Band Life, part 3

Posted in Music on January 17, 2013 by Niveous

I know that I’ve said it before but I think it’s worth mentioning again. The hardest part of having a band is finding people who are willing to hitch their wagon to your dream. It doesn’t help that I consider myself to be shy. Social interaction can be a tough thing sometimes and it has only gotten harder as time has gone by. Sure, I live in the Big Apple where you can find someone holding a guitar case at pretty much every train station. But that doesn’t mean you can just walk up and talk to them. NYC can be a quite exclusionary place sometimes. New Yorkers aren’t known for talking to strangers. But it’s been known to happen.

Back in my imperfect teenhood, I tried to find some bandmates outside my usual circles. My girlfriend at the time came up with the idea of a sign. Not the type that you put up on bulletin boards. I mean one of those big white pieces of poster board that you would use for a handmade protest sign or a grade school science fair. What would come next was a pair of teenagers holding a large handwritten sign inside a train station in Greenwich Village trying to get people to come over and find out about joining a band. This did not work. We got a lot of odd looks and the occasional person did walk over and talk with us, but it was mostly a bust. Still back when I was younger, it seemed much easier to find musicians to work with. When I was in Junior High, I was bound to have some friends with nothing better to do and an iota of musical talent or at least ownership of an instrument. High school worked much the same way. College was probably even easier because you’d just find music majors or you would just go to the floor where the music department was and ta-da. But then I got older and got a real job… with lawyers. And that’s about the point where the well started to run dry. I haven’t found a lot of people who spent their time passing the bar while playing bass in their spare time.

I eventually moved my hunt for band members to the internet. Most of my efforts in the past have been through putting up an ad on craigslist. The results have been a mixed bag. In one ad, I used the word “quirky”. I got a reply from a guy who started his e-mail without a hello or anything like that. He started by saying I’m down, if by ‘quirky’, you don’t mean ‘twee’ and then went on a rant about some band he saw over the weekend that sucked because they sounded like Beat Happening. One reply started by saying my ad was truly the worst one they had ever read, but was still wanted to know if we could play together. But on most occasions, it was a perfectly fine person, who I just didn’t meld with. Though looking back at some of these replies I had received, I wonder if Niveous circa 2006-08 was just too damn picky. But in the middle of all that, back in 2007, came one of my most interesting experiences with the internet ad. Though it wasn’t me putting out an ad, this was one of the rare times in which I responded.  

MySpace was an interesting website. I say it that way because Justin Timberlake’s resurrection project really hasn’t bore fruit yet. One thing I found interesting is the way people manipulated the site. Promotion was such a big aspect of the site that it was fun to see how bands (or the people they paid) advertised themselves. I was surprised when I stumbled across one page where a woman had turned the page into her own style of classified ad. Her stage name was Lucidia. Where as most MySpace pages were mostly annoyances (nothing like opening a profile and getting bombarded with 1-bad animated graphics, 2-the bad graphics your “friends” put on the wall, 3-a godawful song that played automatically at sonic boom amplitude), I thought Lucidia’s was clever. So I responded.

We ended up clicking. We had shared music tastes (like Rasputina). We both had gone through our share of previous band mishaps. But most of all, we got along well which with any band is priority one in my book. What came next was a whirlwind of activity. We recruited fellow Songfighter and mad genius Luke Henley and then went hunting for a bassist. Somehow that led us back to classified ads. I may have mentioned all those guitarists in New York earlier. The absolute opposite can be said for bassists. We ended up just going with Luke’s girlfriend in the end, who didn’t know how to play bass but was around at the time and willing to play.

We had a band and were full of excitement. Soon, the band had a name (Killed by Spiders) and a logo and a MySpace page and a domain and…

But we had never gotten together to play.

And we never did.

By the time we got our acts together and were ready to actually make some music, Luke had moved away. Instead of going back to the drawing board, Lucidia and I called it quits and Killed by Spiders was over before it happened. So, after an experience like that, why would I consider trying out the ad route again. I may have lost out on a band but I gained a friend. Since then, Lucidia and I have seen shows together. She’s come to my parties. We’ve had lunches where we’ve talked about finally making music together. And who knows, that may happen. Even if it doesn’t, I still feel like something great came out of the whole musician ad experience. So, I’m off to make a new ad and I’ll try not to be twee.


Band Life, Chapter 2

Posted in Music on January 2, 2013 by Niveous

In the last chapter, I mentioned virtual bands and I feel like I should explain a little bit about them as well as tell you why I still want a real life band when I’ve got a virtual one.

I have been a part of a musical community called Songfight for many years now. At its most basic, Songfight is a musical competition where bands are given song titles (like “Brioche, Actually”, “I’m Eating A Wasp”, and “Hooker Pumps”. Yes, there are much better titles too.) and have about 10 days in which to make a complete song for that title. The songs are then posted on the web for all to hear. There is a vote for which song is the best and a winner is named. That winner gets nothing and then we do it all over again. But beyond that, lies a forum where musicians from around the world discuss their lives and just about every facet of music. Back in 2003, this all seemed very alluring and so I lurked around the forum for a while before finally entering my first song into the competition under my new moniker Niveous. The song was a quaint little g^2 (that stands for “guy and guitar”) number about atheism called “I Don’t Believe You” and I felt pretty good about it. I had spun some pretty good lyrics (I used the word demonology, that at least earns some cool points) and I had sung pretty well for something recorded in the bathroom of a dingy Brooklyn apartment while trying not to wake the children. That’s when I learned about one of the other parts of Songfight, the one that they don’t put on the advertisements- the reviews.

The site is not called Song Fight for nothing. Some days entering a song into a song into the competition is the equivalent of jumping a lion’s cage while wearing a pair of boxers made of meat. The musicians of Songfight are very knowledgeable and very opinionated but you have to have some bulldog skin to deal with some of the criticism (though we have mellowed over the years). What I didn’t realize back then is that I had no production values whatsoever. For instance, I think if you listen to the song, you can hear a dog barking in the background. That’s a no-no. Plus, I didn’t understand things like noise removal or not to stand too close to the microphone. In writing this blog I went to find the reviews for that song but the internet has lost them forever and I am luckier for it. Sadly, you don’t get to revel in the brutality but you can imagine it something like me being told to toss my guitar into a fireplace. It wasn’t really that bad but it stung like it was. 134 votes came in during the “I Don’t Believe You” fight and not a one was for Niveous. Two weeks later, I tried my luck again. I entered the “Put Cindy Back on the Bus” fight. I received one vote and it might have been from me. Even the guy who called himself Lightning Ear Fart and made scary noises behind clips from Gumby got two votes. What made me hang around despite the verbal thrashing?

I made friends.

This chapter is about one of them- Eric aka The Voice Inside Your Head. No, he’s not an imaginary friend. That’s just his stage name. TVIYH, for short.

As I struggled to get a grip on the nuances of production (I still suck at production ten years later) and tried to climb up the ranks at Songfight (third song I entered got 3 votes, still less than the fart guy but progress!), I found fellow musicians who were willing to give good advice and I enjoyed talking to and quickly became by first real online friends. It was a strange new concept, the idea of having friends that you would never actually see or would meet (though I would meet most of them eventually). Hell, I didn’t even know what most of these people looked like, except for little profile pictures on the forum, or those who had pages on that newfangled website called Myspace. But still, here I was talking to these people every day. One such person that I made a connection with was a bassist from Pennsylvania who called himself TVIYH. After many days of chatting, we decided to collaborate on some music. The two of us became a virtual band, combining our talents over the web by passing tracks back and forth until we had made our songs.

I being Ernie and he being Eric, we decided to name our band- Silent E. Yes, there are no silent E’s in either of those names but we thought we were being clever. And I can admit that I was swayed by the fact that I had 2 little boys who watched PBS’ Between the Lions where Silent E was a master criminal who could turn a twin into twine. We set out to make our first Songfight song- “So Kind Stacey”. Lyrically, it was not my best work. Production-wise, it was a disaster of epic proportions and it was all my fault. I had decided to try and put on a tougher gruffer voice for the song and I was going to scream and growl and be metal. There were some big flaws in that plan. The biggest flaw being that I made the vocal recording while hidden in the fileroom at work. There’s nothing like trying to do your best Iron Maiden scream while trying not to be heard by your co-workers or get busted for slacking at the job. Needless to say, this was a catastrophe. Eric tried his best to make it work but I had screwed up big time and Songfight let us have it. Not only did it get zero votes, it was murdered in the reviews. Murdered.

TVIYH & I were undeterred and decided to try again. Eight days later, we released our second song “Fear is Free”. A week isn’t the longest time for a band to get its act together but we attempted. Sure, “Fear is Free” again received not a solitary vote but at least we made a song that we didn’t feel so bad about and didn’t get destroyed on the board. In November of 2004, we put out our third Songfight song “I am Tempted”, a song about the desire to leave the US because Bush had been re-elected. The song got mixed reviews and no votes but it seemed like we were moving in the right direction as most of the reviews said that we had potential but needed better production (I get that a lot).

Here’s one particularly interesting review:

I have a vision of a daycare care giver. She is sitting in the middle of a circle of children reading a story. One of the children is playing with a hand grenade. The woman leaves in a panic. This is what I would liken to moving away at a time like this. It’s walking away from a huge responsibility. You can’t stockpile weapons, then let an overgrown child with no sense control them. Now about your song. I liked it.

But Silent E never did put out another Songfight song. TVIYH & I still collaborated on some songs including a rap song that I am not going to write about (you’re gonna have to find that one on your own) but never put another Silent E song into the competition. But that isn’t where the story ends. It’s just the point where the story goes from virtual into actual.

Fast forward to April 2006. Songfight decides to do a live concert in Pennsylvania. I was psyched but nervous. On one hand, I was finally getting a chance to meet a bunch of the musicians that I had been talking to and working with for the last 3 years. On the other hand, it would be my first time playing live in five years. It was anxiety and fear and a whole sea of emotions all wrapped together. It’s a strange thing to finally meet people that you’ve known for years and have never met and then try and make music with them in a church rec center. I walked in and met up with Eric and his wife Asya and immediately all the fear went away. I was with friends. Old dear friends even though this was the first time we were ever in a room together. It would end up being a phenomenal show. I butchered the French language while singing backup during Noah McLaughlin’s set. I performed for 2 crazy minutes during the Luke Henley set. I did a rendition of Gangsta’s Paradise during the end of the night jam session. And during my own set, Silent E performed live. We played “I Am Tempted” and it was a thing of beauty. We proved that Silent E could be something great.

Silent E

And then we never released another Songfight song…

But that still isn’t the end of the story. The next year, my life hit a snag. I had been living in New Brunswick. Our landlord basically started using the basement of the house as some kind of Russian immigrant hostel. When we complained about scary strangers sleeping where we did our laundry, the landlords retaliated by not renewing our lease and throwing us out. It was a tough time but my family survived and moved to another part of Jersey. It had been emotionally draining. I was in need of a mental break in the worst way and that break came quite unexpectedly. Eric & Asya almost out of nowhere offered to give me a plane ticket so I could come to their house in Pennsylvania. It was an amazing gift of generosity. What would ensue was just what the doctor ordered. Eric & I got into his homemade studio and rocked out for a weekend. I played electric guitar (that never happens!). We made a bunch of new tunes including a rocker called “Heat Wave”, an eerie piano murder-ballad called “Bridget” and an epic tune called “The Church at the End of the World” where we got Asya to help on the vocals. Add in some garage-sales, family get-togethers and a dinner at one of the most ridiculously named restaurants ever- Quaker Steak and Lube, it all made for one great experience that I am so grateful for. Not only did it help recharge my dying batteries but it helped remind me how awesome it was to just make music.

And you may be wondering whatever happened to those songs from that weekend. Who knows. We never released them. I don’t even have a copy and I’m not even sure if Eric still does. But it doesn’t really matter in the long run. The experience matters more. It had been a long long time since the break-up of my band Fear of Sleep and I basically hadn’t sat down in a room with a friend and just made a song in years. I didn’t realize just how much I missed that and just how fulfilling that could be, which leads to where we are currently in the story, kind of. I have had great experiences getting together with friends and making music throughout my life and I want more of that. And hopefully one day in the future, Niveous & TVIYH will come together as Silent E again, whether it be virtual or in real life.

Band Life, Chapter 1

Posted in Music on December 18, 2012 by Niveous

Dreams are a funny thing. You can’t really tell just how long you’ve been dreaming for. This is the ongoing story of a dream that I’ve been having for a long time, probably longer than I even realize. I dream of being in a band.

Chapter 1:

My name is Ernie. In my musical life, I go by the name Niveous. Sometimes by Niveous Devilchild but I don’t often use the surname as I’ve given up a lot of my lingering teen angst/ parent issues. I’m a born and raised New Yorker and except for a very black period in which I lived in New Jersey (**shudder**), I have lived in the Empire State all my life. I have traveled around the sun thirty-five times and I’m hoping to get quite a few more trips in before I’m done. Throughout my life, music has always been a big facet. I grew up with a little Fisher Price Record Player and near-unlimited access to my family’s record collection. While that may have created some awkward moments like little kid Niv getting a hold of the Ohio Players albums, it gave me a chance to listen to a lot of music.

That access to heaping handfuls of 33’s and 45’s left me a bit of a musical anachronism in the 80’s, at least to kids my age. I can remember hanging out at a childhood friend’s house. He had a couple of other neighborhood kids over and they were talking about New Edition who had just become a big deal. They asked me what music I listened to. I said I liked Queen and they looked at me as if I had just grown a second head. Looking back, I now know that those kids were out of the loop since at the same time New Edition was breaking out, Queen was topping the charts with songs like “Radio Ga Ga” and “I Want To Break Free”; but I didn’t know that back then so I felt embarassed and I didn’t talk to my friends about music much after that. But that wouldn’t last as my love of music grew steadily.

I don’t know where my desire to be in a band came from. I may have liked Queen growing up but back then I didn’t know squat about who was in the band. It could have come from my desire to be like the kids on the cover of the Musical Youth album or how I would go to Blockbuster and rent video collections of INXS and Cinderella repeatedly. Maybe it was because I had watched all 65 episodes of Jem? I do know what made me start my first band though. It was 1989. By that time, I had become an obsessive watcher of the music charts, something I still do to this day. There was a TV show back then called Smash Hits, hosted by Scott Shannon (New Yorkers may recognize that name as one half of long time morning radio DJ’s Scott and Todd). Smash Hits counted down the top 10 songs of the week according to a vote done over 1-900 lines. I didn’t join in the voting process, as young Niv had already gotten in trouble for running up the family phone bill by calling 976 wrestling update hotlines, but I loved watching the show despite the fact that it often came on in the middle of the night. Hey, I was a smart kid. I had blank videotapes and knew how to program a VCR. Somewhere in-between copious amounts of Bad English, Taylor Dayne, and Kix’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes” (which I covered this year), Scott Shannon announced a songwriting contest. The winner of the contest would get a chance to go into a studio and make a song alongside Gene Simmons of KISS. Despite being only 12 years old at the time and having little or no knowledge of who the hell Gene Simmons was, for some reason I wanted to win this contest!!

Was I a songwriter? I had just started writing songs. I was inspired by the music of Love & Rockets and I had just gotten cassettes of The Cure’s Disintegration and The Cult’s Sonic Temple albums. Was I any good at songwriting? Of course not, I was 12. But I had the wild determination of a 12-year-old so I set out to start a band. Starting a band when you’re 12 was surprisingly easy. You get some friends from your class together and ask if anyone wants to be in your band. God, I wish it was still that easy. My best friend at that time was a kid named Sam and he quickly joined and decided he would be the frontman. I don’t know why I gave up such a lucrative role but I did, deciding to be the band’s guitarist. Our friend Jason would round out the trio as the drummer since his dad had a ridiculously large drum set and was willing to let his son borrow it. There was one big flaw to this plan though. I didn’t play guitar yet. I borrowed my next door neighbor’s bass guitar but 1) I didn’t know a damn thing about playing bass, 2) this was pre-internet so I couldn’t just go on YouTube and watch some tutorials, and 3) I didn’t have an amp anyway. But I still had the ragged determination of a 12-year-old. And so, I got my parents to buy me a Kawasaki One Man Jam.

It seemed pretty great according to the commercials. Ugh. It was a plastic toy guitar with frets and real electronic sounds. But my friends didn’t care and we became a band. It came time to choose the band name and Sam suggested Wild Stallions, just like the band in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. I didn’t know the film back then but I did know that we couldn’t have the same name as a band from the movie. I suggested we change Wild to Young. Sam & Jason had no clue that I had made the change by swiping the name of a crappy 80’s WWE tag team, and so we became The Young Stallions. We got Jason’s dad to shuttle his big drum set over to my house and set up in the basement. We proceeded to make loud obnoxious noises with Sam singing into the end of a broom (we didn’t have mics), Jason playing the drum set full throttle and me making the loudest chirps and cheeps that I could out of my purple and blue toy guitar while we recorded the whole thing on cassette via a little silver boombox.

Did we sound good? I don’t have those recordings anymore but I can venture a guess that we were probably pretty god-awful but we had an absolute blast. The Young Stallions didn’t stay together for long though. Sam moved out to Long Island and though we tried to keep the band together by rehearsing out there, I think Jason’s dad got tired of playing roadie and dragging a drum set around. And so ended my first band. So, what happened with the contest? The Young Stallions never ended up sending in an entry. For the life of me, I can’t remember why we didn’t. The contest ended up being won by a guy who did a song called “Christmas in Malibu”. How could a group of 12 year olds beat that?

That may have been the end of my first band but that’s only the start of the story. Since then I have been in many different bands. Some real and some virtual. Some that lasted for a long time and others that faded before they ever did anything. But back at the end of the 80’s, I was bitten by a desire that I still can’t get rid of. I long for the feeling that you get from hanging out with a bunch of friends in a room and making music. In this blog, I’ll tell you some of the stories of the bands that I’ve been in and where I’m at in my quest to create a new one. Hope you enjoyed this first story.


Press the pound key.

Posted in Music on June 29, 2011 by Niveous

When I last posted, I talked about Songfight Live and how was hit with a wave of stage fright, probably the strongest one I have ever felt. It hasn’t deterred me and I wanna get back into my musical groove. My writing muse has perked up again and I’m thinking about revising the novel I did for NaNoWriMo in 2009. But the music muse is very strong and doesn’t want to let go of the progress. There’s a happy middle ground that I want to pursue but I’m not going to talk about it just yet. It’s one of those things… if I get an idea and don’t follow through and never mentioned it to anyone, that’s okay. But if I mention it, it’s gonna kick my confidence down a notch.

Back to that shaky nervousness, in my previous post I talked about how doing the Mr. Nakazawa’s Book of Surprises songs were great for me because I somehow shook the nerves by having an onstage support team aka a band. Having my gf Jill there was great (having a supportive gf at one of my musical performances is a brand new experience) too. I think have the focus partially split from me may have helped also.

Also, there was such a large difference between doing the songs live and the recorded versions. I have come to the conclusion that what I put on a “record”, I want to be able to duplicate live.

In a roundabout way, all my roads are still pointing to the idea of a band. Having a core of people to work with and hash out ideas. If you are a long time reader of this seldom posted blog (thank you!), you already know that I find this difficult. After the SF show, I felt such a pang of jealousy at Spud. Spud was a phenomenal guy and no, I wasn’t just jealous of his 8 string fretless bass (that was a fucking awesome guitar) but of the fact that he was so able to create his artistic vision. The music of Octothorpe is very unique and Spud works hard to craft it. And I wondered how he got other on board. There was a full band of people dressed in very specifically styled Octothorpe shirts, playing this crazy meta-jazz-rock while Spud dressed in a Santo mask and kilt. I was awed. 

The question in my mind is how do I get people on board with an idea. I’ve got them a bunch of them but how do you get others to hitch their wagons?  I hope to figure that out.

Did I Survive Songfight in NYC?

Posted in Music on June 19, 2011 by Niveous

I’m back to the mighty world of music blogging. I have survived the big Songfight Live in New York show. Now, it’s time to reassess things. First up, is how did the show go? As the person doing a lot of the heavy lifting to get the show to happen, it went fairly well. The two venues were good. Bohemian Hall had quite the crowd and after we figured out our technical difficulties, it made for quite the show. Firehouse Space was a spectacular spot to do a show. It had the warmth of a house mixed with everything else we needed to put on a show. So, that aspect was good.

Then there was my performance. I definitely wasn’t happy with my set. Sometime before my set began, I started getting a wave of nervousness. This isn’t completely unusual. I’ve dealt with that before and laughed it off and pulled off a good performance. This time, it wasn’t the same. I don’t know what happened. There was a face in a crowd I didn’t know, dead center in front of me which was awkward in a room full of people I had already met. That started me off shaky. I did “Between the Rain”, a song that I feel that King Arthur performs much better than I do. I only did the song between it’s in my songfight discog, not out of some love of performing it. I think I did okay with it.

Then I did “Cuts Like”. That’s when things started to go downhill because I couldn’t get the rhythm together. The song is untested live. It’s a song that was all about production experimentation and it just didn’t translate well at all. I think it was an unmitigated flop, especially when you compare it to the recorded version. I tried to salvage things with “Lessons Learned Over Summer Vacation”. The song came out well. I think it was the song I practiced the most and it paid off. I whistled well and it wasn’t a bad song to have in the mix. But I still felt shaky and I was stumbling on the guitar. I would really love a situation where I can just sing and not have to split my focus between playing and singing because if I fuck up one of the two, I start falling apart.

I think “Cute Boots” was next and that song went over very well. On the inside, I felt like I just wanted to get off the stage. I wasn’t feeling right and I somehow was able to channel that into the raw emotion necessary for a song about a father talking about his missing daughter. I followed that with “Love is a Battlefield”. I thought the cover would help win over the crowd a little. I think it crashed and burned. At the previous NYC Songfight show, it was a highlight of my set. This time, it was a lowlight. Just a different crowd and a different set, I guess.

I prepped to cut my losses and move on the song “Experiments in Living”. The song was the first song of my collaboration with DJ Ranger Den (the group is called Mr. Nakazawa’s Book of Surprises). But Den went to the bathroom, just went I was going to call for her. To stall, I broke into the song “Woebegone”. I had been ready to cut “Woebegone” out of my set. I felt like I wasn’t going to be happy with the sound of it, because I couldn’t match the sound of the recording and the chords were a bit funky making it a place where I could make some mistakes. And boy, did I ever. The song was a mess that I wish I had ever played.

Then a funny thing happened. Den came back and we did “Experiments” with some help on the bass from Noah McLaughlin. I suddenly shook a good deal of my nerves. I don’t know what it was about the band situation that I found comforting but it worked and I played the song and felt good about it, as if I ended my set on a high note. Things only got weirder as the livefight approached, it nearer time for Mr. Nakazawa to perform again. My nerves were gone. I went into the song “Isle Dauphine” with a little confidence and had, what I felt was, my best performance of the night.

So, where am I now? Musically, I am at a bit of a crossroads. Here are things I have learned. One thing is that the whole solo live act thing may not be the thing for me. For one thing, I’m not the greatest guitarist but I am a good songwriter and a decent singer. If I focus my efforts, I think I can get a better performance. So, again, I need to find a collaborator. Another thing is the feeling that I am not producing the music that I wanna produce. Music is all about expressing yourself. I’m just not doing that in the way I want to. I want to find ways to storytell in my songs. I also have certain sounds, like drones, that I wanna touch upon.

Now is not the time to whine or to walk away (and I will sadly admit that I considered just walking away from music and sticking to writing). I need to figure out ways to create what I envision. There have got to be ways to do it. I just have to think outside of the box. It’s going to take some creative thinking, some brainpower, some social skills and a whole lot of determination. There’s an artistic path that’s calling out to me. I just have to figure out how to maneuver the roads. And hopefully, the next time I play live it will be a different story.

Four Songs of “Progress”

Posted in Music on May 30, 2011 by Niveous

It’s been a little while since I posted in Audioshards. I have been swimming in a sea of busyness, thanks to a very stressful job. But not everything has been so bad. The Nur Ein has been rolling along quite nicely and I have also been preparing for the Songfight Live show in NYC. Part of that preparation has been doing some recording. I am working on a new album called “Progress”. Here are the first four songs:

1. "Cuts Like"
2. "Mirrorball"
3. "Woebegone"
4. "Elephant in the Room"

A Sign of the Times

Posted in Music on April 14, 2011 by Niveous

Times certainly are changing. Today, ABC announced the end of All My Children and One Life To Live. Those two soap operas were among TV’s longest running shows and now they are being cancelled in favor of some new talk shows: one about food and alternately one about weight loss. Neither sounds like it’ll last the test of time. One of them is the brainchild of JD Roth. None of his good ideas last (anyone remember Endurance aka Survivor for kids?).

I was never a OLTL watcher but I did have a stint watching AMC (back in the days of Sarah Michelle Geller and Keith Hamilton Cobb). Why did a soap connect with me? Because I enjoy serialized storytelling. I like watching the long term evolution of characters. Look at some of the other things I enjoy. I am one of the biggest prowrestling fans that you will ever meet. Prowrestling is serial storytelling in an athletic setting. I also love comics. The three things are all intertwined by the way they tell a story.

So what does this have to do with music? Nothing… but why not? As soon as I heard that AMC and OLTL were ending, I was upset. The demise of the soap opera is taking away from a form of serialized storytelling and there aren’t that many platforms. In this age of instanteous information and youtube; the idea of dragging out character development can be very passe. Sure, there are still tv shows but they have seasons. Serialized storytelling creates characters that grow along with the audience. You don’t have to speed through a storyline because you have a season finale on the horizon. There isn’t a season finale, your characters just go and evolve.

Episodic, serialized, whatever you call it, it’s definitely something I love. I have written some prose pieces that have been built so that I can come back and continue writing more and more and see how the characters evolve. Now I am wondering if that concept can somehow be put into music?? More on this later…

Can Niveous find his way?

Posted in Music on April 12, 2011 by Niveous

I know my posts have been fewer lately but that’s because I’ve been so deeply enthralled mentally by the puzzle laid out in front of me that I struggle to express it all. Here’s where I’m at right now.

I came up with an idea for what is essentially a concept album. For the sake of easy typing, I’ll be referring to the album as TAS in the rest of this post. What does TAS stand for? Never you mind that detail. So, I came up with the TAS idea and figured that this needs to be a marriage between my music and my prose, almost a soundtrack to a story. So I began writing and got about 1500 words in and then tried to write a song to go along with those 1500 words and the pieces just didn’t fit.

I’ve done concept albums before such as Zinkline’s “Grace of a Car Crash” which is the story of a political assassination that is the first domino leading to the end of the world. The thing is, that was very abstract. Each song I wrote for that album could stand on its own. With TAS, this is a story with very defined characters and a world of its own. I feel like the song has to evoke those things. But I don’t want a song that sounds Broadway. There is an art to telling a specific story in a song. My immediate point of reference is Bob Dylan’s “The Hurricane”. I love that song. It’s got all this great and very specific storytelling (even if it lacks some factual accuracy). But I don’t want to write a song like that.

Here’s an example, the written prologue of TAS is all about the setting of the story. The story is set in an alternate version of our world. The prologue explains the idea of multiverses. When it came to writing a song that touched upon the same ideas, it was tough. It just didn’t flow in the way I wanted it to.

Then came the idea of referring to specific things. TAS takes place in a city called New Verity. If I mention that, it locks the song to the world of the story which is fine. But what happens when the song stands on its own. I think about a song like “Cable beach” by Ben Kreiger. That song is an amazing 15 minute tale of people retiring to a virtual world. It really needs to be taken as a whole for its full effect but it is really 5 smaller songs (don’t quote that number). The songs don’t stand up as well away from the whole. I still want songs that will stand up on their own but still be a part of a story. It’s a paradox that is making me take a completely different look at what goes into writing a song. I think if I’m going to pull this off, it’s going to take more that just write story verse, add catchy chorus. It’s going to take a reworking of how I present the story.

Then there’s the musical aspect. I’m still standing alone in this process. I know that there are great artists like Johnny Cashpoint, Heuristics Inc, and Billy’s Little Trip who are willing to work with me. And I want to work with them. I want to do some experimental stuff as a part of XTRG where we can deconstruct basic guy and guitar pieces, make them into electronic soundscapes, and then figure out how to recreate the experiments with live experiments. It’s brilliant fun. In Montserrat, I want to blend the two worlds of acoustic and electronic. And at the same time, try and have some fun by tapping into some different lyrical ground like history.

But you know that saying about how if you can’t love yourself how are you gonna love anyone else. That’s my feeling currently when it comes to music. I have to get myself into a good place. I’m a strong multitasker. I feel that’s one of my gifts. Fixing Niveous the musician and getting myself where I want to be musically takes focus and I wasn’t gifted with that.

Then there’s the strange dichotomy of needing to fix up myself and not being able to do it alone. And SF Live still looms in the distance. It’s all so confusing.

Back from the Dead?

Posted in Music on April 4, 2011 by Niveous

There’s been no activity here on Audioshards in a few days. Why? I put some more focus on a musical project. Which project? I’m trying not to talk it up. I feel like the more I talk it up, the more pressure that I’ll put on myself. And I don’t mean that in a good way. I mean that I’ll start thinking of the project like this “I mentioned this out loud. If I fail to finish it, it will be such a setback.”

But there is some undeniable pressure, like the fact that SF Live is in 2 months. I have 2 new released songs and still no band. I am far from where I want to be. So much that I need to do.

And today also starts the Songfight spring classic, the Nur Ein. Let’s see what year six has to offer.

Here We Go

Posted in Music on March 22, 2011 by Niveous

Well. It’s been a few days since I last blogged. Where have I been? Well, other than watching some really bad tv (So, Skins ended with a faked kidnapping and people singing Tears for Fears. WTF.) and dealing with some ridiculous web problems which kept me from doing some necessary downloads, and of course being a dad and boyfriend… I have been figuring out a lot when it comes to my music. I have come up with something that I wanna run with. I feel like it’s risky because it may not be for everyone but 1) it will make me feel artistically happy and 2) I think I can pull it off. I still need help but I am feeling very intrigued. And I also got some ideas for XTRG and MSP. Those may be a little harder to pull off. Crossing the fingers.

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