Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The last 6 months & the future of my music

The last 6 months or so have been pretty Weird!

There's been a lot of just trying to hold on for the sake of holding on. 
I moved to Philly in the fall & things ended up not really working out there, and I quit the bands & projects I was in, with the intent of putting music on the backburner for a bit while I got my life together. 

"Quitting" music didn't quite pan out either (You never know *where* life's gonna take you) ... I got back to New York & needed to make money & get by - started out with busking & got some freelance work - and hey, if someone's gonna pay you to do something you're good at - Work is Work
Then I fell into (read: applied & got competitively selected for) a Work Training Program in ITS Cabling (if you want to know what this is, google Infrastructure or Backbone Cabling).  It was a 6 week, 175 hour course - 8:30-4:30 M-F with 3 hours of homework every night.  Suddenly my only option for survival was Busking (and any other odd job I could find).  Once upon a time, a dear Cellist friend told me "Busking is bullshit for reliability" ... Gods, those words proved to be So True.  Now there's Job Placement & seeking, and ultimately this will allow me to support my creative desires instead of being crippled by them.

The last 6 months have been this weird place of burnout & financial desperation, and hope & perseverance, and wanting to create something musical & beautiful, but not really having any creative desires.  I've also become increasingly conscious of wanting to do work at Good Quality - the recordings I've made in the past were all done lightning fast in 24 hours or less, and not really properly recorded/captured - not great quality.  Additionally I've never pressed CDs, and I'm still waiting for Ghosts of Greyhame mastering to finish (it's out of my hands).  But anyway, the point is, I'm trying not to be the metaphorical Kid with Raggedy Torn Clothes on the block anymore - which has meant that I've had to put time, energy & money into other things, so that at the end of the day I *can* put out good quality Art and I can create something meaningful & something that I can be proud of.


In ways I'm proud of everything I've done so far, and in ways I've become less ambitious, and in ways I have more to go.

I do look forward to creating some more art & exploring the places that I meant to go when I first started out on this cello journey... I don't know when exactly it will happen, but I know it will, and I look forward to that happening.

I'm really blessed that so many people have stuck around and cared, and as I'm embarking on this tour (as a Roadie, not as a Musician), I look forward to the future, and to knowing that at some point again, I'll have some beauty to share with you all.


Thank You All

PS - I'll be blogging about Tour over here: http://awakemyeyes.tumblr.com - so feel free to follow along if you'd like!

PPS - I was lucky enough to play Cello for a track on the new Frenchy & The Punk album - If you haven’t already heard them, go check it out!!  The track is called “Mulina, Mulina”

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tales From the Road #9 - Nova Soctia, Ludo & North Carolina

So, continuing the Road Saga, a few weeks ago the Eli August band played up in Nova Scotia ... 15+ hours of driving each way, for one of the specialest gigs I've ever played!!  2nd time I've ever been to Canada (the first time was with Edensong in Quebec City)...

We were headed up to Sherbrooke ("Oh the year was 1778, How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now..." quickly became the anthem of the trip), but detoured in Halifax along the way.  Halifax it turned out was mostly a boring city (with interesting people).  We stopped by Prospect Point Park, which was really wonderful... particularly when we got to the (Rock) Beach section of it & I was able to just wander off for a bit... otherwise, we hit a pub where the music was far too loud & I've sworn off Strongbull (In addition to Magners) - Angry Orchard & Woodchuck are really my go to ciders.  This added a bunch of hours to our trip, and the last hour or so was spent on a never-ending windy road...

The Time Traveler's Reunion was in a period village - in the middle of nowhere, on the water.  It was blissful.  Everybody at the event was quite friendly, and we played in a church for a "Radio Broadcast", and at a picnic.  It's a bit challenging to describe the whole thing really, but wandering around a whole village in beautiful weather & getting to see old tool shops & woodworking & pottery making & all was really amazing.  The other performers on the radio broadcast were a young punk accordion/banjoist, a gentleman strip-teaser, and a skit.  I ended up helping out with sound a bit/saved the gentleman's set by having an extra 1/8th to 1/4 cable, so he could hook his laptop into the system.  In some ways, Canada was less foreign than I expected, but different/nicer.  I've had it confirmed by Canadians that I sound like I'm from Canada... also, Drunken Cards Against Humanity with bandmates is fun!!!

In between Canada & North Carolina, the was Ludo's Broken Bride at Ars Nova (in New York)... 2 rehearsals, and then tech/show in the same day... it all came together really pretty well... Rob & Alex of The Rose West joined me in the band, as well as Josh from And the Traveller... I got to meet half of Ludo, which was really exciting!  They were very cool/nice!!  Easily one of the specialist gigs I've done...

Now I'm on my way back from Contemporal... North Carolina was interesting... nice & warm!!  People were friendly & unique & a bit more affectionate/expressive than up in New York.  I got to meet Nerdvana & hear a bit of The Gin Rebellion as well as Extraordinary Contraptions... we also went and played at a place called Davenport nearby.  I also had the chance to reconnect with a former teacher of mine, which was absolutely splended.  Continuing the theme of my bow curse, I broke the new bow I had just ordered off of Ebay (which turned out to be good, since it was a *really crappy* bow and would have been useless by the end of the weekend anyway)... I also shredded through another bow (which I had stopped using after World Steam Expo last year) during our second set (which the sound guy just didn't show up to...) & had to go buy one from Sam Ash.  After Friday's set, a fan asked me for the broken bow & I signed it... totally unexpected, but really cool... also, a few other people told me that we'd been the highlight of their weekend. 

Definitely next time we go to Canada & NC, we'll have to make mini-tours out of the trips...

My next Tales From the Road is gonna be about playing ON A BOAT!!

See ya on the road!!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tales From the Road #8 - Steampunk World's Fair, Twisted World, Gettysburg & Watch City Recap

Writer's Note: Somehow I never published this... pretend it's May

I just returned from Steampunk World's Fair ... a weekend of the most epicness & positivity in a long while...

There were 3 highlights for me:

1.  The Eli August Secret Show friday night was one of the most beautiful moments I've ever experienced at a convention... the band was really on, the crowd was AMAZING, and the whole vibe was just so beautiful... a moment to treasure

2.  The Two Bastards set was incredibly fun!!  Though I started off a little rough, when things picked up, it really got going... lots of people afterwards were like "I had no idea you sang"

3.  I BROKE MY BOW!!!  - Every Eli August Set, I try to add a new element of craziness ... sometimes it's singing along, or jumping around & head banging like a mad man... this weekend it was cymbal crashing with my wood bow... predictably, it Broke during the first song of our last set... I had to run back & get my replacement bow (which also has a major crack in the frog)... gonna order an Incredibow soon...

Otherwise, SPWF was a great balance between intensely busy & still being able to enjoy the event... I shared a merch table with The Rose West & Psyche Corp, and as table neighbors, we variably had Ego Likeness, Platform One & Frenchy & the Punk... can't ask for better folks!!

The Rose West sets had some technical difficulties... Aaron's pod crapped out at the beginning of our first set, and I had to cover a bunch of his riffs... Rob's guitar broke a string almost immediately afterwards... I gave up on keyboards, given the context...  our second set, the on stage power went out & I held down the mechanic, since my amp was battery powered...

Writer's Note: I clearly meant to write more, but it's been lost to time...

Friday, March 22, 2013

Bach In the Subways Day - Year 3

So today was the 3rd Bach in the Subways Day - in celebration of Bach's Birthday!!

It was quite an experience...

Last year, the highlight for me was hanging out w/ Eric Edberg, my cello friend, and getting to see some of the other performers... including a really progressive jazz Bass player who basically improvised on impressions of Bach (which actually inspired my performances this year)

I'm not sure how much my Bach has really improved much since then (except that I can play faster now, so I can have more fun w/ tempo fluctuations... and my intonation is better) .. but like last year, I left feeling like there was value in Bach that I'd forgotten & that perhaps I should go practice Bach some more...

This year I retreated even further underground to the NQR Platform at Union Sq. (last year, I was on the main level) ... and I decided to do things a bit differently this year... I strapped the cello on to myself (still have some kinks to work out with that...) and incorporated my loop station & improvised a little bit... so I had fun telling people "I don't usually strap a cello to myself, and I don't usually play classical music" ... I also had fun telling the people from the NY Post about how Bach was definitely an influence on Cliff Burton/in some of early Metallica's work (with Call of Cthulu being a great example)... That didn't make it to the article they wrote up -  http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/bach_underground_tS6cQEfkRLWPJXFe25LpnO

Lately I've been thinking about my attitude towards classical music... I've developed a somewhat antagonistic attitude towards the classical community (and subconsciously to some of the music), but now I'm starting to approach (what I hope is) a more mature way of looking at things, where I'd like to find (or create) the bridges between what I do & what they do, and encourage more people to cross those, and build their own, and just as importantly, encourage myself to grow from what the other side of the bridge has to offer. ... this desire comes from three things: 1.  Reading an interview with Lindsey Stirling in Strings Magazine.  2.  Reading Speaker For the Dead, in which Pipo admonishes Novinha that you aren't defined by the communities that you're not a part of, but instead by the communities you are a part of (paraphrasing) ... a lesson I've been beginning to learn over the last few years... I do everything the hard way! :p  3.  A feeling that I've had (which came up in conversation with my buddies from You Bred Raptors) that there really aren't a lot of resources out there for Rock string players (the way there's say Bass Player Magazine, or Modern Drummer, etc., etc.) ... there's basically just Strings Magazine & the New Directions Cello Site (and fb group), and maybe a few other things scattered here & there... I want to help change that... but I can't do it if I'm JUST off in my own world, doing my music thing

I didn't get a chance to see the other musicians this year, unfortunately, because I had to go teach afterwards ... but hopefully next year I'll be able to catch things a bit more


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Self-Consciousness In Music

I was watching this Joni Mitchell video earlier, and it struck me that basically everything I've watched from the 70s has this sort of free-spiritedness/freedom or even innocence if you will ... it's very un-self-conscious ... I think in the 80s, that got replaced with being unappologetic ... and now we are in the era of hyper-self consciousness over music and video...




I was also watching this Steven Wilson Interview earlier, and he was commenting on how with modern pop music, not only is musicianship downplayed (for the sake of highlighting the vocal line), but the parts that are there have been squeaked and edited to perfection... and perfection is boring...


I think he's very spot on...

I've also been thinking about Amanda Palmer lately, between the TED Talk & just listening to her music a bit more... it's still not really my thing, but I'm starting to understand more what people like about her... I think one of the aspects is that she's incredibly unappologetic or frank in her live performances... it's also interesting to see how she talks about everything in her blog, and it's clear how it's all relevant...



I was also listening to Simple Gifts performed by Yo-Yo Ma & Alison Kraus ... if there's one area of music that is incredibly conscious of *everything* all the time, it's classical music ... I think that's reflected in their version ... but I think the words of Simple Gifts relate to the point I'm getting out of the other 2 videos:




'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right




I'm going to strive for that same sense of freedom and lack of self-consciousness in my performing .... just "Hi, I'm here, doin' my thing... be here with me :) " sort of attitude

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tales From The Road #7 - Upstate with The Rose West & and Back Home with Eli August

So last weekend brought me upstate with The Rose West ... it was a really great weekend ... We journeyed up to the band's in Glens Falls to play at The Hudson River Music Hall.  Hudson River Music Hall is a very awesome venue run by musicians & artists for musicians & artists and was by far the loveliest place to play at.


We got to the venue pretty early (for once), which was really nice, b/c we had time to properly set up (and it was here that things first began to go awry for me) ... during setup it turned out that my 1/4 to 1/8th cable for my cello was crapping out & that I needed a 2nd one for my keyboards ... so we sent a friend to get some cables at the local music store... only it turned the local music store was closed, and he had to stop by Radio Shack & get some very low-quality 1/8th inch cables and then adaptors... yikes!!  Those were so short that I had to actually strap my tuning pedal *to my cello* (it would then later come off when I rocked out too much during The Mechanic)... on top of that, the Keyboards kept disappearing, and the organ pedal was getting all this noise & mucking everything up... add to that the fact that we had worked out the keyboard rig, vocal harmonies & decided I was gonna play accordion on Feria Cinerum 2 days before... it was a recipe for chaos... I trooped through it though, and the rest of the band played awesomely & the crowd was great

Playing Accordion on stage for the first time in my life

That moment when your cello life says "Let's be crazy" & you say "Yeah, let's do this!"

For me, the highlight of the night was seeing Anthime Miller ... A cellist singer-songwriter ... he did a lot of badass covers, and some originals.  It was a really inspiring set!!  I've seen and heard tons of cellists over the years ... very few play as if they are deeply in love with their instrument ... this guy played with heart & style & with the technique of a true bad ass ... I felt like I had simultaneously met a kindred spirit & found someone whose greatness I could aspire to (I even got to try his ancient cello later in the evening ... what a *beautiful* instrument)...


Anthime Miller - Bad Ass Cellist & the highlight of my night



Cello Robare... just doesn't have the same ring to it...

The rest of the weekend involved great conversation & food, and hanging out in the woods by Alex's Folks ... we shot rifles, which was an interesting experience for me (having never held a gun in my life before) ... not something I think I'm likely to fall in love with, but definitely glad to have tried...




So that was last weekend ... this weekend I came back home and played with Eli August for the CD Release... we were originally supposed to play in Massachussetts the night, however the show was cancelled due to hazardous weather, so Alas, it was just New York ...

NYC more than made up for it... Brooklyn Fireproof was where it was at!!  We had a really strong turnout & everyone was dancing, clapping, singing or cheering along ... the band was tight, everyone was having fun ... Baroque & Hungry opened & were amazing fun as usual... I started some clapping mayhem during their set (assisted by Robare) ... I started some clapping mayhem during our set (again assisted by Robare) ... B&H joined us for a song during our set, with great affect ... So many of the Steampunk Family came out ... proceeds went to the NY 19th Century Society's educational programming (who helped sponsor the event) ... Through my Ninja Cam, I learned that I can play a set drunk & without monitors & still play well (Important things to know)... all in all, a really fun & *amazing* night

Some pics from the show (taken by a friend):

Baroque & Hungry joined us for the Behemoth version of Eli August & The Abandoned Buildings

You can't tell, but I was making a <3 symbol w/ my hands...

Here's some photos from the rehearsal that preceded the show:



I missed Alex in this one... he was probably drinking anyway...

Robare playing accordion while Mell writes out lyrics for Eli

Catch ya on the road!!


Monday, February 18, 2013

Tales From The Road #6 - Wicked Faire

I am now home from my second Wicked Faire (first one I was officially performing at).  The weekend of most EPICNESS ... It kicked my ass & I kicked it's ass right back!!

Had a ton of fun the entire weekend & played 12 sets in 3 days on 2 cellos, plus jammed with people, plus sat in w/ This Way to The Egress on a tune ...

Last year was my first Wicked, and it was one of the most amazing weekends of my life ... there were many highlights, but The one that still stands a year later was catching Ego Likeness while being very bouncy & drunk & having that moment of realization "This is Home, These are my People" (Last Wicked Faire was also the first time I started playing with Eli August)

This Wicked Faire was very much the same ... except, in addition to that, I was officially performing in 4 acts - (The Wandering Cellist, Eli August, Psyche Corp, The Rose West), so everything was just non-stop, from the moment I got there Friday (I didn't even have my first actual break until the middle of saturday!!)

I was really enthused by everyone who turned out for my sets - the Lobby show was a perfect way to introduce myself to the con and filled with all the usual geekiness, the Mirabelle Stage featured my full band setup & was well into the drinking hours ... at one point the cello cut out & I did an acappella version of Game of Thrones... Sunday mornings set was probably my favorite... I actually played cello sitting down & when I showed up to play there was suddenly a whole band of people on various instruments Mandolin, Dounbeck, Violin & Clarinet to accompany me... I also had my energy & voice back by this point, and sang some powerful renditions of Scarborough Faire, Moorlough Shore & Rains of Castamere ... it was really inspiring and the reaction I got from everyone was great


The sets with Eli were great too... They just had an amazing energy of fun, and our sound was great live ... huge crowds too ... so far the reaction to the new CD is *very* positive!!  Then there were the Psyche Corp. and The Rose West sets & those all went awesomely... Rose West featured the electric cello (and I had to keep switching pegs b/c of a broken peg all weekend)

Muses Well was nice enough to host my wares!!

Saturday night I did actually get to watch a few people ... got to dance to Platform One & This Way to the Egress before playing my set... there were moments during Saturday where I was asking myself how I was going to make it through the rest of the performances (b/c 12 performances is *very* demanding ... especially the way I play/jump around like a madman during band sets) ... lots of alcohol & 2nd, 3rd & 4th winds were in order...

All in all, it was a weekend of amazingess (and I recorded an EP 2 days before!!)... Now it is time to decompress...