I hope everyone had a great Christmas! I got a shit-ton of cool stuff, especially lots of great books. Transformers-wise, Dollface got me a set of unopened vintage Transformers View-Master reels. Of course, this leaves me with the quandary of whether or not to de-virginize and enjoy this set or leave it in its pristine state. (Hint: toys are made to be opened, no matter how long the wait.) I also got this awesome Decepticon-loving shirt:
I've spoken before about my great love for BLACK SABBATH, how I discovered them, and why their sixth album, Sabotage, is my favorite album of all time. They are my bedrock, my musical foundation, and directly or indirectly continue to inform all the music I make.
Imagine, if you will, finding a band that you quickly realize is your favorite band of all time... and that they had made their last album 12 years earlier. Their body of work was finite. Yes, I could listen to these albums over and over my entire life... but they would never change. No more surprises. Like an ancient holy tome, you could try finding some previously unnoticed nuance or detail, but The End had already been written and there would be no sequel. As a 16-year-old Sabbath neophyte, I remember gradually acquiring the 8 albums of the original line-up and eagerly popping each one into the cassette player for that irreproducible first listen. Those sirens of "War Pigs" that begin Paranoid; the coughing that abruptly starts "Sweet Leaf" and Master of Reality; the rain, thunder and tolling bells of "Black Sabbath", their signature song that opens their first album... That was 20 years ago. I would never have that "first listen" feeling again.
So I have a new band. It's called Die Like Gentlemen. I play guitar, sing, and do most of the songwriting. We're kinda like a chunkier version of Black Sabbath. You can "Like" us and listen to a few rehearsal tunes on our Facebook page while you read this, if you like.
We played our first show last Saturday at an excellent local Portland dive music venue called Plan B. We had a great turnout, played really well, and got a lot of positive feedback. It really went excellent. The most popular songs were "Covetous" and "Hidden Switch" (the latter of which discusses my tinnitus).
You may remember that I was unsuccessfully seeking a second guitarist. One of the main reasons was to have a more accomplished lead guitar for solos and such. Soloing was never my strong suit, I've always been much more of a composer. Some guitarists pick up a guitar and start soloing, I pick one up and start writing parts.
Well, we didn't want the lack of a second guitarist to stop us from gigging, so I manned up and started working specifically on my solos. I started sketching them out, trying to figure out how to play what I was hearing in my head or just sloppily improvising until I lucked upon something that didn't suck. After a couple of months I felt I had improved from "embarrassingly bad" to "could easily fool non-musicians" so it was time to put ourselves out there. Which, like I said, went excellent.
I've talked about so-called "Third-Party" Transformers several times before. (For those who want a quick primer on them, see my past articles here and here.) I own an increasing amount of third-party TFs, so I'm obviously a fan of them. Hasbro started the "Classics" line of modernized versions of classic Transformers, but for various known and unknown reasons they have left many classic toys unrevisited. The third-party producers thus supply a demand for other modernized toy characters that would otherwise not be filled. However, since those classic characters are still the intellectual property of Hasbro, these unauthorized products have raised a number of legal and moral questions. The legal aspect is a little more cut-and-dry, which is at least one of the reasons that most of these third-party toys are mass-produced in China where intellectual property laws are rather lax. It's actually the moral and economic aspects that interest me more.
This whole issue had a bit of a flashpoint last week when BotCon, the official Transformers convention authorized by Hasbro, announced that third-party toys would not be permitted in the dealer room and that any dealer that displays them risks having their third-party wares confiscated. The technicalities of all that aside, the announcement set off a firestorm of discussion on TFW2005 (here) and Seibertron (here). Interestingly, the heated commentary served as a great barometer of how fans view the third-party producers and Hasbro. Some third-party fans painted Hasbro as a big, bad, and jealous corporation who, instead of delivering what the "fans" want, is attempting to squash the "little guy" so they can continue to produce sub-par products without competition. Some third-party detractors were unwaveringly loyal to Hasbro and "official" Transformers, and believe the third-party toys "cheapen" and pervert the hobby. Indeed, there was much argument, some of which was astute but much of which was emotionally-charged drivel.
But before continuing, I'd like to craft a little moral illustration with the help of Mötley Crüe...
I've been trying to find a lead guitarist for my new band. We just need that final player to turn our slamming trio into a crushing quartet!
But finding the right musician is hard -- hell, finding someone who isn't a complete flake or a complete loon is itself nigh-impossible. I've been posting on Craigslist. The ad is understated and thorough. I list influences, post links to some rehearsal recordings, and explain what we're expecting: someone who doesn't mind learning and doubling existing guitar parts to thicken up our sound, but can also handle lead lines and solos, and if you have material and ideas of your own we'd be happy to incorporate it. To me, this seems very straightforward.
Allow me to share some highlights of my search so far...
Well, there was Nathan. He seemed like a good prospect so I gave him tablature to two of the songs and asked that he learn them before coming in. I had a cold the following week so it was two weeks before we could schedule a night to jam. When I emailed/texted to confirm that he was still coming in, he said
Do you recall when I posted the Botch art that currently graces the top-left corner of this site? It was generously commissioned by Carcass and beautifully illustrated by Laurent Libessart. Well, here comes the follow-up to that: CASSETTE MODE!
As with the original piece, the new one is AWESOME.
I love how Laurent chose to maintain the subtle fissures where the pieces separate during transformation.
You may notice this cassette is not blank, but actually labeled. That's right! He made this into a cassette for Vices & Virtues, the album of my last band, I DISAGREE. It's even got the track-listing on there for the "Vices" half!
Of course, I couldn't resist using this cassette mode as the top-left mascot for my Music page, where, by the way, you can listen to Vices & Virtues in its entirety.
So thanks to Laurent and Carcass for another fabulous piece of Botch art!
To see some more Botch art, check out the About Botch page.
Things have been going well musically. You remember that rehearsal studio I started renting after I bought my new guitar and Marshall amp? I've upgraded since then. The first windowless room was in the basement and the size of a closet. The new room is absolutely huge with three impressively large windows overlooking downtown Portland and its lovely superhighway system. I manage this new room and sublet it to 1.5 other bands. We put in a small dorm fridge for everyone's beer. I put up posters featuring Black Sabbath and the green fairy of absinthe.
More importantly, I've started putting my new band together. I've got a drummer and a lead guitarist and we're about to start looking for a bassist. (I sing and play guitar and do most of the songwriting.) We've already got a number of tunes, the typical length of which is 8-10 minutes. That may sound long, but it's fairly common for the genre of down-tempo metal. With song titles like "The Ten Hells" and "Lair of Zargon," it's a ton of sludgey fun.
But there has been a downside to this. I have finally developed tinnitus.
I was fortunate enough to be invited onto KaijuCast.com, a Godzilla-themed podcast, to speak about The Monster Project, my musical group that recorded rock arrangements of Godzilla and other monster-movie soundtracks. It was a total blast, of course. I love talking about music; I love talking about Godzilla; I love talking about myself. Seriously, what's not to love?
You can listen to the full interview here. Let me know what you think! If nothing else you can hear what my speaking voice sounds like, and then you'll be able to read all my future posts while imagining my seductive baritone in your head, in your ears, inside you. Yeah. In your ears.
Oh, and if you want to listen to the full album of The Monster Project or -- heaven forbid! -- actually purchase the CD or MP3's, you can do all that at http://themonsterproject.bandcamp.com.
Recently I suggested in casual conversation that I was past my prime. Dollface countered that I was just being pessimistic, but I felt I was being objective and matter-of-fact. To wit: in my early-to-mid 20's I was more actively creative, was playing and recording with two bands, was in better health despite near-constant smoking and drinking, was more socially active and surrounded by numerous friends old and new, and I could eat absolutely anything I wanted.
This is not to say that I don't feel that I have a fucking great life now! I do! I have friends, I drink and smoke, my Transformers collection is mammoth and approaching sentience, I recently sang on a alternative metal album and I think I still have at least one more metal album left in me, I have the best job I've ever had, a fabulous apartment, and of course I have my lovely Dollface. I'm just saying that, by the standards of my own completely subjective attempt at objectivity, it seems to me that my prime is in the past.
Over the weekend I picked up a number of CDs from the local CDGameExchange, all for $1.00 or $2.50. Having listened to them all now, I can say that every album was a total success -- except one. Can you guess which one? Here they all are in the order I listened to them: