So I go to bed at 5 AM like usual, and suddenly I am rocketed out of bed at 11 AM because the house is shaking like that damned Star Wars ride at Disneyland that made me so horribly nauseated. Ran right out the front door (there's no overhanging trees or buildings anywhere around) with my wife one step behind me, she had waited long enough to hit "save" on her computer! Meanwhile our grandfather's clock (which stopped months ago) was chiming crazily by itself. Our cat, being the smartest one perhaps, bolted under the bed. We sat out on the front step feeling the ground slowly swaying back and forth, which is pretty damned weird, I'll tell ya. It's not supposed to do that. It seems like a long time because you are instantly hyper-aware and your heart is beating so fast, but it was over in just a few seconds. All the cabinets in the kitchen swung open, and some stuff in our closet fell down, but that was it. Things are fine out here in the 'burbs, though the local grocery store lost about 100 bottles of wine! But turning the TV on I could see that things downtown, while really not bad (no major collapses, no bridges down, no one dead) were definitely going to be snarled up for awhile. Lots of little things, cracks in walls, scattered power outages, many fallen bricks, a few building facades down, a couple old warehouses in the industrial district lost sections of roof, Highway 101 closed due to a sinkhole (!), a house near Tacoma slid into the ocean, various landslides and mudslides... but it would have been so easy for the quake to be one point higher on the Richter scale, in which case, see ya later Seattle! So thank God for small favors. Approx 6.8 on the scale, I hear, and it was felt as far away as Salt Lake City. But we're fine here, most everything is business as usual, though one of Seattle's coolest and oldest music clubs, the OK Hotel, had to close because the building was damaged and the owners decided it was cheaper to knock it down instead of fixing it...
A friend of mine works part time for Dale Chihuly's operation. Chihuly is a world-famous artist whose chosen medium is glass blowing. His stuff's amazing. My friend was told by his foreman after the earthquake not to come into work that afternoon, because they were busy cleaning up all the broken glass... ouch!
Just finished recording an album for the Eire-ish band Therapy? here in Seattle. Truly one of my most rewarding experiences ever in the studio. They're a killer band, and we made a great album that will pretty much roast people's heads. Mission accomplished, ya know? For various reminiscences and photos from the sessions, go to their official website, (http://www.therapyquestionmark.co.uk), or visit any of the several unofficial fan sites. No, I don't know what the album title will be yet, and I can't divulge the song titles. Release in a few months on Miles Copeland's ARK21 label.
They caught some good shows while here with me for 5 weeks. Mudhoney played a staggeringly good show here, likely their last with Lukin, who was in top form, penetrating stage commentary and all. We saw the Melvins play at EMP, and they played a full-length, note-for-note cover of Alice Cooper's "Halo of Flies" which blew my mind. I also took Therapy? to see the Devils and the Catheters, and we went together to see C.O.C./Clutch/Nebula/Clearlight, at which show Andy was quite impressed with Nebula's Flaming Gong trick: "I'm from Belfast, we're used to flaming cars." Also saw a Hog Molly/Supersuckers show where many heads were banged, and the Therapy? guys caught on real quick that, as they put it, the Supersuckers "want to be Thin Lizzy," which was OK by them, as Lizzy are sort of Irish national heroes. Imagine when the 'Suckers launched into their encore version of Lizzy's "Cowboy Song"... in short order, Andy from Therapy? (who'd met them earlier) was onstage jamming with them, and inebriated fun was had by all.
Only bummer of the session was when drummer Graham smashed his hand while hefting some gear. This was a total fluke accident, two days before they were scheduled to play a show in Seattle, their first in 5 years. (Drum recording was finished, thankfully.) They thought nothing of it until Graham woke the next morning with his hand blue and swelled up like a balloon... turns out he fractured a bone at the base of one finger. It was the hand that hits the snare drum... and he couldn't even make a fist with it! When he came back from the doctor with a big old splint on it, there were collective wails of anguish. They were SO ready to play after being cooped up in the studio... so they had to cancel the show, and one scheduled for Portland the following night. I know I, for one, was pretty bummed to not get the chance to see 'em live... just based on watching 'em PRACTICE I know they would have slayed! They were mighty disappointed but plan on coming back to the US this year several times, perhaps, and are talking with booking agents. Listen, if they come to your town, GO, forget whatever you've heard about 'em, they're not some weird industrial or metal band, but a slamming RAWK band who will please and surprise you greatly, and the drummer kicks ass too (when his hand is unbroken). And the singer's a riot.
Just to give you some idea of the total insanity of our sessions, I have an enduring mental image of singer Andy, very late at night, standing outside the studio with a mic in his hand, yelling "LET'S... GET... NAKED" at the top of his voice at passing cars, with it echoing off the surrounding buildings, and me with my head in my hands inside, thinking, I hope the cops don't come. Of course, the result was a totally brilliant track, but I can't say more just yet...
The last night of the session, after they had gone to the airport and I had cleaned up the studio, I pulled my car up to the front of the studio and was loading my rack gear out the door when some cops DID pull up and grill me for awhile. It was 5 AM and they thought I was robbing the studio. Oh well.
Ask the band about Thin Lizzy if you talk to them.
So what the hell else is up?
Looks like I'm going to New Orleans soon and working with a band called SUPAGROUP. They are, of course, a ROCK band, therefore I am working with them enthusiastically. Later this summer I will be going to Brazil again to work with Titas: my 4th record for them. Might have time for a single Wellwater Conspiracy gig in NYC in between, not sure yet. Tad's new record by his band Hog Molly entitled "Kung Fu Cocktail Grip" is out in a few weeks on Koolarrow Records. It completely slays, trust me, we made sure of that. The new Black Halos disc "The Violent Years" is out too on Sub Pop, and at the risk of repeating myself I'll just say it slays also. Usually I hate my own production a couple months later but these I actually still like and can still listen to, a very good sign. Finishing a new Gas Huffer disc in a few weeks, whereupon they will shop it. It's excellent. Mudhoney went to Brazil to play 7 shows, and just got back; Mark said it was a really great time. On bass they had a guy from the band Steel Wool, who, Mark said, did great. Don't know if he's permanent or not. Finished a new Zen Guerrilla CD which will be out by and by on Sub Pop.
As for others of the Seattle Old Guard, Mike Musburger has quit as Fastbacks drummer after 9 years, but they always find another one. I offered once, long ago, but having not played drums in ten years now, it's a bit late for me to join the growing ranks of FBX drummers... Terry Lee Hale has his own website now at of course www.terryleehale.com. Pearl Jam has dropped from view, I think they are all taking an extended break. Soundgarden and Alice in Chains have still not gotten back together. Kurt is still, uh, dead. Courtney and Universal Records are suing each other so don't be expecting the long-rumored Nirvana Box to be finished anytime soon.
On the technical end of things, I should call your attention to a company called Rocket Networks
(http://www.rocketnetwork.com/), who have pioneered the idea of online, shared virtual recording studios. The idea is, you rent server space on their system as your own "virtual recording studio," and then any friends that you give the password to, can log onto it from their web browsers and, by using audio software that is "Rocket Powered" (compatible with this service) can add audio tracks to your stuff, overdub things... worldwide collaboration between musicians becomes possible. The system gets around the bandwidth limitations by storing the raw audio files on the central server, and each user is then doing work on their own local "mock-up" consisting of low bandwidth compressed files (mp3?) on their own desktop; I'm not sure I'm explaining it very well, but go to their website and see for yourself. Several of the audio software companies have started building "Rocket Power" compatibility into their apps, and while industry leader Digidesign's Pro Tools was conspicuously missing, I recently heard the Digidesign's parent company, AVID, just bought a bunch of Rocket Networks' stock! So I imagine the next revision of ProTools (current one is 5.1) will, hopefully, be "Rocket-Powered". I think it's a great idea.
Want to try Pro Tools yourself? Digidesign is giving away a simplified version of their ProTools software as "ProTools FREE", downloadable from their website (http://www.digidesign.com). It differs from their usual software in that it runs on your computer's own processor instead of needing Digi's expensive dedicated hardware interfaces; but to do that, they had to limit it to only 8 tracks, with no SMPTE sync capabilities. But, because of this, it will run on some older systems that are too slow for the full ProTools 5.1 app, like my old PPC 603 200 MHz! So if you want to try ProTools for yourself, now's the time. There is also a version for Windows, but of course it's a lot trickier to configure your PC to run it successfully... on my Mac, I didn't have to do anything to make it run.
New discs I've heard? New one by the Young Gods is cool. New Hellacopters disc is a bit clean for my taste but it rocks much harder than their previous one "Grande Rock," which was anything but. This one is actually pretty damned good in spite of the super clean production. Listening to tons of other disgusting, useless crap.
Heard of Tape Op Magazine yet? This is an amazingly cool zine about recording, written by and aimed at more of an indy-rock, low-tech recording crowd. Created by Larry Crane, who runs Jackpot! Studio in Portland, it is growing and now comes out every two months I think, and you can sign up for a free subscription (it's ad-supported) at http://www.tapeop.com . Strongly recommended! Larry just put together the first book based on Tape Op, the appropriately titled "Tape Op: The Book About Creative Music Recording", out NOW on Feral House (http://www.feralhouse.com) which is the same publisher who printed Clark Humphrey's "LOSER". My own article "How To Overproduce a Rock Record" is reprinted in the Tape Op book.
If you are thinking of recording in the Pacific Northwest and want to do some research on available studios in Oregon, Washington, Idaho or Vancouver BC, check out my online studio search engine, now at the URL "http://recordingstudiosearch.com". I just added a section for Northern California too; I don't think I'm gonna even attempt to pretend to cover LA though. They don't need my help (and the sheer number of studios there would likely crash my software), it's the rest of the west coast that could use some business!
I'm gonna put in another plug for http://www.mosesavalon.com, the website of the pseudonymous guy who wrote "Confessions of a Record Producer." His newsletters are almost as infrequent as mine but are always full of all kinds of disturbing industry dirt. (If anyone knows who he is, spill it please! I won't tell!)
WARNING: I rarely get political, folks, but I wrote a huge rant right after the election. I don't want to start some big debate here, I normally don't give a damn about politics, but this election just pissed me off. However, I decided that this newsletter was not the place for it all. Here's the only excerpt I deemed worthy of repeating:
The politics of this last election stank, in case no one noticed. Some are calling it our first legal coup-de-tat. A little strong, I think. Does it matter? George W "throw the switch and fry 'em" Bush has never worked a day in his life, but the Clintons are unbelievably corrupt, as the current pardon controversy reminds us all. But did anyone notice that the almost exact 50/50 split in the popular vote was effectively the same as if people chose completely randomly between the two leading candidates? Almost as if... as if... it made no DIFFERENCE to people which one was elected! Think about it! It was a STATISTICALLY RANDOM outcome, as if everyone flipped a coin... and if politics in this country gets any more irrelevant to the "common" people, you can expect more such close elections! Left vs. right is a smoke screen, a red herring; what we have in this country is the top vs. the bottom, and the top is trying to grab it all, but corporate framing of the terms of the debate in the media is such that it is impossible for most people to even conceptually begin to think about what is really happening. The prevailing ideology of "deregulation" and "smaller government"... good philosophies on their face... are used as excuses for massive corporate power grabs. The parties in power make little real difference; Bush appoints cabinet members who are senior executives at Alcoa Aluminum and Eli Lilly Drug Co, and no one bats an eye. Corporations as legal entities, please note, are largely beyond the reach of the laws which govern the behavior of "citizens;" this is a key point to remember.
I have spent large amounts of time in Mexico and Brazil, and I learned about something called "Wealth Stratification", which is an economist's fancy way of saying "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer." These countries are run from the top down by rich elites; the majority of the population is dirt poor, and has no way to become otherwise, because the country's money that could be used to build schools, housing, roads, etc, is tied up in personal Swiss bank accounts. Guess what? Jokes from the foreign press comparing the US to a "banana republic" are not entirely empty. Wealth stratification is slowly happening in this country, and has been for twenty years. "Free Trade" has come to mean that our poor people are free now to become as poor as those in other countries, and our rich elites as rich as their rich elites. What is good for business is considered good for society, period. (To some extent this is true, but to what degree? Is anyone even asking that question anymore?) If you are not one of the rich, you may have to work for one; if you are an artist you will need a rich benefactor in order to survive as an artist. Most of my older musician friends here in Seattle are already working for Paul Allen, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Dale Chihuly, Real.com... the entire notion of "indy" anything seems to have been just about obliterated from the face of the earth. (Props go to stalwarts like Estrus, eMpTy, KRS and K Records though. God bless you guys, starving though you might be.) Some have called this evolving new economic order "new feudalism", and it's very easy to see this if you OPEN YOUR EYES, read news from other countries for a change, and learn some history.
The WTO riots here in Seattle got many people thinking about these things. Thank God the related MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investments) was shot down a couple years ago; I almost wrote about this, but I was nervous because no one was paying attention to it except the Birchers and Buchananites, but finally the lefties got wind of the WTO and realized that for once the far left and far right were on the SAME SIDE against the multinational corporations. The point is that some of these corporations have far more power and influence than governments, yet they are "unelected" and accountable to no one but themselves; and unlike some of the more benevolent governments, they have no wider civic or social purpose other than short-term enrichment of their stockholders, period. What's good for their stockholders is not necessarily good for the rest of us. Simply put, when corporations become the most powerful and influential members of society, laws, culture, civic values and public policy become warped. (Personally I believe "new mercantilism" might be a better term for what is developing but that's another story, historically speaking.)
Power corrupts... so in the most powerful country on earth, what do you think happens at the top? Think the Bushes will be any less corrupt than the Clintons? (Know who made a mint off the California energy crisis? Power generation companies in Bush's state of Texas. And don't forget Florida and good old boy Jeb. Flip a coin, folks!)
So what to do? Live the best life and do the best work I can, and get involved locally. And vote, of course, not that it made a damned bit of difference this time; the guy with the most votes lost. Well, that's my political rant, thanx for listening, and stay tuned for more rock and roll...
On Jack's playlist this month (actual pleasure listening!!):
Pretty Things "SF Sorrow" reissue
Sack Trick "Penguins on the Moon"
Operator Generator "Polar Fleet"
Sunny Day Real Estate "The Rising Tide"
James Brown "Sex Machine" (can't deny the Godfather)
Poster Children "DDD"
Bevis Frond "Valedictory Songs"
No Means No "No One"
Radio Birdman "Ritualism" Live
Young Gods "Second Nature"
Various older Therapy? CDs...