Freddy’s Dead

This has been a sad time for music. Aside from all of the high profile musicians that have passed away, we have also lost Fred McFarlane .

fred-mcfarlaneFred was one of the nicest and most talented musicians that I have ever known. I first met him at a small studio in NYC where he was part of a thriving studio/live scene. We wound up on the “D Train” live crew, Fred as one of the 4 keyboardists and myself as road manager/FOH and monitor mixer. As we started gigging, I wound up writing and producing a fairly big radio hit in NY  (for which I saw almost no money…that’s another post) and Fred made the joke at sound check “We’re the only band where the roadie has a bigger hit than the band”.

D Train was a band of top level musicians and Fred fit right in…in all of the performances, he never made a mistake..not even one. He had a great sense of humor and was incredibly generous. When I asked him to help out on a project of my own songs, he traveled down to D.C. and laid down tracks for 12 songs for free.

Fred later ended up playing keyboards on a few songs that I had written for other artists (including “I Think I’m In Trouble” by Expose, co-written with Kevin Calhoun and Shelly Peiken), and working with artists like Madonna.

He was also generous with his time and expertise. An early adopter of synthesizers, he knew his way around the Oberhiem synths backwards and forwards. I just found a free software version of the OBX and can’t wait to see if it does him justice.obx_d

 

 

The Voice (Over) of Experience

I recently did my first studio podcast production.mic The client wanted to know if I had ever done one before so I asked him if it was similar to the NPR series “Radio Lab”. He told me that the “Radio Lab” format was very similar to what he was looking to do and we started to go down the list of what elements would be needed to put his together:

1. Original Music Creation

2. Voice Over Recording/Editing

3. Mixing and Editing Of Field Sound Recordings (ie. interviews that he had done  on a Zoom Recorder)

4. Final Mix Of all Elements

We finished the project within the projected time and budget and it was a creative and fun session. Over the next week, I thought about how important it is to be open to learning new skills and to have an open mind in this “soup to nuts” economy. If I initially had no frame of reference (“Radio Lab”) with the client, his confidence in working with me would have been seriously undermined. And recording and editing/mixing VO (voiceover…the people on radio and TV who speak) for four years and writing and producing music for TV and radio while I was also writing and producing music for major labels….all of it gave me the experience and skills that come into play in producing the podcast.

Life is funny..you never know when you’re going to need to know what you didn’t think needed to know. (apologies to Yogi)

 

 

 

2016…”Hello….”

Adele,Taylor Swift, The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar… but the big story last year was streaming. The future is here and, despite the rise in vinyl, it looks like physical media’s reign has ended. We saw lots of debates about artists, writers and producers (not) getting paid, despite the explosion of a global market. In a world where computers should be able to create truly “transparent” tracking and accounting, the labels and rights holders are remaining vague about how much is coming and/or going out.

I currently use Google Play, as it is pays one of the highest rates (see here). This service on my phone, coupled with a Bluetooth Speaker and set of headphones, has revolutionized my listening habits and experience. Wi Fi is just about everywhere so data consumption for streaming is not an issue for me. I can find 98% of what I am looking for and I find their “recommendations/similar artists” sections to be decent. The one thing that I miss is the “rarities” but most of those are on You Tube and that is part of the service that I’m paying for so I don’t feel guilty about that. Through streaming, I rediscovered some past favorites such as Todd Snider, Josh Ritter, The Amazing Rhythm Aces, Jellyfish, Martin Sexton and many more.

I also saw some great live performances by artists such as Bettye Lavette, Dawes, First Aid Kit, Teddy Thompson and Ben Sollee. All this plus a brilliant new album by Jason Isbell…not a bad year.

Hide The Sausage

Hide The Sausage_Summer always means “movies” to me so I was excited to be involved with writer/director Joe Benedetto’s new short “Hide The Sausage“. (No..it’s not some X rated flick but a play on words about the main character.)

I wrote the two original songs with eLLe Morgan that are sung in the movie by Victoria Gillette and Maxine Gordon. eLLe and I were invited to do “cameos” at the interiors shot in NYC at Duane Park…really fun cast and crew. When Joe sent me a picture lock, I wrote and recorded the score according to his notes,using Logic 10.

Sample Playback Emerges

Roland-U220

The DX7 had done it…recreated “real” sounding instruments in a synth (Seinfeld” slap bass,anyone?). And the trickle down of sampling technology from Fairlight and Synclavier had made high quality sampling affordable (relatively speaking) for many musicians.

My first “Sample Playback” synth was the Roland U220. It was a 1Unit rack space (ie.very small) with a front panel interface that can kindly be described as “spartan”. This “multi-menu” layer of button pushing would be the new interface design for most manufacturers in the coming years. Some functions were so many button presses away that it was next to impossible to locate certain functions. But this new design paradigm enabled synth manufacturers to offer their units at an amazingly low price point.

My first encounter with this unit took place in a music store in NYC where I came away less than impressed..but something made me take a second look and it soon found a happy home in my rack. There were two card slots in the front that could accommodate proprietary sound cards from Roland, some of which were quite good. I had a few, including the strings and the exotic instrument ones. You can hear me playing the fretless bass from this unit on “The Pursuit Of Happiness” by Procol Harum. I tried to use the organ from it for some of the demos but the Procol crew was (quite rightly) not having it..so in came the Hammond b3 and Leslie cabinet. Some sounds are just not made for sample playback.

 

Kevin Calhoun 1/14/56 – 11/2/12

I lost a great friend last week.

It’s hard to know where to begin when I think about Kevin. He was my songwriting/production/musician partner for many years and one of the most talented people I have ever known. His guitar skills were impeccable and no one could funk a Fender Strat like he could.
We first met in a small studio at 25 West 38th street where he was booked to play guitar on  a recording session. He had his own band “The Neighborhood” at that time and they had a single out called “Stop Killing Those Kids”. We hung out together after the session and he played me some of his songs. There was an immediate chemistry so we started writing songs together. I showed him the ropes as far as engineering and midi sequencing and he mastered both of them in short order.
Kevin was one of the funniest people in the world and refused to take anyone too seriously. When someone around who was trying to impress him with who they knew “in the business” , Kevin would stoop to the floor like he was looking for something. When that person asked him what he was doing, Kevin would reply “Oh, I’m just trying to pick up all those names you’ve been dropping”.

We did tons of 12″ Dance singles together and one of them led to our first publishing deal. This opportunity took us to L.A. and Paisley Park where we worked with some very “interesting” people. Kevin left behind a legacy of great songs and the positive spirit that was part of him and his entire wonderful family.

I really miss him.