July 18, 2008

Don Dixon is producing my new album.  Even though we’ve been talking about it for over a year, I still can’t really believe it.  The sessions are about to get under way.  Don arrives today and we plan to spend the evening settling in and setting up the gear.  Don has worked in many of the most famous studios in music, but he says that he prefers to make records in non-traditional places:  houses, barns, warehouses, etc.  Some of the most influential records of all time have been made that way.  Works for me!  Don has migrated away from being chained to a traditional studio over the years, and as such, he has built himself a fairly flexible mobile recording rig, which he plans to use.  I have a “near” pro-grade studio which was built when we built the house, so we’ll wire a lot of his stuff into mine, and map out our plan of attack this evening.  Tomorrow we begin tracking in earnest.  But first, a little background:

I formally met Don in the winter of 2007, at a music conference.  He was participating in the producer’s panel, and seeing as how I am a budding producer myself, and I have probably upwards of 20 records in my collection that Don has produced, it seemed like attending this would be worth the price of the conference alone.  The panel consisted of Don and three others.  Two guys were regional, “down in the trenches” producers, and the fourth guy was “big-time famous producer” guy.  He led the discussion…or rather, he DOMINATED the discussion.  He name dropped, bragged, spoke in tones and jargon that no one understood, and just basically relentlessly delivered a message to all the young minds that amounted to, “I’m out of your league.  You can’t have me”.  Don would chime in from time to time, with some really insightful, illuminating comments, but it seemed pretty clear to me that he was just as annoyed with Mr. Famous Guy as I was, which was cool.  After the panel, I witnessed the usual parade of hopefuls rushing the dais with outstretched demos, and I had resolved to make myself one of them, so I couldn't be too critical.  I was shocked to find, however, that my path to Don was completely wide open, as EVERYONE else in the room trod over each other to shove their demos in the face of Mr. Famous Guy.  He had just spent an hour building a giant barrier between himself and his audience, which I guess no one else seemed to recognize.  I guarantee every one of those demos didn’t even make it out of the room.  So I walked right up to Don, introduced myself, told him how important so many of his records were to me, and then handed him our last album.  I said that we’re gearing up to do the next one, and I was looking for a producer.  I had self-produced the first two, and was ready for an outside hand.  He said he’d listen, and I thought that was that.  At least I’d met him and given him my work.

About 6 weeks later, however, I received an email from his manager.  He said that Don had liked what he heard, and would like to talk to me about the possibility of producing.  He got some more info from me about what we do, and gave me Don’s direct contact info.  Gulp.  So I called him a few days later and thus began a long, slow discussion as to whether or not we were right for each other.  That IMMEDIATELY impressed me.  He was as concerned that he fit me as much as anything else.  HE’S the guy with the ridiculous resume, and yet, he wanted to make sure that he was doing right by ME.  My first lesson about producing was delivered subtly, but received loud and clear.  So we talked, and schemed, and talked some more.  I gave him the songs I had, and got energized to finish the writing, but then my band basically imploded about 5 months before the planned recording.  I worked around that.  We agreed on a price, and I secured the proper funding.  We signed a contract.  We mapped out a plan.  Things began to align, and about 4 months ago, it became apparent that this was really going to happen.  I’m going to make a record with a guy who was a fundamental part of a LARGE part of what makes up my musical DNA.  I made my father understand the magnitude of the situation by explaining it like this:  “Dad, imagine playing a round of golf with Arnold Palmer…..”.

So what is it that we’re trying to accomplish?  My reason for trying to write a blog of this while we’re doing it is to hopefully share the experience of what working with an accomplished A-List producer is like.  So many people have asked me, “So what’s so special about what this guy is going to DO that it has you so over the moon?”  Well, hopefully, I can impart that here, as we work through it.  I’ve worked with some famous producers before, but only as a side man on other people’s projects.  I’ve never had someone give the treatment to MY music before, so to that end, here’s the current state of the project:

I initially gave Don a disc of 10 songs.  8 were “new”, essentially written for this album.  One was VERY old (a rare love song, written for my sister’s wedding…19 years ago!), and the 10th was a cover.  I wanted to put a cover on this album, and my choice was based on what the band at that time was doing.  Subsequent events have forced me to reevaluate that choice, but that’s a minor consideration.  Don’s reaction to the first batch of songs was positive, but he focused in on the fact that, as a writer, I tend to write along the lines of specific styles and genres.  He said there’s nothing wrong with being eclectic, but you have to be careful not to be schizophrenic.  This was a facet of my writing that I was already painfully aware of, so he was already pushing the right buttons for me.  He then challenged me to stretch a little harder.  I was missing a couple of things that would knit the songs together into a cohesive whole.  He also wanted to hear EVERYTHING…even the stuff that I wouldn’t play for anyone.  He basically told me to drop my pants….

So the final submission was 14 songs, with the intent to do 9 or 10 and a cover as a final album.  The logistical plan was always (even before Don was on board) to record the album “old school”.  To lock ourselves into a studio for a week or so and hammer it out organically, limiting ourselves to time and resources, with the intent of producing a direct, unadorned, un-fussed-with album.  In conversations with Don, I kept referring to this as “the debut album”, despite the fact that it was our 3rd.  Most of my favorite albums are ones where the record company didn’t have a lot of faith in the act, so they gave them a limited budget and sent them off with low expectations, just to see what happens:  “My Aim is True”, “Look Sharp”, “Outlandos D’amour”, “The Clash”.  Debut albums, all of them.
So that’s the plan.  Don told me that the first Smithereens album was made in 5 days (including mixes), for about the same amount of money as my budget.  He’s excited, and says he thinks he can help me a lot.  In some ways he already has, but the adventure begins tonight.

Stay tuned.

November 24, 2006 - I'm supposed to be too old for this. I'm glad I don't really believe that.

Last week we climbed in the van and went on a week long tour of the Northeast with one of my most formative and profound influences, The Plimsouls. I'll spare you all the back story...you can go find it on the web...but suffice it to say that they were rock stars in their day. Even though they weren't household names, they lived the dream. Hell, one of them slept with Madonna! So anyway, I took advantage of some associations, spare capital, and desire, and set up a 5 date tour: Hoboken, DC, Philly, NY, and the old hometown, Harrisburg. If you're a lazy reader, let me just say that this was one of the most fun, rewarding, and inspiring experiences I've ever had, and the fact that I can still have experiences like this so late in my "career" is what keeps me going. As Pete would say, "after all, who wants to stay at the QUANTITY Inn?" For those who actually LIKE to read, here's the tour diary:

Sunday 11/12 - Rented the van and loaded it up with all the gear, then headed out to JFK to collect the band. No matter how many times I've made this trip, and no matter how much time I budget, I always end up getting there at the absolute last minute. Fuck you, Belt Parkway. Thankfully, their plane was about a half hour late. I collected Peter, Brian, and David-O (Eddie and Sue had arrived earlier) and we headed toward the first venue, Maxwell's in Hoboken. What should have been about a 40 minute drive took about 1.5 hours, as we crawled across Manhattan. This was a bad omen, but the guys were suprisingly cool about it, and took the time to get to know me a little bit better. They quickly assessed my life and determined that I was some kind of National Security Operative. (Pete would greet me every day with, "Hey Gibby, how's National Security today? Anything we need to know about?") At first I was amazed at how cool and patient they were, but then I realized that it was just decades old tour instincts kicking in. Rock and roll is all about "hurry up and wait". Even I learned that on my first tour.

When we finally hit Maxwell's, we were late, but they got right to work. For a band that only exists intermittently, they were remarkably focused and organized. They launched into "Million Miles Away" for soundcheck, and it sounded PHENOMENAL. Suddenly, all my apprehension of this being a wise idea disappeared, and I knew this was going to be one hell of a ride.

The show itself was great, but only in retrospect. While I was there, I thought it was amazing, but that was soon to be overshadowed by what lay ahead. They were a little loose, and even sloppy in spots, but they easily demonstrated what it was that made them great in their heyday. The Plimsouls are one of those rare bands that are greater than the sum of their parts, like The Who and The Clash. Peter has said as much in his blog...when they kick in, something happens, and they become this "thing"...a 4-headed momentum monster. The songs play THEM. The crowd at Maxwell's was just a little less than we hoped (but not bad at all for a rainy Sunday night), but they were enthusiastic and spirited. We played well, and the 'Souls all dug us. A great start to what was shaping up to be a great adventure.

We had previously decided not to stay in the NYC area after the show, so we loaded up and headed to Harrisburg. We were planning to record on our days off, so we felt it was worth the effort. It was one of those things that looked better on paper, as we rolled into the Econo Lodge at 6:00 am, but the van ride was surreal, as Peter and David-O regaled us with tales from back in the day...of touring with Elvis Costello, putting on the first punk shows in LA, getting your clothes ripped off by girls, living by your wits, and making lots of bad choices. I never once felt tired behind the wheel.

Monday 11/13 - Picked up the fellas around 1:00 pm and headed to the culinary center of the Central PA universe...the Mechanicsburg Diner. David-O told us how Dave Alvin (from The Blasters & X) ALWAYS has steak with every meal, and then ordered a T-bone for breakfast. This was a week of rock & roll, after all. We headed over to the studio, and as it always goes, got a slow start. Pete was initially really skeptical that I had the right ingredients to get a sufficiently rockin' guitar sound, but once he plugged his famous 12-string into Dan's musty old Montgomery Ward suitcase amp and cranked it up, he was satisfied. So much so, that I later caught him calling a friend in LA saying, "You gotta hear this crazy amp...".

The plan was to record The Easybeats' "Gonna Have a Good Time" for the BOMP! records Greg Shaw tribute. I watched them work through the arrangement, and come up with a plan. I love watching bands work like this. Everybody is a little different, and every band has their process and dynamic. What was interesting to me was that the Plimsouls' process was really not that different from ours. Peter was clearly in charge, and would have the last word, but he had an intrinsic sense of what each of the others would offer, and let them go as far as he knew he should. That was pretty inspiring, since it felt like the way we do it. When you discover that your heroes put on their pants the same way that you do, that's pretty cool. One of the most satisfying moments of the entire week came when they kicked in to the first take. Peter's famous 12-string (THE guitar that recorded "Million Miles Away") and THAT voice came blasting out of my monitors, and I was on another planet. I'll NEVER forget that moment.

It took about 6 takes to get the final version, but everyone was satisfied that we got "the take". We broke for dinner (surreal moment #3: the Plimsouls eating Chinese food at my kitchen table), and then headed back down for the fun stuff. Drummer Bryan gave me a clinic in grass roots percussion...Gatorade bottle and Basmati rice, saucepan. Pete's final vocals were fantastic. He's got a little Joe Cocker in him when the red light goes on (and he's not wearing a guitar). I wish I had been videotaping. We wrapped around midnight, because I had to go to DC early the next day for work (somebody had to pay for all this), and the band was heading up to NJ for a live taping on WFMU.

Tuesday 11/14 - I headed down to DC to pay the piper, while the boys went up to Hoboken to record a live set for WFMU. I'm really sorry I missed it, but you can only slip away from real life for so long. I got to hear the results, and they are loose and rockin'.

Wednesday 11/15 - I had high hopes for this show, as we were playing a few minutes from where I work, and as luck would have it, there were a lot of my friends and co-workers in from out of town. At least half the audience was there just to see us. If there was ever a show that I didn't want to suck at, this would probably be it. Soundcheck was slow, but we actually managed to get one, which was great, because I didn't want to come out at this show and dick around onstage. We played really well, and Jim absolutely slayed on "Glad & Sorry". People were down front and dancing early on, so I knew it would be a good evening. We got a legit encore, and after arguing about it, settled on "To The Moon". I sang it so hard, I made myself dizzy. We flung ourselves off the stage a big sweaty, gasping mess...exactly how every rock and roll show should end. All of my friends and co-workers were really impressed (some were actually speechless), and we sold the most CDs we've ever sold at a single show. I even ran into some folks who were Cherry Twister fans. This ranks easily as one of the best Parallax Project shows ever.

The Plimsouls then came on, and actually stepped it up a notch. It was the same set as Maxwell's, but this time they invited me to sing on "Come On Now", and the encore of "Gonna Have a Good Time". (Surreal moment #4: Me onstage with The Plimsouls) We wrapped up and retired to the Hotel bar (and subsequent room party), where David-O was the star this time, keeping my friends enthralled with stories of how to blow up cars and make shit fly through the air (he's a special effects artist who works for Tarantino). The next day, all the people at work were looking at me like I was from another planet, which was cool. Jim and Paul had planned to drive home after the show, but they both got hammered, and ended up sleeping in my room. Paul, as usual, passed out on the floor, and I tripped over him in the dark and sprained my thumb. One crazy night.

Thursday 11/15 - I had to go home and drop my car, so the band went on to Philly alone. The weather was TERRIBLE (big, dangerous storms), and a 3 hour ride turned into almost 6 hours. I expected them to be grumpy and upset, but again, they were totally cool. The club, The North Star, was a cool place, and soundcheck was smooth and efficient. We all relaxed and felt good about the evening, but then were soon reminded that this was Philly once the doors opened. What is it with this town? It seems that they only care about one very specific kind of rock, and with that, even a select few bands. Even when I was playing with a guy who was hugely popular in Philly, I hated playing there. It just never felt "right". Tonight was no exception, as the audience topped out at about 40 people. It was nice to see a few frends, and we played our sharpest yet, but you know what, fuck Philly. Really, I mean that. I think the 'Souls feel the same way. They played like there were 500 people there, and the small crowd was really receptive, but all in all, it felt like a wasted evening. We packed up quickly and headed out to NJ, where our hotel was. Onward and upward, as Peter would say.

New York awaited....

Friday 11/17 - We woke in a Rodeway Inn somewhere in Central Jersey. You know, Jersey and Philly have a lot in common...they are both one dimensional, belligerent, and unrepentant in what they are. I suppose the difference is that you expect that out of Jersey, and as such, accept it a lot more. I don't know why I never learn, but I always expect MORE out of Philly, and I'm always let down. Philly in the rearview mirror is a beautiful sight.

Friday's show was, like Wednesday's, one of high expectations. We'd heard a lot about this place, Magnetic Fields, and we were anxious to see if it lived up to the hype. We knew it was small, and we knew it was funky. What we didn't know was if it would actually WORK. We had an easy, uneventful drive into Brooklyn, and found a spot for the van right outside the venue. A good start to any gig, but a GREAT one for NY. Damn, it was SMALL, but the place just oozed vibe, and they were playing The Creation on the sound system when we arrived. We all immediately thought that this was gonna be a cool show. Then someone pointed out that tonight's show was an editor's pick in that day's NY Times. The TIMES! That's a REAL newspaper. The staff was already preparing the SOLD OUT signs to put on the door, and they were treating us like princes. Soundcheck was apparently loose and easy (they said they learned 4 new songs), but I wouldn't have known that, since I had to go discover the inner workings of the Brooklyn impound yard, as my friend had her car towed while we were waiting. When we returned, Peter and Bryan were headed off to see "Borat", and David-o was going to get a new tattoo next door. My guys were just arriving, so we set up and did a quick line check, and then went up the street to a Lebanese reataurant for a FABULOUS dinner. Peter and Bryan eventually joined us (Peter pronounced "Borat" junvenile and lazy), and we headed down the block to the show.

When we walked in, it was busy, but not exactly packed. By the time we took the stage, however, it was wall-to-wall, and it was immensely satisfying to play to people who were right on top of you. I could see a lot of smiles and head bobbing as we played, and we kept up our streak of increasingly better performances. Jimmy again tore the room a new one on "Glad & Sorry". This was the hippest crowd we'd seen, and they dug us a lot, so that's all we could ask. As we finished playing, DJ Sue played a Neighborhoods song, and this officially became my favorite NY show ever.

The 'Souls found yet another gear tonight. They were loose and rocking right out of the gate, and the crowd was right there with them. Folks were being turned away at the door, and it took 20 minutes just to get TO the bathroom. As their set progressed, they seemed to get more and more volatile...like the way a skateboard starts to wobble when you start going downhill too fast. It was thrilling to behold. Strings start breaking...first, Eddie, then Peter...so I went to the back of the stage to play guitar tech. They invited Keith Streng of The Fleshtones up to play, and that's when all hell broke loose. Somwhere in the middle of "Come On Now", David-o broke an A string. I had some spares, so I tried to restring it onstage for him , but he's left handed, so it was all backwards, and I couldn't do it quickly. So he yelled for me to get my bass and play while he restrung it himself. Pete was in the middle of leading everyone through a medley of songs that apparently only he knew...Keith didn't know what he was playing, so he kept doing that crazy Fleshtones kick-spin move...and Eddie kept wanting to roll around on the bar while he soloed. That's rock and roll, kids....

As we packed up, DJ Sue continued to play what appeared to be my record collection, I had a lovely chat with Keith Streng, and the club staff kept gushing about the greatest rock and roll show that place had ever seen. The only uncertainty of the evening came when no one could find Ruth, but a short investigation revealed her to be asleep in the front seat of her now legally parked car. Too much rock, even for Dumpster Ruth.

We had previously agreed to drive back to Hbg. again after the show, and again, it looked a lot better on paper. Peter supplied another round of stories and tales from the trenches, and we rolled into the Travel Inn just before daybreak. It took a little while to find, even after phoning them. The desk clerk said to look for the big sign, but neglected to tell us that he had switched it off.

Saturday 11/18 - We had driven back after the show so that we could finish the recording, adding Eddie's guitar parts and anything else we wanted to toss in. Another late start put us a little under the gun, and this time it wasn't quite so smooth, as we struggled a bit to find the right guitar/amp combination. It also didn't help that we were all so tired we could barely stand. I started to worry about that night's show, as it was clear that we were all really grumpy and on edge (myself included), and we were pushing to get done. We were all just one ill-advised comment away from a blow-up.

When we got to Gullifty's, there were already a good number of people occupying the tables (who undoubtedly got there early so they wouldn't have to pay), so that was a good sign. The 'Souls did what every band does when they walk into Gullifty's...they immediately got apprehensive about the concept and layout of the place, but like all other bands, that receeded as they got down to business. Soundcheck was again smooth and efficient, and we were fed a good meal. The 'Souls split to go back to the hotel, and left us to play our best set of the tour. The crowd was good (for Gullifty's), and really into our set. No surprises, but Matt remarked that it was one of the most confident sets we'd ever played, and my Rick Santorum crack got a really big cheer. When we were done, people were coming up to me saying that they had never heard us so good, and we sold a whole bunch of CDs (especially considering it was our home crowd). We had clearly cast off our malaise and risen to the occasion, I now only hoped the Plimsouls could do the same.

There is really no way I can adequately describe what happened next. You really had to be there. If you were, then you truly understand what Pete means when he says that with The Plimsouls, "something just takes over". They asked me to introduce them, since it was our hometown crowd, and when they roared into "How Long Will It Take?", I could see that EVERYONE in the crowd suddenly became aware that this was THE Plimsouls. Peter did a big wave for everyone to come down front, and within seconds, the area in front of the stage was full of people who were all feeling 25 again, and throwing themselves around like they used to....and yeah, I was definitely one of them. No surprises from the band, but tonight's set was as tight and focused as it was loose and rollicking...if that makes any sense. I've only ever seen two other bands roar out of the gate with such a rush like that...The Clash in 1983, and X in 2004. I was again called up to sing, and this time someone FINALLY got good pictures. Two hours and two encores later, I was so proud of Harrisburg, as it finally responded to rock and roll the way that I hear it. I haven't seen that much unselfconscious joy in a Harrisburg rock club in a long LONG time. Everyone who was there KNOWS, and everyone who wasn't...well, we all feel really sorry for you.

The next day, I took the lads to the airport, and we hugged, punched each other in the arm, and parted company. It was an expensive endeavor, and there were a few missteps, but overall, it was an unqualified success. But most important, it was an opportunity to hang with some of my biggest musical heroes, and not only learn from them, but to walk on level ground with them. We've talked about working togther in the future, and I've got a van load of fantastic memories. It was a fabulous way to wrap up one of the best years I've had as a musician.

Whoever said "hope I die before I get old*" can go fuck himself.

* Yes, I know it was Pete Townshend, and I don't truly want him to go fuck himself. It was artistic license, trying to make a point.

November 8, 2006 - Happy Fall everyone...welcome to my favorite time of year! This was one of our best and most fun summers yet, and thanks to you all, it created a couple of vivid and enduring memories in the Parallax Project collective consciousness. Our ramshackle, jigsaw puzzle set at the Dewey Beach Music Conference is already the stuff of legend.

But now on to the future. We're doing a short, yet very important tour this fall in the Northeast. What's so important about it? Well, we're going to be doing 5 East Coast dates with THE PLIMSOULS!! For those of you who know just what that means, I'll allow you a moment to pick yourselves off the floor while I explain it to the uninitiated:

To put it bluntly, these guys are underground rock legends. If that's all your attention span allows you to absorb, that should be sufficient. Just skip to the dates below. The long story, however, goes like this. In the mid-70's (about the same time punk was happening), Peter Case formed a band in LA called The Nerves. They packed clubs, and they blew minds, but since they were a trio of 3 ridiculously gifted songwriters (and their accompanying egos), they didn't last long. They imploded before ever making a proper album, but their scant recorded output (which included the original version of Blondie's eventual mega-hit "Hangin' on the Telephone") did manage to influence an entire generation of bands and helped to define a new style that would soon be called "New Wave". In that void, Peter Case went on to form a similar band, but one that fused more of the styles that he held dear: old school R&B, British Invasion Mod, Delta Blues, and good old fashioned American Garage Rock. This was The Plimsouls, and they OWNED LA in the early 1980s, mostly because many, many folks considered them to be the most exciting and dynamic live rock band of their time. They signed with Geffen Records, and made two absolutely timeless classic pop records, topped off by the single "Million Miles Away", which is still found on almost every "Best of the 80s" compilation. They were such an iconic fixture of early 80's LA, that when filmmaker Martha Coolidge needed to create a real LA nightclub vibe for her classic 80's take on Romeo & Juliet, "Valley Girl", she turned right to The Plimsouls. Yup, that's them onstage in EVERY scene that takes place in Nicholas Cage's hangout bar, and their music is all over the soundtrack. The rest of the story is pretty routine: superstardom eluded them; Peter Case decided to go solo; they split up; and now every so often they get back together to show the kiddies how it's done.

Here's the deal, though. This is no 80's nostalgia act. Ok, full disclosure...I'm a HUGE, HUGE fan, and they are one of the biggest, most enduring influences on The Project. They officially released a long circulated bootleg live album from the 80's last year (called "One Night in America"), and it's one of the best live rock & roll albums I've ever heard. I flew out to San Francisco to see a reunion show promoting that album, and my head was spinning for about a month afterwards (and you all know that I NEVER exaggerate!!). So, cutting to the chase...they are still AMAZING live, they haven't been on the East Coast in almost 20 years, and they still play rock and roll the way it's supposed to be done: loud, fast, sweaty, ragged, and glorious. The buzz on these shows is already huge, so YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS THESE SHOWS!!! I would strongly recommend advance tickets at the venues that offer them.

Ok, FINALLY, here's the info:

Sun. Nov. 12th
Maxwells, Hoboken NJ. 9:00 PM
www.maxwellsnj.com

Wed. Nov. 15th
Jammin' Java, Vienna VA 8:00 PM
www.jamminjava.com

Thu. Nov. 16th
North Star Bar, Philadelphia PA 9:00 PM
www.northstarbar.com

Fri. Nov. 17th
Magnetic Fields, Brooklyn NY 8:00 PM
www.magneticbrooklyn.com

Sat. Nov. 18th
Gullifty's Underground, Camp Hill PA 9:00 PM
www.myspace.com/gulliftys

At all shows, we'll be playing right before the Plimsouls, and for all shows except Philly, it'll be just us and them. In Philly, there will be two other bands, Nixon's Head and The Beloved Infidels. We're really, really excited...and we hope you are too!!

March 22, 2006 - SXSW. Good God. Whose idea WAS this? This should be a disaster. Take about 5,000 musicians and put them in one town for 4 days, and say, "get to work". This was our second year playing the Industry of Music Showcase, and while the business/career value to that is immeasurable, the real value is what it does to the geeky rock fan in me. Playing a show is almost an inconvenience, in a way, because there is only one place on Earth to get this much quality music in one concentrated space. You can argue that mega-festivals like Coachella are at least equal, but I disagree. Those things are ORCHESTRATED...you see what they want in the manner that they want you to see it. Your experience is pretty much what everyone else's is. At SXSW, you get a schedule and a map of the city, and you go DIG FOR TREASURE!! This year, it wasn't so much the undiscovered treasure for me as much as it was about the RE-discovered treasure: The Neighborhoods, Translator, Echo & The Bunnymen, Billy Bragg, Peter Case. Fuck "buzz bands" I mean that. Fuck 'em. I didn't see a single new band that wasn't some sort of slavish imitation of some older act that was ususally SOMEWHERE in town, and STILL kicking it hard. If band members were under the age of 25, there were really only THREE different bands at SXSW:

1. The Killers Jr. - If I hear one more 16th note hi-hat chorus, I'm going to commit murder.
2. The Lame Stooges - EVERY damn hard rock/punk band had some shirtless, microphone down the pants, drooling, spitting, bush league Iggy Pop as a front man.
3. My Bloody Cocteau Chain - Super distorted guitars, plodding rhythms, droney boy/girl vocals, and absolutely NO songs.

By contrast you could have seen The Hoods play with all the fire and venom of their heyday, or seen Translator revisit their very cool psychedelic pop with an unabashed and decidedly un-industry like glee, or seen the amazing Peter Case trio play like Joe Strummer fronting The Weavers. As an added bonus, a whole bunch of friends from home made the trip this year, and I ran across several long lost ones.

Now, to set the record straight, I'm not a COMPLETE curmudgeon. I did see a couple of bands that struck me as fresh, but I already knew most of them. Pawnshop Roses again delivered on their brand of rootsy old school rock. Waltham does a really cool heavy pop thing, mostly because they clearly know how to write a SONG. Exit Clov remains quirky and unique, and The Metrosexuals are a freaking juggernaut.

Thank you Chris Lausch, for again throwing a fabulous party. Top drawer rock, beautiful weather, Wahoo fish tacos, Paul Murr at the The Texas Chili Parlor, and the lovely and charming Dumpster Ruth!! It almost makes you forget that this place spawned George fucking Bush.

January 24, 2006 - Pittsburgh. God bless blue collar towns and their love of Rock & Roll. We played in the Steel City for the first time last weekend, and it was (for me, at least) one of the best shows we've ever played. There's was nothing outwardly remarkable about it...no throngs of screaming girls...nobody got laid...but it was a cool, dingy, REAL rock and roll bar. One that books rock and roll bands, full of people who go to see rock and roll bands. We played well, and met a lot of cool people who were happy that we made the drive. We made a little money, and sold a few records...and that's all I need. The fact that we drove to a new town, played well, and made a few new fans is all that I EVER need. Places like that...and nights like that...are dying all across America. If places even have rock music, it's usually so crushingly SELF-AWARE and IMPORTANT that it's just no fun at all. It's supposed to be FUN, remember?

SXSW is shaping up to be even better than last year. I hope I don't set my expectations so high that I'll be disappointed, but we're going to see Ian McLagan again, I hope to see The Living End, Peter Case, and the Neighborhoods are playing!! To quote Jim, "My liver is swelling just THINKING about it..."

December 20, 2005 - Another year over, a new one just begun. What a fantastic year. Full of highs and lows, swoops and dives, triumphs and regrets. The high point was finally getting the Perpetual Limbo album completed and released. The low would have to be the departure of Ricky Castro. It broke my heart just a little to finish the album without him, but life marches on, and we all hope he's doing well and having fun while "living the dream". I reached a few milestones this year, the most notable being when the amazing Rich Gilbert (of The Zulus, one of my very favorite bands) sat in with us in Austin. and this was right after I got to shake hands with Ian McLagan (of the Small Faces), and have him tell me that he'd heard of us before! I have now worked in some small capacity with two of my most formative influences as a musician, David Minehan and Rich Gilbert. As long as life keeps throwing those juicy pitches at me, I'll keep swinging for the fence. Also in the asset category is the great work and great fun I got to experience this year with Adam Kowalczyk. His talent, dedication, and professionalism have re-engergized me at a time when I really needed it. For that alone, I'm thankful, but the fact that I get to make great music with great musicians because of it, is just a blessing.

So we've played our last show for 2005, and now we settle in with our families and close friends to celebrate our great fortune and all the fun times we had this year. I ended my 2005 year in music by watching a Dave Chapelle show in a little hotel room, with the best and most fun group of musicians I've ever been allowed to work with...then killing a bottle of vodka as the sun came up on a fabulous, wandering conversation. I can't think of a better way to put the year in rock roll to bed.

Blessings to you all, and we'll see you next year.

December 12, 2005 - Happy Holidays, everyone! I suppose I can't avoid that anymore. Thanks to everyone who came to the Adam Kowalczyk shows. It was great to see some old friends and meet some fabulous new ones. The shows were a blast, ESPECIALLY New York (and I hate New York, so go figure!). If you get a chance, check out the cool bands that we played with, The Metrosexuals and Stand. We may have a few more shows with Adam, but he's getting ready to go back to work at his day job (that would be with LIVE), so catch us while you can. We've got a few cool things planned for the coming year, including another trip to Texas, a video, and a super special big deal concert that we're planning right now. Until then, check back for show dates, buy our record (lovely stocking stuffer!!), and please come show us your beautiful faces.

November 22, 2005 - I'm just now recovering from an amazing weekend in Boston. We flew up to see a reunion show of The Neighborhoods, one of the greatest bands ever to emerge from my favorite US city. No, you probably never heard of them, but that didn't stop them from being the embodiment of everything that is right and true in rock & roll. They were recently inducted into the Boston Music Hall of Fame, and this was a show to celebrate that, more or less. David Minehan, the creative center of The Hoods, has been a huge idol, inspiration, and friend of mine for a long time. It was a profound thrill to have him play on "Oblivious", and even more so to see him strap on the old Les Paul and remind us all why rock & roll is the greatest force in the world. If you've never seen him perform, you're missing one of the most dynamic, compelling performers in all of rock. If you can muster up HALF the energy he does (at that age!), then you're doing just fine. The Hoods were among the architects of the sound that Green Day and countless other faceless and banal pop-punk bands would reap millions from, and yet despite all the "coulda, woulda, shoulda" second guessing that has always surrounded The Hoods' legacy, David remains one of the most honest, positive, and inspiring people I've ever met. It's good to be back from the dead. Welcome home, my friend.
November 20, 2005 - Welcome to the newly redesigned Parallax Project web site. We're launching this bold new look in conjunction with the release of our new album, Perpetual Limbo. Please have a look around, and leave us your comments. Hopefully we will be able to find the time to keep the site growing and expanding in the future, so please check back often.