What Wonders YouTube Does Provide

I was tooling about a bit on YouTube this afternoon.  Rest assured, I was not searching for the clip below.  Little did I know how much I wanted to find it.

Some thoughts on this video:

  1. Not to sound too much like the American Idol judges, but…song choice: it’s an issue for this vocalist.
  2. The dogs are VERY blasé about this.  It’s not the first time these three have made such a video.
  3. The sunglasses. ‘Nuff said.
  4. The not-quite-but-almost dancing, or at least “rhythmic squirming” that begins in earnest, complete with pantomimed gestures (and if I’m not mistaken, a near jazz hands moment) , at the top of the second verse (about 1:23 in).
  5. I’m sure this fellow is a lovely man.  There is a puckish smile on his face that suggests he’s in on the joke of him, so I’m not suggesting that this gentleman is behaving unnaturally with animals.  His decision to shoot a video in which he sings a love song, while lovingly cuddling his two dogs in bed, however?  You can’t deny there’s an aura of creepiness being exuded by that.

As you were.  I felt compelled to share.

Oh, and Go Leafs Go tonight.  Here’s hoping our boys do their share to keep the playoffs Habby free.

Someone Stole My Idea, Several Years Before I Had It

Yesterday, Spouse and I were out for a drive in the Big Nickel listening to the local radio (Q92 – they “move more rock than Inco”).  Unsurprisingly, after having the radio on for eight minutes, the programming included some Black Sabbath:  Iron Man.

Spouse and I were in a bit of a creative mood and we felt that the tune – though entertaining – could use a bit of re-arranging.  After a few minutes’ discussion, we came to the inescapable conclusion that this song should be performed by a marching band at a football half time.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Michigan Marching Band:

I’se the By That Catches the Fish…and Other Things, Yo!

LIstening to CBC radio this morning on the way in to work, and there was mention of some concert or other taking place at Hugh’s Room in Toronto.  Spouse told me that she had been to Hugh’s Room once, several years ago, to see some “singing fishermen group”

My quizzical look was a silent entreaty for more information.  She told me they were “West Coast clappy” guys.

I am unfamiliar with this particular genre of music (part of my brain is wondering whether the said performance involved Captain Highliner, Tupac Shakur and chlamydia).  Can anyone enlighten me?

Categorized as Music

Introducing Wavy Gravy and Sebastien’s Theme.

HeroesinstudiotriptychIn 1998, it somehow happened that my band agreed to write some music – on a volunteer, we can’t pay you for this basis – for a movie that was being directed by a friend of a friend.  In truth, I do remember how this arrangement came to pass, but the story is boring, pointless and convoluted and involves far too many ridiculous characters.  In one of life’s clever little ironies, it so happens that one might say exactly the same thing about the script for the movie in question.  (Dammit, Joel Siegel, this game is easy!)  It’s more fun, therefore, if I decline to tell you the truth about how this composing engagement came to pass and simply tell you instead that Heroes in Rehab won this opportunity as a prize for placing sixth in a sack race at the Directors Guild of Canada annual summer picnic.  That is saying something, because even this last explanation is roughly as much fun as gum disease.

But I digress.

My point is that we had this job to do and people were depending on us.  Those of you in the working world will understand these concepts and identify them as something known as “responsibility”.  It is something that is entirely foreign to musicians, serious artists and other more highly evolved and important life forms.  Being a musician is not about producing things on time (except for musicians who actually get paid to do what they do because they’re good at it);  when you are a Serious Artist (please read: “unemployed”) working on a Weighty Piece of Art, you cannot be rushed, especially when you haven’t got a fucking clue what you’re doing or why (which is most of the time).

Bower, Avery and Honky the Christmas Goose: Invective Dept.

After many years of searching, last night I managed to find (thanks to the glory that is teh Intarwebs) not one but TWO copies of Johnny Bower’s vocal masterpiece, Honky the Christmas Goose.  Recorded for charity in 1965, the tune gave the Beatles a battle on the CHUM charts in Toronto for a while that year and made an unlikely musical hero out of the Maple Leafs’ brilliant goaltender.

It’s important to understand that Bower made the record for charity and never banked a dime of the considerable proceeds generated by its sale.

I have posted a little screed about Bower’s selfless and unselfconscious act of charity over at Pension Plan Puppets.  It’s amazing to me that Bower would have agreed to do this;  it speaks volumes about the man’s good heart and compassion.  I couldn’t help thinking about the contrast between Bower’s decision to use his fame to help others and Sean Avery’s efforts of self-aggrandizement.

Anyway, you can check out the full-on rant by folowing the link above.  Incidentally, take a peek around the site and consider joining up.  Pension Plan Puppets is the epicentre of the Barilkosphere, the community of Leaf bloggers that have plenty of funny and insightful things to say about the Blue and White.   If you join the site as a result of this referral, let me know (by leaving a comment on this post or sending me an email), because – if you then make a paltry 20 comments on the site in the month of December – I, as your guide and PPP mentor, will be eligible to win some awesome swag.

Project Squawk Begins

My work as a recordist on Saturday evening and Sunday morning (part of the Founders’ Day festivities) has inspired me to attempt to learn a little more about the voodoo magic that can be accomplished in a home stuido with one of these little fellas.   KORG D16 Digital Recording StudioOne of my co-workers is married to a fellow who also likes to mess around a wee bit from time to time with bleeps, blorps and squawks. A few years ago, when I was still a footloose and fancy-free bachelor with nothing better to spend my hard-earned dough on, he sold me one of these second hand.  I had quite a bit of fun fooling about with it;  I demo’ed one or two songs I had written that were to be recorded by the band (back in the days when it seemed like my bandmates were still interested in that sort of thing), and I did another couple of little parody songs (à la Weird Al) in honour of certain special occasions at work(a mentor’s fiftieth birthday, a colleague leaving for a new and better job, etc.).  I have now purchased the KORG D16 (pictured at right) from the same fellow;  I gather from the emails we’ve traded back and forth on the subject that he just hasn’t been using the equipment in the last year or two.

You may recall that I am the Reigning Monarch of Project Commencement;  finding myself with a new piece of equipment and an insufficient number of distractions (this blog, computers, digital photography, doing stunts on yard machinery*), I have resolved to learn how to become more technically proficient at engineering, mixing and producing audio recordings.

The first tentative (and admittedly very decidedly non-technical) step towards that goal was taken last evening;  I waded in to the storage area of our house (a small storage locker sized room behind the garage that permits us to store our accumulated curiosities and whatsits in a non-subterranean manner, unlike those of you with basements) and began searching for my DigiTech Studio Quad 4, a multi-effects processor that offers some cool fully programmable tools and effects like compression, reverb, a rotary speaker simulator and others.  Three hours – and a very large pile of discarded packing material – later, I managed to excavate the storage unit to the point where this particular relic could be recovered (as thrilling as this process sounds, I do not believe I will be anxious to add “storage unit archaeology” to the list of things at which I am a dilettante).

What a surprise I got when I opened up the little box into which I had secreted this most useful little gizmo.  Sitting there on top of it was a piece of equipment that I had forgotten I purchased – a Behringer MDX 1400 Compressor (pictured below with the DigiTech Studio Quad 4).   I had to sit and think for a second about how and when I acquired this thing.  digitech and behringer After a few minutes’ careful reflection, I recalled that the very weekend of my first real “date” with Spouse, I had been hanging out at Long & McQuade in Burlington;  I had, the very Saturday of our first date, purchased a companion to the Apex 460 Large Diaphragm Condensor Microphone I already owned.  All the better to record a stereo mix in  a spaced pair configuration.  While heading to the counter to plop the cash down for the second Apex 460, I passed a stack of the MDX 1400’s:  Messrs. Long & McQuade were having a sale.  The MDX 1400 was (and still is, unless its undergone a radical transformation while in storage) a stereo compressor – i.e. it is capable of processing two separate signals at once, typically one from a left channel microphone and one from the right.  As I was imminently about to become the owner of a matched pair of recording microphones, and the device needed to further enhance and beautify the signals they would be sending down the signal chain was sitting right there in front of me at a reduced price, I recall the spatial, economic and technical symmetry of it all being a little too much to resist.     I may have blacked out for a moment;  perhaps it was non-insane automatism, I don’t know.  All I can tell you is that, despite the fact that 460 #2 had very clearly taken my little studio well over its prepared budget for equipment capital expenditures in that fiscal quarter, I ended up standing at the cash checkout with a box containing the device tucked comfortingly beneath one arm, while the other arm extended a hand bearing a credit card groaning under excess strain.

A few minutes later, I was standing outside in the Saturday afternoon sun waiting for a taxi.  I was warm and somewhat euphoric from the spasm of gear acquisition.  The telephone rang and it was Spouse, inviting me to a barbecue at her place, an event which marked the beginning of our courtship.   The 460’s and the MDX 1400 did get unpackaged, set up and taken for a trial run or two – once or twice over the next couple of weeks.  They mostly stood idle, though, while Spouse and I negotiated the beginning of our path together.  When I moved in with her, they were packed into boxes and stored in the basement, as our little house in the City was far too compact to accomodate any home recording projects, as these have a habit of generating a considerable mass of wires, cables and cords, the various ends of which are distributed with entropic inevitability towards walls (and their power receptacles), cabinets and desks (on which effects, recorders and control gizmos stand flashing with input and output ports waiting for precious signal path) and a metallic forest of instruments, microphones and their stands.

Some months and years have passed now, and Spouse and I are happily settled together.  I always knew that I would come back to recording music;  that’s one of the reasons we were determined to end up in a rural area (all the more difficult to annoy neighbours in the course of the creative process).  It is time to set up this gear (in Mission Control at least initially) and see – or perhaps more properly, hear – what can be done with it.

I am going to attempt to incorporate two of my interests in this way:  as I explore the technical issues and experiment with the gear, I am going to attempt to document my results here.  I find that I learn things better when I am forced to sit down and concretize my thoughts about such things;  by summarizing and describing my efforts, I hope to reinforce the technical knowledge I gain.


* attentive readers will note that I did NOT mention either my “lawn mower video” or the account of July’s fishing shenanigans, both of which are still in the mysterious project queue of my mind and both of which would quite obviously qualify as Part of the Kingdom of Inchoate Projects;  each of these undertakings bears some thematic relation to the more generalized list of  “Time Sucking Things I Piffle About At”, so I thought I’d try to keep the list – and the sentence – somewhat shorter.  You know, quibbling about such things might itself qualify as a time-wasting obsession – maybe you attentive readers share a bloodline with the Monarch.

I Wish the Maneater Were Slightly More Successful

I have been away from the blogging for a while. It matters not what lame excuse I might offer. According to WordPress’ little numbering system, this is post number 200, so maybe I just had a little mental block about the double century. Whatever.

The important point is that I have received a clear and unambiguous signal from my psyche and/or whatever Supernatural Overlord of the Universe you happen to believe in that it is important for me to blog. Specifically, I dreamed that Daryl Hall competed on, and won American Idol. I won’t bore you with all the weird and wacky dream logic details; suffice to say that, in my dream, there was this somewhat (ahem) more “mature-looking” dude with long blond hair and a gawdawful black trenchcoat* entered in American Idol. It was Daryl Hall. I knew it was Daryl Hall. It was obvious it was Daryl Hall. But nobody else seemed to notice that it was Daryl freakin’ Hall.

Now I need to be clear about something at this juncture. The old saw goes something like this: “there’s no accounting for taste.” I respect your right to have your own opinion about the degree to which certain forms of art successfully aspire towards the Platonic ideals of beauty. I accept that there is an element of individuality necessarily inherent in any artistic transaction; the viewer or listener brings his or her own baggage, understanding and preconceptions into the mix, necessarily imbuing the piece under consideration with a unique and highly specific meaning, leading to a potentially wide diversity of opinion concerning what is – and is not – “beautiful.” Thus, while you may, for example, quite firmly believe that Nickelback’s latest composition represents nothing less than the sound of angels exulting on earth, while I may quite reasonably believe that it is more representative, aurally, of a pack of mangy feral cats warring over garbage. Importantly, it is possible – according to the above-described paradigm – for us both to be “right.”

As a theorem, this highly inclusive, tolerant and respectful model is rather like the Newtownian system of physics: it satisfactorily describes and predicts the behaviour of the universe, but only within certain limitations. It breaks down entirely though, so far as I am concerned, with the likes of Daryl freakin’ Hall. Daryl Hall is where everything goes quantum. Limitations of space prevent me from elaborating herein upon the theory of art that is analogous to Einstein’s conception of the universe. Suffice to say that there is another such more comprehensive and complicated model, and suffice to say that this theory is able to much more objectively describe the reality of a given piece of art. Please understand, therefore, that the following statement is not just my opinion, it is an inescapable scientific conclusion: “Daryl Hall is to Philly Soul what Kenny G is to jazz.” You would be correct to conclude that I do not like the music of Daryl Hall; this is so not because my tastes differ – reasonably – from yours, but rather because it is an incontrovertible fact that Mr. Hall’s “music” is horrible shite. If you disagree with me on this point, there is simply no other way to put it: you are wrong.

Keeping these background contextual facts in mind, I am sure you can understand my dream-self’s consternation about the (apparently undetected) presence of Daryl Hall on American Idol. America wasn’t sending him home! Each week, he warbled some pap-crap blue-eyed soul abomination and – far from being pelted with the appropriate amount of vegetable material and broken glass – the American public was eating it up. Hall’s fans could be seen celebrating every such performance with Beatlesque sign-wavery and adulation. Week after week, they encouraged him to continue murdering the very notion of music by voting for him in droves. It was obvious to me that the public was deceived; they obviously didn’t recognize the blond contestant “Daryl” for what he was: a malevolent musical assassin with a proven record of musical crimes, bent on destroying joy and making Santa Claus cry with his execrable caterwauling. In my dream, I tried to warn the public: like any good Canadian, I wrote letters to the editor. I rented a billboard by the highway with a two-storey warning message. I made videos to be posted on YouTube, I went on network television and I even took out an ad in the newspaper trying to spread the word about the villainous Hall and his malevolent musical designs.

But I didn’t blog about it.

In my dream, Daryl Hall won American Idol, and – as a result – he started doing something so frightening and fantastical, I was both certain and highly relieved that I was in the middle of a dream. He started recording and selling his “music”. Thank God that’s not likely to happen for real anytime soon.

I awoke with a start, breathing heavily and sweating profusely from my nightmare. It was obvious to me that something, somewhere was trying to warn me to pay more attention to this blog, lest horribly unthinkable consequences be visited upon the entire earth. So here I am, tippy-tapping away again, telling you about it.

For the love of Pete, if Daryl Hall goes on American Idol – don’t vote for him.


*I have this recollection of a Daryl Hall music video in which the criminal Hall appears in a long, black trench coat, gyrating awkwardly and emoting away with clenched fists as he lip-synched to his latest piece of inveterate garbage. This particular composition, I believe, was one in which the equally egregious Oates was not complicit. I have spent more time this evening than I care to admit (to either you OR myself) pawing through the video evidence of Mr. Hall’s detritus on YouTube, but I haven’t been able to confirm my very vivid horrific recollection. It is a process that is complicated by the fact that I can’t remember the name of the song in question. Is anybody able to help me solve the mystery?

Static Journey, vol. 2

I dipped into the second volume of Darin Cappe’s 9 volume box set retrospective of the Rheostatics’ career. Darin is releasing one volume a week up ’til the end of March, in order to commemorate the one year anniversary of the last Rheos concert. I posted about volume one here.

Volume 2 of Static Journey is almost entirely about Melville, the Rheostatics’ second album. Released in 1991, this was the record that truly established the band’s credibility among fans, critics and (perhaps most importantly, in terms of their ultimate influence on Canadian music) musicians. One doesn’t so much listen to that album as come to terms with it. My own experience with the record is probably more or less typical; when I first listened to the disc, I didn’t quite get it – the songs didn’t resonate, and it all just sounded kind of weird and foreign to my ears. I had occasion to listen to the thing repeatedly more or less unintentionally – there was a cassette dub of the record in my car that I listened to frequently while going back and forth between Toronto and Windsor on weekend visits to my then girlfriend. I only listened to the Rheostatics side to get back to the beginning of the recording on the other side. As time went by, I found myself strangely drawn to these songs, and gradually I became addicted to Melville; needless to say, I can no longer even remember what was on the other side of that tape. My point is that the music is somewhat inaccessible, or at least not immediately so, if one is coming from a more-or-less mainstream sensibility – but one thing Melville did was to announce, from the opening chords of Record Body Count that this album would be something different. It took some effort, attention and involvement to understand the record, but once I really sat and listened to it, I didn’t want to hear anything else.

Static Journey vol.1

ggdposterSome thoughts on volume 1 of Darin Cappe’s Static Journey “box set” retrospective on the Rheostatics (you can get it here):

  • I was a little disappointed initially that the first track in the set – position of primacy, very important – was not in fact a Rheostatics track, but rather the Introduction for the band that was sung by Dave Bookman (accompanied by Steve Stanley) prior to the band taking the stage on the evening of the last concert. It all made sense though, right near the end of the track when you can hear the first thunderous applause as the band takes the stage; it sent chills up my spine again, just the way it did on that night, thinking of all the Sprouts assembled in the grand old concert hall. I remember it occurring to me that this last show was likely the first time ever that all the Sprouts were together like that at one time, just to see the Rheos (most club shows were good for maybe 200 attendees at most, and even the Bathurst Street Theatre shows in ’97 couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 hundred at most, and at Maple Leaf Gardens or Molson Park Canada Day shows – well, those of us who were there had tickets to see other bands too, so that doesn’t count).

New Rheostatics Material

Okay, well not exactly “new.” The band is still broken up, so they’re not producing any new material. Not to worry, though, because Green Sprout* extraordinaire Darin Cappe has been working on a project – a mega-project, actually – to celebrate the upcoming one-year anniversary (on March 30th) of The Last Whale, the final Rheostatics concert. I don’t know Darin personally, just via his intermittent postings to the Yahoo! mailing list dedicated to the Rheostatics and through his site dedicated to the band; He must be quite a fan, though, because he’s pored through hours and hours of recorded material in an effort to put together a “box set” of CDs functioning as a retrospective look at the Rheos’ career. The Rheos were one of those (all too rare) bands that didn’t mind if you recorded their live shows, and there was a pretty active sharing/trading market among the many Sprouts, so Darin’s task was an enormous one encompassing perhaps hundreds of hours of recorded material of varying quality.

Anyway, Darin has released the most recent volume of the project he’s calling Static Journey (he’s up to Disc 4 of a 9 CD set) here. Volumes 1, 2 and 3 can be found here, here and here. The price is certainly within the range of affordability – all downloads are free of charge.