Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2010 is the year of the tiger

well, this'll be the year that we won't forget
2009, ano domini
anything goes
be what you want to be
long as you know consequences are given for living

i feel like i'm going through another transitional phase. 2009 was an exhausting year, probably more so than 2008 (although technically i was in transit for many more days in aught-eight). the first half of 2009 is completely lost in my memory. the details are gone, which makes me sad because there were some excellent moments. it's not that i intentionally erased it, it's just gone.

a period of time that is floating in space somewhere.

the second half of my year was dominated by 4 months of worldwide touring, which led to a 3 week long sickness. in fact, i got so sick that i had to cancel a legendary northeastern run with project/object.

in those 3 weeks, i had some personal breakthroughs. i've been working on music everyday, completing songs that were once considered worthless. it's therapeutic. i have a lot to look forward to in 2010. two new projects have been absorbing most of my free time: paper cat and lithuania. paper cat is an instrumental post-rock group with julie slick and robbie mangano (papercat.bandcamp.com). lithuania is my avant-pop song project with dominic angelella. i'm also excited for some of my solo compositions that have been blossoming out of the dust - especially because a piano is being delivered to my house this week. i didn't purchase it. it's an upright baldwin that belongs to my roommate tony. i can finally practice the "mikrokosmos" on something besides a MIDI keyboard. 2010 is going to be great, i can smell it.

IMPORTANT NOTE: if you can, please help andre cholmondeley's partner cheri jiosne. some of you may know andre from project/object, or his tech work with adrian belew and al dimeola. he is one of my best friends.

cheri is also an incredible human being - intelligent, humorous, gifted with an unparalleled warmth. she is currently fighting breast cancer. as you may know, the united states healthcare system is in complete shambles right now. cheri's medical bills are ghastly, and she needs all the help she can get.

you can donate thru paypal.com and make payments to projectobject (at) earthlink.net
You can send a check or money order written to CHERYL JIOSNE to:

Cheri Jiosne Cancer Fund
PO BOX 16672
Asheville NC

that's all for now. i'll post some pictures from this year in a few hours. i love you!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

data is not knowledge

no rest for the weary.

let's rewind back to june. i was complaining that i didn't have enough work, and now i can't stop working. i've essentially been on tour since july, with very few breaks in between. i guess we're all hypocrites, right?

i don't have much to talk about at the moment. we go through phases, don't we? we constantly absorb all kinds of data, which then gets transferred into information, and then that becomes knowledge. if you're lucky, it turns into wisdom. i had a fascinating conversation about this with juilliard composition professor philip lasser. he believes that the iphone, or the internet in general, has ruined that critical process. the terrifying ubiquitousness of a website like wikipedia allows us to import all kinds of data into our digitally wired brains, and most of time it slips into some synaptic cleft without advancing to the "information" stage. as an ambassador of the A.D.D. generation, i agree with this sentiment in some ways. when i want to "learn" about something, i type the search words into google. i peruse the first 3 websites, and then i feel sort of satisfied. the problem is that i can't back it up with any empirical wisdom - it just gets lost in the constant influx of data. my memory is intrinsically selective, and although i'd love to retain information about the minutiae of russian futurism or even the different genera of tree finches, i simply can't do it.

hmmph. unless i read a book on the subject. that's where the argument takes an interesting turn. is it the medium or how we digest it? perhaps other people take away true knowledge from wikipedia summaries, but i find myself getting distracted too easily. i aimlessly click on links within links. for example, i may start with a search on the personal life of james joyce and end up guffawing at the synopsis of pee-wee herman's troubled career!

this is why i've been leaning more towards books this year. they stick to the ribs. here's last month's reading list for all you nerds out there:

magritte by bernard noel
the way of liberation by alan watts
straight man by richard russo

right now i'm reading 20th century harmony by vincent persichetti. oh boy!

and here's my list of listening:

tyondai braxton - central market
bela bartok - string quartet no. 4 in c major
micachu and the shapes - jewellery
skeletons - money
kurt weisman - spiritual sci-fi

that's all for now. if anything crazy happens on this tour, i'll write about it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

zappanale = utopia

a painful 10AM wake-up.

much like the "red alert" signal on a punctured submarine, my iPhone alarm is loud enough to wake up the entire crew of the U-96 (even after its demise). i wipe the crust from my unabrow and head to the lobby. grab a cup of strong coffee from my cafe dance partner. she seems wistful, but i'm sure doing the robot will get her out of it.

10 of us scurry into an 8 passenger van. one of us has not showered for days, which makes the drive comparable to being put into a 4 hour headlock by a homeless prizefighter. no worries though, we're on the way to one of my favorite places in the whole world. a quaint village called bad doberan. it's 15 kilometers west of rostock, and it's the home of zappanale, a week long festival dedicated to the genius of frank zappa: composer, filmmaker, guitarist, politician, iconoclast.

i wish i could describe the festival in full detail, but it's difficult for me. it's as close as i've come to some form of heaven. an endless supply of vegan food, a bizarre collection of avant-garde LP's. loud dissonance and difficult rhythms. art. weird girls. hangmatten. clean air. a lifetime of memories.

this year marked my 5th visit to the mecca of zappa. it gets better every year. there were two stages this time around! i still say it's the most organized festival in the world. you can quote me on that. i rubbed elbows with some of the all time greats, such as david aellen (of gong fame) and kawabata makoto (of the mind-melting acid mothers temple). eating a continental breakfast with roy estrada was hilarious. i will never forget it!

i also became best friends with the fine people of discorporate records. discorporate is one of the leading avant-garde labels in europe. coincidentally, they signed my close friends capillary action, a group led by oberlin grad jon pfeffer. jon and i played in a band together when we were 10 years old. it was called...well, the name was crude, perhaps even downright offensive. nevermind.

zappanale ended with a smashing late night performance on the second stage. johannes (drummer of schnaak and co-founder of discorporate) led the most inspired zappa/doors tribute group i've ever seen. their regular set closed with a rowdy cover of "L.A. Woman". for the encore, they played "girls just wanna have fun" - in the nude.

and that concludes my recap of the project/object european tour.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

ich bin ein berliner (part two)

i shared a room with robbie and svalgard.

we collectively drank a pitcher of potent german beer during our "phuk et meal". careening down die fabrik hallways at 3AM, we were shouting, obnoxious amerikaners. when ike came into our room to use robbie's laptop, he barfed out the definitive phrase of the eerie hostel experience: "zo, gentleman. we are killing ze girl tonight?". laughter ensues, a loud knock on the wall. angry neighbors! sleep.

early rise. die fabrik cafe is right next door and we all agree on it for our frühstück (breakfast, for my american readers). a huge plate of dunkelbrot and käse. the danceable morning music ranged from the bangles to madonna to weirdo kraut jams. i coaxed the very german baristas into doing the robot with me. also, robbie and I put our iphones next to each other to simultaneously film wide screen freakouts of eric svalgard's face. one day we'll project it on a giant screen, i'm sure.

went to the schallplatten shop across the street. picked up records by gyorgy ligeti and gil evans. i delved into the obscure bin and found a german mad magazine LP, which brought back memories of my alfred e. neuman obsession. goodbye, 40 euros.
after the seratonin release of record shopping I walked around the corner, only to find remnants of the berlin wall!

a moving experience. i was only 2 years old when the wall was destroyed, too young to realize the significance of the event. the residual effects of its destruction are obvious. walls of the once pale industrial buildings are now splattered with paint and large line drawings. this kind of freedom is infectious, and evidently it's still new to the people that live here. 20 years is not a long time, not long enough to undo the kind of oppression they endured for more than a quarter century.

strolled back to die fabrik and hung out until it was time to set up our gear at the dot club. thanks again to the fabulous merlin ettore of trap. not only did he blow my mind, but he also lent me his drumset!

great 3 hour show that night. the crowd seemed to enjoy it. the evening's most entertaining moment: a group of young floozies came in during one of our more cerebral jams. can you imagine a group of paris hilton type socialities attempting to do their ancient ritual slut dances to an odd-time keyboard solo? a hilarious sight for any musician. the legendary joe jackson was in attendance as well. i bit my tongue when i shook his hand, because i almost started singing "is she really going out with him?".

afterwards i met my new best friend flora. we discussed the state of american pop culture. it's a shame, i feel like i have to defend myself sometimes, you know, because i'm an official ambassador. our long discussion about bret michael's "rock of love" brought us to the the crux of the matter. mainstream television is devolving at a rapid rate. you have to furrow your brow when an educational network like national geographic is now all reality programming. maybe I should blow up my TV. why do i even pay a comcast bill? oh right. thank god for adult swim. let's all push the envelope together.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

ich bin ein berliner (part one)

our next sequence went like this:
bilbao to madrid, madrid to berlin.

the latter flight was delayed due to technical issues (the plane sounded like a loud dentist drill). we waited 45 minutes and then we scrambled onto a shuttle bus. the driver seemed to be lost, because he gave us a head-spinning tour of the airport and all of its underground tunnels and pathways. fascinating, but not my idea of a good time during a day of dehydrating travel. speaking of dehydration, i'm a bit pissed at iberia airlines. where do they get off charging their customers for things like water and snacks? even southwest airlines - which is practically a chaotic free-for-all - has free drinks and snacks onboard. the going rate for an unappetizing cheese sandwich on an iberia flug is a bank-breaking €7.50, or $10.50 in hard earned american doll hairs! oh well, i'll stop complaining. i was in europe after all.

robbie and i were silly on the trip to berlin. in a deliriant frenzy, i managed to create a realistic cat out of a barf bag. robbie added accoutrements and filagree to this paper cat, and suddenly we were convinced that it was real. we made it nuzzle and purr while confused spaniards looked on and shuddered at our childish behavior. we even made a music video of the paper cat. the guy next to me remained stoic and straight-faced during our shoot, which makes it that much funnier.

here's a picture of the fantastic paper cat after we touched down in berlin.

iberia also lost our luggage when we did the shuttle bus switchover. this meant no clothes or toiletries for most of the group (except for me, thanks cheri). we filled out a bunch of papers, met our fabulous show promoters. i was losing patience though, and at this point, i was starving. so, we cabbed it to a thai restaurant which totally summed up our day with it's name. ladies and gentleman, phuket:

for our "phuk et meal", we were joined by none other than the great bob rutman. rutman was a huge part of the downtown nyc avant-garde scene in the 1970's. he was respected by stockhausen and cage, and he collaborated with robert wilson (of philip glass fame) and the recently deceased merce cunningham.

here's a video of his meeting with john cage:

but wait, it gets better! our sleeping quarters for the evening was "die fabrik", a beautiful punk rock hotel in the hip area of kreuzberg. from what i've read, it's a converted factory building from the early 1900's. i loved it immediately...except when we got there they only had 3 rooms for 7 people. ugh. fich mich!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

roll over, eindhoven/la-re-do, a deer, a female deer

the joy of being alone.

sometimes i undervalue the perks of having time to think, time to breathe. according to CNN, most americans have replaced "free time" with "weisure", or rather "work + leisure". a portmanteau word. another abbreviation for our fast paced lives. perhaps it is more fitting to create a blend from this simple equation: work + leisure = seizure, or as i'd like to call it, weizure. i recently purchased an iphone - the shining beacon, the sexy face of weizure. it's an overwhelming device, and when i'm in my multi-tasking/rapid text message/websurfing/twitter mode, i can feel my tongue rolling back into my esophagus.

work and leisure should be separate entities, you know, like church and state (here's looking at you, bush administration). my at&t contract is less than 90 days old, so when i went to buy an international plan for my european tour, i was denied. i knew what this meant - in order to communicate with my bandmates, i'd have to remember their hotel room numbers and whereabouts. no phone calls, no text messages. this also meant that i'd have no access to a 3G network. no social networking, tweets, friend requests, or anything of the like.

and suddenly, less anxiety. more fresh air. time to breathe!

which brings me to my last two touring locations: eindhoven, nl and laredo, spain.

holy shit. maybe last year i was jaded or ignorant, because i don't remember this kind of beauty. on sunday we played to a packed house in eindhoven at one of my favorite clubs, effenaar. effenaar has the BEST backstage food. a delightful vegan buffet comprised of a salad bar, curried vegetables, and cayenne eggplant. oh yes, i could live here.

the sidewalks have separate bike lanes with traffic lights, so i'd be less prone to a serious bike accident like this one:

i could also live in spain. goddamn. here's the view from my room:

it took us a full day of travel to get to laredo. our connecting flight in madrid had technical issues so we had to take a shuttle bus to another plane. naturally we didn't get to eat very much, so when we arrived in laredo, robbie and i went searching for a restaurant (at 11PM). after getting totally lost, we found a group of 3 restaurants: telepizza, the texas embassy, and dablos. which one sounds the most appetizing? i knew you were going to say telepizza. however, we used our collective brainpower and ultimately decided on dablos, and it was one of the best meals i've had in a long time.

also, they had duff beer in stock!

the next morning svalgard, robbie, and i went to the beach. swimming in clear ocean water. this is the life.

last night we performed at an indoor soccer arena with filthy habits ensemble and the grand kazoo. a complete evening of zappa music. such great people.

and now, on to berlin. you better "take my breath away", berlin! (get it? like the band berlin? from top gun?)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

czech please/prague rock

i'm writing from the park hotel in prague, czech republic. it's located right off the dukelskych hrdinu - a gritty street with pawn shops and xxx stores that leads to the town square via the palackeho most bridge. the bridge overlooks the shimmering vltava river, which houses two floating restaurants, a disco, and an old island that looks like alcatraz. the walk to the town square is much more glamorous, because on the way back it kind of looks like pittsburgh. here's a picture courtesy of cz wikipedia:

i flew over here on lufthansa with project object keyboardist/viking eric svalgard. a painless flight, except for the occasional outbursts a few rows behind us. on the seatback telescreen i endured the 2009 film "i love you, man", a pointless but entertaining study on Broism and it's effects on engagement plans.

on the way to prague we had a 4 hour (!) layover in frankfurt. during this waiting period, i played many games in my head such as "european or american?", a terrible exercise in poor judgement. i try to figure out if the passengers are european or american based on the amount of hair dye they use. am i going to hell yet?

in this process of amusing myself, i was interrupted by a young female airport employee. she decided that i was the perfect candidate for the "frankfurt airport questionnaire". my face must have shown great signs of apathy, because she began to pummel me with some hilarious questions. i provided arbitary answers, which she captured on a portable touchscreen computer.

our exchange went like this:

"excuse me sir, but do you have some time to answer some questions concerning frankfurt airport?"
"okay, um, what do you think about the cleanliness of frankfurt airport, rate 1 to 6...1 being the best."
"1 is the best?"
"yes sir."
"uh, okay, 1."
"and would you recommend frankfurt airport, rate 1 to 6?"
"i'm going to give it a 2."
"are you traveling for business or pleasure?"
"and are you from frankfurt?"
"no. i'm american."
"where are you located?"
"and how would compare frankfurt to other airports, rate 1 to 6?"
"i'm going to say a 1."
"how old are you?"
"i'm 22 years old."
"would you say that frankfurt airport is clean, rate 1 to 6?"
"that's a 1."
"how about the lighting, rate 1 to 6?"
"ehh, i'm going to say 2."
"i see."
silence. then she speaks.
"well, sir. we appreciate that you've chosen lufthansa. have a nice day!"

too much fun. the perfect soul draining medication for the following flight to prague.
now i'm sitting in my hotel room, waiting for the 1PM soundcheck. how strange. our show is early tonight. the lucerna bar turns into an 80's disco after we finish playing. i will be filming my attempts at dancing with sleazy czech beauties. i'll probably fall asleep though.

Friday, July 3, 2009

empty and marvelous

this past week was a trip.
wilmington, hoboken, peekskill, and on to philadelphia.
here are some pictures that will say more than any of my ramblings:

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

stillness is the move

a couple of things have derailed me from properly updating this blog that i cherish so dearly.

in april, i decided to move out of my old place. i couldn't handle the extreme pressure of feeling like there was no forward motion in my life. as of april '09, i had only amassed a measly 20 gigs. not that i should've had the audacity to compare 2009 to 2008, but imagine the shock: in 2008 we played at least 150 shows, opened up for primus in quebec city, and performed to 150,000 people in russia. that kind of year is almost impossible to replicate.

i felt that i had worked very hard to "make it" in the music business (whatever that means), and i found myself desperately calling musicians and songwriters for opportunities to play shows.

no such luck.

i thought, "well, this is it. 2009 is going to be a weak year for you. go get a real job and fix up your tumultuous relationship with your girlfriend."

at this low point in mid-april, i remembered that i did have a couple of potential shows lined up in may. i contacted those musicians and reassured them that i was ready, willing, and able to do some fun, albeit non-paying gigs. we did a show called shredfest V at the rotunda in may, and my life turned around a bit.

i was spiritually uplifted. and then i understood why i play music in the first place. i had gotten myself into a depression over what? having no constant income? no exposure? none of that matters.

sure enough, the second i had started to question my despicable ego-driven behavior, i get e-mails from project/object and adrian belew: "make sure you clear your schedule, we have a bunch of tour dates coming up." and isn't that how it always goes? we let go, we stop grasping for our desires. that's when they arrive like clockwork.

of course, two weeks later my girlfriend breaks up with me. inevitable and easy, and yet the knife still hurts like a bitch even when it's dull. i will say that i am happy now. well, except when those crippling pains come at 3 am, as i come to the sad realization that i've been spooning with my pillow for hours.

i have a new place, new friends, and i've been writing and painting. i have no reason to complain.

anyway, because non-sequitur is my middle name, here is an excellent youtube:

Friday, April 17, 2009

schlemeel, schlemazel, hasenpfeffer incorporated

i haven't been this happy in a while. last night we performed to an almost sold out crowd in st. louis. we also started the set with "a" and "b" from "e" (sounds confusing, but it's not!). the power trio has been recharged, much like a rayovac battery.

to counteract my hopeless yearning for knowledge and culture, i've watched a movie and started reading in the past two days. right now i'm reading "darkness at noon" by koestler. something about communism fascinates me, not because i'm interested in becoming a comrade...i just like reading about big ideas that result in big failure. perhaps it makes me feel a bit better about my own failures, which seem irrelevant in comparison.

i watched "stranger than paradise" by jim jarmusch. i like independent films from the 80's and 90's. they're all printed on film. real film is just better. it's forgiving and honest. sort of like the difference between reel to reel and pro tools. they're both magical, but a bad tape edit has so much charm to it.

anyway, we're driving to milwaukee right now. cue "laverne and shirley" theme.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

have i mentioned i like music?

april has been a very active month.

two weekends ago i managed to catch some great concerts. the first was dan deacon + ensemble. i didn't think i'd be able to get in - it was sold out. i waited in line for a good 3 hours, and for the most part it was worth it. dan deacon continues to utilize a vocal processor, a dr. sample, and a bevy of guitar pedals...but he has expanded his one man show with a 15 piece ensemble (with two drummers and xylophonist!). this means that the typical ear shattering DD show has increased by a solid 15 decibels. still, an entertaining show. if anything, it was further proof that my generation is truly influenced by the minimalism of the 60's and 70's. there were times when i felt like i was at a rave curated by philip glass.

the next night i played with dragonzord in west philly, and then dragonzord's bassist andy black (he was also my equipment handler) had to play a show at the north star with his balls-to-the-wall metal group action park.

a tight, excellent band.

it was quite the scene. they were opening up for dirty diamond, the vulgar neil diamond tribute project! after action park played, a bus of middle-aged swingers got dropped off at the venue for reasons i could never explain or comprehend. we got out of there as soon as humanly possible.

we decided to drive around west philly for a bit to grab some drinks, and we stumbled upon what looked like "animal house". sure enough, it was the pi lam fraternity. they were having a BBQ/rock festival that was headlined by the dead milkmen and make a rising. we missed the milkmen, but make a rising was stellar. they've been one of my favorite bands since high school. they premiered an entire set of new material that was complex, raw, and beautiful. well done boys.

after that, i spent the entire week preparing for the drummers quartet show that i've been organizing along with pavel fajt (dunaj), mike pride (dynamite club, mdc), and jim meneses (chris cutler collaborator and prog-punk enthusiast). i can't believe it, but we somehow pulled it off. i'll post some clips of it when i get the footage and audio.

i feel boring though. i need to read a book or watch a movie. too much music makes you a robot. then again, too much anything does that. diversity is key.

right now i'm driving to the southgate house with adrian belew and julie. we're about to premiere the first 20 minutes of "e". wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


has anyone read "thus spoke zarathustra" by nietzsche?

in the beginning of the book, zarathustra bloviates that he must come down from his mountain in the forest - where he had been living a solitary life for ten years - to unleash his overflowing wisdom upon the local populace. he arrives at the downtown area and a small crowd is being entertained by a ropewalker. zarathustra decides to interrupt the entertainer and speak to the spectators. when he sputters off his mammoth concepts to them, they are bewildered. he decides to leave, feeling empty and depressed.

sometimes i feel that way when i teach drum lessons! hah, did i just take all the piss out of nietzsche?

don't get me wrong, i love to teach. it's just a job that requires patience. it also requires intense organization. it's hard to get a student to find point A, and it's even harder to have them make the connection to point B. this brain addled generation seems to have difficulty making logical connections between two points.

of course, i have trouble with it too. but i'd like to think that i'm curious.

i'd like to think that the modern teenager would be immensely curious and thirsty for knowledge, considering that the internet is an infinite sort-of free library. however, in my experiences, they just aren't. they are generally concerned with social networking - and that is about it.
yeah. i am a hypocrite. i use all the networking tools.
i've contemplated facebook suicide many times, but it's just too easy to promote my rock shows on there.
oh well. hopefully it'll end soon.
wait, i do like twitter. it's a nice way of networking without wasting your life. unless you do it obsessively, of course.
let's end this post on a positive note.
here's a list of "things i know right now":

i love art
i love my dog
i love my friends
i love my family

oh, and i'm also an endorser of ludwig drums now. i couldn't be happier about that!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

coffee and vitamin e

right now, i'm typing to you from the "robert fripp suite" of adrian belew's basement. it's our temporary housing. we've been here all week making a brand new record.

our working schedule gave us only 5 days to complete 50 minutes of demanding instrumental music, and yet it didn't phase us one bit. i haven't felt this stress-free in quite some time...perhaps it's because our diet has consisted of mexican food and julie's gourmet cooking. for our final day of recording, julie made a show-stopping indian meal. let's just say the "fripp suite" has now been poisioned by some brown malodorous gases. gross.

for inspiration i've been listening to:

stravinsky's "rite of spring"
pierre schaeffer
henry cow's "unrest"
konono no.1
nat baldwin's "mvp"
alice coltrane
frank zappa's "lumpy money"

i've also been reading voraciously:

william kotzwinkle's "the fan man"
chuck klosterman's "downtown owl" (i keep getting negative responses about this from my friends, but i liked it for it's lonely charm anyway)
and right now i am in the middle of stephen hawking's "brief history of time". i've always found modern science to be fascinating, but high school was never stimulating enough to make me think about it (at least when i wasn't in school).
call me a nerd, but i'm having fun reading about quantum mechanics!

i will leave you with my favorite internet video of 2009 thus far:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

2008 in review, 2009 predictions

i've been thinking about this for the past few weeks. in 2008, i was in transit during every month.

let's look:
january - u.s. tour with delicious
february/march - u.s. tour with adrian belew
april - u.s. tour with delicious
may/beginning of june - u.s. tour with adrian belew
middle of june - u.s. tour with delicious
july - canada/u.s. tour with adrian belew
august/september - russian tour with adrian belew
october/november - european tour with adrian belew
november - u.s. tour with project/object
december - australian tour with adrian belew

wow. no wonder i couldn't write any music.

speaking of which, 2009 has already started off as a productive year for me. i've been studying the elusive craft of composition in west philadelphia with a marvelous teacher named dr. benjamin boyle. he's the youngest person to ever graduate with a Ph.D in comp from the university of pennsylvania. go to his website and check out his "chamber music" and "art songs" - simply beautiful. with dr. boyle's help i am certain that i will be able to complete compositions with structure and intent.

i've also been attending bikram yoga classes twice a week. i wouldn't be able to focus on studying if it weren't for the power of this meditative yoga.

i also work for WDCDradio, an eBay record store. please peruse the selection and buy some records!

by the way, i have a brand new macbook pro thanks to my family. i can edit film, which means i'll be uploading all of my tour videos from 2008.

in the meantime, check out this wonderful video of the dude flying from the big lebowski: