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1st- Heather and I brought in the New Year in a relaxed and pleasant way
with some friends on New Year’s day at their home where they were
having a small gathering. At this “small gathering” an impromptu
band had assembled and began playing. At one point I was enlisted into
the fold to step in for the current drummer who suddenly appeared desperately
in need of a drink. Uh-oh, no gig clothes.
This could spell trouble for
my “civies” which were not designed for this purpose. I only
have to think about playing music and I start to sweat, as Heather can
attest. If we are watching a tedious movie and my mind starts to wander,
I might start thinking of playing music and inexplicably begin to perspire
which is a dead giveaway that I AM NOT PAYING ATTENTION.
Anyway, like a
well-mannered guest I acquiesced to my fellow drummer’s wishes and
spelled him so that he could refresh himself. I was really in trouble by
the end of the first song as I was sweating like a politician and smelled
like a billygoat. Appropriately we had just finished James Brown’s “Cold
Sweat”. Unfortunately, the other drummer had just begun getting “refreshed” and
did not seem to be remotely inclined to return from his Union five. I played
a few other numbers and returned to the others a sopping, soggy mess. How
nice for them. We made it an early night as I realized I hadn’t packed
a thing and was leaving the following morning for the U.K. to start work
on the new Tull record. So much for the holidays.
Flight to London
January 2nd—The long uneventful flight over from Los Angeles
to London to which I become numbingly accustomed is always made much
more comfortable by the good folks at British Airways with whom I am
on a first name basis due to my mileage card balance. Nevertheless, I
unfortunately I have suffered multiple demotions this past year going
from being a prestigious Gold Card holder, slipping down to the dubious
Silver Card rung and finally arriving at lowly Blue Card status. This
is due not to the amount that we travel, because if it was based on that
we would all be Titanium Card holders, but to new B.A. regulations which
do not reward Kenny Wylie’s efforts to get us reasonably priced
Flight to London
January 4th- 19th--Rehearsals for recording begin. The typical pattern
that generally follows is that we will work on a piece of (often untitled)
music in the morning, demo it in the afternoon and if any of us are feeling
brave enough, possibly try to go for a master take in the early evening.
If that doesn’t happen we will all go away and chew on it overnight
and try to nail a backing track the next morning with obvious repairs
and fixes to follow. Vocals and lead melodies go on later. Although the
process varies from song to song we often get the best results when we
can do backing tracks together as a band. Unfortunately this isn’t
always possible because once we have several pieces going, all in various
stages of development, we find ourselves all working on different things
on different tracks. This also has its good points. It’s usually
exciting to hear how a track has developed from the last time you heard
it or added anything.
The down side is when you’re the guy who
has been there for all the overdubs; you’ve just heard it too many
times. Ian is usually that guy so sometimes he just has to go away and
work on something else while one of us is the tape operator for the one
doing overdubs. One of the entertaining diversions of recording this
way is looking at Ian’s lyrics and trying to work out to which
songs they belong. Sometimes we just get a song title to go by, sometimes
I just make up my own to give me a clue which one it is when I have to
refer back to my chart. I have recently re-discovered some fantastic
alternate titles for many songs off “Roots to Branches” before
I found out what they were really called.
We all have a different methodology
as to how we write out and remember the music and if any of us had to
switch charts and reinterpret the music through another band members
brain it would probably come out sounding like John Cage’s music…..in
other word’s it would be a f!#*ing disastrous musical trainwreck!
Apologies to any John Cage fans out there. All in all the record is turning
out pretty well and beginning to take some kind of shape. Inevitably
we will probably have more material than we can use but because we tend
to record so much fairly quickly it is very hard to tell at this stage
what will ultimately end up on the record. More about all this later.
Coincidentally and by sheer luck my father and his wife were over in England
doing research for one of his projects and visiting some relatives of hers.
Since we were recording only about an hour’s journey away I had to the
opportunity to see them on two separate occasions. This was certainly an added
dividend for me as I don’t get to see them often enough back in the U.S.
since they still want to maintain East Coast residency and it’s five
hours on a plane for either one of us. So it was nice to hang out, catch up,
go to The National Gallery and eat Indian food together.
January 20th-31st-- I fly back to America and go directly into rehearsals
with my colleague Vince DiCola for the upcoming NAMM (National Association
of Musical Merchants) show in Los Angeles next week. This is an industry
only trade show which happens every winter in L.A. and apart from the
Music Messe in Frankfurt in March is the biggest trade show of it’s
kind in the world. We have been hired by Alesis, a manufacturer of high-end
audio gear, to demonstrate some of their new equipment. Now ordinarily
this wouldn’t be much of a problem except for the fact that I have
been trying to keep all the new Tull music in my head this month which
hasn’t left a lot of time to be working on anything else in a meaningful
This now leaves me only a few short days to relearn some fairly
involved pieces that I performed about eight years ago on my instructional
video as well as some potential new Thread pieces which I’ve never
played live. On top of learning the music and working out appropriate
arrangements I have to program their new Drum module to try to coax out
of it all the performance features I think I will need for our set. This
wouldn’t be so bad if I was just playing my usual acoustic kit,
however this was an unfamiliar setup as it was comprised completely of
electronic pads and their Drum module - nothing acoustic.
Oh God, what have I done?! I think I might have been just a teeny bit
optimistic about the time element. Coupled with this dawning realization
and reverse jet lag was the very real possibility that I in fact wouldn’t
see the actual drum pads and unit until the night before the show opened
because I was working with the BETA unit, not the actual setup I would
be using at the show! Yikes, if I hadn’t got the willies by that
point I was certainly getting them now. Well needless to say I was up
until 5am the night before the NAMM show programming and playing trying
to get everything prepared.
One of that evening’s highlights occurred
around 3am when two beefy security guards appeared at the door of the
Alesis theatre where I was working. Sure that they were going to tell
me to shut up or keep it down, instead they came in and sat down and
when I stopped one of them said “ Man, you was phat! Do you write
Unaware that this was a compliment in rap terminology,
and still musing over the possibility that these two security guards
were informing me of a weight problem, I said, “ Uhh, yeah, I guess
so.” The other one said “Great man, we got a rap group and
that was jammin’. Why don’t you come and write some beats
for our rap record.” So don’t be surprised if you see me
in my new alter-ego incarnation as ‘D Jazzy P- Fresh Ponce of Woodland
The best and weirdest part of the evening/morning was when I left at 5am and
there was not a single solitary soul in the entire hall. My own private NAMM
show!! This was absolutely fantastic- I walked up and down all the aisles completely
undisturbed, looking at all the interesting exhibits without the usual carnival
barker atmosphere but this turned quickly into a Rod Serling Twilight Zone
moment for me. In my sleep deprived, jet lagged state of mind I became momentarily
unglued, imagining I had somehow willed away the presence of thousands of happy
techno-lusting souls looking forward to the newest unveiling of the gear of
their dreams, because of the inexorable certainty of my approaching deadline.
Oh selfish, selfish me! How could I deprive all the cheery denizens of bits
and bites of the thrill that comes once a year and is not dependent on Santa
Claus’ list of ner-do-wells to be ignored? WHAT DELERIUM HAS GRIPPED
ME? Oh, wait a minute it’s 5 in the morning…. no wonder no one’s
here. Better go home and sleep this off.
After all of that the show went remarkably well and was actually a lot of fun.
My gear didn’t blow up or even false trigger and the very full houses
we got for every show seemed to really enjoy it and as a result we did too.
So a great big thank you to the Gods of Midi Technology! Vince and I decided
we wanted to stay away from the endless NAMM noodling you so often see at these
shows and play some actual music although I DID have to take a solo every show
to put the drum module through it’s paces. I suppose a bit of NAMM noodling
took place there, but hell, if you can’t noodle at NAMM where can you
noodle? The Ed Sullivan character actor from “Pulp Fiction” introduced
Vince and I every show on the big video screen behind us in a mock re-enactment
of the real Ed Sullivan show which was pretty spooky to watch as he is a dead
ringer in voice and look for dear old dead Ed.
Quite a surprising moment for me took place the first day as I was standing
around between shows at the booth. They had constructed a single rather large
screen out of eight large TV monitors grouped together and were rotating all
kinds of material on it ranging from new products to who was appearing in their
theatre. I had forgotten that earlier I had given them a video from a video
drum magazine that I had appeared in that was somewhat current. I had carefully
earmarked the section to be used but unfortunately they didn’t deem that
suitable for their purposes and chose instead some much older footage from
the same video. Suddenly looming before me was an unmistakable version of an
earlier self, complete with fully intact hairline and ultra slim waist. Whoa,
what happened to THAT guy? Not so sure about that hair and I bet those pants
would be a tad on the snug side now too.
I was still smarting from a recent
and rather nasty altercation with Ian’s phony measuring tape which he
had specially made up to make a 36” waistline magically appear as a 42”.
He thought this was a pretty funny joke, but I am personally disinclined to
believe anything except my own eyes, and I’m needing glasses as well
for those. So ultimately it was a good month – busy and productive – now
I’m going to have a little sleep. And how was your January?……….
And how was your January?