New(ish) Music – Friday! Royal Blood

I’m going to start this one with a rant… and then a review… and who knows what else!

When one of my favorite bands releases a new album, I like to listen to it, in its entirety, a few times, before making an assessment.

The problem is this: Today, bands like the hype leading up to an album, MORE than they like giving their listeners something new to listen to.

Which brings me to today’s album review: How Did We Get So Dark, by Royal Blood.

Royal Blood is a 2 piece power duo, with a very unique sound. Aside from the obvious drumming & vocals, all of the rest of the noise you’re hearing comes from a bass guitar that runs through an intricate array of effect pedals, and ends up sounding like a grunge orchestra.

From start to finish, this album is solid rock and roll. Gritty, raw, and real. I remember reading a review with Mike Kerr (bass,vocals) where he discussed not wanting to record anything that he can’t replicate in a live setting.  THAT is my attraction to this band, because too many musicians rely on loops, instead of raw talent.

I will say, I was a little discouraged on listening to this 10 track album, for the first time, because 4 of the songs have already been previously released (1 of which was over a year ago…) and they have kind of lost their “new song sparkle” to me. Which is what I was referring to, in my earlier rant. I don’t want to get a “New Album” and have heard almost half of it already… I want to have a fresh experience, and have my ears tickled with new art.

That being said, the subsequent tracks on the album are incredible. Mike Kerr’s mastery of his monstrous pedalboard, mixed with powerful muse-like vocals, and riff-rock bass playing; backed by the solidity of Ben Thatcher on the drums, give you an album that is worth your attention!

It’s hard to make a dent in the music scene like Royal Blood has, in such little time, then be under pressure after a few years of touring to write a follow-up album and have it be good. They have gone above and beyond our expectations, and delivered another fantastic release!

My only hope is that we get another Royal Blood album before 2020!!!

Here’s some more blog posts, on this fantastic band:

Michelle Geslani on the new album
Speedy Sailor on “Lights Out”
jokevrijens on the most recent single “I only lie when I love you” , before the album’s release

Thanks for reading! I hope you have a great weekend!

Musical Inspirations Vol. 2: Nobuo Uematsu

I know what you’re thinking: Who the hell is that?

Nobuo Uematsu is famous for his composition/arrangement works with the video-game company Square. He wrote most of the scores for over 30 of their games, including the core Final Fantasy franchise.

Also keyboard player for “The Black Mages” a group that took music from the franchise and turned it into a rock band.

Okay, but what does that have to do with you?

Glad you asked.
I try to find inspiration in every kind of music I listen to, and some of the best music I’ve ever heard has been written in video-games!

Don’t believe me? Can you recall the music from the classic NES game Super Mario Brothers? I bet you can. How about any music from The Legend of Zelda.. It’s iconic.

Personally, Nobuo is the reason I managed to figure out how to finger-pick on an acoustic guitar, and I’m honestly not too bad at at!
Specifically this piece of music:

It’s a beautiful piece of music and unless you know it’s from a video-game, you would never think otherwise.

His music is very technical and interesting. I think I hummed the boss theme from FF8 all the way through my 8th grade year of school, because it was such a memorable piece of music.

Then there’s the mighty symphonic “One Winged Angel” which sits near and dear to any RPG nerds heart.

I saw an interview once where Uematsu explained the writing process. It wasn’t meant to just be a symphonic piece. It was written in a way that it could also be a Rock piece. A perfect bridge between the big band style & the modern era heavy metal.

Isn’t that beautiful? I sure think so.

Being a long time band-geek has its advantages,

Through my early years of a musician, I learned how to listen to a massive group of people playing instruments, and being able to isolate each individual part, in my mind.

It’s one of the reasons I love modern progressive rock. There is SO much to listen to, I can sit and get lost in the music, without being bored with repetition.

People who arrange pieces of music like this, are the types you should be listening to. They are smart about writing. They know how to take an idea, and implement it through a whole arsenal of tones and sounds.

 

So, I challenge you:

Next time you’re listening to music. Actually listen to the music. Don’t idly drone words and zombie your way through albums. People put every single detail into a song, for a specific reason. It’s our duty, as fans, to find those details and appreciate the beauty of what’s been written for our entertainment. Really think about the way the music feels.

If we had more people like that in the world, music would be a hell of a lot more fun to write!

 

Thanks for reading! I hope you’re all enjoying this look into my musical inspirations, as much as I am!

Hmm… Car talk?

Natty...

Honestly, a term I don’t recall hearing, before today. A quick google search shows that it means “Well designed” or “Clever”

Cleverness being the thing I am lacking, for this blog post…

Yep.. drawing a blank…

Ya know what was well designed, though? The 4.0 Liter V6 engine, in the pre-2006 Jeeps. I’ve been a fan of Jeeps (specifically Cherokees {Like.. the boxy ones, not Grand Cherokees}) For quite a few years now. I’ve owned 3 of them, and had nothing but fun with them!

Aside from crappy alternators and water pumps, they were the most reliable engine I’ve ever been around.

In fact, back in the 2011(ish.. guessing here) Stimulus package, when President Obama did the national cash-for-clunkers thing (that destroyed the used car market, IMO), I had a friend who worked at a garage. For fun, they would set a stop watch when they had to destroy the traded-in vehicles.

Let me back up a second.. they would have to put a highly corrosive material into the engine, and start it. Then the vehicle would run until the engine seized.

Anyways, the engine that consistently managed to last the longest in this test, was the 4.0 liter straight 6 engine, found in Jeeps. Just goes to show that under the harshest conditions imaginable, they would function.

I used to offroad a lot, with my Jeeps. My thinking was, if they could handle the vast PA wilderness, they were fit to be a good daily driver!
Mud, snow, sides of mountains.. Nothing stopped us from having a good time with our Jeeps… Man, I miss it. It seems like it’s been forever since I’ve been out in the woods, navigating the harshest roads imaginable, with my trusty Jeep.

I traded all of that fun in for a Mazda, and while I love my car, it can barely go over speed-bumps without scraping the undercarriage…

“Someday” I keep telling myself….

I miss working on them too… There was something about the bond between man and machine. If I screwed it up, I got to bring it home and fix it! It sounds frustrating, but there’s a great sense of achievement, to going through a rough patch, with your favorite automobile, and then having to make things better.

I tend to get really attached to the cars I like… My wife doesn’t get it. Even most of my guy friends don’t get it.  I still have dreams of driving my ’87 Daytona Shelby Z, it was the most fun I’d ever had in a car, and I think, somewhere in the depths of my mind, I long for the freedom of the road or the open trail. I long to explore the world around me, with a machine I made capable of doing so.

This may sound like some weird, testosterone fueled desire.. but it’s the truth… And I can’t water it down to something that isn’t that haha!

What about you? Have you ever been offroad? Do you ‘get it’? The feeling of freedom one gets from driving fast, or exploring the woods?

Thanks readers, I guess this wasn’t too bad of a post after all.

Musical Influences Ep1: Victor Wooten

If there’s something I can talk about, until I’m blue in the face, it’s music.  From theory, to its effect on our mood, deep lyrical ideas, to chord changes that give you goosebumps… it’s something that is such a large part of my life, i find a way to integrate it into every part.

I’m going to try a ‘series’ of posts talking about my biggest influences, as a musician. These are in no particular order (well, maybe this one is the most important, but the rest won’t be..), and I will write them as I think of them!

Does the name Victor Wooten mean anything to you?  Funny, that you probably haven’t heard of a guy who is a recipient of 5 Grammy awards; as a bass player, written 3 books, is an all around decent man, and an incredible teacher.

Probably because he isn’t a pop-star. He’s just talented beyond your wildest imagination!

I got to meet Victor briefly, and I promise I’m not going to romanticize this meeting. I was starstruck. My jaw hit the floor as I stood in front of the man who has no idea I exist.  What he didn’t know is this: I picked up the bass guitar from watching a VHS tape my dad had recorded of some Jazz festival in the mid ’90s, of two songs Bela Fleck and the Flecktones played.
After a few brief moments of silence, as I stood in front of my biggest influence, my friend Matt looked at him and said “He’s a really big fan.” I shook his hand, then ran into him later after his show. He signed the pick guard for my prized mid-80’s Fender Jazz bass, and I went on my way.

“The Sinister Minister” is the song that made me want to play the bass. The funky groove, high energy, and that damn bass solo.. From a song that didn’t even have spoken lyrics, is what captivated me to start plucking on a bass.

In fact, here’s the exact video that sparked my obsession:

Now that you’ve seen that… and I really hope you did. Maybe you can understand a little more about me, as a musician.  When I picked up the bass, I wanted to be able to to that.  After years of practice, I haven’t learned all of his tricks, but I’ve taken bits from his style of playing and added it to my own mixed bag of styles to create MY sound.

Here I am, almost 18 years later, hailed (not by myself, mind you) as one of the best bass players in the area. People know who I am, and I have a local “following.” It’s a weird concept to me, because I’ve never really thought of myself as that.

Aside from being a great musician, Wooten is also a great human being. He’s very in tune with nature, one of THE most modest people you would ever want to meet, and very kind.  He speaks to young musicians in a way that will comfort them as they come into their own. One of my favorite quotes of his, that I use all the time “You are never more than a half step from a wrong note” encourages the idea that if you DO hit a sour note, just bend it up or slide down and you’re in the ‘right key’ Now, from a young aspiring musicians perspective, that’s some impressive advice.

His website had (may still have) some of his lessons, when I started really beginning to understand how the bass worked.  A couple were sort of life-lesson sort of things, but a few were very deep into his methodology of the bass guitar.  The one that changed my ideas on the bass forever was the “Thump, Hammer, Pluck” Technique, which took me forever to understand (mind  you I was 13-14 years old trying to decipher the knowledge of a life-time musician.   The idea that you don’t have to play every strike of a note with one hand, is the basis.  Thump – to strike a string with your thumb, Hammer – to hammer a note, and Pluck – to pull a string or ‘pop’ it with one of your other fingers. I would spend hours at school drumming triplets out on my desk in this fashion: Right thumb, any finger on my left hand, then my right index or middle finger. This eventually evolved into the tump,hammer, pluck,pluck, or the thump, hammer, thump, pluck.. or any variation of alternate notation… It’s how he plays so fast- with seemingly no effort at all. It’s genius ideas like that, that have made him the number one bass player in the world.

I hope you’ve learned a little bit today about music, its influences on me, and why I’m so passionate about something other people tend to overlook.

Thank you, so much, for your time! Hope you all have a wonderful day!
-Joe

Low Brass

Brassy...

The best way to describe my early musical career.  I wasn’t always an aspiring rock-star. Young Joe was a Tuba player, from 4th grade, until graduation! I also played the Baritone, and very little Trumpet & Trombone.  Band-geek was a term I was proud of, and still am to this day.

I contribute my talent, and ability to learn my craft, on the baseline understanding of theory and instrumentation I learned in grade school.  I may have gotten picked on (being the little guy with the big tuba.. I wasn’t always a towering 5’10″…), I may have gotten my ass worked hard during band camps, and I may have abandoned those instruments, but those were some of the funnest times of my youth, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

I’m not the type of person who says things like: “Man, I wish I was back in high school” or “If I knew then what I know now.”  because I think I did alright, considering the chances I had. Let’s face it… 18 year old Joe was an idiot, and couldn’t drink (legally). Why would I want to be that guy?

I guess what I’m saying is, I think too many people live in regret. They wish they’d done things differently, or their not happy with the way things are going.  I, cherish those times. I’ve worked my ass off, since I was young, I’ve been so broke I’ve had to eat almost-bad pizza from the trunk of my car, but the things I have now, I have earned through blood, sweat, and tears.

Life isn’t always easy, and it’s a lot easier if you focus your thoughts to your future, instead of worrying about where you’ve been.

Just a few thoughts.

Today is National Donut day!?

Remember yesterdays post, about eating better?  Now would be a good time to go read that: It’s like they know I need to lose weight

This, in my opinion, is another major downfall in our country.

We, as Americans, promote obesity,

and we are afraid to tell people that they are overweight, because they may feel shame…

Just like Thanksgiving, National Donut Day is an excuse to eat unhealthily. Why? It’s because we are Americans, and we can do what we want.

That mindset needs to go.

I hate to be the guy to ‘ruin a good thing,’ but that’s just the type of person I am.

It’s this shameless marketing scheme, the world is now built on, where we want instant gratification, all of the time. It’s why gas stations are open 24/7 and businesses force their underpaid employees to work on Holidays.

What happened to us? Why are we giving up on the important values, we once held, as family driven communities?

Clever marketing happened. You believe that you are to feel good, all the time, that nobody is allowed to tell you you’re wrong, and that the things you want are instead things you need.

I could ramble on about this, for days, but the cut-and-dry fact of it is this: We, as a people, need to quit being so damn greedy. We need to quit catering to our wants, and worry about what’s really important.

Anyone else remember the ’90s?

  I remember my parents having cookouts for our neighbors, instead of worrying about what they were doing on the other side of the fence. I remember going trick or treating, with a group of my peers, and not worrying about anything. I remember getting on my bicycle, on a Saturday morning, and riding around my neighborhood, with my friends, until the street lights came on. We didn’t stare at our phones all day, we didn’t have the world’s entire encyclopedia of knowledge at our fingertips…

and ya know what? We were happy.

 

So, My challenge to the world is this: Go introduce yourself to your neighbors. Go to the grocery store, buy some chicken, pork chops, steaks, vegetables; or whatever it is you like to eat. Invite those neighbors over, learn about them. Be social, without staring at your phone… Don’t be so afraid of the unknown. Don’t be afraid to admit that you’re wrong, or that you don’t know something. Google may have all the answers, but sometimes you have to figure things out for yourself.  Stop being so offended by everything. Embrace your flaws, and learn to love yourself, before you can eliminate the things you are ashamed of.

I’ll be back shortly with the “Daily Prompt” I just had to get this off my chest.

As always, thank you for reading!

I forgot to post… since Friday..

Hello, my friends! My micr-tour kicked my ass this week! Finally ends tonight, with a short acoustic gig in Montgomery.

I must say, though. 3 days in a row with great crowds was fantastic!!

I’m drawing a blank on the two most recent daily posts… maybe because it’s 5:30AM and I haven’t had any coffee yet… Maybe I’ll get hit with some inspiration later!

So, how are you all doing? It’s a beautiful morning. The birds woke me up at about 4:30… Of course I didn’t fall asleep until about 11:30… so, we’re functioning on fumes, here.

I just wanted to drop in and let you all know I’m still here. I haven’t given up on blogging yet!

Hope you have a great Sunday, I’ll try to post again!

-Joe