I think this is how this thing works...

Well, here are my first three forays back into painting. The two rectangles are 4x6, the square is 5x5. Despite their small sizes I used mostly medium and large brushes. I need more practice to justify my tiny brushes.

The first two are out of my head, memories of trips west. The square one is based on a picture of Zion National Park.

And it's really hard to take good photos of paintings. I used to just scan smaller painting right on the scanner. I'll have to do that with these.


Hello, old friend

Well, I finally did it. I've started painting again. I think it's been about 12 years since put brush to canvas. I have wanted to get back to painting for a long time. The thing about visual art for me though, is I'm better at it when I have an assignment. I did a lot of work in high school that I still like and they were assignments. I did a few paintings in college for fun. After that, almost all my art has been for bands, my own and others. I have been sketching regularly, but no painting. Well, I've given myself an assignment that I'm not revealing yet, but I've started.

And yes, that is a drink mixer set in the background I'm keeping my brushes and cleaning water in. I was looking for something to put them in and I thought it would be funny (for those that don't know, I don't drink). I don't know what I'll do with the shot glass yet. 


Internal Processing Systems or The Three Amigos - Westward Ho!

The average human has 3 decision making modes. I'm talking in the philosophical sense. All thinking actually happens in the brain, little neurons firing away. But I divide this thinking into 3 categories. The Brain, The Heart, and The Gut. The Genitals don't count because they can only think one thing. That doesn't count as making a decision.

The Brain - Logic, rational thought, deep processing. The brain is where information is processed and sorted. Choices can be held at arms length. If you need to remove your emotions from a choice, the brain is the tool to use. Very much like a computer, the brain is good at sorting all the shades of grey in the world and getting to the core of a problem. The brain is your defense against a world that wants to take advantage of you. The brain can think itself in circles with all the possible outcomes until we freeze and can't make a choice. The brain can over think, leading to incorrect conclusions. The brain learns and stores skills so you can actually do more with your life than breathe, eat, shit, and mate. The brain dreams when you sleep, sometimes just for entertainment, sometimes to continue processing information. The brain always wants more information and this is one thing that drives our need for discovery and our desire to understand. Unfortunately too many people have figured out ways to turn their brains off. And sometimes the logical choice isn't what we want and isn't what we need. We are human after all.

The Heart - Emotion, feelings, desires and wants. The heart is the opposite of the brain. Love lives in the heart. But, like a hummingbird, the heart can flit from one thing to another, one feeling to another, without realizing the consequences or seeing the long term effects. The heart has a long memory when hurt but a very short one when presented with something it wants. The heart wants love but never considers that love can hurt as much as it heals. That love can change. That once you find what your heart yearns for, you might not want it, or it might not want you. The heart clouds the brain so that you see what you want and you avoid conflict. It can get so wrapped up in what other people want, thinking that's how to get what it wants, that you begin to lose yourself. The heart, though, attaches you to people important to you. It makes you loyal and allows you to trust people so that you aren't lonely. Despite the heart's vulnerability, most people still find it worth while to expose themselves to the danger because love, friendship, and trust are ultimately so rewarding. Everyone has heart but sometimes they shut it out and forget what makes their heart feel good. Sometimes they get hurt so bad they wall off their heart so no one gets through. It's hard to realize that just makes things worse. The heart can get stuck lamenting what it has lost. But if you listen, the heart is also the place where you are reminded how much you loved your first box of crayons, and there was a time when you thought being an astronaut lion tamer was a perfectly reasonable career (were you the astronaut, or was it the lions?).

The Gut - When the brain says "bzzprf...does not compute...grhhbzz...error..." and the heart says "Wah wah woe is me I'm so emo" the gut is there to dope slap the other two. The gut will say "get up off the floor and get on with it!" The best time to do something is always now. The gut is instinct shaped by experience. The gut quiets fear, musters will, and does. This paragraph is short because the gut doesn't talk much and can't waste time with words. Kinda like Chuck Norris.

What does this have to do with me, now? After many years of listening to my brain and heart fight, I have finally listened to my gut. Could I have heard it sooner? Maybe, but like I said, the gut relies on experience. It can take time to get the experience you need. Now I've listened and my gut said, "This is your compass. It points west. Move to Colorado. Even the few things left in Wisconsin that are good can't give you the long term happiness you need. It's time to go."

So, dear friends, I will be moving to the Denver area in summer of 2010. The plan as it stands now is to go find a place to live in March or April and move in June or July. There are many details to finalize but my gut keeps reminding me "don't think, don't feel. It's time to do."



The future you were waiting for has already happened (Part 1)

When I joined Strange Land 11 years ago, the music industry still worked the way it had, at least during the history of rock music. Ever since I had picked up the guitar the dream was to write and record some songs, build a fan base, get discovered, signed, rich, and famous. Pretty early on I figured out the rich and famous part was unlikely, and that is was more important (for me anyway) to be true to my artistic vision. I'm sure I could have done something more commercial with the intent to make money but I never would have been happy.

In 1999 we released our first 4 song ep. I found this new thing called mp3.com and uploaded music to it. We did pretty well, with our song Foundation reaching number 4 in their prog chart. Now, imagine how long ago that was. I was using dial-up. If you could shell out for it and you didn't live out in the country (like I did) you could get a DSL. I was recording the band on my Powermac G3, recording to a whopping 10 gig external SCSI hard drive (Tech aside: My choice of backup back then was a SCSI DVD-RW drive that used 
cartidge-loaded dvds. I still have it, and the G3 - with a G4 chip - but I haven't powered them up in years). I didn't even have a real audio interface, I recorded into the computer via the stereo line in. If I remember right we recorded drums and bass at the same time. The drums were mixed at the board and tracked in mono. What was I thinking?! But it worked and it was a good start. Hell, I released my first acoustic album in 1999 on cd and tape.

Still, the 'make an album-build local fan base-play shows-get signed' model was still the norm. It was pretty much an all-or-nothing idea. You either broke big, even for a short while, or you languished in obscurity and faded away. MP3.com and other early online avenues were just a little extra, a new way for indie bands to reach people but not to break out big. All the mp3s were 128k bitrate, I can't recall if you could do any better. By the time we released Anomaly in 2001, CD Baby had been established and it was a great way for indie bands to sell cds. Napster was around 1999-2001 (before its shut down and subsequent resurrection) but I never saw the point in using my dial-up connection to download crappy sounding mp3s from really popular bands I didn't like. Whatever you think of the fallout from Napster and all the lawsuits, the period of the late 90's and early 00's marked the beginning of the end of the industry as I knew it. Cable internet and faster DSL use spread. Some indie musicians figured out the best ways to capitalize on this but as far as I can tell most of us were still thinking of the internet as an add-on to the old ways of doing business. The internet was like TV. Consumption was passive. There wasn't even much real advertising then. You just put your web site up and hoped people would find you. And they did. But that was about it. I think in 2001 we were only slightly more likely to get an email from a fan than a phone call or a letter.

The INDUSTRY (worthy of all caps here) was already jumping all over this, like they do with any new technology. (sarcasm) Like the good gatekeepers they are, they stepped into the hero role once again to defend helpless but creative bands, gullible but well-meaning consumers, and the thousands of people whose jobs were at stake from the record producer to the guy sweeping the studio floor (/sarcasm). First recordable cassettes would doom the industry. Then it was recordable cds. Then mp3s and file sharing. It never occurred to them to examine the way they were doing business. Were they releasing good music? No, they stumbled on Nirvana and then signed every other band in Seattle that wore flannel shirts. Somebody manufactured a hit with Brittany Spears so they went out and signed every young woman they could doll up like an All-American Lolita. Did they think that maybe $15 or more wasn't a good price for a cd? No. (Food for thought: a mass produced cd costs $2 or less to make. Most major label deals pay less than $1 to the artist after recouping costs. Where is the rest of this money going?). So they drag their heels, kick up a fuss, and blame everybody else for their perceived woes. The truth is, the music biz was still doing pretty good in the early 2000's. But, the music biz emperor had no clothes. Instead of trying to figure out how to use new technology to their advantage, they tried to kill it. And then came myspace. And iTunes. And Rhapsody. And bit torrents. And Facebook.

(to be continued)


Video Test

I don't know why this seemed like a good idea tonight. I tested my mac's built in camera for video, the sync isn't great. Also, a little tease of a new composition.


Music Without Borders

Just finished an interview with Iranian born progger Farzad Golpayegani, check it out:


WTF? for 11/12/09

A Cnet story reports that NASA has a new website to debunk all the 2012 crap out there. Kudos to NASA. That's not what gets my WTF. I say that to one of the comments below the story. It is a sad commentary on the state of science education. Really, wtf?

by startouch November 12, 2009 10:53 AM PST

I have a problem with this and i will say why ,
1) why do we find bones of ocean creatures in places like Colorado or embedded in the sides of mountains if continental drift is soooo slow & how did oceans exist on these continents / i think a deluge would explain this better (magnetic pole shift ) is logical ,if the Earth were to flip this would explain why ocean creatures were found where they have been ,since the earths oceans would wash over the earth taking these creatures with it and depositing there remains where we have found them..
2) how we find other planets is that we look at one and calculate its "wobble" to find others around it .the "wobble " is created by the magnetic pull on one planet by another ,and this can and has disturbed other planetary body's in the past and collision's have occurred or magnetic shifts on the planet affected.


Scribbles and numbers

Sometimes I write music as little black dots on paper. Sometimes the little black dots are scribbly lines and a bunch of numbers. Sometimes when I'm writing I just need a quick reference so I don't forget what I've written. Sometimes I just need my main ideas written down. There is a lot of improvisation in many of my acoustic tunes. Some are like blocks that can be re-arranged at will.

Here is one of my quick scribbles for a song called Moon and Snow. I haven't recorded this one yet, it will go on my next acoustic cd. This one is in TAB with general rhythm notated above. I prefer standard notation except in songs like this with drastically altered tuning. Too confusing in standard notation. I bend all kinds of notation rules depending on the techniques I use in the song. Sometimes I use standard notation. Sometimes I use a grand staff (like piano music) for right and left hand parts. Notation is a language and I think there's nothing wrong with creating new ways to communicate. As long as I know what I mean, that's all that matters.


Who Do You Think You Are?

Progulus listener Zaii recently commented in the forum:

Does anyone else get bored of new Prog Bands saying things like "for fans of Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree and Opeth"? It's always the same few massive Prog bands and most of the time they actually don't sound anything alike. It would be nice if they named a band they actually do sound like. I have become so disillusioned by people saying such things that when a band claims to sound like DT, yes and PT for example I immediately become very skeptical and assume they are a not particularly talented group who are just trying to draw in as many listeners as possible by claiming to sound like the biggest band they can think of. When was the last time someone said "sounds like Karmakanic" for example??? 
This got me thinking again about the difficulty of finding your own sound and also finding a way to tell people what you sound like.  You want to be accurate, but you don't want to confuse people. Zaii also made reference to a band that's been spamming the Progulus tag board. Spamming will make people made to begin with, but they also claim to sound like Dream Theater, Rush, and Genesis. They aren't even close. I think it's bad form to try to ride someone's coattails in a deceptive way. If you say you sound like Rush and you don't, I probably won't take the time to find out what you so sound like. I'll probably forget all about you. 

Sometimes descriptions of bands are written by their label or promoter. In this case you'll probably hear an accurate comparison, but it will also be of the biggest bands. This is pure marketing, meant to catch the most ears. This isn't necessarily wrong either. I think you do need to speak your audience's language. Once after a Strange Land show one guy in another band (a well known guy in this area) said "Man, you guys have that Kansas thing down!" I know it was meant as a compliment, and I took it as such. But I also said to myself "Huh?!" I'm the only member of Strange Land that listens to a lot of Kansas, and they really are a generation before us anyway. But the guy who gave us the compliment was a little older and probably stopped listening to anything remotely prog in 1980. When people hear something unfamiliar the brain needs to find a place to put it. Sometimes the closest match isn't that close at all. Do we sound like Kansas? Well, more than we sound like Barry White. When I have to describe Strange Land to non-prog fans I'll say Queensryche, Rush, King's X, maybe Living Colour, maybe Dream Theater (if they're metal fans). Listeners of commercial hard rock radio will know some of those bands, and the comparison isn't inaccurate. If I start talking about Pain Of Salvation and Fates Warning I usually get blank stares. 

Another problem in describing my band is whether or not to talk about influence vs. inspiration vs. emulation. We are influenced by Devin Townsend, Echolyn, Dead Soul Tribe, and Nevermore but I don't think we really sound much like those bands. Sometimes I want to make the comparison though because I've been inspired in some way by such a band even though I'm not copying their sound. 

So, back to Zaii's point, and knowing your audience. If I know I'm talking to the prog crowd I can mention all of the above bands and more obscure ones. It's hard to make the comparison to the lesser known bands, there are so many and such variety. Strange Land is influenced by Fates Warning, but it's later material. We are influenced by Queesnryche, but mostly Rage For Order through Promised Land. 

It is a mistake to compare yourself to someone you don't sound like. I think  it's also a mistake for younger bands to say "for fans of" when they aren't ready or are not up to snuff quality-wise. If I say "Strange Land sounds like Symphony X" and we don't, you'll be annoyed. If I say "we're influenced or inspired by" then we still might grab your attention. There is too much emphasis on being the next [fill in famous name here] that bands are unwilling to let time and word of mouth work. I find it better to sound like me than to not sound like someone else but say I do. Unfortunately, in the marketing world, "I sound like me" doesn't cut it. So many bands try to say they sound like whatever you like. 


Be a pro

There's nothing like good customer service. I even think it's worth paying a little more for great service. In the world of the performing musician, good customer service is contained in being professional. And by professional I don't mean making a living at it. I don't mean any particular level of technical prowess on your instrument. I mean common courtesy. I mean doing what you say you will do. I mean not behaving like a dumbass. One definition from Merriam-Webster: following a line of conduct as though it were a profession.

For the second time this year Strange Land ventured south of the border to Illinois. We played on the north side of Chicago at the Redline Tap. Cool place, good food. Big thanks to Progulus listeners Iceman and Falcon and their friends and family for coming out. 

For the second time this year, a show in Illinois was partly hosed because other bands didn't show up. Click here for the scoop on the previous show. This time there were five bands booked. One cancelled a few weeks before the show. Two more were total no-shows. No call, no excuse, nothing. We were expecting to play a 30 minute set. We played for an hour. The other band that did show, Seeking, was cool. Glad to meet them.

But what kind of a moron do you have to be to just bail on a show with no notice? I've seen other examples of not being pro. Chewing out the sound guy. Wrecking the venues property. Being rude to the other bands and to the staff. Getting drunk and making a fool of yourself. Sorry, but acting like a "rock star" doesn't make you one. I know I'm weird but I've never thought it was cool to behave like a typical rock star. The closest I think you can be to getting away with it is when you actually are a rock star with millions of dollars and a team of lawyers. Even then, I'll still think you're an ass and your behavior isn't cool. You'll just be better equipped to not care and get away with it. 

We are probably the most punctual band in the state of Wisconsin. I feel bad if I show up five minutes late. We treat the sound guy with respect. We thank the venue and the other bands we play with. We thank the people who came to see us. That's pro, and that earns us the respect of venues, sound guys, bands and fans. That gets people to buy cds. That gets us invited back to the venue. That gets us invited to open for national acts. That gets other bands to trade shows with us.  And that is why we are entering out 11th year as a band. One measure of success in my mind is survival. We've made it 11 years, 3 albums, and dozens of shows because we've outlasted so many other bands. One of the biggest keys to our survival is our commitment to being pro. 


Identity Crisis

I've been thinking about my identity lately. Specifically, should I have chosen a stage name years ago when I started playing out after college? I'm not getting mobbed by fans and I have my privacy. But there is obviously a conflict between my life as a musician and my personal life away from the stage. Lately it seems the more I express my private life the more damage I do to my music life.

I am a guitarist, bassist, singer, and percussionist. I am a composer. I am a recording engineer. I am an artist. I am a designer. I am a traveller. I am a friend. I am a son, a cousin, and a nephew. I am a skeptic. I am an atheist. Did those last two taint your view of all the previous ones? I wonder if there are some parents out there who would complain to their kid's schools if they new that the music teacher was using music in the classroom written by an atheist. Probably a few, never mind that I've only had instrumentals published so far and I wouldn't advocate atheism in a song to be bought by a school.

Still, I am who I am. People will either accept me or not. If you decide not to like my music because I'm an atheist, well, I can't change that. Music is music and I've found many religious songs beautiful. Especially in the classical world (like Ave Maria by Bach/Gounod). Creativity will find its way in the world, filtered through each artist's experience.

I think instead of separating the private from the public, I'm going to be bringing them closer together. Music is my life. I've never felt like I needed to do something as compulsively. I breathe, I eat, I play music. It's not something I can't do. I feel like I should focus on that and just shut up about everything else. I have to be 'me' to the fullest to be satisfied with my music. But music is not my life. I am more than just little black dots. I can't be creative without experiencing life. I think Neil Peart of Rush said it best:
Back in April of this year, just before the Snakes and Arrows tour, I did a TV interview for the Canadian music channel, MuchMusic. The cameraman placed the interviewer and me in the rehearsal hall, in front of my drums, where I had been laboring for several weeks by then. Some of the interviewer’s questions seemed to angle toward a certain starry-eyed view of my work, especially the touring side of it, and I tried to explain to him that I didn’t consider touring, or even drumming, to be my life.
He seemed perplexed, and to appraise me as clearly jaded and cynical, because his next question was, “When did you start to feel that way?”
I paused to think for a couple of seconds, then was glad to feel the mental light bulb illuminate a true and clear answer. I was able to answer honestly, “About a month into the first tour, in 1974.” That really was when I started to feel that touring was “not enough,” and turned to reading books as a way to make more use of the days and nights.
Partly out of sheer contrariness, but partly out of a desire for context, I often refer to playing the drums, with deliberate disrespect, as “the job”—hitting things with sticks. Obviously it means much more to me than that, and has been a central focus in my life. But still, it seems rather sad to hear anyone say that their work is their life.
Not family and friends? Not reading and writing? Not hiking or cross-country skiing or birdwatching or motorcycle riding or swimming?
Just work?
I don’t think so.
Thanks Neil.



I think this will be the start of a new series. I'm going to post links to stories. I'm not going to say anything about them, no skeptic comments, no atheist comments, no comments from an American bias. Just WTF?

Yemeni girl, 12, dies in painful childbirth

Tips for debate - pack a lunch

“We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children are smart.”
H.L. Mencken
1880 – 1956

Let's be clear, I'm under no obligation to respect your ideas. I may need to respect you to get along if we work together or want to have a fair debate. Attacking you personally isn't going to help either of us. If you have a personal religion, fine. But if you're going to come into the conversation in a rage over my opinions on religion be ready to back it up with some rationality. If you think I shouldn't say anything that might be taken as offensive by a person of faith, pack a lunch. It's probably going to be a long day. If you think we should all just get along and live and let live then I expect to see some effort on my behalf from you. And I'm not going to live and let live when I see what I think is injustice, lunacy, or just plain folly. If you have a problem with me shining a light in dark places or playing court jester to call attention to peoples foibles, again, pack a lunch. 

It is a tenet of many religions to proselytize, witness or otherwise gain converts. I am the type who requires more than ideas. I need facts. I need something tangible. If I listen to your argument but still am unconvinced, do you have a right to condemn me? To be mad at me? If I take apart your pitch with my own viewpoint do you have the right to throw a temper tantrum and call me names? I guess you can but you'll only get further from your goal.

If I call attention to inconsistencies in your faith what is your reaction? If I give you my list of reasons I don't (and can't) believe as you do, what do you day? Do you trod out the same tired retorts like Pascal's Wager and the Argument From Ignorance? Do you swish it away with some vague comment about god's will? Do you refocus your argument and try to come from a different angle? Do you think about what you believe and wonder if you should change your beliefs? Do you fear that last possibility? I do not. 


The Dawkins Scale, or What kind of atheist am I?

Richard Dawkins, in his book The God Delusion, gave the following scale for describing how strong your belief or non-belief is:

  1. Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung, 'I do not believe, I know.'
  2. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. De facto theist. 'I cannot know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.'
  3. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. Technically agnostic but leaning towards theism. 'I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.'
  4. Exactly 50 per cent. Completely impartial agnostic. 'God's existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.'
  5. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. Technically agnostic but leaning towards atheism. 'I do not know whether God exists but I'm inclined to be sceptical.'
  6. Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. 'I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.'
  7. Strong atheist. 'I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung "knows" there is one.'
I am a 6. So is Richard Dawkins. Yes, even Darwin's Rottweiler. Why is he a 6? Because like any good scientist he will change his beliefs viewpoints to fit new evidence. If compelling evidence for the existence of god arises, hey, I'm all in. So far I have seen nothing compelling, only appeals to emotions. 

People I have met that claim to be a 7, frankly, piss me off as much as those who are a 1. For the 1s, how can you "know" something that must be taken on faith? Faith is belief in something without proof. If I question your 'knowing' you will fall back on faith, saying you don't need proof. I have only met one 7 in my life. I get the impression that people who are 7s are very angry at the church or other authority figure. I think they arrive at their conclusion based on emotion, not reason. 

I think this is an issue for atheists. We need to get the word out to the public that we aren't saying we know god doesn't exist. I would say I find the existence of god extremely unlikely. You may call me a religion atheist and a god agnostic. I have always drawn a distinction between the idea of god and the man made construct of religion. I'm ok with that. I don't have to fill in unknowns in my life or in the universe with something. Unanswered questions make life interesting. 

What I'm not ok with is personal belief being used to exclude people. I'm not ok with being told that questioning someone's faith is offensive. I'm not ok with politicians pandering to the religious. I'm not ok with important decisions being made based on religious grounds. I'm not ok with religion being used to justify horrors. I'm not ok with being told that I'm going to hell because I'm an atheist. 


What I've done with my time - A history of me part three

Ok, the third installment. I think this will be the last, bringing everything up to my current activities. It seems this post-college phase of my life comes in larger pieces so I'm going to break it down more by project.

Strange Land:

  • Joined in Nov. 1998
  • Released Foundation demo in 1999
  • Released Anomaly in late 2001
  • The song I Don't Know You Anymore appears on ProgPower 4 sampler cd
  • Demoed new songs and gave away samplers at ProgPower
  • Blaming Season in late 2004
  • Catharsis in mid 2009
  • Have opened for National acts King's X, Joe Stump, Event, Three, ex-Marillion singer Fish, and soon, Gary Hoey
  • Have been reviewed and interviewed in print, online, and on the radio
  • Played many, many shows
Solo work:
  • Started working on solo acoustic music in 1998
  • Started playing out with friend Catherine Scholz. I owe her a lot for getting me out and helping me find my voice. 
  • Released Book Of Ashes in 1999
  • Released Driving Empty Miles in 2001
  • Released October Dust in 2004. All cds were acoustic instrumental to this point.
  • Released first instrumental electric solo album This Is What It Sounds Like Inside My Head in 2008
  • Many shows, including several trips along the Mississippi river/Minneapolis circuit.
(Hmmm... There seems to be a hole between 2004 and 2008/09.)

Miscellaneous projects:
  • Played substitute gigs with the Mr. Lucky Swing Syndicate and Les Artiste Big Band for a few years after college.
  • I've played for at least 5 weddings. One in high school and the rest after. 
  • Taught private lessons for 10 years. That isn't really a project but I am proud of many students who've formed bands playing original music. I've also had a handful go on to study music in college. 
  • Soaker - a Galactic Cowboys-ish rock band. Wrote some tunes, recorded a few tracks around 2003-04
  • Played in the ABS Blues band 2006-08. Fun, but died partly due to lack of drummer. Darn drummers.
  • The Julie B Well - Art/prog/pop band. I joined in October 2008. Currently recording a cd.
  • I work a day job at a music publisher. I have been fortunate that they have published 3 of my songs so far. I have also been doing a lot of artwork for them.
  • I've done the artwork for all the cd's I've done with Strange Land and solo. Some are original creations and some are arrangements and layouts of photos taken by others. 
And still I've managed to do some traveling which is what I really love. Maybe I'll do another post chronicling my travels. 


What I've done with my time - a history of me part two.

And now we enter the college years. The time I thought life wouldn't suck as much as high school because people would stop telling me what to do. Wrong. Honestly, I spent a lot of time in college as a bitter young man. I now wish I had enjoyed it more and had taken advantage of some opportunities I missed. Has a serious medical problem in my 4th year that caused me to drop most music classes and I was afraid I'd have to quit guitar altogether. A story for another time.

Notable activities:

  • Member of UWM Jazz Ensemble 94-97 (mostly guitar, bass here and there). Played on the first UWM Jazz band cd. Of all the tracks picked I'm actually only playing bass on a funk tune. 
  • Continued with Big Brown Newport through 96 I think. We recorded a lot. Probably at least 4 albums worth of material
  • Various Jazz combo and classical ensembles at the Conservatory. Many recitals including senior recital. 
  • Played electric guitar in the Downey festival (celebrating composer and UWM prof John Downey). The Edge of Space / Fantasy for Bassoon and Orchestra. That was a blast. Electric guitar in the orchestra.
  • Met Chad at UWM. Joined the band that would become Strange Land in November of 1998
There wasn't much else. I guess I was pretty focused and the ensembles I was in filled my time. Big Brown Newport and Fishboy had tapered off by about 96. I kept writing the whole time but only recorded a couple of experimental things. Had a low key few years before Strange Land.


What I've done with my time - a history of me part one.

"This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind... let it be something good." - Unknown author.

Sometimes when I'm not feeling my best it is good to think about all the things I have done. Most often I'm beating myself up for not getting more done. For not living up to the quote at the top of this post. One thing I am not good at is stopping to smell the roses. As soon as one thing is finished I'm thinking about the next problem or project, chastising myself for not working harder or faster. But somewhere there is balance. I have not wasted as much time as I think I have. Allow me to flex my ego a bit and run down a list of achievements, activities and projects worth mentioning. These all fall into the "I chose to do these" and not in the "I had to do these" category. In roughly chronological order. To the best of my recollection. Some of these memories are 20 years old.

A brief look at high school, dipping a little back to middle school (which is all I can stand):

  • Started playing guitar, age 13
  • A few half-started bands and projects with friends
  • First public performance, freshman year. Terrified. Joined some friends on Metallica's One and I think maybe Man In The Box by Alice in Chains. I can't remember.
  • Two years in jazz band, mostly guitar, some bass
  • One year marching and concert band - percussion
  • Did the usual Solo & Ensemble competitions. 
  • Member of the Greater Milwaukee Youth Jazz ensemble - one year
  • Performed and wrote with a band. Started as Perpetual Motion, later became 3 Blind Mice
  • Recorded about a CDs worth of music with 3 Blind Mice (two tapes, back in the day)
  • Started the project that became Fishboy, recorded first album summer after junoir year
  • Joined Big Brown Newport on bass. Played around Madison
A detour into details:
Perpetual Motion - Me, guitar and vocals; Mike Troemel, drums; Joe Grandeffo, bass and vocals. Some older guy who turned out to be a douche on guitar and lead vocals for one summer. About 89-91 (my date recollections here are pretty sketchy)
Three Blind Mice - Me, guitar and vocals; Mike Troemel, drums; Bob Duclos, bass and vocals. Also a rotating cast of lead singers including Jamie Ryan, Tim Delay, Paul Hutchison and even my dad. Some guy named Chris on rhythm guitar for a while. About 91-93
Fishboy - Me, guitar, bass, vocals; Jamie Ryan - drums, bass, guitar, vocals. This was a studio project that wrote songs spanning styles from Maiden to Pearl Jam to freeform improv. We did one album the summer before college (an epic a la 2112) and did three more the following summer. One was an all improv trio with Jeremy Kreideman on trombone, bass and vocals. One was a sequel to the epic, and the third was more stand alone tunes. About 93-95
Big Brown Newport - Me, bass; Jamie Ryan, drums and vocals; Tim DeLay, guitar and vocals; Andy Beavers, guitar and vocals. About 94-96 I think.

/end part one


Sometimes I wish I weren't curious. I like to know things, find out new information. Often it's good. Being able to learn for a lifetime makes it worthwhile. I really enjoy reading a headline on a science website that makes me go "huh?" and I get to dig into it further.

But there are times I look for information before I think about whether I want it or not. And when I find it I feel torn up all over again. My own damn fault.


Today's Haiku

Spinning into sound
Whirling dots of black in wind
Like leaves from fall trees



This is a test. A test of the phone to email to blog hookup. Not like other tests. This is easy and it doesn't hurt. Not like opening those old wounds and revisiting the events that taught me lessons. Not like the constant test of wondering if I know what the hell I'm doing. No, this is easy by comparison.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device from U.S. Cellular


The Trip

Found a fun site that lets you draw on Google maps. Here's a rough scribble of my trip.


Todays Haiku

Rock in my stomach
Tired of watching, waiting for
Falling shoes on head


Attack of the vampire cat

Trip to urgent care (with tetanus booster): probably lots of money.
horse pill sized antibiotics: $145.
Telling my friends that my infected cat bite came from a vampire cat: priceless.

Pretty fatigued today but I can tell the antibiotics are already working.


That is why I do this.

Strange Land had a show last Friday at a place that shall remain nameless here. I am the diplomat of the band after all, not that you can't all go to the web and find out where it was. It was out first show at this venue and our first within about 70 miles of this place. I thought we made this clear to the venue. We're interested in expanding our territory and reaching new people. Details were sketchy about the show until a few days before. Then, it looked like we were on a bill with five other bands. The whole show started at 6, we were told to be there no later than 10. Ok... looks like we're last. No biggie, with 5 other bands there should be a decent number of people hanging around.

Ah, but it's never that easy. From 6-10 it was an all ages show. We were indeed last and the band that was supposed to be before us didn't show. I thought, fine, we'll go on around 10:30 then. Promptly at 10 all the under 21 people were booted out. The band in stage at the time finished their set with a pretty good crowd still there. But for some reason the venue made us wait until 11 to start. In that time almost everyone left while the cover band got started upstairs (don't even get me started on cover bands. I'll lose my diplomatic immunity). Since the band we we're booked with didn't show none of their people were there. So most of the night we had five people. We managed to snag a few others in passing from upstairs. Add to that, the sound guy was pulling double duty due to an emergency. He was running up and down the stairs doing sound on both stages. He loved us though. Sound guys seem to like us because we don't sound like every other band they have to sit through. At one point Brad's vocal mic behind the drum kit was feeding back and he just unplugged it. We didn't have Brad singing for most of the night. Such is the nature of live shows. Shit goes wrong and you either roll with it or you collapse.

All that said, this was one of the best shows we've had in a while. We played well. We had fun on stage. And the crowd that was there was engaged. I have so much fun when I can interact with people from the stage. We cracked jokes. I got everyone to introduce themselves. We laughed. I may take my music seriously, but I don't take myself seriously. It wasn't my show. It wasn't Strange Land's show. It was our show, band and audience together.

I've played a lot of shows for many different kinds of crowds. I'll take small and enthusiastic over large and indifferent any day. I'm they guy in the band who isn't gung ho to play out. I prefer writing and recording. But for shows like this I will always come out and I will enjoy playing on stage. All I need to do to be successful is reach one person. To make one person laugh. To know that one person understands what I'm trying to do. For one person to feel like I understand them because of a song we wrote. We got lucky, we reached more than one last week. And that is why I do this.

Special thanks to Progulites Iceman and Falcon for coming out. It's cool to meet hardcore prog fans and to put faces and real names to the chat board nicknames.


Paint A New Picture

All the time we spent
What was the return worth
What meaning we found we had to
Let it go
Say goodbye
Paint a new picture
Of a time gone by

I know you didn't mean to
But you did anyway
From all the grief I've learned to
Let you go
Say goodbye
Paint a new picture
Let the loss subside

You've got a long road to go
I would have helped along the way
In all the desolation you've got to
Let me go
Say goodbye
Paint a new picture
Leave my ghost behind



I'm tired.

Tired of rhetoric. Tired of arguments. Tired of misinformation. Tired of lies. Tired of people stating opinions as facts. Tired of people using misinformation and lies to support their opinions. I'm tired of the game that people play to try to force everyone to be like they are. Freedom is freedom. It isn't "free if you're like me." I'm tired of watching people emotions being manipulated. I'm tired of watching the middle ground vanish.

I'm tired of people thinking I'm offensive when I express my opinions. I try to share them in a rational way and if I'm trying to support an argument I do my best to deal in real evidence and not in fear and hate and made up crap. All I want is for people to think rationally but that is obviously too much to ask. I'm tired of seeing the fear of the 'other' be replaced by automatic hate of the 'other'.

I'm tired of showing people respect and getting none in return. I think it's ok for you to live your life the way you choose, why do you think it isn't ok for me to choose for myself? You've made a choice for your life and you think that it gives you some kind of moral superiority to look down on me? I think we can have disagreements and we can have discussions and still respect each other. But apparently if I disagree with you I'm an idiot. Or, at best, you'll just assume that you are right and I'm wrong and I'll figure it out when I go to burn in hell. I don't assume I'm right but if you want me to agree with you then provide some tangible evidence. No evidence? Well fuck you. Is that better? That's as close as I will get to playing on your level.

I'm tired of being misunderstood. I'm tired of being in a minority. I'm tired of being distracted from what really matters to me.

I'm tired.


Humanism, atheism and science - a brief outline.

Ok, I have been promising some other blog entries on topics aside from music. So here ya go. I'm going to do a little explaining about my own philosophies. I don't have time to spend on a lot of research and linking things in, this is pretty much freeform off the top of my head opinion. If I do get into specific facts I will back them up and I welcome your questions and comments.

Humanism, atheism and science - a brief outline.

There is a lot of confusion about humanism (secular and non-secular), atheism and science. These are not all synonymous with each other but they can easily overlap.

Humanism is a world view/philosophy concerned with universal human rights and dignities. Humanism can be secular or non-secular. Being a secular humanist means, to me, taking the need for religion and god out of the desire for human rights. It means those rights exist without religion, it doesn't mean you have to have to be non-religious.

Atheism is, by dictionary definition, a rejection of the existence of god or gods. This particularly applies to theism - the belief in a personal god one can communicate with. I've lately been thinking I'm not necessarily an a-deist. Deists think that a power/being created the universe but has no interactions with us. Since discovering this being isn't a question we know how to ask yet I'm content to let it sit. I feel agnostic toward deism. I firmly reject the institution of religion and its gatekeepers.

Science is observation and interpretation of the natural world. Hypothesis (question) > Test > Retest > Verification (by an independent party) > Theory. By definition god is not natural, therefore outside of science. Science requires testable evidence and testable predictions. Eugenie Scott famously said (I'm paraphrasing) that science was agnostic toward god. The existence of god (so far) is not a scientific question. Conversely you can't teach science with religion. Faith, believing something with no evidence or some kind of 'gut feeling' is not science. Fine, have your faith. But don't try to force it where it doesn't fit, like the science classroom.


Help spread the music

Grab some Reverb Nation widgets for your site, email, IM, whatever.



Last Call!

If you have been procrastinating on ordering the pre-order bonus package
edition of Catharsis, the new Strange Land album, the good news is it is
not yet too late. The bad news is that there is a limited number left and
the offer will be coming to an end soon.

You have two weeks left to order so stop in at the Strange Land web page
(http://www.strange-land.net/merch.html) and place your order while there
is still time and while supplies last. Wednesday, July 22nd will be the
last day you will be able to place your order and once we are out there
will be no more of the pre-order packages made available.


An elision of purpose

So, the new Strange Land cd is out. Special deals are selling now, the general distro will start in a week or two. It's been a too long process to get this one out. The reasons are varied, from our own procrastination to major personal issues, to playing too much of the waiting game. Nonetheless we are pleased with the results and we thank everyone who has stuck with us. When we picked the title we didn't think we'd actually be having a cathartic experience making it.
So what happens next? Is this the end of a process, the beginning, something in the middle? It all depends on what kind of band you are and what you want out of your career. Some bands just love making new music, so the release of a cd is pretty much the end. You finish the album, get the word out that its available, and move on the the next one. The amount of promotion you do I guess depends on how much energy or money you have for it. Once you've told people it's available you get right back to making new music.
On the flip side the album release is just the beginning. You get it out there, push the promotion, set up a tour. You play as many shows as you can hoping to collect some new fans along the way. I suppose the bigger you get the more this second option is what you do. Bigger bands have the resources to mount full scale tours. For the most part bands in this mode don't even think about recording for a year or two.
I think we'll try to hit a mark somewhere in the middle. As part of growing as a band I think the balance shifts around. We can justify more advertising but not a full scale tour. Hopefully more shows but we won't be putting off writing and recording new music to make time for shows. I'm sure we'll find a balance. I know for a fact it won't take 5 years to release the next one.


Heroes part 1

I thought I'd share a few videos of musicians who've inspired and influenced me. I'll start with some acoustic music. The late, great Michael Hedges, Preston Reed, Richard Leo Johnson, and Billy McLaughlin. Billy's case is especially inspiring as he overcame a medical condition by relearning the guitar left handed. This is equivalent to someone like Joe Montana switching from right to left hand for throwing and then going on to win the superbowl that way. Enjoy.



Does anybody know how to squeeze more hours into the day? I could use them.
  1. 7am wake up
  2. get ready for work, breakfast, pack lunch
  3. work 9:30 to 4:30 (got to leave early)
  4. 5:30 appointment
  5. grocery shopping, housework
  6. practice and write
  7. work on cd mailings
  8. brainstorm band marketing ideas
  9. breathe... it's a good thing I don't have kids
  10. work out and go for a walk
  11. chill for a little bit
  12. go to bed at midnight
  13. Lather, rinse, repeat


Hello there

This is the first installment on the new blog. Here you'll find info and ranting and raving from me. You'll see my musical side and my philosophical one. I'll link to the old freewebs archive. I got tired of the spam, there's no captcha for comments over there. Stay tuned for the madness.

While you're hear listen to some tunes from Reverb Nation. RN is a great place to find new music, go check it out.