Summer’s Over

credit: Mike Conley

Well, its the first post of 2021 and it only took me until mid-October to get around to it. Haven’t been as productive as hoped what with COVID avoidance, working from home, battling depression, digging through personal and professional archives and dealing with losing family and friends…

So, here we are in October. Summer is behind us. A Summer that saw the renaming of one band (from Winooski Falls to the more accurate/descriptive Arty LaVigne Band), and we did manage to play a handful of outdoor shows. It was so good to be playing for people again! Now that gigs are moving indoors, we have temporarily stopped booking and have shifted into album pre-production mode. Oh and the guitar maintenance and pedalboard reconfiguration goes on ad infinitum.

Selected Solo Improvisations, vol. 1

Selected Solo Improvisations, vol. 1 is the first in a series of archival recordings taken mostly from live performances. Quite often the pieces employ real-time looping to create a complex soundscape. This collection also includes some Chapman Stick practice experiments that attempted to synchronize a drum machine with the loops as they were being created.

Here are some details about the tracks:

  1. Raga Ndbone – A fretless guitar improvisation (with some odd delays writhing in the background. The title is a play on the terms “raga” and the English slang “rag and bone” (a rag and bone man is an old term for a peddler who collected discarded items for resale).
  2. Post-normal – A guitar/guitar-synthesiszer/looper piece taken from my solo spot in one of the shows I did with compadre Kevin Peckham. My main moment of unrestrained weirdness in each show.
  3. Stick Practice Improvisation – Forgive the following descent into techno-geekery. The Chapman Stick is a multi-stringed instrument with the range of a bass and a guitar that is played by tapping the strings with both hands; essentially using piano-like technique on astringed instrument. In this instance (and the ones that follow in this collection) the treble register of the Stick was looped using an Electro Harmonix 2880 multitrack looper and the bass register was looped using a Lexicon JamMan, both of which were synchronized to a Roger Linn Adrenalinn III drum machine/processor. These are the only pieces that weren’t created in front of an audience.
  4. Like for Part 2 – Ambient guitar/looper exploration of type I am typically “known for”.
  5. Return of Stick Practice Improvisation – More basement experimentation with synchronization.
  6. Any Questions? – Probably too many if you’ve made it this far.
  7. Son of Return of Stick Practice Improvisation – Yeah. You guessed it. Might make a good bumper for radio if any of my friends in broadcasting are reading this. Wink wink.
  8. Part 2 – Another ambient guitar noodle dish. Pairs well with a Pinot Noir and/or Strawberry Cush.
  9. Son of Return of Stick Practice Improvisation (Slight Return) – Just some playing around with the loops from Track 7 that was at the end of that recording.

Available exclusively at BandCamp

Tuning Up the Hot Rods, vol. 2

Next up is my trusty Vox Standard 25 (or what used to be Standard). This is the first really good guitar I owned, purchassed from a friend in High School. It started life as a stock Vox Standard 25 which could best be described as “if a Strat and a PRS had a child that traveled in time back to the mid-80s”. It was my main guitar through the end of the 80s and into the early 90s. Not sure if it’s just long term familiarity but it is one of the easiest and most comfortable necks I have played.

A long time ago…

It was also the first guitar I played around with modding. It’s been through several personality changes and the current set-up is:

  • all the usual (straplocks, locking Neutrik output jack, graphite string trees)
  • custom cut pickguard
  • single coil Dimarzio in bridge position
  • Gibson Bill Laurence humbucker in bridge position
  • Roland GK midi pickup
  • momentary stutter button

The Dimarzio single coil was the original on the stock version, the humbucker came from a mid-80s Les Paul I did some work on for a friend (and the pickups that were replaced were given to me as payment). The wiring is a mix between custom and accidental: the first (volume) pot was replaced withthe momentary button, the third pot is a tone control exclusively for the single coil (this makes going back and forth between the e-bow and regular playing super-easy). The middle pot was supposed to be a master volume but somehow just rolls off some of the overall high frequencies. I’m not sure where I messed up but it’s been interesting playing around with this configuration. One of these days I might correct it, but for now…

Tuning Up the Hot Rods, vol. 1

One of the upsides of “downtime” is catching up on my instrument maintenance. So I started with the hot-rodded ones: they started life as basic and unremarkable and were then transformed into… well, you’ll see. Number one is only modded a little. Neutrik locking output jack and Dunlop straplocks (both standard on most of my modified instruments), and a momentary killswitch where the old jack used to be. It already had the graphite neck and LSR tuners. Usually tuned to E-flat and my main go-to for Strat sounds.

This was one of my main guitars used on the Bardela EP. The Crow is a good demonstration of it’s capabilities.

Slogging Thru The Archives

One of the advantages of having retired (willingly or not) from performing live is extra time to organize the archives of demos, live recordings and outtakes that have piled up over the years. Some of the demos actually have found their way out into the world as completed songs, others will probably remain unheard until I at least get a better grip on sample clearance. When I was just learning how to record/write/arrange it was long before DAWs and even affordable samplers. So my drum choices came down to using a primitive drum machine (“paging Dr. Rhythm”?) or making drum “loops” by playing recordings through my digital delay stomp-box and trying to hit the HOLD function at just the right time. As a result I have some rather amateur sounding songs with some of the best (unwitting) drummers in the world. Most of these tracks are of no significance or value except to me and the glimpse it gives to moments in my musical development. Still, I might share a couple pieces down the road.

Bass Rig

The Bass Rig [not pictured: Trace Elliot (small-ish) and SWR (big) amps and FCB1010 midi controller]

So, what is going on here? It’s actually pretty straightforward and super-flexable. First, the pedalboard:

The pedalboard can be used as a standalone rig for more basic needs. For more complex needs we add the rack (controlled by Behringer FCB1010 foot controller sending PC, CC and note messages):

Amps are either a Trace Elliott combo (for smaller gigs) or a SWR amp and 8X10 cab (for larger/louder).

RSF at the Mill

Meet “the Grateful Dead of the Northeast Basement IDM Scene”.

The entirety of the “Regional Science Fair at the Mill, 05/04/01” bootleg is the current offering on the RSF SoundCloud page. This is one of the best examples of the band at the height of it’s initial run; the sound of the band in it’s happy place. Also features special guest appearance by Darren Case on sax.

Turn your thermostat up to 105 degrees, grab a cup o’ Purple Jesus and look nervously at Pub Safe and it’s the next best thing to having been there.

Diving Into the Archive…

Ancient Audio Artifacts.

DAT, ADAT, Minidisc, Cassette, VHS; I am surrounded. Using my free time to sift thru the archive of my work from the last 35 years. So many forgotten moments, sessions, whole projects even, lost in the hazy mist of memory.

Until now. Among the projects being (re)discovered:

  • Multitracks of John Tower Group, Regional Science Fair, Christensen/Watts/Chestnut/Tan, and various albums for others.
  • 2-track recordings of gigs dating back to ’92.
  • An absolute treasure trove of Fools and Fodder relics (board tapes, demos, rough mixes and 2 different shows on video bookending the life of the band.
  • Hours and hours of 4 and 8-track sketches, demos, failed attempts and experiments.

All of these will eventually be transferred to a DAW/drive for long term storage and who knows? Some of it might see the light of day in some form or another. Actually, the Regional Science Fair gigs might make their way onto the band’s Sound Cloud page in case there’s anybody who wants to relive that mayhem. More on that soon.

Where Did That Month Go?

One would think that suddenly having most social options and locations off the table would free up a lot of time for creativity. Many of my friends seem to be kicking productivity into overdrive. Me? Not so much. This is also with a reduced work load/week. I seem to be paralyzed by the expanse of options. So I am trying to move obstacles out of the way, organizing, cataloging, and prepping. Making space for when I can focus again. Sounds logical and simple; feels anything but. More soon, I hope.