comments and updates in your typical blog format, and the main voice
of updatage in the previous incarnation of bryanbellerdotcom. Now
a home for whatever the hell I feel like saying at any given time.
THE PASSING OF A LEGEND - SKOZZO MOVAL, LORD OF LOGISTICS (2006-2009): It's with great sadness that I post this blog entry. Skozzo Moval, Lord Of Logistics, Savior and Protector during all Beller-related expeditionary adventures, died in the line of duty on April 24, 2009.
Skozzo was brought into this world in late January of 2006. Mike Keneally brought him to me, and Griff Peters christened him Skozzo. He had but one purpose - to stay mounted to the hood of my minivan and create a shockwave of protective force during my many travels, the first of which was to be a cross-country drive from San Diego to Nashville for my move to the Music City.
Griff performed the ritual mounting and lashed Skozzo to the front of the car. Before we left, we honored him by emulating his strength, his honor, and his pure singularity of purpose.
Skozzo was put to the test right away, as only three days later, on I-40 in eastern Arkansas, a garbage can on a flatbed truck in front of us flew loose and went airborne directly towards the hood of the car. The flying object and Skozzo collided at over 75 miles per hour. The garbage can gave Skozzo and the car its best shot. Skozzo punched it aside, and we lived to tell the tale. All hail Skozzo.
For three years, two more cross country drives, several trips from Nashville to New York and back, and other travels totaling well over 50,000 miles, Skozzo was there for us, never wavering, never faltering, never anything less than resolute in the execution of his faithful duties to protect us.
But on April 24, again on that fateful I-40 (this time in West Nashville), a car in front of us suffered a horrific blowout. Large pieces of tire tread, a wheel rim, and other various debris exploded onto the road and flew into and around our lane, a wave of vicious attacking car particles bent on destruction. Skozzo, as always, rose to the challenge of defending us, but in truly heroic fashion, he died on the battlefield, fighting bravely to ward off the foreign objects until his head was taken clean off by the fearsome assault.
We discovered Skozzo's demise shortly after we made it to a safe haven on the side of the road. A search party was quickly dispatched along the side of I-40 to try and locate the head of our fallen fighter, but alas, it was not to be. Skozzo's mighty bust had gone to the heavens, resting peacefully in the Valhalla of the Victorious Road Warriors. I mourned his passing, overcome with emotion on the side of the road.
Memorials to Skozzo sprouted up spontaneously across the land. In Escondido, Griff Peters paid tribute to the bravest, most loyal servant either of us has ever known.
Rest in peace, Skozzo. We will honor you. Forever.
YOUR PRESS WHORE IN ACTION: Now that I'm back from my honeymoon I can get back to press whoring for my new record Thanks In Advance. How much of a press whore am I? I'm going to wake up in the middle of the night to do this interview:
Dan Kinney's Smoking Lounge
KDHX 88.1FM, St. Louis
4:30AM, early Wednesday morning, 11/18
Available streaming for two weeks ending 12/2 at
That's no slam on Dan Kinney - he's a cool dude and a great supporter of this music. I'm still a whore, though.
Also, it looks like the Bryan Beller Band will be playing a show on Thursday, 1/15 at this year's NAMM show in Anaheim, CA in January...and also an L.A. record release party/show for Thanks In Advance at The Baked Potato on 1/22/09...and I think I'll also be playing at the Fender booth with KMB (Keneally-Minnemann-Beller) and also Greg Koch...it's all being put together right now and I'll post details as soon as they become official.
January will be huge. Stay tuned.
(cross-posted from BellerBytes e-mail sent 8/23/08 - signup from the frontpage of bryanbeller.com to get these messages directly in your inbox)
BellerBytes #53: Thanks In Advance CD/DVD Release Imminent!
I may not be as slick as Barack Obama's team with their
middle-of-the-night text message, but I can still send a hype-filled
e-mail with the best of them.
THANKS IN ADVANCE CD AND TO NOTHING DVD
ONLINE RELEASE DATE SEPTEMBER 30, 2008!!
The CD and DVD are now both finalized and in manufacturing. A
creative process lasting two and a half years is finally done, and I
can't wait to share it with all of you who've been so incredibly
patient all this time. I'm intensely proud of it and I think it'll
surprise a lot of people as well.
PRE-SALE BEGINS EXCLUSIVELY AT BRYANBELLER.COM IN MID-SEPTEMBER!!
The only place you can get both the CD Thanks In Advance and the
special-edition DVD To Nothing is at www.bryanbeller.com. The pre-sale will begin the second I have stock in my hands, which could be anytime from September 8 through 15. Obviously I'll e-blast out the news as soon as it happens.
Once again, here's the link to the audio montage trailer for Thanks In Advance
Now, for some serious promotional text:
Thanks In Advance - the CD
Thanks In Advance is a 60-minute jazz/rock compositional statement
about breaking through anger and finding gratitude. Packaging
consists of a traditional jewel case containing a beautiful 12-page
color booklet designed by Michael Mesker (Art Director for Steve Vai
and the Frank Zappa website).
The running order of Thanks In Advance is:
Casual Lie Day
Cost Of Doing Business
Love Terror Adrenaline/Break Through
Thanks In Advance
Thanks In Advance features performances by:
Mike Keneally (solo artist, Frank Zappa)
Rick Musallam (Mike Keneally Band, Ben Taylor)
Griff Peters (featured guitarist on Beller's first album View)
Chris Cottros (Nashville session cat)
Bruce Dees (James Brown, Ronnie Milsap)
Jeff Babko (James Taylor, Robben Ford, Jimmy Kimmel Live)
Jody Nardone (Crimson Jazz Trio)
Kira Small (solo artist, Martina McBride, Wynonna Judd)
Clayton Ivey (Wilson Pickett, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin)
Joe Travers (Zappa Plays Zappa, Lisa Loeb)
Toss Panos (Michael Landau, Larry Carlton)
Marco Minnemann (solo artist/clinician)
Nick D'Virgilio (Tears For Fears, Spock's Beard)
Marcus Finnie (Diana Ross)
Saxphonist Scheila Gonzalez (Zappa Plays Zappa)
Violinist Ann Marie Calhoun (Steve Vai)
To Nothing - the DVD
To Nothing is a widescreen NTSC region-free DVD containing nearly
three hours of exclusive material and behind-the-scenes footage of
the making of the record, including:
* Full-band tracking and overdubbing in Nashville, Los Angeles and
San Diego (main movie: 1hr40mins)
* Overdub sessions for guitar and bass (bonus movie: 1hr10mins)
* Mixing the record in Nashville
* Interviews with Beller and other performers about what Thanks In
Advance really means
* BONUS AUDIO including alternate mixes and demo versions of the
Thanks In Advance material (1hr10mins)
* A rare live, pro-shot video of the Bryan Beller Band performing the
song "View" at the WesFest 2 benefit concert
....and more surprise material!
To Nothing, the Thanks In Advance special-edition DVD, is a
limited-run item, and is ONLY available through bryanbeller.com.
There's been plenty else going on, but let's just leave it here for
now. Thanks again to everyone who offered support and promises of
purchase as soon as it was all done. It helped immensely, and the
results will hopefully speak for themselves.
KENEALLY'S WINE AND PICKLES: With all of the travel and frantic CD/DVD finishing going on, I've neglected to mention that our old friend Mike Keneally has a new record out. Wine And Pickles is not just, as Mike ably puts it, "a collection of unreleased things, rarities and allsorts from the last several years or so," but a nice trip down memory lane for those interested in the evolution of the Keneally project as a whole, and my own playing in particular. It's hard to believe that some of this stuff was laid down almost ten years ago, but there you have it: I'm my own "old friend" as well. For Keneally insiders, here are my faves: the original "Backwards Deb" (rocks way harder), the unedited "Selfish Otter" (feel the naturally occurring improv as opposed to the chopped one), and "Feelin' Strangely," a weird grinding number that somehow didn't make the cut for the Dog album. All great stuff, and well worth your hard-earned cash.
MOTHER EFF'S ARE WE FAMOUS YET?: Soon, very soon, there will be another new release from our loose circle of music superfriends. Mother Eff is a straight-up rock project led by singer/sonwriter Colin Keenan (vocals on "Bite") and the one and only Rick Musallam. Joe Travers and I round out the rhythm section, and Keneally makes a healthy guest appearance. It kicks ass, and will kick even more ass when I can tell you how to get it for yourself. Soon, very soon.
ARTIE TRAUM, RIP: Friend, outstanding musician, and fellow Taylor Guitars clinician Artie Traum has passed away at the still-too-young age of 65. I invite you to visit some moving remembrances right here. Rest in peace, Artie.
THE BEST TOUR EVER: I could save myself a lot of typing by just leaving it there - while in a complete role-reversal, Mike Keneally continues to outblog me at a stunning pace - but, I'll do better than that and try to throw a few random thoughts out to the universe as the Dethklok tour comes to a close.
NO FLUKE: While trying to remain humble, it didn't take long for us to realize that this whole Dethklok thing is blowing up beyond just about everyone's expectations. As of this writing, we've sold out every venue on the tour save three: Vegas House Of Blues (less than 100 tickets away and plenty of competition for the entertainment dollar), Orlando's Hard Rock Live (almost 3,000-seat capacity; again, we came within 100 seats), and Houston's Verizon Theatre (a 5,000-seat venue which we had to move the show to because the Meridian was too small and sold out in a nanosecond). In the big cities we're drawing about 2500 people a show. That is SICK for a band that's not even a real band...but is fast becoming something resembling one. Keneally and I can only stand back in wonder, watching these massive crowds screaming every word to every song, moshing and crowd surfing and generally just losing their minds. We're treated extremely well everywhere we go, the satisfaction from doing shows like this is practically beyond description, and it's all so damned unlikely that it borders on the absurd.
OBSERVATIONS: A couple of things to sum up the above: One, Brendon Small is some kind of genius to have created this whole world from scratch, and even more so to be able to function like a normal human being while it all ignites around him; two, like our tour manager/metal veteran Byron Stroud said, there's no one on this tour (band and/or crew) who didn't pay their dues and didn't have something like this coming. All of us have our horror stories: Keneally and I playing for 5 people in the southern swing of the '98 tour; Byron and Gene Hoglan doing years of rough touring with Strapping Young Lad, with one show descending into a riot five minutes in; our merch girl Robin (who usually works for Cannibal Corpse) on a 12-sleeper bus with 16 people on it...it goes on and on. All that to say that we're all pretty psyched to be part of a team that's actually winning every day, a rarity in this "business" that was once summed up as follows: "Every day you eat shit and ask for more." Musically, business-wise, and personally (this group's hang is awesome as well), it's just kicking ass all the way around. And we're grateful, while at the same time, we're not afraid to say, "It's about time."
RANDOM FAVORITE MOMENTS: Going to Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida, the home of death metal (did you know that? I sure didn't until I got there) and being watched and subsequently accepted by the death metal community, with Cannibal Corpse in attendance...doing the Atlanta show and watching the folks from Turner Networks (our bosses) stager in with dumbfounded smiles on their faces...seeing Dethklok on a true electronic Times Square NYC marquee, and then having my parents see a 1,000-person-strong moshpit erupt in loving violence for the first time in their lives...returning to San Francisco to play the most emotionally-bonded show of the tour (Brendon, in the voice of Nathan, growled to the crowd: "San Francisco, we came back for you.")...the Thunderdome-style Town Ballroom in Buffalo, NY...the three-tier-jail-style Ram's Head Live in Baltimore, MD (the loudest crowd of the tour, by the way)...hanging out with dudes from Mastodon, Three Inches Of Blood, Type O Negative and Hatebreed at the Heavy MTL festival in Montreal...the bottle of Absolut Ruby Red in the dressing room every night...and the pure joy of, finally, at long last, being able to play a gig that utilizes all of the metal I learned in my bedroom as a teenager, for music I really, really love (Brendon writes the hook-iest tunes in metal), in front of the kind of crowd I was a part of when I saw Metallica on the Master Of Puppets tour in 1986...and the sweating and headbanging and everything that goes along with doing a gig like this, no matter where we're doing it.
MAJOR SHOUT OUTS: First, to Mike Lull, SWR, and D'addario. The bass sound I have on this tour is brutal metal heaven. It works every night, no matter what venue we're in, and the sound guys and crew all are in awe of it. The only problem I ever have is that it can get too loud. Hehehe. Props all around. Second, to the John Winter (front of house sound) and Brian LaRue (lighting director). Anyone who saw and heard this show already knows why I'm giving them props; John makes metal sound better than anyone else I've ever heard, and Brian does his light cues live, hitting every accent and quick stop as if he was a member of the band. Third, to the guys in Chimaira and Soilent Green. We Dethklockers know how fortunate we are to have a TV show promoting our tour, and our support acts have been out there doing this for way longer than we have, working hard and paying their dues over and over again, and they're both great bands and a cool hang as well (not to mention that the crowds have been totally into them). Fourth, to all of the cool people I've met along the way...far too many to mention, but y'all know who you are, and feel free to comment back if you're reading this on MySpace. Finally, to Gene, Mike and Brendon, who along with me comprise the most unlikely metal band ever to get 2,500 people to chant "Die!" in perfect unison. Playing with them has been a dream come true. As for Brendon and this monster he created, what the hell else is there to say?
NEXT UP FOR DETHKLOK: We're going worldwide. Details to follow when available.
HOT PIX: Here's a shot backstage from the Tabernacle in Atlanta, which had so many dressing rooms that Byron took it upon himself to give me my own "office," shown below. The sad truth is, from all those years as a corporate warrior, I tend to want to replicate a desk from a Hampton Inn no matter where I travel, which Byron noticed, and is definitely NOT metal.
After the show in Houston, someone presented us with a true medieval chain-mail shirt. Next to riding Harleys with Byron in the Valley Of Fire, in Nevada on the last tour, this may be the most metal thing I've done in my whole life.
And finally, that digital marquee in Times Square. Beyond absurd.
NEXT UP FOR ME: Two shows in Southern California (check the MySpace calendar or Upcoming Appearances at the bottom of the bryanbeller.com front page), a trip to Austria with Mike Keneally and Marco Minnemann...and then, starting in August, it's gonna be all, all, all about releasing Thanks In Advance. The pre-sale should launch on August 1 with a late September release. I think.
DETHKLOK SAN FRAN SHOW POSTPONED/RESCHEDULED DUE TO FIRE: It sounds like an episode of Metalocalypse, but it really happened. Our sold-out show at the legendary Fillmore in San Fran on Thursday 6/5 was cancelled due to an electrical fire. Basically, a packed house was already in the venue and the first of three bands, Soilent Green, got three songs into their set when the soundmen smelled something burning. They found what they were looking for near the main conduit into the venue; smoke was pouring out of it. The staff emptied the venue, and a more orderly evacuation of a venue filled with metal fans could not be imagined. The fire department showed up amidst a massive crowd shouting "Dethklok! Dethklok! Dethklok!" but without an electrician on hand, they couldn't guarantee the safety of the crowd...and they called it off.
It was a real mob scene outside the venue. Our bus was parked right out front, in the middle of everything, and getting onto the bus to escape the crowd was like catching the last helicopter out of Saigon. Here's what it looked like from the front window:
Meanwhile, on the bus, the Absolut vodka and Crown Royal was flowing. Metal.
The show has been rescheduled for Monday, June 9, with an early start time of 7:30PM so we can make it to Phoenix the next day. To the fans who got shut out of this one - and especially those who got shut of both the Fillmore and the UC Berkleley show - we promise to make it the most epically brutal show in history.
THANKS IN ADVANCE UPDATE: It went into manufacturing yesterday. Mmm hmmm.
A PICTURE SAYS 1,000 WORDS: Well, this picture does, anyway.
It's done, which basically means I've chosen to stop trying to make it better because I don't really know what else to do with it. I'll be perfectly honest and say I'm both thrilled and terrified to know that what I hear now is what everyone's going to hear eventually. But that's part of what the record is about anyway, which I'll explain in due course.
Anyway, enough navel gazing and couch analysis for now. This is just to let you know that I finally finished the damned thing, and a fall release is very much on track. And look for a preview track to post sometime in the near future.
CAVE DWELLER: Perhaps it's fitting that one of the songs on my upcoming second record almost perfectly describes where I've been since the NAMM show. Essentially, in mid-January I drove to California from Nashville to attend NAMM, then stayed in California for almost a month to do the bulk of tracking for said upcoming second album, then came back a week later for WesFest 3, then returned home for furious catch-up at home and additional tracking and editing on the record, and then spent 11 of 14 days doing 12-hour mixing sessions, and then was back in California a week later for mastering, plus some Keneally recording sessions, and a gig with Keneally and avant-garde acoustic guitarist Janet Feder. And now it's mid-April. That was fast.
THE LONG MARCH: About Thanks In Advance...forget about the tracking; producing it is one of the most rewarding and totally draining things I've ever done. It's far more intense a record than View, and capturing what I've long imagined it to be from basic tracking all the way through to mastering has taught me more about making records than anything I learned while doing View. I did View so fast I didn't have time to think about it, which was good and bad (ultimately I wish it were mixed and mastered a little differently). But that experience prepared me for this, and I'm deep in the weeds of mixing and mastering details that I didn't even know existed when this project started. Right now we're on the second shot at mastering, which I sure hope to be the last one. Getting the right mix of overall level, presence, EQ and compression for all of these tracks recorded in such different environments is challenging, but doable. I can see the end in sight.
HIGHLIGHTS: Some of my favorite things so far: Spending so much time and appreciating the superhuman talents of main mix and editing engineer Mark Niemiec, who brought these songs to life and tolerated my many moods and requests...watching the reactions of Mike Keneally, Joe Travers and Rick Musallam as they heard the final mixes for the first time...playing the 10-minute epic "Love Terror Adrenaline" over the house P.A. for a select few bunch of folks after the Keneally/Beller/Feder gig in San Pedro...I could go on and on. But then there's the dark side, which is having to listen to your own album 100 fucking times while you try and figure out if the kick drum should come up 1db in this spot right here or not. I still get a kick out of watching others react to it, which is a big part of what the album is all about in a deep sense, but for me, the thrill of hearing it is long, long gone. I just want it to be as good as it can be, and then give it to the world, and then it will be a long time before I listen to it again.
ALL THAT TO SAY: If you liked View, I promise you will not be disappointed in this album. It's everything I've ever wanted to say in music, and I've got nothing left in the tank. All I have, it's all there. And look for a sneak preview track to be posted sometime in the next 30-45 days.
THOSE KENEALLY SESSIONS: The day after the first mastering session, I found myself back in the studio with Keneally, Musallam and Travers for some new groovy tracks for Mr. K. We were recording on...wait for it...tape! Yes, a real analog studio. I even got to hit the punch button for Mike a couple of times. I'd forgotten, but it really does sound different in the analog world, and probably better. Does that mean I'd trade it for the digital flexibility? Hell no, but it was fun to go back in time for a bit, and as always, Mike's new tunes are filled with vim and vigor and coolness. It never stops being fun for me to make music with him, no matter what style it happens to be. Which is a good thing, because...
DETHKLOK IS BACK: You probably saw this on the front page, but if not, there's a Dethklok summer tour afoot. Dates are posted here. Go to the show and then, as Nathan would say, you may go die.
BASS PLAYER MAGAZINE: I haven't been updating everyone regularly on what I've been writing for Bass Player, but it's safe to say that if you pick up an issue, there will be something I wrote in it. Recent folks I've written about include Victor Wooten and Ricc Fierabracci, and full transcripions I've done include Radiohead's "Airbag," Jamiroquai's "Virtual Insanity," and Nirvana's "Lithium." I've gotten to review some really cool CD's for the mag as well, and more fun stuff is in the works. This is a really nice gig, and I certainly appreciate the many positive comments I've gotten about it already.
SPEAKING OF TRANSCRIPTIONS: I'm available between now and the end of May to work on some of those custom transcriptions I mentioned a while back. Any BASS part, any tune, I can probably do it. Not to get all TV-pitchman on you, but there are those out there who could be called "satisfied customers." Feel free to drop me a line and ask about it.
SESSION WORK: Same goes for private session work, by the way. For a while there I wasn't able to take on anything new, but that time has passed. From one song to several, it can be done.
WESFEST 3: We did it! We raised another $10,000 for the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship at Berklee College Of Music. Thank you to everyone who supported this year's effort. The show, in my humble opinion, was the best yet. Go here for a complete roundup, plus pictures of the event...and while you're there, marvel at the newly-redesigned Official Tribute to Wes Wehmiller website.
JANET FEDER: I'll close this already-too-long blog post by mentioning what a wonderful time I had playing with Mike Keneally and Janet Feder last week in San Pedro at Alva's. It was a completely improvisational gig, with the three of us trading motifs and ideas on a totally blank canvas. Janet's "treated" acoustic baritone guitar was a really unique and cool timbre to mix it up with, especially when she puts a roach clip on one of the strings and lets it vibrate against the next string while she plays. Each of us also played a couple of solo pieces. I did "Backwoods," "Bear Divide," and I even debuted a new one: "Life Story" from the upcoming record. And while Keneally I had a blast breaking out "1998" while she changed strings, the biggest kick for me was playing on Janet's tune "Opening" from her beautiful and haunting album Ironic Universe. Worth checking out.
NEXT UP: Reviewing DVD video, CD artwork, and a revised master of Thanks In Advance....
THANKS IN ADVANCE TRACKING-MANIA: As I sit here writing to you from Rick Musallam's guest bedroom, I am thrilled to report that the past three weeks of tracking for my upcoming second solo album Thanks In Advance have been a complete, unqualified success. I now am the proud owner of two 250GB hard drives filled with amazing tracks from Mike Keneally, Rick Musallam, Griff Peters, Joe Travers, Marco Minnemann, Jeff Babko, Nick D'Virgilio, Chris Cottros, Jody Nardone, Marcus Finnie, Jude Crossen, Bruce Dees, Clayton Ivey, and Scheila Gonzalez (yes, from the Zappa Plays Zappa touring band). Some of these names you probably know, while some you may not...but a quick Google search will fill you in quite nicely, and I've always been of the mind to choose players I know and feel would be right for the tune, rather than trying to go out and just choose super-high-profile "name" guys for the sake of just doing that. Regardless, I'm beyond stoked at what they did, and I'm betting you'll love it too.
Then there's the engineering crew: Mark Niemiec, Erich Gobel, and Jeff Forrest (yes, of Double Time Studios!). The sounds we're getting are just incredible across the board, the best I've ever gotten. And the project is more challenging and complex in many ways than View, it's been super-smooth all the way around, even though we've tracked in eight different locations so far! It's a good thing Dave Foster and Steve Laub were there capturing it all on video for the special edition DVD, don't you think?
That's part of the beauty this time around. Last time, we worked in one studio and had everyone come to us. This time, I'm a cowboy...I walk these streets, with a loaded hard drive on my back...[/Bon Jovi]. Seriously, the movable nature of this feast has led to all sorts of cool, organic-type events that contributed to the recordings. This woul be a good time to thank the folks who let me crash at their places during this crazy trip: Griff Peters, Rick Musallam, Lee Graham and Stacy Ferguson, I salute you and your fine accomodations.
Some truly special things happened at Griff Peters' brand-new home facility, Hilltop Frog Studios. You think he got a good guitar sound on View, you ain't heard nothing yet. It's a wonderful, magical, esoterically groovy place on a mountaintop in San Diego with the best room sound I think I've ever heard, and I encourage anyone interested in working there to stay tuned to updates 'round these parts, as he's opening the place to the public very soon.
And now I go to bed, wake up tomorrow, pack up the minivan and start the three-day drive back to Nashville. Remaining tracking will take place in Febuary and March, and mastering is scheduled for April. You may want to be on the lookout for special preview audio sometime in the spring. I promise I'll get it out as fast as I can.
In the meantime, it's getting closer to February 25. Shouldn't you be buying a WesFest 2 Concert DVD right about now? Or buying tickets for WesFest 3 if you're in Los Angeles? Just sayin'.
THE WESFEST 3 FUNDRAISING DRIVE KICKOFF: Those familiar with my efforts in raising money and awareness for the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship at Berklee College Of Music know what's up - it's that time of year again, and we have a great concert and a great DVD to promote for a truly worthy cause. Read on for the details.
If you're new to this blog and want to know why I'm so excited to share this with you, just go here to learn about my dear friend Wes Wehmiller. Then come back here and join us!
Happy 2008 to all...BB
WesFest 3: February 25, 2008
When I say it's that time of year again, this is a big part of what I
mean: We're gathering once again for a great night of live music to
honor the memory of our dear friend Wes Wehmiller, and to raise money
for the Wes Wehmiller Memorial Scholarship. It's the official launch
of the WesFest 3 fundraising drive!
This year we've got the concert itself *and* WesFest 2 DVD (more on
that later) as twin efforts to make it all happen. First, let's talk
about the concert...and about how freakin' excited I am about this
year's headliner, premier gospel/R&B bassist/producer Andrew Gouche!
February 25, 2008
WesFest 3: A Concert to Benefit the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship at
Berklee College Of Music
6101 Reseda Blvd.
Tarzana, CA 91335
Doors open at 7:00 PM
Andrew Gouche - HEADLINER
*The Mike Keneally Band
Danny Mo & The Exciters, featuring 2007 Wes Wehmiller Scholarship
winner Claire Finley
*Bryan Beller appearing
$30 per pair of tickets in advance [advance tickets are available
until February 18]
$20 for single tickets in advance
$30 for tickets at the door.
BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW BY CLICKING HERE:
(Just read the instructions on the page for purchase.)
Please allow me to introduce this year's headliner, Andrew Gouche. He
is quite simply **the** most recognized bassist in gospel, achieving
widespread acclaim for years of work with The Rev. James Cleveland,
Andrae Crouch, and The Hawkins Family. He's also a premier player in
the pop and R&B arena, working with everyone from megastars like
Michael Jackson, Julio Iglesias and Madonna, to hip-hop artists such
as Coolio, Warren G. and Montell Jordan, to R&B legends The
Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Patti LaBelle, and the legendary Chaka
Khan, for whom he recently served as Musical Director on a year-long
tour. Gouche's own band, Prayze Connection, pushes the boundaries of
gospel music into the rhythms and versatility of the secular music it
inspires, without losing its soul.
Andrew Gouche is an incredible bassist, just jaw-droppingly awesome,
and we're incredibly fortunate and blessed to have him as our
Danny Mo & The Exciters will feature Wes' Berklee Bass Professor and
dear friend Danny Morris, and puts your generosity into action by
showcasing the winner of last year's Wes Wehmiller Scholarship,
Though he needs no introduction in these parts, I'll give him one
anyway: Virtuoso guitarist/composer Mike Keneally, the original
WesFest headliner, has graciously agreed to perform once again, in
what will be the first Mike Keneally Band performance in Los Angeles
in many months.
Soul/R&B singer/songwriter Kira Small is once again coming out from
Nashville for a smoking set of original compositions, including
several new, unreleased tunes.
And Mother Eff is the brand new boulder-heavy rock project of singer
Colin Keenan and guitarist Rick Musallam, featuring material from
their soon-to-be-released debut CD.
It's a Monday night...almost two months away. SAVE THE DATE!!
And if you're new to this list and you want to know who Wes Wehmiller
is and why he's so special to us, just go here:
Note: If you want to be kept up to date with WesFest events, just go here to join The Wes List: http://www.weswehmiller.net/list
WesFest 2 Concert DVD Release
I can tell you firsthand that, if you're into the music that our
loose circle of musicians has been playing, you will absolutely love
And if you purchased the WesFest 1 DVD and loved it, you'll love this
one twice as much. We went the extra mile in capturing the audio and
video, it sounds like a record and looks amazing, and it's got bonus
features like a real professional DVD and everything. The concert
itself runs seventy-five minutes and contains live performances from
the following WesFest 2 performers:
Stu Hamm - virtuoso solo bassist and WesFest 2 headliner
The Dirty Janks - late 60's/early 70's-style psychedelic funk and
groovalicious grease, featuring keyboardist Arlan Schierbaum,
guitarist Rick Musallam (Mike Keneally Band), bassist Dorian
Heartsong (Powerman 5000) and drummer Joe Travers (Zappa Plays Zappa
touring band, Mike Keneally Band).
Danny Mo & The Exciters - featuring 2006 Wehmiller Scholarship award
winner Will Snyder, Berklee Bass professor Danny Morris, and
legendary R&B drummer James Gadson (Bill Withers).
Jude Crossen - power pop and even more powerful lead vocals from L.A. session ace and Berklee grad
Jariya - all-female eclectic trio blending rock, jazz and electronica, featuring Eve Buigues on searing lead vocals
The WesFest All-Stars - debut frontman (and frontwoman) performances
from WesFest veterans Griff Peters and Tristana Ward (featuring Kira Small)
Janet Robin - acclaimed veteran Los Angeles singer/songwriter, in a solo performance that righteously
opened the show
I, Claudius - Wes Wehmiller's former rock band returns, louder and
heavier than ever, featuring singer Colin Keenan and guitarist Griff
And there's bonus DVD features that include:
Intro To Wes (a biography of Wes Wehmiller set to still pictures and
Tribute To Wes (a slideshow that was shown at WesFest 2)
Band Biographies (pictures, information and weblinks for each
performing act, set to music)
Carrying It On (featuring mission statements for both WesFest and
Berklee College Of Music, and invitations to further the goals of
WesFest and the scholarship fund, set to music)
If you can't make it to the show, this is a great way to support the
event and the fundraising drive! And it's a great concert DVD in its
own right as well.
CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE THE WESFEST 2 DVD!
(Just read the instructions on the page for purchase.)
Thanks for your support...hope to see you there, or at least hope to see you buy a DVD (which I'll ship to you, since I'm the fulfillment dude)...BB
BellerBytes #44: Philly Clinic & Ultimate Metal Edition
(reprinted here for your pleasure)
I'm home, my minivan's being worked on, and the customer lounge has high-speed internet. Life is good.
1. Beller Solo Clinic At Bass Specialties In Philadelphia
2. DETHKLOK Tour Dates Announced...and What Is DETHKLOK Anyway?
3. Steve Vai U.S. Tour Wrap-Up
1. Beller Solo Clinic At Bass Specialties In Philadelphia
As much as I love playing Steve Vai's music, it's a pleasure to be returning to my own material. The all-too-rare Beller solo clinic is happening this weekend in Philadelphia. Details below:
Bryan Beller Solo Clinic Appearance
Saturday, October 13, 3:30PM
at Bass Specialties
2846 Street Rd.
Bensalem, PA 19020
Lead sponsored by Mike Lull Custom Guitars
Co-sponsored by D'addario Strings
I'll be happy to talk about life as Vai's bassist, the DETHKLOK tour (see below), my own material, and current events in general.
2. Official DETHKLOK Tour Dates Announced...and What Is DETHKLOK Anyway?
For those who know what this is all about, here are the tour dates right off the bat. (For those who don't, keep reading past the dates.)
(tour to promote Cartoon Network show Metalocalypse)
Brendon Small - guitar
Mike Keneally - guitar
Bryan Beller - bass
Gene Hoglan - drums
...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead
[updated 10/17/07 to reflect official release]
October 29, Albuquerque, NM, Univ. of New Mexico
October 31, Las Vegas, NV, UNLV
November 1, Los Angeles, CA, UCLA
November 2, Berkeley, CA, UC Berkeley
November 5, Fort Collins, CO, Colorado State
November 7, Minneapolis, MN, Univ. of Minnesota
November 8, Vermillian, SD, Univ. of South Dakota
November 11, Boulder, CO, UCB
November 13, Carbondale, IL, Southern Illinois Univ.
November 15, Norman, OK, Univ. of Oklahoma
November 17, Lawrence, KS, Univ. of Kansas
November 18, Chicago, IL, Northwestern
What is Dethklok?
In a world...where there is one undisputed, most popular, most powerful, most deadly heavy metal band in the universe...one animated man with a large mustache will play bass...and another man will attempt to imitate him...and that man is me.
OK, here's the scoop on this Dethklok business. There's an animated show on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim program called Metalocalypse. The premise is that one heavy metal band is the most powerful force in the world - commercially, culturally, you name it - and that band is called Dethklok. The members of the band are Nathan Explosion (lead vocals/brutal visionary), Skwisgaar Skwigelf (fastest guitarist alive, from Sweden), Toki Wartooth (2nd fastest guitarist alive), William Murderface (bassist/filled with ultimate hatred), and Pickles The Drummer (from the Midwest). Metalocalypse is essentially a show about their lives and how they go about being in Dethklok on a daily basis, and it contains real heavy metal music by the "band". So it's an animated...parody...reality...music...sitcom. Call it Spinal Tap meets The Ozzy Osbourne Show meets The Monkees meets Beavis and Butthead. Or something.
Anyway, the show's co-creator, Brendon Small, is a friend and fan of Mike Keneally. I first met him before the show ever aired, at a Keneally show, and he told me about it. I laughed just at the premise of it. Sure enough, the show's a hit, so much so that there's now a real Dethklok album (The DethAlbum, sitting at #21 on the Billboard charts!), a first season Metalocalypse DVD, and...wait for it...a tour with real-live musicians to promote the second season, now airing as premiere episodes.
The record was done almost entirely by Brendon, who for my money is a damned good guitarist and songwriter. You can tell he really loves and gets heavy metal old and new, and some of the riffs are downright HEAVY. (I heard Metallica, Judas Priest, Meshuggah, Iron Maiden, Slayer, and other deadly influences in just 12 songs.) For extra street cred and massive metal groove, he got Gene Hoglan of Strapping Young Lad and other huge metal acts to play drums on the album. I am a huuuuuuge Strapping Young Lad fan and Gene is one of my heroes. So who's going to play second guitar and bass? Why, none other than Mike Keneally and myself, respectively.
I can tell you that I've always, always wanted to be in a metal band, and at one point I knew the entire Metallica catalog (up to the Black Album). I even developed special finger techniques, specifically so I could play thrash grooves on "Battery" and "Damage, Inc." without having to use a pick (which I still don't). So this is a real dream come true for me, and it's going to be a challenge and tremendous fun. Keneally and I are going back to metal school; Gene is a one-man metal machine, the real ringer in the band; and Brendon will be playing and "singing" in full-on cookie-monster mode. My fingers are tired from galloping already.
We'll be playing along with a huge video screen, in an extended episode of the show. I don't know how it's all going to work out, but it's going to be fun no matter what. And the shows are FREE, on college campuses throughout the west and midwest (sorry, east coasters!). If you're anywhere nearby, you've got to see what it's all about.
Interested in getting into the Dethklok online subculture? (Warning - this humor is dark and often bloody.)
Go here to see the band's Cartoon Network home page:
(hint: if you dig deep enough, you'll find an episode online)
Go here to meet the band:
See Dethklok on MySpace:
Yeah, it's pretty out. Should be fun, though.
3. Steve Vai U.S. Tour Wrap-Up
For anyone who's wondering, it was beyond great to tour the U.S. with Steve Vai this past month, really like a dream come true. I haven't and am not going to do the big tour blog about it, because I said quite enough about the European trip. There is an official Vai Tour Blog, however, which contains tons of pictures taken from various band members' iPhones, and if you go far back enough you'll find a long text post from me.
Click here to see the Vai tour blog.
I'm forever grateful for Steve trusting me with playing his music live around the world, and I have a feeling that this is just the beginning. I certainly hope so.
And to anyone who's put two and two together on the scheduling conflict between the Dethklok tour and the upcoming Steve Vai South American dates, look for an announcement from the Vai camp on who'll be going to South America instead of me. Longtime readers will appreciate the circle-of-life aspect to it.
Your bonus for reading all the way to the bottom is the following news: tracking for my next solo album will take place in December, January and February. It's really going to happen this time. But right now I need to practice making my fingers be more metal.
As Nathan Explosion would say, "Now you may go die."
HOW MUCH FOR A RIB?: Now, at long last, I know the answer. It's $2.10 for one rib at Whole Foods Market in Austin, TX. It was damned good, too. Chris Rock, call your office.
(If you have no idea what I'm talking about, then you're probably a lot younger than me. Points to anyone who gets this reference.)
LAZY PHOTO-BLOGGING: Our Canadian friend MJ sends this pic from Highway 17 West, near Nipigon, Ontario, Canada (the north end of Lake Superior, MJ notes). That's three "Seven Percent Grade" sign sightings know of so far. The first is off of I-5 south on an exit ramp somewhere near San Clemente, the second I can't remember but I know I saw it, and here's the third. Nice.
LOTS GOING ON: More news soon. Right now, it's chill time. See you out there in the US on the Vai tour, right?
THE TOUR IN PICTURES: As promised, here's 30 pictures from the Vai European tour, with clever captions for (at least) my own amusement. These pics are generally cameo shots, the kind of stuff you'd only see if you were in the band. For live shots, the incomparable Mike Mesker (who took all of the Vai.com cover photos, including one of yours truly) has a treasure trove full, and I should have the best of them in hand at some point. Also, photographer Nick Askew took a bunch of good shots from the show in Amsterdam, which you can check out by clicking here.
PHOTO CREDIT CODE: I have to thank violinist Ann Marie Calhoun and opening act Zack Wiesinger for taking so many great pictures and sharing them with me. This photo-blog wouldn't have been half as good without their contributions. To find out who took the pix below, I marked them with either an (A) for Ann Marie, a (B) for me, or a (Z) for Zack. If there's no marking, I just don't know.
OK, then...here we go.
Ann Marie Calhoun and Dave Weiner prepare to start the tour in Luxembourg, and Dave shows off the official "Riff Of The Week" video camera for good measure.
Alex DePue, a.k.a. The Fiddler, poses pensively outside the venue in Luxembourg. Pix are from Luxembourg until further notice. (A)
Your typical dressing room scene - laptops and day bags strewn about in a space fit more for three people than seven or eight. Dave Weiner goes kung fu fighting, I'm kinda scared, and Steve's nephew and personal assistant Roger Vai practices the art of Skype-ing. (Z)
Drummer and avowed rock purist Jeremy Colson walks on the wild side for the String Theories tour. No word on how that concerto is coming. (A)
And in this corner, standing at 6'10" and weighing in at 310 pounds, from Kentucky...Tour Manager Todd Carter! That's not a Willy Wonka set he's walking through - it's a real doorway. If you were a club owner, would you not pay this man? (A)
Steve Vai prepares and reflects, just moments before the start of the first show of the European tour. I thought twice about posting this, but I think there's something cool and ethereal about this shot, so I got over myself and did it. Nice shot, Zack. (Z)
On to Paris, where the crew prepares the stage at Le Grand Rex for a sold out show. (Z)
The band does the traditional bow after the Paris show. The venue in Luxembourg was small, so this was my first taste of taking this in after a Vai show. (Z)
One of the many things Steve taught me on this tour (by example) was how to wave to the upper deck of a three-level venue after the encore. Or perhaps we're running for office? (Z)
Somewhere in Germany, fearless performer and intrepid photographer Zack Wiesinger poses with a very strange German dessert apparently inspired by Jack from the Jack-In-The-Box commercials. (A)
Depth perception is tricky here, as Vai Webmaster/EVOmaster Mike Mesker really is much larger than Ann Marie Calhoun, but perhaps not as much as implied in this photo. That said, between Mikey and Todd, we never lacked for physical security...all with a gentle, soft-spoken demeanor. (B)
Leave it to Zack to nail the shot everyone was trying to get - a closeup of Steven Tyler, backstage at the Arrow Rock Festival in Holland. (Z)
Onto Ulm, Germany, where we literally played in a circus tent (note the decor in the background). Guitar/keys/bass/violin tech Vince Dennis manages a smile, despite his ridiculous job description. (A)
A group outing in Barcelona, Spain, where our hotel was right on the water. From left to right: Jeremy Colson, Dave Weiner, Zack Wiesinger, Roger Vai, and Ann Marie Calhoun (kneeling). (B)
Behold, the pool at Hotel AC in Barcelona. What you can't tell from this shot is that it's an upper deck pool, about 15 stories up. From there you get the ocean view. Breathtaking. (B)
And here it is, the wild and crazy scene backstage in Madrid on the Steve Vai European tour. Is it any wonder the crew called us "nerds"? From front to back: Roger, Mikey, Ann Marie, Zack, Steve, Dave, and finally, Todd. (B)
Is it just me, or was this Madrid backstage shot of Zack and Steve staged? I wasn't there when it was taken so I don't know, but check the seating position, pants, and right arms. Alex (in the background) probably knows, but he isn't telling.
I always bring the rollerblades in case our venue just happens to be across the street from the most beautiful beach I've ever seen, like this one in Almeria, Spain.
Zack enjoys himself on the beach in Almeria. (Z)
During one of the few times we stood still long enough to party, yours truly and Front-Of-House Engineer Chip McDonough enjoy mixed drinks by the crew bus after the show in Almeria, Spain.
In a scene out of my dreams, our gig in Lorca, Spain was literally on a mountaintop, next to the historic 13th-century Fortaleza Del Sol castle. As a bonus, EVO ticket holders got to watch me struggle through "The Audience Is Listening" for the first time during soundcheck. (B)
All in the family: Steve checks his guitar while nephew Roger Vai looks on and guards the Lorca stage. (Z)
Jeremy Colson channels Johnny Rotten in a very hot, very uncomfortable dressing room at the Pistoia Blues Festival in Italy. (B)
Your Steve Vai rhythm section not-so-hard-at-work, and also a rare photo of Jeremy cracking up, taken on the bus after a gig somewhere in the U.K.
My sweetheart, Kira Small, joined the tour for just under a week during the U.K. leg. Here, she joins Alex DePue for some adult recreational activities - on the crew bus, of course. (B)
Your humble narrator plays toy soldier at Red Square in Moscow. Note the fanny pack in hand; the touring entourage did, to their endless amusement.
Insert your very own Beller-gets-the-monkey-off-his-back joke here. Also taken in Red Square.
Our Russian hosts arranged a sightseeing tour for us, and you're looking at the folks who took them up on it. Left to right: Me, Dave, Ann Marie, Mikey, Alex.
Mr. Vai and I, taken just after the end of the last show of the European tour, backstage at B1 in Moscow, Russia.
And that's that. See you in America!
WELL, THAT WAS FAST: Silly me, I thought I'd have plenty of time and energy to blog throughout the remainder of the Steve Vai European tour. Yet here I sit in Schwaz, Austria, in the midst of my next commitment, four days after the tour's end in Moscow, wondering what the hell just happened. I guess all I can do now is pick a few highlights and relay them as best I can. (One note - right now I only have a dialup connection, so the best-of-the-best tour pictures will come in a separate blog once I get back to high-speed land.)
AFTER AEROSMITH: We left that crazy rock festival in Holland for four dates in Spain and two dates in Portugal. Goodbye cloudy skies, hello skin-pounding sun (just the way I like it). Much talk ensued about how this was the real start of the tour, because we were heading for six shows in a row. That meant that, once we started, there would be no hotels until the run was over (shower in the venue, sleep on the bus - yes, Steve did it along with us). Before we started the run, we stayed a night at a swanky hotel on the water in Barcelona. It was a high-rise with an upper-deck pool, ocean view jacuzzis, and enough marble to choke at Italian sculptor. Within minutes of arrival I was happily rollerblading along the water, getting used to the idea of staring at the ocean and pointing east, towards New York City. Weird.
OH, WAIT: Before we got to Spain, there was a show in Ulm, Germany, in a circus tent (literally - pix to follow), that was one of the highlights of the tour. Why? Because a teenage female guitarist named Yasi got up on stage with us, Ibanez Jem in hand, and played "Answers" alongside Steve. She did more than hold her own - she was really, really good, and a hometown girl at that, and the roar of the crowd after we played with her was one of the most special things I've ever heard. It's on YouTube somewhere.
OK, BACK TO SPAIN: Hot, dry, weather. Loud, large audiences. Interesting venues. The hall in Almeria, Spain was across the street from the nicest beach I have ever seen, period. Nicer than anywhere in California - more scenic than even Malibu, with mountains in the background and crystal-clear, warm water to splash around in while topless girls walked around. Not to be outdone, the next day's gig was literally on a mountaintop, next to a historic fort. The stage was built on a peak, and had the kind of panoramic view I dream of retiring to. Led Zeppelin, eat your heart out. (There will be pictures of this, you betcha.) Finally, Madrid - you guys win for loudest audience of the tour. Moscow might have been louder overall, but that was over 3,000 people - Madrid's 1,500 matched them. When I took my earplugs out at the end of the show, the sound impact of the crowd nearly knocked me over.
ITALY: If you ask a touring entourage about Italy, you'll get two different answers. One from the band, usually expressing excitement and anticipation of good food and scenery. You'll get another answer from the crew, which can't be printed here. I don't know what it is about Italy, but the level of technical facility is always more than a little underwhelming. Thank god it wasn't not my job to deal with it all. This would be a good opportunity to thank my tech, Vince Dennis (also the bassist for Ice-T's Body Count!), Monitor Engineer Roger Cole, FOH engineer Chip McDonough, Tour Manager Todd Carter, and everyone in the crew for being so awesome. They hit all the curveballs out of the park, and they saw some nasty stuff if you know what I mean. Meanwhile, more hot weather, all outdoor shows (the mosquitoes were loving the shows, I know that much), large crowds, and a lot of guys in Rome who really liked Ann Marie Calhoun, and were quite vocal about it during her violin solo.
AMSTERDAM: Felt like home again. I got to hang with some of the folks from the Metropol Orchestra, and it really hit home that we'd all made Vai's Sound Theories record together, and now that work was coming to fruition (essentially, this tour was set up to promote that project). We played a knockout show, and it set the tone for what this band seemed to be really good at doing, which was rising to the occasion of playing the best shows in the biggest and most important places. Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, Rome...all superior shows in some way. Sometimes the best shows of a tour take place in the out-of-the-way places. Not this band. Steve was thrilled.
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND: First of all, anyone following this tour closely knows about our adventure in getting to the Birmingham gig, which was the first show on the UK leg. For those who don't know, we got held up clearing customs on the French side of the Dover Ferry for 7 hours, and the gig came t-h-i-s close to being cancelled outright. Here's what it was like for us: We partied in Amsterdam the night before, went to bed at about 4AM like we always did, and then were woken up at about 7:30AM to clear customs before getting on the ferry (that's fairly normal; you can't always just stay on the bus). Once we got there, it became apparent that work permits had not been sorted out for us, and without getting into why, that's what was holding us up. We stood in line for about 45 minutes before all heading back to bed, one by one. Most of us woke up about 3 hours later, thinking that we'd made it to the other side. We hadn't, and the clock was ticking. We finally cleared customs and got on the ferry sometime in the afternoon, and we all staggered around like zombies wondering what the final outcome was going to be. For nearly 30 minutes the show was officially cancelled, but somehow the call was made that, indeed, we would do it no matter what. When we got to the UK side and reboarded the buses for the drive to Birmingham, Tour Manager Todd Carter gave his cell phone to the crew so they could help the UK venue set up the PA via remote control. The phone eventually died, leaving Steve's personal cell as the only working phone in the entourage. We pulled up around 9PM, and the crew jumped out and began setting up like crazy. Somehow they got everything up and running in 80 minutes, with line checks only, and we were just about ready to hit the stage when we heard...booing. Folks, I can tell you that I've never heard boos before in my life, let alone before the show even started, and it was disconcerting to say the least. But how could you blame them? They'd been standing there for hours, sweating, hungry, probably needing to go to the bathroom, and maybe they knew what happened to us and maybe not, but either way, they paid to get in and we were hours late going onstage. So we went out there an did the best we could. That's all we could do. To anyone who was standing there, all I can say is, thanks for sticking around, and I hope we get back there soon to play a full show, on time, as promised.
UNITED KINGDOM AND IRELAND: Making things personally complicated for me was that my girlfriend Kira was flying in to travel with us for the UK leg, starting in Manchester (the show after Birmingham), and the mad scramble to make the Birmingham gig threw our initial meeting plans into the blender. But she eventually got there, met us, and joined a ride that was already in high gear. With much better catering than before, and with venue staff that spoke English, we were able to share the ups and downs of a real rock 'n' roll bus tour and everything that goes along with it. We saw Dublin and Glasgow (she's Scotch-Irish and had never been to Europe - you should have seen us on the Jameson Whiskey distillery tour) and did both downtowns in style. We even got two hotel night inside of a week, a luxury on this tour. We also found out that you really can't fit two people our size in a bus bunk for sleeping purposes. It was worth a shot, though.
UK AND IRELAND - THE SHOWS: All I have to say is, if you saw the London show, you saw the show of the tour. I don't know what happened, but we just put it all together that night and won over a notoriously discriminating crowd. After "Whispering A Prayer" we received an ovation that was as intense and sustained as anything we got all tour long, and coming from the normally reserved Londoners, we were totally blown away. In the encore, during "Answers," we were running all over the stage and getting up close with the audience while playing in a way we never had before. And musically, we just couldn't do anything wrong. Backstage, after the show, we all just knew it, and Steve was elated, saying it was the London show he'd always wanted to have.
TOUR-ITIS: Unfortunately, after that show Steve fell ill, and Dublin and Glasgow were a bit of a struggle for him. Glasgow especially, I don't know how he got onstage and performed at all considering how sick he was. But he did, he threw himself all over the place anyway, and that's why he's a pro. He wasn't the only one, either - Dave Weiner and Ann Marie Calhoun were both sick as well, and Jeremy was lightheaded during the set. Only Alex and I escaped the bus bug (must have been all that drinking we did in Dublin - we simply made our bodies unsuitable hosts for germs).
MOSCOW: This is already way too long, but I could fill pages and pages about Moscow alone. The scale of the place is huge, almost beyond understanding. Here's what I mean by that. You know how New York, Boston and Philadelphia have a small scale to them, with narrow streets, buildings right next to each other, all that? And then if you go into the midwest, the streets are slightly larger, things are a bit more spread out? And then when you get to the western cities, like Phoenix, Denver and Los Angeles, the scale is even bigger still? Well, Moscow's scale dwarfs any U.S. western city. Imagine a major city street with seven lanes on each side of the road, and buildings whose size matches that kind of urban-engineered ambition. It's almost as if the city planners said, "OK, we'll show everyone, we're going to build the biggest, baddest city in the world!" And while their ultimate vision didn't quite turn out as expected, it's still unique and amazing.
MORE MOSCOW: We saw Red Square, the Kremlin, the amazing multi-colored cathedrals, ate traditional Ukrainian food, drank cranberry-flavored vodka, and yes, played a show for 3,000 people in a new venue that used to be a heavy machinery factory (the 30-ton lift and 1-ton motors were still mounted in the ceiling!). There I was, playing a show with Steve Vai for thousands of screaming, ecstatic music fans...in Moscow. It was one of many times during the tour that I had to pinch myself in disbelief, and once I felt the pinch and didn't wake up, deep gratitude ensued.
AND THEN: Three hours of sleep, off to the airport in Moscow, a 2-hour check-in for an Aeroflot flight to Munich (I flew first class because they ran out of economy seats!), and a 2-hour van shuttle ride to Schwaz, Austria, where I was deposited at a hotel in a mountain-and-river setting right out of The Sound Of Music. Three days off, nothing to do but rest. Sure enough, the bus bug caught up with me, but here I let it run its course while I slept and slept and slept.
PERSONALLY SPEAKING: As I sit here in Austria, getting ready to play the Austria Outreach Festival with Mike Keneally and Marco Minnemann, a few things come to mind about the experience of touring Europe at this level, and with Steve specifically. First, it's a great exercise in being cool with whatever's going on, because touring (even with Steve Vai) has its challenges - you can't always get what you want right when you want it, you're in a close space, there's very little privacy, people don't speak your language, etc. etc. It takes a lot not to get crazy in a situation like that, and everyone in the band and crew was awesome about it, and I learned a lot from them. Second, Steve as a bandleader is inspiring, and not in a rah-rah kind of way, but more in where he stands metaphysically while the touring machine whirrs and roars its way along - he really helped me get that whatever my concerns of the day were, showtime was the time to put them aside, be grateful for the opportunity we had, and put on the best possible show for whoever was watching. That made a big difference for me more than once during the tour. Third, I learned a lot about being on stage, period. Given the chance, I'd probably just stand there and play my parts, maybe rock back and forth a little bit, and call it a good show. Steve - and Dave and Jeremy especially - showed me that it takes more than that to play a rock show, and Steve always drove it home to me that "This is a rock show!" I got the picture, and adjusted accordingly. Fourth, speaking purely musically from a performance standpoint, I had nights where I felt like I owned the crowd and could do no wrong, and other nights where I felt like they all thought I was an idiot and who's this schmuck anyway and where's Billy Sheehan? Well, you can guess which approach yielded better results. Every night I had the opportunity to practice being in the right frame of mind to deliver the kind of show Steve hired me to do, and I am much the better for it. (Of course, the punch line is that most of the crowd wasn't watching me anyway, something I always noted when I looked out and saw thousands of heads looking to my right.) And sure enough, when I practiced my own material after the tour was over, some licks that had been technically challenging for me in the past were suddenly flying off my fingers. An unexpected and most welcome benefit.
A CLOSING GRATITUDE: Personally, from where I sit now, everything I've wanted to accomplish in my music career from a notoriety standpoint, I've pretty much done. People were so incredibly kind on this tour, so effusive with their praise, that this, on top of the experience I've already had, has left my admittedly sizable ego sated. Gratitude isn't strong enough a word for what I've been feeling lately. What I really wish I could do is beam my experiences directly into the brains of fellow musicians who've ever wondered what this is like...because, really, this isn't about me anymore. Whatever comes next - the Vai U.S. tour, my next album, working with Keneally, or anyone else - will, hopefully, be about the impact it has on those who are listening, whatever that is, and I'll just get out of the way. That's where I want to come from. Because I've noticed that, when I do, there is nothing but joy.
(Tour pictures to follow.)
STEVE VAI TOUR REPORT: From somewhere in Germany, in the middle of the night, at our first hotel in three days, comes to you this brief, picture-laden tour report...
LUXEMBOURG: First show, had the energy of a first show, felt like a first show. Yours truly, Mr. So-Called Veteran, took about six songs to get his sea legs under him. But once I did, things got a lot more fun, the noise in my head ("omfg omfg omfg I'm playing with Steve Vai and it's really loud up here and there are a lot of people out there and they're all screaming and...and...and...) quieted, and it started to hit me just how lucky I was. It also hit me how amazing Steve is - not just in how he plays, but how he puts on a show and commands the audience while playing all of this ridiculous music. It's enough for me to stand there and pull this off. He's freakin' dancing and hopping and looking away from the neck of his guitar and god knows what else. He floors me.
PARIS: A dream gig. Beautiful venue, three levels in a gorgeous ornate theater, totally sold out, unbelievable crowd, great sound onstage, awesome band communication. Starting to get really comfortable with Steve throwing me a solo in "Freak Show Excess" (if you ever try soloing in 7/16 with a 5+5+7/16 turnaround at an insanely fast tempo, I recommend using effects). Jeremy Colson is a rock god. Alex and Annie are running up to the front of the stage and rocking out with Steve. Dave Weiner's solo tune is a trio piece and it rocks the house. Even I get up front for "Juice". Feels good. May do it again. Looking up at three floors of fans all standing and cheering at the end of the show was a moment frozen in time for me...I'll never forget it.
BIDDINGHUIZEN: The Arrow Rock Festival, featuring Aerosmith, Toto, Scorpions, Tesla, Europe, Thin Lizzy, and more. No sound check, a cursory line check, a total kamikaze run. A new challenge for me, a familiar challenge for Jeremy, Dave and Steve. The show had its ups and downs, some technical issues, but basically the crowd of about 5,000 loved it. There's an art to staying calm amidst the frenzy of a festival atmosphere, and it looks like I'll have several chances to practice it on this tour.
TOTO: Lee Sklar, session ace and kind soul that he is, e-mailed me a day ahead of time to let me know he was going to be there. We hooked up, talked, and I saw him and freakin' Steve Lukather (a friend of Vai's) watching us from sidestage. Afterwards, we all hung, they were very kind (too kind, perhaps) regarding our show, and pictures were taken. Like...
Me watching Toto on the main stage, estimated crowd 15,000 people.
Lee Sklar and I, backstage at the Arrow Rock Festival.
Steve Lukather and I. Met him for the first time.
Left to right: Lee Sklar, me, Steve Vai, John Sykes (formerly of Whitesnake!)
So the whole Vai band watched the second half of Toto's set from sidestage, with Simon Phillips on drums, and they were amazing. Such great songs, such a deep groove, all of them singing their asses off. A real thrill.
STAR POWER: Then, it was time for Aerosmith. Let me tell you something, it's tough to get star struck in the middle of something like this, but when you see Steven Tyler walking around, it happens. We were like, "Wow, that's really Steven Tyler right there." (OK, not so much Vai, but the rest of us.) It wasn't easy to get sidestage for Aerosmith, but who should come to the rescue but...Magee! Longtime readers will remember John McGee, Mike Mangini's drum tech on the infamous Vai Fire Garden tour (and opener Keneally's "Half Alive In America" tour, documented fully here), as the funniest person I've ever met in my life. Well, he also lost over a hundred pounds since then, and got us in a position to see the band from point blank range. My hero!
Me and Magee, together again after eleven years.
(Also, a BIG shout-out to Bobby, Brad Whitford's tech, who let us stand right in his work area for the whole show!)
So the show started, and I got to see what it really looks like at the highest possible level. Steven Tyler does not take one single minute off on stage, not one! He is in constant motion. I took about forty pictures before I finally got this one:
Living legend Steven Tyler, two feet from me.
Eventually, the whole Vai band, plus Lee Sklar, Steve Lukather and Steve Vai, were all watching the show together. At some point, Steven Tyler noticed the collection of heavies sitting at stage right (Sklar, Luke and Vai, I mean), and during "Love In An Elevator" (or was it "Livin' On The Edge"?), came running towards us at full speed and shoved the mike in Lee Sklar's face, and they shouted the chorus together.
Steven Tyler leans into Lee Sklar, while Steve Lukather sits to his right. Vai was just out of frame on the right.
I am a very, very, very lucky man.
The amazing Mike Mesker (Vai's webmaster and online marketing guru) has live shots of me and the band playing, and you'll see those soon, plus candid stuff of the band. But I couldn't wait to share with you what happened at the festival. Onto to Germany...
JUNE REFLECTIONS FROM LUXEMBOURG: The past three weeks were a complete blur, or else I'd have written sooner. Here's my excuse - while I was rehearsing with Steve Vai in L.A. throughout June, I tracked a complete record with Mike Keneally Band guitarist Rick Musallam and singer/songwriter Colin Keenan for their new rock project called Mother Eff, and the result was nearly 20 straight days of wall to wall musical work. It was all great fun, don't get me wrong, but the days and nights were full, and I left it all on the various basses I was playing. So as I sit here in Luxembourg with a blessed day off before the first show of the European Vai tour, here's what I remember of June...
THE 9-STEP STEVE VAI REHEARSAL METHOD: 1) Play something incorrectly. This is inevitable, as what you think is correct from listening to the album is highly unlikely to be exactly what Steve wants. 2) Watch Steve shake his head 'no'. 3) If passage is fast, slow tempo down greatly. 4) Play small part of passage several times. 5) Watch Steve shake his head 'no'. 6) Listen to Steve sing the desired inflections and accents in strange, newly-created syllabic language. 7) Play passage many, many times in a row, cycling it like a loop over and over again. As many times as you think are necessary to gain facility of the passage, multiply this number by three. Eight) Upon Steve's approval, stop and speed up tempo. 9) Play many, many times in a row at faster tempo. If passage falls apart, return to step (5). If not, move on to next passage and return to step (1).
HEY, IT WORKS: I'm not one to brag about my own technique - because there's little to brag about - but I can honestly say that, thanks to four weeks at Camp Vai, my hands can now do things I didn't think they could do when I got there. I've heard Mike Keneally say many times at clinics that his time in Steve's band was like the best free guitar lesson he ever got. Well, the bass lessons aren't bad either. People don't realize how much of Steve's tracks feature Steve himself on bass. His left hand is Steve Vai's left hand, which can do anything he wants it to do, and he's pretty nasty with a pick. He really gets rock bass playing at a deep level.
SCORE ONE FOR REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY: Which leads me to one of my favorite rehearsal stories...early on, Steve was trying to get a more aggressive bass sound out of me, and I was working with my finger technique and the Xotic BB Preamp's gain stage to get the grindy overdrive he was looking for on "Building The Church." Frustrated, he came over to my station, picked up my bass, and played the part as he'd tracked it, with a pick. Not to be outdone, I said haughtily, "You want me to play with a pick? Give me a pick, I'll play with a pick!" He raised his eyebrows, handed me one, and counted off the tune. I hacked away for less than two bars before he waved off the band and held out his hand, shaking his head and saying, "Gimme that back, now." We were both laughing. He never asked me to play with a pick again.
THE BAND: Now that I've rehearsed with them for a month, here's some quick thoughts on the folks with whom I'm honored to share the Vai stage...
JEREMY COLSON: Aside from a huge groove, blazing chops, killer rock drum sound, and an almost inhuman consistency, Jeremy is just totally Rock. (He might use the term Metal - more on that in a bit). He's seamlessly incorporated some really cool arm-and-stick moves into his natural playing, and he never takes a bar off. His stamina is like nothing I've ever seen; we were at the end of a 12-hour rehearsal and he was pounding out the show closer (a surprise Vai live debut, watch for it) like it was the first song of the night. We've made a deal - I'm supposed to teach him some rhythm theory tricks I've learned throughout the years, and he's going to teach me "how to be metal." I think I have the longer way to go. And wait until you see what he'll be playing during the acoustic set of the show. Hehehe.
ALEX DEPUE: You haven't heard anything until you've heard this guy start pulling off double-stops that shouldn't even be possible on a violin. Part of the show involves Alex quoting a violin cadenza from the Sound Theories record (the orchestra album), and the double-stop intervals involved are totally unfair on that instrument. I've never heard them played better, and never with such fearless and powerful emotional abandon. He does all that, plus he has the ability to improvise pretty much anything he wants at any time, and manages the lion's share of the keyboard parts. Freak.
ANN MARIE CALHOUN: Have you ever watched someone who plays an instrument do it in such a way, with such flowing and flawless technique, and with every motion perfectly and economically measured, that their body seems almost a piece of the instrument itself? That's what I get when I watch Annie (that's what I call her) play violin. I've seen this flawless-technique phenomenon with certain bassists - Gary Willis and Jeff Berlin come to mind - but even that's not a perfect parallel, and not just because Annie's a beautiful woman and Gary and Jeff are, well, Gary and Jeff. Her tone and motions on stage all speak of a grace that I've come to know and appreciate personally, and the way that her and Alex's styles contrast and complement each other has been one of the real joys of being in this band.
DAVE WEINER: The one guy (other than Steve) who hails from my part of the country (the northeast), Dave has been to the fair and seen the bear when it comes to all things Vai, and we've been locked at the hip on the heavy rhythm parts throughout the show. It's pretty amazing to see him causally pulling off the Vai harmony and unison lines, essentially occupying a chair once held by Mike Keneally and Tony MacAlpine. No big deal, right? He's always going back and forth between seven-string guitar, acoustic, and sitar, playing impossible parts, and just getting Steve in a way that few musicians do. He is also unmistakably a Philadelphia guy through and through, and when he gets going on a tear of wise-assery, look out.
STEVE: After leading the band through a final week of rehearsal that saw us hitting the 10, 11 and 12-hours-a-day mark, he thanked us and acknowledged us graciously and profoundly. (Trust me, he's very aware of how "specific" he can be at times, and we all laugh about it at the end of the day.) I'm obviously grateful to him for this incredible opportunity, but I'm also gratified by his trust in us as a band to deliver what he wants from his music. He's also opening up sections in certain tunes for more improvisational opportunities, and I think that each show is going to be really special in its own way. But I have to mention this one thing: After watching him play for a month, I'm floored by the amount of theoretical complexity that goes into each one of the melodies and solos he performs. Sections that sound like just a fast flurry of notes invariably contain rhythms and inflections so dense and specific, it's hard to imagine any human being could possibly keep track of it all, let alone execute forty successive variations of such passages. But that's Steve Vai, and there really is no one else that does what he does. It's completely unique, and it's literally amazing.
GEAR: I'm playing three Mike Lull basses on this tour - my main axe, the 5-string active jazz; a 5-string active fretless; and a 4-string passive jazz. They're all superb. Plus, I'll be using the ultimate SWR rig: the brand new SM-1500 head (right on the front page of the SWR site), which powers an SWR Megoliath 8x10 and two SWR Goliath III 4x10's all by itself with the master volume just under '3'. To paraphrase Pantera, it's a vulgar display of bass power.
I HEART BASS PLAYER MAGAZINE: And they heart me right back, but never more so than in the July issue. It contains the feature I did on Tool's Justin Chancellor as the cover story, the Masterclass column I did on Adam Nitti, plus 3 CD reviews...and Editor-In-Chief Bill Leigh's monthly one-page column is all about me, me, me. If this doesn't get you to subscribe, nothing will. Seriously, there's more really cool stuff to come, so keep an eye out for it.
TOUR BLOGGING: Coming soon to a browser near you, in more easily digestible bites. I'll probably be triple-cross-posting on bryanbeller.com, MySpace, and Vai.com, so no excuses for not keeping up, OK?
THE REHEARSAL VAI-BE: So we're a little over a week into the Steve Vai rehearsals, which last anywhere from 7 to 9 hours a day. It's been incredibly challenging and invigorating from a stamina standpoint alone; I haven't done rehearsals this long since the Dweezil Zappa days. (Mike Keneally wouldn't run a 9 hour rehearsal for his own gig unless the show was the next day and we didn't know any of the material...and sometimes not even then! Ah, those were the days...) And we're playing LOUD. I mean, really loud. Me included - I'm more than an equal opportunity decibel-blaster with my 1500-watt SWR head and sixteen 10" speakers rumbling the room. I've stuffed little bits of tissue paper in my ears on a regular basis for the first time ever. Have I mentioned that it's loud in that room? What did you say?
THE BAND: Guitarist Dave Weiner and drummer Jeremy Colson are the band vets and really get Steve, how he thinks, how he operates, all that. They're ridiculously incredible musicians, have been nothing but great to me, and have graciously tolerated my tendency to be, uh, controlling at times. (True confessions: It's hard to break the habit of acting like the longest-serving-guy-in-the-band, as I've been with Keneally for almost ten years now.) The violinists, Alex DePue and Anne Marie Calhoun (such great names!), are both freaks as well, and have been tasked with playing and harmonizing Steve's most extreme melodies and solos in an environment about 43 times louder than anything they've ever experienced...and double on keyboards to boot. They are brave souls and will be rewarded by open jaws and wide, amazed eyes of audience members everywhere.
ALL ABOUT STEVE: He's very particular in what he wants from his musicians. This is not news. It is news to my fingers every once in a while, and as a result I'm learning new techniques, which is just way too cool. So cool, in fact, that I've written a Bass Player Magazine column on my experience with learning "Freak Show Excess" exactly the way Steve wants it played, which is unorthodox to say the least. It'll run later this year and should be a hoot to read.
THE MUSIC: More ambitious than ever. Not just in the repertoire, but in the arrangements. It's like chamber music on trucker crank. The Steve Vai sextet? The Steve Vai small ensemble? Whatever it is, I'm damned glad to be the bassist for it. If this tour is coming near you and you haven't bought a ticket yet, well, that's just wrong.
STEVE SAYS: Check out his first-person musings on the band right here.
SOUND THEORIES: You'll see from the front page of Vai's website that the CD/DVD of the shows he did with Holland's Metropol Orchestra (with your humble narrator on bass throughout) is about to be released. Sound Theories hits stores June 26. There are all sorts of special order opportunities and instructions as well. I couldn't be prouder to have been a part of it. I recommend the digi-pak straight from Vai.com. Totally worth it.
IDIOCRACY: Mike Judge's latest studio-killed movie was just released on DVD. Funniest thing I've seen in years. See it now. One word: "Batin'!"
THE STORY: If you're reading this, chances are you already know that I'm fortunate enough to have landed the Steve Vai gig for a Summer 2007 tour in Europe and the U.S. It's really quite difficult to put into words just how grateful I am for this...and one of the first things that came up for me was the desire to share the experience with fellow musicians, because in a perfect universe, everyone should be able to feel the joy that I felt when I realized I got the gig. So let me just say that I plan on sharing the experience along the way - perhaps not in a long-form "This Is The Story Of The Tour" retrospective type of format, but with little morsel-sized experiences and insights as they happen. And I'm doing it with the intention for those who choose to read along gaining something from it for themselves, whatever that may be.
MORE ON THAT "TELLING THE STORY" BUSINESS: Honestly, in the past it's likely I would have felt compelled to write a 20-page treatise on How It All Happened and What It All Means. To be even more honest, usually that kind of story was informed by some need to make it all Really Very Important, that whatever I was doing was more significant that those around me. Well, that's a crock, I realize now. What everyone's doing is significant in its own way. I just didn't want to hear that because I was often caught up in reliving my own drama about whatever it was that was going on. The first piece of writing I ever did that didn't come from that place was the most recent Act of The Life Of Bryan, "Relearning To Fly", and it was the most rewarding piece of writing I've ever done.
DON'T GET ME WRONG: I'm proud of what I've written over the years, and the story of what it's like to be a professional musician trying to figure it all out is one that many have written me to say how much they got out of it. All I'm doing here is copping to where I now realize that writing was coming from, and that there was an impact in reality to looking at what was going on for me in that way. To bring this back home - in the past I looked at things as if they "Were happening to me," and so they did, and I'd write about them, usually in the form of a somewhat interesting and articulate complaint. More recently, my view has shifted, things don't "happen to me" anymore, and I spend a lot less time complaining and a lot more time being grateful. And life is a hell of a lot more fun this way, no matter what I happen to be doing or what gig I happen to be playing.
ELEVEN IS A MAGIC NUMBER AFTER ALL: Eleven years ago, I auditioned for the Steve Vai gig against only one other candidate, and I didn't get it. This month, I auditioned against many more candidates, and I got it. In the past, it happened to me. This month, it just happened. End of story. Is it possible for a view of life to impact life as it happens? You tell me.
(BTW, the title of the above paragraph's post is an inside-joke shout-out to the longtime readers of this website - you know who you are, and I thank you endlessly for your support.)
MAJOR PROPS TO BILLY SHEEHAN: He's amazing. It's hard to believe that I have been tapped to follow him in Steve's band, and it's my honor to do so, and I do so with the utmost respect. I'm not even going to try and fill his shoes; my feet don't move that fast. Back in 2001 I had the privilege of interviewing him for the Taylor Guitars' house publication Wood&Steel, and he was a pleasure to meet and a perfect gentleman to speak with. I mention this because I feel it deeply, and also because, apparently, there's some untrue noise about Steve and Billy somewhere on the internet, and Steve sets the record straight right here. My un-asked-for opinion: There's no need to create problems where there aren't any, and there aren't any. Life's too short for that kind of stuff anyway. We all have a lot to be grateful for.
NOW THAT YOU'VE READ ALL THAT MUMBO-JUMBO: Here's how it went down. I did know about the open auditions in early May, but because of a crazy schedule leading up to it (from April 24 through May 1 I went from L.A. to Sacramento to Las Vegas and then back to Nashville), I wasn't sure how I was going to get there without some massive last-minute air travel re-routing. Steve and I had dialogue about it, and he said that he knew my playing and loved my playing, but wanted to hear who was out there, which I understood, and it wasn't immediately necessary for me to come out in the midst of that, though he wasn't opposed to it. He left it up to me, and after a few days of thinking about it, suddenly I got some work in Nashville for early May, and thought to myself, "well, that's what there is to do, then." So I booked the Nashville work, let Steve know that I was available and willing to get back to L.A. whenever he wanted, and just allowed myself to be OK with whatever happened.
SURE ENOUGH: I got the call to come on back to L.A. the day after I got home from Vegas on May 1. I already knew "The Crying Machine" but didn't know "Freak Show Excess," which is difficult...and to make a long story short, between the necessary schedule and my work in Nashville, I had about five hours to learn it. I gave it the best shot I could, got it to the point where I could play through it (if not perfectly), and got a little precious sleep before taking off to L.A. on Friday, May 4 on an 8AM flight. At 12 noon I was off the plane, at 12:30 I was in the rental car, and by 1:00 I was playing with Steve, drummer Jeremy Colson, a young guitarist, and several violinists who had come down for the audition.
WHAT IT WAS LIKE: I was too tired to be nervous. It didn't actually occur for me to be nervous. It was all very Twilight-Zone-y because of the travel and lack of sleep. We ran "Freak Show" and I made it to the end in one piece, notes be damned. Jeremy and I locked right away; he's a great drummer and you could drive a truck through his groove and pocket. Then we did "Crying Machine" a couple of times for the various violinists, who were damned good. After that we jammed for a while in 13/8, not my all-time fave time signature, but something happened and music was made. Finally we jammed for a while, and it was a lot of fun, but I have to admit, near the end there were a couple of moments where I was so tired that I was thinking, "When is this going to be over so I can go pass out somewhere?" Yeah, at a Steve Vai audition.
AND THEN: We exchanged heartfelt compliments all around. Good vibes were definitely happening. Or was I delirious? Didn't matter. I left to have dinner with a friend. Eventually (the when really doesn't matter), Steve called to say I got the gig. And it was good. Really good.
AND THAT'S ALL?!: Like I said, I could go on and on, but I'm going to choose not to. I'll have more to say from the road, and maybe even from the rehearsals. For now, I just want to reiterate how grateful I am, and how lucky I am to be able to share this with whoever's reading along. For any player who's ever wanted to have a moment like the one I'm experiencing, this blog's for you. Cheers, mates.
WESFEST 2 BRIEF SHOW REPORT: Many of you have asked how WesFest 2 went. All I can say is that it was simply amazing. It was bigger, better, and more celebratory than last year. The show itself was 6 1/2 hours of incredible music, and each of the seven bands delivered the goods and had people in the crowd losing their minds. Over 200 people came through the doors, and at one point the place was so crowded you could barely move. From Janet Robin's sizzling acoustic set, to the eclectic Jariya's final show in L.A., to the searing vocal rock of Jude Crossen (god, can that man sing!), to the show-stealing, Hammond-organ-fueled funk thunder of The Dirty Janks, to the collective power of the 7-bands-within-a-band WesFest All-Stars, to the mindblowing virtuosity of Stu Hamm, and finally to the super-bad and ultra-legit R&B of Danny Mo and The Exciters, the whole thing was so massively cool it almost doesn't do it justice to even describe it in words.
A MOVING PICTURE IS WORTH...: That's why we captured the audio in full multi-track splendor. This time, with a multi-camera video shoot and pro-quality audio, the resulting DVD will capture the spirit of WesFest 2 and then some. Look for that in a few months.
GRATITUDE: In the meantime, the financial results are still rolling in, but suffice it to say that it was an over-the-top success, and an especially rewarding night for everyone involved. I certainly felt privileged to be playing the role of MC and general circus ringleader. But this would be an opportunity to extend my thanks to everyone who helped put the event together - you know who you are - and to everyone who contributed financially and otherwise. Without a powerful group effort, things like this just don't work. It was a reflection of how strong the Wes Wehmiller community is that the event was so electric. Props to y'all, on and on.
NOW, ABOUT ME, ME, ME!: I just finished recording an album for Mr. Phi Yaan-Zek. It's always a thrill to hear someone who's managed to combine the Zappa, Vai and Mike Keneally influences, along with several others, put them in their own blender, and come up with a compositional voice that does the eclectic genre proud, and that's just what Phi did with the material for this upcoming release. Plus, the drummer for these sessions was the soon-to-be-world-famous Marco Minnemann (he's going to be on the cover of the June issue of Modern Drummer - congrats Marco!), and it was my distinct pleasure to be in his and Phi's musical space for four days. I was able to stretch out and really push my own playing; soloing, solo pieces, slapping, crazy sounds and textures, it's all there. It's going to be a very cool, very odd, very interesting record, and I recommend it to everyone reading. By the way, Phi and I met through MySpace. See, it really does work. Just a hint for anyone out there thinking about having me on their record...it's really gratifying for me to be a part of someone else's cool musical vision, and I welcome the opportunities when they come up. In other words, I'm always available to talk or e-mail about your project. (Really? Yes, really.)
NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT: Two days after WesFest 2, I was fortunate enough to play a gig with my super-talented hottie girlfriend, Kira Small, at the renowned West Hollywood listening room Genghis Cohen. I've played there a ton of times in the past, but I don't think I ever had as much fun as I did this time around. Kira's very first full-set gig in L.A. was an absolute smashing success, with a packed house of friends, fans, and folks Kira hadn't seen in as many as 15 years. The band was pretty cool too: Rick Musallam on guitar, the one and only James Gadson (Bill Withers) on drums, Kira singing and playing keys, and yours truly on bass. Gadson has that crazy old-school swing to everything he does; it's almost impossible to describe, but you know it when you hear it (think old Motown) and it's mindblowing to play with. Kira owned the room, sang her ass off, and got a rousing ovation. Thank you, Los Angeles, for showing my gal a good time. And if for some reason you've never heard her stuff, getcha some at her MySpace page or her website.
THIS IS YOUR LIFE, THE SPECIAL EDITION DVD: (If you're a long-time Keneally fan, you'll want to check this out. If not, you may not get the next two paragraphs. You've been warned.) One last thing on this long and wacky SoCal trip I just completed...since I was staying at Chatfield Manor during the Phi Yaan-Zek sessions, I had the opportunity to watch the special-edition DVD package of Boil That Dust Speck. I don't know what to say about it other than my mind was totally blown. I didn't remember that there was video rolling while we tracked "'Cause Of Breakfast", "My Dilemma" and "Land Of Broken Dreams", but there is, and when I saw myself pop up on screen, with long hair and no goatee and a look on my face that screamed "what the hell am I doing here?" I practically fell out of my seat. I watched myself play the solo from "My Dilemma", the one that went on the record, for the first time ever. Throughout it all, I almost didn't recognize myself, in more ways than one.
ENOUGH ABOUT ME: The real magic starts with Doug Lunn and Toss Panos. Try and imagine the one spot on the album - "Sooth", "Skunk", "Top Of Stove Melting", "Natty Trousers", "In The Bone World" - that you wished you could watch video of it as it went down. Chances are it exists and that it's on this DVD. 1994 might not be a million years ago, but it's far enough back to be amazed that it could be brought back to life in such stellar fashion. Dave Foster has really outdone himself this time. Super-highly recommended.
COMING SOON: Wish I knew. I've got six or seven balls in the air and I don't know where any of them are going to land just yet. Supporting your career as a solo artist by being a freelance musician sure is exciting sometimes. Yes, in a good way.
WESFEST 2 FUNDRAISING DRIVE HOME STRETCH: Please indulge me for this brief announcement...if you're on any of my mailing lists (and if you're not, you should be), you've probably heard about WesFest 2, the second annual benefit concert we're doing to benefit the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship at Berklee College Of Music. The event takes place on March 6 at The Gig in Los Angeles, and it's going to feature the one and only Stu Hamm as headliner, plus a ton of other great performers. I mention this because there's only one week left for advance ticket sales, and also because even if you can't make it to the show, there are plenty of other ways to contribute to this worthy cause.
To buy tickets, and for all the information you'd ever want about the event, including location, time, and donation procedures, just go here:
PICKIN' WITH JOHNNY HILAND: For the guitar enthusiasts out there, the name Johnny Hiland may ring a bell. He opened up for the G3 tour not too long ago, he's an artist on Steve Vai's Favored nations label, and he's one of the hottest guitarists I've ever seen, bar none. Absolutely Nashville-based, he's kind of where blues and muzo meet and do cartwheels together. Put another way, he takes blues, country and rock, and combines them in a way that practically defies description. I'll be doing some gigs with him in Nashville this month and next (see the Upcoming Appearances for details). He's just fantastic and I'm honored to be playing with him. Plus, he has this charming way of referring to his musicians as "pickers". Let's see if I can keep up with him. Nashvillians may want to come out just to see me play "Orange Blossom Special" for the very first time in my life.
MOVING: A personal note - I just moved into a charming house in the West Meade section of Nashville with my superawesomegirlfriend, Kira Small. This is the first time I've lived in a house (and not an apartment) since living with my parents 18 years ago, and it's just so damned wonderful I don't even know where to start. The process of moving, however, was everything we all know and love it to be. As such, I've been way off of MySpace and website updates for some time, and haven't responded to folks who've sent me CD's to check out in my usual timely fashion. If you're reading this on MySpace (this is a crosspost), just know that I'll eventually respond to messages and comments where appropriate, and beg your patience in the meantime while we make our cool new house a home.
OTHER NEWS IN BRIEF: The NAMM Bass Bash was a breakthrough success for the Bryan Beller Band. For pictorial proof, just go here and scroll through the pages...I'm proud to announce that I'm now a Contributing Editor for Bass Player Magazine, so look for more frequent Beller sightings in the pages of BP (thanks to everyone there for being so cool with me all these years)...don't forget about the gig I'm doing with Kira at Genghis Cohen on March 8 in Los Angeles...I may be doing some bass clinics in Southern California in April and July, so stay tuned for that...and while progress on my next album, Thanks In Advance, has been halted due to moving, I've got 45 minutes of music written and only 3 songs to go. When I'm done with the writing, I'll post a demo on the website to show my appreciation for your patience. Was it really over three years ago that View came out?
FINALLY: You're cool for reading this.
SOMETHING TO KICK OFF 2007 WITH: You can probably tell from looking around that this website is largely about my solo artist thing. But do I have time for other projects? Yes. Do I play all kinds of music, not just jazz/rock/fusion? YES. Would I be interested in tracking bass for your project? WHY, PERHAPS, YES!
Just click on the navigation bar above where it says "Links & Contact" to e-mail me if you're interested in any of the following:
* Local sessions or gigs in Nashville (I have a car)
* Remote sessions via files (I have a great Pro Tools guy here in town)
* Sessions or gigs involving travel (I know where the airport is)
* Clinics or educational appearances (I play well with others)
* Custom bass transcriptions of Keneally, Beller, or any bass material you want to see on paper (I *heart* Finale)
* Freelance writing (articles, interviews, advice columns, whatever)
* Something I haven't thought of, but you have (I'm not omniscient. Yet.)
NOW THAT I'VE SAID THAT: The writing process for my second solo album, Thanks In Advance, continues unabated. I've just returned from an awesome eight-day holiday trip and am recharged to the fullest. I'm shooting for the end of April to be done with the writing for the record, I'm looking forward to bringing the Bryan Beller Band to NAMM for the first time, and a WesFest 2 announcement is just around the corner. That's all for now - stay tuned. Big news coming soon on that, and more.
BEFORE I FORGET: Happy holidays and happy new year, y'all! This one's gonna rock, I can feel it...
BEFORE WE GO ANY FURTHER: Have you bought the WesFest DVD yet? If not, all I ask is, click the above and have a look at what I'm talking about, and then make up your mind. And now back to your regularly scheduled program...
THE SLICK FAMILY: You probably have heard about the amazing new young phenom drummer Eric Slick, who played a gig with Keneally and I in St. Louis back in October and kicked major ass. He also has a bass-playing sister named Julie, and the two of them are currently serving as the rhythm section for none other than Adrian Belew (is that not the coolest, cutest thing you've ever heard of?). So when a female Slick found me on MySpace, I quickly approved the friend request and wrote her back, telling her that I couldn't wait to see her play with Eric. Imagine my embarrassment when Robin Slick wrote me back and informed me that she was, in fact, Eric's mother. But that miscommunication turned into a new friendship with a very cool self-confessed "rock 'n' roll Mom" and professional, published novelist. I highly recommend checking out her voluminous, constantly updated blog, as well as her brand new website (and not just because she has kind things to say about about my album View). She's a warm, wonderful spirit and, obviously, she brought those kids up pretty damned well.
BASS PLAYER LIVE REPORT: I gotta admit, it felt a little weird to be doing a clinic as me, Bryan Beller, at the big bass brouhaha Bass Player Live in New York City. Practically every hot bassist in the county was there and performing - Marcus Miller, Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten, Steve Bailey, Jeff Berlin, I could go on - and there I was, teaching a clinic I called "Extreme Bass Lines," which frankly I came up with just because I had to come up with something. I had no idea what I was really going to do until a couple of days before the event.
SONGWRITING, MUZO STYLE: What I came up with ended up being really rewarding for both myself and the audience. I chose to share how I go about writing instrumental music, and how, while the bass parts have plenty of meat and complexity to them, I always try to make sure that whatever I do on the bass is aligned with the song's groove, feel, vibe, and, ultimately, its meaning. Attendees got partial transcriptions of (and detailed conversations about) "Supermarket People", "Seven Percent Grade", "Get Things Done" and Keneally's "'Cause Of Breakfast" (I explained the infamous middle section!), and I played all of those songs along with a bass-less mix for good measure. I'll share one question and answer with you that seemed to really make the audience do a double-take. Someone asked me how I start the writing process. Did I start with a melody, or a groove, or a chord structure, or a bassline, or what? I told him that, actually, I start with a series of song titles that give a hint of the meanings of those songs, and then I start writing to the title and meaning of each particular song, and that could happen in any number of ways. I swear I saw the majority of the audience cock their heads to the side and say, "Huh?" I don't know...seems normal to me. Anyway, it was fun, and I look forward to the opportunity to do more of these types of events in the future.
BONUS BASS PLAYER ITEM: I was commissioned on very short notice to write a feature story on the event's concert. This involved transcribing excerpts of solos from Marcus Miller, Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten, Stu Hamm, Jeff Berlin, Billy Sheehan and Sekou Bunch, and writing a bit about each of them. Yes, for a brief moment in time, I could play each example, if not 100% a tempo. Look for it in an upcoming issue.
RETURN TO SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: I don't know what it is with when Keneally asks me to pay a Circus Of Values all-improv gig at Dizzy's in San Diego, but it always seems to be with a complete freak of a drummer. Last time, a couple of years back, it was with Virgil Donati, whose mindblowing combination of independence and aggression left Keneally and I dazed, not to mention exhausted. This time we did it with Rick Musallam and brand new San Diego resident Marco Minnemann filling the freakdrum slot, and I've never had a better time on an all-improv gig. Shortly before the first set began, Mike let us know that he wanted the entire first set to be one continuous song, a 45-minute orgy of unplanned musical mayhem. And so it was, as we careened from groove to groove, solo to solo, texture to texture, and made sure to leave enough room for Marco to play a drum solo that blew the entire audience into next week. If you're a tape collector, you'll be wanting that one. And also...
MARCO DOES THE BAKED POTATO WITH THE MKB: All I can say about this gig is that is was the most powerful MKB throwdown since the show that spawned Guitar Therapy Live. The longtime hardcores were there, the ones who've seen us do it a hundred times, and they walked out headless. I walked out thoroughly satisfied. If I didn't see you there, I'll next be back in SoCal for NAMM in January of 2007.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA VS. MIDDLE TENNESSEE: I forgot how much better the weather is and how much worse the traffic is there. Now I remember.
MIDDLE TENNESSEE VS. THE BLACK HILLS OF SOUTH DAKOTA: Don't ask how or why, but my gig with up-and-coming country artist Kyle Wyley took me to Rapid City, SD less than a week after my return to Nashville from SoCal. We flew into Billings, MT and drove seven snow-filled hours to Rapid City from there. The next day, when things cleared up, our entourage chose to take a slight scenic detour to...wait for it...Mt. Rushmore! I'd never been there before. It's not easy to get to for most folks, 'cause Rapid City ain't near nowhere. But if you ever get close, it is really, really worth it. Even the clouds partially obscuring the view didn't dampen the festivities. Photographic evidence is shown below.
Under a partially obscured Mt. Rushmore, from left to right: drummer Dave Spak (India.Arie), keyboardist John Maddick (Alabama, The Righteous Brothers), me, guitarist Danny (forgot his last name) and background singer Lindsay Hager. Fun times on those seven-hour drives.
Once the clouds cleared, I got the shot I came for.
This time, with a little extra zoom engaged. Score one for being a musician.
FAMOUS MONTANAN SIGHTING: On our flight home, sitting in first class, was none other than soon-to-be-ex-Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT). If you don't have any interest in politics, now's the time to sign off. If you do, the rest of this entry is for you...
THOUGHTS ON THE ELECTION: As some longtime readers know, I used to comment regularly on politics. I've pretty much retired that hat, as I've come to realize that a lot of my commentary was designed primarily to make me look smart (which only intermittently worked anyway), and served very little purpose other than a redundant contribution to the partisan noise machine that constitutes most political debate in this country. So now I just put my money where my mouth is and contribute to Democrats, as they come far closer to the fiscally-moderate/socially-liberal/foreign-policy-realist camp I find myself in than the current crop of Republicans. There are far more insightful political writers than I currently deducing the meaning of last week's Democratic victory, so my addition to this conversation is with all due humility, and won't be repeated anytime soon.
ONE POSSIBLE MEANING: The American people, in my view, are far smarter than the professional politicos realize. They sorted through myriad media-driven messages on hundreds of issues, some real, some designed to serve a specific purpose, and chose based on the results of the past few years. I hold no quarter for today's GOP, but its difficult to argue that, when they took power of Congress in 1994, they didn't stand for something, because they did: limited government, stronger defense, lower taxes, and a more conservative social society. That vision was somehow supplanted by an argument that, to the best of my knowledge, went like this, "Regardless of how things are going, it will be bad for you to elect someone other than us, and here's why..." The dictionary definition of the word "cynicism" is as follows: "An attitude of scornful or jaded negativity." For a political party to believe that voters would ignore events simply because someone told them that things would be worse - and not just worse, but a defeat for America - if they voiced their displeasure about it, is, to me, as perfect an example of jaded negativity that one could muster. This year, if anything was defeated, it was that cynicism. That's a result I can celebrate, and I did just that.
SO, WHAT NOW?: We'll see if the Democrats can do any better. I hope they do. I'm trying hard not to be cynical about it.
WESFEST DVD AVAILABLE NOW: You've probably noticed from the front page of the site that we've created a DVD of the WesFest benefit concert you heard so much about back in February of this year. And it's available now. And net proceeds will go to benefit the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship Fund at Berklee College Of Music. And I'm fulfilling the DVD orders!
It features a live, super-funky performance of "Supermarket People", plus the Guitar Therapy Live-era Mike Keneally Band (Keneally/Beller/Musallam/Travers) absolutely rocking on "Top Of Stove Melting" and "'Cause Of Breakfast", and Kira Small getting silky smooth on "(When You Call Me) Lover", and SMUG, and Dan Rockett, and Ali Handal, and Touched, and more, more, more.
It's $25. It's for a great cause. Already ready to buy it? Just go here:
Don't know who Wes Wehmiller is? Just go here:
and click "BIO".
Want to know more about what's been going on with events honoring the spirit of Wes? Just go here:
and click "NEWS".
Still curious? Here's a reprinting of the e-mail I sent to The Wes List, a list dedicated to keeping folks informed on events honoring the memory and spirit of Wes, and events to help raise money for the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship. (If you want to be on this e-mailing list, just go to the link directly above and click on "Subscribe".)
Here's the full version of the e-mail I sent out:
Hello, everyone. It’s been a while, but we have a new initiative to support the Wes Wehmiller Memorial Endowed Scholarship at Berklee College Of Music, and I’m eager to fill you in on the details.
Many of the folks on this list were able to make it to Los Angeles for the first annual WesFest, and the event was a great success, raising over $12,000. for the scholarship. But not everyone was able to attend, and many asked me and others to keep them informed of ongoing events, especially ways to contribute in the future.
In that spirit, we are proud to present the Official WesFest DVD!
WesFest: A Concert to Benefit the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship at Berklee College Of Music, is a full length (about 90 minutes) DVD, and serves as the official document of the first annual WesFest. It contains live performances from all eight WesFest performers:
The Mike Keneally Band
It also includes heartfelt speeches from Peter Gordon (Director of the Berklee Center in Los Angeles), Roger Brown (President, Berklee College Of Music), and Wes’ parents, John and Paula Wehmiller.
Like many things about WesFest, the idea for the DVD came about spontaneously. While the event was not originally intended to be professionally documented, months of work on several sources of audio, plus three different video camera shots, provided the raw material. The end result is, in my view, a truly special, high-quality document that reflects the spirit of WesFest in every way.
The great thing about this DVD is that it can accomplish so many things at once:
1) It serves as a document for all those who were there and want to relive the experience
2) It allows those who weren’t in attendance to experience the event, and share their thoughts and memories with those who were there
3) It demonstrates what WesFest is all about, and raises awareness for future events and opportunities to raise money for the fund
4) It empowers the spirit of Wes to live on into the future, both for those who knew him, and also for those who didn’t.
The WesFest DVD can be purchased for $25., which includes all shipping and handling charges. All net proceeds from the WesFest DVD will go to benefit the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship at Berklee College Of Music. So I’m inviting you to continue to support the scholarship fund through the purchase of this DVD.
Payment will be accepted in two ways: 1) check or money order; 2) Credit card/PayPal (PayPal takes credit card payments even if you’re not a PayPal member). Fulfillment will be through Onion Boy Records (a.k.a. ME!).
Complete ordering instructions and procedures can be found here:
At this page you'll see a box in the right hand corner. Click "add to cart" for credit card/PayPal purchases, or click "check/money order" for a mailing address.
(A note about PayPal - I've been using PayPal for years and have had nothing but great experiences with it. With PayPal I can accept credit card payments for the scholarship without the cost and hassle of creating my own separate credit card merchant account. I hope and trust you understand. Don’t want to deal with PayPal? Then just send a check or money order!)
This is the kickoff of a new season of WesFest related activities. First, we’ve got this DVD. But the next WesFest is not too far away. Details will be forthcoming on that soon. For now, I hope you can support the mission of WesFest by purchasing this DVD and spreading the good word about the event, so that future WesFests have the potential to be even bigger and more successful than the inaugural event. Feel free to forward this e-mail to anyone you feel would be interested in supporting the mission of WesFest.
And new information will always be posted at the Tribute To Wes Wehmiller Website, so stay tuned for more info.
I hope all is well for you and yours, and I look forward to hearing from you.
If you're still reading and you're trying to figure out whether or not you're going to buy it, let me make this easy for you: BUY IT!
WesFest DVD order page:
FOR Z HARDCORE FANS ONLY: E-mailer Mike has alerted me to the online presence of some tracks from the Z days that have been redone without vocals, remixed, renamed, and in some cases, added to with additional guitar tracks. They sound way, way, way better than they did on the original release of Music For Pets. If you're interested, here's Mike:
The three tracks are: "Bad Intension" (formerly "What It B"), "Hard 2 Swallow" (formerly "Pure"), and "Axe To Grind" (formerly "Badass"). To check out the tracks:
1] Go to the website: http://www.extrememusic.com
2] Click on "Get Music"
3] Click on "X-Series"
4] Click on "Composer"
5] Scroll down to "Dweezil Zappa".
I dug it. Maybe there's a few folks out there who will too. Thanks Mike!
TAYLOR TOUR PHOTO-BLOGGING: This tour has been great. Lots of old friends and plenty of new ones, especially in North Dakota. Since I'm going to be traveling a lot even when I get home from this tour, I figured I'd just post four pictures and let them do the talking for me.
Our hotel in La Crosse, WI was right next to a Harley dealer, and it was on. Scott Chatfield and I rented a couple of hogs and rode up the northern Mississippi River on the Minnesota side. I didn't have my riding boots with me on this tour, so, yes, the sneakers are kinda dorky. But man oh man, my Dyna Wide Glide could move. Much fun.
The Phaaaaaaaan-tom Of The O-pe-ra is heeeeeere...in-siiiiiide this truck... (note the GPS mounted to the dashboard of the touring vehicle, a.k.a. my minivan)
Standing on the bridge/monument that separates Fargo, ND from Moorhead, MN. I learned all sorts of things about the Red River Valley at this place. Like, the Fargo area is one of the flattest landscapes not just in America, but on planet Earth. Yah, sure, you betcha.
One of the gorgeous parks in Fargo, ND, where it was 80 degrees during our visit. This locale might just pop up in the special edition DVD of the Boil That Dust Speck reissue.
I'm in St. Louis right now. The gig with Eric Slick on drums is tonight. He's cool. I'm thinking it's gonna sound good. If you're in St. Louis, get your ass on down to Off Broadway tonight.
Very much looking forward to getting home to Nashville tomorrow night, I remain...
IT'S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT ME: I try and remember to say that to myself every once in a while, but now I actually have the chance to walk the walk. Kira Small, my sweetheart of a girlfriend - and the reason I moved to Nashville, in case you weren't paying attention many blogs ago - is, in my humble and totally objective opinion, a complete and total badass of a singer/songwriter. She does the slinky, sultry, R&B/soul thing with scary authenticity, and I've been digging her material (and her unshakably groovy bass player, Steve Brantley) for months now. That material comprises her new CD, the about-to-be-released Love In A Dangerous World. She's D.I.Y.-ing it something fierce, releasing it online and independently, and this is my official invitation to check her out for yourself. I proudly present to you, in her own voice, Kira Small:
Hi everyone -
I am beyond delighted to announce that my new CD “Love In A Dangerous World” is DONE and will be available very, very soon. This has been a labor of love and sweat and tears and miles and Jameson’s Irish Whiskey and I am extremely proud of the result. 11 soulful, old school R&B songs, 6 of which I wrote all by my bad little self. Y’all – it sounds soooooo gooooood....if I do say so myself.
I’ve got a few songs up on my myspace page if you’d like to try before you buy. Click here to listen:
I should have them available to ship in 3-4 weeks. So I’m taking orders (for CD’s, mind you) starting now. Order by 10/20/06 and get your CD’s personalized and autographed! (Be sure to tell me who to sign ‘em to) Here’s the breakdown:
CD’s are $15 each
For 1-4 CD’s add $3 total for shipping
For 5-10 CD’s add $6 total for shipping
(Example: 2 CD’s: $15x2 + $3 shipping = $33 total)
Make checks payable to Kira Small and send to this address (no I haven’t moved):
7051 Hwy 70-S PMB#307
Nashville, TN 37221
I’ll email you a receipt and let you know when they’re headed out to you. Credit card sales will be available soon on CD Baby and at my live shows but not just yet. I’ll keep you posted on that. If you want a new CD in your hands soon, get yer check in the mail!!
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for your support.
One additional note - she does accept PayPal. If you're interested in going that route, just let me know by contacting me through this website's contact page and I'll make sure she gets the message and takes care of you.
OPPOSITES ATTRACT: Kira and I often joke about our peculiar cross-breeding of MySpace friends. Whenever I get a request whose page launches a Vince Gill or Dale Watson tune, and whenever she gets one that starts cranking out King Crimson or Frank Zappa, we have a pretty good idea who sent who which way. I guess Paula Abdul and DJ Kool Kat (or whatever the hell his name was) had a point after all. If you know what I'm talking about, you're old.
ROAD REPORT: The Taylor clinics are going great so far. I'm having a blast playing the ssssh-it's-a-big-secret Taylor Protoype Electric Bass, and Mike's getting wilder and wilder with the T5, but we still play acoustically (me on the AB-4, Mike on a Taylor GS) for the first half of the clinic. We're headed for serious northern territory, including the oft-mentioned North Dakota, so if you're from around those parts and you've never seen us live before, this is your chance. I can't even begin to describe how lucky and grateful I am for the opportunity to do this.
I HAVE A HARLEY-DAVIDSON MOTORCYCLE: And I keep forgetting to post a picture of it. It's a 2006 Sportster 883XL, the base model, with custom low handlebars, a two-up seat, a removable windshield, and forward foot controls. Not the biggest or fanciest Harley, but it's enough that it's a friggin' Harley. I get it. As Ferris Bueller once said, it is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.
BEATLES GIG REPORT: I learned 45 Beatles tunes in three days for a gig with Nashville's Beatles tribute band, FAB. We're talking five guys, each of whom possess first-call-session lead-singer voices, playing drums-percussion-keys-guitar-guitar, and me, reading charts of Paul McCartney's bass lines. I always knew he was a badass, but I HAD NO IDEA how cool he was until I did this gig. Listen very closely to the following tunes and you'll know more about what I mean: "Nowhere Man", "With A Little Help From My Friends", "Drive My Car", "You Won't See Me". Just genius. Anyway, the gig was way too much fun. The FAB guys kicked my ass. You should have heard them singing "Paperback Writer." Blew me away.
SIGNING OFF FROM LA CROSSE, WI: That's all for now, but stay tuned for news about the WesFest DVD...live performances from The Mike Keneally Band, Rick Musallam's band SMUG, Kira Small, the full six-piece Bryan Beller Band, and more, with all net proceeds going to the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship at Berklee College Of Music. You heard it here first.
CIAO, ITALIA: As those who've read my tour and travel journals before already know, I've done some hairy road work under extreme conditions. And I've gained more than one "once-in-a-lifetime" musical experience along the way, for which I'm very fortunate. My recent one-week trip to Italy was tailor-made for storytelling, filled with enough hard-to-believe-it-really-happened high and low points to fill a full-size Act of The Life Of Bryan, but I'm going to try and just blog about it and get the point across. In a word, it was unbelievable. Literally. I was there, and still, that's the word that keeps popping up.
THE ITALIAN JOB: I'm tasked with two major responsibilities. First, teach a four-day bass "Master Class" to six small groups of Italian bassists, 8 hours a day. Second, perform a one-hour concert of my own material with a band I've never played with before. The leader/organizer is a brave soul named Andrea Papini. He has recruited me, Michael Manring, Adam Nitti, Jeff Berlin, and many other incredible bassists for the week he calls NoiBassisti. It is easily the biggest single "bass event" in Europe this year, and one of the biggest in the world, alongside Bass Player Live and the "bass boot camps" run by Victor Wooten and Gerald Veasley. And it's all being organized by one guy and his team of friends and musical colleagues. Throw in the "Italian way" of organization and planning (read: many things are scheduled spontaneously) and I was ready for anything.
MICHAEL AND I: After a long red-eye trans-Atlantic flight alongside bass superhero Michael Manring (who went to Berklee the same time as Steve Vai and Victor Bailey; some good stories were told), we arrived in Milan's Malpensa Airport very early on a Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, our luggage did not. I had two suitcases, a pedalboard case and my bass, while Michael has a suitcase and a double-bass case containing his famous blonde Zon Hyperbass, and none of it showed up. It took three hours to get out of the airport with missing luggage paperwork in tow, and that killed our chances for rest before we were due to start teaching that afternoon's Master Class. This would be a good time to mention that I'd never done anything like this before, ever, let alone jet-lagged to hell.
THE LONGEST DAY: Usually when traveling to Europe, the jet-lag challenge is to stay up for the whole next day after flying through the "night" from America the day before. Most people fail and pay in narcoleptic fits for the next three days. I had no choice, as we went from the airport to the class to a big Italian dinner and didn't arrive at the hotel until after 11PM. I do remember starting my first Master Class by repeatedly dropping everything I touched, including my folders of paperwork, CD player, cables, and almost a borrowed Sadowsky. My course was about bass sound, and my students were eager to learn and cared little about my lost luggage, so on I went.
SWEAT BOX: It was hot, humid and sticky both outside and in the classroom. The hotel, we discovered upon our late arrival, had no in-room landline phones, no internet access, and toughest of all, no air-conditioning. It was easily 90 degrees in the room, hotter than the nighttime outside temperature. There was a closed window, however. I opened it, and in flew in a happy, hungry pack of mosquitoes. I quickly got that I had a choice between a room I could sleep in and a room devoid of insects. I chose the former, and woke up with bites on both arms, legs...and three or four on my face.
DAY 2: No word on the bags that morning. I oversleep (hey, no phone, no wake-up call...not bad), which of course is fine because the schedule is totally fluid anyway. I start getting in the swing of teaching the class, and the students are learning to play with their right hands in different positions, and making sounds they haven't made before. There's an office at the class headquarters with wi-fi, but my computer can't connect to the network. Michael Manring and Adam Nitti have no luck with their laptops either. There's one connected computer and one landline telephone in this office, and it quickly becomes apparent that we'll be sharing it all week. Somehow it's all good, as everyone is happy, living and breathing bass and music, and we are treated like lifelong friends. The absence of regular modern communication is disconcerting, but also, in a way, a liberating relief.
MORE DAY 2: Michael and I are told some bags are waiting for us at the hotel, and we're excited. Another long dinner. Back to the sweatbox inn. The bags are not in our rooms. Andrea explains that they aren't too bright, because the locked the lobby of the hotel (it was late) and no one was there to unlock it, and that's where our bags must be. Oh well. I go up to my room, open the window and say hi to the mosquitoes, telling them that I hope they brought their appetite.
DAY 3: I go downstairs to get my bags. Everything (CD's, pedalboard, bass) has arrived but my clothes have not, and Michael Manring has received nothing. I was brought some new underwear the night before, but the shirt and pants have no replacements and are now on their *fourth* day (counting the travel day). I'd hung my black t-shirt in the open window to try and air it out, but putting it back on my body after a shower was one of the nastiest things I've done in quite some time. More Master Class. I'm whipping these students into shape and they're loving it. They're becoming masters of bass tone. I'm becoming a master of stink. Andrea tells Michael and I that the rest of our bags have now arrived at the hotel, and that he would make sure they didn't lock them away. Michael, who is one of the most gentle, mild-mannered-to-a-fault people I have ever met, then let loose with the line of the week: "That's good, because if I can't get to my bags, I'm gonna burn that motherfucker to the ground." It easily rivaled Milton's line from Office Space as the most unexpectedly violent/hilarious (and yet authentic) statement of intention I've ever heard. Indeed, that night the bags were there, and the sweat box inn was saved, as were my students from a fifth day of that rancid black t-shirt.
DAY 4: Final day of Master Class. First day of new clothes. I've got the students playing along with The Raging Honkies' "I'll Get Away" (musically, my class is decidedly more rock-oriented than the others). We check out of the sweat box inn, as that night we'll be upgrading to the Regency in Milan. The focus turns from teaching to performing. It's Friday, the show is Sunday, and the first rehearsal is tonight. The guitarist is Daniele Gregolin, and we've been bonding all week. He listens to both Strapping Young Lad and John Scofield (I thought I was the only one!) and we're getting on great. The keyboard player slot is more fluid; I've been informed three times in the past two weeks that "there is good news - we have a NEW keyboard player!" The most recent notification was two days before. And, of course, Marco Minnemann on drums would make everything special. Rehearsal was due to begin after dinner. We got lost on the way to the rehearsal space and didn't get there until 11PM after an hour-long drive. Marco arrives and is frazzled by the pace, the lack of consistent scheduling and timely information, and several other things. I know how he feels, but on Day 4 of what Andrea lovingly refers to as "The Italian Way," I'm used to it. The rehearsal goes well. The keyboard player is actually a killer jazz pianist named Roberto Tarenzi. Daniele is a Michael Landau freak and is nailing "Get Things Done" and "View." We sound good and play until we're about to pass out. Then we took a wrong turn on the way to the new hotel. Another hour later, we arrived at 2:30AM. I turned the air conditioning up as far as it would go and passed out.
FINAL REHEARSAL DAY: At long last, a late morning. Rehearsal doesn't start until 4PM, and everyone looks like they got a great sleep. We blast through the hour-long set list, which includes the following:
Seven Percent Grade
Driven To Tears (Police)
See You Next Tuesday
Get Things Done
The core band being only a four-piece, it necessitated some creative thinking arrangement-wise and in the set list, but what we had worked great. Adam Nitti would be the special guest bassist in "Blackout" while I pretended to be John Scofield playing the lead (wishful thinking, but fun). And "Driven To Tears" was a special request in memory of Andrea's late friend, who died in a car crash only days before the event. It almost got cut because we couldn't find a vocalist, but Adam's guitarist Steve Cunningham overheard the conversation and jumped in, saying, "Hey, I could play the melody on lap steel." He did, and we converted into a southern-flavored fusion tune that cooked. I took the band out for a long, excellent dinner, and we all felt human again. Daniele in particular had been burning the candle at every end, helping out with driving and logistics and teaching all week - major shout-out to him. Amazing player, amazing person.
SHOW DAY: Villa Arconati is an old Italian castle tucked away by thick forest and dirt roads, and the venue is a very large tent on the main building's front lawn. Bass and music enthusiasts (including many of my students from the master class) are milling about, looking forward to the show. Some small booths are set up where bass guitar and amplifier builders can display their wares, like a mini-NAMM in the Italian countryside. It hits me that I'm going to be playing my first show as "me", on a huge stage, standing center-stage. Not only was this not the cozy little home turf of The Baked Potato, but it wasn't even with the only guys I'd ever played my material with, and this was just the third full-set gig I'd ever done. And not only would I be following players like Jeff Berlin and Michael Manring that I'd read about in magazines when I attended school, but there were other up-and-comers playing the all-day festival whose chops and abilities far, far surpassed mine. I was on at 9PM, a prime slot. We arrived at 1PM. Plenty of time to wait. And sweat.
THE GIG: A strange, mellow calm engulfed me as we started with a slow, unplanned jam - this is breakthrough stuff for me, people - that led into "Bear Divide." The stage sounded big and boomy and took some getting used to, but before I knew it we were tearing into "Seven Percent Grade" and we were just barely under control. Some interesting moments occurred when one member of the band found themselves in a different part of the form than others, and that happened at least three times...but the reception was warm and loud. Then we started cutting a groove with "Supermarket People," and from there on in, a state of grace ensued. I found myself loose, happy, walking the stage back and forth, playing freely both within the band and to the crowd. Another long, warm reception, louder than I'd heard it that day. I sat down for "Backwoods" and then brought Adam on for "Blackout", which saw Adam and I trading solo breaks. I was foolish enough to break out a couple of slap licks when we got going, which spurred Adam on to such a machine-gun fury of slapping and sweep picking that my only reaction was total laughter, as in, "I must be crazy to be up here doing this"...Marco finished the tune with a ridiculous drum solo and everyone went berserk. This was getting really good.
THE GIG, CONTINUED: It was my good fortune that Daniele Gregolin was a Michael Landau freak, because it enabled him to really "get" Griff Peters' work on "View". He and Roberto Tarenzi (who played the piano intro note for note) really shined on that piece, and though it was a pure ballad with few bass fireworks, it received the loudest ovation of the set so far, and I re-introduced the Italian contingent of the band to raucous applause. Then, Steve Cunningham came on for "Driven To Tears" and just ripped the stage in half...man, it was just ridiculous what he was doing. Upon completion, a quick time check showed we had under ten minutes left, and I cut "See You Next Tuesday" (much to Daniele's chagrin; he'd been practicing it like crazy and was anxious to play it) to ensure that we'd have time for the set closer, "Get Things Done." The only song featuring a bass solo with enough chops to rival what other players were doing all day long, I did my thing as best I could and passed the baton onto Daniele and Marco, who soloed their asses off (Marco even threw me off the beat in the drum solo over the vamp!; it had been years since I'd had that happen onstage) and brought the show to a rousing conclusion. Bravo to everyone in the band, everyone who was there, Casale Bauer/SWR Italy for being so generous with their support, and especially Andrea Papini, whose vision, intensity, and just plain balls made the whole thing possible.
FROM WHERE I SIT NOW: There I was, the "act", centerstage in Milan, next to a castle, just having played a set of mostly my own material alongside some of the best musicians in the world. It may be time to change the name of this column, as "Screed" seems unrelated to the voice I find myself using to describe life as of late.
THEN AGAIN: When I arrived back in Nashville, only my bass arrived with me. The rest of the bags took a while longer to rejoin me. At least this time I had air conditioning and a change of clothes. As for that black t-shirt, I'm thinking about burning it. That is, if I can find it; it's possible that it just got up and walked away on its own.
TRAVELING MAN: As my latest sojourn back to Southern California draws to a close, I thought it was a good time to get blogging again. This time around we'll discuss the Zappa Plays Zappa tour, my introduction to Fan Fair in Nashville, my recent adventures with the new prototype Taylor bass, an unlikely picture made possible by an uncharacteristically absent-minded moment, and what's coming up in the next couple of months.
ADAPT AND OVERCOME: My life as a musician in Nashville is getting off the ground, and I'm experiencing entirely new cultures and subcultures as a result. I recently picked up a gig with hot up-and-coming country artist Kyle Wyley for his performance at the Acoustic Corner at this year's CMA Fan Fair. I'd never heard of Fan Fair, but apparently it's something of a Nashville tradition in which the Country Music Association puts on a convention for consumers (read: country music fans), and they get to mingle with established stars as well as up-and-comers who put on shows, hang out in booths, sign autographs, and press the flesh with their fan base. Not a bad idea, eh?
WYLEY'S COYOTES: Kyle himself is the genuine country article, a 26-year old fourth-generation rancher from New Mexico, who plays guitar and sings his ass off, with a physical appearance that just begs to be put up on a billboard. Totally cool dude, very authentic artist. And, of course, I'd never heard of him. So imagine my surprise when we go walking into the Acoustic Corner performance area in the Nashville Convention Center, where Fan Fair is held, and seeing 200-plus screaming women wearing Kyle Wyley and "Wyley Coyotes" t-shirts and holding up signs with his picture on it. The whole crowd - almost entirely female - was singing along with every word he sang. Folks, I don't know how this whole music industry publicity machine works, but his team is obviously doing something right. Anyway, I had a blast, played with some other great musicians, and learned a whole new thing about Nashville. Check out Kyle's website here and his MySpace page here. Pretty soon I'll really be able to say that, at least musically, I really can swing both ways.
MY FAVE COMMENT ON FAN FAIR: From a well-established working Nashville musician who found the whole thing amusing. "You played Fan Fair? Shit, even I've never played Fan Fair!"
MEANWHILE, BACK IN KENEALLY/BELLER MUZO-VILLE: The recent run of Taylor clinics was extra special for yours truly, because I got to take the new prototype Taylor Bass for a test drive. Though it's not yet ready for production (and no, I don't know when they're releasing it), I can tell you that it is AWESOME. Great neck, killer tone, 5-way pickup switch, goes from hollow-body acoustic tone to full-on electric jazz-bass bridge-pickup Jaco punch in no time. It's an amazing instrument, and it brought a whole new dimension to what Mike and I do in the acoustic/electric duo format. I also got to play it at the outdoor La Jolla Arts Festival gig, and I was getting a really cool, dark, woody, Jack Casady-like tone out of the instrument that I don't usually use, which I got off on. But the instrument was only half the story...
YOUR ABSENT-MINDED BASS PROFESSOR AT WORK: As you probably know, I travel to California these days mainly for work. Luckily I have contacts and connections that allow me to get my preferred gear (SWR, of course) whenever I need it out here. And I'm a pretty organized fellow. So you can imagine my surprise when Scott Chatfield asked me two hours before the La Jolla gig what amp I'd be using, and I suddenly realized that I'd completely forgotten to arrange for anything at all! Fortunately for me, Scott's brother John had a good old-fashioned Kustom Tuck 'n' Roll rig at the ready, and away I went. Between the Taylor bass and the Kustom rig, I was getting a really different sound, and for this one gig, I really dug it. Here's the proof.
I still love and endorse SWR, OK? No rumor mills, please. I just like the picture.
ZAPPA PLAYS ZAPPA: In between Taylor clinics and other Keneally gigs this week, Mike and I went to see the Zappa Plays Zappa show in Anaheim, and it was an incredible show. They played for three whole hours with barely a break, and worked their way through some of the most demanding material in the catalog, including "Echidna's Arf (Of You)", "St. Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast" (the live version, with the crazy fast unison runs in the beginning), "Cheepnis," and plenty more. The whole band was really on, with bassist Pete Griffin was amazingly solid all night long, and superstar-in-the-making Scheila Gonzales providing a George-Duke-like master's presence whenever she did anything (her saxophone solo in an extended "King Kong" brought the house to its tiptoes in wild applause). I strongly encourage you to check out who the players are who made this show happen, because they're all amazing in their own way and it's likely you'll be hearing more from them in the future. They are the next generation of musicians brave enough to tackle this material in the public eye, and deserve the respect that comes along with it.
JOE TRAVERS, THE NEXT GUY: I've known Joe since 1990. From the minute I met him, it was clear what he was up to. He was singularly dedicated to the music of Frank Zappa, and to being the next in the long line of famous Zappa drummers - including Chester Thompson, Terry Bozzio, Vinnie Colaiuta, Chad Wackerman, and more - to play his music live with him. While Frank's passing made that an impossibility, it only served to rededicate him to his life's work of loving and preserving Frank's music in the most authentic way possible, and he became the Vaultmeister, the keeper and trustee of Frank's recorded works. All the while, he waited for an opportunity to play Frank's music in the way he always dreamed of. Sixteen years after I met him, and thirty-plus years after he heard Frank's music for the first time, I watched in pure joy as he fulfilled his dream before my eyes that night in Anaheim. I can't speak for anyone else in the crowd, but I could feel the weight, maturity, and authority that he brought to each song they played. It's a cliche, but in this case it's true: He was absolutely driving the bus.
As I've said before, when he was at Berklee College Of Music, Joe told everyone within earshot that his goal was to get the Dweezil Zappa gig and play Frank's music. His consistency and singularity of purpose was awe-inspiring then, and it still is today. The show was a tribute to Frank Zappa, but at the same time, for me it was a tribute to Joe.
STEVE: Watching Steve Vai come out in short hair, dressed in an all-black sideman uniform, to play rhythm guitar and parts for a good portion of the night, was entertainment enough. But then, when he started soloing in the context of Frank's music, it was totally eye-opening for me. Having been too young to really get what was going on in Frank's early '80s touring bands, and also getting how much Steve has grown as a musician since then, I totally got off on watching Steve Vai the Master Guitarist step back into his old role. And then, when him and Dweezil were trading solos, I couldn't help but see the scene from "Crossroads" in my mind, right down to Steve being much taller than Dweezil, and Dweezil's very public coming-of-age moment happening on stage, holding his own and then some in front of everyone, with a lot at stake.
TERRY: As you may have heard, he injured his bicep near the end of the tour and, for this show, was unable to play drums at all. But that didn't stop him from coming out as a pure frontman lead vocalist, and singing "Punky's Whips" and "I'm So Cute" for all he was worth. As if that wasn't enough, he was totally praising Joe Travers every chance he had on the Mike, and Joe responded by breaking out just about every Terry Bozzio lick in the book while Terry egged him on. Just try and imagine what that must have felt like. Totally cosmic.
HEIR-TIGHT: I don't want to leave out Dweezil, because he took on a lot by even trying to put this together, and you could tell he took the whole thing as serious as a heart attack. He played some of the toughest guitar parts in the repertoire, and carried the show on his back for the first half by taking most of the solos, playing a hybrid style of Frank's picking and melodic technique, and his own more modern shredding capabilities. Song by song, part by part, solo by solo, he won over the crowd, and he played the part of band frontman in a decidedly egoless fashion. What in the past occurred for me as Dweezil's discomfort with even being on stage at all now occurred as genuine and endearing, as in, "Hey, this is who I am, this is what we're up to with this tour, hope you like it," and then getting out of the way and letting his playing speak for itself. This was Joe's dream, but it was Dweezil's baby. Congrats to both of them.
COMING UP: The new issue (July) of Bass Player Magazine is now out, with my piece on John Patitucci's "Scophile" in tow. I just wrapped up the next one on Edgar Meyer, who you really should know about if you don't already. Soon I'll be headed off to Italy, where I'll be sharing a bill with Jeff Berlin, Michael Manring and Adam Nitti, and I have to come up with a syllabus for the four-day course I'll be teaching. Somehow, between Los Angeles, Nashville, and whatever else I'm doing, I'm keeping busy enough to eat. Beats working, that's for sure.
CDBABY RULES THE UNIVERSE: One of my favorite online retailers, CDBaby, has just signed a deal with 2,400 physical CD stores in America and worldwide to sell everything and anything they sell online, just so long as the store requests it. So, if for some reason you just love buying stuff in stores, now you can finally get View in a store near you. Which stores are part of this deal? Ask me by clicking here, tell me what state you're in, and I'll let you know.
DEREK SIVERS, FORMER BANDMATE: Back when I was at Berklee College Of Music, the very first show/recital I played was with a bright, extremely positive singer/songwriter/guitarist named Derek Sivers. His show was called Peanut Butter Funk, and was the original inspiration for a series of large-band funk shows I led (called "Cosmic Chicken"). I only mention this because Derek Sivers went on to be the founder and CEO of - you guessed it - CDBaby. That guy oughta be canonized for what he's created for the independent musician.
FIRST OF ALL: Some of this was sent out in the latest BellerBytes, my e-mailing list. What, you're not on the list? And you're not getting the latest info in real time? Well, sign up already!
GET YOUR TRANSCRIPTION SERVICES HERE (reprinted from the latest BellerBytes): I just learned how to use Finale. I'm in a new city (Nashville) and looking for work (hint hint). And I remember a line from somewhere about those who need help helping themselves, so check this out...
For the bass players reading along: Have you ever wanted to learn a tune, but either couldn't hear exactly what was going on, or didn't have time to sit down and learn it by ear? How about those wacky Keneally tunes? Or my solo material? Or anything you can think of that doesn't already exist in chart form? You know where this is going, right?
Bryan Beller's Transcription Services will provide you, the bass-playing customer, with the key tool to learn that song you've always wanted to know how to play - a clean, professional, correctly notated chart with tablature to boot - but never had time to learn. It's a custom-order shop. Charts will be done in Finale 2005 and delivered in original Finale format, plus PDF and hard copy. Quotes will be determined on a case-by-case basis, as some tunes require much more work than others, as you can imagine. The library of existing charts will be created as we go, and will have a different rate. "First edition" charts (a chart no one has ordered before) will be signed and dated by yours truly, will include a telephone consultation after the delivery of the chart, and the first 10 folks to order will also receive a signed View promotional poster, the last ones in existence!
I'm still working out some of the details. Eventually I'll have a slick webpage describing the services in that way that makes everyone feel like it's an oh-so-professional operation. But I say we just launch this thing and let some of it be organic (what a concept!).
If you're interested, just e-mail me at email@example.com with the subject line BBTS. Your operator is standing by.
ZAPPA PLAYS ZAPPA TOUR REHEARSAL REPORT: In late April, Keneally and I got the chance to attend a private rehearsal for the upcoming "Zappa Plays Zappa" tour. We watched the core seven-piece band (two guitars, melodic percussion, keys/horn, keys/horn/vocals, bass, drums) crank through classic Zappa material from a variety of eras and bands, and they sounded great doing it. I'm not going to spoil the repertoire, but I can tell you that there's stuff on the set list that hasn't been played live by a Zappa band in over 25 years, and it's good stuff. Additional fun was had by watching Joe Travers sing most of the songs himself, since Napoleon Murphy Brock wasn't there. (I'm telling you, he could do it live if necessary and it would sound good!) The bassist, who I met for the first time, is named Pete Griffin, and he's a 26-year-old rockin' mofo Zappa-freak bassist (in all honesty, he's into Zappa at the Keneally/Travers level) who I instruct you all to love unconditionally. But he's just a part of what's going on in this band, and it's very much worth checking out. I'm jealous of those in Amsterdam for the opening show - having been to Holland several times, and having experienced the hotbed of Zappa fandom over there, that is going to be some scene for a first show of the tour. FYI, I'll be at the Anaheim show on June 22.
LOST COAST LIVE: Don't know if you've heard of this, but the folks who brought you Full Sail Real World Education are into entertainment as well, and their company DC3 sponsors a heavily promoted concert/event in way-northern California (Ferndale, 250 miles north of San Fran) called Lost Coast Live. It's a concert with a twist - they don't tell you who's playing. Somehow they've built a great brand around this event and hundreds of people show up on faith to check out whoever is brought in, and this year they brought in Keneally and I (plus acoustic singer/songwriter/solo artist David Wilcox). The show was fantastic, but the show was just the beginning of what was fantastic about this weekend. We stayed in a beautifully appointed Victorian hotel (I was in Room 202, you can see it); we were treated to privately catered food at studios in unspeakably gorgeous mountain settings with ocean views (see pictures below), and everything about the event was first class. I could go on and on about this, but instead I'll just thank everyone at DC3 for the incredible weekend.
Check out the video (warning: 11MB download) they created and played before we went on, essentially "introducing" us to the audience. Pretty cool.
And here are just a few pictures from a largely undiscovered part of California's northern coast:
Yeah, it was like that.
GUITAR THERAPY LIVE RELEASE UPDATE: This text has been posted elsewhere, but here it is again for your edification, straight from the horses' mouth:
[voice of Mike Keneally]
"The GUITAR THERAPY SPECIAL EDITION CD/DVD is finally going to the manufacturer!! After many unforeseen production delays (which were as frustrating for us as they were for those of you waiting for your orders to arrive), we have made it through the tunnel and the DVD enters the manufacturing phase this week. Barring any further delays, the production and assembly phase should take about two weeks, which means we will begin shipping to you [those who pre-ordered] around Monday, May 29th. It will take about a week to process the pre-orders, and the rest is up to the postal services of the world.
THANK YOU profusely, one more time, to you who pre-ordered this release -- your patience is about to be rewarded with a CD and DVD which we stand behind fully as a quality bit of musical madness which we think you will enjoy to the utmost, or perhaps even utmore than that.
[/voice of Mike Keneally]
FINALLY!! I'm just as excited as you are, if not more so.
And as you can see here, Keneally and I will be playing together A LOT in June. New York City, Baltimore, and Southern California (San Diego, Los Angeles, Westminster, Cerritos, City Of Industry), we're coming for you.
BELLER'S MySPACE EXPERIENCE - THE FIRST 45 DAYS: You know, I came in a little skeptical, and then I went through the "MySpace is crack" phase in the first week or so, but it's settled into a great way to connect with new people, reconnect with old friends, and spread the word about new and interesting music, be it mine (with all due humility) or someone else's. This next bit is for those in the know: If you've noticed, I change three or four of my Top 8 every other week or so, and I try to include people and musicians you may not have heard of. I am amazed at the quality of some of the material and players out there that very few people are aware of. So, bottom line - it's working for me. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, just check it out once and see what you think.
WHY NASHVILLE?: I've gotten this question a lot, and haven't been explicitly forthcoming with my answers in the past. So let's just clear this up once and for all. I moved to Nashville to be closer to Kira Small, my lover and partner and favorite human being. I travel a great deal for work anyway, and found myself at a place where I wanted to come home to her, as opposed to coming home to L.A. and trying to find a way for us to arrange our next rendezvous in our long-distance relationship, which we did for the better part of 2005. Nashville has been pretty damned cool so far, musically and otherwise, and yet I still get to spend time in Los Angeles to see friends and play with folks I know and love playing with. If that ain't the good life, I don't know what is.
THE NEXT "LIFE OF BRYAN" INSTALLMENT: As you can imagine, there's much more to this story than meets the eye, and not all of it involves Kira directly. The next installment of The Life Of Bryan will deal with the events from mid-2005 through the move to Nashville. It could easily be months before I start working on it, but here's your preview: I experienced something in early 2006, just two weeks before I left Los Angeles, that shifted the way in which I view everything in not just my life, but in all of life, in the most positive and freeing way imaginable. And I mean *everything*.
And no, I'm not moving to Sri Lanka to live in a mudhut because I'm now "clear." Come on, someone out there was thinking it.
THOUGHTS ON MYSPACE: One week and countless messages, friend requests, pending requests, comments, and "thanks for the adds" later, I think I'm finally getting the hang of this place. It's a bit addictive, as I'm sure some of you already know, but now that I've sent a BellerBytes and went through my contact list to see who I could find, I've resolved to myself not to spend more than a hour on it each day. Really. And frankly, I don't think I would have signed up for it for just a personal page, but not having a music page in a network with 67 million members is just plain dumb. The strangest thing about it for me is suddenly realizing that there was this online universe with that many people in it, and that I knew next to nothing about it only ten days ago. And now look.
GUILTY PLEASURE: I also admit that it's been fun finding both friends and fans alike, seeing how they did their pages, what music they've got playing on their profile pages (let me tell you how trippy it was the first time I went to someone else's page and "Seven Percent Grade" was playing), and everything that goes along with that particular curiosity. So, on balance, MySpace good. And not just good for fun, but also for professional reasons. Believe me, I haven't forgotten that nearly everything I was able to accomplish (with your support!) on View happened online. If MySpace is one of the Ways Of The Future, then I'd better be onboard. Especially if I want to make another album. Which I started writing today.
A SECOND ALBUM? Yes, you read that right. I finally sat down in front of the keyboard and started writing material for what eventually will be my second album. The working album title is Thanks In Advance, and a couple of working song titles (I have a pretty clear idea of what each of these sound like) are as follows: "Snooze Bar", "Casual Lie Day", "Love Terror Adrenaline", and "Status Chloe". Unlike View, I am not writing this album on a self-imposed deadline, so I really don't know when it will be done. There's also the issue of financing such a thing in my new age of no corporate day job, but as wiser men than me have said, I'll burn that bridge when I come to it. Right now I'm just excited at what's going on in my head, and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you one day.
AND NOW, AN OPPORTUNITY TO GIVE: FOBB (you figure it out) Ian Perge is doing the good citizen thing and helping to organize and promote a charity festival and concert called "Rockin' For Relief" at Ohio's University of Akron. Proceeds will benefit the American Red Cross - we're talking Hurricane Katrina relief here, which is still sorely needed. Ian himself is a fine bassist who will be performing at the event, and he may even perform a tune of mine, for which I'm honored (good luck, man!). It's on Saturday, April 29. For the full scoop, click here to go to Ian's site. But if you're the type to just get on with it and donate, here's how:
If you're in the area, click here for ticket purchase options.
Non-ticket donations can be made to the Summit County Red Cross by clicking on the Donate
link in the upper menu (be sure to mention "Rockin' for Relief" in the memo for check and mail form donations, or during a phone donation).
And that's all for now...I'm off to dodge some tornados. Crazy freakin' weather out here.
THE UNIVERSE GIG REPORT: I'm back from Holland, my mind thoroughly blown by the amazing experience of playing with the Metropol Orchestra. That's not new, as I've worked with them before on Steve Vai's material both in 2004 and 2005. But the idea of playing Mike Keneally's music with what some call "one of the crown jewels of the culture of Holland" had intrigued me ever since Mike released The Universe Will Provide, an orchestral composition so provocatively dense and challenging that not even I could really get my arms around it on first listen. Or second. Or third. But armed with five-page charts, two ears, and some degree of nerve, I learned the piece, played it with the orchestra, and had one of the most fulfilling musical experiences of my whole damned life.
ALL ACES: There's something about being pushed into strange new realms. It's one thing to learn something unfamiliar, unusual and difficult by yourself, in a room, practicing to achieve competency. It's another thing to take what you learn and play it with a band setting with which you're familiar, like a rock band. And yet another with an orchestra setting. And yet another with truly avant-garde music, some of which only flirts with traditional notions of groove. Finally, imagine all of this is working in your own musical space, and now you're combining that energy with the energy of 50-plus other ace-level muisicians, all digesting and interpreting and producing their part, with their vision of what it is to them and how it relates to the rest of the orchestra. The result is exhilirating and frightening, all at once. I can't remember the last time I was so engaged during a gig, bar by bar, second by second, even during rests.
FOR THOSE WHO KNOW THE MATERIAL: There's something daunting, even audacious, about having a piece as complex and obtuse as "All Of Them Were Quiet" as the first full-orchestra tune of the program. The bassline in particular is one of the oddest parts I've ever played; Keneally described it as "a rhino pushing a rock slowly uphill." In reality it's a highly syncopated line which alternates between hitting offbeat triplets and sixteenth notes, and has absoltely no relation to anything anyone else in the orchestra is doing - especially not the brass, which pounds out a non-repeating oddball syncopation of their own against it. The reprieve is a section that changes time signatures every bar for nearly twelve bars in a row, and they come at you fast. Other highlights in oh-my-God-osity include the accelerando at about 1:30 in "Four Slices Of Toast," and the reward for making it through that is another relentless time signature blender that lasts over a minute; the B section of "Worrywart Spoonguy" (the first time the main lick changes), where the key of the lick changes every two notes while a maddeningly difficult syncopated rhythm keeps you sweating through alternating bars of 4/4 and 5/4; the disco middle section of "Room" that sounds easy, but had drummer Arno van Niewenhuize and I sweating through every blasted odd-metered bar; and "Bullies," where the orchestra comes in hard at 0:41 through a series of bars so weird that I had to pound my foot into the ground and count out loud just to know where to come in when I was done resting. How anyone could conduct such a piece is almost beyond me, but the amazing Jurjen Hempel showed us all it's not only possible, but a musical performance unto itself.
IMPROVISATIONAL COMPOSITION WITH MIKE KENEALLY: I've often seen Mike walk into to a rehearsal for his rock band and start writing material on the spot, but I've never seen him do it for a small ensemble before. The first two days of orchestra rehearsal ended up being exactly that, with Mike giving parts to each piece on the spot while we all wrote them out as fast as we could. Before long we had two tunes, somehow appropriately named "Chee" and "Ack," which in Dutch means "Chee" and "Ack." That, plus two completely improvised pieces were the opening set of the show. Mike dubbed us the "Mini-Pol Orchestra." Cute, right?
TO THOSE WHO SAW IT: Thanks for coming out and supporting such an unusual and special musical composition. And to anyone who had a hard time getting a hold of me after the show, I apologize. (I misjudged the post-show logistics and found myself running around trying to figure out how I was getting back to my hotel instead of saying hello and acting human. My bad.) It really was the kind of thing I'm so, so grateful to be able to do. My thanks to Mike, Scott, Co de Kloet, everyone at NPS, and the members of the Metropole Orchestra, for whom I have the highest respect and admiration. They actually read this kind of material on the spot. How, I have no freakin' clue.
ONE LAST PICTURE FROM HOLLAND: Behold, the newest discovery in bass amps, found at a rehearsal space in northern Holland. I think I see the future of bass amplification before my very eyes. You saw it here first.
UNTIL AND AS SUCH: I do have plans for a major website revision. They're such lovely plans, really. They even include getting hip to this whole MySpace thing (I just checked out Keneally's world on MySpace for the first time, you see). But until I make those plans reality, I'll be packing major updatage into this very space, both in pictures and text. Which brings us to...
WESFEST GIG REPORT: Well, we did it. The first annual WesFest is now officially in the books, and the books look good: We raised somewhere around $10,000. for the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship at Berklee College Of Music. People came from all over the U.S. to attend our seven-band extravaganza, and others who couldn't go simply opened their hearts and wallets and contributed to the cause. So, with humongous appreciation for all involved, I proudly give you this WesFest gig report, straight from the perspective of your de facto emcee (M.C.? em-C? emmsee? M=C?) for the evening.
ACT 1 - DAN ROCKETT: Wes knew and worked with a lot of different folks, not all of whom knew each other all that well. One of the great things about WesFest was that it gave us the chance to not only meet these other folks, but to get where they were coming from musically. That's how I introduced singer/songwriter/guitarist Dan Rockett, and then he took it from there with a blistering 20-minute set of heartfelt acoustic/electric-powered rock. From all accounts, Wes enjoyed working with Dan throughout 2004, and was rehearsing Dan's material in a power trio consisting of Dan, himself, and Berklee alum (and former Powerman 5000 bassist) Dorian Heartsong on drums (yes, he doubles professionally on bass and drums). They closed their set with a completely reworked version of The Beatles' "Here Comes The Sun," almost as if U2 has written it, and by that time, he'd totally won over the crowd, and the emcee as well. The guy is a natural-born rock star. Here's hoping he plays out more often. Check him out at www.danrockett.com.
ACT 2 - ALI HANDAL: I first heard of Ali when Wes gave me her album Breathing Underwater, on which he played masterfully. Never one to pull up short emotionally, Ali started her acoustic guitar/solo vocal act by reading a poem for Wes, and she bookended that poem into a song later in the set. It was one of the night's moments for reverence and remembrance, which she supported with her voice and grace. I must mention that Ali's talents as a songwriting performer are at least matched by her networking abilities; she helped plant what became WesFest in the head of Peter Gordon, Director of the Berklee (College of Music) Center in Los Angeles, back in November of 2005 when they ran into each other at a Billboard Magazine industry function. She also got the event written up in Music Connection magazine, an influential L.A.-based music biz publication. And she loves her cat enough to have closed her set by getting the crowd to meow along with her whenever she wanted. You go, Ali. Dig her at www.alihandal.com.
ACT 3 - SMUG: Wes wasn't just a killer bassist - he was a truly gifted photographer, and loved taking pictures of his friends doing what they do. SMUG - the quirky, aggressive power trio driven by Rick Musallam - was just one of Wes' many photographic subjects, and that photography is all over their website at www.smugband.com. For WesFest, SMUG came out blasting and rocked the crowd out of their reverent state, something they do with their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks. And if you've never seem SMUG's 6'5" bassist/lead vocalist/frontman Bret Helm do his thing, you're missing out one of the most unusual approaches to musical assault I've witnessed in recent memory. I like to think of SMUG as The Talking Heads meet Jimi Hendrix's Band Of Gypsies. Strange, but potentially cool, right? Right. Like I said, get over to www.smugband.com.
AND NOW, A BRIEF INTERMISSION: Before the fourth act got started, the crowd was treated to a short speech by Berklee's Peter Gordon, who I'd been working with closely ever since WesFest was conceived back in November. He introduced a video, shown on a projection screen, that contained still images of Wes and Wes' photography while the voice of Berklee President Roger Brown announced the formation of the Wes Wehmiller Scholarship at Berklee. It took about four minutes, and the audience sat enraptured the entire time. Even the performers gathered backstage all scurried to the front of the crowd and sat on the floor, watching and smiling. It was a good reminder of why we were there. Then, the music resumed...
ACT 4 - KIRA SMALL: The lovely Miss Kira - who performed with Wes often back at Berklee in the early '90s, and once in a country music show, no less - brought her southern charm and boundless vocal and songwriting talent all the way from Nashville for her first-ever full-set performance as a solo act in the City Of Angels. Her band back there is called "Kira Small and the Smoo Crew," so as you could have guessed, the audience experienced a hard turn from SMUG's quirk into Kira's soul and R&B slink. With three background vocalists, brother Griff Peters on guitar, the funky-white-boy, you-really-should-know-him-better keyboardist Fred Kron, and the legendary groove-carver Toss Panos on drums, her songs of love and love lost shook the crowd out of its reverent state, and they rewarded her with one of the strongest reactions of the evening. And I'm pretty sure it wasn't just because I was her bassist. She's just that good, in my opinions both objective and otherwise. Proof exists at www.kirasmall.com.
ACT 5 - TOUCHED: Wes' best friend and across-the-hall neighbor, Colin Keenan, is an anti-musician if there ever was one. I met him at Berklee - in a political science class. You'll have a better chance finding him reading literature in his apartment (as in, like, the classics, dude) than practicing anything. But he and Wes were also the creative forces behind their semi-joke riff-rock band, named I, Claudius (also containing Joe Travers and Griff Peters; they used to perform "Bite" regularly), and Touched is the closest thing to a musical descendant that "The Claudius" will ever have. Two guitarists (one of whom knows the entire Judas Priest catalog, and I mean every freakin' note), vocals, bass and drums, and twenty minutes of sludge-dumb rock. My bass duties continued as I happily pounded out the eighth notes Wes tracked on the record, while Colin prowled and did his uber-sardonic thing, a grunge Johnny Rotten straight outta Brentwood. See www.touchedmusic.com for yourself and get the vibe.
ACT 6 - BRYAN BELLER: Your host (not to mention the audience) was getting a little slaphappy by this point, but somehow in the midst of the mayhem, the six-piece fusion outfit known as the Bryan Beller Band pulled off a respectable three-song set consisting of "Seven Percent Grade", "Supermarket People" and "View". Colin went against type and unsnarkily introduced me, emphasizing my "immense organizational skills," which for some reason made me want to crawl under the stage. But I survived both that and a keyboard which had a slightly dead key that gave the solo piano intro to "View" an unexpected dramatic pause. On the plus side, we actually felt more like a band to me than ever before, and it reminded me that, at some point, I should probably schedule another show in L.A. Perhaps when I write a couple of new songs, I'll do just that. Getting back on topic, it was my honor to have played this event with my own band - thanks to Griff, Rick, Joe, Keneally, and bassist Chris Golden for being so damned good. I'll always remember that the first solo-artist show I ever did had Wes on bass on a few tunes - and that he loved me enough to honor my request that he jangle wind chimes in the break between "Elate" and "Get Things Done," something he normally wouldn't be caught dead doing, and barely even managed to do for me without rebelling (I found this out posthumously, and it cracked me up). I'd link to myself, but you're already here, aren't you?
ACT 7 - MIKE KENEALLY BAND: Headlining a seven-act benefit concert usually means that not every single audience member who showed up is there at the end, but a large percentage of folks stuck around to see the Guitar Therapy band lineup of myself, Keneally, Joe Travers and drums and Rick Musallam on guitar tear a hole in the stage for twenty minutes. (By the way, the Guitar Therapy Live album is SO almost done - go to www.keneally.com for details.) Wes had always wanted to play a gig with Keneally, and in December of 2004 he finally did, in San Diego. He also had some favorite Keneally tunes, and we did them in his honor: "Career/Quimby", "Beautiful", "Top Of Stove Melting" and "'Cause Of Breakfast". Mike brought it all home like the pro that he is, and it felt like the kind of raw emotional release that accompanies the end of a show.
Wes' parents, John and Paula Wehmiller, then took the microphone and graciously thanked everyone for their kindness and generosity on what was a truly special evening for them. (They played a key role in making the whole thing happen in the first place, so the gratitude goes both ways.) But then, we sprung a surprise on the audience...
SPECIAL SECRET ACT 8 - I, CLAUDIUS: While I, Claudius will never be what it was without Wes on bass, I did my best to fill his shoes so The Claudius could bring the noise one more time. Colin sang, Kira Small did background vocals (I could never hope to hit Wes' falsetto high harmonies), Joe thrashed the drums, Griff Peters played baritone guitar (his baritone is the guitar Keneally used on "See You Next Tuesday," FYI), and Rick Musallam came in for special guest second guitar duties. Some audience members hadn't seen Claudius perform in years, and people from all different walks of Wes' life totally got off on the whole thing. Best of all, to memorialize a concert that I, Claudius once did dressed in Roman togas, Griff came out toga-clad, shoulder bare and everything. Taste the Griff-y goodness in this precious shot of him, Kira and I near the end of the night, with photography courtesy of Stacey Ferguson:
SAME TIME NEXT YEAR?: There's serious talk about this becoming an annual event, and I'm all for that and then some. But there will never be another WesFest like the first one, and I just wanted to take one last opportunity to thank everyone who helped make this event the over-the-top success it turned out to be. The proceeds from this event will help a deserving bassist attend Berklee, and hopefully have the same kind of life-changing experience that both Wes and I had while we were there. A worthy cause, indeed. If you helped out, my gratitude is most humbly yours. If not, you still can by going to www.berklee.edu/giving/wes_wehmiller.html. And my gratitude is still most humbly yours for reading along.
GUITAR THERAPY ARTWORK: I saw it. It's cool. My favorite so far of any Keneally album. I really believe that this package - the audio quality, the DVD, the 5.1 mix, the liner notes and artwork - is the best Keneally product ever. Can't wait to share it with you. It's almost done, really really.
DAMN THAT LES PAUL: The nerve of him, being that old and winning a Grammy for Best Instrumental Rock Performance when Steve Vai is nominated in the same category for a track on which I played. Sigh. OK, I'm done with my lovely little fit now.
AND FINALLY...HOW'S NASHVILLE?: To those who are wondering, what I've experienced of it is really nice. Minimal traffic, very nice people, and a much more diverse musician community than one might naturally assume. Lots of churches and fried food, including chains I'd never heard of before, like Mrs. Winner's and Bojangles (yes, I know what a Waffle House is). Wildly schizophrenic weather. Billboards featuring new country artists about to take over the known universe (according to the billboard, at least). You might be amused to know that the very first band I saw play as a resident of Tennessee was a very good Steely Dan cover band called Twelve Against Nature, with an audience containing several Berklee alums not specially known for their banjo-picking abilities. (And there's your shattered stereotype moment for today.) Bottom line - I'm extremely happy. More on this topic later.
GET READY: I'm gonna drop some info bombs here, and I'm not going to get too into graphic detail on what's driving my choices. It's possible that, at some point, I'll write a Life Of Bryan about this period in time, but for now I'm going to keep it simple.
MY STATUS REGARDING THE "ZAPPA PLAYS ZAPPA" TOUR: I've chosen not to do it. Right here in time, right now, it just didn't fit with what I wanted in my day-to-day life, period. Dweezil and I had a couple of nice conversations about it, and I wish nothing but the best for the tour and those involved - especially my good friend Joe Travers, for whom this tour is the fulfillment of a lifelong goal and dream. There's not anything else to read into this - it's all right here, and for now, this is all I have to say about it.
I'M MOVING: Yes, I'm moving, at the end of January. Out of Los Angeles, and into - wait for it - Nashville, Tennessee. No, not because my vote will count more in this swing state (though that's a nice benefit). I'm moving there for deeply personal reasons, all of which aren't Screed-worthy. Again, to be straight, I'm moving there primarily for personal reasons, and I'm very open to exploring a new musical scene at the same time. Does that mean that I won't be working with Mike Keneally anymore, or not writing more of my own music, or not flying back to L.A. for gigs, or not going to Europe, or any of that? Of course not. Mike and I especially have every intention of continuing our now 13-years-old musical and personal connection, and I don't see it as an either/or equation. I'm creating the possibility of playing music in Nashville, and Los Angeles, and anywhere I can travel to, and also having true personal fulfillment when I'm not working. Take it from someone who's always found a way to have it all happen at the same time - it's possible. I'm just choosing a new "all." I now refer you to the last sentence of the previous paragraph.
TELLING THE STORY: It's still happening. That's why I'm being unusually sparse with words. Once I have perspective on it, I'll write something. For now, I'm just going to live it out and see what happens. This is the sound of my hands letting go of the trapeze.
MEANWHILE, THERE'S WESFEST: If you're even thinking about buying tickets for WesFest, stop thinking and just do it. E-mail Peter Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org, buy two to get the discount, and worry about who's going with you later. If you're not thinking about it, what are you thinking? Need details? Go to the front page of this site and educate yourself. Also, now that you know some new things about my living situation, doesn't it make even more sense to come out to see me play live in L.A.?
SERIOUSLY: We need your help for this event to be a success. If you're anywhere close to Southern California, or have ever wanted to take a vacation in sunny L.A. during those cold winter months, this is the perfect chance to do it, and meet all of the folks in our crazy little scene out here at the same time. I hope to see you there.
KENEALLY/WACKERMAN/MUSALLAM/BELLER GIG REPORT: In case you missed it, there was a Baked Potato gig on December 30, 2005, where Mike Keneally played with Chad Wackerman for the first time since the ill-fated 1988 Frank Zappa tour. I had the privilege of playing bass, and the pleasure of having Rick Musallam on second guitar. For his part, Keneally took the special occasion as an opportinuty to write one of the strangest set lists we've ever done. Here it was (with songwriters in parentheses):
Fanfare from A Love Supreme (John Coltrane)
Mammy Anthem (Frank Zappa)
We'll Be Right Back (MK)
Bemsha Swing (Thelonious Monk)
Black Page #1 (Frank Zappa)
Contusion (Stevie Wonder)
Balancing Acts (Chad Wackerman)
There There (Radiohead)
Spoon Guy (MK)
Inca Roads (Frank Zappa)
Nefertiti (Miles Davis -- this is the song written by Wayne Shorter)
Sedan Delivery (Neil Young)
Unconditional (Rick Musallam)
Black Page #2 (Frank Zappa)
Tell Me (Chad Wackerman)
Supermarket People (Bryan Beller)
Natty Trousers (MK)
Diamond Dust (Jeff Beck)
Top Of Stove Melting (MK)
Crescent (John Coltrane)
Chimes Of Freedom (Bob Dylan)
It required two eight-hour rehearsals. I found myself learning things about Zappa material that I hadn't encountered before, and being challenged by Chad's unique and hyper-musical approach to drumming, which was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. The result was a slightly more subdued Keneally musical product, and yet somehow more intense at the same time.
GUILTY PLEASURES: For my part, I experienced three very guilty WackerPleasures: 1) hearing his interpretation of my own tune "Supermarket People"; 2) getting off on the very idea of Chad playing a Radiohead song; 3) playing certain rhythmic patterns that triggered drumfills I've heard on countless 1988 Zappa band recordings. I also found myself playing real honest-to-goodness jazz, walking bass lines and everything. And not that there was any pressure, but Steve Vai showed up and watched the whole concert. It was all a fitting way to end one of the wildest years I can remember. And yes, there were plenty of tapers in the audience.
WESFEST: It's officially on. Save This Date: February 16, 2006. It's at The Gig, on Melrose in oh-so-hip Los Angeles. You'll be hearing about it often. Details are at the bottom of the front page of this site and will be updated as they become available.
AND THE GRAMMY GOES TO...: Steve Vai, hopefully. Backstory: The song "Lotus Feet," which was recorded during the Aching Hunger II Steve Vai/Metropol Orchestra shows in Holland back in June of 2005 (and on which I was privileged to play), ended up on Steve's most recent studio release, Real Illusions: Reflections. This track, it appears, has been nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Instrumental Rock Performance. Now, let me get this out of the way...
A TRACK I PLAYED ON HAS BEEN NOMINATED FOR A FREAKIN' GRAMMY. OMG omg omg omg omg...
MORE RATIONAL COMMENTARY: There's a sweet irony in that, somehow, I've made my bones and reputation as being the bassist who plays all this difficult muzo stuff with ex-Zappa guitarists, and the cut I'm on that gets nominated for a Grammy has me playing nothing but whole notes and half notes for four minutes. (But they were played with such feeling and maturity...) Perhaps this augurs well for the future in my dollars-paid-to-notes-played ratio. In any event, I'm thrilled and extremely grateful. Obviously, thanks and more thanks to Steve Vai and Creative Catalyst Co de Kloet for getting me involved in the first place. And nothing against the worthwhile contributions of Adrian Belew, Stewart Copeland, Joe Perry and Les Paul & Friends, but you know where my money lies.
SAVE THE DATE: February 16, 2006. You read it here first (it's 97% official, which is good enough for the Screed). There will be a Wes Wehmiller Memorial Scholarship Benefit Concert at The Gig in Los Angeles. Acts will include The Mike Keneally Band, The Bryan Beller Band, Kira Small, Touched (Colin Keenan's band), Ali Handal, Dan Rockett, and SMUG. (Edited on 12/20/05 - BB.) This is going to be a big theme around these parts, as the promoter for the event is...me. Many more details to follow - this is just a sneak preview. If for some reason the 3% chance occurs and this doesn't actually happen, the egg on my face will be viewable in this space. And you wondered why you ever read this psuedo-blog to begin with.
GET THEE TO A COUCH: The Mike Keneally Band live CD/DVD/all-purpose-entertainment-vehicle Guitar Therapy Live is, as of this moment on 12/3/05, available for pre-sale. Having been a part of the decision-making process as to which tracks made the cut, and also having heard some of the rough mixes, I cannot tell you how much I'm looking forward to this getting out there. Something really special happens when drummer Joe Travers and I play together, but for most folks that magic has been limited to the Dweezil Zappa-related releases from the '90s, and it's not the full representation of what it is we do. This album is, and is what I'd always hoped and aspired the Mike Keneally Band to be, going back ten years. Yeah, I'm hyping the record, but I truly believe what I'm saying. And doesn't that just make all the difference in the world?
NOW PLAYING: Self, Porno, Mint & Grime, the internet-only (and free!) release of material recorded during the sessions for Ornament and Crime, an album recorded but will probably never see the light of day thanks to Dreamworks. Killer power-pop, smart as hell and ass-shakingly groovy. Also: Strapping Young Lad, Alien. Brutal Devin-Townsend thrash metal with rich musical nuggets to mine if you dig deep enough. I hear that their album City is even better, which I find hard to believe because Alien is so freakin' great. Finally, a choice for the Europeans (and especially Norwegians) among us: Farmers Market, Music From The Hybrids. Bulgarian folk music on serious jazz/pop/Zappa crack, and some of the most startling (and hilarious) musicianship I've heard in years. Practically impossible to get in America, but they're really big in Norway and deserve a hearing. (Caution: Good luck navigating the websites, though, and online ordering is a little sketchy.)
MILESTONE ALERT: It suddenly dawned on me that The Life Of Bryan, the original Bryan Beller web presence, debuted ten years ago last week. It's been some freakin' ride. Thanks to everyone who tuned in from the very beginning, and to all those who joined in along the way. This website thing just might catch on, you think?
THE FLASHBACK CONTINUES: On December 1, I'll be doing a full-blown electric gig with Janet Robin for the first time since 2000, and I almost forgot to mention it on the site. Silly me. Check out the Upcoming Appearances for details. Hint: Janet and Mike Keneally share the same tastes in musicians.
2005 WINDING DOWN: It sure beat 2004. Seriously, it's been a great year, and I'm thankful for so many things I won't even try to list them all. Blogging will be fairly light as the year winds down, but 2006 is shaping up to be a doozy, with all sorts of new Keneally releases, a probable website overhaul, and some other verrrrrrry interesting news. More soon. In the meantime, hug someone.
OMG! OMG! OMG!: Late-breaking news here on the Screed has Mike Keneally booked for a gig at the Baked Potato on December 30 with the following lineup:
Mike Keneally - the usual crazy shit
Rick Musallam - guitaristics and personal heroism (see below for evidence)
Bryan Beller - intense self-promotion
Chad Wackerman - drums
Uh, I repeat:
Chad Wackerman - drums
As The Onion might say, holy fucking shit. No other words come to mind right now.
GOOD CAUSE, GREAT SHOW: Let me now elucidate a politically incorrect but all-too-common truth about benefit concerts - they usually are gigantic, monstrous hassles. The Rick (Musallam) and Nick (D'Virgilio) Benefit 'n' Birthday Bash gig on November 6 had all the markings of your typical seven-band charity clusterfuck that everyone does just because it's the right thing to do. Imagine our surprise when not only did the show run smoothly and on time, but that the musical presentation actually made sense and had a nice arc to it. I was signed on to play with four of the seven acts: Janet Robin, Touched (Colin Keenan's band), my own project, and Mike Keneally. Man, did we have fun.
OLD GIG, NEW GIG: I haven't played an electric band gig with Janet Robin, in *years* (though I used to play with her often from 1996-2000), and she's got all new material that rocks even harder than her older stuff. She opened the night firmly, and then two bands later I was back up on stage with "Bite" singer/lyricist Colin Keenan, whose new project Touched is, as he'd proudly say, just big dumb heavy rock. His attitude on the whole thing is typically careless - the one rehearsal we had was punctuated by sentiments like "I don't care if it's right...just so long as it's really loud." It was the first gig he'd ever really done under his own name/project, and people freaked out over how cool and nasty his musical vision is. I was just psyched because somehow he found a guitarist under the age of 30 who knows the entire Judas Priest catalog; we were pulling out old chestnuts from Hell Bent For Leather during the rehearsal, and he knew every guitar lick on every song. I didn't think that was even allowed anymore.
LEAVE 'EM WANTING MORE: Adhering to the 20-minutes-and-off format, the Bryan Beller Band played but three musical chunks: "Bear Divide/Seven Percent Grade," "Supermarket People," and "Bite" (with Colin Keenan returning for even more glory). It was actually refreshing to be playing in a venue completely unlike a jazz club; Molly Malone's is a bar that regularly does four bands a night, and the stage was high and loud and very ROCK. Freed of the usual jazz-clinic vibe of the Baked Potato, we all let loose, played loud, and had a blast. For a brief second there, I felt like I was fronting a rock band, and I think I [shudder] liked it. I also realized that 20 minutes was a perfect length of time so as not to get sick of Centerstage Me. If only I could book 20 minute gigs all the time...
NOT THE ALLMAN BROTHERS, BUT CLOSE: With both Joe Travers and Nick D'Virgilio in attendance, what else could Mike Keneally do but use both of them for his set? We played "Career/Quimby," "Panda" and "Lightnin' Roy" with Joe, and then "Pride Is A Sin" and "L'il" with Nick, and they both played in that focused way that drummers do when other drummers are watching. (the bass player always benefits from such a phenomenon.) We all had a blast, and we just might have found an alternate L.A. venue for the Mike Keneally Band in the process.
THE BIG ENDING: But nothing could have prepared the sizable crowd in attendance for the Big Finale. What started out as a typically loose and questionable jam somehow morphed into Joe Travers doing something his close friends have seen many times in private, but few have seen in public - he indulged his hidden desire to be a rock lead vocalist. We played Led Zeppelin's "Communication Breakdown," to warm him up (!). Then, we got Colin's guitarist Mike (the guy who knew all the Judas Priest) up to play Van Halen's "Ain't Talkin' Bout Love," and Joe did the full David Lee Roth, strutting around the stage, preening for the crowd, and even whipping out the "I fucked your girlfriend, maaaaaaan!" line. It was absolutely priceless.
RICK MUSALLAM, HERO: He's the one who really put it all together (I can't finish this without mentioning how hard SMUG rocked as well). In the end of the day, we raised good money for charity, and pretty much our whole circle of musicians/friends played together all in one night for the first time ever. Rick, you rule the universe.
KENEALLY LIVE ALBUM UPDATE: As you can tell from the front page of the Keneally website, MK and I have been working hard on making the live album a reality. We've been going over three different shows, all multi-tracked, and finding the best-and-nothing-but-the-best musical performances for your enjoyment. It's gonna rock. Oh yes, it's gonna rock. Think first-quarter of 2006.
BIG MOFO UPDATE #2: Consider this the second half of the big mofo EuroTour update (which is available by scrolling down, down, down). Working once again in reverse chronological order to satisfy the most obsessive-compulsive of readers (not to mentioned the author), we begin thusly.
I AmSTERDAM: Despite the lameness of Amsterdam's new marketing slogan (yes, that's really it), our week in Amsterdam just about as nice as it gets. Perfect weather, great music, appreciative showgoers, and lots of new friends, with promise for next time. The never-before seen lineup of Keneally, myself, the totally freakish Marco Minnemann on drums, and Metropol Orchestra member Herman van Haaren on violin hit the stage of Amsterdam's famous Paradiso and throttled nearly two hours worth of Keneally's toughest material. You want a nasty set list? Try this:
'Cause Of Breakfast
Top Of Stove Melting
Dolphins Medley (in its three-part entirety)
I, Drum-Running, Am Clapboard Bound
Nonkerchunk (I Just Got Here/Naked Horse/Blue Jean Baby/The Knife & Drum)
Pride Is A Sin
We're Rockin...With...Cheddar/Jazz Discharge Party Hats
Choosing To Drown
The Black Page (#1 and #2 in succession)
Yes, we opened with "Breakfast" and yes, we did "The Black Page" and yes, it was amazing. I've gone on and on about Marco Minnemann below, but he really brought a new dimension to this material - and to mine as well on "Supermarket." And Herman was fantastic as well. You haven't heard cool until you've heard Herman and Mike playing the fast licks in "Uglytown" in unison, or soloing at the same time in the frenzied fast section of "The Knife & Drum." We all had a blast and vowed to do it again, so keep a sharp eye out for that, European friends.
RADIO DAZE: The next morning I did something I've never done before - I taped a "Desert Island Discs" interview for NPS radio's 4FM. Marc Wielaert did the DJ honors, and led a discussion of the five (and only five) songs I'd bring with me to the proverbial desert island. For your curiosity, they were:
"In My Time Of Dying" - Led Zeppelin
"I'm Buzzed" - Michael Landau (Live 2000 version)
"Last Goodbye" - Jeff Buckley
"What Are You Thinking?" - Self
"Comfortably Numb" - Pink Floyd
Mike followed my taping with the same concept, and of course, completely different results, choosing material from Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Todd Rundgren, and two others I can't remember. That says a lot about how we balance each other, I think. DJ Marc told me that my choices were the most rock-oriented the show had ever featured. It's a good thing I held back on the Nine Inch Nails, I thought to myself. John Scofield was another artist I wanted to get on there, but for some reason I just couldn't pick one track. He's more of an overall vibe to me - one that I love, but couldn't bring into a one-track focus.
RADIO DAZE, CONTINUED: Then the MK EuroQuartet (as mentioned above) taped an hour-long live performance, again for future NPS radio broadcast. We cranked out really cool and bizarre versions of "Uglytown" and "Dolphins" and, even though we all had trouble hearing each other, somehow we made some great music. It's truly an odd band; sometimes we sound like Mahavishnu Orchestra, and at others we sound some Eastern European band on crack. Once I found about when these two shows are airing, I'll be sure to get the info up on the website.
PICTURES FROM HOLLAND: Let's break up the text with some nice photos, shall we?
The Mike Keneally European Brain Trust (don't laugh) poses for their final group picture in Amsterdam - for this time. Left to right: Myself, Exowax Recordings CEO Scott Chatfield, Mike Keneally, European Tour Manager Pieter van Hoogdalem
Just after the radio taping was complete, we posed for this picture in the cafe below Desmet Studios in Amsterdam. Top, left to right: Pieter van Hoogdalem, Marco Minnemann, DJ Marc Wielaert, myself, Herman van Haaren, Mike Keneally. Bottom: Scott Chatfield.
I didn't get any pictures of the Paradiso show, but fortunately Paul Berkholst got a few, including this one of me looking very stressful while Mike solos. I was probably counting through one of Marco's insane drum fills.
We had no days off between September 22 and October 14, so October 15 was a blessed day in Amsterdam. Here, Mike Keneally relaxes near the huge park bordering the Museum.
And I even had time for a nice Sunday morning walk in the park. This city is beautiful. Can't wait to come back.
VIENNA, HOME OF SMALL SAUSAGES AND SO MUCH MORE: We hit Vienna at the end of our German tour, and not only did we learn that Austria is called "Osterreich" in Germany and most of Europe, but that it's also the gateway to Eastern Europe. I was fascinated to see road signs for Bratislava, Prague, Budapest, and about seven different countries at various points east and beyond. The Taylor acoustic clinic that Mike and I did there was part of a big weekend music fair; we went on right after Jennifer Batton and essentially closed the show. In attendance were some very thankful people from Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, and plenty of Austrians happy to see us do our thing for the very first time in their country. And the city of Vienna itself is just amazing, filled with palaces and architecture not present in the West (they really the colors yellow and red, and somehow they do it without making everything look like McDonald's). The only bummer was the 1,150 km drive we had to Amsterdam the next day, but even that was somehow manageable, thanks to someone you'll meet below.
But first, some Austrian pictures, please.
This is what I woke up to on the German-Austrian border - a traditional Austrian marching band, doing the legit ooompa-groove and dressed to the nines in blue and white with stockings higher than most American girls' hemlines.
Mike gets it going during our clinic at Musik Productiv, outside Vienna, Austria.
Same performance. Oooh, look, I actually moved onstage.
THIS IS GERMANY, NOW WE WORK: Before Vienna and after our idyllic DVD-taping in the mountains of Aosta, Italy, we did a week of Taylor clinics in Germany. Kicking it off was a 1,000 km drive from Aosta to Berlin. Fortunately for us, we were shepherded by an iron-man driver and really good guy, Taylor Germany's Thomas Supper. He brought with him a very comfortable van, perfect for sleeping in long drives. We knew we were about to leave Italy, however, when we had our last dinner there and were explaining to Thomas how irrelevant any kind of schedule was during our Italian leg, because everything always ran late. He replied, in German-accented English, "This is Germany. Play time's over - now we work." And he did. With a smile, of course, shown below.
A lot of folks were extremely nice to us in Germany, but special mention must go out to Peter Alexius, who single-handedly saved the day for us in so many ways it would be impossible to list them all here.
YOU KNOW YOU'RE IN GERMANY WHEN: Exactly what did they have in mind when they designed this hotel elevator, I wonder?
NORTH CAROLINA CORRECTION: I mentioned below that, before our show in North Carolina back in August, that we hadn't played there in seven years, and that the last time we'd played there was somewhat unfortunate (story detailed below in the post titled NORTH CAROLINA REDEMPTION). Well, I totally forgot about an NC show in August of 1998, which took place at a place that no longer exists, called Cowboy's Texas Bar-B-Que. Not only did we play there, but I designated it the Best Show Of The "We're Not Here To Help" Tour (v1.0) in a 1998 Keneally/BFD Member Missive, as follows:
Best Overall Show: Cowboy's Texas Bar-B-Q, Wilmington, NC, 8-20-98. In a tiny club on a tiny stage--the smallest of the tour--a stripped-down Beer For Dolphins showed what it was capable of over a three-set, four-hour show for about 50 genuinely appreciative fans. Keneally even called "Zomby Woof" out of the blue and, believe it or not, we nearly nailed it without ever having played it before as a band. Feeling confident, we went into David Byrne's version of "Take Me To The River" and smoked that one as well. Nearly everything we did that night smacked of magic. Maybe it was the food. Maybe it was the tiny stage. Maybe it was the oncoming hurricane. Whatever it was, it was a bright shining moment in the midst of a tour that, on occasion, made The Alternate Reality of opening for Vai seem easy in retrospect.
I should have said "the last time we were in Chapel Hill, NC" instead of all of North Carolina, and I should have mentioned this gig regardless. So who do I have to thank for pointing out this error? Why, Jeff Hunnicutt, of course, Grand Prize winner of the Onion Boy Records Shameless Promotion. Thanks, Jeff.
TIME MACHINE PORTAL OPENING: And if you're feeling nostalgic, or just wonder what the hell I'm talking about, click to check out the entire 1998 "We're Not Here To Help" Tour "Member Missives". I'm the fourth one down if you want to scroll. 1998 was a million years ago...
BIG LONG MOFO MONTH-PLUS RECAP AHEAD: Life's been moving fast lately, and currently as well - I'm writing this on October 5, 2005, from the backseat of a van doing 160 kmh on the autobahn somewhere between Berlin and Hamburg, Germany. But suffer not the Screed Du Jour, and watch as I do my best to recap more than month's worth of activity in a few short paragraphs. We'll do this mondo entry in reverse chronological order, so that it will make sense (as much as any of this blather can) when read from top to bottom, or bottom to top, or whatever floats your particular boat.
THE STUPEFYINGLY AMAZING MARCO MINNEMANN: Thanks mainly to Mike Keneally, I have been blessed with the opportunity to play with some truly amazing drummers, and I've learned more from them than they have from me about sophisticated rhythms and how they can be applied to Mike's and other music. I needed all that knowledge and more for when Mike and I rehearsed with Marco Minnemann, the drummer Mike recruited to play the upcoming show at the Paradiso in Amsterdam on October 11. I'd never heard of him, but Mike had, and his reputation among those familiar with him was stellar enough for Mike to write up the most demonic set list ever for a first-gig Keneally drummer, and maybe ever, period. Just a sampling:
'Cause Of Breakfast
The Dolphins Suite
Choosing To Drown
Top Of Stove Melting
We're Rocking All Night With...Cheddar
Armed with charts for about two weeks prior to our first rehearsal, Marco came in and destroyed these monuments to musical density with a force, fury, confidence and musicality I'm not sure I have previously witnessed in person. His fills and rhythmic concepts when soloing conjure up a mixture of Terry Bozzio, Virgil Donati, Vinnie Colaiuta and the most frighteningly fast death metal drummer (think Gene Hoaglund of Strapping Young Lad, or the guy from Meshuggah) you can imagine - and his own personal style and application of these concepts puts him, in my eyes, in the pantheon of Vinnie and maybe beyond him. He's that fucking good. Needless to say, I was thrilled, and also constantly on my toes as god-knows-what polyrhythms were coming at me from all angles. If you are anywhere near Amsterdam and you miss this show on October 11, you're nuts.
In this shot, Marco Minnemann stands triumphantly next to Mike Keneally's handwritten drum chart for the diabolically difficult "'Cause Of Breakfast."
LIKE, TOTALLY STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN, DUDE: Marco is also in the midst of recording an instructional/clinician DVD, and with the help of our Italian friend Sergio Ponti, Mike and I were able to meet him in Aosta, Italy and set aside a day to join him for the taping of four tunes: "...Breakfast", the "Dolphins" suite, "Choosing To Drown" and "Pride Is A Sin," which should spice up his DVD nicely. Making it even more special was the filming location: a 14th-century-era castle called Sarriod De La Tour. Between the castle itself, and the incredible scenery of Aosta, which is nestled in the Alps of northern-most Italy, I think it's time for some pictures to replace thousands of words.
Behold the view of the Italian Alps from the deck of our chateau in Aosta, Italy.
The village we stayed in was actually Saint-Pierre, 8 km from Aosta. Wasn't this, like, totally a Led Zeppelin album cover?
It looks like one of those "stand in front of the cardboard backdrop" pictures, but that's the real thing behind me on the chateau deck.
Castle Sarriod De La Tour. 600 years old and still strong enough to be a filming location for Marco Minnemann's DVD.
They just don't make 'em like they used to.
An army of Orcs couldn't take this place down - not with us defending it.
Keneally and I record "Choosing To Drown" for Marco's DVD. The coat of arms means we're playing in 17/16
LAST WORD ON MARCO, FOR NOW: It seems that the drum community and some sophisticated music enthusiasts in America know who Marco is, but he enjoys a much wider reputation in Europe than in the States. I think that this will inevitably change, and we'll consider ourselves fortunate to have met this very kind, humble soul and once-in-a-lifetime talent on his way up. His website is www.marcominnemann.com, and he's got something ridiculous like twelve albums out already. (Tip: If you want the most recent avant-garde, no-holds-barred, madness-of-Marco vibe, check out Comfortably Homeless.) OK, enough slobbering for now.
GRAZIE, ITALIA: Before this tour I'd only been in Italy once, on a business trip to Milan in 1999, so I'd never really seen the country. This leg of the Taylor acoustic duo tour took us to four cities, two in southern Italy (Napoli and a small village near Caserta) and two in northern Italy (Bologna and Milano) at a blinding pace; one travel day consisted of eight hours driving, then straight to a clinic location for a ninety-minute setup (Italy's collective culinary acumen outshines its organizational ability by a factor of at least three), then to a four-course dinner (oh-my-god-was-it-good), then straight back to the clinic and directly onstage, then off for a two-hour drive after the show to our hotel. Another day consisted of a 6.5 hour train ride from Milano to Napoli, which was topped off by a taxi driver whose main method of navigation was to stop and get out of the car, ask for directions from whoever happened to be walking by, have the conversation descend into a loud, arm-waving, hand-gesturing talk-over-each-other contest, and then repeat the whole process five minutes later (this happened about six times). We arrived at the clinic late, set up late, and then went out to dinner with our hosts just as the clinic's start time occurred. When we asked why everything was so crazy there, they just shrugged their shoulders and said, "This is Napoli!" We then proceeded to eat some of the best food we've ever had. This New Jersey/New York native can honestly say that the pizza I had in Milano was The Best Pizza I've Ever Eaten. And the people were warm, wonderful, fun and generous. I really do understand Italian-American culture a lot better for having been there.
Here, Mike Keneally and I take in the sights in a small village in southern Italy.
BRYAN BELLER BAND LIVE GIG #2: More fun than the first one, that's for sure. I really set out to try and have a more relaxed attitude about it this time around. The first gig was a pretty high-pressure situation, as my own standards for performing the material live were very high, and I wanted to prove that it could be done to people who didn't really know what to expect the first time out. Well, we did that show, and we nailed pretty much all of it - it surpassed my expectations and thrilled me in that way - but I didn't fully relax until the set was nearly over. This time was different, and while the accuracy rate was a bit lower, the vibe was infinitely better, and I had a blast. Here was the set list, in case you were wondering, with covers indicated by songwriter:
Seven Percent Grade
Get Things Done
Backwoods (John Pattitucci)
Choosing To Drown (Mike Keneally)
Bite (Wes Wehmiller/Colin Keenan)
Sugar Man (Kira Small)
See You Next Tuesday
Basically I bookended the Beller material with tunes written by my buds, and there was a "Bryan Beller and Friends" element to the gig, which I dug. The version of "Choosing To Drown" was the best Mike Keneally Band rendition in recent memory, and "Bite" is always fun. If you've been keeping up with The Life Of Bryan's latest installment then you know who Kira Small is, and her slow, sexy funk shuffle "Sugar Man" was a very nice antidote to the musical craziness present in nearly every other song. Speaking for myself, I was very pleased with the debut of "Eighteen Weeks," and happier this time around with "Wildflower," a very important song to me and one that requires a decent live lead vocal in order for it to work (somehow I managed). The fusion stuff was looser but greasier, and "Seven Percent Grade" especially benefited from its repeated live workouts by the Mike Keneally Band on the Guitar Therapy tour. And SMUG rocked fully, with Rick Musallam centering the power trio to great effect. So, overall, it was a nice way to revisit the live solo material thing, and hopefully I won't need another sixteen months to get my act together to do it again. Lastly on this topic, is there any possible way to thank the band - Griff Peters, Rick Musallam, Joe Travers, Chris Golden, Mike Keneally, and special guests Colin Keenan and Kira Small - enough for how great they are? I'm trying right now, for what it's worth.
I have pictures, but they're not on my laptop (I forgot to load them in the usual frenzy to leave the country), so it'll have to wait until I get back.
MIKE KENEALLY BAND LIVE ALBUM UPDATE: On July 29, 2005, The Mike Keneally Band Guitar Therapy lineup of Mike, myself, Rick Musallam and Joe Travers played a show at The Baked Potato in Los Angeles. It was the first show we'd done since the tour, and on a whim, Exowax CEO Scott Chatfield decided to have it professionally recorded. It was a very wise decision, as it turned out to be one of the best-sounding, highest-level Keneally band performances ever, right up there with the famous 2/22/96 Musician's Institute show that the MK/BFD trio of the time (Keneally/Beller/Toss Panos) turned into Disc 2 of Half Alive In Hollywood. Plans are already in the works for this show to be the cornerstone of a Mike Keneally Live CD (two other multi-track-recorded shows may also play a role: Sellersville, PA from the Guitar Therapy tour's final night, and the recent ProgDay performance in Chapel Hill, NC), and the idea is to get it mixed and released as soon as humanly possible. Long-time enthusiasts will not be disappointed, new converts should be blown away, and everyone hopefully will appreciate, at long last, a *really* good-sounding Keneally live CD. It sounds unbelievably great and huge and just the way it should.
MIKE KENEALLY/BRYAN BELLER ACOUSTIC DUO ALBUM UPDATE: In the very end of August, I spent two days at Scott Chatfield's house (which was converted into a recording studio by longtime Keneally engineer Mike Harris) in order to finally document this acoustic duo thing that Mike and I have been doing for the past nine years. I can't tell you how many times we'd be at a Taylor Guitars clinic and someone would ask us which album they could buy that reflected the performance they just saw, and we didn't have an answer. When this is done, we will, and it'll be a good one. It's been a while, but I think we did fourteen songs in total, and not all the ones you'd expect. I'm not sure exactly what the schedule for mixing and releasing this one is, but the basic tracks are already in the can. Probably a safe bet for some time in 2006.
AND JUST IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING WHAT HE'S UP TO RIGHT NOW: Mike Keneally is "waving at all the Screed-oids." Consider yourself waved at, and a Screed-oid, I suppose.
NORTH CAROLINA REDEMPTION: The Keneally gig at ProgDay in Durham, North Carolina was the first time we'd been to the state as a band in seven years, and the last time we'd been there the band we opened for spray-painted a swastika on our rental van. (NOTE: This is, in fact, untrue, and was corrected in a later Screed entry entitled NORTH CAROLINA CORRECTION, dated 10/15/05. Scroll up and check it out - BB.) I am beyond happy to report that we all collectively have a new, great memory of the state, as the outdoor festival brought us beautiful weather, a great, appreciative crowd, a killer show, and the cutest picture of a little girl wearing the t-shirt you see below.
Too cute for words. Thanks to everyone at ProgDay and Chad Hutchinson of NEARfest for pulling off this last minute gig.
THAT AUSTIN CHICKEN THING I MENTIONED: I believe that, last time I wrote in this space, I mentioned something about a chicken, bingo, and the wonder of nature combining to make a Sunday afternoon in an Austin bar called Ginny's a truly unique experience. Well, I try not to leave such tantalizing descriptions incomplete. Perhaps you can infer how it all works from the picture you see below, which I Call "The Winning Number Is 50."
Afterwards, my reaction makes the point in a less subtle fashion.
EUROPEAN ADVENTURE AHEAD: But not the one I thought I'd be having. If you check the Upcoming Appearances, you'll notice that I'm going to be in Europe with Mike Keneally from September 23 until at least October 11, and probably longer. We'll be doing lots of clinics for Taylor Guitars, and as of this writing, one electric band gig at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. I'm very happy about that, and I'm looking forward to seeing some of the folks I've become friendly with through my recent stints in Holland with the Metropol Orchestra and Steve Vai. But I know what some of you might be asking - if I'm doing all of this with Mike Keneally in September and October, what's going on with the Zappa Plays Zappa tour? It's not my business to be their spokesman, nor do I wish it to be, but obviously plans have changed, which is unfortunate, and I'm going to leave it at that until some kind of official announcement is made.
KATRINA: I thought I might have something intelligent to say by now, but I guess I don't yet. I'm too filled with sadness - and white-hot, near-blinding fury - to articulate it properly. But one day I will.
HOME AT LAST: This may seem alarming to those who don't travel all that much, but the past two weeks were the first time I've been home for fourteen straight days since early April, when I had knee surgery. It was wonderful, though a bit strange to remember what it's like to fully unpack and not have to pack again two days later. Been doing a lot of scooter riding and reconnecting with friends and fellow musicians around Los Angeles. Just to put this time at home in proper perspective, the last time I was home for a month straight was...wait for it...April of 2003. Yeah, it's like that.
YANKEE JEWDLE GOES TO TEXAS: But I'd be remiss to not mention that I'm writing this on a plane, as I head for six days of leisure time in Austin, Texas. I once wrote fondly of Austin back in 2001, when a unique lineup of the Mike Keneally Band played South By Southwest; I believe I called it "the San Francisco of Texas" and referred to myself as a "convert" after years of mindless Texas-bashing, some deserved and some not. Well, Yankee Jewdle's gonna put it to the test big time, with days ahead soaking up true honky-tonk culture at places like Donn's Depot, The Continental Club, and Ginny's, where apparently they engage in something called "Chicken Shit Sunday." Something about bingo and money and a chicken and the location of its solid waste determining the lucky winner. I'm not sure they do that in San Francisco, but perhaps they should.
MEANWHILE, AT BRYANBELLERDOTCOM: The reaction to the first new installment of The Life Of Bryan in three years has been extremely gracious. I've really missed that format, and obviously I had a lot to get off of my chest about how out of control the past couple of years have been. What, you haven't read it yet? OK, I understand, it's 25 pages long, but it's not like it costs anything.
SOLO GIG #2: Yes, there's going to be a second Bryan Beller solo gig at The Baked Potato in L.A. I waited long enough, don't you think? This six-piece band isn't exactly easy to get and keep together, and my desire to be Mr. Showleader varies over time, but lately I've been listening to some of the audio from the first show, and I found myself missing it. That, plus the rocking version of "Seven Percent Grade" that the Mike Keneally Band was putting out there on the Guitar Therapy tour, got me back into the mindset. (That reminds me - I need to make that downloadable. Stay tuned for that.) It's September 14, a Wednesday night in L.A. Come on, what else is there to do on Wednesday night? And don't tell me about some television program - I totally turned off my cable TV two months ago and it's one of the best things I ever did. What a wasteland TV is (The Sopranos aside, of course).
KATY TOWELL TAKES OVER THE INTERNET: If you receive BellerBytes (and if you don't, get thee to this page), you already know about how Katy's flash-animation movie The Little Girl is something of a phenomenon in that circle. But since then it's been, as they say, just stupid. Katy's robustly-hosted site (she is a web designer, after all) was literally overrun by people downloading the movie; she had to have it hosted at four different gigantic sites just to keep her domain upright; over 100,000 page views have been registered at Newgrounds alone, where it currently sits (as of this writing) as the #1 member-rated movie in the history of the website; demand for actual, purchasable Skary products is insane. When she's doing book signings and holed up in her castle-like dwelling in New Orleans, we can all say we knew her when. In case you haven't seen it, go here and feel the buzz (and grab a tissue, 'cause it's sad, but beautiful).
BIG NEWS COMING: It has to do with Europe, and it's not what you might think.
I'M BACK: After being on the road for a solid month - first in the US with Keneally, then for two weeks in Europe with Steve Vai - I'm finally home.
GUITAR THERAPY SESSION COMPLETE: Yes, the Mike Keneally Band Guitar Therapy tour is over. Many were treated, some were healed, others were just stunned. I happen to think it was the best Keneally band live musical presentation ever, and hopefully you got a chance to come out and see the therapy being administered. But if not, you'll just have to settle for the DVD we're working up from footage shot at the last show of the tour in Sellersville, PA. And if you made it out to any of the shows: thank you. Your support is very, very much appreciated.
TOTALLY SUBJECTIVE SHOW RANKINGS: For the record, my favorite shows were, in this order: Cambridge (for me, this was the killer by far, and a lot of people saw it), Santa Fe (which no one saw), and Cincinnati (even though it was so loud it hurt). Special mention to New York, which had its own special energy because the crowd was sooooo crazy (we literally had to calm the crowd from becoming violent when we announced we didn't have time to do a proper encore as per the club's timeline), and also because we were two hours late getting there. Full documentation will have to wait for another day...but in the meantime, here's a shot you won't see every day: Yours truly, blissed out on stage in Cambridge.
And then there's the obligatory final band tour shot, taken just before the DVD-taped show in Sellersville, PA.
If you live in the Los Angeles area, you've got one last chance to see this lineup, at the Baked Potato on Saturday, July 30. Don't miss it.
STEVE VAI'S ACHING HUNGER, PHASE II: Then there was the return of Steve Vai and the Metropol Orchestra gig, but this time we were doing it to capture audio and video for a Sony/Epic CD/DVD worldwide release (no pressure, Bryan, OK?). I'm happy to report that everything came off splendidly, and those in attendance were treated to another incredible collaboration.
PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE: The following pictures were taken on the taping-show night in Groningen, Holland, with my P.O.S. digital camera by the wonderful Melissa Savage, a friend of mine from L.A. who just happened to be in the neighborhood (OK, Copenhagen was 10 hours away, but Europe is like that). Props to her.
Don't forget to turn the page, smart guy.
Steve Vai (left) and I flank the front line of the stage.
When I get through a tune without making any mistakes, I get a little halo.
When I make it through the whole first set without making any mistakes, I get a big halo.
One of many standing ovations. This is good for the ego.
Ripping out "The Attitude Song" for the encore.
The final bow of a great night in Groningen.
After the show, I hung out and signed copies of View. I should have brought more - they sold out of them!
EMPHASIS ON "WORLDWIDE": It's fair to say that, considering the scope of the Vai DVD release, it was probably the most important gig I've ever done. Thanks to everyone who was there, and to all the kind people I met and saw again for the first time since last year. And a very special thanks to Steve Vai and Co de Kloet of NPS for making it happen at the highest levels, and with the highest degree of support imaginable.
Should be an interesting final product. I just hope I wasn't picking my nose or anything.
GUITAR THERAPY TOUR REPORT: I have to apologize for the general lack of online content surrounding the Mike Keneally Band Guitar Therapy tour. While previous tours have been longer and tougher, the pace at which we've worked our way across the country is unmatched in Keneally band history, and it's been tough to find time to write about it. I'll do something more once the tour is over, but for now, I wanted to share what I could while I could.
THE MUSIC: It's never been better - that's my biased opinion. This is the Keneally dream band for me; we have so many years of playing experience together that it only stands to reason how high the bar line has been set, and in my view, consistently exceeded. We're tighter than ever, and it's pure joy to play with these guys. I can't wait to hear some of the documents, and I have a feeling that the DVD taping we're doing in Philly (Sellersville, PA, the last show of the tour) will capture something truly special.
THE ROAD: Well, it's been kinder to us in the past. We had a mishap with a tire on Keneally's van in Hershey, Nebraska (try finding that on the map) that was right out of Planes, Trains & Automobiles, and the weather has been awful for most of the way: stinky hot, sweaty humid, lots of rain and overcast skies throughout. But we're pretty hardcore for a bunch of guys well into in their thirties (and one nameless guy in his forties), and at worst we're like an old married couple. Or, er, an old married foursome (fivesome if you include tour manager Pieter van Hoogdalem). So we're surviving just fine, and some old friends (you know who you are) have been extremely helpful in making our lives just a little bit easier, and deserve our deep appreciation.
THE PICTURES: While there's no official band photo yet, I have individual shots that will have to do for now, accompanied by names and special secret CB handle codenames:
Joe Travers, a.k.a. Studebaker Hawk, heats up Shank Hall in Milwaukee during soundcheck.
Rick Musallam, a.k.a. Buck Cake Fish Sticks. I will never, ever tell you what that means, and you will be eternally grateful.
Pieter van Hoogdalem, a.k.a. The Royal Dutchman (or The Supreme Royal Flying Dutchman, depending how deep into the tour you go), learns to love the joys of tour managing outside Broadway Joe's in Buffalo, NY.
Mike Keneally, a.k.a. Dust Speck, surveys Broadway Joe's with a set list in his hand while a summer storm rages just outside.
Bryan Beller, a.k.a. Yankee Jewdle, wonders if he'll make it through the night without getting tossed out of Broadway Joe's.
Yes, it's a band tour. Film at eleven.
2005 QUARTERLY REPORT: It's not really fair to tell 2004 to go fuck itself (see previous entry far below, starting with "Did I Say It Was One Hell Of A Year So Far") without taking a close look at 2005 in progress for comparison's sake. Let's see how it's going so far.
January: Worked NAMM show for SWR, caught week-long flu, close friend dies.
February: Totaled car, back goes out, gave notice of intention to quit SWR.
March: Keneally acoustic tour, learn to appreciate chiropractic care.
April: Arthroscopic Knee surgery, caught another week-long flu, learn to appreciate coolness of walking with cane, work last day for SWR after 9 years, visit family for week-long trip for first time in seven years.
Looking at this on paper, it doesn't necessarily read as positive...but somehow it is. And there are things I'm skipping past, because describing the transformative journey (insert sound of wind chimes here) from last November to now is really a long-form piece of writing, and when it gets clearer to me I'll memorialize it in The Life Of Bryan (yes, really, someday). But I can tell you this: I am happier and more at peace with what's going on around me that I have been in many, many years, and I'm looking forward to bringing that energy with me on the road for the pending Keneally tour, something I've been waiting for just as anxiously as some of you have been.
THE WES WEHMILLER TRIBUTE PAGE: I've gotten a lot of very nice e-mail about this - thank you, and you know who you are. I still miss him terribly. But it's getting easier to focus on how cool he was, and also on some of the good things that have come from this one awful and premature loss. I know he's up there laughing at a lot of things right now. And soon, very soon, the official tribute website in his honor will launch, and those who only know him through me will see him in an entirely new and different light. The guy was - is - amazing.
BAKED POTATO 4/23 GIG REPORT: If you were in LA on April 23 and you didn't go to the Baked Potato, then damn you, damn you all to hell. I mean, you missed one of the most intense Keneally shows in recent memory. Playing this material with my drummer-soulmate Joe Travers is so intensely satisfying to me, it's hard to put into words. Maybe this picture will do the trick.
TOUR DATES: Did you miss the top news item? You know, the one with tour dates for the first Keneally electric band tour in four years? I like the name of this tour - Guitar Therapy. It seems to fit the bill for the events of late on several levels.
BELLER BODY DAMAGE CONTROL: The knee is healing. I can walk without a cane now (some of my female friends are a little disappointed). There's still some swelling, but the unattractive prospect of having to play Keneally gigs sitting down seems unlikely at this point. The back is getting there. I'm still quite fond of my chiropractor, a friendly, well-toned man named Daniel. (Yeah, it really feels that good when I leave there.) Anyway, with any luck, in a couple of months I'll be completely back to normal. And if not, I've got more Vicodan than I know what to do with. No e-mail solicitations on this topic, please.
LIFE AFTER SWR: My last official day as Captain SWR was April 19. Having held this gig for 9 years - the only real day job I've ever had - and then suddenly not having it anymore was a strange adjustment at first. For the first week I stayed up late, just because I could, and I kept waking up at 7AM; for five nights in a row I got no more than four hours sleep. But slowly it sank in that there was going to be more room in my life for what's truly important to me than there's been in a while, and that this course correction was long, long overdue. The clearest indication was when I sat down at the keyboard for the first time in months, and a near-complete song tumbled out of my fingers, the first new material I've written since the song "View" in late 2002.
Now that's the kind of year I'm looking forward to, starting with this tour. The sleep will come in time.
WALKING WOUNDED: Apparently it's not enough just to be recovering from a back injury caused by a horrific car crash I was lucky to walk away from. No, I chose last week to finally have exploratory arthroscopic surgery performed on my balky left knee. Turns out to be a good thing I did it; my knee joint lining was swelled up like a Ball Park frank. That's been handled, and I'm walking around with the help of one very stylish cane. This has resulted in all sorts of Pimp Daddy Beller jokes amongst my L.A. friends, but I prefer the picture shown below as a representative image of this very strange era in my physical health.
GIG UPDATE: If you're in the Southern California area, there's some cool stuff going on in the next couple of weeks. There's a Mike Keneally Band Baked Potato gig on Saturday, April 23, plus a San Diego club gig on Sunday, May 1, both with Joe Travers on drums. We'll be debuting a new repertoire (we hope) at these shows, so come see us flail away. Also, I'll be doing my first gig with fantastically talented singer/songwriter Jackie Daum in San Diego this coming Friday, April 15. The guitarist for this gig is none other than View veteran Griff Peters, and we'll be joined by our longtime friend, Nashville singer/songwriter Kira Small on background vocals. You already know that you can find out stuff like this at the bottom of the front page of this site, right?
KENEALLY TOURING: At long last, the Mike Keneally Band is hitting the road in electric form. Look for stuff in early May on the West Coast, and more stuff on the East Coast and in the Midwest in the first half of June. It's taken four years to put this together, so don't even think about waiting until next time. Watch this space and the Mike Keneally website for details.
BUT BACK TO MY CANE: It's my friend. I love it. I can't stop playing with it. It's unhealthy how much I enjoy its company. Maybe I'll figure out some way to always have it with me, like Angelo from Fishbone. That said, I'm really looking forward to walking around like a normal person again. Limping through airports on a cane is humbling, no matter how cool you look doing it. Though I do look cool doing it, I'll have you know.
THE SEVENTH SONG, AGAIN: Yes, yes, I know, I'm on another Steve Vai album. I don't mean to sound flippant about it, but I honestly had no idea that "Lotus Feet" from last year's Metropol Orchestra performance was going to be included on Vai's latest release, Real Illusions: Reflections, until I was informed by readers of this site via e-mail. And it's the seventh song, no less. It's a pretty magnificent recording, and I'm extremely proud to have been a part of it. While it's a pretty simple bass part, I can tell you that it's not as easy as it sounds to play a bunch of whole notes, every one of them perfect. It tests the concentration in unexpected ways. That said, the last minute or so of the track has a couple of key bass fills mixed fairly prominently. Eventually I'll write an official discography entry for it, but for now, check out the details at Steve's website.
THE BIG NEWS: Maybe you've heard, maybe you haven't, maybe you don't care. But here it is anyway - I resigned my post at SWR after nearly nine years of loyal service. (Of course, if you're subscribed to BellerBytes, you knew this already, and got the text of my resignation letter to boot. So exciting.) What does it all mean? More time for music, composition, and maybe even an honest week off. Which would be good, because...
WHEN THE SUBTLE MESSAGES JUST AREN'T GETTING THROUGH: I completely wrecked my car a couple of weeks ago. We're talking hydroplaning in the pouring rain and doing 360's until the car hit the center divider. Repeatedly. Miraculously, I walked away from it, and am already the proud owner of...a minivan?
At least it's black, so a thin sliver of my manhood is still intact.
BUT THEN: Last week, in some sort of delayed reaction, my back went out. I'm now a member of the Bad Back Club for the first time in my life. This tour will be interesting as a result. But not to worry - I'll have my Brookstone car-seat-back-pad-with-massager in tow.
THE MESSAGE: Uh, what was it again?
**sound of thunderbolts**
Yes, yes, that's right: Life is precious, enjoy every moment, go a little slower. I get it, I get it, OK?!
Something tells me this will all end up in a new Act of The Life Of Bryan someday soon.
HELLO, 2005: It's gotten off to one hell of a start. A serious website update should be in place by the time you read this, which will explain a lot. One of my best friends, Wes Wehmiller, passed away at the age of 33. I got the flu and was bedridden for over a week. The Winter NAMM show in Anaheim, CA was its usual human tornado. All this, and yet things are changing for the much, much better.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR: New tour dates with Keneally. Ways to honor the memory of Wes Wehmiller. A new Beller-bassed album from Dream Theater's lead singer James LaBrie. More bryanbellerdotcom exclusive audio. More frequent Screeds and BellerBytes updates. And one big fat news item that I can't discuss yet, but will change a whole pile of things. This year will be a leap of faith, but one I'm ready to take. Stay tuned.
OH GOOD, IT'S WAL-MART FRIENDLY: Because we know who the target customer really is.
DID I SAY IT WAS ONE HELL OF A YEAR SO FAR?: It's been six months since I've written in this space, and last I remember things were hectic as usual, but going fairly well. Gigs with Vai in Europe, my first gig as a solo artist, Keneally's DOG was about to be released...and then everything just went completely and totally fucking haywire. I suppose this balancing act of work, musical sideman-ship and solo artist/self-promotion-machine was bound to collapse, and in the second half of 2004, it did. Crises on all fronts boiled over; at times the stress was almost more than I could bear. I blinked and 2004 was gone. Mercifully.
OH, STOP YOUR WHINING: I'm not going to go into detail on all of it. You'll be grateful. I will say that work is tougher than it used to be, playing music while working is a lot tougher than it used to be, and all it took was one extra thing to go out of whack and it became difficult to keep up - especially when more than one thing went out of whack. Hence the lack of website updates and general activity around these parts. Let's see if I can spew random thoughts on the last six months without being too pathetic about it.
POLITICS CORNER: I was consumed by the election and the desire to defeat President Bush. That's why I didn't write any commentary on the election - too many other people were doing it better than I ever could, in real time, and I was so rabidly partisan that I decided not waste any energy cheerleading and simply contributed more money than I ever had in the past. There are a lot of reasons why Kerry lost, but none more important than this: Americans don't vote out wartime presidents, right or wrong. They never have, and probably never will. History will judge Bush and his war in Iraq, perhaps as history has judged Nixon and Johnson, or maybe even as it's judged Truman. We won't know for years. Kerry really was just a vessel for Democratic hopes of beating Bush. Anyone who doesn't see that is fooling himself (including Kerry himself).
THE AGE OF RIGHT-WINGNUTTERY: But we are definitely living in a conservative pendulum-swing era, one that will take years to swing back. Anyone who thinks that all of these Republican victories are flukes may care to notice that no Democratic candidate has won with a majority since Carter in 1976, and that was with the stain of Watergate on the GOP. EVentually absolute power will corrupt the Republicans in power, just as it did the Democrats over time (see 1994, Congressional elections), but it will take time. During that time we'll see all sorts of shameful things, especially concerning the rollbacks of the rights of individuals and women, not to mention a transfer of the tax burden from idle wealth to work (see "reform", i.e. tax code and Social Security). Some of it will stand, some of it will not. In the meantime, Democrats should evaluate themselves and what they stand for. It can't just be about hating Bush, though I do passionately. Believe me, I share in the outrage of the way the campaign was run, from the Swift Boats to the incessant smearing the GOP has perfected over time. They still won. Dems need a more clear vision, they can't be ashamed to articulate it (Americans don't like equivocators, it seems), and they also need a revamped media machine a la the Rush Limbaugh-Drudge Report-Fox News echo chamber the right wing worked on for 10 years. Get to work.
NEW MUSIC CORNER: bryanbellerdotcom wholeheartedly recommends the following new music. "The Secret Machines" eponymous debut album (somewhere comfortably between Led Zeppelin, Radiohead and Pink Floyd); Viktor Krauss' "Far From Enough" (Bill Frisell's bassist hijacks his band and writes killer Nashville-guitar vibe-fusion); Medeski, Martin & Wood's "End Of The World Party (Just In Case)" (obviously they were referring to the election); and, for the really, truly adventurous, "Scissor Sisters" eponymous debut album. Try and imagine a cover of "Comfortably Numb" sung by the Bee Gees over a Donna-Summer-"On The Radio" musical arrangement. Or, call them The Village People of the 21st Century, but cooler. I did say "adventurous."
THE REST OF 2004 DID SUCK, I ALMOST FORGOT: Sure, the election was traumatic, but it wasn't even the worst thing that happened that week. As you may or may nor know, the Webmistress Katy Towell was the victim of a devastating bulglary in the middle of the night on Halloween. She pretty much lost everything she owned. We are very close, and it really was as if they robbed both of us. Some people stepped up and did unspeakably nice things for Miss Katy, and we both remain grateful and always will be (you know who you are). The reaction of the apartment complex and their management, however, was so shameful as to be practically inhuman. It shakes my faith in humanity - and angers me to the point of near violence - when people in a position of power and resource treat others in their time of dire need with contempt, insult and outirght hostility, especially when their negligence is a main contributing factor to the circumstances. And to protect what? Their standing among their colleagues? Their ability to tell their co-workers how tough they were on those poor bastards who lost everything they owned less than 12 hours after they moved into one of their properties? I know I'm being obtuse here, but it's by necessity - we'll be in court soon enough, and while neither Katy nor I expect the legal system to suddenly be the shining light we know it isn't, at least the story will be told and a judge will be listening. All that anger aside, it was a terrible, terrible experience and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. But we learned a lot by having to live through it. Like, two days later, when Bush won, it sucked, but if Kerry had won, would it really have made a difference?
IT WASN'T ALL BAD: The 2004 World Champion Boston Red Sox. Wow.
WELL, YES IT WAS: If you scroll down far enough (or, at some point, if you click back into the 2004 archive when one is created), you'll see pictures of me in Indonesia, visiting a factory on a business trip for SWR. Though the region and the people I visited were spared, it is impossible to try and fathom what just happened in Indonesia and throughout Southeast Asia. Let's show these people that not every American is a complete fucking asshole like our President is (memory check: our initial offer of $15 million dollars was half of what Bush's inaugural will cost). If you can give, give. Katy and I remarked more than once, as we exited the six-week hell-haze of recovering from the burglary and then witnessing the tsunami's effects, that things could be a lot worse.
LET'S SUM UP - 2004 BAD, 2005 GOOD: OK, that's stupid. Like I said, not all of 2004 was bad. But the second half, well, it wasn't good enough to want to do again. As for 2005, my only New Year's Resolution is that 2005 be more musical. I'd like to do another show. Eventually I'd like to write another album. I know I'd like to get out there and tour Keneally's new album. I'd like to go to Europe with Vai again. I'd like to do a lot of things. Too many, as always.
The trials of the second half of 2004 have put some very important things into proper perspective, though, and actions will eventually result from that One Good Thing. Until then, let me paraphrase Dick Cheney and say this: 2004, fuck yourself.
YOUR WEBSITE CONTENT PROVIDER AT WORK: If you're reading this, that means
that the Massive June Site Update is complete. It contains a Steve Vai/Metropol Orchestra Show Recap, a new installment of Rear View Mirror, and plenty of updates on the front page and news & events. I'm tired from just thinking about it all.
SOLO GIG? LIVE DEBUT?! WHAT THE...: Yes, I've given in to the inevitable and am doing a live show in LA at - where else? - The Baked Potato. June 24. With Nick D'Virgilio's power trio version of Spock's Beard, affectionately titled "Spock's Goatee" (courtesy of Rick Musallam). You probably want to know more than this. As Frank Zappa used to say, "One can hardly blame you."
DO YOU RECEIVE BELLERBYTES?: Well, do you? As in, the e-mail newsletter that keeps you up to date on all of the latest happenings? You see, the Screed Du Jour is more and more becoming a place for me to, as Bill O'Reilly would say, "opine, and keep it pithy." Real news is ending up in the BellerBytes e-newsletter. If you haven't signed up, just go to the front page and do it (it's near the top, right under the title bar). It's private. We don't share info with anyone, Patriot Act or no Patriot Act.
YOU'RE STILL WAITING: OK, for this one time only, we'll reprint some of the latest edition of BellerBytes so you can see what I'm talking about. Remember that this was sent out on June 1, before the latest site update:
I still can't believe I'm actually doing this:
Thursday, June 24
10:30 PM (but don't show up at 10:30 - show up by 9PM, see below for why)
The Baked Potato
3787 Cahuenga Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91604
The band is:
Rick Musallam - Guitar
Griff Peters - Guitar
Mike Keneally - Guitar, Keyboards
Joe Travers - Drums
Bryan Beller - Bass, Keyboards, Vocals
Wes Wehmiller - Special Guest Bass
Colin Keenan - Special Guest Vocals
Appearing on same night at 9 PM: Spock's Goatee
EDITOR'S NOTE: Nick D'Virgilio & Spock's Goatee are NOT doing the 9PM slot - instead it will be a Mike Keneally & Bryan Beller acoustic set. Below is what originally appeared in the Screed at the time of posting.
OK, first of all, Spock's Goatee is Nick D'Virgilio's power-trio version of Spock's Beard. Nick and I are really excited about this gig, and he's been gracious enough to share the night with me and even go on first, even though he's done hundreds of gigs as a soloist and with Spock's while I'm a virgin at it (equipment issues essentially dictated it). Our partnership continues in new and unusual ways.
As for the band, it's really amazing. Maybe one day I'll figure out how to strip some of this stuff down into a four-piece that can cover all the bases, but since we're all in town, and this is the lineup I really want, screw it - we're a sextet. My good friend Wes Wehmiller will be holding down the bass chair while (get this) I'm playing keyboards, or singing, or both. Keneally will be floating from baritone guitar to piano to organ. The material will cover most of View. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was at once thrilled and terrified by this event. That said, I implore you and your friends to show up, if for no other reason than to point and laugh.
Steve Vai/Metropol Orchestra Show Recap
It was amazing, a true triumph, an incredible sight, the way music and gigs and life ought to be. No, not the finale of American Idol - the three gigs I just did with Steve Vai and the Metropol Orchestra in Holland. I'm currently working on a recap that's almost an Act of the Life Of Bryan in its scope...but it's not done yet, and Webmistress Katy is backordered with web projects, and the news about the gig is the raison d'etre for this installment of BellerBytes, so you'll have to stay tuned to the website at www.bryanbeller.com (as you should be anyway). But here's a preview:
"The first tune of the show was called "Is It Over Yet?", and rightly so - it was a 10-minute-plus tour de force of variations on a new musical theme interspersed with excerpts from some of Steve's older material ("Lucky Charms" and "There's A Fire In The House" were two of them). But the showstopper was a four-minute violin cadenza written, in Steve's words, "to break the violinist's back." The responsibility for playing such an impossibly difficult thing falls to the first violin section leader, or the "concertmaster." (Think of this person as the lead guitarist of the orchestra.) The Metropol's concertmaster was a quiet, unassuming, middle-aged lady named Arlia de Ruiter. One of the most amazing musical things I've ever seen was the sight of this relatively obscure Dutch lady absolutely tearing the shit out of a true Steve Vai solo piece, something that would have been mindblowing on guitar, let along violin. The orchestra broke out into spontaneous applause after the first time she did it in rehearsal..."
The real thing will have over 20 pictures and some hopefully clever captions to go along with a full page of text. When it's done I'm going to post it to the official Vai message board, which should be interesting as I've noticed a completely new group of folks wandering around bryanbellerdotcom of late. And they're very, very nice people from all over the world. In case you want to see what they're saying about it, just go to www.vai.com and follow "Reviews & Images From The Holland Shows" to "Concert Reviews".
The only FAQ that seems to matter on this issue: Will it become a record? Officially I don't have an answer, but something tells me that it will be both broadcast in Holland on NPS and become a record. I just don't know exactly when.
Like I said, stay tuned to bryanbellerdotcom and all will eventually become clear. **********
3. View Now Available in Holland at www.plato.nl
In more international news...since Holland was so great to me, Onion Boy Records has decided to try and return the favor. With the help of some local expertise (you know who you are), View is now available for sale at www.plato.nl, a storefront retail/online sales portal widely recognized as one of the most respected in all of Holland. We were able to sell some copies at the Metropol shows, but I can understand how some folks might have been so Vai-i-fied that buying other peoples' CD's wasn't their highest priority. Now that things have settled down - and folks on the Vai message board who saw the show no longer think that Les Claypool was playing bass for the gigs (!!!) - there's someplace local to go for those who are interested.
I could go on and on about how great it is just being in The Netherlands is for folks like Mike Keneally and Steve Vai and myself...but it wouldn't really do it any justice. If you live there, just know that, from the outside looking in, you're in a special place.
So, if you're not signed up for BellerBytes, what are you waiting for?
A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS: You don't want to know how long I've been looking for a picture like this.
YES, IT WAS AMAZING: The Steve Vai show, that is. It was a long wait - 1996 really was a million years ago, it seems - but well worth it.
BACK IN TIME: So I've been practicing the material for the upcoming Steve Vai + orchestra concert, which involves charts. I admit that I don't practice very often anymore, but there was no way in hell I was going to be caught trying to sightread along with these Dutch maniacs. No, I think I'm better off being prepared in advance. Interestingly enough, one of the tunes is an except from "Kill The Guy With The Ball," a demonically difficult tune I first learned back in 1996 for the infamous Steve Vai Audition so carefully detailed in Act 17 of the original Life Of Bryan. (Ah, youth.) While at first I was dreading it, it didn't take long for the muscle memory to kick back in - eight years later. This is going to sound really egotistical, but it seemed harder back then. Yep, it's official: I'm totally full of myself.
WHAT NEXT?: I've also been asked to play fretless. I know, you can't play "For The Love Of God" with just a fretted bass and a chorus pedal. The good news is that the kind folks at Mike Lull sent me the most gorgeous quilted maple fretless for the occasion. The bad news is that I have to play it in tune with other instruments. If I have to play it with a pick, cover your ears.
AMERICAN EXPORT: I leave for Holland very early Saturday morning... and I'll have plenty of copies of View in tow. I've been informed that it should be OK for me to sell them at the show, so all you international folks who've been on the fence for one reason or another, this is your chance to buy a CD and ask me to write something in Dutch on it. At the very least I hope to connect with a local Dutch retailer or two and get some CD's in stock, as The Netherlands has proven to be fertile ground for View sales. Thanks, Holland. Cool country. Can we borrow your government for a while? Ours is, like, broken and stuff.
AND THAT'S THAT: I'm outta here. In the meantime, check out the new "See You Next Tuesday" stuff up at the Rear View Mirror page. I really should have been a baritone guitarist.
YOU VOTE, I DECIDE: Thanks to everyone who took the time to register their vote for what the hell we should do about the potential demo released, affectionately referred to 'round these parts as Rear View Mirror. While the response was good, I took to thinking about the whole thing some more, and realized that with Keneally's album coming out, and my upcoming trip to Europe for Steve Vai's rock orchestra performance, and my SWR work obligations, and blah blah blah, it just didn't seem like it would get done until 2005 at the earliest. And when I thought about what it would take to do it right—because we only release quality titles here at Onion Boy Records—it just seemed, well, potentially distracting. But I feel like it should get out there some how. So, what to do?
GIVE IT AWAY, NOW!: That's right, we're going to post it all online. Who needs money, anyway? Call it a show of appreciation for the incredible amount of support I've gotten so far on this project. We'll do it in installments. Every couple of weeks (or once a month if I get busy), we'll put up a new demo or two, along with some candid audio, all of which would have comprised Rear View Mirror had I ever found the time to do it, which was doubtful. Just go to the Rear View Mirror page and have at it. I guarantee that those who really enjoy View will find some tasty insider tidbits over the coming weeks and months.
DID I SAY STEVE VAI?: Hard to believe, but this gig will be the first live gig I've ever played with Mr. Triple-7. Plenty of studio work over the years, but not one live performance. For it to come around on this project, with a full orchestra, under the guidance of the one and only Co de Kloet of Holland's NPS, is really, intensely gratifying. I'll be sure to have to digital camera in tow for this once-in-a-lifetime event. Click HERE to see the official info posted at Steve Vai's site. I know: holy shit.
FROM INDONESIA WITH JET-LAG: It's a strange and beautiful country nestled
right on the equator, with torrential downpours every day and 4 PM sharp. The blinding rain doesn't stop a nation of scooter-and-bicycle riders from operating a high-speed game of chicken on the roads. It took me 30 hours to get there, 36 hours to get back, and I only stayed there for two days in country, all on business. I nearly missed a connection on the way in through Jakarta airport, which literally looked like a scene out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; I
found myself running in sweat-soaked clothers through crowds of people whose nationalities I'd seen only in National Geographic. Not overloaded with fun, but I got some cool pictures nonetheless. Try this:
TOOTH-HURTY: OK, it's all better now. I had the root canal and the temporary caps are in place, with permanents to follow the week after next. I didn't realize that The Pain Of Dentistry was a pain so many knew so well...thanks (I think) for all of the horror stories I got via e-mail. If I knew one thing after reading them, it was that it could have been worse.
DOG: The new Keneally band album has been mastered. I'll hear the final version next week. Keneally is losing his mind over how good it turned out.
GIG REPORT: The last gig we did at The Baked Potato was just deliciously good, with the live debut of five new tunes (which we nailedI love it when we do that) and a killer, SRO audience. This material is more conducive to live performance than anything Keneally's done in a while. I know, I've been in this "band" for ten years now, and I shouldn't get all giddy and excited about a new record coming out and shows to go with it, but I am. All that, and the Sopranos is back on the air. These are all good things.
THEY DISTORT, I DECIDE: I know I haven't written about politics lately, mainly because I've just been so damned busy with SWR and Onion Boy and Keneally and so on. And I have no intention of returning to writing columns anytime soon, because I'm enjoying reading them more than I am writing them lately. So let me just say this and get it over with:
a) I supported the invasion of Iraq for one reason and one reason only: WMD. No clear-thinking person of any policial affiliation could deny that, if Saddam Hussein had them or was damned close to having them, that this could be allowed to happen in the age of Al Qaeda, and that either the US or the State of Israel (which I support wholly in their efforts to live free from fear of being pushed into the sea) could sit idly by and wait for the mushroom cloud to hit.
b) I supported the war even though I was highly suspicious of the potential motives of George W. Bush's administration and interests in the region. Just because you don't like or trust someone doesn't mean that they aren't correct on matters of grave importance on occasion. I saw this as such an occasion.
c) Like many Americans, I feel absolutely hoodwinked, swindledlike the victim of a cheap conby the the utter absence of WMD's and the obvious manipulation of the available intelligence in order to justify the war.
d) Nothing is more insulting than someone telling me that, because my support for the war was conditional and I believed the government when they said that something was true to meet the conditions, I would now be considered someone who "flip-flops" if my conditional support for that war was withdrawn due to a lack of those conditions being met in retrospect.
This is essentially what John Kerry faces now from the Bush team. If you say you're not for the war, you're an unserious peacenik. If you say your support for the war was conditional, and you voted for it then but regret it now, you're a flip-flopper. If you support the war 100%, then you think Bush is right and why the hell are you running anyway?
There are so many levels to this kind of mailciousness and duplicitous logic that I could fill a hard drive with the examples. And the conservative media megaphone available for amplification of such shoddy thinking is tenfold larger and more powerful than in 2000, and a gigantic obstacle to overcome in order to keep it from cementing itself as fact in the eyes of the American public. Kerry was rightthis is scary.
Don't get me wrong. I'm no olive-brancher. I think we should be blowing the tops off of mountains in Pakistan if that's where Osama Bin Laden's kidney dialysis machine is resting these days. All I'm trying to say is that whatever ambivalence I have about Kerryand I have some, like I had about Gorewill be shoved aside in the sole purpose of helping rid the U.S. of this dangerous industrial-military aristocracy now in power, whose interests are served by the continued leadership of one George W. Bush.
I just sent Kerry money. It won't be the last time before November.
WRITING UNDER THE INFLUENCE: The past week has seen the emergence of a persona I didn't know was within me: V-Bryan. What's the "V" stand for, you ask? Vicodin. No, I'm not pulling a Rush Limbaugh and suddenly admitting an addiction to painkillers. I'm taking them because I got in a pretty horrific bicycle accident last week and ground my two front teeth into bits and pieces. As V-Bryan would say "Whoooaaa, man!" I can tell you it's made for a mellower me for the past week. The Vicodin, not the missing teeth.
TOOTHPLANT: How did it happen? I'm still not sure. I was biking on a cement bike path and crossing an intersection containing normal down and up curb-ramps in and out of the sidewalk. When I went to go back up, I pulled up on the handlebars...and that was the last thing I remembered. (Perhaps the front wheel was loose?) The next thing I felt was the impact, directly on my two front teeth. I can only assume I was either airborne or was catapulted straight down towards the pavement. Either way, I could taste the blood swirling around in my mouth, and I knew my teeth were shattered. Not cracked off - just annihilated from the halfway point down. I never looked for the missing pieces. I'm not sure there was anything left to find.
ARE YOU OK?: There were people in cars waiting for me to cross the road, about six in a line. So these folks got a front row seat to what must have been one seriously ugly faceplant-and-body-skid. When I came around, a nice lady was asking me the typical questions. "Are you OK? Is anything broken? Can you hear me?" She was there and not there, if you know what I mean. Finally I gave her the Webmistress Katy Towell's cell phone number. I was assured that Katy was on the way. (Unfortunate karmic note: I don't remember being nice enough to this stranger whose name I cannot remember; I was pretty pissed off at myself. Sorry, whoever you are.) I looked down at myself. Luckily I was wearing two long-sleeved layers, because the outer one (hooded sweatshirt) was shredded all the way up the left arm. My gloves were torn at the knuckles and I was bleeding through them. I put my hand on my face - blood everywhere. I was afraid that Katy would just pass out when she saw me, and I'd be driving us both to the hospital.
9-1-1 EMERGENCY: Suddenly four fire trucks and an ambulance came screaming up to the scene. Oh great, I slurred to myself. Now I was walking around with my arm over my mouth, blood all over me, a tattered sweatshirt, and trying to convince the authorities that I didn't need an ambulance ride to the emergency room, and that someone was on the way to pick me up. They were shoving me into the back of an ambulance when Katy came bolting around the corner. I inspected myself in a police car's rear view mirror - I looked like Rocky Balboa at the end of the first movie. Bad cuts all the way down my nose, on my lip, on my chin, just awful. But I could walk and (sort of) talk, and eventually got myself and my bike into Katy's car, and off we went for treatment.
EXTREME DENTISTRY: Diagnosis - two root canals and two crowns. I'd never gotten a root canal before. It's like the X Games of dentistry. Drills and sharp metal scraping devices and ground-up tooth dust flying around everywhere. (Which, by the way, smells really weird - something between concrete and chalk dust.) So now my mouth is swollen up like some creature out of Monsters, Inc., and I'm on a steady diet of soup and Vicodin. But my front teeth look better than they did before. Really.
Vicodin NEVER SLEEPS: I'm just about to leave for San Diego to tape a special Dog-related DVD for the Mike Keneally Band. I haven't yet decided how I'm going to treat my unusual appearance on camera. Things could get really weird. We'll just have to see. Oh, and tomorrow I'm leaving for INDONESIA on a work-related week-long trip. I have a feeling that V-Bryan will be making an extended appearance on those 18-hour flights. Right on, brother. Now that's solid.
FIRST AND FOREMOST: Happy New Year! Now that 2003 is gone, we can look forward to an extra day in February and an extra special day in November for anyone employed by Halliburton or Bechtel. Oh, wait, did I resolve to be less reflexively left-wing in 2004? Shit. Anyway, those who think companies such as those mentioned above live and die on foreign wars are the truly naive; they just make more higher-profile (read: public, taxpayer) money whenever Bushes happen to be in office—er, I mean during foreign wars in the Middle East—er, I mean...oh, wait...shit.
SERIOUSLY: Just a few political things, and then I'll close my eyes and forget about politics until Karl Rove takes his warmup suit off sometime this summer. Saddam Hussein out of power (mass grave factor far outweighs unfortunate side effect of Bush benefit) = good. Leaders Of The Free World for whom reason is subservient to their particular beliefs = bad (didn't they used to govern that way in the 1600's?). Arnold as Governor = "hey, California, nice going!" (thanks, Dave Letterman). Democrats potentially nominating Howard Dean = who the hell knows? And finally, Boston Red Sox not beating the Yankees in Game 7 = we're still on planet earth after all.
THE NEW SCREED: Yes, it isn't updated as often, and probably never will be as often as the O.G. version. But since we're now blessed with such an efficient machine for delivering the latest bryanbellerdotcom and Onion Boy Records news and events (we can actually update the front page now without having to reinvent web design—all praise the Queen of the Universe, Webmistress Katy), this will be a more random, personal collection of literary ramblings, with only the occasional blatant commercialism. Hope you don't mind.
THE TAYLOR TOUR: Going back to November now...you can only imagine how strange and wonderful it was to play "Supermarket People" with Mike Keneally in front of open-minded audiences such as those we encountered. I just got around to posting some pictures of the whole thing, which should give you an indication of how behind I've been on Life In General. Hopefully it will just be a prelude to more public events in 2004, but you never can tell these days.
BEING A SOLO ARTIST IS SCARY: Exhibit A—me playing the Fender/SWR booth at this year's NAMM show. I'll be playing along to the CD for "Seven Percent Grade" and "Supermarket People," plus jamming with Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder, Gary Hoey) on some dueling basses action. Exhibit B—rehearsing a live band of myself, Rick Musallam, Joe Travers, Mike Keneally, Griff Peters, and guest bassist Chris Golden while I play keyboards and sing "Wildflower." Is an Exhibit C really necessary?
PRESIDENT/CEO, ONION BOY RECORDS: Income statements and balance sheets and QuickBooks and federal taxes and 1099's and inventory adjustments and cost-of-goods-sold and net operating losses and county business licenses, oh my! Where's that copy of Accounting for Dummies again?
NEVER AGAIN?: OK, it was amazing to get through a year in which I started a record company, released my own solo album and survived a corporate takeover all in six months. But that doesn't mean I want an instant replay. This year is going to be dedicated to...nothing. Months after the release, I'm still recovering from the overload of April through November. Whatever happened, while it was good for a career, it was bad in plenty of physical and mental ways. So, in essence, I'm going to coast. Well, I'm going to try. Does that mean I'll never do another solo album? No, that's not what I'm saying. I'll just do the next one differently, at a slower pace. I even have a working title and some melodies floating around...but that's getting way ahead of myself. Let's see if we can't make an even bigger success of the current one first, OK?
YES, AGAIN: Thanks to those out there spreading the word and giving love and support to View and Onion Boy Records. You know who you are, even if somehow Onion Roy missed you. Let's crack it open in 2004. See you at NAMM, or at NEARfest, or...
WHIRLWIND: It would literally be impossible to try and describe what the last month has been like, so I won't even try. All I can say is, as the pre-sold CD's are reaching their intended destinations, and the official release date approaches, and the Taylor tour is less than two weeks away, and the press is coming in from all angles, and the feedback and support has been amazing...as crazy and draining as this process has been, it's all been worth it.
OUR HIGHLY SOPHISTICATED WORD OF MOUTH CAMPAIGN: If you've got View, and you like it, tell someone about it!
VIEW AVAILABILITY FOR TAYLOR TOUR: I'll have plenty to sell if you were holding out, or needed further convincing. Cash and credit cards (VISA or MC) will gladly be accepted. Yes, Canada, we'll have them for our jaunt up north as well. I'm going to be playing stuff from View for the first time in its final form, and Keneally and I will be braking out unreleased material from his upcoming rock opus Dog as well. Northeast U.S., show your colors - this is our first time there as an acoustic duo!
THANKS AGAIN: For everything. This has been one hell of a ride so far, and when you think about it, it just started. --10/25/03, 6:22PM
ONLINE INTERVIEW: Friday, 9/26, 2PM EST/11AM PST - on Randy Allar's show on WCSB. That's www.wcsb.org. The day before the pre-sale launches. Don't miss it.
SITE REVISION HELL: We're in it. One week until launch.
STILL THE HEADLINE: Latest View info and multimedia pile o' stuff at the Sneak PreView page.
ONE WORLD: In response to many e-mails from our non-American friends—yes, we will be accepting international orders during the pre-sale period of Sept. 27 through Oct. 17. Shipping outside the U.S. will only cost $2.00 USD more than inside the States. Spread the word over there, folks.
SHAMELESS PROMOTION: We're such marketing pros here at Onion Boy Records that we forgot to figure out the special promotional hook to get people all lathered up about the pre-sale. (Thanks for pointing this out to us.) But now I think we've got it. We'll have a little sweepstakes. Four e-mail addresses will be picked at random from the pre-sale buyers. Three will win the runner-up prize of a big-ass coffee mug printed with a special edition of the album cover artwork. The grand prize winner will get his or her choice of any two merchandise items in the Onion Boy Bazaar, which will be filled with cool stuff like t-shirts, sweatshirts, stickers, posters, and other SWAG. Winners will be notified Willy Wonka style, with a not-so-golden ticket included with special instructions for prize redemption. See, we knew what we were doing all along. Right?
TO SIGN OR NOT TO SIGN: We want to do something extra-special for all of the folks who go for the pre-sale of View, and I know that means signed copies. But how, I ask you? I can sign the front cover, but not everyone wants that kind of impurity. Or I can sign the CD itself, along with numbering it in my own handwriting. Or I can sign the back of the booklet and put a sticker on the case with some kind of numbering system. Or I can include a small certificate of pre-sale ownership. Or…or…well, why don't you tell us how? E-mail us at email@example.com with the words "SIGN THIS" in the subject line and speak your piece. Majority rules.
LIKE GOING TO THE MOVIES: If you check out the Sneak PreView page, you'll notice some brand-spanking-new stuff that Katy's whipped together in record time. Like a full-blown movie-style trailer for View. And an audio-only montage to go along with it. And updated info on the online distributors. And…and…and…[automatic shutdown to prevent core damage].
PRE-ORDERS FOR VIEW: September 27 through October 18 exclusively at the Onion Boy Records website. Have I mentioned that lately?
MORE THAN LIKELY: We're targeting September 26 as the date for the new bryanbellerdotcom to go live. We (especially Katy) reserves the right to blow off that deadline completely, but one can always hope that the 38 hours a day necessary to pull this all off will somehow materialize for both of us between now and then.
YET ANOTHER PLUG: Just in case you haven't yet, don't forget to sign up for BellerBytes, the soon-to-be Bryan Beller e-newsletter. Debut installment coming, like, soon.
PRE-ORDERING!: That's right—I changed my mind. For those who just can't sit still until October 28, we'll be accepting pre-orders for View at the Onion Boy Records website for a limited time: September 27 through October 18. After that, it will be available at select online retailers starting October 28, as originally planned, and I'll have it with me on the Northeastern U.S. Taylor Tour (acoustic duo with Mike Keneally) during the first two weeks of November. But pre-ordering is definitely the fastest way to get View into your hands. Stay tuned for more details…things are happening so fast now it's hard for even me to keep up with it all.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO ME: As of yesterday, I've lived in Los Angeles for ten years. Holy shit.
ONION BOY RECORDS WEBSITE LAUNCH: The Onion Boy Records website is officially up and running! We're still building a lot of it, but why miss the first opportunity to peruse our oh-so-corporate identity? Read the initial Onion Boy Records press release. See what our logo looks like. Feel the excitement of our interactive art gallery. Eventually we'll sell stuff there, but for now, it's a billboard, albeit a good looking-one. Yet another brilliant design by Miss Katy Towell. Check it out at www.onionboyrecords.com.
NEW VIEW ONLINE RADIO APPEARANCE: This last Monday, on short notice, I did a live online interview at thedividingline.com, on a show called Guilty Pleasures. It's about twenty minutes long, and features mysterious host Gruno spinning "Seven Percent Grade" and "See You Next Tuesday," as well as some cool general chat about View. If you have RealPlayer, CLICK HERE to download the archived broadcast (skip ahead to 57:20, and you'll go right to where the interview starts). If you don't have RealPlayer, please join the 21st century and get it. Hint: "Gruno" was present at the View sessions.
AND A HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO…: Joe Travers!!
JUST IN CASE YOU'RE NEW: My debut solo album View - featuring Mike Keneally, Joe Travers, Rick Musallam, Toss Panos, and many more - is coming out on October 28. Wanna hear what it sounds like? Click here to download two complete tracks. Yes, really!
NOVEMBER TOUR DATES CONFIRMED: Mike Keneally and myself will be touring the Northeast U.S. as an acoustic duo on behalf of Taylor Guitars from November 3-14. The official dates are up on the Coming Attractions page. Not coincidentally, this happens just one week after View is released. I'll be privileged and honored to have my own CD's for sale right next to Mike's on the merch table. Come out and see us, if for no other reason than to watch me try and figure out how to act in this unfamiliar new role.
GIG REPORT: Our gig at Victor's in San Diego this weekend was a frenzy of official documentation, with audio trucks parked out back, long-time Keneally fans manning multiple video cameras, and high-energy performances punctuating the warm Southern California night air. I was a little shot from the nearly five-hour drive from northern L.A. to San Diego (it's only two-and-a-half hours without traffic), but the crowd went nuts (major props to all who came and shouted their lungs out), and I think there's some good stuff in there for a potential DVD. We'll see. As they say, the tape never lies.
REALITY CHECK: I was busy trying on my new hat as Promo Boy after the show, telling everyone I could about my solo album, when I came upon a disturbing trend. Three folks in a row, upon me telling them to go to my website and check out the .mp3 samples of "Seven Percent Grade" and "See You Next Tuesday," replied something to the effect of this: "I don't surf much…I don't really know how to download music, hopefully someone can show me…is that legal?" I kid you not. I'm committed to launching this thing online by necessity for now, but I guess I need to get working on a bricks-and-mortar solution as well. Man, that shocked me.
BUILDING A BOMB: Katy Towell and I have been working furiously in the scant spare time we have constructing press kits, press releases, bio material, the new bryanbellercotcom, the Onion Boy Records website and online store, print ads, banner ads…and a mechanism for the official Bryan Beller e-mailing list (working title: BellerBytes™). All this stuff we're building in the back room of the Onion Boy sweatshop is going to start flying around very, very soon. But even with all of our organizational abilities employed, everything feels pretty out of control right now. I can only imagine what it will be like come late October.
I'll KEEP THIS BRIEF: Why waste time when there's a major new thing going on at bryanbellerdotcom? You'll notice the front page has a new section. It leads directly to the Sneak PreView page, which now has available for download two mp3's of final tracks from the album itself, plus a summary of available info, pictures from the sessions, useless Onion Boy Records trivia, and more. These are heady days, friends.
A VERY SPECIAL EPISODE OF SCREED DU JOUR: There's a lot I have to say...but first, a classy and subtle reminder:
I'll be GUEST HOSTING on NONERADIO.COM this MONDAY NIGHT, 9pm PST! And I'll be PREMIERING two tracks from my upcoming debut solo album VIEW, as well as playing hours of music chosen by me, me and ME!
(a barely noticeable plug, to be sure)
Now that the record is in the can and pressing as I type, Katy and I are going to be working our asses off launching Onion Boy Records, promoting and publicizing the album, and just generally trying to make the best possible presentation we can to the public. We're going to completely re-do bryanbellerdotcom, we're going to advertise in Bass Player Magazine and other M.I. mags, we're going to find as many online sources of publicity as possible...and we're going to do it all while we both start new jobs.
It's going to be difficult, but it will be easier with your help. Any positive vibe-spreadage regarding this record that comes out of this newsgroup and into other groups would be beyond appreciated by yours truly. Hopefully, after you hear a chunk of the actual CD on Monday night or after, you'll know why I'm so damned excited about showing this bad boy off to anyone who will listen.
On another note: I know very well that, for quite some time, I've been a little scarce around these parts. Ever since my day-job work responsibilities got more intense at SWR, it's been increasingly difficult for me to e-mail and post and be present as much as I would like. The recent acquisition of SWR by Fender (my new employer) has only increased the pressure and reduced the amount of time I have for other more musical pursuits, as Fender is located in Scottsdale and I'm now flying there every week to work in their offices. Don't get me wrong, they've been really great to me, but they aren't moving to LA anytime soon, I gotta pay for this record, and you get the rest of the picture.
I'm still way into being the bassist for the MKB, I can't wait to finish Mike's new record (holy shit did Mike say the coolest fucking thing about the record in his last Mike Types To You), and my own musical sense and purpose have been renewed by going through the amazing process of recording View. I appreciate the positive responses I've gotten to this date more than you know. All I can say is that somehow, we're going to push this thing across the finish line.
I guess what I'm really trying to say is, stay tuned. It's all about to happen. Hope you'll be there with me.
BB ON NONE RADIO: Monday, July 28, 9pm PST. URL: www.noneradio.com. Sneak preview of two View tracks. Mark it down. [Editor's note: The above date has been corrected by bryanbellerdotcom staff. We apologize for the error and request that you please return any items dated Sunday, July 28th as the incorrect date contains small parts that may be a choking hazard]
WE HAVE A RELEASE DATE: Tuesday, October 28. View now has an official street date. It was chosen because it's the last possible Tuesday before the start of the November Keneally/Beller Taylor Acoustic Tour on the east coast, and we'll need all the time we can get. Why? Because...
INTRODUCING ONION BOY RECORDS: That's right, we're kicking it new school. It's only fitting that a debut solo album would be the maiden release of a brand new label. The creation of Onion Boy Records is my official entrance into the not-so-exclusive club of small business ownership. More importantly, it will ensure that View is my vision from start to finish, for better or for worse, in profit and in loss, 'til lack of cash flow do us part. Distribution to start will be non-exclusive and mainly online. Frankly, there was talk of more traditional methods, but nothing on that front would have fit my immediate timeline. Official press releases and all that stuff will come. Just know that, as I type this Screed to you, the CD is pressing. Right now.
SO WHY WAIT? I WANT IT NOW!: Because my experience at SWR has taught me a thing or two about what launching a product really entails. In my opinion, to do it right promotionally and hit the print press lead times, you need 90 days once you have promo CD's in hand. Well, I'm not interested in two different pressings (one promo, one for real), so I just pulled the trigger on the whole thing - and I'll still be inside of 90 days from when I get the CD's to 10/28, so I had to do it quickly. Some of this adheres to the business adage, "A good solution today is better than a perfect solution tomorrow." Anyway, life is short. Even with the release pushed back to October, this is still by far the fastest way to get this CD into the market properly. I know, like you care. Wait 'til you get a load of the Onion Boy Customer Service Department. "Hello, what's your fuckin' problem?"
I'M FROM THE GOVERNMENT...: Not that I'm in danger of becoming a Rush Limbaugh acolyte or anything, but the amount of bullshit you have to sort through to start a business in California is pretty breathtaking. Fortunately, Katy Towell is a high-powered member of Onion Boy upper management, and the two of us have been a red-tape wrecking crew. Her contributions to this project have been beyond description.
MEANWHILE: Life as the Marketing Manager for the SWR division of Fender Musical Instruments Corporation has been nothing if not frenetic. Last week I flew to Scottsdale Sunday night, spent Monday through Wednesday working there, flew home Wednesday night, then commuted to Corona from my home Thursday and Friday (96 miles each way!). Right now I'm on a plane to Nashville for the summer NAMM convention; I'll be here all week. How does one start a business in the midst of weeks like this? Somewhat subconsciously.
STAY TUNED TO THE SCREED: Time is really scarce, and the dedicated View page is still a hot list item. But considering what's going on, details will come here first. Onion Boy Records is going to need your support, so stay tuned! It's going to get crazy around here in the coming months...
AHHHHH: The discography (a.k.a. Red Light Fever) has been update to include Yogi's Salve. You can't keep a good independent artist down.
LIKE SITTING IN A MOVIE THEATER: That's how good and plentiful the new Coming Attractions are. We've got gigs, website news, a schedule for the online release of two preview tracks from View, and an appearance on None Radio. (Yes, I'm going to guest host None Radio on 7/28, dammit.) All for the content-starved readers of bryanbellerdotcom to digest and enjoy. Mmmmmmm.
LET THE PROMOTIONAL BLITZ BEGIN: Well, it's not quite that impressive, but there are two new articles up over at Press, Darling. Believe me, when promo copies of View hit the mags, this section of the site will be hopping. I got mad contacts, fo' sho' (see below).
WEBSITE REVISION UNDERWAY: The Webmistress Katy Towell and I are hard at work revamping bryanbellerdotcom. The new design might even incorporate the artwork concept from View. Yes, it just might. In the meantime, please accept these updates as a token of our commitment not to abandon the old design entirely.
LIFE AS A BLUR: I kid you not when I say that yesterday was the very first opportunity I've had since 6/16 to do anything other than a) fly back and forth to Scottsdale; b) work 16 hours a day; c) format a new computer; d) sleep 4-5 hours a night; e) forget to pay a traffic ticket and have my license suspended and get an angry notice from a collection agency and have to pay over $300. to make it go away. Thank God for holidays. Then again, I'd be lying if I didn't admit to getting off on consolidating my SWR contacts and personal contacts into one gigantic Outlook Contacts file of over 1,100 people and/or businesses. Yes, I'm a geek. But I'm a geek with a solo album to promote and a bulging digital Rolodex; I'm a danger to myself and those around me. (Note to self: It's medication time.)
DONE: The album is complete. The master is sitting in my office. View's thirteen tracks checked in at 60:17. They all sound really good. I'm in a state of shock right now.
SPEAKING OF DONE: On June 2, SWR's assets were purchased by Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. In other words, we were bought out. The process went live on April 17, two days before the first tracking day for View. You may not want to imagine what going through both of these processes (the album and the company sale) at once was like; I'm not sure I want to relive it in print myself (though it should go along way to explaining the month-long Screedless-ness on this page). But I shouldn't complain too much—I still have a job, and I fly to Scottsdale, AZ tomorrow morning to visit the corporate headquarters for the first time. I'm in a state of shock right now.
SHOCK TREATMENT: Rest. Then, once I recover from the assault on the senses that the past two months came to be, I'll be very active around these parts and beyond. After all, now I have to figure out how to sell this thing.
YES, I'M STILL ALIVE: And I'm going to prove it with this Screed, dammit.
PRESS, DARLING: The first extensive interview of any kind that touches on the topic of the solo album is up at Ytsejam.com, an online magazine. It's not yet together on this site, but you can check it out by clicking here. The interviewer, Jedd Beaudoin, knew what to ask and did a great job.
DISCOGRAPHY UPDATE: There's a new release over at Red Light Fever, our version of a discography. Last year, the Mike Keneally Band signed up for a Pink Floyd tribute called A Fair Forgery Of Pink Floyd, and it's out now. Better than your average tribute album, really. Which track did we cover? Click here to find out.
MARQUEE UPDATE: The Coming Attractions page (click next to my right ear) contains some new items you may care to peruse.
VIEW UPDATE: There is so, so much I could say about the seven tracking days now in the can, but to say it in the Screed just wouldn't do it justice. I will say that it has been an incredible joy and privilege to work with so many different and uniquely talented musicians. I'll also say that watching some of these compositions come to life has been beyond exhilarating. In every case, the tracks have exceeded my original expectations for what could be done with them. And that's due to the players. The vibe has been incredibly positive.
CAN YOU BE MORE SPECIFIC?: I will, sometime in June. I'm going back in the studio, because everyone's tracks are now complete except for mine, with one surprise exception that I'm not going to spoil. The target date for completion – and that means tracking, editing, mixing and mastering – is June 15. After that I'll write something to go along with a new page or section of the site. One thing I don't want to do is give away the whole story before the release, but I'll tell part of it. One thing's for sure: Nick D'Virgilio is a first-class engineer, and when this thing comes out, everyone will know why.
RELEASE DATE: I'm targeting mid-September.
WHAT THINGS FALLING APART?: In a couple of weeks, it will all make sense.
BB ON NONE RADIO: The long-awaited Screed update is coming soon... but in the meantime, check out www.noneradio.com tonight (Monday, 5/19) at 9pm PST. Host Rich Pike and special guest Joe Travers will be discussing View, and will also air the demo of "Seven Percent Grade." For those of you who aren't familiar with the magic that is Joe Travers, this would be a good time to get up to speed. Thanks are due to Rich Pike—it's all his brainchild. I may even show up on there live one of these weeks...if I ever get to come out of my work cave again.
THINGS FALLING APART: My life is in the blender right now…a proper Screed regarding the second and third sessions will arrive sometime in the next week, I hope. Updates to the View section, Photographic Evidence, Red Light Fever (discography), Press Darling (interviews) and more will happen…eventually.
THE FIRST SESSION: Amazing. Nick, Toss, Keneally, and others you haven't heard of yet were kings. Leaving town for two days, back on Wednesday, rehearsal on Thursday, lockout sessions on Saturday and Sunday. It all adds up to lots of excitement and probably very little Screedage in the short term. But if yesterday was any indication, it'll be worth it.
--4/20/03, 11:52 PM
THE FIRST REHEARSAL: A reunion of sorts occurred last night, when Toss Panos, Mike Keneally and myself gathered at Toss' place to work on the three tunes slated for tracking this Saturday, including the dreaded "See You Next Tuesday." It was the first time we'd played together in something like five years, but the vibe was all there. New, of course, was yours truly acting as bandleader. Initial bouts of nerves gave way to pure bliss as the two aces worked their way through "Supermarket People," a slow, fat groove tailor-made for Toss - and featuring a guitar styling few have heard Keneally execute, and many (I believe) will dig. The guy can do anything.
A TEMPO: He proved it on "Tuesday," as I watched him go from barely knowing the notes to acing a nightmare series of quasi-bebop licks at 150 b.p.m. on a baritone guitar in roughly ten minutes. For his part, Toss claimed he couldn't play that fast anymore, then proceeded to shred the tune into flaming trails of musicality. We began by trying to play it at a slower tempo, but the feel was a struggle. Eventually our masculinity got the best of us and we launched it at full speed until we got it right. It was rough and right on the edge, just as it should be. We left it smoldering, with the coals still orange.
MEMORY LANE: Of course, during breaks we began recalling war stories from the '96 BFD/Steve Vai Tour, a character-shaping experience for all of us, and best told as it occurred (in Act 21 of The Life Of Bryan). Toss actually broke out his old charts of "Spoon Guy" and the fast part of "Day Of The Cow 2," shown here with Austin Powers looking on in the background. (He may need them again - Toss is playing with Keneally and Doug Lunn at the Baked Potato in late April.) Mike was clearly happy to get past "See You Next Tuesday." But maybe, like me, he was smiling about more than just that.
ANTICIPATUS INTERRUPTUS: The heading this week was going to be "T-Minus Seven Days and Counting," but a last-minute logistical snafu has caused my first studio date (4/12) to be pushed back to 4/26. That means the first date will be a full-band job with Keneally, Toss Panos and Jeff Babco (keyboardist for the Jimmy Kimmel Show) on 4/19. My sense of order was temporarily offended, but it'll work out fine in the end. Either way, I've recovered from Europe, and I'm ripe. Can someone show me where life's fast-forward button is hiding?
IN THE MEANTIME: I've been humbled by the act of practicing my own material. I'd never actually played "Seven Percent Grade" all the way through before this week. What the hell was I thinking? It's freakin' hard! Thankfully, re-learning the keyboard parts for other tunes hasn't been quite as bad. As for the vocals, I'm trying to not even think about that until the red light is on.
KENEALLY AND FRIENDS: I've been lurking in the AMMK newsgroup, trying to keep track of Our Hero as he makes his way across Europe. Sounds like a blast. I'm sure Jaan and Schroeder are kicking ass, and it really is a blessing that those of you in Europe have been able to hear Keneally in a band form for some of those "extended" shows made famous on the 1998 WNHTH tours. If you see him, tell him to get back here in one piece. We've both got new albums to make.
ARMCHAIR GENERAL BELLER: Not one second later than I jumped on the "war plan gone awry" bandwagon did the U.S. Armed Forces roll into Baghdad. (OK, it was four days, but whatever.) That's why I generally leave this sort of stuff to professionals. I actually still believe that Rumsfeld's insistence on lower overall troop numbers made the ordeal harder than it had to be, but it's difficult to argue with less than 100 combat casualties so far. Our men and women on the ground are amazing, and deserve our unending thanks and gratitude. As for the Bush team and their grand diplomatic entrance (and its effect on the execution of the war plan), better to be lucky than good.
--4/6/03, 8:12 PM
BEARING DOWN: Days seem to be blurring together as the preparations for the tracking of the solo album heat up. I feel like I was just in Europe yesterday, and at the same time I feel like it was six months ago (perhaps because, with a laptop and cell phone, I never really disconnected from the States). Logistics for View continued unabated throughout the trip and well into the return. Thankfully, most of the pre-planning and scheduling is now done - all that's left is the rehearsing, the initial studio setup, and the tracking. Which should be a relief…but instead, I have to admit, it's terrifying.
DEVALUATION OF CURRENCY: So many of you knew that "Manchester, England/I believe in God" was a lyric from the musical Hair that I ran out of bonus points to disperse. Next time I'll make the question harder, but rest assured that bryanbellerdotcom bonus points will still be worth squat.
THERE'S HARD WORK…: And then there's what our soldiers are doing in Iraq. Bitching about work and a solo album and over-traveling feels pretty damned lame and petty by comparison. I've refrained from comment mostly because I'm so conflicted about it, but I can say that a) given what kind of behavior we're seeing from Saddam's high command and most loyal troops, I'm still convinced that inaction was not a long-term strategy of any value at all; b) given the difficulty of the job, I'm still also convinced that the Bush administration's bungling of the diplomatic considerations has made this twice as difficult as it could have been. What would we give now for those three extra votes in the Turkish Parliament and a true northern front? (And once we knew we didn't have it, why didn't we wait a month to get the mislocated equipment of the 4th Infantry Division in place? It would have served both our military and diplomatic purposes at the same time!) Would there be nearly as much anti-American sentiment in the region if the military effort included the majority of the Western European nations? Monday morning quarterbacking, all of it, and anyone can do it, so I'll stop there and simply wish the troops the best of luck in adapting to and overcoming both an unscrupulous enemy and the miscalculations of their current civilian masters.
BACK FROM THE U.K.: And for a second it looked like I may have had to bring poor old Tony Blair with me. Seriously, I just have to say that our one-week clinic tour in Britain was nothing short of magical. Wonderful, large, appreciative crowds everywhere we went, great traveling company from the Taylor folks, charming atmosphere, and those excellent accents in endless varieties. Cheers to everyone who came out to see us for the first time (and had been waiting for years), and also to some new friends as well.
REALLY, I'M NOT LAZY: There's easily enough material for a good Act of the Life Of Bryan, but I'm conserving all of my energy for getting back on track here in the States and preparing for the upcoming View recording sessions. So forgive me. But in the meantime, please enjoy this shot of Mike and I being prompted to "do something weird."
SMALL WORLD: After the Hitchin clinic, I spent nearly five minutes chatting obliviously with the nicest English lad before someone had the presence of mind to tell me who he was. It was Nick Beggs, bassist for (in order) Kajagoogoo, then Duran Duran (post-John Taylor, pre-Wes Wehmiller), and now John Paul Jones (who carries a second bassist; Nick plays Chapman Stick). Great player (check out his playing on Warren Cuccurrullo's Thanks To Frank - unreal), great guy. Here's a pic of the two of us being nice to each other. There was an outside chance of John Paul Jones himself showing up at the clinic the next night, but it didn't happen. Just as well; I probably would have passed out if he was watching.
BONUS POINTS OPPORTUNITY: That's right, it's bonus points time for whoever knows the reference of the titles for the two proceeding Screed headlines (Manchester, England/And I Believe In God). No, Mom, you can't participate; we have rules against that sort of thing.
MANCHESTER ENGLAND, ENGLAND...: The clinics the last two nights have been really incredible experiences, with audiences so large and kind I hardly even know where to start. But tonight, which started at Academy of Sound in Manchester, may go down as one of the most gratifying nights on a clinic tour ever. The applause for our first few tunes was ear-splittingly loud. When I played "Backwoods," the clapping lasted for so long I nearly choked up. Then came the real magic - we played "I Will," and on that stupid, silly, penultimate chord, the main breakers went out onstage. (Sing the song to yourself and try to imagine that.) Immediate efforts to restore power having failed, we simply moved our chairs to within five feet of the front row and played a truly acoustic show, with no sound reinforcement for either the guitars or our vocals. And it became magical within minutes. Power was eventually restored to the stage, but we never went back up there. One of the best clinics ever.
...AND I BELIEVE IN GOD!: Afterwards it was time for yet another ridiculously good meal (they've been a staple on this tour) at an Italian restaurant named San Roco. We were sat at what we thought was a bit of a cramped table, near the door and with two seats against the wall. I graciously (ahem) sat in one of the wall seats...and quickly discovered that I had a bird's-eye view of forty - yes, forty - gorgeous, natural-bodied English women aged 20-25 who were out for a group dinner party. Apparently they all worked at the same beauty supply store. They were carousing, leaning on each other, drinking, and speaking loudly with those delectable English accents I've long had a weakness for. The six of us at the table were quickly stunned into silence. Whenever two of them needed a powder (they never went to the bathroom alone), the pathway went right by our table. They treated it like a catwalk.
THE GRAND FINALE: Fifteen minutes into the meal, one of the girls' personal effects flew out of their hands and landed near our table. The girl in question ran over to pick it up and bent down right in front of us; our mouths flew open as her shoulder-falling-off yellow top fell all the way forward, showing just about everything. (No, I am not making this up.) But then, just when we thought we'd seen all we could see, one of the girls, stacked tighter than most of them, dressed in a stretch black t-shirt and a red/black plaid schoolgirls' skirt, got up and began shimmying around. Seconds later, her skirt fell down to her lower hips, exposing a black thong and nearly all of her ass for a good ten seconds. We pretended not to notice, but one of her girlfriends helpfully pointed and exclaimed, "Oh my God!" or something like that. I could endure no more without responding; I began applauding, and the rest of our table soon joined in. (Note to Sarah: Mike was terribly, terribly disappointed in the rest of us for our boorish behavior.) It seemed like a finale to us, but when they got up to leave en masse and each of the forty women strutted by, we had to wonder what we had done to deserve such good fortune. A waiter there left us with this Italian-accented tidbit: "This is not the first time this has happened." It's called San Roco, on South King St. in Manchester. Highly recommended.
--3/12/03, 12:20AM, Greenwich Mean Time
ESCAPE FROM FRANKFURT: Another year, another Frankfurt Messe in the rear view mirror of life. It really was quite easy compared to the maelstrom that was Anaheim NAMM. Keneally and I pulled off several well-attended and well-appreciated performances in the "Acoustic Village," as they called it. (Never mind that it was in the same hall as some strange percussion instruments, may of which could be heard loudly during the more sensitive parts of the performance - Frank would have been pleased.) Sadly, my German language abilities are still non-existent, but that didn't stop Mike and I from exuding happiness in the photo you see here. As you'll notice, our appearances are becoming more disparate by the day.
BUZZED BY BUZZ: Then it was on to London via Buzz Air, a shoddy little economy airline that treated us like dogs and will soon gladly be put out of its misery by Ryan Air, who's taking it over in less than a month. Our first U.K. Taylor clinic was in Birmingham, a town filled with extremely kind and generally reserved people. There were moments, I'm sad to admit, that the Birmingham accent was so thick as to be undecipherable, and I literally couldn't understand what people were saying to me, though I know damn well that it was English of some kind. So if you were there and my responses consisted of lots of smiling and nodding but little else, my apologies are yours.
THE BEEB: We just arrived in Leeds, and on the TV, the BBC seems strangely excited at the prospect of Tony Blair's Labor Government falling over his inability to convince anyone in the U.K. that what he's doing is the right thing. Our fearless leader for our U.K. jaunt—a salty, world-weary Scot named Bob Wilson—has taken to calling him "Princess Tony." I really admire the Brits' endless capacity for cynicism; it's a mentality after my own heart. But that doesn't mean I'm not having a good time.
--3/11/03, 1:17PM, Greenwich Mean Time
MESSE STRESSE: A lot of folks I know professed incredulity at my going to Europe during such a delicate time in world affairs. I'm actually excited by it. Whether we Americans realize it or not, we're only the center of our own universe, not the world's. That doesn't mean I think that the rest of the world is right and we are wrong on whatever happens to be the issue of the day, let alone the current circus, but I always feel more in touch with the world as a whole when I'm in Europe than when I'm in, say, Canyon Country. Yes, that's partially by design, but perhaps so is this.
GERMAN EFFICIENCY: Who'd have thunk it could ever be an oxymoron? It took me three solid hours, two hotel rooms and six phone adaptor cables just to get a dialup connection - in a Ramada Inn! What is it with these German phone plugs, anyway? They look like little brown toothbrushes. And there are about seven different varieties. Claude, are you listening? Is there something you can do about this, before the hard-earned reputation of Germany as a country that gets things done is soiled forever?
OBLIGATORY VIEW MENTION: You folks keep downloading "Seven Percent Grade" at an alarmingly high rate. Danke. Gives me something to smile about when I wake up in the middle of the night, jet-lagged all to hell.
--3/4/03, 5:56AM, Central European Time
VIEW UPDATE: Things are rolling right along. The studio dates for the first three days of basics have been booked for April. View Art Director Katy Towell, Wes Wehmiller (friend, bassist, song contributor, photographer) and yours truly headed off to an undisclosed location to take pictures for the album's front cover last Saturday. Mission was accomplished and topped off with a red meat feast at Billy Boy's Café in Pearblossom, CA (hint hint). Wes ordered nothing and ate a health bar. The locals were confused.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO…: Beer For Dolphins' percussionist Tricia Steel? Wonder no more - she's going to bring her rock 'n' roll vibes out of retirement for one track, the oft-mentioned "Eighteen Weeks." Word on the street has it that she's quite excited about the chart Oppy and I did for her. There's even a genuine four-mallet part for her to wrap her supple arms around. Perhaps I'll stop panting for long enough to tell you that she's working on a solo marimba recording of her own.
BRYAN'S SONG: The March issue of Bass Player has just hit the streets, and believe it or not, there's a special section of the Letters To The Editor page devoted to two folks who wrote in to lament the passing of the column. All I can tell you is that my parents were kvelling beyond description. Thank you (and you know who you are). I can only hope that some coverage of the solo record will show up in those hallowed pages someday. And hopefully not in The Barbeque Pit section of the CD Reviews.
HEADING OVER THERE: I leave for a two-week trip to Europe on Monday. Frankfurt I've done before, but England will be a whole new ballgame. I'm pretty sure I've been to London and that's it. Hard to believe that Keneally and I have never played together in England before. I really do wish that I could continue on with MK throughout Europe, even if it were only for one gig. But getting back to SWR and recording View basics will keep me busy, I'm sure.
HOW DOES THAT PART GO AGAIN?: Besides, I have to learn how to play some of this stuff. I used to wonder how it was that some of the songwriters I've worked for would supply a tape of a song they wanted me to learn, and when it came time for rehearsal, I knew the parts better than they did. I'd say to myself "how fucking irresponsible!" and harrumph after I left. Well, I had Rick Musallam up at my place the other day, and we're going over guitar parts on "Seven Percent Grade," and I completely forgot how I did half of it. I haven't made life easy on myself on some of the bass parts for this record, either. I see myself practicing a good deal in late March. A good deal.
OPPY IS A MAN: That's Chris Opperman I'm talking about, in case you were wondering about either the subject or the predicate in this Screed's title. We got together at 2pm on Saturday, 2/15. Fourteen hours later, I walked out of his apartment with drum and guitar charts for two of the tougher form tunes on the record ("See You Next Tuesday" and "Supermarket People"), plus a vibraphone chart for the elaborate "Eighteen Weeks" and another drum chart to boot. Watching him bend the Finale music notation software to his will was a mighty impressive thing. Watching him do it at 3am after twelve straight hours of work was awe-inspiring. Then again, he was only doing it as a break from his main notation gig at the moment, which is creating charts for Keneally's commissioned work for this year's Holland Festival in Amsterdam in June. Doing guitar and drums must seem easy after dealing with a score for a 50-piece orchestra.
OPPY IS A BACHELOR: I'm sure his head is swelling beyond belief right now, so I'll balance my effusive praise by publicly hoping he uses some of the now-spent View budget to employ a cleaning service for his apartment. Soon.
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE GENTLEMAN FROM CANYON COUNTRY: Check the Coming Attractions for a detailed itinerary of the upcoming Keneally/Beller Taylor Acoustic clinic tour. In England!
THANKS, TOSS: The one and only Toss Panos confirmed today for a View session in April, which means the '96 MK/BFD trio will reunite for one song. Which one, you ask? "See You Next Tuesday" - of course. That is going to be one serious track.
MARCH MADNESS: I'm going to Europe in March for two weeks and two reasons. Check out the freshly prepared Coming Attractions for the dirty details.
GIG REPORT: The last Keneally band Baked Potato gig (2/ for some time was executed quite well, in my usually humble opinion. Working off of an actual set list for the first time in months, we cranked through stuff we hadn't done in a while, like "Father's Day", "Own", and even "The Immigrant Song" with a nice professional gloss, while myriad equipment gremlins ensured the ragged edge that Keneally thrives on. "Killer Fish" in particular was as good as any previous version I can remember. A special highlight for me was watching Nick perform a solo acoustic version of Soundgarden's "Blow Up The Outside World", which is quite the vocal high-wire act for anyone unfamiliar with Chris Cornell's penchant for upper-register wailing. All in all, a nice way to leave the live setting for a bit while we all go our separate ways in March and try to record two albums (MKB's and my own) in April, May and June.
LOUIE, LOUIE: Before the show, the MKB and some select friends crammed into my car to hear a rough mix of the new Keneally song "Louie", a six-minute-plus nasty cur of a tune, complete with my low B string tuned down to A and enough weird-ass sounds and form to make Mr. Bungle gag. It's GOOD.
VIEW UPDATE: It's official - Nick D'Virgilio has signed on to be the chief engineer of the project, and it will be recorded at Lawnmower Studio and Garden Supplies in Pasadena. This week I'm getting together with Joe Travers, Rick Musallam and Mike Keneally to discuss song details and scheduling. I'm shooting for mid-April into May for the tracking, with the goal of basics and overdubs complete by the end of May. Cover photography, charts for vibes and strings, and projected number of tracking days are all current issues on the table. It's hard to believe that this is actually happening.
JANUARY STATS: Thanks to everyone out there for making January the second 100,000-hit month for bryanbellerdotcom. You can't stop us; you can only hope to contain us.
PROMISES, PROMISES: I know I said I was going to write a new Act of The Life Of Bryan about my harrowing experience working for SWR at this year's NAMM show…but I've changed my mind. Frankly, I just don't have the energy or drive to relive the whole thing. That, and I'd much rather be working on the plans for the recording of View, which looks like it's going to happen in April and May. In order to make that happen, I have schedules to coordinate, budgets to draw up, drum charts to write, studios to book…it's gnawing at me as I type. Certainly the world can live without another "it was the craziest thing ever" story from me.
FOR THOSE WHO ACTUALLY CARE: A buttload of pictures just went up over at the SWR site, documenting the whole thing in graphic detail. There's even one of me, Vinnie Colaiuta and Jimmy Haslip. And for anyone who wants the story, I'll sum it up right here: from Monday, January 13 through Sunday, January 19, myself and four other SWR employees pulled a 90+ hour workweek in order to a) set up a booth for a convention; b) loan out over 100 pieces of gear to other companies' booths for the same convention; c) manage eight in-booth performances by eight different acts; d) manage three consecutive nights of four-act performances in an off-site venue; e) deconstruct the whole thing and get everything back to the factory in one piece. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday of that week, it meant waking up at 7:45 AM, starting work on the convention floor at 8:45 AM, working the show until 6:00 PM, and then immediately heading to an off-site venue to work the nighttime shows until at least 2:00 AM, sometimes even later. By Sunday, we were all walking zombies. During the booth breakdown on Sunday night, my fellow employees witnessed me literally pass out on the convention floor; I slept for nearly a half-hour while pallet loaders whizzed by in various directions. It was the second hardest work-related experience I've ever had, the hardest being the 1996 Keneally-opening-for-Vai tour detailed in Act 21 of the LOB. Hopefully you can understand my desire not to relive it. Maybe one day, but not anytime soon. And besides, Katy did an admirable job of reliving it on her site. Anyway, a lot of it was "you had to be there" kind of stuff. I'm just glad it's over.
--1/29/03, 10:38 PM
HOLY UPDATE, BATMAN - THE SEQUEL: Things change with time, and so must bryanbellerdotcom. The following sections of the website have been altered, however slightly, to reflect the Keneally band's name change, the end of my Bass Player column, the fact that I now write music, and other trivial items in the interest of accuracy: what are you, new?; the official biography; the Bass Player columns page (column #18, "Keep The Change," is now up); the links page; music, bass in particular; don't quit your day job (inside the music section); Mike Keneally's rap sheet (also inside the music section)…there's more, but you get the idea.
--1/25/03, 2:58 PM
DON'T FORGET: You can still click here to check out a sneak preview of "Seven Percent Grade", a demo version of a tune that will eventually show up on a Beller solo album of some kind. What, you haven't heard it yet?
AS THE DUST SETTLES: Have you ever worked 77 hours in five days? Plus do three gigs in the middle of it? Manage the SWR NAMM booth by day, and the SWR After Dark concert series at night? Escort Vinnie Colaiuta through a crowd of genuflecting muzos? Get in a screaming match with the General Manager of the Anaheim Hilton? Go head to head with the Teamsters? Dial in Doug Wimbish's EQ settings? Save a co-worker from passing out? Wanna know what it feels like? You'll have to wait for Act XLIV of The Life Of Bryan, tentatively titled "NAMM It All To Hell" (courtesy of Brad Dahl), which I hope to write this weekend.
IN THE MEANTIME: Our good friend (and fellow SWR soldier) Katy Towell has posted a downright Life-Of-Bryan-esque chronological telling of her virgin NAMM experience. Read it here, and additional insight and perspective will be yours.
WOKE UP THIS MORNING…: Actually, woke up this afternoon at 1:00. Haven't done that since before I started working at SWR in early 1997. Still exhausted.
SNEAK PREVIEW: Don't look now, but the front page has changed. Something about the posting of an .mp3 of "Seven Percent Grade". You may want to check it out.
ALL THINGS VIEW: In the coming months, there will be an entire section dedicated to this crazy debut solo album thing I keep talking about (and just guess what it's called?). Look for mundane things like opportunities to sign up for e-mailing lists, studio progress, hopeful release schedules, and the like. For now, I think I'll let the preview track do most of the talking. But not before thanking all those who e-mailed me encouragement and support since September. Believe me, there were times I sorely needed it, and it helped a lot. And I'm not just talking about the folks who asked when they could pre-order, either.
NEW YEAR'S EVE IN SEATTLE: Had a great time. Wish I could have stayed longer. Sitting in with Yogi on "Throw Me A Bone" was a blast; watching him and his band play the rest of his material was even better. It was raining. Flying is no fun anymore. I'm tired from the one-day-in-one-day-out itinerary. More on this later.
SCREED ARCHIVE: It's a new year, which means it's time for a new screed du jour as well. The old version was getting a little too unwieldy to load, so we've taken the opportunity to archive the 2002 screed du jour, a link to which you'll see below in perpetuity.
BBDC NEWS ALERT: Do yourself a favor and read the following two paragraphs at once. You'll be glad you did.
BREAKING THE TAPE: At 12:30AM last night, I put the last demo to bed. In other words, the material is written, and the full demo CD is done. It's thirteen tracks in all - eleven originals and two covers - clocking in at just under an hour. Hard to believe that, after a lifetime of nothing, it all came out in less than five months. Then again, unlike some other prolific composers we all know, I can tell you that I barely had enough creative juice left to cross the finish line. It could be another thirty-one years before I do this again, but damn it, I got this far. Now it's Absolut Mandarin time.
SNEAK PREVIEW: And what do you get for following the instructions in the BBDC News Alert above? You get this: On or about January 2, 2003, I'm going to post one entire track in demo form right here at this very website. It'll be an .mp3 file of "Seven Percent Grade," which is slotted to be the album's second track. You'll see something fairly obvious about it on the front page when it goes up, and I might even post something to the Keneally newsgroup as well. But you heard it here first, and now you know it's coming. This is a little scary for me, but I know I'd better get over that quickly, so what better way…right? Just keep in mind that it's only a demo.
SO WHAT'S NEXT?: In this rough order: 2-4 weeks off from the whole project; draw up business plans; begin discussions regarding studio/engineer time; rehearse with musicians; investigate domestic distribution possibilities; record basic tracks. If I get further than that I'll write another list.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO BBDC: This site hits the one-year mark at midnight on New Year's Eve. For those of you who've been regular (or even irregular) browsers of the site, my heartfelt thanks are yours. The new year will bring some large scale updates, not the least of which will be significant non-Screed space dedicated to the debut solo album effort currently in progress. But news of the latest Keneally recordings, the upcoming NAMM show, other musical happenings, and whatever suits my literary fancy (especially now that the Bass Player column rests in peace) will hopefully continue to make this happy little corner of cyberspace a place worth visiting. Thanks to all along for the journey, and see you in 2003…
--12/29, 8:23 PM
SOMETIMES YOU CAN JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER: I put the demo for "See You Next Tuesday" to bed on Sunday afternoon, but not before a final five-hour marathon of bass tracking, mixing and mastering on the trusty BR-1180CD. (I was already at least twenty hours into it, and it's just a trio piece.) I can't tell you just how much it lived up to its salty name, both in composition and the execution of the parts. Suffice it to say that, after eight years, it's payback time for Keneally. Then again, he's the only guy I know who could do this song justice. Whether or not I even understand what I just wrote will be settled when I have to write the bar chart for the drummer.
MISOGYNY IN DATABASE FORM: Like most good little Windows users (i.e. sheep), I use Windows Media Player to listen to CD audio on my computer. And whenever I'm done mastering a demo track, the computer is one of three places where I listen to see if the mix is OK (the other two being my home stereo and my car). Most of you probably are aware of the automatic "CD Database" feature in Windows Media Player, which connects to the internet and identifies the CD to which you're listening. One of the more interesting things to witness is when the database doesn't recognize the song, and chooses the most similar title from its expansive library, based on god-knows-what criteria. Well, when I put "See You Next Tuesday" in the player and WMP launched, it identified it as "Bitch" by Meredith Brooks. Really.
TURN OUT THE LIGHTS: Though I haven't yet seen it myself, I've been made aware that the January issue of Bass Player is out, and that means my final column, "Keep The Change," has now been published. I've already been the grateful recipient of some incredibly kind e-mail, the contents of which really made me smile. It was my extreme pleasure to have had such a widely-read forum for three years. The column archives will live here in perpetuity in the Literature section, again thanks to the good folks at BP. I find myself missing the creative writing lately, what with all my energy pouring into this solo album thing, so rest assured that while I'm sad to see the column go, it only means more creative juice left over for work here at bryanbellerdotcom. Eventually, that is.
PEACE ON EARTH: Well, at the very least, peace to wherever you find yourself this holiday season. It's a strange time we live in; grab all the love you can.
--12/23/02, 11:27 PM
SESSION WORK: In an interesting contrast to the pristine and near-automatic nature of the Dancing sessions, the most inter-familiar Keneally band ever to hit the studio actually had to work a little harder than I'd expected to get the magic on tape. Some of that was due to the complexity of the material, some was due to the attempt to get better, more distinct sounds from track to track, and some was due to the nature of us getting to know each other all over again in the studio (we only do this every three years or so). But I'm of the opinion that the tracks we cut will bear deeper and more everlasting fruit than some in the past. It really felt like we were a band in there. Another interesting point: the large Dancing band was really born in the studio and then took its act live, while the Quartet was essentially born live and is now taking its act in the studio, which is a different phenomenon. And we're not done yet; another session is scheduled for early next year.
I MUST HAVE SKIPPED THAT YEAR IN GRADE SCHOOL: I'm quite embarrassed to admit that I'd never heard the dirty semi-acronym "See You Next Tuesday" until pretty recently. For those not in the know, it's the title of one of the tracks on my upcoming solo record, and I oh-so-slyly threw it out there (in the previous Screed) as a trivia question to see if anyone knew what it meant. I found it curious that most people who responded were not regular e-mailers. Regardless of who wrote (and there were many), the general reaction was one of disbelief: "Man, every fifth grader knows the answer to that." Well, call me sheltered, but I don't think I so much as heard the answer until well into my teens. I still like it as the title for this song, though, so I'm keeping it. For anyone who's still wondering what it means, think of a word you'd never address to any female with whom you'd prefer to remain cordial.
HEADFIRST INTO THE CAVE: This will probably be my last posting here until around New Year's, as I plan to finally get back on the horse this weekend and finish these last two demo tracks once and for all. Sure, I could go on and on about Trent Lott, and how truly sad and bizarre this whole thing is getting, but I'd prefer to end it for now with this story for the real political junkies out there. MSNBC's talk show Hardball with Chris Matthews had the ultra-right Pat Buchanan and the maverick-left Pat Caddell (campaign manager for Jerry Brown) as its guests on Monday night (12/16). They were discussing Al Gore's decision not to run in 2004 (a decision I applaud; finally he did something right). They were also talking about Gore's star turn on Saturday Night Live, specifically about the hilarity of a skit where he and Joe Lieberman (impersonated) were sitting naked in a hot tub together. Pat Caddell then made the comment, "Well, no one will ever accuse Gore of being stiff again." The camera turned back to Matthews, who turned beet-red and stuttered, "I'm not even going to, uh, touch that one." Barely able to contain himself, Matthews covered his mouth with an index card and looked at Buchanan. The camera turned to the hardened culture warrior…and he just sat there, stone-faced. Didn't even flutter an eyebrow. One has to wonder exactly what Pat Buchanan was thinking as the image of Al Gore's erect manhood lurking under steaming bubbles hovered over the television studio. Now that's entertainment.
--12/18/02. 12:23 AM
GOING IN: I'm just minutes away from getting in the car and driving down to San Diego for the initial recording session for Keneally's new album, very tentatively titled Dr. Dog. I'm really excited. I have been ever since this outfit (Keneally, Nick D'Virgilio, Rick Musallam and myself) toured as a "quartet" in late 2001. And my excitement was double confirmed just last week, where we turned in what I thought was - in all humility - a neck-snappingly intense show at the Baked Potato in LA. Even I had one of those nights where my fingers were actually connected to my brain for more than just fleeting moments, but that's largely due to the guys I was playing with. This outfit has the potential to make an incredible record.
ON THE HOME FRONT: My creative energy - well, all of my energy for that matter - seems to be at a low ebb. I can't get back to a consistent 100% work pace for some reason. Probably it's a lingering of this nasty illness I had (have?). In any event, I've completed a grand total of 15 seconds of drum programming for the solo album's penultimate song, a 150 b.p.m. swing/hard-rock nightmare called "See You Next Tuesday" (bonus points to anyone who knows what the title means; I'll only respond if you get it right). It feels like I'm grinding a bit. Maybe this is why it took me 31 years to store up the musical ideas I had before they began spilling out. To that end, look for the Bryan Beller sophomore effort to hit the streets in 2033, right when the Social Security Trust Fund dries up for good and I'll really need the money.
A "NOW PLAYING" MORSEL: I've been listening to Audioslave lately - you know, the eponymous album by the first 90's "supergroup," comprised of Chris Cornell fronting the band formerly known as Rage Against The Machine. I'm a big fan of both elements, but when I listen to it I can't stop thinking about that old Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercial: "You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!" Why can't the few really good bands just stay together? We're nowhere near the David Lee Roth/Eddie Van Halen level of musical comedy/tragedy, but maybe if Zack De La Rocha was the frontman for what used to be Soundgarden, we'd get there in a hurry.
LOTTS OF FUN: With the advent of the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful W. phenomenon - and the utter mental bankruptcy of today's Democratic party - writing about politics just hasn't been any fun lately. Then along comes some stumblebum like Trent Lott, and suddenly it's entertaining to watch CNN again. Hell, even Fox News is good for some comedy on this story. Hello, GOP? This is your Southern Strategy calling. Richard Nixon is on the line. Will you accept a collect call, very long distance? Hello?
--12/13/02, 9:18 AM
SICK OF IT ALL: No, I'm not making a punk tribute album. My immune system, under stress since what feels like July, finally gave way just hours before I flew home to Casa Beller in Jersey to see my folks for Thanksgiving. I spent a good part of the weekend on my back, flew home semi-conscious, and even stayed home from work today - something that, in my nearly six years at SWR, I'm not sure I've ever done before. I haven't been sick for five straight days since…I can't even remember that far back. Obviously my body is sending me a sign, which I'll roughly translate for you: "Are you high?! Slow the fuck down!!"
ON THE BRIGHT SIDE: I've been walking around with an 11-song demo CD in my man-purse (as my friends so affectionately call it). I finished the latest work-in-progress, "Seven Percent Grade," before I left for my ill-fated trip home, and I cannot even begin to describe how pleased I am with it. If all goes according to plan (insert God laughing here), it will be the album's true opener. It's a bitch of a tune, twisting and curling around a couple of strange, snarling guitar riffs and one motherfucker of a bassline in the chorus. And, for the first time, something I've written sounds, dare I say, slightly Keneally-ish. Knowing that eleven of the thirteen songs for this record are already done in demo form eases the pain in my nose and throat ever so slightly.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 27 AND 31: Four years ago I was working a full-time job and writing a 626-page manuscript on the side. It took eighteen months and didn't adversely affect my health, other than a ten-pound weight gain. Fast forward to the present, where I've been working full-time and creating the demos for this record on the side since the third week of August. That's basically three months. I'm sick as hell and I've gained twenty pounds. They say it's not the age, it's the mileage. I say it's both.
SPEAKING OF AGE: The Webmistress Katy Towell turned 22 last week. Say a Wiccan prayer and wish her a happy birthday, won't you? I'm not doing a very good job of keeping her busy on this site, as you can tell lately. Working on this solo record is literally draining my creative energy into that source alone. All I can say is that I really do believe it'll be worth it. And bryanbellerdotcom will be here waiting for us on the other side, at which point it may become something fairly different, what with a product to promote and all. In the meantime, I'll keep you posted on the album's progress, as well as the upcoming Keneally studio activity. As in, we're recording a new record next week. And you thought the Screed was becoming useless.
--12/2/02, 9:20 PM
GIG ALERT: The New Year's Eve gig in Seattle is now official, with special details posted over on the Coming Attractions page. Plus, we're friends with The Baked Potato again.
IN THE CAVE: I'd write more, but I'm deep into finishing material for the record. It took me nearly two months to finish the most recent song, a heavily orchestrated mini-epic called "Eighteen Weeks." That's ten down, three to go. Title of current work in progress: "Seven Percent Grade." Right now it's kicking my ass, but I'm strong in the later rounds. More updates to come…
--11/20/02, 12:12 AM
HIS NAME WAS JOHNNY VIRGIL: I got home after three in the morning on the night of the one-time-only performance of Kevin Gilbert's The Shaming Of The True with visions of lengthy, oh-so-elegant prose about the show…and then I realized today that nothing I could write would capture it properly. I'll leave the details to the hundreds of wonderful people who came from locations as disparate as Florida, Canada and Chile to see the show, as they undoubtedly saw a completely different beast than what I experienced on stage. I'll just sum it up as best I can in bullet points: 1) from a technical standpoint, it was completely out of control, maybe the most just-barely-together professional gig I've ever done, which to me somehow enhanced the performance as opposed to detracted from it; 2) Chris G. is my new hero, for not only nailing the Shaming parts, but also for stepping in and laying waste to the Spock's Beard material as if he'd toured it a thousand times over; 3) Nick D'Virgilio is one of the most insanely talented musicians I've ever known; 4) the euphoric feeling that rushed through my body during the guitar solo in "The Way Back Home" has happened to me but once or twice in my entire playing career; 5) if you have an audience recording of this show, you know where to find me. Thanks one last time to everyone (there are far too many people to list here) who made this possible…and especially to Nick, for asking me to do it in the first place. The phrase "labor of love" was coined for moments like last night.
JOHNNY'S LAST LINE: Finally, Keneally's observation of the absolute wreckage onstage after the "Suit Fugue" - which saw white powder and hundred dollar bills tossed in every direction while the A & R men danced around ten musicians' worth of backline gear and strewn cables - was the line of the night: "Look at the stage, what a fucking mess it is. Kevin would have loved this."
--11/11/02, 7:44 PM
THE MAKING OF THE TRUE: The band for Sunday's one-time-only performance of Kevin Gilbert's The Shaming Of The True held their sixth and final rehearsal on Friday night, 11/8. It had the air of a private performance, as nearly twenty close friends of all involved gathered at a locked-out rehearsal soundstage in North Hollywood. The band is larger than I had anticipated, with so many guitarists and background vocalists that I'm not sure I even have all of their names straight. And so many people are contributing in so many ways - from band to crew to backline support and beyond - that it almost feels like a family reunion. Or, to be more accurate, like a bizarre, alternate-universe version of a Berklee College Of Music recital, where all of this incredible talent gathers several times to prepare for one single performance, and then afterwards, is never assembled in the same way again. The nostalgia begins before the show is ever performed. Add in the inherently heavy content of the material, and you begin to get a sense of the weight that was in the room that night.
MUZO HEAVEN: Then there's the raw power of the music. Watching Keneally, Russ Parish and Rick Musallam play unison lead in "Certifiable #1 Smash," or Chris G. nailing the drum fills hit-for-hit in "City Of The Sun," or Marc Ziegenhagen playing the intro to "Staring Into Nothing," or David Levita playing the searing solo in "The Way Back Home"…at these points and many more, I become as much of a fan as anyone who will be there on Sunday. My ultimate praise, however, is reserved for Nick D'Virgilio. The incredible amount of talent this guy possesses - whether he's playing drums, or acoustic guitar, or singing lead - is so overwhelming, it's hard to imagine anyone else who could occupy the role for which he's about to be immortalized. And it's way beyond muzo; just listening, closed-eyed, to him singing "From Here To There," makes my knees buckle.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I'm writing this now because I know that, after the show is over, accounts of the performance will flood the web, and it won't be a surprise to anyone after that. Selfish, but true. So I just want to reiterate how fortunate I feel to have been invited to do this in the first place. It's hard to describe just how much emotion there is surrounding this show, because Friday night was the first time it was performed from start to finish, and even at that there were some starts and stops to run over the more difficult pieces. But the feeling in the room was one of overwhelming reverence for someone I now realize more than ever to be a true musical genius. If we can bring that feeling to the performance, then a deserving tribute will finally, at long last, have been paid.
FINAL FINAL THOUGHTS: The busy rehearsal schedule and the accompanying musical release has been so wonderful, it's actually allowed me to temporarily forget how utterly depressed I am about the results of Tuesday's election (and I'll get to that at a later date). Like I said in far too many words, this is really good music. If you're in the area and you're on the fence about going (check the Coming Attractions, to the right of my face, for details), this is one time you should get off your ass and get impulsive.
--11/9/02, 9:12 PM
STRAIGHT OUTTA CANYON COUNTRY: Well, shee-it, I finally went ahead and updated the Now Playing page in the Music section. Of five recent CD purchases, two were worthy. One was Bill Frisell. The other was…Eminem?
READ IT WHILE IT LASTS: Bass Player column #17 of 18, "That Studio Magic," is now posted at bryanbellerdotcom for your convenience. This counts as the last column I wrote before I knew the series would be coming to end (column #18, "Keep The Change," will publish in the January issue, and be available here the last week of that month). It also counts as actually being relevant to bass playing. Maybe if I'd done more of that…well, hindsight and such.
LAZINESS ABOUNDS: That's actually not true; I've used my first weekend off in over a month to make some great progress on the solo record, and to complete these fine updates you see before you. But I'm still too lazy to create a whole new page in Photographic Evidence for pictures from the recent MKB show at the Great American Music Hall in San Fran…so allow long-time LOB reader, talented web designer, and solid man of society Grover to entertain you with such images at http://www.grover.net/mk_sf/. Thanks, G.
--10/27/02, 2:00 PM
STOP THE INSANITY: Even I, a person who thrives on creating order amidst chaos, am having a hard time believing what the past month has been like. It's simply been one gigantic double cheeseburger of stress. Poor Mike and Stacey had to listen to me yakking non-stop for two straight weeks on the SWR hotline (read: my cell phone) while we drove from city to city on the recently-completed Taylor tour (which, performance-wise, was magnificent). Never before has leaving the office been so difficult, something I'll have to ponder as time goes on (but not right away; I don't wanna grow up, I'm a Toys 'R' Us kid…). Personal crises were cropping up like weeds all the while. It's not just me, either. Everyone I know seems to be going through similar strangeness. But I can see daylight after the upcoming gig this weekend in San Francisco, and the four songs I have left to record in demo form are practically bubbling out of my ears. The one negative side effect gives the title of this entry relevance: I'm back to the weight I was at before I started training for the hike. If I tried to do it now, I'd probably die up there.
LATE BREAKING NEWS: As you may or may not know from reading the Keneallist, the MK/BFD Trio Reunion gig this weekend at the Great American Music Hall in San Fran is not to be as planned. Toss dislocated his shoulder earlier this year in a mountain biking accident, and the injury re-occurred this Monday. I was really looking forward to it, but it'll have to wait for some other time. Like for the recording he agreed to do on my solo record sometime next year. Toss and I spoke on the phone for the first time in over a year as a result of this unfortunate circumstance, so there's your silver lining. And woe is me, I have to play with Nick D'Virgilio instead. Yeah, my life is really tough.
BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE: I really wish I had more time to write about politics lately, because there truly are some Big Issues out there worth discussing. But after much soul-searching – and a lot of reading – I'll just get this out of my system: I've concluded that the disarming/attacking/bombing/
whatevering of Iraq is sadly necessary, even though innocent people will likely die as a result. I've just had a hard time coming to grips that it's the right thing to do even though George W. Bush says it's the right thing to do. He's such a poor advocate, both in prepared speeches and in off-the-cuff remarks, that it's hard to figure out whether he's simply incapable of expressing his position coherently, or he doesn't even believe it's important to do so. Either way, I think you have to ignore whatever he says and think about what we'd be doing right now if Saddam Hussein stood up tomorrow and made an announcement similar to the one North Korea made yesterday: "We have a nuclear weapons program." A single person, a sniper, is currently terrorizing the entire metro D.C. area. That's what terrorism is all about, the power of one man's evil will to adversely affect a million lives. If, somehow, Saddam could provide a nuclear weapon to just one person willing to use it, either Israel or the U.S. would surely be the unhappy recipient of that person's will. Are we supposed to wait with baited breath until that day comes, and hope until then that Saddam is merely content to terrorize his own people? What makes it all so hard to swallow is that a) Iraq is a sideshow compared to Wahabbi-ist Saudi Arabia; b) the Bushes are up to their necks in the whole dirty business over there regarding oil. You'd think the National Defense Party (read: the GOP) would consider making an alternative energy plan a priority as a matter of national security, but apparently cheap oil is the only thing that trumps national security. It's not hard to figure out why.
JUST TO MAKE SURE I'VE PISSED ENOUGH PEOPLE OFF: And while I'm ranting, I just want to say that the pro-Palestinian protests currently sweeping the nation's universities – which blur the line all too easily into an institutional legitimization of anti-Semitism – are absolutely fucking sickening. To say that there's moral equivalency between Israel's right to defend its very existence and the PLO's right to use teenagers to turn themselves into human bombs in order to kill as many Israeli citizens as possible is…well, let's just say that if you're out there cheering on the Palestinians, you're cheering on what I've laid out in my last sentence. If you read the pro-Palestinian literature (available all over the web), it clearly advocates the destruction of Israel in deed if not in word. (Somehow referring to it as "the Zionist entity" makes it OK to say that you're advocating the destruction of an entire people.) Not coincidentally, the same tripe is coming out of Iraq. And Al-Qaeda. Bush is an inarticulate and ineffective communicator, and ultimately a buffoon for more reasons that just that. But he's right, in spite of his inability to say exactly why.
NOT-SO-BENIGN NEGLECT: There are several areas of the website that urgently require updating, and I'll get around to it sooner or later. They include the fact that Yogi veteran and fine drummer Chris G. has signed on to handle the main drumming duties for the upcoming Kevin Gilbert tribute show. They also include the fact that I can no longer say I don't write music, and that I have (as opposed to had) a regular column in Bass Player. (BB Column Deathwatch Update: My last column will run in January, not December.) And how about all those references to "Mike Keneally and Beer For Dolphins," as opposed to the new and improved "Mike Keneally Band"? Well, one of these days.
"VIEW" UPDATE: Some song titles: "Seven Percent Grade"; "Supermarket People"; "Projectile"; "Eighteen Weeks"; "See You Next Tuesday"; "Elate", and, obviously, "View". I can't wait to finish this damned thing.
--10/17/02, 11:06 PM
SLEEPLESS IN SNOQUALMIE: We're on our way from the Seattle area to Keizer, OR. The last few days of the trip were really, truly nice. Our good friend Yogi (and his lovely roommate Amanda) put us up in their stunning new home in - you guessed it - Snoqualmie, WA, about 30 miles due east of Seattle, in a hilly, breezy terrain surrounded by mountains and tall tress. Just gorgeous. (Yogi, Amanda - we love you.) The clinics in the Seattle area were excellent as well, topped off by last night's clinic at Guitar Center Seattle, where GC Man and Keneally diehard Derek Sheen put together one of the best clinic environments we've ever experienced. I don't know why this is, but I feel more confident and comfortable playing in Seattle than anywhere else in the world. This is going all the way back to 1996, when we opened up for Michael Manring at the now defunct Backstage. I wish I could bottle up the feeling and take it with me; it would relieve me of a lot of future self-flagellation for performances not up to my own standards. But for now, I'll just say I was happy to come up this way once again.
THE KIDS IN THE HALL SAID IT FIRST...: But Mark from Long & McQuade in Victoria, BC (Canada) was the first one to tell me, so I'll attribute this laughworthy line to him: "Canadians are basically unarmed Americans with health care." Thanks to Mark and Nicola, as well as Mike and the guys from Long & McQuade Vancouver, for making our trip north of the border so pleasant.
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN: As we boarded the ferry for a beautiful cruise from Victoria back to Port Angeles, WA, we lamented the fact that we missed the Queen of England's visit by mere hours. They're pretty conflicted about the whole royalty thing up there. Some Canadian government heavyweight dissed her the day before she got there, and the whole country got in a major snit over it. But the Canadian populace was quite relieved to learn that the co-host of "Hockey Night In Canada" was given a new, more lucrative contract by the government. Canadian current events - pretty interesting, eh?
--10/8/02, 2:45 PM
ROAD REPORT: We're up here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. It's cloudy and drizzling outside (surprise), but we have seen sun and some incredible landscapes on our drive thus far (L.A. to Seattle). The first three clinics have gone reasonably well, with an especially gratifying turnout of 80+ in Renton at A# Music, and today we head for Canada for the first time since '96. I'm getting a kick out of working the new Keneally songs acoustically; "Li'l" and "Raining Sound" are really nice pieces in this format. I'm just so grateful that Taylor continues to see value in sending us hither and yon to play our eclectic music for fans in areas we usually can't get to with the full band. It's also nice to see the look of shock on the faces of those who don't know who we are, but came to see some nice acoustic guitar playing. Usually their look says, "That's not very nice, what that man is doing to that pretty guitar, but I guess it's OK if Taylor sent them up here."
SOLO ALBUM UPDATE: I finished another complete song demo just minutes before I left town, a funky, New Orleans-ish piece called "Supermarket People." That makes nine songs in complete demo form, with four more to go. The most nerve-wracking part of the process so far has been playing this CD-R of demos I have for those closest to me and watching their reactions. It's strange - I have a kind of complex about playing it for other people. Not that I'm not proud of it - I like what I've got a lot - but it feels unseemly to shove this music on my friends and sit there like, "Well, do you like it?" Keneally has proven invaluable in helping me scale this learning curve, telling me that it's an essential part of the process, that you have to know what parts of what songs are getting people off. Mike's fearless like that. He'll just shove a CD in the player and be like, "Hey, check this out." I have a lot to learn.
DON'T DO IT, MAN!: Our Ford Windstar minivan has a decent stereo in it, but if you press the "CD" button while a CD is playing, the LCD display will first flash the word "NO," and then seconds later flash the word "OJ." NO, OJ. No word on whether or not Ford offers this option in their latest model Bronco.
HARD TO BELIEVE: A writer for a progressive rock magazine called Expose approached me in Renton and requested an e-mail interview regarding my upcoming solo album. Scary. Obviously I hope to get some degree of press when I'm pushing the album closer to when it comes out, but...well, the internet is an amazing thing.
INEVITABLE: I'm often asked exactly how I am able to hold down a full time management position at SWR, be a touring member of Keneally's band, do freelance writing on the side, and now work on a solo album project as well, all at the same time, without completely falling apart. Usually I say, "I don't know, I just do it and it all works out somehow." Getting out of town in one piece for the Taylor tour I'm currently on was one of the first times that it all felt like an out-of-control circus of stress. I pulled a week's worth of insanely late nights at work, and spent my remaining spare time practicing the Kevin Gilbert material, finishing "Supermarket People," preparing my electric gear for the last San Diego Keneally gig, packing for this trip and preparing my acoustic materials. By the time we got out of town I was a sleep-deprived physical wreck. (Hence the lack of Screedage lately.) I know, woe is me. I'm extremely thankful that I have so many different and uniquely exciting things to do in a day. But sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I worked at a Dairy Queen.
--10/3/02, 9:38 AM
GIG ALERT: Check out the Coming Attractions. New full-band MKB shows are afoot - including one with a very special guest.
THE BIG NEWS: I'm working on a solo record.
COME AGAIN?: Yes, I really am. It hit me in early August that there might be some original material not resembling "La Cucaracha" bouncing around in my head. This one simple theme kept reverberating between my ears, over and over again, until I couldn't take it anymore and I recorded myself playing it on a microcassette recorder I use for interviews. Two days later, ideas for several songs came to life. Soon I found myself purchasing a Boss BR1180CD hard disk recorder and rushing home from work to get ideas down in a more appropriate demo format. And two weeks after that, I - a studio illiterate, someone who never owned or even used so much as a Fostex 4-Track - was setting levels; programming drums; getting sounds; tracking bass, "guitar" (bass played in a really high register and sent through myriad effects) and keyboards; mixing; mastering; and burning complete tracks straight down to CD. It's as much an ad for the hard disk recorder as anything else, but somehow I now have five original songs, concepts for the all of the remaining tracks, and a sequence in my head. The simple theme that started it all, a solo piece, will be the opening track.
INSTANT FAQ: The working title is called View. Right now I see 13 tracks and a running time of several minutes under an hour. I plan to record every track on the home hard disk recorder and create a "final demo" CD in sequence, and then go into a real studio knowing pretty much what I want. Which musicians play on what tracks is something I'm still nailing down in my head, but rest assured that the names will be very familiar. A cover art concept exists. If I had an unlimited amount of time each day to work on it, the demo phase would be done pretty quickly…but that being far from the case, I'm thinking the demo CD will be done by the end of the year, the tracking will happen in the spring next year, and the final product will be ready with bells on by fall of 2003. And if this isn't all just so much bullshit and I actually get the thing done, I have no idea how I'm going to release it. Like I said, it's a brave new world 'round these parts. Hang in there with me, OK? This is all very, very strange for me to be doing, let alone talking about. I'll spout more about the whole thing at a later date; it was hard enough just to admit that I'm even doing it.
LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND…: Web statistics. Thanks to some website called www.Slashdot.org, who referred an ungodly number of people here for two days last month, we shattered the bryanbellerdotcom monthly hit count record in August, totaling over 122,000. That's a gaudy number for li'l ol' me, and I humbly thank thee, but I realize that it's all about visits, not hits. So here's some hard information for you. We average 80,000 hits a month and right around 200 unique visitors a day, though when there's new content it goes up to 300 for a week or so. Our most common referrers are the Keneally website and Google (not a big surprise there). A lot of you made it all the way through the Tale of the Whitney Hike, but some of you got lazy and stopped reading after Part Two (how could you?). The most popular audio downloads are the live versions of "Career Politicians" and "The Knife & Drum," plus the rarity studio track "Time Table." People are still going back and reading the old Life of Bryan archives, especially Acts 16 and 21. Whenever I post a new Bass Player column, most of the unique visitors check it out immediately (don't tell my editor - wait, too late). Anyway, you get the picture. But what I really wanted to say in all this was a Big Thanks to you if you're one of the faithful who make this site a regular place to visit. And if you're just passing through, come back. Our new marketing department would like just a moment of your time for a quick survey…
--9/19/02, 9:40 PM
SO, BABY, WHAT'S YOUR SIGN?: It's all in the stars. Your true musical self, that is. It can now be revealed in Bass Player column #16, "Bass Astrology," now available for the bryanbellerdotcom readership.
ALL GOOD THINGS: As you can see above, I've published sixteen columns in Bass Player since 1999. I've got two more already "in the can," but those will be the final two. I submitted the eighteenth and final column a few days ago, and it will run in the December issue. (#17 will run in October.) The story of how this event came to pass will be told in the final column, and it's not what you may think. But putting all that aside for a second, it's no exaggeration to say that a good deal of whatever public profile I currently have is due to that publication, and I owe Jim Roberts, Karl Coryat, Richard Johnston and Bill Leigh a serious debt of gratitude for allowing me to ramble on in their magazine for the past three years. And the entire archive will be posted here in perpetuity, something else I can thank them for. I used to tell myself when I was 25 that, as a goal, I wanted a column in a magazine by the time I was 30. Now it's time to fulfill other goals. I'm working on that right now.
9/13/02, 8:30 AM
IN REMEMBERANCE: Words fail. Debates over what to do about it can wait a day. TV retrospectives - no thank you. Just some thoughts for those who need them. And other thoughts for those who deserve them.
9/11/02, 8:17 PM
AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION: The perception that the recent MKB Victor's gig set a new standard for Quartet quality has really taken off, and now that I have a document (thanks, as usual, to Dave Foster), I think I get it. I think. Certainly the acoustic stuff was well executed, and it stands to reason that the new material is slowly working itself into shape. But as this show works its way towards '98 Upstairs At Nick's status, I can't help but wonder why it is that, even four years later, I can't figure it out while it's happening. I've only been doing this gig for eight years now.
SPEAKING OF ANNIVERSARIES: This week marks the end of my ninth year on the left coast. I'm still a schoolboy in the sense that I mark years from September to August. I wonder when I'll stop doing that.
OF ANNIVERSARIES, CON'T: I unknowingly booked a dentist appointment for Wednesday, September 11. I'm not quite sure how to approach that date, and I'm sure I'm not alone. But I look back on my thoughts from a year ago, and without launching into another column I think three things: (a) I'm still as resolute the need for pre-emptive military action as ever; (b) the "War On Terror" has been terribly mistitled, because terror exists worldwide (Ireland, Basque Spain, Zimbabwe), but if we were honest we'd say that we're really only concerned with radical Islam and its religious-driven violence towards the West and Israel; (c) considering item (b), I don't understand why Saudi Arabia isn't a higher priority than Iraq - after all, that's the country exporting Wahhabi-ist Islam, not Iraq. Of course, that's a rhetorical statement. I know damned well why Saudi Arabia isn't an Iraq-like target, and it comes down to two words: "Oil" and "Bush." But like I said, I'm not launching another column. And lest you think I've gone totally right-wing, I also think that the guy filing suit to remove "Under God" from the pledge of allegiance is correct, and the backlash he faced for doing so was frighteningly Orwellian. Even for this country.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE: I visited the hometown in Jersey last week and spent the night at Casa Beller. In my father's office I found a little memento of appreciation, in the form of a miniaturized telescope, from a company you may have heard of. The tiny plaque on the bottom of the piece read as follows: "Hedge Fund Advisory Group - Looking Toward the Millenium - June 28, 1999 - ARTHUR ANDERSEN - Helping In Ways You Never Imagined." Yeah, no kidding. The joke around my household is that my father was thinking about taking a job with them back in '99, and that the mere thought of such a thing was enough to bring the legendary institution to ruin. (Love you, Dad.)
THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGING: Here's the inevitable tease to close this Screed - several things are changing in the world of bryanbellerdotcom. Hopefully someday soon I'll have the nerve to tell you about them.
--9/4/02, 10:04 PM
DOUBLE GIG REPORT: Yes, that was The Mike Keneally Band on San Diego's NBC affiliate KNSD playing live for over ten minutes of actual airtime. More shocking than it even happening in the first place was that they aired nearly all of "The Knife & Drum," a fusion monster that isn't exactly easy listening. It wasn't easy playing either; apparently getting to work by 8:00 AM is a lot easier than making a 9:30 AM soundcheck 140 miles from home, at least for me. But give credit where credit's due: those KNSD folks did us right. Those who've downloaded the video clip from that link on the Keneally newsgroup already know that.
BURNT TO A CRISP: The next day we had a 3:30 PM load-in for the outdoor show at Victor's which meant hours in the blazing hot sun while we set up and soundchecked. While it was fun for all of us to discover that Rick Musallam gets sun freckles around his eyes, it was even more fun for those who saw the show. More than one person came up to us afterwards and said it was the best Keneally show they'd ever seen, and that included some battle-hardened veterans. I've long since given up trying to figure out which shows are good and which aren't, so skewed is my own reality. I do know that the sound both onstage and off was superb, and that makes a bigger difference than most people realize. I have to admit that my favorite moment was after the acoustic set, when some of the coolest people I know - Supreme Literary Confidante Martha C. Lawrence, Moosenet CEO Scott Chatfield, Taylor Guitars' VP of Public Relations John D'Agostino, bryanbellerdotcom Webmistress Katy Towell, and Dixie Dregs/Mistakes bassist Andy West, to shamelessly name-drop a few - were all within arms length, surely giving way to one of the most interesting group conversations I've had the privilege to not to screw up too badly just by being there.
SPANISH FOR BUTTERFLY: That's what Mariposa means, but in this case it refers to a band started by my former SWR mate John Ferrante. He's got plenty of blackmail material on me, so I'm giving him this link as partial payment. They're new on the Links page, available in full by clicking just over my right earlobe. Now maybe I'll get back those pictures of Katherine Harris and a certain humble narrator frolicking in South Beach at the Janet Reno dance party last month.
SEATTLE SLEW: The recording with Yogi up in Seattle went great, thanks largely in part to Guitar Center Seattle employee Derek Sheen, who hooked me up with a Taylor AB-3 for use during the weekend. Talk about above and beyond - he had the instrument flown in from another store on the east coast. Derek Sheen, we salute you. And the Yogi material is juicy, baby.
--8/26/02, 9:44 PM
GOOD MORNING PRECIOUS, I'VE GOT NEWS FOR YOU: More big news over at the Coming Attractions page. This time it's official word about the NDV/MKB performance at this year's ProgWest show in Claremont, CA. It may be old news for some people, but just in case: we'll be doing two sets, one of which will be a complete live performance of Kevin Gilbert's rock opera The Shaming Of The True, with our friend Nicky as Johnny Virgil. Rehearsals have already begun, and they've been way too much fun for any one musician to have. Mark the date: November 10.
TAYLOR LEFT COAST MANIA: Yep, it's a Taylor Acoustic clinic tour up and down the Pacific coast, scheduled for early October. The most complete itinerary is now available at the Keneally site. We're gonna be busy this fall.
SLEEPLESS IN SNOQUALMIE: I'm heading up to "the greater Seattle area" this weekend to do some new tracks with our old friend Yogi. Always a pleasure, as those who own his solo effort Any Raw Flesh? already know. I'm looking forward to getting out of town for a little while anyway; Los Angeles is in the midst of its long, rainless, smoggy summer, and the skies are looking a little too apocalyptic for my tastes right now.
--8/16/02, 12:30 AM
THE HEADLINE REMAINS THE SAME: For those intermittent browsers of bryanbellerdotcom, we're happy to extend the top headline for a little while longer. Act 43 of the Life Of Bryan, "Through The Whitney Portal," is available for your perusal. How many hours does it really take to day-hike Mt. Whitney? Simulate the experience by reading this 29-page, 51-picture epic.
IN OTHER TOP STORIES: The Coming Attractions page has the hot scoop on that bit of left coast Keneally action I teased in the last Screed. Hint: you're two clicks away from an itinerary.
MILESTONE ALERT: We're on pace for bryanbellerdotcom's first 100,000-hit month. A lot of that is due to perusal of the aforementioned LOB Act 43. My humble thanks are yours, as always.
MOVIN' ON UP: The Webmistress Katy Towell, my esteemed houseguest since her arrival in Los Angeles back in June, moved into her own place this weekend. She will be missed, as my place will undoubtedly revert to the predictable bachelor pad it was before her presence. As for her new digs, I'm probably inviting an editor's note by doing this, but I'll say it anyway: there goes the neighborhood. [Webmistress' note: World domination is a long, slow process.]
--8/11/02, 11:58 AM
FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST!: Thank God Almighty I finally finished Act 43 of the Life Of Bryan, "Through The Whitney Portal." It's the longest piece I've written since the novel, and in a lot of ways, probably the most rewarding as well. It's also a throwback to the good old days of the LOB, when Acts were so stuffed with content and pictures that you couldn't digest them all in one sitting. No matter how you take it in, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did living it. Anyone who gets a serious bug up their behind about possibly trying the hike for themselves, feel free to e-mail me and I'll give you the best advice I can (though after reading the piece you may think better of accepting my advice as gospel). And though I know you're probably sick of me pouring on the sugar by now, the efforts of the Webmistress Katy Towell simply cannot go unheralded. Especially in this case, where we both spent an entire Saturday transferring files and formatting the beast together.
HEAVY TRAFFIC: I've been seeing a lot of action on the Audio Sampler Platter pages, especially on the new tunes from the North Sea Jazz Festival posted over at the "on a stage" section. Thanks for tuning in. Call me anything but humble, but I really believe it: This band is good. Spread the word.
FAIR AND BALANCED, AS ALWAYS: I'm shot from a week of late nights to finally put The Tale Of Mt. Whitney to bed, but there's plenty of Keneally/Beller/MKB news on the horizon. Once I recover, the Screed will be your source for that, plus the latest information on the West Nile Virus, James Trafficant's jailhouse hairdo, W's vacation from having to deal with the imploding economy, and other important matters of the day. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go laugh at Katherine Harris, who kicked off her election campaign for Congress by flagrantly violating a statute that, as Florida's Secretary of State, she was in charge of enforcing. Such a stickler for the letter of the law, that Katherine. There's comedy everywhere nowadays; you just have to know where to look.
--8/3/02, 11:06 PM
FROM EUROPE WITH HIGH-QUALITY AUDIO: The audio document I recently received of our North Sea Jazz show is among the best I've heard in nearly eight years of collecting unofficial recordings of Keneally & Co. Thanks to modern technology (and one very talented webmistress), we now we have the power to bring that magic directly to you via the Audio Sampler Platter's "on a stage" section. Three new mp3 files await you, the discerning listener. Major thanks to David Wilcher and Han Van de Graaf for getting me the CDR.
FROM NASHVILLE WITH LOW QUALITY IMAGES: When I'm in them, there just aren't any other kind. Since I'm too lazy to create a new section of Photographic Evidence for my time at the Nashville NAMM show for SWR, click here to see what I look like when I'm doing business on very little sleep.
FROM THE KENEALLY UPDATE DESK: Something's going to happen on the West Coast in early October. Stay tuned.
--7/27/02, 12:18 AM
FREQUENT FRYER: No, that's not a Asian accent slur, that's me lately with all this traveling. Now I'm finally - and gratefully - on my way back home from Nashville, and once again the Screed comes beaming down to you from 35,000 feet in the air. With the last one aging rapidly, it's not a moment too soon. This is gonna be one major-ass Screed, so relax for a little while and dig in.
SOMETIMES THE GRASS IS GREEN ON BOTH SIDES OF THE FENCE: As you probably know, I returned home from Holland and Keneally's North Sea Jazz Festival show with less than 60 hours on the ground before heading off to Nashville to work the NAMM trade show for SWR. Frankly, I wasn't thrilled to be leaving Europe for any reason, let alone for day-job work while Keneally continued on gypsy-style in what some might call a European mini-tour. But my grass-is-greener rationale was put to rest in short order as I participated in the most successful - and most fun - NAMM show ever since I began working for The Company (love those caps). All eleven of the new/revised products I was responsible for showing at January's NAMM show are now shipping like crazy, and we wore out our writing utensils taking orders from dealers old and new. But more than that, there seemed to be an incredibly positive vibe in the air for the first time since 9/11, and our industry as a whole felt like it was waking up from a deep sleep. Or, at least, it finally shook off a four-alarm hangover.
INDUSTRY INSIDER: This NAMM show also reminded me that I've been doing this for over five years, and thanks to SWR President/CEO Daryl Jamison's faith in me not embarrassing him, I now know a lot of influential folks in the business. This is about to become a shameless exercise in dropping names, but I'll take the plunge to prove a point. In the course of a single day, I spoke with mucky-mucks (CEO's or #2's in most cases) from Ashdown, Gallien-Krueger, St. Louis Music (parent company of Ampeg, Crate, Alvarez and more), Aguilar, Fender, Peavey...and that was just about bass gear. If five years ago someone told me that I'd be on a first name basis with some of these people, I would have laughed them out of my face. Now I'm slicking my hair back, happily wearing Perry Ellis dress shirts and tucking them into belt-tightened black jeans (the official slacks of the M.I. Industry). Have I sold out? Yeah, sure. But at least I'm doing it convincingly.
BRYANBELLERDOTCOM'S CHIEF DEMOGRAPHIC: Somewhere, my mother is saying to herself in Brooklyn-ese, "He always did look better with his shirt tucked in!"
THE DAY THE BASSES TOOK OVER NASHVILLE: Nashville music scenesters and Bass Player readers probably know who Dave Pomeroy is, but if you don't fall into either of those categories...he's a one-man bass playing, multi-track sampling, lead singing, songwriting, self-promoting party on two feet. And he was the main attraction at SWR's post-NAMM "Happy Hour" at a club called Wolfy's, which was right around the corner from the convention center. He did his solo thing, which is an incredibly impressive one-man show that features him sampling himself in layers and creating thick soundscapes and rhythmic textures while somehow still remaining rootsy. But then he started his second set with his "All-Bass Orchestra", and that's when things really got cooking. He had four other guys up there with him, all bassists. I wish I could remember the names of all of them, but I only recall two. One was upright player Dave Roe, a fantastic, mature stylist who acted as the drummer as he slapped the hell out of his double bass. The other was Keith Horne, and believe me when I tell you that this guy is a genuine freak, a play-it-upside-down-and-backwards-like-Jimmy-Haslip, blazing-chops-but-still-bursting-with-melodic-sensibilities motherfucker of a bassist. They played some funk standards, traded solos, and generally kicked ass for about forty-five minutes.
AND NOW, THE MERCY GUEST OF THE EVENING: So you can imagine my ambivalence about Dave Pomeroy a) asking me to sit in; b) waiting until the last three songs to bring me up. I could just see the room thinking to themselves, "Oh, how nice, they let the guy who works for the company get up and play with the pros." First we played "Superstition," and I muddled my way through a long solo that went somewhere (though not far). After the first tune was out of the way I felt more comfortable, and dug in on "Sunshine Of Your Love" and a Pomeroy original rhythm-changes-swing tune called "The Day The Basses Took Over The World," which I hadn't played in six months and only knew for ten seconds then anyway. We were trading two-bar solos on the tag, and of course I ended up in the order right after Keith Horne. I remember not feeling too bad about it, a victory in and of itself. Afterwards, a stranger came up to me and said, "How do you do this, be a player and travel, and work at this company? Isn't it weird sometimes?" In short, yes. But the only thing I don't feel a sliver fraudulent about is writing.
THE POWER OF THE PRINTED PAGE: More so than ever, kind people of all stripes approached me at the show and complimented me on the Bass Player column. I firmly believe that more people know who I am because of that column than for any other reason, and for that I continue to owe the BP staff a debt of gratitude. My most recent column, "Bass Astrology 101", just hit newsstands and subscribers in the last few days (it's in the August issue, I think). It's a mock horoscope for bassists, and the editorial staff took the time to format the article like a real astrology section of a newspaper, even though it took up more page space to do so. Thanks again to all of you out there reading along.
THE SMELL OF JAZZ, ONE WEEK LATER: Keneallyite (and, coincidentally, fellow human species member) J.D. Mack somehow managed to get into the industry-only NAMM show, and was kind enough to drop me a 56K-quality recording of the Mike Keneally band's show at The North Sea Jazz Festival. It's better than I remember it being, and some of the moments I thought were semi-wrecks actually sounded good, and even better, funny. The last verse of "Naked Horse" comes to mind, with Rick and I in one spot of the form, and Mike and Nick in the other, and the resulting cacophony playing against itself and somehow resolving in unison just after Rick stepped in a hole with a sad little wah-wah sound that sounded like a short, plaintive whine that said, "Oh, where are we?" "Career Politicians" was really good, as were "Dilemma" and "2001". I still haven't heard how the new songs sounded because they didn't broadcast them, but if I can get a document with better audio (which is already on the way, I think), and Lamn Xavb's permission (always a dicey prospect), I may add some new files to the "Audio Sampler Platter." We'll see.
AND THE LONGEST SCREED EVER ENDS WITH...: Another excuse. I got a little more of the Whitney story done on this trip, but not much. I know that by the time it's done, no one will give a flying sodomization about it anyway. But I am still working on it. That counts for something, right?
AND A JOKE: In Nashville, the Church of Christ is apparently a predominant and prevalent part of the community. I don't know much about them, but I was told this joke, and I think I now know all I need to. So, how come Church of Christers don't have sex standing up? Because someone might think they're dancing.
--7/22/02, 1:41 PM Mountain Standard Time
IT SMELLED LIKE JAZZ: Yep, there we were, the Mike Keneally Band, playing the North Sea Jazz Festival. The room was very nice and very crowded, and the folks were very enthusiastic, calling us back up for a legitimate encore by means of a prolonged standing ovation. I'm taking more stock in crowd reaction these days as a way of measuring up shows, because in my cranky old age I'm getting more persnickety about little clams and whatnot, especially when they emanate from the bass side of things. Which, on occasion, they did. But hey, I soloed and nobody walked out of the room (my secret: nothing faster than eighth notes, especially when Richard Bona is playing with Joe Zawinul the next hall over). The band was fantastic, and while the show wasn't the seamless, creative wonder that typified the Quartet Tour of last year (with each passing month I have more respect for what we did back then), it was a high-energy, accurate representation of what this band does. Highlights for me included a flawless version of "2001" (irony: we finally nail the pop tune at a jazz festival), a rollicking "Hum," a grooving "Skies Of Los Angeles" (a new tune), and the encore, our cover of Pink Floyd's "Astronomy Domine," a song which a surprising amount of folks in the audience recognized. All in all, a good show - and a landmark for the MKB. Dutch heroes Co de Kloet and Pieter van Hoogdalem are the ones who made it happen, and they deserve praise.
JET-FRAGGED: For the second night in a row, I slept less than four hours and woke up between 2:00 AM and 4:00 AM. Last night I figured that four glasses of white wine on an empty stomach would rectify things, but all that did was give me a headache when I sprang out of bed at quarter to four. It's come to this: I'm sitting here, typing the Screed, and watching the clock, waiting for the breakfast bar to open in the hotel lobby. And I'm getting to know the late night schedule of CNN Europe quite well.
--7/13/02, 6:39 AM Central European Time
PROCRASTINATION STATION: The telling of the Tale of Whitney should have been done by now, but with the presence of out of town guests, family members, and other life unexpectancies creeping about, it just ain't. Currently I'm 37,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean on my way to Holland for the Keneally gig at The North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague, which should at least provide some meaty Screed fodder over the next few days. I return to L.A. on Sunday, spend two days at home, and then fly to Nashville for the summer NAMM show on behalf of SWR. Also, in the midst of all this, I have a Bass Player column due in less than a week. Have I made enough excuses yet? How about the three hours of sleep I got the night before this flight?
CONSUMED BY A JEALOUS RAGE: The real shame about my itinerary is that Keneally is continuing on in Europe without me...and so he went and got two other bassists to do the gigs. Jaan Wessman and Diego Serra will be doing the honors in various locations throughout Europe; check the Keneally page for exacting detail on this exciting moment in MKB history. Truthfully, I get off on hearing other guys play the material. It's easier to be a fan when you're not playing the gig.
A VERY SPECIAL GUEST: Sitting beside me on this fine aircraft is none other than Mr. Keneally himself, who would like to share the following sentiments: "The honor inherent in being invited to screed guestily is enough to make me squook. Hello, I'm Crosley Bendix and it certain ly is a bleasure to be...oh, blah blah and blah. This morning I was in New Milford, Connecticut (pronounced: Noo Mill Ferd Coo Neck T' Cut) and had good fun with a classroom of about thirty or so guitar playing guys 'n' gals, talking about music and playing some too. Had some fun jams with some of the guys, a good time. Resnicoff came up from NYC and fed me some questions, thank you Matty. Matt was singled out for his vocal contributions in the "Wooden Smoke" review just published in Downbeat, good to see him finally get recognition for his pure dulcet tones. Wish you could hear the breathtaking version of "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" he left on my answering machine a couple years ago.
KENEALLY KONTINUES: "I too await breathlessly Bryan's tale of Whitney surmounting. Did he tell you that his spleen burst and he saw colors? I guess I shouldn't give it away. Bryan sez he's jealous about the bassists I'm going to be playing with in Italy and Germany but he's lying...he hates my music and thinks I'm a fucking idiot. Someday I'm going to run out of bribe money and he'll tell you what he really thinks. But truthfully ladies and fucking idiots, I'm tickled at least three shades of pink to be returning to the land of smoke 'n' ashes for the North Sea fest and I look forward to so much fun my face will expire from thinking. BB looked at my typings and said jeezis so it's time to hand the shiny new laptop to my ever-faithful right-hand man, that interlocutionary gaddabout town, that reluctant astronaut...BRYAN?????"
WHAT IS THERE TO SAY BUT: jeezis. And Rick and Nick aren't even here yet.
--7/11/02, 12:23 AM Atlantic Time (from somewhere over Nova Scotia)
GIG REPORT: The Victor's show on Saturday night was one part joyful debut, another part gallant struggle. The set kicked off with four new tunes, which we've been diligently rehearsing throughout the past month, and we even surprised ourselves at how well a) we played them; b) how well they were received (thanks to all the kind folks in attendance). One of them - "Li'l" - is a John McLaughlin-on-crack speed groover, with nightmare unison licks, multi-layered form and wide-open improv sections abound for over six minutes…and even that didn't throw us off too badly. Our reward for getting through the new stuff was a dumb-blues-feel cover of Pink Floyd's "Astronomy Domine," and that was a whole lotta fun. We even played a punk version of the Stones' "19th Nervous Breakdown" that people seemed to enjoy. Good moments, all.
AND NOW FOR THE "GALLANT STRUGGLE" PART OF OUR SHOW: But we also found that the difficult onstage sound we experienced in the first Victor's show was no fluke, as the stage and room are, shall we say, acoustically challenged. The poor conditions made for difficult discerning between instruments during loud passages, and contributed heavily to a most inglorious train wreck of "Potato," of all freakin' songs. It simply could not have been any uglier. The end of "'Cause Of Breakfast" also fell victim to a metal-on-metal collision. I'm always fairly embarrassed when stuff like that happens, but if my Keneally-ordered bass solo (over a breakneck tempo, one with which I had no business trifling) didn't detract from the overall goodness of the show, nothing would have. Just another testament to the coolest fans this side of the Continental Divide.
BAD AUTOMOTIVE JUJU: Being onstage was the easy part. Getting back and forth from Canyon Country to San Diego was another story. I was about to pull my car out of the garage when the automatic door opener came unhinged from its moorings on the ceiling. It came to rest hanging loosely over my car, which I couldn't move out of the way because the door was jammed halfway open. Ninety minutes later - after "emergency maintenance" finally arrived - we were on the road to SD. Then, just minutes away from the gig, I made one wrong turn - one! - and it took one hour to turn around and get back to where I was supposed to be, thanks to beach traffic. I figured I was safe after all that, and went to my hotel for a one-hour break between soundcheck and downbeat…at which point I promptly backed my car into a pole in the subterranean parking structure. It left a mark. On the car, not the pole. And that was only on Saturday night.
JUJU, PART TWO: Driving back up the 405 through West L.A., we (Webmistress Katy and I) were driving in the fast lane at about 75 m.p.h. when the small white econo car in the lane next to us suddenly slammed on its brakes, coming to a full, smoking stop on the busiest freeway in L.A. We looked back and saw the female driver speeding up again, weaving crazily in and out of lanes. She sped past us and we could see her, bobbing her head back and forth, laughing and apparently shouting at no one in particular. Then, three lanes over and several cars in front of us, she did it again. Screeching brakes, smoking tires, full stop. People were now wising up and staying clear behind her; the closest car in her rear view was at least 100 feet. But I couldn't get around her, and I was more next to her than ahead or behind. Katy and I watched in attentive horror as Ms. Psychotic Episode nearly ran three more cars off the road and pulled her full-stop trick four more times before finally crossing over three lanes to an exit ramp, where she again stopped cold. Thirty minutes later, I was counting my lucky stars simply to be home and alive when I tried to put my Rav4's removable car seats back into place, only to find that, somehow, the mechanisms on one of the seats was hopelessly bent out of whack and needed repair. If anyone knows of a sacrifice I need to make to the car gods, now might be a good time to let me know. Before somebody gets hurt.
--6/30/02, 11:58 PM.
YOUR MAN ON THE CONVENTION FLOOR: What happens when a Bass Player column deadline falls smack in the middle of the biggest M.I. industry trade show of the year? The columnist in question gets lazy and brings a tape recorder to the show. Experience the excitement of Bass Player Column #15: "A NAMM Reporter's Notebook" for yourself.
AS THE TRAIL DUST CLEARS: Four days post-Whitney, my muscles are finally losing their soreness, leaving me with only the injuries and the memories. The former include a tweaked left knee, a pulled right groin muscle, a blackened toenail and, inexplicably, a significantly decreased appetite. The latter exist in five incredible rolls of pictures, which I plan on having digitally developed this weekend. Now, if only I could remember taking them…
BUZZWORTHY KENEALLY: Carson Daly may never know, but there's gonna be some brand spankin' new MKB shit goin' down this weekend at Victor's in San Diego. It is hot, baby. For those in the area, make sure you get there on time. The new stuff will be front-loaded in the set. A lucky few may even get to meet the Webmistress Katy Towell, who will be in attendance. No pictures, though. She hisses like a rattlesnake.
--6/26/02, 9:17 PM
WINNING UGLY: I'm back…and, yes, I made it to the top of Mt. Whitney. I'm saving the dirty details for a major essay, but the Screed's title should tell you that it wasn't pretty. That said, I'm looking forward to writing this piece more than anything I can remember.
--6/23/02, 11:50 PM
DEPARTURE: I leave in a little over six hours for the High Sierras and my attempt to conquer Mt. Whitney. I should be asleep by now, as I'm trying to adjust my internal clock for a 4:00 AM wake-up call on Saturday morning, but nailing the 26-point itemized List Of Necessary Things To Bring proved too much for even me to handle until the last minute. So here I am packing, checking and double-checking. I'll sleep eventually. Thanks to all those who've wished me well. You can rest assured that I'll whip up quite the piece of illustrated literature upon my return.
AND IF I DON'T COME BACK…: My parents will receive comfort in the knowledge that, before he fell off the side of a mountain to his untimely death, their firstborn son was commissioned by his alma mater to write an instructional article, and it was actually published. Click here to view the just-posted Berklee Today article "Life Beyond The Money Notes." It can double as a eulogy if necessary.
--6/20/02, 10:53 PM
WITNESS TO A CALAMITY: Four days and counting until the Big Whitney Hike. I leave for Lone Pine, CA and the Whitney trailhead sickeningly early on Friday morning for a day of acclimation before the real thing starts at 4:30 AM the following day. That is, if I can make it out of here without getting either injured or killed. Both almost occurred yesterday. I'm going to save the story for when I write the whole Whitney saga. Hint: The Webmistress was watching the whole time.
--6/17/02, 9:45 PM
OH, SO VERY EXCITING: This happens to be one of those periods where nothing much is going on in the world of bryanbellerdotcom. That would explain the dearth of updates as of late. At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. If I strayed, I might say that one of these days I'll get off my lazy ass and update Photographic Evidence in both "the great outdoors" section (as promised) and the long-neglected "city of angels" section (in order to document a wild BBQ that occurred here Saturday night). That is, if I strayed. On the other hand, the Berklee Today instructional article should post soon, and the Whitney hike is less than two weeks away. Somebody alert the media.
ADAPTING TO HER UNNATURAL HABITAT: Webmistress Katy now has a week of Southern California living under her belt, and you'll be glad to know that, despite the abundance of sunshine, her vibe and soul is still as dark as ever. Now if only she could find a way to deal with her sunburned scalp, all would be well.
THERE'S ONE BORN EVERY MINUTE: Yep, I bought the Tyson-Lewis fight this weekend. I admit to actually having enjoyed watching Iron Mike eat Lewis' jab for seven rounds before swallowing a right to the chin for dessert. The BBQ'ers didn't seem to mind it either. Like Don King says, only in America.
--6/10/02, 11:09 PM
SITTING IN AN ENGLISH GARDEN…: If the sun don't come, you'll get a tan from reading the newest piece of press, darling: the Keneally (with Beller sidebar) feature article from the April edition of England's fine Guitarist magazine. Now available in the friendly confines of bryanbellerdotcom. We are the high priests of reprint permission, are we not?
--6/3/02, 10:20 PM
TWO'S COMPANY: As of Friday night, the Webmistress Katy Towell became my temporary roommate. She made the drive out to L.A. from Kansas and is settling in L.A. for good--she just needs a roommate. (Any takers? Psychos need not apply.) bryanbellerdotcom will surely benefit from such an arrangement, as site updates can happen practically in real time. Now I just have to get off my lazy ass and do some. In the meantime, check out this shot of Katy [Webmistress' Note: objects on monitor may be smaller and less bovine than they appear...] and her A-list clientele attending a local show in her soon-to-be new home, the San Fernando Valley. From left to right, it's the WKT, Wes Wehmiller, Joe Travers, and your humble narrator. Keneallyites Rick Musallam and Stacey Ferguson were also in attendance. Quite a scene, it was.
ADIEU, SACRAMENTO: I really wanted the Kings to beat the Lakers in the Game 7 overtime classic that just occurred, simply because Phil Jackson needs a comeuppance like no one else I know. But, the Game 6 touch-a-Laker-and-get-a-foul travesty aside, the Kings missed so many free throws in Game 7 that I can't say they should have won. You have to hand it to Shaq, who looked like Jeff Hornacek at the foul line and carried them in overtime because Kobe literally had nothing left in the tank. But wait 'til next year. Like they said, the Kings are not going anywhere. And Mike Bibby is a damned freak. Either way, it was the best NBA playoff series I've ever seen.
--6/2, 10:00 PM
FANTASTIC SCUMMY DICK, GREG: Buried in the four-word heading for this Screed are fragments of working song titles for the next Keneally record. Rick, Nick and I dove headfirst into Mike's latest embryonic creations last week, and I can't even begin to tell you how cool it all was. This band has the potential to make the best Keneally record ever, I tell you. Or, at the very least, to make an album just as good as Motley Crüe's Girls, Girls, Girls. OK, better.
BALDY BAGGED: I made it! 14 miles, nine hours roundtrip, very tough up-and-down-grade hiking. The kicker was that the trail went up to two peaks before Baldy, and descended after each one before the final, extremely steep ascent to the Baldy summit. So the amount of total elevation gain from the climbing in both directions was 4,700 feet, even though it was all between 8,000 and 10,000 feet elevation-wise. Physically I felt like I could have gone longer…but as far as training for Whitney is concerned, I'm still not sure how you train for being at 14,000 feet other than hiking up to 14,000 feet. Anyway, Baldy pictures are being developed, and I'll whip something together for Photographic Evidence soon enough. Oh, and my legs hurt…but only half as bad as after the Half Dome trip. I'll take it, throbbing quads and all.
A LITTLE LESSON IN THE ART OF ZEN: On Saturday I set out to conquer Mt. Baldy, in what was supposed to be a practice hike for my upcoming trip to Mt. Whitney in June. Web and phone research indicated it was a ten mile roundtrip, starting at 7,000 feet and peaking at just over 10,000 feet. Then the adventure started: the road to the trailhead was closed, adding four more miles. Then I took the wrong trail for a mile, turned around, found someone with a map, turned around again, took the same wrong trail for three miles downhill about 3,000 feet, turned around again, climbed back up to where I started…and by the time I finally found the correct trailhead, it was 3:00 PM and I'd already logged 12 miles on foot. I went almost a mile up the "Devil's Backbone," got a good feel for it, and turned around, realizing that I'd had a beautiful day's hike, my legs were close to shot, it was getting late, and the mountain would still be there the following weekend when I tried again. Truly a lesson in the "it's not the destination, it's the journey" philosophy. So I had a bad map, and the road closure was unexpected, and the trailhead was buried below a high curve and not marked like the USFS website said it would be. I did fourteen beautiful miles in the Angeles National Forest, and my body held up well enough to work out the following day. Onward and upward.
THE FABULOUS FLYING FOSTERS: The inimitable Dave Foster and his father Mick are the ones responsible for the 3/27/02 Omaha Mars Music document, which spawned the two new acoustic files up on the Audio Sampler Platter. So what I'm saying is, they should be thanked.
ADVICE FOR THE SLEEP DEPRIVED: Write an owner's manual for a bass amplifier. Works every time. Also effective when proofreading said document. Zzzzzzzzz.
--5/19/02, 10:38 PM
BRYANBELLERDOTCOM UNPLUGGED: Well, maybe not unplugged, but at least it's acoustic/electric. Two new audio files are up in the "on a stage" section of the Audio Sampler Platter. On the menu today are choice cuts from the 3/27/02 Keneally/Beller Taylor Acoustic Clinic at Mars Music in Omaha, Nebraska: "Hello" (from Keneally's Wooden Smoke), and my cover of the John Patitucci solo piece "Backwoods." (Birkenstocks not required for downloading.)
ON LOCATION FROM PECKS MILL, WEST VIRGINIA: Where else would I find the inspiration for Bass Player Column #14, "The Legend Of Lightning Mac"? Now available for online perusal at your leisure. I continue to be amazed and grateful to the editorial staff of Bass Player for allowing me such unfettered editorial freedom. Wonder if they'll publish the Screed one of these months?
--5/15/02, 9:32 PM
CASING THE JOINT: I spent yesterday up in Lone Pine, CA, scoping out the road to the Mt. Whitney trailhead, the campsite I'll be staying at the night before, the hotel (complete with in-room Jacuzzi, oh yeah) I'll be crashing at immediately afterwards, etc. etc. On a lark I brought my bike with me, and I ended up riding straight up seven miles, from 3,600 feet to 5,800 feet. The trailhead sits at 8,360 feet. I didn't make it up that far. (Surprise.) But I got a rush out of just being near it. I wish June 22 were tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm doing a practice hike up Mt. Baldy (7,000-10,000 feet, 10 miles round trip) this coming weekend. Sure beats working.
COMING SOON TO A BROWSER NEAR YOU: Now that I've finally submitted both the column for Berklee Today and the latest Bass Player piece, I'll soon be updating the site in a much more meaningful way than I have of late. A couple of new audio files, a new Bass Player column (for bryanbellerdotcom, anyway), and more. And, just so you know, I'm really excited about the Berklee Today piece. It'll be posted on the web, along with .mp3 files of the four musical passages I transcribed. Seeing the middle section of "'Cause Of Breakfast" all charted out in Finale gave me a lump in my throat. Stay tuned.
--5/12/02, 7:31 AM
GIG REPORT: At last, the Keneally Quartet brought a show to Los Angeles that contained discernible amounts of the November tour's magic. It happened last night (5/4) in the deep, dark heart of the San Fernando Valley at a club called Paladino's. The place is a total '80s throwback joint, with equal parts men-with-mullets and women-with-red-leather-chaps-over-jeans for regulars, and the vibe was similar to our first "home" venue, the infamous Bourbon Square (yet another seedy Valley bar). Why we rule the trashy rocker bars in the Valley is likely a mystery best left unsolved.
OH YEAH, THE MUSIC: While working without a set list was the ticket on the November tour, such "looseness" is, we've found, less appreciated in the Pro Music Bidness confines of La-La-Land. So we wrote one, rehearsed it, mostly stuck to it, and--voila!--the pacing was much better than the previous two shows. Oddly enough, what Paladino's lacks in style it makes up for in substance, namely a sound system that's quickly gaining a reputation as the best in the entire Valley. The band keyed off the warm, yet crisp onstage sound and went for broke…and despite the fact that I should have slowed down (or, better yet, stopped) after my fourth drink, we played a nice show with plenty of great improv sections for the studio audience (read: tapers) at home. The night was capped by a flourish of conceptual continuity as Swan, the soundman for both the run of 1995 Bourbon Square shows and this show, joined us for an encore of "Good Times, Bad Times." Swan, you see, also fronts a Led Zeppelin cover band called Led ZepAgain. Lots of fun all around. And if I can get through listening to the sure-to-be-good-sounding document without cringing at my own alcoholic sloppiness, it may be a keeper.
HELLO, THIS IS THE POLITBURO, CAN WE HELP YOU?: Compared to the three hours I spent today browsing online and calling various numbers to secure the necessary wilderness and campsite permits, the hike up Mt. Whitney should be a freakin' breeze.
--5/5/02, 10:50 PM
COMING THIS SUMMER TO A JAZZ FESTIVAL PROBABLY NOT NEAR YOU: Some big news awaits you over at the Coming Attractions page.
THE 97 SWITCHBACKS: Anyone who gets the reference would know that I'm flirting with the idea of hiking Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states. Research indicates that, while not as death-defying as Half Dome (which I successfully hiked in 1999, albeit within an inch of my life; read the story here), it's a tougher overall climb. I know it's a longer day hike: 22 miles, a 6,000-foot elevation gain, a 14,000+ foot summit, and approximately 15 hours roundtrip. Now that I've put it out there, it'll be that much tougher for me not to do it. We'll see if I have the nerve--and the aerobic capacity--to pull it off. I'm shooting for late June.
--5/2/02, 9:45 PM
ON DEADLINE: I submitted the instructional column for Berklee Today this morning, and even though I officially finished it an hour past the deadline of Monday 4/29, I'm still quite happy with it. A nice fringe benefit for those who've requested online transcriptions (yes, for some the site will always be incomplete) are the following passages I chose as musical examples: "Career/Quimby #1" (the penultimate lick with the crazed 32nd notes through to the end), the chorus of "We'll Be Right Back" complete with harmonics, three reharmonizations of the second solo vamp in "Hum," and--most importantly--the definitive statement on what the hell is going on in the infamous "out of time" passage of the instrumental middle section of "'Cause Of Breakfast." The bassline transcriptions are in traditional notation (bass clef), plus tab (though I pity the fool who takes my fingering as gospel). The full piece will run in the Summer issue, which is due to publish in late May. And it'll be online at the Berklee site as well. I'll have more details when it actually happens, but I just have to say that my alma mater absolutely rocks. I have no qualms about being a walking billboard for the place; a great deal of whatever success I've had is owed to my time spent at Berklee. Boston, on the other hand, is a good place to go to college and a better place to leave when you're done.
--4/30/02, 10:47 PM
FOR ONCE, IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT ME: My good friend, fellow Berklee alumni and excellent bassist Wes Wehmiller has just launched his own website at www.weswehmiller.com, and I urge you in the strongest possible terms to go and check it out. And not just because the Supreme Webmistress Katy Towell did his site as well; it's a uniquely odd use of bandwidth, filled with "documentary" movies (one of which is about Keneally tech Thomas Nordegg), hysterical literature on a variety of topics, hi-res pictures from locales far and wide, and enough barely-controlled anger to make Dennis Miller blush. Wes himself celebrated his site going live by crashing his girlfriend's pickup truck into an oncoming bus. He extricated himself from the near-totaled vehicle by removing the crushed door from the inside with his feet—he kicked the door off its hinges.After walking away unscathed, he called me and said, "I feel like a man, you know? It was a bus." Like I said, it's worth checking out.
--4/28/02, 10:20 AM
YOU KNOW YOU'RE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT WHEN…: This, from a Bass Player Letter To The Editor, on my column "Dear Jane" that ran in the March issue: "Bryan Beller's cheesy piece was a total waste of space!" God forbid Mike (who declined to sign his last name to the letter) ever visited this site; the reckless occupation of bandwidth would surely send him over the edge.
NOT AN HONORARY DOCTORATE, BUT CLOSE: The quarterly alumni publication of Berklee College Of Music, Berklee Today, has commissioned me to write a one-off instructional column, complete with musical examples. I'm honored and grateful, but I'd feel better if I knew what the hell I was going to write about, seeing as it's due on Monday. I see a late Sunday night in my future.
SOUR GRAPES: My beloved New York Knicks are not in the NBA playoffs for the first time since something like 1984. But now that Scottie Pippen has been exposed as the loser he really always was, I'd happily settle for a humiliation of Phil Jackson. Not that I'm bitter about all those Bulls championships, but Sacramento, are you listening?
POLITICAL FALLOUT: Reaction to my Middle East column "The Elephant In The Room" has been surprisingly uniform, and even more surprisingly positive. Thanks for indulging me. Now for your reward--more unsolicited commentary. The Bush foreign policy team looks like they're really lost right about now, don't they? No wonder Karen Hughes wants out. Memo to Bush and Powell: Quit playing both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Get off the fence before we get pushed off.
NO MORE EXCUSES: I went out and got myself a new laptop this week, an HP Omnibook with a 20GB hard drive, 256MB of RAM, lots of other goodies…and Windows XP Pro for an operating system, which I have to say is pretty damned cool. So the next time I hit the road, all systems should be fully operational. When would that be? Right now it looks like another double-barrel trip for both Keneally and SWR, with stops in Amsterdam and Nashville over a 10-day period in July. Things should firm up soon.
FAIR WARNING: The Supreme High Webmistress Katy Towell is wrapping up work on a new website for a good friend of mine. I'll be linking to it in a big way. Trust me, you will not want to miss this.
--4/23/02, 11:03 PM
TAKING SIDES: If you don't care for my forays into politics, now would be a good time to scroll down. [pause] Still reading? I've written a political column on the situation in the Middle East, entitled "The Elephant In The Room." Not because I think I have all the answers, but simply because I felt compelled to do so. Once again, constructing it only increased the respect I have for those who do this for a living--and manage to say everything in 800 words or less. Hopefully I won't be shown to be a complete idiot in a week's time. Or, on second thought, hopefully I will.
--4/15/02, 10:02 PM
THIS JUST IN: Act 42 of The Life Of Bryan, the first new LOB installment in nearly a year, is available for your reading pleasure.(I wanted to keep it at the top of the Screed for a little while longer.The ingenuity never stops.)
JIM JEWELL'S AT IT AGAIN: Yes, there's another Jewell-improved audio file up. This time it's the Berklee-era cover of Pink Floyd's "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" in the Music section's Audio Sampler Platter (under "rarities").It sounds better and the file's smaller.This guy must be good.
MR. LANDAU, I PRESUME: Thanks to Mr. Barry Greenberg, we now know that Michael Landau's CD's can be purchased at www.roodisentertainment.com. Again, the one featuring ex-Dolphin Toss Panos is Michael Landau—Live 2000. You just gotta hear this.
DOUBLE GIG REPORT: The two Keneally gigs this week were quite a bit of fun. The Knitting Factory is a wonderful venue, and though the rust was showing a little, it was a good exercise at struggling in a musical fashion.The San Diego gig at Victor's was more fun, a lot tighter, and a hell of a lot more interesting.It took place in a restaurant/bar next to a golf course, and the "clubhouse party tent" had been rented out to a hip-hop rave promoter who specialized in serving drinks to minors.The vice cops made a surprise appearance and, after having found several 17-year-old girls with fake I.D.'s happily swigging the hard stuff, busted the joint in grand fashion.There were beefy security guys tussling with angry young men inside the club and out as we were loading out.And you thought California was mellow.Oh yeah, the gig—I liked it.Much better than the Knitting Factory, but still not as good as the height of the Quartet Tour, IMHO.I have a really good feeling about the gig in May at Palladino's.We're more Valley than Hollywood anyway.
--4/13/02, 11:09 PM
RETURN TO THE OLD SCHOOL: Proving that no literary format is ever obsolete, a brand-new Act of The Life Of Bryan awaits you: Act 42, Off The Road Again. To quote the LOB index page (the bryanbellerdotcom marketing department says we should speak with one voice), it touches on the recent SWR/Keneally travels to Europe, Texas and beyond, flirts with photographic evidence, reintroduces the twisted world of Brad Dahl to the masses, explains my recent blissfulness, and even contains a picture of the Webmistress. I know, you waited a year for this? At least the Webmistress looks good.
--4/7/02, 12:31 PM
AUDIO SAMPLER RE-MIX: Keneally enthusiast and engineer Jim Jewell has taken it upon himself to improve the sound quality of one of my poorer audio files, specifically the live "Naked Horse (Tressa Version)" from NYC back on the 11/01 Quartet Tour.For those who care—or may have downloaded the previous version—it's in the Audio Sampler Platter of the Music Section, under "On A Stage."Jim Jewell, we salute you.
LOOKING FOR LANDAU: After singing the praises of former Keneally drummer Toss Panos' latest work with legendary L.A. session guitarist Michael Landau all throughout the latest Taylor clinic tour, it turns out that his website is moving and is currently down.I'll update the Links page accordingly (thanks, John Willcoxon). For the Toss fans out there, if you don't know about the CD Michael Landau Live 2000, you don't know what you're missing.Good luck finding it.
--4-6-02, 9:12 AM
SCREEDS AND LINKS AND COMING ATTRACTIONS, OH MY: Yes, I'm back, and updating just as fast as I can. Check out the latest glut of Coming Attractions (just hit that button by my right ear), as well as the Screeds below.
LIFE OUTSIDE THE DIGITAL REALM: As I continue combing through the nearly 200+ e-mails I had waiting for me upon my return, I must say that, though inconvenient, it was strangely liberating to be without internet access for two whole weeks. The last time I'd been offline for that long was 1998. I'm sure I'll have a new laptop by the next time I hit the road, but I highly recommend the occasional digital holiday regardless. Now we just need to federalize the concept so we don't feel like the world is going on without us. Wait—you mean…it does anyway?
THANKS: To all who came out to see Keneally and I on our recently completed Taylor Acoustic Tour, I can't thank you enough. I didn't know we had fans in Iowa and Arkansas, and it was about time we got back to Indy as well. You folks made my March. Is Taylor amazing for letting us do this or what?
I'D LIKE TO THANK THE ACADEMY…: Check out this shot of SWR CEO/President Daryl Jamison and I accepting the MIPA award for Best Bass Amp of 2001 at this year's MusikMesse in Frankfurt, Germany. I'll have you know that I wore actual, honest-to-goodness slacks every day of the show except this one. Thanks to Cosette Trombino-Santiago for the heads-up on the link.
FLEET STREET, HERE I COME: The incredibly kind and talented Simon Bradley wrote this piece on Keneally and I for this month's issue of British M.I. mag Guitarist. The print version also contains a Beller-only sidebar, which I hope to post (pending permission) over here at the "press, darling" area of the Music section. One thing I'd like to know is why I always end up with scads of exclamation points in my quotes. Am I really that much of a hopeless spaz?
EPISTOLARY MISOGYNY: I've always wanted to use those two words back-to-back. Find out why over in the Literature section, where a new Bass Player column has been posted, entitled "Dear Jane".
UNSOLICITED POLITICAL COMMENTARY: Why is it that, whenever I see Yasser Arafat on TV lately, I think of the movie Mars Attacks? You know, how those smiling, harmless-looking little green men kept telling everyone "we are your friends" over and over again while, at the very same time, indiscriminately killing everyone within eyeshot?
--3/31/02, 11:04 PM
LAPTOP DOWN: This Screed actually originated in longhand... because my 1996 Micron Millennia Transport (133 MHz, 32 MB RAM) has, shall we say, moved on to a better place. As a result, I won't be able to post any more Screeds from the road. E-mail is also out until 4/2. I'm pretty disappointed, but I'm looking at it as an excuse to purchase a nice new piece of hardware. As for the Micron: Yit-gadal, v'yit-kadash...
--3/20/02, 12:00 PM
NICK D'VIRGILIO, KING OF EUROPE: For anyone who's in Germany at the Messe who might be reading this, my performance with fellow Keneallyite Nick D'Virgilio is in a gigantic hall called the Festhalle, Saturday 3/16 (today), at 3:00 PM. I stopped by the Meinl cymbals booth yesterday to see if I could find him. I didn't, but I was practically attacked by a larger-than-life-sized glossy poster of Nick's head surrounded by some fine Meinl product. Our man was looking very serious, with his pouty lips in full flare. I'm still recovering.
WHATEVER GETS YOU THROUGH THE NIGHT: Just when I thought I was fully adjusted to West European Standard Time, I went to bed at 10:30 hoping for a full night's sleep...and woke up at 2:30 AM wondering what the hell was going on. In other words, this Screed is being written in my half-sleep, so I get a disclaimer in case something like 78fr9nhfxn8gfggf3uy happens by accident. RV^ffbuyeB$E%@(Nn. And, uit6i. (I've been told that's German for, "Do you have anything to eat besides schnitzel? And how can I order it in a way you might understand?")
AND THE WINNER IS...: They have this big award ceremony called the M.I.P.A. awards (Music Industry Product Award, I think), given by a consortium of 51 M.I. mags from around the world (Bass Player, Guitar Player, Modern Drummer, Guitarre und Basse, etc.). Believe it or not, SWR won two awards. One for Best Bass Cabinet (general), and one for Best Bass Amp...the Mo' Bass. They called President/CEO Daryl Jamison and I up to the stage and handed us a big lucite statue while flashbulbs popped and everything. Totally unreal. I got pictures of it, which you'd better believe will be posted here sometime soon. The rest of the night, you couldn't pry that Mo' Bass award from my hand with a crowbar.
THE KISS OF DEATH: As you can imagine, I've cleaned up my appearance act pretty hardcore to fit in with the other businessmen, lest they think I'm just some 30-year-old kid in over his head. (Truth be damned.) We're talking belts, tucked in shirts with collars, black dress shoes, etc. Then a touring bassist from America approaches me and says, "Aren't you Bryan Beller, the columnist for Bass Player? Man, I love your column. But you look a lot more conservative than I'd imagined from reading what you wrote." As Livia Soprano once said, "I wish the Lord would take me now."
--3/16/02, 3:50 AM West European Standard Time
ONE RELUCTANT FOOT OUT THE DOOR: For the first time I can recall, I'm sad to be leaving for a trip abroad. Not because I'm not looking forward to conquering exciting new business frontiers for SWR, and certainly not because I'm viewing the upcoming Keneally/Beller acoustic clinics with anything less than full-throated enthusiasm. It's about leaving this beautiful place in which I'm privileged to live. Today I rode my bike up a mountain in the Angeles National Forest--a 1,500-foot incline over two miles--and I only had to ride four miles from my home to get to the base of the climb. Later in the day, the sunset turned the mountains orange and pink as I watched it from the deck of my apartment. Somehow the thought of Frankfurt, Germany--a dreary business city; imagine the Houston of Europe--is not nearly as appealing now as it was when I lived in North Hollywood.
FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF SWEEPING GENERALIZATIONS: The coffee in Germany is as you might expect. Brutal and effective.
OY GEVALT: Germany followed by Texas. Not your average Jew's itinerary, but I'm pushing the envelope for all of us tribe-members, one of whom (a friend of mine from New York City) described the opening two legs of my trip as the "Achtung, Darlin'" tour.
AUDIO FEEDBACK: Thanks to all who've expressed their gratitude for the presence of the Audio Sampler Platter on this here site. More than one person has said I'm lucky to have been able to work with the people I have. They're right. The least I could do was make some previously unheard material available to those who cared enough to keep track in the first place. What I didn't fully realize until just yesterday is that, now that the Platter is up, the website is essentially complete in the form I'd originally envisioned. It's a little strange not to wake up and think, "OK, what do I need to do on the site today?" That being said, it's a relief to think that I can get back to writing at will on the topic of my choosing, a key reason I created this behemoth in the first place.
A FINAL STATESIDE UPDATE: I'll be dropping in little Screeds from the road, but e-mail will be difficult until I return to the States on 3/18. Those who may be attending the Messe can now know that whatever I do with Nick D'Virgilio at the Meinl booth will occur on Saturday, 3/16. I just don't know when yet. And, last but not least, it looks like the Keneally band will be working in San Diego in April (check the Keneally site at www.keneally.com) and--you heard it here first--most likely back in L.A. in May. Now I'm off to find easy-to-remove shoes to wear for my pre-flight security check. I've been helpfully advised not to wear an underwire bra. The price of freedom, for sure.
--3/9/02, 11:38 PM
THE 121-MEGABYTE UPDATE: That's right, ladies and gentlemen…the Audio Sampler Platter is, at long last, available for your perusal. (That's under "music, bass in particular" for those who care.) It's forty-four separate .mp3 files in four categories. I can't tell you how much I learned about ripping and snipping digital audio over the last two months. Admittedly, some files sound better than others, but the source has to be considered. There's stuff up there that's never really been heard before by anyone, as well as plenty of showcase material for newcomers who may have no idea what I do with an instrument (other than a keyboard) in my hand. Even though I'm leaving the country in four days—and won't be back home until early April—I'll have my laptop with me, so let me know what you think of it. And just so you know, the Webmistress and I were stunned by the popularity of the "Under Construction" picture we used. We're glad you enjoyed it. It's gone, but if you want it I've got three words for you: Google Images Search.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE: Again, in the music section, "now playing" gets an update. We've got three new links: two music links (the last two) and one extra-special bonus link (hint: a rare estrogen sighting on bryanbellerdotcom). Finally, dig the bottom of the front page. What is it about the phrase "All Rights Reserved" that sounds so, well, authoritative?
SHE SAT IN MY LAP AND EVERYTHING: I met the All-Seeing, All-Knowing Webmistress Katy Towell in person for the first time last week. Quite an experience. There's photographic evidence of this paragraph's subject heading, but whether or not she'll ever allow me to post it is a matter as yet unresolved. (I don't think I could bait her to comment any more effectively than this.) [Webmistress' Note: It's all fun and games until somebody gets out the camera...]
NEVER AGAIN: I know I'll regret saying this, but this business of no updates for nearly three weeks was bogus, and I know it. I'll happily blame it on the painstaking construction of the Audio Sampler Platter, and declare that, since this was the only part of the site not yet complete, such a heinous period of inactivity will not occur again anytime soon. Uh, is it really bright in here, or is that a bolt of lightning coming straight at my right eye?
--3/8/02, 1:03 AM
GIG REPORT: It took long enough, but the Mike Keneally "Quartet" finally hit Los Angeles last night. L.A. is a strange place to play; there's fewer fans and more friends, less business and more pleasure. For some reason, that decidedly does not make it easier to play there. Just the opposite, in fact. So it felt like the opening show of a new tour, even though we'd played the material plenty. It had that edgy, excited feel to it. Plus, we played "'Cause Of Breakfast," arguably the hardest song in the repertoire, for the first time with this lineup…and I had chills. Plans for more local shows are already in the works, and I can't wait. This is a band that needs a residency.
SLOGGING THROUGH: I'm finally almost done creating and compiling the files for the Audio Sampler Platter. I still have a mountain of text to write and an organizational structure to conceptualize, but at least there's a dim light at the end of the tunnel. I'm thinking the end of February.
KANSAS' LOSS IS CALIFORNIA'S GAIN: The High Priestess of HTML and Official Webmistress of bryanbellerdotcom, Katy Towell, is due to visit Los Angeles next week. This is a girl with whom I spent months communicating via phone, e-mail, carrier pigeon, you name it…but I've never actually met her in person. That's obviously about to change. Hopefully I won't scare her into changing her plans, which involve a permanent move to L.A. later this year. Katy, care to comment?
--2/18/02, 12:17 AM
STOP IF THIS SOUNDS FAMILIAR: I admit, I've been slacking off on the Screed as of late, but with good reason. Creating and compiling the Audio Sampler Platter is taking much, much longer than I'd anticipated. Part of that is because-surprise!-it's turning out to be a huge section. When complete, there will be over thirty audio files to peruse, some of which even the most hardcore of hardcores have never heard. Rest assured, it'll be worth it.
LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND TOUR ITINERARIES: The Keneally/Beller Taylor acoustic tour is now starting in Dallas, not Austin as mentioned below. Some dates are already up at the Keneally page, but I think I'll wait until the tour is complete and then post the whole thing at once in the Coming Attractions. OK? OK.
--2/10/02, 11:23 PM
INTO THE TOASTER: March is shaping up to be quite a month. I'll be flying to Frankfurt, Germany for the MusikMesse (think European NAMM) on behalf of SWR…and then directly from Frankfurt to Austin, TX for the start of what's shaping up to be quite a Keneally/Beller clinic tour for Taylor Guitars. Front to back, it should be a three-week venture. Can you say "crispy fried" in German? How about in Texan?
NOT EXACTLY A MILESTONE, BUT…: It's the one-month anniversary of bryanbellerdotcom. That doesn't even register on the official chart (one year is the Paper Anniversary, if you must know), but we can make one up. How about the Compost Anniversary? The Dust Anniversary? The Enron Stock Certificate Anniversary (remember, it's got to be worth less than paper). Well, I'm having fun. Hope you are too.
--2/1/02, 10:34 PM
WELL, IT'S ABOUT TIME: Behold, a Los Angeles-area Keneally gig has just been announced for February. Check out the Coming Attractions.
--1/29/02, 9:12 PM
PHOTOGRAPHIC OVERLOAD: There's a whole mess of new stuff over at Photographic Evidence. Over twenty pictures from the Keneally double Euro-American tour of late 2001 (which earns it a whole new subsection), plus six new SWR shots from the 2002 Winter NAMM show. Not to mention the stellar collection of pithy captions from yours truly. What, you need more convincing?
--1/27/02, 1:47 PM
AS PROMISED: The Joe Travers article I wrote for Modern Drummer is up in the Literature section, under Published Potpourri. The webmistress has got her afterburners going today.
--1/21/02, 3:53 PM
NAMM, DAY FOUR: Anti-climax. NAMM Sunday is my customary "walk the floor" day, since I'm pretty tied down over at SWR for the first three days. Checked out SWR founder/Raven Labs President Steve Rabe's new product, the Universal Instrument Preamp (amazing); said hi to endorsement company friends at Mike Lull and D'addario; got some more great quotes for the next Bass Player column; got reprint permission from Modern Drummer to post the article I did on Joe Travers (hence the delay in bryanbellerdotcom postage); came back and watched Jennifer Lopez bassist Oscar Cartaya turn the SWR booth into an authentic Latin-jazz festival.
Keneally and I did the last of the Taylor acoustic performances, this time joined by fellow Dolphin Rick Musallam. For reasons totally unrelated to Rick's presence (I assure you), this one was a struggle due to Keneally equipment failures and set-pacing weirdnesses, but people were still smiling at show's end. So if they were happy to be there, or happy to see it end, either way we left them happy. Mission accomplished.
About halfway through NAMM Sunday, everyone with a booth starts wishing they were tearing down already. So when the show closed at 5:00 sharp, the SWR team joined me in obsessive-compulsive mania and had the thing broken down by 7:30. After a run to Round Table Pizza to feed the crew, I said my goodbyes amidst the din of reverse-beeping pallet loaders and forklifts, got in the car, and made it home by 11:00 PM. Have I mentioned that I'm still sleeping as I write this?
--1/21/02, 2:42 PM
NAMM, DAY THREE: Mayhem. Started off with the annual Music Player Network breakfast (parent company of Bass Player Magazine), sat at a table with the heads of Ashdown and Aguilar...and Bob Moog. Quick conversation with bigwig at St. Louis Music (parent company of Ampeg; yes, we all talk to each other, and nicely at that). Made it to SWR booth in time to jam with Brad Houser (New Bohemians, Critters Buggin') and Nashville bass legend Dave Pomeroy. Helped narrowly avoid a disaster with Rocco's SWR performance; last minute equipment requests nearly sunk the whole thing, but the SWR team swung into action and saved the day just minutes before I had to run across the hall to make the Keneally performance for Taylor Guitars--which went great. Keneally and I then did an interview with a British guitar mag, which I left early to make my appointment with the editor and technical editor of Bass Player for the all-important "SWR New Products for 2002" demo. I don't remember anything after that from the show floor, but I did get some great quotes for my next Bass Player column (due date: Tuesday).
I had every intention of going out to make the post-show scene at the Hilton, but somehow I ended up going back to my hotel to take a nap...which lasted nine hours.
--1/20/02, 8:22 AM
NAMM, DAY TWO: A blur. Attended the Taylor Guitars Clinician's breakfast at 9:00 AM, only to have to leave early to make my SWR booth opening duties at 10:00 AM...saw Andy West play the SWR booth at 12:00 noon...introduced Rocco Prestia (and his custom-made new SWR rig) to a waiting crowd at the Dean Markley booth at 1:00...set up the SWR P.A. for a gear-intensive show by Adam Nitti (freak bassist extraordinaire) at 2:00...did the Keneally Quartet show at SWR at 4:00; the SWR soundroom was packed, overflowing, and surrounded by people on the outside walls (thanks to all those who braved the conditions)...and then, at 6:00, the SWR Workingman's 8004 amp and Workingman's Tower 8x10 speaker cabinet (the custom Rocco rig) won an award from Gig Magazine, its "Proven Performer" award. SWR President Daryl Jamison and I posed for pictures. Not bad for a day's work.
Then it was time for dinner in Downtown Disney at a Mexican place called "Y Arriba Y Arriba" or something. Keneally and Sarah, Dennis Hill and wife Laura, Rick Musallam and I were entertained by the strangest band frontman I've ever seen, complete with scary, Hitler-esque exhortations to CLAP on his command. Finally, it was over to the Hilton Lobby Bar for drinks and debauchery. Wait, do I have to go to work tomorrow? You mean the show actually gets busier tomorrow?
--1/19/02, 12:38 AM
NAMM, DAY ONE: After an agonizingly late Wednesday night (until 1:00 AM) setting up the SWR booth, we kicked off NAMM today and the reaction to the new products is...awesome. We're getting raves. I feel more relief than anything, but every once in a while it kicks in just how much effect we (me and the SWR engineering team) have on what the bass-buying public sees and says. Pretty weird. All that, plus I tucked in my shirt and wore a belt today. What's happening to me?
On the second career front, Keneally and I did the first of the three Taylor acoustic duo performances today. 'Twas a packed house and they sure did appreciate the show. The Taylor booth is amazing; it's all covered in expensive wood wall paneling and is well-furnished with big comfy couches, not to mention Peanut M&M's and pretzels. You'd be surprised just how meaningful a single Peanut M&M can be under such arduous circumstances.
Sometime late today, Michael Manring and I jammed out on a bass duet version of "Footprints" in the SWR soundroom. That guy is incredible. I just tried not to get in his way too much.
After the show hours expired, Rick Musallam, Keneally, Ron Spiegelhalter, myself and four friendly others polished off an insanely decadent meal at Tony Roma's. Tomorrow's full-band show at the SWR booth should be...fun.
--1/7/02, 9:48 PM
COVER ME, I'M GOING IN: I'm heading off to NAMM tomorrow, so I'll be unable to respond to website e-mail until next week. Also, the Photographic Evidence updates and the Audio Sampler debut are looking a little further away than I'd hoped, but it'll all happen once I recover from this circus of humanity they call a trade show. (Hopefully some of that humanity will be interested in one of the thirteen new and/or revised products SWR is offering up this year.) The good news is that I'm planning on posting little Screeds—however pithy they may be—at the end of each day. I may live to regret announcing this if the show gets too crazy, but nothing motivates me like a self-imposed directive. If you're coming to the show, see you soon. If not, stay tuned. I'm bringing a camera.
--1/15/02, 8:32 PM
MONKEY BUSINESS: By popular request, bryanbellerdotcom proudly introduces a search feature. It's useful for both inside the site and out, accessible from just underneath my neck, and even comes complete with a primatial mascot. John Ashcroft can now rest easy, as this makes it plain I have nothing to hide.
--1/11/02, 9:06 PM
TAYLOR HAM: Check out Coming Attractions for the scoop on the times and dates of the Keneally/Beller acoustic performances in the Taylor booth at NAMM. This info is official…finally.
--1/7/02, 9:43 PM
THE MOTHER OF ALL UPDATES: A new Bass Player column…six new pieces of "published potpourri" in the literature section…plus the new Steve Vai entry in "red light fever" in the music section (got the front cover graphic, thank you)…holy mother of updatage. How is this possible? As I was sprinting towards the finish line to hit the 1/1/02 deadline, turns out that I plain forgot about some pieces I'd written. Check 'em out.
NAMM-MANIA: As with all things NAMM, the schedule for the Keneally/Beller Taylor booth performances has changed. To what I'm not exactly sure, but I know there will be shows on Thursday 1/17, Saturday 1/19, and Sunday 1/20. Add in the SWR booth performance on Friday 1/18, and that's a show every day of the convention. Can you stand the excitement?
--1/5/02, 9:03 AM
INSTANT KARMA: Several of you have pointed out that Steve Vai's cover of "Celluloid Heroes" is indeed out as part of the box set. Thanks for the scarily fast info. I'll update "red light fever" as soon as I can get a nice graphic of the front cover of the CD. Any takers?
BRYAN, I AM YOUR FATHER: My fave reaction to the site so far is Jon from Joytown's appropriate notice of my ambivalence in having created such a thing: "Welcome to the dark side." Resistance is futile after all.
CONSTRUCTION UPDATE: I spent New Year's Day ripping my PC tower apart and making a CD-Writer drive work inside it. You'll be happy to know that, after six hours of hardware and software drudgery, I'm now fully operational in the ways of CD burning, audio ripping, WAV/mp3 file conversion, audio editing, and everything else I need to start working on the Audio Sampler Platter. Question is, what do I put up there that isn't already floating around? Oh, I'll think of something.
--1/2/02, 9:01 PM
THE DEBUT: After six months, hundreds of pages, and nearly 600 e-mails, it's finally done. I have but three things to say: 1) I hope you enjoy it; 2) Katy Towell, the webmistress of bryanbellerdotcom, is a saint for putting up with me all this time; 3) my fingers hurt a lot.