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Christmas Day 2017 - counting & appreciating the blessings we have 

It's Christmas Day - getting into the reflective time of the year and thinking of all the events, crises and happy occasions that affected my family as a whole, and myself individually. The last half of the year has been a very introspective one with a few family focused things that has really caused the band to take a back seat to everything. In many ways this post is also an apology to my bandmates and to our audience because most of the reason for our inactivity is because of issues befalling me, but we'll get to that in due time.

First Quarter (Jan, Feb, Mar)

The band had welcomed in bassist Marc Miller into the fold and we were full tilt going forward in prep for our first gig with the new combination at Louie G's in Fife, WA - working around Marc's attendance at NAMM representing his interests with Honey Badger and Regenerate Guitar Works, but we were killing it regardless. Around the 2nd week of Jan, John H (he of the drums) calls to inform that he's taken a nasty spill on his motorcycle and has suffered some damage to his shoulder. To make life easier for all, we decide to postpone the gig until John is better - he's going to physio and it will take time. In the meantime, I am told we're going to be one of the featured bands at this year's SeaProg Festival in June - headlining the opening night. While we were really concerned at the time about our fitness to play, as we get into April and our rescheduled gig at Louie G's on Easter Weekend (doh!), the physio is doing its job and John is able to resume practice by mid March. We also bring in a second guitarist in Art Bromage in March - he's a wonderful player and great person, a welcome addition!

Second Quarter (Apr, May, Jun)

April sees the band play Louie G's to a virtually empty house. I thought we could pull off a decent crowd on our own, but reality strikes and my assumption is proven false. I learn my lesson and we move on. The rest of the time is spent in preparation for our 70+ minute set at SeaProg June 2. For the most part a pretty uneventful spring, leading to a very nice gig in front of a full house! Progression Magazine in attendance - the journalist said she thought we were excellent, and many fans came to meet and greet us following our set.

Third Quarter (Jul, Aug, Sept)

A few things happened here - following SeaProg we decided as a band to take a little time to maybe go off and write new material or pull together ideas to collaborate on. After which I fell into a bit of a writers block and have been struggling to escape that black hole of futility. I myself had a rather large set of projects around the home to do, including exterior painting which challenged my fear of heights significantly. I also did another tiny remodel of my home studio, replacing my 29" ultrawide monitor with a 34" ultrawide and a new hydraulic wall mount for it. I had also migrated my PC from a tower case to a rack case which had challenges fitting the liquid cooling and multiple fans. I was also needing to adapt to fewer drives now as the drive mounts were significantly less. By August I got everything back up and running, with more room in my office and on my desk. Marc was also going through a full studio renovation so any chance of doing band related stuff was non-existent. Painting of the exterior took the better part of a month as we were mostly painting and back touchups by hand. We finished up during a very smoky Labor Day weekend, leaving the highest point (chimney) for next year.

Fourth Quarter (Oct, Nov, Dec)

Now we get into the truly hard part of this year personally. We'll start with Marc first though - he's enduring a great deal of discomfort with his hips and back, so much that he's not really getting any sleep. Doctor discovers a partially torn disk in his back, which first needs to be settled down and then surgery. At this time he's getting close to when they can schedule the surgery which would be in the new year. 

As for me - October and early November (really since June truly) my day job is completely focused on a huge data center relocation project which because my predecessors didn't really do their job is now incredibly complex and brittle/fragile. We have to move the components for a live real time production set of software serving 3000+ live e-commerce sites without disturbing them or interrupting business. The stress of that along with needing to sort out issues at home is profound - I'm not in the best frame of mind and music is low on the list of priorities. I still try to bang out stuff but it's all unsatisfying and feels sub par for me.

November 13 - my middle boy, 8 years old, has been sick with what we thought was the flu for 4 days and is not getting better. My wife and I decide it's time to take him to the Urgent Care clinic to see what's up, and they suggest taking him to Seattle Children's ER for some tests and scans. An hour later, we find out our boy is diabetic and in critical condition - high blood sugars, ketoacidosis and his kidneys struggling to try to get rid of the ketones. Three days in the hospital and then our entire lives as a family are changed going forward. Adapting to being on top of his blood sugars all the time, calculating carbohydrates and insulin injections, waking up three times each night to test him and make sure he's fine. It's now December 25 and even though we're in a routine and its getting automatic for Lucas and for all of us in the family, we still have the stress of being on top of this all the time. My workplace hasn't been as supportive as I'd hoped, as they remember the data center project that is still going forward but isn't getting 100% of my attention anymore, and that seems to be a problem. It's left me rethinking and continuing to ponder what I need to do going forward - one of the first things on the list would be for me to abandon this music project and reclaim time, but I haven't been participating heavily in the band project so that would simply be symbolic without making anyone truly happy. I could change jobs - and this is something that is more realistic as I'm carrying the load of 2.5 people at the same level as myself: being the Director of Software Development, acting Director of Information and Server Engineering, and also a half of a Systems/Network Administrator. All for a salary that is significantly lower than the median for any one of those Director roles. 

So we get to today - this week ahead I'm going to be working from home for my day job, and in whatever spare time I have I'll be trying to flesh out some strong ideas in my head for revamped and expanded take on HTFK plus some other material. I have my e-drums now complete and functional, albeit I need to tweak sensitivity and response a bit for use with Cubase, but they work. I'll need to pop around to Marc's to grab my bass that he graciously has been setting up (and fixing). And I'll need to play more - I have a nice used Epiphone Les Paul Standard that I've set up for Fripp's New Standard Tuning which I need to explore, and just pull some of the good stuff out and get it recorded. I had reviewed more than a year's worth of stems and snippets of ideas and found many which are worthy of further work, and so I'm going to jump in with both feet. 

If there's anything I could want for Christmas this year it would be for the following:

  1. For all my 3 boys to be as healthy and drama free as possible, and to live well. 
  2. For my wife to be as healthy and drama-free as possible, especially w.r.t. me and the boys. And to live well.
  3. For our extended family to be healthy, happy and drama-free - and of course live well.
  4. For my day job to recognize the difficulties and acknowledge them, and to adjust my pay to reflect my efforts and my value. If this doesn't happen then I need to move on to someplace that at least pays me market value.
  5. For my friends to all be healthy, have drama-free lives and live well. Particularly my bandmates and close friends - I don't have many close friends at all, so I really want to make sure you're all doing well.
  6. This is where I get somewhat political - I want strong leadership with ethics and morality to be in charge of this country. Fiscally responsible, but empathetic to the needs of our society and knowing that the best cure for most diseases is actually diligent prevention. Someone who knows the best and most effective way to a stronger economy and country is through universal access to the best education possible preparing for futures that haven't been imagined yet. Someone who knows that immigrants enrich our common society through both bringing new skill sets, but also through enlightening us by reflecting on our society through the eyes of another culture and different teachings. Someone with vision of more that just political special interests and donors, who can look beyond their own term and start paving a road to a more humane planet that can be both clean and prosperous for all.

 

Merry Christmas everyone! Happy Holidays to everyone else as well! Cheers and here's to better news in 2018!

End of August Update 

Writing is going slowly - I am continuing to build up quite the treasure trove of stems and snippets but nothing has quite taken off as of yet. My day job and aspects of my personal life are very stressful right now which really isn't helping - I'm either writing a lot in a melancholy open D tuning, or just riffing and sludging along on tired (for me) riffs or piano bits. It's not truly a writer's block but it's almost worse as I come up with some stuff that in another frame of mind or another time would just fuel a ton of output but at this moment it's falling flat for me. Alas, yet to find something totally inspiring...

The Alesis drum kit is at the 7 piece size now, the picture of it is below:

It's a nice solid electronic kit - the disappointing thing is the better quality hi hat trigger and pedal controller don't work with the Nitro module, and I should have checked on this before investing in the ProX Hi Hat. In the meantime I discovered I really like the Roland hi hat trigger/controller and am watching for a cheap 2nd hand one on Craigslist or eBay. I picked up the Alesis Trigger IO USB interface online, and it has enough inputs for all the pieces in this kit including the two for the hi hat - I'll be selling the Nitro module fairly soon or depending on how well my son does at school I might continue upgrading my kit and then gift him the original Nitro stuff to learn on. He's coming into my office quite a bit and making racket with this so it might be something that he and my other sons would enjoy and learn on.

I'm getting close to the end of a major project at work though - a big data center relocation and replacement as we move servers, switches, data storage and firewalls from Sunnyvale, CA up to Seattle, WA. When it's done it will be absolutely something I will be proud of but at this moment I'm absolutely miserable and stressed - some operational problems happen coincidentally with planned changes, which freaks everyone out and then we roll back the changes just to find out the issues were unrelated. Today's fun time happy path incident involved network changes on the Seattle side to facilitate completing some testing - after the network config was completed, just minutes later the SFO facility suffered a 3 minute network outage that caused one of the old systems to freeze up and our logging mechanism to choke. It took the entire afternoon and 5 engineers (incl myself) plus our System Admin friend to remedy this with a simple restart of the service. Living through weeks and months of this kind of thing is really wearing on me at this point.

One thing musical that could come of my own frustrations and writer's block is that I would choose to go forward with the Tributes 2 project - being able to work on my chops, hone my drumming a bit and continue tuning my studio would be a great thing. It would also allow me to not only bring the guys in the band into something that is productive, but even maybe some people outside my immediate sphere. Being able to reduce the stress and pressure of trying to come up with original material that is exciting and inspiring could actually result in new exciting inspiring original material through relaxing and letting shit happen. Don't discount anything before you prove it to be wrong.

Finally I leave you with best wishes for (what is in North America) Labor Day Weekend. It's the last hurrah of summer 2017 - and here in Seattle it has been a really very nice one - absolutely dry, sunny and for the most part very pleasantly warm with only a few hot spells. There's a lot of pressure from my partner to relocate to Southern California and the earlier the better for her, but even though November through May is really gloomy and oppressive with rain and thick clouds I still really love this area and while I might really love SoCal after moving there, I am very resistant to change. Next year in June is my 20th year here and all the cute local allusions apply to me - I feel like I've got moss and lichen growing on the leeward side of me, and most of the time the air is clean and clear with the bluest skies you'll find anywhere. I moved here from Toronto and felt like I got to somewhere that was more Canada than Canada (at least more than Toronto was) and the next few months will be difficult I think. Here's to trying to put together a very fondly memorable time while it lasts.

August and the back end of Summer 2017 

Quick updates from the chair in Hyperboreal Studios of Snoqualmie, WA.

The bi-annual gear purge is in progress, as I've sold off a couple venerable keyboards in the hope of both taking care of some lingering bills and also to spur pushing my creativity in a different direction. The most wonderful Numa Organ and my Roland Gaia both are gone - they're replaced by VSTs courtesy Arturia and the V-Collection 5 bundle. Soon hopefully the V-Synth XT will sell and I can then consolidate the remaining bits into one single 8U rack. As nice as all the external dedicated hardware is, I can write/record and play out live with all my beloved sounds in VST form on a laptop with USB or Thunderbolt DA interface and the USB Nektar Panorama 6 controller. Given that even with the more compact guitar rig I use, I still have two combos and three plus one guitars to take out - hardware based keyboards are a luxury I don't have room or set up time for.

The Arturia collection has been excellent - particularly the electric pianos (Whirly and the Yamaha Electric Grand) and the ARP have been a lot of fun. For many of the lead sounds the Moogs in the collection are excellent, but I've also fallen back to using the Minimonsta and the OB-Xa with their classic patches for leads as well as Taurus Bass Pedal tones. The Hammond B3 emulation on the V-Collection has been decent - I need to program the various drawbar combinations that I really loved (which were programmed into my Numa Organ) that represented the Keith Emerson, Rick Wright, Tony Banks, Jon Lord, Gary Booker and Rick Wakeman combinations that I used all the time. The presets just sound a bit weak to me.

It's also forcing me to explore more deeply many of the libraries and new VSTs I bought the last few years - Rev, Iris, Exhale, etc... and use those to inspire new avenues of creativity. Already hearing interesting things with the rhythmic patches in Rev that are driving ideas - I had been leaning on the classic sounds with the Gaia and Numa Organ way too much and not pushing anything inspiring.

I've also been building my Alesis based electronic drum kit - it's up to 6 pieces waiting on the 10" 2box mesh head dual zone trigger to arrive. That will become the snare trigger and I'll have my 7 piece kit complete with the Alesis Trigger io/Nitro module combination. The Nitro is proving to be pretty decent in terms of sending MIDI info to the DAW - very low latency and quite usable to play/record with. The Trigger io allows me to add more pieces to the kit - going from a 6 piece (4 toms + snare, kick) with two crash and 1 ride cymbal up to the 7 piece (5 toms) and more crash/splash cymbal imputs plus 3 zone ride. I can run the MIDI OUT from the Trigger io to the Nitro and keep it fairly tight latency wise. The newer Alesis tom triggers are also pretty decent - I have the two dual zone triggers as the top most toms, and the single zone triggers on the bottom 3 so I can use the rims on the top two for assorted percussion pieces as needed. I did upgrade the hihat cymbal to a RealHat cymbal - but I'm really looking at a Roland vh-11 right now to get better feel and slightly less ambient playing noise (stick noise). I'm going to give the Alesis ones a go for a while first - I have them on a real Olympic hihat stand right now and for all intents and purposes it's feeling pretty good. The last thing I would like to do is replace the single Alesis kick pedal with a DW double kick pedal or something similar. I'm keeping my eyes open on CL for that very thing.

Wife is giving me a hard time right now, so need to go. I'll hopefully have some things to post once the new snare trigger arrives - later gators!

quick thoughts on songwriting... 

I promise this will be short - I only have ten minutes to write this so it has to be...

Songwriting

For many months, in fact you could say the last 6 years I've been experiencing writers block - and in that I mean I've been really blocked on the writing part. 

Oh sure, I have videoed myself playing different ideas and snippets of things and then posted online. Wrote jot notes of lyrical ideas onto yellow business pads  Even started putting down random ideas into Cubase and tried to force things together to different degrees of success. But nothing that really opened up something really interesting as a writer/composer or compelling from the audience's perspective.

It's been really tough.

In the past, when I've hit these periods that seem to last forever when they happen but always have passed with incredibly fertile times bursting in - I've gone to past demos and snippets looking for inspiration. This time that well is predominantly dry though - what I had archived once that would have been excellent fodder has been lost in a HDD failure, stuff that included some really technical phrases and stems which could have been really wild but are lost to time at this point. 

So back at square one again.

This morning though I'm starting to see things slightly differently because of something that has happened when sitting down to work on a piece of music that I think has great potential, but I haven't found the right next bit to put it. That's not to say I don't have various options and ideas, but nothing seems to fit what I'm wanting to put there (its somewhat abstract, but when I find the right thing it usually has that big AH HA moment for me - everything else up to that moment just falls flat...)

As said, there's a lot of things I'm trying out there but nothing is working. So I decided to open a new project and just record that bit. Then another on another new project... and so on.

After 2-3 hrs I now have 5 different song projects with different bits on different sound sources - an aggressive B3 bit in 7 that's very cool; a downcast minor thing using grand piano that isn't a ballad although it uses a standard device in the progression identifiable with ballads; a heavy guitar riff thing programmed using an aggressive bass synth with a percussive quality; and so on...

So my writers block might not necessarily be a writers block, but an overwhelming abundance of ideas that are impossible to categorize and assemble.

In fact, there are so many bits that the riff or progression is written using a particular instrument and sound (e.g. - the B3 thing is using an overdriven tone using drawbar settings derived from Pink Floyd's Echoes) but some of the really great potential is changing the instrumentation through sections of the song such that the main theme might be played using an assertive string patch layered with aggressive piano for attack and modified rhythm pattern in the next, then during a "drop" it's arpeggiated with a delicate grand piano and fretless bass playing counterpoint... 

But there are so many just individual ideas clamoring for attention right now it's really hard to think of nuances and arrangements just yet. I just know I have to throw them down on disk and then sort through them later. They have to go into separate projects with basic set ups (time signatures, bpm, etc...) so its not just turning a cassette player on and going, but I still need to capture everything and then catalog and backup to my NAS. Every time I sit down at the keyboards or pick up the guitar I get these things coming out so I need to follow the musician's adage and hit record on everything...

Anyways - its a bit torturous right now doing exactly that as I have so much churn at my day job, my personal life is gearing up for some really big changes over the next year which will affect professional and music life, and well just life is never settled into anything that would allow me to clear the mind and focus on any one thing. It's exhausting and in addition to the above condition as described - it's been affecting my emotional and mental well being rather negatively. Having this minor revelation has relieved me of thinking that my well has run dry, but the opposite condition is not much better in many regards.

Ok - I've vented now. I'm really hoping for a lot of things to resolve but at least I feel like one small part of my frustration has been reduced in its' impact. Thx again!

Home Studio now ready for production/mixing work 

It's the Monday after a Saturday evening show, and there's a few things to comment on so I thought to drop a line and give some updates.

We played really pretty well to an almost empty house...

I'd put out a lot of notice over the two months since we booked the gig - here on this page, on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, ReverbNation, etc... plus Louie G's posted on their website and we used our own "friends and family" network to spread the word. Sadly though, we had really low attendance after getting responses from quite a lot of people who said they were coming to hear us. After the last three gigs, spread out over many months (at least 6-7 since our October 2016 show) I'm getting an idea of the ratio of commits to actual attendees - it's roughly a 10:1 split of those who say they will come to those who actually show up. Huge thanks to those who came out to see us - it was really fun to have you there and it made for a much more intimate setting than originally intended - it's just tough to play to such a big space with only the intrepid few to check us out.

Now, that said - we got to test drive our new lineup in a live setting. Art Bromage on guitar is excellent - adding the right touches to the right spots, learning a lot of new material in a very short period of time (three weeks?) and really fitting in very well. And Marc Miller on bass is a huge addition for us - he and John locked in on the rhythm section was simply massive, as even with the inevitable first gig jitters and mistakes as we were trying to remember cues and changes the band sounded really awesome on most of the tunes - I got to put the guitar down and concentrate on singing for a few tunes, kicking back to hear how everyone played together during the pauses in vocals. This will be a powerful unit - the best I've truly ever played with.

Next up - SeaProg Festival - Day Zero (June 2, 2017)

Paraesthesia are the host band (headliner) for this opening night of SeaProg 2017. Here's the schedule for the evening, hosted by The Royal Room in Seattle, WA:

Day Zero, 2 June, 2017 - The Royal Room

7:30pm    Moon Letters 

8:30pm    Pinto Wagonfire 

9:30pm    Omni 

10:30pm  Paraesthesia (of course you're here already, no URL needed)

We're very excited to be playing as a part of this show - guaranteed to be incendiary and I think we will really do the night justice, elevating and hit it on all cylinders, completing the show by blowing the doors off of the theater. You should plan on attending - it's a free event promoting the Festival which has excellent shows each of its' three days.

New Music...

Now that we've gotten our first show behind us, and with our set definitely going to focus on the originals exclusively, we can talk new material. The band is planning on meeting this coming weekend (April 22nd) without instruments and start sharing bits and pieces of things we've each had floating around with each other. This is the truly fun part of any band project - the collaboration, the sharing of our ideas and works, and then assembly and polishing. I have said to the guys that I want to perform new material at SeaProg, so we're going to jump in now with both feet and get something together - whether its an epic piece of music or a short format piece of brilliance, it's an exciting time for us. I'll be posting stuff as it develops...

Finally - the production studio is ready for prime time...

The last of the software has been installed - at least the last of the known software. I still need to install CD Architect and Power Director 16 for the videos and CDs but the audio related stuff is ready for prime time. I've been starting to lay down more stems of ideas that have run the gamut of Pink Floydian atmosphere, to acoustic guitar bits and pieces, all the way to the heavy grinding power metal and progressive stuff. Getting the various bits and pieces into a format to hand off to the guys for their thoughts/opinions and then incorporating into group compositions will be possible now.

Additionally - for anyone looking for a Mix Engineer for their own bands or solo compositions - I'm available now on a limited basis. Reach out through this website or through Facebook and we can talk about what you need and what you have ready to go, and how long it will take for me to achieve your vision. 

Thanks again, hope to talk with you again soon. Cheers!

Both "Tributes 1" and "The Sound of Thoughts" have been released! 

Forgive how late I am to announce the party, but it's been busy here in the music kitchen as we've been both cooking up some Rock (see what I did there?) and also kicking up rehearsals and using that time to develop the newer songs in the set list. Mea culpa!

Tributes 1 was released on July 10th - and it's available on Bandcamp

The Sound of Thoughts was released on July 17th - and it too is available on Bandcamp!


This is a bit of an exciting moment for me as I don't think I / we have ever worked quite this quickly before - three albums released in the space of 6 months is pretty great I think. Sure two of them are reissues and one is a compilation project - but fixing up the tracks and then mixing and mastering the two additional projects since Fine Line came out has been pretty tense at times. But everything sounds really great, and I've achieved what I think is the definitive versions of the two original albums and some fine versions of classic songs on the Tributes album.

Next up - Onion which is a full end to end reproduction. Except for having to endure the pain of writing and rewriting material, Onion will essentially be a brand new album as I take away some of the songs that were used on the two true releases, and replace them with really old original material re-recorded and fixed up from the 80's and 90's. In the end, the album could be considered a view into my own musical development with the added benefit of years of skill enhanced experience in playing, singing and engineering/production. Most of the material works in the modern context as well - and there is a lot of evidence of my own influences readily identifiable in the music and melodies. I'll be trying to pay tribute to my past bandmates in the reproductions - Marc Koenen's keyboard work on the Babble and Rhetoric songs, and all the people I played with in blues bands, prog bands and cover bands, as well as the commercial sessions I did back then.

After Onion gets released, work will go forward in earnest on the new album with the working title "To Sleep, Perchance to Dream..." and that should be noticeably different but also showcase some big changes to writing and our playing. I wont get into it, but just wait until we get to the point of pushing demos and samplers of the new stuff - it will blow you away.

Last word as always - live shows are being booked and looked for! If you are a booking agent for the Seattle / Bellevue area or within 100 miles of us, please reach out and contact me as we'd love to play for you. Similarly, if you're from elsewhere and would like to book us - lets talk as I'm sure we can find a way to make that happen.

October 14 - Finaghty's Irish Pub and Restaurant, 7726 Center Blvd SE #110, Snoqualmie, WA 98065 8 pm

Thanks for being there and being a fan! Cheers!
 

A decision to release the "Tributes 1" album as a digital release June 10, 2016... 

Since the IndieGoGo campaign ended, I've really gotten down to massaging the heck out of the tribute songs that were promised to the IndieGoGo patrons. 

(btw - I haven't forgotten the patrons and the "Wonderful Persons" list promised. I'll be getting to that today or tomorrow to get it up and ready for y'all)

Anyways, with respect to the tribute recordings - let me state that, up front, only a tiny proportion of them were intended to go out to the public. Most were essentially exercises intended to tune up my home studio and get familiar with new recording or music gear, as well as to get my "chops" back into shape. The ones that did make it out on a product of some kind (an EP I released in 2008 that had the 4 tracks NDV did drums on) were to fill in space where the original material ended up being short. I think a CD should be at least 40 minutes long (the length of a standard vinyl LP) and if it's less, then it's not worth the effort. 

So on the original EP I included my studio takes on "What is and what should never be" (Led Zeppelin), "Phasors on Stun" (FM), Aqualung (Jethro Tull) and Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young). All were pretty rough but I thought to include them as a snapshot of what I was trying to achieve in terms of sound and arrangements. Today, none of those versions of those songs would get past my home studio monitors - they're all very rough and vocally pretty bad as well.

BUT there's been a lot of interest from a vocal contingent on Facebook based on our take on Phasors on Stun (Paul and I finished that one off after the EP came out) about a full release of nothing but tribute versions of classic songs. So as mentioned I've spent some time revisiting and reviewing what we have on the hard drive in Paraesthesia Central - and for the most part with relatively little new effort we can put together a 68 minute release of the best of the tribute songs I have in the archives.

The tracklist includes:
  1. Eleanor Rigby (Lennon, McCartney)
  2. Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young)
  3. Aqualung (Jethro Tull)
  4. Fooling Yourself (Tommy Shaw - Styx)
  5. Xanadu (Lee, Lifeson, Peart - Rush)
  6. The Halcyon Days (Martin, Chatwood, Burrows - The Tea Party)
  7. Ramble On (Page, Plant - Led Zeppelin)
  8. Killer Queen (Mercury - Queen)
  9. Behind Blue Eyes (Townshend - The Who)
  10. Badge (Clapton, Harrison - Cream)
  11. Fortress Around Your Heart (Sting)
  12. Watcher of the Skies (Banks, Rutherford - Genesis)
  13. Phasors on Stun (Hawkins, Nash the Slash - FM)
This is one bad ass album of material here - it would be one of the best mix tapes (for you children of the 70's and 80's) that ever existed and covers off a wide range of musical styles while satisfying everyone's need to recognize at least 60% of the material being played. 

There's also a diverse list of people who are playing on these songs - I'll post the list once the songs are all completed, mixed/mastered and uploaded to Bandcamp. I'm setting the release date to June 10 just to be sure in my OCD ways that I've gotten the chance to make improvements in the recordings that exist. Eleanor Rigby, Phasors on Stun, Cinnamon Girl are all uploaded to Bandcamp right now so you have the chance to audition the tunes before pulling the trigger.

The digital download will be $9.99 - this is to cover off paying the royalties to the rights agencies plus our time. 
The physical CD-r
(*hand duplicated by yours truly - with an option for a personal honey-do list to be enscribed onboard) will be $15 + s/h. I'll work on artwork of some kind for it - I'll get a preview of it up here before release.
Buy the "fine line" CD and the "Tributes 1" CDr for a combined price of $25 + s/h - this is the best deal of all since you'll get the full replicated full color Fine Line CD that all the stores get, plus this hand duplicated CDr from me and save $5 off the total.

So there you have it. 
 

Tribute song remix/remaster and some notes about the songs themselves... 

Onwards and upwards - part of the effort going forward is to remix all of the tribute material that will be given away with the CDs. Some of the songs are really good as is, but others need that extra effort - new vocals or new instrumentation, or even new sound sample sets for drums and mellotrons, etc... 

The Cinnamon Girl tribute redux turned out very well IMHO - new vocals, new instrumentation and the tempo slowed down to be the same as the original (106 bpm) plus using Fender amp models and the Svilpacaster tuned to double drop-D really got it up to the next level IMHO. 

Another song that is included in the set of tributes is Aqualung - getting a classic song like that one right is crucial as people get very critical if you don't hit that level. I went back to redo some overly enthusiastic vocals on the original, and I'll be redoing the lead guitar and solo to make it seem less "meandery" than it did. It has the same notes for the beginning 8 bars as the album, but from there I just floated around in pentatonic land and that was too apparent when listening to it today. Drum sounds are improved, new bass guitar will go down and the piano has been tweaked a little to make it push the groove instead of laying back in the pocket as it had been before. 

I'll be redoing vocals for Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man), Fortress Around Your Heart, Watcher of the Skies, Xanadu and adding a couple new tributes in Teacher and Tin Soldier to the list. 

I'll have the final list of tribute songs that will be sent out to the IndieGoGo supporters likely after this weekend.

For those who would like to jump onboard and take advantage of buying the CD and also receiving the tribute songs - until the end of May anyone who spends $10 or more on the Bandcamp site for the album will receive the digital download of the tribute album as a part of their purchase, and anyone who spends $25 or more for "Fine Line" album will receive the full hard copy CD plus a CD-r containing the tribute songs.

17 days remaining... 

Hey everyone - please take a look at the sidebar to the right of this blog entry and seriously consider supporting our IndieGoGo campaign. As of 5 pm Tuesday April 12 we are 11.8% of our $2500 goal with 17 days remaining in the campaign. I have confidence we'll at the very least achieve half our goal by April 30 which will help fund the full mastering and a short run of 500 replicated CDs with full color inserts and tray liners - but we would really love to be able to get to our goal and here's a list of the things that we'll be able to do with that money:
  1. Full professional mastering by Steve Turnidge / Ars Divina
  2. a Glass Master CD that we will have handy for future replication runs
  3. 1000 replicated CDs - that's the real deal, the same product you buy off the shelves from record labels by bands like Muse, Steven Wilson, Spock's Beard, etc...
  4. produce a music video of Mirror Mirror - enough money to rent some professional lighting equipment and a second digital video camera for a couple days
  5. update my video editing software to the latest greatest version (PowerDirector Pro)
For those who sign up and donate anything to the campaign, I'll add your name to an assembled list of people deserving thanks. Your support first and foremost is one of the most important things for us - it's what keeps this larger music project moving and provides the motivation to write and record new material. Without an appreciative audience and supportive fans, there would be no point in continuing with our effort.

fighting the pirates and file sharers - a story of illegal distribution of my music 

Needing to write this makes me really sad and angry.

I would have thought that after almost two decades of watching the majority of recording musicians and songwriters go from being able to sustain a living (truthfully, some 0.01% were very prosperous) to barely surviving we would have seen a big decline in people file sharing - especially with streaming services Spotify, Pandora and others offering free streaming and eliminating the need for illegally sharing music through bittorrent and dropbox, etc...

I'm very wrong though.

On Thursday March 17, someone with an email address of pf1977@mail.ru purchased our album "a fine line between..." from Bandcamp.com - this is generally a good thing, and especially since album sales have been extremely slow any sale helps us out.

In this case, it didn't - within a few short hours the album was compressed into a RAR file (Robertsv2016.rar) and then uploaded on several file sharing sites and .torrent files pointing to the rar file published on many sharing services. I had noticed something odd when traffic to this website increased almost 200 times - again normally a good thing - until I started checking the referring links and followed them back. I don't think it's any coincidence that the hosts are predominantly located in Russia - Russia, Indonesia, China, Cypress and other countries don't care about following copyright laws and the copyright owner has to jump through a number of hoops to get the stuff removed.

The sites include filejoker.net, bunalti.com, batzbatz.com, plixid.com, getmetal.org, mediaboom.org, rutracker.org, and I'm sure many others. Each of these sites is contravening copyright law and in violation of DMCA regulations publishing files and archives of music that they don't own copyright for and were not given permission to publish by the copyright owner (me and the guys).

There are in fact disclaimers on all these sites claiming they have no responsibility for validating ownership of files being shared on their service - Google/YouTube have found out differently though and have been validating works and removing content that isn't owned by the person posting. But since these other services reside in essentially lawless nations, the theft of music, film, etc... goes on.

Since this was discovered, I've been sending DMCA emails demanding the file sharing sites and hosts remove the file above as a copyright infringement. Each of these sites has had at minimum 200 downloads of the album - effectively taking away legal purchases from us. Even if only 1 in 100 people would buy the album, we're talking hundreds of dollars stolen from us.

I've been losing money on the music side for decades, and I will quit if there is no hope of people assigning value to what I do. I know there are other musicians/bands/artists out there who feel the same way - we express and feed our passion by writing, playing and recording, but if we cant feed ourselves and our families then there is no point in continuing to lose money to people who steal from us.

If you've followed a path from one of these sites to this website - thanks for visiting and reading. Please take a moment to consider that we've invested thousands of dollars into the recording equipment, software, musical instruments, and even performances/recording time of the people who participated - if you enjoy the music and would download new music from us in the future, you should consider at the least making a donation or contribution to our recording fund. Even $1 as a token amount sent to our PayPal account in appreciation for the music you've downloaded will make what was an act of theft into a purchase - I'm putting up a PayPal donations applet on this site to allow you to do that easily.