Apr 26 2006

Musical History…

Published by at 5:33 am under Art,Dung Mummy,Instrumental,Music,Songs

For as long as I can remember, music has been a part of my life. At a very early age I was fascinated by music, and listened to it all the time. I remember, when I was about 7 or 8, walking to the library and, in my mind, hearing a complete orchestral performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade. At the library I’d listen to records somewhat indiscriminately. I really enjoyed romantic era orchestral composers, but also loved pop music, rock, and even some wacky experimental stuff. All this before I was a teenager.

I also studied music, learning violin, keyboard, guitar, and trumpet at various times… None of which with any proficiency. I also sang and, in the 6th grade, was invited to be the featured soloist for a performance of Leonard Bernstien’s Chitchester Psalms with the Santa Monica City College Choir.

By the time I hit Jr High, though, I stopped playing instruments completely and didn’t take music up again until after High School. I started attending the local community college, and they had both a sound recording program AND an electronic music program. I immersed myself in both. I was working with multi-track reel to reel tape machines, analog synth’s large and small, and even some very primitive digital computer-based synthesis on an Apple 2E.

At some point I met a co-worker who was interested in doing more normal music, like songs, so I started playing keyboard fairly seriously, and wasn’t too bad. We went through a very gentle learning curve, both as instrumentalists and as songwriters. After a while I switched from keyboard to bass guitar. That duo became the first band, Poor Old Joe. We eventually became a trio and developed an expansive set list of nearly 40 songs, most of which were originals, with a few covers thrown in. We did songs by Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Tom Waits and, believe it or not, a George Michael song.

We rehearsed, recorded, and gigged regularly, and we had a small but supportive fan base in the coffee house circuit. You can hear

      The Cost
      Already Home
, both written and sung by me. The latter came to me in a dream.

After POJ’s untimely demise, a friend invited me to jam with some friends of his. I could tell, from the start, that they weren’t impressed with my chops or my acoustic fretless bass. I persisted, and added a fender P bass to my arsenal, and this band became Blue Dot, a psychedelic prog-rock band that garnered some popularity on the local scene. I think that most people liked our female front-person. This band was entirely different than Poor Old Joe. It seemed that I was the only one interested in getting gigs, or recording.

Very early on, we recorded

      Tilting At Windmills
, neither of which were written by me. To me, both songs embody the best and worst of blue dot: Great musicianship combined with unabashed pretense. I do have a recording of one of my humble contributions, a song called
      Golden Mean
. The music was recorded live on a soundstage, the same one used in Pulp Fiction for the 50’s restaurant dance number. The vocal was added later, by our 2nd singer. I was never happy with the mix, and the sound of the drums never worked for me, but its all I have…

Because of a series of unfortunate events, our 2nd singer quit and, as a result, the band decided to fire me. This created some bad feelings for a while, which have happily resolved themselves.

I did record a few songs at home with the guitar player from Blue Dot. One was something called

      Figure It Out
that I’d originally penned for Poor Old Joe. I’d put it on the back burner then, for personal reasons, and tried to pitch it to blue dot, but it never took off. I’m quite fond of it, though, even though the recording has some flaws. BTW, the 2 note guitar ostinato is me, not Mike.

After that, I joined a band called Quiverfish. It was again a trio, with a young drummer with impeccable taste and great chops, but some performance anxiety. The front person was a woman I’ve known for many years, on and off. She’s a talented singer, songwriter, and guitarist. We did tons of rehearsing, a few gigs, and made one stab at recording. Unfortunately, I’ve got none of that stuff.

After Quiverfish I pretty much decided to throw in the towel as far as the band thing goes. I’d met the woman who is now my wife, and realized that a shift in priorities was in order. I did have a brief bout in the band thing, playing with some friends, a husband and wife team known as Dodo & Zeti. We also played with a few others as well, from time to time. Although this was fun, I was basically a side-man and, although they were open to some collaborative stuff, they were mostly interested in doing their own thing.

After my first performance with the Dung Mummy crew, one of them invited me to collaborate on a tune they’d recorded as part of a side project called Refrigerator Mothers. He gave me some tracks and I added to them. He took what I did and modified things rather extensively.

is the result.

Although it might not be evident at first, my contributions consisted of several specific elements. I added two tracks of lap steel, a voice sample from a movie, the same sample processed beyond recognition, more lap steel but abstracted beyond recognition, some throbbing bass, and some insane synth windchimes toward the end. I was quite happy with the result, but I’m not sure they were.

I’ve worked professionally as both a recording and live sound engineer, as a producer, and as support crew for live gigs. Sometime I’ll post some of that stuff…

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