JEFF SHATTUCK MUSIC

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Happy Fly! A new, almost finished, song for my daughter Amelia.

It's been a long time.

I've been wanting to post for eons but felt that I just had nothing much to talk about besides depressing things and who wants to read that?

But now I have a "new" song! Here's the story behind it.

Sometime around 3 years ago, maybe 4, I was in the kitchen of our SF apartment with my twin daughters, Amelia and Avalon, when Amelia suddenly burst into tears and started waving her arms and screaming the word fly. I said, "But it's a happy fly!" I couldn't believe it but she calmed down right away and I knew I had to write a song about a happy fly, which I did. But as with so much other stuff these days, getting it done has taken WAY longer than I thought. As of now, all the final track needs is a vocal, which I'm hoping Eryn Young will do. In the meantime, I am pleased to assault your ears with my scratch vocal. Have some aspirin ready...

CREDITS
Vocals: Me
Guitars: Timothy Matthew Young
Drums: Dave Brogan
Bass: Sam Bevan
Engineering: Jaimeson Durr
Recorded at Hyde Street Studio C, SF

IS THE ONLY PROTEST SONG I'VE EVER RECORDED PURE BULLSHIT?

With parenthood and work taking up nearly all of my time these days, I've not been writing much in the way of new songs. But I have been thinking about some of the songs I've written and, as I am wont to do, engaging in a lot of second guessing (Did I do the best job I could? Is that guitar tone really right? Why oh why did I have the singer phrase it that way? And on and on and on and on). 

One song that especially has my mind twisting is Joe Strummer Is Dead. It's a straightforward call for how we need a voice like Joe Strummer's in today's world, a voice that is honest to a fault, that calls a spade a spade, that never backs down. 

But do I confess, back when I first put the song out there, I was a little concerned that some of my friends would mumble to themselves, “Give me a break, like Jeff could give a shit about Joe Strummer.”  Because the fact is that back when Joe Strummer was in his prime and belting out spittle spangled spite, tinged with a little humor, about the state of the world's affairs and how off track we seemed to be, I didn't buy it. And I didn’t hesitate to say so. I loved The Clash but I wrote off Joe Strummer as a socialist, not even sure what that meant, and then went on about the virtues of Reagan.

I still don't think Joe Strummer was always right, but I know this: the world needs people like him, people who question everything and ask that others to do the same. You might disagree with the Strummers of the world, but what good is a point of view without its opposite?

And that's all I was trying to say with the song, that we need some truly honest big voices out there, people who don't behave differently when they think no one is looking, or radically change their story based on poll numbers, or compromise until their message loses all power to provoke us to stop and think.

So, even though I might never have been the biggest fan of Joe Strummer's politics, I wrote the song from my heart and I meant it when I wrote it – and I still mean it.

JOE STRUMMER IS DEAD

Back at the end of the 1970s
No one wanted more of what had gone before
The politics of lies, the politics of tricks
The politics of hate and the whole game fixed

And once again we need a voice
To bring us to our senses
Strip away the lies
And the false consensus
Get us all to see
We've let things get to our head
The world is calling out
But Joe Strummer is dead

Now every politician wants to spin the truth
Wants us to believe that we can't understand
But the halls of power can fall to the ground
Broken into pieces by just the right sound

"And death or glory
becomes just another story”
When we’re all pounding rocks
Way down in the quarry

"And death or glory
becomes just another story”
When we’re all pounding rocks
Way down in the quarry

(Now) back at the end of the 1970s
No one wanted more of what had gone before
Tricky Dick and fuck the common man
Everybody cheating just because they can

Vocals: Toby Germano
Harmony Vocal: Jeff Shattuck
Guitars and bass: Timothy Young
Drums: Andy Korn
Written by Jeff Shattuck and Joe Strummer
Produced by Jeff Shattuck
Engineered and mixed by Jaimeson Durr
Recorded at Hyde Street Studio C, SF, CA

Of screaming kids and screaming guitars.

I started this blog/newsletter way back in 2007 as a way to chronicle both the making of my very first album, available for free here, and the recovery from my brain injury, which happened in 2006. 

Back then, I was thinking the journey would last a year or so. Ha. I finally finished the album in 2010, the year my wife and I had twins. Since then, the main music emanating from my household has sounded more like Yoko than John (not that my songs would ever be mistaken for the works of a master such as John Lennon!).

Honestly, how do parents do it? How do you work, raise a family and still find time for yourself? It seems to be impossible, especially without being wracked by guilt! But I am going to try my hardest to squeeze a bit more life into my life this year by getting back into songwriting and recording, all while still being the father I want to be to my family.

But I know my limits. There is not another album coming, not this year, maybe not ever. But that's okay because the album format is less important these days. Now it seems to be all about songs. And I've got a few songs! Some are very near to finished. Others are partially done. And another fifty exist as lines and licks (hey, that's a good album title!). To whet your earpetite (groan), here are a few titles: 

Wishing Ground
Java Junkie
Happy Fly
Weird Things With a Gun
Easier Said Than Done (lyrics by Dave Tutin)
Counting Backward to Move Forward
Etc...

I hope you stay with me on this. And for all the parents out there who read this, if you have some advice, please bring it on!

Farewell 2014. You were a cruel year, though your intentions were good (I think).

As 2014 draws to a close, I hope I do not see the likes of it again for a long time.

Two moves. New city. New job in a new industry. Old wounds reopening in the form massive migraine clusters emanating from my brain injury way back in 2006. Constant feelings of being lost and of loss itself (for all that I left behind in San Francisco).

I hope what they say about that which doesn't kill you is true. We'll see.

But for all the hardship, I cannot forget the silver lining. Because we have endured all of this change for a good reason, the best reason: our family. Back in SF, we were being buried by the ever-rising cost of living. Our girls were facing a very iffy educational future (public schools in SF are notoriously bad, private schools notoriously expensive). My job was eating my soul. And the only light at the end of the tunnel seemed to be shining from the oncoming traffic I would face as I commuted to SF or the Valley from some distant suburb, as I tried to balance life and work.

And so here we are. In Austin, Texas.

Texas.

Damn.

Of all the places for a Bible-thumping atheist like me to end up. Is this God's sense of humor, to put me in the land of gun-totin', Bible-quotin', devil-smotin' True Believers? Maybe. But you know what? The Texans I've met are all great people. Plus, we now own a home. Our girls are in a stellar school. I am with a company I respect. And my commute is nothing, maybe 20 minutes and always complete with a bit of NPR and rock and roll (only Howard could make it better, which I am considering).

So, 2014, while you have been hard on me, perhaps you are like a Marine drill sergeant who grinds his troops through a crucible of sorts not to ruin them or rid of them of hope, but rather to do the opposite of all that and to set  them up to be ready for whatever lies ahead. 

Was that your intention, 2014? No need to answer, I'm just going to go with it.

Why I left Facebook. For now.

I think my breakup with Facebook began when I suspended my Facebook music page a few months ago. Looking at the page was just too depressing. I never got very many likes or comments, no shares ever. I confess, I was not doing much to promote the page, save for announcing posts on my FB profile page, and I certainly do not believe I deserved to be noticed (got to earn that), but still, I was hoping for a little more interest. And let's be honest, you put up a Facebook page to get noticed, right? Call me vain, but why else do it? Wait, because I'm vain? Hmmm... Anyway, down it came.

Then my friend Dave Tutin announced he was leaving the service. Then another friend announced she was taking a break. Then a third posted musings about doing the same.

Despite having killed my own page, my reaction to all of these folks was WHY? I mean, I killed a page, for godssake, not a profile! 

Facebook profiles are great. They let you check in with friends close and not so close, share your goings-on and thoughts with all of them, reconnect with long lost souls, be alerted to the new Star Wars trailer. I mean, what's not to love?

Then, just by pure chance, I read an article about the relationship between materialism and happiness and how being more materialistic makes us less happy. What does that have to do with Facebook? EVERYTHING. Man, every time I checked the service there were as many ads as there were posts from friends, as well as ads posted by friends. And all those ads, as we all know, are essentially snipers trained to shoot "bullets of want" into your brain. I don't need anymore "want". I need less. And my brain is already damaged.

The article went on to say that we should "cultivate a mindset of gratitude" to avoid the trap of materialism by taking the time to notice what is good in our lives and being grateful for it and expressing our gratefulness, especially to the people closest to us. Doing so increases happiness and reduces stress. And I thought about how often Facebook was attached to my face like those creatures in Alien while RIGHT NEXT TO ME were the people who mattered most.

Then I thought about a book I'm reading called Wherever You Go There You Are and how it reinforces the importance of being present in your surroundings, and I got to thinking even more about how I was often not present -- and not just at home, but also at work, on my walk to a coffee shop, sitting at a red light. The list goes on because Facebook, as everyone knows, goes everywhere we go.

The final straw came in the form of a flare up at the breakfast table. There I was with my two daughters and Catherine and my nose in -- you guessed it -- Facebook. Catherine asked me to put my phone away and I resented her for it. Just one more comment or post or whatever it was I wanted to do. And in that moment, I realized how often this had happened: my being upset because I was being torn away from Facebook to look at actual faces and engage with them and not with people 10s, 100s or 1000s of miles away.

Don't get me wrong. I will miss seeing what my Facebook friends are up to. I will miss posting about my life and commenting on the lives of others. I already do! But there was one other article I read lately and it was about the importance of saying No in life, of paring away the things that are not truly essential so you can not only spend more time on the things that are, but also quiet the siren song of the things that are not.  And for me, as I struggle with work and family and my fading music ambitions, it's time to say No to some things and Facebook is one of them.

Will I be back? I don't know yet. Like any proper breakup, I will give it a bit of time and I've learned to never say never, but this feels serious.

How several bullets and one death made me a believer in meditation.

Meditation. 

The word conjures up images of hippies, people sitting in a weird position and beatific facial expressions.

It also pegs the B.S. meter of a lot of people.

I was one of those people. But here's the story (with a few details changed to keep things private) that made me a believer and played a huge role in getting me to try meditation -- and has kept me motivated to someday get good at it. (I tried for years, stopped, but I've just started again.)

Several years ago, "Sam", a friend of my Dad's was shot numerous times. Moments after the gun shots rang out and silence once again descended upon the room, "Sam", to his profound surprise, noticed he was still alive but his assailant, having saved the the last bullet for personal use, was not. He summoned his last remnants of strength to get to the phone and dial 911. 

When Sam arrived at the hospital, he was barely hanging on and slipped into a coma. He awoke days later -- maybe it was weeks or months, I'm not sure -- to constant and excruciating pain in his legs. The doctors told him there was nothing they could do because Sam's spinal cord was severed and the pain was purely the work of his mind. He could not feel his legs.

As he got better, Sam used his not-inconsiderable wealth and connections to seek out the world's best medical experts to help him get some sort of relief. He traveled the world to no avail and was about to give up hope when he was introduced to meditation by a friend of the Dalai Lama's. There were some false starts but ultimately Sam discovered that he could enjoy a few pain-free hours during and for a bit of time after meditating. Nothing else had worked. No pain pill or shot or experimental technology or even the healing power of time had made the slightest difference. But meditation made all the difference.

And that amazes me, that in this world where every day seems to bring some new sort of breakthrough into our lives, an ancient practice of a near-mythical figure would remain so powerful. But meditation is not easy. I have tried for years and cannot say I have every truly meditated. I've had little glimpses, mainly a loss of the sense of the passage of time, but all the ailments I'd hoped to cure, especially the constant feeling of lightheadedness caused by my brain injury back in 2006, remain. Still, I'm not giving up. With Sam's story, why would I?

 

 

A song for summer into... fall. Hope you like it.

I remember when the title of this song came to me. I was standing on the beach in Virginia and watching my wife and twin daughters playing on the beach and they were all smiling and laughing in the warm air and doing silly things and I felt really good and I was amazed that they were my family, that I had a family, and -- me being me -- I wondered if it would all last.

And as I stood there thinking about the prospect of something bad happening that would cause me to lose all that I loved, the phrase "standing with his back to the ocean" blew coldly into my mind and I thought, "What a good idea for a song." (Full lyrics below.)

But that's the way I've always been. I don't think I'm a pessimist. I certainly don't believe that I never look on the bright side, but I confess, I can't help but consider the dark side. Not by choice. It's not like I was standing there on that beach and consciously trying to come up with ways to ruin a picture of happiness. It just happened.  

Am I happy with how the song turned out? Yes. I think it's one of my better ones. But it's emotional effect on me is rough so I struggle to listen to it as a whole. Instead, I try to parse out the individual bits to create some distance. I focus on Elliot Randall's vocal, the way Perri Temko's voice blends with Elliot's, Tim Young's masterful guitar work, especially his Tele licks, the bass part Tim concocted, Andy Korn's restrained drumming, Jaimeson Durr's polished but organic production and mix. (Man, I work with the best people and feel so lucky for this fact.) By listening this way, I can hear past the message. Sort of.

But back to that day on the beach...

Despite the dark thought that momentarily filled me with doubt and sadness, I know I am lucky to have lived that day and that good things can last. I am also glad I wrote the song. Doing something constructive with my destructive thoughts helps.

PS - Click here for a less-than-MTV quality video! 

Standing with His Back to the Ocean

The world
He looked out on
Looked free for the first time of danger

And he smiled
As he felt drawn
To a life more friend than stranger

And for the first time in years
He held more hopes than fears
And he breathed in the air without end

But he was standing
With his back
To the ocean

And the water
Ebbed and flowed
Pulled by the moon high above

And he remembered
And he let go
He knew he could hate or love\

And for the first time in years
He put forgiveness first
And he dug in his heels to the end
But he was standing
With his back
To the ocean

 

A song for Throwback Thursday: The Taming of the Shrew

Our rehearsal/recording studio in Redwood City.

This is how I remember it.

The year was probably 1988.

We arrived at the studio in the late afternoon. I had my guitar and bass, JW had a case of Bud Light and our goal was to write and record a song. I was going to write the music, play everything and handle recording duties, JW was going to write the lyrics and sing.

We entered the studio by raising a sliding metal door, like a garage door, but much bigger. The studio was really nothing more than huge storage locker, and there was a little room to the left as you walked in, which was where I had my Tascam 8-track reel-to-reel, mixing console, Linn Drum, Mesa-Boogie and a few effects. Raw stuff.

After closing the door, sunlight flowed in through frosted glass at the top of the door and was held in the air of the larger room by dust rising from the carpet remnants on the floor. JW mentioned he felt a little full from lunch, did fifty push ups, cracked a beer and lit a cigarette. He was ready.

I don't know how much time passed. I can't remember if my friend Cory, who plays keyboards on the track, was there for the initial recording session or not, I can't remember who convinced me to crank my Boogie the fuck up, and I have no recollection at all of adding background vocals. I wish I could blame these lapses on my heavy drug use or something equally rock and roll, but I can't. Knowing me, I drank a few beers and that was that.

Listening to the song today is a revelation. I like the song. I like my playing, Cory's keys, JW's voice, my reedy harmonies. Even the drum machine programming I did sounds good (I somehow refrained from trying to program too many fills).

JW is still out there, he works in IT. Cory is one of my best friends and works at Apple. I work at Dell. But there was a time when every last one of us had The Dream. And what could be a better day than Throwback Thursday to recall it all and relive it, if only for a few minutes.

Long live rock and roll.




Ch-ch-ch-changes. Taking my music "career" in a new direction.

Me at Hyde Street Studio C, SF, CA.

Me at Hyde Street Studio C, SF, CA.

As you may have noticed, I am changing the name of this web site from Cerebellum Blues to Jeff Shattuck. Not much else will change; my posts will still be mostly about music, infrequent, and, I hope, interesting. Here's the short story about why I am doing this.

----

Ever since I first heard The Beatles, I have wanted to write songs in a rock and roll band and make records. Over the years, I have thought of countless band names, most best left in the dustbin of history, and penned many a song. I think a lot guys from generation have done this. Now people want to be tech billionaires, but when I was growing up, nothing else had the allure of Rock Stars. Never mind that I did not look the part and had a name that hardly sounded Rock.

Years passed, I grew up, found a career, got a bit jaded and my rock dreams began to fade. By the time I fell and suffered a brain injury in 2006, my guitars were spending most of their lives in their cases, my records were all stored at my parents, I had sold all of my recording equipment and though I had Pro Tools on my laptop I never used it. But that brain injury changed everything.

Before the accident, I had written a lot of songs, almost all were horrible and most were unfinished. But after the accident, I started writing songs I actually liked. Equally cool, I could finish them. Pro Tools starting getting a bit of love, the guitars were pulled from cases, a few new guitars were purchased and soon I had enough songs to make that record I had always wanted to make.

But what about my name? Surely, I could not take the world by storm under the humble moniker of Jeff Shattuck, right? My first choice was My Shirt Is Cool but I was talked out of that and I ultimately settled on Cerebellum Blues. I liked the way it sounded. When I told people about it they mostly nodded in approval. I liked that it evoked my injury but not too overtly. I liked that it sounded like a band but also worked for what I was really doing, which was creating a portfolio of songs. And so it was settled. My band name was Cerebellum Blues and I was off to the races.

But after utterly failing at gaining any notoriety -- possibly because my music is not good enough, but I'm going to blame it instead on my total lack of marketing because that's an easier pill to swallow -- I decided to shift my focus from trying to build a fan base to simply trying to sell my songs for use in music and television. To get this ball rolling, I called Casey Jones, who used to run an ad agency I worked for but now owns a production company in LA, and asked him if he could help me out. In true Casey fashion, he generously offered to do what he could and then asked if my songs were on iTunes. I told him they were but Casey said he was sitting at a computer while were talking and had just checked and nothing came up. I asked what he had entered in the search box and said, "Your name." I explained the whole Cerebellum Blues thing and he just said, "Go with your name. You gotta have one brand." I had been told this before but ignored it because I wanted my cool band name, damn it. But I took Casey's advice to heart.

Going forward, Cerebellum Blues will live on as the name of my first album but I will no longer use it as a band name. I will just be... me. Sigh. But that's a good thing, I think. After all, another thing I learned while growing up was to try my best to just be myself.

Onward.
 

Bob Lefsetz thinks I suck. Does he have a point?

For those of you who do not know who Bob Lefsetz is, he writes a newsletter that I am totally addicted to. Bob's focus is the music business but he adds a personal (and harumph-laden) touch that separates his musical missives from everyone else's. I really appreciate the guy.

But Bob Lefsetz thinks I suck.

Truth be told, Bob doesn't know me much at all. But I can infer from his writings that he thinks I suck because when I put my music out there, precious few listen and even fewer share it. And in Bob's world view, if you're putting it down but no one's picking it up (thank you, Beck, for that line) then you are just not good enough. 

I find this to be monumentally depressing because I think Bob might have a point. I mean, don't get me wrong, I like my music a lot, I think it's good, I pour my heart and soul into it and ruthlessly critique it before during and after I record it. I get the best musicians on the planet to play it for me. The engineer I work with is supernatural. And on and on and on. But there is no question that my music has failed to catch fire. So I have to ask myself why.

The most painless answer is that my music has just not been properly promoted. I mean, aside from a few Facebook posts, this blog/web site and a few feeble stabs at legal payola (Jango, etc.), I have not promoted my tunes at all. I intended to, I really did, but about a year before I finished my one and only album, my wife and I had twins, and about a year after my album release I returned to full-time work (I was out of the working world for about 6 years because of my brain injury). Time has not been on my side.

The most painful answer is, of course, that I suck. 

But I think the true answer lies somewhere in-between, and it's something Lefsetz writes about a lot. Because while no one ever got very far in music without promotion, being really great is also no guarantee of success. No, to my mind, the key ingredient in musical success -- and the one I'm missing -- is ruthless relentlessness. Ruthless because to make it in music you have to be ready to kill for it, not literally, but pretty close. You have to be ready to kill your relationship, your friendships, even yourself in that you have to be willing to lose parts of yourself in sacrifice to the music gods. And relentless because you can't ever stop -- or even slow down -- until you have "made it" and even then you take a break at the risk of your career because very, very few musicians are able to "come back".

And I am just not ruthlessly relentless about music. Which, when I tuck my kids into bed every night, I am thankful for. Because it might be okay if Bob thinks I suck, but it's not okay if my kids do.







 

The eternal sunshine of a spotless hard drive. Not.

Drobo death.

I think a lot of creative people are alike in how they hoard just about everything they create, from fragments to finished (which, of course, are probably not considered to be truly finished), because, well, maybe, somewhere in all that garbage lies the key to doing something great someday.

They fill drawers, attics, garages and these days, especially musicians such as myself, computer hard drives. All of these spaces are vulnerable, but most require some sort of dramatic act of god or idiotic bit of negligence to be irreparably damaged. Maybe there's a flood or a tornado, or maybe you just drop a cigarette on the floor while falling asleep to Dawn of the Dead, which you are watching for the 27th time. But the hard drive, like a drummer for Spinal Tap, can simply self destruct, as mine seems to have done the other day, no act of God or stupidity required.

Mind you, this was no ordinary drive, this was a Drobo, a drive built to not lose data even if a drive inside of it fails. I used my Drobo mostly for back-up, but being the disorganized moron that I am, I also used it to store THE ONLY COPY I HAD of numerous files. To quote Dr. Smith, "Oh, the pain." Yup,. I lost not puny megabytes or even gigabytes but terabytes. Poof, gone, erased.

At first, I was all, "NOT AGAIN" (yes, it has happened to me once before), then PANIC set in, but as the days have passed, I'm now not sure it really matters. Truth be told, the most important stuff -- my photos, music, lyrics and the very few writings that matter -- were also stored elsewhere so I still have them. But here's the really key thing: an overstuffed drive is like any other overstuffed container full of whatever you are convinced you can't live without in that it weighs on you with promises of a-better-life-if-only-you-could-organize-it-in-a-useful-way-someday-and-be-able-to-find-that-gem-that-will-save-your-life-or-at-least-your-sanity. "Feed me, Seymour," it says, every time you so much as glance at it. Well, I hate being told what to do so, honestly, all I can really say is, "Good riddance."

Still... I WANT MY DATA BACK.

First impressions of Austin: The kids are alright.

I wish I were a little kid.

I mean, throughout this whole move from San Francisco to Austin, my wife and I have truly struggled. We miss our friends, I miss my parents, we miss the kids' school, I miss Hyde Street Studio C. The list is so long: the cool air, the sea, the clang of the cable cars, the energy of the city, and on and on and on. Sure, there are things we don't miss, but why focus on all that, right? Anyway...

I wish I were a little kid.

Because throughout this move, my kids, Avalon and Amelia, have treated it all as it all should be treated: as a great big adventure. They don't see Austin's aesthetic missteps, they just see new. Every playground is to be thoroughly explored. Novel flavors tried (only once!). Sidewalks scooted on. Big box stores to be raced through, again and again. Just wait until Daddy gets his gas grill! 

There's a lesson in this, I know, it's blindingly obvious, and I am doing my best to learn it, to close my adult eyes and reopen them as those of a child. It's not often in life you get to be somewhere truly new, unexplored, full of surprises. Maybe it's the closest I will get to being a kid again.

Damn.

I wish I were a little kid.

My last day at Hyde Street Studio C.

Jaimeson Durr and me at Hyde Street Studio C.

The memory is already fading. 

But I made notes so here is what I know is true:

Catherine dropped me off, started at 3 in Studio C, worked on Happy Fly mix, reamped guitars for Java Junkie, dropped Eryn's vocal into Road, ran home via cab to get forgotten hard drive, got back to HS about 6, got set up in Studio A for Perri's planned 7:30 arrival, she texted at 7:30 would be hour late, we cancelled, did scratch vocals for Standing, a few for Wishing but decided that Perri's original would not have to be redone for Wishing, said goodbye to Jaime, walked out into mild night at about 8:35, caught Uber at Van Ness and Eddy, home by about 9.

And there you have it, in the cruel shorthand of rushing to not forget, a snapshot of my last day at the most important place in my musical life. The date was February 18,nearly a month ago, and I was feeling a bit guilty because back home my wife was looking after our twin daughters and struggling to stay on top of the thousand moving pieces our imminent move to Austin, where I am writing this now as a resident. But from those notes I can dig up more memories, less reliable, to be sure, but still true.

A "mild night". I remember I stepped out of Hyde Street's front door and braced myself for the cold that was not there. The air, usually a bit blustery, was soft and even a touch warm. Someone once called it earthquake weather based on the theory that warm air loosens the ground.

I remember getting Perri's text. Jaime and I had moved to Studio A (ha, so my last working session was not purely in C) and I was testing the mic. I wasn't upset, I viewed Perri's being able to make the gig as pure luck anyway, so when she could not, the worst part was just that I would not see her one more time, she's a great person (and singer!). Jaime and I opted to have me do scratch versions of what I wanted Perri to sing so that she could come at a later date and use my guide vocal to record her parts.

Earlier in the evening, I remember re-amping some of Tim's guitar parts through a Milkman amp because I had already packed away my beloved Carr Mercury. Jaime and I also dug through some old tracks, unfinished but not unloved or forgotten, we will finish them someday, talked a bit about the past and the future (there will always be the former for us, we both also want the latter), stared blankly at blinking lights.

When the day was well and truly  done we said goodbye in the way people do when they fear it could be  permanent and do not want to admit it.

There are very few places on the planet that hold more memories for me than Hyde Street Studio C. I am eternally grateful for all that Jaimeson Durr, Hyde Street Studio C's owner, did to help me. I've been lucky. I hope not for the last time.

-- more photos here -- 

 

 

 

 

 

On wishing ground (aka, Austin, Texas).

move-in-2.jpg

In the South, when folks first arrive at a place that they have never before visited they call it wishing ground because it's a place where life can be re-imagined with entirely new hopes and dreams.

It's a phrase I love, and well over a year ago, I started to write a song around it. At the time, I had no idea the song was a premonition, of sorts, but it was. For last week, my family and I moved from San Francisco to Austin, Texas.

I tell you, moving is hard. In all my life I've never, really, truly done it, meaning moved away from my home with the intent of committing to a new place, and the difficulty of it all has taken me by surprise and filled me with doubts. I was ready for the upheaval of packing and unpacking, travel snafus, suitcase living. But I was not ready at all for the emotional displacement I feel. Everywhere I go, I am literally lost and I do not have any landmarks to orient me. I am constantly haunted by worries about whether or not Catherine and I did the right thing. I miss being near my folks. And on and on and on and on.

But this is wishing ground. This my chance to re-imagine my life and form new hopes and dreams or even just start to believe once again in things I have unwillingly or even willingly abandoned. As my song-in-progress says:

I was lost
But I will be found

Here on wishing ground 

 

 

Thoughts about music inspired by David Byrne’s thoughts about music.

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I’m a big fan of The Lefsetz letter and I typically read just about every post all the way to the bitter end, and the and is almost always bitter with Bob Lefsetz. I’m also a big fan of the Talking Heads. So when Lefsetz titled a recent post “David Byrne” you know I inhaled it.

Lefsetz’s rant was his response to David Byrne’s rant against the Internet and especially Spotify. Lefsetz opened with this salvo:

“Old fart hates change, what else is new?”

What inspired Lefsetz to be so blunt? To be fair, Byrne was blunt, too: he titled his piece 'The internet will suck all creative content out of the world'.

But enough about Lefsetz (if you want to read his post, it’s right here). Does Byrne have a point?

This is when I really miss the German word jein, a combination of ja and nein, or yes and no.

I agree with Byrne that the fees for streamed music are absurdly low but I do not agree with him, at all, that the Internet alone is to blame. Or Spotify. If you want to blame someone or something, you’ve got to include record labels and law makers. Here’s why:

Record labels own vast catalogs of music so they look at streaming rates against their entire catalog and are happy with accepting less for each stream if it means the overall revenue generated by the catalog still amounts to something significant, which it would not in a world without legal streaming. In other words, the record companies are content with a lot less of something than nothing at all. Artists aren’t so lucky. For them, the revenue from album sales and radio plays could once amount to a decent living, even if you weren’t top tier. No more. No only the very biggest artists generate much revenue from music (read this, it will blow your mind). Bottom line is that Spotify, YouTube, etc., have worked with labels to determine streaming rates, not artists, so artists are paying a much bigger price.

Lawmakers are generally whores whose actions are determined by who’s paying them the most. And compared to whatever record labels and artists can cough up the GOBS of cash coming from lobbyists for Apple, Google, Verizon, Facebook — basically every company that benefits from rising Internet traffic — is a shitload more. So copyright law is not enforced because to do so would create too much friction in the ‘net. What’s more, the biggest copyright owners, companies such as Disney, have bribed Congress to extend copyright law to absurd lengths. way beyond the average lifespan or even life expectancy of a human being (it’s complex, naturally, but it’s well over 100 years) so copyright owners don’t get much sympathy.

But what of the core premise of Byrne’s article, that 'The internet will suck all creative content out of the world'? Not even close to true. There’s more creativity going on than ever before and it will continue to grow because that’s what humans do, we create. And even if we’re being screwed over by corporations who want to be the sole beneficiaries of profits from creative endeavors and by the lawmakers who work on behalf of said corporations, we will still create.

 

The perils of waiting too long. Or not.

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Last night, Catherine and I made steaks and in honor of the bovine occasion I plucked a fine bottle of wine from my “cellar” (it’s a closet). The wine was a 1995 Duca Enrico and was the last of two bottles I bought ages ago in Europe. I don’t remember drinking the first bottle, but I’m sure it was good, otherwise I would have tried the second long ago, instead of saving it.

As I reached for my corkscrew, memories of buying the wine, thoughts of the old Wall Street Journal’s “Open that bottle night” columns, and fears that it might have turned, all flowed through my mind, especially the fear because I noticed the cork was a touch pushed out. Then the cork came out a little wet. I poured a small amount into my glass, swirled it around, sniffed it and my heart sank. A small taste and my heart dropped to the floor. Into the sink went the wine.

The experience got me to thinking about my life in general. I waited forever to get married, to have children, to make an album. Did I wait too long? Would all of these things have been better when I was younger? I honestly believe that the answer is no. I was not ready to get married and have kids 20 years ago, I just wasn’t. As for music, well, I tried to write songs all the time but got nowhere. I hadn’t lived enough, maybe that was it, I will never know. But all these things feel very right today (though I do worry about being 70 when my girls turn 20!).

No, unlike wine, life never turns, it’s always worth living because it can always get better.

 

Rethinking the NEA.

A street grate in SF. Art is everywhere.

A few weekends ago I got into a debate with my sister-in-law about the NEA. Fueled by a little wine and more than a little rudeness (she was a guest and makes her living in the arts), I stridently pointed out that the NEA is an organization that takes money by threat of force and gives it to artists, thereby putting the government in the role of determining what is and what is not art.

A bit over the top, I admit, but fundamentally true as the NEA is funded by taxes. I pontificated further to say I did not believe the government had any role in something so subjective as art and that if NEA funding were cut off the arts would hardly suffer for it, while society as a whole would probably benefit.

But…

In thinking about it more in the days that followed I came to a different conclusion. I think pursuing art with no commercial intent is like basic research in that its primary value lies in the pursuit not the outcome. In other words, the pursuit of art for art's sake is valuable. But who can afford to do that, especially folks who are no longer in their teens and early twenties? No one. And that's where the NEA comes in. It allows people to pursue art in a society that would otherwise deny them. Yes, they could work day jobs and do their art at night, but so could basic researchers and if I'm going to fund someone I'd like him to be no more sleep deprived than necessary.

As I hit "save and publish" for this post, I admit, I have doubts. My favorite artists all did their thing without NEA money. Big picture, though? I just think we're a better society to support the arts with a little government money than to not do anything at all.