Sunday, July 14, 2024

Classic VHS Review: Interview with a Vampire

I first heard about this movie when Richard Christy (Howard Stern) talked about it on the radio and how he had a "moment" with another guy after they saw it in theatres, back when it came out. Pretty good radio segment. Later on a coworker recommended it so I finally took the bait and bought a copy on VHS off eBay. This genre isn't something I normally watch at all, so it took a while for me to even start paying attention when it came on. 

I have a low attention span for movies that aren't comedy but this wasn't too much of a slog. I feel it ended at the appropriate time, it didn't drag. Well, anyway, here are my official thoughts. I've kept them written on a slice of receipt paper for the past year. Yesterday I found the piece of paper in my wallet and decided to type it up. Here goes...

This movie is full of Hollywood beefcakes parading around in women's glam makeup. It stars Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Antonio Banderas.

The plot is pretty convoluted but followable, I guess. After I watched it, I read the Wikipedia page plot and it matched up, almost exactly, with what I saw. It's kind of tough to figure out who is turning who into a vampire.

The best part, or, my favorite part was when Brad Pitt burns down a cathedral full of theatre vampires and slices this douche vampire in half with a long scythe. 

The part of the movie that kind of lacked for me was the hero arc. At first, Pitt doesn't want to kill humans. But he does, twice... so this kind of cancels out any empathy I might have for his constant "whining" as his vamp mentor calls it.  - Mike

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Origami Angel at Empire Live in Albany NY (w/Equipment and Magazine Beach) Show review

Admittedly I was pretty excited to go see Origami Angel last night. Two weeks ago I dialed my car's radio signal to WRPI Troy 91.5 on a drive home from work. The DJ was amidst an easy-core playlist and I liked what I heard. I stayed tuned until he name-checked "Gami" (as they call themselves) and let his audience know of his own personal excitement for their upcoming concert in Albany. I had never heard of them or listened to any of their music before.

That same day I found a full album stream of "Somewhere City" on YouTube and discovered how it is one of the best emo albums ever made. For the two weeks leading up to their concert I listened to it on repeat and also familiarized myself with their 20-song follow-up album "Gami Gang."

As the night of the concert approached I mentioned to my band-mate from 20 years ago I was going to see an emo band. We're both in our mid-30s at this point. He told me the last time he went to a concert he "felt old." I hadn't seen live music since my trip to Nashville back in 2020 but after playing in different bands and frequenting local music shows for years I'm usually "big chilling" as they say, when it comes to a live music show at least.

I have a strange knack for being able to predict the future and I knew I'd run into the lead singer of this band before the show somehow. Still, I forgot to give him a copy of my CD because I left it at home that morning by accident. As I walked randomly down the sidewalk in Downtown Albany I was by myself and I saw this guy walking towards me. It was just him and me walking past one another on a giant empty sidewalk. This guy looks like Captain Jack Sparrow meets the guy from the Pringles can. I could tell it was him immediately. Having spent the last decade in customer service interaction type of work I have developed the ability to talk to anyone, anywhere, without hesitation. When I recognized it was him, I immediately called him out right there on the street.

"Hey you're that guy!! The guitarist of the band Origami Angel," I said enthusiastically.
"Yeah," he nodded and smiled and attempted to keep it moving at all costs, but I wasn't done.
"I heard about your band on the radio last week. That's how I found out about you," I said in an attempt to start a conversation to kind of test out how willing this guy was to talk. Turns out he really wasn't.    
"That's sick!!!" he said with a big smile as he looked at me and walked away briskly back towards the venue giving zero fucks about what else I might have to say.

It could have gone much, much worse but I held this interaction in my back pocket as I entered the venue and assessed the scene. Empire Live is a fairly new establishment and the show took place in Empire Underground which is a basement venue down around the corner from the main event space.
Strangely I felt I had spent time at this place before, though I can't definitively say I had until last night. I seem to think I've had a dream that took place at this venue. I can't remember exactly what happened inside the dream, as it occurred a while ago.

As I got to the front door I looked at a giant bouncer and waited for him to say something. He exploded with, "ID" and might as well have added in a "Muthafuckahh!!" for good measure. Of course being the complete savage that I am, I could care less and obliged him. 
The guy checking tickets five feet further into the venue was also a tough guy. As I informed him I was about to show him my ticket, he hit me with big "Duh" energy, though it was totally unwarranted as I wasn't lost at what to do whatsoever. Again he didn't realize who he was dealing with. I tried to calm him down with some small talk and let him know the door price of $30 was quite high considering this was essentially a glorified DIY show. He agreed it was too high and lightened up a bit. He wasn't so bad after all. He was really a big teddy bear.

Once inside the venue I started to realize what my former band-mate meant when he said he felt old. Before I get into that, some details on the environment.

The venue itself is just a giant square box inside a concrete basement. All the walls and the ceiling and floor are painted black. There's a small bar, restrooms and a merch section. It's very bare bones. There aren't even custom light fixtures or LED screens anywhere. There is absolutely zero character to the place.
There were about 150-200 people there already when I arrived 45 minutes after the doors opened. For the record, once "Gami" hit the stage I estimate the crowd at around 350 to 500 people. So if we land on 400 at 30 bucks a head that's a whopping 12 Grand in ticket sales. What percentage did the bands take home? I think 50% is the standard, so that leaves the three bands with 6 grand to split up. They probably paid a percentage out to their booking company, so let's say 5k is left. If I Was in "Gami" I'd say every other band is getting transportation and food allowance but no further. 90 bucks a head times the ten other musicians that's about a grand down. So the two "Gami" guys are splitting 4-grand between themselves and their engineer. That's about $1500 each. So if the tour is 30 dates they'll take home about 30k after taxes. More than minimum wage but not by much. Add in merch and they could be hitting a way higher number. Surely not lucrative but miles beyond what most bands will ever attain. But enough about the money breakdown...

As I looked around I noticed almost everyone was in their early twenties or perhaps late teens. Instantly I felt like an imposter. An old guy trying to disguise himself as a hip young kid. I started to sweat underneath the thick cotton fabric of my Thinsulate beanie (I wear it for personal warmth reasons). I resigned myself to a back corner where no one could see me as I stood there, partially embarrassed as I came to terms with my decision to attend this event. 
Ten years makes a whopping difference in your perspective and I found myself thinking about how my at-home rock-star fantasies are often misguided, in a sense. Almost stupid, really. But, somewhere in the past, I realized I needed to pick one singular hobby and I just chose music. It is what it is. 
As I imagined myself on stage playing my own songs I figured it would be an entirely different sort of thing, I guess. For one my arthritis would limit me from moving around very much. My songs are also composed differently, I have to wonder... through live instruments and a PA in front of a crowd it would be a whole different type of ball-game. Anyway, even if I still wanted to be a rock-star, I've aged out of touring, that's for sure. My body would break down within days. I guess I've lived my fantasy enough as you can read in my old posts from over a decade ago, but the truth is, as far as I got and the amount of years I put in... It's not even close to enough. It never is. So instead I just listen to music at home and write X-treme blog posts and review music constantly to fill that void, I guess. I still write music too, but I haven't written much in years. 
I must say, the transition to becoming more of a fan than an artist/participant is interesting. I never thought I'd care about what type of cocoa butter Mike Portnoy used on his elbows back in 1985 that is no longer available through any websites other than eBay, but now I'm sort of that guy. Back to the show, though.

Despite feeling awkward for being older than almost everyone there I think a lot of it had to do with the fact it was an emo show and I'm decidedly too old for the genre (I used to be involved in a local DIY scene during the end of what I'm calling the first wave which would be like 1998-2006), and have been since inactive since it went out of vogue back in 2009 or so. It's funny how something goes from cool to uncool and back again. At the time when it becomes uncool it almost seems like it will NEVER make a comeback, but then, it does. Everything goes in waves. 
Within five minutes or so, I found a standing place directly in front of the sound board on a small plastic mat alongside three other concert goers. Luckily the three people I watched the entire show with were friendly and chill. I had a decent view but despite being 6'2 I still couldn't really see that well. At one point a girl stood in front of me and filmed on her iPhone which directly blocked my view. But I wasn't annoyed or anything. It didn't matter that much to me.

The opening bands were what you'd expect. I guess the second opener was sort of like a less-melodic Armor for Sleep but with a heavier, clanky edge to them. They had a bit of a dark sound, I thought, for emo. Some of the songs were put together like the more complex Jimmy Eat World stuff too. Just for kicks, I'd compare some Equipment songs to one of the closing tracks off the Jimmy Eat World album "Chase This Light," I think it's called "Dizzy."
None of the bands that played, including "Gami" had much of an image which I found disconcerting in a sense. They all seem to be wearing like sweatpants a hoodie and a t-shirt. There wasn't enough effort in the clothing if you ask me. If you're in an emo band you must have jet black bangs skinny jeans and a sweater or small T-shirt on. One guy had black fingernail paint. Not enough. Then again, I've always found the glam iteration of various genres more interesting than whatever this was. I guess soft rock is a different thing. I found some of the trends and what was deemed acceptable or cool as not in-line with what it was for me, at that age. But things change and it's really all about the music, at the end of the day. Certain trends become more accessible and also more accepted. Seems like a lot of girls have septum rings now whereas back in 2004 it was less popular. I didn't see anyone with ridiculous emo hair, or any flagrant mall goth people. I guess those trends died out a long time ago. The style of the concert-goers seemed to be kinda watered down. I've noticed a lot of like 90s nostalgia grunge style is way back in style and remains popular. No one was in crunk-core attire or anything.

One negative aspect of this show was the fact I couldn't hear anything because whoever was running the boards was just putting the bass frequency knobs for every single channel all at probably 50 to 60/100. It wasn't working for me at all. It was all just muddy and washed out tones. I couldn't even differentiate the various instruments. The vocals were coming through really clear but everything else was just random bass frequencies which was disappointing considering the high ticket cost.

I'm not too bothered when the kick drum at a live show really thwacks (unless it's way over the top) but that same EQ was applied to every single instrument so the snare drum was also extremely thick, rich and warm but the problem is that when every single piece of the mix is fully warm like that... it washes out the overall sound. It's kind of like EQ 101, but whoever was running the board was dead set on applying this sound to every band. No idea why. In fact, "Gami" had their own sound engineer and halfway through their set the in-house guy manned a different soundboard (Why? I'll never know) and seem to again push his agenda of bass-boosting everything to hell. He kind of sabotaged gummy. It kind of sucked because beforehand their own engineer had stuff more correctly dialed in.

Speaking of him let's discuss what actually went down and how a two-piece sounds so full. From what I could tell their engineer had a direct mic to both guys wearing an in-ear he was also tap-tempo aligning pre-determined audio that would play along to them at various sequences of songs exactly like a DJ. The bits are queued up and then he'd hit "Go!" at the proper time and it would play on beat, as per the tap-tempo he had established. Not too complicated. Instead of a bass player the guitarist has some setup where his guitar outputs the lowest 2-3 strings into a wired device between the pickups and the output jack that down-tunes the signal to a bass-guitar-octaved pitch. This signal change is also outputted separately (there are two output jacks on his guitar?) into a separate bass amp. If you really want to nerd out, you could speculate the bass amp is faced at a 90 degree angle from the guitar amp to avoid feedback. Or perhaps it has to do with providing his drummer with some monitoring. Sort of like a simulator for a rhythm section as well as a way to fatten up the live sound.
Overall, this guitar setup sounded kind of bad to me. Kinda wonky. There was some crazy feedback at some point because of the guitar behaving oddly, but instead of the invigorating, hair-raising excellence that guitar feedback can be... it was more of a frumpy, dissonant fart tone that just petered out randomly, while of course sounding ever-so-lush through the expensive PA at the venue.

So, really, it was hard to come to much of a conclusion on the sound of Origami Angel because the mix wasn't good. For instance the bassist of the second band was using a pick and I could clearly see what she was picking but I heard almost no bass notes. I just heard a washed out bass frequency overall coming from every single instrument on stage. It wasn't good. Whoever is running the boards at Empire Underground needs to roll down the bass frequency on about 50 to 60% of the mix so the audience can actually hear the guitars. There's got to be more separation between the instruments. It wasn't the worst mix I've ever heard but it wasn't what it could've been. They also may need to invest in more audience-facing PA speakers to help the EQ. Or at least establish a better mid-range.

Once the openers were finished we saw Origami Angel load their stuff. It was a budget operation and the two band-mates put their setup together by themselves along with their engineer buddy. I was slightly surprised by this, considering there were about 500 people there, but I guess that's just how they do it.

The drummer was playing a very small and I'm assuming very expensive perhaps Ludwig(?) vintage drum kit in a beautiful baby blue finish. I didn't see any guitar amp I only saw what looked like a beginner's Ampeg bass combo amp that I'm guessing runs the split signal through it. The guitarist played a strat that had an LED light on the pick guard. I'm guessing that had to do with the split signal and the pickups down-tuning specific strings. What would be crazy would be if the tap-tempo manipulation was also being sent to a wireless box (queued up by the LED light flickering to give the engineer a visual cue) and altering the bass note syncopation through that little Ampeg amp, but that seems a bit lofty. 
Their engineer had a laptop and I was curious if he was recording the soundboard audio to his computer. He really should be. He should probably have some sort of MOTU that takes the board into a stereo IO interface that's plugged into his laptop just to get some rough audio every night in order to sync it with fan videos, or have someone else taking video of every set. His laptop would need some good RAM to make sure it didn't fail and ruin any sound being piped through the soundboard/mixer, but I imagine 16GB would do the trick. Anyways, they set up their gear on stage fast enough then left into the backstage area for about 5-10 minutes.

Before they re-entered the stage area the PA played some hip-hop spoken word/rap hype-up track to the waiting crowd. That audio gave a gist of, "We knew what had to be done, so we did it to get where we are today." It was a message that they put in a lot of work and practice to become what they are. That's what I got from it, at least.

If I were them I probably would've just started playing once the gear was setup, but I guess because of the big crowd they wanted to create some more suspense. This whole mashup of hip-hop audio and emo is nothing new. Oh, side note, someone... (the house engineer perhaps?) started playing Q and Not U's best song off their album "No Kill No Beep Beep," I guess as an homage to the fact Origami Angel is also from Washington D.C. It was noted.

Once they walked out, they opened up with something off "Somewhere City" and although I wasn't impressed with anyone's choice of stage attire leading up to them hitting the stage, the lead singer of Gami did brandish some sort of multicolored Umbro Jersey that was what the kids call, "drip." I still disagree with his man-bun though. 
I mean this in all seriousness when they first ripped through about three songs, this guy, to me is like "emo Kurt Cobain." The way he was playing guitar and singing right at the front of the stage was very Kurt Cobain-esque. As the guy next to me was filming on his phone I immediately saw the similarities through his phone screen. I can see 20 years from now the soundboard audio being synced to audience videos, just like you see for Nirvana bootlegs nowadays.
Now, that comparison could be misconstrued or even taken the wrong way. Sort of like, "Dad!! You're embarrassing me!" but I do mean what I've said here. This band and the songwriter created one of the best albums of the genre with "Somewhere City." I'm not even a big emo fan (though I'm a historian of the genre, in a sense) and I can confidently say it wrecks like 95% of what came before it, other than perhaps Saves the Day, and some Two Tongues stuff I guess. There are tons of albums so I'd have to go through and really compare. Drive Like Jehu, all that stuff. There's a lot to evaluate but it's definitely, for me, on the list of greatest emo albums ever, as I said in the beginning of this article.
Anyway, the lead singer doesn't lean into his whole "rockstar" status (or image) too much... but for me, the whole "emo Kurt Cobain" thing is kind of what I see going on here. Perhaps the only real missing ingredient is some slightly more mature, thought-provoking lyrical content. But the music is already perfect. 
A lot of the fans of this group seem to be younger people, and it's justified with some of their teeny-bopper lyrics about inconsequential stuff like video-games and sneakers. But on crowd reaction alone I haven't seen an emo band come close to this in quite a while. There's obviously something there.

Side note, I think the singer could loosen up some of the lyrics too, and perhaps change words during the live shows to mess around and improvise a bit. Maybe, "I'm the king and you're the czar" could become, "You're the king and I'm bizarre." Stuff like that. I only mention it because I believe he substituted "Secret" for "Adidas" at some point, and I preferred the former. He could really start messing around with some of the lyrics even more, in my opinion.
To loop back around on the lack of a third member... With Origami Angel, I firmly believe the absence of a bass player is pudding where you might find proof of mass appeal. What I mean by that is... sure, this group is relatively unknown and not mega star status. I believe if they added a bass player that complimented their style perfectly... they'd have the potential to play to massive crowds and go down as some of the "best to ever do it." I could see them having shirts in Walmart and becoming a household name, for sure. The band name is decent. Not great, but not awful.

They are being smart and taking all the money they can by keeping it a two-piece. They're also maintaining control. But notice, they're using a third member (in the engineer) who is piping in audio during the concerts. If they hired a bass player, his or her contribution to opening up the sound would be game-changing and... because the lead singer wrote everything already, he'd retain control over writing responsibilities. The crowd at this show last night was excited, but with a bass player I believe we could see absolute mayhem. Not to mention they are held back by bass notes being pinned to the guitar chords. It's compensated for in terms of the songwriting, but still, there's potential for musical expansion that's being overlooked. It's pretty easy to wrap your head around if you think about it. It would also take pressure off the front-man.
Adding the right bass player would open up more room for everyone to shine, despite what the singer or drummer might think, that's the truth. A lot of guys in the music scene who are this talented (not all of them, but about 50%) are also extremely unwilling to compromise, sometimes in ways that end up hurting their potential. It's the classic rock star ego and it's alive and well, and I'm not sure of their exact reasons for forgoing a bass player are... but if they figured it out they could become even bigger (if that's what they want). If not, they can still rest assured they're one of the best emo bands of all time, if you ask me. But it's funny too, because I've seen bands that were almost identical to them, about 10-15 years ago just playing DIY shows, so there's a fine line with what's going on here. A lot of emo bands never got any shine who were comparable in terms of sound/quality. I do think this band is still a cut above, though.

As they started playing some B-sides they lost the crowd a little bit. Every time they went into a song from "Somewhere City" the crowd went off.

I was happy to see they played the song, "Caught In A Moment," and I was paying attention to the drummer to see if he matched his recorded drum track whilst performing the song live. On the "Gami Gang" album he plays the same fill twice towards the end of the song. The second time around he applies slight variation: the first iteration's kick drum punctuation is replaced with flams the second time around... He played the entire sequence just like on the album.

The drummer is totally laser-focused and locked-in at all times. He doesn't miss a beat. His stick work is pretty good. I noticed he wasn't forcing notes but relying on the natural bounce-back (i.e. rebound) from the drum heads to continue his rolls/etc. He seemed pretty chill while playing extremely fast and I noticed he had crazy power too, every drum stroke was a hard hit. The fact he's on a smaller kit amplified his ability even more. Very consistent depth to his snare drum strokes. There was maybe a slight fatigue from him towards the 75% over mark during the set, but hardly noticeable. 
The guitarist's actual guitar work, to me, was good but not mind-blowing really. His songwriting is really the key. It seems like his recipe for success is just cascading a waterfall of hooks into a song, all at different rhythmic patterns, each with their with catchy chorus that has a distinct melody pattern that is fairly dynamic, or complex.
It's sort of like sentences. A simple sentence is "I like cat food." The melodic equivalent would be similar to extrapolating the words from the sentence into notes on the tonal spectrum. Every word in the sentence is a 1-syllable word, so you get a 4-note melody. Which is good. But this guy will write more complex sentences, something like, "Because I like cat food, I always feel so...damn... good!!!  Everyday!!" and match those melodic notes to a catchy little drum and guitar hook. Then he'll do that about 10-25 times per song in various ways. 
Every musical passage is very much at the top-level of what you can do within a songwriting framework... in terms of keeping everyone's attention and providing different parts that never get boring. Every part is a hook. 
The frontman sings well, though I noticed he was struggling with high notes during the show at one point. He didn't do any screaming at the show, although he screams on their "Gami Gang" album in a few songs. I was waiting to hear it, but I don't think he screamed live. Can't remember actually. Maybe he did once. Some of his screaming is actually well done, so really he can do it all. I suspect the screaming on "Somewhere City" was done by someone else, a friend of the group I'm assuming. Those vocals are mixed behind the singing vocals, mostly on choruses with descending notes. It's easy to hear within the mix once you recognize it's there.

The singer, despite being uninterested in any extended conversation on the street, won me over at the end of the show for two reasons which I'll get into in a bit. I was ready to dismiss this group as a guy who is too full of himself for me to really be a fan. Because, look, I approached him, as a fan, in the most generic and friendly way possible, and he pretty much just ignored me. If I were in his position, it sort of depends on the situation how I'd react. I believe I would probably engage in some conversation with the person at the very least. In fact, I have been in this exact position and talked to people I didn't know (who knew a lot about me, though) for a while. So, it's tough to say. On a certain day I could also be guilty of doing exactly what he did, to "keep it a buck" as the kids say. He could've also had to report back to the venue on some sort of time limit to not miss the catering or something. Who knows.
But, I stood and watched the whole time to see if I could figure him out. He did some stuff that won me over where I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. 
I noticed during the show he seemed to just be staring off into space, intermittently. When everyone is loving your B-sides and there's a bald 36 year old quietly judging you from the soundboard I'm sure you're wondering why. The eye contact from both guys over the course of their set said it all, for me, though it'd be impossible to put that into words.
But anyway, I was kinda debating whether or not this lead singer was a poser after he ditched me on the sidewalk, to be totally transparent. About halfway through the show I almost was convinced he was. However... at the very end of the show I felt satisfied with giving him the benefit of the doubt. Here's why.

The first thing is that he admitted to the audience that an encore is a waste of everyone's time. That I respected big time. Shows he was more about being practical and the music than anything else like projecting some image out there.

The second thing is how the show ended. With one song left, the front cleared out. The show was filled with 20-something girls and I imagine once they knew it was almost over they wanted to kinda get towards the exit before everyone else. 
I have never seen this at a concert, and it was kinda weird; a major chunk of the audience cleared out before the show ended. I kind of understood why, it's like leaving The Knicks game early, to get a jump on traffic, but I don't know if I've seen this phenomenon at such a small concert. It wasn't like only five people walked away... All the sudden there was a gap where about 30-40 people all had just bounced. Kind of weird.
Anyway, there was a bit of a mass exodus during their last two songs. That's where I saw my opportunity to get closer to the front. so I walked right up towards the stage.

There was some dude, who had to be in his 50's, on his buddy's shoulders doing double fist pumps in the now-completely-empty circle right in front of the stage... He looked like a music critic. Once he stopped, The band went into a track off "Somewhere City" and I stood at the edge of the now-empty front-of-the-audience semi-circle.

It was a weird sense that "now that everyone's cleared out" those of us who are left (who have been standing off to the side for the entire show) can really mine these last few moments here for what they're worth. Sort of like chugging the last bits of Doritos out of a bag that's 95% already finished, and maybe even crushing a beer can on your forehead afterwards.
This moment was a mixture of both older, over-30 people and younger kids, probably down to like 16-17 year olds who met at the front of the stage and in my opinion it felt like we all said, "We're all gonna relish these last scraps of music and part of this show right here for this split second." And that's what happened.
Commence some open-hand shoving at the best part of this closing song, I'm pretty sure it was...666 flags.
And from there I could tell the band wasn't phoning it in. They got me. Right at the end I got hyped. They played hard until the final note of their show. The singer projected his music authentically and the crowd was in on the fun. Big vibes right at the very end of their set to the remaining people in the front. And it carried out into the street too. It was very unexpected.
To wrap up... I pretty much silently evaluated this band the entire time to see what they were about. I already knew their recordings and musical composition were top notch. I was there to learn more. I don't think the lead singer, nor drummer phoned it in. They convinced me right at the end there.  I left with a smile on my face. The band went out on a high, and I exited with one. I'm pretty sure the lead singer might've taken the stage on one. Don't ask me how I know. Also, there were a couple of moments from this show I've left out of the blog post, but I'd gladly speak about in real life. If anyone is curious just bang the line.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Classic VHS review: PCU starring Jeremy Piven

I picked this VHS tape up off eBay for a whopping $15. I think I might've been scammed at that price, but it was the only copy for sale I could find floating around on the web.


I was watching David Spade on YouTube and his appearance on the Bad Friends podcast when I realized I'm a big fan of his, including from his character (portrayal) on the sitcom "Rules of Engagement."

I used to wander the street of Manhattan while I was in between jobs back around 2016 and I once found myself sitting in a comfy booth seat at a local diner I usually didn't go to. The reason why I never went to this particular place is because there was always construction going on right around the entrance, so it was kind of annoying. I remember, though, the food was good. I usually ordered a pizza burger. Anyways... the one afternoon I found myself there alone and the TV screens had on re-runs of "Rules of Engagement," my favorite. I finished up with some coffee and a linzer tart and headed back home.

I had seen parts of this movie way back during my own college days. I watched it front to back the other day. The movie starts off with some cool music that I guess was a Steve Vai song with Jimi Hendrix vocal samples played over the top. It gives a cool vibe to introduce the viewer into the world of college.


The best parts of the movie are pretty much in the beginning of the film and my personal favorite scene is where we find Jeremy Piven sleeping inside his basement dorm. I like what happens when he wakes up.

Being that I was a "frat guy" myself I can confirm this movie is very accurate. I love college movies and this depiction is pretty spot-on to what I experienced while at college. Definitely the long afternoons wherein you're doing nothing, yet enjoying it. I enjoyed the scenes in the dorm hallways that also seem pretty accurate to what I remember. I also liked the quest that one character goes on to retrieve kegs and how he gets lost on the way. I found myself in similar situations, particularly when he misreads the old lady's lips when she is asking for directions to campus.

The whole preppy frat vs. outsiders frat subplot is decent, and I also liked how the main character finds himself in between two prospective recruiting frats. I'd say this type of scenario is accurate in several ways. In my experience, the two frats could've probably united against the administration at some point if they were really going for a perfect movie in terms of real-life accuracy.

The love interest theme of the prospective freshman and the girl who hangs out at the frat was decent, though in reality I'd bet this guy wouldn't get the time of day, but hey... you never know. I think it could probably happen.


I also enjoyed how Jeremy Piven's character is a super senior who is balding. He's on his seventh year. These super seniors are usually pretty popular and I guess able to sway the opinion of the underclassmen at times so, again, pretty good.

I also enjoy the funk band element and whoever scored the movie and decided on the music did a good job as I alluded to previously. 

There are some cool guitars in this movie and I believe we see what couldn't be older than a 1993 Gibson SG with a beautiful blue and black finish, a guitar I'd love to play in the current era. We also see an explosive scene featuring what I think is a Gibson Les Paul, also a 93 or older.

The one character who sits and watches TV constantly is somewhat dated and would probably be replaced with a gamer or phone addict at this point, but I appreciated the concept. We had TV at college but I can't remember many marathon TV-watching sessions. There was usually too much going on to be stuck to a TV, which I guess was the point of this character. All the chaos unfolds around him.

I think we're in serious trouble when it comes to smart phones and I don't see any end in sight. I find reprieve from this modern era of technological overload by watching these old VHS tapes and I appreciate that PCU was able to bring me back in my mind for a short while. It's a relaxation thing for me really. Certain aspects of the movie also made me thankful for specific events that unfolded while I was at college, though at times I've second-guessed what truly went down. This movie reaffirmed what happened was good. I can elaborate if you ask me in person. 

Anyway... PCU delivered and I will be re-watching to try to memorize some of the better lines in the movie. I'd score it a 10/10. Highly accurate and also relevant to the modern day. It's great.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

How long does it take to write/record an album?

I just spent 11 months writing and recording a rock album. Here's how I did it:

1. Practiced drums everyday for 10 minutes (15 minutes max). I rarely skipped drum practice, because it's only 10 minutes, and I always followed a warm-up/practice routine I learned from a Ginger Baker instructional DVD.

2. Microphones were set up 24/7, so that I could capture any idea immediately. This includes overheads for drums, a mic on my guitar amp, and a vocal mic. 

3. I usually came up with song ideas by hitting "Record" on my DAW with my vocal mic on, and my guitar plugged in... and just free-styling whatever I came up with. 

Usually, I'd take 15 minutes, have a cup of coffee in silence, watch some TV, then return to the idea with fresh ears to re-evaluate and figure out the musical phrases, etc. Once I had at least two unique song-parts prepared, I'd create a reference sheet.

4. The reference sheets account for 8-bar measures of songs, and split song parts by shapes. A verse would be a rectangle on the sheet, a chorus a circle, bridge a triangle. I also shaded (filled-in) the shapes to indicate the presence of a vocal part.

5. I never use a click, ever. I put the reference sheet on a music stand that faces the drum set, and lay down the drums accordingly.

6. From there it's just simply overlaying the guitar/bass/vocals to record a song. Some other workflow rules I tend to stick by....

-No comping of takes, if there are any punch-ins they are done on a first-take that goes wrong somewhere well after the 50% mark. For example, I'm recording a bass part for a song, and it's the first take. I'm nailing it, and then at the very end of the take I mess up. I will punch-in to fix the error in this context. But in almost any other situation, I would redo the entire take, and often that's what I do.

-Having a pop-filter set up 24-7 is pretty critical. If I'm doing a vocal recording, it's usually first take. Having the pop filter set up avoids ruining the audio.

-Having a pedal-train is also pretty critical. Because of the pedal train I'm more organized, and I can easily use the pedal tuner I have to always have my guitars in tune fast and easy. I've done an E.P. without one, but I much prefer having it.

 To wrap up, here are some more thoughts...

11 months seems like a long time, and it is. Over the course of this time I recorded and even paid for the mixing of material that didn't make the album. However, this was helpful because once I heard my songs mixed properly, I was able to evaluate the sound of the material, and get a better idea of what I was doing.

I went through a period of time, probably about 4-6 weeks (or longer) where I didn't record or write anything. I did still continue to practice drums, in a mechanical sense, but I went cold on writing/recording.

I had to re-record half of my album. This happens all the time when you're in a band (although it's kind of a worst-case-scenario). You track stuff thinking you're done, and then realize you have to do it... All. Over. Again.

I spent weeks recording full-blown covers of popular songs I like, and using my own (reference sheets) workflow to do it. After I finished these covers, I resumed using the workflow to write my own original material. This was sort of like the most complete method of practicing music, for me... and probably the most helpful thing I did over the 11 months.

I drew in influences from a vast array of other artists, which I mentioned in a different blog post... and whenever I felt like I was hitting a wall, I went onto the next influence and studied them/listened to their stuff. I wrote a post about 18 different musicians I drew inspiration from. The full list is surely more in the range of 30-45 different albums and musicians. I left out that Vaselines CD I bought.

It took 11 months to write all the material... But really... I wrote/recorded half of the album within 5 days. I also tracked the entire album within 10 days, and I even recorded 4 songs in 8 hours. ...Once I had the material thoroughly demoed out, I was able to re-record the stuff more easily and quickly because I was already very familiar with the songs myself. That's another benefit to creating your own deadlines in terms of getting stuff mixed and moving onto what's next. 

I think if you're decent at drums and you follow this system... including the reference sheets, you should easily be able to complete an album and have it structured out (length and sound) to emulate whatever pop/rock style you want really. The composition is up to you. - Mike

Thursday, March 17, 2022

18 inspirations for my upcoming album and why

I finally finished up a new album recently after spending 336 days on it. That's a total of 11 months and two days from day one until it was completed. Over the course of writing and recording I finished 35 songs and the album will feature 16 of those.

Here's a list of eighteen influences for this upcoming set of songs and a brief explanation as to why I consider the band/person an inspiration. Check it out!

1. Nirvana

Starting with the most obvious. Heck, my entire last album was an admitted attempt at emulating the compositional approach of Kurt Cobain. I followed that same rubric for more than half of the songs of my upcoming album. For me, it's not only the music of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, it's the on-stag swag of just standing there (for the most part) and playing the songs seemingly unbothered by all the chaos around you, the choice in equipment, and the fact the compositions are simple yet sophisticated in their own way. Some piano covers of Nirvana can further demonstrate this idea.


Ace Frehely was one of the main reasons why I started playing guitar in the first place. Over the past six or seven years I've started to listen to more KISS, mainly because of hearing the Melvins' cover of "Goin' Blind" back in 2014. Recently I've listened to "Hotter than Hell" and "Dressed to Kill" quite a bit. I enjoy how their success is majorly attributed to their blatant gimmick, and was interested in discovering if the music beneath was at all worth a deeper listen. Turns out most of what KISS puts out isn't that great, but there are some cool compositional approaches in songs and some great songs on "Destroyer," like "King of the Night-time World" and "Detroit Rock City." I like how stripped down the sound of "Dressed to Kill" is too. You can hear every instrument easily.

3. Niil

I found this band like millions of other unsuspecting Nirvana fans, by clicking on their YouTube video that's titled "Lost Nirvana song" or something like that. It's actually a Niil song called, "Insomnia" but it's a similar idea to what I've been doing, which is trying to write music similar to Nirvana (by way of nuts-and-bolts composition). While my stuff is more "influenced by," certain Niil songs sound like they almost could actually be Nirvana. I went on a week or two Niil scavenger hunt and found a couple of their songs worthwhile, but moreso I enjoy their approach. The instruments aren't played totally cleanly on the tracks, and there's some variety in what they do. Other good songs are  "I don't play with guns" and the first couple tracks off their more "mature" sounding album called Labryinth.

4. Tim Kasher 

Tim Kasher and Cursive were a major interest of mine back in the 2008-2011 era. He's another guy who goes on stage with a guitar and stands there and plays straightforward rock music, except he's developed his own niche of lyric-based music that forces the listener to contemplate more interpersonal-politics sort of issues. While an art-rock concept album about some ancient Greek tragedy seems literally impossible to pull off, Tim Kasher can actually do it. I listened to Domestica twice while tracking my own stuff and also listened to some tracks off of "Get Fixed" and Vitriola for some inspiration.

5. Jet Lag Gemini

This band was from the 2004-05 New Jersey music scene, except they had a totally different sound than what was primarily popular at the time. They were also immediately popular once they came out, which always makes you wonder why, and how? They played sort of pop-punk mixed with hard rock and it was all based on catchy riffs and choruses. They signed to Doghouse Records, which was the only record label's office I've ever been to in person, before it went out of business. This was about 2008 before the financial crisis and smartphones ruined life and the music business as we knew it. Their guitarist was particularly into the Van Halen stuff like lowering the ohmage or whatever Van Halen did to his amp, and "shredding" too, obviously. But I still enjoy Jet Lag Gemini and one of my frat brothers was even friends with their drummer. There's something about their music and their look. Every couple of weeks I'd watch their music video where there's a giant fire... I think it's called "Geared for Action."

6. Velvet Revolver

Back in April of this year, when I first sat down and decided I wanted to put out another album after "Can't Be Anyone but Myself" I had driven home from a place called "Mike's Diner" in Guilderland. The sun was out, it was a beautiful day. I sat down with my guitar and felt inspired by a certain sound that I couldn't quite articulate, but Velvet Revolver and their track "Fall to Pieces" definitely falls in line with what I was trying to do. The music video for that song is great, too. It provides a nice contrast between the rock star of old and the new, totally sterilized and manufactured, and dare I say, sissified stars of today.  Although I abandoned my idea of going for this type of sound after a couple months of failed attempts at it, I still hear something in the best Velvet Revolver tracks that keeps me interested.

7. Dave Grohl / Foo Fighters

When I was eleven years old, I got the "Nothing Left to Lose" CD for Christmas, or my birthday, and used to listen to it all the time. I've actually bought the thing at least twice, because I always lose it. Obviously Dave Grohl is a drum-spiration, but his vocals are overlooked too. I think a lot of the Foo Fighters stuff is a bit too "radio rock" for what I was trying to do (in fact I recently heard "My Hero" on the radio on the drive to work, and the underlying music doesn't really pull you in, though it's composed nicely), but I do occasionally refer back to Dave Grohl's self-recorded first Foo Fighters album to hear how he pieces together songs. I do enjoy their song "Low" and the music video and put on that music video every now and then. One of the songs off my upcoming album would benefit from Dave Grohl's throaty and reckless-with-abandon vocal yelling during the chorus, but unfortunately I cannot come anywhere remotely close to doing something like that.

8. The Cramps

For a brief period I thought I might be able to replicate or put my own spin on the music of the Cramps, but boy was I wrong. It's impossible to record stuff like this unless you can do the Lux Interior vocals, which I can't. Not to mention, the guitar playing from Poison Ivy Rorshach isn't that easy, either. She has a specific guitar, specific pedals, and uses her own vocabulary of chords and riffs intermixed. I think their live show from Norway is a cool example of a band that sounds good, plays relatively simple music and that's exactly what I tried to do for my upcoming album (within my own limitations). I particularly like their cover of "Rock on the Moon" from that show in Oslo, Norway. If I could pull off music like this, I might have to give up "alternative rock" all together!

9. Richie Ramone

Richie Ramone was a big inspiration for me to keep writing and recording music being that I'm officially old and over 30, believe it or not. He's even older (in his 60's?) but still has a music video that's somewhat current, and his live performance from MegaRock 2019 at the least says that an old guy can not only still play drums and perform his original songs he can also wear a leather jacket. I spent a couple weeks trying to cover a live-on-MTV version of the Ramones' "Somebody put something in my drink" and spent a couple of days on it before I gave up trying to figure out the exact measure counts.



10. Armor for Sleep

I've written about Ben Jorgenson in a previous post, and still think Armor for Sleep  were onto something when they put out "Smile for You" about 10 or 11 years before the major wave of the YouTube star even hit. The final era of the band before they broke up is still interesting to me, including their trip to LA, soundtrack inclusion for "Transformers" and then subsequent implosion and being dropped by whatever major signed them, I think SONY (Edit: It was actually Sire). There's plenty times I'm writing a song and thinking about the catchy chorus and distinctly different guitar parts type of approach you hear in a lot of Armor for Sleep songs, like the grunge guitar in "Stars in your Eyes" off Smile for Them.

11. Oasis

I was listening to tracks off of "The Masterplan" by Oasis while I was writing songs for this album. I particularly like the song where Noel Gallagher talks about how he wants to buy a Jaguar (automobile). I probably demoed somewhere around like 70 songs for this album, and a lot of the unused cuts end up turning into reverb-soaked 32-measure guitar solos as if I'm in Oasis. It's funny, because objectively some of those guitar solos actually sound good, but usually the next day I listen back and say to myself,  "Yeah.. no." But yes, I'm an Oasis fan and when in doubt I will listen to or play along to one of their songs for fun, sort of like I'm recharging my batteries.

12. Breeders

I'm almost embarrassed to admit I'm such a big fan of this band, because their singer and main songwriter is a girl. In an interesting aside, I banned myself from listening to The Breeders for the entire time I tracked "Can't be Anyone but Myself" because I didn't want my own stuff to end up sounding soft and girly by way of subconscious influence. For this upcoming album, I lifted that restriction and discovered I can actually gather some inspiration from listening to The Breeders after all, for my own stuff. Big fan of the guitar playing from all their guitarists (including the heavy, mixed-to-the-back riffs from Tanya on 'Pod') and two of their drummers: Britt Walford and Jim MacPherson." To write/lead a group for more than one album that's good like Kim Deal has done with Pod and Last Splash is impressive.

13. Marine Girls

I found this band directly through Kurt Cobain's list of 50 albums. The best thing about this group is the fact they write some pretty good songs using like two or three chords, so I was able to use that approach in coming up with my own vocal melodies. You can hear how the pivoting bass lines and simple and repetitive open-chord changes really do open up a lot of space for a vocal melody, and you don't need to over-complicate songwriting that much. Obviously Kurt Cobain appreciated this approach and used it when he covered the Vaselines and in some of his own songwriting. Not a CD I go back to often, but interesting for sure.


14. Steve Albini

When in doubt, I rely on many principles I've learned listening to Steve Albini talk about recording. Writing music can vary between difficult and "not working" to... "so easy it's like you're not even trying." Aside from that whole exercise, I still have to 1. engineer all of my own recordings 2. view myself as a performer and an engineer simultaneously, and act accordingly. It's something I've been doing for over ten years (relying on myself to record, myself) and I wouldn't have been able to excel in this process without learning from Albini's methodologies.

15. My Bloody Valentine

I listened to some of Kevin Shields' and My Bloody Valentine's music towards the end of recording the songs for this upcoming album. I like how he's passionate about Jazzmasters and playing guitar and recording himself, and his music is pretty cool, and also very varied. From "Ecastasy and Wine" which sounds like a sped-up version of the Jesus and Mary Chain, all the way to "Loveless" and "mbv" is a major progression. I also like reading about the fact his band kind of fell apart and then he started just doing everything himself. Also love a good story about a musician blowing a huge budget for an album and coming up with nothing. Shields allegedly bankrupted his former label trying to make Loveless. I can't really copy the style he does (without investing thousands into different guitars and equipment), but generally, he plays drums and guitars into recording equipment to create alternative rock, so... It's somewhat similar to what I do.

16. Dinosaur Jr.

One of my buddies likes this band and sent me a link to their first full-length album over the past year. At first I didn't like the sound at all. It kind of sounded like I was having a sideways hangover of crunchy guitars and unorganized songwriting. But, as I kept discovering more music from Dinosaur Jr. I noticed different cool stuff and found some more straight-forward music that I actually liked. At the end of the day, their music is mostly simple (i.e. 4/4) drum beats pushed to the back and up front you'll have distortion-laden guitars and songs that are primarily driven by a rhythm-guitar approach. Pretty similar to what I try to do, except I'm missing all the solos and riffs, oh and the lazy vocals are pushed up front heavily too. I was listening to Dino Jr. towards the end of the recording timeline and enjoying it. One of my upcoming songs has a part in it that I refer to as a "Dinosaur Jr." part.

17. Pentagram

Pentagram (also known as Death Row) was a hard rock band from the 70's through the 80's and 90's. I bought and listened to their CD "Relentless," while I was tracking my own stuff. I was definitely inspired by the guitarist in the band, Victor Griffin, after hearing his playing, and listening to an interview he did on a podcast where he talked about his music career. The interview is fairly long and I listened to it while driving many miles away to a 7-11 late at night. Weeks later I was experimenting with mic setup and trying to replicate the guitar sound from "Relentless." Eventually through this exercise I stumbled across a new sound that eventually led to some lyrical ideas and the writing and recording of two of the tracks off of my upcoming album/E.P..

18. Autolux

I heard this group playing on someone else's bluetooth speaker a while back, about ten years ago. I guess they're referred to as "Shoegaze" but it's kind of like a combination of Elliott Smith with some other sort of sound. When I was playing a ton of guitar back in 2015-2016 I stumbled across many new chord shapes I had never played before. During these chord revelations I definitely figured out a specific set of chords you hear a lot of in Autolux's music that goes very smoothly with a certain vocal style I can also do. I used it for a bridge of one song off my upcoming album. So while not a huge inspiration, I do still like aspects of their music and even used a similar approach for about 8 measures of my own music.

It's been a long 11-month journey. Album will be out soon! - Mike

UPDATE: The album is finally done, check it out here:

Thursday, February 10, 2022

When songwriting goes right

Call me a hypocrite. If I stumble across a YouTube video where some no-name musician tries to speak about songwriting, I'm definitely out.

If it's someone I know and respect, though... I'll watch. Elliot Smith's songwriting lesson is one of my faves.

So, while I fall into the category of no-name musician myself, I still like to blog about songwriting. I've spent over ten years doing it, on and off. And when I'm "on," I definitely dedicate everything to it. As I quickly approach 34 years old, I'm ready to hang up the pencil and paper for a while. I think I've achieved as best as I can possibly do, by myself, as a songwriter.

Recently I wrote about four songs in four days. The routine was similar: 

Typically I'd wake up and drive to work, where an idea might strike me at some point during my daily mental monologue. I'd write a small note to myself to remember for later. In one instance I wrote the lyrics to a song while on my 30-minute break at work. I clocked out, walked out to my car, in 10 degree Fahrenheit weather, fired it up, and basked in the warmth of the sun as it came down through my car's windshield.

Usually I drink a Powerade and have Chewy chocolate granola bars. I can have anywhere up to about four in a row. I keep loose-leaf in my car, and right there on the spot I wrote out lyrics to a song, with a general idea for a melody in mind, but nothing concrete. 

The more you write lyrics you get a feel for how certain phrases are going to contrast one another, and how the words will flow together. Reading fine lit certainly would help an ability to write lyrics, though I don't read too much of it. Every so often I'll page through something, but not recently. Some stuff I've been reading recently includes: a book on Linear Algebra, Barrons, a small novel called Rockabilly, and Robert Frost collected works.

It seems like cliche advice, but the more you practice songwriting, the better you get. And I've been working nearly everyday for about two years. But, I haven't seen consistent improvement. 

I believe the results show up en masse, and usually when you've about had it and are ready to just throw your hands up and quit. 

In my case, after putting in work for years on end, I knew I wanted to continue but wasn't sure I had anything original to offer. After all, my last two collections of songs were stylistic imitation. 

I spent about a month working on material and concocted a song much like a mad scientist might. When I played it back at first I thought, "This is interesting..." and that's when I knew I had something to work with. Just one successful song gave me the confidence to say, "I got this." I wrote a total of seven in about a two months and knew I had enough to work with for a full album.

The more music I listen to, and different bands I can gather inspiration from fuel my own songwriting process. It's also like a meditation exercise. You have to be able to control your emotions and measure yourself to the process. I agree with Elliot Smith's songwriting advice that you can't cloud up your imagination, you just have to let yourself express ideas clearly and not block up that ability to express your ideas. If you go into a songwriting session with a negative feeling about your ability to make it happen, you won't get anywhere. 

This time around, I kept a Word document to try to keep track of my inspirations. It was probably around 20 different bands/artists, and maybe 6-8 different albums I had in rotation.

Obviously with practice, the ability to articulate ideas becomes more and more refined. It requires an ability to manage a lot of variables and a lot of components, both mentally and physically, at the same time, to get the songwriting expression working properly and at it's full potential. It's not easy and it does require hard work and discipline, which can be counterintuitive to the act of free-styling as a musician. You can't plan spontaneity, but in order to get anything done, you need to have discipline and observe a routine of sorts.

Personally I like to freestyle or "jam" but only in small doses. Jamming too much doesn't automatically lend itself to compositional acumen, but that's just my opinion. Hendrix was supposedly into jamming all the time, especially in the latter portions of his career.

In addition to the different music I listen to, some of my motivation is visual. One visualization I've used is a vision of Mike Tyson hitting the heavy bag. You just gotta keep hitting that bag, over and over again. Every day. There's no giving up. At some point it turns into an addiction. I gotta hit the bag, because it makes me feel good. But I also respect the discipline and if it's time to stop, it's time to stop. Hitting the bag has made me who I am, but it doesn't define me as a person. It's a tool to remind yourself to live up to your full potential as a person, and in this instance, a songwriter.

Six or seven hours later after the lunch break, I'd drive home and have a comfortable (but not overwhelming) level of self-confidence to sit down, come up with a guitar part, and create the melody over the top, using the lyrics. It just happens. I can't explain how, or why, but when you know you're "on," you know. There's no doubt.

While driving home I know I'm going to write the song when I arrive home. There's no question. There's no, "Oh please let it happen, please let it happen." I just know. It's going to happen. I'm not too anxious about it. I don't doubt myself. I'm not excited about it. I just know I'm going to do it and it's going to work. There's no other option. I'm content in this feeling. It's not a belief, because it goes beyond belief, It's the truth.

Afterwards, once the music is on tape...

When I know I'm successful and I've written the melodies and the parts, there's no big wave of relief. Everything went as planned. Business as usual. The fun part comes next when I get to actually record a finished version of the draft. I draft out all the parts separately, and then usually go from there and mark down the form, then drums, then guitars, lyrics/vocals, and finally bass.

I guess the true test of success is whether or not you, yourself are satisfied with the results. In this recent songwriting spree, I'm definitely pleased with the results, but I could see how someone else might hear the songs differently and not be that into it, because the music is a little different than what you might normally hear. 

I also realize I'm limited in what I can do. I can't record a big-budget sounding track, or something that's impossibly clean and slick, which isn't my intention, either. I have to work within my limits and that's where I can find a happy medium.

Keeping a balanced relationship to the songwriting process is key. One day you're "on," but the next day you might be "off" and what seemed so easy now seems impossible. It happens that fast.

- Mike

Music recording addiction

This is a topic you won't find much information about online. Most articles about music recording are written from the perspective of encouragement to budding artists. Or advice on technical approaches. There's a whole industry built on selling new products to prospective audio engineers.

But what about the dark side of being a musician? What happened to the excesses of rock and roll?

Music recording addiction is usually just brushed under the rug as "part of the gig." It's also something that transcends any specific genre. It applies to any artist, whether a hip hop artist, or a classical musician. 

It can happen to anyone, and there needs to be some sort of recognition that you have a problem. When does recording music go beyond a hobby and turn into an unhealthy obsession? I've had to ask myself this question more than once over the years.

I think the part where it gets tricky is in terms of how much time you're spending out the day doing it. Personally, I have maintained a 40-hour a week job whilst also recording music, but not everyone has this privilege and mandatory buffer to their at-home habits. Even with time away from microphones each day, music-recording addiction can still rear it's head.

If I spend every last second of my free-time recording music, that's where I realize I have a problem. What about the other aspects of life? Going out to the shopping mall, taking a walk in the park, reading, interacting with the community, watching a movie, taking the moment to just relax for a while? 

If you're recording music (or doing any one specific task) all the time, you leave yourself no time to engage with life more fully. To me, that's where a hobby transforms into an addiction and a problem.

It's easy to hear a song on an album or the radio. Take, "Here Comes The Sun" by George Harrison for instance. Any musician might hear the song and say, "Wow, that's pretty good... but I bet if I spend enough time I can not only write, I can record something equally as cool, all by myself." Seems innocent enough. Except it doesn't just end with "Here Comes The Sun," goes on and on, endlessly.

The same way the film industry glorifies certain behaviors, the record industry glorifies recorded output. The recorded song and the album are put on a pedestal above all else. They are trophies to be won by musicians, as symbols of their artistry and dedication to their craft above all else.

Not only is there more to life, there's more to music.

Yet the streaming services want more, all the time. So what if you've put out one album? Another, more critically acclaimed artist has put out five albums. When is it enough? If you ask the industry the answer is simply, "Never."

One of the most impactful musicians I've met was a guitarist who I saw perform one night years ago. I was blown away by his ability on guitar and as a vocalist.

Afterwards I struck up a conversation with this guy, and would see him around pretty often. He gave me a couple of impromptu guitar lessons and other advice relating to being a guitarist and musician. His advice wasn't limited to music theory, but he gave insight into how to conduct yourself as a guitar player and how to maintain a healthy relationship to music. And all this advice from a complete stranger, who happened to be a brilliant musician. Who would've thought?

Obviously, when I saw him perform that night I thought, "Wow, if only this was on a album for everyone to hear. It would be incredible." 

A week or so later, I asked him if he felt a need to record his music. He said, "Me? I'm good." This definitely had an impact on me. To this guy, music alone was enough.

When I saw him on the corner now and again I'd ask, "What's going on?" He was always transcribing music onto the guitar to improve his ability. One day he told me, "I'm working on Rhapsody in Blue," and showed me the melody parts on a Squier guitar he used to carry around with him.

Anyhow, the seismic shift towards affordable, consumer-grade recording equipment has changed the average musician's relationship to recordings in general. The practice of music recording has always been instant-gratification, I guess. You hit record, and listen to the playback. It gives you a high. "Wow, so that's what I sound like..."

Still, it's never been so easy to record near-studio-grade material at your own home, at the click of a button. But as the saying goes, with great power, comes great responsibility.

I can only speak for myself, but if you or someone you know is out there and can't stop recording themselves or recording music, it may be time to ask some questions. What else does life have to offer? As a final note, it's pretty interesting to realize that many musical heroes have a relatively small output of recorded material. Once something is on wax, that might be enough to last many years to come. It may even last a lifetime. - Mike

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