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01/02/2023  — 

Trip Down Memory Lane: Black Market Music

The flipping of the calendar is an obvious time for retrospection and brief trips down memory lane. I've tried journaling and writing but I don't really have the discipline or habits to keep that going. The mechanics of picking up a pen or putting hands on keyboard doesn't always work for me (evidence: the lack of action on this blog).

I like to keep track of the happenings in my life through photographs - the time and geo stamps are especially helpful in the storytelling. Lately I've been shooting a little video too. It's been sweet to revisit moments of life, to hear a voice or sound, to see someone's gesture that prompts a small flood of memories.

Every once and a while I stumble across someone else's video on YouTube that brings me right back to a moment, a place, a person. Here's one that happened recently...

The video below is two and a half minutes of someone's rando walkthrough of Black Market Music in West Hollywood probably in the late 90s or early 00s. There's not much to the video - it's poor VHS quality, shaky, no narration, awful sound, blurry, bad color. Totally charming.

We see a random view from the street (72 and sunny in west Hollywood), piles of amplifiers, guitars hanging everywhere, people chit-chatting (even eating lunch), racks of gear, display cases full of pedals and effects. It's a mess. It's full of action. If you know anything about music gear it's just a disgustingly opulent - absolutely ridiculous.

Black Market Music specialized in used gear and was thriving at this point. The music industry was at its absolute apex (file sharing was JUST starting - we hadn't yet heard Lars whining about Napster). Mega bands and labels were making piles of money with their recordings and tours. And if the major label music biz was a gold mine, Black Market Music was a major purveyor of second- hand shovels for all the miners.

I had the chance to walk through the shop right around that point in time when I went to LA with Steve Bell & Seth Freeman for a Little John show. I'm pretty sure it was Steve who led us to the shop. He was a master of material things - he helped me buy my bass amp and taught me about microphones, effects, amplifiers, tubes, drums. He was way over the horizon as far as his awareness and understanding of all kinds of gear.

At that point I didn't really know squat about Marshall amps or Gibson guitars. I probably didn't own a guitar amp. I had a Fender Lead II guitar and a Music Man bass, maybe that Ampeg Amp that Steve helped me buy. But I was solidly in Peavey Solid State-land as far as my understanding of amps went. I remember the smell of the place - musty, kinda sweaty, definitely dusty. I remember seeing piles of gear that had spray-paint logos from Van Halen and hair metal bands - gently used gear from tours or big shows. I remember seeing OLD guitars - like don't touch it old. Things that went for $5k (something like $12k today).

I remember a pile of Magnatone amps - I had just been introduced to Magnatone by Joe Gore who played a slide guitar through his to show me how it sounded - naturally overdriven full and juicy and perfect. They were hard to find, probably not in production at that point (though they've recently come back to life) - unobtanium, a unicorn. And here on the floor at Black Market were like 10 of them.

I remember things that were obviously used by pros - oh there's Alex Van Halen's drum cases, those are Tom Petty's amps, that's one of ELP's keyboard rack system. I'm sure there were even better examples that just went over my head.

It's one of the parts of life that I've come to appreciate lately - there are topics and subjects we can learn about that have infinite complexity. The more we learn, the more we see yet to be learned. The amount you could learn blooms and grows and goes and goes. Steve Bell was great at learning all of the stuff. He inspired me to do the same.

Through Steve and much later some of my YooToobers (Johan Segeborn, Kyle Bull, Pete Thorn, Warren Huart, the Guitologist (before he went nuts), Hermansson to name a few) I've learned just enough to realize how much gold was in that room. Looking through today's eyes, this scene is just bonkers.

Couple of droolworthy call outs worth mentioning: That droopy strat thing at 00:38, the hummingbirds hanging in the background next to the hofner bass at 00:42, the red tolex Marshall PA with two (pa) cabinets at 02:20, the pile of JCM800s at 01:03, the spread of snare drums at 01:09, the mountain of 4-hole plexis or JMPs at 01:48, the heap of old EHX pedals at 02:36, the tonebenders and similar pedals at 02:00. Gibson Jumbos sprinkled throughout. Marshall 8x10s tucked into the scenery... Park, Hiwatt... Stuff you just don't see around many places.

Go watch it:

Couple parting thoughts: who's that guy sitting on the Orange cab? Maybe one of the Eels? Some of my friends have told me of their star-sightings at BMM (maybe I'll post a part 2?). Did they let just any band put their show flyer or 8x10 glossy on that bulletin board by the door. There's another walkthrough from another date that shows more purple tolex and more of the keyboard and combo-amp stock.

09/08/2022  — 

Outdoor Doodles

I took a field trip a little while back to test out playing guitar outside. I want to do more of this. Get ready.

03/09/2021  — 

Song-A-Day 2021: Mile On Ice

I'm about to share a video pulled together from clips that I shot on Feb 20, 2021 while recording 'Mile On Ice' for the 2021 Song-A-Day adventure. If you know me, you already know that I've been writing, recording, and sharing a new song every day in February as part of the Song- A-Day project. At this point in February I had already written about 20 songs so I already had the workflow and mindset in place to go from raw idea to 'song' very quickly.

In this example, I was able to create a couple guitar tracks to go with drums & bass before adding #vocals. The #performances and the recordings are messy but that's kind of the point - I want to generate and capture an idea before dinner time. In this case it worked out - the tune has moments that I'll hang onto: a killer #bass line, the shift from the hook to the chorus... even a couple lines from the lyrics would probably make it through a rewrite.

Believe it or not, part of what makes this whole thing work for me is turning off the #critical part of my brain and letting the ideas roll. You can hear a lot of self-critical stuff bubbling out of me, but even though I have #doubts about the '#goodness' I gotta accept it for what it is (and move on). I don't really evaluate the work (as a whole) till I give it some time. Coming back to a song after a few weeks lets me hear it with fresh ears, appreciate the strengths, and let me imagine its next (better) form. The whole point here is to #create and boom- there it is!

So give it a spin and let me know what you think. If you want to hear more, go here:

More Song-A-Day music: http://songaday.netscrap.com Go find the #bands: http://doubleplusalright.com http://blert.com http://instagram.com/greacen http://greacen.com

12/07/2020  — 

New Blert Song: Escape

If you follow blert on bandcamp, you've probably already heard this new song (will hit streaming services like Spotify on the 11th). We're still putting the finishing touches on a few songs that blert recorded back around 2002-2005 which we'll bundle-up in an album we'll call New Day Undone.

This song started out as "Bingo Bars" which had some of the dumbest lyrics ever written. Getting decent lyrics into my music has always been a challenge and the early version of this song is a great example of my verbal under- achievement. Yet we stuck with that song and even played it in front of audiences. Why? We really loved the music - it's very blert: a tricky rhythm, a weird harmony, a chance for something epic...

I remember when this song arrived, Neal and I were in our space at Downtown Rehearsal Studios and one of us found some book for drummers (icymi: drummers read!) about odd time signatures. The book contained exercises in which they lay down a beat in 4/4 and then add or drop a beat in a phrase.

Neal loved to experiment with beats and rhythms that don't fit into a mold and these exercises kept us on our toes. I liked playing simple guitar lines along with one particular pattern and then BOOM- something clicked. Bingo Bars arrived quickly.

Flash-forward to the now and between Neal and Tasha we have new lyrics which are so much more vital and current - we added some other arrangement twists that help this song really blast off. Hope you are ready to escape...

Feeling all the rage
Feeding it for days
The beauty has lost its luster
All I hear is hate
Seeing all the ways
We've seemingly gone insane
Think of all your lost ones
Peeling off the pain

Really must escape
Make for better space
The joys have drowned in our sorrows
Breath is hard to take
Giving up the game
Been feeling it for days
The moment has lost momentum
And belief is fake
Escape
Escape
Escape

Another one dead today
And rage is what I pray
Breaking all composure
Hey that's all O.K.
Time to leave this placev Some will choose to stay
There's no room for the dead ones
Everything falls away
Escape
Escape
Escape

In this age of madness
Filled with rage and a false sense of hope
We come so close now
Has it all been a fucking joke
Who writes the narrative
Where one thing is more than the rest
Destroy the premise
And escape this
Whatever you call It
And these things we are tripping about
The beasts in the room
Where the space between me and you
Is in doubt
How can we ever be free
Ever be free

How can we ever be free

Go listen:

11/22/2020  — 

Bump Doodle on Instagram

I backed the Orba Kickstarter and have been slowly figuring this thing out.

09/09/2020  — 

New blert song: CTRL-Z

12/07/2018  — 

#MyMusical2018 Part 5: Other Shows

12/06/2018  — 

#MyMusical2018 Part 4: Doodles (something New)

12/05/2018  — 

#MyMusical2018 Part 3: Open mics and other gigs

12/04/2018  — 

#MyMusical2018 Part 2: Song-A-Day 2018

12/03/2018  — 

#MyMusical2018 Part 1: Doubleplus Alright

05/10/2015  — 

Doubleplus-Alright

06/05/2013  — 

Manatee gig 6/6/2013

09/22/2008  — 

Seth Adds To His Music Store

06/27/2008  — 

Post 1000

05/08/2008  — 

Super Foodie

03/04/2008  — 

29 done...

02/07/2008  — 

29 Songs: Day 4,5,6:

02/05/2008  — 

29 Songs: Day 3: More To Come

02/04/2008  — 

29 Songs: Day 3: If Yes, Then No

02/02/2008  — 

29 Songs: Day 2: On The Other Side

02/01/2008  — 

29 Songs: Day 1: Took To The Air

01/31/2008  — 

29 Songs Starts!