Saturday, December 14, 2013
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Last month I went with the family to NYC and spent some quality time there. We took in a Mets game and caught the Yeah Yeah Yeah's with Har Mar Superstar at Barclay's center in Brooklyn. I also stopped by Matt Umanov Guitars and bought a new Seagull guitar which sounds and plays beautifully. I can't wait to start recording with it. Which is another reason I've been busy. I've been writing and practicing with any spare time I have outside of work and I hope to be able to start playing out some songs early next year.
All in all it was a good time and I can't wait to go back. Hopefully next time it will be for my own show or two.
In a few days we'll be getting on a plane again to catch the VooDoo Experience in New Orleans. I've never seen Peal Jam or The Cure before, so I'm super excited for that. I'm also really excited to see Nine Inch Nails again. They always put on a terrific show.
When we return I will be hitting the production hard again. I'm so close to completing "Northland" which I hope sees a digital release this year. When that's done I can start recording some of the new songs. I just set up a new work station in my home studio running Ardour on Mint Linux 15, and I'm eager to break it in.
As far a project TomCat goes... I've got some songs written and I'm ready to demo them. I need some mics for drums and once I get the demos I will need to actively seek help from those who want to be involved. This project is getting bigger than I imagined and is a little daunting. I need to stay diligent though. I don't want this turning into another 10-year project like "Northland" has become.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
It's been a crazy couple months. I changed hours at work, said goodbye to a close friend, did a ton of landscaping at my home, and doubled down on practice time with my band, Hemlock Heyday. If that's not enough, I'm working on 3 albums. The first is the one I started all the way back in 2003. The second is more of an acoustic offering mostly made up of songs I wrote when I was 17-19 years of age, or new songs about that period. The third is a new band/project/collaboration separate from Hemlock Heyday that is more of a tribute to my close friend that recently past, Marc Berg. There will be more information on that as soon as I get a solid master cut. When all this is complete I will be releasing a collection of songs and demos again from my past that will wrap up the loose ends of that whole period of my life. I expect 20 or more tracks on that release. After that who knows. I have new songs waiting to be utilized. I need to get working. Time is wasting; and as I've learned first hand these last few weeks, life is short.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Digging into the raw tracks of my follow up record, I found a lot about myself that has changed. I've also found a lot that has remained the same.
I started the project in late 2002 or early 2003, and have periodically worked on small pieces of it throughout the years. The last time I really added to it significantly was in 2005 right before moving to the Twin Cities again. So the lion's share of material was recorded in and around my home town.
The record is largely complete, however I want to go back and change a few things. Mainly some vocal tracks and post production items.
I also want to add a second half of the record. I've reworked some tracks to be performed acoustically and I feel adding them would be fitting.
When that's done I'll proceed to the final mixing and mastering of the album.
When I've completed more I'll share, but for now I need to get back to work.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
I had all my gear in my bedroom at my parents' house where I grew up. I had been demoing a bunch of stuff there and much of it wasn't fitting together so to speak. I don't know what I expected. I was trying to make this epic rock record with a bunch of cheap shitty gear and I wasn't getting the results I wanted. That's when I decided to start a new project, something small that I could package and pass out at shows and put my own name on. I had to start from scratch.
It was the summer of 2002 and I was listening to a lot of Weezer and The Frogs at the time. I really liked the simplicity of their albums; short alt-pop songs with a lot of distortion and catchy hooks. I wanted a project that could be simple like that, where the songs didn't really have to mean anything and they didn't have to be terribly technical. I had a lot of free time back then. I could have recorded a prog-metal record or maybe even a more serious rock effort. Instead I decided to start from scratch an make this little pop-punk EP.
Dwelling just got back from playing a festival out in Wisconsin somewhere. It was a disaster. The headliners were Bongzilla and Tub Ring which were entertaining, but there were a lot of butt-metal bands there too. It was hot and muggy, and because it rained the day before it turned into a big sloppy mud pit. I remember it taking hours to get our van out the next day. There was this band there though that was handing out their demo on these little 80mm mini CD's. I thought that was really cool and different. I wanted to put out a demo that was tiny like that.
When I got back, I started with a few simple riffs and a notebook. I scribbled down a few rough lyrics that went with my riffs and then I worked on the structure. Intro,Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, End, etc. Once I got the song structures down I was ready to start tracking. I spent maybe an afternoon or two tracking everything. The recording process was rather crude. I had a single Sure BG 1.1 microphone on a boom over the drums and a ddrum redshot trigger on the bass drum connected to an old Roland Octapad and Alesis SR-16 to handle the kick drum trigger. All of this went through a 6 channel Crate solid state PA head into the line-in connection on the back of my parent's HP pavilion desktop (with a Pentium 3) computer. Fancy huh? Guitar, bass, and keyboard went direct into the Crate head; I used a Boss DS-1 distortion pedal on the guitar. The DAW I used was a demo copy of Magix Music Studio that I got at the local Best Buy for $10. It was a 4-track program; I was able to bounce the tracks down to free up more tracks if I needed them. For mastering I used an old copy of Sound Forge, I can't remember what version but it was still developed by Sonic Foundry at that point.
I didn't scrutinize about every detail like I had before in the past, and it showed. Much of the vocals are quiet or even pitchy, some timing issues were present, and the gain on the kick trigger was way too high on the opening track "I Hate People." I loved it though, because it was the first combined set of songs I completely made myself. In total, what I had ended up with was about seven finished songs and three or so unfinished songs. The three unfinished songs eventually were scrapped altogether for various reasons; too long, too sloppy, and one simply sounded over-produced. They just didn't fit the little punk demo thing I was going for. For the initial release I cut the track list down even one more for a total of six songs. The seventh and last song I finished called "Nineteen" was about being nineteen (which is how old I was at the time) and feeling tired with the music scene, but not being able to do much about it because I was broke and needed a job. The remaining six songs were unique in their own way. "I Hate People" was a goofy upbeat song about how I disliked most people and thought as a society, we give them too much credit and control. "Sin", "Cheat", and "Heaven" were my protest songs to failed relationships. "Mr. Creepy" in a song about how people are so willing to take advantage of one another, and "Beer Bitch" is about rednecks bringing cases of cheap beer to the beach and watching hockey on TV. Overall the song topics were rather silly and different from other music I had written in the past. Maybe that's why I related to them so well.
I gave the project the name "Ebeneezer" since I didn't want to use my own name at the time. I called the demo/ep/record "Debut". I figured "Debut" was a good name since I intended to make a lot more recordings like this in the future, and this was just the first.
The artwork was simple and fun. I wanted to convey the same careless freedom of expression with the cover art that was present in the recording. I first created a "mini-cover" for each song that somewhat represented what the song was about. These were used for the individual tracks that I uploaded to Mp3.com. The front cover was simple a star with the "band" name and the title "Debut". I later used a picture of myself and cloned it in with the crappy photo software that came with my parent's computer. Inside the booklet was an illustration of eyes and the "Ebeneezer" moniker in a pixelated font. I had also personally signed each Mini-CD copy with a little note. The one copy I have says "I Love You - James Monte". Going back to the eyes; I never fully decided what the intended meaning of the eyes were. Looking back now I feel like it signified the hypnosis of past relationships. Women always seem to get me to do things or agree to things I normally wouldn't do.
|The cover from the first 80mm demo.|
|Open case from the 80mm demo.|
|80mm demo inner booklet.|
|Flyer for the first show and release.|
|Cover from the later released standard CD.|
|Back of the MP3.com Standard jewel case.|
|Inside with the standard CD.|
|Tray art on the standard jewel case.|
|Inner booklet art for the standard jewel case. Note: the 6 mini-covers on the bottom left.|
|2013 inside cover|
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Monday, March 4, 2013
I had a small collection of cassette tapes. When things got tough I'd often retreat into my headphones and get absorbed into the music. I would imagine myself in those tapes playing the music; being part of the band. I would daydream about what it was like to be in a band. I would wonder about how to make music and how to record it. It became my world.
As an 11 or 12 year old boy my favorite tapes were "In Utero" by Nirvana, "Ten" by Pearl Jam, Blind Melon's self titled album and "Get a Grip" by Aerosmith. There were a few others too, but the tape I listened to the most was that album by Nirvana with the blue cover. "Nevermind" was that one album that would get played time and time again. Holy shit did that tape rock. It blew my face off every time.
I remembered when my Mom would plan a trip to the mall, I would be so excited because I could listen to side A on the way there and side B on the way back. The mall was the perfect distance to listen to the whole tape and I loved to stare out the car window as I escaped into the recording.
Everything about it was fucking amazing. The songs were great, the performance was incredible, and production was flawless. I still think it's one of the best records I've ever heard and it would probably be one of my desert island items.
Dave Grohl's drumming on that record taught me the basic principals of what I needed to know to become a good drummer myself. The simplistic (yet technical) time signatures and beat patterns with the right amount of beefy fills and dynamics were the fundamental building blocks of what I know today. When I get behind my drums now, I still hear some of his style coming through my own. That connection will never go away. He was the first musician I related with.
I later learned more from other drummers from listening to their records. Drummers such as Jimmy Chamberlin of Smashing Pumpkins and Dave Lombardo of Slayer were huge influences. I even picked up a lot of technique from Thomen Stauch of Blind Guardian. At the end of the day though, I always felt as though I related to Grohl's style the most.
Another strange thing that has developed recently with my relationship to the album is the eerie feeling I get while I listen to it. I feel like I'm listening to ghosts from the past. Not just the ghost of that band, but myself as a child too. Hear me out. I don't get this feeling with a lot of records, even ones with deceased personnel; which in this case I think Kurt being dead plays a significant role. But even the music as a whole; Kurt's voice and guitar, Krist's bass, Dave's drums... the production. The recording is like a time capsule of a bygone era where their youth (and mine as a listener) is captured in near perfect clarity and warmth by that fabled Neve board. The sound sends a chill down my spine and makes me feel things that no other record can. It's an undeniable connection. It makes me feel young again.
There are other records too that serve as a reminder to certain time periods in my life; those are special too. Like those albums I will likely carry a copy of "Nevermind" in my collection for the rest of my life.
Sunday, March 3, 2013
I would sacrifice anything and everything I had or was to be in a band or play on stage. I made poor life decisions altering my adulthood forever just so I could get the next gig, or to share the stage with one of my idols. I was all in and nothing stood in my way from reaching the top. Nothing except of course what happens to the majority of aspiring musicians that never realize their dreams. I grew up.
Life as it seems has it's way of getting people stuck in a rut. You get that job that is supposed to sustain your creativity, however it becomes the very thing that stifles it. You make a few small sacrifices at first, but over time making bigger sacrifices becomes commonplace. Your creative outlets start to suffer and your dreams go unfulfilled. Pretty soon 10 years has passed before you know it. You may get married and start a family, or buy a house or all of the above. When you get to that phase you are committed to your responsibilities and any dreams you have may take a back seat or fade away completely.
This is the very scenario I've gone through with my life and it's been bittersweet. On one hand I'm blessed with a wonderful family. I have a beautiful wife, a really great son, and a decent home. For the moment I like my job and all of our basic needs are met. I feel extremely lucky, and for the most part have no needs for anything more. On the other hand however, I still have that occasional longing for the life I dreamed about when I was young. The life where my sole purpose was to make music and perform for a living. I occasionally get these feelings, but if the opportunity presented itself to me today would I sacrifice the life I have now to start living the one I wanted as a younger man? Could I have both? I am conflicted with these thoughts.
I'm positive I would not leave any aspect (less my job) of my current life behind. I can't justify losing one dream to fulfill another. That is why I won't quit dreaming either. If it would happen it would have to be under the right conditions. I would have to feel like it was the right path. It would have to feel like a higher calling.
No way in hell at this point will I ever again try and pursue projects that are past my time. Heavy metal and cocky hard rock bands are out of the question. I'm too old for that shit. Would I still rock out? Absolutely, but I'm not going to be joining any death metal or power metal bands anymore. I'm done with the gimmicky stuff and show-off shit. It has to be real. It has to be from the heart. It has to speak to me.
It's been years since I've had any real inspiration of my own. I've been playing in bands, but mostly just following along since about 2005. I've been contributing without a real connection. There in body, but not in spirit as you might say. It's been good practice, but I have had a void in me for a while. Playing the death metal shit was fun, but let's face it, it just doesn't move me like a good rock song. But I played it anyway. Sometimes I liked it, but looking back I see now how miserable I was trying to be this fucking rock star that could play blast beats and triplets. Wow, so original. I was a metal drummer in a vast sea of shitty metal bands that no one cared to see.
So for a while I was this wreck of a being. I was a piece of gear that came with an instruction manual that said "insert drummer here" and play. I was trying to find that next new sound or big payoff act. I wasn't listening to my heart like I should have been. More concerned with fame and the possibility of payout than what it was really about. Regardless of if I thought some of the music was good, the situation more often than not was bad.
Where I'm at right now though, is a different place. Now I have inspiration again. After years of stagnancy I'm starting to feel the flames re-kindling within myself. I've written music before, but for the first time I'm actually rethinking how I write and arrange material. I'm putting real thought into it and creating a connection, rather than just making noise that sounds cool. I'm listening to a lot of the music that inspired me to become a musician in the first place. I'm not worried about where it will take me, or what I can gain. I'm finding new ways to approach and play instruments. I'm relearning my craft.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
When I was still in high school I really wanted to work in music. Most of all I wanted to be an engineer and work in recording studios. I was laughed at by many people older than I, including people who were tasked at helping me find my career or a school. I remember this particular time when our high school held a career day where we all signed up to get advice from people who've had jobs in the real world. The goal was to get career advice and gain perspective. I had very obviously signed up stating I wanted to be a studio engineer. The two guys I was set to meet with were not even working in the industry, so why they even had me meet with them was always confusing to me. We chat for a bit. They asked me what I wanted to do, how I wanted to get there, and how I could achieve this. I did my best based on the knowledge I had being only 17 at the time. I told them that I have been in recording studios before, that I was quite good at working with a mixing board, and that I felt I had a natural talent for making recordings sound good. I wanted to go to a school where I could hohn my skills and work around the industry before opening a studio of my own. They let me out of the room so they could have a brief discussion so they could have some advice ready for me when I returned. The problem is that I could hear them beyond the door. "This kid has no idea what he wants." "He'll probably end up in fast food." I didn't even want to return at that point, but I did. They gave me some bullshit about finding the right school and doing some more research about the field. I left.
I never did end up working in a studio for a living. I almost went to school for it. In 2004 my Wife and I had packed everything up and were ready to make the drive to Florida, but went to Minneapolis instead. A decision I haven't regretted. It was around this time when many large and famous recording studios started closing. It seems the advent of more powerful personal computers and home studio solutions like Pro Tools, Logic and Samplitude have eaten away at the market significantly. It was now cheaper to build your own project studio than it was to pay for studio time, and the sound quality was not far off. I do still to this day have a passion for recording and mixing. I've recorded my projects as well as a few others and worked in some really great studios over the years, but I was always the one paying to do it. I also never worked in fast food. *middle finger to those douche-bags*
After my passion for recording professionally subsided, I got the desire to work with my hands building drums and casing my own cymbals. I only wanted to do this as a hobby, so I never really had much invested in it. I had blogged about it before on my old websites and friends of mine actually ran with it and built their own drums. I never got there. It always seems that I never had the money to get started. Drum shells, hardware and other materials involved can run up to a thousand dollars or more not including tools. I eventually switched to the idea of cymbal casting. I did research on bronze composition, hammering and the annealing process. I spent time getting information on forums from professional cymbal makers and learned how to build firing furnaces and sand casts for ingots. I came close to starting this despite I didn't have the proper industrial space to do it. I bough many materials including silica sands, cement mixes and a peen hammer. I even had a pile of B20 bronze to get started with. This was around the time right before my son was born, and when that happened my priorities shifted. Money and time were no longer a luxury I could afford. Since then, I've never considered getting started again.
Although time is a factor it always seems that money is the big deterrent. It's why I've never went to a college for something I want to learn, It's why I've rebuild my Pentium 4 desktop countless times over the past ten years instead of buying a Mac, It's why I always say "I'll get to it later when I have the cash", but often never do.
As I get older I still have many passions, but the ambitious ones seem to become more unrealistic. I still love making and recording music, when I have time. I still find the construction of musical instruments very interesting, but I'm more likely to buy one than make it. If I ever have the money.
Some passions have played out in my favor though. I've always wanted to work in IT. I currently work a Network Technician. I want to go to school to be a network engineer and security specialist (ultimately an ethical hacker), but I am getting hit with opposition in the form of schedule conflicts, and daycare issues. Will I ever realize that dream or will it be just another failed ambition to add to the list?
Although it is more realistic of a career goal, I'm not getting much support from loved ones or the college I want to attend. I need to make time and money out of thin air apparently. Easier said than done when you have a deficit each pay period and you have to split your 70hr work week with daddy duties.
I do have my family though. That is a great win in my life. I am fortunate to have my Wife and Son who are living proof that I can achieve tremendous goals. Some people aren't that lucky and I understand that, so I m very thankful.
In the end it's not about what goals you can achieve or how far you make it, but how good a person you are. That being said, I first and foremost want to be a good father and loving husband. I also want to be more. I'm a person who loves to work, and I work very hard when I'm given the opportunity. I realize the only one to give me that opportunity is myself. Am I being selfish to want to make time to pursue the things in life I want to achieve?
Friday, February 8, 2013
Through my entire stay in the project, the band has been strained by my busy schedule as well as other hardships. Now with my schedule becoming more hectic with the pursuit of higher education and involvement with other projects, I had to take a step back and take a serious look at where things were at. I felt the band would be better off with someone who could devote more time and effort to the project. I had just finished my drum tracks for EV's full length album the previous week and felt now was the best time to make my departure.
Brian has been at the helm of this band since 1998, and I know he's going to continue on. It is, after all "Eternal Voyager".
I wish Brian, Brett and Co. all the best of luck with the future of the band and the search for a new drummer. I can't wait to hear the finished record.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
When I was a teenager I felt like I was some kind of special shit. I thought I was so cool and edgy and that would never change. Fast forward to my thirties and now I'm as lame as anyone else's dad. It just sort of happens. You grow older and get stuck in your routines and responsibilities. All of a sudden your that guy walking his wife's dumb-ass dog in the suburbs wearing khaki's and a polo shirt. What the fuck ever happened? I would have never been caught dead dressed like that, 10 years ago even.
After some reflection:
The thing is, I like reading books and taking naps. I like drinking tea and watching a good movie rather than going to a club or bar. Is that me being lame, or do I just know what I like?
The clothing I have an excuse for. I have a job that provides income to fund my life. I need to dress appropriate for that job or I might lose it and not get paid. I have no excuse for the dog. I hate him.
What about the rut I'm in? Who ever said anything about a rut? I like naps, books and tea. I think you're crazy if you don't. I don't like clubs. I'm married. What purpose do I have there if I'm not picking up chicks? I certainly am not dancing to the shitty music they play there. I'd rather kick back and listen to something worth while at home where I can enjoy it.
So am I really getting more lame, or am I just more in tune to what I like. Is it simply that my priorities are straight? Is it really a bad thing that I don't wear metal tees every day of the week anymore? I still like metal tees, but I usually wear them while fixing the car or doing yard work.
I like my life for the most part. If you think I'm lame, screw you. I think you're a pretentious fuck.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
I find writing to be cathartic even if there is no audience. If there is an audience then that's even better, although I'm not sure how much on here the average reader would find remotely interesting.
I'm 30 years old; married, father of 1 son, and 2 cats. I work in the network I.T. field and have been an amateur musician since about the age of 13.
I have a deep appreciation for music and the arts and I am engaged in modern technology. I often will write and talk about these subjects. I dislike politics and big business so I will rarely write about that on here unless I am particularly invested in the matter.
I've always lived by the "live and let live" way of life and I won't spread much negativity if I can help it. We only have a short time here and I want to fill it with things worth my while.
One last thing before I start; My family comes first. I don't care about anything else.