Harry Partch, Gustavo Romero, Diamanda Galas, Pacific Strings, inside the opera, best organs, best pianos, the composer, the concertmaster, the piano tuner, the tenor, the symphony player’s wife
Various Authors 6:22 p.m., Sept. 24
Award Controversy, Tiernan’s Sloppy Seconds, Local Bowie Book & more
1 - Award Controversy: Tiernan’s Sloppy Seconds
2 - Local Synth Collector
3 - Local Illustrates David Bowie Storybook
4 - Local Musical Kids Show
5 - Kamoo On Kyle XY
6 - Secret Crime Story Of A Bandname
7 - Neighbors From Hell
8 - Bart Mendoza’s Old Guitar Takes On New Life
9 - Busted At Boomers
10 - Rock’n Rob’n
“I recently won the 2007 Songwriter of the Year Award from the Pacific Songwriting Competition,” Michael Tiernan recently wrote me in an email. “I was actually the runner-up, but when the actual winner, from Nashville I think, got into a scuffle with the people who ran the competition, they offered it to me instead.”
Accusations of misrepresentation are swirling around the 2007 Competition. In previous years, PSC has offered cash prizes of $20,000 to $40 000. However, according to the contest website, “[The] 2007 competition has ended on a low. PSC has been accused of being a sham because PSC didn't post the prizes for the 2007 competition.” Those prizes turned out to be only $200 in cash and “presence” on the Competition website. PSC has admitted that only around 50 submissions were received for 2007. The entry fee was $35.
The original 2007 Songwriter of the Year winner, S.C. from Nashville, posted on the PSC site “For what we invested in fees and postage, we barely broke even. I feel duped. I would like you to pass the award on to the next [song]writer…I would like a full refund for all of my fees and postage. I want you to remove our song and my name from your website immediately. This smells like a scam…What you have done is not only unscrupulous and immoral, it’s borderline illegal.”
PSC replied “This years[sp] small prize pool was forced upon us because we are non profit and in fact run at such a loss we were going to rest the competition for a year… All information regarding you and your work has (or will shortly) be removed from the website as requested.”
S.C. then posted a challenge regarding that “non profit” claim. The Competition spokesperson replied “Just to clariify [sp], ‘non profit’ did not mean ‘not for profit organization.’ It meant we received no profit.”
The next grand prize runner-up, T.E. from Iowa, also declined the award, posting “I am already upset about this whole thing being misleading to us all…I feel like the whole thing is a fraud.” Local boy Michael Tiernan was then named this year’s PSC Songwriter of the Year.
Says Tiernan, “Sloppy seconds, but I'll take it!”
"I've got eight Roland Bassline 303 synthesizers," says John Goff, guitarist for the space/prog electronic band the SSI and a collector of old tube amplifiers and vintage sythesizers. "Techno is pretty much all based on the sound from that keyboard. They basically built it wrong. It's got this weird built-in sequencer and a three pole filter and almost all the other synthesizers are four pole. It makes it have this really weird sound. You can't emulate it. The only thing that comes close is a [computer] program called Rebirth. The 303 was a flop when they made it, they couldn't give it away, and then when techno got big, they became really hard to find."
John Goff was originally in the late ‘90s band Physics, which later evolved into Aspects of Physics. He and his brother Will formed SSI and released the albums Pax Romana and E Pluribus Unum, on their own label Chlorophyll Records.
Physics played what he calls "kraut rock, like Can, like the European progressive stuff from the seventies." While studying music at Southwestern University, his interest in classic equipment was piqued. "They have this huge modular synthesizer. I had a teacher there named Burke McKelvey and he's got a Moog System 55, which is like the Rolls Royce of synthesizers, and I really got into that kind of thing for awhile. Just amazing sounds, but a lot of work to get out of it, not like now with a computer."
His collection has not cost him much, he says, though its value has increased immensely. Even though something like a Moog synthesizer represented the apex of technology in its day, subsequent advances caused them to be tossed aside. "Five years ago, old tube equipment and analog stuff was selling for next to nothing. I bought Vocoders, sequencers, analog synthesizers by Moog, Arp. I used to get them for fifty or seventy-five bucks. Now that people are trying to recreate that sound, they're like five or six hundred dollars! Everyone's trying to find them."
Among his favorite scores, he mentions "I've got a Juno 60 I use for live shows. I also just found an Echoplex I really like a lot, one of those old tape echos. I found a full modular sythesizer at the swap meet for a hundred bucks that's probably worth 14 or 15 hundred. It's got all kinds of plug-ins to route in signals."
Goff's musical interests aren't confined to classic keyboards and guitars. "My first instrument is the bagpipes," he says. Though he's never incorporated any highland howling into his synthesizer music, he did play the piper in the Sterling Bridge Pipe Band, along with his father, in and around Solana Beach. Another side project was a four piece "analog sythesizer band" called Contact. "That's when I get out the really vintage equipment," he says.
Not that a set of bagpipes isn't vintage.
“He may not even know about it…[David Bowie] hasn’t seen a copy yet but I sent one to his New York office,” says local author Jamilla Naji, whose children’s book “Musical Storyland” contains a ten song CD by Bowie.
While the press release for the book announces “music and lyrics written and performed by David Bowie,” Naji informs that the book was actually created without Bowie’s input or even his knowledge – the songs come from a 1973 LP “Images 1966-1967,” a compilation of B-sides and early recordings which Naji once owned as an 8-track. “I listened to those songs probably 8,000 times when I was growing up.”
After two and a half years of writing and doing canvas acrylic illustrations based on ten of the LP’s songs, Naji decided self publishing was her best option. Researching song rights, she found Bowie doesn’t own them – the initial masters were licensed to Deram Records by a former-manager Bowie has since sued and split from, creating a tangle of subsidiary owners.
“Licensing the music was really complicated, there are actually four different companies [three publishers and one owns the recording] which have the publishing rights and the mechanical rights [to press CDs]. I really didn’t know what I was doing at first and it was really intimidating.”
After negotiating deals with Universal, TRO Essex Music, Warner Bros and Embassy Music Corp, Naji was required to purchase a minimum of 10,000 CDs from Universal, who controls the audio masters with her ten chosen Bowie songs (25 minutes of music), intended – and in fact contractually required - to be packaged with copies of the book itself.
With mechanical rights costing her 8 cents per song pressed to CD, that’s $8,000 just to burn tracks, with Naji footing all the bills herself. The 32 page hardcover tome was printed in Hong Kong (“I couldn’t afford to do it here”), however she says “I don’t even have world rights to sell it overseas.”
Naji set up a shipping station in her Lakeside home and, on the book’s publication, took in an inventory of 10,000 books and CDs on “a palette that covers an area about 16 feet by 8 feet and 4 feet high.” She’s fills retail orders self, as well as distributing to bookstores. [musicalstoryland.com].
“Kiosko is a magical land of puppets, people, and music, with a mosaic of instruments from around the world,” according to the intro of Kiosko, a new children’s TV show that debuted August 20 on KPBS Channel 15.
The program’s co-creator Miguel-Angel Soria and music director/composer Kevin P. Green are former members of the hip-hop collective Taco Shop Poets. Tim Foley from the band Skelpin is Associate Producer, as well as writing and acting in episodes.
The Sesame Street-like program features puppets and humans in skits and songs instruct children in the fundamentals of multicultural music, including jazz, hip-hop, classical, pop, far-eastern Sitar ragas, Norteño, and even punk rock music.
Muppet style characters include a white-haired rat DJ, a punk girl whose shirt reads “Punk,” and a Dr. Teeth-like band called the Dynamics, featuring a rasta-haired fox drummer and blue-haired singer of indeterminate species and sex. Live action sing-a-longs in the pilot included “Harmony, Hang With Me,” and several animated segments.
Program co-creator Miguel-Angel Soria served as the Taco Shop Poets’ Artistic Director for around thirteen years. He’s been a major proponent of the local Straight-Edge punk movement, as well as being credited as one of the first – and only – hip-hop performance artists.
Soria’s appearances with Taco Shop Poets often included activities reminiscent of children’s TV. He would whisper a “secret” to an audience member, and have patrons pass it along in “whisper waves.”
He also tore pages from books, passing them to attendees to read aloud in short segments comprising a spontaneous “collage poem.” He sometimes presented his own poems written on long rolls of paper, that he proceeded to wrap around show patrons.
From Wonder Showzen:
The music of the Stereotypes is being featured on episodes of ABC’s “Kyle XY” this month and next, thanks to artist reps at Sugaroo. “They shop your music to different licensing avenues,” says guitarist Mike Kamoo. “They find placement in TV, movies, commercials, and even video games. We get paid up front, and will continue to see residuals as the shows get repeated.”
The songs being used on the series are "The Lines" (February 11 episode), "Came To Say Hello" and "Did You Know" (February 18), and "Our Time" (March 17). “I'm not sure how the songs will be used in the scenes,” says Kamoo. “To be honest, I don't watch much TV, so I'm out of the loop when it comes to current shows…I've heard that the music for Kyle XY has a good reputation, so I'm sure they will use our songs in a tasteful way. It is out of our hands at this point, though.”
The Stereotypes aren’t new to licensing songs. “Our first licensing deal was and still is with Coleman, the outdoors company,” according to Kamoo. “They used our song ‘Outside’ in their national ad campaign, which kicked off last year.” The commercials will continue to air through 2008 in San Diego, which is one of Coleman’s target markets for the ad campaign, and the song also plays on the Coleman website.
Now it can be told – the secret story of how the now-defunct Bad Sticky Ant Gas got their name.
They were originally called the High School Dropouts, until a chance meeting with a guy whose band is named after a wound you get from having rough sex on the carpet. “Gregory Page told us our band name sucks,” singer/guitarist Zach tells me. “He said 'That's too negative and nobody will ever take you seriously enough to hire you, let alone give you a record contract or put you on the radio.' I went to the other guys in my band and we figured, hey, this guy's got songs all over the radio, so maybe he has a point."
With a weekend gig already booked and just days away, the quartet wanted to come up with a memorable name, one they could market in a big way, to make a maximum impression. "Two of us went out to Hillcrest and, in broad daylight, we stole this six foot tall theater marquee. It was the kind with a board and removable plastic letters that clip onto it, in a big glass showcase and with little flashing lights, you know? The letters that were already in it spelled out 'Gay Bands at Sticks.' We jacked a shopping cart, to lug it home, and then we came up with a name that'd use all the letters.” Thus was born Bad Sticky Ant Gas.
“It looked cool, the first time we fired it up with the letters in place and all the flashy lights! We put it out in front of ‘Canes the first time we played under the new name, but after that we were paranoid about getting busted, over stealing the marquee, so we only used it when we played private parties."
Among the alternate bandnames considered with the available marquee letters, but eventually abandoned:
Dicky Satan's T-Bag, Ty Santa's Dick Bag, Santa's Icky DT Bag and Big Tacky Satan S.D.
"I think Bad Sticky Ant Gas was definitely the right choice,” says Zach. “But I still don't see what was wrong with High School Dropouts.”
Zach says he may recruit a new group of players some day and revive the music of Bad Sticky Ant Gas. “The patient is alive,” he says, “but don't put the defibrillator away.”
7 - NEIGHBORS FROM HELL
"It took me twenty years to get up the nerve to record my own music," says songwriter Susan Smith, "and now I have to wait until a judge says it's okay to release my CD."
Smith sold her first composition while still in her teens, living with her parents in Oceanside, in 1980. She's since written dozens of songs recorded by artists like REO Speedwagon, Orleans and The Atlanta Rhythm Section, among others, usually published under her "professional" name S.F. Simon.
Her music has been used in film soundtracks for "Blame It On The Night" and "Never Too Young To Die" and for the TV series "The Crow: Stairway To Heaven" but, other than demo-making, she never recorded her own music until late last year. "I play piano and guitar and I have an okay singing voice, so I went for it. [I] saved some money, rented studio time, hired some local [musicians] and recorded a whole album of quirky PJ Harvey type songs under my stage name, Suzie Simon."
Smith signed with Rockland, a small east coast label, which was set to release the CD - called "Neighbors From Hell" - on February 4th. However, the title track, an "autobiographical musical rant," caused the release date to be pushed back until the results of a civil lawsuit against Smith are in.
"The song is about these two women who live on my street, a mother and daughter...I can't mention names but everyone around here knows about them. They're basically hermits, and the house they live in looks like The Addams family place, only messier. The yard is overgrown with weeds and briars, the paint's falling off in sheets, boards are coming off the [outside] walls and there's a pile of trash in the backyard full of skunks and possums and rats."
Smith took a photo of her neighbor's ramshackle home from her own front porch and Rockland used the picture as the CD's front cover.
"I never see these women [because] they hide inside all day and night, but I wanted them to know what effect their house has on our neighborhood, so I dropped a demo copy of 'Neighbors From Hell' in what's left of their mailbox, cover proof and all." A sample of the title track's lyrics:
"Crackheads and junkies say that crib's a mess
What these creeps live on is anyone's guess
Got no visible means of support, for their house, for their breasts
Or their beliefs, or their porch roof, or the rats they call pets."
Smith was served with a civil lawsuit claiming "defamation and invasion of privacy," and had to appear in court that same week to block her neighbors' attempt to have an emergency injunction placed against the release and distribution of "Neighbors From Hell."
"The judge said the suit had enough merit to grant the injunction pending the outcome of the case, and they were ready to send marshals into Rockland's office out east to sieze the master tapes and every pressed copy of the CD and the printed sleeves. Rockland FedExed an agreement to sit on everything to keep it from being siezed, but now it's going to be at least until summer before I get the chance to plead my side at a hearing. I'm dead set against dropping the song or changing the cover and I'll fight it as far as I have to."
The lawyer Smith retained informed her that the plaintiff's case is weak. "There's no picture of the women themselves, there's no address...there's no way of even knowing what state the picture [of the house] was taken in. The record company isn't even based in California so who's to say the house isn't in the Bronx somewhere? Maybe ten or twenty people on this block would recognize what the song's about and this is the kind of neighborhood where everyone's probably into Jewel or Neil Diamond, not Suzie Simon and her neighbors from hell."
Rockland is appealing the injunction against distribution of the CD and will be flying a representative to San Diego to do so. Smith herself, as publisher of the song under her own publishing imprint SimonSongs, will fight the defamation and privacy invasion suit herself.
"I've already dished out thousands of dollars for a lawyer. If I'd have just given [my neighbors] the money instead, they could have fixed up their stupid damned house and maybe they'd like me enough to not cause me so much [expletive]."
8 - BART MENDOZA'S OLD GUITAR TAKES ON NEW LIFE
“It's kind of funny, but a bit of Shambles ‘magic’ is being included on a lot of local recordings - besides my usual studio stuff - via my old twelve string,” says Shambles singer/guitarist Bart "Big In Spain" Mendoza. “I exchanged it with Mike Kamoo for studio time, figuring it was staying in the family. Now a house guitar at Earthling Studios, it's shown up on lots of albums by local acts."
"Most recently, I was in studio when the Swedish Models borrowed it, mentioning it would be on a Prayers recording as well. The guitar’s main life has probably been on Stereotypes recordings…you know how people are about their guitars. I felt like a proud dad for a second! Considering it had sadly sat unused in a closet for a few years, a pretty good fate for a guitar.”
So why did Bart stop using the guitar himself? “It never made it further than #3 on my list of guitars,” he says. “It was/is a cool guitar, but I had a hard time tuning it, particularly live, so it became a backup, and then just got retired except for the occasional studio outing.”
Ever since Bart and I first met and worked together in the mid-to-late ‘80s at a local comic book distributorship, he’s been regaling me with tales of his Beatles collection. Recently, he wrote me “My coolest [recent] item isn't very valuable, but fun. I've been friends with a lot of Beatle people over the years and have Alistair Taylor, Tony Sheridan and Alf Bicknell's business cards and autographs/letters together in a frame, with a small print signed by Pauline Sutcliffe, and a picture sleeve for the unreleased Leave My Kitten Alone single, alongside a copy of My Bonnie signed by both Sheridan and Pete Best. Not exactly a signed copy of Sgt. Pepper's, but still fun!”
Bart informs that the new album by local Beatleholic Dave Humphries was recorded at Earthling and ALSO features a guest appearance by his old 12-string. Another guest, on five different songs, is none other than aforementioned Brit crooner Tony Sheridan, whose 1961 record “My Bonnie” was the first platter to feature the Beatles, playing behind him as his backup band.
“I don’t think he can stand Beatles fans,” says Blizzard singer/guitarist Chris Leyva of Tony Sheridan. “We met him when we played BeatleFair in 2001. We got the gig by sending them three songs from the Backbeat movie soundtrack that we claimed was us! We were surprised that such bigtime Beatles fans didn’t recognize the soundtrack, but then we had to learn some Beatles covers in order to play the gig.”
Leyva says it was a thrill meeting Sheridan, but notes “He had just gotten off the plane or something and he wasn’t too happy.”
After Sheridan watched his group (temporarily named the Backbeat Band) perform cuts like Long Tall Sally, Leyva says he came over and said “That sounded like a blizzard,” and a new band name was born.
So now you know.....................................................................the REST of the story.
9 - BUSTED AT BOOMERS
“I got arrested at Boomers for not wearing a wrist band,” says Love Campaign singer/guitarist James. “A security guard approached me and scolded me to get off a railing I was sitting on. I complied. He then requested to see my wristband, and I complied a second time. Then he told me I had to be wearing it. That's where I drew the line…He said ‘You're not at school or with mommy and daddy.’”
“I then walked away, to get the hell away from this creep…[he] sneak attacked me from the back, grabbed my right arm and handcuffed me. Attempting to scare my girlfriend, he told her she would have to pick me up at the courthouse.”
“He proceeded to call the real authorities and stated that he had a 5 foot 10, 215 pound male detained. In actuality, I'm 5 foot 7 and 135 pounds. He requested all my personal information, Social Security number, date of birth, etc., and took two photos; I smiled in both of them.”
“Then the real officer arrived and they let me go. No charges. Who would’ve thought?” He adds “I always did have problems with authority.”
10 - ROCK’N ROB’N
Hundreds of Placebo fans submitted video of themselves lip-synching the band’s cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” for a planned video consisting entirely of fan-made clips. 21 year-old singer/songwriter Roberta Hofer – AKA Rob’n - was among around a dozen videographers who made the final cut.
“It seemed pretty unlikely to actually make it into their video,” she says. “They have fans all over the world, and pretty dedicated fans, right? More fanatic than me. But, eventually, I figured, why not try?”
“I submitted quite a few versions. Five or so. I wasn’t quite sure what the video directors were actually looking for. You know, do they want outside or inside, happy or sad mood? I tried out different locations, filmed cellar-versions, river-versions, and one inside-version, too.”
On the day the finished video was to debut online, Hofer didn’t know whether any of her clips had been chosen. “I think it took until after midnight until the video was finally put on their MySpace page. It was quite a long night.”
Her reaction? “Disbelief. I was calling friends, telling my family, watching it again and again. It’s still weird to think about it now…it’s very unreal to see yourself in an internationally broadcast music video. Jokingly, I always say ‘I thought my first appearance in a music video was going to be one of my own’…but it does make me proud.”
The video of “Running Up That Hill” uploaded to YouTube – featuring a still of Hofer on the screencap - has been played over 494,000 times. “Right after the video was online,” she says, “a friend of mine, who lives in South America, texted me. She’s a Placebo fan and had waited for the video, too. She was, like, ‘Gosh, I just saw their new vid, and it sounds weird but I could swear it’s you in there.’ It was funny to get that reaction minutes after it was online, from thousands of kilometers away.”
I really like her intensely personal and intimate songs. Most of the tunes on her page were recorded simply with just her and an acoustic guitar, tho there’s an underlying hard rock foundation in the urgency and strength of her vocals and the powerful lyrical imagery. The song I’ve played most is “Prisoner” – lyric sample:
Be a prisoner inside this world /Inside an open jail /
Symbolize the maggot shamefulness/Don’t pull away the veil /
Be a prisoner wear down your fate / And drown it
Rob’n just recently uploaded an electric version of the song, which I played for the first time today and enjoyed, Tho, frankly, it was just as rock ‘n’ roll in its bare bones “Bathroom Demo” version. I also recommend the song “Try,” but don’t take my word for it --- checkitout (have I ever steered you wrong??). Think Kate Bush/Bjork gone solo-acoustic, or perhaps Tori Amos as produced by Trent Reznor…
“I suppose what I do is classic singer-songwriter stuff,” Rob’n says. “My voice and my guitar. I don’t play any other instruments well enough. I think a good song is not about how many instruments you use, but about which mood you manage to create... my main emotion goes into voice melody and lyrics. You can express everything with voice. It is the greatest instrument of all.”
She was 9 when she took her first guitar lessons. “I hated it. My teacher only played folk music, the same simple chords over and over. Ultimately, I quit and didn’t touch a guitar again for several years.”
Now 21, she began writing songs at 11. “I still remember the words...I wrote the biggest amount of songs between 14 and 17. Some of them are still my favorites, and some turn to be out like old clothes - they just don’t fit you anymore.”
She says she currently has enough songs to fill up a couple of albums, the first of which she hopes to complete soon in her home-built studio. Alone. “I’m recording it mainly for myself, to finally put things down. Especially older songs. Recording can be a catharsis. You get rid of the old stuff that has been around for a while, you wrap it up, you put it down. It is final. Then, you have more air to breathe for new ideas. Just for my first album, I’m trying to do it without too much interference of other people. It will be very a personal album."
Hofer’s website is http://www.myspace.com/robertahofer. Here’s the Placebo video featuring her: