Pine Barren Trailer:
I: [Jan. 2012]
I made a record. With my band holus-Bolus. And I called the record Pine Barren. The bulk of the time spent on this project was in a recording studio. Why? Because what I really cared about, what I really wanted to do, was to make a great record. And making a great record means making something to be played on stereo speakers or headphones. It’s not the same thing as constructing music for a live concert. I know the difference because growing up, all I had were recordings. And the first time I got to hear live music, it made me feel differently. So with Pine Barren (hereafter referred to as PB), I went for the feel of a great record. PB is about my childhood and as such, it has to be a record.
II: [june, 2009]
so. . .this is for real. . .this is really happening. i knew it was, but now i can actually imagine it. . .i think. . . jesus, how am i going to get anything done? i thought i had no time to write and practice before, but how am i going to manage this? i really, really can not fuck this up. i’ve got to get this right. the last thing i need to do is screw up another person’s life. . .but how can i prevent that if i’m blundering around miserably? how do i stay productive? how do i keep making things? i am so scared of becoming a dad. . .
So where is this record? Nowhere. That is, there is no physical record, no talisman. After spending ten months mixing1 and mastering2 PB, I sent it to to record labels (twenty-one of them to be exact) and fellow musicians. For the most part, I got no response. Occasionally I was fortunate enough to get a “no” (there’s something to be said for closure). And once in a while I got a “I like this.” Why did I send it to so many people and companies? Why didn’t I just go ahead and release it myself? Why didn’t I just start up my own label? What on earth did I have to gain from all this? To this I have two simple answers: 1.) I don’t want to run a record label, my own or anyone else’s and 2.) I want to be on a record label. Why? Here are a few things a label can offer:
o.k., so if i’m gonna be stuck at home, there’s gotta be something i can do to keep myself occupied. something that’ll make me feel like i’m still a productive human being. maybe i should just start documenting everything i’m involved with. . .then while i’m home, i can pester labels about releasing the stuff. ideal bread shouldn’t be so hard. we seem to have enough material for a new CD and the jazz mausoleum seems to appreciate a good repertory band. but what about holus-Bolus? i’ve just got some odds and ends laying around, but nothing that coheres into a record. maybe now’s the time to write a whole new bunch of material. . .but what do i have to say?
- Physical Production: A label can (and often does) lend money to cover the costs of making CD’s or LP’s. The bet (and it is gambling) is that enough of these will be sold to recoup costs. After spending money on tracking, mixing and mastering, I’m now low on funds (read: broke) and could use help making physical copies.
- Publicity: A label is a business. A business premised on selling sounds. I am a business too. My business is making sounds. Yes, these two businesses intersect, but they are not the same. Time spent publicizing the sounds I make is time that could be spent making sounds. I need a label to help publicize the sounds I make so I can be freed to up to keep making sounds. I will publicize my own work (witness: this essay), but I have to draw boundaries on this part of my life, otherwise the music I turn out is crap.
- Validation: Do I need to feel accepted in my profession? Yes. Do I need to feel like people are interested in my work? Absolutely. I need an audience. Being validated by a record company (no matter their size) means being included in a community of artists. It means being perceived as part of a gorup. And I’m a firm believer in the power of numbers. If my CD carries the same moniker as other disparate artists, that means I’ve passed a litmus test of interestingness. It goes something like:
“I like band ‘X.’ They have a record out on label ‘Y.’ hmm, holus-Bolus is also on label ‘Y,’ but i’ve never heard of them. Well that’s interesting. I wonder what holus-Bolus sounds like? It’s gotta be pretty good if they’re on the same label as band ‘X.’”
Everyone goest through this thought process; everyday people, critics, concert promoters, bookers, musicians, everyone.
I’m not agains people self-releasing and starting their own labels. It’s just that’s not the route for me at this juncture.
i really don’t want to screw up this child. my child. often i find myself stunned into angry silence over the absurd shit i can’t shake off from my childhood in nj. the last thing i need to be doing is lashing out at my kid because of this. . .maybe that’s what i should write about. . .the memories themselves. maybe if use this grist, then i’ll finally be rid of it. then i won’t have worry so much about disappearing into lockers of disappointment and paranoia. and maybe i’ll make something worthwhile from this mound of psychic bullshit. . .perform a kind of spiritual alchemy where dross of memories is spun into a kind of gold (or at least something shiny and interesting). . .maybe this way i’ll finally exorcise these demons.
So after all this, I’ve decided to release PB with my good friends at Prom Night Records. It will be an internet-only release. Currently there are no plans to make physcial copies. In addition, there will be no “CD-Release Party.” There will just be this: music to be listened to (or purchased) online, artwork (by Elizabeth Daggar) to be looked at (or purchased) and essays (by me) to be read. Why no release party? Because I broke up the band. Why? Because of internal and external pressures. Or rather the lack thereof. Externally, I couldn’t get us any shows (one of the many side-effects of not being associated with a label). Internally I couldn’t get the band to rehearse (one of the many side-effects of not having gigs). At the end of this long process, I can only offer these sounds and words.
but which memories do i use? there’s too many of them and most of them are too personal, too subjective to have much resonance with anyone else. maybe instead i can write about the memory of the emotions. . .the specific kinds of fear i felt (of being beaten up, of being alone, of never escaping), the specific kinds of anger (at my father and mother, at other kids, at other people), specific kinds of disappointment (in myself, in my family, in humans). but maybe i can also find moments of forgiveness or at least ‘not-anger.’ a recording of only my fear and anger is so. . .boring. because it wasn’t just that. i did try to find ways to wake up each day, to make sense of it all. that’s got to be in there too.
Starting next week and for the next four weeks, I will release two to three tracks from PB with accompanying essays. The music will be streamable in its entirety but can also be purchased. The essays can be read as listening guides, but I wrote them more as ‘parallel displays.’ There is the music and then there’s the story of the creation of the music. Each comments on the other, but they are by no means identical. At the end of four weeks, all eleven tracks will be available for download via the internt. In addition, I’ve worked with Ms. Daggar to create 4 images for the album. These will be released in conjunction with the music. A good friend of mine is also working on a movie that will incorporate some of the music from PB. As more info on that becomes available, I’ll let folks know. At the top of this essay, you can listen to a preview track I constructed from the elements of PB as well as view some artwork. Enjoy.
there will be 3 suites. bcause. . .i have to find a way to structure all this stuff. . .and i like the number 3. the first suite will be about my father, so the 2nd suite will be about my mother, and the 3rd. . .me (what on earth am i going to write about myself?)? and there will be a bookend piece, a portal for letting listeners into and out of the record. . .but who listens to a record all the way through these days? o.k, i gotta break this thing up into bite-size piece, into chunks that will work on shuffle setting as well as a full listen. and what about shows? how are we going to play this as a band when i can barely gett all 5 of us into the same room? maybe i need to make the pieces modular in the same way that the musical structure is modular. make the pieces so they can be played with any number of us present. could be just me, a trio, a duo, the full quintet. maybe. . .
But I’ll make a deal with all of you reading this: if enough people buy the music (via downloads from Prom Night), then I will use that money for making CD’s and/or vinyl LP’s. And if more money comes in after that, I’ll use that to make more…stuff; more sounds, more words, more experiences. And if anyone out there wants to hear live versions of these songs (a very different experience from the recorded versions), contact me about the particulars and I’ll work hard to put together an inspiring live show. But the sounds are free to listen to (provided you have a solid internet connection). You can listen here, here or here. Spending money on this music isn’t necessary if you want to listen to it. Spending money is necessary if you want me to keep making music. Think of it as an investment: in return for buying the music, I promise repayment in the form of more awesome (or at least interesting) music and art.
this has to be a record for listening. the kind of record i would pull from my father’s giant wall of records when i was searching for companionship. the kind of record that sounds as good as ll the other records up there on his long-past shelf. something that i’d dub onto a tape cassette and carry out into the woods with me when i’d go to smoke.
Why am I going through all this trouble? Why write so many words and release an album that labels don’t want by a band that no longer exists? A.) Once I release this, I can get on with my life and get to work manifesting all the other stuff in my head. B.) This album fucking rocks. It’s the best thing I’ve made so far and I wouldn’t ask for ears or money if I didn’t think it was worth it. I want you to listen to it.
I’d like to thank the people who helped me make this album: Peter Bitenc, Mike Pride, Jonathan Goldberger and Jon Irabagon all played beautifully under difficult circumstances. Andrew Felluss was extremely patient with my tardy ass and endless requests during the mixing stages. Randy Merrill made the mysteries of mastering just a little bit clearer. Aaron Siegel very kindly let Mike Pride play his vibraphone for the opening and closing tracks of PB. Elizabeth Daggar did a great job translating my endless ramblings into coherent (and beautiful) images. And the guys at Prom Night Records (Owen, Brad & Nathaniel) helped preserve my sanity (seriously). Thank you all.
You might not like this albume. You might find it boring or stupid. That’s fine. I just ask that you listen. Just Once.
Next week: I release the bookend(s) of PB: “through the trees i saw stone caves on a beach parts i & ii”
- mixing – the process of setting volume levels for all individual sounds, placing them in the the stereo field (left, right or center) and coloring their timbres (making an instrument sound ‘brighter’ or ‘darker,’ etc). It’s also the part of the record-making process where a song is edited, literally the part where you cut-and-paste a song to make a final product. [↩]
- mastering – deciding which songs go where, setting the volume levels and silences between the songs and imparting a particular ‘feel’ or ‘sound’ to an overall recording. A mastering engineer who knows what she’s doing can make your record sound harsh and brittle or warm and dark. It’s a bit mysterious, but if you care about the sound of your record, it’s essential to the creative process. [↩]