No October

As usual, it’s been ages since my last “news-y” type of update, so here’s the scoop from the land of Prince and Honey(dogs).

Sessions: lots of them sprinkled around, including a fun couple of days at the Pearl with Jason Shannon; two days in Duluth with Caitlin Robertson at the beautiful Sacred Heart Music Center, which is a church with a recording studio inside; and a fun, fast day at Brent Sigmeth’s studio in Cannon Falls with Brent’s two awesome dogs and the Minor Planets.

Gigs: after being gone for most of last summer with the Alternate Routes it’s been a nice change of pace to stick close to home. One of the highlights of the last month or so has been being introduced to Wits, which I guess is sort of the younger, hipster version of Prairie Home Companion. I’ve gotten to play a few shows there as a guest drummer, backing Aimee Mann (!) and Ted Leo. The show is a lot of fun to watch and the house band — John Munson, Steve Roehm, Janey Winterbauer, and Joe Savage — is crazy awesome, so hopefully there’ll be a little more of that.

This is probably also a good time to mention my friend Dave Olson…his new album No October was released last month and has been getting great reviews. I can’t say enough good things about the cast and crew on this record, and there were some pretty incredible moments working on it. I had fairly good intentions of writing a lot more about it, but I think it’s just best if you check out his website and listen for yourself.

Adam Yauch, man.

The first album I ever bought was License to Ill, on cassette, at a Wal-Mart in Abbeville, Louisiana. I was in the fourth grade. My mom asked if there were any dirty words on it and I said I didn’t think so. I played it on the living room stereo that night while we ate dinner. My mom said it was ugly music. I was hooked.

I brought a boombox to school the next day and played this record for the next five years.

I always wanted to be MCA. He was the coolest, the most assured. MCA was the one who got me interested in music; he introduced me to the bass guitar and to hip-hop and to New York. I always daydreamed I would move to New York and run into him, buy him a cup of coffee and casually ask him how cool it must have been to recreate Pink Floyd’s “Live at Pompeii” for their Gratitude video.

Adam Yauch and the Beastie Boys have been with me my entire life. They were hip hop when I was introduced to hip-hop; punk when I was introduced to punk. Losing MCA hurts.

Paul Manske, 1954–2012

The first gig I played after moving to Minneapolis was with a band called 40 Watt Bulb, which at the time had a somewhat temporary lineup that included Paul Manske on bass guitar. The club (which should remain nameless, but it was the 400 Bar) had tried to stiff the band on both our time slot and our pay, and in both cases it was Paul who somehow talked someone into letting us play and get paid. So his introduction to me was as the man who Made Things Happen, but it was twenty minutes later, onstage with him, that he was reintroduced as Paul the Musician.

Paul had this way of playing a bass that made other musicians sound good. When you gave him the right kind of music, he played with a pocket so deep and a groove so wide it was impossible not to fall right in. More than once, my playing has been complimented and I’ve had to sheepishly admit that it wasn’t me holding things down, but Paul, whose bass lines telegraphed to me the appropriate things to play and I just followed instructions.

I didn’t know Paul as well as others who have lived here longer, but I’ve known him long enough to say he held music and friends in deep reverence — his home was constantly filled with both — he treated each with respect and admiration, and I’m going to miss him.

I found this today while doing some rough mixes on what might be a new Backyard Committee album some day. Whoooooooooo!

Here are a few snapshots from our mix session last month with Dave Olson and Teddy Morgan. We had a great time at Barrio East in Nashville, and we’re really happy with how things are sounding.

Well Said, Bonny Vair

I’ve had some swirling thoughts about the VMAs and it wasn’t until I read this that I figured out what I’ve been thinking.

but can i just ask, the reader, us, we … as non-rhetorically as possible: don’t we seem dumb? didn’t MTV lose the fight against themselves? Didn’t Rock’n’Roll STOP? Why are the lights so bright? isn’t our talent as artists enough? Why do we try SO hard?

It seemed, years ago, that MTV was a curator of sorts for the arts…nowadays it seems like it’s a manufacturer.

These are the isolated drum tracks from “Lollapalooza,” one of my favorite songs from Lately. It was such a fun, lazy song to track and this style of drumming is something I have a lot of fun with.

The shakers that come in somewhere around the solo are these little 1” rawhide maracas, which should give you an idea of how much ridiculously awesome compression there is — I’m barely touching the drums and they sound huge.

Sitting on a throne backstage.

Apologies to Solomon Burke, but when there is a throne in your dressing room you sit in it and take a photo. Those are the rules.

Here’s an intro (no really, it’s called Intro) to the Alternate Routes, the band I’ve been playing with lately (er, I played on their album Lately) and will be touring with for most of the summer. There are a crazy amount of dates ahead and hopefully we’ll be playing near you soon.

How the Music Industry is Killing Music

A recurring theme these days is, “musicians should give away their music for free, and make money through touring and selling merchandise.” But I have trouble with the idea that the music business is now going to be sustained primarily by things other than music itself:

This is the position in which our musicians now find themselves. They’re expected to multitask in order to succeed. Their time is now demanded in so many different realms that music is no longer their business. What we can increasingly expect is a conveyor belt of smug accountants living a pop star’s dream, performing aggressively marketed, lowest common denominator, unchallenging dross.

If musicians have to make money by selling t-shirts, where’s the incentive to record new, innovative music if your career is going to be a t-shirt designer? Is the idea of “make good music, ask fans to buy it” completely unrealistic these days?