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The Bass Geek

New IMN Podcast and Dethklok Guitar

The new IMN podcast is up - download it or listen at the site or on WFYI HD2, Thursdays at 4pm and 10pm.

I'm fairly sure this is the first signature model guitar for a fictional cartoon character, but there always has to be a first, I guess. Skwisgaar Swigelf's Gibson guitar goes on sale later this month. Not sure if there's a Murderface counterpart bass coming out, but they'd probably just drop it out during mixing anyway. Sigh.


New IMN Podcast and Shakti World Music Festival

Shakti World Music Festival Poster

The new IMN podcast is up and running - download it or listen at the site or on WFYI HD2, Thursdays at 4pm.

Also, check out, if you will, the poster for March 13th's Shakti World Music Festival at the Vollrath Tavern. Between Mumbai Taxi, Kwanzaa Pops and the Indiana Reggae Band, and the Playboy Psychonauts, I think we have quite a few continents and islands covered. Or, at least, a brief shore leave or layover. In any case, that's the name and we're going with it. We're really looking forward the show (and the fascinating conversations we inevitably have with the Vollrath's neighbors when the sitar comes out), so hopefully  you'll be able to make it.

And, if course, if you can't make it, there's always Robot Unicorn Attack. Seriously, I can't get enough of this game, and it makes me want to buy a copy of Erasure's greatest hits. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that.


Notes on the Bass-cation

Last weekend in Chicago provided some fruitful bass moments, including the following instances:

  • A fantastic show from Mehsell Ndegeocello - The Old Town School of Folk Music was a wonderfully intimate venue for the show, and Ndegeocello responded with some amazing songs. Highlights included a delicate bass-and-guitar reading of "Talk To Me" from her debut album, her covers of "Dirty Mind" and "Love You Down," and aggressive takes on material from her new album "Devil's Halo." I caught the second of two sets, and I can only think the first set warmed her band up for an exceptional second effort.
  • A magnificently brutal show from Mastodon and Dethklok at the Aragon Ballroom - The bands seemed to respond to that night's videotaping of the shows to put on a singular display of force and precision. Mastodon played their latest album front to back and then tossed in some of their later material. Dethklok balanced their songs with the requisite animated skits to create a multi-layered experience. It was metal that was at once expertly played and self-aware of some of the cliches in the genre. They didn't take it too seriously - they just went out and played it well.
  • The purchases of a new Bass Blogger distortion pedal and a Nordstrand MusicMan pickup - The pedal has an unfortunate name, but I can't argue with the fuzz sound I get out of it. And I'll report back on the pickup once it's installed in my Stingray, but I'm looking forward to some really good things. Bass Club Chicago was a great host and let me try a few pedals before deciding the Bass Blogger was the pedal for me. Thanks, folks!
  • Not quite a bass moment, but the Propellerheads Producer's Conference was a good time and a valuable way to pick up some tricks and tips on using Record.

Aside from a creepy hotel, the whole trip was a smashing success. Now to get back to playing with the new toys.


Bass Weekend

There would have been more bass this weekend if I could have gotten into the Cincinnati Bass Cellar - unfortunately, it's by appointment, and I didn't have one. As it was, I did get to play around with a couple 8-strings at a music store near the University of Cincinnati for a bit, which was fun. I usually don't find one, but they had an Ibanez and Travis Bean right there. I was down there for Midpoint Music Festival, which had some interesting talk and good performances available for all. Nice work!

Sunday concluded with Marcus Miller at the Indy Jazz Fest, and the sound and performance was amazing - both inspiring and humbling.

I'm also finalizing plans for a "basscation" in Chicago in a couple weeks, including shows by Meshell Ndegeocello and Dethklok and a stop at the Chicago bass-related music stores. Any suggestions?


Three Things That Make Me Happy

The first? A veritable avalanche of Metalocalypse-related goodness. The video game and the longer episodes are intriguing but puzzling - can they sustain the brutal goodness over more time and different media? The new season and album are solid guarantees, though. And the tour promises an intriguing combination with an as-yet-unnamed partner. Bryan Beller (live bassist) promises they will crush.

Second, Propellerheads' Record software is in open beta, and it sounds great so far. I'll write more on my experience later, but I've come up with some interesting tracks with it, and it's quite easy to work with. Combine it with Reason, and I dig it much.

Finally, there's this Ropeadope sampler. I enjoyed a lot of their early releases from DJ Logic and the like, but the new crop sounds pretty good, too. Give it a shot - it's free.


The National Bass Lesson

Subscribing to some NPR podcasts helps me in a few ways:

  • Time-shifting "This American Life" to a more reasonable hour, i.e. any time but that weird Saturday night time slot it currently occupies on my local station
  • Getting some programs said local station doesn't carry
  • Acting as a safety net for things I miss during my drive time (short as it is, this can add up)

Which is why I was delighted that the podcasts caught Victor Wooten on NPR giving an impromptu bass lesson to the nation on the subject of double-thumbing and the open-hammer pluck. It was cool not only because of the subject matter, but hearing the announcer speak these terms almost gave them an air of the martial arts movie - like they were moves Shaolin monks sought to master before defeating the usurpers of their style. He also talked a bit about the book he recently published, which I have on order but have not yet read.

Which somewhat countered the slam on bassists from last Sunday's "Metalocalypse." Following a grim attempt to pick up two women, Murderface ran into a torrent of insults such as "Shouldn't you be loading the band's gear?" and "Why don't you act like a bass player and stand over there and be inaudible?" My wife gave me such a look of pity after that last one.


A look deep into the bassist’s psyche . . .

William MurderfaceRobbie Fulks has already shared his view of bassists, so I thought I'd toss in an insight into the denizens of the low end - courtesy of William Muderface, bassist for Dethklok, just after his bass solo had been usurped by his bandmates' auto accident:

“Why do I get pre-empted? You know why? ‘Cause I’m just the stupid bass player. Why don’t I just play behind the bass amp? Maybe that would be good. Then album sales would go up. Who am I fooling? I don’t deserve the spotlight. I thought I could maybe just once, just once be in the spotlight. That’s all I want. Just once.”

Who hasn't felt that way at some point, though? I regard this not as a lonely call for unrequited attention, but further proof that the bassist is Everyman, the personified hero of all folks, common and otherwise. His is the struggle of everybody who ever sought, ever struggled, ever tried to attain a little sun while making sure the foundation was strong and sure for his fellow compatriots. He is the figure for whom Copland composed, Whitman wrote, and Debs struggled. He is you. He is me. Probably more me, but it's just as valid.

Or it's just sad. I could go either way.


Final Thought For The Evening . . .

New episodes of Metalocalypse are back, and I feel that all is a little bit better for it.  Just the right blend of outrageous humor and cringe-worthy brutality.  Amazing.


Good Idea, Poor Execution

So Wired magazine details in this article a plan to highlight in the CES Intel keynote a virtual jam (with some members onstage and some at a safer location, one would imagine) with the good folks of Smash Mouth. The idea is to highlight the ability to collaborate over a network and involve the use of avatars and virtual spaces.

Which is cool, in theory. Bands with massive creative aspirations should be thrilled at the potential to make new and fantastic performance pieces, tying in their brilliant music with virtual worlds where everything from costumes to physics itself can be modified to fit their visions.

The problem is that the demo we're getting for this strange new world is a recreation of the garage where Smash Mouth got together, and these boys are gonna jam on "Walkin' On The Sun."

Are you as thrilled as I am to relive this moment in musical history?

I wanna see massive stages falling out of the sky as the musicians thrash about on their instruments. I want to see crowds cheer in wonder and terror as they balance their need to hear the genius pouring forth from the stage with their intense desire to outrun the lava quickly approaching their positions. I want to thrill to new heights of performance while trying to keep my mind from going insane at the sheer lunacy before me, echoing with dark messages from another time and place.

Ooops, that's a Metalocalypse episode.

The point is that there is so much to be done here and so much potential that this might not be the best way to demonstrate it. Musicians have been collaborating from great distances either in near-real time via ethernet networks (given, there is a little latency involved there) or by posting files on FTP sites (not real-time, but it does conquer the distance issue). It's the virtual avatars and enviroments that make this interesting, but a variant on this has existed in Second Life for quite a few months now. And the last time I dropped by the Hummingbird Cafe, this marvel of technology presented me with . . . a solo acoustic player slogging his way through "Cheeseburger in Paradise."


One of the first things I was taught about computers (after "10 PRINT 'BUTT!!!' > 20 GOTO > RUN") was GIGO - Garbage In, Garbage Out. No matter how cool it is, it's still going to be that song. I'm sure there are going to be other, much more impressive demonstrations, but seriously . . . Intel can't pull better than Smash Mouth? Second Life is still giving me "Cheeseburger In Paradise?"


They’re calling me . . .

There are a couple shows coming up in Illinois that I may have to make spectacular work and driving arrangements to catch. Unfortunately, they're both on the same day, so that narrows it down quite a bit. November 13th has both Meshell NDegeocello playing at the Chicago House of Blues and the non-animated, touring version of Dethklok playing in Carbondale. I wouldn't normally be too impressed at the latter, except that the touring version features Mike Keanelly and Bryan Beller, two EXTREMELY impressive musicians that will no doubt have all kinds of fun playing big metal song instead of their usual highly technical, Zappa-esque fare.

The Ndegeocello show promises to be a little different than the last one I saw in Chicago, in that she probably won't leave the stage when confronted with fans expecting her more funky vocal tunes instead of the fusion jazz she was touring at the time. So that's a must-see.

In any case, they're both on a Tuesday, which means at least a day-and-a-half of travel time, 'cause I can't make that drive, come back, and still be functional in the morning. Feh.