KONCAST Episode 10: Ryan Werner

http://koncast.libsyn.com/episode-10-ryan-werner

In this episode, I talk to writer, publisher, musician, and lunch lady Ryan Werner. He is the author of Shake Away These Constant Days, Murmuration, If There’s Any Truth In a Northbound Train, and Soft. He plays guitar in Young Indian and numerous other bands. He also runs Passenger Side books.

Links from this episode:

http://www.ryanwernerwritesstuff.com

https://ryanwerner.bandcamp.com

http://koncast.libsyn.com/episode-10-ryan-werner

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Dü You Remember?

Quick link to a podcast about Hüsker Dü, called Dü You Remember:

https://www.thecurrent.org/collection/husker-du/

(It’s also on iTunes, etc. I just searched for it in the Podcast app, but I’m still on iOS 10, before Apple completely fucked it, so your mileage may vary.)

This was a great five-part audio documentary on the band, from Minneapolis public radio’s The Current. It’s mostly interviews with the band and others (both Rollins and Biafra drop in) and covers the rise and fall of the Hüskers.

I was very late on the scene with these guys, being stuck in heavy metal land and all. I heard a few songs on those SST compilations, which I didn’t discover until right around the time they broke up. By the time I got to college and was surrounded by “college rock,” and later “alternative,” the conversation was more about “have you heard Sugar?” and I had to go backward and hunt down all the old albums.

The whole podcast was apparently conceived before Grant Hart’s passing this year, so there’s a lot of footage of him. Definitely worth checking out.

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KONCAST Episode 6: Ray Miller

Click here to for more details on this new episode of The Koncast

In this episode, I talk to Ray Miller, creator of Metal Curse zine, the record label Cursed Productions, and bassist and vocalist of the band Adversary.

We discuss: How we first met 32 years ago, going from Metallica to Death Metal, finding new music in the analog days, how Ray started Metal Curse zine in 1990, Richard C and Wild Rags, John Woods and Rock out Censorship, the 1993 Milwaukee Metalfest, seeing Ice T’s dick, falling asleep while driving on the toll road, how Ray started the Cursed Productions record label, Ed Finkler and Open Sourcing Mental Illness, and making music in the computer age.
Links from this episode:

– Metal Curse zine: http://www.metalcurse.com

– Cursed Productions: http://www.cursedproductions.com

– Paragraph Line: http://www.paragraphline.com

– Jon Konrath: http://www.rumored.com

– Xenocide zine: http://rumored.com/xenocide/

– Rock Out Censorship: http://www.theroc.org

– Dave Marsh on John Woods: https://web.archive.org/web/20110614224956/http://www.starpolish.com/features/print.asp?ID=440

– Ed Finkler: https://osmihelp.org

(Minor correction: the first Poison album wasn’t on Combat Records. The LP was on Enigma, who released bands like Death Angel, Slayer, Voivod, and so on, but the tape was released on Capitol. So, Mandala Effect, brown acid, not sure what happened here.)
Click here to for more details on this new episode of The Koncast

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KONCAST Episode 4: First Concerts, Last Concerts

In this episode, I talk to Jessica Anshutz about the first concerts we went to, as well as the last shows we attended.

We discuss The Dead Milkmen, Alabama, Rush, New Kids on the Block, Metallica, Billy Joel, The Grand Ol’ Opry, Taylor Swift, Nashville, The Bluebird Cafe, The Hold Steady, Wilco, Jason Isbell, and Ozzy Osbourne.

Links from this episode:

– Jessica Anshutz is at Flannelkimono.com

– Jon Konrath is at Rumored.com

– Starvation Army: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shSnWf6eQk0

– The 1988 Rush show at Rosemont Horizon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4CO-fWihR4

– The Tiffany documentary: http://www.ithinkwerealonenow.com

– Jon’s review of the Peter Gabriel concert mentioned: http://rumored.com/2002/11/22/645/

– Jessica’s review of the Wilco/Jeff Tweedy concert mentioned: http://www.flannelkimono.com/2017/07/late-to-game-wilcojeff-tweedy.html

 

Click here to for more details on this new episode of The Koncast

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The iCloud Music Library Different Version of a Song Thing

I’ve been having some odd problems with iCloud Music LIbrary and Apple Music. Here’s a description and walkthrough of the issue, partly so I won’t forget it in six months when something completely different doesn’t go sideways, and partly so there’s a record of it somewhere on google, because googling on stuff like “iTunes different version of song” only results in insane hyperbole having nothing to do with the issue.

(Also, take all of this with a grain of salt. This is my experience, and what I tested. Maybe I have the terms or usage screwed up. If so, please comment. Also a big warning: there are a bunch of edge cases that you can hit by screwing around with your settings, potentially destroying your entire music library. This isn’t a list of those. PLEASE do more reading and back up all your shit before you do anything.)

First – I subscribed to Apple Music. It’s like Apple’s version of Spotify; ten bucks a month, and you can stream a bunch of music without buying it, ad-free. It’s not the entire iTunes store’s contents; I don’t know if it’s a subset, or a different list, but it’s fairly comprehensive. There are also various curated playlists, which are neat, and I’ve found a lot of great new experimental music there. It’s all confusingly integrated into iTunes, and I have some complaints there (as does everyone else).

So at home, on the Mac, I’ve got 17,000-odd songs that I’ve either ripped from CD, bought from iTunes, or otherwise downloaded (cough). When I’m at home, I listen to those fine, and also have added some Apple Music playlists to “My Music” as it’s called in iTunes. I listen to the mix of those two when I have internet access, or just the ones on my physical machine when I don’t.

Second – the iPhone Situation. Back in the day, I kept no music on it at all, and carried around an 80GB iPod with a mirror of my collection on it. When the 64GB iPhone came out about five years ago, I started mirroring my entire collection to my phone. When that stopped fitting, I created a bunch of playlists and only synced those, to only sync stuff that was higher rated, recently played, recently added, etc. I also used to sync everything I purchased, but that got to be too much after a certain point. Right now, I sync about 2000 songs, 20GB of stuff. The partial collection sync works okay, although every once in a while, I’d get stuck without something I wanted to hear, but I’d live.

Now, about iCloud Music Library. The text next to this option is “Store your Apple Music songs and playlists in iCloud so you can access them from all of your devices.” The general idea is that you are pushing a master list of all tracks and playlists to the cloud. Then when you use the Music app on another device with that iCloud account login, you get a copy of those lists, and can then stream the songs from the cloud without having them on the device. In theory, I could sync no music to my phone, have zero bytes of music stored or synced, and just get everything from the sky.

There are really two things going on here, and it’s a very subtle difference that is not clearly explained. First case, let’s say I don’t have an album on my Mac. I never bought or ripped the Krokus album Headhunter. (Of course, this is a lie. I think I own 17 copies of this album.) But I found it in Apple Music, I liked it (who doesn’t) and I added it to My Music. What I’ve done is added a link to the album in Apple Music within the big list of songs and playlists in my library. I didn’t download it, though. But if iCloud Music Library is turned on in my Mac iTunes and on my iPhone, that link is added to my iCloud Music Library, and it’s synced to my phone. I can then stream the song “Eat the Rich” from my phone, and all is well (until I drive into a tunnel, or like 80% of Indiana.)

Second case: what also happens is that I am syncing the master list of all of my tracks and playlists to the cloud. So let’s say I ripped that copy of Headhunter from a CD back in 2002, and it’s been knocking around various music libraries on my computers since then. (Probably true.) And maybe I one-starred the song “White Din” because it’s a 90-second intro track of sound effects, and it’s stupid when it comes up when I’m driving around with my windows open stuck in traffic. So the file never gets synced to my iPhone, but it’s in my master list in iCloud. The song “Screaming In the Night” is synced and is physically on my iPhone, so that plays fine, even when I’m in a plane at 40,000 feet and don’t pay extortion prices for WiFi. But if I’m listening to the entire album (which is itself a list of the tracks, stored in this synced master list my phone got from iCloud) and it hits “White Din” it will stream that song for me.

(To also slightly complicate things: if you don’t have the physical song on your device, there is a way to download the Apple Music copy and have a cached version of a song you didn’t even buy on your phone, so you can play it without internet access. This is nifty, but it never ever works, because you will always forget to download that version, and the feature is half-buried and impossible to find or use, and you have to do it on a per-playlist basis.)

The second case is a nice-to-have. The first case, you have to turn the iCloud Music Library to see your Apple Music playlists. It appears to me that there’s some difference between Apple Music playlists and an iTunes playlist I’ve created by hand, because you can’t sync Apple Music playlists unless iCloud Music Library is turned on. I’d been adding all these neat playlists to my library, but couldn’t see them on my phone. So, I turned on iCloud Music Library, and that’s when my problems started.

(Yes, I’m a thousand words into this post, and just now getting to the problem.)

I noticed my playlists were getting weird. Like with this theoretical Krokus situation: I’d be syncing the entire album to my phone, from my own non-Apple Music playlist. Then I’d be out and about, and when the song “Headhunter” came up, instead of playing the studio version that’d I’d ripped from the 1983 album back in 2002, it would instead stream some shitty live version with only one original member recorded at a county fair in 2012.  Or it would stream a horrific EDM dance remix by a DJ from Ireland who also happens to use the name Krokus and has a 38-minute trance number he also called “Headhunter.”

(This is a theoretical example; I don’t know if Krokus was having an issue. Here’s one that really happened though: I had the entire Queensryche album Empire synced to my phone, in a playlist of songs rated above a 3. The album was originally ripped by me from a CD. When the last song “Anybody Listening?” played on my phone, instead of using the synced studio version, it would instead stream a live version of the same song.)

My first attempt at trying to fix this: I renamed the track on my Mac, adding an “(r)” to the filename, thinking that would break the match. It did not. I don’t know why, but it still played the same fucking live song.

My second attempt: I turned off iCloud Music Library. I then told it to delete everything from the phone (which is fine, it’s all copies there) and re-sync. It went back to the way it was. I can’t play Apple Music playlists anymore, but all of my music is fine.

I don’t know why this happens, and I don’t fully understand it, but I’ve got a trip later this week with limited internet, so I’m not screwing with it any more.

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Sleep Research Facility and ambient music

I’m always searching for music to listen to while I’m writing, because I can’t think and fall into the right kind of trance to dump my subconscious onto pages when extreme death metal is screaming away in the foreground. Classical music puts me to sleep, and jazz is jazz, so it’s hard to precisely nail it. I do like ambient music, as long as it isn’t too passive, and doesn’t veer off into the Yanni-esque new age shlock. All points south of classic Eno can be good, but that specific sound doesn’t imprint my brand of writing exactly the way I need it, so I’ve been looking for more.

Dark ambient, for better or worse, is closer to what I like. It contains a texture that provides a good underlying current for my work, and blocks out everything around me, yet doesn’t invade my mind in a way that would turn it in the wrong direction. Dark ambient removes from the equation the type of music a hippy-dippy acupuncturist would play in his office, which is good. The main problem with dark ambient is that it’s impossible to find a straight answer as to what it is. Ask ten people what ten bands constitute death metal, and you will get twelve highly contested answers. Dark ambient is the same. It shares distant borders with Krautrock and experimental music, and I don’t know enough about it to give you a defined answer as to who the main players are. (Maybe you should tell me.) I can tell you about a specific band I like, though.

Sleep Research Facility, the working name of Glasgow musician Kevin Doherty, has released five albums of essentially beatless dark ambient music, along different themes. The one thing in common is a dark, textured soundscape, usually without musical elements, or maybe with long, sustained chords. The name of the band relates to the work’s lack of any elements that would disturb sleep. That’s a slight peeve of mine, because it’s difficult for me to listen to dark ambient that contains extreme screeching, loud noise, and distorted shrieking voices. It’s hard to get in a trance state to work when interrupted with those elements. I’m not saying they don’t have artistic merit within a composition, and I can enjoy listening to them for the sake of listening to them, but when looking for functional music, it’s an issue.

Another challenge with creating any ambient music is having a central theme or “gimmick” or some set of tracks for the train to roll down. SRF seems to do this well, in the choice of conceptual framework. The prime example, and a good starting point, is the album Nostromo. This is a nearly 70-minute album that was inspired by the ship from the movie Alien. The album details a walkthrough of the ship from Ridley Scott’s scifi/horror movie, starting in the A-Deck, while the crew is in suspended animation, hurtling through space back to Earth. Scott meticulously detailed the ship, not as a sterile, futuristic vessel, but as a beaten, worn, working man’s craft, like a battle-damaged oil platform in the middle of the ocean. But when the crew is in stasis, prior to the computer waking them, there’s a certain calm, or anticipation in the vessel.

Nostromo starts in the A-Deck of the ship, presenting a deep-bass flow of sound, with slight electrical static and drifting sounds of machinery. It’s not like the harsh industrial sounds of the cyberpunk-influenced electronic genres of the mid-90s (I’m thinking the mechanical sounds of, say, the interstitial tracks of early Fear Factory, or even the earlier sounds of something like Front 242. (and sorry for the horrible reference points. This is very far outside my wheelhouse of musical knowledge, trying to learn here.)) Anyway, the dozen-minute tracks drift deeper into the ship, as the sounds and textures become more refined. The entire album is very dream-like and drifts seamlessly through the ship. The 2007 release contains a bonus track named “Narcissus,” which was the lifeboat escape pod of the Nostromo, which contains similar elements, although it is texturally different. You could imagine Ripley putting herself in stasis and drifting back to earth during the final track.

I listened to Nostromo constantly when I was writing He. I’d sit down to write every day, start the album on repeat, and keep it as a constant soundscape. I do this a lot when writing; for Atmospheres, I listened to the Sleep album Dopesmoker every day for at least a year. It’s not exactly ambient, but it’s an easy album to fall into.

So what album do I use for the next book? More importantly, what is the next book? Still working on that.

Anyway, check out more about SRF at their home page: http://www.resonance-net.com

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10 things I learned from the Lemmy documentary

I’ve been a fan of the band Motörhead for over 25 years now.  When I was a freshman in high school, I used to watch the British comedy show The Young Ones on MTV, when they used to show it late Sunday nights, and one week, this weird metal band came on that sounded cool as hell.  I asked my friend Ray about it, and he told me their lead singer Lemmy was god, and then proceeded to make me a dub of the No Remorse double album collection, which I promptly burned into my brain with roughly 40,000 repeat listens over the next few months.  Over the years, I’ve collected their albums, and although I’m not as militant about it as Ray, they’ve been one of the bands in a constant rotation in the player.

I heard about this documentary, simply called Lemmy, also the stage name of one Ian Kilmister.  He’s been the one constant member of the band since 1975, singing, playing bass, and writing songs.  I didn’t rush to the theater to see it, but I filed away a mental note to look for it when it came through on NetFlix or whatever, and it popped up on cable recently, so I DVRed it and got a chance to watch it last night.

I had mixed feelings about the movie.  It was executed well, and wasn’t just a typical rehash of everything I already knew about the guy, which was a huge plus.  But it was also somewhat depressing, because it showed this human side of the legend, and it was a somewhat sad scene of this guy who’s instantly recognizable, but ultimately alone.  I could write more about that, but I’d rather summarize the movie by mentioning the new things I learned that were shown by Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski’s work.  Here goes.

1) Lemmy lives in a shithole

This is the most popular takeaway from the movie.  Most people think rock stars live in giant mansions, and that is reinforced by all of the reality TV showing guys like Ozzy in giant 29-bedroom castles with indoor basketball courts and gold-plated crappers.  In reality, Lemmy’s lived in this completely shitty two-bedroom apartment in West Hollywood for over twenty years, apparently never cleaning it during that time period.

Now, I’m not expecting him to rent some huge penthouse like P. Diddy would hang out in, with chrome-plated everything and an indoor swimming pool.  But seriously, when I lived in LA, my apartment was at least seven orders of magnitude nicer than this place.  It’s like a scene from a Bukowski book, with the two-burner range from 1947 and a metal sink that’s been painted white a thousand times since World War II.  The outside courtyard is not bad looking, but it’s that generic two-story apartment building you see all over Los Angeles, the kind that looks like a motel built in the 1950s and never renovated.

All of you who have lived in New York City are probably a step ahead of me on this one, by asking, “well, how much is he paying, though?”  LA is rent-controlled, meaning his rent can only go up 6% a year.  He mentioned he’s paying about $900 a month in rent for a two-bedroom, which isn’t bad for LA.  (A quick google shows that the average 2011 rent for an apartment that size is around $1700.  I paid more than that in 2008, but my old apartment compared to Lemmy’s is about like comparing the Bellagio to one of those downtown Vegas motels where you shoot a snuff film.)  Of course, if the stories are true that he drinks a fifth of Jack Daniel’s a day, he’s probably spending a grand a month on booze.

2) Lemmy is a hoarder

The shocking part of the footage of Lemmy’s apartment is that every square inch is filled with Stuff.  There’s the usual rock start stuff, like gold records, trophies, and plaques, but there are also tons of Motörhead items, like records, posters, license plates, stickers, action figures, and pretty much any other thing carrying his personal brand.  There’s also wall-to-wall randomness, video tapes and albums that are completely unrelated to him.  And this isn’t one of those OCD collections where everything is perfectly lined up on identical racks, in dust-proof, airtight mylar bags.  There’s stuff strewn around like a crime scene, things stacked on top of other things, shit everywhere.

One complication is that Lemmy’s not being whisked to gigs in hermetically sealed limousines with a team of bodyguards and handlers; he’ll talk to pretty much anyone who comes up to him, sign anything, and is infinitely approachable.  And he has legions of loyal fans.  That means he’s got people at every show giving him paintings and figurines and demo tapes and macrame Ace of Spades murals.  And he seems to hang onto all of this stuff, which is somewhat endearing, although at some point, I would have either rented a storage unit or opened a Motörhead-themed bar with all of the stuff in glass cases.  The man is in serious need of an archivist.

3) Lemmy is into a lot of non-metal music

The movie starts with Lemmy going to Amoeba Records (I used to go there!) in search of the mono version of the Beatles box set.  (And he’s correct: fuck the stereo mix; get the real deal.)  He talks about seeing the Beatles back when he was a teen in Liverpool, and also discusses his love of Little Richard during a couple of different conversations.  (Billy Bob Thornton and Dave Grohl, in two different bits, talk about meeting LR, and Lemmy enjoys those stories immensely.)

He also plays in a band called The Head Cat, which is a rockabilly supergroup with Slim Jim Phantom of the Stray Cats.  It is seriously surreal to see Lemmy, the guy usually belting out songs like “Killed by Death” and “Deaf Forever” knocking out the Carl Perkins song “Matchbox” while a bunch of old people dance at some random casino in upstate Wisconsin.  (Go here to listen to some of this.)

Henry Rollins (seriously, there are so many god damn appearances by people in this movie!) sums up the whole thing by mentioning that Lemmy was around before there was rock and roll; he grew up listening to Rosemary Clooney records, and then one day, these four kids from Liverpool and this hip-swaying dude from Memphis blew the doors wide open.  And it’s true that the best music ever is the first music you hear, the stuff you lock into when you’re a teenager, and for him, that isn’t the Sex Pistols or Elvis Costello or Velvet Underground; it’s Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran and Johnny Cash.  I really dug the hell out of Lemmy being so into the classics like that; it shows that he loves music, and he’s not just into this to be another SKU number in a database.

4) Lemmy has diabetes

The movie shows Lemmy drinking, smoking, and eating fried foods.  It starts with a scene of him meticulously slicing potatoes into fries (he probably calls them chips) and deep frying them in a pan.  It doesn’t show him doing drugs, but implies that he does.  And then in a later scene, he’s taking some pills in a recording studio, and when the producer asks if they’re drugs or vitamins, he says they are medications for diabetes and blood pressure.

This shows the odd paradox that he’s like Keith Richards and Ozzy in the sense that he’s spent the last 50 years shoveling down all things bad for your body, with almost no tangible effect on his longevity or ability to churn out a new album every year and play in 200-some odd cities.  But it shows the twist to this, the human side, of a guy who’s well past the halfway mark and will someday soon be staring down the grim reaper.

This also conjures up strange images of Lemmy at a doctor’s office, paging through a years-old People magazine, waiting for an internist, who then asks him all of the typical questions about diet and exercise.  My health is not at Charles Atlas levels,  and I can’t go to a foot doctor about a hangnail without getting a prescription for Lipitor and a scathing 40-minute lecture about how I’m supposed to exercise 9 hours a day and eat less than 9 grams of fat a month.  I can’t imagine the dressing-down he must get every time he comes in to get his scripts refilled.

5) Lemmy practically lives at the Rainbow

One of the other reasons Lemmy’s got the shithole apartment is that it’s stumbling distance from the Rainbow Bar on the Sunset Strip.  And apparently, he’s always there, sitting at the bar playing one of those video trivia machines.  The Rainbow is a big rock hangout, and has been forever.  And you always hear about how back in the day, it was stylish for these non-music Hollywood types to make their token “I’m a bad boy” appearance there.  But you know how some dive bars always have that one creepy old guy that sits at the bar and stares at the wall for dozens of hours at a time, eating peanuts and nursing beer after beer?  Well, at the Rainbow, that guy is Lemmy.

6) Lemmy has a kid

He’s probably got more than one kid, but the movie features Paul Inder, who is his adult son.  He mentions that Paul’s mom Patricia was some kind of groupie who had dated John Lennon before she knew Lemmy, which is a pretty odd connection.

What’s strange is how close Lemmy appears to his son.  When he’s asked what his most valued thing in the apartment is, he says it’s Paul.  Although Lemmy apparently had never seen the kid for the first six years of his life, the two seem like the best of friends now.

7) Lemmy is obsessed with gambling

There’s a scene showing Lemmy parked at a slot machine, and someone talking about how he’d sit in front of the one-armed bandit all day, compulsively pulling the lever, over and over.  In fact, it’s rumored that he got the name Lemmy because he was always asking people “Lemme have a fiver” to pay off his gambling debts.

It’s a bit of a recurring theme; he’s either hunched over a gambling machine or a trivia game or a video game system at several points in the film.  It makes me think he’s got one of those OCD personalities where he gets locked into stuff like this and can’t put it down.  I sure hope he doesn’t get an iPhone with Angry Birds installed, or we may never see another new Motörhead album again.

8) Lemmy’s stepdad was a football player

I don’t think this was mentioned in the movie, but I was cruising wikipedia as I was watching and saw this.  His dad was an RAF chaplain and split when he was three months old, and he was largely raised by his mom and grandparents.  But when he was ten, his mom remarried to George Willis, who played soccer (football) for a decade or so in the 40s and 50s.

9) Lemmy roadied for Jimi Hendrix

He actually used to live with bassist Noel Redding, and roadied for the Experience back when they were London-based, in 1967-1968.  He tells a story about how he used to score drugs for Jimi, and he would take acid daily.

The story of him being a roadie also shows how much he loved music back as a teen.  When he couldn’t be the one making or playing the music, he was just has happy lugging gear for the people who did.

(Also not mentioned: Lemmy was also a roadie for The Nice, which was Keith Emerson’s band that was the forerunner to ELP.)

10) Lemmy is obsessed with Axe body spray

Maybe obsessed is a strong word, but there are multiple times that show him dousing himself with the stuff.  And it’s not just any cologne spray — the film is careful to display that it is specifically Axe body spray, the spray of the douches.  I’d expect the guys in Maroon 5 or Nickelback or something to be frequent users, but not Lemmy. He seems like the kind of guy who maybe uses some Old Spice (one of the original scents, not the new trendy crap), or just goes around reeking to high hell.  I’d expect him to smell like stale Marlboros, burned motor oil, and old leather, not Intense Phoenix or some shit.

Overall, this was an interesting movie.  I mean, the day-to-day stuff was a good look at the man’s life; the endless line of celebrities fawning over him got a little old, but emphasized the point of his importance in the metal world.  But like I said, it ultimately saddened me to some degree.  It made me hope he’s happy with what he does, because he’s not reaping huge financial or material rewards, and although he’s got a certain amount of respect and admiration, it’s not like he’s going to cross over and become known for anything other than being what he is.

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Tape imports

I’ve been back since Thursday, but I’ve been busy with a few different projects, some worthwhile, some asinine.

One thing is this ongoing saga of storing my CDs. I went to Fry’s this weekend and bought three no-name binders that allegedly hold 320 CDs each on sleeves. That’s actually 160 per book, because I’m using one pouch for a CD, one for its booklet. I already had 200 CDs in loose sheets, too. Yesterday, I got all of my CDs from A-M ripped, bound, and in books. Not only am I getting a lot of new/old music into iTunes, I’m purging myself of jewel cases and I’m also pitching some CDs that are taking up space. I know this goes against what my personal philosophy was at one time, but I’ve moved enough and dragged around pieces of plastic and metal that I will never, ever listen to again, so less is more.

I also pulled my old JVC tape deck from 1993 out of storage, and wired it into my Mac. I then downloaded a copy of Audacity and started digitizing stuff. Actually, I first started by sorting through tapes and pitching things I had on CD already, or that were entirely useless. My tape collection is down to two shoeboxes and one of those plastic cases you keep in the car, and I think I will get it down by one shoebox when this is over.

After a huge pain-in-the-ass in setting it up, Audacity is actually working well. It’s free, which is good. It also lets you trim audio after you input it. You can also look at the waveforms and drop in a named bookmark when you find the start of a song. Then you click and export everything, and it splits up the songs by bookmark and dumps them to MP3 for you. Very nice. There are some additional functions for cleaning up sound and reducing noise, but I haven’t messed with them. These are mostly 15-20 year old tapes, so there’s not a lot of super high end sound I can squeeze out of them.

The whole procedeure is a huge throwback to 1993. First, that’s when I got this tape deck. Before that, I would plug a walkman into my receiver to listen to tapes. When I worked at Wards that summer, I used my employee discount to buy this tape deck, which had a record deck with the kind of auto-reverse that spun the heads, instead of just moving them over and reversing the tape direction. There was some advantage to this, and I don’t remember what – something about magnetic particles or something. Anyway, it has been a long time since I’ve seen this deck’s little amber display staring back at me, and it’s a weird little flashback to me. Hell, it’s a huge thing just to play tapes anymore. I rarely even touch CDs these days.

The other big flashback is that I’m pulling in a lot of the demos and other odd tapes I could never find on CD. I’m listening to a band called Oliver Magnum, which are a prog-rock-esque metal band from Oklahoma. This self-released tape, Drive-By, spent a hell of a lot of time in my walkman back in the day. I think if I made a top-ten list of the most-played tapes I listened to while trudging across the IU campus back in 1993, this would be in the top 5. And I haven’t listened to it in years and years, so it’s good to see it flashing by on the VU meters in Audacity. Last night, I pulled in an old Germ Attack demo that I loved back in ’93. So this is all a fun little time-waster for me. At least it is delaying me from going on iTunes and buying a bunch of new music.

The iPod is up to 9182 songs; the goal is 10,000. Maybe by Wednesday.

As of yesterday, I have lost 18.2 pounds since 4/27; I managed to lose 3.6 pounds in the week we were in Vegas. (I was 100% sure I gained, but walking a dozen miles a day does something, I guess.) That puts me under 200 pounds for the first time in, well, a while. I think I was in the 190s back in 1997. Before that, it was probably in 1993, when I was walking everywhere (and listening the the aforementioned tapes.) When I get to my 10% goal, I am supposed to pick what my ultimate goal will be, and I don’t know what to use. this page has a calculator that shows results from a bunch of different standards, but it seems like I remember a BMI calculator that took into account your frame size by measuring your wrist, and I can’t find one of those. I think I would be happy if I could get below 180 (184 is officially the low edge of the “overweight” category,) but a harder goal would be somewhere in the 170-175 range.

One of our DVD players exploded on Friday. I went to turn it on, and it flashed orange and shot smoke out of the front. I had to move my player in the bedroom (I never watch movies in here, anyway) and now I need to take apart the old one to extricate the DVD in there.

Gotta go fill up my car. The absolute, absolute best price I can find is $4.54/gal, at Costco. Yeah, I know it’s *only* $4.14 in Elkhart. But to get that price, you have to live in Elkhart. I’ll pay the extra $250 a year for actual paved roads.

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Everybody Wants Some

I just finished reading Ian Christe’s book Everybody Wants Some, a history of Van Halen. I heard about this on the Talking Metal podcast, which is abuzz with news of this original-lineup reunion, minus Michael Anthony on bass, replaced by Eddie’s 16-year-old kid. Weird. Anyway, Christie wrote one of the 700 “history of metal” books that came out a few years back. When he was writing, he got in touch and wanted to stop over and photocopy all of my old zines, but we never hooked up, and actually I never read the book. So I picked up this one, touted to be the first definitive biography of the band, and got to work.

I’m going to start by saying the book is not that great, but it’s up in the air how much this was the author’s fault, and how much of the blame goes on the subject. The history of Van Halen starts with this whole interesting SoCal garage band culture, and these two Dutch kids teaming up with an outspoken Jewish son of an opthamologist, and then hits this mid-point where they are on top of the world and the whole thing implodes. But then the second half of the book is all of these years of dicking around with Sammy Hagar, and toward the end, it’s Eddie locked in a home studio, with a third of his tongue cut out from cancer, his parents dead, his wife gone, about 800 attempts at rehab, three fired/quit singers, a hip transplant, and a brother with fucked-up, inoperable neck trauma.

So at the end of the book, I’m thinking “where the fuck is the high note here?” I mean, it talked about all of the times the VH brothers broke off and tried to reconcile with Roth, with both sides saying the others were poisoning the well. And yeah, they’re back together now. But there’s a chance they will be broken apart by the time the ink dries in the book, and meanwhile, only about 12 people even care. Meanwhile, Michael Anthony the human alcohol filter is set up as the fallen silent hero or some shit, with his bass tracks mixed down, some studio tracks played by EVH, his bass solo snipped from the live set, and finally being told he had to relinquish all rights to all songs and trademarks and take a huge pay cut if he wanted to tour. And next time around, he’s fired. All of the old metalheads identify with Anthony’s party lifestyle, and who gives a fuck if Eddie can eke out Eruption while he’s sitting on stage in a wheelchair looking like the fucking cryptkeeper.

The book had one fundamental flaw which was also a benefit: it appeared that Christie did not have access to any of the members of the band. Most of the quotes were lifted from interviews with magazines or on tape, and there was no buy-in from any of the major players. (I might be wrong on this, but it sure read that way.) So that means there wasn’t any new dirt I didn’t already know. But it also meant that someone didn’t come in with an agenda and bumrush the book. Anyone in the band’s history (with the exception of Gary Cherone, who isn’t big-headed about it, probably because he was in the band for like three weeks) would completely dominate something like this, and if you only know one side of this story, you don’t know any of the story. Case in point: go pick up a copy of David Lee Roth’s Crazy From The Heat book. Now, I love this book, because it’s Roth the showman and storyteller, laying it down and getting into some really crazy shit about the road, his family, and everything else. But when I read his side of the VH split story, I wondered, “how much of this shit is true?” It wasn’t that his story was unbelievable, but I knew there were two sides, and his was going to be giant and overdramatized. And so by not doing an official Van Halen family biography, he sidesteps that problem, but also misses a lot of juice that would have justified the reading time.

Aside from the subject matter, Christie’s writing tries a little too hard in places, and didn’t hold me. It was competent, but it wasn’t a thickly textured tapestry of incredible stories and details. And why treat a band with such fucked up and incredible history just like you would if you were writing a Jewel biography? There wasn’t enough depth to blow me away, and when you’re writing about a band that (at least back in the day) was supposed to blow you away, it just didn’t mesh.

That said, there was a lot of information about Hagar-era Van Halen, and it made me think back to the years I listened to the band, back in high school. 1984 was my introduction as a junior high kid, when it was all over MTV and pop radio. And then I got into 5150 and OU812, even though everyone else wrote off Van Hagar and went on to other, heavier things. While I was reading this book, I put OU812 on the iPod during my drive to work, and was surprised at how that set of tunes totally set the stage for the summer of 1988 for me. I loved my Metallica and VoiVod and Grim Reaper, but I also had that tape in the player quite a bit, and it still takes me back. Those songs are seared into my brain, and it’s always comforting to give them another listen.

Anyway. Just started reading a Houdini biography, and I’m trying to get off the bio kick to get back to some good fiction…

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