Off!

14 03 2014

The members of OFF! outside their studio, during a break in the making of their newest album. Left to right: singer Keith Morris, bassist Steven McDonald, drummer Mario Rubalcaba and guitarist Dimitri Coats.This band called Off! is my new favorite!!  I heard of them from Anthony Keidis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Wow, love them, and it’s no wonder I love Anthony and his vibe so much.  He wore a ball cap the whole I’m With You tour that says Off! to give them his personal shout out.  How kickass is that??!!

The band is fronted by Keith Morris, original front man of the punk band Black Flag and founder of the Circle Jerks.  He also had another band called Midget Handjob, which is my new all time favorite band name after The Butthole Surfers.  I that that name would never be trumped but Keith in his Punk Rock Jesus wisdom obviously knows better.

Check out Off!  If you’re a fan of real, true balls to the wall punk rock and really understand what it’s about you’ll love it.  If you’re offended then you don’t understand punk and you probably should just go away.

Check them out here –> Off!

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Spring 2011 Photography by Vaughn Brown

9 04 2011

Here are some recent shots I’ve clickety clicked here and there over the past month or so. The weather has been so weird this spring! Isn’t it supposed to bring us warmth and flowers? We have rain and snow. Maybe I’ll get to the turning colors next month.

This is a photograph of a part of a drawing I did about twenty years ago. I used to draw a lot but when you stop doing something for a long time you lose it. I should start to draw or paint again. It’s a good outlet.

I’ve been playing this harp for a few months now. I’m not great, but I can fake it pretty well in bursts. Just don’t ask me to play with a band because I don’t know any songs and can barely play the C major scale on the thing.

Self portrait, need I say more?

I took this from inside the train while it was rounding a corner. I likes.

This amazing shot was taken just walking down the street in Riverton after a snow storm. The sky was clearing up and the mountains looked amazing. Utah has some of the most spectacular, natural beauty this planet has to offer. What a blessing it is to witness it every day.

This is part of another of my drawings. A collage of thought and the over-active imagination of youth.

This is the guitar I’ve been playing the last few months. I wish I caught on to guitar when I was younger the way I get it now. It makes sense now that I understand more theory and scales.

The blade

Does this need an explanation? I took it at the railroad tracks looking toward the capital building.

When you zoom in on your hand and enhance it with Photoshop a lot more lines show up than you see by just looking. I wonder what it all means.

My pal Chad’s incredible, quilted maple, Ibanez hollow body. I love this guitar, it sounds as good as it looks.

And last but not least…what does that even mean? These are my friends from the SLC band, Alias Code. L to R: Brian, Wes, Kajol, Joey, Chris. Amazing band, energy and talent.

Spencer Gee recently replaced Kajol as the vocalist and the band changed its name to The Stranger Beside Me.  I like the name a lot.





Daniel Johnston

29 03 2011

DanDaniel Johnston is one of my favorite artists.  If you’re unfamiliar with his work, to see one of his drawings or listen to one of his recordings you likely wouldn’t be terribly impressed.  But after hearing more of his work it becomes apparent that Daniel Johnston is an inspired visionary.  He is not the best performer in comparison to some more accomplished artists but if you have an understanding of what Daniel Johnston is about and what he lives for, his performances take on a whole new meaning.

Art and music flow from Daniel like water down the Nile.  He is unstoppable and it is as though he can’t help but create music and art.  He has many recurring themes throughout his art, mostly of battles between good and evil and the same themes run through his songs.  Much of what he sings about has to do with his affection for a never gotten love interest named Lori.   He met her in his youth and followed her with a video camera as his way of worshiping and admiring her.  He did get her to say, “I love you Danny” but that was only to satisfy him and she eventually went on to marry an undertaker who he used as the subject of many songs.

His mother would lecture him endlessly about his slothfulness and call him an unprofitable servant of the Lord (he would call himself an unserviceable prophet) as he spent all of his time drawing, writing and recording.  Daniel grew up with faith in his religion and a profound fear of hell and damnation.  He spoke often of Satan and the torment of the devil in his songs and in his conversations and lived in fear of losing his soul.  One therapist said about Daniel, after analyzing his drawings, that he is surely going to heaven because it’s obvious he has already been to hell.

Daniel finally realized one of his life long dreams by accident when MTV profiled the Austin music scene in the mid eighties.  Dan worked his way in front of the cameras, was interviewed and eventually given a spot live on MTV performing his songs.  The world was finally introduced to Daniel Johnston and his career began to bloom. But Daniel perceived the experience as a dichotomy or paradox in that MTV was serving the devil but there he was on MTV, just like he said he would as a kid.

When Dan was still pretty young he began to develop bi-polar disorder which became so severe he spent a lot of time in and out of many mental institutions.  He changed suddenly from a happy and care free young boy to a troubled and self loathing youth.

When he was in New York City spending time with the members of Sonic Youth he had a severe episode and was again sent to a mental facility.  He was accidentally released on a clerical error and found himself at CBGB that evening and opened up for the LA band fIREHOSE.

Daniel Johnston had many extreme episodes of mania where he would essentially lose touch with reality.  One time he was in his father’s private airplane, his father piloting and he turned the engine off and threw the keys out the window.  The airplane crash landed in the trees and both were uninjured.  Another time he whacked his manager over the head with a lead pipe three times.  Daniel has been quoted as saying, “I whammed him, I whammed him good“.  After these episodes he again found himself committed to mental institutions where he realized the horror of what he had done.

As Dan got older and into his forties he went back to living with his parents, taking his meds and focusing on writing and playing music.  Dan tours the world and elsewhere performing his music to the delight of devoted fans.  Sometimes his shows are sub-par and sometimes they are purely brilliant.  True fans love his performances either way.

God bless Daniel Johnston.  The poor man has been tormented all of his life and he has produced some amazing art and beautiful songs.  Over 400 artists have covered his music including Beck, fIREHOSE, Sonic Youth, Death Cab for Cutie, Tom Waits, David Bowie, Built to Spill and Pearl Jam.

Daniel’s life has been chronicled in the movie “The Devil and Daniel Johnston“.  It spans over twenty years of Daniel’s life as he had recorded most of his life on video and audio tape.  Learn more about Daniel Johnston at his fan site rejectedunknown.com

(some images used without permission of the artist)





The Godfathers of Guitar

18 02 2011

There’s a progression in music, much like the generations that pass as we raise our children, pass on our values and go forward into the world, having influence on so much.  We might feel insignificant while we are bogged down in the drudgery and seemingly mundane detail of every effort it takes to produce what it is we are striving for.

But it’s all worth it!  It pays off, maybe not in the peak of our lives as we would like, but if we persist, endure and do it right our lives and what we create become a crescendo that builds a foundation for those who come after us.  What we do is not lost on the demands of daily life as long as we keep our eyes on the distant goal.

Before I get too far off course, I’ll reel my thoughts back in and start talking about a man named Robert Johnson. Robert Johnson was born in 1911 and only lived to the age of twenty seven, but what he did for music is something that cannot be measured.

This brings me to another point of irony; the great music artists who made a huge splash and shook up the status quo of music in their day, dying at the age of twenty seven.  Robert Johnson, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain.  There I go again getting ahead of myself.  It’s all in my head, but I need to lay it out in some order for it to make any sense.

Everyone has heard the story of the guy who sold his soul at the crossroads for talent, fame and glory.  Charlie Daniels brought it to us and told the story well in his classic song, The Devil Went Down To Georgia.  Did you ever wonder where the story of Johnny and the Devil came from?  It wasn’t Johnny and it wasn’t a fiddle.  It was Robert Johnson with a guitar.

Robert Johnson was a good blues guitar player but he wanted more, he wanted to be the best.  He studied with one of the greats of the time, Son House and used to try to emulate his idol but was unable to play as well.  When Johnson was nineteen he disappeared from Robinsonville, Mississippi for several months and when he came back he had a new guitar technique that nobody had ever played before.

This is where the story gets told, that Robert Johnson, for his passion of wanting to play the guitar so well, took his guitar to a crossroad near the Dockery Plantation at midnight where a large black man appeared to him.  The man took the guitar from Johnson, tuned it, played a couple of songs, and gave the guitar back to him along with total mastery of the instrument.  He was given the gift he sought but in return for this gift Johnson exchanged his soul.

This story makes for great PR but there’s another story that is probably what really happened.  Another player of the time named Ike Zinnerman spent a lot of time with Robert Johnson playing in the local cemetery at midnight, reportedly because it was quiet and nobody was around to disturb them.  This is where Johnson honed his mastery of the instrument, and the cemetery isn’t a bad place to come up with a story about selling one’s soul to the devil in exchange for fame and glory.

With the fame and glory came a tragic end.  Robert Johnson had been playing a certain gig for a few weeks and was flirting with the juke joint owner’s wife.  The man offered Johnson an open bottle of whiskey (he had previously been warned to never accept an open bottle but replied to the man who told him that to never knock a bottle from his hand) and he drank from it.  Reports tell us that the bottle was laced with strychnine and over the next few days Robert Johnson fell ill and eventually died.

Robert Johnson did leave us with an incredible catalog of recorded music that artists of the future would learn from and grow with to produce greater and more influential musical creation for us to partake of.  One in particular, and the one who most all musicians would agree is the standard for rock and roll and blues guitar is James Marshall Hendrix aka Jimi Hendrix.

Jimi Hendrix was born Johnny Allen Hendrix, November 27, 1942.  When Jimi’s dad came back from Europe after World War II he changed Jimi’s name to James Marshall, after his late brother, Leon Marshall.  I’m not sure where the James came from but I like it because we get Jimi spelled in that unique way.  Maybe it was just time to break from the chaos of the past and make things new.  Jimi always had a bright outlook on things and I think Al, his dad, was instrumental in teaching him correct principles.

On a side note, I had the honor of shaking hands with Al Hendrix in the fall of 1991 at a club in Seattle called the Rockandy.  It was a type of gig the Seattle bands put together to follow a theme of the godfathers of rock and roll and this night was Jimi Hendrix theme night.  Twelve Seattle bands came together to perform two Hendrix tunes of their choice and of their interpretation.  No, we didn’t have Nirvana or Soundgarden or Alice in Chains or Screaming Trees or Pearl Jam or Mudhoney or any of the huge list of big-shot Seattle bands you might wish were a part of this story; yeah, and I wish too!  How would that have been?  To meet Al Hendrix and watch Soundgarden knock out a couple Jimi covers for a six dollar entry?  But it wasn’t to be. Although we did get a dramatic performance from a band called The Sky Cries Mary, an obvious reference to Jimi’s song The Wind Cries Mary.  The Sky Cries Mary had some accolades and even made an appearance on the David Letterman show, but for some reason they didn’t receive the strong and wide spread recognition a lot of the projects coming out of Seattle did, which is a cryin’ shame because to be honest their expression through music was far more complex and layered than most everything else, especially at that time. They were never part of the ‘grunge’ scene, nor do I think they ever had any desire to be. They stood head and shoulders apart from the rest of the dank and dirty rock and roll genre that swept through Seattle at that time..

 
I sat with Roderick Romero, a member of The Sky Cries Mary, that night and we talked of musical expression, the layering of sound and the experiences obtained through the use of mind expanding particles introduced to the creative process. It is a conversation that has stayed with me through my life and throughout my creative endeavors. It was a great night, and I am grateful to have had that moment with him; he is an inspired and remarkable artistic visionary.

And there I go again, getting off track.  When it comes to music and the things I’ve seen, I can talk for hours and find myself down the goofiest tangents.

Jimi’s mom died when he was nine, from complications due to her alcohol abuse, and he moved up to Vancouver, BC for a while.  This is where he acquired his first acoustic guitar, from a pawn shop for five dollars.  His dad got it for him because Jimi had been air guitaring on an old broom stick and playing a broken ukulele his dad found while cleaning the garage.

Eventually Al rounded up enough dough to get Jimi his first electric guitar.  In 1958 he got a white Supro Ozark 1560 S, single pickup from Myer’s Music in Seattle, Washington.  He didn’t have an amplifier but Jimi did what he could with what he had and that’s why Jimi Hendrix is the legend he is today; because he felt it and what he felt, he was able to let out his arms and through his fingers, through his guitars and into our ears for the expansion of minds around the musical world.

Jimi took what the godfathers before him did, like Robert Johnson, Son House and Ike Zinnerman and added a new flavor to the mix.  It’s an evolution, and as society in Jimi’s day evolved in technology and industry, so did music in intellectuality.  Thank God Jimi Hendrix was there with his electric guitar to express this new knowledge given us from The Field in the form of music as the floodgates opened and the new energy rolled forward.  The minds who were paying attention and who would not immediately dismiss this new horizon as rebellion and sedition from normalcy opened to the influence of this musical microcosm that had previously existed only in science fiction and in the fantasies of artists.

He had the audacity to play The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock, and regardless of what most white collar conservatives, flashing down the street, pointing their plastic fingers at Jimi believe, he did it as a tribute to this great nation, not as a desecration of something sacred as our national anthem.  Just because the squares of the day didn’t get it doesn’t mean his art form was nothing short of God’s grace shedding brilliant talent down on a generation of artists to shake up the status quo.  That’s not to say his lifestyle was anything to emulate; maybe something to be learned from, but the authorities of the day tried to dismiss what he was doing as a mockery when it was merely a new form of expression.  And to dismiss the art because of the artist is a shame.  If we were to do that then we might just as well throw out Mozart, Hemmingway and Van Gogh.

Jimi did live fast and died hard.  On September 18, 1970 at the age of twenty seven, Jimi Hendrix died.  It was that night that he had attended a party in London and was picked up by his then girlfriend, Monika Dannemann and driven to her place at the Samarkand Hotel at Notting Hill.  It was no secret that Jimi had an affection for amphetamines and this night he downed nine Vesperax, a German brand sleeping pill whose dosage was one half of a pill.  A few hours after midnight Jimi began to vomit from the overdose but was unconscious from the high dosage and asphyxiated on the red wine that was in his stomach.  Eeeew!

That’s a tragic end to a lifestyle lived.  God bless Jimi Hendrix and may he be forgiven for any trespasses upon the Natural Law.  He was a man of vision and an artist that many followed after.

And after Jimi came many, and there were other masters who deserve mention as Jimi’s peers.  Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, George Harrison, Jimmy Page and in the years beyond the great sixties and early seventies we had mega freaks like Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhodes, the Schenker brothers and Stevie Ray Vaughan and even some disgustingly, technically perfect, so perfect it’s not even enjoyable listening, like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai.  But then, thank the heavens; we were blessed in the late eighties with a new son of pure guitar art form who played only because it’s the only thing he could do.  Not for the glory, not for the fame, not for the money; he played from the heart and he gave it everything.

On June 25, 1988 Hillel Slovak, guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers succumbed to the horrors of heroin addiction and left a gaping hole in the world of music.  One of their fans, John Anthony Frusciante had been playing guitar since age nine when he became infatuated with The Germs and learned to play along with their record, GI.  Shortly after that, one of his instructors turned him on to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and John proceeded to emulate Hillel Slovak’s guitar style.  John went on to master the blues scales at then discovered Frank Zappa.  At the age of sixteen, with the permission of his parents, he dropped out of high school after taking a proficiency test and enrolled at the Guitar Institute of Technology.  At one point Frusciante was set on trying out for Frank Zappa’s band but heard that Frank wasn’t too keen on chemical refreshment so John decided, as he knew he was going to indulge in the hedonism of rock stardom, not to even give it a shot.

Frusciante had become friends of the Chili Peppers as their shows were more intimate in the early days when the fans would go gangbusters slam dancing (before it was called moshing) and rarely experience the show visually.  There was a band in LA at the time called Thelonious Monster who was auditioning guitar players.  Anthony Keidis was friends with Bob Forrester of Thelonious Monster and arranged an audition for John.  After seeing the audition, Anthony offered Frusciante a position in the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

John Frusciante was eighteen years old and they called him Greenie.  He fell in quick with the band and followed in Hillel’s footsteps without missing a beat.  It was almost as though he had channeled Hillel’s spirit he played the Chili Peppers’ material so well.  As Slovak was greatly influenced by Jimi Hendrix, so was John Frusciante, and like Hillel, John approached the guitar from a minimalist angle, which likely came from his punk and new wave roots.  And I say God bless you John for not being another over playing virtuoso and laying it down cleanly and simply and beautifully as you have for the years.

The music that John has created with The Red Hot Chili Peppers has given me insight into things that I knew were going on within my own life, but I was unable to touch upon them in any coherent manner.  But when I listened to Californication in February of 2000 while driving from Vancouver, Washington to Salt Lake City to look for a new career, and move my family back home as the wife requested, I heard Anthony telling me about parallel universes and that was something of a catalyst to my thinking toward my belief that this band has in fact, paralleled my entire life with their songs, the stories they tell within the songs and all the drama and in fighting, with Dave Navarro coming into the band during that time I was adopting my two daughters, Tayslie and Ali and I did  not treat them right.  I didn’t have the tools or the skills to be a tender and nurturing parent.  But as time has passed I have grown in knowledge and wisdom and I pray that those beautiful young women forgive me some day of the faults of a young man who was trying his best to do what he was told by those around him and echoing the environment in which he was raised.

And here we are today, loving Stadium Arcadium, again following the patterns of my life.  Every song on that recording speaks profoundly to me at some level of my life at the time it was recorded, from my relationships with younger women and She’s Only 18 (and it actually tells the story of my relationships with Jayne Pederson exactly as it happened, and with another girl named Raquel; it just blows me away how precise the words are to us) to Warlocks when I spent my time in Portland with the hedge witch, Tami to the soul touching song Hey, the last track on the first disc, Mars of the Stadium Arcadium masterpiece; that song, Hey tells the story of the communication between me and my ex wife to the T.  And the song, Charlie is totally Marlene, my angel and my healer. And not to mention their unreleased b-sides recordings that speak directly to me with profound exactness every time I stumble upon them.

I could go on and write volumes.  This means nothing to many and it’s just silliness to some, but for me it’s profound and this is my life.  All things happen for a reason.  There is no such thing as coincidence.  All things have purpose, if you have faith enough to believe on things greater than yourself.

So, from Robert Johnson to Jimi Hendrix and on down through the cacophony of glammed up rock star virtuoso guitar players we are blessed with the tenderness of John Frusciante who expresses the truth right through his instrument and into my ears to resonate with me and validate my existence.

I love you John.  Thank you for everything you’ve been through, everything you’ve given us and everything that is to come.  John Frusciante is a master beyond recognition.





Eavesdroppings

6 01 2011

I got on the train this morning and the first thing I heard was a woman talking to a blind man.  She was saying something like, “I don’t put on a dress and ask him, does this make me look fat, I ask him, how does this look, and if he says it looks too tight I say OK”.

Why do women do that to us?  Our bodies get out of shape.  We can’t all stay at that 15 year old physique all our lives and when that perfect slimness and optimal body fat content thing starts to go haywire on us we leave it to others to validate our unsightliness by putting them on the spot with unavoidable questions like, “how does this dress look?”

I don’t talk about anything but the dress.  She asks me, “how does this dress look?”, I talk about the colors I see or the cut of it, I’m not getting involved in any of the “I can see your fat rolls”, or “your kankles are showing”, discussion.  Leave that to the suicide squad.

Now that that’s off my chest…

I went to Karaoke last night.  Not something I recommend if you’re looking to broaden your cultural horizons or if you have any appreciation for real art and music.  But if you like to sit back and feel like a complete snob watching mediocrity fail, it’s a real good time.  I’ve done Karaoke, but when I do Karaoke I go balls out.  I’m not going to get up there and sing Alan Parson’s Project, get the arms waving back and for the Eye in the Sky.  It’s a good song for its time; some say a classic, but for Karaoke?  Who wants to go to all the trouble of getting out of the comfort of their personal surroundings and go watch some dude whose artistic inspiration starts and stops on commercial television?  And that’s about the time I start telling myself, “I’m such an ass.”

Karaokeists are just trying to have a good time, they’re playing around, their friends are laughing, it’s all part of camaraderie and good clean fun; it’s like playing house or having a tea party when you’re four years old.  When you see life through the lens I see life through it’s not that simple.

I see over in the corner of my eye this dude, obviously a dude, and my gaydar is pretty good because last year when the census takers knocked on my door I was given a voucher for a gaydar upgrade and I just had it installed last week, so it’s a guy.  And I don’t even know if this qualifies to be in the gaydar range of discussion, if I’m treading on some homophobia sacred ground of discussion or if I’m just being an ass again, but I’m saying to myself, that dude looks like a lesbian.  You know, he’s got the butch haircut, baby face, he’s kind of chubby, little bit of the man boob thing going on with a puca shell necklace, having a little too much fun sweatin’ to the oldies.  And he’s wearing the same clothes those chicks who are trying to look like dudes wear.  So I mention it to a friend of mine just to check and see if I’m really a total and complete ass or if it’s actually kind of funny, and she starts laughing.  I say yeah I feel bad for saying it out loud, or even thinking it, but look at the guy.  She validates me by saying yeah, you’re right, that’s pretty funny.

Then he starts slow dancing.  It’s not bad enough that it was Karaoke but they took a break and started playing slow songs to give us a little chance at romance, and Charlie Crooner gets on the mic.  It was like American Idol reject clips, but I’m trying to be good about the whole thing.  These people are having fun, no babies are being punched and no new diseases are being designed by our activities, it’s just good, clean, wholesome fun, right?

So This guy is slow dancing with some girl, she’s cute, no big deal, but the whole time I’m seeing this out of the corner of my eye I’m just laughing inside and I lean to my friend and said, “those two chicks are dancing with each other.”  Now, that’s not even funny, it’s nothing to laugh about, two chicks dancing together, no big deal.  But I’m sitting there feeling like such a pompous ass being so condescending to this bull crap music, trying to make it an uplifting and enjoyable time, finding joy in people lip syncing to the worst of the worst of the top forty from 25 years ago, as though they’re doing us a favor dragging us down memory lane with them.

I hated this crap then and you’re not making it any better for me.  It’s like putting miracle whip on a bologna sandwich.  It’s still bologna and it’s still miracle whip, sugar infused mayonnaise.  It’s like the nutrition of junk food for the soul.  And all I can do to keep myself entertained is think how much this poor, innocent, young man looks like he’s trying to fool us into thinking he’s a dude, when really already is.  And the tragedy that he looks like that is something I’m starting to feel guilt for, but then at the same time it’s the only thing keeping me lightly entertained, enough to be able to scrape a little joy off the bottom of this bucket of preservative packed soul junk food, then I look down and in front of me is a bowl of cheese puffs.

It was like a sign from the gods telling me this is where I’m supposed to be.  It’s cheesy and it’s full of fluff with no real substance but if you munch on them long enough you can learn to enjoy.  Somewhere safe, not going to find any trouble, certainly not going to stir up any shenanigans, and I begin to realize that I really like to rock the boat and if it’s not rocking I’m not comfortable.

Then I see lezbo boy again in the corner of my eye and it just hits me and I double over in a fit of laughter and I start clapping and giggling like a giddy little school girl at the silliness of it all and the whole time it’s so loud and there’s so much going on that nobody knows what I’m carrying on about and they all think I’m just joining in and having a good time with everyone crooning to the sounds of rock and roll pabulum.

Then somebody puts on ‘Give it Away’ by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  And I’m thinking OK, this is a song I can get behind, but he’s reading the lyrics, there’s no soul, no groove, no funk, and certainly to busting out of anything Chili Pepper style and my friends know this about me, that I’m a huge Chili Peppers fan so they’re like, go on out there man this is your song.  But what am I gonna do, go out there and do an Anthony Keidis impression with this guy who started the song?  That’s not cool, to go out there and show him up.  And then I’m back to thinking again, man I’m and ass for thinking that if went out there it would be showing him up, like what I could do would be some ‘in your face’ to his effort at entertaining us.  It’s not a basketball tournament.  So I just sat back and watched it unfold.

Karaoke is a weird thing, it makes me feel squirmy.  I’m such a critic and such a snob when it comes to any sort of art form.  I like to express myself but there are so many people who do it in such better ways than I could with the mediums available, but so often if I had the skill that they had I would do it in such a different way.  And that’s why I wish I could express my emotions through a medium I had complete mastery over.  So it’s time to start practicing again, because it’s time to express things in the right way.

I think it’s important that we all create something of beauty, that we work hard to express what we find colorful and lovely and beautiful around us, to reproduce what we feel; what evokes emotion within us, in one form or another for others to respond to, to bring them life and inspiration and to bring to life that inner spirit that creates and loves what is intangible and beautiful about art and the greatness that surrounds us, that which we all want to be a part of, where we can find common ground and build together.





Psalter Drums – The Drum Photo Shoot

3 01 2011

http://psalterdrums.com is the result of an idea that came about from many journeys to the Bonneville Salt Flats. That place has become, to me much like the desert of southern California was to Jim Morrison.

This whole idea came about on my forty first birthday. Not exactly the idea to do a photo shoot at the Salt Flats itself but that is where it all began.

Me and my pal, Lance started the evening in late September of 2006 in Park City with dinner and a stroll through some art galleries, then we went down to Club Vegas in Salt Lake City where we saw Soulfly, a band fronted by the former front man of Sepultura, Max Calavera. There were some opening bands and one of them was Wicked Wisdom, a band fronted by one Jada Pinkett Smith, wife to Will Smith and Mother to this generation’s Karate Kid. Also in the band, Phillip D. Fish of the legendary LA post-punk ska/skate/funk/punk and otherwise completely soulfulified band called Fishbone.

So me and Lance slide on up to the club and park his subcompact SUV down the street just as the weather starts to turn on us. It was a nice day but being the first day of fall, the Great Salt Lake decided it would hand us a little gift of weather and sent a lake effect hail shower right over the venue.

So just as me and Lance are walking up to the doors and past back-stage, Wicked Wisdom is tearing down from their set. But the drums and gear are sitting out back and the weather is upon us.

Now all we know at this point is that there are bands at this club and we made it there in one piece, or two pieces if we need to be technical. We don’t know who Soulfly is or who the opening bands are. We were just invited to show up because our good friend and fellow drummer, Jason Thompson of Massacre at the Wake told us it would be a ‘sick’ metal show that would not want to miss.

Now, me and Lance are not fans of metal by any means at this point in our lives, we completely don’t get it, but we are game to dig on some new music at any time because new music is always an opportunity and hey, I heard of Sepultura!

So the hail starts pouring down and some large black man calls to me and Lance for help grabbing a tent cover type device to protect their drums and cabs from the elements. Now, suddenly I’m not just showing up to the gig unaware of what is going on but I’m now schlepping Phillip D. Fish’s orange sparkle OCDP kit into their truck and helping cover the rest of the gear with this giant picnic tent cover thing.

So we have done our Boy Scoutly duty for the day and he thanks us and we are treated as part of the crew from that point forward. The club brass let us walk right in back stage. It was my first time at this venue and I was turning my head on a swivel like you do when you go into a crowded and chaotic backstage club for the first time.

So I’m trying to squeeze between people and it strikes me as a little bit strange that there is this group of black dudes who are totally chill and totally metal and suddenly I bumped into a tiny little black woman with braided hair and I turned my head and said, “pardon me”. And she said, “Oh, excuse me” back.

I glanced at her and thought to myself, damn that woman is gorgeous! I mean it was dark but there were lights casting shadows and her skin was like chocolate silk and her eyes took my breath away and hers smile was out of this world, but I kept on walking and didn’t think twice about it.

So we watched Soulfly play and they kicked all sorts of ass and we were baptized into the metal church of Salt Lake City that evening and after the show my pal Jason says to me, ‘Did you see Jada Pinkett earlier?”

Then it dawned on me. Wow, that was her. And I didn’t even know it. And I started putting the puzzle together and realized what we had stumbled through to get into this show and save a thirty five dollar ticket price by being two dumbasses who walked up at the right time to save the gear from a hail storm.

So what does this all have to do with the Salt Flats? I’m getting to it, good things take time and patience is required to appreciate the full goodness.

So we get home and crash out about 2:30am and bright and early the next morning I wake up at 8:30, zing! And I wander into Lance’s bedroom where he is cutting some serious lumber and I said, “Dude, you wanna do me a favor?”. And he responds with, “Gimme a minute.”

So I went back out to the living room and took it easy until he figured his way back to life and when he appeared in full regalia I told him, “Let’s go to the Salt Flats.”

We had never been at this point and his response was of course to just go with the flow as we always did and so we grabbed a couple of beverages and the required tuneage and began our journey westward.

On the way out there we got a little ahead of ourselves and had to pull over to the rest area. Lance had been driving highway speeds and has a history of driving highway speeds through rest areas and parking lots as he enters them, and this was no different. So not paying attention and just trying to get into a parking stall as immediately as possible, we are ten feet from the curb and realize we are still doing fifty so he slams on the brakes and the car skids up over the concrete barrier and onto the sidewalk and we both open our doors at the same time and fall out of the car laughing in hysterics.

Fortunately, and in typical fashion for what always goes down when we create epicness, nobody was there to witness or bust on us.

So we bounce on in to the lavatory to relieve ourselves before this adventure to the Salt Flats, of which we were completely unaware of it’s impending awesomeness, and we’re wizzing and laughing and some old guy, seriously must have been eighty walks in while we’re wiping tears from our eyes and washing our hands and I look at him and sort of feel like I need to apologize for being so irreverent and I said, “We’re just having a good ol’ time this afternoon, how are you doing?”

And he said the right thing, as an old man would in his wisdom and years. His reply was perfect. He just said to us, “Well, you gotta express yourselves!”

And that we did.

But the next thing that happened actually made double over in laughter even harder than I was already being twisted. I said to Lance, “Hey, when I asked you this morning would you do me a favor, what were you thinking I was going to ask?”

Without hesitation and in classic Lance straight faced form he smoothly replied, “I thought you were gonna ask me to kill a guy for you but then I remembered my trident was at the dry cleaners.”

That was it; if I had diapers on they would have been utilized.

So we went on to the Salt Flats and in driving out there it’s about a three mile long road that is just like a levy with no water on either side with an asphalt road built up on top. When you first go out there it’s just like a regular desert, but then you get to the end of the road and drop onto the Bonneville Salt Flats and everything changes.

And we hit the skids at about seventy miles an hour. We weren’t wasting any of our precious time and we were listening to Jimi Hendrix’s Axis Bold as Love and I fondly remember All Along the Watchtower playing as we increased our speed and hit a remarkable 120 mph on that smooth white surface and just kept on flying.

We were in orbit man, it was spectacular, like nothing we expected and nothing we even thought of before it happened, we just did it. So we are hauling balls across these crystal white plains and all I kept saying was, “Just don’t turn, man. Just don’t turn.”

Then after about ten minutes of full on all out pedal to the metal speed, Lance hit the brakes and skidded to a stop as Voodoo Child started playing and we once again, just as we did at the rest area, fell out of the car but this time we left the tunes cranked and we started wandering around the vastness of the Salt Flats and dancing as I chopped down the mountains with the edge of my hand.

Epic-ness had ensued and a love for the Salt Flats was born that day.

I took many other trips out there after that with friends, day and night, with my children and nothing compared to that day until this one, when we came to shoot the drums.

It wasn’t the speed or the music this time, it was the beauty and the handling of the elements we did with our faith in creating the sky and lighting for the shoot that made this one so spectacular. It was storming in Salt Lake City and trees were falling, power was being lost throughout the valley and we were going by faith that the good Lord would provide us with the environment we needed for the perfect shoot.

And we got it.

Here’s the site –> http://psalterdrums.com

(image of Jada Pinkett Smith used without permission)





The Beatles are on iTunes!

10 12 2010

The  Beatles seem to make a come back every so often, and iTunes is this generation’s Beatles comeback.  So I decided to reprise the Beatles and rediscover them for the umpteenth time for this blog post.  The Beatles made an impact on my life when I was a child.  I don’t remember all the details but I do remember the way-out disconnectedness and psychedelia that sent my mind to unfamiliar places and even gave me nightmares with the experimental, boundary breaking A Day In The  Life.  That  song freaked me out and I loved it!

Strawberry fields, nothing is real, and nothing to get hung about.  That’s what the Beatles are telling me right now.  They say it’s hard to be someone when you misunderstand what you see.  And in the Blue Jay Way they say, ‘Please don’t be long, please don’t you be very long.  Or I may be asleep’ over and over again but what I heard them saying to me as the song builds is ‘Please don’t belong’.  The Timothy Leary message comes through loud and clear.  LSD is a powerful drug and when used in making music the trip can certainly be sent through to the listener, especially when the listener is tripping too.  Those boys were tricky, but I don’t think they quite meant to do everything they did, they were just messing around.

When you set out to send a message to the masses you have to know that you’re actually going to get to some of them, and some minds will be blown.  And when you blow minds, you’re no longer just another person; you’re an icon for breaking some new ground.  The Beatles surely blew minds, and people followed them like lemmings, putting meaning to the artists’ lyrics and music wherever they would fit conveniently into their lives to provide a sense of belonging to the movement.  Charlie Manson and company unfortunately used Helter Skelter and Piggies as marching orders for their madness.  Would Charlie’s death guild have come to pass if the Beatles had not recorded those tracks?  It’s a question to be asked, but impossible to answer correctly.

The Beatles were victims themselves to the LSD trap, and that screwed them.  Sure it opened windows to new ideas and broke them free from the sappy love songs that brought them pop stardom and helped propel them to greater heights, but just like every burnout hippie, they found out that LSD takes you down mysterious and tricky paths that all lead to dead ends.  No mortal is powerful enough to tame that beast, but while they were there, they wired it for sound with the technology of the time and gave us The Magical Mystery Tour.

The introspection of the trips and the way they turned their insights back on one another changed the pop hit makers into studio trippers experimenting with sound pushing the evolution of music to new extremes.  By the time they recorded Abbey Road and Let it Be, they were done, grizzled old men ready to walk away from it all, but at that same time they were perfectly ripe with brilliance and genius dripping from their finger tips and with the new sound it was just too much and too good to be able  to carry on.

If only they could have come together and kept it together for a few more albums with the new studio and let John be John and Yoko and let the Beatles evolve we would have surely had some majestically mature Beatles recordings with the wisdom of experience, but all of that energy was too much to handle and it pulled them apart.  And when it came apart we got Paul McCartney, the solo artist.  If only John Lennon were still around to keep him in check.  John’s tormented soul was rock and roll; Paul was just a song writer who smoked pot.  Wings was OK and rocked a little bit but that was in the 70s so he got away with it.  Much of music in the 70s sucked, especially in the early 70s.  And Paul was there, sucking at the forefront.

It would be nice if the kids today could understand, if it were possible, what the Beatles did for music, to kick rock and roll up a notch or two and completely tweak all possibilities.  Listen to ‘Rock and Roll Music’ then ‘I’ll Follow the Sun’ followed up with ‘Mr. Moonlight’.  Sure, they took the lead from artists like Chuck Berry and Little Richard, but they brought their own irreverent rock and roll attitudes to us and even did their own weird brand of children’s music at times.  And they took it to the studio and, for the first time, recorded more than four tracks, they threw in recordings from home, playing them backwards and inside-out, creating layers that had never been thought of before, they even used synthesizers, and that broke open a new psychedelic music explosion that flipped the early 70s on its head and completely changed the direction music would take.  Everything was on tape in those days; digital was not a word at that time.  Check out ‘Revolution 9’.  They actually had to work to get it right.  And they did things like the intro to ‘Honey Pie’.

The Beatles were pop music and happy good times but that turned dark and twisted, they were tripped out, sometimes they wrote for children like with Yellow Submarine but then that  listening child was sent on a trip to new discoveries with ‘Hey Bulldog’ and ‘It’s All Too Much’ and then were brought back to that happy, safe place with ‘All You Need Is Love’ and ‘Pepperland’.  They connected to everyone on some level because they worked to create music as art and not just to write love songs and make hits.  They showed us that we can do whatever we want to do when it comes to creating music, because it’s what we feel.  Just listen to ‘Dig a Pony’, ‘I Me Mine’ or ‘For You Blue’.  If we can express it through our instruments and then lay it down in some sort of order, track after track with our technology, we must thank the Beatles for what they did before we came around.

(image altered and used without permission)








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