Monthly Archives: January 2013

What Am I?

If you’re reading this, thanks for dropping by!

So in the process of coming up with a one-sheet (the equivalent of an actors resume/sales pitch) I am confronted with the uncomfortable (infuriating) position of having to select a genre. The purpose of said one-sheet is to garner attention, reviews/listens to the album James Beaudreau (www.workbenchrecordings.com) and I are putting together. Some might say, “Hey man what’s the big deal? So what? Call yourself alt-acoustic-rock or pop-folk or folks-perimental or a guitarscape-vox-ular…ist or a human-tune-ster.” The wonderful world of the internet has given people the opportunity to hone their musical tastes to such a degree that somebody (marketing/promotional people?) started the snowball of trying to keep up with new musical appellations. The first I remember was ‘alt-country’  applied to the band Wilco. I haven’t ever thought of this stuff in regards to what I make until now. When I set out to write a song I don’t think to myself, this is the type of song I’m going to write. In fact, I don’t even ‘set out to write songs’ that’s just something I do. I also draw, paint, act….I do a lot of things. Why does the world demand that I box myself? Declare my major? Define myself? This morning I came to the realization that …..they (in this case listeners) need my help. People need a context, a setting, a reason to listen.

I read various music reviews and blogs online. Yesterday I came upon a review of the band Foxygen – “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic” on pitchfork which was the straw that broke the camels back. The review began with this:

“Before you play a note, your band begins as a series of decisions: Which bands inspire us? Who do we want to sound like? What are we going to call ourselves? These early triangulations often lead to everything else falling into place: bass lines, vocal affectations, guitar tones, production, album-art style. They say a lot about the band you intend to become.”

This is utterly alien to me. The songs come from wherever they come from (thoughts, feelings, experiences, images, sounds, colors), they end up sounding how they sound, I call them what I think makes most sense or might be evocative of the feeling of the thing. I’ve never been so calculating as to triangulate….anything. Maybe that’s my problem, I dunno. Maybe bands work differently than I thought. Now, don’t get the wrong idea the rest of the review speaks more specifically of the music (not in marketing terms) and was given a rating of 8.4 and best new music. Good for them!! They’ve been at it for some years. I was just so stricken by that initial misunderstanding of how music gets made on top of this notion of having to pigeon-hole myself in order to get listens that I had to write about it. But fear not dear reader I believe we have found a solution!!  James and I were talking about this and he brought up Van Dyke Parks who has worked in a broad spectrum of ways (he’s produced, composed, scored music, written children’s books, been in films, on t.v. etc.) with a broad spectrum of artists…. whether he’s felt the pressure to pigeon-hole himself ever or not I don’t know. So despite doing many things to simplify and be clear I am a songwriter. Do I play guitar? Yes. Sing? Yes. Folksongs? Sometimes. Rocksongs? Sometimes. Punksongs? Sometimes. My songs? Usually. Cover songs? Occasionally. I’ve been going to at least a couple of open mics each week here in NYC for the past 10 years or more and recently a fellow open mic-er came up to me at a venue he had never heard me play before astounded that I was playing a different type of song than he was accustomed to hearing me play at Sidewalk Cafe….all I could say was that it was a different setting. Later I wondered if he’d been bitten by the bug which demands performers work on being one thing and perfecting that one thing alone. I like stretching my imagination, my resources and my ear.

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The Mystery of Kev Feazey

So James and I have been working on the album in isolation (with the exception of a very large lovable soft soft grey cat, Maggie) for about 5 years. Many world events and personal events have  transpired, seasons have changed and the world still turns within a donut-shaped universe (go figure). James has been digging this guy, http://www.mattstevensguitar.com, check out ‘nightbus’ sounds sort of like a radiohead tune, for his playing, social media acumen and the sound of his recordings. James suggested that perhaps it’s time to let someone else lend an ear to the tunes and why not the guy who worked with Matt Stevens…Kev Feazey. Hm, cool name. Well yeah why not? Now the tune we decided to pass on to Kev, Budge, was recently recorded and needed mixing. The first line of the song was inspired by my nephew, Milo, “I will not grow into a tree, I will not follow anyone who follows me” heh I like to rhyme. In this not-so-new-anymore world of immediacy and yet distance I feel like I’m making my first foray.

Who is Kev Feazey? An agent of unknown sound? A mild-mannered reporter with evenings spent battling the forces of darkness? The default for many a modern curious mind seems to be Google which yielded first a facebook page….hm that’s a little intimate then about 3 lines down twitter (kevinfeazey) hm how does twitter work? yeah yeah I’m a lunkhead I’ll get around to figuring it out. Then ahhhh a www dot, I get that. http://www.kevinfeazey.com audio engineer, producer, musician etc. He plays (bass) in two bands, The Fierce and The Dead and The Murder Barn. Two more branches…www.themurderbarn.com and http://www.fierceandthedead.com. He started playing guitar at 14, recording on a 4track his own compositions then moved on to recording bands, decided to become an audio engineer, went to University, started Pinna Studios in Old Street, London. Wow, cool, a whole world away…I’ve been to Italy and Mexico but never London. Kevin moved on from there to do freelance producer/engineer work in East London in 2010. He’s worked with a ton of bands in varying capacities. Some I recognize…The Pogues, The Go Team, The Duke Spirit, Lydia Lunch…I’m intrigued. What will Kevin Feazey do with ‘Budge’? James is more tech savvy than I am and happened to notice that Kevin tweeted recently something about his wedding this past week!!! So we wish Kevin James Feazey and his betrothed a happy healthy union and cheers!

Gaslight

So, I’ve been playing open mics in NYC for over 13 years….for practice? To try out new tunes? Try my hand at covers? Meet other musicians? To have a good time? All of the above? Sometimes performance can be as much of a mystery as what compels me to write songs. There was a bar up in Inwood called Keenan’s Piano Bar and Lounge. So-called not because there was a piano in there, there was a pool table, but the bar itself was shaped like a grand piano. They were closed down when a pound (word has it) of cocaine was found in the basement. It was a great neighborhood joint, not very clean…really not clean at all. There were many colorful regulars and almost weekly a different story or event would come out of that joint. The stories were local and never made the national scene….The Village Gaslight, 116 MacDougal, on the other hand (not an open mic), hosted the likes of  Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Richie Havens, Jose Feliciano, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Dave Von Ronk, Mississippi John Hurt, Jimi Hendrix apparently sat in with John Hammond Jr. one night, Odetta, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Reverand Gary Davis, Bonnie Raitt, Big Mamma Thornton, Link Wray, Charles Mingus,  Wavy Gravy, Allen Ginsberg, Bill Cosby etc etc. Heavy duty talents of american musical and cultural history have performed there.

In recent months the exceptionally talented Randy Burns has been hosting performances at 116 MacDougal but the new owners have decided to stop having music.

The Gaslight Cafe will host its final Randy Burns’ Folk Night next Tuesday, January 15, 2013 from 7-11pm. Come join us folkies for one last night of drink, revelry and song. And together, let’s make a joyful noise!

I’ve seen the Bottom Line, Tonic, Brownies and notably for me Banjo Jims (Banjo Lisa has had me play there a number of times before the closing) close up shop in the past 13 years usually due to rent increases. While I don’t think Gaslight is closing, it’s certainly become a lost venue for performers. We, musicians, will continue to feed our souls even if we’re relegated to the darkest recesses of this increasingly expensive island.  You might see us on subway platforms, in parks, in some bar keeping the fire burning. Thankfully, a good fire is best shared.

It Begins!!!!

Here we are on the edge of a very exciting year! I’ve been recording my songs with James Beaudreau, producer, musician, record-maker extraordinaire for 5 years or so and we’re headed towards the finish line. Some mixes to be done, some mastering….not sure if we have to do more recording, Jimmy? Maybe. Album art, liner notes things of this nature. Considering pressing a 7″ for three of my punkier tunes….yeah despite the prohibitive cost. Electric notions in the air!!