So Fresh & So Cleansed

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I’ve spent the last 18 months living a pretty healthy lifestyle, and I’ve seen the benefits in terms of weight loss and general overall health and well being. I don’t torture myself, and I continue to enjoy occasional digressions into sweets and savories and booze, but overall I’ve stopped treating myself like shit, and I’m definitely better for it.

Late last month, however, I attended a trade show in Anaheim, CA that I spend a few days at every year (8 years running now), and per the usual, I was inundated with a herculean amount of rich, sugary, fatty and salty foods, and rivers of booze. It’s just the nature of trade show life, and it’s hard to escape that culture when you’re immersed in it.

To my grossly overweight, former garbage disposal of a self, the bacchanalian experience of those days never had much noticeable impact because that was just my regular intake, but this year it hit me really hard. Despite my efforts — I worked out at the hotel gym daily; I kept the drinking to a manageable, social minimum (most nights); and I avoided the worst food choices — I still managed to consume way more salt, fat, sugar, and booze than I’m used to, I put on five pounds over five days, and I felt particularly awful when I returned. Despite getting back to my regular healthy lifestyle immediately, and dropping some of the added weight, I couldn’t shake the feeling of physical malaise — a general lack of energy, lingering stomachache, unquenchable thirst for water, a few other minor yet noticeable maladies.

I was presented with the prospect of a juice cleanse — not the infamous Master Cleanse (I’m no masochist), but a mere three-day program of juice that limited my intake to fresh fruit and vegetable juices, no solid foods, and no toxins like sugar, caffeine, or alcohol. I’d become fed up with feeling like shit, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

After deciding that buying a juicer was not the way to go (for various reasons I won’t go into), and researching various pre-packaged juice cleanse providers, I settled on The Pressed Juicery, and for about $150 (minus $50 off the advertised price thanks to having a friend pick up the juice at the company’s Fairfax location and skipping the overnight shipping charge) hooked up a three-day supply of the stuff, which came in three brown bags, with six 16oz bottles of juice and two 16oz bottles of water in each bag.

Each daily allotment contained a variation of recipes along the menu of a “Greens” blend for breakfast, a “Roots” blend for mid-morning, a “Citrus” blend for lunch, a different “Greens” juice for mid-afternoon, a different “Roots” blend for dinner, and a “Chocolate Almond” or “Vanilla Almond” juice for desert. There were also bottles of “Chlorophyl Water” (to drink throughout the day) and “Aloe Vera Water” (to drink before bed). The combination comprised a 1140 calorie daily diet, with the bulk of the calories — along with the only fat, salt and sugar in the program — coming from the almond-based drink at the end of the day. I assume this is because, without that, I’d be waking up hungry throughout the night.

Anyway, I logged some notes throughout the process, so rather than go into some long-winded postmortem of the whole process, here are the thoughts I jotted down while I was in the throes of this cleanse, which I did between a Wednesday and Friday…

Mon. 10pm: I’m starting to realize that I’m not totally prepared for this. The cleanse site says I should ramp down my overall consumption a couple days prior, so I started cutting sugar, meat, carbs, etc. I became immediately frustrated this evening because there’s no dark chocolate in the house. It’s my only real vice, besides a little whiskey, which I’m clinging to until the last second. Maybe. This does not bode well.

Tues. 10am: It’s occurred to me that I’m going to have to adjust my workout regimen. This cleanse will have me consuming approximately 1140 calories a day, and I routinely burn around 400 to 500 during my daily morning workout. I don’t wanna quit working out (I’m addicted to my workout, even though it’s not that strenuous), but I’ve decided to play it by ear and acquiesce to adjustment / reduction if I start to feel all fucked up by it. After all, netting 700 calories a day just doesn’t seem healthy.

Tues. 11pm: Skipped my final whiskey tonight before starting this new age hippie gastronomic torture. Other than the ritual of it, it seemed superfluous anyway…especially without some dark chocolate to go with it.

There are 24 bottles of specially formulated beverage in my fridge — 6 juices and 2 waters for each of the next three days — and I’m actually looking forward to this. I haven’t been right since the NAMM show, I clearly need to reset myself, and a well-measured shock to the system is generally a good thing. My last meal was was relatively clean — a cup of low sodium tomato soup, one and a half organic corn tortillas, a little steamed broccoli in olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt, and a cup of tea. Seems like a fitting last meal before embarking on this adventure.

Wed. 6:30am: Weighed in at 213 lb. (a little heavier than usual), did my regular workout: 30 minutes /10 miles on the stationary bike, sit-ups/push-ups/squats, and dumbbell work. Time to hit the juice. It’s green and looks a little too savory for breakfast, but it’s not bad.

Wed. 9:15am: A few hours after drinking the first juice on the first day of this cleanse, two things are glaringly evident: hunger, and caffeine withdrawals. I don’t eat a lot for breakfast, but what I do eat is apparently enough to keep me satiated, and anything less is not enough. I anticipated the caffeine withdrawals but I’ll never get used to the dual-ice-pick-to-the-temples headache. It’ll subside, but I’ll be a surly bastard until it does. As far rough starts go, though, this seems fairly mild.

Wed. 12pm: I’m sort of spacey, slightly light headed, a little punchy. And cold. And I want a donut, even though there are no donuts anywhere around here. Knee-jerk reaction craving to this process, I assume. I’ve had the mid-day snack juice, a beet-y root concoction that tastes vaguely like dirt with honey in it, and I’m about to crack open the citrus juice lunch beverage.

Wed. 3:30pm: I’m not actually hungry, despite having consumed a net calorie intake of less than 200 for the day. But I’m cold. Like bone-chillingly cold. And I’m having intermittent trouble focusing. I sorta fade in and out, and I just hope that no one catches me nodding at my desk like some kind of fucking junkie.

Wed. 5pm: Goals for tomorrow include not working out…or just doing cardio. Also, I’m wondering if the lethargy I’m feeling is due to caffeine withdrawals. That shit is a serious drug, and a lack of energy is a standard withdrawal symptom.

Wed. 8:30pm: The roots juice I had for dinner is easily the best one yet, sweet and tangy. The vanilla almond desert was a much need hit of fat, sugar, salt and protein, and the sweetest of the daily regimen. I’m still cold all over, posted up on the couch with the heater cranked, in sweats, a flannel shirt and wool socks, under a blanket. Hot tea then bed. My workout might not happen tomorrow morning. The calorie and exercise tracking app on my phone warned me that I’m not consuming enough.

Thurs. 6:45am: Slept in and skipped my workout entirely. Weighed in at 208. Seems like a big drop from yesterday’s 213, but at 6’4″ with a naturally big frame, I can throw 5 lb. around like a rag doll depending on just the salt in my diet, and bathroom action (which there’s been some of). I stood in a hot shower this morning fantasizing about attacking the peanut butter jar in the fridge with a spoon. Clearly I’m craving fat & protein.

Thurs. 11:30am: I think I’m getting past the coffee withdrawals, so I’m not as groggy as I was at this time yesterday, but still feel a little out of my head. It’s not like I can’t focus, but I’m missing that raw nerve edge that coffee and proper food nutrition provide. In it’s place it this sort of ethereal mind state, like I’m conscious and aware, but sort of following my brain around at five feet behind it.

Thurs. 4:30pm: I just tried to describe a photograph taken behind the scenes during the shooting of The Godfather, and could only remember Marlon Brando’s name. I completely drew a blank on James Cahn and Robert Duval, and kept referring to them as, “aahhh you know, Tom and Sonny…those two fuckin’ guys.” I’m starting to think that a lack of caloric intake is taking a toll on my mental acuity. And I’m still super fucking cold. Also still a bit groggy. I’ve read that people reach a point of zen-like laser focus while doing these cleanses, and I have yet to find that point. But I guess there’s always tomorrow.

Thurs. 5:30pm: My olfactory senses are all wacky. I’m smelling food that’s not there. Right now it’s bacon cheeseburger, and I really want a fucking bacon cheeseburger.

Thurs. 8:30pm: For the first time all day I’m not cold to my core. I wonder if it’s because my last juice of the day, the chocolate almond, contains the fat, salt and sugar that my body’s been missing all day. I’m basically two-thirds of the way through this cleanse and I can’t say I feel fantastic, though I don’t feel shitty either. I’m still craving real food, particularly a burger, or some peanut butter (or some peanut butter on a burger), though it’ll be a day or two after this is over before I can mess with any meat. Peanut butter, on the other hand…

Fri. 6:30am: I skipped my workout again. I’m not happy about it, but I just don’t have it in me, and I weighed in at 207 lb. Didn’t wake up hungry or groggy, but had a lot of particularly weird dreams, and woke up to pee five times throughout the night. Going into the last day of this cleanse, I’m already cold, and I’m looking forward to eating real food again. Otherwise I’m no worse for the wear. I still haven’t decided if I’m any better for it, either.

Fri. 4:30pm: Pretty much de rigeur at this point. The day, and the juices I consumed throughout, flew by. I’ve been cold all day, and I got pretty groggy around noon before I drank lunch. I’m really looking forward to being done with this. I’m not sure there’s been much change in my body. I’ve dropped 6lb. so far, but haven’t experienced any of the diarrhea or constipation that is said to come with a juice cleanse. I’ve spent the last 18 months adjusting my eating and exercise habits, and the contents of these juices are a big part of my day-to-day diet anyway. So aside from removing the meat proteins and carbs (which I get from brown rice, quinoa, corn meal, and the occasional bit of pasta or crusty bread), this juice diet is just reducing my calorie intake and increasing the amount of time I spend peeing.

Fri. 7pm: I am currently dealing with the most difficult part of this cleanse: Watching my 5-year-old daughter eat a burrito. Holy fuck, the smell. I never thought a plain chicken burrito could smell so divine.

Fri. 10:30pm: I’m done. Finished the last bottle, a vanilla almond juice (which is pretty good) a couple hours ago. I can’t say that I feel any better than I did when I started this. Of course I can’t say I feel any worse either. I’m gonna try to get in some cardio tomorrow morning, before I start settling back to my regular routine. That should be interesting, seeing as I’ve living half my usual caloric intake.

I went back to my regular diet Saturday morning — didn’t feel the need to ease back into it as the cleanse site suggested, just jumped right in, including a braised pork taco at lunch — and returned to my exercise regimen that Sunday.

While I definitely felt under-fueled throughout the cleanse, I immediately noticed a significant uptick in energy afterwards, once I reintroduced solid food. In fact I had trouble sleeping the first couple of nights afterward. I also weighed in at 204 on Saturday morning, 9 lb. down from where I started three days before, which isn’t bad. I’ve since put 6 lb. back on and I’m hovering around 210 again, but the goal wasn’t to lose weight.

The issues I had been experiencing after the trade show went away, and I’ve felt detoxified since completing the cleanse, which was the point. So I guess I’d call it a success, and I’d probably consider doing it again the next time I expose myself to a sustained stint of unhealthy living. Some people do it every three or six months, just to do it. I don’t know about all that. It wasn’t that cool.

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NAMM 2014

Dunlop Booth

Winter NAMM is the big annual trade show in Anaheim, CA for musical instrument manufacturers. It happens every January, and because of what I do for a living—I’m the online marketing manager at Dunlop Manufacturing, a.k.a. Jim Dunlop—I attend. We have a big both (like really big, with two stories, meeting offices, an artist lounge, a massage chair, lots of snacks, etc.), we release new products, set up kiosks with gear that attendees can play, have booth performances and demos, and we meet with media people, players, and, most importantly, retailers and distributors from all over the world. And we drink and eat too much, and generally don’t get a lot of sleep.

To a non-attending musician / music gear nerd, my perspective is likely pretty boring; I don’t often get out to the show floor to play with and photograph new gear (partially because I don’t have time, and partially because I don’t care much anymore), but that didn’t stop me from snapping a couple dozen photos and posting them to my Flickr account (where you can gawk at them in full res), which you can see here:

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If you want actual NAMM 2014 Show coverage, just Google that shit. There’s a ton of it out there.

Oh, and this happened…

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Records: 13 for 2013

Here are my 13 favorite albums of 2013. Aaaaaand GO!

Akimbo, Live To Crush
Akimbo announced that they were calling it quits at the end of 2012, after almost 15 years of blowing out eardrums and crushing beer cans with the girth of their sonic assault. But before riding off into the sunset, the trio recorded this farewell album, a blistering collection of gigantic riffs with titanic sized balls, and released it in April of this year.

Express Rising, 2
The long awaited second collection of sublimely downtempo beats from Dante Carfagna under the shadowy moniker Express Rising, this record feels more synth-based and more cleanly produced than the scratchy, more lo-fi Express Rising debut album, but it’s every bit as warm and sparse yet satisfyingly dense.

Obits, Beds & Bugs
This Brooklyn, NY quartet has produced yet another great album that, in my book, cements them as purveyors of a new archetype of American rock music. It’s song-focused, punk-informed grown man’s music with guitar driven attitude and catchy rock hooks.

Day, Land of 1000 Chances
Land of 1000 Chances was my first favorite release of 2013, a masterpiece of rich, layered instrumental hip-hop featuring the rare combination of top notch production, smart songwriting, inventive use of samples and organic music. This album came out back in February, became my winter soundtrack, continued on heavy rotation through the spring, held the title for summer-jam-of-the-year, and settled comfortably into a fall favorite. Too dope.

Queens Of The Stone Age, …Like Clockwork
The dark horse in my Favorites of 2013 stable — it’s been a long time since I counted myself a QOTSA fan — …Like Clockwork is a solid record all the way through. The songwriting, playing, and production are all totally on point, and the record’s whole vibe is decidedly darker and more developed than the band’s previous releases, which is right up my alley.

J-Zone, Peter Pan Syndrome
I hesitate to make any don’t-call-it-comeback references, but that’s pretty much what this album is. J-Zone was always too ig’nant for the nerds and too musically skewed for the gangsta rap fans, but Zone’s quirky production is solid, absolutely unfuckwitable, and his raps are equal parts stark reality and classic rap fantasy braggadocio. I’m really glad he came back to music. (Also, read his book: Root For The Villain: Rap, Bullshit and a Celebration of Failure.)

The Blind Shake, Key To A False Door
This Minneapolis, MN trio is currently my favorite live band, and this is their most musically diverse album yet. I mean, it’s a lot like their previous albums, except they break out of the mold a bit, digging deeper into the concepts of tone and songwriting. But really, it’s 30 minutes of straight up barn-burning (but downright friendly) mid-western garage stomp.

Andre Nickatina, S/T
Dre Dog can do no wrong, in fact he would seriously have to go out of his way to make a shitty record that I wouldn’t want to listen to. The Bay Area rap veteran revisits his go-to themes of drugs, working girls, cars, flossin’ paper and threads, and always manages to weave in some heavy personal perspective, all over the meanest of Bay slapper beats.

Earthless, From The Ages
Guitarist Isaiah Mitchell is one of the best (and most criminally underrated) guitar players wielding a six-string these days — and bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba are a killer rhythm section — and it’s about damn time Earthless finally released a proper follow up to 2006′s Rhythms from a Cosmic Sky. It’s jammy, sure, but it’s on fucking fire.

Wooden Shjips, Back To Land
As far as contemporary psych rock goes, few bands do it as well as Wooden Shjips. And while psych is what is — which is to say there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about it as a genre at this point — there’s something about this band that makes their music much more than the sum of its parts. While sufficiently psych-y, this stuff is smart, tight and catchy.

Killer Mike + El P, Run The Jewels
For the third album he’s produced in two years, El-Producto cranked out another solid collection of hard-charging dystopian electro bangers that he and Killer Mike straight body. No question about it — this is the rap record of the year, and may very well hold that title across any/every genre. Oh, and you can download it for free.

Sandrider, Godhead
For my money, Sandrider (with Jon and Nat from Akimbo on guitar and drums, respectively) is the biggest sounding three-piece rock band in the game right now, and no album all year has been as much fun to listen to as Godhead. Seriously monster riffage, deep pocket grooves, drunkenly belligerent vocals — this record has it all.

Roomrunner, Ideal Cities
Baltimore’s Roomrunner deliver a style of noisy, punk-y rock that’s as rewardingly unhinged as it is catchy as hell. This was one of those bands I was put onto by friends, checked out their Bandcamp page, heard one song and preordered the Ideal Cities vinyl without thinking twice. It’s been in steady rotation ever since. Winner.

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Shortie: Bloat Wear

This is the second little beat I’ve made with the same synth patch, it’s really similar to the last one. Which, of course, is a complete turn off to me. Time to delete that patch. But in the meantime, if you’ve got 53 seconds, there’s this…

 

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Shortie: Glowstick Suicide

Sometimes I take stabs at making shitty music on a computer and/or an iPad, with no real instruments, just synth and drum apps. And I come up with eight bars of crap like this. Enjoy…

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The “Lost” Silencer Assembly Files

 

Enjoy these soothing sounds as the soundtrack to the following tale..

I am…or was…or whatever, in this band — a three-piece rock group called Silencer Assembly. It started with me on bass and my friend Mark Pino drums. We wrote a handful of songs and played the hell out of them for a year and half or so, and then decided that we needed to add a guitar player to the mix, so we asked Ian Robertson to join us. We boiled our oeuvre down to eight songs and the three of us rehearsed them for a long time, and since we could never get our shit together to play any shows, we decided to record those songs, and go from there.

At the suggestion of my friend and fellow bass player Ian Miller, I asked the homie Scott Evans (KWC guitarist / singer, Tape Op magazine contributor, and all around awesome dude) to record us. We met up at Sharkbite Studios in Oldtown Oakland back in late August of 2012 and banged out a quick and dirty one-day session. We hit a few speed bumps — my amp, which had been acting up and I did nothing about, took a shit straightaway (my bad); we had a few issues with one or two of the songs — but at the end of the day had achieved what we’d set out to accomplish: eight finished songs in the proverbial can.

We went back and forth (and took our damn sweet time) with Scott (who was super patient with us) while he mixed the music over the following couple months, and in October of 2012 we took possession of six nicely mixed tunes (two songs got cut from the final product for various reasons).

In the meantime, everything with the band ground to a halt. Stopped dead in its tracks.

I don’t know for sure what happened, but I know what wasn’t happening: We weren’t playing. We met up for beers one afternoon, talked a little about the music, and decided to give up our practice space in West Oakland, which I think was more of a definitive course of action than we envisioned at the time, and despite our best intentions our hiatus became official. Meanwhile, these recordings were collecting dust.

Fast forward several months…which is to say, pretty much right now. I was recently asked to take up bass duties in another band (which I did; more on that later), and for various reasons, I didn’t feel I could do that without releasing the Silencer Assembly stuff. I know Mark and Ian were in favor of getting this music out there, and much in the same way that I don’t know exactly what happened to the band, I don’t know exactly why I never put these songs out. So I did it, and they were unmastered at first because I’m a kucklehead and I just didn’t get them mastered, but Ben Adrian stepped up and did a quick mastering job on them because he’s a really nice guy.

Anyway, you can have these songs for free. Yeah, I know the Buy Now field on the Bandcamp page says “name your price,” but we won’t be offended if the price you name is $0.00, so just go get the music.

Also, if you’re in the Bay Area and you’re looking to record some music, I highly recommend Scott. He’s extremely professional and disarmingly casual, super cool and a no-bullshit kinda guy, he knows sound and does great work for a fair price. And Sharkbite was a great place to spend a day making noise.

So there it is, in a nutshell.

And here are some photos from that Sharkbite session…

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Winter NAMM 2013, Anaheim, CA

The two NAMM shows I’ve been to since I began working for Jim Dunlop have been much different — i.e. busier — than the previous five I attended, and consequently, my perspective on the show has changed significantly.

I used to come back from NAMM with a camera full of gear photos. All kinds of gear. It was due to the nature of my previous employment, which had me roaming the halls and aisles of the largest musical instrument trade show in the country. These days, because of the nature of my current job, I’m pretty much stuck in one place for most of the show, and while my exposure is now limited to what I’m working on and who’s passing by, I’ve found the time goes by much quicker. So it’s a nice tradeoff.

My photos from the show (which you can view in their full size over on Flickr) reflect that shift in my experience, from gear shots to mostly images of people and scenes, mostly from in around the Dunlop Booth; you can see tons more official Dunlop NAMM 2013 photos and video (of much higher quality than this) over on the Dunlop blog, if you’re so inclined.

Here are a handful of things that marked my NAMM 2013 experience…

  • I met and talked with former NY Yankee and future MLB Hall Of Fame shoe-in Bernie Williams, who also happens to be a decent jazz guitarist. He’s also a really nice guy.
  • I ate more fillet mignon in four days than I have in the last four years: Steakpocalypse 2013. (There are no photos of this.) When I couldn’t get away from meetings or the show floor for a meal, I lived on booth food — fatty granola, chocolate, peanuts, etc. Basically, I ate like shit. I’ll be living on goat cheese and field greens for the next few weeks.
  • I met The Cramps’ last bass player, Scott “Chopper” Franklin, and we talked about bass fuzz and overdrive effects. He’s rad.
  • I had a couple of very, um… memorable meetings. I’m just gonna leave it at that to protect innocent (and guilty).
  • I spent five days in a place that, during that time, probably hosted the world’s highest concentration of musical instruments, and I didn’t pick up an instrument or play a single note the whole time I was there.
  • I met producer / engineer Joe Barresi and talked about vintage belt buckles, Talk Box effects and reamping. That dude is a legend and he’s super friendly, and I nerded the fuck out.

Enjoy…

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Neurosis, New Years Eve 2012, Oakland, CA

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I had the good fortune to see Neurosis perform on New Years Eve at the Oakland Metro Opera House. It was a mostly private show, with fewer than 100 tickets issued to the public, and the rest sent out via invitations from the band members to friends, family and supporters who have stood by them and supported their music for the last 27 years. It is by the graces of my day job, which provides the band with musical equipment (some custom), that was I was included in the invitations…actually, my manager was, but since I’m the only other person in the shop who’s a fan, he extended the invitation to me as well.

This was the second time in as many months that I saw Neurosis perform live — the first was at the release party for the most recent album, Honor Found In Decay — at the Fox Theater in Oakland back in November.

On New Years Eve, my old friend Eugene Robinson lead the midnight countdown from the stage, and at the stroke of midnight, Neurosis launched into an epic set. Not a bad way to end one year and begin a new one.

You can see these photos in all their full sized glory on Flickr.

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2013: A Short List

I’m not big on new years resolutions. In fact, I think they’re lame. I mean, why put off until tomorrow what you can do today? If you know you need to do something / change something / accomplish something, then just fucking do it and be done with it. Waiting to hit a starting point on a calendar to begin something is just another way of putting it off. Why do you think so many people’s New Year resolutions fail? It’s because they don’t want to do that shit anyway.

I’m generally pretty satisfied with my life (love my job, love my kid, can’t really complain about much), but seeing as how the rolling over of a new year has significance in pretty much every culture on the planet, it does feels like an opportune time to step back, take stock, and plan ahead. So with that in mind, here are a handful of simple things I would like to do / change / accomplish in 2013…

1. Continue to improve my general health and well-being. I started making a concerted effort to watch what I eat and exercise daily back in May of 2012, and since then have lost about 70 pounds. I’m trying to loose an additional 30 to 50 and just live an all-around healthier lifestyle. My closet is pretty much empty, people I’ve known for years don’t recognize me and pass me on the street without a second glance, and my friends and family are all universally very supportive. I’d like to keep that rollin’.

2. Play music. I’m a bass player — I love it, I need it. I have a band but we haven’t played together since we recorded back in August of 2012, I don’t know what that means and why we’re not playing, and it’s super frustrating. I need to have my amp retubed, but otherwise the only thing standing my in my way is…well, I don’t know, but I will play music again in 2013. Either we figure out whats going on with the current band, or I join another band… Whatever, I need to get musically creative and loud with other people.

3. Write more. I used to write a lot, for fun and profit. I went to college to be a journalist, and made money (almost a living) doing it for a while. But I don’t write much anymore (and writing for work doesn’t count). I chock it up to a time issue — it’s certainly not for want of ideas or motivation; I’ve got a fuckton of half-finished documents on my computer — I’m just really busy. But I maintain this blog for the sole purpose of having an avenue to web-publish my writings and rantings, and though I make, and fail to keep, this pledge to myself every year, I’m really going to try to increase my output here in 2013.

4. Take more photos. And I don’t mean iPhone / Instagram photos, though those are fun and easy, and good for the on-the-run bullshit. I have a good quality, feature-laden point-and-shoot digital camera, and I pay for a Flickr account because I enjoy photography (always have; I used to develop my own black and white film and prints). I just need to take a lesson from my homie The Tens (who’s a way better photographer than I’ll ever be), grab my camera and take that fucker with me everywhere I go.

4. Get out more. I’m not really looking to attain super-player man-about-town status, but I’d like to regrow some kind of social life, which seems to have dwindled to a bare minimum in the last few years for various reasons. So…what’s going on tonight? ‘Cause I’m down (unless I have my daughter… or am playing music… or would rather just chill on the couch).

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A Matthew Africa Story…

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In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, noted Bay Area DJ and friend to many Matthew Africa was killed in a car accident over Labor Day weekend, leaving a huge hole in the hearts of friends and music fans all over the country. Matthew was an amazing human being, a great DJ, and certified encyclopedia of musical knowledge. I wrote this post a couple days after he died because this song (streaming above) came up randomly in a jazz shuffle I had going on iTunes, and it reminded me of this story. I hadn’t planned on posting this; I initially wrote it just to get it outta my head at the time. So many of Matthew’s close friends, notable DJs and record nerds have had so many great things to say about him, and I kinda felt like this was an insignificant little blip in the amazing existence of a truly wonderful person. But I’ve decided that, regardless of whatever else is being said, this serves as another example of Matthew’s openness as a person, and the depth and breadth of his musical knowledge and curiosity, which is quite a legacy. And for me, it’s a fond memory, so…

In late April of 2011, Matthew and I were with a buncha people having papusas at Zocalo in San Francisco after DJ Stef‘s monthly Spindig party at The Knockout on Mission.

We ended up talking about jazz piano players over dinner. I don’t remember how the conversation started, but it stands out in my memory because it was always a real pleasure to discuss music with Matthew, especially jazz and soul music. For a non-musician, he had a deep, innate understanding of music — specifically the instrumental and production elements and, more importantly, the emotional content and generally indescribable soul of sound — and I always found our conversations to be more fascinating and enjoyable than most of the myriad conversations about music I’ve had with musicians over the years. Matthew was as genuinely curious about music as he was learned (I find it hard to believe that there was anything out there that he wasn’t aware of), but the sheer volume of musical knowledge he possessed wasn’t in any way held as a cache of guarded secrets; it was a passion that he shared with the world, something that, in my own experience, he was always open with and always hungry for more of.

We continued that conversation about jazz pianists on BART as we rode back to Oakland together at the end of the evening. I remember sitting across from him on the train, which was pretty full, and talking in some depth about Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, McCoy Tyner, Ahmad Jamal and Bill Evans — this canon of the most amazing piano players of the genre. In the course of comparing notes, he mentioned a song from a record I had never heard called The Soul of Jazz Percussion, an odd compilation of jazz tunes recorded for percussion and production nerds. Because I was a little drunk and generally overexcited about the whole situation, I forgot the name of the record pretty much the moment I stepped off the train (Matthew continued on to the next stop), but it dogged me at the time because he had described the song in detail with such emotion.

A couple days later, I sent Matthew a link to download a rip of my vinyl copy of Bud! (Blue Note, 1957 with Paul Chambers on bass, Art Taylor on drums, and Curtis Fuller on trombone for a few tracks), which is easily one of my top five favorite jazz records of all time, and which I raved about to him on the way back to Oakland. I remember being surprised when he said he didn’t have it, but not at all surprised when he expressed an interest in checking out. Matthew responded to my email right away, and included a link to grab the track he told me about from The Soul of Jazz Percussion, a tune called “Quiet Temple.” The email contained a few words he wrote about the song, a reminder of what we had talked about…

“It’s the saddest, prettiest jazz song I know. It kind of reminds me of ‘Maggot Brain,’ which is the only thing I can think of that sounds as lonely.

The song comes from a date that featured Bill Evans, Donald Byrd, Pepper Adams, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. No one is credited as the leader — it was a stereo demonstration record, so if you listen on headphones you can hear them trying to do all kinds of primitive panning. The song itself is a Mal Waldron composition.

It’s a little crackly, but nothing too distracting.

Enjoy!”

Like pretty much everything else Matthew put me on to — which amounts to tons of amazing music, some directly, like this, but most of it via his numerous awesome mixes and radio shows — this entire record is phenomenal.

Every time I hear this song, I can hear him describing it.

Posted in Bummer, Music, Oakland | 1 Comment