Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Little Run: On the Road with Little Man

Little Man got out for a little tour run this past week hitting Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago trying out new songs and promoting Orbital Amusement. Here's what all went down.

DAY 1: A van of drummers and me.
My old Little Man drummer Sean Sauder came along for tour help. It's great to have someone to help with driving, moving gear and to sell merch. Happy to have him along. Then there's my current drummer Sean Gilchrist and my bass player Brian Herb who is also an accomplished drummer. Packed up gear and drove to Milwaukee. It wasn't until a couple hours in that I realized that the van conversation was all drums and that I was surrounded by - drummers. I have to say drummers are usually interesting characters. You probably know some crazy folks. They might be drummers. These guys here in the van are great. I love 'em. Thankful to have them help me out and be a part of this band.

It's a beautiful drive across Wisconsin from the Twin Cities in the summer. We made it through just fine with a stop at the good ol' Subway. Swarmed in the parking lot by an entire high school cheerleading squad. I so wanted them to spell out the band's name. L-I-TT-LE...M-A-N! That would have been fun.

We played a place called Club Garibaldi in Milwaukee. Cool spot. Very Minnesota "nordeast" feel. Carved wood, brass and vintage looking stuff about the place. Very nice staff. We really enjoyed hanging out and having dinner outside over at The Palomino.

The Cactus Club is just next door. First night out was slightly rag-tag for me starting off, but then we rolled right into the set real good. Plus I got try out a guitar pedal from ZVEX I brought along straight from their office called the Machine which gave me some inspiration. Big room, meet some real nice people here. The night ended at The Sleep-In. This hotel was really great. Plus we got the big handicap room to pile into. Whiskey party.

DAY 2: Celebrate with The Mel's and the ghost's.
Headache. Perfect place for lunch was Glorioso's. An amazing Italian deli in Milwaukee. You HAVE to go there.

It poured rain at this time. Hop in the van and on the road to Madison. We got to spend the afternoon at Sean's sister-in-law's place not too far from the club. It was really nice to have a place to chill out, sit on the porch, grill and nap. Beautiful day.
Here's me at the cool little shed out in the back yard.
The club was The Frequency. We had played here before not too long ago. Love this place. Great rock & roll club. Staff is awesome. So I'm sitting at the bar with my feet tucked back on the stool rung and I thought someone's foot bumped into mine. No worries. Then it happened again about 2 minutes later and I look back to see who's kicking my foot and NO ONE WAS THERE!!! Here's when I asked the club manager Darwin about paranormal activity. "Oh yeah," he said, "this place used to be a funeral home." He's seen a couple strange things including a little girl. That could have been who was playing with me. He's also heard voices as clear as day in the basement. Pretty neat stuff.

Our friends from back home, The Melismatics where on the bill to celebrate the release of their new album. It sounds great. All of the people in this band are really very cool folks and it's always great to be on a bill with them. They put on one hell of a show. Fun to get in a slot hockey game with bassist Mark in the haunted greenroom basement. 5-3 me. I love those things. Also Garbage guitarist Duke Erikson was in the club and we got to talk a bit about guitar gear. Very cool.

We played a great show here and it was a fun audience. After bar we shared a bottle of Prosecco on our host's deck till the very wee hours. Salute and bouna notte.

DAY 3: My old residence, Chicago!
After a great home-made breakfast we headed to Chicago, Illinois. Sometimes I miss this city and it feels real good to roll in with the band back to the place I lived for about 8 years. Tonight we play at Reggie's Music Joint for their 6th anniversary bash. Real cool to be a part of that. We played with some great bands including The Ghost Wolves out of Austin.This is a fantastic place with a great vibe. Lot's of people here all night. Got to meet up with some great friends. Some old friends even from way back when I lived here, and most of them saw Little Man right at the very beginning of getting the band started in the late 90's. Real strong show hear and I loved every minute of it.

After the show we checked out The Dictators next door for a few songs. Then we loaded out and headed for my good friend Dave's place. You know Dave? He was one of my drummers with Little Man when I lived in Chicago. He plays with Ike Reilly now. We're musical brothers. Our beer run on the way to Dave's took us four tries at the late hour, but we found some. At Dave's apartment we got to listen to new mixes of ours and Ike's. Great to hang out with him, but yes, now I'm hanging out with four drummers. Old Style (hey we're in Chicago!), PBR beers all around and more whiskey.

DAY 4: Travel
Continued party till 4, up at 8. Drove home to the Twin Cities. Construction was hell. It took us an hour to get to the freeway. We couldn't even make it onto the free way before the guys wanted to stop and rest at the Dunkin' Donuts. Construction still on the freeway and tolls on a very hot mid 90's weather with no A/C made for a longer trip back, but boy what a fun time. Great run. TOURRRR!!!!!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

My Experience With The Cult

No I didn't run off to join some sort of cult. I got to go see one of my favorite bands - The Cult!

 Back in high school, I was starting to play guitar and was in a band, TWO bands! One with high school friends, which we played a mix of covers and originals and the other playing out in clubs with a classic rock cover band with guys twice my age (mom and dad came along to shows I think because I was under-age!). Both super fun bands. A real growing experience.

My friend Seth and I both started playing guitar around the same time, good friends. With him especially, we listened to Van Halen, Metallica, AC/DC, Ozzy and The Cult among lots of others. We were into the Love album, Electric and Sonic Temple. I especially liked the hard rock of Electric and often played along to the entire album. It was good education. Billy Duffy's guitar parts were excellent. Couldn't get enough. Plus this was the time of MTV and actual music videos. The Cult had videos out and I loved to watch lead singer Ian Astbury. He looked cool, awesome vocals and a great performer. Salt shake-uh...rrrrratlesnake rrracket...baaaaaaby...whaow! Tambourine. Just a real cool delivery.

My high school band covered The Cult. We played Peace Dog, King Contrary Man, Wild Flower and a couple others I think. Real good rock songs. Seth and I got to see them. I was mesmerized by Astbury.

Fast Forward to 2013. I'm still playing guitar, in a band, influenced in many way's by Duffy and Astbury. The Cult return with a tour playing their Electric album in it's entirety (I missed there Love tour reunion the previous year unfortunately).My buddy Sean and I got tickets. Very exciting.

Did you know the Electric album was recorded at Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland studios?

The show was at The Varsity Theatre in Minneapolis. Sold out. We wiggled our way up front and almost center about 3 people back. They kicked in with Wild Flower. YES!!! Really great to be there. Astbury looked cool in his fur lined black leather jacket and "Bono" style black sunglasses. Still mesmerizing. Not as animated though and I could tell he was taking it easy on his voice. More of a Jim Morrison style performance (he did tour with The Doors for a reunion stint taking place of Morrison).

Really neat to see and hear Duffy play his parts. He played out of a small Matchless amp which sounded amazing. The band plowed through Electric and then continued to play on. Probably close to a couple hours. As a shorter person it was tough to find a good spot to stand. I like to be up close and see the band in all of my sight. It was packed up front but I was able to see just fine between people and if I couldn't see, all I had to do was look up as most people had their cell phones out recording video or taking pictures. Someones cell hit me in the head as it fell out of their hands. Then I got moshed and tossed around on one of The Cult's  big hits, She Sells Sanctuary.

The show was a blast for me. I wore my concert t-shirt from when I saw them last in the early '90's on their Sonic Temple tour. Afterwards I ran into my friend Vu and noticed his backstage pass. He gave it to me! So as the crowed cleared I stuck around while the set tore down. I got to talk with the opening act and then hung around hoping to see Ian or Billy. I missed Ian but guitarist Bill Duffy stepped out with his wife. We had some small talk and he was thrilled to see an old concert shirt. His wife took our picture. Real nice people. He gave me one of his guitar pics and headed out to the bus.

I'm so glad I got to see this show. Alot of fun for me to revisit the music and see them again. Totally worth it!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Little Man in the Studio

Over the past many years here in the Twin Cities, I've always wanted to record at Flowers. It's an uptown recording studio owned by Ed Ackerson. I've admired Ed's work and the many popular bands he's played in as well as his Susstone record label. I also had the chance to check out the studio a couple times and had tried to set something up in the past, but things hadn't quite worked out. Kris Johnson, who fixes amps and electronics at Twin Town Guitars, engineers at the studio. Timing had been right with him and me seeing each other out and about at shows and such, talking about the studio and the new music I've been writing. He's been a fan of Little Man and was always enthusiastic about the possibility of recording us. After a good conversation with Ed and KJ at The Triple Rock I really started to lean into make this happen.

The studio is one of the coolest I've ever been in. They have a very tall ceiling live drum room, all sorts of vintage gear, instruments and guitar amps, a Trident mixing board and a neat atrium decked with a fountain, plants and places to sit and relax in between takes. Lots of orange and yellow colors everywhere and kind of a 60's mod space age decor.

Not only is KJ in a guitar player couple local bands and is the go-to guy here for repairs, he also builds his own guitar amps and outboard gear (KJAudio). For me to be especially particular with guitar tones, I thought KJ would be a good fit for these recordings. We're using alot of his own gear and things are sounding great.

Our first session together was just him and me at his own modest studio tracking acoustic and electric guitars for four specific songs. A week later we got the band together, with Sean Gilchrist on drums and Brian Herb on bass. These guys have been with me for a couple years now. We've been doing very well with our live shows so we wanted to track live in the room all together. For most of the songs we tracked without headphones (an interesting process we hadn't really done before) to really play together and capture alot of that live energy. It felt as comfortable as a rehearsal. Our goal was to track 9 songs together as a band, bass, drums and one rhythm guitar and then to track bass and drums to the pre-recorded stuff we did the week before.

We all worked really hard on making this happen. It was a great success as we achieved that goal! The next step is to overdub more guitars and add in the vocals. These are very interesting songs. Some of them are songs the band has been playing live for a good while but have never recorded, some are a bit more acoustic, delicate with alot of background layered vocals and others are rocking real good. Very excited to be working on these. Can't wait for you to hear them, but that might take some time!

Buy Original Face on Bandcamp. Also available on iTunes. Get a hard copy on CD.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Valentine's Haunt

It all started when I was up in Sauk Centre, MN for work. I stopped into the Main Street Gallery and saw that they were having an upcoming paranormal investigation. It was scheduled just a couple days after Valentine’s day so I signed us up as a gift to my wife Brigid. We’ve done a couple other investigations together in the past and enjoy investigating the unknown and learning some history.

The Gallery reports an antique doll’s arm being frequently moved on its own as well as being visited by a past owner and other sounds like money being counted in the basement as well as a ghost cat. It was also filmed for the My Ghost Story tv show. Across the street is the infamously haunted Palmer House Hotel, so I was able to get us room for the night there too. They report lots of activity in the lobby and basement with shadow people, physical touching, full bodied apparitions and all sorts of other activity in some of their rooms. This hotel has been on lots of national TV shows like Ghost Adventures. You can see some video here:

We arrived at the hotel just before 5pm and learned that there was going to be a tour of the basement at 5. Very excited about that as we really didn’t think we’d get that opportunity, so we rushed up stairs, dropped our bags in room 21 and headed back down for the tour.

The owner Kelly spoke about the history of the building and her experiences there and then took us down to the basement. My wife and I came prepared with an EMF detector, a voice recorder, camera and video camera. We got to sit in a couple of rooms in complete darkness and feel the energy. I could only see just a few feet in front of me. It was pretty neat to be in a dark, cold, room with six or so other people and be completely silent. It’s actually a very zen like experience as you sit and become fully aware of the moment, not letting yourself get caught up in any expectations or fears and feeling fully with your senses.

After a while of silence we asked many questions and we did get some significant hits on our EFM meters! There was also another room that we spent some time in and then got to wander the basement our selves. There is a spot behind the staircase were bones had been  found, so we checked that spot out. Brigid and the owner both saw an interesting flash of light in one of the rooms that really amazed them. Here is an EVP we caught: WARNING this sound bite contains adult language. An investigator says "whoa" and then voice phenomena of a drawn out "yes" is whispered just before the expletive.

My wife and I had to scoot out of there by 8pm for the investigation across the street at the gallery. The Main Street Gallery is an art gallery and antique store. Part of the building was a bank and for many years it was a pharmacy. We would be part of a group maybe 25 other investigators led by well known International Paranormal Society co-founder and author Adrian Lee.

We broke into 3 groups and investigated 3 rooms in the cold basement. We spent a good amount of time in each room with the lights off. First we sat in silence and then would begin to ask questions to whoever or whatever could be there with us. Another device we used was a "Frank's Box" (a special radio that scans through radio frequencies at a fast rate. When questions are asked directed at a spirit, there can be single word answers that come through.) Again we had our own personal devices along with us too.

While we sat in one particular room they call “the vault“, my wife felt a crowded feeling between her and the person next to her. She then began to feel pressure and then what felt like a hand wrap around her upper arm! When we all gathered upstairs to review our experiences, two people in the other groups had a similar experience sitting in that very same chair.

After over six hours of investigating, we headed back over to The Palmer House Hotel and sat in the lobby by ourselves. Soon we were joined by another investigating couple. It was really cool to be in the lobby at that hour (3:30am!) listening and watching for anything. There was definitely an odd vibe near the basement door by the bathrooms and hallway. There was also a small kids room with toys and stuffed animals upstairs (as a small child entity has been seen in the hotel) that I sat in by myself for a while but with no action of any kind.

The next morning knowing that our neighbors had left their room 22 (supposedly haunted by Raymond) I put my ear to the wall to see if I could hear anything. Nothing. Then I tried the “Shave and a Haircut” knock on the wall and unmistakably got the “two bits” response back coming from next door! “Shave and a Haircut! Shave and a Haircut!” I yelled to Brigid in the bathroom all excited. We tried to duplicate the experience but with no luck. Soon after that we checked out and drove home quite exhausted. All and all a very fun time for us. We will definitely get back up there in the future for another look around.