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!

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

It’s like they know I need to lose weight

Portion Control

Uh oh… This one’s aimed right at my gut…

Look, I’m not a mammoth of a human being, but I’m a hell of a lot heavier, than I want to be. Can I get an Amen, who isn’t?

Taking a desk job has just about been the literal death of me, and things got very real at my last annual checkup. I’m all about getting high scores in the videogame world, but blood pressure of 165/90-something is not a high score to be proud of.

So, what have I done to fix it?  I didn’t do body wraps, or THRIVE (I have my own rant about that crock of garbage), or any of these gimmicks…. I started exercising and controlling the amount of food I eat!

Now, I love food… a lot.. I love cooking it, smelling it, eating it, everything about the endless combinations is fascinating to me… Unfortunately, when both you and your wife are exceptional cooks, you tend to eat a lot. Here’s a few things I’ve tried, to curb my tendencies to overeat:

  • Buy smaller plates: This sounds ridiculous, but it works. 8″ paper plates, from Sam’s Club, are the way to go. Only fill them once, with whatever you have for dinner, and JUST EAT THAT
  • Stop Buying Lunch: Spending 6 dollars a day for lunch at work, is just ridiculous. Plan something tasty and that is healthier than your current eating habits, and stick to it!  OR, Since you didn’t eat so much for dinner, take some of those delicious leftovers!
  • Cut Down On Drinking: I’m no alcoholic, but I do love to unwind with a tasty beverage in the evening. Whiskey and Vodka don’t have the calories that beer does, but mixing it with coke is waaaay worse. If you HAVE to have a drink, try mixing it with Coke Zero, Pepsi Max, or Sprite Zero. Less calories and sugar = less fat.
  • Stop Eating Garbage: I know, you work hard. You don’t feel like cooking, and it’s just easier to order out. Not only is it expensive, it’s really REALLY REALLY unhealthy.
  • Vitamins & Water: Remember, your body tells you it’s thirsty, the same way it tells you that you’re hungry. I drink about 3/4 – 1 Gallon of water A DAY.  In the same breath, you’re probably not getting all of the vitamins you need.  Find a good well-rounded multivitamin and TAKE IT EVERY DAY!

    Here’s what my wife and I started doing: She did some research and found a pile of delicious crock-pot meals, then made up a large list of ingredients (we stuck to pork, beef, and chicken proteins with similar ingredient recipes). We then went to the Grocery store, spent less than $300 (I know it sounds like a lot, just bear with me.) and managed to make 32 meals out of it, that are frozen and ready to stick in the crock pot. No extra cooking involved, just toss it in, go about your day, minimal preparation, and we eat GREAT.
    * Buy crock pot bags, they make this all so much easier.

So, there you have it. You can do it, if I can. I’m down about 10ish pounds from where I was, and as I get more active in the Spring & Summer, hopefully I can reach my goal of losing 35 pounds.

Have a great day! Sorry I kind of fell off of the face of the planet.

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

Impressive impressions

Impression

 

What does it mean to leave an impression? This is important to me, as I try to carry myself in a professional light, as a musician and entertainer.  I know so many musicians who are just… slobs. They dress poorly, show up late, act like children, and honestly just make me want to make an impression on their face… with my fist.

That being said, the bar is set pretty low, in my area, as far as musicians go.  In fact, when my wife met me, she was leery because I was a ‘musician.’ Most musicians she knew, before me were pompous, arrogant, unprofessional, dirty, and most of all impolite.

I’m not saying I’m the most gentlemanly person on the planet, but if you’re going to do what I do, and be somewhat successful, you need to get your shit together and act like an adult.

What does that mean?

Show up to your gigs early:  Trust me, you look like a total tool, when you’re trying to rush around and set things up.. That’s when you make mistakes.  Nothing turns a crowd away from a band faster, then having microphones squeal and there being a large ruckus where the band/solo artist is setting up.

Dress the part: I’m not saying you have to be in full rockstar garb all the time, but try to look presentable. You’re holey Led Zepplin Tshirt from 1981 is not impressive. Wearing a nice button down shirt, jeans that aren’t falling off of you, and looking relatively well kept are not hard things to do.  Now, If you’re in a 90’s grunge band, and you’re playing at a venue, go ahead, wear ripped jeans and flannel..  I’m focusing more on the acoustic aspect of things. I’m pretty sure Dave Grohl isn’t reading this blog, so real rock-stars need not apply.

Be respectable: Walk into the place, without a chip on your shoulder, find the nearest bartender/server/whoever is in charge, and figure out where you are to set up. Say please and thank you. Order a drink, pay for that drink, and worry about what’s free later on.  REMEMBER, they are a business just as much as you are. You’re not doing any favors by drinking and eating all of their food for free.

DO NOT HAVE A RIDICULOUS GUEST LIST: Especially, if you are playing with other bands and charging a cover. Pick one: your girl/boy-friend, your favorite roadie, your corgi, I don’t care. Don’t expect to get your whole entourage in to the place for nothing. If there’s no cover, that’s fine, don’t try and get everyone free stuff, while you’re playing. Again, the venue is a business, and needs to be respected as such.

There’s just a few tips on leaving impressions, as a musician. I have so many of stories of groups that have done some seriously asinine things, and I wonder how they even manage to book gigs (most of them don’t anymore.)

Remember, live music and music venues need to work hand-in-hand to be successful.  Don’t expect them to do all of the promoting. I know you’re too busy changing the world with your music, but making a Facebook event and inviting your following only takes about 10 minutes.

Alright, I’ve rambled on long enough. What other tips do you guys have, to leave great impressions?

 

-Joe

I can’t figure this out…

This isn’t so much a post, as a “How the hell am I supposed to do this?!”

I absolutely, for the life of me, can not figure out how to get my site to properly display my Twitter feed….

I’ve tried the widget, I’ve tried direct HTML, I’ve tried everything!!

How the heck does it work?! Help!!!

Dehydration and Rock & Roll

Happy Monday…

What. A. Weekend!

My band played the Lifting Little Lives benefit this weekend, and what I remember of it was great!!

Lifting Little Lives is a local nonprofit organization based out of Milton Pennsylvania, that raises money for local children, with big needs!

My band, Audiobox, chose this group for many reasons.
• The money all stays local, So we see its effects in our community

• The people who run it, are some of the best people we’ve ever had the pleasure to         work with.

• The organization helps promote our struggling music scene. (This should be key         for any musician!!)

• All of us are fathers, and we understand that our children are the most important        thing in today’s society.

That being said, they throw one heck of a party! The security keeps it safe for everyone, and the connections I make with other musicians, are generally very long term friendships!

Also, there’s great food, beer for anyone staying there, and just so many great times to be had!

That’s why I named this blog, the way I did. I generally drink a ton of water, usually about a gallon or more a day… This weekend that water was replaced with beer & Jameson. Phew… My poor body is in recovery mode…

Not only did I play an awesome, all original set with Audiobox, I also was the emergency backup bassist for local heavyweights “Aftermath.” I was honored to tickle my 4 strings with them, and it was a fun set!  On top of all that, Audiobox also did an impromptu acoustic set, between two other acts (make things transition smoother.)

Anywho, it was a great time, and if you have a minute, check out Lifting Little Lives, and let them know that what they do, is very important to the world.

Are there any local charities in your area, that you think go above and beyond the call of duty? Let me know! At the very least, I can give their Facebook pages a like!

As always, thank you for your time, sorry I didn’t post yesterday, I’m lucky I could even move!

-Joe