store
in austin
to 400 people
with another 150 locked outside
'cause there wasn't enough room
i asked rhett what he was doing
"i'm in the van with my band!" he said
with the zeal of a 20 year old
it gave me a good feeling
to hear him so happy
i'm really proud of those guys
it's an exciting time for them
and after all these years together much deserved
it's incredible that their passion for playing great rock'n'roll together
is still there
i admire them and will always feel honored to call them my friends
way to go old 97s!

billy and i walked to a salvadoran place called elsi's
the night air was cool
the sun sinking fast at our backs
beautiful high clouds and a bright moon right over our heads
it felt nice to get out in the evening air
we had a good meal
talked a lot
laughed a lot
especially me when billy shot out his best quote of the night
"until i see a starbuck's on the moon
i don't believe we've been there!"

Friday, May 16, 2008

the believer

billy was on today
in spades
the guy is so in-tune with songs
it's almost freakish...

we tackled "pictures collected"
a bubbly little tune
about the way us humans collect memories
we both agreed that we wanted to steer it away
from kinks terrain (sorry ron!)
we tinkered with the structure and key for about an hour
once again
me with my back to the front door in the striped orange chair
billy sitting on the brown velvety couch
something bothered him about the verse melody
it sounded like a harmony part to him
higher than the chorus melody and bridge
i'd never thought of that
that was just the way it came out when i wrote it
i never second guessed it
he suggested moving the key from A# to D
so that i could sing a lower vocal part on the verse
and once the chorus hit it wouldn't be an energy lag
he was right on
what he said made a lot of sense
it did to this song what the french revolution did to france
well except for no one was be-headed
he built a strange drum loop around
get this
slamming the front door shut over and over again
then looping it
this was our "snare drum" sound
at first i gotta admit i saw no way that this song
was gonna work to the loop
it felt kinda lurching
and contrary to the rthym i heard in my head
but i didn't despair
i trusted him
there's no reason on earth not too
he's a pro
as drakoulias would say "pro looks and chops"
so i just relaxed and enjoyed the ride
we put down a bass part first based around this day tripperish riff i had
then billy plugged his hofner galaxy in
this time through a rangemaster pedal
and POW!
crazy cool tone
i'm serious
one of the coolest tones ever
sounded like a straight up '60s vox cranked
all from this pedal
it was raise the hair on your forearms hair raising
and the part he played
even better
we were kinda coming at this tune even more backwards
than usual
it was challenging
at one point 3 hours in it still sounded like a complete mess
but by the time we wrapped
around 10:30
we had a pretty decent little groove happening
me plucking away on billy's rickenbacker bass
some swingin' acoustic guitar
and this weird loop that somehow worked
i'm a believer baby
and i was a believer coming into today
but now i'm really a believer!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

be here now

i woke up with this sentence stuck in my cranium

"i wanna give in to the moment of my choosing"

i know
it may not sound like much
but this has been my struggle
in real life
and also with this song
it was the line i needed to finish "be here now"
it was so simple
but so elusive
the key to finishing the chorus
the whole point
i'd been wrestling with this lyrical bear
for months
it felt good to get another message from lalaland
thank you lala nourallah

lisa and i had a great peaceful morning
it was fun to hang out and dork out on music
we talked and listened to the re-mixed "walls and bridges"
by winston o'boogie
her and lee had given me a copy for my birthday
great songs and amazing vocals
partially ruined by the ridiculous horn section
and hot licks session man guitar playing
it made me realize that when i was 13
i'd felt the very same thing about this record
it could've been fantastic
it should've been so much more
the songs were all there
great tunes
great lyrics
lennon's voice in top form
i thought then (and now)
"where on earth was the producer?
why didn't he stop the trample of the horns and cheesy guitar playing?"
(oopppss - my hero lennon was the producer)
sorry john
you done screwed up
shoulda hired phil to oversee "walls and bridges"
i guess i had the little producer bug in me even way back then
i've always been one opinionated mother ucker when it comes to music
but geez
i challenge you to listen to "nobody loves you when you're down and out"
and not be annoyed by the silly horn section
blathering away
as lennon sings one of his most agonizing
and real laments
he should have fired himself as the producer on day one!

when i got to billy's house
i re-cut the vocal on b.h.n. with the final lyrics
then we worked on some electric guitar
he played his hofner galaxy through this badass boss re-20 delay
the sound was gigantic
when he gets on the guitar
the fun especially begins
that's his #1 instrument and it shows
he's brilliant
after that we put down some electric piano
a part i know rip (r.r. to you diehards) will dig
very supertramp!
i thought of him the whole time
more indian food followed
(i know i know, typical)
at the star of india buffet this time
(i only made one trip friends...)
and a good lefler style hang at momo's after that
for kacey crowley's cd release show
her and her band sounded amazing

billy and i have 10 tunes started now
"endless dream days"
"stranger in my own skin"
"don't mind me"
"the wrong road"
"love is all around"
"blink of an eye"
"the man who learned to love"
"it's not enough"
"western hills"
"be here now"

i think we're gonna tackle 2 more
maybe "pictures collected" tomorrow
and then if bob s. comes over next week
"saint georges" (for grace!)

i'm itching to fire up the optigan though
we gotta do it soon
billy promised me...
for those of you who don't know what an optigan is
it was an early electronic keyboard
that looks like your grannies' church organ
that was made by mattel in the 1970's
which relies on pre-recorded optical discs that look like vinyl records
to reproduce crude old sounding instrumental backing tracks
(old school loops)
with disc titles like "banjo sing-along"
"gay waltz's"
and "latin fever"
how can you go wrong my friends?
and the optigan is also infamous in music circles
for it's frequent mechanical failures and grotty appearance
of course
i'm all over it like a cheap suit folks!!!

lose yer mind to da bass loop

i didn't sleep well last night
a bass part idea
for "western hills"
looped in my brain
for 12 hours
over and over
and over again
it tormented me
i woke up at 7am
after a fitful night
of tossing and turning
with "bah da bah da"
thumping in my brain
all night long
we went to borden creek
for some breakfast taco galore
bass loop still going full throttle
driving me nutso
i was beginning to even get a little snappy
when it took half an hour for our tacos to arrive
ready to go off on someone with a tofu stick!
at 2pm i finally found peace
billy put me out of my misery
by letting me tack this instrumental idea
onto the end of "western hills"
and my bass loop jumped from my brain
and into the song
i was able to finally let go of my little thumping buddy!!
we worked another 3 hours on "w.h."
added the wah-wah trumpet from the wurlitzer
and a few other things
we agreed it sounded great and then moved on

billy suggested doing "be here now" next
i played it for him as he sat on the living room couch
we both sadly agreed the blasted lyric
at the end of the chorus
that i'd been working to fix
for months
was still not right
it had to be perfect
it was the key to the whole song
we brainstormed word options for about half an hour
settled on some stuff we thought was better
then decided to record it
by the way
we're doing every song to click tracks now
billy said "how 'bout you try your 12-string acoustic?"
after a few strums he said
"that's vibe central right there - done!"
so i put down the 12-string part
which was significant for me
because it was the first recording of this special instrument
given to me on my birthday
from my close friend ron
i was really happy when i heard how great it sounded
it was just what the song needed
and it already made it stand out from the other tunes
in a good way
after that i sang a lead vocal on the 251
billy did some killer high harmonies
played my p-bass through the fender deluxe
and we decided to call it a night
10 hours gone in the blink of an eye

poof - done!!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

missed the party but i'm having my own here

the old 97s "blame it on gravity" was FINALLY released today!!
it feels like we've been waiting forever
since the record has been done since early january
i'd almost been lulled into a slumber while waiting
well now it's arrived
definitely cause for celebration
i missed all the party hoopla at the granada tonight
wish i could've been there
they graced the cover of Quick
plus a big article in the DMN
and i also think in the Observer
a full on dallas media blitz!
but i have a good excuse
i'm in austin now
getting back to work on my record
we rolled in to town sunday night
it was super bad-ass of jayme to give me half of her mother's day
for our trip
when i got to billy's
around 7
we both found that we were in weird moods
i played a few songs
they all felt like crap to me
i just didn't feel right
i needed a little time to get back into the flow of things here
it had been a hectic and dramatic 3 weeks in dallas
i needed to give myself a chance to clear my mind
the next morning i felt one hundred times better
i woke up and finally got to work on the words to
"be here now"
they've been stifling me for months
one line at the end of the chorus
not right
no matter what i did
i was ready to march over to billy's house
and show him i had finally knocked the song on it's head
but when i got there he said
"how 'bout we do western hills?"
i was pretty stunned
because i didn't think he wanted to put that one on the record
coming into things i thought "western hills"
was one of my strongest tunes
i looked at it kinda like the sister song to "1978"
a nice little slice of nostalgic pop
and i wrote it in the big week i had
at the top of last year
when i wrote
"saint georges" and "endless dream days"
i thought those 3 tunes were the foundation of my next record
but on day one billy said he wasn't sure of
"western h"
it might be too kinksy?
and then jayme clocked in with a "maybe" too
maybe too much like F?
so it ended up being put on the back burner
i was a little bummed
from the first minute we got rolling on this tune
i felt great about it
it was good to work on something fun
we cruised along the tracking highway effortlessly
billy helped me with the 2 lines i'd been unhappy with
"brother F is crying from a bullies' rock/i'm the lone avenger with revenge to plot"
"sitting on the blacktop at the end of class/betting that the Jam was better than the Clash"
two couplets you would've never found on snowing or beautiful noise
we spent about 6 hours working on it
at the end of the day we had acoustic guitar
some hot and busy bass
some unlikely but super cool banjo (from billy)
plus a bunch of percussion stuff
and when i was messing about on the fun maker
i stumbled upon the wah-wah trumpet sound
we both instantly agreed we'd have to use that the next day
after recording lisa and lee took us out to taj palace
for some excellent indian food
to celebrate my birthday
it was so nice of them to do this
as i was sad that they couldn't come up to dallas on the 3rd
we had a great meal
and i couldn't have felt better
being with J and G and L and L
back in austin
ready to spend the next week
enjoying every moment of this rock'n'roll fantasy

Saturday, May 10, 2008

happy birthday mom!!

i originally posted this on my mom's birthday last year
i'd forgotten it
so i bet you have too
i've made some amendments to it
but it's basically the same:

on this very day
may 10, 1940
in detroit michigan
karen mae severs was born
to robert and edna
the 2nd of 3 children
she was a happy and talkative child
her father nicknamed her "pumpkin"
she played the piano and painted
a straight-A student too
as a teen she never aspired to be a housewife
she was independent and headstrong
she was gonna be an artist
she attended cottey college
a girls school in missouri on scholarship
then went on to get her masters degree in art from the university of illinois
that's where she met fayez
waiting for the bus to come
on a sunday
the buses weren't running that day
they were apparently the only 2 on campus who didn't know that
he asked her to join him for coffee
she thought he was french
she said "yes"
many years later she said "he was the most handsome man that had ever talked to me"
they were married in august of '64
she was 24
her aspirations to become a working artist
were squashed by the birth of her first son
that was may, 1967
faris was next in january '69
then miriam and ameer
she set aside her own ambitions
to devote her life to raising us
she spent all of those kid years in el paso
with an even temperament
even in the face of trying to manage 4 rambunctious kids
daily chaos plus the pressure of trying to be thrifty
i remember this little green 2 door datsun she would try and cram us all into
it was the nourallah clown car
what a sight we must've been
the 5 of us piling outta that thing
with our '70s plaid slacks and big ole glasses

she was (is) a devoted mother
not a lazy bone in her body
worked herself like a slave to raise her kids
and take care of her husband
she cooked every day
with hardly ever a break
she even learned how to make arabic food
got good at it too
she cleaned
painted the house on numerous occasions
re-arranged furniture
mediated our fights
bought our clothes
took us to the doctor when we got sick
did more laundry than humanly fathomable
she even mowed the lawn while her lazy boys played
she never complained
she always seemed happy
and content
but i remember one year
when my dad forgot her birthday
she was really upset
he rushed out in a panic to k-mart
and came back with a dolly parton record
and some flowers
but my mom was deeply hurt
i remember her crying
"i don't even like dolly parton!"
her devotion was still un-wavering
even though she was probably taken for granted
on a daily basis

she taught me that LOVE is supreme
the most important thing in the universe
something to cherish when it comes your way
she was always there to listen and never judge
interested in whatever i was interested in
always positive and upbeat
she promoted creativity and individuality
and has remained the eternal optimist
even after all of these years
and countless disappointments
she was always so happy
with an energy for life that still hasn't been dimmed
i was very lucky to have been raised by karen mae
such a smart beautiful and charming person
i love her very much

Friday, May 09, 2008

jayme and i just finished the 7th episode
of "john adams" on HBO
it was excellent
but the end was super-depressing
everyone got old
and died
we cried
and felt that sick twinge in our stomachs
i'm all worked up now
just like you
i'm usually not in the mood
to think about these things
i'm staring out into the blackness
of our backyard
the glow of the computer screen
in front of me
is the only light
my right leg is going up and down
like crazy
that restless glitch of mine
i feel like going out
but there's nowhere to go
i want to escape my thoughts
i want to be distracted
but there is no escape
not here and now
at 1:30 in the morning
i wonder if roberto is out?
or maybe you too?
maybe i should join everyone at the barley?
it's too late...

i'm ready to go back to austin
back to the retreat
lisa and lee cozy house
billy's studio
working on music all day
enjoying every moment
stepping off of my hamster wheel for a bit
(and my wheel is nothing compared to most!)
i want to be caught up in the here and now
too busy to think about all the sadness
too busy to be restless
and fidgety
like i am right now

i'll hit you back when i'm there

p.s. happy birthday grace!!!
you are greatly loved in nourallahland