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Friday, December 11, 2009

Acid Bird (so long ago)

10 years ago I was asked to contribute to Mr. Bayard Catron's Glass Flesh project, a series of recordings covering Robyn Hitchcock. Being a huge Robyn fan (or Fegmaniac as it were) I gladly agreed. Electronica was all the rage in 99, and I had just gotten a Boss Dr. Groove drum machine. So I abstracted some acoustic guitars, open tuning them to specific chords, and with my fancy new Pro Tools digital recording and editing rig I set out to make a little deconstructed late 90s electronica stylee Acid Bird.

The results were ok, I was fairly pleased (though still on the engineering learning curve) but for whatever reason it wasn't included on the tribute CD. Pretty much all the songs included ended up being straight covers relatively true to the originals, and mine may have stood out. Or maybe the final disc was corrupt....

Anyway, the story has a happy ending as Bayard gave me a shout about a month ago and asked if I could send him the song again for inclusion on whatever Glass Flesh is going to turn into (the project is up to CD #4 now I believe). So I went back into my old Mac G3 and lo and behold the original files were still there.

I was going to replace the drums for the cheese factor - now I'm on Logic Studio and the drum samples are quite bangin - but because of the deconstructed, fragmented recording method (I literally tuned my acoustic to open C, open D, open A, open G, etc and recorded the chords separately then placed them in the song with the digital editor) it was impossible to sync stuff up in Logic. So the little demo like Dr. Groove is there to stay. It was a fun afternoon remixing the thing. Did re-record the guitar solo at the end as I have improved in 10 years.

You can hear it here: ReverbNation

or if you don't want to sign up for my email list then you can also go here: YourSpace

Learn about Robyn Hitchcock here: RH Official Site

Visit Bayard's Glass Hotel and order Glass Flesh here: The Glass Hotel

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I Could Tell You But....

I could tell you about the lady who came up to me in the middle of a song the other night with a kazoo in her hand. Displayed prominently and upright, she smiled with a grace befitting her 70+ years. I start vamping and ask over the mic, "Are you asking me if you can play that now?" She says "When you're on your break..." I shake my head no, and she gives me a horrified look. "Why not?" she asks. "Well," I say still vamping, "we could discuss this now in the middle of the song and make all these people wait and listen in to our conversation, or I could finish the song. Which do you think?" She doesn't answer, and I say, "Yes, I think finishing the song is best."

I could tell you about the exhaustion once the summer gigs stopped last week. And then magically started up again, pounding my immune system into a pulp.

I could tell you about the great movies I've watched, unable to move when not playing: Walk The Line, Wristcutters, Control, Wall-E, The Royal Tenenbaums (not great, but Gene Hackman is very good)...

I could tell you about how I'm trying to organize my office right now.

I could tell you, but....

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Clapping Lady!

Legend has it that the Clapping Lady roams the South Jersey shore...inspiring musicians and audiences everywhere by being the first one to clap. Legend also has it that she can light a fire in a room just by clapping. Nobody knows when she will arrive or where she will end up. Or who her mysterious companions are.

Well, I'm here to tell you that the legend is true. The Clapping Lady exists, and I have seen her. She has Clapped for me.

So I wrote her a song:

Jah loves you Clapping Lady
Jah smile on your heart
Jah loves you Clapping Lady
as you clap the room apart

We love the Clapping Lady
she keeps it real and sane and fun
we love the Clapping Lady
She make the music come

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Now Is The Time (the time is now) hey hey rock and roll

I am going to blog regularly, dammit! My buddy Ed (Hamell On Trial) blogs all the time and while I don't have nearly the insane stories he has (I mean, I used to do drugs but when I was getting a B.A. in Stimulants he was going for the triple Ph.D in Everything) I still have awesome gig stories.

Like tonight. I showed up for the gig, moved all the gear inside to the usual place, was coming back in when the manager says "Sorry, you're playing outside." OK, no problem, it's pretty nice out, there is only 1 person outside and about 30 people inside, but I am fine with that. The manager is a great guy, and he even helps me move my gear. That is pretty much unheard of in my world.

The crowd at the start of the 1st set appears to be Latina, about 6 ladies, conversing in Spanish and it is unclear to me whether they speak English. What to play, what to play, not warmed up for La Bamba, what to play, wish I knew Chan-Chan from Buena Vista Social Club...I play Jack Johnson, Bob Dylan's "Standing in the Doorway" (such a great song), and some of my other usual warm-up material. An older couple sits down, and the patio starts to fill up. People!

Nobody is clapping though. This is pretty normal for happy hour restaurant gigs. No one wants to be the first one to clap, and people are eating. It is always helpful to bring your own 1st set clapper. Maybe I will start bribing someone! Free CD for the first one to clap. Also falls psychologically into the realm of "people don't like it unless other people say it's good". My experience is that most folks are this way.

One woman (in her 70s) claps after I play "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing" (J.Johnson). She has an arm brace on her left arm. She says, "I feel bad no one's clapping for you!" I use the opportunity to guilt the table next to her into clapping ("See what you did? You made this injured lady clap her hands..."). This works ok, though the couple at this adjacent table appear to be smiling at some kind of inside joke through the whole set. I am not sure if they like my music or think I am stupid. I am paranoid (my usual response to no response).

A couple shows up in 2 motorized wheelchairs. The woman parks her wheelchair next to my PA and gets up and walks into the restaurant. Then they come out again and stand in the middle of the patio looking confused for about 5 minutes until the waitress finally takes the dirty plate off the open table next to me. It is all I can do not to scream "Will somebody help these people? For God's sake, he's in a wheelchair!!!" during the 5 minutes. They are now next to me and enjoying the music.

I take a break, adjourn to the car for hot dogs and brief conversation with the wife and little girl. Teryn asks me what happened to Chequers, my Dalmatian from when I was 5 to 7 years old. She is curious because she is playing with my old doll Furga who she has renamed Theresa. Probably because Furga isn't a name, it was the name on the box i.e. the company that made the doll. I was proud of being able to read it so there you go. Yes, I had a doll. I am a sensitive male child of the 70s. Furga especially enjoys her new name. Chequers chewed one of Furga's feet way back when. Chequers also bit 3 of my little friends and had to be put to sleep at age 2 by NY State Law. Dalmatians are not good dogs for kids, despite what Disney says about having as many as you can stuff in a room. Poor old Chequers. Linda and I tell Teryn that Daddy was little a long time ago and doggies don't live as long as people. Nuff said.

When I get back the manager approaches me, as the skies are looking ominous. He leaves it up to me whether or not to head inside right now. The sky is literally half-blue and half-grey. I pick the wrong half and say no, I'll stay out until it clouds over more. About 15 minutes later the sky opens with no warning and both managers and I scramble to get guitar, PA, cables, songbooks, and the rest inside. Big wet puddle. Guitar finish got some rain marks, but besides an odd crackling noise later from my stereo guit-cable, everything is ok. I spend the next hour drying everything off, including me. Thank God I carry a towel! I read my Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, thank you very much.

As I am winding my cables and making my damp little way back and forth from the door to the "stage", Birkenstocks squishing on my feet like two little wet sponges, I am reminding myself how grateful I am to do what I do, that I am not working at a desk, and there is nobody whipping me to move faster, do more, etc. I walk back and forth probably about 20 times like Slow-Poke Rodriguez from the old Warner Bros. cartoons. That most likely all my equipment is ok, I will dry, and always go inside when given the opportunity. Not everything in the world is my fault, even though I also had two checks bounce this morning because of my own stupidity in not transferring money over. So, life is good in Wetville.

At 6:30, the gear is re-set up, I am still relatively damp but the gear is toweled off and I have a request to play "Mr. Jones" by Counting Crows, which I do somewhat loudly (feeling feisty). Goes over great. My latest offer of "pay what you want" for CDs at the gig is proving to be very successful (with the average CD monies recouped working out to $5/unit), and I sell out during the set (5 CDs). Two college girls are singing along. People are clapping and it's fun. I even have to send people to my website to buy more CDs because I ran out. Good problem to have! Never expected the pay-what-you-want to be so successful. Some pay $3. Some pay $20. It balances out, and as opposed to selling nothing, I am now moving like 5 - 10 of these things a gig. Whoo hoo!

Gig ends, manager apologizes for the rain (totally unnecessary, they are awesome, and she got drenched helping me move stuff in), and I am packing up. The two girls left the CD they bought on the bar - they were WASTED when they left - and I end up reselling it to the guy who is playing after me. His name is Tug. It's his first solo gig - ever? or maybe just in a long time? - we chat and he is complimentary and asks questions about how many gigs do I do, etc. I am the veteran knight, rolling up my sleeves and showing battle wounds ("Here's where the Dragon of Sea Isle tried to bite my leg off, I ate his liver with a side of fava beans, etc"). On the way home, I listen to Sting's "Why Should I Cry For You?" over and over. The production on that song really bites the big one, there is WAY too much going on, all sorts of stupid Peter Gabriel pale imitation noises and endless early 90s synth sounds that were really leftover from the 80s, outdated even at the time - but it is one of his best tunes by far I think. The lyric is so dense and lonely ("Dark angels follow me/over a godless sea/mountains of endless falling/for all my days remaining"). That whole record (Soul Cages) is about his father dying. So TO ME on one level WSICFY is about how he will always be lost without him, he'll never recover, and really Dad has moved on to a better place so I am crying for myself and on the other level is like "You were never there for me, I have never had a real father, and why should I cry for you you bastard milkman (yes Sting's daddy was a milkman)". Joni Mitchell said that Sting was the child she and James Taylor never had. This song especially to me shows that mix.

I am thinking it is time to release a covers record or maybe a series of tracks by a few artists. This one, "Moon Over Bourbon St." and maybe one other would be the Sting one. Love him or hate him (and frankly after Soul Cages with the exception of "Fields of Gold" it is all crap), he has a kickass voice and can write a great tune when he is not looking in the mirror being amazed by being Sting. Maybe Fields of Gold, which is a beautiful, non-pretentious folk song about how grateful Sting feels for his wife and family. I might like the album of lute music, who knows. All the punks who read this (maybe the one LOL) will be rolling their eyes when I talk Sting. But punk can be equally as pretentious and most of them frankly don't have any of the chops. I know, being punk, that they "don't care"...thus the musician/non-musician war rages on and I leap between in the middle like Michael Jackson in the Beat It video ("it doesn't matter who's wrong or right").

But that is another blog for another day. Going to bed before 5 AM - Schwing! Oh and btw I am also co-writing an Internet TV show which is going to be funny, strange, and a must-see...also launching Guitar in 5 Minutes lessons for beginners...

So. How was your day, dear?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Life of the Party

Hello to you wherever you are, good peoples! Performance-wise, this is the busiest summer of my life. The last two weeks I played 15 shows. Gearing up for a meager 6 show week starting tomorrow, but you never know what can come down the pike...

Feeling disconnected a bit from songwriting - honestly it can get boring in these long corporate gigs playing my own songs because a) only occasionally does someone really listen to them so it is just for my own practice or vanity and b) frankly, my original music up to this point is the exact opposite of "The Party" (of which it seems I am constantly the host). I am not putting down my songs! Many of you enjoy them and I am very glad about that. I just want to write new ones and I need more settings that are appropriate for playing them. Both of which I am working on. UStream concerts! and new tunes.

But the singing and rhythmic guitaring is feeling better than ever. Just got this machine called an interferential stimulator (heh heh heh) which I will be using to calm my tired strap muscle behind the left shoulder blade.

So much to do on this my one day off. I am accountant/entrepreneur/husband/father/son/friend/hired musician all at one time. But I wanted to post and say Hi. So Hi. :-)

Funny gig story. Made $90 extra letting this old man sing 4 songs along with me. He was nearsighted and couldn't read the words so his wife and daughter-in-law were helping him. I will be honest and say that I really hate being a human karaoke machine for anyone except friends. For friends, I will play the guitar and you can sing your favorite song. For strangers, it's $20. Which these "people" were willing to pay. They cleared out half the bar (which the staff, lord love em, did not hate me for). They had the time of their lives. The funny part is that the blond daughter-in-law drank so many martinis so quickly that she passed out face first on the bar and had to be carried out fireman-style by the son. End of evening.

I type this and I feel shitty. I want people to have a good time. I hate it when they leave mad because I won't let them sing. Or stay and sulk because I told them they couldn't. I don't want to be that person. I want to be the fun "life of the party", the guy who sings that song you haven't heard in years and gets you up shaking your booty for the first real taste of FREEDOM you've had in weeks.

My friend Kimya Dawson lets all sorts of fans come up and sing with her at her shows. However it is different - I am not playing my own music (if it were my songs, you could all have mics and sing along), most of her fans aren't stinking drunk (EVERYBODY I deal with is drunk), and many of her fans are children. I let a child with a congenital heart defect sing a Christina Aguilera song a cappella. The mother thanked me weeping. And then later, when the mother tried to push her way to the mic to sing the chorus of "Africa" with me, she got angry that I told her no and stormed off.

I HATE THAT. I hate the whole situation. It's not fair to the people who pay me to play to inflict these crappy drunken idiots on their ears, let alone the staff. It's not fair to always have to be the one who kills the buzz and ruins someone's night. Let alone, and I KNOW I am alone in thinking and saying this, but PLAYING COVERS IS AN ART and however arrogant it may be, I think of myself as an ARTIST. Most people you see doing it phone it in, but I try to muster up as much passion and commitment as I can and really freakin nail it to the wall with my own style. Right now I do it for the money and for a chance to play all the time, but some of my covers are brilliant pieces of art. So don't come pee on my art, beeyotch!

The main reason though that I don't let people sing is that anybody can be a human karaoke machine but not many people can do what I do. Sing for hours and hours with soul and conviction and excellent musical taste. lol go me. It is so rude to presume that somebody playing their guitar with their equipment is their for your personal pleasure. But I have been dealing with this same situation almost every night for a month. And people react the same way, they all get mad.

Here I am frothing at the mouth at 1 AM. I think I'm going to start to get creative in my responses:

"Can I sing a song" "I don't know, can you?"
"My friend wants to sing" "And I'd like to bang your friend's girlfriend, think you can make that happen?"
"My dad's an excellent singer." "Really? Tell you what I'll do. I'll leave my guitar on stage and go out to my car for the next 3 hours. Your dad can sing whatever he wants. Let me know when you're done, and break whatever you want, it's insured."

and if a pushy customer comes up to the stage:

"Ladies and gentleman, here he/she is: Miss/Mr. Jersey Shore Herpes 2009!!! Give it up!!!"

Yes. I am tired with WAY too much to do. Cheerio.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Aesthetics of Michael Jackson

When I was in college, I took a course on Eugene O'Neill - "Eugene O'Neill and The Cultural Construction of a Psychological Self" with Professor Joel Pfister (the P is silent, Witchie). In this class we "deconstructed" O'Neill like good postmodernist 90s college students, breaking down his plays by their points of view on race, class, and gender. So basically being that I went to the school that was the setting for the movie PCU (see here - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110759/), the opinion of most of the class was that O'Neill was a racist, sexist, classist idiot whose plays never should have seen the light of day.

We had to write a final paper for the class with a thesis statement drawn from our own perspective on O'Neill. It was my opinion that O'Neill still was a "good" playwright - not necessarily Strange Interlude or The Iceman Cometh (yawn-a-roo) - but Long Day's Journey was compelling along with many others and frankly he was a pretty durn good writer whose plays have stood the test of time. I found a quote from Bertolt Brecht about the aesthetics of drama. Boiled down, the essence was that Brecht believed that drama has its own aesthetic - meaning, that the quality of a play being "good" is completely separate from all other criteria. You could have a well-written, well-acted, well-lit, well-designed play that was totally morally abhorrent. Just because the subject matter is repugnant doesn't mean necessarily that the actors, the dramatic moments, or the set design sucked.

I was not popular in this class. People thought I was a Nazi. But I got an A minus on the paper because the professor agreed I had a compelling argument and Brecht backed me up. Schwing!

Anyway, I see a similar thing going on with Michael Jackson. People seem to be in two camps: either St. Michael is dead and they are weeping and gnashing their teeth, or they are saying "I'm so glad that child rapist is dead". I guess this blog (which I totally have NO TIME for LOL and shouldn't be typing right now) is aimed more at those who think that the children of the world are now safe and thank goodness the molester has been eradicated.

You can say what you like about his personal life and the horrible stories and court cases that came out of Neverland. Michael Jackson was a major talent. 70s and 80s music would have been completely different without his influence. Not to mention on those zippers on those leather jackets :-) He sang, wrote, and performed major pop music that always took what was happening right then and moved it ahead a few notches. Quincy Jones helped focus his records with laser-sharp precision.

Phil Spector is in jail for the rest of his life for murder. Does that invalidate "Pretty Little Angel Eyes?"

OJ Simpson is also a psychopathic killer (thankfully imprisoned). Should they take his football records off the books?

I admit, it's hard to sing these people's praises in any way. I guess all I want to say to those who say "Ding dong the rapist is dead" is that this world is far more confusing and nuanced that that - that it is good to remember the good about people no matter who they are even if it's difficult, because when all we do is rejoice when someone dies is become a little more psycho ourselves.

And if you're thinking about being my baby, it don't matter if you're black or white :-) and yes, ding dong, the rapist IS dead.

Somewhere I have a video of myself dancing around to Billie Jean at age 15 with a winter glove on my hand. If I find it, I WILL post it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Introducing...The Chris Huff Sock Monkey!!!

Made by the fabulous Amy Dutsch (of Mama's Little Monkeys and Huffmusic Promotions) -

Go here to see it.

Oh, ok. Here's a sneak preview:









Definitely the coolest piece of Huff merchandise yet created. Fun for the whole family! Pose me like you have always wanted (some suggestions I have had recently are with my leg over my head singing "A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts") .

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dig the new pimped-out blog! This is the work of none other than Amy Dutsch, Huffmusic intern and sock monkey creator extraordinaire (among other things). www.mamaslittlemonkeys.com I'm very grateful and indebted to her for seeing where the slack is and taking it up.

Many people have asked me to tell them "every detail" of the Joss Whedon speech I heard, so while the event is still fresh in mind I'll fill you in. Who is Joss Whedon, you might ask? Some sort of GURU? A local GOD? Perhaps he invented the Internet? Pray tell, do speak of this man with the interesting jumbled name...

All are true. Joss Whedon (for the uninitiated) is a TV/film creator (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, Firefly, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog which can be watched here), film director (Buffy, Serenity), and former film major at Wesleyan University in CT, class of 1987 (I am also a former film major, class of 93). The event was held at my alma mater as part of a larger seminar on TV/film/pop culture; I have only been back 3 times in 15 years. So TIME WARP! 3 of my former classmates are actually film professors there as well! Great to see them, and a great time...anyway....yes, I am getting to Joss...hold your pointy teeth there, Spike....

The man himself reminds me of a self-deprecating young Orson Welles with better one-liners. He was unshaven and dressed California-style with a white blazer, looking very much the disheveled auteur. Though tired from multiple plane flights in 2 days, he was extremely entertaining, spoke for about 2 hrs, and at the end stayed and signed all the Buffy stuff that people brought. What a mensch! Highlights:
  • His description of the current state of media: "The old studios, companies, and old ways are collapsing, and the new thing - the blog internet podcast beast - has not yet fully formed. But the courtship has begun, they are dating, and soon they are going have to sex. Which is very very frightening because they are not the same species. " Most accurate take on "what's going on" in the entertainment industry that I have heard yet!

  • His detailed history of the Buffy franchise and how the first film and series came to be. He describes himself as being born with a silver script in his mouth; his father's agent read his first script (he is also touted as the first 3rd generation TV writer - both Dad and Grandpa were in the biz). His main inspiration came from a title he read while working in a video store: Revenge of the Bimbos which, according to him, was very disappointing because the bimbos didn't do much of anything, let alone get revenge on anyone. But his main aspiration was to create something that would go straight-to-video and look great on a shelf - "Hm...that's looks strange...let's watch it...". Obviously things became much much more successful...

  • His new perspective as a studio head (gained from the Dr. Horrible experience) summed up by his reaction to a fan's comment on another one of his works that "they would never buy the T-Shirt". The studio head inside him screamed in pain! lol - this was part of a larger issue he discussed:

  • The renewal of Dollhouse (his current show on FOX) which in his mind has everything to do with the network's recent discovery that his stuff sells better years later and his brand sells in multiple revenue streams (syndication, DVD, merchandise including action figures, comic books, and T-Shirts). Dollhouse is one of the lowest rated shows ever to be renewed for a second season. He quipped, "So, instead of my vacation, I literally start work again on Monday. Oh well!" His last network show, Firefly, only ran for 7 episodes (10 made), but the DVDs sold well enough to get a feature film out of the show (Serenity). FOX has very much come around in this respect.

  • He holds the Wesleyan Film Dept. as particularly its founder Jeanine Basinger (our mutual professor) in extremely high regard (as we all do). Jeanine has written numerous books - which you can find here; I recommend The It's A Wonderful Life book). The underlying theme of the weekend was the balance between creativity and commerce and the importance of balancing personal vision with a specific idea of who the audience is. "It took me basically until now," he said, "to realize that my vision of a beautiful teenage girl on the outside of society who can kill vampires is actually my avatar, the representation of who I am inside." He elaborated in how his vision of film and belief in film genre came from his classes with Jeanine ("Every film class I took became my life. When I took "Musicals", everyone would sing and dance around me. When I took "Film Noir", the world was full of shadows and everybody was against me, including my girlfriend. When I took "Westerns", there were enemies way off in the distance, and suddenly I had a mission to save those who could not help themselves.")

  • He loves every part of the process. When he is writing a script, he will envision the tag line, the poster, the trailer, every piece of the marketing out of the love for the entire process. "Of course, the marketing dept. at the studio didn't follow a single one of my ideas," he laughed. He is not averse to merchandising either (one of the first questions the studio asked him when he pitched Dollhouse was "Can we make dolls"?).

  • Joss described his view on the current state ("the fall of Rome") of the major studios and their adherence to adaptation, remake, and sequels. According to him, for the 3 years before Dollhouse he made a living selling scripts to studios that then never got made. One of his scripts was rejected outright by a studio exec who said "I just don't see this having a sequel." His view on this is that studios have become so conservative due to the industry-wide shrinkage that they are relying on existing characters so that the audience doesn't have to meet anyone new. As examples, he said he disliked Wolverine ("Why was that movie made?") but loved Star Trek. Despite loving Star Trek, he did use it as an example of the "new philosophy" - "look, here's Chekhov, we all love him, look here's Scotty, we all love him" etc. Which lead to....

  • The Buffy remake. The rights to Buffy are controlled by the Kazuis ("as well they should be," he says, "they put the money up for the first movie. However, pretty much anyone can make a Buffy movie except me.") He wishes them luck in making their movie, but doesn't want to be a part of the new one as he is more interested in telling new stories than being part of retelling an old one or being part of the current Hollywood fixation on old characters.

  • He summed up by re-emphasizing the need for a personal vision in art balanced with audience awareness. "Tell your story," he declaimed, "what it is that is uniquely yours. But tell it to someone, not at someone." He then took questions from the audience, most of which were fairly forgettable but included his amusing banter. There was one person who asked a very specific, geeked-out question about Episode 10 of his Buffy comic book series and he knew EXACTLY what the person was talking about (I assume he goes to conventions from time to time and is prepared for everything lol)

  • Funny last remembrance: The Buffy videogame included him as a character you could play. He enjoyed taking and executing such vocal directions as "OK, now say what you would say when you kill Willow". However, his favorite line was cut from the final game. When asked to say what he would say when killing Tara, he said "Oh, I'm going to get a lot of letters about this one."
It was a great privilege to see this inspiring, original voice in TV/film close up, even if he was unwashed and somewhat slightly dazed. Perhaps I should say ESPECIALLY because he was unwashed and ssd. I look forward to seeing and hearing more from him in the future. Also highly recommend watching everything he's ever done.

And what of music, you might ask? More on that next time...some exciting stuff in the works...but now to sleep perchance to dream...(taking the garbage first)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Give Me A Leonard Cohen Afterworld So I Can Sigh Eternally

Do you know Leonard Cohen? Have you ever heard his music? He is HUGE in Scandinavia. Bigger than the Beatles. In Europe he plays giant soccer arenas. Over here, he is still relegated to cult status (even though he is Canadian) though the concert I went to last Tuesday at the Academy of Music here in Philly was rightfully sold out. In my mind, he is up there with Dylan, Bowie, Tom Waits, Garcia/Hunter, Lennon/McCartney - one of the very very best songsmiths of all time. Leonard's world is dark and boozy, filled with exotic women, infidelity, and broken dreams - yet through it all he carries his senses of dignity, elegance, and humor intact. Like Rainer Maria Rilke would say, "It's important not to get lost in his world" - but Leonard is so seductive that he takes you right in, sits you down with a glass of whatever you're having, and takes you on a tour of the dark places that is ultimately redemptive.

The concert was one of the very best I've ever seen. Quick list - Top 5 concerts ever:

1) The Kinks 1988, Beacon Theater, NYC - 9 encores
2) Leonard Cohen, 2009, Academy of Music, Phila, PA
3) David Bowie, 1997, Electric Factory, Phila, PA
4) Bob Dylan, 2001, UC-Santa Barbara, CA
5) Tom Waits, 2000, Beacon Theater, NYC

Honorable mention to Grateful Dead, 1992 - Deer Creek, IN and Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians, 1988, The Ritz, NYC.

Anyway. This blog is not Facebook. Sorry :-) My name is Chris and I am addicted to Facebook quizzes. "Hi Chris"

So Leonard's band was incredible. I highly recommend all of his awesome musicians especially:

Javier Mas - 12 string guitar, bandurria - www.myspace.com/maodeoro

Webb Sisters - backing vox, harp - www.thewebbsisters.com

Dino Soldo - various woodwinds - www.dinosoldo.com

One of the highlights of the show was LC whipping out this keyboard and having it play almost all the backing while he sang "Tower of Song". You have to have the funk WAY down in your soul to pull this off...it is still my favorite song from the night - and for those of you who want to listen - you can download the "Live In London" CD from iTunes for $14.99 which is a bargain compared to the hours of deep, dark, blissful pleasure you will gain from all the jewels within. Or go check me out on blip.fm/chrishuff while I blip Leonard Cohen songs until the sun rises....

The title of today's blog is from Nirvana's "Pennyroyal Tea" in case that washed over you. Another great song, albeit a little creepy in light of Kurt's demise (as the flowers in the Unplugged make it A LOT creepy)...still such a great line capturing the essence of Leonard's otherworldly, ethereal song presence....

Big shout out to the newest member of the Huffmusic team - Amy D from www.mamaslittlemonkeys.com - she is providing a much needed spark to my online promotions/marketing, and we are so lucky to have her! Also, a huge thank you to Christina who has been managing my Twitter followers/followings while she attends college full-time and works 2 jobs. Yes, I am the Tweeter but she probably added you.

I am working tonight on creating content as we 21st century artists say. New Chris Huff Studio soon. All sorts of great things are in the works. Let me hear you say "Hoa!" l

Monday, April 27, 2009

Video Killed The Radio Star

Well, the first episode of "Chris Huff Studio" (my new video blog) is finished and uploading as we speak. I plan to film these at least once a week to air out some of my unaired material. 50 songs or so in the can, basically recorded in demo versions, but unperformed and unloved. That's where you come in. As I post these, I hope to sort the wheat from the chaff and hopefully people will comment and let me know what they think so I can begin to construct my next series of recordings. Some of these songs will probably not exist in any other form as they don't necessarily fit into the "overall scheme". But esp. for those fans of the Benadryl song (and you have been quite vocal, Lord love you :-) ) I think you will enjoy this. I hope you do. In any case, I'm releasing it to cyberspace shortly.

I am in the middle of an updating frenzy. My poor website has been ignored for so long! What the hell have I been doing with my time? It seems like since I left my day job that my time gets filled with so many non-musical things. Such is life I suppose. But as the bank balance slowly dwindles, I find myself pushing towards more and more focus. Reading a great book recommended by Ariel Hyatt (www.arielpublicity.com) and Derek Sivers (www.sivers.org). T Harv Eker: "Secrets of the Millionaire Mind". 1st principle: Rich people are not victims. Don't blame, don't justify, don't complain. Basically, don't cast yourself in the role of the victim because then that's what you will attract.

It's hard not to complain! I unfairly snapped at my wife for complaining (I should probably let her in on my little secret that I've learned in this book and been trying to practice - ya think?). Complaining is human nature, isn't it? After all, if I can't bitch about the weather, my poverty, my lousy breaks, this crazy recession, my lack of income, my crappy windows on the house, the lack of air conditioning in my studio, the gig I had on Saturday in a smoke-filled room for a bunch of senior citizens, etcetera etcetera THEN WHAT WILL WE TALK ABOUT????? T Harv goes even further when he says that we need to stop complaining internally too. It's hard!

This also ties in to my yoga practice. For the last 7 years, I have been a devotee of Svaroopa yoga (www.masteryoga.org). This yoga is so real it might as well be a reality show! It is so expanding it's like the best acid you never had. It is gentle, relaxing, focusing, deep, and brilliant. Completely has changed my life for the better. You can tell the difference between me on a yoga day and a non-yoga day. I am much less of a jerk. Anyway, Svaroopa yoga through Swami Nirmalananda (formerly Rama Berch) teaches us that happiness is an internal state, not an external state. Happiness comes from within and is a state of BEING regardless of external circumstances. If you rely on things outside yourself to make yourself happy, you will always be unsatisfied. Open the well within! Like the Robert Hunter lyric says "There is a fountain that was not made by the hands of men".

So I had a really frustrating situation come up with a client this weekend, and I complained once to my mommy and then stopped. I even stopped complaining inside. I pretended I was back at my old customer service job and thought "This client is unhappy. How can I fix the situation? It's all on me. " So I focused on how we could fix it and I'm happy to say even though the situation is not yet resolved, I feel like I am handling it professionally and not falling into victimhood. It is not easy! Like I said, when you stop complaining, what do you talk about? I am feeling more expansive and freer than I have felt in a long time. I am working more and complaining less. I slept like 14 hours yesterday, kind of a detox sleep I think, where I dreamt about sitting at a SF Giants game with a friend from high school.

Happiness comes from within. Rich people believe "I create my life". I have a vlog! Also, I am going to see Leonard Cohen on May 12th. Only 2 gigs this week which is not so good but I am going to make the most of my time. Namaste baby!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Maximum Reverb (Goes To 11)

So among my many journeys, I have ended up at Blockhead Radio - www.blockheadradiolive.com - a couple of times in the last few weeks and I tell you - it is awesome! It's not just that they treat me like a king, playing my music everytime I come in. They treat all their artists and artisans like kings and queens. It's rare that you find a podcast, blog, or social network arena so committed to community as Blockhead Radio. Rod, Huck, and their crew are devoted to promoting their chosen folk and are fiercely and proudly committed to independents of all stripes. I count myself as proud and lucky to be one of their peeps! Shout out :-)

Rod did a feature on me a couple Fridays ago and asked me to blog about something that came up. I told him that I used to record vocals in the bathroom because of the natural reverb; an old 4-track trick for those of us with no reverb units. In college and shortly thereafter, all my recording was done on a cassette-based Tascam Portastudio. My dad called the company and got me a new one after I broke my first one. We lied to get the 2nd one lol told them it just fell apart mysteriously but really I dropped it. Certain kinds of lying were ok with my parents. More on that later.

Anyway, naturally reverberant spaces have been used since the dawn of human civilization for art and music. Greek amphitheatres were specifically designed for maximum acoustic efficiency, usually in bowl-shaped valleys ideal for the purpose. Go to one, and you can still hear a person talking from the stage unamplified. My a cappella group in college used to practice in the chapel, the library lobby, and stand under this weird hollow in the arts center to get the best echo. I am now going to draw a straight line from ancient Greece to the bathroom. My songwriting partner in crime around this same time suggested we record our vocals in the echoey tunnel underneath our dorm. I still have these recordings; may actually post some of these just for kicks. The majority of my bathroom recordings were done in Long Beach Island the summer after I returned from Europe (1994). Known as "The Bathroom Tapes". Also used this technique when recording Death and Texas on the road (specifically Lost In The Mausoleum), although by this time I did have the luxury of Real Time Audio Suite plug-ins which had some nice Lexicon reverbs and echos.

Jumping ahead, I actually met a singer in a great cover band recently who told me that no one should use reverb on vocals except for Steve Perry and Celine Dion. He preferred delay. 1) Those were his examples of the "greatest singers ever"? 2) Also, said singer (while fairly talented) uses a pitch-shifter on his vocals live. Nuff said.

There is truly nothing like a reverberent natural space. Artists in the rock and roll era have come up with some pretty interesting alternatives - Duane Eddy used an old septic tank (miked the guitar amp, ran the mic through to a speaker in the tank and then recorded that sound), and Berry Gordy lined the attic at Motown with tinfoil, cut a hole in the ceiling, and had the singers stand under the hole. You can go to the Motown Museum, stand under the hole, and sing Ooh Baby Baby - sounds just like the record! Or at least the echo does lol. I know from experience.

I am actually contemplating lining the top level of my garage with tinfoil and attempting the same. But if we ever sell the house, I'll have to rip it all down. So...thank God for RTAS plug-ins! It's insane ideas like this that usually get me in trouble and are probably the reason for the huge loss reported to the IRS last year. Refund will go to a new hot water heater - maybe I could use the old one for reverb?

Many projects to finish up - my kids TV scoring reel, the CD we promised mom-in-law for Christmas, a MIDI piano project for a friend, my website alterations, a new business plan for the next year, my kids CD, my next grownups' CD, new band members to break in, etc etc. Honestly don't know where the money going to come from next year, but I have some ideas and strategies about how to at least increase my income. More on that later.

The other thing (and main reason that I'm glad my taxes are done) is that I have been OBSESSED with MONEY. It is making me into Gollum. I sit there and caress my measly tip dollars and gig money in my night cave and hiss "Preciousssssssssssss". I took a webinar on using Twitter to increase your business income with the Barefoot Executive - www.twitterbarefoot.com - and there was great stuff all through the 3 sessions. However, right at the end I heard EXACTLY what I needed to hear which is: "Are you doing this to get rich and famous, or are you doing this to get heard, to bring value to people's lives?" Now, artistically, I had made my peace with rich and famous a long time ago (you don't strap on a harmonica holder and acoustic guitar in 1994 to be a millionaire). But now I have a family, and I want to be the provider, the breadwinner, and show how smart, creative, talented, and brilliant I am to them by the amount of money I bring in. After all, I have people I went to school with who I used to run academic rings around that make more money than I can even imagine. Some of them were born into it, though, so that doesn't count.

It has been all about money for the past year, and I have been going OUT OF MY FREAKIN MIND. Not to mention the fact that I have been difficult to live with and be around because I am like Captain Ahab seeking the white whale. So I am turning over a new leaf, more in line with my core values. I am resolving here in this semi-public forum NOT TO OBSESS ABOUT WHERE THE NEXT DOLLAR IS COMING FROM. If my Higher Power which I choose to call the Easter Bunny is really there in that Great Rabbit Warren inside me, then as long as I do the next right thing I am going to be taken care of. I may end up sitting on a pile of ashes, but I guarantee there will be a broom.

I am going to sit down, write a new business plan for my current investors who hopefully will re-up for the next year, contemplate a way that YOU, dear reader, can be involved if you so choose, and try to deliver as much musical value inside my little fingers and skull as is Huffly possible. I am going to figure out a way to achieve some kind of financial stability so that I am not so worried all the time AND figure out a way to produce more content because although I have been a full-time musician in the last year, so much has been about money and learning business and yadda yadda yadda. Mike Masnick - www.techdirt.com - says in his blog that he doesn't like business models that rely on "setting out a tip jar and praying." I think that undermines the power of prayer. The Great Spirit (call it God, Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Fred, Ziggy, or Ethel but just don't call It late for dinner) is there for all of us if we access it. I am going to come up with a tighter plan, but in the meantime the tip jar is there and I am not too proud to get on my knees, be thankful for what I have, and pray for guidance to help make these decisions. Also, $200,000 would be nice.

LOL The last therapist I had said that I was hard on myself and high-strung. YA THINK?????

How about you? Are you freaking out? Lots of things in the world are in shift. Where's your natural reverb?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I'm Not Interested

My commitment to blogging thus re-fortified, I sally forth like a herd of ostriches with their heads up their HEY NOW NOWs, seeking...something? Truth? Justice? The American Way? Could I make a living off of blogging? Could I really be the Kwisatz Haderach? Or maybe just Chris? Am I meant for life at the Quik-E-Mart? Or something greater? Spin spin spin goes the wheel of mind. The Yoga sutras (by way of Swami Nirmalananda) say that 90% of our thoughts are reruns. This is a great thing that keeps me from being lost in the mists of mind and focused on today NOW the only time there IS.

So I have been trying to hire an intern for sometime now at the suggestion of CyberPR, who are full of great suggestions. The first intern I got was great, but left for NYC when his significant other moved. The 2nd intern is still on staff, and though we have had some coordination difficulties, she is ready, willing, and able 5 hrs a week. Right now I should be sending her MySpace software. Hi Christina :-)

I have received probably 20 other resumes from able-bodied persons which range from almost completely illiterate (with college degrees) and egocentric (one person sent me a resume to see if he still "had it") to promising and amazing! One applicant was so amazing that I got excited like the time I saw Stop Making Sense in the movie theatre. I called him/her on the phone and...again...writing skills A++, phone manner and skills F--. Don't necessarily need phone skills at FIRST, but the difference between the written and spoken personalities was so freaky that I ran away. Other applicants have been extremely promising and we get to the point of in-person interviews, but then...nothing. No further response.

When I am seeking employment, no matter what it is (this happens to be an unpaid internship offering college credit), I always follow up and say "No thanks" if we have been communicating. Yes, I said unpaid. That's CyberPR's suggestion, to find an unpaid intern. I thought it was crazy too, but I have received so many resumes that it certainly seems in the realm of possibility. HOWEVER. Is it so hard to write back and say, "Sorry, things have changed, I'm not interested"? I don't get that. Why would you want this person who was considering hiring you to leave the interaction with bad blood? They might blog about you (ha HA)! If I run into one of these people in the future, I certainly would remember the interaction. I also have a photographic memory, not something I'm proud of (does me no good in arguments with the missus, for example), but there it is. So I remember. I try not to hold any resentments, people gotta do what they gotta do, it is after all an UNPAID internship...but still I get back to the common courtesy of ending the interaction.

Would you like to meet? No thanks. I'm not interested. Easy.

I am still seeking an intern to help with social networking, updating my web site, creating fan databases, mailing packages, seeking opportunities, and coordinating band activities. I may pay someone to be my personal assistant for a month just to get caught up with all my projects. Local to Bucks County is probably going to be a must. Unpaid for college credit is ideal. I also need someone to clean my dad's room in Richboro once a week. That is definitely a paid gig.

amidst the overwhelm of taxes/promotion/income seeking/content creation/fatherhood/husbandry/housecleaning...I am starting a video blog! New songs once a week. This is my new challenge. I have the songs actually all written, now it is just getting comfortable on video and positioning the words so it doesn't look like I'm reading them.

BEAUTIFUL DAY. Get outside!