Once Upon a Time in New Jersey

Tomorrow night (Nov 21st) is the debut of the collaboration between myself and Stone Document, the duo of Dennis Tirch (guitar and electronics) and Mike Roze (V-drums). The plan is to do a quick set of entirely improvised music at a club on the Lower East Side called “Fat Baby”.

But first – some history:

Dennis and I met in 2005 at a Guitar Craft course (check my links) in New Jersey. We hit it off immediately as we had very similar musical backgrounds and almost identical musical tastes. And so commenced the almost unstoppable stream of prog rock nerd-speak. We played together a lot that course and even collaborated (with Daniel Reyes, Scott English, Adam Handler and I’m a total putz if I forgot anyone) on a piece. We were charged with the task of working in small groups and composing a piece to be performed the next day. Over the course of 2 hours we put together “En la Corte del Rey Hamburgessa” (trans – “In the Court of the Burger King”), the title a tongue-in-cheek homage to King Crimson’s debut album. It turned out to be one of the most effortless and rewarding music-making experiences in my life. We all brought something different to the table and all meshed together really well. And then of course the performance the next day in front of a bunch of Crafties and Robert Fripp (the driving force of the afforementioned King Crimson) was one of the top 5 musical experiences in my life. Oh, and the title did get a laugh.

So since then Dennis and I have kept in touch and did the usual “we gotta do something together one of these days” dance. The distance between us (me in Vermont, him in New Jersey) did seem a bit of a hurdle. Then, after hanging out with him in early October when I was in NYC for the Audio Engineering Society conference an idea presented itself. I was going to be down in the NJ with the family for Thanksgiving so why not do a small informal coffee house type gig of improvising? The wheels were set in motion and in no time Dennis had secured a venue and enlisted his collaborator, drummer Mike Roze. DT and MR were finishing up the work on their Stone Document CD (which I was lucky enough to contribute to) so worlds seemed to be colliding quite nicely.

This then snowballed into a club date that was to be the release party for the Stone Document CD. A club in SoHo. A considerable step up from a coffee house in Northern New Jersey. A challenge and an opportunity. At the same time it transpired that the family was not headed to New Jersey after all and so I was suddenly really traveling just for the gig, though there was the perk of getting to stay and spend a little time with some of the family in New Jersey.

And so I hit the road.

 


Preparing for the Road

So, after a remarkable amount of time obsessing and waflling over what to reduce my gig rig to, I think I have it.  Those of you who haven’t seen me perform lately may not be aware of the fact that what I do is rather dependent on technology.  I rely heavily on my onstage rig (all my equipment) to create the sounds I do.  Usually this involves a rack with 10 spaces in front and then a pop-up rack that has sveral other items of (or for) electronic delight plus 2 amps (a Trace Elliot for the bass register of the Stick and a Marshall combo for the trebble).  This is all controlled (mostly) via midi from a large pedalboard at my feet.  When I played with jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut a few years ago he dubbed it “Mission Control” although using the word ”control” is rather optimistic.

Because the NYC show is at a venue I have never played, in a part of the lower east side I’ve never been to, I need to scale down the gear I bring.  This is for portability as well as reducing the amount of things to grapple with during whatever (if any) soundcheck we get.  Warning: gear-fetishist babble ahead:

This is what I eventually walked out the door with:

  • my Chapman Stick
  • my severely-revisied pedalboard (consisting of my volume pedals, Whammy/Wah pedal, Adrenalinn 2 (with an Adrenalinn 3 label – more on that later), ART TPS preamp, TC Electronics Sustainer/EQ, an Akai Headrush delay and last but not least my Electro Harmonix 2880 looper with footpedal.
  • a backpack with a couple DIs, hum eliminator, minidisc recorder, headphones, misc small cables, etc.

The idea is to plug directly into the house p.a. bypassing the need for onstage amps.  This takes a lot of faith in the sound guy who utlimately is controlling your volume.  We’ll see  how that goes. 

 


In the beginning…

So, given that I have so much free time, I’ve started this. It’s more an effort to keep everyone who asks “are you playing/recording/producing much these days?” up to speed.

So I’m sure you’re wondering, “Hey, are you playing/recording/producing/blogging much?” Well, yeah. In the past month I’ve watched the dust settle after completing the final mixes for Arty LaVigne’s forthcoming disc (tentatively titled Faraway), I’ve mastered the new Doughboys album (out now I think), recorded a Stick track for the soon-to-be-released disc from the Stone Document project (more on that soon) and now I’m getting ready to play a few dates.

And in my free time I’m figuring out this blog thing.

m.c.

 


 

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