Thursday, December 29, 2011

More Acoustic For The Folks

Rosewood & Koa

This is my other favorite piece, of my acoustic recordings.  Marcario Spanish guitar, and a Sonny D. Tenor Ukulele.

10 Strings, 10 Pedals, 3 Knees

This is me with my old ShoBud pedal steel.  I'm at the Cowboy Inn in Pearl City, Hawaii, around 1985.  I'll be talking about those days here soon.  They were the best days of my life.

Some Acoustic Music For The Folks


This is one of my two favorite acoustic instrumentals that I've done over the past 3 months.

"Welcome To The Family" He Says

Yes, that's what he said.  I played as a duo with a guy who has a green face - the envy shade of green (a whole 'nother subject).  It's summertime, and we're playing out on the patio of a nice restaurant - "local style" food from Hawaii.  This place does very well, good location, good food, nice atmosphere - especially on the patio.  After playing there for a few weeks, I ask the owner what will happen when things slow down when it gets colder.  He says, "Oh, we put a tent up out here, and it's business as usual, your jobs are fine, don't worry about it".  So, the kid with the rifle arm and the goofy smile (that's my little league baseball reference) thinks everything is fine.  Well, as I excpected, things slowed down some when it got cold.  Keep in mind there are two other rooms inside, people are mostly settling in there, even though there's a nice tent on the patio - a few less people in the place, but nobody's hurting by any means.  About two weeks into the slowing down time, the other owner calls me, one hour before starting time - as I'm arriving at the place, to tell me "It's slow today, we don't need music".  So, I turn around and go home.  Next work day, same thing, this goes on for a couple of weeks before I call the other owner to ask if he's ok with this.  His answer, "We don't want to burn money, we're trying to save some cash here".  Now, I don't have such an entitlement attitude that I think businesses owe it to us to support us, to keep us working - especially if it means keeping me will drive them out of business, or even into the poorhouse.  But damn, "Welcome to the family", "...your jobs are fine, don't worry about it", and now that their profits aren't quite $2000 a day, they want to cut corners at my expense - typical of business owners.  And, this is smack in the middle of the Christmas season.  All through the 80s and 90s, I had full bands - not once did I consider calling the other guitar player and saying, "Oh, this place we play tonight, they're not paying us much, I don't want to burn money, I need to save some cash here, how 'bout you stay home tonight".  That's not to mention, I didn't have the cushion of millions (literally) in my bank account, and nice daily profits to sit on, I was right down there in the dirt with the rest of 'em.  Yeah I know, "business is business", and all that happy horse shit that the greedy and the inhumane like to hide behind.  I could have used clever cliches such as that to pad my wallet many times in my own life, but some of us are just not capable of doing such things.  So, once again, I sit here in disbelief, wondering how the human race arrived at this.  I also wonder how, with all of our technology, all of the (phony) preachings, and pretentious rantings, how humanity is getting worse, not better.

Well, I go on, continuing to work towards getting to a place where I won't depend on greedy business owners and not have to be in situations with the ever pathetic "Everybody look at me" guys for my living.  I had that once, and it went away.  It's a nice feeling to know that you don't have to put up with people's B.S., maybe someday I'll have that again.  In the meantime...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Recording The Electric Guitar

This is my home made Telecaster.  Maple body, koa top, Fralin bridge pickup, Gibson Burstbucker neck pickup.  Maple neck, rosewood fingerboard.  Body and neck are Warmoth.  Fender Frontman 25, some people hate this amp, but I love it.  The mic is a Rode NTK 1a.

Better Don't

Started to record a blues-ish piece today, which included some distortion on the guitar.  For some reason, when I guitar is distorted, it sounds louder than it actually is - the decibels might be 60 or 70, but it will sound more like 100.  I have this tiny Fender amp - 25 watts and a 10" speaker in it - perfect for recording, but, where there are neighbors, there are angry people.  So, I put the bluesy piece on hold for now - until I can get into a better situation, where there are not neighbors right there where they might hear me.  Funny, there can be leaf blowers, lawm mowers, and wood chippers that will be going for hours on end, and nobody will even give it a second thought, but if they even hear a guitar, or even worse, a set of drums (I only did drums inside once - because they are, after all, a little loud), you will have the cops or the management at your door within minutes.  Now that I think about it, I've had the cops and/or management called on me more times than I can begin to count - one time, if was for me playing an ukulele, another for having my 5 watt portable radio on, another for having my guitar amp as low as it would go, along with many other similar situations - and these were all in the middle of the day.  I remember when I lived in San Diego, there was a kid across the alley, I heard him a couple of times playing a guitar, it wasn't loud by any means, but I could hear it when I was walking to my car.  I only heard him a couple of times, which likely means that somebody shut him down.  These people are the same ones who will break out their lawn mower or leaf blower at 7 in the morning.  Ah well, I do what I can, live my life, and hope that such people choke on their own B.S. :D .

Actually, I've been at this recording thing (all acoustic, except for the last two pieces) just about every day for three months, maybe it's time for a little break.  Time for coffee.  For a while there, I was drinking a cup a day, but I seem to have lost my taste for the stuff, so, I'll go have my once a week cup of coffee.

Life With The Banjo

Back in 1978, before I started playing professionally, I decided to learn to play the 5 string banjo.  I sent away for one through a friend of a friend, it was a Gold Star, paid $900 for it.  I guess it was maybe a year later when... it got stolen.  So, sent away for another one - same guy, same banjo, but this one was $50 more - it was ok, I was happy with it.  Well, about a month or so later, I got the old one back - found it in a pawn shop - had to buy it back for $100, but again, it was ok.  Sold the new one, so I was back where I started.  I took a couple of lessons, just to get the basics, then kinda figured the rest out on my own.  Speed and clarity seemed to come easy, and I played it every night with my band - about 3 or 4 times a night, 7 nights a week.  In about 92, I started playing Hawaiian music, there was no need for the banjo, so it stayed in its case for years.  Backtracking a little, the thing kept getting the headstock snapped - first a girl came on the stage and got her foot caught in the strap - brought it down on its face, and caarraaack - and that was only the beginning - I would get it repaired, then anywhere from a week to a few months later, something would happen and it would snap again.  Took it to Nashville with me in 91, baggage handlers broke that and everything else I had on that plane.  Had it shipped to England through the military - same - broke that and everything else I had shipped there.  All in all, the thing got broken a good twenty times or so.  I finally decided to sell it after getting it repaired that last time - I usually don't believe in jinxes and other cosmic stuff like that, but damn.  Anyway, I got on the internet and looked around for a banjo.  After months of looking at all the stupidly expensive Gibsons, Stellings, and Deerings, and a few others, and being bored with all of them, I finally found a Wildwood - this was in 2002.  It was beautiful, with all that figured maple, beautiful inlay, and the guy who was dealing in them swore by 'em - he even had a video of him playing one, and I thought it sounded great.  I ordered one, $1600, including the 5th string capo, a nice strap, and a nice hardshell case.  It looked, played, and sounded every bit as good as I thought it would, if not better.  The dealer said three weeks, ended up taking three months, but it finally arrived, and wouldn't you know it, the damn headstock had been snapped - in the exact same place as my Gold Star - couldn't believe my eyes.  I tried contacting the dealer, who put me off for about six months. At that point, I repaired it myself, and amazingly, it has held up.  I guess it might have something to do with the fact that I wasn't taking it to live shows anymore, and wasn't playing it much at home either - in fact, I hardly played it at all.  Well, about two years ago, after not playing a banjo (except for occasionally playing with it for a few minutes at a time) for about 20 years, I decided to try to sharpen up my banjo playing, so I started to spend some time with it.  I noticed that my playing was very sloppy, and my speed was completely gone.  After a few months, I got up to a fair speed, but was still sloppy, even after hours and hours and hours for months - it didn't take me near that long when I first started playing back in 79.  I've spend countless hours with it over the past two years, and over the past few months, my playing has gotten worse, not better.  It's to the point where I can't even call me a banjo player.  I managed to make a video of me playing it about a year ago, my playing was almost ok at that time, but today, I can't even get close to what I did even then.  I'm sure it's some kind of mental block - seems I have a few of those these days.  I finally decided to give it a rest, try to get my head together before I pick the thing up again.  I continue with my recording projects, but no banjo.  Just in case anybody might want to see my little video, it's here:

I wonder if my banjo misses me.

Monday, December 26, 2011

My First Guitar And Amp

13 years old, dad rents an office space somewhere downtown and finds an old Sears Silvertone 12 electric guitar and Sears Silvertone amp.  The guitar has 6 strings on it, and they are so high off the fingerboard that it's unplayable - especially for a kid who has only spent a few months playing the ukulele.  Didn't know it was possible to adjust the neck and string action, so I thought it had to go.  I also don't know how to turn the amp on, much less what all those knobs are for.  I call a friend, he calls his big brother, shows me how to use it.  The amp was one of those piggy back things - probably 60 tube watts or so, and a 212 cabinet.  Both the guitar and amp are ratty looking.  Well, being that they weren't shiny and new, I did some trading around, and ended up with a Watkins Rapier guitar and some awful electronics store guitar amp - probably 30 watts and 3 10s - I would have been so much better off with the Silvertone, but well, I was an American kid who thought that shiny and new was better than old and worn - all that western society crap, ya know.

I used that shiny red Watkins thing and the no name amp for a couple of years - playing at 8th and 9th grade school dances - till the other guys in the band got sick of me, my uncool fingers, and my Creedence :D .  I also played a few little drinking parties in Palolo Housing (the projects) with a guitar playing uncle who took a liking to me for some reason - I didn't drink, I just played.  I seemed to get banished to my room a lot of the time by my parents back then - mostly for things I didn't do, but it got me to spend a lot of time with my guitar.  I ruined most of my Creedence records, and my little portable record player, learning one note at a time.  I always waited till everybody was out of the house before I plugged in a played, but step mom said I was a showoff.

So, that was my initial learning time.  When I was about 17, after my summer job that year, I went to Harry's Music Store and bought a classical guitar - it was their house brand, Kahala, and I paid $89.95 for it.  Carried that thing around with me to San Diego, Georgia, back to Hawaii, L.A., and back to San Diego again.  I finally had to get rid of it because the bridge had torn off of it, I bolted it back on with 3/8" nuts & bolts, then it became unplayable.  Didn't touch a guitar again until about 1979 - which started a whole 'nother musical era for me.

More later.

Stepping Out Of My Normal Place

About three months ago, I decided to record some pieces (instrumentals) to try to pitch to film, TV, and ad people.  So, I went for my classical guitar and ukulele and started playing.  I can't say there is a definite style of the music I'm composing and recording, it's just simple chord patterns with whatever I feel like playing on the classical or the uke, or both.  For the rhythm sections, I use steel string acoustic guitars, my little Dean electric bass (which I try to get as much of non invasive, smooth sound as I can, and it's working), cajon, ipu, toere, Peruvian maracas, a cookie can, stones, and bongos.  So far, I've finished about 16 pieces.  A second to explain "pieces".  A "song" contains lyrics and music, instrumentals are instrumentals, and are also referred to as "compositions", or "musical pieces".  I'll call them pieces - because it's simple, to the point, and unhip - I detest "hip".

Of the kinds of musics I've played, what I'm doing now is away from it all.  I guess I kinda incorporate certain licks that I used before, but mostly I found me coming up with new ways of playing.  Of all the kinds of guitars I've played over the years, I spent the least time with a classical, and same goes for the ukulele.  Maybe that's part of the charm (for me) with this music that I'm doing now - the fact that this music sounds nothing like anything I ever did before.

Just in case anybody is reading this, and you want to hear this music, you can find it here:

Talk to you later, little diary.

Starting In The Middle

This is the first day I'm talking here.  It's been almost 32 years of playing music for a living - it's been a hard living, but a living.  Like anything else, there have been ups, and there have been downs.  I started a recording project about three months ago, I really have nobody to talk about this stuff to, so I'll talk to the universe from here.