May 25, 2009

Celebretory Green Day - New Album, 21st Century Breakdown

What a better reason to spend some money than to celebrate getting a job. Makes sense, right? Well, it doesn't really need to make sense, cause I did it anyway. It took some personal convincing as KJ and I wandered through Target for some necessities, but after picking up the new Green Day album, setting it down and walking away, we wandered across the expanse that makes up the checkout lanes of Target and picked it up again. I couldn't help myself.

Not that I had any doubt but Green Day's 21st Century Breakdown is definitely quality tunage. You have your straight forward hits like the first single "Know Your Enemy" and "21 Guns" but you also have surprising rockers like "Restless Heart Syndrome" and standard structure breakers like "Before the Lobotomy". And we can't forget those heart felt piano filled tunes like "Last Night On Earth". There are no doubt some awards in this albums near future.

With 18 tracks split into 3 acts (All full length songs but one mind you. You get your money's worth with this album. We're talking $.55 a song for $9.99 at Target.), the album picks up where American Idiot left off adding even more songwriting maturity, political undertones and catchy, rockin' punk riffs that we've come to love from Billy Joe and the gang.

If you're looking for a complete album that rocks your socks off, lulls you into a musical trance, and suprises you with the sheer songwriting genius, 21st Century Breakdown is a great one to cure your fix.

For a sneak peek check out the video below of track #5, "Before the Lobotomy". I figured if you listen to the radio even semi-consistently you're going to be hearing "Know Your Enemy" quite a bit.

Now is time for me to get away from this computer on my last real day off before I enter the work force. Enjoy your day off for those of you chilling out there today. I suggest picking up 21st Century Breakdown for some musical enlightenment and relaxation on your free day. Just don't try to pick it up at Walmart, they've refused to carry it. In case you haven't heard, here's the article about the ridiculousness.

Rock on!

May 22, 2009

I Have Finally Found The World Of Employment

It's been almost a year since I've held a regular job, but the time has come. I finally found a job! (Thanks to my friend Matt.)

On Tuesday I'll be starting on 3rd shift (10pm-6am) with a company that specializes in printing on glassware (pub glasses, etc.) but also does sportswear. I'll be on 3rd shift for about a week before moving to 1st shift (6am-2pm?) as a print production assistant for at least 3 months.

I'm pumped to get started so I can finally start making some consistent money. I'm also excited to pick up a new skill and meet some new people. Hopefully it will mean less stress and more music flowing out of this brain. As much as my old job annoyed the hell out of me, I was always writing and recording.

That's all I have to say about that. I just wanted to make an update considering I've been whining so much about being unemployed the past couple of months.

Rock on!

May 21, 2009

Tough Crowd

Like I've mentioned before, I like to dabble in other forms of writing to keep my creativity flowing. Here's a poem I write almost 5 years ago.

Tough Crowd

Singing songs for all this time,
Ignorantly ignoring the truth.
Through the crash of the drums,
Past the cold staring eyes,
And the silent but evident sighs.
Was it something I said?
Was it something I did,
That dashed the color, the joy from each face?

They just stare like the dead.
Their glares, knives at my throat.
To the Reaper, my career will fall.
Now knowing, yet knowing all along.
What a wonderful tragedy this will be,
As the last note rings endlessly in my head.


May 17, 2009

Poor Nezzy, Suffering From Electric Guitar Neglect

Nezzy, my six-stringed black beauty, you didn't the deserve the fate that has been forced upon you.

I got to thinking about my electric guitar today. She's an Ibanez Artist Series with a matte black finish. I bought her about 4 years ago with the best of intentions. I simply wanted an upgrade and to improve my shredding skills. (Which were and are mostly non-existent.) The purchase was also around the time when I was starting to play along with my band Now Transmission instead of being the mic weilding, roaming lead singer. (It never really fit me.)

But after the band broke up, Nezzy has seen more of the inside of her comfy case than daylight. She truly drew the short straw when she was shipped to my door. I don't even have a half decent amp to practice my crappy half-assed shredding. But I don't blame the tools, I blame nothing more than my fumbling fingers and my lax determination.

For me, it was always so much easier to pick up my acoustic and strum away. When writing tunes it was always so much easier to sit with a notebook, a pen and my acoustic and play away. I could do this anywhere, no outlet necessary. From there, things would progress to the electric side of things when the band was still jamming. I only truly remember writing one tune where I did a lot of electric jamming during the writing process, this on my first electric. I even recorded a decent version from start to finish that sounded very similar down to it's final form on our EP Down The Middle. (The song is called "Drained Down" and you can listen to it at NT's Myspace.)

The recent years I've been focusing much more on the acoustic side of things anyway. I just dig the acoustic sound, I can't help it. Plus, my frustration has gotten the best of me and though it's easier on the fingers, the electric rockin' has never been my forte.

If it were a law, I would definitely be going to jail, convicted of electric guitar neglect and I would deserve the sentence to it's full extent. So to avoid my guilt (guilt I feel as if Nezzy were a living creature), in any new group that may form from my acoustic demo-ing, I'll have to make sure Nezzy plays her part. She deserves better, she deserves to be on the stage and flowing out her sweet tones to a room full of inebriated folks just looking for a good time.

That day of rock will come.

May 16, 2009

Epigrams From A Lazy Songwriter

Sometimes when the songwriting is going a little slow I like to dip into some other forms of creative writing. Here's some epigrams I wrote back in the Now Transmission days.

Think Before You Speak
What you thought,
And what you said -
The difference is one,
Stayed in your head.

Afterthought to the Mess
I just can't deal with how I feel
I never thought it'd be so real
If I turned around to start again
Would I change it all and lose a friend?

Rock on!

May 15, 2009

Creed Reforming in 2009

I have to admit, back in high school I was a pretty big Creed fan. Along with bands like Fuel, Seven Mary Three, 3 Doors Down and Nickelback, Creed was a major contributor to my rock awakening. They all helped open the gateway that has had me addicted to melodic hard rock ever since.

I was especially drawn to the My Own Prison disc, Creed's first album, after hearing my sister's boyfriend at the time try (I emphasize the word try) to sing along with the track "What's This Life For" on the radio. I wasn't attracted because of his singing of course but the driving guitars and the powerful lyrics of band itself.

Needless to say, when I heard the news that they were breaking up 5 years ago, I was a bit upset. Not only with the break up but with the lead singer Scott Stapp for sounding like such a pretentious douche bag. I didn't hold out hope that they would ever get back together as the separation between lead singer and band played out pretty harshly. I moved on and was very accepting off the band's new incarnation with new lead singer Myles Kennedy called Alter Bridge.

But when I found out this morning that the band in it's original form would start touring this summer and release a new album (without breaking up Alter Bridge which I've rocked to quite a bit), I grew a little giddy with 15 year old delight. I think it will be hard to put all the Scott Stapp jerk-off drama behind me, but as long as they make great music and recreate the vibe that I always enjoyed, I'll be more than happy to listen.

It's also exciting to know that their tour will be bringing them through Kansas City, giving me my chance to see them for the first time as I never got the opportunity before.

To check out the full article about their return, click here.

May 13, 2009

Music Video Before The Song

It's funny how ideas come to be especially because when it comes to my songwriting, they never seem to come the same way twice. One song might be inspired by a title I wrote down two years ago, another might be inspired by a movie I just watched, another may come about because I'm annoyed that there's no milk for my morning wheat flakes and banana. Because of this inspirational inconsistency it becomes tough sometimes to get things together and focus on writing a tune.

Two nights ago an even weirder scenario played out as I tried to go to sleep. As I doze off toward sleep is a common time for my brain to decide it wants to work and in turn it's one of those times where I lose what at the time seem to be the best ideas that have ever come to me. This particular flash of "inspirado" as Tenacious D might put it didn't come in the form of song, it came in the form of video.

I closed my eyes and there it was, the music video for a song yet to be imagined. I watched it play out in strange clarity as if I was watching MTV on mute. (Maybe not MTV, they hardly play music videos anymore, but you get the point.) It took me a while to find sleep as the ideas continued to cycle, adding clips of footage here and there, characters changing and camera angles correcting. But overall the concept stayed the same.

I woke the next day with a surprising remembrance of the yet to be created video for the non-existent song so I decided to take some notes and draw a picture that more or less summed it up. The exciting part is that the video that played behind my eyelids was pretty simple, a concept that actually could be a possibility for me to create. Now if I only had the song to go along with it.

That leads to inspiration idea #598 (random number here to exaggerate my point): Get ideas and write a song based on the music video for that song.

This has to be screwing with the time/space continuum somehow.

May 10, 2009

Going Green By Recycling...Old Tunes

Going green is all the rage these days. I'm not going to lie, I'm a bit of what you may call a "tree hugger". I recycle anything I can whether it be cardboard, aluminum cans, paper, plastic, and glass, I even have a small little compost bucket that's festering in the garage; I conserve energy, I drive a fuel efficient car, I have cloth bags for the grocery store, I pick up trash on the sidewalk as I'm walking the dog. I'm not a sheep following the herd, it's just how I roll, I don't push it on other people, to each his own, I just like doing it.

My recycling doesn't end there. My green heart extends all the way to my music. Sure, it doesn't do much for the environment, but it resuses old ideas that have stalled or that didn't quite work with their original tune.

That's the beauty of my old Moleskine notebook because all of my old ideas are there just waiting for a resurrection among the wrinkled and scribbled over pages. My Garageband folder also has a long list of weird titled guitar riffs and song segments, some that I haven't listened to in years. (Fluff, Fish, Sox In Japan, and I Suck to name a few.) I've found it's absolutely necessary to take out these old "gems" from yester-year for consideration in the tunage of today.

Songwriting is just that fickle of a friend. What works now may not work in five minutes, then will work a year later in a totally different context. I never completely give up on anything and I think that's very important to the process. (Yeah, I talk about my "process" a lot. This stupid process fuels my obsession but can be the bane of my existense on my worst day.)

I love hearing examples of this same technique in the big leagues. I stumbled across an old demo from one of my fave bands Three Days Grace called "This Movie". I immediately recognized the beginning riff as a riff from their debut self titled album and a song called "Overrated". It's exciting to hear the differences and the massive improvements from one song to the other.

It goes to show that when it comes to music, nothing is set in stone. (Well, until you release that major label debut. If you steal an idea from one of those songs you'll just be seen as unoriginal.) Thanks to my short-term musical memory I'm constantly flipping through my books in my attempt to reuse, reduce and recycle into my next full tune that could end up itself being torn apart and reused somewhere else.

Though, just like most recyclable materials, it's probably good to know when to just throw it in the trash because you've gotten about all the use it held. After all, what's the point of using a over used, out of date piece of recycled music that can't hold it's shape and may even stink a little. That's not rockin', not one bit.

May 7, 2009

New Our Lady Peace Album Dropping On July 21st!

I don't know about you but I can't wait until July 21st! By no means do I want to wish my or everyone else's summer away, but I can't help but be pumped for a new record from Our Lady Peace. If you're a regular to ASWS you'll know that OLP is my favorite band, has been since I was 16 years old. (So about 9 years.)

Raine's powerful and distinct vocals, the exceptional songwriting that has always been an inspiration to me as a songwriter, and their overall sound has had me hooked since I heard my first OLP song on the I Know What You Did Last Summer soundtrack. (The song was "Clumsy".)

New music is something I always get excited for and when it's one of my favorite bands I pull out all the stops. There is no exception when it comes OLP's new disc Burn Burn. It's been a long wait between albums, one of the longest we've ever had to wait for a studio album considering their last album Healthy In Paranoid Times came out in 2005.

(This isn't including A Decade, a greatest hits compilation that featured two new and unreleased tracks. If you haven't heard Our Lady Peace I recommend checking out A Decade or my favorite OLP album Clumsy. At the very least check out OLP's Myspace and see what you're missing.)

I've read a lot of good things about this new album. For starters it's produced by lead singer Raine Maida himself. He's said that Burn Burn is a "proper rock album" that harks back to the rawness of their Naveed days, Naveed being their first album. It's also set to contain 10 tracks with the first single being "All You Did Was Save My Life".

To learn more, read this article I found about the release which you can find here.

Come July 21st my album buying tradition will be in full force as we get ready to pack and move (our lease runs out July 31st) and continue to enjoy a beautiful Kansas summer. If the album is as good as it's sounding from the couple of clips I've heard and all the hype, it will be a summer to be remembered. Music does that to me.

And as always with the release of a new album there's always the chance of a live show coming to the area. Now that we're living in the Kansas City area I like my chances. That would definitely make it a great summer.

Keep rockin'!

May 5, 2009

Writing From Inspiration Or On Task

As I promised yesterday, I'm going to answer a great question that a friend asked me at dinner the other night about my writing process. She wanted to know if I write my music solely from inspiration or on task.

(Again, in case you don't know what I mean, when I say on task I mean sitting down specifically to write, inspiration or no inspiration, using title ideas that make up one of my many lists, or a song that I've been commissioned to write.)

Her question made me think of a good story involving a song that I wrote back in 2005. My sister asked me to write this song for her wedding. She wanted me to write a song about the relationship between her and our dad and I was to play it at the reception for the father/daughter dance. She was to get married in December 2005 and she asked way in advance (which I very much appreciated) in January 2005, giving me almost a year to work my magic.

I had never been commissioned to write a song so I thought it would be a great opportunity to build my writing chops. Being for such a special moment for special people and being my first commissioned piece, I put a lot of pressure on myself and it showed.

I started working on the song on January 24th, 2005. Over the next 10 months the few lines and shaky chord progressions remained undeveloped and unfinished. I was too content on waiting on that call from inspiration to put me over the edge but the pressure and the time crunch locked my brain and left me with nothing to show. So instead of waiting on that inspiration, on October 30th I buckled down, and started more or less from scratch. A few lines from my almost year old start remained but everything else drastically changed to become what is now "Take Me Home". (You can check out the finished version at my Reverbnation page, track #9.)

I finished up the song with a couple of weeks to spare and I performed it at my sister's wedding reception as I promised. There wasn't a dry eye in the room and it was one of the most rewarding moments of my songwriting career.

The point behind this story is that to be a songwriter you have to draw a fine line between working from inspiration and focusing and creating things from your musical brilliance. I tend to rely on the idea of inspiration too much and it gets me nowhere. This story is proof that buckling down and writing on task sometimes has to be done, you can't always just wait for the ideas to fall in your lap. Ideally, inspiration and hard work need to work hand and hand to be at your most productive.

Like I mentioned in my previous post "Inspriration? What's Inspiration!?", sometimes it's necessary to make your own inspiration. I'm thankful that my friend brought up this topic because as much as I've written from ideas simply floating in my head, I really needed to be reminded that hard work is necessary and I need to sit down, concentrate and get writing.

Rock on and make sure to check out "Take Me Home"!

May 4, 2009

Running Out Of Pages

There used to be a day when I was running out of pages in my handy Moleskine notebook and it meant that I was writing like crazy, bursting with ideas, and pumping out song after song. Those were the days.

Somehow my Moleskine is running low on pages but the ideas have been few and far between as of late. Most of the pages recently have been populated with half-cocked ideas that never went anywhere, lists, and random doodles that came about when words weren't working for me. (Just so you know, I can't draw at all so they are some of the most ugly drawings you will ever see.)

I've been sick for the better part of a month (not a good exuse) and I've been quite frustrated with the job search and it's definitely taking a toll on me creatively. A lot of the times I can't seem to justify spending my time writing or playing my guitar when I have more important things to do. (Yet, those important things never seem to get done, hence, no job.) I also tend to forget that writing and playing should be included with those important things. I've been taking my love for music and performing for granted.

So, I feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. Well, make that a boulder and a bed of nails. That would describe a little better how I'm feeling right now.

But when it comes to songwriting a friend of mine brought up a good question at dinner last night. She wanted to know if I wrote on task or purely from inspiration. By on task I mean sitting down specifically to write based on any ideas that I have rolling in my head, title ideas that make up one of my many lists, or a song that I've been commissioned to write.

I thought it was a great question and it really made me think about how I approach my writing process. Tomorrow I'm going to post my answer to that question and explain some reasons why I feel like I'm struggling and a lot of other songwriters out there (maybe even you) have troubles writing. I don't think it will be anything close to scientific, just an opinion that will hopefully get some minds focused, including my own.

Here's to filling the dwindling pages of my notebook with some real writing.
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