Wednesday, November 22, 2006
We are getting close, however. Just last Sunday we met at the Sandcastle to lay down some tracks, and with the help of Max the Soundman, we just focused on playing the music, and the recordings sounded pretty good. And this is a very important step in making our CD especially.
Our CD will take time because we are making these recordings in the old way, live with all of us playing together. Most bands go to studios and lay down single tracks, instrument by instrument, and then they mix the tracks together to make a song. Although this would speed production time and make us sound awesome, it just doesn't seem to fit what we are trying to do. So when we record, we all play together, and we've got to play as perfectly as we can.
One other difficulty that we face is that amplifying or recording the Muddy Basin Ramblers is really challenging. With so many unusual instruments, we need at least seven to ten dynamic microphones for a good sound, and fourteen is better. We can also use two or three condenser microphones, but that means feedback and a whole different slew of problems for the soundman. At one gig a while ago, the soundman just retreated from his soundboard and hid backstage on the verge of weeping. He was really new to the job so I can't blame him, but even veterans are challanged by the task of getting that sweet sound we love. (Thanks, Max and all other soundmen who have helped us out!)
Another reason for us getting our CD out so slowly is that we've been busy working on several other Muddy Basin products that we hope to have available for the holidays.
If all goes well, we'll be offering Muddy Basin Gift Certificates which can be used at all Muddy Basin Rambler Retail Stores to purchase all sorts of cool Muddy Basin Rambler gear, like: fully poseable action figures complete with hundreds of authentic Muddy Basin Ramblers hats, outfits, and of course, instruments that really work!
There will also be Muddy Basin Ramblers DVD's, comic books, video games, trading cards, bottle openers, screen savers, stickers, stationary, action figure playsets, belt buckles, seat covers, lunchboxes, furniture, bookbags, and my favorite: comfy Muddy Basin Rambler flip-flops that you only wear inside your house.
If we can't get these fine products out by the first of 2007, we'll shoot for Chinese New Year, and that'll give us another two months.
And if our cool plastic stuff isn't manufactured in time for you to buy Muddy Basin Rambler gifts for the holidays, you can always just send some money to a good charity, or spend some time doing good things.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
We were scheduled for a twilight show, and we finished off our afternoon with a warm-up jam near the Dream Community dance studio/classroom. When it was time to get up on the stage, we did, and we didn’t let the lack of a sound check dampen our enthusiasm.
DC gave us a gracious introduction, and we launched into a ripping set. Actually, it sounded like something was ripping, or shorting out, once in a while. The sound system was making itself heard above our own noise. The audience was appreciative and got into the spirit of our jug band blues sound. It was good to see so many of the Taipei music community come out to support the show.
At eight o’clock, the Bash’s finale Superstar Jam took place. All of the musicians who were willing to jam the stage for a final, all inclusive jam, got up and did their thing. It was a hell of a good time, with all sorts of contributions being made.
One of the guitarists on stage for the finale was Joel Blumert, and although I didn’t go to Capone’s after the show and jam with him there, as some of the Ramblers did, I got to play music with him just the same. It turns out he liked our sound and wanted to play with us again. So, we joined him Hsichih at the DC for an evening of music.
Joel is a native of
After a great meal at the café, we accompanied Joel for two sets of music. He and Dave sat next to each other while the rest of stood around them. TC was missing due to filming requirements, but his tub was there, and Dave played it to back up Joel several times (or maybe once).
We recognized many of the songs that we played with him, but the verses were often different from those that we had learned. We surprised him a bit when we all launched into the backing vocals for KC Moans. DC was there as well, and I specifically remember him being called up to join Got My Mojo.
The last song we played, Death Letter by Son House, is one of my favorites, and I know I had a great time cutting loose and channeling a bit. We hung around a chatted a bit after the show, and before leaving, we all received mini loaves of sourdough bread.
Thanks to Doug and crew for the BB3, to all of the hep cats at the Dream Community, and to Joel Blumert for inviting us to share an evening of music.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
We showed up at the CKS plaza for our Saturday evening gig, and we learned that a quality performance was required. While waiting for our sound check with Maestro Christoph, we watched a team of ace diablistas expertly tossing their spinning, oversize yo-yos back and forth across the stage. They had raised the bar high.
At one o’clock it was our turn on the stage, and we worked through an hour-long test of the sound system that worked out all of the bugs and left us with just the right amount of monitor mix on stage and an even balance of our own microphone levels for the audience later that evening. An appreciative crowd of early-birds snapped up our juicy worms.
Then it was into the backstage area, in the bowels of the National Concert Hall, to store our instruments and grab a quick lunchbox meal courtesy of the promoters. This was followed by a warm-up session along the walkway that runs along the inside of the wall around the CKS plaza. We attracted a crowd of locals and several Spanish circus performers with our acoustic jamming. After an hour or so, we all felt that we were ready for the performance on stage.
Sandy and Conor went home to relax and get changed, while TC and Will and I found a quiet corner of the park for a picnic. Two hours later, when we made it back to the Concert Hall to get dressed and grab our instruments, the Betel Nut Brothers were on stage. We hung out to the side of stage and looked at the large audience that had assembled. They completely filled the steps in front of the stage. Dave accompanied the Brothers on their last number. And then it was our turn.
Emcees usually figure that we are ready to start performing long before we really are, and the young woman hosting this show was no exception. To keep the audience entertained for a few minutes while we got everyone plugged in and sorted out, Will began a little tap dance number on his board, and then Dave and I jumped in to play along. While we were busy at that, the emcee finally made her final announcement, and we were on.
The next hour went by in a blur, at least from my perspective now. Things were right and tight. We started off with Walk Right In (I know this because I watched this video) and we finished up with the Taiwan Song. The Betel Nut Brothers were up there with us for the finale song, and it went down in a fine style.
There were fans who wanted photographs with us (and our instruments) waiting at the rear of the stage, so we spent several minutes posing with them, and signing a few autographs. (Okay, I signed one.)
Then, we returned to the backstage area to eat another free meal and grab our stuff. We wanted to hang around the plaza because there was an after-party for the performers that we thought would be interesting. TC headed off with Jojo to a Harbin-style restaurant while Conor, Slim, Sandman, and myself had another picnic in the park. When it was time for the party, we went up to where it was being held.
Trees had laid out a buffet of sorts (I limited myself to fruit) and there was a crowd of musicians, circus performers, stage hands, and others mingling and talking. I spoke to several people, including one Belgian gentleman who manages several world music acts, including one of the MBR’s favorites, Tarif de Haidouks, a band of Roma. I also chatted with Christian, the director of the Cirque d’ Baroque and several of its performers.
After enjoying the big party for a while, Will and I took it upon our ourselves to entertain the affable Cirquists. We found the rocky shoreline of a fishpond and set up a camp of revelers under the moon. There were several runs made to a nearby convenience store for more supplies, and we passed several more hours in good spirits. By this time the square was empty and the moon was hanging low in the lightening sky.
We bid our new friends adieu, and before we knew it, a quick taxi driver had Will and I in Hsindian. Willy got out by the swimming pool, I headed up onto the mountain for a few hours of sleep.
Coming up next: Blues Bash 3
Friday, November 03, 2006
I was checking out this band called Hazmat Modine that DC Rapier (founder & president of Blues Society on Taiwan; www.bsot.org) had mentioned because it's fronted by two harmonica players. Deviant, weird alchemy. "... rustic, deliriously Dionysian blend of whorehouse Blues, Reggae, Klezmer, Country and Gypsy-tinged music." www.hazmatmodine.com/home.html
Whatever whorehouse Blues is, we should do more of it. And some on-site immersion to boot.
I didn't download an album from Soulseek, and there was this great throat-singing song on it. It sounded like Paul Pena's (Genghis Blues) guitar and deep throat work so I tried to check that out. I came across this radio show page at www.wnyc.org/shows/newsounds/
episodes/2006/09/14 and there was our mate Albert Kuvezin (& Yat-Kha) doing an uncanny version of When the Levee Breaks, of all things. Dark, witching stuff. Get a much stronger sense of the misery of the flood than in the blues version, I thought, which usually makes me feel high and dry. I wondered if we'd done that song at Witches the dark night he was there...
There's a new album schlock full of similar stuff:
Hazmat Modine, Bahamut: www.amazon.com/Bahamut-Hazmat-Modine/dp/B000H0M4XY/sr=1-1/
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Here's your musical invitation to the festivities this weekend.
We had a practice last Sunday evening. It felt like we would have our act together for this weekend’s shows, and it didn’t sound too bad either. We worked on some of our standards and some we’ve only played a few times. Dave sent around a play list of 15-20 songs that we’ll select from for the shows on Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday we’ll be performing at the 2006 Open Air International Arts Festival,
Sunday will see us out in Hsi-chi for Blues Bash 3. We’ll perform from 4:30 to 5:00 P.M. BB3 is the product of DC Rapier, a musician who doesn’t just lead a band, but leads the Blues Society on Taiwan. If you run into DC at the show, let him know you appreciate his effort. This is a free show for the benefit of blues lovers in