Sunday, October 25, 2009

Jeff The Brotherhood

This weekend in New York City was the CMJ Festival. The College Music Journal is a publication for the music industry and college radio stations, and their festival is one of the biggest industry-oriented events of the year, spanning across venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Basically, next to South By Southwest in Austin, TX, CMJ is where bands make their mark with the music industry, journalists, and record labels.

With all of the commotion going on this weekend, it was hard to pick and choose which shows were worth attending. Instead of planning out specific shows to attend, I decided to just roll with whatever was blowing through Death By Audio in a hurricane of activity. Out of Nashville, Infinity Cat Records was having a showcase on Friday night. Their headliner? Jeff The Brotherhood.

Two brothers from Nashville, Jeff plays a blend of psychedelic garage rock, similar to The Wipers or Sonic Youth. I make an effort to see them every time they come to New York, and every time it is an amazing show. This time, they played in the basement of the Charleston on Bedford Ave.

As a grungy basement with low ceilings and poor ventilation, the Charleston was the perfect venue for the Brotherhood. Packed in well past capacity, the crowd swelled with the music, almost overtaking the band. The low ceilings were attractive for crowd surfing, and almost twenty people watched the band from this vantage point, clinging to the ceiling pipes.

With all of the music happening this weekend, I'm sure there were other amazing shows and other amazing bands. In my opinion, Jeff the Brotherhood was the band to see at the 2009 CMJ festival. With 7 shows over the course of three days, I'm sure they'll get the press they deserve.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Kleeb Fuzz

My first fuzz pedal - CD4069 Inverter chip with 3 inverters in series:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Speed Songwriting

My friend Joe, a PSU alumni and cameraman, has enlisted my help with a 24-hour film project. At 10 pm on Friday night, they receive a concept. They must write, cast, shoot, and edit a film to submit by 10 pm Saturday night. I'm in charge of the music.

For the last few years, a hobby of mine has been to score films. Since I tend to write things that around 30 seconds long, repetitive, and layered with different instruments, incidental music for films was always a perfect match for what I was doing. In an equally spur-of-the-moment recording session, I took "jealousy" (the only word we were given to work with) and wrote a bunch of rushed and kind of sloppy tunes and sent them over. At the end of everything, this stuff came out kind of interesting. Even when recording through a glove:

Shootout in the Wild West

Looking for Clues with a Magnifying Lens

Waiting On the Elevator

Pseudo Jazz

Once I get a copy of the video, I'll post the final version here. We'll see what happens.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The High Line

It has been about two months since I first heard about the High Line, an old railroad that runs above ground on the west side of Manhattan. Overgrown and unused, it has been converted into a public park running from Gansevoort St. in the Meatpacking District (around 11th St.) up to 20th St. in Chelsea. The park opened in June, 2009. I finally got to visit it this past Friday, and have since walked the entire length of the public park three times. The walking path was installed in the center of the raised rail, and the benches were built right on the tracks. In places where the rail overlooks 10th Avenue, you can actually sit right over the road in front of a glass window.

While this is definitely a tourist trap (we were prohibited from entering a few locations on Sunday since they reached capacity, and waited about 5-10 minutes when we found a legit entrance), this is definitely worth checking out. It's an innovative idea, and transforms an unused industrial wasteland into a beautiful walking path with a great view of the Hudson River and most of lower Manhattan.

If you're looking for a relaxing activity in New York that is both free and full of photo ops - definitely visit the High Line park.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


This post is about the movie, not the Inca/Nostradamus prediction

Everyone seems to be getting really excited for the upcoming Roland Emmerich movie 2012.

This movie bothers me on many, many levels. First of all, the limited knowledge I have about the prophecy of "2012" is not of global annihilation, but the end of an era of human consciousness and the beginning of a new era. It's a mass shift in thinking, and from what I can see, it may be away from materialistic and monetary values and toward human values and community. Goals that are driven by happiness and helping others rather than money and fame.

But enough about that, the real problem with this movie is Roland Emmerich's track record. Give Michael Bay some credit, even he doesn't have such a terrible line of movies:

Independence Day

By far the best movie Emmerich has made. Aliens invade. They destroy famous landmarks like the capital building and the Washington Monument. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum fight them off. Most memorable quote: "Welcome to Earth." I may be biased since I can't stand Will Smith's sense of humor, but this one is actually tolerable. Since it won the Oscar for best visual effects, this may have fueled Emmerich's "artform" of making a movie solely based on special effects and lacking any sort of plot.

Godzilla (1998)

HOLY SHIT THIS IS A BAD MOVIE. Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno take on gigantic lizard as it attacks Manhattan. Tanks and helicopters are decimated by said fire-breathing lizard. Puff Daddy and Jimmy Page capitalize with hit single "Come With Me." Creators of original Japanese Godzilla roll in their graves

The Patriot

Mel Gibson, enraged over the death of his son, leads an army of farmers and peasants to overthrow the king in 13th century 18th century colonial America. What's the difference? This is practically a remake of Braveheart. I've only seen an hour of this movie, but it was enough to get the point across.

The Day After Tomorrow

I will go on the record saying this movie is the worst movie I have ever seen. Every natural disaster teams up to finally take down the world as Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhall battle hurricanes, hail storms, floods, tornadoes, and infectious viruses. I wrote papers in college about how bad this movie is. A cruise liner sails through Manhattan. Wolves hunt the characters in a scene almost identical to the raptors in the kitchen from Jurassic Park. They run from the frost, as if it travels in a straight line, chasing them through the city and into buildings. The plot is SO horrible, I vowed to never watch another Emmerich film again.

10,000 B.C.

Didn't see this one. Do I really have to elaborate? See paragraph above.

I think the main focus is, don't be fooled by the media hype. 2012 is probably going to be a painfully terrible movie. Roland Emmerich should cease directing and stick to special effects.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Place To Bury Strangers - U.S. Tour

These arrived at Death By Audio a few days ago:

The new album is awesome. If this limited edition clear vinyl isn't enough reason to catch these guys on their U.S. tour, the music on it certainly is. A Place To Bury Strangers leaves tomorrow, and if you want to see an amazingly loud band, check them out at one of the following venues:

Oct 4 2009 8:00P
Johnny Brenda’s with Darker My Love & All The Saints Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Oct 5 2009 8:00P
DC9 with Darker My Love & All The Saints Washington, DC, Washington DC

Oct 6 2009 8:00P
Local 506 with Darker My Love & All The Saints Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Oct 7 2009 8:00P
Drunken Unicorn with Darker My Love & All The Saints Atlanta, Georgia

Oct 8 2009 8:30P
Club Downunder with Darker My Love & All The Saints Tallahassee, Florida

Oct 9 2009 8:00P
One Eyed Jacks with Darker My Love & All The Saints New Orleans, Louisiana

Oct 10 2009 8:00P
The Lounge on Elm St. with Darker My Love & All The Saints Dallas, Texas

Oct 11 2009 5:00P
In Store Performance @ Waterloo Records Austin, Texas

Oct 11 2009 8:00P
The Mohawk with Darker My Love & All The Saints Austin, Texas

Oct 13 2009 8:00P
Plush with Darker My Love & All The Saints Tucson, Arizona

Oct 15 2009 8:00P
The Casbah with Darker My Love & All The Saints San Diego, California

Oct 16 2009 8:00P
Echo with Darker My Love & All The Saints Los Angeles, California

Oct 17 2009 8:00P
The Independent with These Are Powers & All The Saints San Francisco, California

Oct 18 2009 8:00P
Doug Fir Lounge with These Are Powers & All The Saints Portland, Oregon

Oct 19 2009 8:00P
Crocodile Cafe with These Are Powers & All The Saints Seattle, Washington

Oct 20 2009 8:00P
Biltmore Cabaret with These Are Powers & All The Saints Vancouver, British

Oct 22 2009 8:00P
Urban Lounge with All The Saints & Laserfang Salt Lake, Utah

Oct 23 2009 8:00P
Larimer Lounge with All The Saints & Lion Sized Denver, Colorado

Oct 24 2009 8:00P
Record Bar with All the Saints and The Feverbell Kansas City, MO, Missouri

Oct 25 2009 8:00P
Firebird with All The Saints & Stella Mora St Louis, Missouri

Oct 26 2009 8:00P
Double Door with Dead Confederate & All The Saints Chicago, Illinois

Oct 27 2009 8:00P
The Mod Club with Dead Confederate & All The Saints Toronto, Ontario

Oct 28 2009 8:00P
Il Motore with Dead Confederate & All The Saints Montreal, Quebec

Oct 29 2009 8:00P
Bowery Ballroom with Dead Confederate & All The Saints New York, New York

Oct 30 2009 8:00P
Middle East with Dead Confederate & All The Saints Boston, Massachusetts

Friday, October 2, 2009

Personal Reflections, In The Form of a Job Interview

I signed up an AES Convention next week. The Audio Engineering Society, pretty much why I went to college. I figure I'm going to end up talking to an employer, and they'll ask me what my 'goals' are. At this point in my life, I don't even know what I would say to that. I moved to New York on a whim, and I definitely don't plan to stay for a while. I don't want to lie to them just to get a job, since I don't really need the money. I guess I would just honestly tell them my motivations, hoping for some kind of wisdom and direction. It might go something like this:

I think a lot about getting a serious job, one that I am motivated to do. I'm just terrified about the prospect of long-term commitment. I can't imagine rooting myself into a company right now. There's too many places to see and different environments to live in. I need a long-term personal project that can travel with me. Something I can work on constantly and be motivated to pour my heart into. I've had a few of those feelings throughout my life, and it's hard to pinpoint them, and what makes each one exciting.

The first and most obvious would be music. The reason I switched from chemical engineering in college to electrical engineering was based around music. I needed to know the science and technology behind music. Hell, I needed to know EVERYTHING about music. I learned to read music. I learned to play the saxophone, drums, guitar, and keyboard. I know major and minor scales and intervals. I know jazz and blues progressions. I can conduct a marching band in a few different time signatures. I learned to identify frequencies of notes. I can manipulate sine waves with Fourier Transforms. I learned how to fabricate sounds using resistors and chips. I can build a lowpass filter using equations. I can run a sound board for a live band. I know how to wire a stage. I know how a Shure SM57 microphone differs from a Neumann U87 microphone. I know how to record in ProTools and Logic Pro. I pretty much studied music composition, music performance, electrical engineering, sound design, audio recording, and live sound. The problem is, I didn't study any one area extensively. I got a sprinkling of everything.

So when do I really get excited about music? I can't say wiring a stage and running sound is very much fun. Playing the drums is a damn good time, especially when I can just beat the shit out of them and throw things into the crowd like I used to do. I've never had a more thrilling experience than playing drums in a band. It's the performance, the audience, the intensity, and the emotion all rolled into one. In high school, I was in the drama club. I had an obsession with performance. Even in college, every party I threw was sort of related to a performance. Setting the scene for an audience, themes, moods. I fucking loved it. In high school, every live show was different. We adamantly put on the best show we possibly could every single time. But at that time, playing in a band seemed like something that was done in high school, and then you “grew up.” Since that point, I haven't experienced that level of motivation and commitment to anything. I think this is part of the problem.

Okay, let's say playing live music isn't going to happen for the moment. Where else can I throw my energy? I'd say living at Death By Audio helped my trickle of interest in circuit-building into a formidable stream of activity. I'm building things I really only dreamed of before: amps, drum triggers, sequencers, oscillators. In college, these seemed very much out of reach. Something you created when you had years of experience in electronics. Seeing this self-built, self-taught collective of musicians run this business and design their own successful pedals is surreal. It's the perfect gasoline for the fire. I've just got to channel this random cloud of ideas into a freight train of action and I'll start pumping out creations. Of course, this doesn't really generate any money and it's more of a personal hobby than a profession.

What about math? I freaking LOVED math in high school. Physics, chemistry, calculus, bring it on. The challenge involved with math was what I needed. Puzzles that constantly needed solving. I got really excited about math. I'd say it was the mental equivalent of the physicality of drumming. I think I realized the difference between a theoretical school subject and the real world application of it during my second year of college. I had been balancing organic chemistry equations with glee for a year before I had to sit in a lab and use the actual chemicals. I realized there is no profession that just lets you solve math equations all day. You actually have to have some sort of real world application. So who gives a shit.

I'm a compulsive writer. I can find sparks of flair in my writing, especially if it's about a passionate subject. I can sincerely write my feelings with conviction and excitement. When I try to force things, however, it turns out really cheesy. Combined with this Kerouac-ian tendency to log my life's events, I've developed a sort of vague idea that I'm going to write a novel. Will it be about Wilkes-Barre? Will it be about New York? Maybe I'll just keep writing these essays and vignettes until I can publish my autobiography in a 1000 page tome.

I guess if I could get a job making lists I'd be content. I'll do that shit regardless. Top 20 albums of the year. Top 10 Quentin Tarantino movies. Top 5 sandwiches at the corner deli. I can't think of a single career where this is useful. Neither is my ability to memorize lists of up to 200 items. A professional list maker doesn't sound very exciting anyway. This is more of a bad habit than a useful trade.

I think a lot about the point of life and what people should be motivated to do. Growing up, I used to think it was about having lots of money or becoming famous. Then I thought it should be to just do something that makes you happy. Then I thought you should do something that makes other people happy. Then I thought I should try to change the world. Then I thought I should try to reach a deeper spiritual level within myself. Now I don't know what to think. The one thing I know is, I don't want to do nothing. I don't want to live a life of television watching or video game playing. I want to live my own life, not be entertained by someone else's. I'd rather produce than consume. I think a majority of our generation need to step up and renounce the lazy lifestyle we've drifted into. We have such vast knowledge and access to information that the possibilities are endless. It's an exciting time to be alive, and I'd rather spend it working toward a motivated goal than doing a repetitive, monotonous task.

That said, where do I stand? Maybe it's just more logical to not work with a company. With other creative musicians or electrical engineers, I feel like I could create something amazing. Will you provide me with an outlet to work on my passions? Will I have a reason to wake up in the morning, excited to come to the office and get started on a project? Will I go in early and stay late, just because I'd rather be working there than socializing? If the answer to any of these is 'no,' then maybe I wouldn't be a good fit for your company.