Monday, June 30, 2008

Whom blog?

Why, my wife, of course.

Here is her post commemorating our neighbor Chuck's 95th birthday party, which we attended this weekend.

I know, I know, she kicks my ass at blogging too.

Also, if you haven't seen it already, you need to go check out Kris Tiner's photo-heavy series of posts on the trip he and the Empty Cage Quartet recently took to France. Too much to link separately here, but if you start at May 28 and work forward you'll see what I mean. (Or just click on the May and June archives.) Hot diggity.

If you haven't heard the ECQ, I'll be including something from their great new disc in an upcoming mux.

In the meantime, here's a different American in Paris, just because:

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Muxtape no. 9; a new review

Dealing with a hellacious headcold and a number of tour deadlines at the moment -- sorry for the lapse in blogging. I'll get back to it soon, but in the meantime here's this week's mux:

1. Albert Ammons: "Bass Goin' Crazy"

2. Buddy Holly: "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" (the demo version)

3. Holus Bolus: "Dirt Track" (This is the great Josh Sinton's band. Holy cow do I love this record.)

4. Soul Brothers: "Indawo Yokulala"

5. Carla Bley "Ups and Downs"

6. The Byrds: "Pretty Boy Floyd"

7. Third World War: "Shepherd's Bush Cowboy"

8. Edmund Meisel: "Die Tat / Fackellichter In Der Stadt"

9. Ray Agee: "From Now On"

10. Golden Arm Trio: "Finster Crumley"

11. Evangelistic Ensemble: "Heaven Belongs to You"

12. Spike Jones and His City Slickers: "Ghost Riders in the Sky" (live)

* * * * *

And the latest review, c/o our friend Craig Matsumoto at KZSU.

More soon...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Muxtape no. 8; tour planning update

First of all, holy crap. For the first time in a long time, I actually have a full five-day IJG tour planned out more than two months in advance. Not sure if it's just blind luck, or I'm getting better at this, or what. In any case, we'll be hitting (and hopefully converting) the Pacific Northwest right after Labor Day this year. Here is the order of events:

September 2: Jewel Box Theater (Seattle, WA).

September 3: Cozmic Pizza (Eugene, OR).

September 4: Le Voyeur (Olympia, WA).

September 5: Mississippi Pizza (Portland, OR).

September 6: Seasons (Yakima, WA).

Times and other specifics TBA. For now, I can tell you that we'll most likely be sharing the bill with the great Baby Gramps in Seattle, and at least one (and probably several) of the subsequent shows will be mutual efforts with our old friends (and fellow dadaists) Reptet. Oh yes, and we'll most likely be doing a live recording at PDX-area jazz station KMHD, probably toward the end of the week. This courtesy of one of our biggest advocates, Mary Burlingame (thanks, Mary!).

So you see, I've been busy.

* * * * *

On to the mux. No IJG-related stuff this week -- but more is in the queue, so stay tuned. For now, here's the playlist:

1. Kria Brekkan: "Gomul Visa um Vorid"

2. My Morning Jacket: "Bermuda Highway"

3. The Rosie Taylor Project: "London Pleasures"

4. The Mars Volta: "Wax Simulacra"

5. Frank Zappa: "Camarillo Brillo"

6. Run DMC: "Slow and Low" (demo version)

7. Clyde Arnold: "Black Smoke and Blue Tears"

8. The Continental Cousins: "Kana Kapila"

9. Gil Scott-Heron: "Lady Day and John Coltrane"

10. Mahmoud Ahmed: "Aynotche Terabu"

11. The Monkees: "Sunny Girlfriend"

12. James: "Destiny Calling"

Google what you like. Ignore what you hate.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Point, counterpoint

(Photo by His Master's Voice.)

More evidence that music PR is not an exact science.

Here's Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby -- somebody who knows his shit -- on getting the Music Director of a radio station to pay attention to your release:

Back in 1997, when “The X Files” was still on the air, a friend of mine who called himself Captain T put out a record called US Aliens that was all about conspiracy theories, Area 51, alien cover-ups, and the Incredible Hulk [...] He wanted to send his album to college radio stations, but couldn’t afford to hire a real radio promoter. When we decided to do it ourselves, I was about to do things in a very normal way, but I thought I should take my own advice, and make his marketing an extension of his art, his image, his message.

(Also, I was thinking about that kid in the college radio station that gets 20 CDs a day, all exactly the same, in boring envelopes. I wanted to make his week.)

So - we bought 500 black envelopes, 500 sheets of brown oatmeal paper, 500 alien head stickers, and the best part : 500 huge stickers that said “CONFIDENTIAL MAIL - DO NOT OPEN FOR ANY REASON”.

We did a mail-merge to the 500 program directors at 500 college radio stations, so that each one got a personalized letter that said this:

Dear __name__,

You don’t know me, but I live in the bushes behind your station.

I have been here for 12 years and your station has saved my life many times over.

The music that you play has kept me going through my darkest of days and for this I owe you everything.

In this spirit, I must tell you that a man named Captain T found me in the gutter yesterday, and he taught me about what is really going on with the government and what really happened down there in Area 51. This man has a message that you have to get out to the world, because people need to know the TRUTH!


Man in the bushes, looking through your window right now

We took each letter out to the backyard and literally rubbed it in dirt, crumpled it into a little tiny ball, then flattened it out a little bit, put the CD inside, sealed it into a black envelope, put the alien head sticker on it, covered it with the huge sticker that said “CONFIDENTIAL MAIL - DO NOT OPEN FOR ANY REASON”, and mailed them out to each station.

We laughed for hours while doing it.


375 of the radio stations played it.

Every now and then, my friend Captain T gets approached by someone that used to work at a college radio station back in 1997. They tell him they still remember it, because it was the coolest package they ever got.

And then here's John Richards, of Seattle station KEXP (and one of the founders of Loveless Records) -- again, a guy who knows a little something about the music biz --on getting the Music Director of a radio station to pay attention to your release:

Send other promotional items that will help your chances… but use judgment. Don't toss in things that spoil or appear unprofessional. I once received a package with a hotdog in it. I happened to be on vacation at the time and when I returned the package smelled so bad I threw it out…CD and all. Plus, what does a hotdog have to do with getting airplay? Don’t spend time or money or energy on a sweet picture of yourself. Why on earth would you do that? Stations like this one are interested in the music not your looks. I’ve seen more bands get caught up on this…..

There are no guarantees. (That's okay, of course.)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Gee, thanks George

You put the US on a collision course with hell, but before you go, you're gonna declare June "Black Music Month"?

As if you could name a single piece of music by Scott Joplin, Marian Anderson, Eubie Blake, Mahalia Jackson, Duke Ellington, Muddy Waters, or Ruth Brown.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

"What is this shit?"

I can't tell you how long I have been waiting for a "legitimate" reviewer to provide us with a heartily dismissive pull-quote that I can display prominently next to more favorable critical commentary in the IJG press kit. You see, not unlike my new friend in Washington (the guy with the faux fat fetish), I too long to puncture through the tedious pleasantries and spin of the indie music media/promotional derby. Not out of spite, mind you, but just because I'm impatient to get past the words, to something real.

You see, dear reader, once you figure out that, to some extent, PR is a game, and that, with a little persistence, a savvy marketing person can always get someone somewhere to write a compelling review that makes [insert the artist of your choice here] sound like they are the next [insert the music god of your choice here] -- well, then, the whole process starts to feel a little empty. Which is not to say that I haven't appreciated the great things that some of our critics have said about the IJG over the years. Au contraire -- I am floored and flattered by every one of them. In my (many) weak moments, I even savor them.

But the anti-authoritarian in me has also always fought against the notion of filters, and tastemakers, and folks whose authority derives from the things they say about art. Idealist that I am, I imagine a world where a listener's inherent curiosity simply drives her to explore and discover new music -- just as much as (if not more than) the commentary of some self-appointed "in the know" cultural observer. Music criticism, in this crazy fantasy-land of mine, continues to be written and read and appreciated, but primarily as literature. And love-of-music happens not because of what someone said about a piece, or how it was framed, but simply because of what it sounded like.

I know, I know: I'm being pretty unrealistic, and there are certain things you just have to deal with when you get into the music business. But humor me for a minute. Those of you who read this blog regularly know that we came close to achieving my bass-ackwards goal of picking up a press-kit-worthy negative comment with "This is a bad joke -- right?" Alas, that one didn't come from a pro, so it didn't serve my purposes quite so well. But now the cranky-but-entertaining Tom Hull (who really is one of my favorite critics) has delivered manna from the heavens in the form of his review of LEEF. Enjoy:

Cheap cardstock wallet packaging, back cover printed white on yellow (glad I was able to lift the credits and track list elsewhere), full liner notes promised on website but not available yet. Started this while driving around Detroit, but popped it out after a few "what is this shit?" minutes. I've played and enjoyed a couple of Andrew Durkin's group's records in the past, but wasn't prepared for this sharp swerve into Zappa-land. (Actually, I flashed on Brecht/Weill cabaret first, which may have been the initial idea -- but Zappa does get a name check.) I've avoided it ever since, only putting it on when there was nothing else left to unpack from the travel case. Played it twice. First, if you bracket the vocal stuff, the musical performance is stellar. Industrial Jazz has always been a catchphrase in search of a concept -- e.g., the analogy to Industrial Rock never fit -- but Durkin has finally managed to squeeze all individuality out of the big band without sacrificing idiosyncrasy. Hard to imagine anything but a machine managing that, or exhibiting such spurious complexity just because it's possible to gear it that way. Clearest case is "Bongo Non Troppo," working off a relatively simple Latin riff, but there's more in "Howl" and "Fuck the Muck" (at least until the voices appear). The vocal stuff is more scattered -- skit and shtick, a bit of "Fuck the Muck" choir, and two legit songs (both optimistically reprised in radio edits at the end): "The Job Song" (on the Brechtian end) and "Big Ass Truck" (more Zappaesque). In Christgau's CG scheme a couple of these named pieces would be Choice Cuts. I don't do that because I'm still stuck in the old-fashioned rut of trying to swallow records whole. B+(*)

There is one factual error here -- the packaging is not "cardstock," and it wasn't cheap by any stretch. But everything else he says is true. Unless you disagree with it, in which case it is false.

(Oh, and as an added bonus, Hull also covers the new Empty Cage record in this same review set. I'll leave it to Tiner to comment if he sees fit.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

While looking for a gig yesterday...

...I wondered: is Craig's List so entertaining in other cities?

It started simply enough:

this is not a joke ive been egg shaking for over 17 years im the fucking jimi hendrix of egg shaking if ur bands looking for that right sound e-mail me im down for going on tour and taking your band to the top,recording, but i can also shred and solo, something not alot of wanna be egg shakers can do. i look forward to hearing from you my influences are slayer,slipknot,megadeth, cannible corpse, id like to join a serious metal band

But it soon evolved into an extended parody of the CL's musician page:

Professional DOUBLE Egg Shaker.

I'm an Egg Shaker, n' damn good too. I've played Egg with Curtis Salgado and lots a guys that worked with Dianna Ross. My forte is double Egg Shakin'...that's one (1) in each hand. I can go from Zep to Allman Brother's to Karen Carpenter, Kenny G; I've even done country (resume on request). 'Death Metal' egg shakin' isn't a true form of the art, I don't care what they's too damn hard ta' stay on top a' the beat, n' that's what egg shakin' is all about. Sure, you'll find other egg shakers in town, but if ya want the best (resume on request), call me first. I play two (2!) eggs at once!

Seeking Qualified Egg-Shaking Teacher.

I am an aspiring egg shaker seeking a QUALIFIED teacher. My last teacher was showing me the modes, but I'm just a beginner! Is there an egg-shaker-teacher who will travel to my home and teach me custom-made egg-shaking lessons? I don't have much money, so maybe we could exchange schnauzer-burnishing instruction for egg shaking lessons. Anyone between 20-35 (no older!) want to help?

Peace out.

Band Seeking FEMALE Egg Shaker.

We're a 2 piece band seeking a female egg shaker...sorry guys..females only. Our sound is somewhat emo/goth.
Leave your attitude at the door!
Must be willing to practice 3 times a week...touring will follow.

RE: Professional DOUBLE Egg Shaker.

I've had lots of inquiries, and I figure I should make something clear: No, I am not available for "touring"...I've got a wife and seven kids; I want to play with REAL people with REAL day jobs, and maybe just be in an egg shakin' band for weekend fun and to make some cash ($). My technique as a "double" egg shaker means I use two (2) hands ala Eddie Van Halen (I've been two-hand egg tapping since the first time I heard his "Eruption" solo), but this doesn't prevent me from working the lounge circuit, 'cuz I can do the Stanley Jorden stuff too ("Yesterday" "On The Wings of a Dove"), classics, ballads, REAL name it. Serious only! (Please be over 21 and not any older than 23, or 24 maybe)

RE: Professional DOUBLE Egg Shaker.

Whatever dude! Sitting at home posting on CL all day that you are a PRO does not make you one. Just cause you played an open mic one time where someone bought you a donut doesn't make you PRO. Get a life and go practice!!

But, if there is someone out there serious about needing an egg shaker that REALLY is pro and can play all styles from afro-cuban to baroque, look me up. I only play paying gigs so don't bother with "we're gonna be huge" crap. I show up, you give me the sheet music, I play, you pay me. I might consider rehearsing once if the gig is at the Schnitz or Old Nob Hill Pharmacy.

I also can color coordinate with your costumes for an additional fee.

RE: Professional DOUBLE Egg Shaker.

I’ve sent you half a dozen e-mails and left several voice messages but I can’t seem to get through to you. We’ve got a paying gig on Saturday and my regular egg shaker guy dropped out of the band last minute. The gig is from 7pm to 2am and pays $25 plus 50% off food and drinks. It would be great if you could practice with us every night this week until you learn all the songs. We’re a punk, metal, country, polka group that performs primarily original music. We do a lot of obscure time signatures (2/4 3/4 & 4/4) so I hope that this is within you professional capabilities.

Please get back to me ASAP.

Need sheet music for egg shaker.

I am looking for sheet music for egg shaker for these pieces:

24 Caprices for Solo Egg Shaker by Paganini
Sonata for violin, guitar and egg shaker in A major by Paganini
Stairway To Heaven tab for egg shaker
Foxy Lady tab for egg shaker
Charlie Parker Omnibus for egg shaker (Bb egg shaker instruments)

Also, does anyone know if Korg makes a tuner for egg shaker? Or will the Korg guitar tuner work?

I also have a used egg shaker for sale. These things go for up to $3.99 on Ebay. I'll let it go for $2.99. I'll even throw in a hardshell case. :)

Thanks in advance.

Now back to practice.

***End Egg-pression*** one musician at a time.

For centuries the beautiful and sacred blessing from goddess that is the egg has been desecrated and defiled by oppressive anti-egg culture. Closely linked with the destruction of nature and the systematic psychological enslavement of egg-bearing females, the encouragement of this insidious "egg-shaking" must be stopped. In some cities, children as young as 2 years old are encouraged to shake an egg filled with sand or small rocks--an egg robbed of the gift of its little chicken life, its soul literally sucked out by nasty egg-sucking egg-shakers!

Stop the madness! Free the majestic egg!

MARCH TO END EGG-OPPRESSION, begins this Saturday at Pioneer Square in downtown PDX--just follow the smell of chickenshit to find us.

egg shakers are not that entertaining.

what the hell are all the ridiculous egg shaker posts all about? what the hell is so damn funny about egg shakers? I am all about posting whatever you want in this forum but the egg shaker crap is not funny and just annoying.


Former egg shaker now available or WORKING band. I now shake a mean chicken. Sure, I still play the eggs once in awhile, but it seems like egg shakers are a dime a' dozen these days, so I started to specialize in chicken shakin' instead. Mostly old-school funk stuff, Jaco, Marcus Miller...but I can pocket-down with the James Jamerson stuff too.

I'm kinda old now, but I've got lots of experience and great contacts. Plus, I sing! That's right...a singin' Chicken shakin', multi-taskin' groove-slammin' "team" player.

And on and on. Most have been flagged and removed by now, alas. (Or thankfully, depending on your perspective.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Life's Rich Pageant

The business of booking a tour (even a short tour) is long, tedious, and mind-numbing. You never know the sort of response you're going to get when you fire out that "would you be interested in booking us?" email (you never know if you're going to get a response at all, in fact). To some extent you have to steel yourself against the inevitable frustration of interacting with folks who are themselves overworked and underpaid. It's a sure-fire recipe for agita.

Of course, some booking agents are a joy to work with -- I'm thinking of the ones who cut right to the chase, cuz that always makes life a lot easier. And then every once in a while you have an exchange with someone who -- even though they might not be able to help you directly -- approaches the booking dance in such an idiosyncratic way that it makes the experience weird and human enough to be entertaining in and of itself.

And when that happens, you have to smile, even if only in confusion.

So a big thank you to the dude from Washington state (he's a complete stranger to me, so I'm not at liberty to reveal his identity) who recently sent me this email in response to a booking request:

You guys are fantastic! You're too good to play here but we'd still love to have you! You also might be too BIG to play here and by BIG I mean LARGE but not FAT, because that would be rude, even if it were true, which it isn't, not that there would be anything bad if it were true, except for the potential discrimination on my part. You'd never fit in our little back room. Again, NOT due to any idividual girth, rather required cumulative elbow-room, which is not some Olympia hippie PC term which circumvents the hatred inherent in the word FAT while communicating the idea of FAT. No one has fat elbows... they taper. God, I wish you could play here. Could you maybe all squeeze? Circular breath? MIDI? No no no. Seriously, how many are you on this tour? Maybe we can butter the walls (no licking them fatty).

Friday, June 06, 2008

Friday Muxtape, no. 6

I gotta start working on these things earlier in the week...

Anyway, hear here.

1. Bootsy Collins: "Bootzilla." I think Daphne would agree: for a while this was "our song."

2. Mendelssohn: "Saltarello-Presto from Symphony no. 4." Performed by 16 player pianos, at the behest of Paul Lehrman.

3. Duke Ellington: "Come Sunday Interlude." From the Black, Brown and Beige album. Ray Nance on the violin.

4. Howlin' Wolf: "300 Pounds of Joy." This is not the Real Folk Blues version. (I love that one too, except for the horrible edit at the beginning.)

Anyone know where I got this? (No, seriously, I can't find the album it came from. Maybe I'm just tired.)

5. The Videos: "Trickle, Trickle." In honor of the PDX weather god's apparent intention to make summer a lot shorter this year.

6. Moondog: "Bird's Lament." Played by the London Saxophonic. And then turned into a car commercial. Fuckers!

7. Guided By Voices: "Chasing Heather Crazy." Dependable? Tuneful?

8. Andrew Bird: "The Trees Were Mistaken." Eerie? Hypnotic?

9. The Chap: "Surgery." Poppy? Quirky?

10. Damon Zick and Friends: "Hill Country." Damon has played every damned saxophone book in the IJG -- and all of them with incredible skill. As such he's often the go-to guy whenever a new sax player needs something about one of my tunes explained. He's a motherfucker, as this track of his will attest.

(Oh, yeah, and his wife just had a baby boy -- congratulations, Zicks!)

11. Duke Ellington: "Rockin' in Rhythm." With Sam Woodyard on the drums, it's not so much rockin' as white-hot burning.

12. Cliff Jackson and Jellean Delk with the Naturals: "Frank, This Is It." Respectfully, this is for HRC. Make of that what you will.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Now that's what I call grass roots activism...

Further fodder for my ongoing love-affair with Portland: somebody took the liberty of mowing the word "Obama" into this field (a few hundred yards from our house). I know it's hard to see -- sorry, I didn't have access to a helicopter.

I'll probably have a lot more to say about the events of this week when I can catch my breath (I've been fairly busy planning the next IJG adventure, which will hopefully come together in September).

Until then, then...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Hey, Bo Diddley

If Chuck Berry is rock and roll's storyteller/comic, and Little Richard its acrobat/ecstatic, then Bo Diddley was its eccentric folklorist. His music was like an anthopology class with a wicked backbeat: instantly recognizeable as something you have heard before, somewhere (on a playground, probably) -- but reconfigured and revitalized in a unique, addictive way.

It's common now to say that punk was invented to get back to the spirit of early rock and roll (after the combined "excesses" (not my term) of disco and, uh, Led Zeppelin). Maybe that's true, but in any case it's worth pointing out that, even in the context of early rock and roll, BD was "punk." For him, the guitar was a kind of drum (in fact, if you're feeling ambitious, perhaps you could argue that he presaged not only the punks but the modern-day percussive guitarists like Kaki King). The result was stripped-down, drone-based, fluid music that succeeded on the strength of its pulse -- though the occasional punctuation of weird effects didn't hurt any.

Okay, I'll just say it: in the end I always felt Bo Diddley was aesthetically closer to the master bluesman John Lee Hooker than he was to any of his fellow rockers. (Maybe that's why he fit in so well at the Long Beach Blues festival when I saw him there back in the 90s.)

And by the way, "Mr. Diddley" (as the NYT so politely calls him) also has the distinction of being the first rocker to hire female guitarists -- perhaps the best-known being Peggy Jones, aka "Lady Bo" (who worked with him primarily between 1956 and 1962, and appears on all of his classic recordings from this period, including "Hey, Bo Diddley", "Mona", "The Story of Bo Diddley", and "Road Runner") and Norma-Jean Wofford, aka "the Duchess" (who appears in the clip above, and was in the band until 1966). Given the "testicular fortitude" that is often associated with rock and roll, this openness to having a "chick in the band" (prominently) is a not insignificant detail of the man's biography.

* * * * *

Here are a few (a very few) of the other rock/pop tunes that use the so-called "Bo Diddley Beat," the rhythm of which is helpfully transcribed in DJA's tribute.

Need more evidence of the man's influence? Here are the Strangeloves doing "I Want Candy" in 1965 (with a surprise appearance from Sammy Davis Jr. at the end):

(That's an insipid imitation, I know.)

Of course, at some point it can be hard to follow the trajectories of artistic influence / overlap. Here, the inimitable Dr. John demonstrates a contemporaneous instance of the "BD beat" (i.e., Sugar Boy Crawford's "Jock-a-Mo" -- aka "IKO IKO" -- originally released in 1954):

Sometimes stuff is just in the air, ya know?

Anyway: rest in peace (and thank you), Ellas McDaniel.