I was a fan of Elliott’s from his first album and we covered his classic “Last Of The Rock Stars” in my band. So when I got the call from my publisher asking if I wanted to co write with him, I jumped at the chance. We met up at my studio on West 19th street and wrote and recoded 2 songs. Elliott sang and played acoustic guitar and harmonica while I played electric guitar, keyboards ,machine drums and sang backing vocals. Ernie Brooks, who had played with Elliott as well as the Modern Lovers, swung by the studio and added some great bass work. One song , “Hardcore” wound up (the demo version) on his “Beauregard” CD and was the title of Charles Pitter’s insightful Elliott bio.
The other song “Forgiveness” sat on the sidelines…until a few weeks ago when, much to my surprise, it showed up on his new collection “Ricochet”.
It’s that time of the year again…AES descended upon the west side of NYC at the mammoth Javits Center. The newly renovated “7” Subway line now stretches from Grand Central to Hudson Yards, just one block from Javits..no more freezing crosstown walks.
Despite my early registration for tickets on line, I was given a Kafka-esque run around by the staff who were in charge of admission…I just about gave up.
Inside, it felt a high tech craft fair, with booths and demos and gear that could make your head spin. Sadly, I was there on the final day and it seemed like many of the exhibitors were tired and just wanted to pack up and go home. Wandering around, several analog consoles by Neve, SSL and Trident caught my eye and Avid had a large presence with a multi part area of their own.
Lots of great boutique companies and I discovered an amazing software company called Accusonus. Their noise reduction and sonic restoration tools are sure to give iZotope a run for their money.
Next time, I’m going on day one…still, a great show.
It’s great to have choices..but sometimes you find yourself in what Stravinsky called “the abyss of freedom”. I decided that I would go deep on one synth for a while and this is the one:Dune 3.
It is a truly rich and glorious sounding machine, with none of the “graininess” of some of the even “high end” synths. It is actually an 8 layer synth where each layer can be an independent synth. Each layer has 4 possible oscillator types (Virtual Analog/Wavetable/FM/Noise Generator) that can be mixed, panned, modulated, filtered and sent to one of two incredibly comprehensive Effect Outputs. Add in two Arpeggiators/Step Sequencers and there is never an excuse for a “static” sound.
The FM section looks fairly basic but it is very musical…and one of the things I like best about this synth is that it encourages “knob twiddling” instead of just using presets. It’s intuitive enough that you can build a sound from scratch with a specific intention (ie. “My Ultimate Super Thick Fuzz Bass”) or you can experiment with the settings and be surprised (in a good way).
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 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.
I recently did my first studio podcast production. 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)
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.
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.