The Quarantine Film Festival

So, things are pretty quiet around here these days.  Not in terms of music – there’s plenty going on there, including a demo for “Clouds,” which is now making its way to a true recorded form.  Likewise on the performance front: I have a few live-stream performances coming up, the first of which will be on the Apocalyptic Open Mic stage, planned for 8:30 PM Eastern on April 14. Please look for me there, and I’ll also do some Tunnel 18 sets in the coming days.  I’ll let you know when!Clouds

Still, being stuck in the house has given me a chance to catch up on some films I’ve wanted to see, or to rewatch. While a few of them fall into the category of brain candy, there are a few that have given me a renewed appreciation of the music that I grew up with, and that influenced me greatly. I have a few film recommendations I’d love to share with you, and not surprisingly, most of them have to do with recording studios, or communities of musicians who pushed each other forward. 

Echoes in the Canyon

echoJakob Dylan was inspired by the music of the mid-60s, and it clearly shows in The Wallflowers’ sound. In this documentary, shot in 2018, Dylan explores how a community of musicians living in Laurel Canyon, just north of LA, inspired and challenged each other to create a brand new sound by marrying folk music with electric guitar, strong melodies and harmonies, and truly poetic lyrics. The legacies of the Byrds, the Mamas and the Papas, Buffalo Springfield, and the Beach Boys have been with us ever since. 

Sound City

sound cityYeah, I know. No surprise that I’ve got a Dave Grohl film in here, and this one specifically. I do recommend of course watching several episodes of Sonic Highways, particularly the LA, Seattle, and New York shows. However, there is an indelible place in my heart for this documentary, which showcases the history of Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California and how it played an integral role in the careers and sounds of Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, and so many, many others. I have just about everything from this movie (and the shorts from the DVD) memorized and am much the better for it.

Trivia: Nick Raskulinecz got his start at Sound City as a runner.  Now go look up who he is and why all Rush fans should care!

The Smart Studios Story

SmartSmart Studios was a classic DIY concept, started by Butch Vig and Steve Marker in Madison, Wisconsin. And if you’ve ever wanted a great story about how to just make shit happen – as well as learn a hell of a lot more about Killdozer, Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage, and a treasure trove of Indie bands from the late 80s and early 90s – this is the one. 

And now, a little mind candy….

That Thing You Do

thingYup, purely for fun.  But at the same time I was put in the mind to watch this again after hearing the news of Adam Schlesinger’s death earlier this week.  It’s a sweet film with a few really great songs. It’ll bring a smile, and honestly we could use that right about now.

Almost Famous

almostAnother one purely for fun, and music that’s a lot closer to what I grew up listening to.  Peter Frampton and Ann Wilson from Heart were musical advisors on the film, and the playing is great as a result.  Also, Jason Lee is a comedic treasure as a lead singer who constantly gets second billing.

Now I’m looking for other great films to watch. I know there’s the Joan Jett film, and that’s on my to-watch list, but what else do you recommend?  Please leave me suggestions in the comments – I’d really appreciate adding great stuff to the list!

-Chris

PS – The featured image is from the CD label for the first album I released back in 2015 when I was working under the (clear) band name of Steeling Time*.  You can take a listen to the full album here.

 

*Unfortunately there are bands in Canada and Australia working under the same name, so I changed back to using Tunnel 18, which frankly is more meaningful to me anyway.

 

The Professor (RIP)

A personal blog is often a place for many words about a lot of things: thoughts, reflections, and whatnot.  Today, I will offer just a few words, about something that has affected me very deeply.

2020-01-10 17.12.57As I’ve said before, Rush was my favorite band growing up.  Their music was the soundtrack I lived my life to.  Their lyrics reassured the mind of a kid who was a bit of an outcast, and more than a little odd.  And their music never got old – they continued to change with the times and with their own tastes.  A lesson I hope to keep with me as I (hopefully) continue songwriting for many years to come. 

Neil Peart died earlier this week after a three-and-a-half year battle with glioblastoma.  If you don’t already know who Neil Peart was, all I can do is offer you just a sample of how the man played, and then urge you to read his writings.  His lyrics are the liturgy of Rush. His own storytelling spoke of a humble but searching mind.  

I would ask you to do one thing, if you can.  Glioblastoma is a devastating and frighteningly unkind killer.  Unfortunately it is a disease that I have more familiarity with than I would like, due to a dear friend’s struggles (more on him another time).

Glioblastoma of course also took another great songwriter, Gord Downie (of the Tragically Hip), back in 2016. On his passing, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto established a fund for brain cancer research.  If you can, please donate.

I have to go now.  It’s hard to type through tears.

Music Matters

Newton, MA

(Find downloadable tracks from Time & Motion here, and all of the new Robbing the Cradle tunes here!)

Thank you so much for clicking through to the blog, and I hope you’re enjoying both what I’m writing here as well as the music our little band is putting out.

It’s been a little while since I put a blog post up, but I wanted to take this particular mom2016-01-06 22.53.26ent to thank you all for listening, and for joining us on this ride. The simple fact that you’re reading this and listening to us means that you must share something of the love that we have for music and what it has meant in our lives.

For me, all this starts about the age of six or seven, listening with friends to the Steve Miller band on an old LP player, pretending that we were playing along.  This then quickly proceeded to using my own money to buy my first LP records with incredible artwork.  Starting with Styx and Kiss, the Cars and then moving on to Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, Pink Floyd, Yes, and eventually Rush.  I listened to everything I could; I listened hard and read everything, and then dreamed…

These bands took the care to put themselves into not just their songs, but into entire albums.  These albums oozed human effort, warts and all.  They weren’t pristine, they weren’t perfect, but they were real expressions of the human heart animg368d mind bringing forth the soul in a way where you paid full and rapt attention.  And these albums were things you had to wait for, because they were being written and crafted in such away (and without the crutches of digital alteration and correction) that there’s real care, and real human performance.

The great thing is is that some of this magic has continued. Bands like Nirvana and Kyuss, and then Porcupine Tree, NIN, Dream Theater, Queens of the Stone Age and Foo Fighters keep putting out great album oriented concepts.  Collections of songs that don’t just advertise for 3 minutes, but instead take you on a journey.

It’s really hard to explain to anyone below the age of 30 what that feeling is like. That spending that seven dollars to get that collection of 10 or a dozen songs that you would then sit there and listen to over and over again. And importantly, these were albums – collections of songs that hung together and told the story, or at least told the story of where that band was at a particular point in time. They were snapshots of life put to music. Dreams in motion.DSC01551a

We are trying to carry-on in that same tradition. Writing songs that stand on their own and tell a story, but which also hold together as a total album.  Collections where you can put the disc in (and maybe eventually put the LP on) and lose yourself in a story or a mood for a half hour or an hour.

Time and Motion does that. What we’re putting together for Robbing the Cradle will do that.  Already have the basics of the songs set up, and we’ll make the collection available in bits as we have it. We will also put a few downloadables up on Bandcamp when we think they’re ready.

But… please reach out to us and let us know what you think! Let us know what you like, and what you’d like to hear more of.  Also let us know about the music that’s made a difference in your life! It’s a grand journey, life. Let us know what your soundtrack sound like!

And… Maybe you could share our music with others like us. People who want to hear real songs laying out stories of life and love and really loud guitars. You know, the good stuff!

(PS – the photos above? Yeah, that’s me, Chris – main songwriter and curator of the blog. One photo from age 16 and one from December….)

Satori in Geneva

File Nov 19, 5 09 37 PM

Geneva, NY

If you ever find yourself in Geneva, NY (a great little city in the Finger Lakes), you must go to Area Records & Music. Ask for Jeff. He gets it. I just walked in there a little while ago and talked about guitars, small guitar stores competing with the big guys, how Gibson and Fender are completely alienating their customer base, and why you make music in the first place.

He told me about how so many of the kids come in and they want to make money and impress girls. Invariably, these are the kids who come back in a couple of weeks wanting to return the guitar because it’s too hard to learn how to play. Anything that’s worthwhile doing is hard at first.

On top of that, the reason you learn how to play music is not to make money and to impress girls. That might be a useful side effect later, but the reason that you learn to play music is because there’s music inside you that you need to be able to play. There’s something inside you that needs to get out, and the instrument is the way it gets there.

The instrument is the tool that gives voice to your soul.

Shifting gears entirely…

The guys from Rush once said that they never had any outtakes from any albums, because why would you ever work on a song that you weren’t going to put on an album?

Kinda wish I had that discipline.

Instead, the first album had at least four songs that didn’t make it onto the album. Some of them made it onto the Soundcloud site, but will never actually make it to disk.   (They’ll be those “deep tracks” we pull out for extra special audiences live…)

And, already, Robbing the Cradle has been cut from 13 songs down to 11. Largely because the other two just don’t fit. It’s one of the struggles about writing an album rather than writing a song. The songs need to work together. They need to be of a theme, and of a feel. There are each like scenes from a movie, and need to hang together in order to tell the overall story.

So, what I’m getting around to saying in a fairly long way is that the album is taking longer to write, but is getting much better as it goes along.

The good news is that production has started on a couple of songs, and with a little bit of good luck, maybe we’ll have some new music coming your way before the end of the year. And buy new music I’m not just talking about one song, but maybe a few so you can get a flavor of where we’re going.

And don’t forget in the meantime, time and motion is available at CDbaby and you can listen on Spotify.

What do you call this thing, anyway?

Maine

Bangor, ME

A few pieces of news over the past couple of weeks, all of them good. First of all, just found out that our album is up on Spotify. Yay! Didn’t actually realize that was going to happen but I guess that’s all part and parcel of the CD Baby thing. Really very cool!

Also, looking to add a few open mic gigs in the Newton, Mass area (west of Boston) sometime over the next couple of months. We will post these as that all becomes a little bit clearer.

Finally, I found out quite to my surprise earlier today that some of our CDs have been making their way around Portland, ME a little bit. I sent a couple up to some friends, and they’ve been showing them around. Walked into a room earlier today and somebody said: “oh you’re the guy with the band, and that album!  It’s really cool stuff! Classic rock?”

So, this next thing is going to probably be a stupid question:  What do you call this stuff, anyway?

With been trying not to be too pedantic trying to classified as anyone thing. To me it’s always sounded like 90s alternative rock. Maybe y’all think it something else?

Please let us know. Just kinda curious.