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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Walk On

Sometimes in life, we get wonderful news and terrible news in only a short amount of time. Between hours or days, it feels like everything is right in the world, only to have that joy undercut by tragedy. Seems like you can't have one end of the spectrum without the other.

This week, I landed a full-time job with a company I had previously worked for as a freelancer. It is a fantastic company that I am happy to join and they're happy to have me. (Good sign with any company: the people you worked with a few years ago are still there.) Signing on with them ended a two-year rocky journey trying to find something that would move my career in a new direction.

I'm grateful for all the part-time work I've done since October 2011, but I never stopped trying to find the right fit in a full-time position. Something inside me wasn't ready to settle or give up. Whatever it took, no matter how long it took, and no matter how crazy of a schedule I would have. I credit persistence, networking, and personal recovery on what led me here, and I look forward to the road ahead.

On the personal side of my life, I am thankful every single day for a loving and supportive girlfriend, our wonderful dogs, my family, and friends. They helped me see a bigger picture beyond what my job status was or what my annual income was. With that stability, I have been able to put all the crap I went through to get here into perspective.

That stability is also helping me with the beginning stage of grieving process for a friend who passed away on Friday from cancer. She was a fighter, never complained about getting cancer, and always in good spirits. I only saw her a couple of times a year, but we made those get-togethers count. The last time I saw her, she was basking in the happiness of being newly-married. I thought this get-together was last fall, but it was actually almost a year ago.

After years of being cancer-free, the cancer came back last year. Despite the best care and efforts by her doctors, she passed away on Friday afternoon. Looking through my Facebook news feed yesterday morning, it was hard to find anything other than tributes to her. She had that much of an impact on people, including people that only knew her through her online presence. For me, getting this news was shocking, filled with sadness. It sure was tough to keep composure looking at eight hours ahead of being a radio reporter. Yet something came over me to not sulk and work harder instead. It was like her spirit told me to go further and stay calm. (I got through my shift with a little extra pep in my voice, for some reason.)

I'm sad she's gone, and I will certainly miss her. I can't help reflect on the times we did get together. She got to meet Jenny and we saw the Smashing Pumpkins (her favorite band) before they became just a brand name for Billy Corgan to use.

Between the joys and sadness of the last few days, if this is how life swings, then so be it. If you can't be happy without experiencing sadness (and vice versa), then I'm not sure there really is another way.

Monday, March 31, 2014

March Record a Day (Fourth Week)

March 23rd: Album Bought at a Show
Into It. Over It, Intersections (pic)
Bought this directly from Evan Weiss at Trees when his band opened for Saves the Day.

March 24th: Hand-Numbered Record
Braid, Frame & Canvas (pic)
Not necessarily hand-numbered, but for Record Store Day 2013, this came with a "420/1000" UPC. I don't know if every copy had the same UPC or not.

March 25th: A Picture Disc
Robert Goulet, Hollywood Mon Amour (pic)
I don't own any picture discs, so I thought it would be funny to post a pic of an early Robert Goulet album. Goulet is Goulet, part serious, part over-the-top.

March 26th: A Re-press
Phil Spector's Christmas Album (pic)
Definitely not an original, given the very '80s design for a sleeve. The music is still ace.

March 27th: Album Given As a Gift 
Tom Waits, Nighthawks at the Diner (pic)
My old housemate Matt gave me this as a Christmas present a couple of years ago. Features some wonderful tunes, like "Better Off Without a Wife" and "Big Joe and Phantom 309."

March 28th: A Favorite Record
Supertramp, Breakfast in America (pic)
A record I didn't start listening to until last year, but it's already become one of my all-time favorites.

March 29th: A Split Release
Jejune/Jimmy Eat World (pic)
Bought this directly from Big Wheel Rec. Features one of my favorite Jimmy Eat World tunes, "What I Would Say to You Now."

March 30th: A Swirl-Vinyl
Don't own any, so no picture.

March 31st: Repeat Any Challenge from the Month
Rika, How to Draw and River, Step By Step (pic)
One of my favorite records from 2013, this Austrian-band put out their record in the States on Count Your Lucky Stars. CYLS put it out on green vinyl, a challenge I was happy to do again.

Lessons

I've played the drums for twenty years, and I can't decide if it's a good thing or a bad thing that I have only had three proper drum lessons. My first sit-down-and-listen lesson was four years ago, when I participated in Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp. The teacher? Sandy Gennaro, the same drummer who was featured on the first instructional tape I ever received. (Sandy signed my tape afterwards.)
The other two lessons were from Robert Anderson, a local drummer I have long respected during his time in the Deathray Davies and currently with Nervous Curtains. 

As I'm preparing for my next lesson, with none other than Dillinger Escape Plan drummer Billy Rymer, I take into account why I want to improve as a drummer now, twenty years after I started playing on a kit. 

Like a lot of things in life, if you want to make yourself happy (and stay happy), you try to improve your strengths and assess your weaknesses. With drumming, it never, ever hurts to go back to the basics. If Neil Peart can go back to the basics and reapproach his technique, many years after becoming one of the greatest rock drummers alive, well, there's no excuse why you shouldn't, either. 

Prior to 1994, I learned the basics of rhythm via piano lessons and tapping along to songs on the radio. Then in 1994, I played along with my Metallica and Led Zeppelin CDs. Since I didn't think time on the practice pad was necessary after I got a kit, I used my pad as a place to rest my phone. By then, I had begun jamming with friends and eventually I joined my first band. I knew of one drum instructor, but I never took a lesson. 

The thought of practicing on a drum pad never occurred to me during my time with the bands I played in during my college and immediate post-college years. I could keep a steady beat, right? Why do I need to play basic beats when I can play fills all over the kit?

I didn't realize how much I needed to work on with my timing until the last band I played with. When it would come time to do a fancy fill, I'd speed up, much to the ire of the bassist. So sitting down in a class with drummers of all kinds of abilities with Sandy, I realized I should work on basics. A metronome is your friend, no matter what speed. That's one of the most memorable kernels of truth that I came away with. I still remember a lot of that 50-minute lesson.

My lessons with Robert were more about stick control and timing. No matter what the musical genre, your timing is critical. Robert was kind enough to invite me to the drum shop he works at to hang out. When I find the time, I'll hit the place up. 

Now a lesson with a world-renowned drummer is coming up and I am about to join a new band, I've decided to work even harder and be prepared. I've watched some of the tutorials Billy has online, and he offers some great advice I hadn't thought of before, like having a straight posture. I look forward to what he has to share and show, and I have a few specific questions I'd like to ask.  

I (thankfully) have yet to have a bad lesson, and I'm sure I will come away with plenty of things to work on, regardless of what style of music I'll play next.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Fat Wreck

I don't remember how I heard about A Fat Wreck, but I remember when I met with Shaun Colón last year. We had talked over e-mail a few days before the Dallas premiere of Filmage, the excellent documentary on the Descendents/All. We talked after the screening about what he hoped to do with his film, which was originally planned to be a short film.

Now with plans to make A Fat Wreck into a much-longer film, he created an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to, essentially, finish the film. The goal was $7,500 in 36 days. Turns out, all of that money was raised in 24 hours.

I talked with Shaun yesterday afternoon, transcribed the conversation later in the evening, and the interview was posted this morning. I'm proud of Shaun and what he's done so far. This kind of story is what keeps me writing for the Observer. Writing about people who live in the DFW area, doing things that people often mistakenly think you can only do in larger, hipper cities. Make your town be proud, I say.

Monday, March 24, 2014

March Record a Day (Third Week)

March 16th: A Splatter-Colored Vinyl
The Appleseed Cast, Middle States (pic
Upon closer inspection, I actually have a few splatter-colored vinyls. This is one I have never spun. I bought it directly from the band at a show in Denton last year. Got out the MP3 code and rocked out to it that way. Sure is a pretty color vinyl, though.

March 17th: A Green-Colored Vinyl
Title Fight, Floral Green (pic)
In honor of St. Patrick's Day, it's green vinyl! I don't hesitate to call this a classic. While their influences are pretty obvious (No Knife, Seaweed, Lifetime), these guys are going in the right direction. 

March 18th: A Local Band
Innards, I've Lost Everything (pic)
This is a Denton-based four-piece. They play really short songs with a lot of screaming. For some reason, they're considered "Dad-core." I have no clue as to what the hell that means.

March 19th: An Album That Makes You Dance
The Sylvers, Something Special (pic)
The Sylvers might be a forgotten almost-Jacksons, but "Hotline" is pure pop disco gold. Happy to have full version, though I prefer the shorter, single version.

March 20th: An Artist's Most Memorable Album
Pete Yorn, musicforthemorningafter (pic)
Pete is a great songwriter, and all the elements came together on his solo album. This signed copy is something I received from KTCU. I have never played it on the turntable.

March 21st: An Album From the Year of Your Birth
Cheap Trick, Dream Police (pic)
I was born in 1979, and Cheap Trick released this beauty. You can't really go wrong with anything from Cheap Trick's first four albums, but this one is especially great because of the title track.

March 22nd: Most Recent Purchase 
Deafheaven, Sunbather and The Rubinoos, self-titled (pic)
I bought the Rubinoos' debut at Half Price Books last week and I purchased Sunbather at the Deafheaven show last Sunday.

Monday, March 17, 2014

March Record a Day (Second Week)

March 9th: An Album on Classic Black Vinyl
Laura Nyro and LaBelle, Gonna Take a Miracle (pic)
An album of R&B and soul covers, but delivered in such an incredible way. I found this for a few dollars at Half Price Books. I finally got to hear more of the album (I had only heard the title track, which is worth the price of the record on its own) and am continued to be amazed by it. "Jimmy Mack" is especially great.

March 10th: A 10-inch
Environmental Youth Crunch/Pink Razors split (pic
A record I barely remember listening to from my days as a reviewer for Punk Planet. Every month I'd get a stack of records to review for each issue. Some records were memorable, but so many were not. If I recall correctly, this is trashy pop-punk. 

March 11th: Any Record
John Barry, Great Movie Sounds of . . . (pic)
John Barry's music really grabbed me when I heard the main theme from Midnight Cowboy on a radio station I did traffic for. After I watched Walkabout, I decided to find as much of his music as possible. Often his music was melancholic, but with such beauty as well. He might be best-known for the James Bond themes, but I'll take the other stuff any time. 

March 12th: Album With a Female on the Cover
Bette Midler, The Divine Miss M (pic)
Back when I watched every Behind the Music, I remembered vintage footage of Bette Midler singing tunes in bathhouses. Backed by Barry Manilow on piano, I was struck by how boisterous and vivacious these songs were. I spent months looking for this, but I eventually found it at, you guessed it, Half Price Books. 

March 13th: Album from High School
Automatic 7, "Syringe"/"Broken Record" 7-inch (pic)
Another stretching of the rule, as I got this in my freshman year of college. Automatic 7 might be easily dismissed as a Social Distortion knock-off, but, my my, were tunes like these great. 

March 14th: Favorite Album Cover
Texas is the Reason, Do You Know Who You Are? (pic)
One of my favorite album covers, without question. It's mostly white with a vibrant-colored image wrapped around the spine. The songs on the album are as memorable as the cover.

March 15th: An Acoustic Album
John Denver, Back Home Again (pic)
Though this has the one John Denver song I strongly dislike ("Thank God I'm a Country Boy") but it features some of my favorites, including the title track and "Annie's Song."

Monday, March 10, 2014

March Record a Day (First Week)

I had so much fun with February Record a Day, and I was happy to see there is a March Record a Day. This series might continue for the rest of the year, and I'll keep doing this until I run out of records to show.
March 1st: An Artist That Begins With the Letter M
The Moody Blues, Days of Future Past (pic
One of the earliest additions to my library when I started collecting vinyl a couple of years ago. Just a great collection of string-tinged tunes, including "Nights in White Satin."

March 2nd: An Album from a Foreign Artist
Paul Young, The Secret of Association (pic
Aside from an album of German polka songs (done by various artists), I don't have many options with what constitutes a "foreign" artist. Since Paul Young is not from America, I figured this counts. I bought this for "Every Time You Go Away" and I was surprised to hear the LP version. Certain key elements from the single version are not there, especially its outro. Definitely a record I've only played once. 

March 3rd: An Album in Poor Condition
The Osmonds, Crazy Horses (pic
Received this as a gift from the Half Price Books clearance bin. It looks like this one spent years not properly shelved and it is bent with a slight curve. When it plays on a turntable, the LP rubs against it and makes a clicking sound. Shucks. I really enjoy the Osmonds' attempt to be like Led Zeppelin.

March 4th: Album With an Etching On It
Converge, You Fail Me (pic
I'm stretching this one a little. While it's not a cool graphic made onto the playable side of the LP, there is a little scrawl saying "Converge." 

March 5th: A Double Album
Husker Du, Zen Arcade (pic
Yet another purchase from Mad World Records that didn't cost me an arm and a leg. This is a brand new pressing that shows what I had missed on the original CD version. Everything sounds fuller, and I have a better appreciation for this band.

March 6th: Album Found in a Used Bin
Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris (pic)
Many of my records are found used. Sometimes I will dig through the dust and butt sweat found in the clearance bin, but for the most part, I stick to standing and flipping. This multi-LP set was found for a dollar at a Half Price Books. I bought it just because of the Jacques Brel association. Scott Walker covered many Brel tunes in the 60s, to a tremendous effect. This play's adaptation smooths out the rough edges of the songs, making them less potent than Walker's versions. Still, I'd like to check out the play if it's available in some form or fashion.

March 7th: A Desert Island Album
Genesis, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (pic
Peter Gabriel's final record with Genesis is something I'd take to a deserted island. So much wonder, so much mystery, and most important, so much beauty on this double-LP. I just hope the island has electricity and an air conditioned room for storage.