Random Thoughts

Tech, words and musings from an Englishman in Seattle

The Sisters Of Mercy… Sucked.

I am so annoyed. The band that optimized my love of music during college completely and utterly sucked.

A few months ago when I found out that the Sisters were playing in Seattle I was incredibly excited. I blogged about it. My boss even decided to come along with me on my recommendation.

However, upon arriving at the venue this evening, El Corazon, I realized that the band had obviously come down a few rungs - it's one of the smallest venue I've been to, probably with a ~300 capacity.

Anyhow, I was still upbeat.

At around 9pm they came on stage.

I say “around”, because I have really no idea. We were in the bar and was expecting some sort of thunderous noise when they came on.

We went into the venue proper, and it was packed with ~300 expectant fans.

All I could see was dry ice. And two silhouettes. I could vaguely make out one guy pretending to play guitar and one guy pretending to be Andrew Eldritch.

Seriously.

They were lip syncing. Just playing the CD and pretending to play along. Eldritch wasn't even competent at lip syncing. It was so obvious.

It was pitiful.

And on top of that, it wasn't even loud. I was having conversations with those around me about how much it sucked and how the band of our youth had just sucked $35 from each of us.

And how they, or rather Eldrich, had just lost us all as fans.

Most people just headed back to the bar where the bartender was on the phone to her boss explaining that they shouldn't pay the band as you'd have a better experience just listening to the CD in your car.

What a way to burn out as a band - sucking your fan base dry and subtracting 300 people from it one gig at a time.

Open Source Guitar Pedal Ships!

OpenStomp just released their Open Source guitar pedal Coyote-1.

This is pretty cool and a neat design, the Propeller processor on which it's based looks equally cool - it even feels a little like Larrabee. Heh :-)

If only I had some free time, this would be a really fun thing to hack on!

Downgrading To XP…

I'm a huge audio geek, but just prior to the house move last June, I upgraded to Vista. I've been very happy with Vista - it's worked well.

But with one exception.

I can't get any of my audio gear to run with it.

This hasn't been a problem up until now, as I've been way busy with other stuff. I've been letting my podcasts lapse and just noodling around with my guitar and other audio gear offline, not recording anything. But now, my esteemed amigo and I plan on collaborating long distance on some song writing.

This means I need to get it all running again.

The hub is the EMU 1820 which I use to get all audio into and out of the PC. First of all there weren't any drivers, but now the drivers exist but bluescreen my Vista box during install. I've never managed to get drivers installed for the UAD-1 either. I haven't even tried to get Cubase running.

Which leaves me with a conundrum.

Do I just downgrade to XP? I know it will all work, but I do love the UI in Vista. Do I actually use Vista though? Nope. Just a few games, Skype and Firefox. For everything else I use my MacBook Pro and my Linux box.

Downgrade I go… See you on the other side…

This T-Shirt Is Older Than You

I picked up this shirt back in college from a Skin Games gig. Kev may well remember that evening…

What astounds me is two-fold:

  1. That the shirt has lastest this long.
  2. That the shirt is older than a bunch of people that work here.

Anyhow. Great band. Great memories.

Oh ma god

So the bar I just attended had a pretty good cover band playing. Standard classic rock. Not too bad and definitely not loud at all - if fact I think they could probably have cranked it up a couple of notches as I could still hear the conversation on the next table.

I stepped outside for a moment and heard a valley girl wannabe say "Oh ma god, could they turn it down a couple of octaves, I can hardly hear myself think!'

Her comment was wrong in so many ways that I leave it up to you, dear reader, to uncover them.

Opening Night At Teatro ZinZanni - Love, Chaos And Dinner

On Wednesday night, Nabila and I attended the opening night for Teatro ZinZanni at their new, permanent home in Seattle. This was my third ZinZanni, and man was it great!

The show was awesome, the food (by Tom Douglas), spectacular. A real treat.

Teatro ZinZanni is a big night out unlike any other, a three-hour whirlwind of international cirque, comedy and cabaret artists all served up with a five-course feast designed by celebrated Northwest chef Tom Douglas.

An ever-evolving and constantly changing production, Teatro ZinZanni combines improv comedy, vaudeville revue, music, dance, cirque and sensuality into a dizzying and colorful new form that is never quite the same from evening to evening. The fast-paced action of the show unfolds above, around and even alongside the audience as they dine on a gourmet meal. Teatro ZinZanni is guaranteed to dazzle.

It's such a great experience - a three hour show where your waiters are the performers; superb acts in the middle of the dining area; great ambiance; incredible music; a wonderful venue that transports you back to a world of cabaret with a distinct European flavour.

What more could you ask for?

If you're in the area, you have to go.

Just buy a ticket.

Or three.

Now.

Andy Summers - Live @Google

What a great way to start the week. Andy Summers was at Google in NYC this morning to talk about his new book I'll Be Watching You - Inside The Police 1980-83 and his photography. We video conferenced into the talk.

This was a double treat for me - first, I'm a huge fan of Andy Summers the guitarist and second, I had no idea that he was such a great photographer.

Wow.

The talk was very amusing too - with lots of small anecdotes about life on the road.

Anyhow, just one more great thing about working at Google :-)

The talk should be up on YouTube later - I'll update this post when it's available.

Update: The video is now available.

Two Trips To Seattle In One Day

It's unusual if I head to Seattle twice in a month, but twice in one day? Entirely uncharacteristic.

Saturday started off normally for the Lacey family with a trip to Arena Sports in Redmond for Soccer practice. Julian runs around playing soccer and complaining that he can't score a goal (on his own, he's got pretty good skills), whereas Jazzy really gets into the two year old class.

As soon as that was over it was a quick trip home for a snarnie and juice and Julian and I headed over to Seattle for the 2007 Bolla Grape Stomp at the Festa Italiana at the Seattle Center.

You see, my pal Andy had signed myself, himself and herself up to compete. Team name? Grape Balls of Fire.

We were in the first heat and won! Astounding. The incumbents were in our heat and we beat 'em!

After hosing ourselves down - it's a messy business, Julian and I took the winnings and headed over to the Children's Museum for an hour or so.

Fast forward a few hours and I found myself heading back over to Seattle, this time solo, for a gig I'd been looking forward to for a while.

The Arctic Monkeys. Not a bad performance - great lightshow, but the acoustics really sucked. The vocals were bouncing all over the place. If you haven't heard them yet, go and pick up a CD now.

Probably the nicest surprise of the gig were the supporting act, VoxTrot - great energy. They really engaged the crowd - unlike the Monkeys.

Sadly, I felt that the Monkeys were just going through the motions.

Guitar Hero 2 Ate My Hamster

Well, maybe it didn't eat my hamster, but Guitar Hero 2 for the Xbox 360 certainly ate up five hours of my life last night.

From Wikipedia

Guitar Hero II features many popular real world Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer guitars, including the Gibson Les Paul, Gibson SG, and Gibson Explorer. Oddities such as the double necked Gibson EDS-1275 and unusual looking Gibson Corvus also make an appearance. Several available finishes are also recognizable from popular guitarists, including Zakk Wylde's bullseye Les Paul. As play progresses, several custom shaped guitars become available, although some are notable in the real world such as the USA and Battle Axe (a similar looking bass was played by Gene Simmons). Basses, such as the Music Man StingRay, Gibson Thunderbird, and the Hofner bass are also available for co-op play.

I plugged the cool guitar controller in at around 9pm last night, and it wouldn't let me put it down until 2am this morning. This game absolutely and completely, err, rocks!

I played through six of the eight sections on easy before switching to medium and playing through the first two sections before my right hand literally started locking up. The music selection is great as is the gameplay.

Getting a power boost and then activating it by rotating the guitar so the neck is vertical is just genius - you guitar players out there know what I'm talking about!

A great game and I can't wait to get in some more shredding tonight.

CJ, you need to get this now so we can indulge in some multiplayer action!

Attribution Please, And Maybe A Link?

So I took some photos of the band Breadline, a local blues band, just over a year ago when they were performing at a local bar.

Nice guys, great music.

I offered to email them with links to the photos, which I did, and they asked if they could use the photos with appropriate attribution, which I was more than happy to agree to.

Now look at their site, compared to the photos that I took.

There's no link from the pictures to my source images and, to add insult to injury, absolutely no attribution at all. Anywhere.

Update: I'm blind. I'm named as a source for the photos at the bottom of the page, but a link sure would be nice… Ooops!

iTunes 7 and The Steve Jobs Show

A bunch of cool stuff was announced at the Steve Jobs Show this morning, including a couple of things that I found really interesting.

First up is iPod Games - Casual games on your iPod. Very cool and yet another outlet for the rapidly growing casual games industry.

Second was the integration of CoverFlow into iTunes.

Other than that, there's cool new hardware including a direct play for the Media Center space, and a bunch of new iPods.

Oh, and the UI upgrade in iTunes 7 is very sleek.

The Gig

The gig on Thursday night went wonderfully. Well, apart from a few brain farts on my part when my fingers refused to play the right things on command.

Thanks to everyone for coming out - it's been too long my friends.

And thanks to the other “Steve Lacey” and his bride to be for popping along.

It was a bitter/sweet night - great music, great friends, but the end of an era. We've been playing for five years and written some great music - our gigs were 99% original music.

Anyhow, CJ and I have now validated that we can exchange and work in the digital space via Cubase, so the music will continue!

Photos from the night are up on Flickr, but I particularly like the ethereal hand action on this one…

The hand

Tags: .

Farewell Gig

This Thursday night will be the occasion of Spank's final gig.

Due to the imminent departure of our lead guitarist and vocalist extraordinaire, CJ, to pastures new north of the border (well, Toronto, to be precise) practice night in Bellevue will be a tad impractical.

So, come out on Thursday night, June 8th, to the Central Club in downtown Kirkland. Enjoy the festivities and pick up a limited edition CD.

Well, limited in the sense that we only made 500 of them!

We'll be playing from around 9pm until whenever playing mostly original stuff. It'll be fun.

The Mob Law

Last night I hung out with Joe (partner in the new adventure) at a local venue when up on stage appeared the evening's entertainment - The Mob Law.

These guys were astounding - think Rage Against The Machine with a bit of Ska thrown in for good measure. They started out the evening with an acoustic set before completely rocking the house when they plugged in.

Highly recommended. Ewan, you should check these guys out.

Looking for a bass player

Note that this post is only relevant if you're local and can play bass…

Our three and a bit year old band are looking for a bass player. Low time commitment - one night a week practice at Evolution in Bellevue and local gigs once every couple of months. We're looking to do a bit more, but we're parents of young kids ;-)

Check out our website for style - sort of rock/punk/folk/jazz, all original tunes. The site also has downloads of all the tracks from our CD.

Let me know if you're interested - we're practicing this Thursday…

My CES photos in a Rocketboom video

Yup, a complete CES roundup in one minute and forty seconds!

Rocketboom has put up a special feature today - a compilation of photos and short video segments from CES, all spliced together and set to the music of “Dueling Banjos”.

It's in a similar style to the 'Ode To The American Hillbilly' I posted about back in August.

Of course, the reason it completely rocks is that it includes the photos I took whilst down in Las Vegas…

[Thanks to Thomas Hawk for the link.]

An interesting band practice

[Normal, non-rockstar service will be resumed as soon as possible]

So for the first time in my time as a member of a band we had the traditional “incident”.

Call it musical differences, call it a difference of opinion. Call it absolutely out of line.

So there we are, playing the tunes and just finishing up “Changes” (one of my favourite tracks btw), when our bass player (henceforth BP), turns around to fiddle with the amp he's using.

“Having problems?”, I ask.

“Yup, but it's not me.”

Uh oh.

“So what's the problem?”

“The snare, the drums. They're too loud.”

And there's me, thinking that I'm the problem. I've been using one of the studio's amps this evening and having a few level issues with it, but no, BP has a problem with our drummer (henceforth DM).

“And the tempo, I have a problem with the tempo.”

“What in Changes? Sounded fine to me.”

“No, in general. DM, you need to practice more.”

I keep quiet. I'm about to leap into full bullshit calling mode, and believe me, ten years at Microsoft has taught me a thing or two. But no. BP and DM (who have been friends for a very long time) obviously have some issues to deal with. Plus, this is a friendly thing. It's not like we're going to become professional rock stars, fer crissakes!

Somebody's expectations are completely out of whack. Wakeup call. I'm not the best guitar player in the world, and your bass playing ain't the best either.

Then it happens, DM starts to pack up his gear.

CJ and I look at each other and follow suit.

Now, I don't know what is going to happen and to be quite honest I do care. DM is a great guy and a friend. BP likes to point out that he and I are very different people and that he needs extra special care when dealing with him.

This came to a head a few months ago when he accused me of screwing him out of some cash when putting the CD together (I purchased some software to do the CD mastering and, in effect, saved us some cash).

Now though, I am just done. Final nail in coffin. Camel, straw, back.

Band practice is the one night a week I get to go out and have fun making music with friends. I don't want to spend the time mollycoddling someones feelings. I dread ever getting to the point when I'm thinking: “Oh no, it's band practice this evening and I have to play nice and touchy-feely”.

It's supposed to be a loud guitar and drums night with some mates.

I dunno.

DM expressed the feeling that he doesn't want to play anymore because he's feeling exactly the thoughts that I dread.

Me? I wanna play great music with CJ and DM. BP seems to need something different.

But then again, maybe we're a real rock band after all.

Fender's new line of guitars

Fender has just released a new line of “Hello Kitty” guitars.

Reaching the high-end musician, the world renowned Fender Custom Shop will also produce a special, limited run of Hello Kitty custom guitars for discerning Hello Kitty collectors, as well as “big name” musicians who realize the collectability of these one-of-a-kind instruments.

I'm lost for words.

[Thanks to Boing Boing for the link.]

Podcasts playing our stuff!

I was just checking out our band's listing at the podsafe music network, and was happy to discover that a couple of podcasts have played our stuff!

Very cool.

Please check out BandTrax who play Trance, and have a really nice intro from us starting at 17:30 into the September 28th show, and Gamechat Live who play Silver Bullet. We're on the Gamechat's October 14th show, but I haven't heard it yet as I'm getting timeouts from their host, archive.org...

Ain't the net fun?

Ferryman

So here it is.

Ferryman is the first time that I've written music, or more to the point lyrics, as a way of expressing certain thoughts about current events.

I hope you like it! If anyone has any ideas about what genre you'd call this (well, other than "crap"), please let me know!

Disclaimer: I can't sing. I must get CJ to sing this when we perform it as a band. Oh and he can do the solo too ;-)

For the music technophiles amongst you, this was recorded and produced using Reason and Cubase SX. The guitars and vocals were recorded in Cubase and the bass, drums and percussion in Reason, slaved via Rewire to Cubase. Everything performed by me.

Ferryman (mp3, 3.3MB)

If you like it, please consider making a donation to the Red Cross. And if you don't, well make a donation anyway.

Comments welcome...

Reason - A Killer TabletPC Application

Reason (be sure to watch the trailer to get a feel for the product) is a phenomenal music composition application that I've been using for quite a few years. The other day I received an email from the developers, PropellerHeads in Sweden, saying that a new upgrade was available.

At that point it hit me, Reason should be an astounding Tablet application, and here's why.

Reason on the TabletPC

Reason mimics in a very graphical sense and rack of equipment. You add items to the rack like sequencers, mixers, synths, samplers, effects units, etc... and hook them together just like you would in the studio - by switching to the back of the panel and connecting them all together using cables. And the cables sway to and fro as you move them.

Reason on the TabletPC

It's all very tactile. All the knobs and switches move; the buttons all work, and it sounds astounding - you typically do everything with the mouse. With the Tablet of course, you do everything with the stylus and it really starts to feel like you're using your hand.

And if that's not enough, here's the kicker. Racks are tall, switch to tablet mode and way more of the screen is covered by the rack.

It's a wonderful thing...

So there you go Robert, another area in which the Tablet could start to make dramatic in-roads.

Guitar Gear Goodness

Talking about guitar playing fun, I've recently gone all minimalist, with just a distortion pedal and a volume pedal at my feet (ok, I guess the CyberTwin isn't exactly minimal in function...) But I think that I just cannot live without this:

Wow. If you're a guitar player, and have a sense of humour, go and check out their website now!

Via Gizmodo.

Another Wonderful Gig

I just returned home from another wonderful gig. This time, myself and my band compadres CJ, Ebo and Tom played a party at our friend Deb's house.

Every year Deb and her college pals get together for the 4th July weekend, and this year it was at Deb's place. I remember the last time Deb hosted - back in 2000. Nabila and I had just met and I was renting a room in Deb's place. It was great to see all of Deb's college friends again.

As usual, the gig was a blast. We played some new stuff, including the very new "Are We There Yet?". That song came together very quickly and I'm incredibly happy with it. A sort of blues/funk/soul vibe. Lotsa people dancing.

We recently decided that we wouldn't play gigs where the house didn't provide a PA - we have one, but it's such a pain to move around and also difficult to run the sound board while your playing... We make an exception to the rule for friend's parties...

There you have it. Another fine day. If you want to hear some of our music, head on over to the band website and download some MP3s.

A Great Gig

Last night was our CD Release Party in downtown Kirkland, and what a fine night it was. We got there at around 7.30pm to setup, have a few pre-gig beers and eat pizza.

Setting up for the gig.

Shortly after 9pm, we got going and then proceeded to play three sets of original music until midnight. After that we played a fourth set of covers and the people kept wanting more.

The People

We finally finished up at around 1am. We sold a few CDs, had a great night, and the bar want us back for more. CJ talks some more about the evening over on the band's website.

I love music.

Tracks From The CD Now Online

I've just uploaded the tracks from the CD - you can find them over on the band's website.

If you would like to support the band and purchase the CD, please contact us at info@spank-band.com (as we don't yet have an online ordering system) and we'll sort you out via PayPal.

Alternatively, please come to the CD Release Party on Wednesday and pick one up there!

One Week Until The CD Release Party

Blatant plug:

Next Wednesday, May 18th, our band will be having it's CD release party at The Central Tavern in downtown Kirkland.

The music starts around 9pm and goes until about 12.30am. We'll be playing the CD Snapshot as the second set so make sure you're there by then. Not something you want to miss, right? The CD will be available for sale... The Central is a smoking establishment (both literally and figuratively) and charges no cover. The Central is renowned for their satisfying drinks and service... So come out and support the band.

Musical style? Alt-rock with a dash of blues, jazz and a smidgen of punk... fair warning...

Hope to see you there. In fact, if you're coming along, leave a comment...

The Band

Another good practice this evening. I am really looking forward to the CD release party on May 18.

CD Release Party

After conversing with people at the Central Club last night, it looks like the CD Release party is set for Wednesday, May 18th. This is great as it's their normal music night, so we should get a good crowd as well as our friends that we drag along to every gig (I love every one of you ;-)

More details as they become available.

The Band

An evening band meeting today due to disagreements/misconceptions. It started off with everything open and on the table and now the crisis is overted. The evening actually turned out quite pleasant ;-)

I truely did not know whether we would still be a band when I turned up. It was a shocker to me when the issue of communication problems was raised that were actually any issues - I took it as an afront. We worked through all that - laid it out in the open as it were - things are good.

News at 11: Communicating fixes communication problems.

p.s. I feel like I'm in a real band now.

The CD Saga Ends

The CDs Have Arrived

Yesterday the CDs of the bands first recording session finally arrived - all 500 of them. Yey!

Radio Daddy

After hearing about Radio Daddy on Adam Curry's Daily Source Code, I thought I'd try it out and post a request.

Radio Daddy is a interchange site for commercial radio stations, internet radio stations and recently podcasts where people post requests for voiceovers, sweepers, beds, etc... and other kind folks on the site oblige for free.

I posted a request for a sweeper for my podcast "A Brit Abroad" and within a day one of the members, Ol' Dave posted a couple of great sweepers that I will definitely be using.

Here they are:

The CD Saga Continues

I called them up again this week to be told "it should be ready by the middle of next week".

Arggghhh.

"But that's what you told me last week!", says I.

"I'm sorry, our packing machine is broken and we're doing it by hand. I'll call you when I know anything more. We can maybe send you some partial shipments."

Too frigging right. Idiots.

Omnidisc Media

What is it with these people? I sent them the masters for the band's new CD and the artwork on 12/21 and they get it a few days later. Then it takes almost two weeks for them to get the art ready for me to proof. During that time I can't get a straight answer out of them as to when it's going to be ready to proof.

Then they confirm that the CDs have made it to production and now it's almost two weeks later and I'm on the phone with them daily trying to get a status update. I keep getting the "I'll get someone to call you" run-around. They never call back.

I'm at my wits end with them. So much for the 7 to 10 day turnaround promised on their website. At least I got to use the "nofollow" tag on the link above so they don't get any googlejuice from me.

Sniff

John Peel, one of the most influencial men in music has passed away. He introduced me and millions to such wonderful music.

BBC News

'nuff said.

A Gig To Remember

I just got back from the Van Halen concert at Key Arena in Seattle.

Wow. Just wow.

Dawn scored us (CJ, Darwin, Tim, Andy and I) suite tickets - the suite was directly opposite the stage and had a great view. I'd never seen Van Halen before, but have been a huge fan since my late teens. I've seen DLR a couple of times, but boy am I glad I got to see them with Sammy Hagar. The Red Rocker just, well, rocks!

The entire show was very impressive - the multimedia screen above the stage was put to great use - whoever was directing did a great job - the screen looked like a live MTV (circa late '80s) video.

There are few sights that will stick in my mind forever - watching my beautiful wife walk down the aisle, seeing my son for the first time and watching his first steps. And seeing Eddie Van Halen completely rock out...

My ears are ringing...

DJ's Swap Decks For Guitars

Fatboy Slim, UK DJ extrordinaire has recently been dumping the decks and samplers in favour of his Rock'n'Roll roots. Apparently 'electronica' is waning...

From this month's Wired Magazine:

"Four years ago, every kid wanted a pair of Technics turntables for Christmas," says Cook. "Now they want an electric guitar."

For his new album, Palookaville, the 41-year-old producer ignored the high-end recording gear in his studio and cut back on the samples. He dusted off his ax and recruited friends like funk legend Bootsy Collins and Blur's Damon Albarn to flesh out a big beat sound.

Cook, whose rock-and-roll cred stretches back to the '80s, when he played bass for the lilting pop band the Housemartins, isn't abandoning technology altogether. After all, this guy built his career on synths and drum machines. But Cook thinks live musicians add nuance and spontaneity that he could never capture with the perfect repetition of digital playback.

"It's looser live because you don't play samples and retrigger the same thing every time," he says. "It's easier to get a groove."

Studio Part Deux

Last night me and the boys went back into the studio and came out with a pretty damn good, almost final, mix. Just a few issues left to tweak and we'll be done. Now onto the naming, track ordering, artwork and duplication...

The old crooner

Last night Nabila and I went to see Harry Connick Jr play at Marymoor Park's open air venue. I'd not really heard him before and wasn't sure what to expect. Happily I was pleasantly surprised - a mix of Sinatra-style stuff and New Orleans jazz with a bit of experimental Jazz thrown in for good measure. Great stuff. The venue itself is pretty cool, with beer and food tents, etc... Overall, a good experience if a tad expensive.

Today Dave and I cleaned out what was the music room/office downstairs and prepped it for painting. We're flipping the floor plan in our house and moving all the bedrooms downstairs to maximize the living space and usefulness of the the rooms upstairs as well as centralize all the bedrooms together. Meanwhile, I'm trying to convince Nabila of the need for a new TV (and even cheaper here) in the new office upstairs...

It's Wednesday yeah!

Well, it was ;-) Wednesday is band practice night. Tonight was fun, but not our best - mainly because it is freaking humid here right now. Ok ok, so it's not normally like this in Seattle, but the studio is not air conditioned and I was sweating my arse off! Every time I bent down to look at a pedal, sweat poured into my eyes.

I'm just not used to this, goddammit!

Anyhow, we're signed up to go into the studio in September, so here's my list of stuff I think we should do:

Night

Big Town, Lonely Heart

Highway

Silver Bullet

Trance

Ready Danny Boy

If time:

Line

Swim

and there you have it..

© 2001 to present, Steve Lacey.