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 soundcloud.com, 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”.

Kooks

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