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
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.
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.
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.
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 1-13 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. Dark Side Of The Moon, 2. Wish You Were Here, 3. Animals. 4. The Wall. THE BEATLES: 5. Revolver, 6. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 7. Abbey Road. RADIOHEAD: 8. OK Computer, 9. Kid A. YES: 10. Fragile, 11. Close To The Edge. JETHRO TULL: 12. Aqualung, 13. Thick As A Brick. LED ZEPPELIN: 14. Led Zeppelin IV. PORCUPINE TREE: 15. Fear Of A Blank Planet. THE DECEMBERISTS: 16. The Hazards Of Love. THE WHO: 17. Who's Next. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: 18. Born To Run. PEARL JAM: 19. Ten. GREEN DAY: 20. American Idiot.
After working with my friend Robin Youlton (Acoustic Mirror, Rhesus Monkey, Biocosmos) on the music videos for "Miles Away," "The Enemy Inside" and "Mars Landing," he wisely encouraged me to cut my teeth on a solo video project. I bought video editing and video clip conversion applications, and learned how to use them on the fly.
The result of my initial foray into the unknown is the video for "Tachycardia," the third track on the Running After Midnight album. This is a song about PTSD and panic attacks. The hero of Running After Midnight is a war veteran struggling with personal demons and the after-effects of his military career.
The song and visual images blend together seamlessly to create a wild ride designed to assault your senses.
In keeping with this week's "v2 Music Video" theme, today I posted the "Far From Heaven" video that incorporates the remastered audio (from The Enemy Inside album).
All Howard Lawrence music videos are hosted by my YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/howardlawrencemusic. Consider yourself invited!
Once the brilliant and generous Vincent Pablo remastered The Enemy Inside album, I lost the will to view the music videos associated with that album until now (i.e., due to the unappealing audio embedded in the original videos).
I'm pleased to announce that I was able to reprocess the videos for "Miles Away" and "The Enemy Inside" tracks with the remastered audio. I also created new credit sequences as a starting point to learning how to use a video editing application. Going forward, I will no longer have to rely on Robin Youlton's generosity to compile these videos, but will undertake the tasks myself entirely. He did a great job on these videos, and I'm now proud of them.
www.youtube.com/howardlawrencemusic is my YouTube channel, which hosts all Howard Lawrence music videos. Please visit, Like, leave a comment, etc. whenever you're "in town." I thank you in advance.
My official website was recently overhauled. I'm quite proud of the way it turned out. I spent considerable time and energy working with DPI Graphics, a local web development firm, to make the site a must-see. I hope you'll pay me a visit at www.howardlawrencemusic.com. There you'll find the story behind each album, music and lyrics, along with links to the online retailers.
I've also added a new Videos page that hosts my YouTube videos and provides some background material on how they came to life. New ones in connection with my latest album, Running After Midnight, are currently in pre-production.
Not content to sit back and relax while you take in the rambling madness of The Enemy Inside and Running After Midnight, I've been busy working on the third installment of my theatrical album trilogy, Shock Therapy.
At this time I am pleased to report that the music for all 12 tracks is in the can. It's hard to imagine, but I'm confident that Shock Therapy is musically my most ambitious and adventurous outing to date. Lots of twists and turns and full of surprises. Pure madness, just like you would expect from HL.
Now, let's see what I can do with these lyrics...