Friday, April 29, 2005

Whip smart?

A slightly grey Friday morning is adding to my mood. After watching some of the President's press conference last night and reading The Nation this morning, I'm trying to comprehend just what were people thinking by electing W.? Actually, it isn't even so much my ire with the President; I'm thinking in vitriolic terms of Tom DeLay, "The Whip", the filth-covered House Majority leader. I get so infuriated thinking about his dealings and his taunting/flaunting and flagrant "I can do whatever I want" attitude towards allegations, investigations and utter disregard for the laws and regulations set by the Houses before his dictatorship. I can't even write coherently right now--I'm already worked up and am unable to think straight. I'll make this brief--the same way Newt "Whew, it's hard being an asshole" Gingrich hounded Democratic leaders that even had a mere whiff of scandal out of their offices and subsequently had to step down himself due to shady dealings, so should DeLay be taken to task and brought to prosecution for all his lawlessness. Enough with turning a blind eye for the Republican Party; the so-called "defenders of the faith" (there's a phrase to strike worry into those of us who still hold sacred the Constitution) have to be aware that DeLay's unwieldy actions will invariably cost them the majority in the mid-term elections next year. Then again, maybe they don't--maybe they won't--and that will be a good thing, when the balance of power shifts back to the Democrats. I'd love to see them standing around scratching their heads saying "what happened?". Pray with me on this.

Finally, a "weekend off" from an overabundance of activities. Was originally going tonight to Joe's Pub with Liz to see Richard Barone (with a special surprise reunion of The Bongos--one of my favorite bands from our developmental period), but having been under the weather and the two of us devoid of energy, a quiet night at home is more the order. No Punch Line business this weekend either, which I will use to my advantage by again trying to get it together with the keyboard part for you-know-which-song. I think tonight, as I approach the apartment, I'll surprise Liz with a nice bottle of wine so we can settle in for the evening with bad T.V. and some good conversation.

Enough to do for the next 48 hours anyway; groceries, etc. tomorrow, gym and laundry Sunday--if there's any downtime, plenty to read. I need my batteries to recharge--the next few weeks (even from this distance) are looking hectic. Do I hear the siren song of caffeine beckoning in the background?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Scum surfin' on a putrid tide

Actually attempted to post yesterday; just a few random thoughts, as I went home almost as quickly as I'd arrived at work. Was feeling -uh- "seasick" and figured the best and safest place to be was at home. I can take having a cold and it won't stop or slow me down from my daily routines (including going to work, gym, etc.), but when it comes to stomach ailments, I prefer the comforts of the apartment. Nonetheless, feeling better today and hoping this was just a minor bout of food poisoning or a slight virus. Oh, and the attempted entry was lost in the ether, so it's really a moot point. It didn't annoy me (as it might do if it was another time, etc.), since I wasn't feeling really up to par and was writing as an exercise to keep my mind off being ill. It sounded forced and utter bullshit anyway--you know, writing for the benefit of others when I prefer to write with clarity. Gastro-intestinal dilemma = lack of concentration, mentally = why bother?

Another unpleasantry about feeling as I was yesterday vs. the usual kinds of bug that one picks up is that I was pretty much stationed on the sofa, watching T.V. This annoys the fuck out of me, as boredom creeps in very quickly. Watched two movies--one which I'd already seen, but there was nothing else on and one which I rented and suspected (quite rightly) would be nothing short of lame. I'll not even bother to mention their names as they aren't worth the time. Couch inertia is aggravating.

Because I'm not at 100%, I'm not going to the gym tonight; sounds like an excuse, but it isn't. I'd really prefer to be at my best for my physical Monday. Besides, we're going Sunday morning and once we get back into the routine proper, I'll be at the gym Tuesday night. Like I said before, it's been a month of "vacation" (insert tongue firmly in cheek).

Didn't really concentrate on much music yesterday--did have the guitar out for a while, though; keeping my fingers nimble on the riffs and fills to things like "See No Evil" and "Can't Keep Away" -- we'd talked about covering these on Saturday and it beats sitting around doing nothing. I couldn't even entertain looking at the keyboard--the bugbear of "Bitter Sweet" lingers, at least for now. The thing about covers, which is a good idea, is that we'd have enough for each live set that we can change them regularly without having to learn new ones as we roll along.

At least today shapes up to be a great improvement over yesterday--my appetite has returned (albeit somewhat gingerly) and I don't feel the feverishness of the last 24 hours. The sun's been shining and I'm well-rested. Will watch my intake very carefully and take it easy.

Maybe more tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Centrifuge in my head

Got to hit the gym tonight. Six days to my physical and with the way things have been on hyperspeed as of late, I'm still trying to catch my breath and get back to normal patterns--sleep, eating, exercising, etc. I've been on what I consider an extended "mental spring break" throughout this month and I'm tightening the reins again.

Spent some time in Synchronic East last night, clearing space for a CD player so I can re-learn the keyboard lines to "Bitter Sweet" and now "Inside" by playing along with the recorded versions. It's slow going and a bit frustrating, but I also realize that it's been 8 years since I did those demos (it had been only 3 years between the initial versions, when I wrote those songs and then reconstructed them). "Inside" is the easier of the two songs to figure out, but just the same, when we get to that next recording session (which I know is bound to be the last, as there's nothing else in terms of major elements/tracks to be recorded), I want to be ready and able to do this in a minimal amount of takes. Focus is the key.

Listening incessantly to The dB's (still), Television and my beloved That Petrol Emotion--still the greatest band in the world (to me) after The Beatles. Finding the mixture of shimmering pop and weaving tapestries of guitar. Since we've reached the conclusion of this record, I'm looking for the right vibe for the next one. From the outset, the next batch of songs are far more aggressive and built for live performance--some stark (yet melodic) pieces; stripped down and heavier.

That's another thing--I'm now getting the itch to play live since we've reached the 1st major goal of completion. I think we can work out a mixing schedule around time to go into the rehearsal studio and really become shit-hot, which (without false modesty) we seemed to become last time and quickly. The one show last summer was good, all things considered (Bob just joining the band; picking out and learning songs, rehearsals on the fly, etc.) -- now we're seasoned as a unit and I think these songs--as it stands now--would be even more powerful live. Then add some of the newer things, which we haven't even touched and it could be pretty exciting. Again, just thinking out loud.

Shining sun in these windows is really taking me elsewhere, mentally. I think I'd rather be in the car, en route down South. This would be the perfect time of year for a road trip; would love to see my friends down in Norfolk. Anywhere is better than New York at the moment. Such an oppressive feeling. Still, so much to do and such limited time.

Monday, April 25, 2005

How is the air up there?

Delicious morning; sun pouring through the windows when I woke up and the breeze off the water while walking to the (ecch) ferry was completely invigorating. Today's shaping up to be yet another busy day, considering many folks are away for a convention--glad to be feeling so up.

Begged off the gym (!) yesterday; was so wiped out from Saturday (which I completely put down to all the caffeine consumed between Friday night and Saturday, all day) that I couldn't face getting up so early, etc. Instead, tried to get some extra kip; enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and then headed out to do our groceries and my dad's. No great stress involved since the shopping was minimal; had a fab lunch at Jose Tejas (came to mind after Bob and I had been talking about quality local Mexican restaurants) and was home for a peaceful afternoon. Had some chores once we were in and decided to not do battle with a crowded laundry room--I'll take care of that tonight, amongst other things on the daily agenda that need tending to. Damnably, wound up nodding off during Deadwood; I'll watch the balance of what I missed at some point tonight.

Pretty stark and simple today, I know, but hey--this weekend was busy. This is just the morning exercise--as I didn't go to the gym yesterday, but will tomorrow, I'll post today just to keep the mind and words nimble. Can't neglect everything.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Home is...

I'll make it brief as per yesterday's recording session--"Inside" was done in an economical amount of time and sounded (at the first few listens) good. There are a few overdubs that need to be done; the keys and 2nd guitar still needs to be done on "Bitter Sweet", but that's all. The main recording of the album is complete. I was given a "rough mix" sequenced version--it's really a "wrong mix" version--and I couldn't even listen to it. I can't make judgment on the quality of the overall recording with versions that were scrapped at the outset (first take vocals, etc.); it's pointless, so it went right in the trash. Rather than become more irate, I have to laugh since it's almost become the norm. The only way to diffuse after all that was to watch
"The Spongebob Squarepants Movie" (two thumbs up). Oh, and hey, Bob--thanks again for lunch--next time we have dinner, it's on me, dude. You're too generous.

Driving to and from Bloomfield and prior to that, taking the train to Hoboken on Friday, I still find myself in the conundrum of living on Staten Island until the end of the year. Coming back last night to a warm, loving home is great, but Liz isn't kidding--it's depressing that it happens to be here. Hoboken is someplace I've always felt like I was home the moment I came up from the train, and Bloomfield is the kind of place I'd like to raise a family when we've decided it's time. It leads me back to the scenarios, daydream, etc. that Liz, B., J.W. , Bob and many of my other friends have discussed in the recent past--the notion of having a house, making it a home and being able to have not only pride of place but to be glad that everyone wants to come over and spend time. Home is what you put into it; what kind of vibe you give to those who enter your door. While there is a steady stream of Liz' and my friends coming here regularly and as comfortable and welcome we try to make sure everyone is, I just wish it wasn't here--this physical location. Doesn't put anyone off from being repeat visitors (obviously--look at our social calendar), I just dislike the downward spiral of the building's appearance. But then again, I'm only thinking out loud and we only have another three, four months before the move search becomes serious and actions are taken.

And speaking of social calendar, I could use a weekend off. These last few weekends have been a whirlwind of activity and next week is no different. Dinner and a show Friday; friends over for dinner Saturday... wow. I don't think we have time for ourselves until Liz' birthday weekend.

Enough! Too much thinking on a Sunday morning.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

More coffee, please

Sunrise on a rainy Saturday morning and I'm still not quite awake; having gotten in at 12:45 and finally going to sleep at 1:15 will do that to you. Fortunately, there is no after-effects from a night out at Maxwell's as I did no drinking; only coffee the entire night. Was a great and refreshing walk to and from the PATH; 11 p.m. and Washington Street was still teeming with life. I love Hoboken. 20 years on and the memories remain the same.

With all the caffeine consumed (8 cups--not decaf), you would think I'd have been bouncing in my seat all night or wide awake, but that wasn't the case. If anything, it was a subdued Punch Line meeting--I was there to enjoy conversation with Bob and Chris afterwards, but was all business as far as I was concerned when they arrived as it was the last band meeting as we move into the home stretch of recording. Laid out the plans--discussed the artwork and design as Rob and I had conceived at The Undertones' show; decided on target dates and deadlines so that Chris can work his schedule out/around it and hopefully, this now will lead to us finally reaching the end. Chris seemed to be on a weirdly obsessive wind-up about the Mets vs. the Yankees and then talking baseball trivia--I know he and I touched on baseball and trivia briefly while on Y.M. Thursday, but just the same, it was odd. Maybe it was the beer. Was a bit concerned about leaving the two of them at Maxwell's as they started doing shots of tequila after pounding back the Bass all night. Dropped my damn cell phone on the pavement as I was walking to the train after calling Liz to let her know I was coming home; I think I have to buy a new one.

In a short while, I'll be in the car en route to record. Got to try and remain in this almost-zen-like state to do this final session; at least it's the last one we do under the circumstances we've been recording through. I'm relieved that I'm not pressuring myself to lay down the keyboard track to "Bitter Sweet" today, as I know it wouldn't be up to standard and that would only add to the distraction and (ultimately) aggravation. Breathe out now. Am poised to do "Inside" the way I intend to--a performance I will be proud of. Just need to stop along the way and fuel up on Starbucks (it is Saturday), bottled water and green tea.

It's grey out but not raining--not yet. I wonder if there is a kernel of truth to the fact that everytime The Punch Line has to record, the weather is horrible. Is that some kind of omen or just a cosmic joke?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

What goes on?

Not sure what's happening, but I cannot access this blog page on my Netscape, which is what I usually use. Very strange and slightly off-putting. Trying to access these pages has been difficult all morning, even by switching over to I.E., which I've never been a fan of. I keep being told it has something to do with the cookies. Oh well--perhaps they'll fix my computer later if I ask for the fiftieth time (I'm not exactly the most adept when it comes to tech stuff)...

Short gloat; bad loss last night. Enough said.

Still waiting to hear back from Chris and Bob, concerning tomorrow night and Saturday's session. Not worried; just want to have the plans laid out and solidified. Thankfully, most of this cold is finally over--a slight weirdness in my left ear, but I'm sure it has more to do with sinuses, etc. Was actually able to slightly flex my vocal muscles last night. Ran through "Inside" a few times, acoustically. Also tried again with solidifying the keyboard parts on "Bitter Sweet"; unfortunately, I'm still not feeling it. The important thing (while I'm slightly musically frustrated) is that I'm not vibed out at all (a carry-over from last time, perhaps?) towards recording on Saturday. At least there are positives to be found towards the next 48 hours for The Punch Line.

Planning on hitting the gym tonight (as I did on Tuesday). It helps build up my mental health a lot more now than it did even before. Feeling so worn out all week has been (putting it mildly) an annoyance, but at least the exercise will help, as it always does.

Nothing much else to report--this posting is really a test to see if someone hasn't done something to my blog page. We'll see.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


I just want to gloat for a minute, especially since this cold has not yet left my system. NOT seeing the Mets last night (old familiar story with this Time Warner Cable - Cablevision war) but seeing the ESPN News "blips" about my team knocking 7 home runs (including David Wright's 1st career grand slam) put a smile across my face. After hearing about how the Yankees can't seem to win and how George Steinbrenner is angered with his multi-million dollar team, I can't help but revel, even for a moment.

Haven't been to a ball game in a few years. I live exactly one block from the Staten Island Yankees ballpark, but I would never lower myself, unless the Brooklyn Cyclones (the Mets' local minor league affiliate) come. I really need to get out to Shea as it's been too damned long. I think the last time I was there was Opening Day, 2001. The tradition was always myself, Keith and a few of the other guys from Atlantic would go. Once again, those glorious days. But I do need to get back to my playground.

Beyond that, I wish this crud would disperse. Ugh.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Warm for the cold

Still feeling ill. Just a headcold, but a hindrance, nonetheless. I did get some disturbing news about a friend of mine who recently took ill. Get well quickly, B. ; your presence is needed here and sorely missed already. Many of us are not feeling at our best, yet today, I'm heading to the gym after work as I've been remiss in the last two weeks. I am firmly entrenched in my disciplines and routines and need to get back to where I was not too long ago. Plus, I have my physical coming up in 3 weeks.

Listened through to Chris' mp.3 drum tracking for "Inside". Sounded great, even with the rough demo playing under it--gave the song a full life. I spent time last night in Synchronic East practicing through the keyboard part for "Bitter Sweet". I'll need time tomorrow as well, because I don't think I'm going to have it 100% by Saturday. I almost feel like (and this is strange, coming from me) we are being a bit rushed for Saturday to complete the recording of two songs; one in parts and one in its' entirety. I don't think I'm coming down with the "Punch Line session stress", but I certainly don't want to have an album that we've labored over and lavished with a lot of love and detail, finish up on a note of rushing through just for the sake of getting it done; that's not my m.o. and if anything, has always been the root of my dislike of just about every record I've been involved in--Two Minutes Hate, The Punch Line, Smile--all sped up and finished half-right. We have a band meeting scheduled for Friday night; I'd like to see what we can do be certain that this will not become a hurried debacle. "Inside" is a powerful song; it deserves the same amount of attention as the other nine songs.

Come what may, I enjoy the company of Bob and Chris to no end--not just musically--and everytime we get together at Maxwell's, the room is automatically filled with good vibes. Even when we're there conducting business (and every time we've gone, we've done just that; it hasn't been just for laughs and drinks), the business gets done under nothing but positive lines. So this really is more of a meeting to finalize the album's schedule and in turn, a celebration that we've reached this very high milestone in the band's history. Like I said, when the three of us get together, it's always been nothing but good times and great conversation. Not to rhapsodize on our collective youth, but Maxwell's has always equalled great memories, old and more recent. And Maxwell's is one of the key places in The Punch Line's group history, so I'm really looking forward to this Friday. I'm going to try and leave here early as I'd like to actually drive up, rather than take the PATH (much as I actually enjoy it), so I can get home early and not be shagged out for the drive up to Bloomfield.

Listening to both The dB's "Stands For Decibels" and "Repercussion". Putting myself in (yet again) method acting mode. It's also fantastic music for blue skies (ferry rides, especially). I have a sense of confidence that The Punch Line album does capture some of that feel. Since I've been in such a mood of reflection toward this album, I think I was able to take the best elements of the bands who've had the most profound impact on me over the years. This album has bits of The Beatles, The Buzzcocks, That Petrol Emotion, The dB's, Husker Du--the list may well go on, but by working in this fashion and listening with a keen ear to one particular style has helped shape this record into our own.

Not that I really need to say it, but since we're at this point of the album, it's the beauty of how this particular line-up of The Punch Line was able to achieve what the other versions did not/could not. Bob and Chris saw the songs and embraced them and put their stamps on them; this was a group effort in the truest sense. Add to that, Chris and Bob sang lead vocals on songs that I had always sung, as my belief in them to convey the emotions necessary was correct. Again, they took these songs and gave them a full life by putting their personalities and talents into the performances. I really do appreciate it; I'm glad I was able to do this with friends and to find a reason to want to play again. Mostly, I just love the two of them; they're my friends and I'm very glad to not only call them friends but to have them as my musical comrades-in-arms validates this reason to do it one more time. I don't recall having as much fun in any of the other bands. So I'm almost ready to close the book on " get to the other side" and start looking at the work that lies ahead, post-release.

Damn the Mets. A mere tease. Almost glad that I can't watch them at the moment.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Down to the wire

An amazing weekend in so many ways, yet marred by me waking up yesterday morning with a severe cold. I'm taking Airborne now, along with echinacea, Advil and Ricola throat drops. It's helping, but it's a drag to feel this way, especially with such magnificent weather.

Where to begin the recap? Brian, Liz and I headed up to Maxwell's Friday night (ample parking--serendipity baby!), loaded on caffeine; The Sexy Stud was already there, waiting for us and we commandeered a center table upon dear friend Rob's arrival. Had a great meal; many beverages consumed; laughs ensued and a chance for a few moment's conversation with Mr. D. O'Neill. The Undertones were better than last year--I know Bob and I both felt the power; a traffic-free drive home and off to bed. Early morning Saturday wake-up = the first full live Arsenal match I've had a chance to see all season, along with Brian; off to Starbucks for the morning's extra fuel and a laid-back day of (some) clothes shopping, amazing burgers and great conversation. Just hung out at home Saturday night, talking and watching t.v.; breakfast out yesterday, with some negatives--i.e. an obnoxious waitress who after taking our orders, then tells me "we don't have any oatmeal" when she's bringing everyone else's food. Uh--you just lost a customer. Took Brian back to Metropark and we headed off to do our grocery shopping, etc. Laundry last night and a chance to try and rest, as this cold kicked my ass most of yesterday.

Another stunning day--yes!--as was the weekend. If all this wasn't enough, Chris e-mailed me an mp.3 of the drum track for "Inside" (title by default?); I have to listen to it, but as he's done his homework, so must I. This coming Friday night, we have a band meeting scheduled and then Saturday will hopefully see the completion of " get to the other side". So once I'm home tonight (unless I just leave work a little early--I'll see), I'll listen to the mp.3 and practice through "Bitter Sweet" and "Inside"'s keyboard lines. A lot of work and I don't mind. Trying to return to a sense of discipline again; tomorrow and Thursday night--gym; careful with my eating habits (two weeks until my physical) and trying not to let this cold develop into anything more.

That's the story for the moment. I'm sure once I'm feeling up to par, I'll delve deeper into some of the conversations that took place over the weekend. Knowing the people I do and getting to spend the time that I did--as on Friday night--makes me feel very lucky.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Closer than close

Been trading e-mails with Chris this morning, trying to solidify the details towards next weekend--it really does seem to be the conclusion of the recording sessions for " get to the other side". If this is so, I'm very happy about it as I think the finished product will be what I've been striving for -- quality, energy, melody, multiple vocal harmonies -- basically, all the elements of what I like to hear in a pop record. And I think The Punch Line captures all of it well. A lot of work coming up in this last session, undoubtedly. As I told Chris in my last communique, if we're all riding the same wave as we have been with the last few sessions, then this should present no difficulty in completing. His prep work is starting now, with tracking the drums for me to pre-approve; Bob is already learning his bass line for it--I certainly know my parts and it should go fairly quickly, especially with the rhythm tracks being done expeditiously. As far as the short-term goes, he's even suggested that we begin mixing on the 30th, which would be great if we could do the two weeks in a row and give ourselves an extra bit of space as far as mixing goes. How much of a process this will be is a guess, but I do know what I would like a fair portion of these songs to sound like, once mixed properly.

What to do?!

Not a big surprise, but I'm already looking towards the next Punch Line album. Can't help it. Sifting through/re-visiting/re-editing some of the songs that I want to be the body of the album is the first step. Some of the songs need to be properly demo'd (or re-demo'd); some of them are ready to be explored in their current form. I'm keenly aware of having all the songs ready, selected and rehearsed well in advance of the next round of recording. This 1st album was a re-learning curve for the three of us; even though this permutation of The Punch Line was newly-formed, it is (in my mind and not-so-humble opinion) the one that has had the greatest firepower for me. It's also the one that's lasted longer than any of the prior incarnations! And I'm fairly optimistic that when the time comes to set the table for the next album, the songs will be tight and it will take us less time to create an equally great product.

With that said, it's a proud thought for me that Bob and Chris took these songs and gave them their love; it's something I appreciate wholly. In the final analysis of this first album, I'm not so concerned with what anyone thinks of it--I'm more concerned with my original goal of it being an album that I would actually take out of my CD collection just to listen to--that's my criteria.

So with all these positives for next weekend, this weekend looks like it's going to be great. It's beautiful out today; no department dinner, so I will get home and take care of the last bits of cleaning for when Brian comes tomorrow. Seeing Bobby and Rob and some of the others tomorrow night at Maxwell's will be brilliant; the band should be as great as they were last year.
Saturday is our day to take Brian around; Sunday should go smooth with a breakfast out and the minor chores to be done. Obviously, postings here will be few-to-none.

So now I go in search of lunch; Chinatown is two blocks away. Steamed pork bun or won ton soup?

Have yourselves a great weekend; it should be magnificent.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

This and that

Today is the 16th anniversary of my mother's death. I don't intend to get maudlin or weepy over it; it just dawned on me this morning. Last year, I actually stayed home from work to be alone and think about it in the peace and quiet of solitude. It was a grey, miserable day. This morning-- sunny, cool, delicious. And I don't feel anything about it. No more no less need be said.

Looking forward to the end of the week. It's been good; I seem to be surrounded by positive vibes, both in The Punch Line's circle and with my friends/extended family. A busy stretch, to be sure, but I seem to thrive more and more as I have X amount of activities, etc. on my plate. On that musical high note of the moment, Chris sent a very rough first mix of "Bitter Sweet" (sans keyboard and second guitar, naturally) and I have to say, I'm pleased. Obviously, it isn't done, but if it sounds this good this early, I'm hopeful that the end result is the desired result.

In getting off the ferry the last two mornings, I came to the not-so-stunning conclusion that I will not miss Staten Island one iota. I've exhausted my supplies and ideas on how to enjoy the place I grew up in; it's really become alien to me. The people seem to be such awful cookie-cutter cliches of gaudiness and audacity with an over-abundance of uneducated ill-manners. As Liz and I were driving across the Island last night on a rare mid-week coffee date, we rode through the richest, most exclusive area, Todt Hill. All I could think was "you may have money to live in this neighborhood, but it still doesn't afford you taste or class". Yes, I am a snob and I am not apologetic about it. Better to associate with no one than riff-raff. Say what you will, but lowlife/white trash is neither entertaining or acceptible in my world. The best thing about that is I don't come from money. Just good parents.

Once this week is over, it's back to strict discipline and my regimented workouts. I have to confess, with all that I have going on around me this week (department dinner, Brian's visit, etc.), I haven't had the energy to spend the time at the gym. For once, I won't be feeling guilty as time just isn't on my side and I have been very good about my dietary habits. That doesn't excuse me from keeping in step with my fitness/well-being. Every now and then, I have to cut myself a little slack.

Can't wait for June--iBook! I received an e-mail yesterday for a pre-order of Tiger (OS 10.4), but I'll be getting that with the iBook anyway. Just makes me more and more anticipatory. I know once I get it, I'll be able to really shape the whole Synchronic Entertainment thing the exact way I want it in terms of organization, etc. That and Wi-Fi will free me up when I need to work alone in the studio room or not be in Liz' way when she's trying to diffuse from the workday by trying to watch TV in the living room.

Funny--I used to get excited when new albums came out. Now I'm amped about a computer. Once again proving my earlier theory...

Oh, and Britney Spears is pregnant... why does anyone give a shit?

Monday, April 11, 2005


Even though I'm in the office, my mind is on The Punch Line. Music; a sense of rejuvenation and the upcoming WORK that we have to accomplish--it's a great feeling. One more recording session; mixing, photo shoot and the wrap-up of the design... so much to do in so little time. I've e-mailed the guys to schedule a formal band meeting to discuss the above sometime late next week, which equals a good night out at Maxwell's.

It helps the soul that this morning has been as beautiful as it is. Crisp, cool, f-r-e-s-h air, even in the office. Keeps me awake and sharp; it isn't particularly busy this morning, which frees me up to think/write coherently.

Let me get one thing out of the way--the current Top 10 list. Just so you know:

"King Of The Hill" -- The Minutemen
"I Will Dare" -- The Replacements
"Hate Paper Doll" -- Husker Du
"New Gods" -- The Meat Puppets
"Gimme Gimme Gimme" -- Black Flag
"Can't Keep Away" -- Sector 27
"Feel Like Makin' Love" -- Bad Company
"Day After Day" -- Badfinger
"Dreams Are Free, Motherfucker" -- The Minutemen
"Confusion Is Next" -- Sonic Youth

A bit of a mixed bag, for certain, but I have my reasons.

History lesson: Sector 27 was Tom Robinson's band after the dissolution of TRB (1 & 2); they released one album in 1981 on I.R.S.; I'd seen the videos on Rockworld late one Friday night and was blown away, yet never bought the damn album. I think the world of Tom Robinson--a visionary; a courageous human being and a damned fine songwriter. Sector 27 lasted only the one album (after which, he recorded and released what I think is his masterpiece, "North By Northwest" in '82), but in '96, a CD of the albums' tracks plus unreleased bonuses appeared. Bobby is a fan of this album and re-introduced me to it, bless his heart. Spent yesterday afternoon remembering how good it was/is.

Should be an easy week. Only four days of work; the weather is supposed to remain like this and we get to see Brian this coming Friday, for the weekend. Not forgetting how much fun Friday night is going to be. Simple pleasures? You bet.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Memory man, part two

What a morning. The sun pouring through every open window of the apartment. Liz had to go to work today, so I've eschewed the gym as I'd rather not go without her (no, I'm not getting lax). Already showered, dressed, went out to move the car into the parking lot and bought the New York Times for the first time in ages. I have another pot of coffee brewing and now is the time to sit with my thoughts--in the most perfect setting I could hope for.

Was a hectic day yesterday: out at 8:30--first stop, Starbucks; grocery shop for us, then my dad and then off to New Jersey to run errands and have a fun, relaxing lunch. Apart from the necessities, et al., that one winds up coming out of Target with, I also wound up finally buying the first music that I've purchased this year--I do believe this is my record--longest period for NOT buying CD's. While the record store seems in a state of flux, it's the last, great independent store based around my musical preferences/tastes. It has to be said that the day ended on a frenetic and some what down note as our 3 year old cat, Midnight, needed to be rushed to the vet center as we noticed a large and frightening patch of fur missing along with what looked to be a rash--thankfully, she's fine and will be 100% in a few days. Nonetheless, it took the wind out of our sails for an otherwise great Saturday.

As to the motives in buying those CD's--following along with the previous posting, I've been having many conversations with folks about the "American Underground" scene and I realized that it was necessary to finally get those seminal albums on CD, as my vinyl copies are sadly beaten to shit. As "Do You Want New Wave Or Do You Want The Truth?" ripped through the car speakers, I explained to Liz that this was the why and how The Punch Line came to be.

As soon as Marc and I had gotten wind of those albums as they were being released, we knew (instinctively or otherwise) that this was where we needed to go. No more pretending to be British; no more pretending to be something that we couldn't be any longer -- we knew that these bands had what we were looking for. They were all closer to us in age (unlike our First Wave heroes, who were substantially older than us); they didn't look dissimilar to us -- they looked and acted like the dudes we went to school with -- and they sang and spoke about the same things we were singing, writing and talking about. We couldn't relate to England and it was liberating. We weren't ignorant--we were students; we were reasonably intelligent and aware for 18-year olds from the middle-class suburbs. Why pretend to be who we really weren't? And so we embraced this explosion of sound and art like a long-missed relative.

We could see these bands almost every week. The shows were plentiful and inexpensive; the bands were accessible and unpretentious. They hated deification and we loved them for it. We made many friends in the "scene" and spent many nights drunk or high, hearing great stories and sharing thoughts with like-minded people that embraced us equally. And it was this inspiration that led us to go from being Two Minutes Hate into The Punch Line -- christened on May 18th, 1986, when my then-girlfriend asked me during a phone conversation "have you come up with a new name for your band?". We were playing nothing but covers by Black Flag, DC3, The Minutemen, Husker Du, etc.; as we hadn't begun the metamorphosis, we weren't who we became yet. As I was about to answer her, I turned my head to sneeze and glanced at my parents' dining room table--lying on it were a pile of albums, The Minutemen's "The Punch Line" was on top and I said to her "yeah--I did--The Punch Line. What do you think of it?" and she said "that's great. It sounds tongue-in-cheek political" and I knew this was it. When I saw Marc the next day, I asked him and he said "well, that's it, then, isn't it?". And that's the truth. No funny stuff. That summer, I wrote "The Wild Flowers" and the rest is history (and for the record, I don't hate that song--I'm just really tired of it and the next person who dares say to me "well, that's the best song you've got" will be rewarded with my boot right in the throat. Can you possibly be more insulting? As if I never evolved as a songwriter. Then again, as my wife, my cousin and just about every one else has said, "Every cunt's a critic". Okay, enough editorializing).

My point is that to hear those incredible albums again, after such a prolonged distance, was emotionally uplifting. They still gave me a smile and a rush of excitement, as they did 21, 22 years ago. Liz said it's all that matters and she's right. So for that alone, it's overdue, but to Bob Mould and Mike Watt, thank you for it all. Most of all, to D. Boon--I never met you, but you were a friend and your blueprint helped shaped us to be. Bless you.

Rather than sermonize any further, I'm going to have another cup of coffee and put on "Meat Puppets II". Now listen to me: go re-introduce yourself to the music. The music is what's it's all about--it's all it's ever been about.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Memory man, part one

Over the last year or so, many new friends and acquaintances have asked about some of my past life in music. It dawned on me that I actually now have enough experiences that equal "stories". Being in the mindset that I've been in recently, I thought I'd relay a few in writing.

"The first time" or "What the fuck was that?"

click here to see corndogs!

When we were still teenagers, just after the first few Two Minutes Hate gigs, I can remember Marc and I at a bus stop, saying how we wanted to get away from the pseudo-Mod thing. I had picked up The Aquarian since R.E.M. was on the cover and started leafing through it to see what bands were coming to town. A few that didn't sound too familiar popped up: Husker Du. The Replacements. The Meat Puppets. The Minutemen.

All these bands were releasing new albums that week; R.E.M. had only just released "Reckoning". This was a moment, whether or not we were astute enough to realize we were going to allow ourselves to be swept up in. This was where American kids would reclaim the mantle of original powerhouse, guitar-driven music that wasn't light and disposable. Marc was immediately intrigued by Husker Du and the falling-over-themselves critical praise that "Zen Arcade" was getting. Another friend of ours, Bagman, was keen on The Meat Puppets. My oldest friend (to that point), Keith, hooked onto The 'Mats. And I hesitated, although I was cautiously drawn to this trio from Pedro. Especially as their new magnum-opus, "Double Nickels On The Dime" was released to rave reviews and comparisons to Wire. Hmmm.

Marc got "Zen Arcade" and immediately abandoned English-based pop. I joined him for the ride, but I was still smitten with R.E.M. and had let my hair grow, etc. to be more "psychedelic" (insert laughter). But one pot-hazed afternoon, while watching the late-lamented and much beloved U-68 (the only over-the-air video channel), the clip for "This Ain't No Picnic" came on and I was transfixed. "What the fuck was that?", I laughed to Marc. He didn't know--he was howling and we were high anyway. Three of the most disturbed looking mo-fo's I'd ever seen--especially the bouncy fat guy singing and the mental patient bass player with the google-eyes and pumping fist. This was The Minutemen? Holy shit. Fucking intensity like nothing I'd ever heard before.

Say what you will. Maybe it was the drugs. But I think it was the patience and the curiosity that sucked me right in, once I saw and heard that band. So Marc had the Huskers and I had those dudes from Pedro. Now we were going to move forward in the direction that we were supposed to. And with influences like those two as the cornerstone, we killed Two Minutes Hate off and gave birth to The Punch Line...

And I wonder where that name came from?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Look, know

Talking with a friend of mine yesterday, we were discussing diets and exercise. He'd noticed that I dropped some weight and looked more toned (to which I'm grateful for his kind words) but was surprised by my ongoing battles with food, etc. His curiosity was in what kind of diet I'm currently maintaining and what I keep in my cupboard. So I thought (as any good reporting rock musician would), here are my "survival items"--for the basic times at home or in illness, snowstorms, etc.:

Chocolate bars
Peanut butter (the creamy kind) and for those moments, grape jelly.
Soup -- I prefer the "standards"
When ill, Gatorade
Always have to have a few cans of tuna fish -- I'm a snob and must have the solid white in water
Various herbal teas
Honey -- again, in illness or with peanut butter and banana (talk about kick ass, especially on 7-grain bread)

Various cereals, be they oatmeal, grits or standard breakfast cereal. Admittedly, I also have a thing for Kellogg's breakfast bars and Pop Tarts.

Always, orange and cranberry juices are in our fridge; whole and skim milk. Whole wheat/grain bread--never white (even the English muffins).

File these under "comfort" food or whatever you like, but at least you have the above mentioned items on hand in all situations and they don't go bad (and I'm not referring to the refrigerated goods!). Liz had the foresight to have these when she was ill a few months ago and it does help you regain certain elements you've lost once you're in a post-fever state.

It's also really great when you just have the urge to nosh.

Being 40 and playing in a band again (and NOT touring), I feel this duty to myself to buck against the cliches and be as fit as I can (since I never really have been, truth be told), especially when on stage. That must sound like a ridiculous reason why I'm motivated to eat the way I now do and workout as I do, but it's one of many. Of course, before anyone says what an idiot I am, the main reason is that the older I am, the healthier I need to be--for myself and for Liz. Simple. But some of the motivations, superficial as they may be, help inspire me forward.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Opening Day

Even at the age of 40, I still can't help but be thrilled by baseball's Opening Day. I'd rather be home watching the Mets start their season on the road. Alas, contract talks between Time Warner (the cable network I have no choice but to subscribe to) and Cablevision (the fucking consortium that owns the channels that the Mets are currently on, besides owning Madison Square Garden and my beloved New York Rangers) are at a standstill, so I won't be seeing anything for a while. Unless I get out to Shea Stadium next week for the real thing, the home opener. Nevertheless, Opening Day always signifies for me the true beginning of spring and that wonderful scent only this season has.

Still riding a wave of (minor) euphoria from Saturday's session. As I would agree with Chris, we should try and strike again soon, while the creative iron is hot. The fact that we completed (finally and without hesitation in my mind) 3 songs and are 75% done with another in a mere 4 1/2 hours is pretty head staggering. Economical usage of time and being as productive as possible in that frame of time is a wonderful thing. I'd love it if we were like that every time we got together. I will discipline myself at a point one night this week to spend time in Synchronic East and re-familiarize myself with the keyboard lines for "Bitter Sweet", as the better I know it, the easier the finishing session for this song will be. "Open Your Eyes" (or "Inside" or whatever I call it) is pretty much a two-guitar track take; a very simple keyboard riff during the guitar solo and a laughably easy tambourine embellishment. The vocals are double-tracked harmonies and that's it. Bob and Chris will be able to cement the rhythm section with ease and we are done. In total. Now it doesn't seem so far away.

As I'd said in an earlier posting, I can feel the lifting of these recent "discomforting" vibes thanks to Mercury Retrograde passing. Whether you believe (or not) in astrology, etc., it does seem like when a cycle ends, the emotional load lightens a bit.

Congratulate me; as I told Bob and Chris on Saturday, this is the longest I've ever started a year without buying any CD's/albums. Small wonder; everything out right now is pretty abysmal. That'll change by June (I hope). But I still won't buy the damned thing.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Just wanted to say

Stands to reason--get to the gym early; hit the routines hard. Machines were available when Liz and I got there; the place was packed by the time I went to use the weights. Nonetheless, felt great afterward and the perfect lunch capped off a much-more relaxed Sunday (after a busy Saturday).

Speaking as a non-Catholic (and as a non-Christian), one cannot help but be touched by the passing of Pope John Paul II. He was a man of principle, great humanity and most importantly, true faith. I believe he was a holy man in unholy times.

Check this out:

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For those of you who never listened/never believed me. You peasants.

I don't ask for much in this life. Can Time Warner Cable and fucking Cablevision just get along and let me see Mets baseball?

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Saturday night's alright for Chinese food

Having just finished off a satisfying dinner (as I haven't eaten since about 6 a.m.), I am finally able to gather my thoughts and relax. It's been a long day, but unbelievably productive. The Punch Line are one song away from completing the album and I couldn't be more proud and pleased.

At the outset, I started to get a twinge of stress, thanks in no small part to the difficulty of driving due to the pouring rain. We all met up at the same time; Chris had actually come from work and he was vibed out and not feeling 100%, physically. None of the recording equipment was prepped in advance and I started to think "uh-oh"; however, it never got to being stressful. I think it took maybe 10 minutes or so for Chris to get everything wired and we were recording. Naturally, even though I'd said we wouldn't venture near "Someone" or "Puppet Master", sure enough, I knocked out the vocals on "Someone" (with Chris re-doing his harmonies) and re-did "Second Time Around" -- both sounded great. Bobby delivered a stellar performance on "Puppet Master", the way I'd envisioned and knew he could and that was complete. What really caught me off guard (in the best way) was I prepped to begin working on "Inside (Open Your Eyes)" and we wound up doing "Bitter Sweet", which I was firmly fixed on doing last since it was so convoluted. I was wrong and the rhythm tracks, extra percussion and all vocals are done. Just have to add one more guitar and the keyboard and the song is completed; "Inside" will be next and last. Who would have guessed? It was also the most fun we've had recording since the dismantling of Synchronic West Studios. We started at about 11:15 and finished up by 3:45, as that's when Bob and I got in our cars and drove away. A slow but safe drive home; a happy, surprised smile from Liz; a filling meal of Chinese soup and I'm ready to settle back for the evening.

Not much more to say than that. I'm pretty content and now looking forward to the gym tomorrow.

Oh, I did forget to take the new camera, but next session--aptly being the last for the album--I promise, I'll have some shots to post on this blog.

Have a good weekend and don't forget to set your clocks ahead by an hour!

Friday, April 01, 2005

Stands for decibels

The grey of the sky does not equal my mood. I feel pretty okay today; a minor pang of guilt over not going to the gym last night, but like I said, far too many packages to carry home (think bag, gym bag, shopping bag, etc. -- you get it). One night isn't going to be the ruination of my quest. Things are moving along in a timely fashion at work and I, for one, am glad.

Did spend my time wisely last night, listening to the (what I deem) perfect "Repercussion" album by The dB's, to put myself in a completely appropriate frame of mind for tomorrow. I also played through "Inside" a few times, to refresh my memory. Really a good song. This should be (famous last words) fairly easy to tackle. It's funny, but as I was playing it acoustically, I seemed to speed it up to a "comfortable" tempo. However, for the recorded/band version, it needs to be slower--I could hear in my head the comparisons with "Nothing Is Wrong", the Peter Holsapple track that inspired "Open Your Eyes" (shut up). It really works better like this.

Speaking of The dB's, I was reading a Rolling Stone article about their reunion and the new album they're working on; it's funny that in the last year or two, so many great bands--bands that I've loved--have reunited and are making music that is as good as when they were younger or in their (so-called) prime. Naturally, I would include The Punch Line in this list. Yes, I know that many of these songs were in my oeuvre back in '87, but since they hadn't (officially) seen the light of day, they're just as relevant (and certainly, lyrically and emotionally poignant) today. Add to that, this incarnation of The Punch Line seems to have the drive and desire to make this record as powerful as any album that we've been influenced by. I don't think in past lives we ever really did. I think we were all over the place as people, let alone as musicians and as a band. This time, it's different. And for that, I'm proud to have the audacity and throw our reunion up there with The dB's, Undertones, Gang Of Four and so on. And if you think that's obnoxious of me, fuck you. I don't care. Let's see you do this and do this as well. Ugh; I digress. My point was now is as good a time as any for a great band to do what they do best, no matter how old--as long as you can maintain your dignity. And so far, I think all the bands who I like and who have reunited have done just that. I can't honestly say any of them have disappointed me. And yes, that includes The Punch Line. I'm just impatient. I want this album out. So do you.

Still miffed that the barber cut my hair a little too short last night. Looks like it's time (after 23 years) to say goodbye to Astor Hair. Big shout out to my wife, whose new hairstyle makes her even more gorgeous than usual (and you bastards know that's no exaggeration!). Grocery shop tonight? I actually hope so, to give Liz and I more relaxation time on Sunday, post-workout. The guitars are tuned; my equipment bag is ready and I am zen with my band.

I am the cosmos.