Im working on the setlist for May 8 at Royal Room with Runaway Symphony and Being Lucius. (Details can be found here... www.facebook.com/events/1587196571525186/ Setlist are interesting cause you have to thing about the arc of the performance, where you want energy and where you want to bring it down, how the songs link together, etc. But there is another factor for me when I'm designing setlist. Every time I have to switch guitars I introduce variables that increase my likelihood of a major mistake. It goes like this, "ok new guitar, tune, drop D?, drop D two capo Ben Howard tuning?, capo in the right place? new setting on my global pedal, Y switch to amp or PA?, capo in the right place (again for emphasis)?" Doesn't seem like a big deal but silence sucks! Silence between songs seems to go on for ever and ever and ever and get ever more awkward. I already know I am not the greatest showman so I am really trying to put together a smooth professional performance. Its difficult. I figure their are other successful bands where the front guy doesn't jump around like a moron and pretend to be a bigger deal than he is. Arctic Monkeys....that dude is so cool, doesn't jump around like an idiot. As my drummer says..."you should never be more excited than the crowd."
Mourning the passing of a loved one, especially someone as integrated into your day to day life as a spouse is not something I would wish upon my worst enemy. Constant daily reminders lurk around every corner. Memories are triggered by random locations, events, people, pictures, smells, feelings, kitchen utensils, meals, you name it. For over a year every time I begin to feel a glimmer of hope that I may be moving in the right direction something comes along and knocks me back "into the dark". In my mind I have equated it to getting knocked down ten flights of stairs, and being forced to once again, pick yourself up and begin the long trudge back up, only to get blindsided by something unexpected and get knocked down again. Its a very painful and tiring oscillation which renders me largely ineffective from my perspective. Its an odd feeling watching the world go by in monochrome. Good things seem to be happening en masse all around me, vacations, babys, relationships, etc. (Facebook is a son of a bitch). These are all things that I would normally take joy and thanksgiving in for the people I care about. But they seem to pass by with little to no response from my brains amygdala. Maybe it’s too consumed with climbing stairs to be able to function as intended? Instead I am forced to put on a face of response that I know is deemed appropriate. I guess the part of my brain responsible for calculated deception still works. I've done all the things our culture says are admirable responses to loss of a loved one. Recorded a tribute album, started a charity foundation in her name, generally tried to present a message of hopefulness through faith in the face of tragedy. And although heaps of praise have been lauded over me for my response to the loss of my wife, I have yet to feel any real sense of joy or accomplishment from these acts. It is quite possible that my response has made my recovery more difficult. I have refused to let my wife's memory become just another function of my past. I have known several other widows who were dating again shortly, and remarried shortly after that. Which is fine. They seem to be forced to endure much fewer stairwell oscillations. Though I would argue, choosing to honor the memory of my wife in notable ways did much more for the people around us who were also deeply affected by her death. I suppose it’s a balancing act, but I can't ignore my tightly held belief that innate selfishness (even amidst trauma) has long term consequences. It is certainly possible I have over-corrected. Over the last few days it has felt like the world is beginning to gain back some color. Though, wisely, I peer around the corner weary and paranoid, waiting for that dreaded kick that renders me back at the basin of the climb. In the mean time we are recording an album based on viewing the world without color. Exiting the dark? Only time will tell. Just wish my relative velocity would slow down a bit.
Funny how things work out. Approaching the 1 year anniversary of the passing of my wife I was offered the opportunity to stay alone on a house boat for a little stay-cation. I took Howie and a guitar, wrote a song (the first new song in a LONG time). For some reason I knew I had to get it recorded. Called Joe, he cleared the next few days at Orbit for me, and we were at it. 2 days later I had a new single, accompanied video, and an entire concept for a new album. Best part is I had a nice little expression of love to post on my wife's Facebook page commemorating surviving one year without my soul mate. Funny how things work out. All the pieces of the puzzle just fell into place. When ideas, concepts, creativity arise, you have to be ready pounce on them and run. Aggressively capture special moments cause they can be gone before you blink. Check out our new video here. www.jasonseesband.com
Tonight Julia (vocals/keys) said an unexpected thing to everyone before she departed after practice tonight. "Thanks for being such a cool band." It struck me. And she's right. We are. Julia plays in several music projects. Actually everybody in Jason Sees Band plays in other projects. We welcome that. And thats the point of this post. This band is different, it seems like everyone else complains about their music projects. Why? Music is so rad. All 6 of us are so happy to be part of what were doing in JSB. I've been very deliberate about creating that environment. There is no expectations, if you can't make practice cause your kid is sick, thats cool. Everyone's part is there own, their place in the band is what they make it. This bands core is love and respect. The interesting thing is that my release of creative control creates an environment where everyone is receptive to others input and place in the music. Their is no ego's, wanna be rock stars, or creative elitists here. Julia is right, this is a cool band. So fun. I don't look forward to much on my average week. Since the passing of my wife my house is pretty empty and my social live is non-existent. But I have my buds I play music with. I'm grateful for that. I haven't been grateful in a long time, it feels good. Band practice night is what I look forward to most right now, and if you heard us rip it tonight, you would know why.
Yep, we spent all this time, money, and energy into my 3rd (and by far the best) album. On Oct 25 we are having a release party in Freemont to celebrate. It goes national on iTunes and Amazon and yada yada yada on Oct 28th....but none of you buy music from those sights right? Does anyone buy music anymore? Lots of people will pay $10 at a show for a CD if they have had 3-4 drinks only to realize that their new macbook doesn't have a CD drive. Whats a band to do? Jason Sees Band is a money losing business venture. We talk about this often and it comes down to this.....WHY are we making music? Are we making music to surge into the national conscious as a noted musicians, artists, and all around awesome people that people just have to look at on E channel? Do I write music just for attention? (I hope not) If a band is trying to "make it" they are living a fools paradise. Even bands that many of us low hanging local bands would have considered "made it" don't make any money. They scrape by. It is much much much more financially logical to invest yourself in a job at Tableau. So why is JSB making music? I ask myself that a lot and probably murmur it to everyone at every practice. I really do put the majority of my hearts effort now into something that does nothing but cost me money and expose my insecurity on a relatively large scale. Music is a weird thing...I guess it just sorta grips some people. In some people this manifests itself as being a super fan, constantly scouring spotify for the newest music, "dude the my music is so much more progressive than your music, my jeans are tighter too". For others they pour over an instrument and master it, our piano player Danny is an absolute master of the keys, he should probably be playing renditions of Bach in front of a bunch of 1% ers in great orchestra halls. Yet still others obsession with music compels them to write. I'm not a great guitar player and I'm an even more average singer, but I write, not a lot of people do that. Creating unique music out of thin air is a pretty interesting concept. You are literally introducing something into the world that has never existed before, like having a baby, but less painful. Of course their is no way you can mitigate the effect of other artists in your playlists having an influence on what you create, but, unless you are plagiarizing someone else's work, you really are engaging in a unique experience. Combining different patterns of air vibration manipulations at different amplitudes and wavelengths to create a melody which is appealing to the brains analysis of the cilia movement in the inner ear upon which those vibrations have taken effect. (Take that Michio Kaku!). Music seems to be a pretty uniquely human experience. Howie doesn't ever start dancing, even when I play the best new Seattle bands spotify has to offer. I think this band would get together and make music even if we were so awful that no venue would have us. We just want to make music cause its an awesome thing to do. Its creative, expressive, loud, communal, and gives me an opportunity to get together with some of my best friends every week to participate in something all together. Don't get me wrong, we take making music very seriously, our practices are not mired in PBR cans and bong smoke. We practice diligently every week to really try to master our craft, but we have a pretty damn good time doing it. I would put our band up against almost anyone KEXP is touting today. It seems a bit contrived to call us a hobbyist band. But in the end, no one is delusional enough to hope for musical greatness. Thats not why we make music. I think if you really want to see why we make music come see us play on Oct 25th at Tiny Ninja in Freemont. I think you will get it. Its free too....can't beat free. Jason
Keys all day today at Orbit. It's been really interesting to watch Danny, our piano player, record his parts to these songs. He's an incredibly accomplished pianist. He a piano instructor, well versed in theory, classical and jazz music. He can play stuff that will blow your friggin mind.....but the truth is this music doesn't need that. It needs support, textures, and hooks. All pretty JV kinda stuff for a pianist like Danny. But Danny is a man of humbleness and is more interested in playing what's right for the song, not showcasing his chops. I feel very blessed that he wants to play on this album. He and his wife were close to Zandy, and I think it's a nice thing for him to be able to honor Zandys life through this album.
We got crazy stuff going today via a grand piano, Rhodes electric keys through a fender quad, and of course a B3 and Leslie. As of now this album is straight up analog, which I think is super cool. We have not cut a single corner and defaulted to a plug in or some sort of digital sample or emulation. Until the signal hits pro tools, we're moving molecules, not 1's and 0's. We're also gonna mix down to tape and send it to the Mastering Studio via that analog medium, very authentic, very organic, very Zandy :)
Joe Reineke, the dude producing our album, insists that Howie, my 110 lb. black lab(isn) dog, be present at all of our recording sessions. It was quite a relief that Howie and Joe connected because now I don't have to find someone to watch him every time I go spend the day in the studio. But Howie also has become an integral part of the process, whether he knows it or not.
Howie is never super excited about being separated from me, he has to be in the same room, if I get up and move to the next room, he is in lockstep and plops down on the floor to keep an eye on me. Sometimes I think he's worried about me?
Unfortunately, when were tracking vocals and acoustic guitar he cannot be in the live room with me since we use a big sensitive 1960's era large diaphragm condenser mic that pics up EVERYTHING. And sine we do not particularly want the sound of Howie chewing on his feet and scratching his chin to accompany my my acoustic guitar......he has to stay in the control room with Joe. Sometimes he is not particularly happy about this but seems to have gotten used to it. And now I have a warm greeting every time I return to the control room to listen to what I have accomplished. A little reward for only needing 500 takes to record two notes.
Unless of course its post-lunch nap time. Then usually a glance is all Howie can bring himself to muster.
Drum tracks complete, which is a relief cause now the whole band doesn't have show up at the studio. Dave cleaned up two more songs and then we approached a song where the beat has just never quite been right. We landed on an idea that the drums should have an almost techno feel so Joe did his pro tools thing and began sampling drum sounds and then creating the beat in the box. It wasn't quite right either. We went full circle on this thing, plodding through at least 6 different patterns that Dave meticulously crafted. We ended up landing back where we started. Oh well, guess sometimes you have to explore all your options to figure out whats right. Dave Campbell is a workhorse drummer, a true pro. If anyone needs a session drummer he's your guy, look him up.
Then came the fun part, Joe brought out the arsenal for me to track rhythm guitars. ES335, 56' Tele, 70 something Strat 12 string, Kustom Bigsby (very cool), plus a 70's era Vox AC30, custom little Swart amp with a killer tremolo, and a Fender quad, ribbon mics all over the place (landed on the Coles). And everything comes into a SSL board and back out to some big fairchild compressor that makes everything sound radder.
Its so cool to watch Joe Reinke do his thing, he is the perfect combination of old school and new school. Don't get me wrong, he is a Pro Tools wiz, I've never seen someone edit faster, but he has 20 years of experience in the analog realm, recording to tape. You just can't teach that kind of thing, his ears are worth their weight in gold. I have given up a ton of creative control to him and I'm perfectly comfortable with that. He makes small tweaks, that make SUCH a difference. He's a guru, if your looking for a producer, and a studio, go to Orbit. Enough said.
Sitting in the control room listening to Shaun track bass lines as I write this. I think most the time when I play these songs I'm so focused on not screwing up my parts that I rarely think about what these songs are really about. She is just SO gone. It's absolutely draining just listening to these songs, sitting back and thinking about the different pieces of our life together that inspired all this different music, good and bad. Life is frail and important. Hug someone you love.
we finally started our first weekend of recording drum tracks for our new album, "A Single Frame Passing Through the Light". After weeks of pre-production practice, we did two 10hr days. Oh my.....by the end we were wiped. Of course all these songs take an emotional toll on me as well, since all are songs for my wife. Hoping this album is part of the healing process, but who knows. I'm just glad I'm doing it. Honoring her life is the most important thing to me. This is the best way I know how. We have 6 more days of studio tracking in April. Then we will have to take stock of where we are at, and proceed. Look for the CD release show in July! Jason