Thursday, August 30, 2007

I Am What I Am (instrumental remix)

I am what I am (instrumental remix)
volume 3 number 17

one of my favorite recording periods was my time spent
in Lake Geneva, Wisconsinin Royal Recorders
with the team of myself, rich denhart, and dan harjung.
the studio was a dream come true;
a beautiful room in the woods of Wisconsin
attached to what was once the Playboy Resort
(now called the Americana)
which featured a world-class golf course,
ski resort, fine dining, a small lake, and hundreds of rooms.
in the Playboy days it was supposedly rockin'.
they had buffalo roaming the grounds,
Frank Sinatra playing the lounge,
even a heliport.

but by the time we arrived it was the Americana,
more like the Shining;
a huge, mostly empty complex
which we had all to ourselves.

still the studio was world-class.
a 90-channel SSL mixing board with total recall,
linked to 2 Mitsubishi 32-track machines
(the latest in digital recording)
with 40 vintage microphones, a 9-foot baby grand,
and all the best outboard gear money could buy.

most days it was just me, rich, and dan in recording studio heaven.
the result was mr. music head, young lions, inner revolution,
and the first two bears records; not a bad run.

on October 17, 1989 I started a new track.
as usual I was playing all the instruments.
I had my new Ayotte kit and a new set of Paiste cymbals
(still have 'em) adding to which I included
the Roland Octapad, an early drum sampler
which allowed us to put my favorite sounds
(japanese fans, the striking of the bridge on my dobro,
log drums, guitar noises, etc.) on 8 different pads
which could then be played as part of the drum kit.
it was great fun resulting in drum tracks like bird in a box,
small world, or the song featured here I am what I am.

for bass in this song I used a sampler as well.
triggered from my guitar,it was easy to play
and had an unusual fretless-through-an-overdriven-amp
sound which I really loved.
I used a similar bass approach for songs like
happy guy, gunman, and pretty pink rose.

my guitar rig of the moment was set up
in the large comfortable control room
which had big windows looking out into the recording room.
most everything guitar-wise was
recorded direct into the digital console.

for things like the handclaps and shouts
we used my favorite microphone,
the expensive vintage AKG C-24
which is actually two mics put together for stereo.
it's the same C-24 I have used all these years
for my vocals (I still do).
I actually had to go to court to win my C-24,
but that's a story for another day.

the coolest thing about the guitar playing for
I am what I am
are the bits sounding like a combination
of metal scraping and human voices
which are peppered throughout the solos.
these were made by rubbing
a long flat carpenter's file across the guitar strings.
the astounding thing was this:
for some unknown reason the file made
what sounded like human voices.
it was creepy but we loved it.

I am what I am is one of those rare songs I had no melody for.
I figured it would end up an instrumental as heard here.
then one day while studying the music,
I realized it would be the perfect place
for the prophet omega's voice,
which is yet another story for another day.

bass, drums, guitar, carpenter file: adrian
engineer: rich denhart

assistant: dan harjung

recorded at Royal Recorders in Lake Geneva, Wis.
on October 17, 1989
this re-mix was done on october 20, 1989
length: 4:21

Monday, August 20, 2007


volume 2 number 11

fretless guitar has from the very beginning been an important part of my sonic arsenal. in fact, the first song big electric cat on my first solo record lone rhino featured fretless guitar*. in 1980 while touring Japan with talking heads I was given my first guitar synthesizer, the Roland GR-300. no one outside of Japan yet had one. it was only natural to convert a guitar to being a fretless guitar synth, which is something which was done for me by Roland in Japan in 1983. it has to have been the first one, as most players had yet to even see a GR-300.

when first experimenting with sounds and ideas which would become desire caught by the tail I recorded this piece which I named antarctica because it sounded so chilly. (I find it mildly amusing to listen to such cold music in the midst of a stifling august heat wave; aural air conditioning). parts of the song
Z from desire caught by the tail begin to emerge during this piece which is a fine example of the status of early 80's guitar technology.

that first fretless guitar was a little pale blue single pick-up Fender Musicmaster II. (I still have it). made fretless by my old buddy Seymour Duncan. we were friends long before either of us were known to the general public. of course, Seymour has gone on to be the world's premier pick-up designer and manufacturer. when I first knew him he was an outrageous guitarist in the Cincinnati music scene. man, he was great. he had a band called the orange noise. years later seymour would also "relic" my battered strat, the one seen on the cover of lone rhino. another story to be told.

fretless guitar synthesizer: adrian

engineer: rich denhart

recorded at Creative Audio in Urbana, Ill.
sometime late 1983
length: 4:17

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Anecdote # 37

The Fourth Day Of My Professional Touring Life.

and so it was in June of 1977 I moved to L.A. to begin rehearsals with frank zappa. I rented a non-descript one bedroom apartment on Canyon Drive in North Hollywood not far from the famous Hollywood sign. who says 'nobody walks in LA'? I sure did. I had no car. frank's brother-in-law Midget Sloatman was often my ride and my only friend.
one curious thing happened. one night I dined alone at a famous spot called Musso's and Frank's, the oldest restaurant in Hollywood. frank had taken me there for dinner once. it was a long walk back to my sad apartment and I had nothing to do, so I stopped in a bookstore along the way. I bought a book on Elvis. I never knew much about his life and this book was written by his bodyguard Red, reportedly close to Elvis all those years. I took the book home and settled into a long read on the couch. I fell asleep about 2 AM. the next morning the world's headlines read:
Elvis Is Dead!
he had died that night while I was reading about his life.

rehearsal's were held in a huge movie studio on Melrose Avenue where they used to make Laurel and Hardy films. for 3 months 5 days a week we rehearsed there before we ever stepped in front of a real audience. most friday nights I went home with frank for the week-end to get a jump on learning next week's material. I can't say I enjoyed the rehearsals which were long and tedious. I felt like an outcast. it seemed like the other player's were custom-made to be in frank's band. all of them were readers, very familiar with zappa material, and all of them actually lived in LA. it was a lonely time for me.

the rehearsals drug on and on. we learned five hours of zappa material! the huge film lot was a strange place, there was no telling what might be happening there from day to day. one time I watched them filming in blue screen the Spiderman TV series. strange watching a guy crawling along on the floor and seeing him projected onto the side of a building in the playback screen. they were forever correcting his positions, "pull your left foot in a bit, you're supposed to be standing on a window ledge". another time I watched them film an Apple Jacks commercial. they had a huge 30-foot Apple Jack box and these jacks the size of lounge chairs.

at certain times I wasn't needed during rehearsals. I would walk down melrose avenue to a huge old building called Western Costume. there I could roam floor after floor of authentic costumes used by all the major film companies over the years. this was the place that outfitted the movies. for example, you might find yourself on a floor filled with civil war period clothing. surrounded by hundreds of uniforms of all types, as well as the accoutrement's: boots, prince nez glasses, hats. canteens. anything you've ever seen in a movie Western Costume had it. it was a fascinating way to kill an hour or two.

finally after three months you could tell it was time to go touring. extra people began to arrive at the film lot each day. more crew members. Big John Smothers arrived to the thrill of the other band members who had already toured with him. and a new tour manager introduced himself as Ron Nehoda. seemed like a nice person.

the tour started. my first professional show ever was in Tempe, Arizona September 8, 1977. then we flew to San Diego for a show on the ninth. the third show was in Las Vegas at the Aladdin Theatre. wow! Las Vegas. it was every bit as exciting as I expected. electricity in the air and big show lights everywhere.
the Aladdin was a sizable complex which included our hotel and of course a large gambling casino on the bottom floor. after the show most of us ended up checking out the casino, but I didn't stay long. not much of a gambler. the window in my room would not open. I found out why.

frank's tour had something no other tour I've been on since had: a bag boy. Pancho was a fresh 19-year old kid who was responsible to pick your bags up each morning outside your door to be delivered to the airport for the day's flight. he was a nice kid but like Ron, I barely knew him.
the morning after our show at the Aladdin Pancho came around 9 AM to pick up the bags. when he got to Ron's room there was no answer. eventually he had a security person open the door. Ron was sitting quietly in a bathtub full of water and blood. he had slit his wrists. evidently Ron had a serious gambling addiction as well as a taste for coke. he had gotten himself so coked up the night before he had gambled away frank's earnings from the concert (reportedly about $15,000.00) as they took him from the tub he was still alive. he said to poor Pancho. "I'll tell you about it later".

there was a serious shitmist inside the plane to Tucson, our next concert. I remember we checked in the hotel and frank asked us all to meet him in the empty lounge on the ground floor. there he reported calmly that Ron had in fact died and went on to say there was nothing more for us to do but play a show that night, that's what he wanted us to focus on. and he was right in saying that. the strange thing to me: I never saw anything in the press about Ron's death. I expected something in Rolling Stone's Random Notes or somewhere but...what happens in vegas.

and that began the fourth day of my professional touring life.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

as if...

more evidence of my manliness were needed
I am writing this blog while eating this candy which
I brought back from japan
which clearly indicates it is candy
intended only for Men!

so there.

life is a cabernet...

more than once in my life I've been accused of being "metro-sexual",
usually jokingly by martha who certainly knows.
but, if liking flower gardens, or feeding hummingbirds,
or dressing fastidiously means you're "metro"
then I'm guilty as charged.
but I've never had a male+male sexual encounter in my life
even though for one whole year my very existence
centered around a gay bar called the Downstairs Club.

at age 20 I formed my first "power trio" with two close friends
Ray Yancey on bass and Mike Hodges on drums.
we called the band "adrian"
(5 years before I began calling myself that).
we were a hot trio modeled after hendrix and cream
and noted for our extended jam versions of unusual fare like
long time comin' by crosby, stills, and nash or
walk on by from burt bacharach.
we had that unique mind-blend esp I now share with eric and julie.
adrian was my first-ever band as a serious guitar player.
I had an echoplex.

we spent a year sharing the house band slot with another power trio
(called "buck moon") at an infamous gay bar in northern kentucky,
the Downstairs Club.
when you pulled off highway 25 you would see the rooftop
of the club as you drove down to the parking lot.
hence the name.

The Downstairs Club was famous for its yearly drag-queen
contest which drew players from all over the U.S.
Little Richard would be there when he was in town
and before our time he would bring his guitarist Jimi Hendrix.
the club was owned by a man's man named Mr. Combs Sr.
Mr. Combs Sr. was a devout hunter and fisherman,
a poker player with a constant cigarette dangling.
it was his son Bobby who ran the club
and played for the other team, as they say.

Bobby Combs was the biggest social butterfly I ever saw.
his job was to flit from table to table ever engaged in hilarious
chit chat with his customers while filling their noses
with a brain-pumping drug called amil nitrate
which you sniffed from an inhaler he offered.

knowing the players in both trios were straight (and under-age)
bobby insisted his clientele leave us off their menu
and we were never accosted by anyone, not once.

boy, they had some characters who would frequent the bar.
I remember one very successful businessman named Peaches.
despite his chubby physique he dressed in impeccable suits
and beautiful italian shoes which must have cost a fortune.
he wore conspicuous diamond earrings and necklaces.
peaches liked to get up now and then to sing with the band.
when he opened his mouth the most incongruous voice
would come out,
the voice of a little girl!

we had so many funny moments there, full of the kind of
double-entendre humor and sassy remarks gay people are know for.
kind of like living the movie "the boys in the band".
one night I was talking to bobby while buck moon
was playing one of their sets.
suddenly a good-looking young man sat down next to bobby
and began to stroke bobby's leg.
long strokes of his hand up and down bobby's leg.
in a classic I've never forgotten bobby said,
"I'll give you five minutes to quit that!"

Sunday, August 12, 2007

the real neptune pool...

can be found at the Heart Castle in galleyfornia.
overlooking miles of prime ocean-front real estate
it is one of the most stunning sights you'll ever see.
the bears spent a day off in the 80's discovering
the incredible wonders of Heart Castle, which is
so vast as to require 4 different tours to see it all.
there is also an Olympic-sized indoor pool
covered in gold leaf!
the Hearst Castle is run by the state but I've been
informed it may now be up for sale.
the perfect gift for the man who has everything,

inspiration for a song.

a 1989 promo shot...

which was included inside the CD-5 Maxi Single.
this still was taken from the pretty pink rose video.

Neptune Pool

neptune pool
volume 3 number 21

when asked for advice on how to compose music
Igor Stravinsky recommended placing parameters
on the size of your intentions.
for example, you might state before beginning
'this piece is for these 15 instruments, and nothing more'.
I have often tried to utilize his rule of thumb.

neptune pool began as a finger-picking exercise I devised
for the dobro which, as always, was tuned to DADDAD.
it's tricky to play the melody over the continual bass line
which is played with your thumb.
to orchestrate the music I added 14 more instruments:
piano, string bass, tympani, thundersheet*, theremin,
harp, muted trumpet, two trombone, two clarinets,
flute, oboe, and bass clarinet.
all the orchestration except piano and string bass,
was emulated with my trusty gr-700 guitar synth.

this is one of my personal favorite pieces I've written,
in fact it was played at our wedding and I would like it
played at my funeral when I'm 85 and a half.

neptune pool was only ever released as a hard-to-find
"CD-5 Maxi Single" for pretty pink rose which included
the LP version of oh daddy as well as the acoustic guitar/vocal
version of shoe salesman.

frank zappa was infamous for long 3-hour soundchecks which were often recorded to be used later. on one such occasion we were at the Hammersmith Odeon, a magnificent hall in London. the second day there frank ordered in some special instrumentation to record within the sound of the grand hall. I was asked to play a "thundersheet", a long piece of thin sheet metal with handles at one end. I was positioned in the balcony with the thundersheet hanging over the front of the balcony. at frank's signal I would gently rattle the giant beast which sounds like wind. I'm not sure where this sound ended up but you can bet its on a zappa record somewhere.

dobro, piano, string bass, guitar synth: adrian

engineer: rich denhart

assistant: dan harjung
recorded at Royal Recorders in Lake Geneva, Wis. on december 19, 1989

length: 3:04

Monday, August 6, 2007

sick as a blog...

in case you have wondered what's become of your tireless reporter.
since last wednesday night I've been virtually bed-ridden
with some strange viral miscreant which has kept me down.
following a visit to my doctor this morning I'm just now
beginning to feel sub-human again.
hopefully I'll return freshly inspired tomorrow.

The Phlegm/Charlelle/Don't Leave My Leg Out There

the phlegm/charlelle/don't leave my leg out there
volume one number three

it's true, I used to be far more ridiculous than nowadays.
I used to write songs that were so silly I never released them.
following my year of frank zappa's tutelage it might be expected
to try my hand at "humor music", and in the wacky company of GAGA*,
a band noted for wearing pea hats onstage, it seemed like the thing to do.
but that was in 1978.
it would be 3 more long years before I was finally in a position
to make my own first record and by then the joke's had worn off.
so this ridiculous trio of songs gathered dust and were never released.

still they show the commitment of GAGA's near-vaudevillian lunacy
and feature some blistering saxophone playing by bill janssen.

*see the february 5 blog called peas.

bass guitar, back-up vocals: rich denhart
piano, back-up vocals: christy bley
saxophone, back-up vocals: bill janssen
drums, guitar, and vocals: adrian
recorded at Cwazy Wabbit Studio in Springfield, Ill.
sometime in 1978
engineer: rich denhart
length: (9:40)