I savor every moment of the recording of a new song. I even cherish having to do a guitar take over and over to get it just right, though that was something I had to do more when I first started out than now. Testing out various effects on a guitar part or vocal, fiddling with equalization, trying to balance and position all the instruments and voices within a sound stage, suddenly coming up with a new and better arrangement in the middle of recording and having to start all over, etc. I love it all.
Thanks to those of you who've downloaded the new song! I hope it doesn't take too long to come up with the second one.
“I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands. I know that if I hurry in order to eat dessert sooner, the time of washing dishes will be unpleasant and not worth living. That would be a pity, for each minute, each second of life is a miracle. The dishes themselves and that fact that I am here washing them are miracles!” -- Thich Nhat Hanh (The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation)
The first brand new track in what I hope will be an ongoing series of covers of "obscure" '60s psychedelic songs is now available for download on the Music Page! This is the first time I've tried to set up a download for sale in several years. I think I've got all my ducks in line. If you encounter any problems, please let me know! This project has actually got me pretty excited. It's fun recording other people's music and especially fun trying to put your own little quirky spin on what's already a quirky piece of great, if little-known, music.
By the way, if I do indeed end up recording a number of tracks for this project, they'll eventually be available for purchase as a compact disc and, of course, on music streaming sites world-wide, but that will be several months in the future.
Now I'll turn my attention to uncovering another gem, its musical charms to unlock!
“One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do. Do it now.” -- Paulo Coelho
Well, from now on when I give you a deadline, add at least a week. I had every intention of finishing up the first in what's going to be a series of remakes of various obscure '60s tunes and then once again reality (and a sofa) interfered with my best-laid plans. I ended up having to waste almost four hours doing nothing but waiting for a sofa to arrive without the chance to put the finishing touches on the first track in fear that I'd miss the delivery if I were upstairs recording. Yep. That's the truth. Anyway, the song is 95% done. In fact, all I have to do is lay down some sort of guitar solo and mix and master it and it's in the can. I won't, however, make any promises when it's going to be done.
“Are you aware that rushing toward a goal is a sublimated death wish? It's no coincidence we call them 'deadlines'" -- Tom Robbins
I began recording the first cover song today. I won't have any long stretches of time to work on it, but I think I'll have it finished Thursday.
On this day in 2006, The Karl Rove played their final show at the Satellite Ballroom in Charlottesville, VA. The set list: Caspian Sea, Little Metal Toys, Empire In Decline, Different, God Bless, River Of Blood, So Tired, Windowless Facade, Funtown, Righteous American, JROTC, Scrapezoid. The gig was marred by tension in the band which led us to play a mediocre show. I remember my older son Daniel and his wife Amy came down to Charlottesville to see us, along with my wife. I think they were baffled by the whole strange affair. We had such potential and yet never came remotely close to achieving what we could have accomplished musically.
It's hard to believe that it was ten years ago today that Fear + Whiskey played their very first gig (in front of an "invitation only" crowd) at Bugg's Place in McGaheysville, Virginia. I remember being even more nervous that I usually was before a show, but I think we played a relatively competent set. I know there's a recording of the gig somewhere, but I can't seem to find it. The band consisted of Amy Bugg on bass/vocals, Jeff Lown on drums and me on guitar and vocals. The set list: Hold The Wind, Cold Rain And Snow, Man In A Long Black Coat, Caroline, To Dream A New Dream, Blue Heart Drumming, Thin Moon And Sky, Level, Shake My Tree, Jesco White, Far And Few, Stanley The Steamer, For What It's Worth, Why Won't You?
I've decided what creative direction I'm heading in next: I'm going to record a number of covers (mostly quite obscure--indeed, largely forgotten--1960s stuff) and release them one by one. This is not going to be a Singles Club deal, but I will be selling the songs on-site. I've already got the first song picked out and it is about as obscure as you can get. But more about that later. I'm really really hoping that I'll have the first song available by the end of next week.
Earlier this year, I made a little bit of noise about starting a band. While I received a lot of positive input, the sad fact is that I really didn't get a whole lot of bites when it came to willing musicians, due (I suppose) to a variety of factors, not least of which is the fact that the pandemic continues to rage nearly out of control across the nation and the world. I suppose there aren't a whole lot of folks in the Shenandoah Valley just jonesing to start a rock and roll band with an old guy either. Sad but true. I did have a couple of opportunities to start a folk duo/trio, but my heart just isn't in that sort of thing. For the time being, I'll just keep my focus on recording.
Speaking of bands, on this day in 1966, the Velvet Underground made their live debut at Summit High School in New Jersey, the band were paid $75 for the gig.
"I sorta never heard the subject matter [of Lou's songs] for a long time. In those days, they didn't have monitors, and I didn't know what half the songs were about. I didn't know what the lyrics were to half the songs. Honestly, that's the truth. I couldn't hear. Once Lou started with feedback and everything, I couldn't hear shit. So I didn't know what the hell the songs were about for a while." -- Moe Tucker
Maybe I'll try to record a third podcast?
I've done a little bit here and there as far as remastering Fear + Whiskey tracks. But I haven't really caught fire on that project.
I keep thinking maybe I could give myself a little push and try to get a new album started. But I'm just not there yet.
I don't know. I'm feeling really kind of distracted these days. The election. The post-election. The pandemic. Stress and anger can sometimes lead you to a run of creativity. But sometimes it can have just the opposite effect and completely tamp out all the creative sparks.
Tomorrow is supposed to be a rainy day. I figure I'll either wander around the house all day long and do a lot of nothing or I'll finally get some focus and get a new project going.
Maybe a collage?
Work on the web site store?
Drink three cups of coffee and lie on the bed a while and then watch some TV and waste a day completely?
Five most streamed BOK songs for October 2020: (1) "Dink's Song (Fare Thee Well My Honey)" - BIG BUSINESS MONKEY, VOLUME SIX; (2) "The Man In The Long Black Veil" - THE FEAR + WHISKEY ANTHOLOGY; (3) "We Are Here Because We're Here" - I CAN'T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE; (4) "La La La La La La (She's a Punk Rock Girl)" - SAINT JUDAS; (5) "You Couldn't Give Any More (Turtle's Song)"- I KNOW WE CAN SAVE OUR WORLD. Haven't heard one of these songs yet? You can find all five of them on all streaming services around the world! Don't forget TIDAL which streams in CD quality sound or better! And they pay musicians a fair percentage, unlike Spotify and Apple Music.
On this day in 1943, the ingenious Joni Mitchel (real name Roberta Anderson) l was born. Her influence is vast. In the '70s, I listened to her records constantly. My favorite Joni albums: LADIES OF THE CANYON, BLUE, FOR THE ROSES, COURT AND SPARK, and HEJIRA. The most underrated Joni album and one years ahead of its time? THE HISSING OF SUMMER LAWNS.
Also on this day, Leonard Cohen passed at the age of 82. Can't say that I listened much to his records (other than SONGS OF LEONARD COHEN and SONGS OF LOVE AND HATE), but it's not hard to understand his greatness.
"You could write a song about some kind of emotional problem you are having, but it would not be a good song, in my eyes, until it went through a period of sensitivity to a moment of clarity. Without that moment of clarity to contribute to the song, it's just complaining." -- Joni Mitchell
"We're in a world where there's famine and hunger and people are dodging bullets and having their nails pulled out in dungeons, so it's very hard for me to place any high value on the work that I do to write a song. Yeah, I work hard but compared to what?" -- Leonard Cohen
Can't claim to have much in the way of news over the past week. It's November in case you haven't noticed. You probably have. I've got a bunch of musical projects I could be working on, but I've been kind of lazy...actually I think a lot of my lethargy has to do with a lot of anxiety over the election and the explosion of COVID 19 cases, especially in this area. Though the city of Harrisonburg (I live about 5 miles outside the city limits in the nearby town of Bridgewater) is far smaller than Virginia cities such as Virginia Beach, Richmond, Roanoke, etc., it has consistently stayed near the top for level of infections. As an example, consider Virginia Beach with a population of about 1 1/2 million. They've thus far had about 8,400 total cases of the disease. Harrisonburg (with a population of about 54,000) thus far has had about 3,400 cases. Virginia Beach is 28 times larger than Harrisonburg and yet has only 2 1/2 times the number of COVID 19 cases. But, I imagine you don't visit bookofkills.com to read about the prevalence of COVID 19 in the city I live near.
I have worked a little on re-mastering, and in some cases re-mixing, various Fear + Whiskey tracks. I don't have any deadline for when I'd issue a re-vamped version of the anthology from 2013.
I also thought a little about starting work on an album of some sort of new material, but November and December tend to be busy for me and don't offer a whole lot of free time either. I guess this is just a typical run of down time for me. I've had a creative year. I need let let the mind gardens stand fallow for a little while.
I spent a little time yesterday and today sorting through the dozens and dozens of studio and live Fear + Whiskey tracks that I still have, many of which I haven't listened to since the day they were made. I've actually re-mastered probably a half dozen tracks. Though Fear + Whiskey recordings generally tend to be a little higher quality sonically than 20 and 30 year old BOK material, particularly the live stuff, the improvement is still startling. I had forgotten how many songs that band ended up learning over the course of its three+ year existence (even though we only ever played a handful of gigs). I could probably re-imagine the ANTHOLOGY as a forty to fifty track album. That said, I'll probably keep it around 30-35 total songs.
Lou Reed died on this day in 2013 at the age of 71. Too many drugs. Too much alcohol. He seemed to take everything as far as it would go. I suppose that's why he was great. There was his music and whatever it took to create his music, and then there was everything else.
"If you want to do something great...if you want to take something as far as it will go...you can't have everything. You lose family. Sense of home. But then look at what exists." -- Declan Howell
"If you sacrifice your art because of some woman, or some man, or for some color, or for some wealth, you can't be trusted." -- Miles Davis
"The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality." -- T.S. Eliot
"Artists must be sacrificed to their art. Like the bees, they must put their lives into the sting they give." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery--isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you'll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is." -- Charles Bukowski
TO DREAM A NEW DREAM - THE ESSENTIAL JIM SHELLEY & BOOK OF KILLS is now available on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and other streaming services. (If it is not yet on whatever service you use, it will be soon.) This double album features FIFTY essential Book of Kills songs from 1989's BLOOM OR DIE? up to 2020's I KNOW WE CAN SAVE OUR WORLD. All fifty tracks have undergone a radical remastering and sound far better than they ever have before. It's almost like listening to BOK for the first time all over again! Thanks for listening. And stay well!
I think I'm going to turn my attention now to remastering and expanding Fear + Whiskey's ANTHOLOGY from 2013, as well as the Karl Rove collection, THE MONKEY CLAUS SESSIONS PLUS, from 2006. Both of those bands deserve to be heard in as good a sound as possible and I have live and practice performances that I could add to both albums. (Fear + Whiskey [2010-2013] consisted of Amy Bugg, Zack Simpson who eventually took over drums from Jeff Lown, and me. The Karl Rove [2005-2006] featured Johnny St. Ours, Aaron Farrington, Billy Hunt who eventually took over drums from Casey Firkin, and me.)
It would be a little expensive to upload both albums again, but both groups are deserving. Neither ever got the attention they should've received, if you ask me.
Mowing the lawn today and listening to an episode of Lex Fridman's podcast, I found myself thinking about what sort of musical project I "needed" to get to work on now that I've pretty much finished up the Best-Of project, when suddenly it hit me: I have been working non-stop on I KNOW WE CAN SAVE OUR WORLD, EVERY DREAM HAS ITS GHOSTS, or TO DREAM A NEW DREAM - THE ESSENTIAL JIM SHELLEY & BOOK OF KILLS since October or November of 2019! There's nothing wrong with taking a little time off! While I am seriously considering beginning another new album, I think it'll be a good thing for me to just step away from recording for a couple weeks.
Did you know the last year that I failed to release at least one album was 19 freaking 90?
I've been accused more than once of being a musical workaholic, but I've never considered myself even close to being one.
"I like to stay busy. I am a workaholic, and I like to be creative." - Glenn Danzig
"I've always considered myself a workaholic. The way I work, I have to turn myself upside down and hang myself by my ankles and wring myself out like a wet sweater, and I have to do that with other people, too, because I think that's where something good comes out." - Josh Homme
"I've always been a creative workaholic. I have never had a period of my life where I didn't have at least half a dozen projects going on at once." - Amanda Palmer
"If there’s one thing that I’ve repeatedly and rather foolishly forgotten to schedule into my life, it is to create times where it’s not scheduled." - Craig D. Lounsbrough
“I think that it’s been decided, for better or for worse, that that the CD is a medium that’s seen its day and I can’t say I shed any tears about that. It was always an inferior compromise that involved not paying the artist properly, and really is demonstrably inferior to vinyl, as a sonic storage system. I know a lot of people got rid of their record player. I told them not to do that. I think most people like the instantaneous access offered by CD, but I know people like both, as well; they like the object to hold, the paraphernalia of records. Well, you don’t truthfully get that with a CD. All the artwork is cramped down into a horrible little booklet which gets ripped the second time you take it out of the plastic sleeve." -- Elvis Costello
CDBaby members have been informed that the wait time for inspection is 1-3 weeks now. If the inspections uncovers any problems, the wait time after the problem or problems is/are rectified can be another week. In the meantime, I'll be setting up a new shop over the next week on bookofkills.com. And I hope the contest winners have received their special editions. Then again, I'm aware that some of my mail has taken 9-10 days to arrive at its destination. Thanks Postmaster DeJoy! You're doing such a swell job subverting the mission of the United States Post Office!
Which reminds me! REGISTER (if you still can where you live) and VOTE. Vote early if you can! It's easy.
I have uploaded the tracks for TO DREAM A NEW DREAM - THE ESSENTIAL JIM SHELLEY & BOOK OF KILLS. It'll take CDBaby a good while (they're quite slow right now during these troubled times) to look over everything and get back to me. Then I have to give my okay and then they submit the album to the world's streaming services. I'll let you know when it's ready to go. I made another collage for the "regular" (non-prize winning, unique cover) album. Now I'm mulling over a freely downloadable song by song file. There really wasn't room to stick something like that in the CD. I know there are a few listeners who seem to really enjoy reading that sort of material.
The streaming version of TO DREAM A NEW DREAM - THE ESSENTIAL JIM SHELLEY & BOOK OF KILLS will feature fifty newly remastered songs, three more than the compact disc version, due to the 80 minute time limitations of CDs. I will be working this week to get that version uploaded. As you know, after an album is uploaded to CDBaby for distribution, it takes a week or more for them to get their act together and feed the album to the streaming services. Then it takes the streaming services anywhere from a day (AppleMusic) to a month or more (Quobuz) to get the album up and running on their apps. Of course, Quobuz, Tidal (still the best by far for high resolution streaming), and Amazon HD, among a few others, do offer high def music, so there is that.
Forgot to note John Lennon's recent birthday. He would've been 80 on October 9. Man, how I despise his killer, the one whose name I'll never utter, for depriving the world of so much potential joy and of course for murdering an innocent man, a father and a husband.
If you've been keeping up with the Best-Of package, now officially known as TO DREAM A NEW DREAM - THE ESSENTIAL JIM SHELLEY & BOOK OF KILLS (thanks Sony!), you'll know that I've been lauding the new remixes for the album. I mentioned previously that I'd upload a comparison track. Go to the MUSIC page and click on "Bad Person 2020 Remaster Comparison". I think you'll be rather surprised at the difference. Now I'm totally disappointed that I can't afford to put up all new masters of every BOK album, but that just ain't gonna happen. It's not cheap to upload an album through CDBaby to the various streaming services! It takes tens of thousands of streams of just one album to recoup the cash outlay to do so and right now I can't justify that expense.
“Sometimes I used to listen to something, Buddy Holly or something, and one day the record will sound twice as fast as the next day. Did you ever experience that on a single? I used to have that: one day ‘Hound Dog’ would sound very slow and one day it would sound very fast. It was just my feeling towards it. The way I heard it. It can do that. That’s where you have to make your artistic judgment to say well, this is the take and this isn’t. That’s the way you have to make the decision: when it sounds reasonable.”
“I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?”
“I write songs because that’s the thing I chose to do. And I can’t help writing them, that’s a fact. Sometimes I felt as though you worked to justify your existence, but you don’t; you work to exist, and vice versa, and that’s it, really.”
“I used to think I must be a genius, but nobody’s noticed. I used to wonder whether I’m a genius or I’m not, which is it? I used to think, well, I can’t be mad, because nobody’s put me away, therefore, I’m a genius. A genius is a form of madness, and we’re all that way, you know, and I used to be a bit coy about it, like my guitar playing.”
“Just before I record, I go buy a few albums to see what people are doing. Whether they have improved any, or whether anything happened. And nothing’s really happened. There’s a lot of great guitarists and musicians around, but nothing’s happening, you know.”
-- John Lennon
It's good to finally be done with the Best-Of package. I still can't believe how time-consuming the whole project became. Why did I spend two months or more working on it almost every day? Because I will soon upload it to the streaming services and one day it will become the first album those who are curious about JS/BOK music will turn to. And I think the casual and not so casual BOK fan will find him or herself turning to this album as well when he or she just wants a little shot of that good ol' Book of Kills music. The difference in fidelity and dynamics between these new remasters and the original tracks is, without being overly dramatic, damn near stunning. When I get a chance, I'll create a little page where you can listen to several "before and after" clips.
I'm not sure where I'll direct my musical energies now. I'd like to start a new band, but there simply doesn't seem to be enough interest for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the virus, of course. Who would ever have thought (well, I guess there are a few folks) that a microscopic particle, something that's not even really alive, would so profoundly change everything? I could, of course, try to put together another collection of new material. I could even do some sort of cover album. I'll know what path I'm going to take when I come to it.
"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light, and shadows." — Jim Jarmusch
Johnny Nash and Eddie Van Halen passed on the same day? 2020 continues to suck beyond belief. I hope things begin a positive turnaround soon. I'd trot out the old cliche that things can't get any worse, but believe me friends, things can still get a lot worse.
Finished the first round of volume matching (a real thing and a really hard thing to do) yesterday. I'll probably finish that task today, then tomorrow move on to wrapping up the compact disc inserts. Then Thursday I'll create the special collage covers for the contest winners.
Honestly, I really do intend to set up a store soon. It just seems like there's always something else to do.
In the home stretch of the re-mastering. I'm into the second disc. I'd like to finish the mastering stuff today, though I suspect it'll run into tomorrow.
Communicated with Mike Hicks this morning! Mike, you'll remember, was the drummer in what many consider the best BOK ever...a band that unfortunately only existed from late 2008 to early 2010. Mike has a great song on SoundCloud. Take a listen here.
I have finished phase one of the mastering process which involves taking care of d.c. offset, expanding and spreading the master, using a multi-value compressor and applying an adaptive limiter. In some cases, I even went back to the multi-track tapes and remixed the song. I'm now about a quarter way through the process of trying to get all of the songs to match in volume and making them as loud as I can without sacrificing dynamics. You've heard, I'm sure, of the so-called "loudness wars" which have plagued remastered records now for years. Thankfully, at the urging of many artists (such as, most infamously, Neil Young) who are fanatically sound-conscious, the push to make songs ever louder at the expense of natural dynamics is waning.
"People talk about downloads hurting record sales. I and some other people would submit that another thing that is hurting record sales these days is the fact that they are so compressed that the ear just gets tired of it. When you're through listening to a whole album of this highly compressed music, your ear is fatigued. You may have enjoyed the music but you don't really feel like going back and listening to it again." -- Bob Ludwig
"Really, the challenge is to maintain the quality of a CD, but to stuff it into a much smaller space. Let's think about how digital recording works. You start out with a very smooth sound wave and we're trying to store that in digital form. So we're really trying to reproduce a smooth curve with these square blocks, which are the digital numbers...the 1s and 0s that are used to encode sound digitally. Now, the only way you can make square blocks look like a smooth curve is by using very, very small blocks so it ends up looking as if it's smooth. Now using lots and lots of blocks means lots of storage, so we end up using fewer bigger blocks. Which means we end up not representing that curve very smoothly at all. The difference between the smooth curve and the rough edges you end up with in the digital recording, you can think of as noise because that is perceived as noise, It's perceived as an error, something that wasn't there in the original recording. The trick is to take the noise — which is the loss of fidelity — and just make it so you can't hear it anymore." -- Dr. Andrew Oxenham
I will be done with the Best-of packages by next Friday (October 9). The special winners editions will be mailed out that same day. Then I will (gladly) move on to whatever my next musical project might be. I never once imagined that this particular album would involve so much work. But I think it will be worth it to have taken my time and presented a nice, broad overview of 30+ years of Book of Kills music in as good a sonic presentation as I could possibly offer.
It's funny...I've listened to 100s of BOK songs over the past couple months. And for so many of them I can't recall where they "came from". But I feel so grateful that somehow I was allowed (by someone or something) to pull them out of the ether and make them real.
"Respect the muse. Your ideas come when you sit down and you do the work. You sit down like a professional and you talk to the muse. Like, 'Come tell me what to do.' Like if the muse was a real thing, as if the muse is like some mystical creature that comes and delivers you ideas. Even if that's not real, that's how it works. It does work like that. If you do treat it like it's a muse and you treat it with respect, and you treat it like a professional, the ideas do come to you. If you show up and put in the time and focus your energy, the ideas will arrive." -- Joe Rogan
"The cool thing is the ideas have found you. Like, 'I'm gonna use this dude. I'm gonna breed inside his brain.'" -- Lex Fridman
"One of the things about creativity is if you think about yourself a lot, if you're really into yourself or your image or you're selfish, the ideas don't find you. You can't think like that and be creative. It requires a humility and it requires a detachment from self in order to create. Like, when I'm writing, I'm blank, I'm just staring. The part of my mind that's active is not me. It's like this weird core function part where I'm not aware of my personality. I'm not aware of any of that. I'm just trying to put it together in a way that I know works." -- Joes Rogan
"Sometimes [though] it's not that way. Sometimes it's an inspiration. Like sometimes I'll be sitting there at dinner and I'll be like, 'I'll be right back. I got an idea.' And my wife's really cool about that. Like, 'I have an idea...blah blah.' And I'll run out of the room and write it down on my phone. And then I'll come back. 'Cause those are like little gifts that you get sometimes from the universe out of nowhere." -- Joe Rogan
Not too long ago, I was asked by a friend on Facebook to do one of those list things...in this case, list your 10 favorite albums of all time. I initially somehow forgot to list it, but soon remembered to add Arthur Lee and Love's masterpiece from 1967, FOREVER CHANGES to my list, noting that it was easily one of the two or three greatest albums I've ever heard. A lot of people responded soon after with puzzlement, most of them (if not all of them) having never heard of the record. Its influence on me is damn near incalculable. I never tire of hearing it. Each time I listen to it, I hear something new. I will never release a record anywhere near as great.
Don't know why I thought about FOREVER CHANGES tonight. Maybe because in this fucked up world I need it more than ever at this point in my life.
“I thought this might be the last album I’d ever make. The words represented the last words I would say about this planet. I made it after I thought there was no hope left in the world. I thought I was going to die.” -- Arthur Lee
"Through all my zig-zag times, I run for shelter to this incomprehensible masterpiece." -- Robert Plant
I'm on the downslope of finishing up the Best-of album, though I haven't even begun to start the two contest winning "Special Edition" versions. The first disc is largely done. Every single track has been remastered. And when I say "remastered", I mean in the 2009 Beatles catalog radically remastered sense of the word. I have 6-7 tracks of the second CD finished. When I have a few moments of free time, I usually head upstairs to my MacBook Pro and get to work on one more song. You can't really slog through one song after another anyway; your ears can get fatigued very quickly and you start overcompensating sonically, which can be disastrous to a song.
Some folks still seem confused as to the difference between a remix and a remaster.
"A remix takes the original sounds from the session—the individual tracks, like the drums, bass, guitar, voice tracks—and rebalances them in a completely new stereo master. There's a lot of things you can do at that stage: It's possible to completely remove instruments, or to feature things that had been subdued. You can change things much more dramatically with a remix than a remaster. A remaster just means that you're taking the original master tape and making a new transfer of it. In the process of remastering, it is possible to make adjustments in the sound, but those adjustments are typically much smaller-scale and less aggressive than the changes you can make by remixing." -- Steve Albini
A question that has naturally arisen about my recent posts concerning re-mastering the tracks for the upcoming best-of compilation is this: If you've already re-mastered these tracks before, then why do you need to do it again? The answer is simple: Over the years, as I've put together various permutations of various compilation albums, as well as various re-issues of stand-alone albums, the tracks contained within each of those albums have undergone a variety of rudimentary mastering techniques, primarily equalization, volume adjustment, and compression. Sometimes a track has gone through the re-mastering process more than once. In those cases, I've attempted to go back to the original master tapes, which are free of any sonic "tinkering", and subsequently run the songs in question through Logic Pro's mastering tools. In the past I handled that process on a rather haphazard individual basis using the above-mentioned rudimentary tools of rather heavy-handed equalization, volume adjustment and compression, using only my ears for a guide (which is much more difficult than you might suppose to get "right".) Anyway, if you've listened to BOK for a long time, I think you'll be rather surprised at how good (at least in an amateur, lo-fi sort of way) many of these songs will sound. During this long and protracted process, I've been hearing again and again little touches here and there within songs that I wasn't even aware were there! On the negative side, I've also become aware that some tracks have glaringly obvious sonic deficiencies, primarily clipping and distortion artifacts...problems that I'm painstakingly trying to eliminate.
I'm going to really make a push over the next couple days to wrap up the Best-Of. Honestly, it has taken too much time. Then again, lots of people who come to Book of Kills music new, (naturally) head straight to "greatest hits" collections such as the 1994 IN MY ROOM: THE BEST OF BOOK OF KILLS, VOLUME ONE and 2004's SONGS FOR A PLAYED OUT GENERATION, first. So they are worthwhile endeavors. Considering the last such album dropped in 2006 (ADVENTURES OF AN INSPIRED AMATEUR...not really a greatest hits collection, but sort of) and that BOK has released over two hundred new tracks in the years since, it was clearly time for a new collection. Pitchfork has long argued that with the arrival of digital streaming greatest hits albums are redundant, but that's simply not the case. If you were coming to Book of Kills for the first time and had no idea where to begin, which record would you choose to listen to first? Which tracks would you check out right off the bat? Best-of collections serve as a guidepost to an artist's work, a pool of goodness that the curious can dip their toes into. They're valuable for the artist because they, to use a cliché, help them put their best foot forward. Although WASP 51! and THE HAUNTED LIFE are creeping ever closer, SONGS FOR A PLAYED OUT GENERATION remains by far the most "digitally popular" album in the BOK oeuvre.
Tomorrow (Tuesday, September 22) is National Voter Registration Day. PLEASE take the time to visit the official NVRD website and register if you haven't done so already.
The Best-Of CD set is progressing slowly, but it is progressing.
There are never enough hours in the day to get everything done that I want to get done. Whatever. I spent several hours today mastering some of the older BOK material (such as the 1997 version of "Placebo" featuring Dave and Brian Buracker, Brock Beatty and Jim or the 2001 version of "Why Won't You featuring Lisa Van Fossen, Jane Firkin, Casey Firkin and Jim) that isn't quite up to snuff sonically in comparison to the 2000-2020 era material. I think folks who listen to this new anthology will be quite surprised at how dynamic some of the older songs sound. I have access now to the mastering tools provided by Apple's Logic Pro and, believe me, they make a profound difference! I might well re-master every single track!
I think I've finally come up with the tracks for the two cd Best-of. Laughably, the album will consist of 44 songs, 22 to a disc. I'll move on to mastering tomorrow. I doubt, however, that this thing will drop before early October. There's just too much to do on it yet. I haven't even begun work on the inserts, let alone the two winners' collage special editions!
On this day in 2006, The Karl Rove played a short but spirited set at Gallery 5 in Richmond, Virginia. Although, Halloween was six weeks away, I seem to remember people dressing up in costumes for some reason. It was a weird show. But it was fun and we played pretty well. The set list: Righteous American-->Little Metal Toys, God Bless, Winds Of Dying, Empire In Decline, Different, River Of Blood, Caspian Sea.
I've been away for a good while. My wife and I left town and headed up north for a few days of fun and relaxation.
Today presented me with a few hours (this morning at least) to work on the so-called 33 Best-Of compilation. I don't know how much work I really got done, to be honest. It's just so hard for me to narrow down the track listing to just 33 songs. Maybe the solution will be to simply expand the number of songs to whatever will fit on two CD's. I'm modeling the whole project (other than the special collage covers, of course) after Sony Music's well-known "Essential" series featuring the likes of The Clash, Bob Dylan, AC/DC, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, The Byrds, The Stooges, Elvis Presley, Leonard Cohen, Sly and the Family Stone, and dozens of others. Most of those collections run from 30 to 40 or so songs. Though streaming music has largely made such collections (as well as the one I'm working on) rather superfluous, there are, obviously, a number of (mainly older) music-lovers who made the Essential series quite successful. They still sell steadily. Many of the entries in the series were revered for their exceptional sound quality and usually included an interesting essay with notes. I'll include an insert of some sort with brief song notes in the BOK compilation as well.
Another dilemma facing me is how to construct the running order. One train of thought concerning best-of collections is that the songs are best served by putting them in an order that serves to give the records a true album feel, regardless of when the songs might have been released. The other train of thought is that best-of albums should follow a linear order from the very earliest recordings to the very latest. That's probably the philosophy I'll follow.
I'll be notifying the two winners of the 33 Best-Of contest Wednesday! As far as putting together the special collage albums, that might take a while. I still have not been able to come up with a satisfactory 33 song set. I'll most likely be uploading this album, since people who are not eminently familiar with BOK tend to gravitate towards compilation albums like 2004's SONGS FOR A PLAYED OUT GENERATION (still the most listened to BOK album over the past fifteen years). I'm still trying to get a focus for a third new album this year. I want to do it. Like Melanie Martinez says, "I want to put out as many albums as I can before I die."
"I'm not trying to hide from my past. I want to roll in it. Like a dog, rolling in feces, I'm rolling in the feces of my greatest hits. That's a bit of a wild way of looking at it, but I am a man, and we do like rolling in our own feces at times." - Billy Idol
"I do remember my first purchase: the Partridge Family's 'Greatest Hits.' I got it for $3.99 at a failed chain of pre-Wal-Mart-type stores called Jamesway. God, I'm old." - Trent Reznor
'It's a trip to have a greatest hits record. It's a trip!" - Lenny Kravitz
It's not looking so good as far as the band thing goes. I think it's a combination of the pandemic, being rather not young, rock and roll kind of not being that big a deal anymore, and [probably] that others with whom I've played in the past have simply had enough of Jim Shelley & Book of Kills. Maybe I'm being told in no uncertain terms that it's time to simply fade into the woodwork? I do feel another album coming on, though, as I've sort of alluded to previously (sorry, the news updates from the past year were almost all deleted inadvertently). It'll soon be time to start looking for new songs in the ether.
“Songs are out there all the time, but they can’t be made without people. You have to do your job and help songs come into existence.” - Brian Wilson
"Songwriting is my way of channeling my feelings and my thoughts. Not just mine, but the things I see, the people I care about. My head would explode if I didn't get some of that stuff out." - Dolly Parton
"Each song has its own secret that's different from another song, and each has its own life. Sometimes it has to be teased out, whereas other times it might come fast. There are no laws about songwriting or producing. It depends on what you're doing, not just who you're doing." - Mark Knopfler
"I don't really premeditate what I write my songs about; you know, they just kind of happen, and I can't start writing songs to please a certain group of people or propagate a certain message all the time. That's just not how my songwriting works. It just sort of comes out, and the songs are what they are." - Conor Oberst
"I ended up writing songs and growing up in public with my songwriting. And it's a good thing for me that back then in the early '70s, there was a thing called artist development, where an artist could find his feet, find himself, find his voice. I think I made five or six albums before I sold five or six albums." - John Mellencamp
I think it's safe to say now that (as usual) this 33 Best-Of thing is going to take me a LOT longer than I initially thought it would. And over the next week or so, I'll be very busy with one thing or another. I'm not even going to bother to predict when I'll make an announcement concerning the two winners of the contest (though I'm already pretty certain I know who they are) or when the special collage cover compact disc albums will be ready. Nor am I certain when (or even if) I'l be creating a streaming version of the album. That's a big heapin' helpin' of negative news, eh? It's not really negative...I'm just, as usual, a little more optimistic about my ability to turn out albums in a timely fashion than I'm actually able to accommodate. But I always get things done in the end.
“A lot of people feel the Sex Pistols were just negative. I agree, and what the fuck is wrong with that? Sometimes the absolute most positive thing you can be in a boring society is completely negative.” -- John Lydon
Thanks to those of you who entered the 33 Best-of contest. It's going to take me several days to sort this out and figure out two winners. I can't predict exactly when I'll choose them and send out the 2 compact disc albums, but most likely I'll make the announcement and send out the albums a week from today (that would be Tuesday, September 8.) It's going to be very difficult to choose winners and even more difficult to choose 33 songs to comprise the best-of.
On this day in 1994, Book of Kills played its first-ever show. The original line-up featured Mike Johnson on guitar, Brian Temples on bass and vocals, Dustin Bugg on drums and vocals and Jim on vocals and guitar. This was Mike's first and only show with the band. The set list: Don't Stop the Scream, I Hang Heavy, 1000 Voices, All Along the Watchtower, Heaven, Abandoned, Get My Gun Allison, Heart of Gold, Lost, Don't Stop the Scream. We only knew 9 songs and were scheduled to only play a half an hour, but we ended up doing "Don't Stop the Scream" again as an encore of sorts when the crowd that had jammed themselves inside the Little Grill demanded "one more song". It was a fun (and supremely odd) night.
Episode #2 of the Book of Kills podcast ADVENTURES OF AN INSPIRED AMATEUR is now available on the podcast page. This one runs about a half an hour and provides a detailed look at BLOOM OR DIE?, the very first BOK album originally released in 1989. Unbelievably (no totally believably), I inadvertently deleted about half the podcast after I finished recording it yesterday and I had to go back and re-record the last 15 minutes all over again. That is no small task. It takes me several hours to put a 20-30 minute podcast together. I hope you enjoy it! These things are real labors of love.
I wrote another page or more of additional material for the podcast yesterday, then recorded about 3/4's of it. I think I can get it finished this morning. If so, I'll publish it on the podcast page today as well. I've been asked why I haven't uploaded the first podcast to the usual podcast sites. I thought I'd said something about this previously, but I guess not. Honestly, I don't think a podcast about an unknown musician has a lot of appeal to anyone beyond those few lost souls who listen to that unknown musician. And I'm not the most dynamic speaker...I can see a Book of Kills podcast getting ripped on the ratings and dealing with that emotionally isn't something I crave.
I wrote the second podcast today. It'll run about 20 minutes, approximately the same as the first one. As I reported previously, this one will take a look at the very first Book of Kills album (BLOOM OR DIE?) from all the way back in the Cretaceous Period (1989). Though I find it difficult to understand, there are some long-time listeners who insist that BLOOM OR DIE? is still the best BOK album. Nah. But everybody's got a right to their opinion...at least through November 3, I guess. I will record podcast #2 tomorrow, I hope.
Randy and I haven't had much positive response to our ads for a drummer and bassist. That isn't to say we haven't had a response...a lot of local musicians have contacted me but all of them are essentially interested in forming a cover band that plays wineries, breweries and restaurants. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but playing a bunch of boring covers for people who just plain don't much care about the music as anything more than background noise isn't my thing. I'd rather play four or five shows in a year in front of an appreciative, even adoring, crowd than 50-60 shows in front of people who want to hear "Brown-Eyed Girl" for the ten thousandth time.
Still kinda formulating a new album in my mind. I'd love to involve friends this time, if only to add a backing vocal, a bass line or a hot guitar solo.
DON'T FORGET TO ENTER THE "33 BEST-OF" contest which ends September 1! Send your list of what you think are the 33 best Book of Kills songs of all time. The two best lists will win a double compact disc album with a unique double panel collage cover!
It is proving much more difficult than in the past, I guess for various obvious reasons, to find a drummer.
I spend most of the limited free time I had this past week working on various things related to the upcoming double CD best-of. I'm still thinking I might add a new song to the end of the album. I might even record a couple of new versions of old songs...but only ones where I felt the original version could be radically improved upon.
On this day back in 2003, Casey and Jane Firkin, Bill Bird, Randy Simpson and I were on our way to the SoundQuilt Festival in Gore, Virginia. I think I went up with Gary Bugg and I do believe we spent the night before BOK played. This would prove to be this line-up's last ever show. Unfortunately, I do not have the complete recording of this show, though a few performances have made it onto one BOK album or another. The set list: Wooly Bully, Cave In, Style-->Bad Person, Caroline, Nelson-->Then I Kissed Her, Sweet William, AntiMan, Clever, Jesco White, Sweet, Why Won't You-->Can't Stand It Anymore, Don't Stop The Scream.
I think I announced this contest before I carefully considered just how difficult it was going to be to pick 33 songs. I can't do it by choosing the songs that were picked most by those people who've entered because honestly there just aren't enough entries to do it that way, though that would certainly be the easy way out. I guess in the end it comes down to my own picks, and I've tried to come up with a list, but I don't know if I trust myself to choose the 33 very best songs. I know there are some tracks that are essentially automatic...for instance, "Stanley the Steamer" and "To Dream a New Dream" simply have to be on the album. But I've had submissions that included many songs I would never have thought to include. The contest has actually made it harder for me to create a compilation!
Here's something I didn't know, and I'll best most of you didn't either: The first-ever greatest hits record was Johnny Mathis's Johnny's Greatest Hits from 1958. According to Wikipedia, "The album collected eight of Mathis's charting singles, as well as three non-charting B-sides and an altogether new track. The album spent three weeks at the number one spot..."
On this day in 1962, Ringo Starr played his first show, at Hulme Hall in Birkenhead, with The Beatles as the permanent drummer for the band.
"To me it was apparent. Pete kept being sick and not showing up for gigs so we would get Ringo to sit in with the band instead, and every time Ringo sat in, it seemed like, 'this is it.' Eventually we realized, 'We should get Ringo in the band full time.'" -- George Harrison
"We really started to think we needed 'the greatest drummer in Liverpool, And the greatest drummer in our eyes was a guy, Ringo Starr, who had changed his name before any of us, who had a beard and was grown up and was known to have a Zephyr Zodiac." -- Paul McCartney
More songs from the latest entries to consider for the "Best-Of" contest (I might repeat one or three from below): The Handcuff King, The Sound of a Door Closing, The Lapse That Tides Us Over, We've Got Our Boy Back!, Grievous Wolves Enter, Everybody Knows That Joke, Susie's on the Rag, Sometimes I Get Happy, Heart's Wisdom Has the Power, The Danger That Can Drive You Home, Dark Side of Tomorrow, Blue Heart Drumming, Thin Moon and Sky, The Idiot Theory, A Space Where You Can't Go, Another Shitty Day in Funtown, I'm Glad I'm Not a Rock Star, If You Want It Take It!, And Then I Kissed Her, My World Turned to Black, Angels on the Lam, Walking Backwards, Do the Wipeout.
That's 93 different songs people have put on their entries so far. I suppose I should be honored that so many tracks have been considered worthy of being a "best-of" song. That will not make my choosing of the final 33 any easier.
Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org!
If you're overwhelmed by the number of songs you'd have to consider to be a part of the BEST OF contest, perhaps this will help. What follows is a list of every song thus far mentioned--as of Sunday, August 16--by the (now) seven people who've submitted an entry in the contest...in addition to my own list of 33 songs. I've tried to group them from the earliest to the most recent. There was no way, however, that I was going to put the album each song comes from. Send your list to email@example.com and you might win a two compact disc copy of the BOK best of featuring a two panel collage cover:
The Night John Lennon Died, (I Just Wanna Be) Normal, Wild Hog in the Woods, Abandoned, Don't Stop the Scream, Religion is that I Love You, Cara Anne, Heaven, Blue Man, New James Shelley Blues, Bad Person, Killing Time Again, If I Went Crazy, 3 Chrs. 4-Ever She's Beautiful, This World Is Gonna Let You Down, I Hang Heavy, Fade, Fat Woman Lying in the Street, Lost, Jesco White, I Start to Fall, La La La La La La (She's a Punk Rock Grrrl), That's What She Said, Accidentally Naked, I Leave Her There Till She Rings 3 Times, Fucked Up World, I Fell Inside, Never Be Like You, The Alien Girl, She's the Kind of Girl, I Start to Fall, If I Should Fall, Stanley the Steamer, Free Assembly, Caroline, Because Because, Any Other Way, The Strange One, Why Won't You?, Sweet, Running, To Dream a New Dream, What Never Was, See You Again, The AntiMan Song, Jesus Was An Alien, You Go to You and I By Me, Not Like a Mirror Image, Scrapezoid, Ah Ahh Ahhh!, This Is the Way of the World, Waiting on a Busted Cloud, Marzipan Day, So Tired, Little Metal Toys, Placebo, River of Blood. Different, Simple World, The Pleasures of Saying Goodbye , Smoke in the Wind, Painted Bird, You Don't Owe Me Anything, Marking Time, I Roam the World Between, Filling in Holes, Don't Give Yourself Away (To Just Anyone), Your World Will Shape My Bones, Strange Heart Beating, I Know We Can Save Our World, There Is No Power Can Crack the Rock of Time, You Couldn't Give Any More (Turtle's Song), Sunday on Fire, The Minds of Fools
Ha! Seventy+ songs! I'll bet this really helped you narrow your choice down, eh?
You might have noticed that all of the past news entries I'd posted since returning to my old CDBaby server (now called Bandzoogle) disappeared a couple days ago. I inadvertently deleted them and they ain't comin' back. Story of my musical life.
I'm extending the Best-of Contest till the end of August. (I think I'm extending it. Since I deleted all of the entries I'm not sure exactly what the final day was, or is, supposed to be. I hope if you've submitted an entry and you know the original end date that you might take a moment to enlighten me.) I've only got six submissions and I'm hoping that I'll get a few more. Remember, if you want to enter, just send in your list of a two CD BOK best-of consisting of 33 tracks. Please make sure all 33 tracks are by Book of Kills, and not The Karl Rove or Fear + Whiskey! You could win a two-of-a-kind double compact disc album with a fold-out collage cover!
The second podcast will center on the making of BLOOM OR DIE?, the very first BOK album from 1989. I expect to begin production on it next week. I'm hoping to start work on "I Leave Her There Till She Rings 3 Times" as well. I might do the third podcast on the making of the song.
On this day in 2011 (how could it already be nine years ago?) Fear + Whiskey played Casey Firkin's Blow Up The Moon festival for the first time. I think it was BUTM #2. I remember the performance was shaky (especially the misguided--on my part--attempt at covering "Not Fade Away"). But I think we all had fun. There's a recording of the show somewhere. Maybe I'll see if I can dig it out and post some of it. Seems like there's a LOT of stuff I need to get done as far as music goes...video transfers, new songs, podcasts, videos, find a drummer, etc. etc. etc. Anyway, here's the set list for the BUTM gig: Cold Rain And Snow, Shake My Tree, To Dream A New Dream, Running, Hold The Wind, Thin Moon And Sky, Bona Fide, Carry Me, Man In The Long Black Coat, Marzipan Day, For What It's Worth, Stanley The Steamer, Not Fade Away, Jesco White.
Big day in rock and roll history...
On this day in 1929, the great Buck Owens was born.
On this day in 1960, Pete Best was invited to join the Silver Beatles for their extended set of dates in Hamburg, Germany. Before the band left England, they shortened their name to simply The Beatles.
On this day in 1964, A HARD DAY'S NIGHT OPENED in 500 theaters across America. It received largely rave reviews and is now recognized as one of the greatest films of all time. TIME magazine recently rated it one of the 100 greatest films ever.
On this day in 1968, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, John Bonham and Robert Plant played together for the first time ever when they rehearsed in a studio in London. They would play their first few dates as The Yardbirds before changing their name to Led Zeppelin a month or so later.
"Why not? It's the truth! Why can't I say I'm a Beatles fan? I used to get criticized for that."
"I found a sound that people really liked - I found this basic concept and all I did was change the lyrics and the melody a little bit. My songs, if you listen to them, they're quite a lot alike, like Chuck Berry."
"Lady Limelight is a jealous lady. She wants all of your attention. You don't have any time to think of anything else but Lady Limelight, because pretty soon that light will be shinning on somebody else. So you better do it while you can."
"I'd like just to be remembered as a guy that came along and did his music, did his best and showed up on time, clean and ready to do the job, wrote a few songs, and had a hell of a time."
"I got to realizing that I wanted to record, I wanted to experiment. And doing those same old songs the same old way - I said, 'I think it's time for me to have some fun.'"
-- Buck Owens
Today I sold and mailed off my old PreSonus Firestudio Project computer interface. I used it to record and/or master THE MONKEYCLAUS SESSIONS (The Karl Rove), DIFFERENT, THE PLAGUE DOGS, THIS IS YOUR BOOK OF KILLS, TOWARD THE ESCAPE, THE STRANGE ONE, THE AIN'T RECORDS SINGLES OF THE MONTH CLUB tracks, BONA FIDE (Fear + Whiskey), THE FEAR + WHISKEY ANTHOLOGY, THE PLEASURES OF SAYING GOODBYE, PSYCHIC DIVING, RIDING THE ECHO DOWN, BIG BUSINESS MONKEY, VOLUME FIVE, HUMAN AGAIN and the other eleven singles/e.p.'s in the BOOK OF KILLS SINGLES CLUB Series! That's surely one of the more (if not the most) productive runs of creativity from the minds and hands of Jim, and the various great musicians he worked with during that time, in the past 30+ years of BOK-related recordings. You can see a picture of it on the first page of photos. (It's the gray box with all the knobs and inputs on the left of the MacBook Pro on the table.) I'll miss it. It never missed a beat during all the hundreds of hours I used it.