Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Throttle Body Sessions Started!

Almost four years since the completion of "Air Canada", I am now starting work on the follow-up album. With a working title of "Scotch 45" (the brand of cassette I used on some old demos from the 70's and the tape's running time) this new album was born out of the boon of songs rediscovered in the spring archiving project. Titles will include "Falling Apart At The Seams", "Girl", "A Typical Wednesday", "Hole In My Heart", "Reminders of You" and many more. Scratch tracks and clicks are laid down already, as are the acoustic guitar tracks. Hopefully this new CD wont take the year that "Air Canada" did to record!

Cheers! - Jer

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sound on Sound (1978) - the balance of tunes

I've made you all wait long enough. Here's the balance of the "Sound on Sound" sessions for your enjoyment.

"Heartache" is a rockin' little tune that I re-recorded for the "Air Canada" sessions. It's a basic story of "I'm warning you" to a girl about all those bad for you men - of which I am one, it turns out! When you're young, it's always someone else, of course.

"Red Car" is a song I wrote about this Datsun station wagon I drove when I was a kid. I swore one day, I would get a better car. In retrospect, it wasn't too bad!

"Girl" is a great song, as far as I'm concerned. One of those I wrote early that is seemingly simple, but actually changing slightly the entire time. It's a quality I love in a pop song. I hope you do too.

"Don't Cry For Me" and "Who Do You Love" were my first emulations of love for the end-of-the-decade burnout of Fleetwood Mac. I loved Lindsay Buckingham's simple rock tunes - just driving and driving, like "What Makes You Think You're The One" from Tusk and also loved Christine MacVie's sad songs like "You'll Never Make Me Cry" - so simple. These tunes are a take on that feel and sound - only with a lot more hiss as I pretty much wore the cassette tape out at this point.

Download "Heartache"

Download "Red Car"

Download "Girl"

Download "Don't Cry For Me"

Download "Who Do You Love"

(right click the link above and "Save Target As..." to your local machine)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Almost Home - the demo tape encoding saga concludes

Well, I'm on the home stretch of my demo tape encoding. It's been a long process, and the entire task is only partially complete. So far, however, I have some observations:

When I was young, I flexed a lot of muscles. I wrote songs at a pretty impressive rate. This was my "Elton" period - one that continues to this day. Mostly piano-based songs, with complex chord progressions, strong melodies.

A short flirtation with end of the decade malaise was followed by a power pop phase - Elvis Costello/Nick Lowe/Stiff Records-influenced.

Come the time of the Throttle Body sessions, I was making very immediate pop-rock, simple, fast and clean. As TBMC matured in the 90's I entered the final stage chronicled on these tapes, which I would characterize as riff-rock. I didn't even bother singing half the time. Or more.

The way back machine has been filled with the joy of rediscovery, sadness and regret and inspiration to get back to some of the best of these tunes and see what they have to offer.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

History is hard on the heart

As I am archiving these song tapes, it's getting a bit rough on me. I had the habit at the time of playing the skeleton of the song I was working on and then just letting the tape roll to pick up what was going on around me while I was writing. I would also narrate the events of my days and capture friends and family in the process. So now as I listen back to these tapes so many years later, there are ghosts of my past coming back to life. Funny how joy can turn to regret with the passing of years. But these songs, if ever properly recorded, will never be now what they were meant to be then and I guess I'm just a reflection of that same fact.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What goes on

Ok - it's been awhile, but remember, there's no promise of productivity here, just an archive that is building organically. So what's been going on during all the silence? Primarily a huge archiving project. I am in the process of transferring 35 cassettes with somewhere near 300 song demos onto Pro Tools. It's a huge project that'll require many passes. Eventually some of these songs will be developed into final, finished versions.

I've been saying to musician friends lately who are aware of the project that I always meant to return to these songs - I just didn't realize it would be (in some cases) 30 years later!

I'll try not to neglect the posting of demos for too much longer, but in case you were wondering, that's what goes on...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"Sound on Sound" 1978 - Tracks 4,5,6 - "All That Matters", "She Doesn't Seem To Be That Nice of Girl", "Diana"

Here's a group of songs, two of which were re-recorded for 2005's "Air Canada" session. Across these three songs, I think I turned a little corner in my young songwriting career.

"All That Matters" was this really simple 4-chord tune, but had this marvelous asymetrical hook that used two chords and built up the tension really nicely.

"She Doesn't Seem To Be That Nice Of Girl" was my attempt at a "Hard Days Night" era Beatles tune, with a swinging groove and very forward melody. It's clean and simple and rockin' and a tune I still like a lot.

"Diana" is a song I really should treat properly one day. It's another piece of pretty good songwriting, with multiple movements that don't seem so different on the surface, but accomplish that Roy Orbison trick of slight, continuous variation from top to tail of the tape.

You'll notice the sound getting "hissier" as I add more instruments and vocals on the tape. I was starting to push to see how much I could add without losing the whole sound of the songs at this point. Something else I always loved about these sesssions was the sound of the Hofner bass (a Beatle-bass), which you can still hear pretty clearly on "All That Matters". When I re-recorded the song for "Air Canada" I tried to re-create the sound with a Fender Percision, and the bass just dominates the mix as a result.

I hope you enjoy these three from the "Sound on Sound" sessions.

Download "All That Matters"

Download "She Doesn't Seem To Be That Nice Of Girl"

Download "Diana"

(right click the link above and "Save Target As..." to your local machine)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"Sound on Sound" 1978 - Track 3: "Everytime (Jill's Song)"

I was crazy about Jill Utz. I think I was probably crazy about her for three years. But I was one of those outsider types in high school, and Jill was definitely "in-crowd" material, so nothing ever came of it but a sweet friendship that I still treasure. I lost touch with Jill right after high school and always wonder what happened to her. I remember hearing she married her high school boyfriend and I think had one of those happily ever after lives that good souls deserve so much. I certainly hope that was the case.

"Everytime (Jill's Song)" is actually a pretty good piece of song craft, and still holds up today to my ears. It has a nice groove and round to it, appropriately sentimental lyrics, and that gentle 70's-ness quality now known as "smooth". It remains one of my favorite songs I've ever written.

When working on the "Air Canada" sessions, I revisited the "Sound on Sound" tape and this was one of the tracks that I refreshed and recorded properly. I gave it a nice "Daniel"-esque feel with electric pianos and synths and am pretty happy with the version. You can pick it up on iTunes if you want, or hear it at the Throttle Body m/c website.

Download "Everytime (Jill's Song)"
(right click the link above and "Save Target As..." to your local machine)

"Sound on Sound" 1978 - Track 2: "Together"

The "Sound on Sound" session was created in the order it appears here, one track after the other. In some cases, like this one, I had a backing track that I had previously recorded, and simply made a few additions to it. "Together" features Lenny Dahlstrom on guitar and backing vocals, as well as Thom Brisendine on backing vocals. The backing track was recorded at my best friend Paul Ralph's basement and the only addition I made for this version was the bass guitar. Lenny was a cool guitar player who knew how to rock in the old-school "rock and roll" kind of way and his playing made a number of these tunes come to life.

Download "Together"
(right click the link above and "Save Target As..." to your local machine)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

"Sound on Sound 1978" - Track 1: "Besides Love You"

In 1978 I was a Junior in High School in Federal Way, WA and was writing a lot of songs, all of which I was certain were hits. In retrospect of course, some of them were actually pretty good and some of them were horrible.

In those days, other than large-scale recording studios like Bear Creek in Woodinville and some downtown Seattle ones who's names now esacpe me (one even partially owned by Heart!), the options for the young artist were only a couple - TASCAM or OTARI. Both companies made 4 and 8 track home multi-track machines, neither of which I could afford, being in the multi-thousand dollar price range.

What I could afford to do was trick a casette recorder into being a multi-track. If I recall the process, I would record a signal into, say the left stereo channel, then I would send the output of that channel to the right channel while I recorded a new part with it. This process could survive maybe 4-5 overdubs before the whole track was lost in hiss, but it was my first stab at making my own recordings and I remember having fun despite the noise of the tape. I was never good in those days at saturating the signal - it was always on the weak side - and that meant even more tape hiss!

But I WAS making recordings. I was following the footsteps of my heros. In my basement I had my own Abby Road and I was George Martin AND The Beatles all at once.

So, from 30 years ago, in a long, narrow basement room with no windows where a kid sat for hours plucking out tunes on a 1956 Gibson ES225, a Hofner violin bass, an Ibaznez Performer and cardboard boxes that served as drums; here's the first of the "Sound on Sound' sessions - a little offering I called, "Besides Love You".

Download "Besides Love You"
(right click the link above and "Save Target As..." to your local machine)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Living the dream - "Freebird" LIVE, 1978

When I was in high school, if you were a musician, there was one song you better know how to play if you wanted to be cool. That song, was "Freebird" by Lynrd Skynrd. At Decatur HS in 1978, the song was selected as the Homecoming theme. A good friend, and graduate, Bob Neal, returned to play guitar with us Seniors, and he was joined by Jerry Luckenback, a local "he can really play" legend on another solo guitar. Jerry was a "real" musician. He had played in a bar or two. He was over 21. We were impressed. He smoked and everything.

The rest of the band I can almost entirely remember...Brian (Last name escapes me) on drums, Paul Ralph, my best friend, on Rickenbacker 4001 bass, and Lenny Dahlstrom on guitar and vocals. I was the keyboard player. you can hear me early on on piano and later on electric piano (a real Fender Rhoads 88), actually not tearing it up too badly considering we never had a rehearsal.

It's a joke today to call out requests at shows of any size, and usually someone yells, "Freebird!" But in 1978...I was livin the dream, baby!

If you were at Decatur High School in Federal Way, WA between 1976 and 1981, this one's for you.

Download "Freebird"
(right click this link and "Save Target As..." to your local machine)

Monday, March 17, 2008

More Faces of Throttle Body - Rod Moody

Rod Moody with Jerry, busking it up in Seattle as "Dry Bones"

Rod Moody is a long time friend who joined TBMC in one of the lonelier periods, that of 2000's "Tears in Rain." Rod also lent his home to the creation of "Air Canada", though for some reason, perhaps living in Rhode Island, he didn't play a lick on it! But that's not important - what is is the work he contributed, the inspiration he continues to contribute and the great music he's made over the years in the ka-jillion bands he's played in. Whenever I introduce Rod, it's "now this is a real rock star..." and I sincerely mean it - the man has rocked his whole life, and put his music out there for all to hear, and he lives and loves music. Rod is my idol.

"Restless Cowboys" - December 1977's the Winter of 1977 and I'm 15 years old. I'm at a new High School (Decatur) in Federal Way, WA and with a brand new (literally) school are brand new pianos, and in particular, a brand new Grand piano in the Choir room. A 6'5" Kawai if I remember.

For a kid with delusions of Elton John, a big black piano all to his own is quite a thing. And since I was well ahead of my classes, I could use the room at my leisure. So, pretty much every day you could find me in the choir room, playing that grand piano and writing songs.

This particular Winter day, I wheeled a pair of boom mic stands in, set up a stereo cassette and recorded a song I had been writing, "Restless Cowboys". It's a very Elton-y tune to be sure - I even fake a British accent here and there!

The take you're about to hear suffers for the deterioration of the cassette at the top, but at least the whole performance wasn't destroyed. Really calls out the need to archive these 30-year old recordings. So, for your enjoyment, here's the missing song from "Tumbleweed Connection," (hee :) ) "Restless Cowboys" - enjoy!

Download "Restless Cowboys"
(right click this link and "Save Target As..." to your local machine)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Stephen Dorocke - from guitar to pedal steel to concertina

Stephen Dorocke, original Throttle Body guitar player in 1996

Stephen Dorocke put his stamp on the TBMC sound in the 90's with a key role in the sound of both "For the Few" and "Marley's Chain". He was introduced to the band by illustrator/bass player Thom Whalen. Stephen was a great guy, always of good humor and a brilliant, original guitar player. A real Chicago bluesman, you always felt like he was exposing a piece of his heart in the flowing, sharp and decievingly complex parts he layed down. Stephen went on to master the pedal steel guitar and play with acts like the Handsome Family. He also made a name for himself in the manufacture of Concertinas for Star Concertina.

Steven Dorocke, at Star Concertina in 1999

Aaron Taylor and the Studio at Graham Street, Seattle

Aaron Taylor laying down guitar during the "Air Canada" sessions, 2003.

The studio set up at Graham Street in Seattle - Pro Tools, SoundTracks CM4400 board, Mackie board, etc.

Aaron Taylor mixing "Down" by Survey Cez at Graham Street

Aaron Taylor is an amazing guitar player. I met him at a "Slobberbone" show in 2001 or 02, I forget, but fromthe start he was memorable, approachable and a blast to hang and play with. Pretty quickly we cut a deal - he joined the club and played on "Air Canada" and I recorded "Survey Cez's" "Down" for him in exchange. Nice deal all around, I'd say!

Graham Street was/is the home of Rod and Tina Moody. They were living in Rhode Island at this time (2003-2005) and allowed me to (depending on finances) house-sit or rent their wonderful home. I set up a studio on the first floor where I recorded "Air Canada", "Down" by Survey Cez. and Native Tounge's first and only release. The focus of the room was Michael Lord's wonderful Soundtracks CM4400 mixing console - a British board with a lot of character that I had recorded almost all of my finished music to date through. Michael had closed down his studio to move to British Columbia and I inherited the board. It saw some use on the "Air Canada" sessions, though not as much as I would have liked.

I owe so much to Rod and Tina for allowing me the time and space to make music in. I think it's the story of a lot of artists that if not for certain wonderful, generous people in their lives, they wouldn't get to do what they do.

Throttle Body Reunion

Osama, Jer and Zoro

This is as close as I've gotten so far to a Throttle Body reunion. Zoro was in town in 2005 for a clinic in Tacoma, where Osama lives (though I rarely see him - he's so busy) and we all met at the clinic then hung out for dinner together. It was a lovely evening. This is 3/5's of the team that created "Marley's Chain" (Steven and Emily being the other two), and we all have a little less hair than we did back in the day...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Welcome - an introduction to the blog

Hello friends of TBMC. Thanks for checking out the blog. So why a blog? Well, you see, I have a box full of music that is both TBMC and pre-TBMC that I really want to explore over the next few years and get it out for people to hear and enjoy. This includes work I did under the name of "Top Cat", "The Bakks" as well as demos and song-sketches.

What I'm doing is taking these old reel-to reels and cassette tapes dating back to the early 1970's and loading them into Pro Tools, and giving them a once-over to clean them up a little (though I'm not spending thousands on hiss-elimination filters or anything silly). Then the plan is to post them here with a little explanation of what they are, what I remember I was attempting to do at the time...maybe even include lyrics for them if I can find those out in the shed.

The whole idea is to create a digital archive before time wastes away anymore of fragile audio tape that these memories are contained on. It's a highly personal journey I am going to share with whoever cares to come along for the ride. Don't you ever wonder what you've done with your life? Well this is part of what I've done with and continue to do with mine.

There's no promise of productivity here: I'll get the tracks and entries done as I can fit them into other work. It should be interesting to clean the closet, though, and I do hope you find something here to enjoy!