I'm "finished" with the third track. By finished I mean that I'm moving on to the next song. When I'm done with this project, I'll go back to each track, listen to it and add whatever additional instrumentation/vocals I think are still needed. I have an idea what I want to do with the next song...more of an acoustic/electric thing this time. No lyrics yet. They rarely come before I've gotten the chords and a tentative arrangement down.
Don't be surprised if it takes several months to wrap this album up.
On this day in 2020, the fabulously talented and criminally under-appreciated Emitt Rhodes died at the age of 70. His 1970 solo debut, EMITT RHODES, remains to this day one of my very most favorite albums, though the four subsequent releases from the early '70s are all excellent as well. Rhodes was a home recording pioneer. You can read much more about him and how he put together his debut record here.
This weekend my wife and I, thanks to the generosity of some friends, were able to attend a day of music at the Red Wing Roots Festival in nearby Mount Solon. It was obviously a joyous occasion for just about everyone in attendance. Because we had a small puppy at home, we weren't able to stay for more than a few hours and unfortunately had to miss performances by the Mavericks (their first real live show since the pandemic began) and Yarn, and that was a bummer, but we couldn't leave the dog locked up in a cage for 10-12 hours.
Anyway, I wore an old t-shirt of mine that I purchased way back in 2003 when Book of Kills played the SoundQuilt Festival in Gore, Virginia. (That performance, by the way, was the last ever by the Casey & Jane Firkin, Randy Simpson, Bill Bird and Jim Shelley line-up.) As my wife and I wound our way through hundreds of festival-goers on the way back to our car, someone noticed my shirt and stopped me to tell me that they fondly remembered me and my band from our SoundQuilt and CecilFest performances 18 years earlier. "Hey, did you know," he said, "that CecilFest is going on this weekend?" I did not know that. In fact, I'd always been told that CecilFest had ceased not long after our show there. Apparently, friends of the festival still convene yearly on a much smaller scale and still jam. I have good memories of that gig. It's hard to believe that we played there (at Natural Chimneys, the very same place at which the Red Wing Festival is held yearly) on this day way back in 2003!
Oh...after shaking hands with the fellow, I started off again for the parking lot and was immediately met by another guy (I think the sound man for the main stage) who gave me a big hug and told me how good it was to see me again. No idea who he was but it was great to see him!
"One of the things about live music that's so incredibly important and can't be replaced and automated is the common focus of a room full of people having that human contact and being immersed in the sensory overload of a rock concert." -- John Rzeznik
On this day in 1964, former musician Courtney Love was born. Jeez, Courtney Love is pushing 60!
On this day in 1975, Jack White was born. And Jack White is pushing 50!
On this day in 1977, Elvis Costello quit his day job at Elizabeth Arden Cosmetics to become a full time musician.
On this day in 1995, the Grateful Dead gave their last-ever concert with head man Jerry Garcia. Jerry died just a month later in a drug rehab center.
"What makes the most money for this business? Dead rock stars." -- Courtney Love
"Any man with a microphone can tell you what he loves the most." -- Jack White
"I don't feel any form of music is beyond me in the sense of that I don't understand it or I don't have some love for some part of it." -- Elvis Costello
"You have to get past the idea that music has to be one thing. To be alive in America is to hear all kinds of music constantly: radio, records, churches, cats on the street, everywhere music. And with records, the whole history of music is open to everyone who wants to hear it." -- Jerry Garcia
That track I started working on back in late June? The one that I had to add a guitar solo and write a couple more verses? I did finally record the guitar solo (a first take), although I have to record another one that comes later in the song. And I did write one verse, though I haven't even laid down the vocal for that verse yet. I still have another verse to write obviously.
What's the hold-up this time? Well, six days ago we got a new puppy. A tiny ten week old Boston Terrier. And because my wife still works three days a week (and because on her off days I generally don't do any recording at all), I have spent the days she's had to work doing almost nothing except tending to the puppy's every need. Recording is virtually impossible with the puppy in my care. So, writing and recording has come to a stand-still. Hell, I didn't even play golf this week because I didn't want to leave the dog in a cage for six or seven hours while I was away.
As some of you know, I sell old books online (along with the occasional band t-shirt) on eBay and in the past six days since we got the dog I haven't created a single new listing. I love the dog to death, but the little fellow has pretty much eaten up every second of my very limited free time.
Thanks to some friends, we have tickets to the Red Wings Roots Festival this weekend at Natural Chimneys. If you haven't heard of it, it's a long-running (8-9 years now?) festival featuring various old-time, roots, folk and country inflected bands (many with a little rock and roll/rhythm and blues in their make-up) that unspools over the course of three days. I've only been to a couple of their festivals, but the shows I saw were all really great, most notably the fantastic Steep Canyon Rangers. I don't think Fear + Whiskey would've been too out of place playing there. This year I'm looking forward to seeing Yarn (a band F + W played with in 2011), The Mavericks and the Dustbowl Revival. We won't be able to spend a lot of time there because we can't leave our puppy alone for too long (and we can't take him with us), but I'm hoping we're able to catch at least 4-5 performances.
Sorry that I've really neglected the website lately. Late spring and summer are very busy times for me as far as friends and family go. Seems like there's always something going on. If I were a rich and famous rock star, perhaps I'd devote a bit more time to spinning fab stories about my rock star life and music (or at least my publicist would), but I'm just an unknown amateur musician making music 'cause I can't not make music, hoping that 3 or 4 folks somewhere in the world might wanna listen to what I write and record. So, I'm going to be pretty lax about regularly attending to bookofkills.com in the meantime. Ditto the new album...
Speaking of which...I've worked fitfully on the outro that I alluded to in the previous post and I'm nearly done with the preliminary multi-track. Still have a guitar solo to play and a couple verses to write and sing though. Who knows when I'll get that done!
As of June 30, 2021, the top ten most streamed BOK albums of all time:
1. Songs For A Played Out Generation (2004)
2. WASP 51! (2003)
3. The Haunted Life (1992)
4. Big Business Monkey, Volume Six (2018)
5. In My Room: The Best of Book of Kills, Volume One (1994)
6. Different (2007)
7. All About You (2002)
8. Wee Jim's Blackeye (1993)
9. The Strange One (Demos & Outtakes) (2010)
10. Detritus (1994)
If you're wondering why Songs For A Played Out Generation is always "number one", it's because it was the first album, by a couple years, that I ever made available for streaming and downloading. It was an attempt to make available some of the "better" songs I'd created over the years. Uploading an album was fairly expensive and not particularly profitable. The same holds true today, at least for little known musicians, but at least I can afford to upload music a bit more readily. Actually, when I uploaded Songs For A Played Out Generation way back in 2004, Apple and Amazon Music didn't even exist and people were still largely downloading individual songs, most of it "illegally"!
I'm now giving mp3's of the songs I'm working on not only to George III, but (former BOK drummer/collaborator) Mike Hicks and (former BOK guitarist/collaborator) Randy Simpson. George and Mike will be able to work on the multi-tracks at their homes and then send back to me whatever they've done. Randy could be a bit more problematic since I don't know if he's got access to a Mac and the capacity to work with very large files. We'll work it out.
I worked on a couple of different tracks today, one sort of a transitional bit and the other a sort of coda-type thing for one of the "finished" songs that speeds through about five different movements all in the course of three minutes. Then I'll have to somehow figure out how to jam all this stuff together...
I'll be wrapping up my work on the second song today, mainly some vocals and perhaps one or two instrumental touches here and there. Then I'll be sending mp3's of the songs to George (see previous updates). I will have a couple of days with some free time this week to begin work on the third song. No idea where I want to go with number three. I'll know when I get there.
I'll be sending two "completed" songs to George Nipe III this coming week so he can come up with bass and vocal parts to add to what I've already done. As I continue to write and record, I'll also continue to send George a couple songs at a time for him to work on. I don't know if he'll simply add parts on his machine and send them back to me or if we'll get together periodically and record in person.
I think that trying to communicate what sort of music I'm making this time around is probably useless. Mainly because I can't seem to find my direction yet. I think the problem is that I've had very little free time to work on music and the rather complicated direction I'd gone in was too time-consuming for the limited amount of time I had and will have in the foreseeable future. So perhaps what I need to do is to cut everything back...that is, to find a stark new direction that will allow me to work quickly. Think maybe Dylan's JOHN WESLEY HARDING when everyone else on earth was trying to emulate the monumental complex arrangements of the Beatles's SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND.
The second song is evolving. This one has sort of taken a left turn into something completely different from what I had envisioned when I was beginning work on it last week. Now I'm heading into that sort of long drone-y type thing that I messed around with way back in 1993-1994, a type of song I haven't tried to write in years. Who knows where it will end up? I know what I want the lyrics to be about but I really haven't written many words so far...just a few phrases.
On this day twenty years ago, Book of Kills played a benefit concert for the Young Film Makers of Harrisonburg, Virginia. I think we made them a lot of money to buy equipment like cameras, tape, and so forth. I don't remember much about the show other than the fact that we did not play particularly well, but no one seemed to notice and apparently thought we were "great". The set list: I Hang Heavy-->Up In Flames-->Can't Stand It Anymore, Running, Rain, Money, Cave In, Killing Time Again, Gemini, Why Won't You?. Strange set list.
I have essentially finished the first song. I ended up recording a sort of glorified string quartet for the problematic middle section. The song is not really finished: I talked to George Nipe III yesterday (he was out for a Memorial Day lunch) and he said he'd love to work on the album, primarily adding bass and vocal parts. So what I'm going to do is create a near-done track for each new song, send it to George and let him work out parts and make suggestions on how the song's arrangement might be improved and then eventually let him record whatever parts he has to offer.
I have a vague idea of what I want to do next. The second song will be even more involved, and strange, than the first one.
"If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living." -- Gail Sheehy
"There is no 'right' way to make art. The only wrong is in not trying, not doing. Don’t put barriers up that aren’t there — just get to work and make something." -- Lisa Golightly
"The experience of surprise is a sign of one's readiness to grow." -- Sidney Jourard
I will be quite busy today with Memorial Day gatherings, but tomorrow I should have a significant amount of time to finish the first song. In fact, I'll guarantee you that I come up with the middle passage that I've been stymied by thus far. Stay tuned.
By the way, I'll be cutting more updates on this page soon, so if you're inclined to go back and read any of the past entries, do so soon.
I've recorded four completely different middle passages for the first song and I just can't seem to come up with something I really like. That doesn't mean I'm giving up. I'll just continue to record more stuff until I finally come up with something that works. The recordings I've made thus far haven't been done in vain, however; I realized rather belatedly that one of them actually fits as a sort of coda (a concluding passage) to the material I've finished. So the first song has already taken on a new form that I didn't anticipate. That's a cool thing about writing and recording new songs. Surprises seem to appear almost every time I start a new session and lead me into a totally unanticipated direction. To repeat a couple of quotations by Lindsey Buckingham that I used here months ago:
"When I work alone, it can be like dabbling with a canvas. Maybe you paint over bits, and it starts to form its own life and lead you off in a direction. It becomes an intuitive, subconscious process."
"I love to be in the studio. That's what I like to do best."
Still working out the middle of the first song. It's hard to explain this one. It starts off with a fairly straightforward little piece of rock and roll and then slides into a brief orchestral thing and then suddenly pops back into a rock and roll outro and it's all over in 2 1/2 minutes. And I think that kind of characterizes how the whole album will be. More than a little off the wall. Every song will have some sort of out of the blue thing about it. And it's going to take a long time to put it all together. But I think it'll be worth it.
Here's another recommendation (see the 4/29/2021 entry) of a BOK song that has pretty much never gotten much notice: Take a listen to the original recording of "I Leave Her There Till She Rings 3 Times" on the WRITING ON THE WALL (BIG BUSINESS MONKEY VOLUME 3), then listen to the live 2017 version of the song and how it was transformed into something better when George Nipe III, Garfield Banks and I worked out a new arrangement. You can find that track on SONGS FROM 206 HIGH STREET - BIG BUSINESS MONKEY, VOLUME SEVEN.
I've begun recording. As I said previously, there's no deadline for this album, or whatever it ends up being.
I talked to Randy [Simpson] today about possibly starting the process for finding musicians for a new band. We'll see what happens.
Last night at a little get-together at a friend's house, she insisted on playing the old BOK Live at Alston's 2003 DVD for some folks who'd never seen BOK in action. They were [thankfully] quite impressed, especially by the segment featuring "Sweet" and the medley of "Why Won't You?-->Up In Flames-->Can't Stand It Anymore". Their reaction really made me long for the exquisite pain of playing live again.
"If you have stage fright, it never goes away. But then I wonder: is the key to that magical performance because of the fear?" -- Stevie Nicks
"The truth is, I hate to perform. I get such bad stage fright, it makes me physically ill." -- Rivers Cuomo
"I have stage fright every single concert I've ever done. I have at least four or five minutes of it. It's absolute living hell." -- Brian Wilson
"I've never told anyone this. But I suffer from terrible stage fright. True. You can't tell though, can you? Unbelievable, the panic. I nearly die of fear before I go on stage. Something wicked. I can't eat a thing the day before a gig. It'd make me vomit." -- John Lydon (Johnny Rotten)
"I had stage fright for years and years, and I could hear it in my singing. But since I've done it so often for so many years, you'd think that I'd relax a little bit, and I think that I have." -- Johnny Mathis
"One of the interesting and unusual things with Warren [Zevon] was, with all of his issues, how productive he stayed. In many ways he got better creatively, he continued to grow. That is really the exception. Most of the people I met hanging out with Jackson [Browne], then Warren, in 1976, '77, '78, many of whom were very talented, weren't able to continue to be at their best, creatively speaking, twenty-five to thirty years later, which to me is a sign of greatness.
"For most genuinely great artists, it's a lifetime endeavor. They're at it forever. With Bruce Springsteen it's a lifetime endeavor. Bruce is still in there today trying to write the best song he ever wrote. Maybe he will, maybe he won't, but that's what he's interested in doing. He's as interested in it today as he was the day I met him. Warren was like that too, but with him what was unusual was his level of perseverance mixed with the level of adversity for himself. It is a fascinating combination." -- Jon Landau
I think I'll begin recording sessions for the next album this week. I should have a little free time Wednesday and Thursday, though I will be pressed throughout the week with various other family related obligations, as usual. I'll take this album slow. It's absurd for me to predict a finish date as any of you know who've followed BOK for any length of time, but I'd like to be done with it by early Fall. I'd also like to have some other folks make contributions both vocally and instrumentally, but we'll have to see about that.
On this day in 2001, Bill Bird, Casey and Jane Firkin, Randy Simpson and I played our second and final gig at Electric Blue in Waynesboro. No big deal. I guess none of our gigs were ever a "big deal", of course, but it was, if I recall correctly, a weird night. I remember the stage was very high above the floor (probably three or four feet...I liked being on the floor with the crowd where I could interact with folks face to face) and someone (the owner, I presume) would set off smoke pots (which produced a sort of sickly sweet smoke that made it hard for me to breathe) during the show. The set list: If You Want It, Take It!, Cave In, Why Won't You?, Money, Gemini, Rain, Because Because, If I Asked You, Caroline, I Was Wrong, To Dream a New Dream, Running, Just an Average Day, I Hang Heavy-->Up in Flames-->I Can't Stand It Anymore, Don't Stop the Scream. There might be a tape of the practice the night before of this show. In fact, I vaguely recall releasing (or maybe just handing out a few copies of) a compact disc of it called PRELUDE TO ELECTRIC BLUE. Then again, maybe that was for the first show we played at Electric Blue. I don't know. I'll sniff around and see if I can find it. Maybe I'll upload a few tracks to the Music page if I can find anything worthwhile.
I think I've found my inspiration for the next album. In fact, I've already come up with the arrangement and rough chord progressions for the first song. I think I'll be pushing the arrangements into slightly odder directions this time. I want the songs to be catchy and melodic, but I also want them to veer off into unexpected territories as well.
On this day back in 2008 just two days after our final gig at The Luray Metal Fest, I tendered my resignation as the bassist/vocalist in The Plague Dogs. Though I'd had a great time playing with George Nipe III, Mike Hicks and Garfield Banks, I guess I always knew that I was biding my time in the band until I could get another version of Book of Kills up and running. It turns out, of course, that George, Mike, David Tekippe and I would go on to form one of the greatest BOK line-up's ever in October. By November, we'd be playing live shows.
Today I paid CDBaby for their distribution of a new Book of Kills album. No, I don't have a surprise album ready to go. CDBaby sent me a discount invitation for distribution of a new record and I decided to take advantage of the offer. Two things I want to do in 2021: Start a band and release an album of all new material.
If you view this page even just sporadically, you're probably aware that the KILLING TIME AGAIN! LIVE 2009 album is now available world-wide on all streaming/download sites. CDBaby took only about a week this time getting it ready. However, the cover that they used was NOT the cover I intended to use. They actually locked in what was simply a placeholder image that I needed to use to ready the rest of the submission for release. I'll put the "actual" cover on the photos page eventually and you can decide which one you like best.
Occasionally, when I hit these (regular) dry spells for updates, I'll get an email asking if everything's okay or if I've stopped updating the website (once I think I went about three weeks without a new post and that's when I really got some concerned inquires in the old virtual mailbox) and I have to reassure whoever sent the email that everything's okay. Right now I'm just very busy with other family/friend-oriented matters that leave me little time for doing much of anything else. Of course, when I catch the new album fever again, things will change and there'll be LOTS of updates.
I really wish I had the time and inclination to work on BOK stuff that I should be working on, such as new videos or a new podcast, and there will come a time when I produce some new stuff, but right now I'm afraid the hundreds and hundreds of JS/BOK songs out in the world already are just going to have to suffice. Here's a little something I'll try to do on a regular basis: I'll recommend a BOK song that I think perhaps has been "unfairly" forgotten. For starters, I'll submit for your approval the melancholy trio of tracks off 2007's DIFFERENT..."Fashion Right", "You Burn and You Know It" and "The Promised of the Lost Highway"? That album was created during a period of great sadness (my mother was dying) and great elation (first grandson Brooks was born) and, too, I was starting to feel my age. Those three songs, which run back to back to back on the album, remain some of my favorites. I worked hard on the instrumentation, lyrics and vocals. Give them a listen.
"One comes along, another one goes/The river ebbs, the river flows" -- You Burn and You Know It
Gosh, I haven't updated the news in nine days? My excuse is the usual: I've been exceptionally busy with family, friends, business and house demands. Honestly, there was a stretch of five or six days where I was going almost constantly from one thing to the next and I was so exhausted by the end of the day that, moments after I'd climb into bed, I'd fall asleep. There won't be any let-up over the next several upcoming days.
Today is Earth Day, right? On Earth Day of 1995 (actually April 22 of that year), the original Book of Kills line-up of George Finch, Brian Temples, Dusty Bugg and Jim played their final show together, a half-hour gig at a large Earth Day festival in Harrisonburg, VA. I was feeling pretty cantankerous that afternoon, since I knew the band was imploding, and decided to throw “Idiot Planet” (not the most politically correct song to play at an Earth Day show) into the set list. I remember looking at the festival organizer standing off to one side of the stage while his face darkened from a toothy smile to a tight lipped scowl as we chugged through the song and I barked out the lyrics: “Welcome to the Idiot Planet/You gotta be an idiot if you wanna live here.” It was all good for a laugh, I suppose, but my heart was hardly into the performance. The set list: Because Because, I Hang Heavy, A Story That Could Be True, Jesco White, Idiot Planet, Fade, Don't Stop the Scream, Lost, Create.
April was always one of the best months of the year for live BOK shows. I guess 'cause spring was finally here and we'd all be tired of spending too much time cooped up inside, not doing much of anything very productive. When March would roll around, I'd realize it was time to get my butt in gear and try to hustle some springtime gigs.
KILLING TIME AGAIN!, the "new" compilation of sixteen BOK live 2009 performances, is still not available for streaming, but it should be very soon now. CDBaby has finally gotten 'round to readying it for distribution.
I'll be chopping some of the previous entries off this page again soon. So if for some reason you wanna go back and read some of the stuff I wrote over since the beginning of 2021 you better do it soon!
No news really on the prospects for a new album. I have some ideas that have been rattling around in my head for a while now, but I can't say that I'm ready to start writing and recording.
I've received uniform positive feedback concerning the newly remixed and remastered tracks for the KILLING TIME AGAIN Live 2009 album. A few very faithful long-time fans will be receiving a 15 track compact disc of the album in the mail over the next couple weeks. The album will eventually be available to everyone on this website's store, as well as on all streaming/download sites around the world. The streaming version will contain one additional song, a recently discovered version of "Why Won't You?" from April 10, 2009 that I couldn't include on the cds. It's pretty hot.
On this day in 2003, Bill Bird, Randy Simpson, Jane Firkin, Casey Firkin and Jim played TWO shows at
Ferrum University. The first was played in the student union building. Strange. The set-list: Accidentally Naked, Running, Style-->Bad Person, Face, To Dream A New Dream, Why Won't You?, Sweet, Abandoned, Cave In, Rain, I Hang Heavy-->Up In Flames-->Can't Stand It Anymore. The second, an impromptu benefit show in a field outside the university attended by a large crowd of students and townies, proved to be one of BOK's greatest all-time performances. The set-list: If You Want It Take It, Accidentally Naked, Running, Style-->Bad Person, Money, Face, To Dream A New Dream, Don't Stop The Scream, Killing Time Again, Why Won't You?, Sweet, Abandoned, Cave In, Rain, I Hang Heavy-->Up In Flames-->Can't Stand It Anymore, Jesco White, To Dream A New Dream.
Some of you who've been long-time supporters of Book of Kills will be receiving a special compact disc over the course of the next two weeks. I hope you'll enjoy listening to it.
On this day in 1994, electrician Gary Smith, who was working at Kurt Cobain's house in Seattle, discovered Cobain's body lying on the floor of his greenhouse.
"I couldn’t shake him out of being depressed, I couldn’t cheer him up or get him to feel there was hope. I was just hoping that if the drugs got out of his system then he could think more clearly and that would be a good time to have better conversations with him. Of course I never was able to have such conversations." -- Danny Goldberg (Nirvana's former manager)
The entire live album (KILLING TIME AGAIN!) is now available for free streaming or download on the music page. It took hours and hours to nudge those fifteen songs into a better place sonically. That short-lived band deserved the time, effort and love, though. Remember, too, that you can download the insert for the (non-existent) compact disc version of the album as well. Will KILLING TIME AGAIN! show up eventually on Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, etc? I don't know. It costs a lot to upload albums to streaming services. While I'd like the album to be available for as long as people stream music, I'll decide somewhere down the road whether or not I want to upload it. In regards to the "album" cover...if I do indeed upload KILLING TIME AGAIN!, I'll include the cover with the upload. Otherwise, I'll keep it under wraps for the time being.