Spasmo

Spasmo played our first show the other day! We have another coming up on July 25th, and then our third is opening for Behold the Arctopus on August 3rd.

Good to be playing with Stuart Dahlquist again. Met him when I toured with Dama/Libra. Nathan Donnel is on vox. Marshall McLaughlin is on guitar. Stuart and Marshall were in Pink Muscles. Marshall’s written all the songs so far, but we’ll probably all contribute eventually.

CHAOS. Okay, here’s Adam Noble Bass’s video of us from our first night:

Stay tuned for a demo.

Upcoming 2019 album releases

Lots of good things are afoot this year, including two album releases already!

First, we got my rock band Love and Fury. This project started as a glimmer of an idea in mind of Gary King (of House of Leisure). Gretta Harley collaborated with him, writing some powerful protest lyrics and singing them just as powerfully. At that point, I got on board to record drum tracks, not knowing where this would go. Just psychedelic ideas from Gary mixed with Gretta’s inspiring lyrical concepts, but not knowing where the experiment would take us. Fast forward, and we’re a full blown band with the addition of Jane Mabry-Smith on bass with an incredible feel, Bob Watanabe on guitar as the soundmeister, and Rob Knop on keys creating some insane soundscapes. We’ve been playing shows, and are pretty stoked for growing momentum for the album release February 23, 2019 at Royal Room. I’m not sure how I found myself playing with these powerhouse musicians, so it’s kind of a big honor to be doing this. It’s a good album. Kind of psychedelic.

Next up is the Stereo Creeps record release and mega-show on April 12th, 2019 at the Substation. I’ve been in this band a little over a year, but I think I learned all the songs in about a month–which is probably some kind of record. Everything feels natural in this band. It’s metal, it’s rock, influences are across a multidimensional spectrum of styles and decades. We have discussions about what to simplify, about the feel, about the lyrics–it’s this group effort about the music. We all have the same influences and ideas about what makes good music. Robert Dollison is a riff and a tone master on guitar. Sean Moe belts out the vocals, but almost in a vulnerable way. Mark Wardell is the secret weapon on bass. This album has a dark side and a high energy side. People are calling it our Pet Sounds, probably the best compliment ever. You should come and check out this show featuring everybody in the scene. The perfect kind of show for releasing some new vinyl.

The Debaucherauntes BC Tour 2018

We just returned from our 5th tour, and the most successful so far! Also the most ambitious, including multiple 10 hr drives! And the most adventurous–ferries, border crossings, van breakdowns, and lots of packed shows and friendly faces. Thanks Canada for being so friendly and welcoming, and we’re looking forward to next time!

The Debaucherauntes toured across BC and the PNW, including to Vancouver, Victoria, Chemainus, Nelson, Spokane, Chelan, Boise, Olympia, and Port Townsend.

Posted by Kai Strandskov music on Monday, August 20, 2018

 

 

The Debaucherauntes, live on Accordion Noir in Vancouver, BC on COOP  (note: the first song is us sight reading the theme song for the show)

Interview with the Debaucherauntes on Spin the Globe, KAOS radio

The Debaucherauntes, live on Tossed Salad on KPTZ radio, featuring Artis Spoonman.  <– Click on August 17, Tossed Salad. We’re the end of hour 3, and the beginning of hour 4.

More photos on our facebook page! 

Now I sleep.

Stereo Creeps on the Spud Goodman Show

We headed down to Tacoma and had a nice evening in the studio on the Spud Goodman Show. Really cool to see the operation from the inside, and everyone was super hospitable, and we had a blast!

The show also featured some folks you may have heard of, like C. Thomas Howell and Margaret Cho, and others. Pretty awesome!

The whole thing is streaming on the web, or just check out one of the songs we played right heeya:

Rock lottery, part 1

On January 13, I drew 4 random names out of a hat and wrote 3 songs with them. We performed them that night at the Crocodile. In the hours between, I felt like we really came together like family. No egos, just music. It was an enlightening day! You can write a song in 2 hours, folks. Here’s the first song:

Some tips and tricks for theremin

Recently I modded my Moog Etherwave Plus theremin and started seriously learning beginning theremin. I’ve run into a few surprises along the way, so I just thought I’d compile it all here in one place. I hope this helps!

Exponential or linear pitch field

The theremin has historically had an exponential pitch field, where each octave distance is smaller then the previous one. This means that you have to learn different hand positions for every single octave and, by extension, every note.

Carolina Eyck makes a strong case for modding your theremin so that it has a more linear pitch field. It’s not perfect, but it becomes much more linear when you do that, so that your hand positions are mostly the same for every octave.  If you are just doing sound effects, then this won’t have as much value for you–but if you are playing melodies then seriously consider doing this. Keep in mind, you’ll void your warranty.

I successfully modified my theremin with the ESPE01, as recommended by Carolina Eyck. It was a bit tense for an inexperienced solderer as myself, but it paid off! More info at the end of this post!

Tuning your theremin

Unless you mod your theremin, you shouldn’t need to tune it–the pitch knob is all you need. But if you do need to tune it, then check out this post on the topic. The key point here is that you have to open the cover to tune it, but the cover changes the tuning. So they recommend setting the zero beat to be about 3 inches from the antenna.  And on a side note, changing L5 seemed to do nothing by the time I got L6 to where I wanted it–so there does seem to be a very specific octave range for the theremin that I was not able to change.  This is a bummer for me because I play a lot in the top octave.

I experimented a little with the cover and screws, and the screws seemed to alter things very little. It’s really the cover that alters the pitch field. So, if you want to do some trial and error, you’ll get pretty close by putting the cover in place without the screws. That makes it easier to go back and forth while tuning, if you really want to. Then you can install the screws and they will alter the field very little.

Setting the zero beat

The way the zero beat works, is that the pitch decreases as you move away from the antenna toward the zero beat, and then it starts to increase again as you continue to move away. Turning the pitch knob to the left decreases the pitch field, and to the right increases the pitch field. If you’re moving your hand toward the antenna and the pitch is decreasing, then the zero beat is somewhere between your hand and the antenna.

A quick way to mute the theremin

The volume knob doesn’t turn your theremin off, it just adjusts the sensitivity of the volume antenna. And you don’t want to turn your theremin off either, because it takes a while to warm up again. You could get a volume pedal if you have extra money to spend. But the quick way to mute your theremin is to just loop the audio cable over the volume antenna. Done.

Warming up your theremin

The theremin really does take about 15 mins to warm up, so you want to turn it on early and leave it on. With  my theremin, the pitch field expands over time, reducing the number of octaves. I have to keep adjusting the pitch knob to the left to compensate–until it warms up.

Modding your theremin

I have very little soldering experience, but I’m so happy I went ahead and modified my theremin to be more linear with the ESPE01. There’s a cool demo by  Carolina Eyck that shows you why this is so useful.  Here are some tips when installing the ESPE01. NOTE: This is at your own risk–do not do this unless you understand the risks and will take them on yourself.  Please also note that I am not giving you instructions here, but rather tips and tricks to enhance the instructions they give you. Follow their instructions and, when in doubt, ignore me. Lastly, this is my own experience–I am not an expert.

Learn how to remove solder. Typically you use a tool with some kind of suction that sucks up the melted solder. I can’t emphasize enough learning to use the tool . You can get super cheap soldering kits that include this tool, so get it.

You will also need some tweezers or tiny needle nose pliers or both. These are useful for removing or inserting wires and pins.

And a wire cutting tool where the blades are close to the tip. Those all-in-one plyers/cutters/strippers aren’t going to work. You might need to strip one wire, so have some wire stripper handy.

I found that a mounted magnifying glass was really useful because you’re working with such tiny spaces surrounded by a lot of circuitry that you don’t want to mess up. My magnifying glass comes with a stand that also has clips that you can attach to the circuit board–super useful.

First you remove two capacitors. If you are like me, you completely eviscerate them as you get used to the heat of your soldering iron. For the newby like me, you’ll be very glad that Ethermagic is kind enough to include two new capacitors. But if you want to feel like a pro, then practice how long it takes to melt solder with your soldering iron. You need to touch the iron to the connection between the wire and the circuit board, and leave your iron there only long enough to melt the solder. Then they will pull out. The video makes it look easy, but it’s not. Wires conduct heat very well, so the longer you hold the soldering iron against the wire, the hotter it gets.

When you remove the capacitors, you will want to also remove the remaining solder using the tool I mentioned. It’s far easier to insert the new capacitors if you’re not trying to also melt some existing solder. It’s far easier to insert one end of the capacitor and solder that with fresh solder.

For installing the new capacitors, just follow the instructions. It’s a weird hack, but it totally works and looks just like the pictures and videos.

The same goes for removing the audio wire if you have an etherwave plus. There are also some additional connections on the board where you are inserting the ESPE01 that are unused but do have solder on them. Remove the solder from those, because you are sticking a bunch of pins into connections all at once. You can’t keep a bunch of solder melted all at once. Instead, suck up all that pre-existing solder so that you can very easily slide the pins into the connections. Then solder each connection. Make sure the ESPE01 is directly perpendicular, because it will be right up against the cover.

When you remove the audio wire, try not to mess with the end of the wire. You will have to stick that wire into a new connection on the ESPE01 and, if it is frayed even a little, it will be extremely difficult to insert the wire on the ESPE01 board. I had to cut the wire just a little to get a fresh end, and strip it a tiny bit so that it would properly insert into the connection. You can’t mess this up. You have very little wire to work with in the first place, so really be careful that you have a pristine wire.

And then lastly, remember that the cover changes the pitch field. Not only will you need to retune the theremin, due to your modification, but you’ll have to more or less guess. As I said above, the recommendation that worked for me was to get the zero beat around 3 inches from the antenna. Then put the cover back on and tweak the pitch knob a little bit more as needed.

Have fun!

That’s all I got for now. It seems like there are a lot of videos out there that teach everything beyond this point. Let me know if you think of any other basics that you wish you had known.  Thanks for reading, and have fun!

Hello again!

It looks like it’s been 2 and a half years since my last post! How could this be??

Well, things suddenly got busy! While a lot of this blog has been focused on being consistent, I had to drop a lot of things so that I could focus on music and my day job. So, I guess I was still consistent–when it came to music, not writing.

But I’ve been traveling up to Vancouver, BC off and on to play with folks up there.  And went out to Austin a few times with Bucharest Drinking Team and The m9.  And the Debaucherauntes released an album, and went on a west coast tour.  And then I started working on my own solo album, which released recently.  And I volunteered to be on the HONK! Fest West committee this year as Community Manager–taking care of our online community, as well as sending out communications.  This has also been a year of theater! I performed in the band for a country western musical Let’s Be Silver, and was tupan player / band leader in Gino Yevdjavic’s production of Tesla Projekt: The Light.

What’s next? Well, I’m continuing with Debaucherauntes and an upcoming tour, working on more solo music, learning a bunch of instruments, seeking more music students, and starting some new bands.  I’ll update the calendar when I have some specific dates.

Day 9 – Part 1 – Dead or alive

As I write this now, I have been back home for quite a while and I’m starting to forget details. So please forgive me, as I start to backtrack or correct myself. In this case, I forgot to mention interesting facts: Dave is anti-bed bug and knows how to inspect mattresses. This will come in handy. Also, in Pittsburgh, we did have a mishap with our dearest chime-a-tron. One of the chimes sounded like a blacksmith hard at work, and other just didn’t work at all. So, that also led to cutting a few songs, including Only Medicine.

So, I awake the next day to the usual scene: Jake and Stuart have been up for hours, despite it being 7am in the freaking morning.  If memory serves me correctly, Jake lets us know that we have a new tour mascot that Stuart found. Stuart busts in, all out of sorts. Earlier that morning, he had found an adorable little baby mouse in the parking lot. It had been abandoned by its mom, perhaps who had gotten run over. The poor little thing soon died. Stuart named it Golieth, such a fighter but so fragile.

We zombie into the van, and head back the way we came to Philly. The whole ride, we’re either talking about sweet Golieth or we’re decompressing from last night’s disaster. Clearly the turnout for the fundraiser was off the hook, but we had not yet seen a room clear when we started playing. Stuart comes to the conclusion that it means we’re doing something right!

And he is likely right. We’re doing our daily check of The Mighty Oracle: The Great Internet, and we’re seeing some amazing reviews from Pitchfork, AV Club, and even a positive review from the local Pittsburgh thing where we bombed. Twitter is showing plays on radio stations across the US, and people are tweeting Dama/Libra in their playlists or their top lists of bands. It’s very surreal. If you’ve been reading this blog, you start to see a theme: we are either on the road, loading equipment, playing a show, or sleeping. For Stuart and Joel, there may be more interaction with folks–they’re recognizable and are often by the merch booth. I however, am not recognized. I’m “some drummer in the back”.

So it’s surreal in that I feel more isolated than at home. I don’t recognize anyone, and no one speaks to me unless I start up a conversation. You can’t see your listeners in the radio station. You barely get any flavor of the town, because there’s no time to just chill.  And then I go online and read reviews from major websites that I’ve respected for a long time. Almost contradictory… except for the merch. I hear about the take from the night, and it’s usually enough to cover gas. That seems good, and in line with the reviews. Stuart and Joel have die hard fans that are willing to check out their new thing. It’s really gratifying to be a part of watching this whole story unfold from the beginning. It usually takes me years to cultivate a new project. Stuart and Joel have hit the ground running.

At the end of the day, I may not be able to reconcile the online buzz with the solitude of touring but one thing is consistent: every single night, I feel the electricity on stage, the passion, the call of Joel’s voice, the vibrations of Stuart’s bass inside my bones, and the lush waves of sound from David and Jake washing over me. Sometimes the rooms are full, sometimes they are empty, but the music is a spiritual awakening for me every single night. It’s a metaphysical ritual, where I am somehow fortunate enough to be in the same room and even participate. I feel like an acolyte. To put this in perspective, I have been a fan of Stuart’s for quite a while. In the days of Sun0))) and Burning Witch, I will admit that I didn’t know his name. I suck at names. But I was a fan. And then there was a short moment where his world overlapped with Trey Spruance, who I am also a fan of, and I became aware of Asva–a super group in my eyes. I was there when they played Seattle. Stuart had a whole freaking organ set up on the floor of the venue. The drummer was made out of trees, sea monsters, and freight trains. I bought the t-shirt and CD. I think this was pre-facebook. Maybe the Friendster or Orkut days? Later, I find them on facebook, like their page, and am disappointed about lack of tour dates.

Fast forward to this day. Somehow, and it’s all fuzzy to me now, I am sitting in a van, worrying about the battery life of my phone, eating a coffee/banana breakfast, looking out across the empty parking lot at 9am in the morning at Stuart, who is talking to his dad on the phone as he does almost every day, on our way to play Philadelphia, and then a couple radio stations, and it’s my first tour across the entire US. In this brief moment of silence away from traffic, van engine, conversation, blaring stereo, and wind in my face, it strikes me that this moment feels like I had flipped a coin 5 times and it came up heads every single time. Let’s see… David started dating a friend of a friend, and one night he was hanging out at my band’s studio. That’s where we met. Fast forward, I was doing a CD release with a different band, and I asked Dave if his band wanted to join the bill. Indeed they did, and Jake was in that band, too, and they killed it. Manos de Plata. Fast forward… David was forming a new band with Jake, Holy Cities, and needed a drummer. I started rehearsing with them at a random one of those huge warehouses filled with spilled beer and practice spaces. And it turns out, so was Stuart. Fast forward, and he and Joel need a band to play their music in a live environment. Well, Jake had started playing trumpet on Asva albums by then, and so I think it just made sense for the rest of us to join up as a swat team to quickly make the live version of Dama/Libra a reality? I’m guessing. So, we play one defining show in Seattle, and that was excellent and I wished them all well. And then next thing I know, they have a tour planned and want to go on the road. And here I am in this parking lot, cracking up at Joel’s weird high pitched voice imitating a little kid, “well… I don’t know…” as he wonders out loud if he’ll drive or sleep in the back.

Well, all I know is, playing this kind of music that is so open and so slow and so dynamic is the best feeling in the world, and I feel a tinge of sadness that it’s half over and there are fewer shows than days left on the tour.

We all poop in the public restroom, climb back in the van, and pull back onto the road, and discuss as many songs we can think of about touring. Joel drives like a bat out of hell, yelling in his weird kid voice as he changes lanes, “I do what I want!” Jake and I start singing Bon Jovi.

It’s all the same, only the names will change
Every day, it seems we’re wasting away
Another place, where the faces are so cold
I drive all night, just to get back home

I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride
I’m wanted, dead or alive
Wanted, dead or alive

Sometimes I sleep, sometimes it’s not for days
The people I meet, always go their separate ways
Sometimes you tell the day
By the bottle that you drink
Sometimes you’re all alone and all you do is think

I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride
I’m wanted — WANTED! — dead or alive
Wanted — WANTED! — dead or alive

I walk these streets,  A loaded six string on my back
I play for keeps, cuz I might not make it back
I’ve been everywhere, still, I’m standing tall

I’ve seen a million faces,  AND I ROCKED THEM ALL

Jake and I crack up about the whole thing about knowing the day by the bottle you drink. “Guys, here’s your bottle of fruit loops vodka. OH IT MUST BE TUESDAY.”

I sing, “I’ve seen a hundred faces, AND I ROCKED THEM ALL.”

The smell of gas has continues as we cross the pass again back to Philly. We don’t seem to be leaking significantly, but it’s troubling. Will it get worse?

And there are other troubles. I completely trashed my brushes last night, and the other guys need music supplies. We can’t play without them. So we make the rare decision to visit a Guitar Center because we know it will be open. Plus, we want to give the van a rest after the pass. It’s raining and we run inside. I figure it’s all about being in and out, so we can make it for a sound check. I rush into the percussion department, and look around. The salesman asks me what I’m looking for, and I explain I want to buy some metal brushes. He starts talking to me about some new brand of multirods he has just got in stock, and how great they are. It takes me a moment to realize that he’s trying to sell me something unrelated. What? No. Metal brushes. He hands me a pair and says, “You’re in luck. These are so popular, we’re usually sold out.”

Gross.

I run out to the van, and Jake’s having a smoke in the rain.  “Where is everyone?” He laughs, and gives me a knowing smile. “Dave’s inside, making a major purchase.”

“What?”

“Just wait. You’ll see.”

In about a minute, Dave walks back to the van with something a little bulky. I laugh. I get it. It’s a keyboard. Dave is ecstatic. Of course he is. Of course he bought a keyboard.

You see, it’s a thing he does. And Guitar Center is often his prey. Dave knows his keyboards. And sometimes, Guitar Center does not. Maybe the name of the store tells it all. But at any rate, this isn’t Dave’s first rodeo. He tells the story of laying eyes on that keyboard and knowing exactly what it’s worth, having monitored craigslist and ebay as he does, and the pricetag is $100 lower than anything he’s seen. Meanwhile, the salesman is talking about how he plays with Blues Traveler and he would buy this keyboard if he wasn’t an employee. Yes, Blues Traveler Salesman, Dave will indeed buy this keyboard.

Dave is so pumped up, he’s exploding with excitement. He’s simultaneously shoving in batteries in the back, and navigating with his phone. We drive down this very long side street of Philly, past strip club after strip club, as Dave is putting his newfound prize champion through an obstacle course. He cackles every few minutes. We all can’t help but share in his excitement. Picture him with headphones, a keyboard perched on his lap, cell phone in one hand, other hand pressing buttons on the keyboard like a Star Trek redshirt. This is the most alive I’ve seen him the whole tour, other than after being discharged from the emergency room. Better not send him down to the planet on an away team…

We want to know, will he play on it tonight? Alas, no. He would need more time, and it’s not quite the right kind of keyboard anyway.

The strip clubs dwindle, and it’s mostly apartment buildings, with people hanging out on their porches and steps. It’s such a glorious thing to see, for this Seattleite. And then we reach the elevated train, and we know we’ve made it to Kung Fu Necktie in Philly.