Heavy Metal Tuesday!
March 8th, 2011

Maybe this’ll be a thing. Maybe it won’t. Regardless, here’s your first Heavy Metal Tuesday!

Today it’s going to be personal-like (as in, all about me). I recently found my sophomore high school picture that I had grabbed from a photo album when I visited my folks in my childhood home for the last time (I wrote an emo blog post about it that I won’t link to, hah!):

My first attempt at facial hair

Also, here’s a version of Ants from this Sunday’s Severe Bass and the Bad Decisions band practice!!!!. This was recorded at our practice space with two mics directly into my Fast Track Pro into REAPER. The quality isn’t great (the vocals are really quiet unfortunately), but it’s the first recording of this song being played with a band since the summer of 1999, and I think it’s halfway decent considering it’s just two cheap vocal mics hanging from the ceiling.

(BTW, streaming it usually lessens the quality quite considerably, right clicking to save and then playing it in the audio player of your choice will sound much better!)

Something for Now….
February 15th, 2011

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I have been awful about posting or working on my website. This doesn’t mean I haven’t done ANYTHING, but you are also not missing out. Never fear though, I am really working on being more prolific. To tide you over, here’s me playing w. my bass/software (I’ve started using REAPER and it is pretty freaking awesome!).

Anyway, I know it’s not much, but I hope you enjoy!

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Finding Ones Voice
November 23rd, 2010

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This last year or so I’ve thought a lot more about the songwriting process than I have in quite a while – specifically by paying more attention to the many subtleties in the music I find myself listening to. In order to do so, I’ve been forced to evaluate the music I listen to, and am now trying to find ways to factor this into the way I create music. I haven’t quite made a breakthrough yet, but I am learning things about my musical brain and how that translates to the rest of me, which is interesting.

Something that speaks to me very directly is the “voice” of an artist. In most cases I’m probably thinking about bands with a single main songwriter/singer who also has great musicians at their disposal to help take the music somewhere else (Peter Steele of Type O Negative, Glenn Danzig, Dave Wyndorf of Monster Magnet, Adam Turla of Murder By Death), although there are other examples of bands that work together more collaboratively (Tool, Black Sabbath), and there’s also a few examples of singer/songwriter teams (Ween comes to mind first). And of course, Mike Patton, who can fit into every category depending on what he’s doing.

These artists (especially Ween) can also be adept at adopting a “voice” for an album (or any amount of time, whether its 3 songs in a row or 15 seconds). There is a difference between this and a “concept album” however, which maybe I’ll go into greater detail about in another post. The point is that they are adopting a sound, but (if they are doing it right) can really make that sound like it belongs to them, putting a very personal spin on it. This kind of music can also be very accessible without needing to dumb down the sound for mass audiences. However, what seems to really make the difference is the amount of personality and craftmenship that goes into these albums (or songs, or whatever). Famous (or semi-famous) bands can change their sound to become more accessible, which may or may not help their popularity, but when a musician finds a way to put their “voice” into something specific but still authentic, that’s when I get really excited.

Before I know how to apply this knowledge to what I do, I’m first stuck with finding my voice. That’s one of those things that’s so obvious it catches me off guard. I’m a professionally trained musician who’s been doing this for years I think, How is it possible that I don’t have a voice? (I admit, I can have a pretty high opinion of myself sometimes). The truth is, that you have to do this all the time with great attention to what you are doing, and I just don’t compose music that often, and certainly not with much intention these days. The reason is I’m usually too busy playing in bands to write or practice my own stuff – and that’s made me lazy. I don’t know what my voice is…I sort of know some things that I usually do, and I certainly have a playing style that is relatively my own. But I don’t know what my voice is.

What this means is that now that I’ve been exposed to the concept of “having a voice” and now I have to work backwards to “finding my voice”, and I’m not sure where it is exactly. It seems to be all over the place. In my head, my voice is too crazy and complicated. But when I look at my solo musician repertoire I’m often finding it’s almost too simple and predictable. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t play a song if I don’t think it’s cool and fun to play -unless I’m in someone else’s band – but I’ve been forced to keep things simple and straight forward as a solo bassist, and I don’t think I need to keep thinking of myself as a solo bassist anymore.

So then what? Not sure exactly. I have been paying more attention to the voice of other musicians that I respect and would like to emulate (in terms of quality and musickal prolificness), and trying to see how they do what it is they do in an attempt to figure out things I can steal and make my own. And hopefully, within all of that, some of my personality will shine through, I’ll figure out the tricks I like the most, and I’ll start talking with my voice. It probably will take me a while to recognize it as my own, but I’m pretty sure that’s part of the journey.

What it really breaks down to, is I need to write more, really write, not just grab ideas and say “that’s cool” and never revisit a theme again. You know, be a REAL artist.

I think that’s the new theme of this blog/site/whatever. The journey to becoming a real artist. I could debate with myself over what that means, but for now I feel like I’ll know I’m getting there if I’m doing it right.

Disclaimer: I’m not actually on any sort of deadline to get anywhere, and I generally move sort of slow and cautious towards my goals until I am ready to persue them, so I won’t be quitting my job to move to a farming co-op. Certainly not this year. *wink*

P.S. This also of course applies to blog-writing. I’m realizing there’s also an art to writing and maintaining a blog, and that I need to keep practicing it to develop a rhythm that works for me. Of course, double-coding things into Severe Slang takes extra time too (But is oh so necessary </sarcasm> )

Severe Bass Has Launched!
November 18th, 2010

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After months of searching, I have a band! Severe Bass and the Bad Decisions rocked Ireland’s 32 last night (11/16). The show went pretty good for what I could tell! I try to gauge “effectiveness” on whether or not a)the folks watching are having fun, and b)the band is enjoyin themselves. Last night both criteria seemed to apply. In other words, I’m calling it a success. Note: This does not mean that the songs were played to their perfection, we all made some mistakes, but I expected that. Gotta get those first show jitters out!

It has been so long since I’ve fronted a band, I really didn’t know what to do at times. I tried to keep the band moving along and the patter to a minimum. During the songs I did my best to play the bass and sing as well as possible, and when I wasn’t singing felt the need to bang my head to show that I fucking mean it when I play. I have been playing solo for a while so I’m sort of used to what it feels like to stand in front of a microphone and sing. However, the second we finished our sound check I realized I had only played as a solo musician twice since moving to the area 3 years ago. One of those times was actually at Ireland’s 32 (March of 2008), and they even kicked me off early as a solo act. I was in the both the preceding and following band, so it just meant I drank two beers really quickly and then got back on stage. I play phenomenally when I am angry, which is the only good part of that experience.

Anyway, I am really appreciative of the folks that came out, as well as Chris Rodriguez for hooking us up w. the slot. It was really cool to get a taste of what it feels like to front a band with 10 more years of musickal experience, and to hear the songs in a live environment. I can’t honestly say it was the most fun I’ve ever had, but I think after a little more practice doing this will be more comfortable and relaxed.

Got to admit, I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do if I want to be the frontperson/songwriter/bandleader. It’s hard work – luckily my band is pretty cool. And I’m not afraid of hard work 🙂

Pics to come!

First Severe Bass and Band show!
November 16th, 2010

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HOLY SHIT!!! I can’t believe I forgot to tell you folks – Severe Bass is performing it’s FIRST SHOW EVER with a backing band! Severe Bass and the Bad Decisions (working name) will be the featured band at Ireland’s 32’s open-mic night, TONITE at 9:30. It’s going to be awesome!

I’ve been playing with Steve Bealey on guitar all year and Cameron Fleischer on drums since July and we are proud to present a full on band experience. It has been over 10 years since I fronted a band, and I am both super excited as well as a little bit nervous!

The songs will be a mixture of originals and cover songs originally written/arranged for solo bass & voice, but have been re-worked (again) to make room for sweet guitar leads and thundering drum fills. Please come check it out – it would mean a lot to me.

Especially if you have been waiting for an excuse to bang your head (or just laugh at me when I’m in the throes of rawk-stardom), Severe Bass will be rocking just for you tonight at 9:30. Join us, won’t you?

August 2nd, 2010

For those of you who are not aware, Tinnitus is what is commonly described as “ringing of the ears”. (As an aside, I am kind of baffled that some people don’t know what it is). Many have heard or experienced what is often described as “ringing in the ears” but I feel that the reality of Tinnitus is scary enough to call it by it’s name. It can happen to anyone, there are a variety of things that can cause it, and it can become a noise so devastatingly loud that it makes it hard for you to live your daily life.

It’s not unheard of (okay, that’s a horrible pun that I seriously did not think about it, I just typed it and there it was) for musicians to get this. In fact, it’s very common, especially for older ones. Amplified instruments are loud as hell, mostly because loud feels awesome, and musicians really like feeling awesome. However, I’ve been TERRIFIED of something like this since I was 21. When I eventually realized that yes, your actions do have consequences, and spending as much time as possible in the presence of loud amplifiers is very likely to do horrible things to your very fragile eardrums, I got some professional earplugs and have since worn those (or a cheap replacement when needed) pretty much every time I’m in the room with an acoustic drum set. If you’ve ever been to a show with me, you’ll know that I am quite vocal about the possibility of severe (no pun intended) hearing loss because of exposure to loud amplified instruments, and that precautions are easy and cheap (thereby full of common sense). If you’ve ever been in a band with me, this has either been a point of supreme agreement or significant contention.

Despite this almost spotless history of wearing plugs of some sort since, I have definitely developed some level of tinnitus, and it seems like it’s pretty recent. While it might have been the kind of thing that I can sort of tune out sometimes, this last week I’ve noticed a ringing in my left ear (it’s not uncommon for it to only be in one ear), specifically at night and in the morning (also not uncommon for it to happen on “schedules”, and to be felt worse in the morning). It seems to wear off during most of the day, blessed be (or maybe it’s just that when there’s enough other things going on it’s hard to hear), but I was feeling it most of this previous evening (prompting this blog post). It’s interesting because I actually tried to listen for it when I got home around 5:30, and couldn’t hear it. Then about 20 minutes later I started noticing it – much earlier then usual. It wore off about 2.5 hours later.

My general impression is that the only consistent thing about tinnitus is that it happens to a lot of people, and that there is no end-all, be-all cure. There seems to be a huge variety of different levels of noise, causes, symptoms, sounds, and other variables with it. So it’s probably just something I’m going to need to try and ignore while I investigate the parts of my life or routine that could be contributing to this. As it is now, if this were to continue for the rest of my life, it’ll be annoying as hell. But it will be do-able. So really, I just hope I can keep it at bay. I’ll keep wearing the earplugs, that’s for sure.

New Track!
June 25th, 2010

I recently (Wednesday) got a new toy: The M-Audio Fast Track Pro, and I think it’s pretty awesome. I can’t believe it took me this long to get an audio interface, as it’s going to make life immeasurably easier when it comes to recording and brainstorming songs.

Anyway, to test out using it with the free (mostly-awesome but has some real weird side-effects) music editing software Audacity, I decided to try and get a better recording of one of my more ambitious covers, Waltz # 2 (XO) by Elliott Smith. It took plenty of takes, as I was not as brushed up on the song as I had hoped I was, but I was able to make a recording that sounded as good (and likely better) then anything I’ve made on my own before. My direct recordings are not really very listenable I find, but it is an idea of what I’m doing, and I hope to use them as the starting point to demo some of the upcoming Severe Bass with band stuff I’m working on.

Anyway, here’s the mp3 in shoddy 128 bps quality – I haven’t figured out how to export different mp3 sizes from Audacity yet, if it can be done (I’d assume so, but there are some very unusual and unexpected things with the program that can be worked around). BTW, if you are hearing some weird feedbacked-like sounds, they might be avoided by downloading the mp3 directly and playing – it sounds better in winamp to me then it does on the web. Either way, it’s definitely a marked improvement on the video I got of this song almost 5 years ago at Jammin Java in Vienna, VA, that inspired plenty of haterage from the teenaged myspace community. I don’t remember doing so, but I apparently took it down a few years ago b/c I was so unhappy w. the quality.

Anyway, considering the only things I used to make this recording are my laptop, the Fast Track Pro, Audacity, my bass guitar and a Shure SM-58, I think it’s pretty promising. Of course, I probably should have been doing stuff like this a couple years ago, but I’m admittedly behind in a lot of areas.

Why did it take me so long to embrace musical technology?

Higher Education
May 17th, 2010

Sometime before I actually moved to SF, my plan was to do this for a few years and then return to graduate school (“this” being, work a decent, although probably low-paying, desk job at a non-profit while playing musick and generally digging San Francisco). My reasons for attending graduate school varied, although the general idea was so that I could become a better leader/force for change (as well as a better person). I was very much into this idea because I wanted to do JUST SCHOOL for a few years, giving me the opportunity to concentrate on the work at hand, as well as focusing on living the kind of day to day that felt right to me. Having done both school and work a few times, I’ve learned I get way more out of education when I don’t have distractions like “working some job so I can pay the rent”, which makes sense. However, I’ve been thinking…

What if getting my education means quitting my job and just immersing myself in what I want to do with myself?

This, for me, is radical thinking. I often take some of the “safer routes” in order to try to sustain a certain quality of life, so to speak. These safer routes are not always easy, or even logical, but they are safer. Example: Instead of throw myself into my music headfirst, I choose to first attend, and eventually graduate from, a reputable music school (with considerable financial help from my family). Not logical, and definitely not easy, but certainly safer then taking any gig that I could land and later trying to make ends meet through whatever I can find, month by month.

However, I’m starting to think there’s another way. It’s not right here or right now for me, but one of the reasons I’m starting this website is so that I can start to find and also create a network that is comfortable to me. Eventually, that network might be something I could live off. Or not. Doesn’t matter – what matters is that I want to connect with awesome people because I also believe I am awesome and have something to offer.

So what now? I prove how awesome I am.

In the meantime, I think about little things that would make my life more self-sustained. Ways I might not need to work a job in the traditional sense to have a place to live, food on my table. And then I could devote more time to my kickass life, and sharing it with other people. It’s not unheard of – lots of people do it. Lots of artists do it. At least so I hear, according to all of the inspiring people I follow on Twitter.

I’m pretty cool now – and with the right focus I could likely do amazing things. So maybe I can swing this kind of thing eventually. Stranger things have happened I’m sure.

When we last checked in….
March 8th, 2010

So, I’ve made some progress dealing w. this website – but this silly internet seems to love doing the “one step forward, two steps back” dance. Let’s review, shall we?

I messed around w. some other themes, but really didn’t like them – however I did learn more about using Fantastico to install my wordpress onto my blog, and eventually decided I needed to learn FTP a bit more anyway. So I:

  • * Installed wordpress via the “five minute install”. This actually took me a couple hours – first I installed everything in my blog2 subdirectory to get used to everything. It took me a while because I had to re do this about 5 times. (The biggest issue – I wasn’t recognizing “localhost” as the database host – doh!) Then I uninstalled the fantastico installment and deleted the blog2 subdirectory. Both these steps were pretty easy but then I realized how much site5/fantastico had done for me in creating the first one. I ended up having to clear out all of my tables, which took a little digging. However, I was eventually successfull in all of this – and really I have to admit that the site5 interface made this ABOUT as easy as possible.
  • * Next up I wanted to learn how to use themes a little bit more without depending on wordpress. Apparently my previous theme (Neo-Sapien) was no longer compatible w. wordpress, despite that the upgrade I made was only an edition or two. Frustrated with the lack of other themes, I searched some more and eventually found the link to download it directly. After a little fumbling around, I eventually figured out how to upload it via FTP and eventually get my dashboard to recognize it. SUCCESS! (?)
  • * Sort of. The site is currently in Neo-Sapien, but I can’t use any widgets. Fair enough, I go to http://codex.wordpress.org/Widgetizing_Themes to follow the instructions there. I think I do things correctly – however using one of the fixes, I am still not able to use themes in my dashboard. When I use the other one, my site disappears telling me there’s an $end error in line 36 or something. I know a little html, but not enough to trouble shoot this, so I’m currently SOL.
  • * I also had some issues getting my new admin account to synch up with the previous posts Severe has made on the pre-uploaded version of wordpress, but that wasn’t too bad. What was frustrating was that my gravatars took a long time to enable – I’m still not entirely sure what I did to get them to work, but they should be showing up now. Other people’s gravatars worked – just not mine.

So, I’m making progress, but it feels dreadfully slow. I still need to figure out how to customize this theme enough (or get a new one that looks similar as the black/red scheme is really what I’m looking for). Then I’ll need to tweak it as I remember some of the previous widgets I had not being snazzy enough. Eventually I think I’ll be able to get this all under control so the website feels coherent – and then the real work will begin. I’ve yet to start fucking around w. pages and categories vs. standard blog posts. And this is all just the groundwork – after that’s done I’m going to need to start putting together content and organizational pages. My previous goal was to launch officially sometime by the end of April – I have no freaking idea if that is achievable at this point, but will keep it as my goal.

However, it’s not all in vain – I have learned a bunch about FTP and page editing, and while it’s not especially hard or snazzy, I did configure this on severebass.com/blog all by myself. I really appreciate how much free support is out there for folks such as myself – I just wish it didn’t make me feel so freaking stupid sometimes.

BUT, first things first – I’m going to get a page or two set up (probably cursory pages for now) so you can SEND ME MONEY! I’m also getting more comfortable w. my laptop – it’s minor stuff, but I’m using my mouse, monitor, and keyboard from my desktop through my laptop and I forget my computer is even running sometimes because the fan noise thats associated w. my desktop isn’t there!

EDIT Now I have a new level of frustration as my ul and il wickets aren’t working – but it shows up correct in my visual preview. WHAT GIVES? (I’m guessing it has something to do w. my theme….grrr)

For posterity’s sake, here’s what my homepage looks like right now – again, I can’t wait to come back and laugh at how far I’ve come someday…..

Let's hope I'm eventually embarrassed by this

Patience in the Face of Ambition
February 12th, 2010

I’m trying to do this website thing on my own as much as possible. While that sounds GREAT in theory, there’s just one problem:


Well, that’s not entirely true. I do know a little something about websites. In the early 2000’s I was the administrator for a now-mostly-defunct online community (this was in the days of Friendster folks – cutting edge stuff). I didn’t actually program or design a damn thing, but I did get used to the behind-the-scenes tools that we had to use to flex our Admin-muscles. And I also got to sit in on a lot of brainstorming between two people who could have done this for a living (and sort of did for a while).

In addition to that, I like computers. I work with them. In my job, I’ve been forced (not exactly against my will) to learn html. I know, hmtl is some archaic bullshit and I’m 5 years behind after just starting, but it’s something. I update some how-to guides using old-school systems. I also check emails that go out to thousands of people for technical and logistical errors and then fix them. My job isn’t sexy, but I do take some pride in it and sometimes get to be close to some pretty cool stuff.

I consider myself a pretty smart dude – this is working against me at the moment. Because I consider myself a pretty smart dude, I kind of expected to pick up this whole “running a personal/professional website” thing pretty quickly. I figured once I made some basic decisions & spent some money I would be controlling my online presence. Big surprise (really it shouldn’t have been) that I am finding things are not quite as simple as I would hope.

Part of this is because I want to do it all – NOW! You hear me? I want a site already set up for me to update w. all my music available for download and some videos and a way to pay me if you like what you get. I want my blog up and running and followed so I can start connecting with people across the country/world/universe and collaborating. I want to have complete control over the sites that have severebass in them across all the social networking platforms – and now. NOW! (or at least you know, like by the weekend, right?)

Instead, I’m reading the beginner how-to guides while I talk to myself. “Where is that?” I say. “What do you mean?” I question the writer of the guide I’m reading. “That’s not how it looks!” I insist to a similar writer. “I don’t understand” I complain to the tech support departments of the places I host and bought my domains from. “Why doesn’t my screen do that?” I plead w the words on a screen.

Some of the programs I’m working on utilizing include:
WordPress (recommended by everyone and their dog)
FileZilla (recommended by my hosting provider)
Open Office
Virtual Box (and then linux – recommended by my brother after I broke my laptop w. a dual-boot install of ubuntu)

Perhaps it would be easier if I just picked one and stuck with it? NO! That is not the kind of thinking I’m promoting here. My theory is that it’s all connected – while it’s intimidating as all hell (did I mention I recently bought a laptop too?) at the moment, I have to keep plugging along. Learning a bit here and there is probably the only technique that will work right now. I don’t have the flow or the influence (or even the product) to be able to justify someone sinking free-time into a project like this, and I don’t exactly want to. Yes, I’d rather have a designer put together a kickass logo for me to put up everywhere, and then have a web person set up the back-end of a site for me that I can use their pre-installed and tweaked version of wordpress to kick ass with. But in the end, I’m going to be at their mercy. In the long run, I want to be able to do MOST of this myself. It will only be after I’ve learned that I can really decide where it is what I do is good enough, where I need to learn more, and when to just call in the professionals.

The good news with this is that I KNOW some professionals already….so if/when I get to that, the answer is easy. But for now, it’s time for tough answers I learned the hard way – then re-learned – and then finally start applying. Who needs to go back to grad school if I can find ways to frustrate myself w. my lack of knowledge ALL BY MYSELF?

The more I think about what I want severebass.com to look/feel/sound/smell like this time next year, the more intimidated, scared, swamped and EXCITED I get. I have great ideas – please make sure to check them out once I get them out of my head.

  • Tha OBAR!

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