Saturday, February 9, 2013

'Sound City' Dave Grohl

Sylvia Massey would do this thing with tape, and I'd seen it done before but not like that, not by some one who seemed to do it with such ease, it was amazing…

My band was at Phase One in the big room (Studio A) on the Neve console recording drums for Glueleg 'Clodhopper' and after she had used up all the mic's, cables, gotten a wicked drum sound and then Chris Simpson had worked some sort of magic, Sylvia cut tape.  I remember asking if it made her nervous, these were the drum tracks after all. She was patient, explaining the process, the way she found the parts and where to cut. It made me nervous, but I'm a bass player.  Still the result was seamless and an experience I will never forget…I should have taken more pictures.

I should say I am lucky; I've recorded on 4 track cassettes, 16 track half inch, 24 track two inch tape and a plethora of digital medium. In the 1990s I was in a Canadian band at the dawn of the Protools revolution and we were able to record a 'professional' album.   We did record digitally but I don't think we used Protools, I'm fairly sure it was a bank of ADAT machines for the over dubs. But we did used tape; two inch tape and 24 tracks for the drums and bass in that big room.

Then I watched this movie.

What really took me back was the sound of the tape spooling down and up when the 'record' and 'stop' buttons where pressed.  whvooooop! (1:12:45 with Stevie Nicks) Wow what a great sound.  Then there is the bit in the movie of James Brown editing tape, (1:03:02) what I said, a lost art.

This movie is awesome, it talks about music the way I think it should be, organic, natural, live.   I remember reading the liner notes on jazz records and being amazed that those heavy musician could do that live and I argued (and still do) for live recording.  There is something wonderful about that, the performance, the sounds and the attitude. This movie was a nostalgic trip through the process of writing a record. The interaction between musicians and the process of creation.

There are stand out moments: The writing section with Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor, and Josh Homme is something amazing (1:24:10)…I keep saying amazing and awesome and all that, but if you are a musician, engineer, producer or music fan you need to watch this film. Sitting in the studio they talk about how Trent 'uses technology as an instrument not as a crutch'.  Reznor all so notes that there are musicians that will never touch the real gear that the have emulated on their computer. The grove they knock down is super vibby and I want more and you cans see it grow you can almost feel their excitement.

There is also a history lesson here on rock and recording, starting in 1969 right up to the end and then the future.  There is Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Neil Young, Dio, Nirvana, Ratt, Rage Against the Machine, Rick Springfield, Masters Of Reality (who I had totally forgotten about), Fear, Johnny Cash and the producers like Butch Vig, Rick Rubin,  Ross Robinson That's just some of the artists.

There is the real people and their stories associated with the studio and the regular woes of the music industry. There is the moments of stars being star struck and the meeting of musical peers and the resulting genius.  There is mention of magic and things that shouldn't be. There is the wonder of the things that were, are and will come.  There is the childish wonder and exuberance when something wonderful happens.

It's about music, it's about rock and roll.

I guess I am being nostalgic.

Whatever, I'm still doing it.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Zepplin: Chilling with Obama at the Kennedy Centre

I don't usually go for these things….I tend to find them long winded and well, gratuitous.  As follows:

Jack Black is Jack Black and love him or hate him there aren't many out there that channel rock quiet like he does and Tenacious D most definitely is rock.  Mr. Black can throw it down with the best of them, but it's hard to take the short tubby guy seriously when he doesn't even take himself seriously, which I suppose it good and perfect for a tribute like this. That being said (short of F-bombs) he didn't dial it back at all considering the audience which is pretty cool if you ask me.

Still can't decide weather Dave Grohl or Chad Smith is my favourite drummer. Both these guys are what I call 'big arm drummers,' any dude that hits his snare from above his head is fine by me, it makes them fun to watch and loud as ass…beauty.  What can be said about Taylor Hawkins singing except; nice!

Kidd Rock, he's done some neat stuff, and frankly I constantly forget that the American Bad Ass can sing. He pulls off 'Ramble On' nicely and is some ways the slightly rough around the edges performance works well when nodding to Led Zeppelin.

Lenny Kravits is a guy that has mountains of soul, but here? Not so much. The band rocked the hell out of 'Whole Lotta Love' it but for some reason Lenny didn't quiet knock me on my ass, slightly disappointed he sure looked like he put his whole heart in to it.

Anne and Nancy Wilson with Jason Bonham playing 'Stairway to Heaven' is is where the gratuitous came in strong, still an inspired performance.  I really wanted to see Nancy play the solo even though she's not known for here electric playing but that sure would have been cool, even if she played it on the acoustic. The strings, the back ground singers, the choir, and the arrangement worked nicely with Zep's most famous song and was a fitting wrap some amazing performances.

Obama's introduction to the evening is also amazing and worth a watch. He actually talks like he listened to Led Zepplin not just reading a speech someone wrote for him.

Enjoy…I know I did.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Steve McQueen, cool.

Steve McQueen was some sort of a cool dude, and the fact that he was an avid motorcyclist makes him even cooler in my opinion.  

Honda apparently paid him a million bucks for this add, a million dollars in the 70's to ride in the desert. Dirt biking was something McQueen probably would have been doing in his spare time anyway as he was passionate about motorcycles. He competed in the Baja 1000 Rally and was good friends with Bud Ekins and Malcolm Smith also avid and accomplished riders so he was no slouch on a bike.  Watching the clip and you begin to understand the allure of riding; the scenery, the hidden places and the camaraderie of the ride.

I also love the tag at the end of the video….'for a man's ride. HONDA.'  I guess in the '70s your bike made you a man and not your gun. Or, more simply, people where less concerned with their Second Amendment rights and more concerned with having good times.

Finally his mention of safety gear…his helmet, back when men were men, and bones where broken.

Just for comparison…

Not as cool….but still cool, a good life.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

we used to play live

where….is rock and roll? 
I met an old friend who is busy being a rock star, selling records and touring the world and he said something disturbing.
'you'd be surprised how many band run pro-tools rigs on stage. We used to view playing well live as a point of pride.'
'what bands'
he shakes his head, 'big ones, you'd be surprised.'
So Britney Spears is not the only one (i posted that video before really don't want to hurt you again) but rock bands using 'lip sync' while performing?  Common really?
Makes sense I guess, it's big money after all.

ahhhhh…. i feel better now….

Sunday, March 4, 2012


 Went for a walk today.
 I haven't gone on a morning walk since the dog left, so it was a little lonely but I didn't let that dampen the mood, it was a beautiful morning after all.  (that's a photo of Cain from one of our last walks together back in October)

I walked a beach and a stretch of road…the music that accompanied me was classic rock (AC/DC, Def Leppard - Pyromania, and Yo Yo Ma may favourite Bach interpretations for solo Cello).
Music really didn't set the mood today, it was nice in the background but not essential..which is weird if you know me.  It was the light and colour today that was the song, the sound the world around me and the silence of the morning.  The beach shots are about 10 minutes from where I live but it might as well be a 1000 miles from anywhere for how quiet it is there at 6am.

Friday, February 24, 2012

alone with the headphone...

Picture: the Canadian Prairie at sunrise
Driving with a good pair of headphones to bring on the morning, these are the times I love classical music. In the quiet parts you can hear the audience moving in their seats and the players turning pages. Choose the right music (I love Copeland's Appalachian Spring it's perfect for the way it builds and crescendos) and you disappear into another world… you only hear the music, not the car or the wind from the open window, not the person snoring in the seat beside you. 
It’s what your eyes see and your ears hear; the smell of summer flowers, dew and cool grass, blowing in the breeze, the air moving through the horns, and the bow across the strings.  You mind is blank your senses heightened and you are alone and focused on the music…there is no better way to listen to music and not be distracted; alone with the head phone.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Jazz, Classical and waking up, thanks Dad.

For a family that was primarily an visual arts family it is a little odd (maybe) that I ended up playing music.  But then I think back to some of my earliest memories;
Life has been tied together (beginning to present) by a place call 'The House of Doors' an oasis in lower Muskoka that I have been privileged to have access to.  Many paintings and stories have come out of the cottage over the years and I will continue to love, learn and live up there. Since home is where the heart is I guess that's home...but I digress.


As far back as I can remember Saturday mornings where ushered in with the smell of bacon in the pan and the sound of Jean Sibelius 'Finlandia' on the hi-fi.
Do yourself a favour and listen to the whole thing....close your eyes...and imagine;  
You're a kid in the 70's lying on the top bunk and the sun is forcing it's way through the white pine and oak into your bedroom. The door is open and the sound the water, the breeze in the trees and the morning birds follow in with the sun.  Not far above your head is a cedar ceiling, redwood beams patina'd by time to a warm red, the sounds of plates and cutlery as the kitchen prepares, and bacon hits a hot pan. Someone asks if you are going for a swim before breakfast... and the fist long notes flow on the air mixing with the smells of pork, pine, water, and you climb down from the bed.  

That's was mornings on Saturday at the cottage, and believe me (ask my brothers) I am not romanticizing this in the slightest, that was how every saturday began.  Dad always wanted to come up on friday, maximize the time on the river so Saturday wake ups where the norm  We cut down trees, we piled wood, we shingled, we raked, we dug, we played 'war,' built some amazing forts in the bush, and swam in the river and had lazy lunches on the dock. 

The music was amazing; 
Shostakovich,BrahmsMahler, Beethoven (Symphony #7 not the pesky pop music 5th), Chopin... then there was the classical that I brought up; GrofeCopelandBach, classical is meant for long drives and lazy days, it's perfect in the background because you can give it your attention, or not.  I learned to love classical music driving across the prairies in the Gluebus, sunrise behind me heading west on an empty road.  Serene moments like that are often also found in a Muskoka chair on a dock.

At the House of Doors music was often in the back ground. I'm not sure what drew my Dad to music, I should ask him.  After all not everyone had a constant flow of music in their childhood, let alone one with such a generation gap.  But Dad loves his music; he once told me that when he was alone at the cottage he would push the hi-fi over to the window and turn the music up load, then swim, sit on the dock and read, scotch and cigar in hand.
There was Oscar Peterson, 
Clark Terry 
                 Dave Brubeck
                                 Carmen McRea  
Oh man... and Miles, Ella and Sinatra....
Saturdays where for Symphonies and Sundays where for the Jazz wake up call....and boiled eggs usually with toast, a fruit salad sometimes kippers, maybe Nasi Goreng if there was left over rice... I wish I drank coffee back then, that would have been perfect.

I find rock has it's endearing qualities, but it doesn't have the same type of ebb and flow that Jazz and Symphonic music have.  There's a frantic nature to modern music that (to me at least) doesn't flow through nature the same way as older music does...maybe it's the lengths of the songs or the attitude behind the music.  Sure there is beautiful and timeless rock music (the Beatles, Springsteen, Johnny Cash, U2...) but for me those songs are attached to specific moments in time, a simple snap shot of a memory... not of my long personal wanderings. 


I guess that is what makes all music the soundtrack to our lives, it's the songs we sing in our heads and the ones we hear when we wake up. It accompanies smells, tastes and experiences good and bad, it motivates us and sings us to sleep. 

So modern music is the snap shot and Symphonic and Jazz are the movie, that's my angle at least. I should note that for all the years I have dedicated to rock no one song is a cottage song to me...but when I hear Finlandia, I'm taken there...and when I arrive, I usually look for that album.

I blame my Dad for my obsession with music.
Thanks Dad.