Archive for the ‘songwriting’ Category

Travelers of Tyme present: “DC Metro” a new single for $1

January 25, 2011
  • This single that is a tribute to the Washington D.C. metro supports the efforts of the Travelers to create a full-length and go boldly where no band has gone before. Available in most elite formats from $1→WhatYouChooseToGive! 

    Originally entered into the Washington Post Metro-Music contest. The B-side got 2nd place and attributed oddly to John Yaya! (fr0d.net/dcwin) Keeping the mystery alive in 2011!

    DOWNLOAD CONTAINS: Desktop backgrounds of cover art to adorn your computational device!

1.
2.
Picture it: a lonesome subterranean train platform. A balding man in a rumpled black suit stands, waiting, anxiously checking his watch, too often. He rocks on his heels. His train is late, so very late. And what is his final destination? Not one of us can answer that with any certainty, can we? So we might as well be patient. (Just don’t tell that to the Waiting Man. Our secret…) 

An empty train arrives – but it’s not the Waiting Man’s train. As the doors open, they unfold in slow motion as a beautiful brunette in a crisp pant suit emerges like a swan from a swirling gray mist. She seems not to walk but to hover, gliding across the platform, a gorgeous spectre existing beyond Tyme and space. With a wink and a slight smile to the Waiting Man, she mounts the escalator and is carried into an unknown fog above. What is her final destination? Who can say? Perhaps she has already arrived!

As for the Waiting Man, his train is still running late. And it always will be.

ALWAYS.

▲ ▲ ▲

The Travelers of Tyme present “Misty Businesswoman” b/w “Last Train to Limbo,” 2 songs constructed using sound samples of the Washington DC Metrorail. Whether you are waiting, in transit, or have already arrived at your destination, this music is specially designed to enhance your travel experience.

Thank you for spending six minutes and fifty-five seconds with us. We hope that you enjoy the rest of your Tyme in this Universe. It is a pleasant one.

Cordially,

Professor John Yaya and Doctor Klem
The Travelers of Tyme

JUKEBOX OF THE DEAD X PODCAST: “FAME” – Episode IV: The Choice of a New Generation

October 19, 2009

I think I’m addicted to Pepsi.

Plus, my hair hurts today.

Here’s the next thing I remember from my trip to Neverland:

EPISODE 1 – NEVERLAND
EPISODE 2 – HERE’S JOHNNY!
EPISODE 3 – THE MAN IN THE MIRROR
EPISODE 4 – THE CHOICE OF A NEW GENERATION (new this week)

Also, I forgot to mention: at Jukebox of the Dead X, the excellent Plustapes label is releasing our entire Halloween catalog on a limited edition two-cassette box set. From the proprietor:

“To help celebrate 10 years of Jukebox of the Dead, the all cassette label Plustapes will be releasing a limited edition (100) double cassette version of Detholz! covers including previously unreleased tracks. You can get them directly from the band, at Reckless records, Permanent records or via mailorder at http://www.plustapes.com. For more info email plustapes at gmail dot com.”

Glug.

***

Detholz! are pleased to announce the 10th Anniversary Halloween Jukebox of the Dead cover show has been confirmed. Buy tickets early and often as this show usually sells out. And, for all of you younger, sprightlier Detholz! fans, the show is 18 and up!

DETHOLZ! present:
JUKEBOX OF THE DEAD X
“FAME”
w/special guests BOBBY CONN & THE LOTO BALL SHOW with DJ sets by ONLY CHILDREN!
October 31, 2009
Lincoln Hall
2424 Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL
TICKETS ON SALE AS OF NOON TODAY @ http://www.lincolnhallchicago.com !

JUKEBOX OF THE DEAD X “FAME” Podcast – Episode II : “Here’s Johnny!”

October 2, 2009

Hello.

I have undergone the second stage of my transformation.

I’m not sure how I feel. A little green around the gills, I guess.

If you’re just tuning in, check last week’s post. I went out to L.A. and had a little… accident.

It had to do with a brush with FAME.

Literally.

I’ll be posting the story as I remember it…

EPISODE 1 – NEVERLAND
EPISODE 2 – HERE’S JOHNNY! (new this week)

See below for the adverts. I don’t really have the energy to write any more…

Detholz! are pleased to announce the 10th Anniversary Halloween Jukebox of the Dead cover show has been confirmed. Buy tickets early and often as this show usually sells out. And, for all of you younger, sprightlier Detholz! fans, the show is 18 and up!

DETHOLZ! present:
JUKEBOX OF THE DEAD X
“FAME”
October 31, 2009
Lincoln Hall
2424 Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL
Tickets available soon at http://www.schubas.com

A note from Andrew Sole, Detholz! drummer

July 8, 2009

To my friends and fans,

Not sure where to begin. My back is over all feeling much better at this point. I’m starting to get back into my normal activities gradually. I’m playing drums each day which is really good for me psychologically. Certain movements that caused pain or irritation 1 or 2 months ago no longer do at this point. If things continue to go well in the next month or so I’m hoping to be back in the saddle again at our next show in August. I spent 9 full weeks on a VAX-D table which is a spinal decompression device that helps to heal the injured discs. You can read more about it and the clinic where I am being treated at http://www.americanbackcenter.org. Right now I am doing mostly Physical therapy which includes stretching and core strength exercises.

Although I am feeling better I still don’t know what the long term future holds for me and my drumming career. Some information says that VAX-D, the treatment that I chose, is not a permanent solution to injured and degenerative discs. So I am going to try to get some second opinions from some surgeons to see what other minimally evasive treatments there are available. Although I am going to avoid surgery at all costs if I can, especially spinal fusion which is the most extreme kind.

I am also looking in to stem cell treatment at some point in the hopefully near future. There is a place in Colorado that is already treating degenerative discs with stem cells which help the injured discs to regenerate. But that is in the very early stages and insurance does not cover it.

Anyway, my main purpose of this post is not to go on railing against med. Insurance. It is to say that I feel like one of the luckiest people in Chicago because of all the love, support and donations I have received from people I know and that I may not know. I don’t really have any words to express my gratitude for this. If I knew everyone who donated and they were all in the same room I would at least bear hug and thank each of you personally. I can’t express how humbled I am by this whole thing. I am hoping that I can pass it on to others some day.

All the donations that I have received so far are going towards monthly payments for the medical bill which I was able to spread out over 4 years. The donations will give me a year or two of payments without dipping into my regular income. This will allow me some time to get myself back together physically and financially, and also try to fight Blue Cross to get them to cover at least some of the expenses. BTW if anyone knows of a good social worker in Chicago that can help me sort through the complex bureaucracy of the med. Insurance appeals process and knows how to deal with denied medical claims please let me know. I can be reached at lanndru at gmail dot com

It’s extremely unfortunate that this whole thing happened because of our completely failed health care system in this country, and that you all used your hard earned money in place of it, for which I am forever indebted and grateful to every one of you. However, on the flipside I am extremely Fortunate to have all of you in my life, not just for the donations alone but also for the prayers, moral support, love and encouragement. These past three months have been the darkest, loneliest period ever in the 36 years that I’ve been alive. If you thought Black Pagan Metal from Europe was dark, try climbing inside my brain for the past few months. I have been playing drums now for 21 years and I’m not about to give it up easily. The thought of not playing music completely destroys my soul.

All of you through this dark period have given me strength to do my best to get through this and not give up. It’s extremely important to support each other in these ways whether you are an artist, musician or shoe salesman.

As Harry Tuttle (Robert De Niro), the heating and cooling engineer said in the movie Brazil:

“Remember, we’re all in this together “

Andrew Sole update + Detholz!/Bird Names @ Hideout June 7th!

May 28, 2009

DETHOLZ! come out of retirement w/BIRD NAMES
HIDEOUT
SUNDAY, JUNE 7
Buy tix @ http://www.hideoutchicago.com

Greetings, aficionados! It’s been a long time. Many worlds are colliding, many dimensions are being bent, folded and unfolded. Forgive my protracted absence!

I. ANDREW SOLE UPDATE

First and foremost, thanks to all of you who have donated to Andrew Sole, our ailing drummer, whose condition shows a little improvement. He not out of the woods yet – not by a long shot – but he asked me to tell all of you how much he appreciates the support of his friends and fans.

He is currently weighing a number of treatment options. Your donations have allowed him to cover his many of his medical expenses thus far. Thank you!

If you haven’t already, please visit our SAVE ANDREW SOLE PAGE and give back to a great drummer and good friend. Like most of us music folk, he pays for his own benefits and is not paid very much to ply his trade. He really needs his fans’ and his friends’ help right now. Thanks to all of you who have donated and thanks in advance to those of you who will!

II. DETHOLZ! SUB DRUMMER RECRUITED

Colby Starck, of Bobby Conn and the Glass Gypsies, Head of Femur and many others, will be taking the reins as the Detholz! drummer in Andrew’s absence. If rehearsals are any indication, Detholz! will be able to pick up where we left off.

III. DETHOLZ! TRIUMPHANT RETURN – JUNE 7th

We will be playing through the new record, “Death to the Traitor,”  in its entirety, including a number of songs that have never been performed live.  It’s a bill we’re extremely excited about – BIRD NAMES is an eclectic collective making unique and strangely beautiful music – the aural equivalent of an exotic parakeet landing on your head!

After this week, I am planning on reigniting the Detholz! Mp3 Blog.  Again, forgive the long absence.  Between finishing the record, various scoring projects, two bands and two jobs, I have been teleporting in and out of this plane for the past month or so.

Hope to see you at the Hideout, June 7!

If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you?

March 25, 2009

Welcome back to the Detholz! Mp3 Blog!

I. ANDREW SOLE UPDATE

First of all, our deepest and heartfelt thanks to all of you who stepped forward to contribute to our ailing drummer, Andrew Sole (see last post). This has been a dark time for him as he wrestles with a severe back condition that’s flared up & is preventing him from playing music & making his living. You can’t know how much it meant to him that so many fans and friends came forward. He’s been feeling very isolated and alone since his back went out & when I was able to tell him how many of you had come donated, he was deeply moved.

Secondly, he’s not out of the woods yet. Here’s an update on his condition from 4 days ago, from the man himself:

“As of today I have gone through 2 weeks and 2 days of VAX – D and Chiropractic treatments. Unfortunately there has been little improvement even after 2 weeks of treatment. I got another MRI this morning. In comparing the old MRI ( 6 years ago ) with the new one today. It is the same 2 disks that are injured as before, the 4th and 5th Lumbar. The bad news is they are worse this time than before. Which I expected due to the fact I haven’t improved much at all after 2 weeks of treatment. The good news is that they said it is still treatable with VAX- D. I don’t need surgery yet. It will just be a lot more time, money and treatment than we thought.

I can’t say enough how much I am grateful for everyone’s prayers and (lower back) support. I can feel everyone with me (fans and friends) even though I haven’t seen anyone for a while. These are tough times. I’ve kind of set all my anger, frustration, and fear about all this on the shelf for now so I can think clearly and focus on doing what needs to be done to heal for now one day at a time.”

If you haven’t already, please visit our SAVE ANDREW SOLE PAGE and give back to a great drummer and good friend. Like most of us music folk, he pays for his own benefits and is not paid very much to ply his trade. He really needs his fans’ and his friends’ help right now. Thanks to all of you who have donated and thanks in advance to those of you who will!

II. SUB DRUMMER

Since Andrew is out of commission for awhile, we are looking at a few sub drummers to fill in while he recovers. Detholz! may be down but we’re not out. Soon we shall return, oh yes. I’m afraid the Detholz! are quite operational…

III. KEY CLUB PICTURES

Since a picture is worth exactly one thousand words, you can consider this an unusually lengthy blog.

I’ve posted a gallery of photos & captions from our “Death to the Traitor” recording session at Key Club in Benton Harbor, MI here:

DEATH TO THE TRAITOR SESSION I

See you next time, friends!

Save! Andrew! Sole! + Secret Track + Top 25 Albums

March 11, 2009

Greetings, earthlings and welcome to the Detholz! Mp3 Blog!

This week an extended, convoluted morass of a post– so much going on!

So we’ll do the bad news first:

I. SAVE! ANDREW! SOLE!

A week ago, Detholz! beloved drummer, Andrew Sole, had a herniated disk in his back flare up that has taken him completely out of commission for at least a month. We had to cancel a much-anticipated show at Bottom Lounge (Chicago) on 3/28– it was to be the re-premiere of our new/old keyboardist, Rick Franklin, as well as the debut of a lot of new material. (Note: Baby Teeth’s still on, as well as a new incarnation of Redwalls called “Sleeptalkers” — an excellent bill we are sorry to miss, so y’all come!)

Anyway, here’s the skinny from Andrew himself:

“I went to the back center this past Thursday because I was having some left leg pain coming from my lower spine, something I haven’t had in 6 years since they treated me. As I suspected the diagnosis was a disk problem. So they put me on the VAX-D table right away to start treatment. I’ll be going in every day 5 days a week for the next 2 weeks, possibly more if I need it. Then after that is recovery and Physical Therapy time. Not sure for how long.

My restrictions are, I can’t lift more than 10lbs. I should try not to sit or stand for more than 1/2 hour. I’ve not been playing drums for now except for lessons if I have to demonstrate a simple rhythm for a student.

Any prayers are welcomed and appreciated. ”

If any of you know Andrew, you know drums are his life– he makes his living teaching drums and playing professionally. This is a crushing blow for him, physically and financially. To boot, the disk decided to act up just in time for taxes!

So, in the spirit of “Save The Awesome Cool Dudes” a few years ago when our friends from Austin had all of their equipment stolen, I’ve set up a “Save! Andrew! Sole!” fund that will be active for the next month or so. Musicians are ALWAYS getting the short end of the stick financially– most of us pay for our own benefits & get paid very little to ply our trade. Andrew’s expenses as a result of his herniated disk are punishing, to say the least.

If you can spare a little or if you can spare a lot, it will help a good-hearted musician in need.  Visit the link below to donate:

SAVE! ANDREW! SOLE!

To be clear: these funds will go to my personal Paypal account, which I will then transfer to Andrew directly. I’m not going through official band channels so the gift won’t be taxed to him as income.

Any amount– no matter how big or small– will help. And your help is appreciated, folks. On behalf of Andrew, thanks.

Now, onto somewhat better news:

2. NEW DETHOLZ! (VICTORIA’S?) SECRET TRACK

Everyone loves a secret, right?

I recorded the first new DH! demo in many months last week. Problem is, owing to the subject matter, I can’t post it on a public forum. If you’d like to hear it, email me at “hallameat at gmail dot com” with the subject “Victor, Victoria” and I will send it to you special.

But after that, shhh!

3. Top 25 Albums

This is the latest viral Facebook fad and since I’m attracted to fads like a moth to flame (+ I spent so much @#$%@in’ time on it), I’m posting it here. Thought it might be interesting for DH! followers to see what went into the sauce:

All right, all right. I’m adopting Peter Beyer’s rules here: Think as much as you want and say as much as you want. More information here than you’ll probably care to read, but this was a fun, productive exercise. “Favorite” here for me = most influential.

Jim’s Top 25 Albums, in no particular order:

1. The Residents – Duck Stab

A jarring, bizarre, sometimes terrifying, sometimes ridiculous collection of music concrete and early electronica by what I’d have to admit at this point is my “favorite” band. Added bonus: the greatest record cover of all time. When my older brother introduced me to The Residents in high school, he unwittingly created a monster—I have been obsessively following them ever since & their albums have completely changed the way I think about music.

2. Nation of Ulysses – 13 Point Program to Destroy America

When I was a teenager, I was captivated by the portentious mythos Ian Svenonius spun around NOU, eagerly devouring all of his silly “manifestos” wherein a pajama’d army of disgruntled kids would rise up against the Boomer Generation that produced them, hypnotizing them with their “anti-parent culture sound.” One of the highlights of my music “career” thus far was meeting the personable and friendly Ian on a tour in Norway in ‘04 (then again later in Chicago) and comparing notes. Also, NOU holds the distinction of playing the loudest show I’ve ever seen/heard. All I could make out was white noise and my ears rung for days after.

3. Circus Lupus – Super Genius

Another school bus staple from the early ’90’s. The angular, jarring meters topped with Chris Thompson’s pissy sneering filtered through very lo-fi and loud production makes this a classic for any frustrated high school music geek. I still return to this record for sustenance regularly – “Cyclone Billy” has what in my opinion is the *perfect* bass tone (and a thrillingly acrobatic bass line!).

4. Shudder To Think – Get Your Goat

This record single-handedly opened all kinds of new doors for me musically. It’s far from perfect — the lyrics get vaunted, pretentious and downright silly in places — but there are some truly gorgeous moments. It shares a lot of qualities with “Super Genius” & other early-90’s DC music with its shifting meters, dissonant chords, angular rhythms, etc. but Craig Wedren’s beautiful voice swooping effortlessly around amongst the musical morass makes this experiment a lot prettier to listen to. Their later album “Pony Express Record” is the pinnacle of Shudder to Think’s output and is a far more coherent & better record but this one remains nearer and dearer. I had a “rock star moment” when I was able to meet Craig outside one of their reunion shows in Chicago last year and express my appreciation to him personally.

3. Igor Stravinsky – Mass for mixed chorus and double wind quintet

I got this record at the same time as “Get Your Goat,” and view them as two parts of the same equation. Stravinsky wrote this piece as a natural act of piety. He reputedly wanted to compose “very cold music, absolutely cold, that will appeal directly to the spirit.” There is no more perfect description of this work – stark, dissonant and unadorned. This restrained devotional music resonates in a deep spiritual cave for me that I am usually uncomfortable accessing.

4. Thelonious Monk – The Thelonious Monk Orchestra At Town Hall (1959)

This was required listening in music history class my freshman year of college. I hadn’t spent any time listening to jazz before I went to music school (unfortunately). At the time, I viewed Monk’s command of dissonance and pointillism in jazz as akin to Stravinsky’s approach to the same in the classical realm. I’m not sure I’d say that now, but I remember listening to this album over and over again with pure astonishment in the listening carrel at the library. Another “I didn’t know music could sound like this!” moment.

5. Ornette Coleman – Live at Town Hall (1962)

I have my friend Ben Miranda to thank for introducing me to this record. It contains perhaps my favorite jazz track of all time, “Sadness,” which, to my mind, is an absolutely breathtaking performance. Ornette’s “melody leads, everything else follows” approach gives his music a primitive wildness at once alien and fascinating. Jumbo yet shrimp.

6. Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet

I know, I know. It’s an obvious choice. When it comes to rap and hip-hop, I’m afraid I’m a white man’s white man; all thumbs and stuck somewhere in 1990. But this record really helped out during the hot summer afternoons my dad made me mow his large suburban lawn. I felt like a real badass behind the mower with Chuck D barking in my ‘phones: “Welcome to the Terrordome!”

7. The Beatles Anthology – Volume I

This was much-hyped when it was released, owing to the “new” Beatles tracks, which Paul, George and Ringo overdubbed on top of restored Lennon piano demos. Those songs are decidedly Wilbury-esque, owing to Jeff Lynne’s porcelain production style and are the least interesting part of this hodge-podge of outtakes, snippets, live recordings and other rarities. It gives you a glimpse into the Beatles process, which I found fascinating during my music studies. So much so that I listened almost exclusive to the Beatles for an entire year. As one reviewer said, the Anthology “humanizes” the Beatles and brings them back down to earth where they belong, among us mere mortals.

8. Deerhoof – Milk Man

In my opinion, the best rock album of 2004, if you can call this hyper-controlled chaos “rock music.” I had never heard of Deerhoof, then got to meet them by chance when a band in which I played bass at the time opened for them at a show in a dingy warehouse in Oakland (security was run by a bunch of rowdy bikers, so naturally conditions devolved & someone got clocked on the head with a glass bottle). Their performance was totally mind-blowing, even in that tawdry atmosphere, and Milk Man is, for me, the closest thing in indie rock to bona fide chamber music. I tried unsuccessfully to emulate their approach in my own songwriting at that time. It’s harder than it sounds!

9. Fela Kuti – Zombie

“Afrobeat pioneer,” “the Nigerian Bob Marley,” “one of the top 100 most influential musicians of the 20th Century,” etc., etc. I chafe a little at the Bob Marley comparison since Fela is so much more pissed off and, frankly, I find his music to be far more compelling and interesting than ol’ Bob’s. His repetitive, antiphonal “call-and-response” song form is one I borrow from liberally these days. Of all of his many records, this one is my favorite. It’s so devastatingly sardonic, it’s almost a punk record. But far, far better.

10. Bela Bartok – String Quartet #4

This was a piece my composition professor required me to pick apart in school as a prime example of “motivic” composition, where a composer takes a small gesture or “motive” (in this case, 7 notes ascending and descending) & stretches it, turns it upside down, reverses it, pulls panty hose over its head, gives it a swirly, etc. to create an entire piece of music. The result in this case is this tortured, gory quartet, the best recorded performance of which is, in my opinion, the 1988 Deutsche Gramophone release by the Emerson String Quartet. A lot of Bartok’s music is visceral and very violent, which greatly appeals to my inner vampire. Another prime example of this is his pantomime ballet, The Miraculous Mandarin- a grisly and truly savage piece of music.

11. Jean Claude Vannier — L’Enfant Assasin des Mouches (“The Child Killer of the Flies”)

I have my friend Bobby to thank for introducing me to Jean-Claude Vannier, an arranger who collaborated with the “dirty old man of pop music,” Serge Gainsbourg in the 60’s and 70’s. Orchestration is one of the great loves of my life, and this record contains some of the most bizarre couplings of genres and instruments that I’ve ever heard. All Music Guide puts it well: “This [suite] is the terrain where soundtrack music, classical music, gauche pop, hard rock, French café music, Middle Eastern modal music, vanguard musical iconoclasty, and sound effects collide, stroke, and ultimately come into union with one another — often in a single cut.” This record has a truly surreal sound, owing mostly to the massive amount of string overdubs – over 1,000! If you’ve never heard this record and have a taste for the bizarre, it is a classic. Highly rec’d.

12. Pink Floyd – Piper at the Gates of Dawn

This was a college staple, first introduced to me by my older brother, then re-introduced by my good friend and songwriting colleague, Peter Beyer years later. The perfect expression of a fractured, schizoid mind, culminating in the last cut on the record (and my favorite), “Bike.” I have a collection of Syd Barrett solo material as well (Opel), but it’s nowhere nearly as effective and screwy as this album.

13. Frank Black – Frank Black

Though his work with the Pixies will probably stand the test of time, I still have a great love for this admittedly “90’s” sounding record (another argument that I’m stuck somewhere in 1990). The lyrics are less Grand Guignol and more non sequitur than The Pixies, like his oblique tribute to the Ramones, “I Heard Ramona Sing” (“I had so many problems / then I got me a Walkman / I really liked it a lot and / they walked right in and they solved them”) but, as one fan puts it, “he not writing what he knows, he’s writing what he DREAMS.” Musically, his courageous harmonic leaps had a huge impact on me in school. It was rumored he only knew how to play barre chords on a guitar & I borrowed liberally from that approach in the early years of Detholz!. Also, I’ll never forget blasting “Los Angeles” from my battered Chevy hatchback (which contained all of my earthly possessions at the time) as I descended into L.A. after a solitary cross-country drive in 1997.

14. Pete Beyer – Ten Songs

Part of the magic of being a musician is observing and learning from other musicians as they ply their trade. My good friend Pete has always been one of the finest songwriters I’ve ever heard (and was the inspiration behind this note). Playing his songs in college as the bass player in his band was hugely instructive to me – to this day, my bandmates who know him will say, “wow, that sounds a lot like a Pete Beyer song” when I present a demo to them. So let me say here, officially, on the record: thanks Pete! Visit his blog and benefit from his musical wisdom: http://www.peterbeyer.com Pete also has the distinction of writing one of two songs that caused me to spontaneously burst into tears (not something I’m wont to do, as my wife will tell you, unless I’ve had too many glasses of wine), his restrained and poignant song chronicling his reaction to the attacks on 9/11 called “In the Wake.” Hopefully we will finally finish his damned record we’ve been working on for over 8 years this summer. Right, Pete?

15. John Carpenter – Soundtrack to Escape from New York

…or Halloween or The Fog or Assualt on Precinct 13 , etc. Carpenter’s simple synthesizer scores are forever seared into my brain as the way horror movie music should sound after sneaking in Halloween as a kid at a sleepover. Escape From New York is my personal favorite of the lot & is one of my favorite albums to drive to. I also used to annoy my friends as a kid by incessantly playing the theme song on my mother’s piano.

16. Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express

Speaking of music to drive to, Kraftwerk makes for a great driving and/or housecleaning soundtrack. Nothing like dorky German synth-pop to inspire you to dust the corners of your bookcase, bureau and/or rolltop desk. Their choruses are amusingly underwhelming: “Fun, fun, fun on ze Autobahn” und “I’m ze operator mit my pocket calculator.” Great to mop to!

17. Einsturzende Neubauten – Faustmusik

Speaking of crazy Germans, this little-known gem by the storied industrial monoliths, Einsturzende Neubauten, is one that’s gotten a lot of spin over the years when I’ve been in a dark frame of mind. It’s mostly narration with a stripped-down ensemble providing a soundtrack – there are no “songs” per se. The language is too dense for my high-school pidgin German, but this record creates an atmosphere that’s far scarier and menacing than others of their releases I’ve heard. Blixa Bargeld’s syrupy whispering makes for convincing Devil-ese.

18. Dan Deacon – Silly Hat vs. Eagle Hat

A few years ago we played a show with then-unknown Dan Deacon at a tiny hole-in-the-wall in DC & if anyone deserves the full weight of the indie hype machine, it’s Dan. His frenetic mad-science-gizmo acrobatics are incredible to watch in a live setting. I played with him again last year in another outfit and his show had developed to a nearly cultish pitch. At one point, he had a sold-out club full of people climbing all over each other through some sort of weird, frenetic square dance at his command. I’ve never seen crowd control like that.

“Silly Hat” is my favorite of his records—Dan is kind of a genius and the scope of his facility with electronics, pop, jazz and even atonal classical composition are recklessly displayed here. A great album to Photoshop to. Dan said he’d be taking some time off of his solo electronics to focus on classical composition this year. I’m greatly anticipating his next record.

19. Sparks – Kimono My House

I should thank my friend Colby for introducing me to Sparks and especially to “Kimono My House,” by far their best album. It’s an almost irritatingly catchy glam-pop album with a lot of quirky twists and turns, lyrically and musically. I guess if there’s such a thing as “progressive glam,” this is it. I had been told that the Detholz! sound is pretty close to Sparks and after hearing this, I definitely saw the connection. High praise, indeed.

20. Captain Beefheart – Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)

Possibly the least touted of Captain Beefheart’s records, this is by far the most accessible with, in my opinion, some of his best songs. I agree with All Music Guide: “’Tropical Hot Dog Night’ that sounds like what happened when Beefheart encountered a Miami disco and decided to make something of it.” The lyrics are obtuse, sometimes silly, sometimes wistful, other times menacing – the usual growly Beefheart fare: “When I See Mommy, I Feel Like a Mummy,” etc. Another example of tightly controlled chaos, his Magic Band is in top form on this record, delivering some truly mind-bending dissonant hooks.

21. Frank Zappa – Apostrophe

I guess I can’t mention Captain Beefheart without mentioning the music of Frank Zappa which, as my friend James describes it, is like all of the songs of the 70’s crumpled into a ball and injected with acid. “Apostrophe” is his most famous record, and for good reason. The musicianship on this album is flawless, as usual, with a burning white-hot xylophone solo in “St. Alfonso’s Pancake Breakfast” that will make your head spin. This is a usual complaint about Zappa—that he was a genius-level musician who chose to be the clown over the “serious artist,” writing bawdy songs with titles like “G-Spot Tornado” and “Half a Dozen Provocative Squats.” This precisely what makes him so great and so inspiring to me—and to many others, apparently. The number of posthumous awards he receives continues to mount.

22. Louvin Brothers – Satan is Real

Despite the now-infamous cover picturing Charlie and Ira Louvin in a rock quarry littered with burning tires in front of a 12-foot paint-on-plywood Satan, this record remains my favorite country gospel album. I have deep sense of connection to traditional gospel country because of my background, and though I don’t agree with most of what the Louvins are saying, the authenticity of the message and the pure intention for its audience moves me deeply. It also helps that the Louvins were reputedly hard-drinking, violent men. That a couple of hardened country boys could have such beautiful voices singing this fire-and-brimstone stuff, sincere or not, is profoundly poetic, at least to me.

23. Bernard Herrmann – Soundtrack to Psycho

…or The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) or Cape Fear or classic Twilight Zone TV series or any of the other films he scored. Herrmann broke all kinds of new ground in film scoring (and music in general – he was a sort of proto-minimalist) and his undulating, restless music makes full use of various extended performance techniques in the orchestra, almost phrase-by-phrase. Very dense, complex orchestrations here. It’s funny to think how much he resented being a film composer because he was so clearly the best, perhaps ever. Film music rarely makes such an impression on the cultural collective consciousness, but the screeches from “Psycho,” or the tritonal “Twilight Zone” guitar ostinato are unmistakable, even to a nonmusical joe.

24. Fugazi – Repeater

“Repeater” was the first compact disc I bought with my own money as a kid—even saved up for it. I remember opening it and showing it off to a friend who mused with wonder, “Man…. This will never wear out!”

In early 1988, the very first show I attended as a shrimpy pubescent 13-year old was a Fugazi show at a bombed out movie theater in Frederick, MD. This was before their first record so it was up close and personal. Definitely a benchmark moment for a music-smitten teenager. In retrospect, it could have been any band and I probably would have gone goo-goo eyed, but Fugazi was such a live juggernaut— so acrobatic and fun to watch as they played their special brand of fist-pumping slogan-core. I saw them as many times as I possibly could after that. “Repeater” was always my favorite record of theirs. I stopped following them after 1991’s “Steady Diet of Nothing,” but that first show was forever burned onto my brain as the apotheosis of live music.

A few months ago, I experienced a mild thrill when I played through Joe Lally’s old GK bass head at a Baby Teeth show.

25. Bobby Conn – Llovesongs EP

Though I am fortunate to count Bobby as a friend now, I started out as and continue to be a big fan. Playing in his band for a few years was like being a kid in a candy store. It was also a crash-course for me (sometimes literally) in stage- and song-craft. Though I think the most crystalline channelings of the Bobby Conn persona are captured on “Rise Up!” & “The Golden Age,” which even caught the great David Bowie’s attention, “Llovesongs” is my favorite Bobby Conn album because it contains two of my favorite songs of his, “Maria B” and, if you’re lucky enough to have the Japanese import, “Language of Love.”

There’s a lyric in “Language of Love” I had wrong for over a year:

“You want to touch it, man, well…/ Gonna let you down.”

I thought he was singing:

“You want to touch it, Manuel… / Gonna let you down.”

This dawned on me in the car as I was listening to this EP on a road trip. Sorry, Manuel!

Thanks for reading– see you next week!

The Transformation of “Lost Weekend”

March 4, 2009

Welcome or welcome back to the Detholz! Mp3 Blog!

This week “Mp3 Blog” is something of a misnomer since, once again, I have no new track to offer. However, a comment from last week got me thinking that a discussion about the Detholz! process of creating a song, from demo to live performance to the recording studio, might be interesting to fans and fellow music nerds alike.

Our case study: Lost Weekend <–The demo is re-posted here for your convenience. For an exhaustive discussion of the lyrical and musical content of this song, click here.

It’s probably not the best case study since it’s such an atypical Detholz! song in just about every respect. I guess that’s why I found the process so interesting!

DETHOLZ! SONGWRITING

When we first started out 12 years ago as acne-addled college students, the songwriting was usually done as a group. I remember fondly evenings with Karl and Big Jamesie seated on the floor in our rank, musty college apartment, acoustic guitars in hand, cranking out one geeky, stupid song after another. [The only surviving example of a song written during that period is “Last Train to Mars,” which is on our first record Who Are The Detholz!?, available for download or song-by-song purchase at www.detholz.com/merch.html]

Over the next few years, Karl and I would occasionally regroup to write in tandem. I remember a number of nights when I was working full-time as a piano salesman in Downers Grove (really lives up to its name!) when we would meet in the back of the store after closing to sit amongst all of the dusty granny organs and write songs. ‘Twas a magical time! “Sunburned in the Sun” (also on WRTDH!?) was written at that time and remains the band’s favorite, even after all these years.

As we got older and life got busier, we’ve settled into a tried-and-true procedure:

1. I (or someone else in the band) record(s) demos at home arranged as completely as possible, incl. percussion, keyboard parts, guitar/bass parts, vocals, etc. (many of which have been posted on this here blog over the past few years — a box set’s worth of material, in fact. See previous posts)
2. I (or someone else) will email the demos to the band for a vote.
3. The band votes “yea” or “nay,” usually citing specific parts or reasons why.
4. If “nay,” then the song is scrapped on the spot. If “yea” then it proceeds to the next stage on the Detholz! Conveyor Belt, DETHOLZ! REHEARSAL.

In the case of “Lost Weekend,” I did something a little different: there were no guitar parts recorded on the demo. I anticipated that this might jog the band a little bit in rehearsal & transform the song into something different, something better. Turns out I was right!

DETHOLZ! REHEARSAL

Usually, we learn any given song in its original “demo’ed” form. This typically involves me charting out parts for Jonny & Rick (keyboards) and Ben (bass) using either standard notation or “lead sheets.”

One of three things happens next:

1. Nothing!
2. Extant sections of the song are excised or extended
3. New sections of the song are written collaboratively & added — this happened on songs that have been in our live rotation recently, like “Future Wife” and “Catherine Zeta-Jones” (which also went through a huge makeover in the studio, incidentally)

“Lost Weekend” was a chaotic mess in the rehearsal stage. First of all, we were rehearsing to record it, not play it live, which meant there was extra pressure to “get it right” in rehearsal. There were so many keyboard parts on the demo that Jonny and Rick couldn’t possibly cover them all, which meant Karl and I had to come up with guitar parts on the spot in rehearsal. These changed literally almost every time, clear up into the recording session.

The most difficult aspect of playing “Lost Weekend” was achieving the right “feel.” It’s so radically different from Detholz! usual anal-retentive Prussian herky-jerk; it has a much more relaxed, loose and creepy almost “dub” feel to it that we really had to wrestle with to get right.

This is where having an excellent producer like Bobby Conn really came in handy. Bobby attended all of our rehearsals leading up to the first tracking session at Bill Skibbe’s magical Key Club Recording studio in Benton Harbor, MI. He took copious notes and recorded every rehearsal on a small handheld cassette recorder. For “Lost Weekend,” he even sent Andrew (drummer) a bunch of different dub recordings, since Andrew was largely unfamiliar with the style. He also spent a lot of time working with Andrew on a “looser” style of playing.

We wrestled with this clear up until the last rehearsal, when the song started to get closer… but not quite all the way. I kept telling Andrew to play “behind the beat,” which he interpreted perhaps too literally at first. The more we practiced, the better it got. Still, it had an edge of tightness to it that sounded affected and wrong. By the time we were going into the studio, “Lost Weekend” was still nowhere near 100%. Of all of the songs on the record, I was extremely concerned… it was looking like “Lost Weekend” = FAIL.

RECORDING SESSION

When it came time to record “Lost Weekend,” we found that the song was really living up to its name. There we were: sitting in a recording studio on the weekend, completely lost!

I should mention: for this session, we set everyone up to record simultaneously. The drums and bass in the “big room,” guitars in a room whose walls are completely lined with cut logs (my favorite room at Key Club — it’s like playing on the set of Twin Peaks) and keyboards in an isolation booth at the rear of the building. There are windows in each rooms walls, so we have a line of sight to one another. (Pics will be posted shortly…)

After doing a couple of “okay” but stilted takes, Bobby told us to take a break (everyone except the drummer, that is) & that he was going to try something. So, we all meandered out into the kitchen area, feeling a little dejected. A few minutes later, he called us back in. Andrew was playing the part PERFECTLY, even with the little hi-hat flourishes and odd cymbal crashes that are characteristic of a “dub” sort of style. We were astounded.

Q: How did Bobby flip this magical switch in so short a time?

A: He ran ALL of the drums through an Echo-Plex, a vintage tape reverb unit!

Playing along to his bad delayed self, Andrew was inspired to loosen up and improvise, which he does very well in his jazz playing all of the time. We went back in & all it took was 2 more takes for us to perfectly nail “Lost Weekend,” with the elusive feel we had sought all along. A truly great moment in Detholz! history! There’s nothing more exciting in music than to have a take like that happen spontaneously in a studio. It’s the “happy accident” principle & involves an element of chaos that goes beyond rehearsal, planning & raw musicianship, even.

I like to think it’s white magic… in fact, I more than “like” to think it– I do. Never believe it’s not so!

LOST WEEKEND EPILOGUE

“Lost Weekend” isn’t completely finished yet, but it’s already one of my favorite cuts on the new record this far. It’s a very different kind of sound for us — in fact, Rick wondered in rehearsal if it was TOO different & would sound strange in the context of the other songs. After the transformation it went through from demo to studio, however, we all agreed that it fit in nicely & I know I’m not the only one in the band for whom it transmogrified from a “meh” song to a total standout.

Unfortunately, we’ve had to postpone our final tracking session due to scheduling problems, so it’ll be awhile before we’re able to put Death to the Traitor in the can.

On the flipside, Detholz! is planning to work on new material over the next few weeks, so check back for some brand new demos & cast your vote! We exist but to serve!

“Death to the Traitor” Session 1 COMPLETE!

March 1, 2009

Greetings, Detholians, and forgive my protracted absence from the blogosphere!

Over these past weeks, I have been caught in the undertow of a magical tsunami, madly writing orchestral scores, mastering the new Baby Teeth record (ETA July 09!) and disappearing to distant lands to start the tracking process on the new Detholz! record, “Death to the Traitor.” These are the times in life when I am truly grateful to be in music — it feels like living inside a pleasant dream and not at all like work, despite the lack of sleep, late nights and near total and constant physical exhaustion.

I have no track to offer this week, just an old-fashioned blah-blah-blog about our 4-day marathon session at Key Club, Bill Skibbe’s fantastical recording emporium in the unlikely burg of Benton Harbor, Michigan.

Utilizing the classic Prussian Dao of Detholz!, we were able to complete basic tracking for 10 songs in just two days. For this recording, we have enlisted the services of the giant brain of the tiny master impresario, Bobby Conn, who has given 110% thus far in making this record the best Detholz! outing to date. Arrangements have been improved, thanks to Bobby (including a significant overhaul of the songs “Catherine Zeta-Jones” and the title track, “Death to the Traitor”), bongos have been expertly played by our keyboardist/Zen Master-in-residence, Jon Steinmeier (why not visit him today at jonsteinmeier.com ?), theremin has been not-so-expertly tracked by yours truly, as well as a host of other goodies as we flesh out this unseemly beast.

Recording is by far my favorite part of playing in bands and our session last weekend proved my favoritism is well-placed. Key Club is the perfect place to make a record– it’s far enough away from anything that an epic odyssey is almost always required before you begin the recording process. This record was no exception– we migrated there in a caravan in near white-out conditions.

Once you are there, you are in a magic cave. Time literally ceases to exist — it has no meaning whatsoever. This is the perfect environment in which to make a recording because, as I am loath to admit, recording has more to do with “vibe” — how you’re feeling at a particular moment in time– than it does with raw preparation, musicianship, or even the science of recording. It always pays to be prepared going into a studio, of course. The last thing you want to have to do is spend money on time to practice when you should be tracking. Simultaneously, I think it’s possible to be OVER-prepared for a studio session. You want to leave room for magic-making, improvisation, and a little dash of old-fashioned chaos.

There was plenty of all three in our session. You will not recognize a lot of the songs from the demos I’ve posted here over the past few years– which is a good thing. The session (and hence the songs) took on a life and breath all its own. We want this record to be a little more organic in scope than our past highly controlled albums — the material is a little looser and needs to breathe a little easier than our past gyroscopic contraptions.

That’s exactly what we got. There’s even material that, dare I say, sounds downright sexy. And, as a great man once said, “What’s wrong with being sexy?”

We are very, very excited to be cooking up this violent, bloody dish for you. As Flannery O’Connor once said, “a writer with Christian concerns need[s] to take ever more violent means to get her vision across.” This is shaping up to be what we hope you find to be a delicious and challenging cannibalistic feast to enrich both your flesh and your spirit.

We go back to Key Club for Round 2 this weekend. Another update to follow next week…

GFS A Cappella Group – “Silence is Golden”

January 21, 2009

Greetings, once again, Detholz! aficionados welcome to the all-new Detholz! Mp3 Blog 2009!

Look to your right and you’ll see a couple of new gizmos I’ve installed to streamline your shopping experience, including Top Posts, Most Recent Gripes, Jibes & Grumbles from the Peanut Gallery, etc.  There’s even a calendar if you lose track of the time you fritter away here at the Detholz! Mp3 Blog!

Happy New Year to all and welcome to a New American Golden Age (I think).  I don’t usually like to talk politics on this blog, but our friend, Thax Douglas (“Chicago’s Rock ‘N Roll poet laureate,” as he’s known), summed up how I felt about yesterday’s inauguration proceedings for President LaBamba perfectly in a MySpace posting.  I’ve reprinted the post here verbatim with his permission:

“Well the ice floe of the 20th century has been floating off chip by chip over the last nine years, especially when someone like Mailer died-but a huge gob of it drifted off today. I feel orphaned in the 21st century, a strange feeling even tho it was what i wanted.

People forget that catastrophes can be positive.
the Obama presidency is a positive thing but it’s still a catastrophe in that it is life-changing and irreparable.
It is comparable to a) finding you’re not dying after all-b) winning or earning a large chunk of money-c)having the girl of your dreams say “yes”-
Thus even tho Obama who I voted for and feel will be a napoleonically great president taking power is a good thing I still feel the hollowness I felt the day after 9/11.  We can never go back. It will take a while for life to rush and fill the hollowness.”

Will President LaBamba end up being the girl of our dreams, with all of the large chunks distributed in all of the right places? Only time will tell.

***

Today’s mp3 post is a little out of the ordinary, to say the least. 

Last week, without warning, Detholz! received a fully-realized a cappella vocal arrangement of “Silence is Golden” via email from a longtime fan, Allen Drew, which I’m posting here with his permission:

GFS A CAPPELLA GROUP – “SILENCE IS GOLDEN”

Allen is the a cappella choral director at Germantown Friends School in the Philadelphia area and this performance of “Silence is Golden” (first track on Cast Out Devils, Detholz!’s second album from 2006 available at http://www.detholz.com/merch.html) is by his kids in the high school a cappella group, called (strangely) “GFS A Cappella.”

For those of you who have been with Detholz! for any span of our 12-year history, you know we revel in deconstructing pre-existing music & patching it back together in Frankensteinian fashion (see posts leading up to Halloween last year/previous years…). Suffice it to say, an arrangement of “Silence is Golden” — a decidedly Shatner-esque spoken word track — for a high school a cappella chorus really tickled us pink. Detholz! all gathered ’round the computer to listen after rehearsal last week & there were high-fives all around.

So, big thanks/mad props to Allen and his excellent singers for all of the effort that went into this recording! Speaking of which, this track is from an entire album of deconstructed a cappella songs, called Vinyl, much in the spirit of Jukebox of the Dead (Detholz! annual Halloween cover show). Vinyl is available for purchase for $17, with all proceeds going to benefit the GFS a cappella vocal program.

To order your copy, send a check for $17 made out to “Germantown Friends School” with “A Cappella” in the memo line to:

Allen Drew,
Germantown Friends School,
31 W. Coulter St., Philadelphia, PA 19144

Allen can also be reached for questions at Allend@gfsnet.org

Here’s a sampling of the track listing, just to whet your appetite. Due to some sort of psychic anomaly, the kids are singing a lot of songs Detholz! have covered in Halloweens past:

Kiss – Prince

I Used to Love Him – Lauryn Hill/MJ Blige

Love Shack – The B-52s

Hide and Seek – Imogen Heap

The Girl From Ipanema – Astrud Gilberto

Crazy – Gnarls Barkley

Faith – George Michael

Helplessly Hoping – CSNY

Mexico – James Taylor

Somebody to Love – Queen

Silence is Golden – Detholz!

White Wedding – Billy Idol

Livin’ on a Prayer – Jon Bon Jovi

Final Countdown – Europe (This one makes Jonny proud!)

Thanks again, Allen and the kids at GFS!

Tune in next Wednesday for another installment of Detholz! Mp3 Blog…