Saturday, June 28, 2008

sample press

You recently spent a month in L.A. working with Rhett Miller. What are the details of that project?
SN: Rhett asked me to come play bass and help out with his second solo record. He’s on Verve now and they’re really supportive of what he wants to do. It was a really positive experience. We both took our families out there with us for 5 weeks and had an amazing time. George Drakoulias was the producer and another long-time recording vet, Dave Bianco, was our engineer. We recorded in a studio called Sound City that was built in the ‘70s by Rick Springfield’s manager. It was hilarious – brown carpet and wood paneling everywhere – like it hadn’t been touched since 1975. In its heyday loads of classic records had been made there. Like Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours,” Tom Petty’s “Damn the Torpedoes,” and Cheap Trick’s “Heaven Tonight.” The ghosts of rock’n’roll heroes past were everywhere…especially in the “Loggins Lounge”!!!

In the liner notes of your new CD "Beautiful Noise" you thanked the neurosurgeons at Children's Medical Center in Dallas. May I ask why?
SN: I wrote most of “Beautiful Noise” while my family was going through some difficult times. Our son Gavin, who was only 3 months old at the time, went through a serious operation for craniosynostosis – a condition where the plates in the head prematurely close. So I guess “Beautiful Noise” is a by-product of extreme sleep deprivation and stress. That whole period is already pretty hazy. I only have vague recollections of how most of the songs came to be.

You have a Who's Who list of great local musicians credited on this album. How did you choose them? Or did they come to you first?
SN: Over the last 3 or 4 years I’ve come to realize that we have a tremendous amount of world-class talent right here under our very noses…a lot of these musicians now happen to be my friends. I’m really lucky that every single one of them gave their time and talent for this record as a labor of love because it would have been nothing without them. Sometimes I feel like the Dallas music scene is a desert island, stranded in the middle of nowhere with the outside world having little or no inkling about what’s going on here. I hope my cds help in some way to spread the word to far off places ‘cause at least they are making their way around the world – even if in small quantities…Anyway, it was lots of fun choosing which person to play on each track. I know each of their individual styles pretty well so I just sort of picked whomever I thought would work best for a particular track – it was like “musical baseball cards.”

The lyrics on all of the songs from "Beautiful Noise" are very intriguing. They read like personal stories from your own life. Are they? If so, would you mind choosing a few of your favorites and telling me what inspired them?
SN: It is very much the most personal record I’ve ever made and I feel a bit awkward while awaiting people’s reactions. These songs helped me make it through some hard times so I’ve already gotten something out of it. It was my therapy. So if people like it – that’s great – of course I want them to like it…but if they don’t, it doesn’t matter ‘cause it’s already helped me get through something. The bridge of ”Never say Never” is directly about Gavin’s operation but I wanted to leave the rest of the lyric open-ended enough to where people who didn’t know could still relate to it. “Do you remember when the angels spoke to you…” starts the actual bit about his operation. “1st Love” is about my grandparents. I’d been thinking my whole life about 2 things my Grandfather told me as a child that blew my mind. I could never put them in to words until I wrote this song. “I’m afraid of dying…” which no other adult had ever confessed to – and “don’t marry your 1st love” as he, of course, had done. I think he meant your 1st love is an irrational love. You have nothing in common but a love born out of youth and inexperience. Something he apparently regretted. My grandmother was a devoted Christian and it troubled him greatly that she would often say she looked forward to seeing their son Richard, who had passed away, in heaven. They both new he was gay and the bible taught her that gays do not go to heaven. I think all major religions preach that as well. Don’t they? So my grandfather had a really hard time reconciling this with her. He wanted to talk to her about being scared of what was out there after this life on earth but couldn’t. So he talked about it to us – his grandchildren. It was really very sad. The lyric “when we go to church, there we stand but I’m still not sure and she says Richard waits for us but I don’t think he really does…” That’s my grandfather speaking - it’s a direct lift of his words.

How do you write your songs? Do you get an idea for lyrics and go from there? Or do you start with a melody? Do you have a particular method? Or something entirely non-formulaic?
SN: Entirely non-formulaic - they are mostly spurred on by lyrical ideas. Sometimes these ideas float around in the back of my mind for quite some time until the moment of “writer’s coma” sets in (usually triggered by some sort of emotion). I don’t believe in writing songs as an “exercise” or because you need material to fuel your desire to have a career. Too many crappy records are being made because of this.

Do you also write the back-up (i.e. drums, bass, keyboard, rhythm, etc.) portions of your songs? Or do you work with your back-up band to find what sounds supplement your melodies best?
SN: Everything on the record is a collective effort of sorts. I do believe when working with talented people whom you trust – trust them!!! Of course, there’s lots of input from me and ideas bounced back in forth but if they played the part then it’s most likely their idea. I disagree with producers who take the heavy-handed, know-it-all approach because they’re too insecure or bullish or whatever to trust their musicians.

You mentioned to me when I saw you recently that you'd garnered a second back-up band to fill in when the original "Polaroid" band isn't available. Can you tell me who this second band consists of? Does this mean you'll be playing live shows more frequently?
SN: Well, it made sense to me to try to play live with some of the guys who contributed the most to “Beautiful Noise.” Daniel Hopkins (from Radiant), Danny Balis (Sorta), Chris Holt and Richard Martin (Shibboleth). I’m still going to play with the Polaroid band (Dufilho, Knoll, Garner and Duncan). In fact, we have the “Live at Pleasantry Lane” cd set to come out on Summerbreak Records this fall. I thought it would be fun to have two bands that both knew a different set of songs – because between my two full-length cds, the “A Way to Your Heart” E.P. and the Nourallah Brothers cd, there’s plenty of material to choose from. As far as playing more, probably not, because I’m too busy recording people at Pleasantry Lane and because the Dallas music scene is still ruled by club owners who prefer nu-metal bands as they apparently “draw more…”

Where would you like to play that you have not yet been able? Perhaps we can persuade our readers to help set a demand for you in those cities!
SN: Ft. Worth. I’d also like to play Austin more often…

You seem to be enjoying a lot of success with your recording studio, Pleasantry Lane. The last time I spoke to you (via email) you told me you were booked up for months. Has owning your own recording studio always been a dream of yours? Did you initially build the studio primarily to record your own works or did you always have the idea to open it up for public use?
SN: The studio was initially started by my brother Faris and I for personal use only. We recorded the Nourallah Brothers cd on a little 8-track recorder set up in one corner 6 years ago. The studio has been a slow “work in progress” that’s only recently finally arrived. Faris is no longer a co-owner – he has his own personal studio. My friend Rip Rowan, editor of, came in and helped me really take it to the level necessary to start recording others. I made the decision to try that as I was looking fatherhood straight in the eyes as a commercially unsuccessful musician. It’s been great though – I love what I do, have made tons of new friends and still feel everyday that I’m involved in trying to make good music.

What advice would you give to fellow do-it-yourselfers who are considering building an in-home studio? What are some of the pitfalls and successes you've experienced?
SN: I don’t know…that’s actually the toughest question you’ve asked. Though no pitfalls yet, thankfully.

What are your hopes for the future of Pleasantry Lane?
SN: Help people make the recordings they’ve always dreamt of making but never thought possible. Keep using it to make more Nourallah music and also support my family.

red alert

Red Alert was recently talking with John Vanderslice about his new album, which, like yours, delves into some painful autobiographical territory. He surprised me, though, by saying that the process wasn’t cathartic; that it was, in fact, somewhat exacerbating. What was your experience?

SN: It definitely helped me. I wrote the songs when I was going through a hard time, then things had kind of gotten better by the time I got around to recording them. The weird thing for me, now that the record is done and people are reacting to it, is that I’ve already gotten a lot out of it by writing the songs and making the record. I kind of feel like I’ve already gotten what I need out of the record. It’s nice, because if people like it, I’m obviously happy, but if they don’t, it really doesn’t matter.

Do you think when you’re on tour five years from now that you won’t want to revisit these songs because they capture such a precise period of time?

SN: I don’t know. That’s a really good question. Right now, I’m going and playing the songs, and I’ve had gigs where I’ve been extremely uncomfortable, actually. I’m most uncomfortable when I’m playing with other performers who I feel are working a shtick or entertainment angle. I feel self-conscious then because I feel like the audience is sitting there going, “What’s up with this guy? Where’s the entertainment value?” It’s not even their fault; it’s me disappearing into my own head.

But I’m feeling better now. I’ve had enough shows in Texas where people have come out and they already have the record and they want to hear the songs. That’s helped me feel not so self-conscious about it. But sometimes playing in Texas is kind of strange and…darkly comedic.

Have you turned down a gig because you think, “Oh, that audience isn’t my audience. That bill isn’t my bill?”

SN: Definitely. But in the earlier days, that was always hard. Musicians have to learn how to say “No,” because most of us are just enthusiastic about playing. You start to realize that if you put yourself in enough bad situations because of your enthusiasm, it will really start to do damage. I think my brother, Faris, is a good example of how years of those gigs can do a lot of damage. He’s never really recovered from it.

You also keep pretty busy with your studio. Were you working on other projects throughout working on your own album?

SN: Yeah. It made it kind of difficult. I don’t really remember a whole lot of recording Beautiful Noise because most of it was done after other people had finished sessions late at night—usually when I was pretty tired. In a way, it’s cool because I wrote it in the same state as I recorded it: I was kind of out of it. Now I’ve got this record and not a lot of concrete memories of writing and recording. That might sound strange to some people, but it’s strange to me, too.

It’s almost like you’re in Guns N’ Roses.

SN: Exactly.

Backing up a second – what are some projects that have come through your studio that you’re especially excited about?

SN: I’m really excited about a record that I just made by a band called I Love Math. Do you know Deathray Davies?

I do.

SN: Well, John, the lead singer, is a good friend of mine, and he has this alter ego called I Love Math. We’ve been working on a record for eight months and we just finished. I’m really excited about that record.

How does it differ from Deathray Davies?

SN: It’s a lot mellower. Sonically, it’s got a little 60s Bob Dylan in it, a little Rubber Soul, even, if you can believe that. It’s not as much of a rock band experience.

Is that out?

No, they’re kind of in the process of getting the artwork together and mastering it and all of that stuff.

Cool. So, back to your album, when you brought in the other players to record, did the songs remain pretty intact?

SN: I guess they did. Because of the difficulty of getting people to come in—because of their schedules and my schedule—I would start just about every song with just me and an acoustic guitar and a click track, just to get the song down. In fact, on “The World Is Full Of People Who Want To Hurt You,” I got kind of careless one night and did what I thought would be a scratch vocal and acoustic guitar, but that ended up being the keeper lead vocal and rhythm guitar part on the final recorded version. I ended up liking the way the acoustic guitar reared its head every now and then, and then got buried again. Sometimes little accidents like that would happen.

I think the most difficult song to record was “The Other Side.” That was one of my favorite songs coming into the record, but it was such a hassle to record. I ended up chopping it up and messing around with it—and I almost left it off the record because I was so sick of it. I hated it.

Lyrically speaking, the album has a lot of lessons or warnings to be passed down. Is that something that someone was able to do for you when you were a kid? Or something you wished someone had done?

SN: That’s an interesting and good question, too. I got a lot of warnings as a child, but they were probably a lot of different kind of warnings. I probably did wish that I got a different kind of thing, maybe, from my father. I didn’t want him to ever end up preaching or saying, “Listen, I know this is the way it is.” But there were a couple of things that I wanted to say, hopefully in a gentle way, not ramming it down anyone’s throat.

When you were a kid, how did you seek out music?

SN: My brother and I grew up in El Paso, and it was a pretty horrible environment for seeking out new music. I remember being threatened in high school, almost on a daily basis, because I was listening to weird bands that no one in that city even knew. The Clash was completely subversive in El Paso. It was all heavy metal and classic rock.

I would get this magazine in the early 80s called Trouser Press. I would read it religiously and mail order records. I remember one time, in particular, when my mom took me to the post office with a big money order for records. She asked me what I was doing, why I had to mail order records. There was none of it to be found where we lived. But it was exciting—it was fun. Now, with the Internet, things are a lot easier than that. I would often order records just based from reviews.

Now that I think about it, that’s left a lasting impression on me about the music press. As a child, that was all I had. There wasn’t radio, there wasn’t Internet—it was just what a writer said about a record.

I had a similar experience. Sometimes I’d even buy an album just on the cover art.

SN: Totally. I did the same thing.

Now there are a lot of bands that are probably judged on the strength of 30-second clips on iTunes. Not to be too curmudgeonly about it, but when you had to drive an hour and spend a week’s allowance to get a record, you’d listen to the whole thing ten times straight through, even if you hated it—and sometimes end up loving it because of that.

SN: That’s a really good point. iTunes and the 30-second clip, that’s just an extension of our fast food culture—everything is quick, everything is instant, everything has to bludgeon you over the head immediately to make a sale. A lot of great records take a while to sink in. The best books ever written aren’t necessarily wham-bam.

There’s a line in the Stylus review of Beautiful Noise that plainly expresses the famous conflict for indie music fans: “I want everyone in the world to know about this music, and I want to keep it all for myself.” Can you relate to that as a music fan? Or does that get washed away when you’re trying to make a living with music?

SN: Well, that’s a hard thing to put a finger on, too. My favorite band is The Beatles. They were the most popular band of all time, and that didn’t make me love them any less. But there is that feeling that I think all music fans have when they find something that a lot of people don’t know about. It’s special, and it’s a secret.

As far as how that affects me now—recording other people and going into production has taken all the pressure off needing my music to support my life. I think that, accidentally, it was one of the best things I ever did. No musician can dictate whether their music is going to allow them to live the rest of their lives and be supported by it. I think that’s why there are so many musicians who are touring even though they don’t necessarily want to tour: they have to. If you want your music to keep supporting you, you have to get out on the road and keep spitting out the records, whether you feel it or not.

When you’re playing with Rhett [Miller], and getting a bird’s eye view of his career, do you think that’s a level you’d like to reach? Or are there too many sacrifices?

SN: He’s got a great career, but he works so hard—he’s always flying here or there, doing things, and I don’t think I have the constitution to do that. He’s been able to step up and do everything he needs to do to be at that level. I question whether I have that in me.

Is he a family man, too?

SN: Yeah, he has a son, Max, who’s just a couple months behind our son, Gavin. When we were in Los Angeles together, he brought his wife and son and I did the same with mine. That’s been one reason, I think, that Rhett and I have a friendship that’s pretty strong. We’re both trying to do the same thing with having kids and not being gone all the time. He wants to be a well-adjusted rock and roller and not just be Axl Rose, to reference Guns N’ Roses again. So we both relate to each other in that way, and there aren’t a lot of blueprints for that. There are a lot more from the other side, the sex, drugs and rock and roll side.

Absolutely. While we’re on the topic of families—when I set up this interview, I had both of your solo albums, two of your brother’s solo albums, and then the double-disc Nourallah Brothers reissue…but I didn’t know anything about either of you, aside from what I could guess or glean from the songs. Is that ideal? I know now that there is a complicated backstory.

SN: No, it doesn’t matter, really. It’s my life, and he’s my brother. It’s part of both of our stories. Also, I think sometimes, actually, people have been finding me through his records and vice versa. It’s been a good way for us to pick up some new fans.

To change pace again for our last question, I was wondering whether you have a pet cause that you feel may be neglected by the public.

SN: It’s something I don’t really talk about much, but I guess being an Arab-American, especially in Texas, it’s always been difficult. I think America’s lack of awareness about the Middle East has always been a troubling thing, although I also have to say I’m disgusted with the way that the Arab nations have behaved and acted. It’s a very difficult thing. The ignorance, especially in Texas, seems to be somewhat outrageous to me. I’m obviously making generalizations about “the masses.”

But is that something you encounter on a personal, face-to-face level as well?

SN: It affects me. I’ve had people tell me that if I ever wanted to make it in the music biz that I should change my name. Don’t I know better? Look at who the runs the industry, things like that. I just have this name; I’m not pro-Arab or pro-anything. I’m an American just like anybody else. I think my life has been easier, in a way, because people were never able to look at me or my brother and tell what we were. A lot of people thought we might be European or something. But there probably is a good chance that, with the kind of name that my brother and I have, we’ll never sneak out of cult obscurity, especially in America. The good part for me is that, for the first time in my life, I’m in an extremely good place.

— Interview by Adam McKibbin

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

only angels have wings

Andrew Illiad interviews singer/songwriter Salim Nourallah, who has recently released the lovely Beautiful Noise. Go!

AI: Both you and your brother have released above average records in a field that is completely, totally overcrowded. Did your parents put something special in your cereal?

SN: Our Mom was an artist and our dad was an accountant so I guess the confusion created something bizarre.

AI: What I mean is, do you come from a musical background in regards to your family life growing up?

SN: Our background wasn’t really musical. Our mother played a bit of piano here and there but me fooling around with an A.M. radio at age 9 was probably more influential than anything else.

AI: I've read that you've been a part of many other projects since you began your career and that they have been pretty diverse. Care to elaborate?

SN: I always loved bands as a kid. So I always wanted to be in a BAND. Being a solo, singer-songwriter type was never really what I set out to do. I learned though, after many frustrating years, that you can’t simply will yourself to be in a great band like the Clash, for example. For most people it just never happens and it never happened for me. Turns out, in some ways, that it was the best thing that ever happened to me ‘cause I’ve loved being on my own and I think I’ve done the best work of my life without the shackles of “band-dom.”

AI: How did you hook up with Western Vinyl?

SN: A very long and involved miracle that was pretty well documented here…

AI: Beautiful Noise is pretty pastoral but there is some dark subject matter in places, so in a way those lyrics are understated. Are most of these topics from personal experiences?

SN: Yeah, that seems to be my problem. I write most of my songs for my own therapy – it’s always been a way for me to cope with life. Sometimes it’s not enough but it’s the only thing I know to do. “Beautiful Noise” was written during the time period where our 3 month old baby boy was going through major surgery on his head.

AI: The sleeve says "written, recorded and mixed by Salim Nourallah." How many guest players were there?

SN: How many guests where there? Let’s see…there was Carter Albrecht, Richard Martin, Daniel Hopkins, Chris Holt, Danny Balis, Aaron Kelly, John Lefler, Steve Duncan, John Dufilho, Jason Garner, Rick Nelson, Paul Averitt –at least 12 – I’m sure I forgot a couple. All friends of mine who happen to be great musicians. Dallas has a ton of undiscovered talent here.

AI: Aside from their parts, did you take care of everything else?

SN: Yes, I took care of all their requests for cheap oriental food and exotic goldfish.

AI: It says recorded at Pleasantry Lane. Is that a street where a house is that holds the bedroom where you recorded this...or is it a studio?

SN: Pleasantry Lane is an actual, full-blown recording studio. It was named after an old song my brother Faris and I used to do. The chorus went: “One day I’ll land on Pleasantry Lane…” The studio was started by both of us around 1998. We recorded the Nourallah Brothers cd here on an 8 track. Since then it’s expanded, not only format-wise but also space-wise. I’m now recording and producing others bands as well as my own records. Faris is no longer involved though.

AI: Do you play a lot of shows? If so, where have you trekked and where are you planning to go?
SN: I play about 4 times a month. Texas only. I was hoping to get out of state for the promotional of “Beautiful Noise” but no opportunities really came up. The only touring I’m thinking about right now is maybe Europe sometime next year.

AI: What's next?

SN: Not sure. We still haven’t given up on “Beautiful Noise” even though Fanatic’s promo work behind it was extremely disappointing. We’re kind of trying to figure out what we can do with it at the beginning of next year.

AI: How does the process go for you in regards to writing new material?

SN: I guess it’s just force of habit by now. I’ve been writing songs ever since I was a kid, for over 20 years now. I try never to force writing – sometimes I go months without writing anything and it doesn’t bother me one bit.

AI: If you could travel in time, where would you go and what would you do?

SN: I think I’d pop back to 1960’s London and form a rock’n’roll band. Maybe with Austin Powers as the front man?

Stoopid Questions:

What's your favorite pick-up line?

SN: How much do you weigh?

What freaks the hell out of you?

SN: People who are really into guns, the state of this world (in-tolerance and violence, etc.)

If you could date any movie star (dead or alive) who would it be?

SN: Lou Costello

What do you look like when you wear a tuxedo?

SN: Uncomfortable.

Where's the party?

SN: Anywhere I go, man.

If you were an animal, which one would you be?

A unicorn. I collect them you know…

What have you been dreaming about lately?

SN: Unicorns

What becomes of the broken hearted?

SN: They join a lonely hearts club band

Have you ever killed anyone in a knife fight?

SN: Myself actually – these answers were generated by a Nourallahbot made to my exact likeness.

/december 2005/

Monday, June 23, 2008

carter should've celebrated his 35 birthday today

after all these months
it still doesn't seem real
but it is
i listened to the 911 tape last night
for the first time
one shot
and he was gone
it took less than a second
logg's reaction when he saw carter laying there
was nothing
an "oh fuck" for himself
only concerned for his own hide
there was no remorse
no surprise even at the discovery
that carter albrecht was at his doorstep
someone he knew all too well
how could he not be stunned?
it all makes me wonder
i will always wonder
how could someone do this and never even be questioned
in a court of law?
is it ok for us to continue to accept living in a society
where taking another human life
is handled so casually?
people's lives are snuffed out daily with the forethought it takes
to kill an ant
with our archaic "right to bear arms" commandment that was set in motion
in a time where this country was in a completely different place
we're going down in a blaze of bullets
and oil rape greed

my dad let me know about 2 men that were killed
in front of a garland studio last week
all for a piece of shit 1995 car
one of them was the father of a 2 year old
and an infant
the most heartbreaking thought to me
is those children living the rest of their lives
haunted by the loss of the father they never knew
and all this pain for what?
for nothing...
because the two worthless fucks who killed him had no regard whatsoever
for the value of another human life
when i hear about things like this i get so angry
that i think we should start publicly torturing the shit
out of anyone who commits a crime like this
yeah it's irrational
it's what i think when i get upset about it
i don't really want this...
but isn't it time to start getting radical about this problem?
how long are we going to accept that it's just "part of life"
"people will always have guns and kill other people...hum dee dum dum"
is it part of life in the netherlands?

murder cannot be tolerated
it is fucking intolerable
go hold a little baby in your arms
stay with them day in and day out
feed them
change them
love them
year after year after year
and then
years later
go hand them over to someone who puts a gun to their temple
and blows their brains out
oh i know
you all "get it"
you are peaceful and beautiful people
i'm venting in the wrong place
i know none of you would ever harm anyone
it's the others out there who should think about these things
and there's no getting through to them
this problem is simply out of control
and it's not gonna go away or get any better
what are we supposed to do?

i can hardly bear to pick up a paper these days
or watch the news
because it's all too much
i don't want to know anymore about
the cruelty
the violence
the sickness
that runs in an endless torrent of pain and heartache
right to our very doorsteps

i hope we all stay lucky
and avoid the ones
with no conscience
or sense of right or wrong

carter wasn't so lucky

Sunday, June 22, 2008

100% efficiency?

i had one of those very rare days
where i felt like i was functioning
with 100% efficiency
if only all days could be like this...

up at 9:30
a bowl of c.h. with blueberries
worked on my blog
a half hour later comes the stomp stomp stomp
of little feet
"dada!!! i'm up now - time for cereal!"
eyes squinting
bedhead blazing
after breakfast
G and i go to whole foods
for some dolmas feta cheese and
veggie hotdogs
we hang out for a bit and have a "concert"
me and him sitting on the bench in the living room
strumming matching ukuleles and singing silly songs
today we sang G's hit
"i don't care anymore" plus
"boomking" and "gavin is a monkey"
after that i went out to the studio and rounded up
a few things i'd been meaning to unload
we went up to cd world and i picked up a nifty
red and black western shirt
after lunch
some yard work
a trip to home depot for some rocks
yeah, that's right
it's pretty sad when you're paying for a bag of rocks
after yard work
i cleaned the studio
G money played drums
then played the electric bass
he asked me to make a strap for him
so he could stand up and play
it was pretty hilarious watching the little guy
rock out with his imitation beatle bass
i organized another pile of cds and took them over to jayme's studio
to make more room for my songwriting cds
that are hogging up 2 shelves
and expanding every month
after that it was dinner time
and you know what that means
when it's dinner time...
after dinner
i went for a run with G
don't worry
he road in his chariot while i pushed him
i've never been a runner
always hated it actually
but jayme's got me doing it now
and it feels good
i've never felt better actually
i guess i was just always too lazy before
not anymore!

after i put G to bed
i ducked out to the studio
while J worked on photos
i backed up a bunch of my music files
sent r.w. "all those days down there"
which i'd promised to do weeks ago
but forgot (sorry ron!)
while i was doing this i discovered a folder
called "miscellaneous"
in it were 4 or 5 tracks
a studio recording of "i'll be around"
a demo with rip of "it's lonely..."
a song called "dreaming" that i'd almost forgotten about
plus a pretty funny tune i wrote/jammed
with bob schneider in 3 hours called "impressive"
after listening to everything
i decided to add "dreaming"
and "impressive" to the ciphers cd
bringing the track total up to 11
so that's my day in a nutshell

Thursday, June 19, 2008

selling art to make art

it's a nice cool overcast morning
the birds and squirrels going crazy in our backyard
as i write this
i'm looking out at them frolicking
it's a peaceful sight

i'm playing dada tonight
with lefler
and holt
lee simmons from austin
and one of the bright light bands
i'm gonna try to be in the here and now today
my mind has been racing away from me lately
makes me think of
"too many problems that i can't explain..."
a little bit of "overwhelmed" playing as my personal
soundtrack lately
i got some good news last week
"life in a split second" is going to be included
on a new TV show on ABC
called "the secret lives of american teenagers"
it's supposed to go down in july
i also got a promising email from a company in canada
called arpix
that's interested in my song "montreal" for canadian TV
that would be nice
and fitting
wouldn't it?

jayme's fabulous painting
that ended up the cover of the new
old 97's cd "blame it on gravity"
is up for auction this week on ebay
keep your fingers crossed
baby needs to make a new record!
with all the time i've been taking off lately
recording in austin
we decided now was the best time to unload
the "ace in the hole"
i suppose we're selling art
to make art

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

just another manic tuesday

it was a busy day yesterday
rip and i went up to crystal clear sound
and to master ciphers from snowing
for those of you who aren't quite sure what mastering means
here it is in a nutshell
layman's terms...
you go in with all your mixes on a data disc
they extract them off of the disc
then they run them through compressors
and equalizers
to maximize the volume of each song
after everyone agrees the mixes sound ok
(the more you turn the volume up the more "distressed" they can sound)
then you line all the tunes up in the order they will appear
on the cd
you make sure all the space between the songs is right
plus do all of your start and end fades
you have a "mastered" cd
that should now sound loud
and professional

after mastering i spent an hour with J and G
they were dressed in their soccers uniforms when i got home
curled up on the couch watching the euro games on TV
it was really cute
they were both all smiles
and really happy
that made me happy

at 7 winslow came over to sing her last few vocals
for the record we've been working on for 18 months
we're going to wrap it up next week
i'm beginning to get really excited about it
a slice of duffy/winehouse retro pop coming your way soon
i co-wrote most of the album
though there's also a nifty cover of "they don't know"
made famous by tracey ullman
we had a lively session the went past midnight
with rip and lefler jamming on "shampoo"
it was a great day
i couldn't feel any better

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

the 11th hour

i'm going to crystal clear sound
to master the new cd tomorrow
it's going to be called "ciphers from snowing"
11 misfits that didn't quite make it
if i'd stuck to my guns and done the double cd
these tunes would've been sides 3 and 4
(of the vinyl)
jayme is almost finished with the artwork
it's fantastic
the cover is one of her paintings
called "cipher in the snow"
thus - the title of this record
we got lena
to handwrite the titles
just like she did on snowing
(thank you lena!)
it's all going to tie into the first cd
really nicely
i'm actually way more excited about this release
than i'd thought i would be
but one song in particular
has been bothering me ever since we tracked it
it's called "anywhere but here"
it's about my son growing up
and moving away
i guess it has a lot of sentimental value to me
i wanted to get it right
but something inside kept telling me
it wasn't right
i asked rip to come over tonight
in the 11th hour
and work on it
as always
he was there in the clutch
we re-visited this song
over 1 year since we'd last walked away from it
rip re-cut the drums
with a great tom mallet part and then brushes on the snare
i re-did the lead vocal
my voice really not in top form but i still beat the original vocal
and then pancho rowan suggested i re-do the acoustic guitar part
on my nylon stringed spanish guitar
it was a really good suggestion
and proved to be the final touch
that took this song from out-take status
to being as good or better than anything on snowing

at 1am we sat in the car and listened to our mix
in the darkness
we both felt like we'd just done something really good
thank you rip
i appreciate all of the things you've done over the years
more than words can say

Sunday, June 15, 2008

so what kind of father do i want to be?


















to all you dad's out there

happy father's day

Saturday, June 14, 2008

i'm sorry

you made it to the end of the snowing
track by track dissertation
or did you?
maybe you checked out 2 weeks ago
and set your interweb bot to notify you
once it was all over
the bot was right
it's all over now
you're in the clear
kind of...

i'm outta sorts tonight
in a funk
and i don't mean grandfunk railroad
prince in stiletto's or rick james with a kinky hair weave
i mean that i'm feeling agitated
i don't know what's wrong
i can't quite put my finger on it
and that's always helpful to the people who have to live with me
believe me...
i hate feeling this way
i feel guilty
i feel upset for giving in to it
i'm ill at ease
i feel like i've squandered the past couple of days
caught up in all the scrambling
and rat racing
with no time to enjoy the glee of my 4 year old son
or much of anything else
there are heavy things taxing my mind
causing me to be distracted
and vacant
thoughts posing questions like...
how can people rationalize their poor behaviour so that they take no responsibility for it
or ever bother to apologize to the people they've hurt? no matter the consequence
of remaining silent...
i've done it
you've done it
we've all done it
someone's doing it to me right now
i bet someone might be doing it to you
i definitely know there's someone doing it to J
we're trying to teach our son
that saying sorry
is an important part of life
it's important to realize when you've done something wrong
and have the nerve to fess up to it
come clean
admit it
tell the ego to shut the fuck up
and ask the person you've hurt for understanding
or forgiveness
or whatever you want to ask for...
i don't know if we're gonna get through to G
i hope we do
it's a really important lesson
that we all make mistakes
we all hurt others
it's part of being flawed
it's part of being a human being
we sometimes do it unwittingly
sometimes on purpose
but we should always try to be aware
that once we've done something bad
rationalizing it all away
is bullshit
it's cowardice in it's worst form
and believe it or not
it's even worse than all those cockroaches who muckrake we shot j.r.
i don't want to live like that
and i don't want to accept it all away
so i can try and feel ok about myself

why is something so simple
so difficult?
why can't we all just say

"i'm sorry that i hurt you..."

Friday, June 13, 2008

the terror

do you have the stomach for this one?
i'm curious...

this song was a colossal pain in the ass
a recording nightmare
finally finished after over one hundred tracks
(most muted and un-used)
the first attempt went dreadfully wrong for me
it ended up being a radioheadish
modern rock fiasco
so i sacked it
even though i liked the tune
i was sick and tired of it
and very disappointed in it's recording
months later it was still nagging me
so i went back
muted everything but the vocal and started over
simple plastic ono drums from daniel
big sad piano chords from richard martin
rip extended the slow build to push the song almost to 6 minutes
(a total pain in the ass!)
i felt bad when i asked him to do this
and then we used carter's beautiful noise
to push the wicked buildup to the edge
i dare you to crank your stereo and listen to this one
it wil puncture your eardrums and drive you insane!!

my mom's only comment on snowing was
"it's nice - except for the last song?
why would you want to do that?"

"there’s nothing that can save you
all the love in the world
evaporates to nothing when it is your turn"

this song deals with me darkest fears
why on earth i wrote a song
that tried to capture this feeling
i don't really know
i guess it was some sort of therapy for me
it's definitely not entertainment


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

snowing in my heart

"throw open the windows
put your favorite record on"

this song is the eldest of the bunch
written in october of 2004
as i was wrapping up beautiful noise
i was so excited about it
i recorded it straight away
jayme loved it
and was disappointed that i didn't include it on BN
but in my chilly little heart (pun intended)
it felt like "snowing..." was the beginning of the "next step"
i promised her it would be on the next record
she didn't believe me
but i meant it
i re-visited the recording i made in '04 in '06
i replaced the digital piano with the real thing
i'd recently aquired
F's old upright
a big improvement to the studio
one day i phoned him up and he proclaimed
"my piano is on ebay - BUY IT NOW for $1000"
he'd paid 7 for it
i didn't expect to buy a piano that day
but i couldn't pass it up
(thanks for the $$ mom!)

"laughing in the face of
everything that scares you"

this song is about the longing to be a child again
to be free from the shackles of adult fear
and baggage
i wrote it gavie's room
when i discovered a sound on his mini casio keyboard
the melody appeared just like that
it's a crystal clear memory i still have
of sitting on his bedroom floor
pecking out this little melody
while he happily played
i didn't really know what the lyrics were about
until i had time to figure it all out
a bit later

Monday, June 09, 2008

it's lonely when you're all alone

"i spend my days watching the walls..."

the only song on this record
with even the slightest sense of humour
i must admit
i don't want to get this serious again
snowing is such a formal affair
i think it's time to loosen the collar a bit
lighten up a tad
the wry melodic melodrama
of this tune
was meant as a pastiche to my brother's music
the lyrics about his solitude
not mine
or maybe only mine as a child
certainly not as an adult
i think i'd even taken these lines from
almost an exact quote from F

"if there were any justice in this world i’d be a saint
put on the highest pedestal
not covered in house paint"

billy harvey and i tracked most of this one together
it was done in one summer afternoon
a precursor to what i'm doing now
billy drove up here from austin
just to do this
which i greatly appreciated
i spent a couple of hours playing him my songs
before we settled on recording this one
billy played the drums
i played bass
then he dropped and mic in the piano
ran it into a the silvertone amp
put a delay on it
and got the coolest piano sound ever
it instantly defined the song
after we finished "it's lonely..." i was pretty sure i wanted to make my next record
with this guy
so i am

Saturday, June 07, 2008

don't be afraid

i started writing "don't be afraid" on april 14, 2005
i didn't finish it until december 24, 2005
ironic now that i look back
that j. christ's birthday falls on the day i finished it
christmas eve
at the time he was one of my most dear
but fearful friends
don't worry
i haven't lost my mind
it's johnny not jesus

there are 2 recorded versions of this song
the first one i did
has remained unreleased until now
it will actually be released soon
when paisley pop unlocks the 9 snowing out-takes from the nourallah vaults
i played "don't be afraid" to rip
for the first time while he got the drums ready to record
he loved the song but thought it should drive a little harder
than i'd imagined
so we undertook the "up" version
daniel hopkins played some great rock'n'roll drums
one of his liveliest performances ever
chris holt and carter albrecht were the guitar section
and carter's seering verse electric was the perfect catalyst
for danny balis and his stop/start bass part
i liked the way it turned out
it's got a great driving energy
it's probably one of the most commercial things
i've ever recorded
i easily picture hearing it blazing on jukeboxes nationwide
there's often a "but..." with me...
i'd always wanted to do this tune with a gentle george harrison lilt to it
a lot less agressive
more of an invitation or suggestion
than a demand
to me the rock version somehow didn't quite fit on the record
i couldn't put my finger on it exactly
maybe i was just paranoid of it being too "ham fisted"
(translation: arena ready)
see - i don't actually want to ever sell records!!
so i pushed for a re-do
the 2nd time around john dufilho played drums
i played the bass
chris holt electric guitar
carter sang the angelic "ahh" backups on the verses
this is the version you know
and hopefully

"there’s some things i know
that we’re all scared of
meet them head on
yeah, face them with love"

there's a funny video clip of me doing an interview
for german TV
where the hostess says to me
"of your brother faris now you've dedicated a song to him, don't be afraid"
now i have no idea where on earth she got that information
because it is, in fact
without a doubt - not in any way tied to F
the look on my face as she asked me that question
was potentially more priceless than the "up" version of this song

"the pain will cease
and you’ll be happy then
let in the light
let the healing begin"

no single person came to mind when i wrote these lyrics
they are simply a daily reminder to myself
my family and to you
to try not to succumb to the darkness that surrounds us all
it's not religious in any way
it's just a song about love and hope
and an attempt to heal the wounds inflicted by fear
as i see it
that's really our main obstacle
on the road to happiness

Friday, June 06, 2008

i miss you

i wrote this song on august 25, 2005
actually elvis costello's birthday
"i miss you, so comeback" doesn't sound much like "el catzu"
but i suppose these words might apply to his vanishing genius act

"life is speeding up, i am slowing down"

this is another one i wrestled with lyrically
for quite some time
i'm beginning to notice a pattern on this record
lot's of time spent working and re-working the words
on the bridge i do reference track one "hang on"

"all out of my hands, it’s all out of control
we try to hang on though, there’s nothing left to hold"

let's see
i told you to hang on
but now i'm saying letting go is the hardest part?
that sentiment comes from an aborted tune about that very subject
maybe check back when the SN anthology comes out
for a homespun lo-fi acoustic reading of it

"i miss you" is a guitar chord fiesta
greatly helped by richard martin's beautiful
and tasteful piano playing
pancho rowan is responsible for the badass drum loop
that begins the song
he created the effect by slowing it down
and messing with the pitch
i love how low and crackly it sounds
instantly evocative

this song isn't really about missing a love interest
like john waite did in 1984
the concept is more like this...
people come and go
passing in and out of our lives
friends and loved ones we either miss
or hardly think about anymore
where did they go?
why did we fall out of touch?
what happened to our love over the course of time?

"it’s all changing right before our very eyes
i try to stop time
it’s when i realize....i miss you"

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


"erased" was written the day after my birthday
on may 4, 2005
i wonder who could've possibly been on my mind?

i had a different set of lyrics for the tune
tentatively called "the comeback"
at the time i was still daydreaming
of a nourallah brothers reunion
i imagined this tune as one of the ones
we'd use in our comeback
after the floor fell out from under the feet
of that idea
i took this tune
which i'd always liked
and stuck it to some new words
it doesn't take a genius to guess what they're about
although i wanted to leave them hazy enough
for others to relate to
we've all known people during our lives
that get stuck somewhere bad
whether by the blanket of depression
or something else
we wave goodbye to the reflection of that beautiful child
they used to be

"you used to be so reckless and brave
weren’t you?
now you only cower and say they broke you…”

friendships end
people drift apart
things happen...
it's all a part of life
it's ok
and even after we're finally ok with it
we still have those twinges of regret
and sadness
missing our former friend
loved one or ally
deep in the night
they come to mind
they appear in the middle of a sad dream
or in the middle of a sunny afternoon

"i’m wishing this could all be erased
hoping for your sadness replaced"

Monday, June 02, 2008

it's ok to be sad

"a black cloud follows wherever you go..."

i began writing this song in february of '06
when i'd just started recording snowing in my heart
i didn't finish the words until december
it was a struggle for me to complete this song
i had at least 3 totally different versions
of the lyrics
before i finally settled on one
i was changing and writing new words
even when i put down the final lead vocal

"it's ok to be sad" was the second to last song completed
once again i had another hole in the album's song sequence
i wanted a moody but uptempo song
this tune seemed to fit the bill
this recording features no less the 5 electric guitar players
john lefler creating the verse atmospherics
carter albrecht with power chords and a signature melody line
steve duncan with the crazy distorted lead guitar on the chorus
danny delamatyr
filling out the other bits
it was an electric guitar army
jason garner went keith moon ballistic
on the chorus sections
i put down the bass as a "scratch" in one take
when i listened back later
i liked it enough to keep it
why over-think it?
the rest of the song was over-wrought enough
as it was
this was a monster to track and mix
rip did a great job reigning it all in

"sometimes our lives don’t go quite as we’d planned
we suffer daily and can’t understand
it’s ok to be sad…"

whenever i play "it's ok"
i will always think of gregor from cafe pfeiifer
in buchen germany
while i was waiting around before my set
he cranked sad on the jukebox no less than 6 times
and then
when i was playing my acoustic set
he started shouting out "ok to be sad - ok to be sad!!!!"
all through my first and second sets
i hadn't been playing it at all
because i wasn't sure how it translated to solo acoustic
i went for it
and as soon as i sang the first line of the song
a big grin took over his face

he then proceeded to bang his head
and make the rock horns
right up at the front of the stage
until the final chord rang out
and then he gleefully clapped and whistled
in appreciation
i still can picture clearly how happy it made him

it's a fond memory of mine

Sunday, June 01, 2008

this soft existence

this very blog yielded
the idea behind this song
do you remember it?

july 15, 2006

days running together
where did the last one end
when did a new one begin
sprinkler whirs and clicks
stare off in the distance
past the slippery lawn
past the tall still trees
straight into the blue
is anyone out there
who's running this show
back to the sprinkler
that's better right
much better
disappear in the repetitive motion
absorb the monotonous sound
it's safe here
in this soft existence
no one can hurt us
another morning already
maybe we should buy those silvery lights for the backyard
yeah i think that would be nice

in october i wrote the song

"it feels so safe here
the sprinkler whirs
no one can hurt us
i sit and watch the birds"

this was one of my snowing experiments
i started recording with no actual song
just this title
and a mood in mind
just an "idea" really
it turned out to be one of my favorites
casual and elegant
a world unfolded from the get-go
i found a drum loop i really liked
then played a little part with the mellotron flutes
(see the intro of strawberry fields if you want to know what sound that is)
i put down a bass line next
and then the vocal melody hit me
"this soft existence...falling all around"
i wrote the words to the verses while i recorded the vocals
this is actually the way brother F usually writes
kind of unconventional
but in this instance
it worked for me

it's another lazy sunday morning
i look out into my peaceful backyard
lush and green
squirrels playing
birds chirping
trees gently swaying
G money singing happily in his bedroom
this soft existence is fully in play here
the chaos violence and destruction going on somewhere else
seems almost impossible for me to comprehend
as i sit here feeling warm
and loved
in my little corner of the world