Sunday, March 6, 2011

Five months of events.

Well, as you might expect, a lot has happened since October. In these last five months, a huge amount of music has been released in which I have participated, some of it somewhat unexpected. I hope you'll excuse my break from the usual technical drudgery for a bit of advertisement. I promise the rest of the post is filled with photos of cool stuff.

Tensegrity Nine, my defunct J-pop/Folk-rap duet with Peter Lim, finally released our posthumous album sugoi! All My Pretty Ones released an excellent little semi-live EP recorded at the Maybeck Recital Hall in Berkeley, CA. Radiation City, a Portland based band centered around members of Spesus Christ (of which I am no longer a member, sadly), asked me to record some trombone for their album The Hands That Take You, which is now available from Apes Tapes.

I'm also super excited to announce that my new chip-rock duet with Lizzie Cuevas, The Glowing Stars, has released a demo, and has a first show scheduled opening for Anamanaguchi and Peelander Z in San Francisco on April 7th. No doubt this will result in many more posts related to 8-bit modifications and building unusual midi interfaces over the next month as we prepare.

Probably the biggest project I've had in the works is my own album Rodent to Rodent - a double album released with my dad, who's original 1984 album Rodent to Rodent was never released, until we met two years ago and I created my own version. There's more of the story available at the Rodent to Rodent blog, so I won't get too much into detail on that, but to satisfy your craving for weird technical happenings, here's the lowdown on some of what was done to make our big presentational Rodent to Rodent show happen.

My wife was kind enough to help me prepare these custom grille cloths for the guitar cabinets we used at the show. They feature the Rodent to Rodent logo cut out of light black denim, whip-stitched onto burlap. The larger frame (for my Sunn 4x12) was custom built, as the cabinet comes from an era of Sunn cabinets which originally used thin black metal grilles (long lost to the mists of time, in the case of my cab).

Beyond the visually creative element of putting the show together, there were some venue related obstacles to overcome. Luckily we were able to survive the dangers of a weak power system, which was a serious concern, but solving the next problem required some more foresight.

That is a roughly six foot tear in a rather large red curtain. It was exacerbated by its location on the curtain near the draw rigging. Since this type of curtain track simply pulls on the center end of each curtain, any attempt to close the curtain simply tugged on the separated section and ripped it further.

In December of last year, I travelled to the venue to remove the curtain personally, folded it up, loaded it into my truck, and enlisted the assistance of one of the costume designers at my the theater costume shop at work to sew and reinforce the curtain, then replaced it with the help of Jonathan Mann, who hosted the final event.

As you can see from this photo taken atop a 16 foot ladder, the previous person to hang the curtain had some creative ideas about rigging and weight distribution. Although the number of chains and eyelets did not quite match up ultimately, we were able to clean up much of the existing mess. Of course, we never touched the other side of the curtain, so hopefully there are no similar problems. I hear they may be replacing the entire system sooner or later, but after a successful concert, I can personally wash my hands of the whole affair.

I have also recently been performing semi-regularly with the most excellent Family Crest, including at their album release show for The Village, on which I played accordion (almost 3 years ago). While of course reprising my Accordion role in the band, I have also become something of a hypeman and antics generator. As a result, I've been doing some work on accordion pickups, wireless systems, and of course, trick lighting.

Last night at a sold out show at The Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco, I debuted this floor tom with a switchable, battery operated light. While somewhat obviously a $10 Home Depot affair, it was nonetheless highly effective in performance. The only unfortunate bug is the placement of the switch, which is prone to accidental engagement - an issue that presented itself almost immediately into the first song of the night's set.

The placement of all the hardware is dicated by the needs of preservation, as the drum is in fact part of a matched vintage Ludwig kit, which may some day be rebuilt and returned to stock. As such, anything mounted to the inside or outside of the drum must be mounted in existing holes. The aforementioned switch replaces the unused batter head mute, while the light itself is mounted on elongated bolts mounted in place of the resonant head hardware.

Of course, I also learned some lessons about trusting untested rechargeable batteries...

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