Archive for category music

getting the band back together

swiss1_roark15

on the 5th day of May, i awoke to see Switzerland in daylight for the first time in my life.  in the small village of Lutry at the far west end of the country, Alicia’s apartment overlooks Lake Geneva and beyond it – Evian, France.  Switzerland is a country of tameless beauty – rich with mountains, lakes, old cities and about eight million multi-lingual citizens.  my first days here however were not spent exploring the Alps, swimming in crystal clear water and tasting cheese in the country side.  rather, they were spent shut inside a black box.

swiss1_roark2

welcome to “The Womb” – the cleverly named recording studio that Nathan built in the basement of a warehouse in Lausanne.  here, we teamed up with our other band-member Bryan Roberts who flew hear from London to rekindle Bearded Parrot – a music project we had given birth to a few years prior.  also joining us to provide that perfect amount of estrogen is new band-member Alicia Onstad.  together we are the newly imagined Bearded Parrot and for the next week and half the Womb will be our home.  lets see what we can come up with shall we…?

“Just Kiddin’ Just Whiskey”

swiss1_bryan5

courtesy of Bryan

swiss1_bryan4

courtesy of Bryan

The Womb Sessions were off to a beautiful start.  Nathan, Bryan and i were able to slip into our same ole’ even-keel mode of infectious inspiration while Alicia was quickly finding her comforts.  equal parts coffee and whiskey had become a major part of our daily diet as it kept us both energized and focused… that is until we ran out of coffee.  it all started when i announced needlessly to the band, “i’m gonna get another coffee and whiskey”.  then when i arrived at the Womb’s kitchenette to notice the coffee pot was in fact empty, the very next words to leave my mouth were, “just kiddin’ just whiskey”.  the phrase then spread amongst us like a virus and before long not a single one of us could say anything of importance without following it up with a “…just kiddin’ just whiskey”.  now with coffee, whiskey and country flowing through our veins, we knew we had to stop whatever we were doing and crank out a song before things got too out of hand.  we wandered through the streets of Lausanne trying to think up the most nonsensical lyrics we could and then when we returned to the Womb we fashioned this gem.

– Just Kiddin’ Just Whiskey

“Oh Delilah”

swiss1_roark3 swiss1_roark9

when Bryan brought Delilah to the table – an extremely well written and joyously melodic murder ballad about a woman who slices off a man’s face before killing him and then goes on to get executed in front of her peers, we fell in love.  it’s on this song that we discovered Alicia’s hauntingly seductive vocal abilities and as we worked our way through it, she became this woman entirely.  this was by far the most complex recording in the session and we spent more time on it than all the others combined.  throughout all of it, i pictured Alicia slicing of my own face.  i still dream about it sometimes.

– Oh Delilah

“Steal your shoes, count your feet”

swiss1_roark8 swiss1_roark6

this was actually the first recording we started in the session with the intention to get our creative juices flowing.  take a bass groove i wrote a decade back, marry it with some Nathan beat-hooks and mash our four monotoned voices together on top and this is what we end up with.

– Steal your shoes, count your feet

“No time to play”

swiss1_roark7 swiss1_roark5

here’s an oldie but goody come back to rear its rabbit head about the little white rabbit so obsessed with greed and punctuality that he never took the time to be happy (poor little guy).  originally recorded years ago, Nathan and Bryan resuscitated it in order to add my baritone accompaniment.

– No time to play

“Timbo”

courtesy of Bryan

courtesy of Bryan

it was a sad parting when Bryan flew back to his academia life in London and a sobering blow when Nathan and i realized we were left with a pile of tracks to edit (though actual sobriety never entered into it).  rather than jumping head first into the pile, we let ourselves get a little distracted first…

Alicia has been hard at work creating a children’s story about a brave little boy named Timbo who flies to the far reaches of the Earth, braving deserts, forests, arctic freeze and oceans deep with his bubble-fueled jet pack to collect ingredients to concoct a potion that will heal all of the sick children of the world.  inspired by her story, Nathan and i could not resist our temptation to write a jingle for the eventual Timbo television series.  so not to let ourselves get too sidetracked from the tasks at hand, we gave ourselves a hard deadline of only 40 minutes to come up with our Timbo jingle concept but once we started there was just no stopping it until perfection was achieved.  8 hours later we ended up with this 37 second masterpiece.  ladies and gentleman, it is my pleasure to present to you, Timbo.

– Timbo

ok… we did actually manage to venture out of the Womb on a few occasions to explore the vineyards on the countryside, take a dip in Lake Geneva and wander through some adorable streets.

courtesy of Bryan

courtesy of Bryan

courtesy of Bryan

courtesy of Bryan

swiss1_roark11

swiss1_roark14

swiss1_roark17

my final weekend in French-Switzerland was spent in Orgevaux (A.K.A. “Bubble Mountain”) – a rural mountainside community with a breathtaking view of the lake.  there, Nathan and Alicia’s friends had rented a farmhouse and packed it full of DJ equipment, party provisions and people.  the walls vibrated by night and by day we frolicked and made bubbles.

swiss1_roark16

1 Comment

India in a minor key

P1020638

my first solo train ride of significant length was pure success.  all aboard for the Mysore Express! – an overnighter leaving Madurai at 7:30 pm and arriving in Mysore at 10:30 am.  being an Indian train virgin, i decided not to rough it too much too fast so i booked the best class they had for a whopping 1100 rupees ($22).  my class was called “AC2″.  that means bunks stacked 2 high with air conditioning.  the next class down is “AC3″ which is bunks stacked 3 high with air conditioning.  “sleeper” is the next which is bunks stacked 3 high without air conditioning. much like Dante’s Inferno, it gets progressively worse the further down you go.  by the time you reach the very last train car, you’re stacked 10 high and sleeping on your choice of either spikes or hot coals.

P1020675Mysore is a nice enough place.  it’s got the right amount of Indian busy.  it has that beautiful palace in its center.  it’s got its fair share of traps, trims and flim-flams, but that’s not why i came here.  i came here to just… be.  i came here to recycle myself in a manor of speaking.  i’m long overdue and it has to happen somewhere.  since i arrived early in the day i had the luxury of choosing my accommodations carefully.  i must have gone to six places before finally deciding on the perfect one.  i tested the acoustics in the bathrooms and the noise factor the ceiling fans make when you crank them to full blast.  i sauntered slowly and mindfully from place to place with my 50 liter pack, my trusty satchel, my guitar and my eyes wide open.

first things first. lock myself in the bathroom with my guitar “Escapo” and my compact battery powered stereo condenser microphone. push record and let the music flow onto the backdrop of honking, yelling and spitting from the street below.  follow this with a regiment of push-ups and a stroll through the city.  it’s beautiful and of course it is.

ok, so “beautiful” may not be the right word to use here.  it’s actually quite polluted, the streets and buildings are heavily neglected and dozens of cows covered in flies feed on the street garbage, but it all seems to work for them here in this little ecosystem of hectic filth. it’s beautiful in my eyes.

“hello, what country?”… that’s how it always starts, to which i always reply “USA”.  there seems to be a thin line between ‘i want to be your best friend for the next 10 minutes’ and ‘just kidding, i actually want some money’ and i still can’t seem to sense the up front difference, especially because they always start off the conversation by stating ad nauseum that their not interested in my money.  the first guy was a nice strapping young lad.  i asked him to direct me to the WIFI knowing he probably couldn’t because WIFI barely exists in the south.  they walk so proud when they have you in their grasp.  they wave at everyone they pass by as if saying “look what i got, what the hell do you got?”.  after being lead to 4 different internet cafes i finally settled on one with regular internet.  i asked the next guy for a good restaurant.  he lead me to an upscale hotel.  these are not the places to eat in India but i chose to eat there anyway because i was fatigued and famished.  he sat with me in a mutual silent stare as i choked down a Kingfisher and some mediocre veg korma.  after regaining my strength and part of my mind i went outside and focused intently on a deep sink hole in the side of the street.  dude immediately follows me outside and demands 20 rupees (40 cents) for his time.  i forwardly and elegantly reminded him that the expectations of our relationship which he himself prior set did not add up to the demands of his current agenda.  he walks.  i feel both good and evil.

i accomplished several comforting tasks during my 4 day stint here:  i found new strings for Escapo who was in dire need of re-stringing, made several recordings, repaired my travel-damaged belongings, slept a lot and watched movies.  i took frequent chai breaks at a favorite tea stall i found in an alleyway near my hotel.  i’d sit with the Indian men lined up along the curb smoking their beedis, or i’d sit alone until i felt comfortable in my own skin.

P1020658i also put my tourist hat on and visited the palace, the market and some small factories where they make incense and tobacco products.  the market was a sectioned off grid of narrow walkways lined with piles and overflowing baskets of fruits, vegetables, incense and spices.  the palace was a marvelous one.  the inside had giant detailed wall paintings depicting the crowds of people that used to hang out there way back when it was functional.  each face was completely unique.  just outside the palace, elephant and camel rides were offered.  entire families would mount the elephants from a special staircase and away they would go.  i wandered into a section of the palace grounds void of people and saw one of the more disturbing sights so far on my trip.  some asshole had tied up a camel to a tree in such a way that it couldn’t sit down.  the rope was tightly wound around its neck, head and through its septum.  i must have stared at it for 30 minutes.  it kept picking up its feet one by one to relieve the pressure of standing.  this poor animal had an expression on its face that resembled both urgent discomfort and extreme stupidity.  i’m no camel whisperer but i know a cry for help when i see one.  i seriously considered cutting him loose and if i had something sharp with me i just might have.  i then wandered a little further and had a close encounter with 3 angry mangy dogs only to be saved by a wild group of children.  they swooped in and threw rocks at them until they yelped and limped away.  that’s enough sightseeing for one day.

these past few days of decompression has done me some good.  i could easily stay a few more, and would if it weren’t for that all too familiar itchy feeling returning to my feet telling me it’s time to move.  i close my eyes, take a very deep breath and pack my bag for the 20th time, then make way to the train station and board a train bound for Bangalore to see an old friend.

——————————————————————————————————————–

P1020630please enjoy this one ditty spawned from the Mysore bathroom recording sessions:

In India

4 Comments

introducing my new album “Now, Gentlemen”

it’s been 8 long years in the making.  stream it or download it for free on my bandcamp page

No Comments