Jump to a specific date this week
Tuesday November 23
Wednesday November 24
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
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
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
* * *
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
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,
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.
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:
From: Tiktok World HQ [mailto:email@example.com]
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
* * *
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:
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
* * *
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
As if I had the answer...
* * *
On second thought, maybe I do:
get in the medium --
1. surround yourself with excellent
2. play live as much as possible.
3. make a CD to use as a calling card
Is this not
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...
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
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
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"
She knows me as the true geek/creep
brother that really lurks beneath this otherwise supposedly but barely
* * *
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
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
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
I wonder who was keeping diaries in
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,
* * *
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
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
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
* * *
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
* * *
A quick check of my email when I
came home. More must-read mail from Travis:
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?
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
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
Take care of your bad self,
* * *
Then, another total winner...
From: Travis Hartnet [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
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
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
Except when there is music
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
* * *
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
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
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
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
* * *
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
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.
* * *
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
7am on the set -- a guitar circle shot as it should be
Twilight, first thing in the
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
Bill mentioned he had heard an
excellent re-casting of the idea of 'talent' from an actor named Stella
"the talent is in the
Here is a fret board. The
notes are all there, contained within. Which ones shall I choose to
* * *
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...
* * *
reading the next week