Remembering Haiti

Today is the second anniversary of one of the most devastating natural disasters in the modern history of the Western hemisphere:  the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.  Shortly after that tragedy, I worked with managed web hosting services provider ServInt and online media software developer MediaCore to build a site where independent musicians could use their music to raise money for emergency relief efforts.

The site — www.indiemusicforhaiti.com — is still up, and there’s still some amazing music to be seen and heard there:  one of the first live performances of Tommy T (from Gogol Bordello) and his Abyssinia Roots Collective, some great performance footage from DC’s premier jazz-ska orchestra Eastern Standard Time, a track from Philadelphia’s legendary Nixon’s Head, and one track from yours truly, which I promised to only make available through the charity site.  That track is today’s musical offering.

It’s called Shoot Me Now, and it’s a somewhat silly song about not quite getting the formula for seduction right, and suffering an all-too-human kind of frustration as a result.  It’s happened to all of us at some point or other, I’m sure.  Despite the subject matter, it’s a jaunty little number, propelled to new heights by stellar drum work from Paul Garisto of the Psychedelic Furs — a friend to the Stolzenrock project and contributor to another weirdo-beardo side project called Green Laver (about which you’ll be hearing more soon, one of these days).

Anyhow, enjoy.  And while you’re tapping your feet and bobbing your head, spare a thought — and a dollar or two — for the people of Haiti, who continue to make painfully slow progress towards reconstruction.  They still need your help, and could use that money you use to buy a latte every morning for things like clean water, vaccinations and properly functioning toilets.  For the record, the Stolzenrock Haiti charity of choice is Voice Of Haiti — a great group that does amazing things bringing health care, proper sanitation and clean water to the country on a village-by-village basis.  Kenbe la pa lage!

Shoot Me Now

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I Want… What?

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, joyeux noel, melii kalikimaka, etcetera, etcetera!

As the wife and I furiously pack and organize for our impending vacation, I want to take a quick moment to post this, the 2011 Stolzenrock seasonal anthem.  It’s entitled I Want, and it arrives with a big red bow and a card containing all the usual holiday anthem caveats related to recording quality.  The stuff I do “professionally” sounds better than this, I swear!

Anyhow, that’s not the important thing.  The important thing is what this song is about.  And what it’s about, is love.  Love is important.  It makes people happy, and happy people are good people.  Everybody deserves their fair share of love.  So if you need some love this holiday season, that’s what I’m sending you.  Have a lovely Christmas and any other dang holiday you feel like celebrating!

I Want

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Thanks for nothing, again

Most of you know that every holiday season, I write and record a Christmas-themed song in 24 hours of idiotic, frenzied studio activity, usually on Christmas eve.  Well, this year, I’m cheating by starting early, since me and the wife are headed to Europe for the holiday season.  I hope to have Song du Christmas 2011 up and live here before we leave on the 24th, but — just in case — I’m posting the track I released in 2009 here today.

It’s called Thanks for Nothing, and… well, why don’t I just be lazy and reprint part of the holiday greeting I wrote two years ago?  It does as good a job explaining what the song is about as anything I could come up with today:

“…the idea for this song had been bouncing around my noggin since I started dating my wonderful girlfriend Catherine.  I wanted to produce a love song that was “written backwards” – i.e., one that appreciated all the things that the person you love is not.  Is your wife not a nagging harpy?  Thank her!  Is your husband not a lazy slob who watches ESPN all day, wearing only underpants and a wife-beater?  Thank him!

Anyhow, for the longest time, all I had was the “thanks for nothing” phrase – but, faced with just 36 hours before the holiday, I thought I better finish things up, and at least try to turn the song into something about appreciating not receiving things we don’t want or need.  So, yes, this is a song that conflates my beautiful girlfriend and, uh, Santa Claus.  So sue me!”

Flash forward two years, and that beautiful girlfriend is now my beautiful wife.  Again I say:  thank you Santa Claus!

Thanks for Nothing

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Happy birthday

I’m not sure I know anybody whose real birthday is today — so there’s no rhyme or reason to today’s post.  It’s a song I wrote about five or six years ago or so, on the event of my friend Maddie Ry-Ry’s — what was it, 12th birthday?  13th?  I don’t remember exactly.

My lack of memory on the details surrounding this song will tell you something about how much importance we place on the anniversaries of our birth as we get older.  I’m quite certain Maddie remembers how old she was when I gave this song to her — but I’ve forgotten.  And that’s despite the fact that, as my bones get creakier, my hair gets thinner and my eyesight duller, I think about my age more than ever before.  And I should remember when I wrote this — not just because Maddie’s a great kid, and a smart kid, the daughter of a wonderful friend, and so forth — but because she and I practically share the same Birthday In July.  Just one day apart, in fact.

Anyhow, I always liked this song, and am somewhat proud of the lyric.  I tried to capture both the hope and optimism we all feel on our 13th birthday, as well as the age-related worries that we experience for the first time around that age — and continue to feel well into adulthood.  These worries are natural and healthy, I think.  We wonder if we’ve realized our promise as people, we wonder if this is all life has to offer, and so forth.  Good things to fret about — and things I suspect Maddie and I have both felt as we’ve celebrated our birthdays together along the way.

So it’s a good little song, and I like it.  I hope you do, too.

Birthday In July

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Points of inflection

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about points of inflection — you know, those moments in time when things pass a certain fail-safe point and will never be the same again.  These fail-safe points can be good or bad — but this song, Run-on Life Sentence, is about a bad one.

Written in 2002, it deals with the point of inflection in a crappy relationship, and basically says:  every relationship weathers the storm of minor spats, and even major fights — but when you and your special somebody truly find yourself consumed by negativity, you’re past the point of inflection, and you might as well hang it up.  The singer of this song clearly only learned this in retrospect.

I gotta give mad props to Charlie once again, who contributed some great, if bitter and depressing, words — and a huge shout-out to my main man, great friend and business partner Steve Steckler, who played the bass and one of the dueling lead guitars on this track.  I absolutely love Steve’s playing here.  It’s uncharacteristically chaotic — a bit sloppy, even — but it’s totally brilliant.  I frequently bust on Steve for not just letting go and trusting his instincts as a soloist.  On this track, I handed him one of my crappiest guitars, dialed in a particularly junky tone, hit “record” and gave him one take.  What you hear here is what he gave me in return, and it made my formulaic blooz twangings sound like crap in comparison.  Trust thyself, Steve!

Run-on Life Sentence

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I hated my job, part one

The first track I have to offer is a little pop song entitled I Just Sit There.  I wrote this — with Charlie’s able assistance on the lyrics — as part of a larger project (okay, um, “album”) that dealt with the challenges many of us face staying happy in our jobs.

…which is a polite way of saying that I was miserable and burned out when I wrote it.  I had just been abruptly down-sized from a job I truly hated, so I was awash in conflicting emotions.  Was I angry and upset about losing my job?  Yes — that had never happened to me before, and I thought they were idiots for letting me go.  Was I also thrilled that I was able to walk away from an awful situation, blame-free, collecting a generous severance package on the way out?  Hells yeah.

So, this song was written as part of the album-length therapy session that followed, during the months when I had enough money to goof off, and was terrified of getting started on another soul-crushing corporate treadmill.  It, of course, describes the process of very professionally doing nothing, and the destructive impact that can have on you.  The punch line for me is this:  if you hate your job, you need to find a job you love — not avoid the job you hate.

Having said all that, please don’t take this song or any others I write too literally.  Yes, art is usually inspired by real life — but the final product of that inspiration is almost always enhanced to the point that it’s basically an entertaining fiction.  I’m actually a pretty hard worker!

I Just Sit There

(reminder:  if you want to revisit operating instructions for this blog, click here.)

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And so it begins…

The purpose of this blog is to share music with my friends — specifically music I’ve written over the years.  If you’re reading this, it means you’re either already a friend of mine who I invited here to listen — or you’re a friend of a friend (or a friend of a friend of a friend of a… you get the idea.)

Anyhow, a few words about me are in order.  I’ve been making music in some form all my life, but started writing in earnest in college, which was a Very Long Time Ago indeed. Since then, I’ve been in many bands that went nowhere.  I’ve written music for kids and music for adults.  I’ve scored numerous TV shows and independent films (with my good friend and fellow composer Steve Steckler — see/hear some of that work at asparagusmedia.tv).  But, at the end of the day, I’m nowhere near as good a composer or musician as I’d like to be, and I admit that this is a site where my vanity will probably get in the way of good taste every once in a while.  As a friend, I hope you’ll understand.

My goal here is not to present my music in any organized fashion.  We won’t begin in the past and work our way to the present.  I may write new stuff as we move forwards together in time, and if it’s any good, I’ll post it here.  If I have nothing new to offer, I’ll pull something from the vaults and present it for your consideration.  I’ll try to post a new track every few days or so.  I have no plans to charge anything for this music, and I’m not clever enough to figure out how to ask for “donations” if you like what you hear.  For now, all I ask in exchange for my music is your opinion about it.

Every time I post a new track, you’ll see it here, on the front page of the blog.  By scrolling down the front page, or searching for older posts, you’ll be able to find non-recent tracks and the stories behind them.  If you want to skip all the blather and just go for the good(?) stuff, head on over to the page entitled “it comes out here.”  That’s where I’ll post a list of links for all the music, and just the music.

Two final notes:  almost all of the tracks you’ll hear here are demos.  That means yours truly playing all the instruments, recorded in my basement, not sounding perfect — you get the idea.  And lastly:  some of the tracks you’ll hear feature words and/or performances by people who are not me.  On those occasions, you’ll see them credited.  One such collaborator who I’d like to single out immediately is my old friend Charlie Carr.  Inevitably, when you hear me singing words that make sense and are worth remembering, Charlie wrote them.  I’ll make sure you know when it’s Charlie’s words you’re enjoying, and not mine.

That’s about it, I guess.  Look for the first Stolzenrock track soon!

 

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