I Walk the Line...

An Attorney from my office wanted to go to a hearing this morning. In order to ensure that he got in, he sent me early to get a place in line for him. Early, as in 2 1/2 hours before the the hearing started early. I must admit though, the experience was kind of amazing.

I don't think that many people are aware of this, but here in Washington we have professional line sitters. There is a whole group of people who are hired by lobbyists, law firms, and the like to wait in line so that they can get into hearings. I learned that most of them sleep outside of the House and Senate Office Buildings in order to get good spots. The result is that they have large bags to hold their stuff, and lots of ratty sweaters and layers on. Frankly, they look slightly homeless.

I managed to be the second person in line for my hearing, but another hearing in the same hall had about 14 line sitters already waiting at 7:30. The guy at the front of that line spent about an hour snoring loudly, leaving me to wonder just how long he had been there. I don't blame him, the Rayburn has some lovely leather couches for people to wait on. The guy in front of me seemed to be in charge of some of the line sitters. He was frequently on his cellphone and got up a lot to check on people throughout the building to make sure that all the necessary spots were saved.

He also told me about a very popular hearing last summer that a lot his clients wanted to go to. Apparently one of his competitors started the line for it 3 weeks before the hearing started, so he and his team had to spend 3 straight weeks in line. I am not sure exactly how this works, how can one group can stand in a line and declare that this is the line for the hearing in a few weeks? What stopped my fellow line sitter from standing somewhere else and declaring that the line? He spoke of this line with the same pride that someone has when they talk about marathons they have completed. He also got a lot of overtime for those weeks, which he was also happy about.

I did notice that the woman who was setting up my hearing frequently asked the guy which line was for which hearing, and how many people were waiting. I guess the House staff relies on the line sitters to keep the order.

This brings me to my next observation. Line sitters are very nice to each other. Once you are in line, you have saved that spot. People are free to get up and go to the bathroom, or get breakfast, or sub people in, once the spot has been saved. They all seem to know each other, and are very talkative. I talked with another professional line sitter about Sodoku solving strategies, and another offered me some of her popcorn and told me that she was worried about the potatoes that she planted earlier this week.

As the morning went on suits filled out the line and replaced the line sitters, and "Who do you work for?" replaced opinions on the Wizards and recent movies. The Rayburn was restored to its staid conservative self. Frankly, I liked it better at 7:30 in the morning.


Say It Ain't So...

So I was reading this article by Steve Albini when I stumbled across this sentence:

"Lyle Preslar, former guitarist for Minor Threat, is one of them."
The "them" in question are A&R men for major record labels. Can this be true? Can a former member of Minor Threat, and Dischord, really be out there lurking in the shadows of the bar, luring bands into the clutches of major record labels? They told me the devil would be attractive, but this attractive?



I was being serious when I said that mastering this album is all that I can thin of right now. I thought that I would pass along this interesting little nugget I found while reading this article. The quote comes from a section about mastering for vinyl.

"As the record gets closer to the end, the tone arm hits the groove at more of an angle (except with linear-tracking turntables), causing what's called inner groove distortion. As a result, song orders often used to be created with the softest songs coming at the end of an album's side, so that the inner grooves would be less subject to distortion."
Despite the fact that no one uses vinyl anymore except for punk bands and Djs, I still think that the general feel and pacing of rock albums is based on the album being presented on vinyl. For example, I think that the best albums come in at about 45 minutes or so. Also, I like albums that feel like they have two distinct sides. While I take it for granted that most albums end on a slow song, it is interesting to see an explanation for where this phenomena came from.

Album Minutiae, or Why I Can't Sleep At Night...

The album for the RPM project is mostly done at this point. Everything is recorded and mixed which is great. The problem is that I have now reached the mastering stage. While I know how to play music, and have a fair knowledge on recording and mixing, mastering is a process about which I am mostly ignorant.

When my old band mastered our last cd, I realized that a lot of things go into making an album that I wasn't even aware of. Like, track sequencing for example. In all of my planning I never considered how much time to put between songs, and yet I found myself faced with that very question while paying $150 an hour for the privilege. It turns out that I like the Frank Zappa method whereby you extend the tempo of the previous song into the silence that precedes the next song and have the next song start on beat one after a certain number of measures. It can't explain it very well, but I think it is subtle and cool when pulled off correctly.

Mastering is also suppose to normalize volumes and eq to make the record sound cohesive. The goal is also to get the album as loud as commercial releases without sacrificing dynamics, whilst filling out the sound and clearing up the mix, blah blah blah. I know what is suppose to happen, but I just don't know how to do it.

The result is that I am spending my time reading up on limiters, compressors, multi-band eqs, and all sorts of things that I don't really care about. It is slowly driving me insane. The whole album is pretty much on constant repeat in my head and I just want to be done. So far we have put about 50 hours of work into this little project, and I have reached the point where I hate all of the music, the sight of my bedroom, and Aaron and Adam. But I always end every recording project exhausted and filled with hate for the whole process and result.

Here is a link to the myspace site that Adam set up for us. Feel free to wander over and give some of the songs a listen. Also, feel free to let me know what you think. It is unlikely that you can hate any of the songs more than me at this point, so any criticism is welcome.


Ash Wednesday...

I grew up in, and still attend, a lovely liberal Methodist church. The kind of church where people show up, participate in services and serve on committees and for the most part leave each other alone. This is a sensibility I also got from my family. We don't believe in "sharing" or "testifying" or talking about our faith. It is just not something my family, going back generations, does. We feel that our religion is no one else's business, and conversely that other people should keep their religion to themselves.

I think that is why I find Ash Wednesday so distasteful. People with ash crosses on their head strikes me as gauche and self-important. It just screams, "Look how religious I am," which again, I find distasteful.

I also happen to dislike Lent in general. I think that this question for Tom Sietsma's chat today illustrates why.

"Anonymous: Hi Tom! Can you please remind all the chefs out there reading that it's now Lent, and that they will therefore have big runs on the fish and meatless entrees on their menus on Fridays? It's never fun to go out at 7:30 on a Friday and have them already out of those!"
The thinking is that when you are not ordering the steak on Friday you are remembering the sacrifice that Jesus went through to save you from sin. When some one gives up Coke for Lent the hope is that they will similarly remember Jesus's sacrifice each time they go to the fridge, you know "Spiritually prepare for Easter."

Also, part of the reason why Lent is forty days, note that Sundays don't count in Lent thus we are 47 days from Easter, is because Jesus spent forty days in the Wilderness being tempted by Satan before beginning his ministry. So I guess the equation is roughly: not eating chocolate = Jesus in the desert.

Again, if find a little to much self-importance occurring during this religious season. It starts with crosses on foreheads and ends with fancy hats and sun dresses, and it is all showy. Again, it just rubs me the wrong way.

But what really gets me, and why I quoted the question above, is that the fasting and the cross only make sense if Lent is treated like a serious time of spiritual preparation for the holiest day in the Christian religion, if it were treated like Ramadan for example. It doesn't work if you want to make sure that Citronelle has something exquisite for you to eat when you go out on Friday night. I guess the hope is that one finds Jesus in their attempts to get around what are suppose to be his rules. I also don't mean to single that anonymous person out, I think that this line of thinking is widespread.

In the end, I am a person who has uttered the phrase "God damned church" more times than I can count, many occurring in the building itself. So I might not be the best person to opine on religious theory and sentiments, but if you left me alone I probably wouldn't have.


The Album...

The album is mostly finished at this point. After recording all weekend I am in no position to judge it. My head is just kind of music mush right now, with choruses from one song mixing with guitar tracks from another. It looks like it will take about an hour of recording time for every minute of music on the album. And that is basically sprinting through these songs. Honestly, I can't even remember half of the music. Songs were being written while others were being recorded. The whole weekend is kind of a blur.

I will try to get some music up tomorrow, and the whole thing will be available to download once it is finished.



I added a link to Daytrotter in my sidebar. Mainly because they claim that they might give me a free t-shirt if they see it. But also because I think that it is a cool website. They have two touring bands a week come into their studio to record a few songs, which they then post for free on the site. They also have nice illustrations for all of their bands and articles. It is definitely worth a visit.

UPDATE: Let me also recommend Take Away Shows from Blogotheque. It is a similar kinda of idea. Except it is videos of bands in Paris. I am currently enjoying this performance of I'm From Barcelona's "We're From Barcelona."


A New Hope...

As I wrote about a month ago, I am not very optimistic about the Redskins future. The one thing that gives me solace is that you won't see Jason Campbell end up on YouTube singing "Don't Stop Believing" with Mr. Belding and an 80's Hair Metal Cover Band.

Taken from Deadspin, which you really should be reading if you are not.


Lefou, I'm afraid I've been thinking...

A couple of quick things.

First, I posted a link to a song that I have been working on and have apparently used up my download limit for the week. While I doubt that this is because thousands upon thousands of people are eagerly awaiting my next project, it does look like I might need a better way to host these things in the future. Does anyone know of a better way to post mp3s on blogs? The only caveat is that it has to be free.

Also, I would like to thank whoever is responsible for the mystery valentines that are going around for including me. I have to agree with the Pygs, I have not been a good enough blogger to deserve it. So I thank you, unless you are planning to kill us all. I have been picturing a scenario where you kill each of us using a method from the Disney movies. For example, the valentine I received features Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I kinda believe that you are going to kill me by throwing me off of a castle. Frankly, there are worse ways to go.

Hearing those words makes me weak....

There seems to be a lot of talk about what is wrong with the music industry. Sales are down, bands are being dumped, and things just generally look gray. Some point to downloading, others to DRM. Well I am here to tell definitively what is wrong with the music industry, and why it can never recover.

Our story starts with the fact that the wretched song "Lips of an Angel" by Hinder was recorded and released. Note, I refuse to link to either the song or the artist. The song manages to combine the worst of Grunge, Power Ballads, and Hair Metal into an unholy Chimera of vomit inducing schlock. At least the band has brought back the sexism of the late 80s.

In the next chapter, "Lips of an Angel" goes on to become one of the best selling singles of the year, and the album "Extreme Behavior" is the 10th best selling album of 2006 with an astonishing 1.82 million albums sold. Given the state of the music industry, it is only reasonable to expect more of this crap to be released in the next year, further alienating individuals whose ears actually work from major labels and radio stations. This will send the industry into a death spin from which it can never recover. Truth be told, I was hoping that James Blunt would win a lot of Grammys to help speed up this process, but alas.

And finally, in the epilogue, Jack Ingram has now foisted "Lips of an Angel" upon country audiences everywhere. What is truly remarkable is that Mr. Ingram's version of the song manages to be worse. Who would have thought? Now it has become obvious that the recording industry has no new ideas and is creatively bankrupt. Some evil executive could have slipped Hinder through with some clever subterfuge, but the rerecording of the song illustrates the industry's acceptance and celebration of it.

In other news KEXP managed to play both My Bloody Valentine and Love is All in the same set while I was writing this, so maybe there is hope after all.



As I said yesterday, I am working on an album for the RPM Challenge. I thought I would post a version of a song that we are working on. The song has a working title of Conversation. It is more of an intro to the album than a full song.

A couple of quick notes:

  1. The song is not mixed at all. It has some light reverb and compression on it, but that is it.
  2. The song is not edited at all. That is why you hear amp noise and Aaron talking.
  3. There are still more parts that are going to be added, namely drums.
Other than that, I just figured I would give you all an idea of what I am working on. Feel free to leave any suggestions that you may have. Also, I don't know why the play button is so obscenely large.


And I'm Back...

So where have I been? Well, I am recording an album for this thing, and working on finishing another one that I have been planning for a year or so.

Also, I have been exceedingly sick for the past week. The problem is that I was so sick that I became gun shy; anytime I started to not feel normal I took it as a sign to get back home and lay on the sofa. For example, while I was out with Catherine on Saturday, I started to feel tired and slightly out of it, so I went home. I have a feeling that had I not been recently sick I would have just downed a Redbull and moved on, but the fear of reawakening the sick gods was overpowering.

Also, a lot of my free internet time has gone to playing this.

Finally, I just really have not felt like writing anything.

So as I ease back in, let me point you to this highlight from a recent Marc Fisher post. Apparently, Virginia legislators shelved this bill that would have made open containers of alcohol illegal in a car. Little did I know that passengers can legally drink in car, it just seems so illegal that I never questioned it. Personally, I love that the legislators shelved this law mainly because the proposed penalty was a $25 fine. I guess the wise people in the Virginia house feel that the punishment is too great. I don't know, if I were stuck in traffic near Reston I would willingly pay $25 just to drink my way through it. Just think of it as a cover charge.

I had a similar experience when I was taking the written exam for my drivers license. I got the following question wrong:

Who is required by law to wear a seat belt in the state of Virginia?

a) No one
b) The front seat passengers only
c) All passengers
I foolishly answered c when b was correct. You got to hand it to Virginia for disabusing me of any notions of required increased safety right when I was learning how to drive.

The Grammys...

I was going to make my triumphant return to blogging with a brilliant take-down of the Grammys, but I can't top David Marchese from Salon:

"It makes sense that the Grammy's -- so soulless and bland -- are headed by a man who saw Elvis on tv and thought: "I want to be a record executive."