I’ve said it. I’ll say it again. The days are flying by in a haze of sameness yet with differences and progress. It is kind of wild that we are actually on the last song of the batch tonight. I think some time bending and manipulations occurred here. Seriously. It looked impossible two weeks ago… The album will not be finished when I leave here, but then again, I do not have the graphics done, or even photos to put on the cover so that means I won’t release this until a few months down the road, which is, I realize, totally OK.

the view from the front door of the studio

So when I leave next Wednesday, Perry will go on for subsequent rounds of mixing which will be about refining and refining some more, cleaning up anything that needs to be cleaned up , tweaking and putting the sparkle and the little production touches that make something sound extra special. Very involved, nerdy stuff. His game. And he is good at it.

the console

And while that happens I will be heading to Vancouver. Yes, I have to go back earlier than anticipated. I have to go rescue the horse sculptures and I have to be there as early as possible.

The sculptures are in a building that has to be vacated. Moving those things require know-how or you face the very real possibility of breaking something irreplaceable.

Along with that, I ‘ve managed to book a really cool show in Vancouver (might as well while I am there!) with awesome musicians on April 13th. More details on that soon and a radio show : Melodies in Mind on April 5th and possibly a showcase with Vancouver City Limits, so the Go Guitar is coming with me.

So I’ll fly from Nashville to Los Angeles on the 30th, when I get home I have to do laundry, pack the bike go to bed then on the morning of the 31st I must head out North on the I-5 straight to Vancouver. There are 1296 miles I hope to cover in two days so I get there in time for the rescue mission. I trust this road trip is a job tailor made for Beowulf.

And speaking of Beowulf… the tire fairies came to San Dimas.. Oh you don’t know about tire fairies? Well they exist. Never been seen in action by anyone but cats I am told… so as Beowulf was hanging out with Little Blue, Bruce the 1125 and Elvira, they came… yes, the fairies came and did what tire fairies do…

the tire fairies removed the old rubber...

As you can see, they left all the tools on the floor which is a known tire fairies behavior…

... And put new rubber on Beowulf...

Next thing we knew… there was new rubber on those BMW rims… AND the tools are put away, a dead giveaway…

Unbelivable. Impossible. Unfathomable. Unreasonable you say… Well they did it. I have proof. I have photos… That is all I have to say.

Isabel the cat is mum. She won’t say one word about it. I think she was part of the conspiracy…

Isabel said she did not see or hear a thing while she slept on my sweater... I think she's involved with the operation...

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I hear your protests. But I know better…

But back to the mixing here, I am very enthused by what is going on. Last night we worked on “Beat It To Pieces” and we were floored. Sometimes we get hit like this, and we go “Holy Sh#$*!!

tools and toys

The temperatures have dropped dramatically over the last 2 days (over 40 degrees) so I am back to freezing again. Indoors I’m wearing a hat, 3 shirts, a scarf, long thermal tights and I stay in the control room as it is the only room that is warm. My last shower was last Friday. I’m feeling that. The forecast calls for major rain, so I’m not sure if we’ll go out and get wet… (I did not bring my rain gear with me) or wait it out here at the Castle.

I am tired and a bit stinky but it kind of doesn’t matter whatsoever. I find a deep reserve of smiles, energy and an “upwards-onwards” mind set to carry me on.

I am blessed beyond belief to be able to do this, especially when I look at my financial situation. So I’ll take the cold, smile, enjoy the loud mixes and the opportunity to be completely absorbed, involved and carried away by music and the process of making it.

Life is good.

Saturday morning,

We had another late night last night we worked until 4 AM or so mixing the song : Do You See Me? And oh my, it is sounding so good.

I wrote the song conversing with a photograph, no I won’t tell you what or who is on that picture… (gotta keep some secrets you know) It was a little while after seeing the movie Avatar. In the movie the creatures would say : “I see you” as a succinct way to say “I love you, understand you, acknowledge you.” That phrase to me was all encompassing, it was true communication which we so sorely miss in our lives. That had stuck with me.

So when I was writing that song, I would look at the image and say : Do you see me?

The song starts with this verse :

Tonight I’ll dream again
So close, then all is gone.
I run and then I fall
Mud on my face I call…

And I repeat the same verse… I kept worrying that form wise I should have another verse, different words, not repeat this same one twice. And try as I may, I could not, or would not come up with another one. I felt torn between the technical “Should” and the instinctual “Must”. All through the recording, each time I played it, then listening to it… the question remained.

So last night as Perry was working on the mix and I was sitting in the back row listening to the song go by over and over… It hit me. It was perfect, it was the way it had to be to make sense…

“Tonight I’ll dream again…” I sing the verse once, then it starts all over “Tonight I’ll dream again…” Of course! It repeats itself over and over again, like one of those dreams… I was seeing it for the first time and it was mind blowing! I had to repeat it. It was the nature itself of the illusion.

Then there is two more verses, a false ending and a reprise into a groove. That form was “it” when I wrote the song. I could not explain why I made those choices, it’s one of those creative decisions that you hang on to with dear life without actually knowing why. Later I had questioned my decisions. Is this OK? Should I have done things differently? This is not quite technically correct, have I gone far enough with this song, maybe I dropped the ball…

These decisions and parts revealed themselves as true and right. I may even dare to say “perfect”. What an incredible feeling to see it all come to life and validated in front of my eyes and ears.

The act of writing, creating. The mystery. You follow a trail, get far into the woods and before you know it something takes a hold of your mind, heart and abilities and brings itself to life through you. You fumble blind, taking a hold of certain elements and structures to keep equilibrium, choosing them by sheer instinct, not necessarily logic. Then once the work is completed the revelations begin, as if it you were receiving it for the first time.

So we continue on. Perry is absolutely on track with the sounds and with the spirit of what we are doing. We were discussing that last night. How all the elements created to this point are coalescing without duress. Naturally.

I am so grateful as it is truly a privilege and an immense joy to be able to get to this point, to have the help, support, inspiration and talented people around me to make this come true.

What a road…

Tonight we are supposed to have in the skies the biggest full moon in a long time. It’s perfect. The moon has been part of this project from the beginning when it hung in the sky one summer night it was bloodied and I wrote one of the first songs about that moon. It is in “Your Vibe” It also is in “Do You See Me”. When we were here last September there was the harvest moon and Jupiter I think. Go out if you can and say hi to her today or tonight, and for a moment we’ll all be connected.

A phone call can change everything in an instant. It did last night. As I was getting dinner ready my phone rang. I saw the 250 area code : British Columbia. I was expecting a call from Vicky. She had emailed me last week asking for my phone number, she said something was up with the sculptures… I thought it’s either bad or someone wants to buy one…

All of my finished stone horse sculptures are displayed in the lobby of her business. It’s a horse related business and she had offered to display them there while I went away. When I left last June I had no idea what would happen, I thought I would likely come back to Vancouver in the fall… it’s not quite what happened. But anyways. The stones have been sitting pretty in there and I had no concerns about them. Vicky is a really sweet person.

One of the horses to go save... that one is around 150 lbs...

here is another one...

Well it appears that she received a last minute “got to vacate the premises ASAP” notice a little while back. So the horses need to get out of there.

“When could you come and get them?” she asked.

“Well I am in Nashville right now… What is your deadline? When do they have to be out by?”

“They had asked us to be out by mid March… they extended the deadline a bit… “

She was a bit frantic, apologetic, I could tell this was the last thing she wanted to be telling me. My mind was revving up, trying to see the options I had. Just when I thought I could relax into the mixing process here… and get that album done… another obstacle raising it’s head… there are sure a pile of stories about all that came in the way of getting this album done.

Vancouver seems really, really far away from where I stand here right now in Tennessee…

But the thought of some layman grabbing one of the horses by the ears, pulling, dropping them down… Some of those are very heavy, over a hundred lbs and as heavy as they are, some parts of them are as fragile as a work of crystal… Plus people grab heavy things with ringed hands, protruding buttons that scratch or break stone surfaces when they hold on to the piece on their chests… It’s a job for me… I can’t let anyone do this or bear the responsibility or it.

“Let me think about all this I’ll get back to you soon” and I hung up.

I tried to not let this upset me, I finished making dinner, ate, had coffee, pondering… Then I went to the computer what are my options with flights? Southwest has amazing deals, but you have to get your ticket in advance. You can change the flight date without extra fees, but you’ll have to pay the fee difference. So once you get a time frame shorter than a full two week time period it’s full rate. I had paid 109 dollars each way for my ticket. If I was to change the flight to leave next week that ticket is now $300 more. The next price break falls on the 29th, that is $200 more but I would have to decide before midnight tonight.

Damn.

I wrote back to Vicky. She said that she misunderstood me, she thought I could only make it there for May. So things looked a bit better.

The way it is right now : If I can keep my flight the same, I return to LA on the 30th, then the next day I would hop on the bike bright and early and ride up towards Vancouver, it’s 1291 miles. I could do that in two days of hard riding and staying on the freeways. Then, assuming nothing happens, I could be in Vancouver on April 2nd.

I am waiting to see if that date is too late for their deadline. If it is, I’ll have to bite the bullet, abandon ship here in Nashville, pay the 200 dollars or 300 dollars difference and rebook my flight to an earlier date so that I can be up there to move the stones.

No rest for the wicked.

So I cross my fingers. Hopefully the 2nd would work… Otherwise it’s costly, it upsets the schedule here putting another obstacle in the way of the album.

So now I wait for that email… Lets cross our collective fingers…

In the night we rock

March 14, 2011

It’s late, don’t know what time now, with the “daylight savings” change, all my devices say a different time.

I am sitting in the control room. We had a late start a realtor came to visit the studio and premises and we were kinda ousted, well in all honesty, we ousted ourselves so not to be in the way or to feel awkward.

I got on the back of the bike I could hardly keep my eyes open. The whole studio has the feel of an old castle: dark, cold and a bit foreboding. Where I sleep there is no windows so it is somewhat unreal in the morning as it is always pitch dark. We had gone to bed around 5 AM not realizing the time had changed and had to get rolling 5 short hours later.

So I just grabbed on to Perry and closed my eyes and rode like that until we stopped to get gas. Then we made our way to Starbucks, as espresso and a breakfast sandwich cost $5.55 and a Cracker Barrell breakfast would run you 10 to 12 bucks each and the coffee does not satisfy at all.

where we did not go..

We hung in there until the caffeine started to course our veins, then headed out to the Community Center for “OMG” a second shower in three days! Luxury.

When we made it back they were finishing up with the realtor and I had to go get a nap as I was too bleary with too little sleep to do anything.

Things started to rock later. Right now it’s 3:17 on my phone, so maybe it’s 3:17 maybe it’s 4:17 AM.

In this mixing process I am letting Perry do his art. I am not intervening other than say : wow! He has a vision, we have discussed what we want and I let him run. He’s working on Wicked Girl and it is MASSIVE.

The process of mixing consists in this case of giving each track, being guitar, vocals, bass or drums it’s attributes, EQ, effects such as reverb, delays, then panning, gating, compressing and finding where the tracks belong in the aural space ; front, back, left, right, center. Each single track is worked on solo then put in context then listened this way over and over until the wow factor happens.

I gotta say it’s not always the most flattering thing to hear yourself sing on a soloed track… I was getting critical of what I did, worried about not being good enough and feeling beaten up, funny how quick the judgments start flying in our minds…

Then suddenly it falls into place… So I sit here just listening, my jaw hanging. It is just incredible. Sheer pleasure. It’smassive, I mean : HUGE. Loud, intense, dark, beautiful, wild… everything I felt, I wanted to convey, express…

Everything I imagined it could be.

I’m stitting in the back of the control room while Perry sits at the console, making the sounds get bigger and bigger. Last week we had determined the type of soundscape we were aiming for for this album, so now it’s the implementation stage of those concepts. Right now we hear the kick drum “thump, thump, thu-thump” soloed and getting more in your face at each replay.

At this moment I am physically warm and that feels good. (the place has been fridig..) Plus, I had a shower yesterday after establishing a personal record of consecutive days without a shower (10). Tonight we ate home made shepperds’s pie. Clean, full stomached, Caffeined-up (by Coffee Klatch Home Espresso thanks to Ozzy’s and Melanie’s care package) and we even had a bite of Rocky Road ice cream. No one can complain.

I am pretty much done with major personal recording efforts at this point, I re-sang two of the songs, re-recorded guitars on the first half of another song to tighten things up, fixed a couple of little spots here and there and now the ball is in Perry’s hands. I am kind of a pair of spare ears as he does most of the creating. So I make sure he is fed, rested, hydrated, caffeinated so he can work comfortably.

Yesterday was an errands day. Went for the shower, laundromat, groceries then out for a burger at Black Eyed Pea restaurant. We were going to go to the Blue Moon which is not a corporate looking outfit, but they were closed.

A usually safe bet in unknown food territories... and it was.

The laundromat was an experience… a new building but we walked in and it was a mess. One machine had leaked all over the floor and no one had cleaned it up. The water sitting there, a wet cigarette butt, muddy tracks from the carts tracked in and out of water puddles. Out of 24 machines 18 were out of order.

a row of "out of order" washers

the greeting at the door : No open beer...

There was a leaky ceiling, broken floor tiles from too many floodings, the dryers had their interface broken down. One girl who was doing her laundry told us : don’t use this one, it does not spin… Thanks so much! that would have made for a LONG drying cycle. We got to learn that she had four kids, two were twin boys she had when she turned 18 and for whom her dad was so happy because he only had daughters… She told us that her dad gave her sons shotguns for their first birthday.
“I thought he should have been mad at me for having twins at 18… but no…” she said.

Adjacent to the laundromat was a convenience store with gas tanks. I walked in to get some change and a large display case containing all manners of bongs sported the sign “for tobacco use ONLY”. Sure. It all reeked of “don’t give a sh#$” and I was glad when we got out and away from there.

I can't quite imagine someone complaining about wrinkled shirts in the dryer... just can't

Since last night I’ve been dazed by what has happened in Japan. For a moment it made me wonder why I was doing what I am doing when such destruction and mayhem on such a scale is the fate of my fellow human beings. I scoured the internet and watched one video after another trying to acknowledge this harsh reality. I could not quite absorb the enormity of the events. I think about going there and help. Could I make a difference? My heart, my soul reaches out to Japan, to all of its people. The scope of this is of such a magnitude…

And here we are, mixing rock and roll.

So I went out for a walk in the Tennessee countryside. To get somewhat grounded as everything feels incredibly unreal. The birds are chirping, daffodils blooming, a brook rushing in a carved path courses under the road and races ahead between the rolling hills singing its own song.

You can smell the wild onions already, a rooster crows in the distance and cows eat the fresh, tender spring grass… The sun is mid-way in the horizon and the golden hue colors everything of hope and goodwill. One could just be blissfully ignorant and go on about the days, planning the summer garden, waiting for the leaves to bloom… It seems all so unreal. I got to look around and see that it’s not all about to fall apart, be destroyed by some cataclysm.

Nope. Not right now… Not yet anyways.

I must live fully. Make every moment a good one. Love my fellow men and women as this is all we have.

On a smaller scale, there was another sad event last Friday when Mike Starr, original bass player from Alice In Chains died of some drug overdose. A lot of you know AIC is MY favorite band… My heart goes to all his family and friends. Again, life so precious…

Last night, when we came back from all our errands, we were riding back towards the studio on the freeway in the dark when suddenly the pick up truck ahead of us made a strange move to the right… slowed down. It seemed erratic. I was sitting in the back, passenger on the bike. My reflexes would have been to shoot to the left, to get away from the truck… a mere moment later, right there in the middle of the lane a Queen size pillow top mattress was laying on the road.

Perry had slowed and pulled to the right so we safely missed it. But I could not help but construct in my mind the different scenarios available. From being right behind whoever carried that thing without tying it down properly and seeing it coming toward me, to imagining a car plowing into that and being behind that car… or a bike hitting the obstacle at 70 MPH.

But we are here to tell the tale and in some ways there is nothing to tell but someone lost their mattress on the road last night.

So things are good.

We are getting ahead, tomorrow someone is coming to see the studio (the property is for sale) and that is an incentive to get to gettin’ her done swiftly. There is the possibility that we might have to finish mixing somewhere else. If you have a suggestion of a place Perry could work out of in California, let me know. It might be in the future.

I am not going to worry. I’m just going to carry on. All I know for sure is that this album will rock. And maybe rock is what we will need when the world comes crashing down.

Love

d

Power on

In the Studio

March 10, 2011

I opened the outside door. It was about 3 AM. The air is damp, heavy. You can feel the South in the air even in the middle of March. The skies are a dark, a smoke black-gray. It’s incredibly quiet out here. Not a sound to be heard. We are likely the only souls up at this ungodly hour in these here parts…

On the horizon, towards where Nashville lays, the clouds are lit from the glow of city lights, from here it just looks like an ominous neon like glow. I felt the coldness creep through my clothes and closed the door.

I have not seen much of the outside. I kind of don’t really want to. I keep looking at the little San Dimas weather icon on my netbook screen and I wish I was there, in California. It makes me see how much that has become “Home” to me.

It’s certainly has been a slow start. A cold one too,

I had to wait around for 6 days, while another project had to be completed first, I knew there were chances that I might have to wait a bit, it was supposed to be a day or two, it turned into 6.

On day three or four, tired of freezing constantly, I decided to go back out to buy whatever I could find to solve the issue. We almost did not get going. Our mode of transportation is Perry’s motorcycle, a 93 Suzuki GSX 1100 G, which is a cross between a sport bike and a cruiser. The temperatures were around the low 30’s F and at first the bike did not start. Well, it did, then stopped in a stench of gas. This bike tends to foul its plugs and it wasn’t running great before today but the added cold to the fouled plugs would not allow it to start right now. We brought the bike in the garage while Perry pulled a bunch of old spark plugs that we tried to clean the best ones there with a wire brush and a heat gun. Then he put them back on….

Dirty

heat gun

Vrooomm! The machine agreed to work with us.

It’s now getting dark, it’s cold, no doubt about it but we got heated gear and we’re not going that far so all bundled up we head out to Wall Mart. I found the fleece sleeping bag and the heater. $10 bucks! I can hardly understand how they can sell this stuff for so little money… We head back out to the studio in the cold air of the night.

motorcyclists at Wall Mart

We started working on the 8th. I redid the vocal for Don’t Want to Drown and it lifted the whole song to a new level with more energy and meaning. I might re-sing one more song… Yesterday was a bit of a “going round in circles” day. We had big plans to record the lap steel which arrived from San Diego that morning, and somehow it just wasn’t happening… could not play anything that put us into a “Yeah!” state.

the lap steel at the studio

finger picks

So with the help of caffeine and good meals and breaks we will proceed on. Tomorrow if the weather cooperates I will probably go out and have a shower. That will feel good. Really good. There is no bath or showers here and I don’t want to spend all this time traveling back and forth from the community center to the studio… because when it’s all said and done it takes about 3 hours to go out have a shower, then you have to stop here, there… half the day is gone…. so kitchen sink washes have to do…

Refueling center

We are gearing up for recording some guitars right now. “Beat It To Pieces” Gotta make them snarly guitars come to life…

All things considered : there definitely is progress.

I miss Beowulf and the sun…

Miss ya too, Love ya.

Landed in Tennessee

March 4, 2011

Uneventful flight. That is good.

The Go guitar : how easy to travel with it. so light, no one notices it…

I arrived on time at 7:40 PM. Perry came to pick me up. We drove into Nashville, I needed to eat something… there was no food on the flight and my last meal happened at 10 AM. We had tacos at this cool place near the university. Then, of course, coffee.

We rode around Music Row. Big names, small names, all synonym with big dreams of music industry successes. The kind of glitter and dreams of fame that burned so many people’s savings and investments. Like a gold rush. A fever. People jump in, buying a studio to make it big only to find themselves filing for bankruptcy and seeing the previous owner of the studio take back his building. I’m not making this up. Yes there is also the stories of those who came, slept in their cars and got “discovered”. But for every discovery, thousands lose their shirts… and dreams.

We then drove to Gallatin, where the studio is located. We had a stop at Wall Mart. Supplies for the stay. The studio is out in the country side, and since we are traveling by motorcycle, which means if the weather turns cold or stormy, we are stuck, I made sure we had supplies for a few days.

On our way to the studio from Wall Mart, we were followed very closely by a police car. We turned in the driveway and they kept watching us for a while. Yuk. Feels like one would be guilty until proven innocent.

We walked into the studio. Same smell, same light, totally unchanged. Kind of wild. Time does not seem to touch this place.

The first night I froze. The owner keeps the temperature barely around 60 in the control room. That room stays warm because of all the equipment running all the time. Not so in the rest of the building. In the kitchen your food gets cold before you’re done. Then at night, upstairs, the temperature just drops as it drops outside, I believe it was around 50 degrees or so. I was just frozen. I have an air mattress which makes it even colder as the air temperature in the mattress drops to match the ambient temperature. I rolled myself into the comforter and managed to fall back asleep.

The next day required another run to Wall Mart to find blankets. I found a sleeping bag that had a rating of 30 to 60 F I figured that it should cover the extremes. The other thing here is that there is no shower. Yeah, grungy I will get.

Perry still has to work on another project before we start. It was supposed to be done yesterday. It wasn’t. I have to wait.

Right now I am not feeling the greatest. I am staring at the mountain I have to climb, already chilled and tired. I am going to have to rally up, get focused and not let anything shake my determination. I also have to be determined in a gentle way because I know force is not an answer with the people I am with right now.

Faith is the absence of fear.

I must have faith, I have to know that this will get done and that what will get done is what is supposed to get done. Know that this is only temporary.

I am OK, really, It’s just a bit unsettling right now.

I love y’all.