Friday, September 21, 2007

Well, I Did It...


I'll still update this with the more personal stuff, but check it out.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Alone Or In Pairs

Recording the Hobbyhorse album Alone Or In Pairs will resume Friday, 9/21. I'll be leaving Bloomington sometime Thursday night for Seymour, all my equipment in tow. I really don't know what time I'll be leaving or when I'll get in, but who cares?

What matters is that I'll be spending my time Friday while everyone is at school or work recording drum parts for the following tracks:

+ "Fuzzy Zoeller House Party '98"
+ "What's The Difference?"
+ "You Know Why"
+ "She's Not Sorry"
+ "It's Not Over"
+ "Nothing"

Once I'm done, whether it's 1 in the afternoon or 8 in the evening, it's back to Bloomington to enjoy the weekend.


PS - Kate and I are's hard to really explain, but there's just a lot of good chemistry going on between us.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Adventures In Drumming, Part Three

So, why did it take me 15 takes in order to nail "You Know The Drill?"

Simple: it is going onto the Hobbyhorse album Alone Or In Pairs.

This is great news, that I can record drum tracks onto Eric's demos. Anyway, I'll probably take advantage of my schedule and leave for Seymour Thursday night, record ALL DAY LONG on Friday while everyone is at work or school, then go back to Bloomington that night, still having the rest of my weekend free.

Now, let me state for the record that I (at least used to) revile drum solos. I just think it's ostentatious to have everyone else in the band stop while you bang around and say, "LOOK AT MEEEEE!!!!!!!!"

Anyway, I was so insistent about recording the songs I played with note-for-note that I felt I needed to record just me playing.

When I listened to it, I was stunned. I forgot it was me playing. It was GOOD.

So, I'm finding myself now rethinking my opinion on the act of drum solos. There can be a place for them, just none of that 15 minute "Toad" shit like on Wheels Of Fire by The Cream.

Tomorrow is my first exam in the Frank Zappa class. Should be a-okay.

Oh, yeah - Kate and I are a couple. I'm generally not an emoticon kinda guy, especially on something like this, but...


It would probably mean more if I knew how to expand the font size.

Still, we're both pretty damn happy about it.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Adventures In Drumming, Part Two

Setting up was a lot easier that I'd thought. A LOT easier.

I got in yesterday at 3. In that time, I set up my equipment, ran an errand with Mom and Dad, played with Lily, visited with Nick and Maddie and once he finally got home Eric, calibrated the microphone, practiced a bit, then started recording at 7:15. At around 8:15 the first track was done. By 9 I had three songs done:

+ Top Of The Pops (3 takes)
+ Pinball Wizard (2 takes)
+ You Know The Drill (15 takes - I'll explain why next time. More bitchen news.)

Considering how quickly and smoothly recording went last night, I really don't foresee any problems tomorrow as I lay down some more tracks.

I think "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" is out. It's a great song, but there's about ninety seconds in the song where I literally do nothing. No worries, I'm sure Zappa has a few other complex pieces out there...

We'll see. But first, I need some coffee. Then a shower.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Adventures In Drumming, Part One

A guest sat in on the Zappa class yesterday. Professor Hollinden introduced him to us as his friend Simon. He mentioned that Simon was currently working for Yoko Ono, but in the past has worked with Paul McCartney and FZ.

In that instant, the name popped into my head: this was Simon Prentis, who wrote the liner notes to the 'Lather' boxed set in 1996. I approached him after class, talking to him about my love of Yoko's work as an artist, filmmaker, and musician. Then we talked a bit about working with Frank, and then I asked, "Are you Simon Prentis?"

"Yeh," he said in his British accent.

We talked a little more, but we both had places to be. Not to sound arrogant at all, but I think I caught him off-guard by knowing who he was. Personally, I don't blame him. If some round-headed kid came up to me on another continent and said, "Hey! You're Alex DiBlasi, right? I saw your video on YouTube..." I'd be more than just a little surprised.

As I was leaving the music building, I bumped into one of my classmates from the Zappa class. We started talking about meeting Jimmy Carl Black, which led to me mentioning that I really liked him since I too am I drummer. Turns out this guy, Joel, is in a band. A band that is losing their drummer in January, as he is shipping off to Iraq. Funny how this happens, but I'm turning 21 in January, and while I know many bars let you play with a group if you're underaged, it just has a nice "Huh, whaddya know" quality about it.

I told him I'd be willing to audition if he wanted. He seemed excited, so I take this as a very good sign. However, it sparked an old flame in my head of being a professional musician - as discussed in the below entry (I'm really not intending to have this bizarre narrative flow, but it's neat) - and I have come to an inevitable decision:

I'm going to record my audition this weekend while I'm at home. This has been something I have kicked around off and on since I joined The Heliocentrics back in September of 2006, and probably before, it's just that also piqued my interest in doing this.


The actual process is long and work-intensive. Not boring, though. At least not in my mind. One tripping block Eric and I ran into with Hobbyhorse was that we had NO IDEA how to record my drums. Recording them live seemed tricky, especially in that god-awful house we were in all summer. Still, I was pleased to find our 11-year old Packard Bell computer mike that came with a Windows 95 computer. I was even more pleased to see it worked on my 2005 Hewlett-Packard Windows XP computer. It's a little sensitive in that just TALKING INTO IT can send the audio into the red.

Still, I'd rather deal with a mike that was TOO good rather than deal with a shitty pickup (Eric had some wiring problems with his guitar this summer as well as his amp cables), as compensating for that can really only be solved by buying more stuff. Buying requires money, something in short supply for a 20-year old college student.

To combat the problem of this oversensitive microphone, I'll make all the necessary sonic adjustments for the mic input on GoldWave. (Did I mention I am dismantling my desktop computer to BRING IT HOME and make this recording?) Testing this out would require striking each drum and cymbal, then playing a few bars of a beat - I need to make sure the hi-hat, the quietest part of my kit, is audible while seeing to it that the ride cymbal and snare drum, easily the LOUDEST parts, aren't peaking the audio.

Ensuring a balance of sound means that the microphone (which has a rather short cable) is mounted in an apt location. Putting it on the floor may be too resonant and bass-heavy, never mind the chance of it picking up the SEISMIC ACTIVITY created by my incessant pounding. It will be on the bed, which might mean that the computer has to be set up on my bed. This will have to be done as carefully and delicately as possible.

The next issue I have considered is the resonance in my room. Being an old house, I really don't know what the walls in my house are made of, other than that the sound BOUNCES AROUND like crazy. It is only after playing in my room that I get a few days of minor tinnitus. I know it is because of the resonance in my room. Using duct tape and as many blankets, towels, and quilts I can find, every possible square inch of my walls (and the windows, too) will be covered. Who needs sunlight, anyway?


I have come up with a list of songs that I think can showcase my balance as both an uber-dextrous drummer and as a human rhythm machine:
"Another Girl" - The Beatles
"Strawberry Fields Forever" - The Beatles
"It's Only A Northern Song" - The Beatles
"Big Eyes" - Cheap Trick
"World Of Pain" - Cream
"Right Here In My Arms" - HIM
"Rip Out The Wings Of A Butterfly" - HIM
"You Know The Drill (Original Version)" - Hobbyhorse
"Two Minutes To Midnight" - Iron Maiden
"Top Of The Pops" - The Kinks
"I'm In Disgrace" - The Kinks
"Rock Is Dead" - Marilyn Manson
"Brown Shoes Don't Make It" - The Mothers Of Invention
"It Don't Come Easy" - Ringo Starr
"The Hardest Button To Button" - The White Stripes
"The Amazing Journey/Sparks ('Live At Leeds' Version)" - The Who
"Pinball Wizard ('The Kids Are Alright' Version)" - The Who
"Peaches En Regalia" - Frank Zappa

It might be too much for one CD. And that's okay, I can pick and choose.

Still, I think actually having recordings of myself makes for a resume of sorts.

I'm going to mail CD's of my playing to record labels all over, be it LA, New York, Nashville, or New Albany. More than anything else, I'm doing this to finally shut up, get off of my ass, and go for it.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Notes On The Perfect Day

I had a perfect day yesterday. Seeing Eric and having him up here in Bloomington (and I'm sure this sounds corny) felt like old times. I realized how much I missed him this school year. It was just odd to be walking around town with him like we constantly did all summer long, going to Landlocked Music and so on. That made the day great right there.

Meeting Jimmy Carl Black was a huge deal for me, both as a lover of Zappa's music and as a drummer. His lecture was good, he was very funny and honest about his experiences. Excuse my word choice, but he was frank about Frank. He didn't try to sugar-coat anything, and at one point referred to Gail as "that wench." We got to hear about how The Mothers Of Invention would rehearse eight hours a day, EVERY DAY, and that their repertoire consisted of at least 300 songs. Having heard live bootlegs (and the few officially released materials from that era by the Zappa Family Trust aka Gail) from that era I can definitely verify that. And you know what? They would play it well.

A major griping point I have with Barry Miles' book on Zappa (and even the average Zappa apologist's opinion on this matter, it's just easier to single Miles out because he's a complete asshole) is that he is quick to say The Mothers Of Invention (the line-ups from 1970 onwards were known only as "The Mothers," and in their final stretch it was "Zappa & The Mothers") were not a technically proficient band, and easily his weakest in terms of musicianship. This is simply not true. Again, all you have to do is listen to the material and know these guys were good. JCB was quick to admit he was raised on blues music, and that The MOI had started as a white R&B combo. By their career's end in 1969 they had evolved into a band that incorporated trained musicians (Bunk Gardner, Don Preston, Ian Underwood, Art Tripp) while still having the blues guys (JCB on drums, Roy Estrada on bass) as the rhythm section. It made for a good combination.

I could identify with JCB completely on reading music. He can't at all, and doesn't want to learn now at age 69. (By the way, he said he was happy to have made it to that age, as it is his favorite number. It made for a good icebreaker.) Personally, I can barely read music. I can look at a melodic part and play it on the piano, but I prefer playing it by ear. That's how I learned to play. I remember seeing a transcription of The MOI song "King Kong" in the liner notes to 'Uncle Meat' and being baffled that the entire thing was in 3/8 time. I would never have guessed. But I could play it. Anyway, I take issue with anyone (especially a high-horse riding rock critic like Miles) who thinks ability to read music is what makes a good musician. And yeah, I'm going to go out and say I'm a good drummer.

Another thing the average Zappologist (which I guess is an actual term) doesn't seem to take into account is the camaraderie in the original band compared to later ensembles. Roy, JCB, Ray Collins, Jim Sherwood...all those guys were Zappa's friends. JCB was quick to say that, and that later bands were just "hired guns." As extreme as that's true. I thought about that after he said it, and I realized he was right. Knowing how to read music was a requirement for all future line-ups, for one, and he constantly recruited conservatory-trained experts. And it shows. The bands he had in the 1980's were almost too good. The songs were done without room to breathe. Most importantly though, the original Mothers had a sense of humor. Later bands, as JCB said, as much as they tried were simply not funny.

I don't know his music at all (though I have a feeling I could spot it from a mile away), but JCB seemed to have better things to say about Captain Beefheart, as Eric had predicted would happen. They worked together in 1975, and all I can say is Beefheart sounds nuts.

Someone asked him what his favorite and least favorite Zappa albums were. It's weird to say this - well, maybe not really since I've mentioned this in the below entry - but they're the same album: 'Cruising With Ruben & The Jets'. Guess which version is his favorite and which version is his least favorite...

This seemed to be a hairy issue with him some 23 years later. He argued that if Frank felt it was so necessary to redo the bass and drums, why use Art Barrow and Chad Wackerman as respective replacements for Roy and JCB instead of just using the original guys? As he mused to us, "Those guys were in diapers when we did it originally, man!" Later, he said, "He paid Chad Wackerman $10,000. I had a weekly salary of $250. Hell, I would've re-done my playing for $10,000!" Then, with a smile, he added, "I woulda done it for five thousand!"

I've read this quote several times, but now I can actually say that I saw and heard the man say it: "Frank said to us, 'Let me take charge of the band. I'll make you guys rich and famous.' *Pause* Well, that second half was true!"

I never said Frank Zappa was perfect. That would be Gail's doing.

Also, yesterday saw a 3/4's reunion of The Heliocentrics. It was weird...but no bad blood between any of us, so that's cool. If they're starving for a drummer, who knows...I just know I better get paid this time around.

After the lecture, Eric and I decided to approach him for his autograph. I was seriously starstruck. Never mind that his playing was influential to me, his line "Hi, boys 'n girls, I'm Jimmy Carl Black 'n I'm the Indian of the group!" from the intro to 'We're Only In It For The Money' stood out to me as being both bizarrely funny and the first introduction to any of the hundreds of musicians Zappa played with. Handing him my copy of 'WOIIFTM' and a Sharpie, I said, "This was the first Zappa album I ever owned, and it's still my favorite. Your playing made me want to be a better drummer."

With a twinkle in his eye, he said, "Oh, you're a drummer?"


That's all that needed to be said. I was telling Kate and Eric this last night, but drummers aren't so much a tribe or a brotherhood so much as a species. Get two drummers together and before you know it we'll be picking nits out of the other's hair and eating them.

No, we're not that primal. Not since the Digital Age.

I thanked him. It's true, though. I was in a Beatlemania-like trance that all I could say was the truth. I didn't even bother trying to be cool, I just said what popped into my head. Playing with Kinks or Who CD's, fun as it may be, isn't particularly difficult. It's a physical workout, that's for sure, and I'll be the first to tell you that rock 'n roll is my religion. When I play with a Zappa album, though - and I do, I really do play with whole albums of his beginning to end - to quote "Harry, You're A Beast" from 'We're Only In It For The Money' - "It's not merely physical."
It's more than a spiritual experience, too, though that's always nice. It's mentally stimulating. I actually had to concentrate and think rather than be a wind-up monkey banging on the drums.

Approaching my playing that way, as you can imagine, crept its way into how I approached, say, 'Tommy' by The Who or 'Preservation' by The Kinks. It's all mixed together, now...and that wouldn't have happened otherwise.

I spent some quality time with Kate - who got to meet Eric and greet each other with "I've heard a lot about you!" - and I have to say, things are good. My best friend came to town - great! I met a pivotal figure in my musical career - awesome! I'm getting closer to someone who is smart, good-looking, sweet, has a good taste in movies, and is able to maintain a life independent of me (and feels the same about me - even the good-looking part) - well, that made my day perfect. I only get a couple truly perfect days a year.

The Zappa class today ought to be interesting. I don't think Hollinden knew I was a drummer. I know he's a musician, who knows, maybe he needs a drummer?

When it comes to my creativity with movies or writing or even my own body - I would never sell myself in those areas unless I was starving and it became my only option. (Though I don't know of many parts of the world where someone HAS to make a movie or write a story to put food on the table.) But when it comes to music, I've always had this dumb little fantasy of being a session player. I mean, being in a band would be great, except modern music pretty much sucks. And it sucks hard, with a few exceptions. Never mind that the guys with real talent (Condon, are you reading this? Because I'm talking about you and pretty much everyone from FCR...) are the ones recording in their spare time when they're not working for "the man" at some stupid 9 to 5 job. Those are the guys that in a perfect world would be running the music industry, not praying they'll get discovered by some accountant from Warner Brothers. (Another example of this would be my dad - great guitarist, but he has mouths to feed.)

It's that mentality alone that tells me as a drummer who isn't shitty and actually owns a drum kit that there is no shame in me playing with anyone. You can get a cheap-ass Behringer guitar from for just under $100. My drum set originally cost $620, throw in $250 for the extra rack toms, $120 for the ride cymbal, and $110 for the crash cymbal (and $15 for the drum rings, which make the drums sound studio-ready) and that's $1,115. Never mind I need to replace my hi-hat soon. It's not like buying a guitar where you can say you have it and you're trying to have to really want to be good at it. It's an investment.

Enough about my desire to whore myself out as a drummer. (Though I should put out a flyer or something saying I'm available if the price is right and the music is good. And if I can store my drums somewhere.)

But if you know anyone who's looking, send them my way.


Monday, September 10, 2007

It's Been Too Long, You Missed A Bitchin' Weekend And Some Interesting Turns Of Events

Shelley and I had the verbal exchange to end all verbal exchanges last night. I think it's finally over. I'd rather not go into details about it.

Kate's sick. I feel bad for her, so I opted to cheer her up by sending her a link to the Zappa Krappa photo. Hopefully she'll get a kick out of it.

Last weekend I was too busy with visitors. I apologize for not keeping up with this better. I will, though, I just had to get into the swing of things as the school year got started. Anthony and his girlfriend Kendall came up Saturday morning to see the Vonnegut exhibit, then we went out to lunch together; right as they were leaving Bill Bowser called to tell me he was 20 minutes away. Three minutes after my shower he was here. We had a great night, walking around town, watched a Woody Allen movie ('Take The Money And Run', which was much better on this second viewing), and hung out with a random-ass girl we met downtown. All in all, fun day. Sunday I slept in after Bill left in the morning. After I got up in the mid-afternoon, literally a half hour after I woke up, I get a call from Eric (my brother). He and Maddie were in town and wanted to see the room etc. So we hung out from around 4-ish until nighttime.

Another week of classes...Prof. Hollinden hooked me up with a vinyl rip of 'Cruising With Ruben & The Jets' by The Mothers of Invention, which is kind of a big deal. The only legit CD edition out there is this God-awful remix FZ did in 1984 in his DIGITAL RECORDING STUDIO. The overdubs were mainly bass and drums, though some tweezing of the tracks themselves (pitch, reverb) was done as well. I'm sure you can imagine, digital drums and what I call Seinfeld bass on what was originally a doo-wop album from 1968. (Could be worse: he did the same to his anti-hippie masterpiece 'We're Only In It For The Money', but fan hatred was so much that the original vinyl mix came out in 1995.) I got the CD from Hollinden on Tuesday, just three days after Eric (Condon) called to tell me he picked up the original vinyl.

Strange how these things work out. Never mind how strange (and annoying) it is that there are quite a few Erics in my life.

This weekend wasn't as thrilling as the last, not at all. But you know something? Given my Charlie Brown-esque stroke of luck in life, I've got a running bet with a friend that I'll get at least two offers for each night of this upcoming weekend...which I'll have to decline, as I'm going home. Mom's side is having the yearly family reunion on Saturday, and as she mentioned in an email there's a home football game at SHS so I can see the marching band if I want, and Sunday at church the choir is putting on a mini-concert with patriotic songs as the focus.

"Looks like I picked a bad day to stop smoking!"

No, but seriously - arrive late Friday, leave early Sunday. I know they enjoy seeing me and all. I enjoy seeing them, too. I was both a little shocked and happy earlier this week when I had a desire to call home just to catch up with what's been going on. It's just:
1.) I hate sports.
2.) Football is the worst.
3.) The marching band's bit is for all of 10 minutes out of however the Hell long the football games are.
4.) I don't like seeing people from high school and pretending I don't hate their guts. This includes faculty. It's mainly faculty, actually.
5.) Church. Come on.
6.) Patriotic songs.
7.) Patriotic songs in church. Because we're living in a country that wasn't founded by free-thinking proto-humanists, but by religious fundamentalists who used the Bible as their guide as they drafted their laws. They did this because all governments that function without the tenets of Judeo-Christian beliefs as the core are doomed to fall. (Are you picking up on the sarcasm? I don't mean to sound like an ass by asking, I seriously do NOT want you, the reader, to think I meant a thing I just said above.)

The family reunion shouldn't be too bad. Free food. Dad better have the day off, though. The poor guy is overworked at CVS. Oh, and here's to us not bringing Lily and Jasmine to Louisville on Saturday! (I only say this because two years ago we took Jasmine down...and she's not the friendliest dog with the people she lives with, let alone strangers and kids.)

Way off topic, of sometime this weekend, my driver's side window doesn't roll down anymore. I look at it this way: I am WAY less inclined to smoke in the car now, so I see this as a step in the right direction towards my campaign to stop smoking. (Which, by the way, is a so far, so good. I've gone down to literally one yesterday and the day before. Beats six or seven, right?)

I dropped my Sixties History class. I couldn't balance a schedule where one day my first class was at 5:45 PM and the next day I had a 9:30 AM class, then a solid block from 1PM to 9 in the evening. We'll see what happens with the history minor, I'm replacing it with a 2nd eight-week course through Central Eurasian Studies on Modern Mongolia. It's upper 400-level. Is it sad that that's my idea of an elective?

For sure, I know next semester I'll be doing Intro To Russian Culture and a class on Polish Film, meaning 4 out of the 5 classes for my Slavic Studies minor will have been film classes. Not too shabby. Most definitely another science class will be in the mix, astronomy maybe...if there's a class on the dynamics of sound I'm totally doing it what with all my experience tinkering with sound-waves on the computer.

So that's three classes.

I'm sure I can squeeze in two more history classes. That brings me up to five. Being done with CMCL next semester means no shot-by-shot scene analysis...and I'm breathing a sigh of relief. Not that I'm bad at them. Not at all...even if I'd started off sucking at them I can write them in my sleep by now. I'm just sick of writing "Next comes a medium shot depicting..." and then analyzing how the formal elements of a scene contribute to the overall piece.

I'm sure somewhere, some way, I'll find a three-credit elective course that's right up my street.

Summer I'm doing math during the first session and one other class (TBD) during the second session. Then...I'm done. (As an undergrad, anyway.)

Lord knows once I'm done with school I'm not going to be writing inch-thick books on the dialectics of Sergei Eisenstein and the pathos of Charlie Chaplin. More like the dialectics of Frank Zappa and the pathos of Ray Davies.

Almost forgot: Jimmy Carl Black. Tonight. Even better - Eric's coming up from New Albany, with his vinyl of 'Freak Out!' for him to sign. I am truly excited about this.

Expect a picture or two.