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

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!