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Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Tony Alva came up from Georgia this past Friday, and we spent the weekend mostly trying to ignore the fact that we're a couple of geezers. I was doubly blessed because My Baby came up from DC as well. Friday night we caught The X's at The Continental. Tony was impressed, as I knew he would be. They are damn good. John Law, vocals/guitar, went to high school with Tony and myself, so it was a reunion of sorts. Afterward, Tony, My Baby and myself chilled out on the porch of my brother's house, played some guitar, sang some songs (Only Women Bleed), and discussed my 'hating'. Apparently I'm a hater. Objects of my hatred: Star Jones, Rosie O'Donnell, and Tom Cruise. Can I be blamed?
Saturday brought us to Smoke and Mirrors, the music studio that I operate with my partner Chris. My Baby hung back to do some work, she would meet us out in Brooklyn later. We began the day prepping for our evening session, a cover of Pink Floyd's 'Us and Them', but first we had a session with KIDD. KIDD resurrected some of his old material, and really brought it to life. KIDD never forgets a beat, it's a shame he can't remember it's name though. "It's that party joint." He was happy to see his old friend Tony, and by the time My Baby came out, the session had taken on the family reunion vibe.
After the hip hop left the building, we turned our attention back to 'Us and Them'. Long time readers will know that Chris and I spent a year and a half recording our version of Pink Floyd's 'The Wall'. It was a massive undertaking, and though Chris and I disagree on many things, we agreed that we weren't going to do that again. Enter the Classic Album DVD series. I recommend this series for anyone who is not only a fan, but a student of rock and roll. Eagle Rock Entertainment has made a bunch of these DVD's that feature a classic album. They interview those involved, revisit the environments, and discuss the record and it's development both creatively and technically. Well, Tony got hold of the 'Dark Side of the Moon' DVD, and he got the bug. Tony's original missives to Smoke and Mirrors involved a project of a grand scale, but Chris managed to talk Tony down to one song - 'Us and Them'.
'Us and Them' captures Pink Floyd quite possibly at their most quinessential moment. Lyrically it's an enduring masterpiece who's theme, unfortunately will always resonate. Musically it's basic point is twofold; less is more, and precision is everything.
The Smoke and Mirrors team assembled weeks ago to lay the foundation. Rob Machold laid down a typically fantastic drum track, and Chris and I worked up some scratch vocals, guitars, and keyboards. By the time Tony stepped up to the mic, the song had already taken on it's most basic shape. We spent Saturday night working on the verse vocals. That was when Tony found out about the precision part. I don't know if Roger Waters intended to write this song in iambic pentameter, but he did. I have had the advantage of studying Shakespeare, and Chris has internalized every note of the record, so poor Tony had to do take after take until we were satisfied. I love recording Tony's voice. It's very rich, and he always gives you a ton of signal. By the time we got Tony's verses and Chris' double, and it was quitting time. Back to the porch, then off to bed.
On Sunday morning we all met for brunch with Annie (of Chris and Annie fame) at Lola's on Graham St. I had Cello Citos, which were corn cakes with eggs and tomatillo sauce, yum. Eggs Benedict was the more popular item at the table. Then Chris, Annie, My Baby, Tony, and Mr. Buckingtons went to the studio for round two of Tony vs. The Dark Side.
Day two was easier, as Tony had settled in a bit. We did the big chorus vocals. It's no easy matter to try to achieve even a fraction of what Rick Wright and Dave Gilmour did with their voices on that section. We gave it our best, and I'm happy with the results. Tony and Chris' voices blend well. Again it was a matter of beating the individual into submission with endless takes, until there's no lead vocal, just one big voice. I left to take My Baby to the train, and when I got back it was time to work on Tony's guitar in the verse, the arpeggio. It's not an easy part to play, but we got enough good bits to do the job.
It had already been a long day when Chris left, but Tony and I stayed and recorded two podcasts, an all UFO podcast, and a 'forgotten classics' podcast. We had much fun. I have sent them to Hue, and will notify you all when they go live.
Monday during the day we took care of some errands, waited in vain for the Netflix delivery of 'UFO, Strangers in the Night' DVD, and drove to Jersey to see Cheap Trick and Alice Cooper, where we did see Larry David, and did not see Jason Chervokas. Cheap Trick's sound sucked ass. They were given 'warm up act sound', and I think that sucks. They are Cheap Trick, and they deserve the same sound as Alice. Alice was great, as always. We hooked up with some friends of mine, Lance from the Horse You Rode In On, and Woody Berg, a notable Broadway figure, and consumer of frosty beverages.
On Tuesday Tony and I had a 'Solder Day', and we cleaned a good portion of our Soundcraft console, strip by strip. It was actually kinda fun. I am so glad we decided to buy this board. Modular is the way to go, definitely. Around four o'clock Tony got the call that the rest of the Alva family had touched down, and he was off to his ladies. I cleaned some more strips, then Chris showed up, followed by House of Blondes, and it was back to business, the business of rocking. The House of Blondes tracks are taking up shape very nicely, and I suspect you'll hear them on a podcast near you very soon.

Yes, modular reigns supreme. Being able to actually work on a board gives one an enormous feeling of accomplishment, especially when the stuff you do actually improves the sound.

It's kinda fun, too.
If hating Star Jones, Rosie O'Donnell, and Tom Cruise makes you a hater, then I guess I'm a hater as well... I can't even look at star jones.

I hope to visit NYC sometime - it sounds like you are quite the host.

The Pcasts are up and I feel pretty cool that I got to hear them before anyone! great shows. UFO f'king Rocks... I had no idea there was a DVD, I just ordered it!

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