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The Primordial Soup  


When I was a kid I had a couple of friends. I connected to them in the way you connect when mutual interests align but you haven't yet cultivated the skillset that enables real intimacy.

Sure we could get excited about spending time together, exploring the mysteries of combustion with a magnifying glass , or combustion using  various chemicals appropriated from my brothers chemistry set.       Mmm, combustion. 

We could enact  imaginative military operations that played out in the spaces between houses or in  the ravine at the park using old beat up hockey sticks as  machine guns. 

We could set up our  little plastic toy soldier sets and wage a rubber band assault on the enemy armies, even though the real battle was the decision over who had to be the Nazis that day. 

When we weren't “playing war”, or riding around on bicycles with baseball cards taped to the forks to emulate the sound of a motorcycle ,  we conducted  expeditions into  the record collections of  our older siblings and finding colourful, freaky  treasures therein, like Frank Zappa's “Titties and Beer” or The Sex Pistols “God Save the Queen." Or Queen's “Get Down Make Love” from News of the World, alongside the staples that formed the concrete foundations of our musical brains, like the Beatles, The Kinks, The Pretenders, The Stones and on and on. All on a Sunday afternoon in a suburban living room (with furniture covered in plastic noone was really allowed to use unless it was a special occasion)

But of all these experiences there was one which stands out in my memory above all.  

I had this friend, A friend  who came whenever I  summoned them, and always with a  bounty of surprise and magic along with them. A friend that never slept  and would travel great distances, sometimes thousands of miles to show up with something new. A friend who could serendipitously key into my emotional state and speak to it profoundly and privately in a way that left no doubt, no doubt whatsoever that I was not alone in the world. 

No I am not talking about a drug dealer. Well sort of, if music is a drug.And the first time was free. So was second, third and all the rest.  I am of course speaking of the radio.

Before I  got a record player, before I started hanging out at the  Mall getting up to no good, which  either involved going to Little Critters and trying to get the parrot to swear or  endless flipping through bins of LPs and 45's and deciding which would win the contest to blow whatever little bit of money I had saved up working for my dad on weekends , before all that was radio.

Radio, the primordial soup of musical imagination. 

My first sustained experience with pure magic. The  experience that hits you in the deepest part of your consciousness and arrives fully formed without any rational explanation, serendipity. Miracles. For me these all came in the form of any number of different songs coming out of the tiny universe that lived inside my radio.

Not a multi thousand dollar Macintosh amplifier pumping a high quality pressing of a classic recording played on a super sexy turntable with a stylus that cost more than all the shoes I have ever owned playing through Tannoy speakers that looked like they were from the future. 

A transistor radio, powered by a disposable 9 volt battery picking up invisible transmissions that were always in the air and playing them through a speaker that was about the same size as the one in a telephone earpiece.

I took it everywhere. On the long family car trips all over the US we took every summer, to the corner store to buy baseball cards, comic books, bubble gum, and sodas from the pop shoppe. Out into the marshy expanse behind the church to go look for frogs and guppies amongst the cat tails and weeds. And to the most critical point of convergence of all, under the blankets in bed at night. Lights out meant it was all up to the ears now. The ears and the imagination. 

There is a phenomenon that occurs at night known as ionospheric propagation. There are these layers of high density electrons in the ionosphere, about 1000 miles above the earth's surface. I won't get too deep into the science but during the day the sun's radiation makes it so that the radio waves below 40 MHz , which are the ones affected by the ionosphere, are limited in their ability to travel significant distance. At night, when the sun stops exerting it's influence, one of the denser layers of the ionosphere disappears and another two merge,  and  these sub 40 MHz radio waves  begin to skip off the ionosphere and reflect between the ionosphere and the ground, and suddenly they  are travelling vast distances, unpredictably and intermittently. This primarily affects shortwave signals, but also AM radio.  

This means that instead of just being able to pick up local transmissions on the AM radio ( back then there was a ton of music on am radio and not just a bunch of windbags trying to sell water purification systems, gold, and survival food by striking terror into the hearts of seniors, which the last time I checked was pretty much all you find on am radio nowadays),you could pick up stations from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. 

You would have to tune the dial very gingerly, and strains of music would come in and out, but now there was a much bigger adventure involved. Picking up stations from all over the northern states, and when I would get a hold of my dad's shortwave radio, from all over the world.

Strains of sounds from New Orleans to China. Rock and Roll. Pop. Disco. Brass Bands.Big Bands.Big Brass Bands. The static infused strains of a Chinese singer.The Year of the Cat. Sultans of Swing. Rod Stewart wondering if you thought he was sexy. Bill Wyman's hypnotic take on the disco bassline. An endless string of ABBA songs. Dr John. One of any number of iconic sax solos from Baker Street to the one you hear when you Take a Walk on the Wild Side.The arrestingly dramatic high pitched harmonies of the Brothers Gibb proclaiming tragedy and fights for survival. Charlene's bizarre lament about never having been to herself, before the onset of irony. Louis Armstrong's joie de vivre, like he is right there somewhere in the wires, singing the way he plays trumpet and playing trumpet the way he sings, till in a reverie, the difference is no longer discernible. 

Before the tribal implications of musical taste. Before video killed the radio star. 

Strange transmissions in the stillness of the suburban night. Rapt, passive. Every twist of the dial was a roll of the dice, a chance to discover something new, or hear something familiar. 

All washing over an 8 years olds sleep deprived brain. 

In my  imagined version of the  discovery fire there is a moment out of time that flared up in the imaginations of Homo Erectus.  Before the realization that the flame could be used to keep warm, or cook food, or scare off the howling wild beasts that stalked them in the night. A moment of pure infinite  wonder, absent of doubt, or design. or any of the other burdens of thought. 

Eventually I got a tape recorder which gave me the ability to catch the fire. Then records. Then I learned to start my own fires with a guitar and a notebook. All with its own magic,  all driven by a desire to get back to that pure spontaneity of that initial sustained first contact. 

But as Sade sang, much later when I could afford records, “It's never as good as the first time” ……

Excerpt from latest news letter 

I have decided to post this excerptfrom my newsletter. It may seem a bit redundant if you read my first blog post but I am gradually fleshing out a means of integrating my ever evolving philosophy of the relationship between art and commerce and I think this also adds some ideas to that goal.

As you  may have noticed I stripped away a lot of the promo material from my website. All that was well intentioned but in retrospect ultimately misguided. My hope is that I can fashion a new way forward as an independent artist. One that doesn't involve the endless pyramid scheme that is the current music industry. One that doesn't demean the work I do or insult the intelligence of the people who enjoy it. I feel like there is a better way forward for all artists. 

You are able to decide whether something works for you, and while I have accrued much great hype about what I do over the decades, as well as some sweet sweet derision along the way, I think the experience of what I or any artist has to offer is best served when not mediated by either the official critics or the throngs of self appointed critics that are stinkin' up the joint. There is only one equation that truly matters and that is the one that transpires between artist-art- audience. 

If you a curious about some of the latest sources that are shaping my understanding and beliefs about what it means to pursue the path of an artist in this world we find ourselves in, here are some recommendations (this saves me blowing a lot of hot air trying to sound smarter than I am trying to express ideas that are ultimately not my own, even if they found me predisposed to them)

Books- Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice by JF Martel- probably the number one treatise I have found on what makes art so critical to our existence and why we so badly need it to find real connection and meaning. I cannot emphasize adequately how brilliant I feel this book is and I feel like everyone would benefit tremendously from reading this book.

La Vita Contemplativa and The Burnout Society both by Byung Chul Han ( anything really by Byung Chul Han) I think these speak to the antidote to the current popular gig economy ethos that has somehow convinced us that our most prudent course of action is to commodify every aspect of our existence and then give it away for no meaningful compensation other than a few pennies and some “likes" 

If I am going to give my life's work away for nothing it's going to be on my own terms. (spoiler alert I am probably going to be giving away a lot of my life's work)

Technic and Magic by Federico Campagna- this guy is brilliant and his idea that our addiction to codifying every aspect of our reality and pretending everything that can't be codified is not real hits home for me. We don't need to explain the universe away to find meaning in our lives and in fact doing so eliminates the possibility for us to connect with meaning, and does double duty by robbing us of the joy of mystery. 

Things that aren't books- Rick Beato, the youtuber recording engineer, producer guy on crusade to single handedly restore musical literacy to the internet with his intelligent, informative and sometimes click baity videos recently did some interviews with Ted Gioia where they do some deep but very accessible diving on the subject of spotify and streaming as well as the emergence of AI in the music and art world. I think these are great takes on the issue and provide a lot of food for thought on our relationship with the music we listen to. 

Steve Albini's recent passing led me down a bit of a rabbit hole watching addresses he has given where he explores the merits of physical media vs digital media. He was well known for his adherence to analog tech in recording and it is no accident he remained committed to those methods, even after the advent of digital tech. He was a brilliant person and I  recommend checking out what he has to say about the long term viability of digital mediums. 

All this to say I am hoping to find new ways to  keep making music, develop my skills and explore the deeper realms of song creation and writing. I will be exploring these subjects in detail and hopefully artfully in this , as well as continuing to create music. I am currently working on a recording project that I will update you all on as I go. 

It is my goal to open up possibilities to continue to sustain myself on this journey that may not be conventional but hopefully reflect integrity and a rejection of the current models. I do not expect everyone or even most of the people who follow what I do to support me financially directly without at least some immediate reward and I  intend to offer my music, at least some of it, freely.

As well as opportunities to purchase physical copies of cds, and albums I am going to start offering  small runs of cassettes. I have also decided to abandon the patreon model as well because I found the pressure to generate constantly ended up with me pumping out a lot of substandard material. Of course random financial support is always welcome, but I am just as happy if you support any independent artist in the same way. 

So my approach is going to be to rely on my belief that people will show up for things they believe in. That doesn't have to be everyone just enough of this. We can find a way forward.

I will also get back to doing live listening shows at some point in the not too distant future and perhaps even the odd live stream on band camp if support seems strong. 

All of this will be represented online by this website, mailing list and bandcamp at least for now. As well in the non virtual world I continue to do my weekly performances at the Chateau Lafayette every Wednesday night , and the Elmdale on Mondays. Some of my blogging will be inspired by the experience of doing these regular shows, the Lafayette has been running for 20 full years in October, and it has been a trip. 

I will not apologize for long letters either, but I will also conduct experiments in brevity, and of course absurdity. 

So I am going to wrap this up for now, but may well post this on my blog also, just as a kind of scarecrow for people who get put off by the in excess of 140 characters universe. 

I may not send out monthly emails, I may send out more than monthly, but I promise I will only send out stuff that is not written for the sole purpose of meeting a deadline. And I will include a free download when it makes sense to do so . 

I thank you for taking the time to read and I hope you stick around to connect. If you do find this doesn't suit you , I urge you to find something that does in the music universe and support it instead. There are so many great independent artists, and maybe more access to them than ever before, and you need them and they need you. Please consider signing up for my mailing list if you haven’t already.



Welcome to my new blog. 

I have jumped ship. 

In the modern music world independant and otherwise, social media is touted as the gold standard for promotion of your work. Or so I assume.

Myspace seemed like a good idea at the time. But then every subsequent social media platform that emerged seemed like the alarm company constantly getting me to replace and upgrade the entire system. The first one worked fine. 

But facebook, it was like when crack came out in the 80s. It was new, it was fresh and it tore through the ghetto of our imagination, destroying everything in its wake. I used all the time. But enough is enough. The ghost of Nancy Reagan swooped down into the depths of the inferno and pulled me out. She taught me to “just say no”. I deactivated my account and now I am living clean. On a new path. A zealous path. A righteous path. Thanks Nancy. 

I found it gratifying, as I am sure many of us do, to post quips, and show promo, and I took pleasure in trying to craft entertaining posts, and puff away on all the likes and interaction that occasionally ensued. 

But one thing I never really took  from social media was the sense that my use of it was adding anything meaningful to the world. 

After a while it began to feel like a bit of a hamster wheel, and my ultimate conclusion, at least for now is that while social media is incredibly profitable to a small select group of people, for most of us it is a drain, a disconnect and a blaring siren heralding  the age of appearance. An age where being perceived as having a happy, productive and meaningful life is more important than actually having a happy, productive and meaningful life. 

So I jumped ship. 

As someone who has commited my entire existence to creating art, for better or for worse, in a period where the ability to make a living doing art has almost completely imploded, I feel the only thing to do is to blaze a new path forward. 

For a while, especially during the pandemic, when my ability to support myself and my family with music, mostly through live performances, dried up (thankfully it's back!) I got caught up in the idea of creating “content”. Engaging people with ‘content’.  I don't think the world needs more content. I think we are drowning in content. Content void of meaning. Content void of connection. 

I think the world needs the kind of work that comes from long deep explorations into the abyss. Work that issues forth from a sense of dedication, purpose, and feeling. Feeling that arises when you take long periods of time to do nothing. The addiction to productivity is lethal. 

We don't need catchy soundbites that bounce around in an echo chamber that give us a false sense of being secure in the tribe. We need the real. We need work  that isn't afraid to be a little out of tune, stuff that has glimpsed something, maybe by accident, maybe at the end of a long frustrating journey through a dark night of the soul. Stuff that got beat up along the way. Stuff that knows we all get beat up along the way. 

So it's a work in progress. I know I am far from being the only artist who senses that a lot of the “ industry” built around the arts have choked the very life out of the arts.  I want to move forward. I have come a long way, on an unconventional road even by old standards. But there is still some road ahead.  Time to find a new way forward. I think it is up to all of us to draw focus back to meaningful things. We are not going to stop the tsunami of commodification that is eating the world. Maybe we will. I don't know, I am no prophet. 

So I am going to keep on working on music, and I have been, But I will put it up when it feels ready. I will make it available, and try to figure out ways to make it pay. You can help. If it moves you. If it doesn't, support something that does move you. Let yourself be moved. It doesn't have to be me. 

Right now I am swimming to shore. At least I think it's shore. I find writing easy. It certainly feels good.  I am going to keep writing here while I work on my music. I will post about music related happenings.  I will also expound on what being a musician, a creator of songs, and dreamer in the world is revealing to me. And what works, and what didn't work. And what happened before. A lot happened. 

In the meantime some of my work is on this website, I will add more. Feel free to peruse it. Feel free to buy it if you like it. 

Thanks for reading