Howard Lawrence / Blog

The Expanding Reach of "Far From Heaven" on Radio

"Far From Heaven"—from The Enemy Inside album—received an increasingly strong listener response in its second month of rotation on KXRL Radio Los Angeles. As a result, the song will be placed in heavy rotation on four additional radio stations. Below is a list of stations that will be spinning "Far From Heaven" during April 2014.

KXRL Radio Los Angeles, California USA (www.kxrl-radio.com)

KHSX Radio Houston, Texas USA (www.khsx-radio.com)

WMIC Radio Miami, Florida USA (www.wmic-radio.com)

KEDG Radio Sydney, Australia (www.kedg-radio.com)

WLDN Radio London, United Kingdom (www.wldn-radio.com)

Dunno if it'll move the dial at all, but it can't hurt.

Shock Therapy Milestone Reached

I'm pleased to report that I've written the new album, Shock Therapy. The current lineup has 14 tracks. I won't add more, but it's entirely possible that less will make the final cut. Since this is another HL concept album, I can't knock out a track I consider crucial to the story, but I have a little bit of leeway in this regard.

Later in 2014 I'll work on the vocals. On the basis of past experience I'll probably make minor revisions to the lyrics during that phase. I may also tweak musical parts here and there, but those changes will not be significant. Therefore, for all intents and purposes the composing and writing phases of the project are done!

What a relief...

FanReach Is A Joke, Right?

At least ReverbNation gives us the ability to look at granular data, and by that I mean individual email subscribers. I wish Facebook did the same with those ridiculous page Likes.

So I just went through my FanReach database, and cleaned house by removing those individuals (aka, "fans") who have never opened an email from me. I gave those who signed up within the last eight months or so a "grace period" by leaving them on the roles, regardless of response (or lack thereof) to my emails during that period.

Now, I realize that I've only scratched the surface here, because some of the remaining individuals no longer open my emails, despite having done so at some point in the past. Those, I'll eventually weed out.

I think it's reasonable to ask why one would sign up for an email list without having the slightest interest in receiving said emails. Believing it's a "show of support" due to ding the beneficiary receives in his/her "fan count" is silly.

If you're a fan, be a fan. If not, don't waste your or the artist's time. We're here to create and share music, and connect with like-minded souls, not to screw around with stats.

By my tally, I knocked out more than 250 email subscribers with a 0% open rate.

Lyrics For Other Artists

I've developed a bit of a reputation for my lyrics round these parts, and have had the privilege of watching (i.e., hearing) them get incorporated into the music of other unique artists.

My latest gambit into this sideline affair is the "Flobehead Lullaby" by The Magneto Flobe. Listeners have favorably compared our collaborative effort to the sound of the Grateful Dead, which is about as far away from the classic HL style as anything. Derek da boi & his merry men have cooked up a nice little bedtime snack. Check it out: www.reverbnation.com/themagnetoflobe.

The Magneto Flobe
The Magneto Flobe  (about 1 month ago)

it was exactly what we needed, maestro!!! a million thank you's from me, da bwayzzzzz, and all the Maloa Warriors, etc... we salute you!

Shock Therapy Demos Posted

I posted more than a dozen new instrumental demo mixes. These tracks are the candidates for my third album, Shock Therapy. I continue to make significant progress on the lyrics with numerous tracks completed. In 2014 I'll knock out the rest of the lyrics, and lay down vocals. When the demos with vocals are done they'll replace the instrumental versions on the current playlist.

The Shock Therapy demos are at the bottom of the song playlist (i.e., starting with "Erase Yourself"). I've also set these demos up as an album under DISCOGRAPHY on my RN profile page. The June 1, 2015, date is a WAG, but I do seem to be on a two-year album cycle—just as my faves, Pink Floyd, were in their 70s heyday. Go figure...

Popular Culture and Philosophy

I don't even recall how I stumbled across this series, but I highly recommend it. There are so many subjects from which to choose. The approach is to explore particular artists, bands, TV shows, films, etc. from a philosophical perspective. Contributors are academic philosophers, which might make you think they're automatically full of shit (I agree, it's tempting to do so). However, while they are all predisposed to serious "deep thinking," many are quite down to earth...even funny.

I'm on my third book so far, and these cover three of my all-time favorite rock acts: Pink Floyd; Radiohead; and Led Zeppelin. I've read a lot of books (and seen documentary films) on all of these acts, but these are unique treatments.

I plan to delve into others in the series, and since the series's managing editor solicits input from "outsiders" I've offered ideas for subjects not already on the list that would meet his criteria.

Here's a link to the list of titles, so check this out if you're into brain food: http://www.opencourtbooks.com/categories/pcp.htm

Dinosaurs Still Roam The Earth

Anyone making full-length albums today gleefully ignores external cues. As someone who jumped into the pool only fairly recently I am quite proud to belong to that group (two albums released and a third now a solid work-in-progress). We are oblivious to "the market." We do what we must. It's an artistic compulsion.

I loathe the promotional aspects of this project. Before HL I never engaged in any activity that remotely smelled of self-promotion, including my own software business. I've always relied on word of mouth, reputation, etc. This just feels unnatural and dirty to me.

Social media is a double-edged sword in that we must engage in order to survive at all but it's a complete waste of time and energy. It kills productivity. It fills our lives with "virtual relationships." Very few of those would persist in an offline setting.

Today we're celebrating my brother's 50th birthday. I wrote a dense, two-page commemorative poem to roast the guy... 20 verses in all (makes all of my verbose song lyrics look lazy by comparison). The crowd will love it. It's amazing how rich in detail it is, starting with when we were just rolling around on a blanket in the family room (as babies just two years apart). This is really knowing someone.

Correcting Mistakes...After The Fact

For decades when listening to some of my favorite albums I've lamented certain decisions made by the artist/band during the making of those albums—even the masterworks. If only...

Now I come along, and make my own best attempts, only to kick myself in the ass for dumb moves. 20:20 hindsight never soothes the soul, that's for sure.

Since publishing my most recent album, Running After Midnight, I've jettisoned two of its tracks: "My True Valentine;" and "Absolute Zero." I have plenty of reasons for knocking them off, but since having done so my own listening experience has been enriched. Quite simply the now 12-track/44-minute album has a much better flow. Others who have done this agree with my assessment. So, while the version of the album distributed through online retailers hasn't changed—too much of a hassle to "republish" it—if RAM is in your possession you might wanna try knocking those tracks off your iTunes, iPod, etc. Lemme know what you think.

Hopefully I won't make the same mistake on Shock Therapy. Although it's also a concept album, I'm going to write the lyrics in such a way that no song will be absolutely essential to the album's arc. That way, I can snuff any weak links before the damn thing goes OTD.

WTF Is This?

The HL project was originally born in the aughts (or 00s for the numerically-inclined) as a way of creating simple little beats-driven tunes to support comical rap lyrics. Really. I kid you not.

I had already been writing and performing raps (I wouldn't call this "hip hop" in the strict sense) for friends'/their kids' weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. I wrote the lyrics (duh), and my little bro wrote the simple tunes. It was working, but as I watched him create the music I thought, "Why am I not doing this myself?" And so the HL DAW was born. Gonna call it "Wraparound Studios" or some shit.

I had no idea what would come out of me musically, but it was a) not suitable for the rap idea, b) some bizarre combination of rock, jazz and electronica, and c) interesting and original. The earliest ideas were all Floydian—that came as no surprise—but the added flute reminded me of another fave, Tull. I just kept on creating one tune after another. Back then, most were fairly rudimentary musical ideas.

Fast forward...eventually, I was able to develop dozens of these musical ideas into fully developed instrumental songs. The part that comes most natural to me, the lyrics, came next. I've been writing lyrics off and on to this original music library for awhile now. I honestly never anticipated being able to tackle my own vocal chores (having never sung before, unless I was intoxicated), but ultimately I realized that I didn't want a "vocal interpreter" a la Daltrey for Townsend. Had to do these myself.

I almost gave up along the way after struggling hard with the singing. I realized that my lack of musical training and education let me run wild, but that I frequently created music that was not easy to sing to. Some tunes were not in my vocal "sweet spot," whatever that is. I also discovered that I didn't sing in my "natural voice" per se. Instead my singing voice was and is a rough blend of some of my favorite vocalists (e.g., Ian Anderson, Jim Morrison). I just kept at it, and the persistence eventually paid off. At least my wife thinks so.;)

Lo and behold, as of 2013 I've released two ambitious, full-length concept albums, and am working on a third (the music is done). I call the music "Alternative Rock Theatre" coz it's theatrical in concept and execution. It's alternative alright, and although it's a combination of rock, jazz, etc. it's the rock sensibility and instrumentation that drives these joints. The jazz elements (e.g., sax, flute, electric piano) are essential, but added primarily for color and texture. The electronica is something I'm compelled to incorporate—like a junkie with a monkey. That shit just speaks to me.

My 20 Desert Island Rock Albums

While this list will continue to evolve as long as I'm drawing breath, below I present a current snapshot of rock album faves. These are not listed in a 1-20 preference order, but are grouped (where applicable) under each artist.

One interesting point is that while 1-12 are part of the discography of my five all-time favorite rock bands, some of my other favorite artists do not have an album represented here.

PINK FLOYD: 1. The Dark Side Of The Moon, 2. Wish You Were Here, 3. Animals. 4. The Wall. THE BEATLES: 5. Revolver, 6. Abbey Road. RADIOHEAD: 7. OK Computer, 8. Kid A. YES: 9. Fragile, 10. Close To The Edge. JETHRO TULL: 11. Aqualung, 12. Thick As A Brick. LED ZEPPELIN: 13. Led Zeppelin IV. PORCUPINE TREE: 14. Fear Of A Blank Planet. THE DECEMBERISTS: 15. The Hazards Of Love. THE WHO: 16. Who's Next. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: 17. Born To Run. PEARL JAM: 18. Ten. THE EAGLES: 19. Hotel California. GREEN DAY: 20. American Idiot