You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2009.

Sunny Day played on Fallon last night, and it was pretty rocking. For those who don’t know that band, they basically invented the Emo sound, or at least they’re the ones who really established it. They formed back in 1992 but broke up in 1995.  When the group disbanded, drummer William Goldsmith and bassite Nate Mendel joined the Foo Fighters.  Goldsmith was replaced by Taylor Hawkins in 1997, but I think Mendel still plays in Foo Fighters.  In 2003 Enigk, Goldsmith, and Mendel put out a record under the name The Fire Theft, and it is medium awesome.  Dan Hoerner, the 4th member of Sunny Day, also played with Dashboard Confessional for a little while.

Anyway, I have their second album, LP2, and the music is killing, interesting, passionate, and NOT sloppy (which is maybe the difference between emo and general indie rock).  Watch how freaking hard William Goldsmith plays the drums.  He’s bashing, but again, not in a sloppy or uncontrolled way.  For anyone who was wondering, this is how rock drummers are supposed to play…

UPDATE:  The youtube video I had posted is now removed for copyright reasons, so check out the direct link to NBC here.

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Raising_SandThere are things in life that, when you experience them, you know they’re cool.  You see a cool movie, or you visit a cool place, and you tell everyone about it because it was cool.  There are also experiences that aren’t just cool, but very cool.  Not kinda cool – REALLY cool.  And then there those rare experiences that are so cool, that you feel like you yourself gained in coolness simply for having had the experience.  Listening t0 this album is like that.  Listening to this album makes me feel cooler.

Raising Sand is the first and only (to date) collaboration between Alison Krauss, the first lady of bluegrass, and Robert Plant, front man for classic rock giants Led Zeppelin.  Produced by prominent American musician/producer T-Bone Burnett, and utilizing the playing of some of the world’s top session musicians, the music can best be described as a “roots music” super group.  The vibe is dark, brooding, colorful, and incredibly interesting.  The songs are mainly covers from the 50’s and 60’s, with an eclectic variety of feels and sounds, but all in the classic “American folk” style.

As I mentioned earlier, this album is cool beyond the belief.  It’s cool because of the songs – witty and thoughtful lyrics with catchy but powerful melodies.  It’s cool because of the sounds – recorded beautifully with amazingly complex tones and interaction.  It’s cool because of the arrangements – fluid and easy, despite a surprisingly heavy use of odd meters and unsymmetrical phrases.  And of course it’s also cool because of the vocals – Krauss and Plant are an unlikely duet but work so well together (“one of the most effortless-sounding pairings in modern popular music” according to Allmusic).

But the real reason this album is on the AEDSK list is the cool drumming.  Holy cow.  Jay Bellerose, a guy with very deep and impressive credits in the studio, is delivering on this record in a way that I’ve never heard anyone play.  His grooves, his feel, his sounds, his ideas… they are all amazing and so inspiring.  You know that “loose and jangly” feel that americana/folk fans talk about?  Bellerose DEFINES that sound on this record.  You know that mysterious “between-swing-and-straight” pocket that everybody wants to get into?  That’s where Bellerose LIVES for this entire album.  You know that vintage “deep-but-dead” tone that’s so popular in the studio right now?  Bellerose is a passionate expert on vintage gear, and he nails the sound on every track… but in a way that keeps it simultaneously classic and fresh, not just trendy.

For example…

The groove on “Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson” is the funkiest sounding train/backbeat I’ve ever heard, and then just try and wrap your brain around his pocket during the guitar solo on that tune, not to mention the fill into that section (2:56).  Then check out the kick/ride tone on the opening track, “Rich Woman,” and don’t miss the triplet fill after the final choruses (3:10).  Listen to the nuances of the one-handed brush feel on “Killing the Blues,” and the tasteful addition of the ride at the slide solo.  “Polly Come Home” has so much space… the room he leaves for everyone else is so effective but so difficult to pull off.  “Gone Gone Gone” is the coolest treatment of a tumbau pattern.  The deep cowbell sound on “Sister Rosetta” is so left field but so perfect.  I mean, what is going on with the cymbal/floor tom groove on “Fortune Teller”?  How about the awesome but completely unorthodox pattern on the out choruses of “Please Read the Letter”?  I could go on and on.

Raising Sand is well worth your money and time to buy it and listen to it.  Make it happen.

This is a follow-up to last year’s post on the creative process.  Specifically, I’ve got some thoughts about the 1st stage of the process… the “ideas” stage.  This stage is most deeply studied in the realm of improvised music, and so I’m thinking mainly of that environment as I write this.

In educational settings, the analogy is often used that improvising is like exploring a room.  Attempting to discover new improvisational ideas is like becoming familiar with a room that you haven’t spent time in before.  You look all around at the various parts, you study them, and you try to really look closely.  The goal is to get to know everything about the room – all the details.  The more aware you are of what the room contains, the more you will find the room to be useful.

This analogy makes sense to me in the world of music improvisation and creative ideas, but I think the reality of the situation is much bigger than the analogy suggests.  For me, improvisational exploration has shown ideas to be not just rooms, but also hallways leading to different rooms.

For example, I spent a long time exploring (in jazz) the idea that the kick and the snare can compose two-tone melodies/lines/phrases/whatever underneath a swing ride pattern and a hihat foot accent on the backbeats.  As I explored this “room,” I found that the various subdivisions of notes (triplet 8ths, triplet 16ths, straight 8ths, etc…) provided a vast vocabulary for composing kick/snare lines.  I also discovered polyrhythms, unsymmetrical groupings in general, and accents.  These discoveries really opened up my mind to the mountain of possibilities in the kick/snare comping, and had a huge effect on my playing.  I felt like I was really starting to understand the “room” I was in and how it could serve my music making.

And then, my teacher told me about using my hihat foot in the comping (and not just accenting the backbeats), which turned the two-tone composing into three-tone composing.  This totally blew my mind.  I suppose you could say, in line with the room analogy, that I found a corner of the room that I hadn’t yet explored.  “Oh hey… look over there… I’ve been in this room all along and I never knew THAT was in here.”  But honestly, it felt more like I had found a completely different room.  EVERYTHING changed.  It was like I had discovered a trap door, and opened it, and found a new room altogether, whose existence I had never even considered.  And this new room was bigger than the first one… way bigger.  Tons to explore in the new room, and best of all, there were 3 or 4 additional doors in the new room that were visible.  Not hidden trap doors either… obvious ones.  But these were doors that I knew I shouldn’t open yet, because I needed to spend a little time just acclimating to the new room itself before I went any further.

Anyway, it was a cool experience, and it’s happened a handful of other times with improvising and creative exploration.  So at this point, I no longer view improvising as exploring a room, but rather a whole house.  I have no idea how big the house is, or what the layout is like.  Some rooms are like hallways, with lots of doors to other rooms.  Some rooms are like closets, where there is only one way into them and they are seemingly quite small.  But in all this each room has something to offer.  I know there are rooms that I’ve discovered that I really didn’t take the time to fully explore, and I know there are rooms that get a LOT more use than they really deserve.

I think this is ultimately why artists can be so different from each other creatively.  To take the analogy further, I see traditionally-minded musicians as artists who tend to put emphasis on FULLY exploring every nook and cranny of the main/common/obvious room.  The idea is that this room is so big and functional that you just don’t need any other rooms.  But the more progressive guys see a lot of reasons to explore the immediate surrounding rooms, and yet still base operations out of the main room.  And then there’s the crazy avant-garde guy who just heads straight for the farthest corner of the attic and sets up shop in a spot where almost no one can even find him.  Along these lines…. early on in the life of this blog I wrote a post about programmers, and how electronic musicians have some almost super-natural exploring capabilities, because they don’t have to actually perform (physically execute) their ideas.

All of this to say… the “ideas” stage of the creative process is a big deal.  The degree to which you explore not only the room you’re in, but the house itself – to this degree you will find fuel for ideas in your improvising.  Don’t assume that the initial appearance of the room reveals everything that’s there to be found.  There might be one of those revolving bookcases if you look close enough.  And then… look out.

Those of you who recognize the name Zoltan Chaney know what’s coming. Those of you who don’t… prepare to lay eyes on the most entertaining drummer of all time. This is literally some of the coolest visual performing that I have EVER seen.  Amazing.

A friend of mine told me about this guy a long time ago, but I’d never actually seen it for myself until a couple nights ago.  I think to fully appreciate what’s happening, you need to watch all the videos with your eyes closed first, so you can start by HEARING what he’s doing.  He’s nailing it.  All the parts, all the grooves, all the responsibilities that a drummer is supposed to fulfill… he’s totally there.  He’s actually got pretty good feel too.  And then he does the gimmick part, and I seriously cannot handle it.  I LOVE THIS GUY, and I normally don’t get into this kind of thing.

So… enjoy.

Interesting music news this week…

This Is It, the documentary of the prep/rehearsals for the late Michael Jackson’s London concert series, will be hitting theaters on October 28.  You can view the trailer here.  A double-disc soundtrack for the film will be released on October 27, and will contain a previously unreleased MJ single also called “This Is It.”  Billboard

– NYC’s Knitting Factory Records is set to release the full 45-album catalog of Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti for the first time ever in North America.  Kuti was the main influence in African political liberation art, and his music has always been difficult to find in the US.  The release also coincides with the Broadway debut of a Jay-Z and Will Smith funded musical about Kuti’s life and art.  Pitchfork

– Kids Company, a London charity for convicted minors and “disadvantaged youth,” just received a donation to the tune of 1.5 million dollars from Coldplay.  The band was apparently very moved by the efforts of the organization and stories of their impact.  The band members have even agreed to give music lessons to the Kids Company children.  Regardless of how you feel about Coldplay’s music, you have to dig the walking and not just talking.  NME

– The word is that Justin Timberlake has been cast in the lead role in a film about Facebook called The Social Network.  Timberlake will play Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster and FB’s first President.  Production for the film begins next month.  Allmusic Blog

– Yesterday was Bruce Springsteen’s 60th birthday.  My dad also turned 60 not too long ago, but Steve Sr. has never had a sliding collision with a Super Bowl Halftime Show stage camera.  Rollingstone

– Rapper Eminem is headed to court against the tech giant Apple Inc in a dispute over download permission on iTunes, despite three separate attempts to broker a settlement between the two parties.  Billboard

I got some more new Paiste cymbals this week… a full set of Giant Beats. They are so boss.  Giant Beats were made back in the late 60’s and used by John Bonham until they were discontinued and replaced by the 2002 line in ’71.  They were reissued a few years ago, and I’ve just now been able to get a set.  The rig is 15″ hats, 18″ and 20″ crashes, and a monster 24″ ride.  The ride is seriously one of the coolest sounding cymbals I’ve heard in a long time.

Ryan Paul and the Ardent shot some local tv stuff the earlier in the week, and I brought the hats and ride.  And then I used the full set last night at a Sanoski gig.

UPDATE: It turns out the RP&TA video shoot was actually for a website devoted to Minnesota Arts.  The stuff we filmed that night is now up and streaming.  Check it out.

16926.lost-timeAs I resume the AOTW posts, my plan is to work through all the records on the AEDSK list, alphabetically.  That means the 12Rods are up first… which totally rules.  I love this record.

To set it up, here’s the 12Rods bio from Wikipedia…

12 Rods was formed by Ryan Olcott, Christopher McGuire, Matt Flynn, and Daniel Perlin at Talawanda High School in Oxford, Ohio, in May 1992. They self-released an album called Bliss in 1993 and the gay? EP in 1996, one year after moving to Minneapolis. 12 Rods signed with V2 in 1996 and re-released gay? while they recorded a new album. Split Personalities was released in 1998.  Despite the departure of drummer Christopher McGuire, 12 Rods released its next album, the Todd Rundgren-produced Separation Anxieties. The album failed miserably, both critically and commercially, and 12 Rods were dropped by V2.  They recorded and released one more album, 2002’s self-released Lost Time, then broke up in 2004.

So the feature for this week is that last record, Lost Time.  All of this music business crap happened to these guys, and the music that happened after is AMAZING.  The “we’re sick of the music business and we just want to play” overtones are tangible in every song, and that’s definitely one of the reasons this record is so great.

The songwriting, performances, and production is also killer too.  It should be noted that at this point the band looked entirely different in personnel.  Ryan’s brother Ev Olcott was now on keys/guitar/bvg/production.  Christopher McGuire had been replaced by Dave King, and Bill Shaw was on bass.

I’m not going to get into all the various reason I love this album, but I definitely need to make mention of the drumming.  Dave King is always rad, but I think this album shows a side of him that you don’t find anywhere else.  The combination of pocket, creativity, and chops… all in a pop/rock record… it’s just amazing.  Every song has a paradigm-shattering element to it, and it’s all awesome.

For instance, the first fill of the record is completely “wrong” and oh so right.  “Twenty For Hours Ago” features a fill over the FIRST bar of every chorus, and it adds so much momentum.  There’s a super cool disco thing on “Telephone Holiday” (0:51), then a hilarious break beat in the same track (2:34).  Then check out the way King accents the vocal on “One Thing Does Not Belong” (1:23), “Accidents Waiting To Happen” (0:40), and “Terrible Hands” (1:43).

The stuff I just mentioned is all totally rad, but by far my favorite drum moments on this record are all in “Boy In The Woods.”  The ghost notes, the drum ‘n bass stuff, the tones… and then the phrase at 1:18… oh my goodness.  It kills me EVERY time.  Listen, the records that make it in to the “Albums Every Drummer Should Know” list make it in there for a reason.

So go buy Lost Time by the 12Rods and thank me next time we hang out.

Those of you who read this blog know what a Steve Jordan fan I am, so you can guess how disappointing it is to find out only TODAY that Jordan was playing drums (and MD-ing) last night’s Emmy Award Show on CBS.  I totally missed the whole thing.  Dang it.

But, I did manage to find this footage of the band’s studio prep for the show, which also includes some great insight into the LA session scene.  I’m not having any luck finding actual band footage from the event, but you can at least hear them on this clip of the opening number.  Note how Jordan sounds so comfortable playing a groove that’s so far from what he’s known for.

I’m thankful for all the studio opportunities I’ve had lately, and last night I updated my myspace page with some of the new tracks.  Included in that would be the title track from Joel Hanson’s new record, What If It Is, due out next month.  We’ll be playing a release show at Church of the Open Door on October 16, so put that in the calendar it you’re a Joel fan.

Also on the myspace player is a track from Vicky Emerson’s next record, Long Ride, which will be releasing next week.  Vicky is a dear friend currently living in NY and melting faces with her “americana Norah Jones” vibe.  There’s also a track called “More Of You” from the alt-country band I’m in called Ryan Paul & the Ardent, and you should go check the RP&TA gig calendar because we’ve got a bunch of shows coming up.  Lastly, for those who remember my band from college Look Alive, I posted the title track from our new record, The Already Not Yet, and you can get that full album for free from noisetrade.

Rock and roll.

“Nashville producer and session drummer Dan Needham offers insight into the daily requirements, challenges, and rewards of life in the recording studio, sharing helpful tips on how to get started as a session player, what it takes to be successful, and how to deal with the demands of satisfying artists and producers.”

That’s the description from Artist House Music about this video on their website.  I just watched it and IT IS REALLY GREAT.  Any drummer who is seriously pursuing a career in the recording world should carve out 24 minutes to watch this video.

HT: Warnock

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