Need I say more?
Need I say more?
For the past few months Gina and I have been rehearsing with Zina, who is also the drummer in E’s band Filmstar.
It started as a speculative exercise – what would Arcati Crisis sound like with drums? We got our answer pretty quickly, as Zina is a ridiculously fast study. We’re already eight songs into drumming up our repertoire, and last night Zina polished off “Bucket Seat” after only a second rehearsal of it.
“Bucket Seat” has been one of my favorite songs from the moment I finished writing it in 2003. When Gina and I made Arcati Crisis formal in 2007 it was the second new song I brought to her to add to the repertoire, and in minutes she found the off-kilter chords that tangle with my staccato diminished stabs. Now the song sounds nude if I play it solo.
Zina was proving to be equally as intuitive on it. After our first run with Zina we fine-tuned a few spots and ran it twice more. It was solid, and we were playing it at the right tempo, but I felt like it was over too quickly.
I turned to Gina. “I think you need to play a guitar solo out of the fast part after the key change.”
One of my favorite aspects of the drumming process is that rather than constrict arrangements around our guitar playing, drums have opened up more space. Zina’s rhythm takes the burden of the two of us. These are songs we’ve played literal hundreds of times, but we keep finding new spaces inside them.
That said, nothing’s structure has really changed yet. The songs are all the same shapes they’ve always been. We haven’t added any funky breakdowns. Or guitar solos.
“A solo?” Gina asked, a little tentatively.
“Sure. You know, like what you play in the intro. Try it.”
We tried it. Gina stopped after four notes, two of which were pretty cool. “It doesn’t quite fit.”
“Yeah, but if you keep the two that worked, and descend…” I started imitating her guitar with my voice, wailing a solo. “raw wah, whear wheh wah, rah weh wah,” I paused for a breath between phrases, “and then a lower ascending line.” I climbed back up the scale, “until it resolves!” I shouted, wheezing and wailing until I reached a bent note at the top.
I finished my performance and looked at Gina expectantly.
“You sounded like a vulture,” she said.
“You want me to play it like that?”
“Well, you know. That’s the general shape of it.”
She regarded me skeptically while Zina looked on from behind the kit, bemused.
“I could draw it for you,” I offered, “like David Bowie did for Mick Ronson on ‘Moonage Daydream.’ I could go get crayons.”
“Oh, sure,” Gina mimed with her hands what I assumed to be an elaborate David Bowie crayon drawing, “that might work. Or we could just try to play it a few times.”
And that was how “Bucket Seat” acquired a guitar solo.
You can stream or download our full-length Live @ Rehearsal, Vol. 4 LP for free. Hear “Bucket Seat” and other rocked up Arcati Crisis songs at Dorian’s Parlor Neo-Victorian ball on Saturday March 12. There will be steampunk costumes. We’re also working on a ninja weeknight gig for February. Stay tuned.
I think vampires could possibly be on their way to wane. It’s hard for me to be sure, as I am generally oblivious to their ebbing in and out of favor, having loved them since age six.
Age six was when I read my first book as I sit on my front porch in the summer sun. That book was Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Seriously. It was an abridged version for kids, and the few extremely terrifying dreams that I still remember were a small price to pay for a lifelong love of reading.
By the time of my reading of Dracula I was already an established David Bowie fan, so please understand that (a) I was not your typical six-year-old, and (b) I might have loved 1983’s The Hunger even more at age six than I did this weekend.
Have you heard of this movie? It’s insane. From a novel of the same name, it’s like a retroactive Lynchian remake of Black Swan with literal vampires instead of metaphorical birds, where David Bowie and Susan Sarandon split Portman’s part (complete with homoerotic touches), but replace her ballet dancing with cello playing and smoking cigarettes, respectively.
The Hunger is exactly as disorienting, awesome, and disturbing as that description suggests.
In one of his strongest cinematic turns, David Bowie plays an androgynous vampire musician who is a little touchy about getting older – so, essentially, he is playing himself. Catherine Deneuve is his sire and very long-term domestic partner, as well as a sex enthusiast and classical pianist who is a dead ringer for Lady Gaga.
As the pair begin to fret over Bowie’s gray hairs, they independently obsess over Susan Sarandon, a young doctor trying to unlock the secret of aging by experimenting on some very temperamental monkeys. When the two of them aren’t busy fucking and killing (usually in that order, but not exclusively) the swingers they pick up from the local goth club they teach music to an adorable neighbor girl.
This movie … words just fail me. From the first minute it’s both disgusting and gorgeous. It’s beautifully sparse, with lingering shots that made me gasp and short, clipped dialog that’s hardly necessary. Honestly, it would work almost as well as a silent film. Unlike a lot of movies from the early eighties, it does not feel dated to me – the only hints of its age are electronic music cues and perhaps an overuse of slow motion.
Most importantly, every time The Hunger reached a point where E and I exclaimed “wouldn’t it be awesome if x” or “surely they’re not going to x” that exact thing happened. We’re talking about three of the most transgressive plot twists I have seen on film outside of shock/horror movie.
I mean – yes, this was shocking and horrifying – but on the whole it was more of a sexually-charged arthouse flick than it was Saw.
Did I mention David Bowie AS A CELLO-PLAYING VAMPIRE? Oh, and, if I may be a total dude for a brief moment (maybe the first ever on CK): the breasts of a young Susan Sarandon.
The current vampire craze has resulted in talk of a remake, but there is no way it could be as erotic and thought-provoking in the present day. Even with Lady Gaga.
I might need to buy a copy.
A long time ago – like, about half a life – I attended a birthday party upstairs at Tattooed Mom on South Street.
That is the sense-memory that struck me in the face Friday night when I trundled my two amps up the stairs to the Textual Healing book release party and took in the room with its two pool tables. I’ve been to Tattoo Moms several times since then, but that was the only occasion I had ever been upstairs.
Now I have a second indelible memory of Tattoo Moms – me, standing inside one of the vintage bumper cars in the upstairs back room, singing and playing squelchingly distorted acoustic guitar licks from my place in the back seat.
The whole story of Eric Smith and his book is a sort of hazy dream to me. I can’t believe I wrote a song to the first chapter, or sent it to him a minute later, or wrote another one, or then wrote AN ENTIRE BOOK inspired by his manic and infectious “GO ARTS” energy.
That’s why I was so thankful to be playing for him, for his book, and for a room of people I’ve come to really love and cherish – literally too many Twitter folks for me to try to remember and collect their handles into this single post post.
What I do remember is finishing “Curves Sketched In Letters” and starting up my super-secret cover of “Fuck You” and watching the entirety of the room on my right – including Nan, Schmidt, Linzy and Jess, and a slew of other people – sing all of the callbacks every time I stopped for a breath.
(Also, intriguingly, the couch in front of me bore a girl I’m quite certain I went on a pseudo-date with in high school. I couldn’t tell if she was enjoying me or not, or if she even recognized me. Would someone from that birthday party recognize me now, playing guitar, if they hadn’t seen me in all of those intervening years? I was sorry she left early, as I sorely wanted to see if it was really her (and, if it was, have her experience how hot my wife looked).)
After my brief set half of Venice Sunlight took the stage bumper car to play a few songs acoustic. I had a grand time chatting VS’s Jay and Dave up well into the night about their band and brand new CD, released on Saturday and just-about-free to download.
Otherwise, the weekend was uneventful. I was couch-bound on Saturday with a howling backache (thanks to all the amp-trundling), and Sunday was spent cleaning and rehearsing solo music.
Now for a new week! Rehearsal, Freelance Whales show, Black Swan (!!), rehearsal, night off, and my tenth appearance at the Shubin Theatre Holiday revue – serving as the house-band with Gina. We’ll debut a cover of Counting Crows’ “Long December” in the long, proud tradition of sad Christmas songs as helmed by Judy Garland’s original “(Have Yourself) A Merry Little Christmas.”
This is the fifth year I’ve claimed to participate in National Blog Posting Month AKA NaBloPoMo, and the third time I’ve failed at it.
In 2007 when I failed I got engaged. In 2009 I failed less spectacularly, but wrote an EP of new songs I’ve been playing ever since.
This year I wrote another EP of songs!
Oh, and as of 3:30 a.m. this morning, AN ENTIRE FRIGGING BOOK.
Yes, if you’ve been keeping up with the tiny graphic on the sidebar or my endless authorial ramblings on the Twitters, you would know that I’ve been hard at daily work on a novel for National Novel Writing Month AKA NaNoWriMo, which charges you with penning 50,000 words of fictional first draft in 30 days – 1,667 a day.
I found myself 10k words in the hole a day after Thanksgiving, but I was less worried about making up the missed words than I was that my natural stopping point in the story wouldn’t carry me past the 50k mark. However, last night the final chapter of my plot just kept going and going across 8+ hours of writing until I finally finished it at 4,500 words (9% of the entire book, at this first draft stage), sobbing on my couch at 2:30am with 50,227 words.
Then I plugged the whole thing into NaNoWriMo’s word counter, which counted me about 1k short. I expected that, since my counts have always been about 2% short when I use the website, but I was secretly hoping that it would resolve itself magically when I submitted my final text.
Luckily, I’ve had a clear-as-a-bell vision of an epilogue for a week now, and I spent the hour deliberately dashing it off in one solid peal of writing to qualify for the official 50k mark on the site without having to make any serious expansions to the rest of the text, aside from a quick reread of the final chapter to catch obvious errors (come on, this is me, there’s no such thing as ‘no editing’).
There’s been a fair amount of polemic against NaNoWriMo, claiming it generates wasted time, false hope, and bad manuscripts. Well, sure. But, dudes, I wrote a book – actually, just a third of the entire story I want to tell, but still weighing in at roughly 243 paperback pages even in first draft.
I’ve always had the ability to write, and the intent to write, but this is still my single longest piece of actual, non-hypothetical, well-past the outline stages fictional writing by a factor of at least three (even as CK has swelled to over a million words – 20 NaNoWriMos worth of text).
So, was it a waste of time? Maybe. Isn’t everything? Why do I blog or play music? Why do people who I look down my nose at for watching television watch television every night? We all have our reasons.
What matters this weary morning is that last night I finally finished the first draft of book I’ve been conceiving and reconcieving since I was riding the 2 bus in 7th grade. Not only did I finish a first draft, I finished one of my current five big goals in life (having already taken a pass on having abs in 2010), and NaNoWriMo helped to inspire that.
So, my thoughts on National Novel Writing Month? In a word?
PS: Many of you have kindly and without any regard for your own time or sanity asked to read some form of this novel. I absolutely will be posting an excerpt sometime soon, but not the entire thing as, theoretically, it is just a third of said entire thing, which means I have as many as 100k words left to write, as this was never really plotted as a standalone piece.
Of course, neither was A New Hope, so there is some precedent for this sort of thing. (Not that I’m comparing it to Star Wars.)
Fear not. The end goal is definitely to serialize the entire thing in some form here on CK, possibly as a podcast or graphic novel. (Do you like to draw, animate, and/or photograph such things? Because I don’t. So leave me a comment.)
In short, ask me again after I get more than three consecutive hours of sleep.
We just loaded out from my first Philly show as a member of Filmstar.
Bass was played. I did not magically forget how to do it when we got on stage, which was a great relief. I had worries that I was going to look down and suddenly discover the bass was totally alien to me, like I was holding an accordion, or something else arcane that I don’t know how to play.
It’s weird to be sitting on the bottom of the mix. With Gina everything has equal weight – guitar against guitar, vocal against vocal. Either of us can dip out for a second and things stay in motion.
With Filmstar if I stop playing there’s no bottom! The bottom falls out.
Well, after one experience with that early in the set, I learned my lesson pretty quickly.
The other strange thing was being so LOUD. I am not a loudness junky when it comes to music, so I’m not used to the way instruments and amps resonate differently at higher volumes. It kept taking my by surprise.
It was a good set. Fast, a few bumps, but nothing I’m going to hold against myself forever.
So, yeah, now I’m a bassist. Seriously, me as the rhythm section? Where do I come up with these ideas.