News: what news? It's summer. Fuck work. I've started playing again, a bit. Looks like I am now bassist for Wellwater Conspiracy. But while Matt is busy touring as Pearl Jam's drummer, myself and guitarist John McBain (ex-Hater, ex-Monster Magnet, ex-etc) have started a side-project called Brotherhood of the Electric. Dan Peters is drumming for us, and Ben Sheperd is on vocals. We are opening for Nebula at the Crocodile in Seattle on Aug 31st... my first gig in two years. Most of the set is really obscure 60's garage/psych cover tunes done in a sort of Who Live at Leeds style.
Terrastock #4 (http://www.terrascope.org) will be in Seattle this year, November 3,4 and 5. Bevis Frond will play of course, and the Seattle contingent will include Minus Five, Monkeywrench, Green Pajamas and Wellwater Conspiracy. Tickets are on sale now at Ticketweb.com.
My "Garage Sale" page is up again after a year hiatus. Some new issues of Backlash, plus Methodists CDs, Bundle of Hiss CDs and Hallowed Ground CDs have been added, plus other stuff. I also have some Skin Yard and Endino's Earthworm T-Shirts but haven't listed 'em yet. Email me if interested. Check it out. I just added some other stuff to my home page too, like a site map (finally!). More to come.
Anyone out there have any experience with PayPal or Americart? I'm interested in easier ways for people to pay me for stuff they want to buy from me.
The Pacific Northwest chapter of NARAS (The Grammy people) are sponsoring a "studio summit" here on Sept 10th featuring Steve Albini giving a talk to a bunch of us studio-heads. It will be at Bear Creek Studio, a very nice studio and a great place for a barbecue. Unfortunately I will be in Canada recording the Black Halos' new record, so I won't have a chance to heckle poor Steve! I am sorely bummed about this.
My long-delayed 2nd Endino's Earthworm record is nearing critical mass. (Barrett Martin drums on it, Rob Skinner from Coffin Break and Pat Pedersen from the last incarnation of Skin Yard share bass duties.) I recently listened to it after a year and decided my mixes blew chunks the size of houses. I spent so much time trying to make it sound like HUGE, BIG ROCK that I pretty much killed the whole thing. It was big, gray, really loud and totally dead, like so many records are these days. I had to forget about making it sound like PRODUCER JACK'S RECORD, and instead make it the ARTIST Jack's record, and to hell with trying to make it be some ultimate "production" statement. Its the client's record, not the producer's, DUH! What a complete idiot I can be. It was hard enough mixing all the Skin Yard stuff myself, but at least I had the other guys to keep me from going off the deep end. I went back in and remixed my whole record in two days, taking off much of the reverb and compression and turning my vocals up a bit, since everyone complained they were low. Now it sounds much better if perhaps not as "slick." Anyone have any ideas for a decent indy label that would be interested in putting it out? Preferable someone honest and likely to still be here in two years?
A second question for you knowledgeable subscribers: if I decide to put it out myself (I might), does anyone have any experience or hearsay or opinions about possible web-based sales or promotional opportunities, like Amazon affiliation for instance, or mp3.com, or similar ways to sell it online? Selling a couple CDs a week directly from my own website to people who cannot use their credit cards doesn't seem too exciting. On the other hand, I want to retain ownership of my masters. Thoughts anyone?
My last newsletter had me blowing off steam about how useless Minidiscs seemed to be from my "professional studio" standpoint. But a couple of people gently pointed out the errors in my reasoning. Everything I said was true. What I forgot about, was the fact that these tiny, little machines, for which you need a damned microscope to operate the controls, make great portable recorders for "field" use... or for recording live shows or band practice or dictation. It's true, I suppose I do a bit of recording sometimes! In fact Kip Beelman, who assisted me on the Nando Reis album, set his minidisc and mini-stereo-microphone up in the practice room and recorded all our pre-production practice sessions as we were working out the song arrangements. (Nando had demoed everything on solo acoustic guitar, but we had to pull a "band" together from scratch in Barrett's basement.) It was pretty useful, and sounded good, even though the microphone was almost too small to see with the naked eye. I don't think I could smuggle my computer (with AMIII sound card) and CD burner into a club in my backpack. One fellow almost convinced me to buy a minidisc recorder just for this purpose. Much cheaper than a portable DAT machine. It still wouldn't sound as good as DAT, but much better than a portable cassette recorder. Hmmm. Now I want one. Who says I can't be reasoned with?
Here's an article of lasting importance that I wrote a couple months ago for the Seattle 'zine BACKFIRE, which I thought I'd share with y'all. It's funny that shortly after I wrote it, Creed appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, with their bare-chested singer looking dumb as a rock.
VERB OF THE MONTH: "TO YARL"
(From "Backfire" 'Zine, summer 2000)
Recently I was in the studio working with a band from Portland, and we began making fun of commercial heavy rock bands and a certain singing style that has become prevalent. (Fish in a barrel, right?) "You mean 'yarling'," I explained, and gave examples. They laughed and said that was it exactly, but that they had always termed it "Seattle" singing. I have to give credit to my friends Josh and Alex of the Hot Rod Lunatics for coming up with this term.
To "yarl" is to sing melodramatically with a sort of barely suppressed letter "r" sound lurking beneath every other syllable. When I mention it, people always know exactly what I mean. Steve Turner describes it as singing as though your lower lip is stuck way out.
It's an annoying, exaggerated vocal affectation that some current heavy rock singers are using, thinking it is emotionally expressive, or bluesy, or something. "Hey, I'm singing soulfully, like Paul Rogers," they think. Paul Rogers did not yarl. Bob Halford did not, though he did other unspeakable things with his voice. Robert Plant (another style model that no one has successfully cloned) did not yarl. Ian Gillan did not yarl. Bon Scott did, somewhat, but to call his singing mere "yarling" is like calling WWII a "disagreement". Ditto for Iggy. Al Green did it, but he's Al Green and we're not.
Nonetheless, as far as annoying white rock singers go, we have the late seventies to blame for this phenomenon. I think the original criminal was Ronnie Dio. Listen to the way he sings "Man on the Silver Mountain" or "Heaven and Hell" like there's hidden, extra letter "r"s in every other word. The other culprits at the time were Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale on Deep Purple's "Burn" album, as well as all their subsequent efforts in other bands. Dio was kind of the archetype though, and as such could get away with it (for awhile).
Disclosure: In 1995 I produced a Bruce Dickenson solo album. You can't find it anywhere, because the record company folded soon after. Those record companies are such cards. Ha, ha. Anyway, on his first album with Iron Maiden, in 1981 or so, he yarled a little bit like Dio. We joked plenty about this in the studio. He later found his own style, becoming known as "The Air Raid Siren", and left the yarling to others. (But seriously, Bruce is a great guy.)
Who can we point the finger at today? The singer for Creed is the current expert. "Crahn yrou trake mree higharr" he yarls in their big radio song. Days of the New come to mind. Godsmack. There are plenty of others. The problem is that the current crop of yarlers are copping their shtick from our homeboys Layne and Eddie V, who are actually quite restrained at yarling; Eddie hardly did it at all after the first PJ album. Chris Cornell never did it, nor Arm. Lanegan and Cobain sure as hell didn't need to. Nonetheless, it's now "Seattle Singing" to some people. Sigh.
Friends don't let friends yarl. Please, stop the madness.
(BACKFIRE is a quarterly zine, distributed free in clubs and record stores in the Seattle and Portland areas.)
'Till next time,
P.S. This months website pick: http://www.broccoli.com
A reminder: if you change your e-address, send me the new one, and don't forget to mention the old one so I can delete it! Thanx to all the subscribers who did so last time. It saves a lot of stuff bouncing uselessly around the already-clogged net...