Friday, November 30, 2012

Back in New York City!

Before I left LA to go to NY I was fortunate to see Francis Dunnery and Dorie Jackson perform a live gig! They were kicking off a two week tour of the West Coast by doing a show in Fullerton, just an hour outside of LA. It was a club called “Steamers” and was put on by Calprog who are also putting on a Steve Hackett gig on April 1st. Small possibility I may go to that show with either Simon Collins or Francis Dunnery as I know both of them want to see Steve play live as do I.  We’d also love to sit in on a tune. Francis and I already had an amazing opportunity to do that at his CKDCF charity event mentioned earlier in Squids Travels. Here’s another clip from that. An acoustic medley and “Blood On The Rooftops”

So, I went down there with Simeon who I had been recording with. My friend Gavin Lurssen who is an award-winning mastering engineer (and does all the mastering for Sonic Elements) was also going to try to make it to the show. It was great to see Francis and Dorie again. I've actually never seen them perform live together. Dorie couldn't make it to the charity gig we did. But Francis has been telling me I have to see what they do with the harmonies. It's really tight. Their voices blend so well together and individually they're two of my favorite voices and people. It was a shame I couldn't stay a few more days and hang with them some more. But I had a flight booked to New York the next day. 

That's a YouTube link to watch Back in NYC from the gig. Just a clip shot from my iPhone. 

After the gig they wanted to get some food and for some reason they chose Denny's. To me that's a late night last resort and it wasn't even that late. But, it was more about the company than the food. I did end up having French Toast just because I couldn't handle watching everyone eating breakfast without me (my original plan was to eat nothing and like it). 

The next day I had to prepare for my flight but I did a quick trade with Simeon for yet another one of his guitars. He has an incredible guitar collection and most of them are boutique gorgeous "don't touch it, don't even look at it' type guitars like these:

They are beautiful instruments. I don't have anything like that. I tend to get more ratty beat up guitars or ones that have a quirky charm to them or are just easy to play and have a vibe. Some of them I've gotten from friends and my favorite guitar of all time is a Dan Electro Convertible Acoustic/Electric guitar. I should really name it. Guy Pratt told me a story about how he named his favorite bass "Betsy". I did a great video interview with Guy that's coming where he goes into detail about many of his basses. It made me think about my Dano. (or if it's a she "Dana", "Dani", "Daniella"?)

Look at that lovely 70's kitchen counter top formica! 

Believe it or not Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin used a very similar guitar with the same lipstick pick ups as this one. He had a "Silvertone" guitar which was sold by SEARS! Yep. The same people who make washer and dryers. I believe those guitars were really made by Dan Electro and licensed to Sears under the "Silvertone" brand name. The Silvertone Page used was cool because the guitar case had a little mini guitar amp in it! Not a very good one though. Jimmy played the perfect note through an old Supro amp and I actually had that exact model amp too and sold it to Simeon years ago. Maybe he'll sell it back to me. Well, anyway, what I did manage to accomplish is a trade involving his Jerry Jones electric 12 string. He's had it for decades and I've rarely seen him use it. It's a similar style as the vintage Dan Electros. It has the lipstick pick ups, it's light and easy to play... but it's a 12 string! Every time I've picked it up I've wanted to start writing something. That's how you know the guitar is good in my opinion. It has very little to do with its book value or the brand name or how collectible it is. I mean that counts for something but what trumps that is how it feels when you play it and how it makes you feel, what it inspires in you... that's what makes an instrument great. 

So, ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present the latest member of the Squids family of instruments. Jerry! (the female Jerry... you know... like Jerry Hall? No? I'm not sure about this naming thing. But here she is anyway):

Found the perfect case to take my ghostly black and white electric 12 to take on the plane.

So, I flew to New York and now I'm in Connecticut visiting my Mom. In a few days I head up to Binghamton, NY for some radio interviews and a CD release party of an album I co-produced with Randy McStine called "Chalk Lines" by Lo-Fi Resistance. You can still download a free track from it called "The Silent War". I'm not sure how long that will be available so go grab it and check it out! It features Randy on guitar and vocals, me on keys, Colin Edwin and Gavin Harrison of Porcupine Tree on bass and drums respectively plus other guests. Randy's previous Lo-Fi Resistance album "A Deep Breath" which has contributions from my old Thud bandmate Nick D'Virgilio is now also available from Burning Shed. 

I'm also planning a few cool sessions while I'm up here including one with Lorelei McBroom, Durga McBroom-Hudson's sister who also sang with Pink Floyd as well as Rod Stewart, The Rolling Stones and many others. So... more to come! Might slow the blogging down just a little and relax though. I'm sure you don't mind. It's been an onslaught of stuffed Squids lately. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

... to the show that never ends!

Here's part two of the Emerson, Squids & Parsons session plus a wrap up of this incredible LA trip before I head off to NY. Besides thoroughly sampling the iconic sounds of Keith's Moog for an upcoming Sonic Reality sample library bearing his name I also had a few other things I was hoping we'd get to before Alan and I had to leave to go to the other studio to work on what he originally came down to do. One was a session I was recording for an artist for a prog label. I won't mention the artist or the label yet because I'm not sure if they want it to be a secret. Probably. So, anyway, that went well. Then there was this fun idea of Keith playing on a Sonic Elements track or two. He was game! We fired up the track and he improvised a wicked keyboard solo. When I get home I'm to 'trade solos' with him on my Minimoog and EMS Synthi (vs. his Modular Moog). What a dream that is. Dueling keyboard solos with Keith Emerson! What a lucky man I was for that to happen!!!!

Uncle Alan and Uncle Keith! My pals and musical mentors. 

So, that wrapped up an amazing first part of the day with Keith and Alan. We then headed over to Sherman Oaks to record at Simeon Spiegel's incredible "Blue Forest Studios". I've known Simeon since 1989 and he's into "quality" like I am (food, music...). He's also a major gear-head so his studio has the right analog and digital gear for what I need when I come to LA. I love working there. It's like having a second project studio. We had a few things on our to do list before former Pink Floyd backing vocalist Durga McBroom-Hudson was to arrive. But we didn't have a lot of TIME. So we did a rough mix of the song "Money" which we were covering using Sonic Reality sounds. Billy Sherwood (Yes, Circa) was on bass and Alastair Greene of the Alan Parsons Live Project was on vocals and guitar, me on keys... We were also there to get to mixing Nick Mason's drums that we recorded several weeks prior in England. 

Alan Parsons, Simeon Spiegel and I with the amazing Durga McBroom-Hudson

At 5 o'clock on the dot (even earlier) Durga McBroom-Hudson arrived. We recorded backing vocals to Sonic Elements' tribute to Dark Side of the Moon with Alan Parsons engineering. We also did "Great Gig In The Sky" which I am putting together with a variety of amazing singers including Dorie Jackson who I saw later that day performing with Francis Dunnery! Durga was incredible. Such a powerful voice! She was a pleasure to work with and I think it was a thrill for her to do the session with Alan Parsons who originally recorded Dark Side of the Moon. She's had quite a Floyd experience! We had sushi after and she told us some great stories about being on the road with Pink Floyd. Fantastic stuff! Looking forward to working with her again. 

Hanging with Francis Dunnery and Dorie Jackson after the gig at the luxurious Denny's Bistro. 

Once again I have to run (always 'on the run') and grab myself a breakfast sandwich before I run a few errands and prepare for my trip back. I'll continue on with the rest of the "LA Story" perhaps while I'm on the plane! It's not easy squeezing in these blog posts during actual LIVE action! But if I don't jot these things down while they're happening I may forget certain details so I've been as diligent as I can be about it. At least I think and type fast. ;)   See you again soon! If you came here from my Facebook page then make sure you click "like" so I know you like it. Otherwise I feel like I'm talking to myself... which is fine because I do it all the time (I'm the guy muttering things to himself and chuckling down the street). But, it's encouraging just to know that people are into it so let me know! If you're not 'friended' to me on Facebook then don't be shy and understand that I'm a Facebook whore so until they stop me from having more friends on there I'm fine with the unrealistic friend numbers (you know, no one could possibly have thousands of actual friends?). So if you like lots of GEAR, lots of MUSICIANS, lots of FOOD PICS and OCEANS, SKY and TRAVEL shots then that's going to be a fun place to be. 

Here's my personal FB whore page: 

Here's my personal MUSIC 'fan' page:

Here's the Sonic Elements fan page:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Welcome back my friends...

I'll have to do this blog post in two parts because there's a lot to talk about from yesterday's MONSTER session with Keith Emerson and Alan Parsons. The two of them have met only once before briefly but I'm friends with both of them so I thought to try something. If they get along with me they'd surely get along with each other and they did! It was quite an EPIC session! I was originally going to do two separate sessions on different days but somehow it ended up all on the same day. A bit nerve-wracking but it all came together in the end! I don't know if I would have been comfortable doing that if I didn't know already that these two guys are some of the coolest, easy going and friendly 'legends of rock' there are.

So it started off with Alan Parsons arriving just outside of LA coming down from Santa Barbara. He first marveled at an electric car built by Gene Stopp, a technician who has been working for the past year on fixing and 'hot-rodding" Keith Emerson's massive Moog Modular system. Apparently Gene's car proves that such a thing can be made, a car that would cost 8 times less than gas to run and it does go up to 85 mph. He has a blog about it.

While we were there waiting for Keith to arrive up in the hills just north of and west of LA we set up video and talked to Alan about what he's up to musically. We asked more questions about classic Alan Parsons Project albums and made good use of the time. When Keith showed up we all chatted for a bit and then got to work! Now, because Keith's Modular Moog System is so huge and heavy, instead of bringing it to a studio I brought a studio to it! I had one of the most portable high quality recording rigs you can get with me on this trip. A MacBook Air, ProTools 10 and an RME UCX interface. I had my IK Multimedia iRig Keys handy as well. Fortunately with a direct signal you're not concerned with the acoustics of the environment being a factor.

Squids New Portable Studio Rig

So... what WAS I doing with Keith Emerson and Alan Parsons and a recording rig? That's a very good question. Well, I am co-producing two sample libraries with them for my company Sonic Reality. One is the Alan Parsons Sample Project and the other is the Keith Emerson Keyboard Collection. They're not 'officially' announced yet and this is all advanced 'being the scenes' stuff I like to share in the long process of making these types of products because... well, because it's fun! The end resulting products will be a series of authentic sounds these guys are known for which my company SR puts into software products that musicians can buy to use in their own music. It's essentially like having a virtual reality Keith Emerson play on your song with his amazing rare equipment. Or it's like having Alan Parsons engineer your drum sounds or cool esoteric keyboard sounds. It's sort of like that in that you can use these authentic elements in your own music if you purchase their Sonic Reality products when they become available. 

We're sampling the keyboards Keith Emerson has used with ELP and more for his upcoming sample library with Sonic Reality. 

The other thing we're doing is making music! I like to 'mix up the elements' and go for the unexpected chemistry of people, gear and sounds. Since I've been fortunate to meet and work with some amazing artists and producers I've had the chance myself to combine interesting cameos and collaborations on music I'm producing with my own music project, Sonic Elements (aka "The Sonic Reality Progressive Rock Project"). So, one VERY cool thing we did during this session was have Keith Emerson play a ripping synth lead on a song that Alan Parsons and I are working on with Sonic Elements. I'll tell you more about that in the part 2 of this blog post. Right now I have to get ready for another session with Durga McBroom-Hudson. She was one of the backing vocalists on the Pink Floyd Momentary Lapse and Division Bell tours. More to come!

Alan Parsons, Dave Kerzner & Keith Emerson

All pictures are ©2012 Dave Kerzner & Erik Neilsen. All Rights Reserved. Do not use without permission. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dark Side of the Moog!

Today is a BIG day of sessions in LA. For the first time ever Keith Emerson and Alan Parsons will be hovering over Keith's massive Moog Modular synthesizer and I'll be able to show you why later. The reason that's even happening at all is actually a fluke. It was because of schedule conflicts and I had a session with both of them this week for their respective Sonic Reality sample libraries which are in the 'Works' (if you get the pun). They've met before just once briefly and both seemed excited about the other's session so I thought... okay, why not have Alan stop by the session with Keith first and then we'll head over to the other studio to mix Nick Mason's drums and record Durga McBroom (Pink Floyd's backing vocalist for the Pulse and previous PF tours)? Everyone was into the idea so we're doing it all in ONE DAY!!!!! That's today and I'm wide awake early in the morning getting ready for it.

Preparing in the hotel for the vocal session later in the day. 

Keith Emerson's Legendary Moog Modular Synthesizer

Last night I went to the place where Keith's Moog had been fully restored and upgraded with all sorts of cool added features (which recorded a tour of on video with technician Gene Stopp). Even Keith hasn't seen the updates so it'll be fun to capture that on video today (reuniting Keith with his Moog after a little while not playing it). We did all the prep work and some of the tedious sampling parts last night going pretty late... not really that late but I still have jetlag so it felt late to me! That's also why I'm up at 5:30 am blogging. I'm still on Florida time! Plus I'm psyched!!!! I love this kind of stuff... great gear, great musicians, great engineers, great studios... totally my thing! 


I saw a nice set up there with a combination of Gene's and Brian Kehew's Mellotrons and their Modular Moogs. Had to snap a few pics. These are the instruments Erik Norlander and I sampled for IK Multimedia's SampleMoog and SampleTron software. Those are virtual recreations of all the vintage keyboards you've been seeing here for anyone to afford and use in their music. They are 'plug-ins' for popular recording software such as ProTools, Cubase, Logic, Sonar, Digital Performer, Live, FL Studio, Garageband... or you can use them stand alone as long as you have a midi controller keyboard. Even the new iRig Keys (stocking stuffer alert! haha). Everyone I show this to wants one. I'm not kidding. Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Alan Parsons, Keith Emerson... as soon as they saw it they said "I want one".  It's light, portable and fun (plus it works with both the Mac/PC and iPad/iPhones). There's a whole range of 'iRig' accessories for the iPhone, iPad, Mac etc. in case you want to sing, play guitar, bass and more on our site ... it slices it dices but wait there's more! Haha... and that completes the advertorial portion of this blog post! Well, apart from this quick story about my visit to a music store...

I was picking up various accessories for my portable recording rig at Guitar Center and had a trippy experience of walking into a room there and seeing ME on the computer screen talking about "SampleTron". I had to do a double take. "Wait, is that ME???? What are the chances that this is playing just as I walk in?" Weird and cool. Here's the video that was playing that was shot in my studio with prog keyboardist Erik Norlander as the humorous cameraman/commentator:

For a second I felt semi-famous! Haha. But I was quickly humbled in the most unexpected and unusual way. I thought the video was convenient to show the salesperson that I was some sort of 'pro' worthy of a discount... and I usually go into some song and dance about this and that as all musicians do if they have any leverage to get a 'deal'. So I showed him the video and he said "cool!" and I got my discount anyway with or without the video just the same... didn't really matter. But in case I felt like a big shot (which I never do by the way but my ego was tempted this time) we got to talking and it turns out the salesman helping me produced songs from Slash's latest record including the tune with Fergie. I was trying to figure out why he was working as a salesman at a music store but he said he just enjoys it! Gets him out in the world instead of being locked up in the studio. Wow! They're lucky to have him. Brings some experience to the table. Nice guy too... and the Universe had him handy to knock my ego back down to reality. Just kidding! But all of this is very unlikely stuff and also very "it's not the spoon that bends" if you know what I mean. 

I did a little music shopping the other day which was fun even though it was an ordeal hunting record stores (now a rarity sadly) around LA. I tried to go to Amoeba, this awesome place on Sunset that has actual vinyl and tons of rare CDs... but there was a freakin' PARADE going on. A bunch of confetti and people waiving to you from some giant swan... people standing around for hours with no real 'action'. I don't get parades.... and they blocked off all the roads so I had to skip that place and find what I needed somewhere else. I had to find the Dark Side of the Moon Immersion Box Set for reference when Alan Parsons does drum mixes today from a session I did just a few weeks ago with Alan in England recording Pink Floyd's Nick Mason (reference earlier blog post). I actually own the box set already but didn't bring it with me. Alan offered to bring his but I thought it'd be better if I got another one so I could get him to sign it. I'll either keep it or give it away for some contest or charity... or I'll do all three somehow! 

I have to tell you a really trippy cool thing about these sessions and gigs I've been doing with these progrock heroes. To be familiar with what I'm working on I've had the relevant albums on CD in my car or in my iPod on planes and trains as the 'soundtrack' to the journey. I was listening to Genesis, Francis Dunnery and Pink Floyd before when working with guys from those bands in England. Now I'm listening to ELP before working with Keith on recreating those classic synth and organ sounds. That alone is wild because I truly enjoy listening to it and coming off listening to it and being in a session with them recreating those sounds is a 3D experience of virtual reality... as if you could super impose yourself and be the producer of a classic album. Can you imagine what that's like? So unique. It's all in my head of course (and not going to my head don't worry! haha... this is just "Sonic Reality" not "Real Reality"). But, you're sitting there getting the same classic sounds and yet you're the one deciding what to do next, everyone cooperating to help make it happen... just MIND BOGGLING if you think about it. I've tried to capture a lot of this stuff on video so you can feel like you're there too as a fly on the wall. In some cases there weren't cameras in the studio when a lot of these albums were recorded (Dark Side being the exception and there's a great "Making of" video of that which we've used as a great reference). So this should reveal some secrets behind the sounds decades later and offer all sorts of fun insight for a fan of any of these artists. Also great for any musician who is intrigued by the sounds and the process of creating and recording them... and wants to interact with them via music software to use in their own music (like having a virtual Keith Emerson and Alan Parsons on your own song which is possible with products from Sonic Reality and our partners like IK Multimedia and more).

The Deluxe Edition of Tarkus with remixes done by Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree. I played on Steven's album "Grace for Drowning" on the song "Raider II". He also used IK Multimedia and Sonic Reality software like SampleMoog and SampleTron on that album. 

There is another 3D life effect that I've been enjoying thoroughly and it's happened many times in the past couple of months. I'll be sitting there listening to It Bites or Francis Dunnery solo material and the phone rings and it's Francis! I talk to him a lot so that's happened quite a few times and it's kind of a trip... especially because he'll sing something on the phone a lot of times as part of the conversation. The same thing happened the other day while I was listening to Tarkus on the ride over to the session. The phone rings and it says "Blocked" and I knew it was Keith. So I turned down the music - a young version of Keith ripping it up in the 70s - to talk to the new version of Keith Emerson now. We'll be talking about some bad curry he had or I'll ask him a question about which Hammond organs he used on what and when... then when the conversation is over I crank up the music again. 3D!!!!!!! 

Anyway, this is the kind of thing this blog is useful for. A lot of people work with iconic musicians so it's not such a huge thing but how often to you get to hear what goes on when it happens and in particular what that person makes if it all? Are they humbled, honored, psyched, appreciative... or are they just going through the motions not really getting the most out of the experience? I'm all of the first things and more. Most people I know who love these guys, this vintage gear and this classic timeless music would be too. I'm a LUCKY MAN! 

(We dialed in that sound last night... man did it sound good!!!! That low note is ridiculous!)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Rock and Rolls - Squids in LA

Squids here reporting to you from Los Angeles. I used to live in LA so I know the place very well. I love that whenever I'm here I have friends and resources available to hang or work on music and sampling. Plus I'm a foodie and there are some really good creative restaurants here. So I'll talk about that a bit. Two interesting restaurant experiences since landing in LA yesterday plus some preparation for a monster week of sessions with Keith Emerson, Alan Parsons and Durga McBroom (former backing vocalist for Pink Floyd).

I decided to pack light on this trip for a change. I'll show you my new compact studio travel rig in a bit. I'm really psyched about how much it can do and the quality that can be achieved while remaining portable. So, one of the first things on my list to do was to head over to a place called "Ametron" which was the only store in town that had what I was looking for which is a USB/Firewire audio interface called the RME Fireface UCX. Zzzzzzzzzzzz... woah, did I lose you on tech talk? Sorry! I'll be quick about it. Basically, I have all sorts of gear for traveling including an Apogee Duet 2 which I like. But I needed more inputs to record multiple things at once... yet I didn't want to carry anything big around. This little UCX unit is a half-rack and the perfect size while jam packed with quality and features. Just not cheap but you get what you pay for.

Anyway... (btw you will never catch me saying 'anyhoo' and if you say it I will be cringing like mad, just so you know). AnyWAY... on my way to Hollywood to get this interface I was starving so I went to Katsu-ya, a popular sushi restaurant here in LA. I really don't mind eating alone and sushi restaurants are great because they have a bar. It's all about you and the chef! So let me tell you one of my favorite stories about me and a chef in particular, Katsu himself.

Back in the mid-90s I lived in Studio City, CA. I shared a house with roommates like Gavin Lurssen, an award-winning mastering engineer I had dinner with last night. He wasn't a mastering engineer back then but later on he would become one of the top guys in town. The house was near Mulholland on Wrightwood Drive (just on the other side of the famous "Hollywood" sign) and it had this incredible panoramic view of the San Fernando Valley.  It was one of those houses on stilts on the side of the mountain (and yes it 'swayed' during earthquakes!!!) Many stories in that house but I'll just tell you about this one for now. My venturing on Ventura Blvd into new sushi territory. 

I had my favorite sushi place that had been recommended to me. There was really no reason to try a new place since there were so many you could get a good recommendation for. However, there was a place called "Domo Sushi" that was right next to my mailbox on Ventura Blvd. One time I saw director Albert Brooks coming out of there and I was tempted to say hello (and "The Desert Inn has heart") but I didn't bother him since he looked like he was on some sort of date ("I got a not, I got a not, I got a lot of nice friends. Right Petey?" - these are AB movie references). Anyway, I thought to myself "Maybe I'll try that place". If you ever saw the movie "Defending Your Life" there's a very funny scene that takes place in a sushi restaurant. He probably got the inspiration from that place. "Thank you very much!!!!"

So, one day after picking up my mail I decided to go next door and check it out. Only Domo was gone and a new place had just opened THAT day! The new place there was called "Katsu-ya". I walked in during lunch time and there was the chef, Katsu and only one other person at the other end of the bar who seemed drunk. He would slur things like "Hey Katsuuuuuuu. Make him a four and a half roll! Yerrrr gonna love this mannnn. I followed Katsu from the restaurant he was working at. He just opened his place and he's greeaaaaatttt. I followed him here". Then Katsu would sort of motion to the guy to kind of 'zip it' but in a nice way. He was really friendly and suggested different things for me to try. He said "Do you like sake?" and I said "Yeah it's alright." and then he explained to me the quality of premium cold sake and poured me a cup for free... and it was one of those wooden box cups on a plate where it overflows onto the plate (apparently a tradition in Japan). The food that day was amazing! Best sushi I had ever had so I went back again and again... maybe at some point I will tell more about the sushi adventures of Squids & Katsu. But, for now I'll just skip ahead to this. Over a decade has passed since then and Katsu has over 6 restaurants now and is considered by many to be one of the top chefs in the world. He's been #1 in Zagats and all sorts of big shot LA stuff has happened since... unfortunately you never see him much at the restaurants but whenever I do he's happy to see me.

When I was there I couldn't resist showing the people there my picture of me and a young Katsu (because he was in his late 30's then and he's in his early 50s now). They loved it and wanted me to email it to them. So I did from my iPhone! Then I sat down and had some of the best creative cuisine based on sushi (because it isn't traditional Japanese sushi but more of a mix of gourmet ideas, sometimes along the lines of Iron Chef). Here's an example. This was scallops with kiwi. Totally different than anything.

Here's salmon sashimi with Paddlefish caviar

You eat like royalty there and it's not any more expensive than any other high end restaurant... in fact it was the same price as the restaurant I had dinner at which I won't mention because I am about to tell you some things that aren't necessarily too flattering. 

Restaurant 2

After I picked up all of the gear I needed and checked into my hotel in Hollywood I met up with my old roomie Gavin for dinner. I wasn't sure what I would be doing or where I'd be so luckily I have a handful of friends here that I can call last minute for a bite to eat or something. Now, Gavin, who was originally from South Africa has assimilated into the "LA Scene" in what I'd consider a healthy intelligent way. He's very smart and has a good sense of things. He's very grounded despite being around the most Hollyweird of Hollywood working and hanging in and around the music, tv and film industry. I had a fun time last time I was here visiting the set of "Happily Divorced" which stars Fran Drescher ('the hostest with the mostest' - Bobby Fleckman for any Spinal Tap fans). He's the musical director for that show. 

Me with Fran and Gavin during a wrap party of "Happily Divorced"

So, Gavin who is also a foodie knows how to get in to some prestigious places around LA. You know, the kind of places where you need to know someone to get you 'on the list'? I never seem to know those people!!!! Haha. At best I know people who know those people. But I really don't care about that stuff. If the food is great that is what matters... it can be some hole in the wall somewhere with newspaper placemats. I'm not a snob. I just like quality! But I also like quality experiences and this definitely was. 

We go to this place that I won't mention to protect the innocent. It's 'some hugely popular actress's favorite place' apparently so that means you can't get in... unless you're 'lucky' (feeling lucky? huh? punk? I went to Clint's restaurant years ago and met him but that's a whole other story and I'll have to record some impressions for that one which would be fun... I like to do impressions.) So, we were among the lucky to get in on a Saturday night with no reservation and dressed like musicians instead of how they wanted which was I don't know... tycoons or yuppies? Not sure but I could tell we were a little under-dressed for the place. Still, they let us in so we ordered and had some incredible conversations about music, life, people... as it turned out the company was far better than the food! 

Sunset Blvd.

The restaurant was okay but totally over-rated. Same price as Katsu-ya but nowhere NEAR the same quality. In fact, it was really a bit of a joke in retrospect. The big disappointing moment was when they got to the desert. I almost declined desert which I should have but the waitress went on and on about how 'ridiculously good' the homemade chocolate chip cookies were. Now, anyone who knows me knows I'm a sucker for a 'ridiculously good' cookie! Well... when it arrived it was like eating Keebler's Soft Batch. I couldn't believe how average it was! These people are nuts. It's all for show and no substance. I could bake cookie circles around this place. 

Even the owner of the place who was hovering around looking for celebrities to rub elbows with was a trip. Total snob. But I'm not really judging and I'm not saying any of this was bad. In fact, it was awesome! What a character! He played the role perfectly even when he was condescending and even somewhat insulting in an oddly friendly way when we stayed about an hour after they probably wanted to close to still chat (we weren't the only ones but we closed that place). So, the bad cookies, the average yet expensive food, the big bouncer out front, the snobby celeb chef... all just part of the LA experience. Great for perspective and interesting! Mind you I will never go back there and today I will treat myself to another place I know that will absolutely not disappoint. But, this place was fun for that one experience and it was like being in a movie. Gotta be happy about that. 

One last thing. Gavin told me his car had been 'egged' for no apparent reason. I had just reminded him of it because I told him a week ago that my car was 'keyed' for no reason (I don't have any enemies that I'm aware of). But I said I completely let it go and accepted it. I didn't let it ruin my day... and interestingly things went GREAT after that. So we talked about the philosophy of letting go and accepting what is... I said to him "Your car got egged? You're lucky! That means some great things are right around the corner if you don't let it get you bent out of shape."

Alright so that wrapped up day 1 on this LA trip. Today I'm preparing for the sessions and doing a little clothes shopping which I rarely do. Tomorrow somehow the worlds of talented musicians and engineer/producers will collide in a way that has never happened before and it will be interesting! I'm not sure how it will all happen but I'm taking it one step at a time going with the flow. Today I will clarify to myself what I want to accomplish and how I think we can do it. Then we'll see! Anything can happen. - Dave

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Emerson, Squids + Kevin's Birthday

Still in the process of setting up this LA/NY trip. Just had an amazing phone conversation with Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. We talked about the details of me coming out to LA and sampling his massive Moog Modular system that I mentioned in my previous blog post. We talked about possibly doing a music session as well (shrouded in mystery for the moment). Then we talked about his latest CD with the Munich Orchestra which he insisted on overnighting to me so I could hear it before I saw him. He didn't even want to wait to give it to me when I saw him. How cool is that? Like a big kid!!! I love that.

Then we started talking about how today would have been Kevin Gilbert's 46th birthday. I originally met Keith through Kevin when Keith came out to see us play at the Alligator Lounge in Santa Monica. It's a great story that we just revived in the phone conversation. I can't believe he remembered it. I was pulling in to unload my keyboards for the gig and outside I saw Kevin talking to who appeared to be Keith Emerson. So I pulled Kevin aside and said "Dude, is that Keith Emerson????" and Kevin said "Yeah." and I said "What's he doing here???" (Because this was a real dive and an under publicized gig with a small turn out) and Kevin said casually "Oh he just wanted to come see us play. You want to meet him?" and I said "I'm a keyboard player. Of COURSE I want to meet him!"

When I did Keith was so nice. A minute after meeting him he saw that I was unloading my keyboards and offered to help me move my Wurlitzer electric piano (aka "The Mighty Wurlitzer"). Then, as we were moving it in he said "Would it be alright if I was your roady for the evening?" and we all laughed. I told him on the phone today that this has become one of the favorite of my stories amongst my keyboard player friends. "Oh Keith Emerson? Yeah he's my roadie when I need to play various dive bars around LA." Huh?

Keith Emerson and Kevin Gilbert

Since then Keith and I have become friends and last year I came to visit him in Santa Monica to sit down and chat for Sonic Reality. We talked about ELP, his latest projects, his keyboard sounds including his Modular Moog (which he still has... this apparently is the question people ask the most and when he says 'Yes I still have it' they usually reply with a very happy "Awesome!" or "That's fucking cool!"). Here are some clips from that very casual but informative interview I did with him:

So, then in the phone conversation we started talking about Kevin Gilbert. We shared some personal experiences that wouldn't be appropriate to talk about here as they're private but it was very interesting and insightful. Keith really liked Kevin. He loved his sense of humor as did I. He appreciated Kevin's talent. We then started talking about a piece of music Keith wrote after Kevin's death called "For Kevin" which he sent to me. He was telling me about a powerful slam on the piano with his forearm at the very end which was emotional and metaphoric. I thought it was fantastic. 

I told him about a song I wrote where the end also ascends into chaos. I actually recorded that song on the new 'band album' coming out with Simon Collins so I sent the song to Keith and this was his amazing quote:

"Brilliant! The harmonic changes are as much as a shock as the passing of the guy.
Love the interplay on the outro!! Very 60's. Kev would have loved this. Great stuff.

That's so amazingly cool I should frame that quote! To get a positive comment about your music from someone like Keith Emerson alone is beyond fantastic. I've never played him anything I wrote before and you know... it takes a bit of guts to do that because you sort of have one shot for an impression. I did it anyway without thinking because there was a specific reason for him to hear it. Anyway, on a whole other level for us to be sharing our songs about Kevin with each other on Kevin's would-be birthday... man, that's heavy! Could not have been planned. It just happened and I'm still blown away. I have to think that if there was any way Kevin could have known that we did that he'd be so happy. Keith and I sort of did a 'here's to Kevin' virtual toast on the phone after reminiscing. Wow. 

Remembering Kevin with Keith Emerson... sharing our personal music and stories with each other as real people, musician to musicianscomposer to composer (and putting aside that he's a rock keyboard legend who used to throw knives on stage and all that and I simply go by the name "Squids" haha). PRICELESS experience. So grateful for these memories...  both the ones from over a decade ago and the one that just happened. I'll never forget it. Thanks Keith! Thanks Kevin... and Happy Birthday. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Next Big Trip!

Right when you think things have quieted down around here... nope! More traveling, more sessions, more stories and more sushi. First, I'm going to LA the week after Thanksgiving for some cool sessions including sampling Keith Emerson's monster Moog Modular system.

Other sessions may very well include one with vocalist Durga McBroom who used to tour with Pink Floyd, a day in the studio with Alan Parsons and a few other things I'm still lining up... plus the obligatory visit to Katsu-ya, one of the best sushi places I've ever been to. There's also a few other secret restaurants I'll be visiting. (Secret because the friends that turned me onto those places don't want them to get as popular as Katsu-ya did... and it's hard to get a table now! I was there the day they first opened so I've seen it evolve into what it is now. VERY popular and for good reason too.)

So what else is going on? The Sonic Elements "Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" Film Score Tribute is still an on going work in progress. We've got Martin Levac, formerly of the popular Genesis tribute act "The Musical Box", doing various drum parts and vocal harmony overdubs to Francis Dunnery's lead vocal tracks. He's doing that up in Canada where he is as opposed to down here. We had so much fun working with him the last time he was here at SR Studios in Miami.

Francis Dunnery just sang Cuckoo Cocoon and will be singing The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging next for Sonic Elements. We're also working on an original music project together which should be very interesting. Very soon Francis Dunnery and Dorie Jackson will go out to the West Coast for a House Concert tour. Fortunately, I will be able to catch their show on the 28th in LA! Outside chance I could sit in on a song or two but most likely I'll just sit down and listen, enjoy, hang out with them and laugh... which is fine. Fun either way and I'm really looking forward to it! 

Then I head over to New York! I have family in the area so I'll do a little bit of family time first and then head upstate to see Randy McStine who I just recently finished co-producing an album with called "Chalk Lines" by Lo-Fi Resistance which is Randy's elaborate solo/band of sessions musicians project. We're doing some radio interviews and videos while I'm there plus a CD Release Party on December 7th. We got a nice review in the Examiner today! I was joking with Randy because the song the reviewer picked as his favorite was one that I had taken the biggest risk on by suggesting we change it quite drastically from what it was originally... when what it was originally was already quite cool! So, Randy trusted me and it was nice to get a little outside validation of thumbs-upness right out of the gate.  Overall it's a very positive review of the whole album and that's great to see! (Even though artists should never read their reviews!)

That's it for now! But there will surely be more planned for this big LA/NY trip... not that there isn't plenty going on Sonically and Musically here in Miami. But at the moment it's a lot of technical stuff that doesn't really make for the best stories... unless snakes and wires is your thing. At SR we are in the midst of editing Nick Mason Drums. Plus on-going work with producer/engineer Ken Scott on a product series called EpiK DrumS featuring very meticulously created midi grooves from drummers like Woody Woodmansey (Bowie), Bob Siebenberg (Supertramp), Terry Bozzio (UK, Missing Persons), Billy Cobham (Mahavishnu Orchestra) and Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs). I'm also working on sounds for SampleTank 3 from IK Multimedia... we keep busy 'round here! Always a lot going on. More to come! - Dave

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Johnny My Friend... Thoughts about Kevin Gilbert

While I'm wiring up my new studio set up I put on music to listen to and today I grabbed a CD-R called "KG Outtakes & Misc" which is a CD 'mix tape' of various Kevin Gilbert songs, many of which at the time (90's) were never released or only showed up on various compilation albums. I used to play in Kevin's band "Thud" and did other things with him in the mid-90's like score TV shows and a tribute gig to Genesis at Progfest '94 performing songs from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway as "Giraffe" (a name of his band project before he was in Toy Matinee).

Someone posted the entire Giraffe "Lamb" gig on Youtube if you haven't seen it. It was an amazing time. None of us had any idea what an important 'bucket list' thing it was for us and Kevin. 

For those who don't know who Kevin Gilbert was there's various information on line to read about him such as his web site. He was a brilliant musician, engineer, producer and songwriter with incredible wit and charm. I say was because his journey in life was abruptly cut short before he could finish being 30 years old. I don't want to get into the details of how it happened but if you don't know you're probably curious at this point. Let's just say that it was by his own hand in a frivolous and rather careless accident but it wasn't consciously intentional. I used the words 'consciously intentional' because probably somewhere in his subconscious there could have been at least some poetic desire to drop it all. He certainly wrote about the subject and even the cover of his album "Thud" has a man with his head smack down in frustration on a table next to a hanging post... plus the last song on the album is called "Song For A Dead Friend" which is a heavy one to hear now for anyone who was friends with him. 

Thud: Rush Parish, Kevin Gilbert, Nick D'Virgilio, Dave Kerzner

So that's what I wanted to talk about. What his songs and the music he recorded make me think of many years after his passing. For one thing, his vocal style both in terms of performance and the way it's mixed (very dry and upfront) it oddly feels like he is actually present in the room! That's an amazing thing about music and movies. A personality is captured for all time and reaches out to people even after that person is gone. Kevin's voice and words being that much more vivid. But then there are poetic things I find sad and rather intense to think about. I'm sure it's this way for other people who love and appreciate Kevin's music whether they knew him personally or not. 

I was listening to a cover of "Emanuel' that he did with Jonatha Brooke, an incredibly talented singer/songwriter that Kevin turned me onto years ago. They do a beautiful duet that's haunting and powerful. The end of the song has what sounds like a heart beat (maybe even a child's heart beat). It gets louder and louder and then stops. The end of a life. The sad poetry of that has probably hit me before but I forgot. So when I heard it today it was pretty heavy to think about it that way metaphorically. Then I was listening to a remake of the song "Tired Old Man" that he did. It was originally a song he played with Giraffe but later on he did a beautifully recorded version that he told me he did to impress Rosanna Arquette who he was dating after she starred in his Toy Matinee video "The Ballad of Jenny Ledge". She was an 'old Genesis' fan and this was probably the closest tune he had to "Cinema Show" and "Ripples" haha. 

Anyway, the song "Tired Old Man" is about Pinocchio and the puppet maker who calls him his only son... got me thinking about how Kevin's 'only son' was his music. He never got married (apart from some unusual story where he came back to the house one day saying he got married in Canada to Cintra Wilson... he used to by roommate in this weird 'castle' estate in Eagle Rock and I'll tell a bit of that story some other time but it's a trip... anyway, he didn't REALLY get married legally). He never had children or the benefit of hearing his songs on the oldies radio like his character "Johnny Virgil" did in Kevin's rock opera "Shaming of the True". That album, by the way, is FULL of parallels with Kevin's life and of course there's more sad poetry in songs like "Water Under The Bridge" and "A Long Days Life". 

But, I mean sad in a good way. More about compassion for who he was and who he wanted to be. Songs that have sadness in them are important. Otherwise everything would sound like "I'm Walking On Sunshine".  

Jonatha Brooke wrote a song about Kevin called "Glass Half Empty" where she talked about how he was never satisfied with what he had yet he actually had more than most - particularly in the area of success in the music industry (he won a grammy for his work on Sheryl Crow's Tuesday Music Club, he scored TV and Film, he had industry recognition, music videos, major label deals, paying gigs and all sorts of things most musicians would dream of). Mike Keneally who also worked with him shared a song with me that he wrote about Kevin too. 

I wrote a song about him as well and it appears on an upcoming album release with Simon Collins. Actually it was inspired by Kevin but it is mostly about crossing that line into the point of no return and can be applied to anyone (especially anyone who has experimented with excess such as drugs, alcohol etc). It's about how a split second can make such a huge difference in life and death. That one day, that one hour, even that one minute Kevin was carelessly searching for a thrill at great risk resulted in his demise. That's a powerful reminder of how fragile life actually is and it can't be taken for granted. And it's something we face everyday! Just driving around most of us don't even realize how close to death everyone actually is. One wrong turn or one person not looking is all it takes. Not that was should always be thinking about that but it's good to be extra careful and not think we're invincible or anything... because we CAN break. 

Now, relative to some of the other blog posts I've done, this one might seem morbid but it really isn't meant to be. Sadness in music and lyrics is a beautiful thing. So are the poetic aspects of songs that people interpret in their own way. Reminders about the fragility of life and what a gift it is to have a window of opportunity - however short or long that may be - to create and make an impression on others are extremely powerful. I hold great value with those things. Thinking about Kevin... he may not have lived what we would consider to be a long life. But in his time he created a lot of music for people to discover and enjoy. He left behind a big piece of who he was and that lives on in his art. 

Friday, November 16, 2012


Squids here checking in. No major traveling going on. Sandy messed up a few sessions that were loosely planned this month. One of them was really very cool too but hopefully we'll get to do that some other time. I'm making plans to go out to LA at some point soon to consolidate some sessions for SR and Sonic Elements. I'm also going up to the NY area to do a few Lo-Fi Resistance things with Randy McStine for the soon to be released album "Chalk Lines"

Had a little back and forth emailing with Jon Anderson today. I first met him in 2005 when I got the opportunity to play a gig with him during the NAMM convention in Anaheim. We've stayed in touch and have sent musical ideas to each other. When I heard his voice over my music that was something really amazing for me personally. Such an iconic sound to his voice... and he's still 'got it' too. Bizarre that he's not IN Yes right now when he was such a huge part of it but... I don't go there. I just love and respect the music they've made.

Here's me playing "Long Distance Runaround" with Jon Anderson, Nick D'Virgilio and friends.

Are you getting the feeling that it's not a good Squids Travels blog post if I don't mention some famous rock names? Me too! Well, I guess that's part of the fun. But it won't always be that way. I hope you don't get too used to the Squids trademark namedropping thing. But while we're at it I might as well tell you the story behind that gig with Jon Anderson! 

It started with a guy I know named Randy Fuchs who was helping to put together an event at NAMM that was sort of a 'guitarist oriented gig' with Nuno Bettencourt, Yngwie Malmsteen, Jordan Rudess and all sorts of musicians. IK Multimedia and Sonic Reality were among the sponsors of the event and when Randy told me Jon Anderson was going to guest with Nuno I said "Ask Jon if he'd also do a tune with me". Turned out the answer was YES! (yeah I know... that was only the squillionth pun made about the band name since its first existence). Jon gave us two songs to choose from. It was either "Long Distance Runaround" or "Your Move". I quickly chose Long Distance and later on Steve Ferlazzo, the keyboardist for Nuno's band, said to me "You beat me to it! I wanted to do that one too!" and they ended up doing Your Move instead. Good to be quick on your feet is the lesson there. No hesitation! 

Now, somehow being the "MD" of the opening part of the gig I was able, with Randy's help, to put together an interesting mix of musicians on stage starting off with me, Nick D'Virgilio and Stan Cotey who were essentially reuniting playing together since the last time we did which was in 1994 with Kevin Gilbert as "Giraffe" at Progfest performing The Lamb. Then Jon Anderson would join us on stage followed by former members of Earth, Wind & Fire, Ricky Lawson, Neil Zazza a full horn section... it was getting pretty crazy and somehow I convinced everyone to end the set with "Owner of a Lonely Heart" (with full real horn section). But... unfortunately Yngwie Malmsteen took up the entire sound check to jam with his band! No one could tell him to stop (partially because it was so loud!) So... We didn't have a single run through of anything and it quickly went to a 'plan b' and that was to scale the set back to what we all knew best. Forget about "Owner" with everyone on stage with a horn section and not a single run through. But we DID do "Broadway Melody of '74" by Genesis and "Long Distance" without a run through and that was brave enough (especially doing a Yes song with the guy who wrote it and sang it originally!). A bit nerve-wracking but we made it and Jon loved it. Larry Dunn, Sheldon Reynolds and the rest of the Ex-EWF guys did their thing... it turned out to be a great show. But no one knew what sort of tough spot we were actually in there! I had to keep things together both musically and psychologically between everyone. So for me it was an even bigger success personally... plus of course it was a thrill to play with all those guys. 

Me with Patrick Moraz (ex-keyboardist for Yes's Relayer album)

Another interesting 'progstory' about that day is that Patrick Moraz who I've met a few times before had come up to me at the SR NAMM booth to ask for tickets to come see me play with Jon Anderson! How cool! How bizarre!!!! An ex-Yes keyboardist asking me if he can come see me play with his old bandmate? What planet is this??? Definitely was a trip. Anyway, Patrick went to the show and loved it! He was so grateful to be there because apparently he hadn't talked to Jon since the 70s when they did 'Relayer'. So I played a part in their brief reunion backstage. A fun esoteric prog moment to share with those who are fans of that album (one of my faves growing up and Moraz is a fantastic keyboard player). 

There are quite a few times I've had the opportunity to put two musicians together where it meant something to them and I think it makes for good storytelling so I'm sure you'll be seeing more of that in future blog posts. There's a really good story behind this video but I'll have to save it for another time! 

I hope I've satisfied the expected name-dropping quota. My company Sonic Reality's motto is "Sample Everything" and that philosophy extends into other aspects of life as well, particularly with music-related experiences. So there's a rather unusual variety of one off events to tell you about... and that will only lead to more name-dropping so be prepared! You have been warned. Have a great weekend! - Dave