'Twas January 31st when Jerry Outlaw rang me up; he had been tapped to open a show at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg, FL for the New York City band Living Colour, and he offered me the bass player slot with Jerry Outlaw & Friends (members Rick Olson and Matt Cowley also perform in the stellar Frank Zappa tribute act, Bogus Pomp). Naturally, I was thrilled by the opportunity...it was a chance to dig down deep and push myself a little harder as a musician since the set would be fusion-oriented and consisted of songs by Jeff Beck, Billy Cobham, Santana, and Zappa). Since I only had a week to prepare, I had to be methodical with my time management. The first step was to acquire whatever reference tracks Jerry could provide me with. Step two was to set up a Word Document of the set list and paste You Tube links into it for quicker access. The bulk of my study, as you might guess, required hours of jamming on the tunes in my office/studio. Some of the sections in these songs were long and repetitious (to allow for the killer guitar and keyboard solos rovided by Jerry and Rick)--therefore my stamina and 'muscle memory' needed to be built up. We got together for a couple of rehearsals just to make certain we were all on the same page--this was also highly necessary because Matt and I had never met before. To say I was a little nervous would be an understatement, I confess. But I pride myself on being a fairly smart player, so the combination of homework, rehearsal, and above all else--paying attention on stage--paid off. Our set went off without a hitch, and in the "court of public opinion" (i.e., social media sites), we've received some very flattering praise. The following morning, I felt a huge sense of both relief and accomplishment. And now, with a heavy sigh, I'm just waiting for the phone to ring again with my next challenge!
I headed down to Deg Entertainment's recording facility yesterday so I could 'invade' the session. I recorded my preliminary tracks on bass last week, but since Larry McCray had made the trek from Michigan and both Jon Oliva and Arty Artymiw were slated to record, I thought: what's missing? It dawned on me that nobody had been chronicling the sessions with a camera. Suffice it to say, that became my self-appointed duty. Having the good fortune to be involved with musicians of superior talent in such a diversified ensemble is in and of itself a major reward. But to have no photographic record of it would be, to my way of thinking, a criminal offense. For public consumption, the photos were posted to my Facebook page. Where these sessions will lead is anyone's guess at this point. But what I really love about the process is the actual art of kindred spirits coming together and saying "What if we--?" or "Let's try this." That, ladies and gents is the 'art for art's sake' credo. It's a secret spice that livens up the flavor of the gumbo, and in my estimation, it's the road less traveled in the music industry at this point in history. Everyone else seems content to play it safe, and churn out the cookie cutter, often formulaic (and as a result, often exceptionally generic) music that bores most people still capable of independent thought totally shitless. Stay tuned...as you well know by now, there's always more to follow. Cheers, everyone!
Emitted from the speaker on my answering machine, the news of Tim Drummond's passing made me reel. I had just returned from a doctor's appointment for a herniated disc in my back and was in a great deal of pain, in spite of having been popped back into place by my chiropractor. As I listened to the message from Sterlene (Tim's daughter), my pain seemed insignificant compared to the family's loss. I returned her call this morning, and we spoke for about half an hour. The Drummond family members are scattered around the states; several of them were caught unaware of Tim's passing until they read about it through social media. This is the kind of world we live in now. News travels fast; bad news travels faster. I was very fortunate to know the man. When I was working on my first collection of recordings over ten years ago, I was full of uncertainty. Tim took the time to give me the benefit of his experience and advised me on many aspects of writing, recording, copyright, and publishing. He never once treated me as his inferior or as a novice (which I assuredly was) -- in fact, I think he got a big kick out of the entire bit. For several years we kept in touch via birthday cards and the occasional phone call, but eventually we resigned ourselves to passing messages back and forth through our mutual contact with Sterlene. He had stopped performing on bass and recording, preferring the producer's chair during his last decade. But that, too, lost its sparkle and he quietly retired. I am grateful to him for giving me the courage and confidence to continue writing and recording. After I toured Europe with Jon Oliva in 2012, I was told that Tim was proud of that achievement, and I remain flattered by that. When I started performing as a teen in the 1970s, I played many of Neil Young's songs and tried to cover the bass parts faithfully. To have the good fortune of actually knowing the man responsible for those parts was a true blessing. Rest easy, Tim. Thank you for all of your inspiration--I'll try to do you proud.
Now that the holidays have finally blown past and I find my self already embedded in 2015, it's time to get back to work on the studio track ideas that we started kicking around back in October. We'll have several musicians traveling to Florida from the north (no doubt, they're thrilled to escape the winter weather) to contribute parts. Jon Oliva was in session whilst I was there at DEG Entertainment Studios yesterday; Jon cut drums, bass, acoustic guitar, and vocals (all scratch tracks), and a keyboard track. Plans are for me to go back and re-cut the bass with my fretless, using Jon's track as my 'road map.' The entire project at this point (naturally, subject to change) consists of these imperial potentates: Lance Quinn, producer/ lead & rhythm guitar - Dana Piper, talent coordinator/lead guitar - Dana Walsh, audio engineer/video engineer - Larry McCray, lead & rhythm guitar/vocals/songs - Steve McCray, drums - Damon Fowler, lead & rhythm guitar - Pat Buffo, multi-instrumentalist/songs - Jason Jennings, bass/rhythm guitar/songs - Jon Oliva, keys/vocals/songs - Arty Artymiw, violin - Steve Delaportas, vibes - David Vanlanding, vocals - Brian Baxter, vocals/production - Justin Headley, drums - Many more tracking sessions will be happening over the next few weeks--there's going to be a whirlwind of activity at Mr. Walsh's facility!
As I pessimistically stumble forward into the holiday season licking my wounds from the worst year I've ever had in the Tampa Bay regional entertainment market, I must acknowledge several things that I am, in fact, truly grateful for. Topping that list is the unwavering support of my wife, Tara. As a veteran music biz entrepreneur, she understands that there are peaks and valleys aplenty in this racket and she is always there to bolster my confidence whenever the chips appear to be down. I'm extremely grateful to my musical colleagues in both Doobius and Band O'Frenz for the good times we share on stages in the local market--which is some severely shark-infested water since there are too many bands and not enough venues to support them. I'm grateful to my band and crew family in Jon Oliva's Pain, for those real glimpses of sunshine from the stages of larger venues when those opportunities present themselves and Mr. Oliva's obligations to the little act known as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra actually allow us to get out there and "do it to it." Those moments are the cherries on my musical sundae. As 2015 looms on the horizon, I'm really looking forward to a more productive year--with the aid of Felonius Piper, Pat Buffo, Dana Walsh, Larry & Steve McCray, Lance Quinn, and Jon Oliva. Our new recording project will be hitting the studio this month and proceeding at a gallop. Working with these talented individuals is a dream sequence for me, and after all--getting involved in music as a teenager was a dream from the 'git-go.' That spark has never burned out, and that dream is still alive and well. Cheers, folks!
I had the opportunity to go to Dana Walsh's studio yesterday evening and work on a new track for a project that's being spear-headed by Felonius Piper (I've already dubbed it the "Trans-Piperian Orchestra"). I can't disclose too much about it at this point, but there will definitely be some heavy hitters involved with this. The real gist of this blog is to note that it was my first opportunity to take my newly customized Fender P-J bass in my session and give it a whirl. Courtesy of Granville Guitars, the bass (known affectionately as 'Red') was just loaded with new EMG pick ups, new wiring, and an 18 volt battery pack. Between Mr. Walsh and myself, we were amazed at how beautifully Red recorded. Essentially, I just opened up both pick ups and the tone knob, and Dana set the predominantly EQ flat. The tone of this bass is just fantastic! I hadn't heard any advance demos of the track itself (a new composition by Pat Buffo), but by "steam rolling" through the tune I had the arrangement down and the bass track within an hour of arriving. This left enough session time for Pat to hit the booth for vocal takes. All in all, we managed to get a lot of work done in a relatively short period of time--in spite of some electrical storm action that hindered us for the better part of an hour. I'm looking forward to the next round of recording; it's always a pleasure to work with pros of this caliber and exciting to put some fresh grooves down. Cheers!
Totally looking forward to laying down bass tracks with Sonny Joe Harlan this Wednesday! Sonny and I played together in Rebel Pride about 10 years ago, and he also did all of the drum tracks on my 2004 recording project that predominantly featured Matt LaPorte. I should hasten to mention he's gained international notoriety as the guitarist for the Murder Junkies. (PS--stay tuned for "Recording News" - Volume 2!)
I worked a trio gig in Bradenton, FL at Motorworks Brewery yesterday; Chris Tripp had texted me a few days earlier to ask if I was available. I leapt at the chance to fill out the weekend calendar, naturally. The line-up consisted of Chris, myself, and DJ Dan from 'Bon Echo'--thus we performed as the Bon Echo Trio (seems I never really know who's performing on the gigs I get these days--I just show up and do my thing). Motorworks is spacious on the inside; very clean and contemporary, and boasts a huge beer garden outside their back doors (gratefully, we performed on the indoor stage where the air conditioning was perfect). As a bit of a beer fanatic, I enjoyed everything I could swig down--most notably a few Bitburgers (the first of those I'd sipped since Bonn, Germany in 2012 with the Jon Oliva's Pain gang), and a Green Goblin cider--but the stand-out for me was Sam Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout (a U.K. brew). That got a Five Star rating from me! The staff was very friendly, upbeat, and super-accommodating. Sadly, I didn't sample of Motorworks' own brews--which gives me a perfect excuse for my next jaunt down there (seems they were quite pleased with our show, so I hope that translates into a return engagement). More info on Motorworks can be found here: http://motorworksbrewing.com/ or via Facebook. If you find yourself heading south over the Skyway Bridge, I strongly recommend making a detour in their direction.
I've decided that I will no longer refer to my 'blog' as a 'blog'--I will refer to these entries as my "Blitchfest." Others may blog--but I will most assuredly continue to blog and bitch simultaneously. This doesn't make me, in any way, shape, or form 'unique'--it just means my blog now has a bitchier/more colorful title! We are now rounding the corner from July into August, and these hot summer doldrums in the Tampa Bay area may subside a little as a result. Happily, I'll be performing with my friends in the band Audio Reign this Friday night at Lenny's in Seffner, FL--and then I will turn my attentions to a duo performance with y longtime partner Chris Tripp for a matinee show on Sunday at the Porpoise Pub in Seminole--which is always a great gig (and thankfully, very close to home--since I always seem to 'over party' whenever I'm in their fin-like clutches). In the meanwhile, rehearsals for the ProgPower XV show with my brothers in Jon Oliva's Pain are at the boiling point--we're still about 6 weeks away from that monolithic concert, and we are brimming with anticipation for hitting the stage there. I personally have my hopes set very high for some tour action on the back end of that show--but only time--and Mr. Oliva's personal schedule--will tell if that is going to be realized. That said, I think the other groovy cats involved are hungry for the same action, so keep your fingers crossed. I know I am...
Wow, July 18th--this would've been Dana Jennings' 53rd birthday. 'Nuff said there, since I wouldn't have any reason to post a blog pertaining to music were it not for my younger brother. As any interested parties will have noted from previous blogs, releasing a CD in the modern world can be a tricky endeavor. Without some kind of promotional 'push' from some kind of 'record label' translates back into the entire 'Do-It-Yourself' nature that facilitated the entire premise behind the "Great Beyond" CD to begin with. I'm certain I've annoyed my share of folks with my incessant advertisements, but that's a part of the necessary juju when putting forth some kind of musical product, in this day and age. Too many times, I've heard friends say things like, "If we only had a record deal, we'd take the world by storm." Well--especially if you're on American soil--guess again. The fact is--it takes a lot of hard work to write an album's worth of material, for most folks. In my own case and defense, not having a 'standing band' may have worked to my detriment as far as the shortfall would be concerned--but NOT having a band was a blessing in disguise, and it afforded producer James Fox and myself a luxury in that the players that recorded--track by track--were the people that actually fit the songs. Now, some admitted 'cons'.... A 'standing band' has the luxury of rehearsing their asses off before making a statement when tracking. This is a huge plus. Bands like Led Zeppelin recorded their first albums in 8 or 9 (prior to mixes/editing) hours as a result of this extension of the 6P rule--"Prior Practice Prevents Piss-Poor Performance." I guess the summation of my long-winded diatribe is this: what I/we achieved on the "Great Beyond" CD boils down to a lot of musically spontaneous combustion. And everyone involved brought a pack of matches to the "Bonfire of the Insanities." Knowing now what hard work writing and recording an album is, start to finish, from a technical level (and getting over the fear of putting your musical/emotional heart into a public forum for others to judge), I would gladly do it again--and I certainly have more songs at the ready. A few blogs back, I wrote about the "learning curve" of the "Brave New Whirl"--i.e., marketing and sales through various websites. I was extremely embarrassed to learn that Reverb Nation had released quite a few CDs with Track #1, "Twisted Carny," appearing twice (back to back) on the CD. That has been rectified--and were I a famous and successful artist I would suggest that you were lucky to receive a 'rare collector's item' of this nature. But instead, as stated prior, I'm a little embarrassed by it. In fact, not to slam Reverb Nation for the other great artist services they provide--I cant figure out how this lameness got past them. Oh, well--stay tuned. It's never less than a 5 star/ 4 ring circus here. I certainly would welcome anyone's wisdom as to how they have circumvented some of the pitfalls of self-promotion with regard to the situations posed above in this blog. Thanks, folks!