Category Archives: music

New Turntable

Back in the 1990s I sold about 80% of my vinyl LPs to Half Price Books. We were young, we moved a lot, we never had a lot of space, and I just didn’t want to lug the weight of those albums around with me for the rest of my life. I kept about 30 LPs that I really liked. Honestly, the ones I sold were nothing I really wanted to keep. I bought a lot of stinkers I guess.

I’m no audiophile, but I do like a nice stereo. I got a nice Technics system when I graduated from college. A few years ago I replaced all of it but the turntable with a new system – Yamaha amp/receiver, Yamaha CD player, and Klipsch floor speakers. It sounds great. I hooked up my old turntable and it still worked (I replaced the cartridge). I decided this Christmas to get a new turntable. A vinyl freak friend at work who is of approximately the same income level as me recommended the Audio-Technica LP120. That’s what I got. It is substantially nicer than the little turntable that came with the old stereo. A lot of it is made of metal. It is substantial. Balancing the tone arm was easy enough (I had no idea you had to do that kind of stuff). I’m using the cartridge that came with it. It sounds great.

All these years of listening to little shitty bluetooth speakers, ear buds, etc., had nearly made me forget what a really nice stereo and turntable sound like. The old LPs are in good shape. I have always been very careful with them. A few pops, but otherwise they are crystal clear. Luckily we have kept all our CDs. We have a pretty  good music collection.

So, I’m really enjoying the new turntable. Today is my evening shift, so I don’t go to work until noon. I got up at 9am, made coffee, and sat in the front room (now the Music Room) and listened to two LPs and a couple of 45s. It was so great. Remember when you were young and would just listen to music. Really listen — doing nothing else. It’s the best. Apparently that is my optimum way of starting the day. Sleep in, have coffee, listen to music. I feel great. Need more of that.

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine

Saturday night I met some friends down at a bar called Three Links, in Dallas, to see Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine.

2014-11-09 00.47.44Like a lot of skaters my age, I’m a long time fan of Jello, from his work with the Dead Kennedys to his spoken word material. About 7 years ago (has it been that long? wow!) I saw Jello do his spoken word, so there was no way I was gonna miss his show with his new band.

First, a few words about the first of the opening bands, The Interrupters, a very good punk/ska band from LA. I’ll be honest, I’m not a ska fan at all. I usually think it’s dumb and hate it. But I really liked this band. They had a really good sound. As soon as I heard their first song I was happy and full of hope for the future. Seriously.  You can learn more about them on the link above.

OK, on to Jello.

Jello is old, and fat, and I don’t know  where he gets enough energy to do what he does, but he does, and it is pretty incredible. He was all over the stage. Classic Jello. The new material is extremely good. When you hear it, it is very clear that Jello wrote all the Dead Kennedy’s stuff. It’s the same, with a little different sound from a more talented band. Yeah – more talented. I love the Dead Kennedys music, so that’s not a put-down. But this new band, the Guantanamo School of Medicine, is just a much more experienced band what still manages to deliver the energy of a bunch of young kids.

Here’s a link to the new album….JELLO BIAFRA AND THE GUANTANAMO SCHOOL OF MEDICINE –  White People And The Damage Done. As you will see from the song titles, Jello’s songwriting is still pretty hard-hitting.

Three Links is a small-ish bar/club. Not tiny, but not huge. I would say it qualifies as “intimate”. The sound was good for all the bands. It was open to the street, so there was some nice fresh air to cool the crowd. The band came out, and after the first song Jello demanded (in a classic Biafra rant about “why are there fucking TVs on at every bar”) that all the “fucking TVs” be turned off. The bartenders complied, and the show went on!

2014-11-09 00.14.47When the second song began, the slamming up by the stage started, and the chaos grew, and it could have been 1985. There’s nothing like the surge of a slamming crowd. (Sorry, I can’t use the term “mosh”. It sounds stupid and comes from violent metalhead morons). It was good-natured yet still somewhat threatening mayhem, which Jello seemed to love, flinging water bottle out into the crowd. This continued through the whole show.

Before a lot of the songs Jello stopped to talk politics for a few seconds, usually as an appropriate intro to a song.

Jello threw a few Dead Kennedys songs into the mix. Kill The Poor, California Über Alles, Nazi Punks Fuck Off, and Holiday in Cambodia. They are, after all, his songs. They sound good, and of course the crowd went even more crazy. The new songs are great, but those old songs are formative for a lot of people – no getting around it.

As a 50-year old delinquent, it was just so great to see this at an all ages show. Young kids, old farts, skaters, punkers, nerds…all mixing it up in a club small enough to feel like things were real.

OK, time to wrap this up.

They played for very close to two hours. A very very very short break before a 4 song encore. Two hours! That is kind of rare these days, I think.

All in all, a fun time. So great!





New Drum Kit

Sort of.midi-drum-m2-300x300I ordered this today. Bleep Labs “Bleep Drum” kit.

Should be fun to build. I think I can map it to my Akai MPD26 controller and my buddy who’s a drummer can actually play it live.

I got the MPD26 a couple of years ago, and have hardly used it. It requires software for proper use that my computer simply can’t handle, and the free software version it came with it just too limited. I really bought it to trigger samples from tv shows, movies, etc. I’m not interested in “making beats”.

I have, however, played with some of the sampled sounds that are built into the software, and there are some very cool ones.

Anyway, not having a computer that can handle the newer software has forced me to concentrate on non-computer noise, which has turned out to be a good thing, I think. I am digging the “noise music” and sound collage stuff.  It would be nice if I could use this device though. My Kaoss Pad is limited to 4 samples.

I post my stuff on, and I follow/am-followed-by a few people. One of them (this guy below) uses some similar equipment to me, but also uses samples from a shortwave radio. I like that. I like his stuff. I especially like the stuff he tags “drone”.


I just read that Exene, former singer for the band X, is a Truther/Conspiracy Nut/Kook.

No, I’m not just gonna pick on Exene.

I think it was better when we didn’t know what kind of lunatics made the music we like. I liked it back when Ted Nugent was just the Motor City Madman. I preferred not knowing that Billy Zoom is kind of an egotistical religious nut. I preferred not knowing that The Rev, from Reverend Horton Heat, is a Fox News type of guy.

Now, when you have someone like Jello Biafra — well — his politics have always been out there for all to see. So if you, like me, became a Jello fan based on his work with the Dead Kennedys, chances are it will not be a bummer for you to find out he is a liberal. You already knew and probably embraced that fact.

There has always been a tendency in the punk rock world for there to be some pretty extreme right wingers in there. I’ve written about his before, but yeah, it still kind of disappoints me. I mostly let it go, since most of those folks made some pretty shitty music. Also, I’m almost 50 and it would be pretty pathetic if it bothered that much.

Anyway —  the ability of artists to communicate directly with fans via social media — not always a good thing. Talented does not necessarily equal smart.

Bob 2

Today it was announced that Bob Casale, also known as Bob 2, of DEVO, has died from heart failure at the age of 61. Bob’s brother, Gerald Casale, called Bob  “DEVO’s anchor”.  He played on every DEVO album.

If you’re a skateboarder from the late 1970s, DEVO is part of the soundtrack of your life. There was something about DEVO that spoke to skaters. Probably the weirdness. Skateboarding wasn’t an accepted part of the American psychic landscape back then. Skaters were weirdos. DEVO was weirdos. The music was weird but rocking and cool. Bingo. Instant connection.

About 4 years ago my dad was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. We got the information in the afternoon. That night, in Dallas, my wife and I went to see DEVO play. It made me feel better. It was fun, and loud, and took my mind off the situation. The fun absurdity of the music speaks, at least to me, to the absurdity around us all the time. When you really listen, it isn’t absurd at all. It makes sense. Devolution is real. Strong good men getting brain cancer — that is absurd, but it’s the nature of things.

That is all really just to say that again — yeah – the soundtrack of my life, as a humanoid and a skater.

Less than a week ago, a longtime Texas skateboarder also died of heart failure. My friend Clay Towery. One of the funniest, weirdest people I’ve ever met.

Two beautiful mutants in one week.

Peace to the family, friends, and fans of these two men.  Thanks to your contributions to my life.

Bob 2 Casale

Bob 2 Casale


Let’s Face It…

…Pop Music has generally always been pretty bad.

Last night as I sat in my command chair and web surfed, we had the Grammys on the television machine. As everyone with any good sense knew, it was going to be a night of pretty horrible performances (mostly), and it did not disappoint in that respect. Even the appearance of Willie Nelson on the Grammys stage was not enough to save the show.

Snarky tweeters the world over were delighted. Sarcastic Facebook posts abounded. Haters gonna hate, as the saying goes, and they were quite justified last night in doing so.

As I approach the tender age of 50, it becomes easier and easier to slip into old man grumpiness when it comes to music. Work and life have for many years conspired to keep me from discovering the great huge stupendous masses of incredibly good new music being produced out there by people young and old. Luckily, this thing called the internet exists and is a tool unequaled in the area of Good Music Discovery.

I was one of you grumpy old pricks for a long time. Listening only to my 30-year old music. Saying all the new stuff sucks. Oh, occasionally I’d find a “new” band (all old now) like Radiohead or Portishead or something else I liked a lot, but mostly it was the same old stuff. To be honest, I wasn’t really looking for new music. I guess I was past the age where you are regularly exposed to cool new music. How much good shit are you gonna learn about working in an office full of pinks? Your head, my dear reader, may be in the same sad place and situation.

But I have good news for you.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

On this blog I regularly refer to a man whom many would consider potentially the grumpiest old bastard ever when it comes to music. I’m talking about Henry Rollins. Not so. To paraphrase Henry, there is so much good music being produced you could listen all day, every day, and never even scratch the surface. He’s right.

The same forces of technology that allow you to web surf cute cat photos from the comfort of your IKEA chaise lounge (ordered online, of course), while having gourmet lattes delivered (and possibly fed) to you by a “little person” at any hour of the day or night, give you the power to invest a small amount of time in some research and find some great new music to add to your collection of Jimmy Buffett 8-tracks and that Foreigner reel-to-reel you ordered from the RCA Record Club when you were 13 (though you never actually got that reel-to-reel tape deck).

You see, in addition to the mostly-horrible hacks producing commercial drivel featured on the Grammys, at this moment thousands of humans around the globe are writing, producing, playing, and uploading fantastic music of pretty much any genre that might make your brain-stem tingle. Some are producing good new stuff that is genre-pure, meaning the rock doesn’t have rap in it, etc. Others are mixing/mashing/fusing musical styles in some fantastic ways.

A couple of years ago, when I rediscovered my interest in electronic music and decided to try my hand at it, I discovered a record label called Ghostly. They are producing some very cool stuff. A lot of it melds traditional instruments with electronica, and the artists on this label go a lot of different directions. Some I like, some I don’t, but the ones I like I like a lot. Thus far, my favorite Ghostly artist is Shigeto. You can read about him on that link. I’ll just say he blends a lot of styles in a most inventive way. To me, it is sort of like Jazz for the modern era. This young feller isn’t just sampling the hits of 30 years ago and remixing them. He’s creating his own music, with the tools of the modern electronic musician. In concert he plays drums live — so here you go — behold —

Now, I know some of you, in particular my friend Mike, will not find this to his personal liking. I’m pretty sure he won’t, because he likes songs with guitars about driving too fast and fighting and drinking, which is just fine. My point simply (or perhaps long-windedly) is that there are a lot of creative and talented musicians out there, who as in previous musical epochs you will never hear on the radio or see on the Grammys, or maybe you will — who the hell knows. You didn’t see them last night though. So get off your ass, grandpa, and find some new stuff to put on your iPod.


Christmas Music

Holiday/Christmas music can be so…I don’t know…weirdly depressing, predictable, stale, and for me just kind of tries to impose the spirit on me.

Which is why I was so glad to find this old Christmas Sound Collage from the old Some Assembly Required radio show.

Absolute brilliance.

Check it.

Over the weekend I built this kit that I ordered from Bleep Labs, in Austin. It is the Nebulophone, a little synthesizer.

Having never soldered before, I did this skateboarder style — meaning that I bought a soldering iron, some solder, watched a youtube video on how to solder and then learned by doing it on this kit. That’s right. I didn’t even try the soldering thing out on some junk first. How dumb was that?  Turns out that while it may have been dumb, I still managed to do a pretty good job of soldering the fairly tiny connections.

I have always enjoyed doing stuff like this. I built a lot of models when I was a kid, and yes, I painted lots of miniatures for D&D. So I like doing detail work of this sort. My eyes are not so good anymore, which makes this a bit challenging. BUT, with a little squinting and a lot of light I had success. Turned it on and it made lots of cool noises.

The Nebulophone does not have its own speaker. I plugged it into my Kaoss Pad KP3, which goes to my headphones and/or amp. For a $55 kit, this thing has a lot of functionality. For one thing, you can record 32 notes into its sequencer than play it back a varying speeds. Cool. Really just scratched the surface on Day 1 with this synth. Really fun to team it up with the KP3 effects and loops though.

Think all those gnarly synth sounds in the early DEVO albums. That’s what this synth is good at producing.

For more info on the gadget and it’s powers, click here.


Electronic Music Goal

I’ve been fiddling around with electronic music for a while now. I’m working to do some collaborative stuff with others who are into it, and also with a couple of real-life drummers.

My stuff so far is here.

While I enjoy listening to a variety of electronic stuff, I’ve decided my goal is to make electronic music that is impossible to dance to. Make it interesting, geeky, and/or ugly. I hate seeing rooms full of drunk people dancing. Makes me want to sick.

Not that I’d ever be in such a situation. Just a point of reference.

Red Hare and the Shock Doctrine

My wife and I made a trip to Good Records, in Dallas, this last Sunday and I purchased this album from Red Hare, from the Dischord label.

If you like Fugazi, and all that sorta Dischordy stuff, I highly recommend.










Also, over the last week I read the Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein. Whew – what a read. Really good. Just fascinating, infuriating, and super well-documented and researched. Like reading Noam Chomsky, except that it is actually readable (I love Chomsky, but his books are pretty much not my favorite to read).  Rather than hack together an inadequate review of the book, I will simply refer you to this page on, with lots of comments.

One Day’s Playlist

This is what I listened to at work on day a couple of weeks ago. I can see myself needing the bigger, oldschool iPod soon.

David Bowie – Starman
Led Zeppelin – Presence – the whole album
Mercyful Fate – the Oath
Pavement – Greenlander
the Big Boys – Self Contortion
John Coltrane – Giant Steps
Deep Snapper – Anchor Babies
Mux Mool – Brothers
Thom Yorke – ILUVYA
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Change of Heart
the Doors – Strange Days
Dinosaur Jr – Seemed like the thing to do
the Prevaricators – Jesus H. Falwell
Slayer – Cult
Willie Nelson – Pancho & Lefty
Wilco – Art of Almost
the Jam – David Watts
Massive Attack – Inertia Creeps
Primus – American Life
Yes – Roundabout
TokiMONSTA – Little Pleasures
Faultline – Awake
Dio – Holy Diver
Trembling Blue Stars – Ripples
Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures – whole album
Gary Numan – Telekon
Gary Numan – Remind me to smile
Billy Bragg – There is Power in a Union
Devo – Gates of Steel
+/- – Ill Advised
the Stratford 4 – Hydroplane
Tycho – the Daydream
Tycho – the Disconnect
Black Sabbath – Neon Nights
AC/DC – Shoot to Thrill

The Whole Album…

…or at least a complete side.

That’s how you listen to music when you are listening on a turntable.

I’ve always loved putting on an album, laying on the floor, and listening to the whole thing. When you are listening to a nice vinyl LP you tend to listen to the whole side, because changing songs is a pain in the ass.

You can do that with a CD too, but the remote makes it real tempting to skip songs.

And of course, iPods and other mp3 players make listening to an entire album more unlikely. Too easy to hit the skip button. Hell, you may not even listen to an entire song. You don’t have to worry about scratching the album, or even the CD. The mp3 file is the new patron saint of the short attention span.

The problem with this is that sometimes the better songs, the ones with staying power, take time to grow on you. I think the best songs challenge you a bit. They don’t want to be your immediate new best friend. They want to spend some time with you, before you use and degrade them.

This weekend I’ve been listening to a lot of my old albums on vinyl. I’ve finally listened to the Big Boys reissue I ordered a couple of months ago. Today I went to an actual record store, with actual real physical records (Good Records) and picked up two authentic physical LPs – Fugazi’s 1993 “In on the Kill Taker” and Dinosaur Jr’s “Bug”.

Both sound fantastic, but what’s even better is I’ve heard the entirety of both albums. The Fugazi album came with a code for a free download of the mp3 from Dischord’s website, so it’s nice and easy to get it on my iPod. I wish the Dinosaur Jr. LP did the same thing. But having it on the LP is fine. I can deal.

You owe it to yourself to listen to the whole album from time to time. And if the album is good, you’re morally obligated to do so.


For someone who didn’t play any musical instrument, and who never sang an audible note to my recollection, my dad sure loved music.

When I became musically aware, and started buying music, first in the form of 8-track tapes, my dad began acquiring music too. For my 10th birthday I got a small stereo from Sears. No turntable. A radio and an 8-track player, and two small speakers were the setup. It was good enough. I’d come home to find my dad laying on my bed, listening to music.

This started a nightly ritual for my dad. Almost every evening he would lay down and listen to music for about an hour. As I went through junior high and highschool, once a week we’d go to a nearby music store and each buy a cassette tape. We ended up with a lot of cassettes. They are still at my mom’s house, I think. Eventually he bought a similar but slightly nicer Sears stereo for their room. Nothing too great, but it got the job done.

Though his musical tastes expanded over the years, country music and bluegrass were my dad’s primary preferred genres. Occasionally I’d find him listening to a rock band if the song sounded like country or bluegrass. Once he was listening to Led Zeppelin. He had no idea it was them.

I’ve been remembering this stuff for a few hours now. You see, a few days ago I got a new stereo. Not super expensive, but not a cheap one either. A nice Yamaha amp and some Klipsch floor speakers. After almost 10 years of listening to music mostly on headphones and an iPod, having the BIG sound filling a room is fantastic. I think a lot of people have forgotten how great that is. While I wait for a new phono needle to arrive for my turntable, and wait to get a nice new CD player, I’ve had my iPod plugged into the system a lot and running it on Shuffle.

Last night, for the first time, some Willie Nelson came up. I’m not a country music fan at all, but I do love Willie. Over the nice big speakers, turned up loud, it sounded so good. Just beautiful. My dad listened to a lot of Willie.

I wish that at some point I had given my dad a really nice stereo as a gift. He would never have gone out and bought a nice system. Before he died, he and my mom had a small compact system. It doesn’t sound horrible, but it isn’t a rich sound. Dad would have enjoyed a good stereo so much. I really regret not thinking of this 15 years ago.

Willie Nelson deserves a rich sounding stereo.

And so did my dad.

the Ape Regards His Tail

When I saw DEVO perform on the TV show Fridays in 1980, I’m pretty sure that changed my world view forever. I was into some somewhat innovative music at the time, like the Cars. Of course, the Cars weren’t really “out there”, but they sounded different and were played on the radio. Being a skateboarder, I was aware of DEVO, but really didn’t get it.

Then I saw this performance on TV.


I was instantly a weirdo, and happier for it.

This week, the longtime drummer of DEVO, Alan Myers, died of brain cancer. I am so sad for him, his friends, and family. You see, three years ago my father died of extremely aggressive brain cancer. It is not a good way to go.

In fact, the day my dad was diagnosed, I went to see DEVO for the first time here in Dallas. Alan wasn’t with the band then, but kind of weird, eh? I was bumming hard, but dad was asleep in the hospital, mom was finally asleep at home, and I figured what the hell, I might as well go. I’ve got the tickets. It was fantastic.

So I’m posting this video in memory of Alan. It is worth sitting through the commercial for.