One more for the road…

One more for the road…

Being a creature of habit makes embracing change challenging. Opportunities to perform are always a big deal and the object of this musical pursuit. Life has a knack of always raising the stakes and hearing that we had the chance to play the Red Lion Pub one more time before the end of this chapter did the inevitable. Change always cuts both ways. Things are added to fill empty spaces and spaces are created for things to fill them like day follows night and night follows day.

The initial disorientation of the loss was jarring. Yet there is comfort in what the Red Lion family has provided for so long and for so many. If you’ve ever been there, you’ve experienced the kind spirit that is a prime example of treating others the way you want to be treated. The generosity of good will that makes the Red Lion so special to so many of us will endure long after the doors close because that appreciation for people and their fun will find its way into the actions and creativity of the people who have been there and felt the warmth, authenticity, and welcome of the people that are the Red Lion.

In celebration of all the Red Lion has giving and all of the people that make it so special we’re going to make some music in the hope that someone will hear something they enjoy that contributes to counter balance some of the not so awesome that is a part of our journey. Local Indie Folk Rock group, Plane Versus Cult have agreed to join us in the Lion’s Den to play one more for before we say farewell until we meet again. We’ll see you tomorrow night at 9:00 PM!

The great gear malfunction…

Khaki Black

While intensely focused on the material for our first gig at Lil Indies, we experienced a phenomenon that can only be described as growing pains. First Thursday night at rehearsal the bass head got overworked and started having sound issues. There is a reason that particular model is no longer made. Later that night I tripped over a ¼ cord and broke the input on the 3300, thus taking it out of commission for tomorrow night. Fast forward to Saturday’s rehearsal where our trusty MM6 keyboard has turned in its resignation and announced its intentions to retire to the great gear graveyard in the sky also known as the spare bedroom closet due to the display slowly fading and unexplainable phantom reboots.

This is a sign that turning the page to start a new chapter requires change. What was can’t always continue to be if one chooses to push forward into new experience. What we have done is irrelevant. Now is the time to clear the slate and discover new possibilities. We begin tomorrow night. We’ll be dropping the second record soon and have already started working on new material for the next one. This adversity is a sign of growth. While disappointing, getting the work done despite expensive and time consuming setbacks makes the playback that much sweeter. We explore the deep end tomorrow night at 10:00pm!

Give Up On Giving Up

I’m struggling with what has happened in the last few days in the town I have called home since 2005. My sincerest condolences go out to all those taken from us, injured, or impacted by the senseless and unacceptable violence that occurred.

It is my belief that musicians trade the sacrifice of time and energy for the ability to bring people together to create memories in a life that someone can love. This is so important because the world can really beat people down and I feel that the scarcity of decency and compassion towards each other creates an environment where people can feel so much pain and feel so disconnected from the rest of us that they resolve to make others feel as bad as they do by inflicting senseless violence on others and destroying innocent life.

I have become aware recently that my mission in life all along has been to help others feel as good as I do if not better by pushing the happiness life and music provide for me into the world. Over the years I’ve wrestled with what to do in life with my passion for music. I’ve tried to abandon it and move on like a responsible adult. I’ve tried to pretend that I don’t want to play every day and want to waste my life as a corporate drone.

I stopped lying to myself about what I wanted from life and began to see everything I thought was a challenge fall away and the music I was involved with get better and more rewarding. It was if life said sure you want that, here you go. This made me happy. The happier I got the more I wanted to do for others because everything I wanted was already in my life. I started to notice the more I stayed connected to this feeling the more I enjoyed everything around me and the more the people around me enjoyed being there.

It dawned on me during a recent conversation that the deal I made for the ability to make music means I have to create music for people to find in the hopes that it can be a part of their good time that makes a great memory in a life they love so they can push their happiness into the world. I feel there can never be too much and with all that is going on these days, don’t we need every ounce of positive energy out there to nourish our collective soul in a positive way?

This realization didn’t turn fascinating until I realized that every musician that has pushed passed that point of deciding to play has made that same commitment for the ability to create music. It is because of this bond among musicians the pointless murder of Christina Grimmie absolutely crushed me.

I had never heard of her or her music before the news of her attack scrolled across the screen Friday night, but just from the reports on the news about how she brought joy to people with her music I knew she was a sister in arms trying to help people find the sweet spot in this life to reduce the overall suck in the world.

The fact that this tragedy happened at one of my favorite venues in town it just made the situation worst. I’ve performed and enjoyed shows on countless occasions at the Plaza over the years. One of dozens of close friends I cherish could have easily been in harm’s way. This scared me.

I immediately started thinking about when I had heard Ralph had been shot. That same dull throbbing pain returned to my chest. That lump in my throat was enormous and anger started to get the better of me. I thought about cancelling our show on Saturday. I thought about never leaving my house again. I thought about a lot of things until calm came over me and I realized that what pulled my back together was picking up the pieces and going on. I remembered I have to continue the work to create good feelings for others. I have to dedicate myself to creating music so awesome that people have to enjoy themselves and have fun with their friends, even if it is just for a little while to offset all that can go wrong.

This made me feel better about performing Saturday night. I summoned all the courage I could find and decided to go on. I would dedicate my work and my support of the work of other musicians to help fill this void because with the ability to create music there is the responsibility and the privilege to put the awesome back in it for others to enjoy.

Saturday went on and could not have been better. All of the bands worked together and produced a great show. I had so much fun and saw so many people have so much fun. I got confirmation while packing up that this renewed focus to making awesome music paid off. A couple explained how much the enjoyed the set. I could see the genuine joy in their faces and felt so rewarded for all the work we had done and in some small way felt we had made a contribution to balance the tragedy from the night before with the best life can be. Many thanks go to Ryan, Greg, Zach, Patrick, the other bands, the staff at Will’s and everyone who came out or helped make the Copper Bones Album Release Party so AWESOME!

So I get home after the set and start listening to the audio from our performance and nod off to sleep. I wake up the next morning and realize the worst shooting in American history happened a handful of miles from my home in another night spot were people get together to have fun. After checking up on my circle of friends all the negative feelings and fears from the day before came back. I couldn’t watch anymore of the coverage about what had happened.

The difference between Saturday morning and Sunday is that instead of feeling really bad all day long, I felt more determined than ever to produce positive value for others in any way possible to offset the crap we can do to each other in our moments of weakness. The Orlando community took this gut punch, shook it off, and said nope we don’t tolerate hate in our city end of discussion. I have never been more proud of the people in this city. We stood in our truth of being an inclusive and diverse community that treats everyone with respect and declared emphatically nothing will make us hate.

Despite the daily tragedies, life can be made beautiful and awesome if someone chooses to put the love that is in their heart into the world. Be the positive influence you want to see in the world. I choose to be one of the people who appreciate, support, and respect life unconditionally at all times, not just on certain days of the week at certain times at certain places for certain people.

Please stay safe as you pursue your happiness because we appreciate and love you!

Exhausted and no time for a clever engaging title, I have music to make…

I hope you are all well. An “Ah Ha” moment was experienced last weekend that I think is really important and hope helps a lot of people understand what is going on around them. Please remember that everything that follows is my opinion based on observations made over the last 25 years of attending and performing at venues of every size, type, and smell across the country. You have been warned!

This project has come full circle and given me more than I even thought was possible. I set out in late 2000 to keep working on original material, regardless of if I was in a “working” band and to become a better musician that people wanted to play with. I was finding it impossible to keep a band together and creating quality work that brought value to the people who experienced it. I was getting fed up with the dead ends, shady characters, and little to no compensation for my work. It finally hit me to stop trying to give value to people who didn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t appreciate the value I provide.

I choose to forget everything else and just write and perform material that I enjoyed. After I had that material the next step of the plan was to figure out how to get other great musicians to perform the material with me on a regular basis so others could enjoy it too. That is what meiuuswe means. It’s a statement of commitment to get over yourself and focus on giving music to others because someone gave music to you instead of anything that takes away from the present moment and making music. My favorite bands and performers gave me something special and priceless by spending hours perfecting their craft and jumping through all the hoops to put on a show or make a record so I had the opportunity to experience their work and grow because of it.

The truth is I didn’t understand the reason why music is so powerful until a few hours ago. I just wanted to be as close to the awesomeness that great bands put out when they are present, locked in, and crushing it on stage for as long as I can remember, which of course meant getting closer and closer to the stage, until one day I found myself on the stage with the best seat in the house.

The reason I believe music means so much to us and is so valuable all came into focus in a split second last weekend which lead to some deep reflection and an epiphany that is this. The value of music is how it connects us to ourselves, each other, and provides an infinite resource of opportunity to explore the unknown.

I never understood or better yet never asked why I wanted to spend so much time, effort, and resources on learning how to make music and overcoming the endless obstacles of performing on a regular basis until this moment happened. Despite the facts that failure is oxygen to a musician and the chances of supporting yourself from your creative work are very slim or next to impossible, I believe the reason we subject ourselves to this pursuit is because someone before us created something so valuable to us we decided we wanted to do the same thing and invest everything into it with very little to no guarantee of getting anything of value in return.

Here is the sequence of events that led me to this conclusion. First I was at an in store clinic a long time ago. During the Q & A someone asked how to become famous bass player and get gigs. The reply from the artist was to ask what that person was providing others that they should know him for his playing. The person who asked the initial question had no answer. It struck me as an odd exchange in the moment but I didn’t understand what I think they meant until last weekend.

Then years later I observed the bassist for another band warming up for a good two hours before their set at a gig I did with them. I hadn’t heard the band play but seconds after they started playing, I immediately recognized their level of competence was greater than my own and wanted to be able to do what they do. I don’t always stick around to watch the other bands on a bill but I was absolutely riveted and stayed until they packed up their van and went to their next gig. They changed not only my approach and practice routine, they changed my life by showing me the level of commitment required to be great at your profession and provide so much value for an audience they support your creative work even if it is instrumental Middle Eastern Sci-Fi metal. I am forever grateful for this encounter.

After that, a local musician posted some thoughts about his approach to being an artist. I loved his perspective on this subject like I love his playing. One of his points is that as performers we owe the audience everything and they owe us nothing. On first glance I thought those people owe me a lot for the years of practice I’ve already put in to learning how to play an instrument, lugging this gear all over town, and all the other crap that I’ve endured as a working musician to be in this moment playing for the approval of the audience. I’ve heard many complaints about the lack of support from the listening public and complications with venues. I felt the same way in a lot of regards and still kept trying to fit a square in the space for a circle. It wasn’t until this experience this last weekend that this made sense.

Next a local musician I know and work with posted some thoughts about how hard it is to work with certain venues when it comes to getting paid and booking gigs. I’ve been there and it can really hurt to be jerked around and ignored by people you want to build a productive and mutually beneficial relationship with. I commented that he might think about instead of trying to work with people who obviously don’t appreciate his value, using that energy to find people to work with that do appreciate his value. We create something from nothing as musicians and there are infinite opportunities to perform for people that don’t involve being abused and taken advantage of while doing all the heavy lifting to put the show on.

There is a post around the internet that basically states that a bar won’t come to your home and pour drinks to a group of people the bar brought with them for exposure for the bar like musicians are asked to do. There is also the post about the pay to play scheme were the band does all the work to get people to a venue for little or no money by having to sell a certain number of pre-sell tickets or be liable for a flat fee to the event organizer for booking the gig. My favorite meme is the packing five grand of gear in a car worth $500 to drive 2 hours to make 50 bucks one. The point is there are plenty of examples of the abuse musicians endure to give their music to the world. We complain and complain that nobody likes our band, nobody comes to our shows, and nobody buys our merchandise. We can’t do what we love and have to get crappy day jobs because we don’t make any money in music.

All of that is true to a degree but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be. My belief is that if someone doesn’t appreciate your value; stop trying to give it to them. You will be much happier and productive. If someone treats you poorly or doesn’t respond to an invitation from you to collaborate on something good for the both of you, defy the instinct to try harder to obtain acceptance and instead channel that energy into finding people who appreciate what you offer and work with them.
Just keep playing. It doesn’t matter who you play with or where. Just keep playing.

If a boulder is in your path, use something other than your head to turn the big rock into smaller rocks. Move around the obstacle or over the obstacle instead of suffering the concussion. Find a better way. Use your skills to turn silence into music and create a solution. Apply what you love doing to other areas of your life. Be creative. You are a musician after all. We are only out of options when we stop believing in our power to create. If you really have committed to being a musician, this will never happen.

Finally I found what has eluded me for so many years. I went through my normal 30 minute warm up to get present and focused for a bass performance Saturday night. After the gig a listener came up to me and shared their appreciation for the performance. Had the exchange ended there, I probably wouldn’t have arrived at this new perspective. It was what the listener said next that blew the doors off. “I play bass and I want to do what you do. Will you show me how to play bass like you”? This has happened before but it didn’t hit me until later when I remembered a moment when I was convincing my dad to arrange guitar lessons for me. I showed him the Hendrix documentary where he’s playing “Hear My Train a Coming” on acoustic guitar and made a fairly convincing case. My closing argument ended with the passionate plea of, “I have to be able to do that. I need somebody to show me how to do that”.

What connected me to that moment and made the obvious visible is that I valued that performance so much I wanted to be able to do that like that listener valued my performance enough to be able to do that. I believe the same thing has happened to musicians since instruments began to be made. Someone experiences a work of art that moves them so much they have to learn how to create or at least re-create that work that has the potential to move others the way it moved them because creating the experience for others moves the creator even more. The experience of being exposed to someone’s expression about a shared existence that changes your perception and future is what is valuable about music.

When people have a favorable reaction to something they hold it in high regard and want to repeat the experience. Take your favorite band. Remember the first time you heard that song that led you to purchase a copy of an album. These moments grew on each other and led to you finding out more information on the band and going to their show when they came to town. Now you’ve seen that band a bunch of times and can’t imagine your life without their music in it because the experiences were valuable to you. That group of performers gave you something so powerful that you feel it is worth it to spend your time and money on their work. You’ll go see that group or some configuration of, in thirty years because of the value you perceive their work to have. Everybody has a collection of records they need access to at all times to feel whole.

The success that many musicians wish to attain is a level of abundance that allows them to have the freedom in their schedule to do what they want and control of their creative work while affording them the means to pay their bills and have some fun. Sadly most of us will never reach that point because we aren’t willing to make our music valuable enough that people will support or work. That is the epiphany I had this weekend.

People don’t support your work because they don’t perceive it as valuable enough. If no one buys your records or tickets to your shows, your work isn’t valuable enough for people to choose your work over the other billion entertainment options available. Despite how awesome you think you and your work are; numbers don’t lie. If your sales suck and no one is at your shows, you have failed. This is why the talentless can carve out lucrative careers in the business and master musicians can languish in obscurity forever never selling a single record. The audience doesn’t owe you anything. Nobody owes you anything until you give them something so valuable they decide they have to give you something for what you have given them.

I used to think talent was the determining factor for success. It isn’t. The determining factor for success is the perceived value of what you have to offer. For some it is their looks, connections, finances, or knowledge. In very rare cases people get by on their talent alone. In those cases that talent is so valuable nothing else matters. These are the one in a million. For the rest of us, we have to work hard and forever to generate enough value to get in the door.

Record companies and box offices were built because people saw the value in producing records and charging people to attend performances. Times have changed and technology has leveled the playing field giving everyone the ability to be a musician. This has increased competition because the market is oversaturated with a lot of people with little or no skill or respect for the artistic process further reducing the value of a skilled musician. There are more musicians to choose from and less people willing to compensate musicians for their work.

Venue owners have changed as well looking for cheaper entertainment to reduce cost and increase profit. It isn’t logical to waste money on acts that don’t bring people to your bar because their music is great. Sadly, you can’t pay bills with doing the right thing. It’s all about numbers and analytics because this is a business. If your performances don’t draw or your records aren’t selling, you can blame everyone else and stay in that state of being or accept that fact that your music isn’t valuable enough for the support you think you’re deserved and work on building the value of the work you’re producing. If it doesn’t matter to you then stay home and focus your energy elsewhere. There is nothing wrong with deciding your head hurts and you don’t want to smash it against the big rock to make little rocks any more.

That was the decision I faced. In my own mind on multiple occasions I thought everyone would instantly realize the value of our work, appreciate it, and support us on a large scale. Well, reality and our best case scenarios don’t like each other very much. It’s been much harder than anticipated and I had to look myself square in the eye and ask if I am really committed to do what is necessary to get what I want. I’m not talking about the surface level get a trophy for participating commitment. I mean the do the hard work everyday commitment of practice, promote, perform, and repeat.

In hindsight I was being dramatic. The day I stop making music is the day I stop breathing and even that is debatable. I feel more connected to music now and realize how much more there is to explore than at any other time I can remember. Oddly enough, once I committed to not caring about the effort to make our music, the effort to make our music became less and the tedious work became more enjoyable because of the progress being made overall.

I am grateful to that listener for showing me what really matters. The request to share my knowledge with him is the greatest reward a musician can achieve in my opinion. Asking a musician for their knowledge is appreciating their sacrifice to create something you can experience and makes every second of work, penny spent, and drop of sweat a smart investment because the return is priceless. Consequently, money isn’t the hard part. Our world is focused on money but that is the distraction. It isn’t money that is important; it is the perceived value of what you can create and produce. If your work is that good and people value it enough to move past compliments to opening their wallets, I figure you’ll pay this month’s bills. But your work has to be that good.

Something Dave Grohl has said for a while explains it best and I finally feel I understand what he means. When asked about achieving success in music, he explains his approach was to make people realize he just played the crap out of his drums every time he performed. Get in a room and learn to play. Then learn to play great. If you’re great people will notice. All of this seems like not an answer, but when you ask someone how to do something, the honest and correct answer is to tell them to do it.

In closing, last week was hella productive for all projects. Our preparation for the Copper Bones Album Release Party on June 11th is going great. You have 32 days to make your arrangements to be at this performance. I can confirm that the Leslies will make their debut at Will’s that night. You can’t miss that! We also continue to work on brand new material. We have a new song we’re working on that is just ridiculous and moves us into uncharted territory, which will be exciting to explore. I can report that we finished the 2nd phase Saturday and are finishing the prep this week for the 3rd phase to be completed at a time to be determined. I trust everyone had a great Mother’s Day and made it a point to appreciate the women in our lives that do the hard work and have been with us since the beginning.

Thanks, Mom. You’re the best!

Have a great week everybody!

It is time. Yet there is time.

Khaki Black

I had a chance to catch the New Sam Rivers Rivbea Orchestra at Will’s and Leisure Chief at Tanqueray’s last week to watch some great players for perspective as we prepare for our next phase of recording. Both groups made an impression and played some great material that was so enjoyable. There really is a lot of great music to absorb in this city every week that it can be challenging to navigate. But having more things to hear than you have time for is a problem I’m good with and actually really grateful for. Inspiration, ideas, and motivation are everywhere for us to tune into when we decide to.

As for us, we had a great week of practice for both projects and continue to make progress and keep things interesting. Stars aligned during the last break and an opportunity presented itself to make some cool music, challenge ourselves and grow musically. After defeating the beast known as scheduling we were finally able to get all of us in a room and play some tunes. Here is a sample of the awesomeness that will be available for your listening pleasure in the very near to somewhat distant future. Toward a new week of process we go!

Still Running to Stand Still

We left off the beginning of last week wired for sound with rehearsals, the Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter performance at Dr. Phillips and the first step of recording the new record on deck. With song list and plan in hand we got in the rehearsal space to finish arranging the material for the recording session. A few tweaks were made here and there while completing the outline of all the parts that described what was going to happen where. Ideas bounced around the room while trying to arrive at just the right balance for each individual composition.

Those productive sessions served as the bookends to a night off to catch the legendary Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter perform. I was blown away and firmly believe Herbie Hancock is playing better than ever. He did so many things on an acoustic grand piano I can’t even begin to comprehend. I heard a lot of people voice their disappointment leaving the show because the entire performance was improvised instead of two hours of everyone’s favorite jazz standards. I just didn’t get the impression this would be a reunion play all your hits gig. In any event I was completely inspired and hung on every note. Wayne Shorter put it all in perspective with a comment about “negotiating the unexpected” that will surely be a integral piece for future explorations. These two did so much with a keyboard, piano, and saxophones. This was truly a great musical experience that ranks at the top of my attended concert list.

Fast forward to Saturday morning and me running late as usual to get to the recording session. We set up and banged out the drum tracks and a majority of the bass and keyboards in about 7 hours. The vibe was perfect for pursuing an amazing record. We arrived at the best idea and did our thing. I went back Sunday for a few hours to finish my parts and that was a rap for phase 1. I can’t thank our engineer Zack enough for being awesome, passionate, knowledgeable, and Charlie Hustle on the spot. He and Travis had great ideas and a superb vision of the audio image for the session which was nicely sitting in my blind spot and not even a consideration on my part. So last weekend was easily the best most productive recording session I’ve every been a part of and I can’t wait for you to hear the finished result.

Next we’ll be supporting Copper Bones at the CD release party at Will’s Pub on June 11th with Jernigan and A Brilliant Lie. There are a lot of reasons to catch this gig so mark your calendar and be there for some amazing local goodness! In addition I may or may not be able to confirm the possibility of a Leslie sighting at the above mentioned gig but you’ll have to show up to Will’s at 9pm to find out. So get on them interwebs to inform your peeps and let’s make this an awesome night of local music. Great bands, one of the best venues in town and you will be a great time.

So this week we get back to the grind with a rehearsal for a top secret side project, preparation for phase 2 of operation new record, and the work continues on backlogged ideas for even more new music. We’re keeping it fresh and moving because creativity never stands still. Stay tuned and check our social media for updates on the new record because new music is awesome!

6 Things We Miss

Last season recap starts in 3, 2, 1…

We ended last year after playing a MHY Reunion Show at Will’s Thanks to the usual suspects for having us on that one. I thought it was a great idea to have the new projects open for MHY. Field Kit and Copper Bones were awesome and it was great night. I highly suggest you catch those bands when you get the chance.

Fast forward past turkey, the nightmare that is Christmas, more turkey, Super Bowl 50, and Stop. Snarky Puppy at the Plaza was such an amazing show that put things in another perspective. That band is so good and their performance was a confluence of musicianship and some superb writing. Their blend of progressive jazz and world music is so interesting on top of astounding musical ability. I believe this group shows us that jazz is not dead and will never die. Like everything else it just changes. What it looks like, its individual parts, and its name my change but it will always be what it was and what it will always be.

Marco Benevento did a gig at a hip theater on the Rollins College campus. Close quarters and plush comfortable seats made it easy to enjoy. It was the first time I’ve seen him and it was great. The band mixed catchy vocal riffs and spacey improvisations during their two sets that ended with a timely David Bowie cover. His application of effects to acoustic pianos is some other level stuff combined with his technique and writing. Wasn’t sure what to expect because his work is so diverse but really glad I was able to make it.

Next I went in the way back machine and caught Tool and Primus at CFE Arena. This show was well worth every penny and the hassle to get there. It was beyond awesome. Both bands sounded great and the visuals were next level. I didn’t understand why the venue wouldn’t allow photos. I wonder if Tool made that part of the agreement to perform. It seems ludacris since everyone has a camera in their pocket and the visuals were sick and could be a stand-alone entertainment experience. Of course people are going to take pictures. It was distracting watching the ushers hassle people repeatedly for taking them. Regardless it ranks high on the all-time attended concert list.

More recently a random sequence of events connected into an observation of note in low end theory. First I was able to catch one of my favorite local bass players perform which always gets me thinking about approach and technique. Then a random call to sub on bass gave me the chance to play in a live setting and experiment with some new effect pedals. Finally, a spot opened up in an odd playing situation in a studio setup with random players. The contrast between one of my favorite bass players, my own playing, and someone I didn’t enjoy playing with illustrated the importance of tone and time. Music is unity. Different frequencies connect and disconnect at given points in both predictable and unpredictable ways for as long as there is space to fill with sound.

Most recently a lot of new material has been worked on and there is a great flow of ideas. Slowly but surely clips from the backlog are being explored and practice time has been productive. I smile as I type that I’m adding Leslie amplification to the setup in preparation for our recording sessions later this month. Actually not smiling more like jumping up and down on the inside. More muse, updates, and creative stuff coming down. Dot! Dot! Dot!