Thursday, July 17, 2014

How To Become A Rock Star

As I mentioned in my last post, I used to teach a music business class at Mt. Hood Community College. The subjects that I covered basically consisted of everything I learned during my years of playing in bands and running my indie label (Crash The Luau Records) - sort of a "learn from what I've done and don't make the same mistakes that I did" kind of thing.
One day, one of my students asked me the following question: "So, how do I become a rock star?" Now, not being one on the level of what she was talking about (e.g. The Beatles, Elvis, etc.), I didn't feel qualified enough to answer that question in the way she was hoping, but what I could offer her was my take on that subject based on my experiences and observations. Here's a six-point summary of what I said:

1. Do everything you can, and then some. Even if you have two day jobs and lots of other responsibilities, make the time to do at least one thing every day - think of a vocal melody while you're in the shower, post a flyer on your way to the store, e-mail a radio station on your lunch break.

2. Try anything and everything, because you just never know. My rock band in Hawaii, Tone Deaf Teens, sent a press kit to the producer of a local TV show that featured mellow "Hawaiian music" artists - it turns out that he was actually an AC/DC fan and was happy to book an appearance for us.

3. Get rid of self-limiting thoughts, like "I'm too old" or "No one plays this kind of music on the radio" or whatever. Other people will be more than happy to try and put limits on you, so don't help them out. Be your own biggest fan.

4. Don't compare yourself to others. Just because the members of that other local band all live with their parents and can spend eighteen hours a day working on their music and promotion doesn't mean that they'll go somewhere and you won't.

5. It's okay to get discouraged from time to time, but don't give up. Keep going. Remember that while a big part of becoming the Next Big Thing is luck, you can't win if you don't play.

6. Have fun. Relax. Work hard, but don't try hard, if you know what I mean. After all, the main reason why you make music in the first place is because you love it - right?

Or, of course, as readers of Book One know, you could try to find your way over to Spectraland to learn the secret of how sound waves affect human emotions, enabling you to write one undeniable hit song after another...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My Musical History, Episode 11: A Really Big Change

After the record label debt was paid off, a really big change happened: I relocated to the mainland. Vancouver, Washington, to be exact. For those of you who don't know, Vancouver is a town on the Washington/Oregon border, right across the Columbia River from Portland (the home of this particular TV show.)
It was funny trying to describe to my friends in Hawaii where, exactly, it was that I moved to. A typical conversation usually went something like this:

Me: So, yeah, I'm in Vancouver now.
Friend: Vancouver? You mean Canada?
Me: No, um, Vancouver, Washington. Washington state.
Friend: What? Washington? So, like, Seattle?
Me: No - Southwest Washington. Near the Oregon border. We're actually right next to Portland.
Friend: You moved to Portland?
Me: Forget it

Anyway, once I arrived here, I got straight down to the business of putting together a new band. Since this was still in the days before Craigslist and Facebook - seriously? - I went back to the tried and true process of running some classified ads in local music zines and posting flyers in music stores. Eventually, I managed to find a drummer who you will be hearing about in future episodes of this serial (and have already heard about before.)

At the same time, I also began teaching a music business class at Mt. Hood Community College. As luck would have it, one of my students was a guitarist that I ended up getting along with pretty well. So, after the aforementioned drummer and I cycled through a bunch of bassist candidates, we contacted this guitarist and forced coerced asked him to play bass with us.*

With the lineup now set, we found a rehearsal space in downtown Portland (a storage unit) and put together a bunch of new songs. And thus, Upper80 was born. I was pretty excited, because I had heard a lot of positive things about the Portland music scene, and during my short time as a resident of the area I had already seen a bunch of good bands at cool clubs that seemed to support and appreciate original rock music. So, world domination plans, back on track, right? Right? Well...

Next: Evicted

P.S. Don't forget to come out to Shanahan's this Saturday @ 9pm to check out Rocket 3, Stab In The Dark, and Second Player Score!

* Because remember, nobody actually wants to - aw, you know already

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Wisdom Teeth

So, my son has to get his wisdom teeth pulled. He normally doesn't want me to post pictures of him in my blog or anywhere else, but I think in this case he won't mind.
He does mind, so this is not actually his picture

I had my wisdom teeth removed when I young - fortunately, I only had two instead of four - and it was actually not that bad of an experience. The oral surgeon used local anesthesia plus nitrous oxide, and I got to listen to music on headphones while he operated. My music of choice? The album Powerslave by Iron Maiden. I recall basically just rocking out to that while I felt odd tinkering sensations in my mouth. Neat.

While the operation itself went more smoothly than I expected, it was what came afterwards that was the challenging part. A fair amount of discomfort, along with a liquid diet and whatever it is I had to do with salt water made the following few days less than fun. What helped make it better? Books. I couldn't eat much food, so instead, I devoured the entire Original Shannara Trilogy - all 1800 or so words of it.

I was hoping that by the time my kids had to go through something like this, some smart people would have perfected the technology to simply vaporize the teeth with lasers, or maybe transport them out of the mouth, Star Trek-style. No such luck, but I know that my son will get through it with his own distractions of choice. Hopefully that kind of advanced technology I described will be ready for the next generation (see what I did there)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

New Songs!

After another go-around in the studio, my band Second Player Score has finished up three more songs, as promised. Go ahead and check them out here.
"Anything At All" is an uptempo track that makes for good listening while jogging or working out. At least, I think so, anyway. This song was meant to be an inspiring tune about doing whatever it takes to do whatever it is you want to do. Like, you know, laundry. Or the dishes. Or world domination.

"Hide" used to feature an outro guitar solo that was much, much longer than it is now. Don't worry, the song itself is still only three-and-a-half minutes. Originally titled "The Great Escape" (the name of a Boys Like Girls song and a Pink song and a 1963 movie starring Steve McQueen) and then "Lose Yourself" (an Eminem song), it's a song about escaping from, well, stuff. I dunno, check it out and decide for yourself.

"Desensitized" has some aggro-sounding vocals, a partial result of us receiving some pretty slow service at dinner before we came back to do the vocal tracks. The lyrics are sort of PG, and performed live, they're sort of PG-13. Good times.

Speaking of live, we'll be playing our first show in almost a year on Saturday, July 12 at Shanahan's in downtown Vancouver with our friends Rocket 3 and Stab In The Dark. So, come on down and check it out! We'll be playing everything off of our upcoming album as well as a few more, and every song in our live set now has our patented three-part vocal harmony treatment. It'll be a lot of fun, so hope to see you there.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Post About Television

I don't watch a lot of TV nowadays. Generally, I'll have it on as a sort of wallpaper or background distraction while I'm doing other things: working out, eating lunch, doing household chores, practicing guitar. I don't have Netflix or TiVo or anything like that.
That said, there are a number of shows that I'll pay more attention to than others. Here are a few of them, in no particular order:

Doctor Who - a brilliantly written show that I often derive inspiration from. Can't wait for the next season to start.

Legend of Korra - one of the few shows that I will clear space on my schedule for. Like Doctor Who, I also am looking forward to the next season, which will start...when, exactly?

Ancient Aliens - I often use this show to fact-check my backstories for The Spectraland Saga.

Mariners Baseball/Seahawks Football/Trail Blazers Basketball - the phrase "and now that you've said that" (see page 242 of Book One) came from watching these teams play. I've adopted a more positive attitude in reason seasons, though, which seems to be having an effect.

Teen Titans Go! - I know this show has its fair share of haters, but c'mon - "The cereal won't go in the bowl"? Hilarious.

Futurama - whenever I'm channel surfing and I see this one coming up, I always have to remind myself of one of my personal rules: "Never not watch Futurama."

Honorable mention: Louie, South Park, Clone Wars (the latter two of which I used to watch religiously), How I Met Your Mother (the finale was ok), Star Trek TNG, Bizarre Foods, Gumball, Adventure Time...hmm, maybe I do watch more TV than I thought.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

My Musical History, Episode 10: The Summer Of The Angry Young Man

After the relative success of the Fixed EP, we jumped right back into writing and rehearsing material for our next recording. Going with a more collaborative process this time around, we ended up with fifteen new songs that were quite a bit more eclectic than the previous batch; there were elements of pop, jazz, metal, and even "Hawaiian Music" (see Episode 9 for a brief explanation of what that is) - sometimes within the same song.

At the same time, I had this bright idea to take what we had learned from the release of Fixed and apply that to starting our own record label. This venture, dubbed "Crash The Luau Records," was going to focus on rock bands from Hawaii, with the idea that such things were so much of a cool anomaly that they deserved your listening attention and, therefore, a fairly significant slice of your disposable income.

So, we signed a couple of our friends' bands - a pop/punk outfit called Tweaked and a funk/rock group known as Seven Degrees North - and proceeded to plan a more-or-less simultaneous summer release of their albums along with the new Tone Deaf Teens offering. Since a vaguely common theme for all three albums seemed to be adolescent male discontent, our brilliant marketing department* came up with the slogan "The Summer of the Angry Young Man," which sounded like a good idea at the time.**

All three releases were fairly well received, with Tweaked's "Breaking The Curse" and TDT's "1%" getting good reviews in the local paper and earning nominations for Rock Album of the Year in the annual Hoku Awards, which is sort of like Hawaii's local version of the Grammys. Want to know who ended up winning? You can find out here.

So, on the surface, it seemed like things were going pretty well. We were playing a ton of shows, mostly at the Wave (how I miss that place), and we made another video, this time for a track off of 1% called "Prime Time Kumquat." Yes, that really is the song title. The other bands were playing out a lot as well and getting a good response.

But as the old joke goes, "How do you make a small fortune in the music business? Start with a large fortune (insert rim shot here)." The reality of the situation was that running a record label was, and is, a tough thing to do. After a while, we found ourselves heavily in debt and more-or-less forced to play a bunch of cover gigs to help make up for it. The strain of that situation eventually took its toll, and although I didn't know it at the time, a really big change was on the horizon.

Next: A Really Big Change

* Me and a couple of friends
** Turns out, not so much

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Liveblogging With Felicity: Teen Titans Go!

Today, Felicity and I will be liveblogging an episode of Teen Titans Go! Fasten your seat belts, ladies and gentlemen...
B: I love this show
F: Ur like a little kid
B: What's wrong with that
F: Just sayin
B: Ok it's starting
F: hooray
B: This episode is "Dude, Relax"
F: Right
B: I'm just letting the readers know
F: The who?
B: Raven's expressions kill me
F: Robin is so neurotic
B: "All good, bro." Awesome and hilarious
F: You need to do the relax
B: What are you trying to say
F: nuthin
B: Clipping the bonsai with her powers, so funny
B: "No." love it
F: She is pretty cool
B: See, I knew you liked her
F: Whatever
B: "Is there a specific way I should hum - in a minor key?" ha
F: Ur like Robin
B: No I'm not
F: Whatever
B: I need a couch like that
F: Yes you do
B: I don't think any monkeys stole my diaper
F: Ok that's just disturbing
B: Aw man it's over already
F: You know there's another one coming up
B: Yesss
F: Settle down there
B: This State Farm commercial - isn't it more freaky that the baby is talking than the mime
F: I think that's the point
B: Alright the show's back
F: hooray
B: Oh cool "Laundry Day." This one is so good
F: I need more soda
B: This show has so many quick and subtle moments of awesomeness, that's what makes it great
B: Batman cowl made of leaves, Raven's pink bunny slippers
B: You're missing all the moments!
B: Glorg blorger
F: Back. What did I miss
B: A bunch of awesome moments
F: This soda tastes flat
B: "I'll take over the world another time." ha
F: Wasn't the original Gizmo an old dude
B: Yeah. So you do know about this stuff!
F: I was just guessing
Join us next time as we liveblog something else!