How Much Gear Does One Truly Need?

Oh gear, what a tempting mistress indeed.

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At times, I have been guilty of the utmost American Pickers Style hoarding.  At times I have overdone it, other times I have made the score of a lifetime.   Instruments are mysterious, it’s like having a tool to create art, which is also art itself.  You need more than one type of screwdriver to build a fancy Armour or accurate reproduction of the Batmobile…so shouldn’t you have multiple guitars/effects pedals/amps/drums/cymbals/synths/peruvian pan flutes?  You can see how it can get out of control.

Recently I have decide it’s time to purge the collection.  The first serious move was letting go of my 1969 Fender Twin which I had owned for 14 years…which opened the floodgates.  It continued with a recently acquired Microkorg, then a few effects pedals not getting proper use, and some old and broken cymbals.  Several craigslist transactions later, it was a 6 string banjo, a small tube amp, and a Line6 Pod.   It is now continuing with a Budda Bud Wah, and an old 1920’s Ludwig/Slingerland Frankenstein Snare Drum.  With each piece of gear that goes, it feels like a weight has been lifted.  Strange words coming from an obsessive collector, but it’s true.  I am now constantly cataloging my collection, seeing what can go.  Eastwood Electric 12 String?  Probably.  A few random cymbals?  Definitely.  My first ever drum kit…the silver sparkle Spaun kit I saved for months to acquire?  Yep, it hasn’t seen use in literally years, it’s time to go.

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I don’t know what triggered i, but it feels unstoppable.  Maybe it’s because my life now feels filled with things other than instruments?  Maybe its a sudden streak of minimalism?  Maybe it’s because I feel a sudden need to focus on the act of playing… rather than acquiring instruments?  Perhaps above all, being a city dweller for the past 7 years might have finally gotten the best of me.  Space is at a premium wherever you go, and transportation is net to impossible when carrying more than a backpack.  It’s probably all part of it.

So let’s all take this time to inventory our personal collections, and figure out some stuff we can strip down.  Is that 4th distortion pedal really going to make you a better player?  That delay that you use for 3 measures of one song, is it worth the extra space on the floor in front of you? Who are you, The Edge?  Why don’t you just change your name to “The Border” and fight locals in Jersey City while building a massive mansion on the cliffs of the Palisades.  Is the 2nd floor tom REALLY that necessary? Who are you, Terry Bozzio?  You probably didn’t play with Frank Zappa.

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Think about it.

Good and Great

I’ve been reading the Lefsetz Letter a lot recently, and its made from some inspiring reading.  Sure, it paints an accurate picture of a dying industry which is apparent to anyone not employed by or signed to a major label, but it seems to get at the true nature of creation.  Besides my favorite recent quote “U2 are tax exiles who like money,”  Lefsetz constantly makes the point that if something is amazing, it will break through.  There are plenty who are simply “good” but that’s not nearly good enough in a landscape filled with approximately 600 Quadrillion Mediocre Bands using every aspect of social media to push themselves further into your face. Anyone else have to de-friend several people on Facebook because of their constant invites to see their sub par to mediocre band?

It gets me thinking of how many bands leave me feeling truly blown away.  The percentage is certainly low, but don’t we all live for that moment?  Last weekend I went to see the Tuneyards at the Williamsburg Music Hall, a band I’ve written about on several occasions, and mid set I thought to myself, “if this is the standard of performance a band has to live up to, we are all going to need to work WAY harder.”  The show was phenomenal, the band was simultaneously raw and incredibly polished.  It seemed like it could fall apart at any second, but it was so enjoyable, we all just willed it to continue.  The crowd was all smiles the entire time, even the elusive Jeff Mangum, and the overly present Sean Lennon, who were both in the crowd, mingling with us non-beautiful people.

Conversely, the night before at the same venue, I saw Thurston Moore perform an acoustic set.  And while certainly above average, it did not approach the level of greatness that one would hope for…even with a full Harp on the stage.  Tons of shows turn out this way.  Perfect venue with great sound, excellent musicians, good crowd…and the results are just standard.

But much harder than passing judgment on a show we attend, is turning the camera on ourselves.  Occasionally you may find yourself asking “are these phat beatz i made using garageband far superior to Timbaland or whoever the fuck makes that type of music these days?” And perhaps your answer is yes.  But….perhaps it should be no, and you shouldn’t spring those sounds on the world just yet. And with the constant facebook invites, lets establish a rule, right fucking now:

If you have more than one show within the same city/state, less than 1 month apart, don’t send out separate invites for each one.  One email at the beginning of the month is fine, or if its a special show, you get maybe 2 opportunities to group spam before its irritating as hell and makes everyone want to delete any record of you ever communicating with them.  So please keep that in mind.

Rehearsals have begun with a new band I am a part of, and more than any other time in my life, I am attempting to put a magnifying glass over my own playing.  It certainly has room to grow, but perhaps knowing that is the first step towards beating mediocrity?

Nelson Rockafella

Someone at work just reminded me of this:

I can clearly remember seeing this video…I must have been in pre school, not even kindergarten.  Thats just plain crazy. Was this done with a sense of irony?  Or was it just plain 80’s excessive production?  Who came up with the idea to put the mythical Native American with the floating orbs?

And also, where can I get a pair of suspenders like that drummer has?  And when did the stick point/singing the line to emphasize while pointing go out of style?  Lets bring it back.

The Ipad, Dinosaurs, and the coming of the Techpacolypse

Lets talk about technology, as we often do here at iblogwhatihear.  Usually, when people across America have questions or concerns about technology, they turn to one specific person; Me.

I’m going to make some speculations and voice some concerns, because that’s what you do when you have a forum to digitally convert your ideas into text.

Jesus, holding baby Obama
Jesus, holding baby Obama

A few months back I went to Tekserve, the greatest unofficial Apple store in the world, for a “future of music” type event, focused on the ipad.  Going into it, I was excited, but not overjoyed by the idea of a tablet based music creation device.  I left ready to throw out every other piece of technology I owned.  Yes, I have still not purchased an ipad, that’s in the works, as we will discuss in a minute.

The synth apps look badass.  Korg has their IMS20 synth with a drum machine, Moog has their Filtatron, there is even a Rebirth thing happening, all under $30.  And Garageband for $5. GARAGEBAND!  I had the chance to play with it for a second, and it was unstoppable.  This is the greatest composition sketch tool since the pen and staff paper.  Really, is that stuff gonna be around in 10 years?  Will paper at all?  Anyway, none of this is news.  But stop tweeting about Dancing With The Stars for a fucking second and think about whats happening.

This motherfucker is self contained, and nearly gets rid of the problem many old school musicians have with computer based technology.  A mouse sucks.  Do you feel at all musical when clicking a little oval shaped plastic thingy to create some sonic destruction?  No, you feel like a bitch.  In movies, when someone presses the big red button to blow up a competing nation, why do you think it’s a BIG RED BUTTON?  Cause buttons are fucking awesome, and you want to have the interaction with it.  This is not quite the Big Red Button Effect ™  but its getting there.

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Why have there not been a rush of control surface apps?  There are a few out there, but they’re over $100, and not officially endorsed by the manufacturers.  Apple fucking owns logic!  Where is the controller app guys?  Come on!  That would almost be worth the price of admission alone.  Why do we have to search for some back alley drug deal of a controller do make a few devices work together?  Shit man.

This brings me to the point of securing an ipad for myself.  For a while, I was all in at the bare minimum device, $500 for 16gb.  But after some careful consideration, that’s not going to cut it.  My iPod Touch is 16gb, and I constantly have to shift things on and off to make it all fit.  And the 3g situation, is it worth it?  Who knows, I’m gonna say no for the moment, I’m around wifi and work and home, thats sufficient for now.

So, life in NY is expensive.  I know, everyone is incredibly surprised by this, and I was even invited to write a NY Times Oped about it, but it got pulled at the last minute because they suddenly realized that print was dead, started their subscription model, overpriced it, and had to go take a phone call from Rupert Murdoch.  Anyway….yeah.  So my plan is to acquire an iPad strictly by selling other musical equipment which I already own, through the mediums of Ebay and Craigslist, mostly the latter since no fees are involved.

You mah buttafly, sugah baby
You mah buttafly, sugah baby

This opens up a new set of doors, mostly leading to Crazytown, population 90% of the people who respond to postings.  People offer you 5% of your asking price.  They want you to bring a $50 effect pedal to Long Island so they can “check it out”, standard Nigerian scams, and harassment by a Christian Fundamentalist because I was selling a synth which he did not approve of.  It’s only gonna get weirder from here, dudes.