Sunday, August 16, 2009

New Sounds with ZVEX

I played a show at a brand new club in Minneapolis called Sauce Spirits and Soundbar in the Uptown area. With some help of some very good opening acts, it attracted plenty of live music lovers, hipsters and some of the Twin Cities most respected musicians such as, Heath Henjum bassist of The Hopefuls, Jonathan Freeman of The Magnolias, Ed Ackerson who heads the popular guitar driven Susstone record label and Adam Levy of The Honeydogs.

It was a really great night, lots of people in a fresh new atmosphere. Afterwards I got to go out to meet and talk with people who came to the show, sold cd's, T-shirts and stuff. One guy introduced himself as Zach Vex. He owns a boutique guitar effects company called ZVEX. I've heard about his products and know quite a few people who swear by them. His products are wordly renown. Among many others, people like Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins, Joe Satirani and Jack White use his effects pedals. Each of his stomp boxes are hand painted and signed.

Zach said "I watched your performance and thoroughly enjoyed it, and thought it would be a good idea if there was some ZVEX on your pedal board." I was totally amazed and honored. In fact I had a hard time sleeping the next couple of nights thinking about the opportunity to visit the company and try out some pedals.

After a few e-mail exchanges, I found some time to get over to ZVEX. I didn't even know he was local. Zach's assistants set me up in a room with a beautiful Vox amp and two pedal boards with about 12 or so effects on each. I got to plug in my guitar and and try them out one by one. Most of them were fuzz and distortion. Some impressive octave and wha-wha effects as well. Really fun getting to play them and have each explained as I pressed through them all.

What I liked most was a fuzz pedal that worked similar to a Theramin. When it was on, as my foot approched the pedal, without even touching it, the amount of effect got greater, or lesser as my foot backed away. It was incredible. There where a couple of others I also found very interesting. I was looking for something unique, modern and versitile to create with. Zach said he was hoping I'd use them live at shows. After the test session my ears were ringing and I was buzzed with excitement. Zach gave me a special deal that made my jaw drop and I got to take my favorites home with me. Since then I've been spending alot of time at home and in the studio experimenting with the new sounds. Totaly inspired.

It's experiences like this that remind me to always give it my all at a show. I'm grateful that people want to come out and see the band play. You never know who could be out there. Thanks Zach, I'm thankful to have the generous support of ZVEX.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Whirlwind Weekend

What a fantastic week! It began on a thursday to record The Local Show that would be aired on Minnesota's public radio station The Current. I was invited by local columnist/musician Jim Walsh, who hosts a show called the Hootenany in Minneapoils. He get's a handfull of musicans together to do an intimate show in which they all share stories and songs. This was a promotion for photographer Tony Nelson's Hoot photography and pictures artists in there place that they like to do their songwriting. He took a picture of me walking in my neighborhood. I like to take walks and come up with ideas for songs.

The radio show was great. I played a song called Not Quite So High from the new album, which is about hubris, being ego-less, the stress of promoting yourself and the tarot card The Chariot. The song became The Currents "Song of the Day" on June 26th.
You can listen to the entire show HERE.

After the radio show I packed up and headed over to the Turf Club for sound check with Ike Reilly. My good friends were back in town and Ike called me up last minute to join them on leads guitar for the evening (see previous posted blog). We got to go over a bunch of songs and then hit the stage at 10:45pm.

I think the club was sold out. From the stage I saw people backd up to the entrance door!

We played really well and the people loved it. Having been the second official show as guitarist for these guys, I felt alot more comfortable in knowing my parts, so it was mostly having lots of fun and enjoying the moment. After the show, Ike invited me on for the rest of the tour but I had to be in Seattle the next day (or should I say that morning!). We stayed up late and caught a plane out west just hours after the show.

My wife and I flew into Seattle and then drove to Portland for her brother's wedding. We spent some time checking out vintage stores like we love to do (see a previous posted blog) and got to visit the Jimi Hendrix memorial. What a feeling. It was really cool to be standing where his body is. That physical form that been to so many places and "experienced" so many things and was the home to a real unique talent we called Jimi Hendrix. He was a huge insperation to me. Emotion through a feedback guitar changed how I approached my playing. Surrounding the grave were some of his lyrics in his handwriting on big flat marble stones. It was raining. I got out a peice of paper and wrote the first thing to come to my mind, "Love, Always, Love" and placed it on a spot above his graved to be burned into the ether.

Brigid and I took a limo from Portland to the coast with the wedding party. Her brother was passed out while my wife and I shared shots of vodka witha man we called the Mad Russian.

In his thick accent we toasted and he continued to tell us, with many stories, that "life is short". Not sure if I told him my band's name was Little Man. Anyway, when Brigid and I got to be on the ocean beach together, in the wee hours of the morning, we seriously thought about that theme and enjoyed the moment.

Next morning we headed up the coast back to Seattle to catch a plane home. Lots of white knucle driving up and down and around these seaside roads, beautiful view, hardly any sleep. But we made it to the airport just in time, sank into our seats with a sigh of relief and came home. What a whirlwind!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Buzz Show!


“Buzz Dandlewick is a former Junction City anchorman whose coworkers called him "Dandypants" because of the outrageous pants he'd wear to work, so during broadcast, the public could never see his bottom half, but it was a running gag at the station. Buzz is known for his keen observation skills and a profound patience for getting all the right answers. Hence, his ability to wait in a closet for hours just to get that last question in. Today he lives in Minneapolis with wife Gertrude and cares for his nephew Myron, who Buzz calls son, because he gets a tax break. (Myron’s folks have been pogoing from South Africa to Siberia and haven’t been heard from in years.) While trying to find more work in these difficult times he's been doing interviews of people he finds interesting to keep his skills up to par.”

The husband and wife team of Alan Pagel and Laura Wilhelm, of Mad Munchkin Productions, created these characters and I sat with them to discuss some possibilities of the idea of having one or two of their puppets interview me as Little Man in a bunch of different scenarios. We turned on the little Flip-Video camera and recorded these videos off-the-cuff and unrehearsed. As you’ll see the result was hilarious and fun. I also created the Buzz Show theme song which you can get on your cell as a ringtone! People have been loving that.

Part 1 - "Greetings"
Part 2 - “In Bed”
Part 3 - “Cooking”
Part 4 - “Over for Dinner”
Part 5 - “Guitar Lesson”
Part 6 - “What to Wear”
Part 7 - "Meditation"

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Books!

I'm a big reader. Although I do like fiction and sci-fi like Herbert's "Dune" and Heinlein's "Stranger In A Strange Land", I mostly read non-fiction. I like biographies on musicians and resource books on symbols. There is also a collection of classic myths and folklore. I usually read a few books at a time. It’s kinda like changing a channel on a tv.

My most intense reading and what I find most fascinating are books of religions and of non-dualistic philosophies of the East, like that of Zen, Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta and Hinduism. All of which (in a nutshell) focus dropping your ego, the transcending of the world of opposites and present moment living. This stuff is always challenging my way of thought and it’s the hardest thing ever to verbally explain this sort of thing to people. Reading and experiencing it is one thing, sharing it with others is another. I find it best to express myself through my music and a lot of what I write is inspired by such material. Others point to the way verbally very easily. Check out Alan Watts, Joseph Campbell and Sri Nisargadatta among others.

If you’re interested in this sort of thing I’ve set up a library on the right side of the blog console. It contains a number of books that I read often along with some other things that pertain to the blog. It’s created from, a place I like to search and buy books from. If you see something you think you might like, buy it through my bookstore in my blog. Let me know if you’ve read any of the books in my library and we can discuss some of it. You can use the Amazon search engine here to find something else that interests you. By doing so you’ll be helping me in supporting my websites. Take a look.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bring It On Home

In an effort to get to know some folks better that come to see me play with the band, I thought it would be cool to play directly for them at their house. I call it a parlour show. It’s been a long winter and sometimes it’s hard to get out of the house. Some people have kids that haven’t had the opportunity to come see a show or have never been exposed to live music like this. I wanted to entertain with my songs and maybe inspire some kids and adults to play music too. Families could create small dinner parties and get-to-gethers and I’d play for them solo acoustic in their living rooms. People seem to know me from the media or shows, but to be closer to them is a good artist/fan relationship.

The response was really good and I got to play for a variety of families and their friends. From a family of 3 to a party of 20 these people were generous and very attentive with all sorts of questions about my music and what I do, and I got to know a lot more about them in return. Instead of being up on a stage without the personal interaction, I was right next to them in the welcoming environment of their home.

The most rewarding was playing to a family of which two of the members where visually impaired. The smiles I got back from them while I played were huge and I found it difficult to get though some of my songs because it made me so glad that I was making them happy. The whole family was just thrilled to have such an event at their own house. They wrote back, “For us, it will always be a night to remember!”

This is the Menard family.

I hope I can do more of these. If you’re in the area or close by when we’re on the road and you’d like to host something like this, you can contact me.

Mick S. wrote, “…you were very friendly and very down to earth. Most rockers wouldn’t even bother to do what you did. For that I hold you in very high esteem.”
Thanks everyone for your participation!