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Monday November 22
Tuesday November 23
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Thursday November 25
Friday November 26
Saturday November 27
Sunday November 28 


About this Diary

This diary is a continuation of the public diary I began as part of the Seattle Guitar Circle 1999 At-A-Distance course in October of 1999.  In general, 

I prefer to avoid any intentional self-censorship in painting a picture of the real details, interactions, and events that I have experienced with the extended circle of musicians with whom I interact.  Part of this process may involve the use of the real names of some of the people with whom I work and play with.  Part of this process may also involve dangling prepositions.   I am flexible about the former.  The latter is simply a reflection of my ultra-tasteless-white-trash grammar disguised as flimsy poetic license.

If you find your name mentioned in these pages and you would prefer to remain anonymous (for whatever reason), please email me and ask me to refrain from using your name here.   Or, I will also gladly change your name to initials if you prefer, or I will even completely refrain from speaking about you in this public forum, as you wish.

Monday November 22

Back from Vancouver -- recovering and catching up all day today.   Many conversations today via telephone.  Checking in with Steve Enstad after the long weekend.   Spoke with Robert and Trey in Nashville about various logistics.  Had a great conversation with Bill Rieflin about the process of diary writing.   I have given him complete permission to simply make stuff up about me in his diary.  He mentioned that he was planning on doing that anyway, with or without my permission.

We also shared some interesting observations about the difference between musicians and 'Guitar Craft people.'

We even discussed the inclusion of that previous sentence in this diary.   Sometimes you have to shake the tree to get the fruit out.

* * *

SGC rehearsal this evening at Bob and Jaxie's.  Curt is still in Vancouver - he called today and mentioned that his recording sessions with Brock have reached the middle today... (the hard part...)   I don't know exactly what he means, but I also know exactly what he means. 

In rehearsal this evening, we explored a new scale which has landed in my lap in my recent practice sessions.  There are a number of melodies and bass lines flying around in this distinct but unusual pentatonic scale, and we explored a few of them and circulated for awhile in this scale after we became familiar with the notes and the patterns that fall naturally from this scale.   

We also continued work on Vulcanization and then ran through Cultivating the Beat a few times to keep it working in our fingers.  

We spent a large chunk of our two hour rehearsal time bringing Dean up to speed on what happened in Vancouver after he left and talking about logistics for our upcoming February KSER benefit shows.      

Just before I left, I showed Dean the rest of the lead line of "invocation."  

* * *

Christian called again today from San Francisco where he is staying while studying with Joe Satriani.  Need to call him back tomorrow.  He arrives in Seattle on Thanksgiving at 4:00pm. Oh yeah - I also spoke with BillR today about working with Christian on a recording project while he is here in town.  Some interesting possibilities.   

More on this as it unfolds.

* * *

Tuesday November 23

The big wind down before Thanksgiving is occurring and I am so thankful.  This means my phone will stop ringing and my inbox will stop filling for a few days.   This gives me a four day space for breathing room, catching up, and actually getting some stuff done instead of having meetings about what might get done if we could stop having meetings.

I'm sad that I won't be able to spend this Thanksgiving with my parents and sisters, but I'm also looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner at Bob and Jaxie's on Thursday.   Christian is arriving on Thursday at 4pm, fresh from his SF session with Joe Satriani.   Curt is also coming home on Thursday after 5 days in the studio with Brock Pytel -- when I left them on Sunday afternoon, there was a great feeling in the air -- the music was alive and kicking -- I can't wait to hear how it has evolved since I left. 

Some interesting rumblings going on today in the GDM99 (Global Diary Movement of 1999.)  I wonder if the people who will be documenting their work in diary form will have any time left to do their work.   

Keeping the AAD diary for 42 days was a useful process for this writer in that it enabled an ongoing self-reflection and analysis within my day to day practice processes and work.   Looking back over the spew of words over these 42 days, it is clear that I spend a great deal of energy communicating (via phone and email) with an unreasonably huge number of people.   

Even more apparent is the amount of time I spend worrying about managing these communications.

I had lunch with my good friend, former Prometheus band-mate, and ms-co-borg-inhabitant, Sanford Ponder yesterday.  Sanford mentioned that he never really knew his grandfather very well, but he distinctly remembers a conversation with his grandfather that they had when Sanford was in his late teens.  His grandfather said "I'm 80 years old, and I may not have much to tell you, but I do have one thing to tell you:  the only thing that really matters is who your friends are."

Like great poetry, the meaning of this quote seems to be a reflection of the values of the reader.

I've always been interested in the ambiguity of language.  My favorite songwriters tend to paint pictures that leave the specific assignment of meaning up to the listener.  Lame-game-geek analogy of the day:  It's like populating the scene with interesting mesh files while leaving the texture mapping up to the viewer.   So how many game programmers are reading this diary and understand what the hell I meant?  

Great poetry is an encrypted form of the word of god.

Great lyrics transmit experience.

Great music transmits love.

* * *

And now back to our regularly scheduled mundane drivel.  I met with Steve Enstad this evening in Ballard - we went over to check out a potential BTV office space and catch up on BTV work for the week.  

* * *

New photos developed from Cle Elem!  Unfortunately, the roll that had the photos from the show (with the amazing five stalks) was destroyed in my aging Hong Kong camera.  Time to get a digital camera.   Perhaps Ingrid or Jaxie has some pictures from the actual gig. In the meantime, here's a sneak preview of the pictures I developed today:

Peg's house where we stayed.

Dinner in Peg's house, Friday night,
Bob, Jax, Dean, Isabel, Ingrid, Curt, Frank.

Ingrid and Frank, Cle Elem visionaries...

* * *

Wednesday November 24

There is a word at Microsoft that strikes terror into the hearts of most who work there:  "REORG."  A "reorg" (abbreviation for 'reorganization') is an event where many people are asked to immediately stop what they were doing and do something new.   Often the 'something new' has nothing to do with that which they had been doing before.   Some even lose their jobs completely and have to scramble to find some one else on another project who will hire them.   

Since I have been at MS over the past three and one half years, I have seen and lived through six major reorgs, and moved offices six times.   Some of the reorgs I have seen were small and basically harmless.  Others were huge and devastating for many people.  

Generally, there is a clear strategy, principle or business reason for a reorg, and in some ways, the "constant reorg" culture is part of what enables Microsoft to stay so successful and competitive.   They are not afraid to throw a bunch of smart people at hard problems, and they are not afraid to shift gears as the problems change over time.  Day to day, this means I have to stay on my toes -- there is no time or space for slacking -- and very little danger of getting stuck in a mechanical or repetitive rut. 

It has not been announced yet, but my current project is about to hit a minor reorg.  I'm not concerned as I have many opportunities and friends across the company. But it is always interesting to see what happens when crisis hits.  

Anyone can handle good news.  Anyone can survive when the sailing is smooth.  What happens to fair weather friends in a city like Seattle when it rains constantly?

* * *

A fun rehearsal this evening.  Dean, Bob, Jax, and I spent our first hour downtown working electrically on SGC repertoire for our upcoming Saturday night gig at the NW Actors Studio.   We began with a rousing version of "Cultivating the Beat" (with a few serious and humorous clunkers contributed by Mr. Diary)  -- and then we ran "Where it Goes" and "Bloed Spoed" since those are the pieces we will focus on for Saturday evening.   Everyone seemed to be in good spirits this evening, and we were even able to give Dean a hard time about everything he did this evening without causing any serious long term personal damage.  Perhaps I am assuming too much here?  I'm sure he will let us know, either way.

We spent the second hour working on SB Roadshow material in preparation for the December 11th show at the Rainbow.  We ran though and reviewed "Greenthumb"  "Ballistic Boxer"  "Back in NYC" and "Message in a Bottle" with Bob on bass, Jax and I on guitars, and Dean on ambient guitar.   We missed Curt, but there were some moments of brilliance, especially during NYC. 

Curt called from Vancouver (my cell phone) just as we completed our rehearsal.  He is driving home tonight!!  They spent the day recording Brock's vocals, but they are going to need more time.  This means investing time and energy recording more vocals in Seattle sometime in the next 1-8 weeks.  Hopefully soon.  

Curt, Bob, and Steve: happy sleepy session guys 
for the Brock Pytel recording project, Vancouver.

* * *

I spent an hour this evening thinking and writing an email to DS and RF about the various 'Diary' ideas that are buzzing around the globe right now.   I wish I could reprint it here, as it seems to capture some useful thinking about the potential value of artist diaries, but it is probably too early and inappropriate for public consumption right now.   

Who knows what repercussions the email will generate?

* * *

Speaking of email -- a few doozies flying into my box in the past few days.  This just in from Travis Hartnet:

-----Original Message-----
From: Tiktok World HQ []
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 1999 6:52 PM
To: Steve Ball
Subject: Instant Feedback:

Justin, the bassist in Futura, picks up the SGC CD during a practice break, looks at the back cover photo:

"Check out the posture on these dudes! You can always tell the serious guitarists [mimes playing guitar on a short strap]...look at that--you could run a plumb line off everyone of those motherfuckers' back and it would be straight..."


* * * 

This just in from Derek DiFilippo in Vancouver.  Seems he and a friend were able to digitize the video from our VTV show last week.  We are working on getting copies of this onto the Seattle Guitar Circle website, but in the meantime, Derek is hositng this 7MB AVI on his own server:

Seattle Guitar Circle on Vancouver Television

This 7MB clip is just a teaser and there will be more on the way.  Thanks Derek.

* * * 

Excellent Gaucho mail from both Herni (Hernan Nunez) and Marty (Martin Schwutke) today!   Hernie is in Germany, just back from 10 days of recording in Berlin with Sparky (Andres J. of Santos Luminosos) and Martin is in Buenos Aires.   The emails were short and just about catching up and some money matters.  I hope to speak to them both via telephone this weekend.  

* * *

Gaucho Ferny also sent me an NTSC VHS copy of the new Electric Gauchos video last week.  It's really great - totally animated by the same guy who did our "voices of ancient children" video a few years ago.   I'm going to bring the tape over to Bob and Jaxie's tomorrow for the north american premier!   Christian will be there too...    a new milestone for Electric Gauchos.

I've also been thinking about dragging Christian over to KUOW and/or KSER for some interviews while he is in town.   And I've been considering the logistics for arranging some sessions with Bill Rieflin and some other Seattle luminaries while Christian is in town over the next month -- perhaps a sort of Electric Gauchos mini-project?   Or a 'solo' Christian de Santis recording project with Seattle guests.   Christian needs to begin to get his name out into the world.... how to do this?  

As if I had the answer...

* * *

On second thought, maybe I do:  get in the medium --

1. surround yourself with excellent musicians
2. play live as much as possible.
3. make a CD to use as a calling card

Is this not obvious?   

Of course, advice is cheap.  Doing is harder.

* * *   

Thursday November 25

Thanksgiving Day.  A mundane morning... what a relief.  I woke up early and took care of some mounting paperwork, then crashed back to sleep from 11 to 1...  complete luxury. 

Called my sisters, neither one home, but left happy Thanksgiving messages.  Then, from 1-3, I juggled kitchen work (preparing garlic green beans) with more office paper work, including filling out Folklife 2000 applications for the Seattle Guitar Circle and the SB Roadshow.   These are due on December 10th -- nothing like being early.  

At 3:15, I was off to the airport to pick up Christian de Santis, coming to Seattle for one month following his meeting and session in San Francisco with Joe Satriani.   Christian's flight was about a half hour late (yippeee!), so I used this time to continue reading Neal Stephenson's excellent Cryptonomicon.   I loved "Snow Crash" and "The Diamond Age" - it's another luxury for me to be able to do some fiction reading as part of my mini-holiday today.  Neal's intelligent and culturally important books really speak to the visually-oriented geek in me.  He paints vivid pictures of possible futures and connects the dots to influence, action, and technology which is developing today.

Often, when I travel, I am secretly thankful when my plane is delayed or I am forced to wait for hours in airports.  This gives me time to do two things which I love to do: practice and read.

Since 1986, I rarely (if ever) travel without a guitar, even on business trips.  Even when I was traveling for a month in Japan in 1993 on serious and important geeky engineering business for Adaptive Networks, I was never without my guitar.  It was always a point of discussion for my engineering hosts and clients.   

I'm not sure how many thousands of people have seen me practicing in airports over the past 14 years, but the number must be pretty huge.  I generally find an acoustically pleasing area (as far from sleeping people as possible,) and work on basics.  There is something strangely satisfying about being stranded somewhere for hours with few distractions or commitments and only a guitar.

About two years ago, I was traveling with my sister Katie to a family reunion in Ohio, and we were stranded in O'Hare airport together for a couple of hours.  I, as usual, took the opportunity to pull out my guitar and get some practice in.  While I was practicing, a 30-something guy wandered over and actively listened to the boring repetitive exercise which was pouring from my happy guitar.  He listened for about 20 minutes, and when I took a break, he mentioned that he recognized me from some distant League show he had seen.  He thanked me for practicing for him (yikes!) and his final words were "I'm so honored."

Of course, my sister Katie, sitting nearby, overheard the whole exchange, and, to this day, she regularly ends letters and emails to me with a tongue-in-cheek "I'm so honored" salutation.

She knows me as the true geek/creep brother that really lurks beneath this otherwise supposedly but barely disciplined guitarist.

* * *

Thanksgiving dinner at Bob and Jaxie's was a treat.  The food was superb, but the event was a blast in that I had a chance to spend some time with Bill and Donna Van Buren, and their daughter Kate, (who I used to baby-sit occasionally in my early days in Seattle.) Debra Gunn, her mother, and Ezra also arrived for dessert (uh,... turkey and gravy, then brownies, pie and cheesecake), I had not seen Debra since the recent bon-fire last September, about a hundred billion web years ago.  

Did I mention that I now have a stomach ache?

Brock and Heather Pytel (and an almost-walking Clement) came for dessert as well -- they had just arrived back in Seattle after spending the previous week recording in Vancouver.  Here is a picture from our Chinese dinner on Heather's birthday while we were in Vancouver:   

Brock, Clement, and Heather Pytel in a moment of Joy

While I'm in photo mode, here are a couple of other shots from the Vancouver Brocksongs sessions:

Brock Pytel - my new favorite pop-rock drummer in the NW

Bob Williams and Curt Golden tear it up on "Burning Bridges"

* * *

After Thanksgiving dinner, I increased my growing  stomach-ache potential by rolling around on the floor with Isabel (Bob and Jaxie's adorable daughter) and Kate (Bill and Donna's also adorable daughter.)   Somehow Curt and I were recruited into a game of 'doctor' with Isabel, Kate, and sometimes Ezra Gunn.  "Doctor" is basically a game where the kids run around the room poking the adults on the floor in the head, face, and stomach with Ezra's plastic doctor toys.   Then they run around laughing like midget maniacs.  

Christian observed all of this with a strange smile on his face.  I could almost read his mind:  'what the hell am I doing here...?"

His expression and intense presence transported me back to  of my own feelings as a gringo visitor to certain family parties and celebrations in Buenos Aires and Mendoza a few years ago.   I remember attending one holiday 'party' in particular at Sandra's (a singer friend of guitarist Maria Gabriela Epumer) house in BA where I endured some strange and seemingly endless but perfectly normal Argentinean social rituals: food, conversations, music, laughter, play.   I observed the events, but felt like a complete outsider as I barely knew these people (not to mention their language and subtle humor.)   I was completely unable to participate, and yet I was also completely sucked into physical space.  All I could do was observe.      

At least Christian speaks some English and can probably (perhaps unfortunately) understand the nonsense that was happening at his feet today.

* * *

Just before the evening ended, Ingrid pulled out some of her amazing photos.  She has such a strong vision and aesthetic -- she really captures the essence of her subjects.   I glanced over Bob's shoulder as he was reviewing an insanely amazing book of "Wilson's" (Bob and Jaxie) photos that Ingrid had created.  The photos were taken in Martin Schwutke's Grossdershau Guitar Craft house in East Germany sometime between 1993-1995.   The photos are stunning, and the presentation tells a silent, yet musical, love story.   

The photos also reminded me of my own time in that house and in that sacred space.  It seems like that was three lifetimes ago.   

* * *

During my drive home this evening, I was also reminded for some reason of where I was exactly 10 years ago:  in the middle of the famous League "bogo" tour -- eating Turkey stuffed with grapes (Eddi's Swiss style) at Paul Richard's house in Salt Lake city with Curt Golden, Paul Richards, Hideyo Moriya, Ralphi Gorga, John Sinks, Tobin Buttram, Herni and Betti Nunez, and Eduardo "never don't wear a belt" Galimani.

That tour was and remains a defining moment in the musical development of these ten aspiring musicians and friends, who took a radical leap of faith together, and traveled across the United States on a wing and a prayer.  

In my giant media storage cabinet, I have tapes of every one of our shows from that tour.  

Someday, those of us who are still on this circular circus will get together for a reunion and listen back on some of these scary snapshots of our early musical projectiles.  Perhaps there will someday even be a home for these on BootlegTV.  The music, growth, and energy of this tour, in many ways, eventually gave birth to the California Guitar Trio, Los Gauchos Alemanes, and the Seattle Guitar Circle.  

I wonder who was keeping diaries in those days?

I have thick diaries from my very early GC days (level one in June 1986 through my level 3 courses at Red Lion House and Claymont,) but by 1989, I was so heavily involved in the biz of Guitar Craft Services, that time for diaries became scarce.  I regret this now. .  

I hope that Tobin or Curt or Herni or Paul or Betina or John or Martin or Dean or Victor kept some notes during that intense and volatile period...

* * *

SB photo by Ingrid Pape-Sheldon, sept 99


* * *

Friday November 26

Dinner chez Curt with Christian and Frank this evening...  bachelor's night, in that our dinner was low-maintenance, translated: mostly from jars and cans...    8 ^ )   

Frank is still pumping away at his book.  He promised me my (already paid in advance) three copies before I leave for Christmas.   Knowing what it takes to produce and complete a product, I have great sympathy for where Frank is in his self-publishing process.  

Looking over the shelf above me which holds a number of CDs (little beast, ballistic, blue orb, breathing field, greenthumb) over which I painstakingly sweated through-out the process from conception to completion, I know something about what it takes to go from an idea to a finished product.   

At some point, you just have to say: "this is complete." 

Frank asked me tonight: "When you're making a CD, do you ever reach the point when you feel like it's really done?"

I said no. 

For me, it is "done" when the deadline arrives and the bits have to be shipped out for manufacturing.  Unless I decide to change the deadline.  But this is also a losing proposition.  Arbitrary deadlines can be a trap, but not completing a work because it does not feel "done" or "good enough" can be a form of slow death by drowning in details.   This is another reason why "pelota" operates in the maniac way he does:  when a deadline rolls around, I pull out all the stops to make sure that what I ship is complete and delivers the intended big picture.   As anal as I am, and as much as I love clean counters, bathtubs, and neat piles of paper, I am not really a perfectionist when it comes to music. 

So in the battle between perfection and deadlines, I prefer to honor deadlines.

For the record, this debate over deadlines vs. perfection is not exclusive to music or novel writing -- Microsoft is going through a similar process right now with Windows 2000 (and every OS before it...).  Is it good enough yet?  No?  Then let's push the deadline out --- again.   One Microsoft strategy which has been debated up, down and sideways by MS both MS critics and supporters, but which has been extremely (although arguably) successful from a business perspective: when the time comes to ship it, ship it, even if it is not perfect.

Perhaps this is an empirical confirmation that most people don't actually wish for perfection -- they want something that does the job most of the time.  

Considering there are something like 200 Million machines out there running various flavors of Windows, I am constantly amazed that the relatively low number of audible cries that "Windows sucks."   Overall, Windows does not suck 90 percent of the time.  When it crashes, it completely sucks.  When I lose data, it is unforgivable.  However, even 1% of angry, dissatisfied, and vocal Windows haters is still 2 Million people to deal with via email, telephone, mail, and/or general screaming out loud.

Can you imagine what it must be like to respond to 2 Million flame mails?

So, all of this to simply say: good luck completing your book, Frank.   You have my support and best wishes.    

 * * *

After dinner, Curt, Christian and I went to see "being John Malkovich" and my brain is now totally twisted in a knot.  What an amazing film.   Don't miss it.  

* * *

A quick check of my email when I came home.  More must-read mail from Travis:

-----Original Message-----
From: Travis Hartnet 
Sent: Friday, November 26, 1999 7:19 AM
To: Steve Ball
Subject: I am so honored, you plumb-back motherfucker.


No ad-hoc GC performance group I've been a part of has been able to name itself in any other than an arbitrary way. Have you ever been in a group that found this 1) easy, and/or 2) satisfying?

My answer: no --  naming anything 'ad hoc' has always been,... well,... ad hoc.  But certain groups have found their name which reflected something real about their essence.  Two examples:  Prometheus, Greenthumb.  Others have struggled for months to find their name, and failed.  I have learned that this is a sign that there is something which is unclear about the group, and it has almost nothing to do with the name...

MS made be successful and competitive and it may also have a culture of "constant reorg", but having been through an equal number of reorgs at another Blind Idiot God of a computer company, I can attest to there being no necessary connection between the two.

Did I mention that Travis works at a company that 'thinks different?'

Is Christian from Chile or Argentina? Is he going back there any time soon? One of the Chilean crafties has been querying me about pedal loopers for solo performance and the logistics of getting one down there. Mayhaps the Amazing C could serve as a mule on a return trip?

Christian lives in Chile now with his wonderful guitarist wife Marisol... I'll inquire about the muleage potential.  I'm sure it will fly if there is some mule money in the deal...

Take care of your bad self,


* * * 

Then, another total winner... 

-----Original Message-----
From: Travis Hartnet []
Sent: Friday, November 26, 1999 7:34 AM
To: Steve Ball
Subject: PBMF addendum

Justin was expressing admiration in his comments regarding serious guitarists, incidence of vertical spinal alignment and short strap length. I once described circulation melody technique to him and he was greatly wowed but also added that "he was too dumb to appreciate Prog".

Which is sad, since I don't think that you have to be smart to enjoy Prog, although there is powerful evidence that being male, white and unencumbered of traditional concerns regarding personal style are

New category: Musics Which Cannot Pass Without Comment.   I've found that you cannot listen to a bagpipe record [re: Matt Seattle's excellent platter] at any volume without EVERY SINGLE PERSON commenting on it ("Hey, you're listening to Scottish music, right?" Oh, thanks buddy for clearing that up for me...). Country music also seems to elicit the same response from all non-fans. And anything with a sitar.


Travis,... stop!  You are busting my gut.  When will the public "Travis Hartnet Musician's Diary" be available on the web?   I'll be first in line to subscribe...

* * * 

Saturday November 27

Christian de Santis is in the living room, tuning a classic guitar, preparing to do a session recording for an R. Chris Murphy project.

This is an interesting turn of tables since I arrived in Buenos Aires as a visiting musician exactly five years ago to the day.  I was (supposedly) a hot Seattle guitarist visiting Argentina to join Los Gauchos Alemanes -- a few days after I arrived, my picture was plastered across the front page of the entertainment section of the national newspaper (La Nacion) along with a generous paragraph of hype.

The truth is that I was simply a visiting gringo with some musical friends of some small notoriety in Argentina.  But what an invaluable education to be 6000 miles from home, and being put on the spot to deliver music that lives up to professionally crafted hype and overblown expectations.  

* * *

During our drive to Medina from Curt's house this evening, Christian mentioned that during his sitting this morning, he felt a strange "emotional kaleidoscope" run through his body and that he felt very alone in this cold, rainy city.

If it's any consolation, even with my many close friends here, I feel very alone here most of the time.  

Except when there is music flowing. 

When music is flowing, the separations and normal rules of time and distance melt away.  

* * *

I spent the afternoon with Steve Enstad working out some BTV details.  We also visited a couple of potential office sites downtown, one of which got me really excited.  It's in a space called the 'Commuter Building' which also houses another startup called Atom Films.  BTV is getting real.  Wish I could spill more beans on this, but not just yet.  

* * *

While I was digging through some old Gauchos files to find information about the 5 year anniversary of my first visit to Argentina which is happening today, I stumbled upon a few interesting pictures that brought back some memories...  here is one:  

RF, Hernan Nunez, SB, press conference in BA, March 25th 1995
on the 10th Anniversary of the first Guitar Craft course.

* * *

I feel ultra-sensitive about Christian being in Seattle.  Knowing what it is like to be alone in a foreign country for a long period of time motivates me to make sure he is "taken care of" while he is here -- Hernan, Fernando, and Martin took such great care of me during my long stays in Argentina -- in someways, it is payback time.

Beyond this, my secondary concern is to begin to address with Christian's aim(s) in being here:  to begin work with famous or even semi-famous gringo musicians in their own back yard;  to begin to find a way for Christian to apply and showcase his amazing talents and skills as a guitarist in some way that may grow to be self-sustaining.  

Not an easy problem to solve,... but also, this may simply be a matter of time and getting him playing in front of the right audience.   

* * *

Ironic perhaps that the best frigging guitarist in Argentina (I am not exaggerating) was acting as our roadie this evening for the SGC Northwest Actor's Studio gig.   And what a mediocre performance it was.  We began our intermission set with Christian's own composition, "Where it goes, we go" 

What a  strange and unsettling experience to look up and see the completely radiant and judgment-free face of the composer of the piece you are playing as you butcher it in front of his very eyes.

* * * 

I feel terrible, it's 2:30 in the morning, and I am full of energy, and yet I can barely keep my eyes open.  What is the opposite of bliss?  Over the years, I have learned that feeling crappy is simply one part of the natural cycle which occurs between the few brief moments of excellence and grace that keep us going.

Before Chris Murphy went his first Soundscapes tour a few years ago, we were talking about the process of putting a live show on the road.  I mentioned that my experience of life as a gigging musician consists mainly of almost constant hellish feelings of complete despair broken up by occasional, brief moments of extreme joy.

For me, the A-flat circulation this evening delivered one brief moment of joy.  Unfortunately, this moment was surrounded by some rather muddy puddles of despair.   Apparently, there is still some mud on my pants.    

Tomorrow is another day.  And actually, it began almost three hours ago.   That must be my cue. 


* * *

Sunday November 28

Chris is recording a string quartet in the living room this afternoon.  What a subtle joy brings me to know that this house is an active delivery room for newborn music.

I feel much better this morning than I did last night.  

I went to bed with a slight sense of dread and depression about how hard it really is to be a musician.  I have been fortunate to know and play with many extremely talented musicians.  I have known and worked with a few musicians who seem to have a direct T3 connection with the great Source of music.   

But talent and great bandwidth does not guarantee that anyone will pay you to play.  And let's face it: the logistics of the musical life suck: constant travel, long periods of great lows punctuated by rare and brief moments of extreme highs.  Sine waves.

* * *

Excitements!  Jaxie developed her film from the Vancouver television sessions.  I will pepper this diary over the next week with shots of the SGC in action on this this surreal set: 

7am on the set -- a guitar circle shot as it should be


Twilight, first thing in the morning...

These photos were taken by Derek DiFilipo, our generous host and Vancouver SGC contact.  Derek made this show possible.

* * *

I had a late breakfast consisting of Pho (Vietnamese soup) with Bill Rieflin and Christian de Santis this morning.  Curt would have joined us, but he had a guitar student at 1:00, so he stayed home to prepare.

Christian gave us a overview of his Satriani meeting in SF, and then we plotted a strategy for working in Seattle over the next two weeks.  

The current plan is to engage Bill and Fred Chalenor as rhythm section supporting three loud Paul Reed Smith players wailing away on Christian's hot new tunes.   This week, we will put the pieces together.  Next week, if there is something worth documenting, we may press the record button.

Within our discussions over Pho, we verbally explored what it means to possess and employ 'talent.'    We made some distinctions between 'talent' and 'taste,' recognizing that, in the artists we appreciate, these two are somehow connected.  

Bill mentioned he had heard an excellent re-casting of the idea of 'talent' from an actor named Stella Adler:  

"the talent is in the decisions" 

Here is a fret board.  The notes are all there, contained within.  Which ones shall I choose to play?  

* * *

After Pho, I came home and heard a bit of the string quartet tracks recorded while I was out.  This formerly  folk record is turning into Sgt. Pepper Jr.  And it's sounding great.   Tomorrow evening, Chris is going to borrow a Fender Rhodes piano and I am going to lay some (in Chris's words) "schmaltzy" roller rink parts on a piece called "Trust Me."  I prefer to think Richard Tee, rather than roller rink, but whatever -- I'll give the producer what he asks for since he has the overview, and I am just one tree in his forrest.  Former Man Ray singer, Josh White, was supposed to come over this evening to add some background vocals as well, but he bailed until tomorrow.   

Also, during my afternoon 'nap' (during which time I was eating popcorn instead of napping) I received a quick check-in call from Brock Pytel about logistics for the next two weeks.  I invited Brock to join the SB Roadshow on drums for the December 11th Rainbow gig -- YEAH -- Back in NYC with drums!!!  And, after the Christian rehearsal schedule comes together in the next 48 hours, we are also going to plan for some follow-up recording sessions to do backing vocals on top of the Vancouver tracks within the next few weeks.

A very musical month just ahead...

* * *

This evening, I met with Curt and Christian downtown at the rehearsal space and we became the electric  PRS brothers -- we spent about three hours following Christian's muse -- he showed us some of his new, jaw-dropping, extreme, hard, fast, rocking seeds of songs.   

Curt and I bumbled along with him as we began to get these incredible pieces into our hands. 

I remarked to Christian and Curt as we walked up the hill during a break that I have a feeling in my chest and stomach which I haven't felt since the Electric Gauchos days -- it has something to do with the electricity.  There is an energy and excitement, a sort of moving passion, which has switched on like a light and is flowing through my system.   Last time I really felt this current, I was in Argentina.    

Or perhaps it has something to do with the cheapo Casa D's burritos we ate before rehearsal?  

* * *

After rehearsal, I ran into Krist Novoselic, Kim Thayil, Lori Smith, and Jello Biafra on their way to Cyclops for a post-rehearsal drink.   I joined them at Krist's invitation for a passionate discussion about middle-eastern history and politics, WTO presence, and Seattle music lore.  I used to share a rehearsal space with Krist on Western Ave, and we obviously still rehearse in the same building, but in different rooms.  

Bill R -- if you are reading this, Jello says 'hi' and he will call you soon.  He's playing the Showbox on Tuesday evening with Krist and Kim for a one-off benefit show.

* * *

I'm going to sleep with a smile this evening:  I'm looking forward to bringing Bill and Fred in to play this loud, fast, infectious, kinetic "de Santis" music which is screaming to be played...

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continue reading the next week