Monday, December 29, 2003

Celeste is back!

Celeste is back from Connecticut for winter break, and she'll be here until January 18. She and I had dinner over the weekend and it was so cool to catch up with her. We talked about Joan of Arc, and Liturgical Drama vs. Mystery Play, specs of medieval bells, Robert & Jaron's album (which she can apparently compel the Wesleyan library to buy, and I hope she does), Ellen Fullman and her fabulous new album, a piling up of Planet Organics boxes, and much else. We went to Starbuck's in San Bruno (thereby compromising her principles) so Paul could say hi to her too. Paul was there geeking away on his laptop and my laptop, too. We all talked about the Orange Alert and the closed bathrooms on BART, and how much warmer it is here than in Connecticut. Xena the brown dog, it was revealed, is spending winter break in West Virginia chasing squirrels.

In other news, it looks like Will Grant and I will collaborate in a live performance on January 16 at the SFSU Fine Arts Gallery.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

My friend Sean

Sean is a poet, and I really admire his work. Here's his bio. Go check out his stuff!

Sean Mclain Brown enlisted in the Marine Corps and served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm as a jet engine mechanic on AV8B Harriers. Much of his writing is influenced by his experiences in the military and living abroad. He was formerly the Poetry Editor and Managing Editor for Fourteen Hills: The SFSU Review. He is two-time winner of the Mark Linenthal Poetry Award and a Finalist in the Ann Fields Poetry Prize. Currently, he is a member of Maxine Hong Kingston's Veterans Writing Workshop. Read Vietnam Veteran and Writing Workshop member John Mulligan's testament. "Art," says Maxine Hong Kingston, "is the transformation of feelings and experience into meaning. Writing is a tool for accessing events and memories and giving them meaning ...we have lived with war experiences in our hearts. Now we can put them through the process of art. Now is the time for the healing and the coming home." His poetry and fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in EM, First Intensity, Fourteen Hills, Indiana Review, LUNA, Mobius, Potpourri, Sentence, Small Town and Transfer magazines. His first book, Manufacturer's Specifications and Guidelines is forthcoming from Blue Barnhouse press. You can read his work and current projects at

Friday, November 28, 2003

All I Really Want to Do Is Play Nirvana Covers...

...and/or get myself a real, brand-new, supportive-of-the-ankles pair of skates and hit the rink for an hour or two per day. That would rock. I'm all inspired by the current Grand Prix Series and the new scoring system. :)

When you rent skates at the ice rink, you can't help but stagger around clinging to the rail because the boots prevent you from skating any other way than with your ankles turned in. I've never done anything harder than back crossovers and spinning a little bit but I really loved skating when I was doing it regularly. My first experience with non-rink-rental skates was when my cousin outgrew hers and they were handed down to me. I was still growing really fast, so I was only able to wear them for about a year or so, but it was like night and day compared to the rental skates!

Thanksgiving was very nice and peaceful and festive. The entire family behaved themselves. Sort of.

Today I worked on guitar chords for a new song called "The Great Highway". There are several new tunes in existence that have not yet been recorded which I'm planning to show to the Lads soon so they can work their guitaristic and bass magic on them. They are "How Now Is Soon", "Blood With Salt", "Ultralite", and "The Great Highway".
I have gone through at least three titles for my fourth album. At first, it was going to be called Pellucid. Then came Strange Men With Strange Flowers, which Sisters of Mercy fans will recognize as a paraphrase of a line of lyrics by them. Then came Earthquake Weather. Now, I'm leaning toward calling it Exit Stage Wrong. Anyone who is reading this may feel free to comment. :)

In other news, Robert and Jaron's album has been released. There has been a flurry of radio airplay and a release concert in New York. Here is where you can learn more about it:

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Venue 9, Laurie Anderson, and Gus Van Sant

The Lads and I played at Venue 9 last night as part of their Women's Work series. It's a small theater in the SoMa district with seating that rises up away from the stage, plus a backstage area where the audience can mingle with performers and buy food and drink at a concession stand. Not sure what to expect, we brought all our gear, including our PA, mains, and monitors. We started out sending a signal to their sound system from our board, but sadly it appears other high-volume performers had taken a toll on their main speakers. We sounded like we were trying to play through a car stereo. So we had to bring in our own main speakers, which are huge and heavy and which we'd hoped not to have to haul into the theater but it was the right thing to do. There was no point in sounding really bad on our first time playing there.

We played "Taste the Wall", "Tacit Blue", "John Mockingbird", "Romp Yello", and "The Song of Coinchend Cennfada". Jenny Makofsky did her monologue after we were done, and then Yiam Redd's troupe performed. However the downside to bringing in all that gear was that we had to strike all that gear, so even with the help of the Venue 9 staff, I missed Yiam's performance entirely. She had some musicians working with her, I know that. I saw them backstage and one of them was a flute player, but I didn't catch his name!I really enjoyed playing at Venue 9. I thought we sounded really good and the live sound is massively improved.

Our next gig will be over Presidents' Day weekend in San Jose, and it will be a much longer set in a bigger room.

In other news Grant lent me Laurie Anderson's live double album. The first disc was good but the second disc was REALLY good. I'm planning to buy it. My favorite number is "Poison" from the second disc. Sound-being Paul, who works at NASA Ames Research Center, tipped me off a few months ago that Laurie Anderson is now the NASA Artist-in-Residence, and that somebody he works with had a meeting with her. I can't wait to find out what work she is doing in partnership with them. She mentions it on her web site, but there are no details yet.

I recently saw Elephant, a film that Gus Van Sant wrote and directed. It is about a Columbine-style school shooting, re-conceived to occur in Portland, Oregon. I'm not going to run out and buy the DVD when it comes out, but I thought it was an interesting take on the school shooting concept. It is bizarre that, just as the Viet Nam war is now public domain and fair game for movie directors, Columbine has become movie subject matter too. Elephant focuses on the experiences of the victims leading up to the shooting. The student gunmen appear in a few very powerful scenes, but it is mostly about the victims. There are long, atmospheric shots with blurry unfocused areas around the characters, as though they are doing things that are very much part of their daily routine and they don't really see what's around them. It's worth seeing.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Confessions of a Duranie

I love Duran Duran. And this is not a bandwagon thing based on their recent comeback tour. Here I go dating myself, but I was a Duranie in high school. Those who knew me in those days can confirm that I had a fedora hat that I wore all the time -- not the Indiana Jones kind, but the Duran Duran kind like in the video for "Hungry Like the Wolf". :)

Back in the day they were generally dismissed as a boy band and never really got their props for being able to play their instruments and write songs (unlike the boy bands we are subjected to on commercial radio today). Granted I don't like *everything* they've done..."Wild Boys" and "View to a Kill" never did anything for me. But I still enjoy their work a lot. Their singles collection, set on random in the CD player, is perfect for working out to. "Electric Barbarella" from 1997 is a great treadmill song. (The more weight I lose, the harder it is to keep the heart rate in the target zone so a fast insistent beat is important. But then the speed I'm going starts to overwhelm the CD player's anti-skip abilities...but I digress.) I put it on repeat sometimes, since it's fun listening to the story of one man's twisted infatuation with a state-of-the-art sex doll over and over.

Their ballads are very strong. "Save a Prayer" is beautiful, and I plan to cover it someday. :) "Come Undone" is also very deep and thick.

I think of Duran Duran's songs as eighth-house pop music. The eighth house, in astrology, covers things like sex, death, and mystery, which Simon Le Bon's lyrics keep coming back to in most every tune of theirs. Simon is a Scorpio, so it's natural for him to write lyrics about those topics. As it happens I'm also a Scorpio, and I think that comes out in my lyrics too.

In other news, Jim and Grant have provided their bios! Check out the artist page if you want to read them.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

21 Grand

21 Grand is not actually on Grand Avenue, nor is 21 its address. It is actually on 23rd Street in Oakland.

I played a gig there last night which was completely satisfying. Not only did my set go well (even though the sound board refused to accept my effects, which was frustrating), the other opening act, Glass Bead Game, played an intriguing and slightly deranged set of their own. Front-being Cera was charismatic and riveting with a kind of Joan Osborne-esque voice restrained to suit the taste of the songwriting. She played understated rhythm guitar. The rest of the band, "her boys", as she put it, backed her up on drums, upright bass, and violin/alto clarinet.

The headliners were Carla Kihlstedt's Two Foot Yard, a trio with Carla Kihlstedt on violin, Fred Frith on guitar, and Wu Fei on the "grandfather of the koto". Their set was such a treat. They employed looping and effects, but it was never the focus of the show. Of the three jams they did I enjoyed the second and third the best. Carla's combination of violin and voice during the third piece was haunting. Fred Frith's guitar work was so enjoyable to hear and watch. What fun to open for someone I learned about in grad school. :)

The blurred edges among the colors of all three stringed instruments made for a subtle and complex texture. The beginning of their second piece, when Fred Frith and Wu Fei called and answered each other slowly and tenderly, was very beautiful.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Woodstockhausen and Susan B. Anthony

Last Friday night was the final SF Opera performance of Virgil Thomson's and Gertrude Stein's The Mother of Us All, a rarely performed opera about Susan B. Anthony and the women suffrage struggle. (That's just the beginning of what it's about. It is hallucinatory and amazing.) I had despaired of getting to see it in this dreadful economic environment but then Jim Carr, the new bass player in my band, stepped in and offered me a ticket!

It was wonderful. I am positive I will never be able to afford an orchestra seat at the War Memorial Opera House again. :) I also got to meet Blake More, a poet with whom Jim is collaborating in the Oakland East Bay Symphony's Words and Music project. She is very cool.

The sixth annual Woodstockhausen festival was this past Saturday. It was my first time as a performer and I'm happy to report that the event is well run by very nice people who are on the ball. It had really nice energy. I met a lot of interesting people and heard a lot of fascinating music. Luke Dahl's piece was very good, as was the piece by Twilight. Rick Walker did a new improv looping piece based solely on his voice. I heard that OVO was very good although I was waiting backstage at the time and didn't hear what they were doing very clearly. I liked Mitch Finegold's piece a lot and Amy X. Neuburg rocked also.

But Nathan Levine and his co-conspirators really stick in my mind after delivering a hysterically funny send-up of experimental musicians and their deadly serious improvisation sessions. All three of them explored the comic boundaries of the clarinet, water bowl, and trombone -- and themselves -- in rocking fashion. :) Backstage I retaliated by hitting each one of them with imaginary flute blowdarts and subjecting them to my obligatory voice and flute Darth Vader imitation. :) I wish they weren't from Seattle and other points far away. I would so like to hang with them some more.

I also ran into Justine Kragen and Steve McDonald, who are in one of my favorite bands, Vermouth. If you are in the Santa Cruz area, you really need to check them out, since they are thinking about moving to Los Angeles in the near future!

Friday, September 05, 2003

Movie night

I've been thinking about what movie to rent tonight and that made me think of my favorite movies of all time, maybe to share with you. I have to confess I don't get out to see very many movies. They tend to be way expensive, and I don't get out much anyway between practicing and playing gigs. However, there have been some that really inspired me.

1. Donnie Darko -- I am pretty sure this is may favorite film of all time.

2. The Truman Show -- I don't think most people know what to do when they see Jim Carrey do a dramatic role. This one was awfully good. I loved the movie, since it makes me feel the same way my song "Taste the Wall" makes me feel. Yes, I cried at the end. So sue me. :)

3. The Matrix -- not the Reloaded. The original.

I haven't seen Bowling for Columbine yet but I really want to. Also that new documentary about the Weather Underground.

There was a long period, years ago, when Edward Scissorhands was my favorite movie of all time. When I was eleven years old, it was The Black Stallion. I am reasonably sure the first movie I ever saw was One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing, which I saw with a neighbor kid, Darren, and his mom when I was a little kid in Belmont, California.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Celeste and Christi prepare to leave

Celeste Hutchins, who plays bass in the Band, is getting ready to start grad school at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. She's also going to marry Christi Denton on the way there -- in Canada at a wedding chapel that features an Elvis impersonator!

Christi is on her way somewhere too. She'll be starting at CCMIX in Paris this fall.
So in their final month here in the Bay Area, Christi set up a last-minute concert at 21 Grand in Oakland featuring Celeste's other band, Tennis Roberts, with me opening. Christi wanted to do a concert on August 10, I think it was, featuring herself and Celeste and their original music but I think Celeste convinced her it was too much all at once, trying to move away and give a concert the night before.

So the Elvis impersonator thing makes me think of Las Vegas. It seems traditional to go to Vegas and get very drunk and marry somebody you didn't intend to. At least it's unlikely it will be either of my bandmates, since I assume the Vegas marriage people wouldn't marry me to Ruth or Celeste. We would have to go to Canada for that and on the way, I'm sure all concerned would sober up.

This is all moot anyway since I don't drink. ;)

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Band version 2.0 and site re-design

There's likely to be at least one more version of the Band, since bassist Celeste Hutchins is off to grad school at Wesleyan University directly after our Las Vegas gig! She has been an inspiration and a lot of fun and I'm going to miss her a lot. If you haven't heard her play yet I hope you are planning to attend the NFA con in Las Vegas.
We have a new guitar player in Ruth Butler, and arrangements are all made for the trip to Nevada. I'm really excited. There will be friends there I'm eager to meet up with -- Dina Emerson, and Alicia Patrice, and Robert Dick...
So how do you like the new site? Silver Wheel has been a black-background site ever since it first went up in 1995 and we thought we would adopt a whole new look. Whaddaya think?

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Introducing the BAND, version 1.0!

5/24/03 - In recent news, there's a really nice new review of Diogenes from Good Times Santa Cruz. That gig was my first with Vinnie Nabong, who sadly didn't hang around to play guitar with me any more than at that one gig. He is such a talented guy. You can probably find him playing jazz and r & b in San Francisco still, with his band Phatdawg.
But the SF Bay Area is awash in talented musicians and it didn't take long for me to find a couple more. Bassist Celeste Hutchins and guitarist Peter Chang have joined up with me to form the first version of my new band. The live sound of my music has really been kicked up to the next level, thanks to them. Oregonians can hear us at our upcoming gig in Eugene on May 31st. Flute enthusiasts from all over will get to hear us at the National Flute Association's Annual Convention, on August 7th in Las Vegas.
Anytime you need to know when we're playing live, just check out the Events page for full details and links!

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Diogenes charts and I take over a radio show

This is very cool. New Age Reporter says that Diogenes was #90 in airplay for the month of February! I'm really grateful to Randall of Musik International and all the folks there for their hard work. Hopefully it will climb even higher when the March chart comes out.
Last night Diane Solomon of KKUP, the People's Radio, graciously allowed me to bring in a stack of CDs and spin a bunch of music on her show, Blue World Music Mix. Here is the playlist:
Polly Moller - "John Mockingbird"Husikesque - "Bad Head Day"Ashley McIsaac & Mary Jane Lamond - "Sleepy Maggie"Sky Cries Mary - "Shipwrecked"archy - "tea her lea her la"King Chubby - "Red-Handed"Lackadaisy - "Electricity" Oysterhead - "Oz Is Ever Floating"Polly Moller - "Blood Sugar" (Diane picked that one out)Dead Can Dance "Black Sun"Robert Dick - "Sea of Stories Remix"Golden Palominos - "Little Suicides"Lush - "Nothing Natural"It was great fun. Usually when I go on the radio I have to talk a lot, and this was a really cool alternate experience. Diane and I also got to talk about the anti-war protests that had been going on all that day, and read some news off SF Indymedia's web site so listeners would know what was REALLY going on.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Diogenes release, and tunes I wish I had written

Well the big news is that Diogenes is available now. It's such a relief and such a big milestone! It's had a good first week at radio too, with 33 adds (meaning 33 college and non-commercial radio stations have added it to their playlists). Musik International is promoting the album, which means that in the eight weeks of the radio campaign, it's sure to be heard nationwide. Call up your own local college radio station and request a song from Diogenes!
I was a big fan of the X-Files for most of its run. That show is where most people (including me) first heard Mark Snow's music, in the X-Files theme song. I think he's done even more wonderful stuff, though. The ones that come to mind are two other TV themes he's done -- from "Nowhere Man" and "La Femme Nikita". Both tunes have a riveting power to them, and they sound like how the spirit of music feels, when it possesses you on the dance floor -- without actually being dance music. There is another TV theme which is really great -- the original theme from "Profiler", by Angelo Badalamenti.
All three of them are just *so* powerful. I'd love to do TV music someday, but I have to live with the fact that those three have already been written, and I can't create them myself! I wish I had! :)