Oh where, oh where has your little Joe been

Firstly,

I’d like to apologize for my absence. Though my followers are few, you’re my followers.

My youngest child was born unexpectedly at the end of June (5 weeks early!) and my life got pretty busy for a while!  My wife and baby are both healthy. Her big sisters are all super proud, as am I… for the strength and fortitude they showed through a slightly bumpy ride.

That being said,

I am going to make a better attempt at writing posts!  There’s been a lot of good going on in my life, and I’ve got a lot to share!

I’ve been playing a lot!

My acoustic shows have been plentiful and full of great crowds of people. I’ve had more people coming to ME for bookings, as opposed to having to seek them out myself.. Which is great!!

I’ve begun teaching

my wife, mainly, to play guitar! She’s a fantastic singer, and she also wants to take on the role of a solo performer. We’re also working on building a nice, completely mobile, 2 channel recording rig, that can be used in studio, or live performances… but more on that later!

I’ve been trying

to push myself back into the world of social media… I’ll be posting some cover videos and even some of my original music, as I get situated with everything..

That being said:

Thank you all for hanging out and not writing me off yet!!  I am going to make a real attempt to update this weekly.. I doubt I’ll have time for daily posts, but we’ll see what the future brings!

As always, thank you, and have a great day!!

 

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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!

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

Oppression, in Uniform

Uniforms...

Any blue collar worker wears them… I’ve worn many: From Pizza Delivery, to factory work, writing parking tickets, doing maintenance, and now my job as the Dispatcher of the city of Williamsport. Nothing makes me feel more restrained, at my workplace, than not wearing my own, comfortable clothes.

There is nothing like the joy of removing my work boots, pants, and shirt; then putting on my own comfortable jeans, chucks, and a T-shirt, it’s like a small victory every day!

Which brings me to this point: Just another thing I love about being able to do music, as a second job… wearing whatever the heck I want!! There really are a lot of perks to being a “working musician.”

  • I get to do what i love, and get paid for it…
  • I get to dress as I please, and people can’t tell me otherwise…
  • I am the guy with the microphone… This has more power than you can imagine.. I say things, and people have no choice but to listen. I can make jokes, tell them to give the bartender money, entertain them, and they have no choice because I am the loudest one in the room!

Back to the topic at hand… Nothing makes me feel more like a “number” or a “drone” than having to be dressed like the people I work with…

I even have to dress like I”m going out to pave, even though I”m in the office… Bunch of crap, but it pays the bills!

Of course, in the same breath, I played in the marching band in High School, those uniforms were uncomfortable, but damn we looked good as a group.. So, from a “team” perspective, I suppose it makes sense.

Ah well.. I suppose I can’t complain too much.. The real men in Uniform are our military services. Those guys have to endure the harshest conditions our world has to offer AND They have to do it while in uniform. So, hat’s off to the guys who REALLY sweat their nuts off! Just remember that when you’re ready to complain about what you have to wear to work. There’s people out there who pretty much live in their work uniforms, and do so WHILE putting their lives on the line!

Thanks to the great men and women who protect us, once again. It can’t be said enough, especially by people who claim to be artists, and are free to express in this world.

Have a great day, readers!

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.

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