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Howard Lawrence / Blog

Ken Burns: Documentarian Extraordinaire

"Ken Burns: The Civil War" and "Ken Burns: Baseball" are two must-see documentary miniseries. Burns made these more than two decades ago (Baseball added a new "10th Inning" installment to the series in 2010), and each originally aired on PBS in the 90s. They are comprehensive, meticulous and highly engaging. Having recently seen each in its entirety (I'm a lifelong insomniac, so my middle-of-the-night viewing time is vast), I give them my highest recommendation. These are college-level history courses brought to your TV, mobile devices, etc. Each is available for streaming from Netflix. Of course, one can also grab the physical versions from Amazon.com. Now get to it...

Top 10 Favorite Rock Artists

All of my all-time faves have profoundly influenced my unusual sound and sensibility, although some of these can be heard more clearly. I still listen to these artists more frequently than any others. So many of my life's greatest memories are attached to the music of these renowned artists from the rock world. 1. Pink Floyd, 2. The Beatles, 3. Radiohead, 4. Yes, 5. Jethro Tull, 6. Led Zeppelin, 7. The Who, 8. Porcupine Tree, 9. The Doors, 10. Jimi Hendrix.

The Right Stuff

Having seen the 1983 film by Philip Kaufman several times—it's still one of my faves—I finally decided to read the book on which the flick is based.

Tom Wolfe is such a brilliant writer. It's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job with this subject matter, which covers the fledgling U.S. space program in the 50s and 60s—the Mercury program specifically—but really digs deep into the experimental test pilot program that predates NASA (and existed with it "in parallel"). Chuck Yeager gets his full due in this book. In the film his greatness is on display, but his historical import is underplayed (I liked Sam Shepard in the role, however).

I highly recommend "The Right Stuff" by Tom Wolfe to anyone who loves an exciting story told with incredible detail, lots of emotion and plenty of wicked humor. The flick is a lotta fun for sure, but it tells a different story than the book.

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  (5 months 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.