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Rock'n'Roll Emergency!

missingman
I first heard rumors about this several weeks ago, but didn’t post anything because I figured it couldn’t possibly be true. Uh uh. No way. Not happening
Today, however, the news comes straight from the hardest multi-instrumentalist ever to rock a Day on the Green, master of the heavy-metal church organ, the co-hammer of the gods himself:
Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones confirms that the band is planning to tour and record…without Robert Plant.
Umm….What???
With all due respect to Jones and guitarist Jimmy Page, any Led Zeppelin minus Robert Plant rocks about as hard as a deflated mylar balloon at a dentist’s office party. How can you hit the road without one of the greatest frontmen/singers in rock history (not to mention perhaps the greatest drummer, but that’s another story) – a founding member of the band – and still call yourself “Led Zeppelin”?
I mean, really….What???
Jones says that he and Page aren’t looking for a Plant soundalike: “It’s got to be right. There’s no point in just finding another Robert.”
Who were they considering? Tony Bennett? Natalie Merchant? John Ashcroft?
Jones closed by saying, and I quote: “We don’t want to be our own tribute band.”
Too late.
Maybe rock’n’roll really is dead. Thoughts?

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At the Kabuki



So I took Radio Nowhere out on the town yesterday to the SanFran MusicTech Summit, billed as a convergence of people interested in the “evolving music/business/technology ecosystem”. That sums me up pretty well, and unsurprisingly, I had a good time.
My main takeaway? Music is gonna be huge, just huge, on the internetz!
Okay, seriously, though, this is the second one of these things that I’ve been to, and though they’re a little more slanted towards music-flavored high-technology business plays than the interests of even the bloggiest independent musician, I thought there were several interesting developments:

  • No one has yet figured out how to use the internet to help artists/bands find their audiences (other than spending 18 hours a day on MySpace making “friends”, that is). Topspin is reportedly working on something like this, but is not talking about it right now.
  • Carnet Williams, who was there to talk about his company, sprout , turned out to be the same Carnet Williams that I used to work at summer camp with back in the day. He’s also working on something that sounds like it might be great for indie artists, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about it.
  • Stephen Jenkins, of all people, had a bunch of sensible things to say about the immediate future for musicians and the music business. He explained Third Eye Blind’s buzz-worthy gambit of releasing stems for fans to remix before the actual album appears, which people in the room seemed pretty taken with. He also opined that the music business is the Wild West right now, which (paraphrasing here) gives artists today the opportunity to imagine how they want their careers to be, and then shape things to match that vision.
    I’m predisposed to distrust the guy (long story), but there was something about the particular way he phrased that which hit home. Maybe it was his semi-charm.
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Lights! Camera!…Inaction!

The Good News: The first video for a Days Between Stations song, London Calling is here!
The Bad News: It’s this video…

Maybe I should try not to blow the entire video budget on tequila next time…

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– 30 Days of Nowhere: Shotgun – Recording Notes

Shotgun!
[audio:shotgun.mp3]
As you might have guessed from my piano playing…I’m a guitar player. This means, among other things, that I don’t know anything about synthesizers. The upside of this kind of total ignorance is that when I’m messing with an instrument I know absolutely nothing about, like a synth, my utter lack of technique leaves more room to come up with something simple and cool.
The synth lines on the intro and solo section of this song fit that description. I found a sound I liked, pushed record and just kind of fucked around, and the simple part I came up with dictated the way the song evolved from that point on (for instance, I really had to have a call & response duel with a guitar in the solo section).
This song is a lot sparser than most of the other Radio Nowhere songs by design, with minimal overdubs and less of the usual baroque frippery, but I loved the “queen of rock’n’roll” backing vocals so much that they just had to stay. As far as I’m concerned, the whole song could consist of that 1.5 seconds looped over and over for three-and-a-half minutes and that would be okay. I understand if you don’t feel that way.
Finally, unlike the rest of Days Between Stations, this song was mixed by Oakland production ninja Charles Stella, who is not only great at his job but will take you to lunch at a taqueria with excellent tomatillo salsa.

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– 30 Days of Nowhere: Shotgun – Story

Shotgun!
[audio:shotgun.mp3]
I’m a big believer in the power of mystery and well-intentioned obfuscation when it comes to music. I love songs where the lyrics are clearly about something – there’s an internal logic that relates the verses to each other, and the choruses – even if you don’t know exactly what the song is about.
But.
Some people really, really want to know what a song is about, and, specially for them (and because otherwise I’d have nothing to write about here), I’ll tell you that Shotgun is about Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love.
This is definitely not something I ever intended to write a song about, but I was walking past a bookstore one morning, I saw Courtney Love dressed in some super high-fashion outfit on a magazine cover, and an entire verse and chorus assembled themselves before my very ears.
The interesting thing is that it actually…wasn’t this song. It was a song about clothes, a terrible song, and I banged my head against it for a week before suddenly, while sitting at my keyboard of pain, started playing this song instead. . I think I wrote the whole thing in about an hour ( an hour and a week…). Weird.

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– 30 Days of Nowhere: Shotgun – Lyrics

Shotgun!
What the heck is this song about?
[audio:shotgun.mp3]
Click the big blue button and then check the lyrics if you’d like to follow along…
I been trying to call you / get you on the phone
couldn’t get you alone/ couldn’t get you at all
i was just trying to break through
i can’t get over the wall
couldn’t get through to tell you / that your
shotgun lover took another one to cover up the pain that he couldn’t hide
you wished him well / gave him a kiss and a shell
with his name inscribed on the side
and you said sellout / you can get the hell out now
i can find my way alone
but you’re a little girl lost in the wilderness now
and I don’t think you’re coming home
oh no
ooh / i see the way that they watch you
counting up the cost/the lines you shouldn’t have crossed
’cause right now, there’s nothing else waiting to come due
you’re paying for what you’ve done
girl I was walkin/you better run/run and tell ‘em that your
shotgun lover took another one to cover up the pain that he couldn’t hide
you wished him well / gave him a kiss and a shell
with his name inscribed on the side
the one who sold out / I couldn’t hold out
left you the queen of rock’n’roll
but you’re a little girl broke on the boulevard now
and you already sold your soul
yeah you’re a little girl
and you’re losin’ it
spending up something so real
like it was counterfeit
like it never meant nothing at all

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– 30 Days of Nowhere: Week 4 – Shotgun

Shotgun!
Happy money-in-your-mattress Monday!
Here’s the last song on Days Between Stations. It’s called Shotgun, and you’d find it in the ‘loud, slow and sad’ section of your local record store. If we still had record stores.
[audio:shotgun.mp3]
Click the big blue button to check it out; click here if you want to learn more about the song.

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– 30 Days of Nowhere: Halfway Home – Notes

Halfway Home - Mojave

[audio:halfwayhome.mp3]

Halfway Home
has been through so many tweaks and different versions over the last few years that I’ve lost count. At one point I had an entire hard drive that was devoted exclusively to this song. It suffered a career-ending meltdown last year and I had to start the song again from scratch – probably a good thing.
Production-wise, I think this song really came to life and changed from a semi-generic boogie to something that bumps in a more ethereal way when I started tossing backwards sounds into the mix. There’s backwards piano, acoustic guitar, beatbox and Tibetan prayer bowl (well, of course), and they tweak the song just enough to be a little unsettling. Good times.
The X-factor that finally finished off the song is the Queen-style harmonized guitars that come in during the second part of the bridge. To me they sound like an alien spaceship taking off, don’t fit the song at all, and are therefore so wrong they’re right.
I got so excited when I came up with the idea that I basically dimed every guitar amp in my house and shook several pictures off the wall. The cat refused to eat for days.

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– 30 Days of Nowhere: Halfway Home – Story

Halfway Home - Mojave
[audio:halfwayhome.mp3]
Halfway Home is the oldest song on Days Between Stations. The beginnings of this track go back quite a few years, to a New Year’s field trip that I took with a bunch of friends to a remote part of Death Valley National Park. It’s called Saline Valley, and it’s about 50 miles from nowhere over one of the ugliest dirt roads in the state of California.
We spent something like five days there, and by the middle of the last night we were starting to feel like locals, limiting most utterances to single syllables and forgetting why we had formerly been motivated to bathe.
I remember looking up at the blackest sky I’d ever seen and a ludicrous number of stars and having the first two lines of the chorus of this song just swim into my head (though I was not actually then missing the sound of the freeway).
I sang those lines to myself all the way back to the Bay Area the next day, which annoyed the other people in the car mightily (it’s a 12-hour drive). By the time we got home, though, the lyrics were essentially done. The verse piano riff arose out of the rhythm of the lyrics as soon as I sat down at the Rhodes.

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– 30 Days to Nowhere: Halfway Home – Lyrics

Halfway Home - Mojave
What’s that guy talking about? Here’s your chance to find out.
Press the big blue play button and follow along with the lyrics.
[audio:halfwayhome.mp3]
There was fever in the coal black boots that she wore
She danced like a hurricane coming ashore
Yeah, the warning came but I was too far gone
Tied myself to the mast/let the storm come on
So far/from your lonely room
Do you/miss the sound of the freeway
When you’re halfway home you can call on me
When you’re halfway home you can find me
Well I put up a red light/stop/she was through it
She was gonna come out on top and she knew it
She said “come on people, now, give him a hand
The ship’s going down but you can still hear the band”
So far/from your lonely room
Do you/miss the sound of the freeway
When you’re halfway home you can call on me
When you’re halfway home you can find me
Oh, they said I should’ve known
One look and I turn to stone
I was waiting for you/I was waiting for you to come ’round
But your sailing tide, it was ebbing fast
And we were born to run, not built to last
So far/from your lonely room
Do you/miss the sound of the freeway
So far/from your lonely room
Do you/miss the sound of the freeway
So far/from your lonely room
Do you/miss the sound of the freeway
When you’re halfway home you can call on me
And you’re halfway home so far