Tuesday, February 11, 2014
One Sunday in January of 2011 I was having my morning coffee and Danny Blume came to mind and I searched for him and found him. I listened to some of projects he'd been working on, including his own music and thought about my experience with him recording my first record with he and Chris. It was a crazy experience for me as I had no idea what I was doing but had good ideas and a little money to make it happen. I always loved the sound we got together and loved recording vocals with Danny at the board because he had good ears and a whole lot of patience.
At this point in 2011 I hadn't stop writing or playing music but was very much hiding out and no one was looking for me. I mustered up the courage to reach out to Danny and he replied and I started sending him some song ideas I had and he liked them so we decided that we'd do a record together. The first song "Free" was done from separate cities as he is in Woodstock and I New Orleans. I loved the outcome so I then booked a ticket to NY so we could record a batch of songs.
When I hit the road in the rental car towards Woodstock, I was so excited to work with Danny again knowing what I know now. When I first started it was so frustrating not knowing how to articulate anything because I didn't have the musical vocabulary so I had to show pictures and draw diagrams and play samples of music to get sounds I wanted. I was also humbled by my years in seclusion. I was alone with my music with no manager or booking agents or anyone who really cared. Well, my wife was there and those beautiful emails that would come out of nowhere every week from people looking for me and thanking me for my music.
When I was on the road, it was getting dark and all these folks were on my mind. It takes so much courage to keep going sometimes but I knew Amanda believed in me and Danny wasn't into wasting time so I knew he believed in me and I knew the songs I had in my head were something.
I had no idea what was about to take place or the musicians that would be involved that allowed the project to fly away from my grasp. It is the best feeling to watch a song take off and become way more than you imagine it and to be in a room of equals with mutual respect for each other.
My thank you's have to go all the way back to my dear friend John Ellis. He was my mentor in the beginning of my song writing days and always took me serious, even when I didn't know what I was doing. He had checked in with me to see how I was doing and asked if I was still writing music and I told him I was and he came down with a bass player, Madison and Dave Burnett on drums and we cut 5 songs at Axis studio with Misha. This session started it all for me and eventually let Danny hear what I had been up to. I did a few more sessions in New Orleans with Josh Werner and Dave Burnett who are my Royal Vagabonds brothers. After these sessions, I knew I had something.
Woodstock is known for being a haven for musicians from the city and I was amazed by the level of talent and taste living in those hills. There's nothing like recording next to the wood burning stove and taking breaks to chop wood or to watch bears near the creek. It was exciting when we started to bring in musicians up there. David Baron(Lenny Kravitz, Peter Murphy, Michael Jackson), Jerry Marotta(Peter Gabriel), Zack Alford(David Bowie), and Nels Cline (Wilco, Nels Cline Singers). Finally finished "Campo Santo". All we have to do is master!
Of course during the course of all this music making, there is life in New Orleans. Luca gets me out of the house and takes me on walks and gets me out to Holy Cross for some peace and quiet and nature so I don't drive his mommy crazy. I still manage to do it though.
We're nearly finished the bottom bathroom renovation. We hired Cody and his friends to do the major construction of moving the doorway to the hallway. Jay and I cut the door in half and made some french doors. They are going to be so nice with some nice hammered glass put in both sides.
I got Mr. Nolan to help me renovate all the plumbing on the vintage barber sink. This has been along time as it's been sitting in our living room for two years. Finally will be put to use.
I polished the brass and it came out really nice.
This is Amanda at Dr. Craig's house where there's always costumes being passed around and nights on the town. It's a great diversion from all the work and recording. Now it's time to let the music out there.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
2013 was a year of grunt work and some nice surprises. I'm so thankful to my wife, Amanda, for pushing me back up on stage. I feel like myself again and more a part of the New Orleans community because of it.
I want to wish the very best to the whole St. Roch Crew. May we all push ourselves even harder in 2014.
Special thanks to all who were part of my record "Campo Santo". I can't believe all of you were a part of it and it's almost on wax.
Danny Blume, Josh Werner, Dave Burnett, Nels Cline, David Baron, Zach Alford, Jerry Morotta, Margo Valiente, Misha, John Ellis, Madison, Ward Williams, and Dan Brooks.
Thanks to my New Orleans music crew especially William Chandler. Shout out to Leesaw, Ms. Mec, Graham Hill, Elise Pinkham, Anton Jonas, Phil Rollins, Bart Ramsey, Olivia, Dave and Scott at the Opera House.
I'm thinking yesterday was the final day of going through my CD collection. This drawer, the "Rock" drawer was always pretty spread out across different era's. It started with Animal Collective, Devendra Banhart, Coco Rosie, Elliot Smith and also had some early 90's Grunge with Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots and such. It actually started as grunge and went into 90's indie rock and into freak folk back into what we now still call Indie, whatever that means. The word Indie has as much meaning as hand crafted now a days.
Once again, it was so nice to actually have to physically go through these. I would have totally forgotten about the early 90's band "Belly". I'm excited to have this collection back in my house and am looking forward to revisiting all the Blonde Redhead records. In the late 90's I was living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and was spending all my days and nights listening to records, learning Pro Tools and playing piano and guitar along with making beats with Donovan Guidry on the MPC 2000. A few times a week when I felt I deserved it, I'd hop the train over to Nolita for a coffee break at Cafe Gitane. In those days you could sit in there for hours and read and sip coffee and gaze out the window. I don't remember there being any internet or computers involved and could remember people actually talking to each other.
There were regulars there everyday with these beautiful twin guys who were Italian and would ride vintage motorcycles. Sometimes they'd have instruments with them but never knew they were "Blonde Redhead" until a few years after the Cafe Gitane hang became too popular.
Luc, the owner of Cafe Gitane, was and remains one of my favorite men in New York. He is from Morroco and moved to NY and started this cafe and does really well for himself. He has a new location in the Jane Hotel now that I frequent sometimes. The vibe is still the same but the hang is not like it used to be. The guys and gals behind the counter still wear blue, French chore coats. Luc was onto to this look way before Bill Cunningham made it so chic.
Radiohead had just released OK Computer when I moved to NY and I would walk around the city with my walkman dreaming alone before I knew anyone. A few years later when we were building Headgear Studio in Williamsburg we'd would blast Kid A in awe. So good, two copies ended up in my collection.
Portishead's Dummy was probably one of the biggest influences for "So Long" Mostly in production style with the beats and ambience. Of course hip hop and sampling was an influence too but this was closer to the direction we wanted to go.
And then England puts their foot down again with Massive Attack. Once I heard them, I bought it all. Over time, I like it a little less mostly due to the female club style vox. I love them with Horace Andy though. I was happy to hear they ended up recording at Headgear with friend Dave Sitek.
The Yeah Yeah Yeah's were the first band to hit in the neighborhood. They were old school Williamsburg too, L Cafe people.
One of the best things about living in NY is the level of talent and taste you find living around the corner. We had a decent idea of what we wanted our music to sound like but needed some help and we were introduced to Chris Kelly and Danny Blume at Good and Evil studio. They had a small space in Carroll Gardens with a sound like no one else was getting. The song "Perique" was made there. Haunting sounds.
Monday, December 30, 2013
Yesterday was another day of going through my record collection. I went through a very important part of my collection which was the New Wave era along with other great 80's artist like Madonna and Prince who could have their own section. It's funny how people always try to compare the next young female star selling her budding sexuality to Madonna. Whether you like her or not, she reinvented herself over and over way past the budding of her womanhood. So sorry Miley, Brittany and all the other school girls.
Prince was an early influence even before Michael. The movie Purple Rain with his cheap motorcycle and Appolonia! You can't put a guy like prince in the 80's section or R&B, Rock. What an artist!
I grew up right in between Baton Rouge and New Orleans right off of the river. The musical taste in my area from the early to mid eighties was mostly R&B. Prince, Morris Day and the Time, Midnight Star, Marvin Gaye. As a freshman, I left the local high school to attend a Catholic school closer to New Orleans. The school was more of a college prep school and Prep it was. I had a peach fuzz mustache and listened to Prince but all that was about to change. I shaved for the first time and started seeing band names written all over peoples books. INXS! I used to think it read inks. Echo and the Bunnymen, U2, The Cure, The Smiths, DM, Dead Kennedy's, Sugar Cubes, New Order. Also as the mid 80's were heading towards the late 80's the music back in my home town was changing as well and becoming more electronic with a twist of New Wave but remaining true to R&B with the same swagger.
Artists like Stevie B, Noel, Johnny O, Cause and Effect, Egyptian Lover, Kyper were taking over the dance floor back home. While folks back home were open to New Wave, it didn't exactly quench their thirst for the remembered swagger of 1983. Also, the city folks would come get a taste of the country dance parties too. The Kingfish in the woods outside of Lafayette is legendary though I was too young to go.
I think the first time I heard Depeche Mode was on a mixed tape. It was like nothing I had ever heard and took me far away from my little town. They tapped into my imagination somehow and I began to wonder about the world outside of Louisiana for the first time. We were reaching the age for nights out in New Orleans at the Gold Mine Saloon where we were discovering loads of artist. I loved Decatur Street in those days. There were great small bars with great music and shops to by posters and anything black. It was always a great drive to New Orleans to hit either Tower Records or this record store on Octavia Uptown.
I was glad to come across this great record, especially since it still had the price tag on it. I bought this at Crossroads Records in Starkville, Ms. when I was in college. I first saw The The when they opened for Depeche Mode in the late eighties. Really great singer and writer.
This is one of my favorite album covers, probably right after New Order's, Power Corruption and Lies. I didn't really know about The Violent Femmes until college. I remember my good friends Rodney Rocconi and Lance Grady going see them at Tipitina's and talking about climbing up on the fence. I can imagine this band creating quite a stir live when they were at their peak. Such a great record of acoustic punk songs. I did get to see them at some point at Tipitina's in the early 90's. They were great but would have been great to see them earlier.
Depeche Mode kind of ruled the New Wave/80's collection. Over time New Order's catalog holds up the best for me. Of course Joy Division does too but that would be more post punk which should be another discussion. So many great artist in this period. Most of this music stands up to the times and aged well with the exception of some of the snare sounds and gated reverb. Well, there was the drone singing and affected cool but it was perfectly of the time. Thanks Martin Gore, Robert Smith, Stephen Morrissey, and Prince Rogers Nelson.
Sunday, December 29, 2013
Yesterday I began the daunting task of reducing my two file cabinet record (CD) collection to one cabinet. Ever since that first purchase, INXS Kick, my CD collection has been my most prized possession. As I went through each genre, I remembered where I bought them and what I was studying musically. Most of my purchases since 2000 have been about studying music along with loving the many different genres.
I probably should have called the show Hoarder's to come film me because it was an emotional process. It was hard discarding some of the art work in the cheap plastic cases but I eventually mustered enough courage to dump it out. I managed to save the liner notes and the CD in each little pouch which will be nice to have in the future. There's still something about the physical presence of liner notes and being able to flip through a collection. Though Spotify is great way to discover music, you lose that chance conversation in the record shop to discover a new artist. There was no better feeling than coming home with the new CD when it was new technology. First I'd rip through the cardboard cartridge and then wrestle with the damn sticky thing that almost never came completely off.
The beginning of my CD collection was mostly New Wave since that was what I was into at the time. I was in high school and tapes were fading and the Bon Jovi people were wearing their concert T shirts with the 3/4 sleeves and smoking in their Camaro's and Living on their Prayers. Cassettes in those days were still great. Most of my cassettes in those days were Prince, Morris Day, Run DMC, and random artist like Kyper. The best part of this era was the mix tape of course. The mixed disc never reached the status of the mix tape.
My New Wave consumption continued on into college but quickly became a consumer of Classical music when I began to play the piano. Going through my Classical collection, each album brought back memories of when I first fell in love with playing music. Alone in the piano lab late nights in Starkville, Ms. was one of my favorite things to do. My piano professor was Dr. Duncan McMillan and he was leading me on path of musical discovery.
During this time I began to buy some U2 records and grunge was starting to happen and began playing the guitar too.
This picture kind of started it all for me recording original music. I had made a painting inspired by it and it was on the wall of my East Village apartment when Donovan Guidry first moved to town. He was the only person that would hear me sing and was the first person to suggest exploring my own sound. We started our own label Newlafaya because of these brainstorming sessions. This is why these physical objects are hard to get rid of. They have deep rooted meaning.
In 1998, I moved over to Williamsburg, Brooklyn to begin recording my first record "So Long". I made weekly trips to Earwax record shop and was discovering Dub, Indie Rock, and lots of world music. All these things were going into the kinds of music we were making. At the time trip hop was really a great sound and I was devouring it all.
This was a huge step for me to toss these. I never liked the plastic cases anyway. They almost always broke when opening. It was funny to see what CD jackets I wanted to save. The Sigur Ros record packaging was impossible to throw away along with a few beautiful Dub compilations. It's interesting to go through my vinyl collection. There's no way you'd throw away that packaging. It's so simple and beautiful.
Oh well, here we go into the unknown future of the Album. Hope we all survive in these disposable times.