Jee-zuz, I make a lousy navel-gazing online narcissist. Which ain’t a bad thing.
I have never experienced the kind of interest and appreciation for my work that I’ve been getting in the last several months. Loads of gigs, both solo and otherwise, which at worst have been very decent, and at best have been serious breakthroughs for me, both in terms of how satisfied I’ve been with the shows and how strong of a reaction I’ve gotten from the people there.
I don’t mean this in an arrogant way at all – more a sense of fairly severe disbelief at having plugged away at this stuff for many, many years, in the face of a lot of indifference and disinterest, and suddenly finding that people seem to dig what I’ve been up to very seriously.
It’s sort of like growing your hair – you see it every day, so it’s hard to gauge how much it’s changing, until people who haven’t seen you in years suddenly comment on how long your hair is. Odd analogy for sure, but this is coming from a guy who used to have hair down to nearly his waist.
(Did I mid-spell “narcissist” in the first line?)
Highlights of the recent past:
– My first full-length article in the national press, which hit the newsstands in September. It was particularly gratifying for the fact that the magazine it appeared in (Electronic Musician) was one that my father had a subscription to; Leopold used to leave copies of the magazine for me to look at when I’d visit him in Iowa, so personally it was quite a thing to get covered in the same pages my dear Dad used to read, and set aside for me. (The article is now archived online, and can be read here.)
A further source of satisfaction came from the article’s focus on the engineering side of making Normalized. The mixing and mastering of that record was, quite simply, one of the single most arduous and grueling tasks I’ve ever undertaken in my life. So winning my first article in the national media in recognition of that particular angle is a gratifying vindication of the untold hours spent sculpting the record into its final form.
– I played a private party, organized by writer/singer/songwriter/thinker extroardinaire Alanna Lin, in mid-October. Over the last three years, I’ve done solo gigs in bars, art galleries, rock clubs, outdoor shopping malls, dinner clubs, and coffee shops. One thing I had never done, however, was play a gig in a DJ-type of role, literally filling the function that a DJ would occupy at a live music event, with just my guitar and Echoplex. This was precisely the angle Ms. Lin invited me to fill, which I accepted with equal parts excitement and terror.
I had doubts about how well the show was going until I mustered the courage to look up for the first time in my set, and saw a couple of lovely women in the crowd dancing to my music. Holy cow. I’d been waiting about two and a half years to see that happen, and all I know is that it had better not be another two and a half years before I see it again.
– A very nice fellow from Switzerland named Bernhard Wagner was in town about a week after the “dancing girls” show. Apparently Bernhard is putting together an Echoplex documentary, with interview and performance footage from people like Kim Flint, Matthias Grob, Andy Butler, Eric Obermuhlner, and others. Bernhard had been in Santa Cruz to participate in the four-day Looping Festival in the Bay Area, and had asked to spend some time interviewing me here in LA shortly thereafter.
For some strange reason, Bernhard seems to think I know what I’m talking about, and in spite of my best efforts to demonstrate my complete and total ignorance about practically everything, he seemed to leave LA quite satisfied with our work. To his credit, he asked a lot of good questions, and it was a nice change to get to talk to someone about the finer points of the looping world face to face. It was also surprisingly insightful to spend some time showing him around Los Angeles; seeing the place vicariously through the eyes of a newcomer helped to give me a different perspective on (and, dare I say it, a newfound appreciation for) the place. Bernhard’s a top fellow – and if he’s able to splice footage of my playing and talking into something that makes me look like I know what I’m doing, then he’s a miracle-worker as well.
– Many very fine gig memories: the very warm and friendly solo house concert hosted by my friends Mark and Emma, which felt a bit like a homecoming, attended as it was by numerous friends from my college days who literally hadn’t seen me play live in at least half a decade… a surprisingly subdued and meditative set at CryptoNight, one of LA’s main bastions of improvised music… a guerilla set at an Echo Park coffee shop to a crowd of strangers, which resulted in many mailing list sign-ups, some CD sales, and a request for “Axel F” from the “Beverly Hills Cop” soundtrack – which I ended up playing, as I had actually spent weeks learning “Axel F” on piano, over half my life ago, before I even started playing guitar… and many new listeners won over at gigs all over the place, both male and female, both trained musicians and “regular” music fans.
If it sounds like I’m resting on my laurels and basking in self-adulation, it’s not the case. I’m constantly thinking about the next steps to take, how to use all of this as a springboard for taking things further, how to improve things on a strictly musical level… the more I learn, the more I realize I have yet to learn. But I’ve also realized that I’ve learned quite a bit so far, and it seems like I’m starting to see tangible results from a very long and challenging process.
Stay tuned – things are going to get a lot more interesting around here…