Tuesday Dec. 6, 2011 Here’s a question of the day…Do people speak in code too much of the time? Any readers who happen to get this blog, please note the day, time (1:57PM) and place….Madrid. Yes, that is right, who has time to blog on a tuesday during the week? Answer- FESTIVAL number…..uuhhh, I think 24 or 25 of 28 annual days off for parties that occur in Madrid. Tomorrow is not Wednesday either, more like Friday number 2 because Thursday is ANOTHER “fantastic” day off, FESTIVAL 25 or 26.
Okay, seriously as to be fair and not offend anyone with this hint of sarcasm or cynicism. I like days off too, but one interesting fact about Spain is that their autonomous community (freelance, independent business owners, etc.) pay a dear price and are in the worst condition economically here. While state workers, secure with their wages and jobs receive vacations perks and benefits, they worry little and naturally welcome any day to kick back and relax with family/friends. The negative impact comes to those forced to not work and receive no back-pay or vacation days. They’re still going to need to cover their Social Security and Insurance costs which, of course, would never be pro-rated according to the quantity of days off each month.
I can’t say I mind too much because it’s like sort of looking at the whole situation from an exterior point of view. It’s like when many people living here in Madrid tell me all about how bad it is living in the United States, or all of the negative rumours/prejudices they pass amongst compañeros about it. Forget the fact that they’ve never even visited the U.S. and haven’t the slightest notion of what living there would be like.. Oh, need I ask which state they lived in? There is another problem with their dispute, along with having never visited and only heard stories, or, seen the routine old country western movies with John Wayne and Clint Eastwood at 20 years of age, and the bad cops and robbers series/movies flooding Spanish television, this is their accurate point to begin the argument. I like this response I gotta give frequently….”I am from Colorado…..yeah…uh, it’s quite different than the movie Yello Sky (Cielo amarillo) and their aren’t too many Apaches or Rancher Cowboys kicking dirt and drinkin’ Whiskey in the Saloons.” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a good time conversing nevertheless, only there is a grave problem with the people who have this mantality, a severe question of educational resources/cultural points, and questioning exactly what everyone in the world learns about one another, regardless of country, stereotypes, etc. Truth, for good, bad, and the aim to better everyone.
I guess having come from Colorado let’s me smile still and listen to jokes and commentary about the U.S. in pure humour as opposed to animosity or frustration towards my “teachers of the U.S here”. Some points they are not always too far off on. They don’t understand how I carry a Social Security Card in my wallet because “the U.S. doesn’t have Social Security”…..Well, indeed there actually is but what it is exactly would take time to explain and so I can finish by saying that I understand their views/opinions of this issue and they should always stand by their own way if they believe it. Even better would be to get involved in making their great health system even more improved than it already supposedly is. Positive Progression over Regression always……and Happiness of course….
Saturday Oct. 8, 2011 I am in a new phase while working on my new solo album. I suppose one dilemma a lot of us have as singers/songwriters is when we think too much….What ideas or stylistic elements should be employed into this song or….. some people said some really weird things to me today so I’m going to finish this piece of music talking about the inevitable paradox we all live day in day out in our society, which many choose to suffer from. By choosing to suffer, I mean simply the choice some people will make to put all of their energy and thoughts into worrying about everything negative they hear about. It strikes curiosity in me everytime I arrive at some company during the daytime and listen to various workers who can’t even explain why they are at that company working that day at that moment. It is simple to push it off and say…”for money, I am here for money so I can pay my house and my bills.” I encountered an even more curious occurrence when I asked a girl what energy she felt every day she woke up to come into her office and do the work she dedicates to, the work that she so dearly went to school for in order to learn how to do, the contacts she may or may not have received to attain a somewhat prominent position of importance so that she may contribute to the successful growth and prosperity of the company she works for. Upon asking her this first question, I concluded by asking what road she paves for herself in her own pathway through this life. What drives her?
Here was her response; She was expressionless, dull in the eyes, her mouth bland, drooping almost to the point of a frown. Her response…..”I don’t understand what you mean Rob, I just work here and do what I am supposed to do.” I asked her what made her happy, what she would rather do that’d bring out a sultry new light to her life……still, an expressionless response I received. I asked her what her hobbies were, and furthermore, if she could do any of those hobbies and get paid to do one of them, what would it or they be? Still nothing, she expressed that she liked hiking once in a blue moon. She finally concluded that at the end of the day, all she wanted to do was finish her work day and go home to hang out with her boyfriend on the sofa and watch tv.
I was mind-blown that I couldn’t capture any feelings, opinions or expressions that would characterize who this lady really is, some indication that could’ve shown me what she was good at. I began to imagine over the span of 30 seconds or so the quantity of people out there at that very moment, in companies or at home, just bored out of their mind, living life by putting forth whatever little effort necessary in order to sustain themselves in their small habitat of an apartment in Madrid, suffice on taking care of that car payment or insurance bill, etc. And every August….vacations. This is the thing to look forward to here…. Oh… how many times I’ve asked the question to some people… “what is one thing you are looking forward to in the near or later future?” I would not be lying by saying that 98% of them respond by saying; their next day off or their next vacations.
Some readers and people might ask me, who cares Rob, why does this interest you and what relevance does any of it have on music, quite specifically, your own? I could only smile and tell them…”think about it….” P.S. this is not a pep talk.
Some bands every listener should have on their playlists… Here is a list of some bands that have popped into my mind today that can change the minds of both, artists and listeners alike. In no particular order, A Place to Bury Strangers, a band driven by insanely cool guitar effects, (check out Death by Audio Pedals). Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, more people should be killing their televisions. Recently while reading an edition of Record Collector, their was an article about shoegaze, and one band, however judged during their day for good and bad deserves the utmost respect, Slowdive. Their record Souvlaki is a must-have, conveying more mood and originality in this album alone than some bands do in their entire careers. An under-looked band that also desrves many thanks is Mercury Rev, one of my favorite albums, Deserter’s Songs which I only had the opportunity to fully realize upon seeing their performance two years ago in Madrid at Joy Eslava, incredible….
Next that comes to mind…Depeche Mode’s album Violator. Sometimes it blows my mind to meet people who don’t have any taste for this band, but they’re into 80’s and 90’s bands being revived. Of all that have come in and out over the years, none have done so in such a flawless and extraordinary way than Depeche Mode. After seeing them last year in an extremely over-sized venue (shows I normally don’t tend to like) I was baffled to see guys that still remain true to what they are, cool image, and most importantly, ever so musical and great in their compositions, I think they’re one of the only bands I’d dare watch with a double bass drumset on stage besides Rush maybe….nice…. A few more groups….. during a recent visit back to Denver, I had the rare opportunity to see one of the cities most original, older bands whom were responsible back in the day for founding what everyone later categorized ‘emo punk’. I encourage people to check out the band, Christie Front Drive. While on the Denver trip, I can’t help mentioning my all time favorite group from there, Space Team Electra. Any record of theirs is well worth it a thousand times over. I will close by stating a few more artists whom many may say are typical…..implying that if you haven’t found them, look now.. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (any album is more than cool), The Black Angels’ record, Passover, The Beatles’ Revolver, The Stone Roses, particularly Turns to Stone, and let’s say last but never least on the mind’s list of groups for today, Luna, among my favorites of their albums…The days of our nights and Penthouse. More on rock another day…
On a recent session at Spaceland….. There are some things musically in the world that baffle me and leave me to consider at times exiting the recording business completely and taking up some new profession…..like…..star gazing…? Although I always like to try and understand the point of view of the artists, they’re requests are sometimes poorly thought out in the sense of artistic integrity, and moreover, being honest with themselves rather than having the sole intention of selling their music to the bigger labels and companies through greater pop mixes (some bands are able to retain their integrity as artists and still become financially successful if that is what they are seeking to achieve.) . Many times artists pretend to know that if they don’t make their music super dry and radio friendly, it won’t get picked up. In the process of thinking this way, they take away the fire of the recording to begin with. There can be extraordinary experimental moments devastated by a willingness to just make mixes like everyone else and try to keep things “easy” for the listener.
Mixing is a touchy issue and particularly because my studio is smaller and not my only source of income, I prefer to really record artists who want me doing their record and most importantly work with artists that I want to help sound better. In my experiences mixing, there are definitely some important rules of thumb regarding frequency adjustments that really audibly benefit a record in terms of freeing up the sonic spectrum of fitting in all the instruments and allow them to cut through great on the mix. Then there is a second part of mixing…where via experimentation, a band is definied and expressed to be distinct and unique. This experimentation tends to have a profound impact, not only on capturing the band or artist in a great way, but also conveying a sound that stands out from other bands and gives listeners something new, something not based on the criteria of what will sell to the public easiest. You know…..many bands who try new ideas and attempt crafting there own sound (keeping the listener in mind as well as themselves if they so choose) oftentimes make greater contributions to the evolution of music simply because they aren’t doing everything everybody else is doing…They aren’t following the cliche “pop” template so many other bands are using today. This is a big reason why people hear so much of the same garbage on the radio here in Madrid (as well as other places). It makes me depressed when I get into a project I am liking and then have guys slowly start picking away at, or deteriorating the accidents and spontaneous moments that give a record a unique energy, or singers afraid of reverbs because they may not be well understood by a listener. Guitar players needlessly automating solos creating more recipes for disasters as opposed to playing into dynamics during the initial tracking. Editing is fine in some regards, but it should never be relied upon to make a band sound cooler than they really are.
Nevertheless, as I like to do most when behind the desk.. I leave all of the logistics of mixing in the hands of the artists….unless they request my opinion or really want to have me make their record sound the way I would want to. It gives the artists what they deserve in paying for a record, and they are fully aware that if their choices in dissecting and mixing aren’t made with good ears, or with good honest experience even in mind, they are the ones who live with it. I simply don’t like having to be the studio where bands make horrible decisions and after this week, I realize that at times, it’s inevitable….. no worries, freedom to all my friends, rock n roll!