DARIN PLAYS SXSW 2001
Hi. Sorry it's been a while, but hopefully the new MP3 files you've downloaded will have been news enough for a couple weeks. Thanks to all who have sent feedback about the tunes.
Since we last spoke, I've vacationed in Santa Fe over Christmas, played a handful of gigs with this and other projects (mostly Love Supreme and Shane Bartell), and besides that I've mostly been doing two things: (a) recording, and (b) waiting to record. My co- producer Lars has been a busy man lately, working on at least five other album projects in addition to my own. But waiting for a session hasn't been so bad. It's given me extra time to finish up lyrics on songs that I've been writing as I record, instead of the other way around (most people tend to record songs after they've written 'em. not me.)
So my goal of having all the tracks completed by the end of February was accomplished. The sessions with Lars and Billy yielded four new songs, Gina Gardenia, Turning Into You, Zero Gravity and Boxing Day. All of the tracks feature my own drum, guitar and remedial keyboard playing, and they also feature the work of friends: Kenneth Dowling on bass, Derrick Morris on piano, Noah Lit on slide guitar, and the divine Trish M on backing vocals.
Finishing these tracks gives me time to prepare for my SXSW 2001 showcase. That will take place Thursday Night at Waterloo Brewing Co, Upstairs Stage, at 11:00 p.m. The lineup for this set will be myself plus Kevin Pearson (drums), Paul English (guitar), Kenneth (bass) and Derrick (piano). I'll be playing some of the night's material for the first time. In addition to my showcase, I'll also drum with Trish Murphy on the previous Saturday, and Shane and L.S. on their respective showcases on Wednesday, as well as a set with Renee Woodward on Friday, and possibly more. The last thing I'll have to do is make an appearance behind Hole in the Wall's drumkit on Sunday night, for a tribute to The Last Waltz. Should be interesting. Can't wait to find out who plays Neil Young!
After the madcap, daffy, fractured, ding-a-ling experience of sxsw is done, I'll be taking a deep breath and prepare for the David Bowie Hoot Night on the last night of the month. For details of all the gigs, check out the dates page.
Look forward to new pics and new music soon.
Happy St Patrick's Day.
I'm afraid I have grim tidings. Due to the less than positive response to the newly recorded material and dwindling attendance at live shows, I have decided to make some changes.
All plans to release the new album have been scrapped, but the master tapes, recorded live in mono to three-track 1/2 inch, will not be destroyed. They will be preserved as long as possible, but having been recorded on vintage nitrate-based tape, they will eventually disintegrate from exposure to the elements, in about three years.
All future live dates have been canceled. My band, which has supported me through thick and thin for five years, has been relieved, as I am no longer able to pay them. Even if I was, I'd still be unable to play since I sold off my guitars and amps to keep them afloat and pay off the recording costs. The drums are next.
Since there's no more gear, there will soon be no more gear page on this website. In fact, there will be no website at all. Darinmusic.com will soon be dismantled, so this is officially the last newsletter I shall write. I suppose I should take this opportunity to say how much fun I've had conducting semi-weekly correspondence on this page. I'd also like to express my gratitude to all who have given me feedback via email (especially those who convinced me to finally throw in the towel), and to those who have downloaded the mp3's, even if they didn't consider them fit to pass on to friends.
As for me, I'm pulling out of the music biz entirely. I've accepted a job teaching social studies to troubled teens at a "last chance" special ed facility in east Austin. The pay won't be great, at first, and the strict blue jeans/plain white t-shirt dress code will take some getting used to, but I feel this gives me a real chance to make a difference in someone's life.
I'm sincerely grateful to everyone who has lent their support over the years, but no one is more deserving of my thanks than my wife Sasha, who has been at my side at all times...
Well, she was last time I looked.
I swear she was right there a minute ago. Really.
May's newsletter comes a few days early (and a few paragraphs short), as I will be leaving town at the end of April for a two week tour. I'll be accompanying Shane Bartell and his band up the west coast and I'll also open for him on selected dates. This will be Shane's first tour as a solo artist with a backing band and the first to promote a new CD, a seven song romp titled "Reference". Incidentally, this album was recorded by the omnipresent Lars Goransson, and I helped out on drums and backing vocals. Not a bad piece of work, but a hard one to find if you're not in Austin. This should be a fun tour, though west cost tours mean spending more time in the van than onstage. Fortunately the sis was kind enough to lend us a TV/VCR to help pass the time. I'm looking forward to lots of Tenacious D, promised by our bassist Marcus Rice.
Meanwhile, my new tracks are now mixed and in the can. Last week we further improved the sound of the all-digital tracks by running them through a couple of faders on a Neve console and onto 1/2 inch analog tape. It's a sort of backwards way to make a record, but we get there in the end. So when will it be out, you ask? Good question. Currently I'm looking for an indie label to release it and that could take a few months. Sit tight; it's worth the wait.
By the way, I still have all my gear and stuff. Everything I wrote in the previous newsletter is a lie, except for the very last line.
Happy Mother's Day
THE ADVENTURES of BIFF ROSE and the RASTA PIRATE
I can scarcely remember a time without Biff. I was only four years old when I heard Biff Rose's first album. I dug the guy on the cover, a hip looking guy in red & white horizontal stripes, with Venice Beach somewhere in the background. What really hooked me, though, was the music. A playful voice that perfectly matched the toothy, moustached grin on the cover, projecting adult wisdom and childlike insanity, capturing the sunny, southern California idealism of the time. And then there was his piano playing, which probably discouraged me from playing the instrument myself for years 'cause I knew I'd never be that good. I was captivated. I would plant myself in the living room corner with my ear pressed against the nearest speaker, memorizing every note, every pause, every breath. In just a few weeks I could recite his version of the Joseph Newman poem "Paradise Almost Lost" perfectly (although I only knew it phonetically and didn't really know what it meant).
But as fast as he arrived on the scene, he disappeared off the map, and since day one I haven't found anyone who knows who the guy is (except David Bowie, who covered a couple of his songs in the early 70's). And then I went on tour with Shane Bartell last month, and to my surprise and delight, I discovered that Shane was actually a friend of his. Apparently the guy is a fixture at the Kerrville Folk Festival every year, right under my nose! I immediately made plans to attend. As an afterthought I found Biff's own website (www.biffrose.com) and dropped him a line, telling him we had mutual pals and we were headed for Kerrville.
The next thing I knew I was picking Biff up at the airport.
When I arrived I found my hero in the form of a little old man with a white beard and a pot belly, wearing a Planet Hollywood shirt and a skull & crossbones pirate hat with dreadlocks hanging from it, his black jeans tucked into black boots. I knew I was in for a unique experience, and sure enough, I spent the next seven days with a loony.
Needless to say, we hit it off famously.
I talked with the man for hours on end, listening to his funny, stream-of-consciousness, pun-filled ramblings and gradually putting together his life story: his New Orleans upbringing, his show biz beginnings as a comedian in Hollywood, writing with George Carlin and traveling with Steve Martin, his transition into the music business along with young David Geffen and his subsequent betrayal at the hands of Geffen's attorney brother (the Geffens live in mansions now, Biff lives on couches across the U.S.), his numerous appearances on The Tonight Show, the massive Billboard on Sunset Boulevard, his encounter with Charles Manson and the Family, his unwillingness to compromise his flair for controversy, his devotion to truth at all costs and the beating his reputation took as a result. Through the years he kept making records, each one a little wackier, and more brilliant (though barely marketable) than before.
So it turns out that I caught up with Biff as he was releasing his tenth album, which is the most controversial yet (especially to the grandma's from the 60's who are shocked that they can't play it for their young, impressionable grandchildren). Fortunately for me (and my sis), he still loves doing the old tunes, and we actually got to perform them together onstage in front of spellbound crowds in Kerrville and Austin. Best of all, my piano got a workout like it's never had in all its fifty years.
It's been a sort of homecoming, and at the same time, a right of passage. I've taken in an enormous amount of information over the past week, and believe me, brethren, it ain't all pretty. Some of it's paranoid, some of it's rude, some of it's smack-down demented.
But most of it is sweet, warm and invigorating, just like that first album.
Happy Father's Day, and Happy Birthday to Sasha (my pregnant wife) and Mom.
HAUNTED GARDENIAS the album
The new record now has an official title and a projected release date, September 18th. That's on a Tuesday, when all records are released. This means there will be a release party the following weekend, say the 21st or 22nd. Those details will be ironed out and presented to you in due course. But meanwhile, WHAT SONGS WILL BE ON IT? The tracks list is as follows:
Metro B, Ginger Granite, Masterpiece, Boxing Day (I belong with you), Turning Into You, Blackberry Plain, Flat, the Heavens Cried For You, Gina Gardenia, and Zero Gravity.
The album will be released independently and will be available right here at darinmusic.com, as well as other internet sources, and perhaps even at a record store near you. The handful of people I've played it for have given it a big thumbs up. Some can't take it out of their players, others want to join my band. But most just say "hey, good stuff!". That's good enough for me. Personally, right now, I think it's the best thing I've ever created on my own or otherwise. But that opinion will no doubt change in December, when Sasha and I have our first offspring. We don't yet know what it's gonna be, but I'm sure it'll be funny, if it's anything like its mom.
More news later.
I awoke late Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, to the sound of the phone ringing downstairs, several times, which I ignored as usual. Only when I found the large number of messages on the answering machine did I become concerned. Several of them were strongly urging me to get up and turn on the TV to watch the unbelievable events in New York and Washington. By 10:00 a.m. I was tuned in, but I had missed everything. Part of me felt sad that I wasn't up earlier to witness the awesome destruction firsthand, as it happened, so I could feel the shock, the disbelief, the horror, that had touched so many others. But there would be plenty of that to go around for everyone.
It took me a while to snap to the fact that my son will soon be born into a world much different than the one I live in. Like his grandparents, he will be introduced to a wartime consciousness. Unlike the previous era, this one is filled with confusion and uncertainty at the hands of an invisible enemy, capable of penetrating our borders undetected and infiltrating our institutions, our operating systems, and our society, with the ultimate goal of destruction and death for its own sake. What a scary trip to lay on a new generation of humans. How can we teach our descendants to let go of their crippling fear and paranoia when the unspeakable threat has become reality?
Since 1945, almost everyone has been anticipating a third world war, wondering who would start it, who would be the first target, and what kinds of weapons would be used. Those questions have now been answered. What is so bizzare is the irony of those answers. The world's only remaining superpower has been challenged by a force that has no military strength, no uniforms, no home country from which to strike, not even a citizen base to rally. It must rely on ingenuity, secrecy and bone-chilling ruthlessness, and those tools alone are enough to frustrate our victory for years to come.
If this experience has done anything for me, it has reminded me that there are things more important and more worth sweating over than record release deadlines. Yes, I'm behind and so is the album, BUT it's still coming. Although the official release date has been pushed back a week to Sept. 25, the big release party will still take place on the 21st, at the Mercury on 6th st. in Austin. Radio appearances are scheduled for that week, and the CD is getting airplay on four Austin stations, KGSR, KLBJ, 101-X and KOOP. Houston's KPFT is also playing it. Boxing Day, the album's fourth track, is the song getting the best response, and a radio edit is in the works. Darinmusic.com will soon have a link to its own online store which will sell both CD's as well as new t-shirts. Buy your way to heaven! See you on the 21st.
GOD BLESS AMERICA
HAUNTED GARDENIAS: NOW AVAILABLE!
We're all just giddy down here (well, it's just me, really) over the Austin release of the new CD. The event was kicked off Friday the 21st at The Mercury, and what a healing experience it was for everyone in the house. I was particularly pleased to see such a strong turnout on the night that every celebrity alive was on TV collecting money for victims of the Attacks. But people came, perhaps to get their mind off of things temporarily. I didn't help much when I dedicated "The Heavens Cried For You" to the people of NYC and Washington, but it was arguably the best performance of that tune I've done to date. Come to think of it, so was the whole show. A new standard of quality, without a doubt. It was helped along by the men from Cotton Mather, who kicked things off and made the rest of us want to rock (I joined them onstage for their final two numbers, "My Before and After" and "Vegetable Row"). It's great to have those guys back again, and we'll be doing some more shows together in October.
The CD is readily available here in Austin for now, but will soon be distributed throughout Texas and surrounding states, and on several online services, including this one. Keep checking in, and thanks for your patience. I'm putting this one out on my own, and things will take a little longer than normal, but it'll all be good in the end.
In other news, My sister Trish has a new CD out, an all-acoustic compilation called "Captured". All songs were recorded before live audiences here in Austin, and I am rumored to appear on a track or two. You will also find Trish's voice on a couple of songs on "Gardenias". To maximize our audience, we're combining our forces and playing a few acoustic shows together. This will be good for those who haven't seen us together in a while, and those who haven't seen us together before. We always enjoy playing together and look forward to more collaboration in the near future.
I am often asked, "do I have a day job?" Well, every musician in this town has one, or is living with someone who does. Lately, my day gig has been writing and producing music for commercials. Some show up on Texas radio, others show up on national TV. None of them sound like anything on my records, but all of them sound cool and different. This is made possible by Tequila Mockingbird, a music house here in that has great sound potential, lets me do whatever I damn well please in the studio and pays me for it. A finer bunch of people I couldn't ask for. Now, I know what you're thinking, and I understand. In another day and age, some would've called it selling out. Me? I call it paradise. Imagine working your way through college by going to Disneyland. It's creative, lucrative, validating, fun, AND there's great Indian food next door. I rest.
Peace, and a glorious autumn,
The year just keeps getting more exciting by the day, and life in D-land is no exception. The feedback from the new album is nothing less than flattering on a unanimous scale; my thanks to everyone who's written in, or called in during those radio appearances. "Boxing Day" is getting frequent airplay here, mostly on 107.1 KGSR, and yes, it has been edited down from 5:45 to about 4:15 to make it more attractive to DJ's. The disc is selling surprisingly well in Austin, considering I couldn't get arrested here before now, but lately the press has been good and plentiful, and the attention-grabbing artwork by Marcus Rice (bassist for Shane Bartell) has also helped the disc's overall appeal.
October saw another brief road trip with Shane and his merry pranksters, this time through the southern states of Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia. Although Shane tours can never be called lucrative (even he admits), the caliber of people we meet on these trips cannot be measured in dollars and cents. Each one of them is intelligent, hospitable and fun, and I look forward to meeting them again when I tour with my band. "When the hell will that be?" you ask. Ummm... I dunno. I'm thinking early spring would be the time to be on the lookout, but I'm gonna make it so before I start babbling. By mid-march I should have the new dad thing under control, and feel okay about leaving wife and baby for a while. The young boy, our first, is due to arrive in December. And that's real exciting.
But there's more excitement between now and then, more exciting than a World Series full of comebacks, blowouts and cliffhangers. More thrilling than hearing the U.S. Air Force Band recording my string arrangements for national network air (more on that later). And that is... a third trip the the UK! As with the previous ones, I'll be touring with Trish, but this time I'll be backing her on guitar and vocals. The tour will take us through London and Glasgow and several provinces as well, beginning on November 8 in Sheffield. We'll make a few radio appearances in London, and I'll be doing a show there on my own. Can't wait to go back. England in November is quite pleasant, and the fans come from miles around to catch the gigs. What devotion! They always have great things to say to us when we come through; everyone is overwhelmingly friendly.
I wonder what they'll say to us this time around?
It'll probably be something like,
"THANKS FER GETTIN' US SUCKED INTO A BLOODY WORLD WAR, YER F**KIN' YANK F**K!!!"
George was always my favorite Beatle.
As a young child, as young as four, I found his face the most intriguing among the Fab Four. The other three men were easy to define by their public images. John was my dad, Paul was my mom, Ringo was me, but George...I could never quite pin down. He projected such a serious exterior shield, dictated by the most authoritative eyebrows known to mankind, that just dared you to mess with him. When he sang "Don't Bother Me", he meant it, Goddammit. Inside lay a cool confidence and a dry sense of humor, but also a childlike flair for fun that burst through his armor the instant he cracked a smile. Even his wide-mouthed grin was one that screamed "I'm part of something really special". Not something elite, mind you - if the Beatles were anything they were classless, but definitely exclusive, and it was that exclusivity that made us all want so desperately to get in.
It's ironic that Don't Bother Me was the first tune that George penned by himself, for it would be a central theme of his persona for the rest of his life, every bit as much as his spiritual declarations of later years. He begins his hypnotic meditation piece, Within You Without You with the words "We were talking...", which makes us feel as though we've intruded on a private conversation...about us. Through While My Guitar Gently Weeps, he is looking out at the rest of us from inside his aura, marveling at the damage we've inflicted on our global village while he was in the studio minding his own business. Indeed, Harrison was lucky to see the world from an angle at which few have ever stood. At a time when he was working so hard to release his illusions of control, how distressing it must have been at times to watch the rest of society treadmilling on an endless cycle of manipulation.
That sort of disenchantment was no doubt reinforced by those inside his own camp. Being a creative force in the Beatles meant dealing with two of the biggest egos in show business. Although they were close and loving friends, Lennon and McCartney were nearly impossible to compete with for attention to songs in the studio, and they were often hard to please when working on their own precious tracks. But it is to Harrison's credit that so many Beatle albums flow as well as they do. Revolver is dominated by George's unprecedented three tracks on the disc, placed strategically apart to add a healthy dose of pepper to Paul's sugar and John's vinegar. His acidic "Taxman", the group's first political statement, is the perfect leadoff track because it best conveys the album's intended message: that the Beatles were dissatisfied with merely being fab and were ready to be ferocious. He practically saves Abbey Road, not only by contributing the two most positive and loving songs on the record, "Something" and "Here Comes The Sun", but also by providing the last bridge between a polarized John and Paul, whose songwriting partnership by now existed only on paper. It was Harrison, in fact, who first addressed the issues of peace, spirituality and a deeper understanding of love on the Beatles' records. It was only John and Paul that knew how to distill those ideas into simpler form for mass consumption. For that reason, George's songwriting skills remained upstaged and under-appreciated until the groups demise. It was no wonder, then, that Harrison's first solo effort was a triple album waiting to happen. The hugely successful All Things Must Pass included several songs that had been rejected by his old partners, perhaps because they told the truths that no one wanted to hear at the time.
The question most often asked of George was "what's it like to be a Beatle?" George's reply was usually "What's it like NOT to be one?" The argument can be made that of all the former Fabs, George took the most advantage of his freedom from the group. Not only did his songwriting style change more dramatically than any of the others, but so did his vocal and guitar playing styles, the latter making him the most in-demand slide guitarist in the industry. He seldom hesitated to take the spotlight on himself and shine it on others, be they Ravi Shankar, the Rhada Krishna Temple or starving families in East Pakistan. He also was the first to launch a separate career outside the record business, with the well-respected Handmade Films production company. And of course, 1971's Bangladesh fundraiser made him the pioneer of the all-star benefit concert.
The underlying force behind all of Harrison's post-Beatle achievements was a deep sense of humility. Since his first exposure to Eastern culture in 1965, he had felt a growing desire for a means by which to transcend his ego and feed his soul. The previous goals of money and fame had proven themselves shallow and unfufilling in a short time. There had to be something else. "It's not something you just stumble upon," he said. "You have to search for it." Unfortunately for George, his continuing quest for a higher state of being didn't guarantee him a long and peaceful life. Not even the best home security system in the world could prevent an attempt on his life by a psycho in 1999. But George was always matter-of-fact about everything, including death. George remained firmly grounded in the now, but he also believed that there is a balance of gains and losses in everyone's life, and his were most likely the result of something he did in the past. Though devoted to the search for God as he was, he always stopped short of holding God accountable for human events. He laid the blame for his lingering cancer battles squarely at his own feet. However, his untimely death carries a deeper significance than cancer awareness.
A lot of us knew that 2001 would be a year in which human spirituality was placed not only in the spotlight, but also under the microscope. The battle for our souls is being fought with the most outrageous of weapons, and also with the most serene prayers. This year we are all being forced to evaluate our beliefs and re-address the role of faith in our lives. The passing of George Harrison will hopefully generate more than just a boost in his record sales. With a little luck, his life can inspire us and help direct our focus deep inside ourselves. Perhaps then, we can see that we're really only very small, and life flows on within us and without us.
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