In October 2014, Klaus Biesenbach Director & Chief Curator of NYC’s MoMA PS1 posted this on his @klausbiesenbach profile page on Ello:

KlausBiesenbach
Klaus Biesenbach


“I neglected my ello profile for a while, but now I have a big announcement to make. This surely is a -ful moment. I decided to put together a show that only circulates around ello and only features artworks submitted to me via ello. Please post your work here @klausbiesenbach if you want to be considered for the show. For the first time ever, the submission process is entirely transparent. Since I have been repeatedly asked about this: Deadline is Tuesday 25th November2014. Enjoy!”

Being part of a new invite-only, ad-free, art-friendly, buzz-driven web site and then having an opportunity to have your art work considered by Klaus Biesenbach for an Ello exclusive exhibition… for many, this was social media bliss. Details of this ‘exhibition’ were nowhere to be found though, so I assumed they were in the making. Details to follow right? He’s a busy guy doing art stuff. My small amount of skepticism was extinguished by a quick google search on Klaus. He was indeed a MOMA man, and his twitter page sported the exact profile picture shown on Ello. Bingo!

This post inspired artists to engage, and soon all kinds of great creative images (photos, paintings, illustrations, mixed media pieces, etc…) were being displayed proudly with the @klausbiesenbach tag. I had discovered the inspiring work of abstract painter Jeff Kraus (@jeffkraus) via Ello and he too was tagging his posts. It was all a bit surreal.

At this point I had been on Ello for about three weeks, and had been posting some of my digital art. and was getting some inspiring feedback from the community. So I tagged Klaus in a few of my own images like this one:

mattox_ello_moma02

I even tagged a zen-like visual/music sketch that I had recently done:


 

Klaus did in fact look my images. How did I know? Well, he commented on my posts with a “thx”, that’s how. The short reply is about all the engagement one could expect from a busy art guy right?. Imagine my delight (and all the others too) seeing this in the ol’ email inbox:

klausbiesenbach_comment.jpg

About a week into the Ello MOMA art hurricane, something curious happened. Klaus’s Ello page went blank, and all of his posts… deleted? Even his profile picture and description were removed. We were had. Even the Ello developers themselves. A quote from Justin Gitlin (@cacheflowe):

Update: We were duped. This user was an impostor and the account has been suspended. Huge apologies for this. We were fooled as well

So there you have it. The great Ello MOMA hoax. I’m sure some people have been asking questions like “What kind of person does this?” and “Who has the time to invest in such trickery?”. Funny thing is that no one got upset, no drama ensued, no lawsuits were filed (that I know of). People just went back to creating and posting their art. Without the @klausbiesenbach tag.

note: The image of Klaus Biesenbach here was lifted from his twitter page.

 

Sometimes you never know who’ll meet and work with in the recording studio. The list of people that I’ve worked with over the years is quite large including musicians, music producers, composers, sound designers, arrangers, actors, voice over artists, comedians, and motivational speakers. But a gorilla?

cadbury_gorilla

I was introduced to Garon Michael who needed a music producer and a recording studio for his music and we immediately hit it off and began working. Garon likes to work at an intense animalistic pace with little time for breaks or chit chat. Our first two days of work were laser focused on recording the basic tracks, then on the third day we actually took a little break and talked a bit, getting a much deserved breather after all the non-stop work.

He mentioned that he was an actor, who specialized in gorilla suits for movies and television work, and I asked him if he’d ever seen the Cadbury gorilla commercial. He was surprised and said “You saw that? That never aired in America”. I replied “Are you kidding me?, That got passed around via email by lots of my musician friends. It’s incredible!”. This would have been in late 2007 or 2008 when Facebook and YouTube were in their infancies, before social media was a household word. He smiled and said “Well, that was me!“.

We talked about how fun it would be to get Garon in the studio with the full gorilla suit on, and do some recording, but it turned out to be a logistical and economical impossibility. Well, we had a quick laugh and then jumped back into work. We ended up recording a good amount of his music together over the years, and we’ve become close friends. I still want him to get in the gorilla costume and play some drums in my studio though.

Speaking of, here is the infamous and hilarious Cadbury Gorilla ad:


 

 

“There’s an upright piano of the corner of your street”

Was the text I received from a neighbor who knows that a) I’m a musician and b) I absolutely love sampling and recording strange and unusual sounds. So I walked down 3 houses to the corner and sure enough there was this old abandoned beauty:

found_piano

 

I looked around and saw no one around. And at that moment, the abandoned piano became a found piano. Just then, another neighbor was waking his dog and asked “What are you doing Jon?”. I replied “I think I just found a piano!”. He asked if it worked (I hadn’t played it yet), so I lifted the cover which revealed all of the keys intact. I did a short run through of the verse of “Let It Be” and in all of its out-of-tune glory, the piano actually worked. It had a nice resonance to it, and for a brief moment I was a street musician.

He was kind enough to lend me a hand (and his appliance dolly) and we moved it to my property. As the French Knight in the Holy Grail said “It’s quite nice”.

found_piano2

Like most of the found instruments I’ve found or have been given, I’ll cart this found piano into my studio and sample it, in all of it’s out of tune, scary nightmarish greatness. I’ll do some John Cage treatments to it too and see what kind of percussion magic I can conjure up.

 

 

 

I once played 3 shows with microtonal artist Jon Catler from New York City. I’ve always been an enthusiast of new music (a convenient euphemism for words like “experimental”, “avant-garde”, or simply “weird”), so this was a great opportunity to perform some mind bending music especially with someone as established and talented as Jon. That downtown music scene in NYC has a rich history of new music which gained notoriety in the 1960s with Phillip Glass, Steve Reich, The Velvet Underground, and later with Elliott Sharp, Jon Zorn, Glenn Branca, Pauline Oliveros, and of course Jon.

All of the compositions that we performed were based upon just intonation tuning. A simple explanation is that these musical octaves are not based upon our normal ‘tempered’ scale of 12 notes. These octaves are more “pure” to the naturally occurring harmonic series, and so the notes (or microtones) that occur between say, a C and C# are used. To play these microtones, Jon designs his own guitars and his fret board is not for the faint of heart:

 Photo by Joe Rosen Photo by Joe Rosen

The guitar’s tuning system starts with the familiar 12-fret octave in place. Then it adds 12 more frets in between at the natural harmonic points. This now gives that same 12-tone octave the potential for 36 different pitches.

Jon flew out for the shows with his rest of his band (sans a drummer of course): Meredith Borden (vocals), Neville Green (bass), and David Beardsley (microtonal electric guitar). Everyone was great at their craft, so the music came together real quick.

There were actually two separate bands that performed. The first was the NYC Evolution Ensemble, and we played at UC Riverside and later a TRIBE gig hosted by David Raven. For these performances, we played one microtonal music composition by Jon entitled “EVOLUTION”. It’s an intense piece written in 4 movements and lasts about 45 minutes. At times the piece intimates John Cage, Phillip Glass, and other experimental and minimalist composers, but what sets Jon’s music apart from them is his depth of composition and, of course, his instrument: A microtonal electric guitar. Jon’s a master of his instrument and plays with such a command, such effortlessness, that you easily forget that he’s playing a strangely tuned, and strange looking guitar. From exquisite Robert Fripp-ish ambient sondscapes, to raw screaming Hendrix-esque leads, Jon evoked all kinds of textures and sounds.

The second ensemble that I performed with was called Swallow and it was comprised of the same musicians (except for David Beardsley). This band played loud, energetic rock tunes (kind of like if Jimmy Page started a band with Meredith Monk and was possessed by Diamanda Galas). The songs were built upon tribal rhythms replete with a few tempo changes and some metric modulations thrown in for good measure. We invaded a place called Highland Grounds which was typically a home for singer/songwriters and their emotional acoustic guitar based music, and not progressive art rock bands. Some of the audience looked a little shell shocked, but we did get plenty of applause.

Brian Eno once criticized experimental music for having no soul and that it could only be appreciated from the neck up. Well, I have a feeling Eno would like Jon’s compositions.

Visit Jon Catler at http://www.freenotemusic.com/

 

 


 

The dark humorous clip above is from the movie Whiplash featuring Miles Teller. He’s a drummer getting hammered by a band leader about tempo, that elusive skill that musicians (especially drummers) strive to perfect and control. Time is everything for a drummer and it can be difficult to control in stressful situations like this one, on stage when you can’t quite hear the other musicians well, or in the recording studio playing with “scratch tracks” – recorded musical parts that can often be rushing or dragging themselves.

In college, I rehearsed and performed with the Orange Coast College Big Band, and the bandleader, Doc Rutherford, used to scold drummers. Myself included. It was ALWAYS about tempo. In the middle of a song he would frantically wave his hands to signal the band to stop. Looking straight at me he would say things like “DRUMS! you are dragging!, Keep up the TEMPO!”. Slapping his hands on the 2 and 4 with the force of a gunshot, he would get my attention and keep me focused. The older horn players next to me chuckling and laughing sometimes just added to the stress.

It was a good ass kicking for a young cocky rock drummer. Doc was never quite as intense as the Miles Teller clip above thank goodness, but he did have a passion for jazz, playing with the right feel, and authenticity. Doc helped make me and many other musicians become better because he did care, and wanted us to learn.

While I don’t think that aggressiveness is the best motivational strategy, working with people that have a passion for their work, and know what they want, can push the inexperienced to new performance levels. Throwing chairs is not best method though..

 

On a quiet August afternoon, I was once an ambient music DJ. A group of massage therapists (and I as the aural relaxer) took part in a “massage-a-thon” to help raise funds for our friend Lyena Strelkoff. She had become paralyzed after a hiking accident, and the proceeds we raised went to help pay for her enormous medical bills.

I brought in a sound system, a turntable, cd player, and a pile of vinyl albums and cds and got to spin some of my favorite ambient music. I made a list as I went along.

First Light – Harold Budd/Brian Eno
Through The Blue – Roger Eno
SIde 1 Track 1 – Igor Len
Balthus Bemused by Colour – Harold Budd
Madrigals Of The Rose Ange – Harold Budd
An Ending (Ascent) – Brian Eno
Night Again – Steve Tibbets
Asylum – Daniel Lanois
The Elephant and the Orchid – Jon Hassell
1/1 – Brian Eno
Quiet And Alone – Peter Gabriel
Ocean Motion – Michael Brook
Through The Hill – Harold Budd/Andy Partridge
Sansui – Stomu Yamashta
Thais – This Mortal Coil
Deep Blue Day – Brian Eno
The Experience of Swimming – Japan
Not Yet Remembered – Harold Budd/Brian Eno
Prayer – The Durutti Column
Yodel 3 – Arcane
Experiment in Fifth – The Durutti Column
1/2 – Brian Eno
Side 1 Track 2 – Igor Len
Tension Block – Daniel Lanois
Slow Water – Peter Gabriel
Omni – Daniel Lanois
Experiences #1 – John Cage
Erratta – Divination
Dunwich Beach, Autumn, 1960 – Brian Eno
White Mustang – Daniel Lanois/Brian Eno
Side A from Ultra White Violet Light – Charles Curtis
The Lost Day – Brian Eno
Distant Village – Michael Brook
Juno – Harold Budd
An Arc Of Doves – Harold Budd/Brian Eno
Track 2 Side 2 – Igor Len
1/1 – Brian Eno
Slow Marimbas – Peter Gabriel
Secret Place – Daniel Lanois
Experiment in Fifth – The Durutti Column
Jimmy Was – Daniel Lanois
Broken Chords Can Sing A Little – A Silver Mt. Zion
Yodel 3 – Arcane
Hybrid – Michael Brook
Thursday Afternoon – Brian Eno
Final Sunset – Brian Eno
Stars – Brian Eno
Little Dream in Turquise – Erik Wøllo
Agrippa – Divination
Evening Tango – Roger Eno
The Gunfighter – Harold Budd
Water Dance – Stomu Yamashta
Deep Blue Day – Brian Eno
Miracle Steps – Jon Hassell
Not Yet Remembered – Harold Budd/Brian Eno
Side 1 Track 2 – Igor Len
Lizard Point – Brian Eno
Under Lock & Key – Peter Gabriel
A Place In The Wilderness – Roger Eno
Prelude & Yodel – The Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Theme From Creation – Brian Eno
Aragon – Brian Eno
Jimmy Was – Daniel Lanois
Sansui – Stomu Yamashta
2/1 – Brian Eno
The Experience of Swimming – Japan
Tension Block – Daniel Lanois
Err – Michael Brook


turntable

9 years ago in June of 2005, I was in the thick of building our recording studio, a career and life changing experience. Towards the end of construction, I got a call from the Green Natives who said “We hear you are building a recording studio, and we need to record some music!”. I figured 3 weeks would be plenty of time to finish things up, and get the studio ready. My contractor said “We’ll be done well before 3 weeks”.

Well, we were both wrong.

The night before the session came, and we weren’t completely done (there were still finishing touches and sound baffles to build), but we were at a stopping point. It was 7pm and I was frantically sweeping the floors of studio in a bit in a panic for tomorrows session. The rooms were basically done, but there was no recording gear or instruments inside yet. What to do!?

I called my friend Matt Forger (who helped with the design of the studio), and said “Hey Matt, my first session is tomorrow morning, I know it’s late notice, but is there any way that I could get you to come help me set up the studio?” Thank God and he was not booked that night and the two of us worked for hours getting things set up. We wired up the rooms, brought in the recording gear, mics, stands, drums, etc…We got to recording drum tones around 1am, and miraculously the mic cables and live room input box that I had hand wired all worked, as did the rest of the gear.

0506_BrightOrangeStudios01

 

It was a modest setup with a PC driven Pro Tools 002 rig, Yamaha AW4416, AIP 3124+ Line 6 Pod, and other gear much of which has been replaced over the years. Except the API.

0506_BrightOrangeStudios02

 

The next morning, I welcomed the boys with a big smile thinking “Okay, this is it, I hope this all works!”. Thankfully that session went well and the boys were happy.

The reason I mention this story today is that The Green Natives finished one of those songs and just posted it on FB. So here it is from the very first Bright Orange Studios session 9 years ago ‪#‎TBT‬

http://www.greennatives.com/ALONE_MASTER.mp3

 

Saddened to hear the shocking news that Chuck Silverman passed away. He was a passionate and spirited teacher who inspired drummers all over the world.

I have fond memories of taking private lessons with him in my formative years, learning about Afro Cuban rhythms, Brazilian grooves, and the drummers of James Brown. Chuck was an expert at all, and managed to weave those styles together in his lessons, and inspire his students. He was funny, sarcastic, but most importantly, determined that we got those Afro Cuban rhythms right. Breaking up mambo rhythms to 4 limbs on the drums was no easy task, and he always made it look so easy.

Chuck loved teaching, and was always inspired with new ideas, patterns, and ways of incorporating world music grooves into the drum set. He would lend out his rare vinyl albums for his students to study, and would make mix tapes of world music that, at the time, were difficult to find.

It would be hard to measure his influence on the drumming community, but I’m sure it is greater than he imagined. So many of his students went on to become professional drummers touring the world, recording albums, and becoming teachers themselves, always having some of Chuck’s influence with them.

At this time there is no reported cause of his death, so if anyone hears of anything please let me know. He was taken way too soon. R.I.P. Chuck.

chuck_silverman

 The Musicians Foundation’s page on Chuck’s passing

 

“The Wall” by Pink Floyd became (and still is) my favorite album in 7th grade. I went through 2 vinyl copies and a Japanese vinyl pressing (for special listening occasions). I’ve often wondered why I didn’t grow up to become a thoroughly depressed person.


pink-floyd-the-wall

Thanks to a mention of Alfred E. Neuman in a friends Facebook post this morning, I finally realized what kept me in balance during those early years, and what also gave me some schooling in sarcasm: MAD magazine.

mad_magazine

I posted this on Facebook, and a got some great replies. One of which was from Bonnie Boryana who gave a great perspective:

 “The Wall exposes in brutal sincerity wide range of human feelings, including some dark ones… But as the artist clearly shows that letting these emotions rule will lead to inevitable self destruction, the message is actually positive. In the end, we are told that we can find freedom and return to innocence if we tear down the walls… And the bleeding hearts, and the artists will help us – that is what the PF music has done for many people.”

Another friend asked me what qualified as a “special occasion” to play the Japanese pressing. I answered;

“When I had friends over and we wanted to a loud-hi-fi-don’t-even-think-about-talking kind of listening. I was and still am a geek like that sometimes”

There was a time when kids would sit down an listen to whole albums in their entirety. It was a ritual of sorts, especially after spending hours at the local record shop trying to figure out what albums we could buy with our allowance money. Those were good times.

I was working in the studio the other day with an artist who had only ever played an acoustic guitar with fingers. We were working out a guitar part for one of his songs, and realized it needed to be strummed with a pick for brightness. Strumming with fingers sounded good, but wasn’t cutting through the mix.

I ended up showing him how to strum with a pick, and then the question of how many fingers to hold the pick came up. It’s something I had never given much thought, and I happen to play with thumb + 2 fingers.

So I posted this question on Facebook and Twitter to see what my guitarist friends might say:

“Guitar Players: While strumming an acoustic, do you hold a pick with thumb + 1 finger or thumb + 2 fingers?”

Below are some of the responses:

Most said thumb + 1 because

  • “definitely frees up other fingers for picking”
  • “it allows you to finger pick w your middle & third and even pluck w your pinky”
  • ” thumb & index to hold a pick which leaves 3 digits free for fingerpicking should the situation call for it”
  • “Usually one, since two fingers have a greater chance of brushing the stings / killing the sound…”

Some said this about thumb +2

  • “It makes me feel secure…”
  • “Not a guitarist, but if I do, it’s thumb+2! “
  • “Using 2 fingers to hold a pick seems not very efficient.”

Others said:

  • “depends on the pick and what feels natural”
  • “try putting something tacky on a pick .. rubber cement”
  • and my favorite: ” 2 fingers? What fresh hell is this?”

How do you hold a pick for strumming an acoustic guitar?