Monday, November 28, 2005

Nothing Is Wrong: Part Two

This is the completed mural. Or at least I think it is complete. I'm still not sure what this means, but it works on some level because it has me thinking about it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Chris Whitley 1960-2005

I am very sad to see on the BBC News website that Chris Whitley died from lung cancer. I never even knew he was sick. Back in 1998, my curiosity was piqued by an Acoustic Guitar magazine interview with Chris and I bought his excellent "Dirt Floor" album. His National steel dobro playing was something I had never heard the like of - it had such a unique style, which combined with his haunting poetic lyrics, made me realise that this was an artist of unique vision. I found out later that this was just the latest incarnation in a serious of twists and turns in Whitley's wandering musical path, everything from Hendrix-like noise to plaintive Robert Johnson slide to one of the best cover albums ever recorded, "Perfect Day" (recorded with Billy Martin and Chris Wood from Medeski, Martin, and Wood).
His was not the kind of music you put on while doing the housework. This demanded serious listening.

His obituary is here

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Infectious Blur

Must. Stay. Awake. Need. More. Coffee.

There is a plague on our house. Everyone but me seems to have contracted tuberculosis, or else unbeknownst to me, the small people have taken up smoking behind the pre-school during lunch break. That’s the only explanation for the coughing and spluttering symphony that keeps erupting 'round our house. I am hunkered down in the trenches, armed with disinfectant and a face mask, warding off small children with snotty noses. They try and sucker me in with their Daddy, I love you and Daddy, I need cuddles. I know their wily ways and tricks.

The photo is to remind me that, despite a total lack of sleep, these three little snot-filled monsters are terribly cute most of the time - the emphasis is on terrible.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Nothing Is Wrong

I took this on the corner of 8th and Irving while walking with the family. I'm not sure what the mural is about. It seems to be making a political statement. I keep meaning to go back and see the finished article.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Outside Looking In: Mix 2

I finally did another mix. Over the last few weeks, I redid the vocals, added harmonies, organ, harmonica, software synthesiser, piano, and redid the ebow on the bridge. The synth and harmonica harmonise over the intro, which also comes in before each verse and on the outro. The organ, (a remarkable software version of the venerable Hammond B3 made by Native Instruments), added texture to the chorus. On the bridge, I added a single repeated piano note, more as a percussion instrument than a melodic instrument. Also on the bridge, the ebow was re-recorded an octave lower. The ebow is a magnetic device which rests on the guitar strings and causes them to resonate (the sound is somewhat violin-like).

This part of the process is really about adding the ear candy. The song was done in terms of arrangement, and the building blocks of drums guitar and vocals were complete. The keyboards and others are used to reinforce melodies, add oomph to the chorus, and lend some aural excitement in the higher end of the sound spectrum.

The mix is still rough and ready, but all the recording is done and the next mix should be the final one. Follow the link for the new mix:

Outside Looking In: Mix 2

You can compare it to the early mix here.

As always, comments private or public are appreciated.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

My American Dream

About thirteen years ago, I awoke, on a rare sunny Galway morning, with the memory of a great dream playing through my cerebral cinema. It was one of those dreams that keeps you in a fabulous mood all day, and even all these years later, is as vivid today as it was on that morning. It was around the time that the idea of moving to the U.S. was gaining some traction in my mind. I was living with my girlfriend, Clair, and both of us thought it might be fun to try the U.S. for a spell. To any of our friends this must have seemed idiotic as we were already growing apart, we just didn't know it yet. Or at least I didn't. She was always faster on the uptake than I was and the idea of changing venue was a short-acting salve on a crumbling relationship.

The dream was a simple one: it's early morning and I'm on a bike, a nice road bike, smooth and fast, and I am cycling along a flat road with no other traffic. Although I am cruising at a good clip, I'm not in a hurry. There is nowhere I have to be. I know the Pacific Ocean is on my right. I know it's there even though I can't see it. It's obscured by sand dunes and high grass. On my left is an industrial tableau of short, squat, one storied buildings, but it's more interesting than ugly. The weather is perfect, pristine blue skies, warm but not humid. I am intensely happy, that unusual elevated sense of well being where the world is perfect and everything is as it should be.

I awoke convinced that the dream was a message that the idea of moving to the U.S. was the right thing to do. I am a pretty logical person and not normally susceptible to such flights of fancy, but this felt so right. But the idea of moving to California had never really occured to me, I had never even been there so it was strange that I knew I was in California in the dream. Over the next year while my green card was in process, Clair and I inevitably split up. We both knew it was for the best, our relationship was played out, and although it had been wonderful for four years, it was making us miserable. I still felt, though, like my anchor had been cut. I alternated between wanting to stay and go, but I knew if I left, I was going to California, specifically to San Francisco. Eventually things fell into place. My friend Conor also got a green card, and another friend was getting married in Rhode Island, so we decided to stay after the wedding. On top of that, it turned out an American friend had moved to San Francisco and needed two roommates. The fates were in motion.

One of the first things I did when I arrived was to visit Ocean Beach and marvel at the size of the surf. I immediately noticed that on the south end of the beach, the beach is hidden by sand dunes and high grass, and the buildings on the left, although residential as opposed industrial, resembled my dreamscape.

This is on my mind because, well, life is good. My tiny new son is angelic, my two other kids, while little toddler monsters sometimes, are cute, curious, smart, and affectionate. And having a wonderful wife doesn't hurt either. I may not have become a famous rockstar, but I really can't complain and my album may actually be finished soon (watch for a post). We are very aware that although this is an intense time of life, we'll be wistful for the times when our little kids craved being around their parents, so we're doing our best to enjoy it while we can.

The Irish in me rails against admitting good fortune. Our DNA has been changed by centuries of oppression that taught us not to enjoy any riches we might have because they will be taken away. Natasha has often chided my response when someone asks, "How are things ?" and I never fail to respond, "Not too bad." "Why can't you just answer that things are good?" she says.

I just bought a new road bike; my old one is ancient and heavy. The new one is a nineteen pound carbon fibre beauty. Everytime I ride it, I relive the dream. That's a pretty good deal.