Nels Cline and Marc Ribot

P1020758

I believe there was once a famous showtune written in the golden age of song, in which the chorus was “Don’t Believe The Hype”  which is a brilliant statement.  These days when the hype often overshadows the event itself, we must all be weary.

Last week, it was announced Nels Cline and Marc Ribot would play as a duo at Le Poisson Rouge in the West Village.  Thats like Picasso and Da Vinci getting together to do a little fingerpainting.  That’s like Steve Jobs and Eric Tarn getting together to build and internet.  The comparisons could go on and on.  Its no secret that I hold both of these musicians in high regard.  If you added Smokey Hormel to the mix, you would have the 3 greatest living guitar players.  So its no secret that I was quite excited to attend.

By complete coincidence, whilst strolling through the west village last weekend, Nels Cline appeared in front of me.  Caught off guard, i just said “Hey Nels!”  I guess when you see someone fairly often, they feel so familiar that a greeting is necessary.  Being the lovely fellow he is, he stopped and chatted with us for a bit, saying he had no idea what he and Ribot would play, which felt like a recipe for some fantastic guitar dueling.

When seeing either of these players on their own, you expect some fireworks.  And it inevitably happens.  Ribot could be playing a solo acoustic performance, but you know there will be that moment where he launches into orbit.  With Nels, its just his thing, he can’t help but be a highly evolved space alien, who carries a brain evaporating space gun with him at all times.

P1020756

The set started out very mellow, Nels on a Dobro, Ribot on an old Gibson acoustic.  The first few songs were spent feeling out some territory.  Very melodic, slightly haunting.  No shredding solos. Further into the set, Nels moved to lap steel, ribot played what sounded like a baritone electric, and things got crazy.

In this setting, with no additional instruments, no rehearsal, you can really see the true character of each musician.  Yes, they played a lot of notes, but no toes were stepped on.  It was not just shred for the sake of shred.  It was a conversation, all very tasteful.  Sure, the conversation was about things mere mortals such as us will never be capable of understanding, but a tasteful conversation nonetheless.  The lap steel portion bordered on country, spooky and western sounding.

The evening’s explosion came, as expected, when each musician moved to their most familiar instrument.  Nels to a Jazzmaster, and Ribot to what I think was an ES-125.  Their voice was immediately recognizable.  Ribot with the clangy edge to all his notes, and nels with a pure and focused tone, even when covered in all sorts of distortion.

In the end, it wasn’t a pissing match of epic proportion, or a chops display.  Really, none of us should have expected something like that from musicians of this caliber.  Lets hope somehow this was recorded, or leads to more collaborations like it.  On the other hand, the selfish elitist in me hopes this was a one off, so in 30 years, I can look back and say “yep, I was totally there, young child who now plays all music on a futuristic tablet like device, people used to play wooden boxes with strings on them!”

Fuzz.

P1020732

Sometimes we find ourselves captivated by objects.  We give them little personalities and expect great things from them.  It’s like Toy Story.  We want everything we own to come alive at night and wreak havoc on the Museum of Natural History while Ben Stiller fumbles with a flashlight.  Is that a different movie?  I think it still works.

The Zvex Fuzz Factory is like the mean popular kid in school.  Where I came from, I don’t know if we had mean popular kids, most people seemed fairly nice, but I’d imagine that’s what it’s like in the Disney Midwestern Version.  You can’t get it to agree with you, it keeps screaming at you, its way out of your control, it occasionally self-oscillates (yeah, you heard me).  And yet there is just something about it you want to hang around with.

I’ve tried this box out in stores on two separate occasions.  Each time, it was just too out of control for me.  The thing is INTENSE.  Think of the fuzz guitar sound The Flaming Lips have on the “At War With The Mystics” album, that’s this guy.  It squeals.  It sounds like your amp got in a fight with a wild wolverine (as opposed to domestic) and is limping away to safety.  Its far beyond the realm of anything normal.  But it certainly is intriguing.  I vowed not to pay full price, staying true to my heritage of bargain hunting.

Continuing with my CL/Ebay sell and trade-off, I got rid of a 1920’s Ludwig Snare that I’ve owned for years.  I bought it on Long Island from a dude who is exactly what you think of when you hear the words “Long Island” and it basically sat for those few years.  Finally, it was taking up more space than it was worth, and a friendly drummer on tour from Seattle bought it last week.  That same night, a Fuzz Factory appeared on the CL.  So I figured, why not?

There is no final point to this story.  Except that a few days after it was acquired, I ran into Nels Cline on the street, who was a lovely fellow.   I’m going to take that as a sign that I made the right move.

Voiceover.

Oh god kids.   Voiceover.

Its such a strange world.  Voices detached from faces, throwing words at you, forcefully selling, blabbering on and on.  As you could imagine, a profession such as this attracts a wide array of characters.  We’ve all heard the stories…that movie voice guy made millions, and only worked a few hours a day!  Well, those stories are true, there are several people out there like that.  You know what the difference between them and you is?  They have unbelievable talent.  Not simply fantastic god given voices, but serious acting ability.

Voice over is just acting. It’s conveying a message through your voice alone.  Compared to other professions, say being a schoolteacher or a garbage man, its incredibly easy.  You talk in front of a mic for a living.  But just like on screen acting, its filled with hacks.  The majority of these people are terrible.  Yes, everyone can do a movie voice guy impression, but is anyone going to PAY you to do one?  Probably not.

The other day, I had the opportunity to hear a voice over reel so amazing, so utterly fantastically appalling, that it flipped a switch in my brain.  I just couldn’t let it go.  I’ve seen the worst.  One day I will fill a book with the amazing things you can see when you combine a profession where appearance is irrelevant, as are social skills in many cases.  But this was a new level.

Now because of my respect for privacy, I will not post the recording here, that would be wrong.  What I will post, is my response to it.  In 25 minutes, I wrote, recorded, and mixed a response reel.  Now, 20 of those minutes were spent trying to get through copy without laughing, the other 5 were spent in a mode I like to call “The VO Genius Zone” Steve Ultimate VO DemoSteve Ultimate VO Demo