Shubangi (and Other Newness)

have been fortunate to be playing lots of different gigs lately, both on big stages and stages more intimate.  but I’ve been missing that feeling of producing something new, putting something down and letting it out into the world in a more permanent form.

excited then to say that some newness is getting did.  and my first new release in ages is out as of just a few days ago: the new Shubangi Halt Dich Fest EP.

there’s a variety of stuff on there, including two produced singles.  but we also did a studio session as a band over two days and recorded four songs live and raw, which are also featured on there.  there are also videos for them: Erster Schritt, Halt Dich Fest, Freier Fall, and Gestrandet.

aside from that, a few weeks ago Andreas Liebrecht and I recorded a video together for his song “Who’s Chasing Me,” which is currently being edited.  I’m also going to record a song for Alex Rosenhof of bluespam next week, meet for a rehearsal with some friends towards the video-ification of two other kind of insane songs we wrote together, and get started on a percussion piece of my own I’ve been tooling around with.  so, hoping to head into winter with a small smorgasbord of new clips.

Spring 2017

Been pretty crap at posting updates, but I have kept up with the media pages in the meantime!  There are a couple new little video clips over there, both of jams and ideas as well as gigs.

I guess I haven’t mentioned new projects – James & Black is a great soul/funk duo out of Texas who’ve been touring Europe nonstop for years now.  I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in with them on Germany dates and the occasional Netherlands gig, and it’s been great fun.  Love hanging with fellow Americans over here in Europe, and they’re genuinely great people to boot.  Been able to play a couple big festivals with them, like Swingin’ Groningen and the Baltic Soul Festival (getting to see Sister Sledge perform “We Are Family” from backstage was a trip).

I’ve also begun playing with Bluespam, a blues/funk/rock group with some incredibly talented musicians… hearing an absolutely shredding guitarist trade solos with a ripping harmonica (!) player will never get old.  After our first gig together, an older man said to the guitarist that he had tears in his eyes during our take on “Little Wing” – “Jimmy Hendrix was here tonight.”  That’s amazing to hear!

I got asked to sub for The Urban Turbans, a great ska/balkan jazz group out of Muenster, as their drummer’s broken his hand.  While I wish him a speedy recovery, I’m enjoying playing some music that’s quite on another planet from what I’ve done so far!  Really fun stuff and looking forward to the three gigs we have coming up together.

I got to reunite with Bill Dwyer Band and do a tour with them through Germany, France, the Netherlands, and England… felt like home!  And there’s another EU tour in the works… also been doing a little touring with Mr. Kowalsky in the last year; how many things exist that can top playing ska on a boat in Paris with good friends?

Shubangi‘s still rocking, gearing up for some fresh gigs and festivals this spring and summer.  Last year had some real highlights, like Juicy Beats!  Feeling super fortunate.  Shubangi is working on an EP now for which we’ve even recorded a couple acoustic drum layers.  itshappening.gif

Also had the chance to play at Skater’s Palace 16 year anniversary party with AzudemSK, which was an absolute blast.  There will be some more ASK gigs this year, and I can’t wait!

Also rocking with some friends here in Muenster and hoping to get some videos and recordings going this spring/summer, so will post about that when that’s underway.  I’ve felt really fortunate to have met some folks who are not only incredibly talented and share some musical ground with me, but who are also great people and fun to work with.  Not something to take for granted, one is reminded as the years go by.  Here are two examples – these guys agreed to perform these pieces with me at a recent exam I took at my university, and we’re going to be doing videos for them in the near future.  But to have been able to rock these songs was just a real challenge and pleasure.  Great music and great performances: Alex Rosenhof’s “A Sleepless Night” and Andreas Liebrecht’s “Who’s Chasing Me?”

End of Summer Sum-Up

As the summer’s coming to a close, I thought I’d post a few more photos, for archiving’s sake, and remark on how fortunate I’ve felt about some things I’ve been able to be a part of.  From beautiful locations to new equipment to tour with friends to three weeks back home, it was a summer with lots of highlights.  Some of these I’ve featured in past posts, but others I still wanted to represent with a photo or two.

First up, largely for Shubangi and partly out of morbid curiosity, I’ve joined the “dark side,” as my buddy Bill Dwyer would probably put it:

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I have since purchased two Roland BT-1 percussion bars to run into this thing, as opposed to the triggers.  I’m excited to work with the triggers more, but for now they’re impractical and don’t fit with what I need samples for.  We’ll see when or if that changes.

Here are some pictures from the last Shubangi gigs of the summer.

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Borken – That’s Life festival

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Setting up in Borken. That’s an old Sonor Sonic Plus kit, made in Germany of all birch. Sounds a lot better than what’s billed as a beginner’s kit ought to.  Crazy hardware as well… look at the floor tom legs, for example.

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Heimatzoo Festival, Grindau bei Schwarmstedt

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Heimatzoo Festival, Grindau bei Schwarmstedt

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Rink-Festival, Osnabrueck

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Rink-Festival, Osnabrueck

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Session.One at the Kleiner Donner, Hamburg

I was home in Boston for a few weeks as well, enjoying lots of family time which I’d sorely missed, and got to see some old friends, and even play a little music.  I didn’t take many pictures, which I should have, but musically speaking:

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Curtis Killian, Clinton Degan, and Hocus Pocus. This pic/jam was in Curtis’s new apartment’s basement, which just happened to come with a RECORDING STUDIO BUILT IN.

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Added a few new members to the family

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Trying to figure out how to fly overseas with a full drumset. Not recommended

Back in Europe I got to hit the road with my friends from Mr. Kowalsky.  I maintain that nothing gets an audience moving like ska and reggae.  We hit a few cities in Germany, as well as Amsterdam and Paris.  We also shot a little video in Paris, which is guaranteed to make us look ridiculous, so that should be fun.

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On the tour I got to play two awesome kits: a 1964 (I believe) Gretsch which, as can be expected, just had the sweetest tone…

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And, finally!  A Ludwig Breakbeats!  It sounded so much better than I expected.  Tons of punch to the kick and the toms have a great tone.  I’m still working on my epitome-of-portability suitcase drumset (henceforth known as the Kofferkit), but I’ve gotta put this thing back on my radar for other small gigs that need something a little more “traditional.”  Was super psyched about this one.

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Belgian Fries (Or: the Rumors are True)

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Noticed some funny usage patterns on my new snare head after the ska/reggae tour

This was a cool one: a wedding at one of the wildest locations I’ve played in.  They rented a second church for their party.  Note the relative size of the drumset on the stage – and the pictures don’t even entirely catch the magnitude of the place!

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At this wedding I got to work with Phil Kamp, a champ, by the way, for making the above-pictured room sound not just reasonable but better, who brought along this little guy – a KLANG:technologies monitoring station.  This ran to our in-ear monitors and created a 3D mix for us which we could control wirelessly from individual iPads, not only controlling volumes and EQ in our buds, but also actually moving around the other instruments in our mixes with the graphical interface, putting them further to the right, left, above, below, in front, behind… all of this to actually mimic the stage set-up, or mock-up a rehearsal set-up, or whatever we felt like.  It was amazing.

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I also got to do some studio work; one session was with the DopeBoyz, who are beat makers and one of whom I study with.  Here we are getting set up.  Hopefully I’ll be able to link to some final products sometime in the near future, but as they post the beats for purchase, occasionally with exclusive rights, a link may be short-lived.  Here’s a short video of the session they put together.

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Of course, there was some time to relax.  I’m always looking for a reason to get on the bike, so I was happy to take a short tour up to Osnabrueck and back with my friend Lucky.  (If the authorities are reading this – we had permission to camp! 😉 )


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Way overloaded, but in my defense, I was testing my new front rack and panniers

Way overloaded for such a short tour, but in my defense, I was testing my new front rack and panniers, plus I brought the tent!

The new semester just started today, so that’s the next step.  I’ve been working on a song of my own, as well, so I hope to have something to show before long – it would/will be my first personal work posted, so I’m excited about that.  And there are a few acoustic Shubangi gigs coming up soon, Nov 6th and 7th in Koeln and here in Muenster, respectively.

So: onwards!

A Couple New Songs

I’ve posted a couple more songs in the Media page.  They are unfinished Baby Made Rebel tracks, recorded in 2013 and not quite completed before we went on hiatus.  “The Standing” is much further along than “Untitled Single,” as may be apparent from the titles.

“The Standing” started with a drum loop I recorded as part of my Loops Project.  Lance heard it and wrote a tune around it.  We performed it at a few gigs in Boston in 2013, and I wish the recording had been completed and released, but I guess everything ground to a halt when I left for Germany.

“Untitled Single” was recorded right before I left, so naturally that one got a lot less love.  But I love the direction it was headed in and vibe it had going for it, even in so incomplete a form.

Finally, Clinton Degan has been working on mixing the songs we recorded together in late Summer 2013 and emailing us demos, and the songs are sounding incredible.  One of them is a tune an old band of his had turned down, saying it was “impossible” to turn into a full-band song.  For a group of musicians as talented as they were, it should say something about the complexity of the composition that it was denied on that ground.  I’m incredibly proud listening to it, knowing we as a group of musicians achieved something not only impressive, but I think also beautiful, and also proud of Degan for not taking “no” as an answer and guiding the song, along with its companion seven others on this record, to a really impressive product.  I can’t wait to be able to post some.

Master Class with Mariss Jansons

I just learned of this amazing Dutch TV film called “Master Class with Mariss Jansons.”

The Latvian maestro takes three young, promising conductors and puts them in front of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra to rehearse Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique and Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony.  Jansons then watches over them as they conduct run-throughs of the pieces, and jumps in on subsequent runs to provide feedback.  Some of the musicians in the orchestra, all masters in their own rights, also sit with the young conductors and describe their performances from their points of view.

The program came up in a conversation with my brother in law when we both decided we didn’t know enough about the world of classical conductors or their art.  “Master Class” in turn provides a really fascinating look into the craft.  As a should-be owner of Classical Music for Dummys, I really had no grasp of what the role of the conductor was aside from providing the tempo, keeping track of meter, and giving simple ques for instrumentalists.

One of the young conductors, a Chinese guy named Yu Lu, said his friends were worried about him going to the Netherlands for the show because he spoke no Dutch and not much English.  He said to them that he was not a bit concerned, for music is an international language.  I recount this because there really was so much more communication between the conductor and the orchestra than I imagined, even having assumed my preconceptions were surely woeful underestimations.  And it was fascinating to see not only verbal tips and suggestions from the conductor between runs, but also the extent to which the conductor physically interpreted the music, contorting his face, wiggling his fingers, snapping his wrists.  Yu Lu was particularly interesting to watch, his physical manifestations of the score being as nuanced and genuine as subtle arching of his eyebrows.  It was even described by Jansons at one point as being an actor – one must, to conduct, not only read the music, hear it and feel it internally, and communicate this verbally with the orchestra, but physically provide not only temporal and rhythmic cues, but also the “emotional sculpture” of the piece, as it were – convey the peaks and the valleys, the tension and the ecstasy.  Everything from sharpness of movements to amount of hunch in the back – it was impressed upon each aspiring leader that everything he did with his body was a message to the orchestra and of total import in achieving what he meant to achieve.

So, although I have nothing to do with classical music, I found there to be universal truth in this, not only in how we communicate music to an audience but how we communicate ideas to each other, musicians or not.  Plus, it’s just super entertaining to see something so abstract and subjective get dissected.

What was also interesting to me, though, and which I won’t harp on too much, was the interaction between the 19 year old Alexander Prior and the orchestra.  He was admonished a few times for being too controlling, too forthright with his opinions, and having too strong a penchant for micromanagement.  Despite his talent and clear vision, it was suggested to him that he was being overbearing and risked souring the relationship with his orchestra.  Classical orchestras are of course a different context than, to give a predictable example, rock bands.  We in conversation at home even likened the former to a religion in ways – you have your composer, who is usually dead and gone, leaving the conductor to be the “priest,” the interpreter and vassal in which the real meaning, the core truth of the message must reside.  In a rock band, things are often more democratic – but not always.  Whatever the format of the band, though, I thought this urged-diplomacy was another universal aspect to music.  The conductor depends on his orchestra just as they do him, and perhaps that’s even more true in an established band that often has less of a hierarchical construct and more of a creative co-dependence.  What we say and how we say it matters; it can be said that even within a system like an orchestra where there is to be one leader among many voices, tone is important.  I’ve thought this obvious, but I’ve had enough interactions to know the message has not made its way into some skulls.  For many it should be a reminder and an interesting parallel.  For some, I must say sadly – but suggest hopefully! – that it may be a lesson in leadership and expression.

Anyway.  I meant to go back and re-watch it to glean what else I meant to talk about, but the internet at home is apparently trying to match the speed of the fresh grass growing outside.  So I recommend it to any and all, musician or not, as a really fascinating and potentially instructive watch.  Find it below in two parts.  And by the way, the beginning contains much Dutch, but English soon takes over.