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Archive for August, 2013

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Last weekend, I went with my parents and girlfriend to the Gorge in George, WA to see Black Sabbath. Despite sitting for most of it, we all had a good time watching 60+ year olds bring the rock like they were still twenty somethings. I always like that, people continuing to do something they’ve loved all their lives. Granted, it’s probably more of a business decision at this point but their antics on stage, especially Ozzy, made it seem that much more enjoyable.

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If you haven’t been to the Gorge for a concert, you’re missing out. It’s open air, there’s grass to sit on, the sound is great, and as the sun is setting it’s one of the best backdrops to a concert there is.

The only negative to the venue is the drive there. From Seattle, it’s a good two and a half to three hours, which going there isn’t bad but if you’re not camping and driving home after the concert, it can be difficult. We didn’t get out of the grass parking lot until 11:30pm so the hours long drive was a test in sheer will power for me, not getting home until 2:00. I felt bad for my parents since they had an additional hour to go to their house but they did have a little nap during my drive.

I like roadtrips but as a result of the long drive there and especially back, I’ve only been to the Gorge a few times, usually with mixed results.

One time, I went with my friends Chuck and Devon to see Weezer and No Doubt. Technically, No Doubt was the headliner but we went for Weezer so I had to bill them first. Anyway, Chuck had a cold but he felt good enough to go. So we went out there. Weezer played first and it was awesome! But somewhere around the time No Doubt was starting, Chuck was too winded to stay in the mosh pit so he went back to the car to sleep. Devon and I stuck it out despite the fact we both thought No Doubt went on too long. When it was over at around 11pm, we went back to the car where Chuck was resting from his sickness, cradling a jug of water.

Now, the mosh pit is an active place. For the calmest shows, it’s an endurance in standing, for an active crowd, the pit can be like boot camp. Most of the time you’re just fighting for survival. Staying on your feet is imperative, guarding from and pushing off the crowd surfers can tire you out quickly, and gulping in air above the throng can be a challenge.

And you sweat through your clothes like water through a sponge.

The Weezer pit was all of these so surviving that and hiking up the long trail back made both of us VERY thristy. Unfortunately, the jug of water Chuck was nursing was the ONLY container of water we had. We either drank from that, or faced an unknown time period of thirst until we found an affordable bottle of water to buy. We knew it was stupid. We knew what the consequences could be. But we were also REALLY thirsty.

We drank. And both of us ended up sick a day or two later.

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I’ve had to explain myself a lot lately. What I want, what I’m looking for, why I did something, and why I didn’t. It goes with reaching out to people for help with a creative project. Sadly, my vocabulary is shit so expressing drum beats and guitar parts in terms of tone can get a bit tricky.

“I was thinking this part needs to sound like the end of an epic adventure.”

“Ok. I’ll just play something and you can tell me yes or no.”

The end of an adventure seems simple to me only because I know the song and the song sounds like the end of an adventure. But explaining that to someone is no good when they don’t have the same contextual framework that I have. The adventure I have in mind might be The Lord of the Rings but they’re thinking Rocky and those two require completely different musical arrangements. 

Referencing specific examples help but it’s not fix-all. I could say I want this drum part to sound like Green Day’s American Idiot but it might not fit into the guitar part that I’ve written. So it needs to be modified. That CAN work though. The two different feels can work together in a way that either musician wouldn’t have thought before. I really enjoy that part of the music process because it’s so interesting how two separate sounds can come together in new and interesting ways. That’s why jazz and blues are so incredible to play. Not that I can. The amount and skill I can play in that genre could barely fill a rubber nipple but even that amount showed me the potential of it. 

That doesn’t sound like an endorsement for building my vocabulary but it is. People who can play jazz have developed their skills by playing so much and by learning what notes go with what chords in a certain song. If a note sounds bad over a certain chord, they know not to play that note but that note could work in a different context.

In putting this album together, I’m learning that mindset works in conversation as well. What works for one person might not work for another. Explaining that I want a song to sound like dubstep won’t work with someone who doesn’t know what dubstep is but explaining it to them in terms they understand can yield results.

I feel there’s a life lesson in there but who knows if it will translate to others…Image

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Between The Lord of the Rings, Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, and all the Final Fantasy games, I wish I would have taken advantage of my excitement  for all things fantasy and gone to the Renaissance Faire when I was young. It would have blown my mind. All the medieval weapons and shields, the garb (authentic and cheap stuff alike), the food, and swordfights, the jousts, the archery…all of it. There’s not a lot I remember from high school but I very distinctly remember making my own little bows out of paper clips and rubber bands and shooting pencils and pens from it. They rarely went straight and I never stuck the projectiles into anything but they were a clear sign of someone obsessed with fantasy.

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The joust!

 

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My meal of BBQ quail, wild rice, and creamed spinach. Eaten with authentic plastic utensils!

Walking around the Washington State Renaissance Faire last weekend, I realized not only how much I would have liked it back then, but also how much I’ve grown out of it. Not the fantasy but the desire to be a part of it. I still enjoy fantasy novels and am figuring out if I can wait for the third season of Game Of Thrones to come out on Blu-ray or if I’ll just download all the necessary programs so I can watch it online.

Even if I haven’t read some sort of fantasy story, I’ll be very interested to hear the story from others but the desire to live in those worlds has dissipated far below what it once was. I used to really get into it. At one point, I wrote a novelization of Final Fantasy 2, inserting myself and my friends into the story where we interacted with the characters and explored the game world as if it was our own backyard. I remember thinking that as much as I loved that world, the only way to get closer to it was to write it out. I thought about it a lot but writing it out made it seem more real, as if my writing was making it into an historical account instead of simply fan fiction.

As I’ve grown older, that feeling of escape has diminished, mostly because I have to accept facts. I can’t escape this world. I can’t transport myself to a realm where magic exists or people ride on dragons. At one point, I even wanted to live in Silent Hill just because it felt like such a complete world, sick and demented to be sure, but it created such feelings in me that it seemed perfectly logical to escape to. The characters in all these things had such focus and linear purpose that they journeyed through anything to get what they wanted. I think that’s the feeling I wanted. They could do anything in these separate worlds but they chose to do ONE thing and I felt like I was making the choice with them. There was a direction they needed to follow and because I could see the amount of pages in a book or there were only a set amount of game discs, I knew there would be an end to their journeys.

There was comfort in that. I didn’t have that comfort when I was young and I didn’t know how to work through that. The comfort is still not completely there and probably will never be but I’ve found ways to work through it and be okay with how things will work out. Just like this post.

Oh, yeah. I liked the Faire. My teenage self loved it.

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After living in the Seattle area my entire life, I finally did one of the most touristy things a person here can do – I experienced Ride the Ducks.

Since I live here and travel the interesting roads of Seattle on a regular basis, I went nowhere new except into Union Bay because the “ducks” are land/sea vehicles. Other than an informative tour of the houseboats around the lake and a different view of Gasworks Park, the roads we traveled were familiar.

What really made the tour was our guide/driver, Captain Rik O’Shay. His shtick was loud and puny; he donned several hats and wigs, and would play very old songs to go along with where we were in the city. When we went through downtown, he played “Downtown”. When we went into the water, he played the theme from Gilligan’s Island. When we returned to land, he played “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson. Though dated and corny, it worked because he was, if only in appearance, into what he was doing.

We were also given “quackers” to keep, a kazoo-like device that sounds like a duck when blown into. These helped liven the dull parts as he commanded us to “noise assault” people on the street with our cacophony of quacks. The people on their cell phones didn’t seem to appreciate it.

We started near Seattle Center, viewed the EMP up close before heading down to the water where we viewed the wharf and all the piers along the water. We then looped up First Avenue, past the hammering man and Pike Place Market. We then made our way over the bridge into Ballard and Fremont before getting in the water near the University District. After that, it was a short journey back through lower Queen Anne and the duck depot.

Being a local, I couldn’t get a full appreciation of the tour but for a tourist or anyone unfamiliar with Seattle, I can see it being a good time.

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Since my alarm failed to go off this morning, I was forced to leave the house today without breakfast. Or coffee!! Fortunately I survived long enough to get to Señor Moose, an amazing Mexican restaurant in Ballard.

I’ve passed it on the weekends when the line goes out the door so I never wanted to play the waiting game. Still, it was a place I always wanted to try. I sat at the counter, ordered coffee, which was surprisingly good since most diner coffee I haven’t grown a taste for, and selected the Huevos ala Mexicana, an egg scramble dish served with black beans and tortillas. It was fantastic! There was enough jalapeño and cilantro but the slice of avacado put it over the top.

The meal and coffee came out to $14 which is a little pricey for only me but the taste was well worth it. Maybe I should miss my alarm more often.

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In the course of writing this story-driven album, I have heard from numerous people about the amount of effort I’ve been putting into the lyrics. I’ve rewritten certain songs several times, tinkered with them so many times that I have to read along with the lyric sheet when I play them because I haven’t yet committed the new words to memory. When I tell people about the story I want to tell and that the words keep changing, I’ve been met with several comments about how the lyrics don’t matter, that no one pays attention to the words in a song, that “no one gives a fuck”. In other words, I’m wasting my time. Each time, I disagree and find myself defending the amount of effort I have and continue to put into making the lyrical story come together in a satisfying way.

That being said, I’m a terrible poet. I did horribly in my poetry classes and was lost nearly every time my class would discuss specific poems. I just didn’t seem to be able to connect the messages, to identify the subtext, and in some cases, to even figure out what was going on in the poem.

So it was a great surprise to me when I actually had a poem published a few years ago. When I talked to the girl who approved it, she said she loved the imagery and subject matter in which I compared lost love to the Trojan Horse that is aroma and how it can take the walls and rooms we have refurbished in our broken hearts and break them all over again. It was very emo and sappy and had a fantasy element to it which was very frowned on in my English program but it showed me that I can be successful with my writing if I follow my passions and write whatever the fuck I want.

So I’m taking care with the lyrics for my songs. Even if no one else pays attention to them, it will satisfying to me. My fascination with the storytelling in musicals and my dislike for the vapid and nonsensical lyrics written today are what is pushing me to write what is a meaningful story set to music.

I’ve booked time at Earwig studio next month to begin the tracking process. The lyrics will have to be done by then.

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I previously wrote about my music and a song in particular called The Tinkerer. In that post, I mentioned how my love for musicals was beginning to take over my songwriting process. In the intervening weeks, that love has infused and taken over the concept for my upcoming album. Yes, it will be a concept album, much in the vein of Green Day’s American Idiot or Coldplay’s Viva la Vida.

Not all the songs are new. Some, I’ve played with people before; some are songs that didn’t fit into the general feeling of the other songs at the time; and some are songs that were so personal I was scared to show them to anyone. With the writing of The Tinkerer, I found a structure to hang these other songs on, giving them a context that didn’t have to involve me directly. I’m at a place now where performing personal songs doesn’t produce the amount of intense panic-induced sweat it did before but having a character express these things places a thin layer of bubble wrap around my frightened and sensitive soul.

Also, I just wanted to make the album into a story.

I technically haven’t written in my novel for a few weeks now, but since these songs are about the same characters, it’s almost just as good, if not better. I’m thinking of these characters in different ways, from different angles, different perspectives, which informs me of how they would react to different things. The plot is slightly different from album to novel but the character emotions and motivations are the same and it’s made the writing process feel smoother. Both are informing the other, the novel infused a structure to what would otherwise just be a gathering of songs and the songs have helped to understand why the characters do what they do.

Ultimately, I hope this process will improve both. I think it has but I won’t know for sure until I get back to the novel. And I will get back to it. It’s only a matter of time.

The lyrics for The Tinkerer can be found here:

https://blogofahrenscholtz.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/the-tinkerer-lyrics-final/

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