Sunday, April 27, 2008

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead. . .

. . . but tonight I will write.

When I send Hannah - my 3 year old - back to her bed for the fourth time, I can't but relate to her. It is hard giving up this consciousness when you have a restless mind. It's strange the small things you'd never thought you would give somebody.

It is weird to see my ways stamped on to my children. The way that Ava gets nervous in crowds, the way that Hannah can spin anything into a positive. But what is most rewarding is seeing the things that are uniquely-them. The way Hannah can start a conversation with anyone, the way that Ava makes sure her blocks are perfectly aligned when she is "Buildin' a casle, daddy."

Speaking of castles (of sorts) the children's outside play center is coming a long nicely. I have successfully (with the help of my Dad) moved all the 'tube sections' in to my backyard and now clearly have a plan together. It is going to be so sweet. Thanks to my wife for trusting me, I am teaching her how to take creative risks.

Project home theater is right on track as well. I tried to get a new projector this weekend, but it looks like better deals are to be-had online. But much thanks to me mum for watching my chitlens as I ventured from store to store in search for one. I did get a few things off the list, however:
Surround sound, check!
Projector mount, check!
Room re-layout, check!

There is a sect of Greek mythology that personified Sleep and Death, as brothers in fact. I think that is the coolest thing. This means that in leaving this post I can say, "I have to leave here, for I have a date with the brother of death." Brother of Death is also a great band name for those out there in need of one.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Surveying in Hell

I am working on the latest cartoon. I am excited about this one. I started doing them in color last month, and I am really pleased with the outcome. Here is what I am thinking for the June edition:

In surveying when an EDM or a total station (the thing that looks like a fancy camera on a tripod) takes a measurement it is called 'taking a shot.' In my cartoon I will have two guys trying to 'take a shot.' The only catch is that they will be surveying in hell... with flames, stalagmites, etc. The guys will both appear frustrated. The one behind the total station will say, "Nope, still can't get it." The bottom caption will read, "After countless tries, the crew realized they didn't have a shot in hell."

It is subtle (as most of mine are) but I think it will be funny.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A wall of television and a burger king play center

Ah... to be American. Before summer is completely here, there are two home projects I would like to complete: Transforming my living room into a home theater, and installing and old burger king play center into my backyard.

I have never been pleased with my living room setup, the focus of the room is a fireplace, so I must put the tv on a side wall. Which means when you sit on the couch you have to look sideways to see the tv. I wanted to test a work project at home this weekend, so I brought home the work projector. It works great! One entire wall in my living room is now nothing but television, 12' x 10' of nothing but video. I am going to have to convince my wife to let me buy one.

Now to explain the burger king play center. Last year I wanted to buy my kids a swing set. One look at Lowes and WalMart and I realized, wow this is high. So I decided I would try to build my own. Then I got to looking at parts, and I realized, wow this is high. Just to buy a slide was like 500-800 bucks! Then I was driving by a roller skating rink and outside they had what appeared to be an old burger king play center, the kind with tubes and slides and such. It was not put together and appeared discarded. I took it off their hands for $800 and now I have about 250 sq feet of giant colorful tubes and metal posts. I have no plans, no picture of how it was once assembled. Just the opportunity to be completely creative and design and build something my kids will never forget.

Here's to innovation! I will let you know (and by you I mean me) how it all goes.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of video

Well... I am tired of talking about songs, I want to play them. I am getting closer, however. I have been experimenting with ustream, camtwist, and green screening. Soon, I hope to have a pretty nice presentation. The format should go as follows:

Video of my playing
Lyrics link
My commentary (in blog text)
And even the ability to purchase the draft via download (mp3)

That is the plan.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Originality - Not all it is cracked up to be

A major creative block for most people is the want to create something no one else is heard or seen before. This is a hatchet I have long since buried. Yes, romantically speaking it would be nice to create something so new and fresh it could be classified as being original, but even still that is not all it is cracked up to be.

Look at all of the 'before-their-timers' the people on this earth that were truly original. Most of these amazing minds were never even recognized as being great in their lifetime. Sure, their legacy lives on now, but in their day they weren't original at all, they were just weird. That is because we cleave to some form of familiarity. If something is truly original it is so foriegn that it is almost uncomfortable. That is why so many indie artists hate mainstream music, it is so familiar that it is sickening.

But I'm afraid some people, in fear of being too familiar, are blocking their muses if they don't let what ever is trapped in their mind come out, regardless of how unoriginal it may be. In terms of music I try to 'find the song', similiar to the way Michealangelo would 'find the sculpture' all ready in the rock. It was always there, he just needed to remove the right pieces to reveal it.

When I first find a couple of chords I like I am trying to find the song that is there. Sometimes the song sounds like this band, or that band, but you push through. Don't get bogged down, because inevitably your song will sound a little like someone else's song, especially if it is good. The only way to create a song that doesn't sound like any other song is to write a song with an out-of-tune guitar.

I will use this song 'Just to be Free' as an example. I was very proud of this song when I finished it, not because I created a new idea, or because the imagery or mood was so distinctly different than anyone else, but because the words seemed like words from a song, a real song.

I guess what I am getting at is to not worry about being original as much as just worry about creating something. And then make sure what you are creating is something you like, eventually originality will come naturally.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Writing songs while driving

I am beginning to write more and more songs while running errands. With my two youngins, I hardly have to time to think, much less think creatively. Practically the only time I get to myself during the day (besides once my girls go to sleep) is while picking up dinner, or dropping off movies.

Luckily my brain has realized this lack of time. And I have now trained myself to write complicated three verse, chorus, and bridges all in a 30 min round trip. I have to immediately get to Google documents when I get home, else it will be lost and gone forever.

Click here to see the words I wrote last night while driving. For now I am calling this song "Far from True." It needed massaging, but every word was produced on the move (Hollywood video to Ruby Tuesday.)

I am currently, only writing a general melody and words. I am not actually plotting out all of the chord changes. That is a bit longer and a more complicated process. My next goal is to actually hear and identify chords and notes in my head, that way I don't even need a guitar (in case I am somewhere I can't access one).

Stephen Hawking has to rely on his brain to run very complicated formulas and equations, checking and rechecking them in his mind! Because of his condition its not exactly like he can just hop on up to the blackboard and work them out with chalk. This is proof of how truly amazing our brains are.

Outside the Box - a Double Meaning

A friend have mine has recently taken an interest in writing his own songs. He has played the guitar for years, but was never brave enough to open the first line or chord into a song. I am proud that he finally overcome that first word (probably ‘the’, but I’m not certain) because now he is currently on his fifth song.

I was glad to be apart of his journey, because all though I am not critically acclaimed, I have been writing songs with confidence for a while now. And it was nice to think back on how nervous and unsure I was at first.

While helping him through this process I realized something about creativity. This pertains to all creative outlets: writing a speech, drawing a picture, painting a room, anything. To truly be creative is to expose a little piece of your self to others. It is a declarative statement about who you are. I like this color, I like these words together, I like the way that tree looks in the lens. And being creative isn’t hard because you have to think outside the box, it is hard because you have to step outside the box. Deep huh?

I think it takes bravery and I support anyone in any creative venture. And once you have created something (a character, a meatball sculpture, or a poodle sweater vest) it is something you can always take pride in. Because even if it doesn’t win you a grammy, you were still courageous enough to take a stand for the things that you like.

Gotta little motivational-speecher there at the end, my apologies.

Smashing Pumpkins has the best Song Titles

Songwriting comes (at times) pretty easy for me. But naming a song, well that’s another story. I probably put too much thought into it, but a song title is important to me. You want to be creative with it, but you also want people to relate it to (and remember it with) the song. So that way they can find it on the album or on the web, or more importantly request it at a show.

I recently finished compiling our Greatest Hits Album and I noticed a trend. Our songs have usually three word titles. It would have been a little hokey, but I could have made our album songs read like a sentence. For instance here are three titles: “She falls,” “In the Morning,” “On a Train.” You see what I mean?

I thought it would be funny one time to have an album’s track names be numbers… But not just numbers, roman numerals… And not just roman numerals, roman numerals spelled phonetically. Example:

1. Eye

2. Eye Eye

3. Eye Eye Eye

4. Eye Vee

5. Vee

6. Vee Eye

7. Vee Eye Eye

8. Vee Eye Eye Eye

9. Eye Ex

10. Ex

When I think of song titles I have to think of Smashing Pumpkins. A lot of times their titles never appear in the song, but you can still associate the title with the song. For example: “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” and “Thirty-Three.” Both of these titles are not featured anywhere in the song, but still somehow it works perfectly in conjunction with the song.

The newest song I am working that has a title I am most pleased with is “South out of Springfield.” It’s not that creative, I just feel it sounds like there is a story to be told.

The title I am least pleased with is “Your Own Way.” It is the first song I’ve written based (loosely) on fatherhood. The song is about providing the foundation for my children, but ultimately they are going to have to find their own way. There just wasn’t any lines from the song that stood out as great titles, nor were there any ideas for titles not featured within the song. And I feel like “Your Own Way” is just too generic, but it’s the best I have right now.

I have debated changing the name to “Shoots and Ladders” because of the kid’s reference and the fact that each person’s journey is different and filled with ups and downs.

If Billy Corgon were to name this song he would call it “Absolum and Sawdust.” I know because I asked him:)

Friday, April 4, 2008

No longer a misnomer

So this is my formal blog mission plan: This blog is to serve as an outlet for my songwriting, an insight for myself and others. Of course with all of this real estate, it will not be strictly about songwriting. There will be info about my band (Asher) as it evolves; adventures in fatherhood, I have two beautiful little girls; and any other creative endeavors I might weasel my way into, i.e. the cartoon that I draw.

Blog title Explanation:

Seeing how the majority of this blog will focus around my songwriting, inspirations, etc. I decided to name the blog after one of the first songs I had ever wrote…written…whatever.

Similar to this blog, I had trouble naming the song ‘Scribbled on Cardboard.’ The song was a typical high school ballad about an ex-girlfriend and wanting her back. There were traces of creativity in lines like: ‘I want to awake twisted and tangled with you in my arms; the way that it used to be.’ Upon finishing the song however, I realized there was no clever hook or line from which to title this love-sick teen ballad. It occurred to me that the tangible part of the song (what it was written on, how it looked) was pretty unique looking, so I pondered naming it after that.

When the words for the song came to me, I grabbed the closest documenting tools I could find: a sharpie and a manila folder. My hand writing is sloppy as all-get-out, so the song looked like some ramblings of a mad man. I considered ‘Scribbled on Manila,’ but then settled on the close cousin - ‘Cardboard.’

So now with this new blog header, the title for an old song takes a new and more appropriate role.