Home recording project part two prologue

I’m taking three weeks off in September to work some more on my solo album. Yesterday I recorded a demo of one of the songs I’ll be doing. Here it is: http://soundcloud.com/darkdirk/america

An unexpected farewell

I almost didn't do it, what with the mad rush of it all and the absolute deadline of a 6:30 am taxi pickup; but I took a moment early this morning, just before driving off with the last of my stuff (except the bikes I realised later I'd left behind in the bike shed), to walk around its clean and empty rooms and say farewell to my old house.

It's funny: there was so much that was annoying and uncomfortable about it – and it was dark and crooked and creaky and slowly sinking into the ground – but I think of all my houses, it's the one I have the most love for.

My kids became adults there.

I grew up there too: I feel like I finally stopped treading water and started swimming around. And probably because of that, it's the house where I had the fewest sad times and the most happy ones. Plus I really became a part of the local community – I felt like I belonged, and was not just passing through.

There were times when I thought I might live there forever. Of course the house wouldn't have lasted that long; but that's how I felt.

As it turns out, I'm leaving for all sorts of happy reasons and embarking on a brand new chapter of my life. It's exciting and it's a step up. Still, it was nice to take a few minutes to reflect on how kind this house has been to me and my family (albeit with a bit of tough-love), what a safe place it's been for us (and for my kids' friends: mine was the house they could come to to sober up before going home, and more than a few teenage romances began in that cosy darkish loungeroom), and how handily close it was to anything you needed to do (unless it required a hardware store) and most of my favourite places.

Also, of course, it saw the birth of Echidna Love Train!

My new house is much nicer – it's much less crooked and cracked, full of light, has spacious living areas and a modern (well, 1980s at least) kitchen, a bathroom you can swing a cat in, a garage and workshop, and an owner who actually gives a shit to keep it nice – and I know we'll be happy there. Like I said, it's a real step up in lots of ways. But my old house is like that first half-decent guitar you had that, while not good enough to really take you far, was the bridge between being crap and being good. And you don't stay on the bridge (or you don't get anywhere) but you sure as hell appreciate it for where it got you.

And it was a pretty damn fine bridge.

So long, old house: it's been good to know you.

(Oh yeah I'll be back for the bikes on the weekend.)


The big questions

Paul Kelly asks a heap of questions in his classic song Careless. When my friend Daniel Scoullar asked one of them philosophically on Facebook, I decided to take him at face value and, with a little Googling, figured out exactly how many tears would fit in a gin bottle. At Daniels’s urging, I returned to the song and worked out the answers to all the other questions too. This is what I found…

First, the song:

Now, the answers:

How many cabs in New York City?
Around 13,400
(According to Wikipedia, in September 2012 there were around 6,000 hybrid vehicles in New York’s taxi fleet constituting almost 45% of the entire fleet.)

How many angels on a pin?
(There are six angels named in the Bible*; the Bible was compiled to guide people in relating to God; Jesus said people’s relationship to God is encapsulated by The Lord’s Prayer; Godfrey Lundberg engraved The Lord’s Prayer on the head of a pin in 1915.)

How many notes in a saxophone?
(Twelve notes to the octave; the two most common saxophones, alto and tenor, each have a range of 3.75 octaves.)

How many tears in a bottle of gin:
(A tear is approximately 0.5 ml and a gin bottle holds 750 ml**)

How many times did you call my name, knock at the door but you couldn’t get in?
(I don’t even know Paul Kelly’s address.)

How many stars in the Milky Way?
400 billion
(There are between 200 billion and 600 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy according to Wikipedia; 400 is the midway point of the range.)

How many ways can you lose a friend?
At least 53
(Paul Simon famously wrote about the 50 ways to leave your lover; Okkervil River mentioned the 51st way to leave your lover (“admittedly it doesn’t seem to be as gentle or as kind as all the others”); for every way to leave your lover, for the other person it’s a way to lose their lover; plus there’s one extra way to lose a lover (if they die) ; any way of losing a lover is also a way of losing a friend; plus there’s at least one extra way to lose a friend (if one of you just moves away and you gradually lose touch).)

* The Bible including the Apocrypha, in accordance with Roman Catholic tradition since Paul Kelly’s expressions of spirituality and religion in his music is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic.
** At the time the song was written. Nowadays bottles of gin (and most other spirits) are more likely to be 700 ml so there are only 1,400 tears in a modern bottle of gin.

Anyway, if you always wondered about those questions, I hope this post has given you some closure. If you’d like me to find the answers to other hypothetical questions, let me know.

My rant to people who make fun of me for being willing to pay to keep reading The Age

Recently I decided to subscribe to The Age website. I still haven’t been able to because there’s some glitch on the website that calls an error every time it tries to connect with PayPal. So I complained and whinged and ranted about it a bit on Facebook and Twitter. And people reply, incredulous that I am stupid enough to pay for what I can supposedly just get free from other sources. Many, leading by example, have said the exact same thing: “the Internet is my news feed.”
I agree. The Internet is my news feed too. I have RSS feeds. I follow journos on Twitter. Many of my facebook friends and the people I follow on Twitter and app.net post news and analysis of interest to me. I read the ABC news website. And I read The Age. It’s a part of my whole mosaic of news. And when I tried leaving it out I quickly discovered that it fills a gap that nothing else does.
For all that’s wrong with mainstream media (and there’s a lot), it still does some things very well, including investigative journalism, good analysis of local and national issues, and informative local news. And that’s a reason also for paying for it, because that stuff costs money (which is probably why I’m not getting so much of it from the free news sources).
So yes, the Internet is my news feed too. And I pull all the different bits in that suit my needs. And if none of us pay for the stuff that’s deeper than “this thing just happened”, then eventually it will disappear and we can tick another box on the long list of things that George Orwell thought he saw growing in the debris from the wars of the first half of the 20th century.

Brussels sprouts

My girlfriend cooked Brussels sprouts; and I liked them


Posterous is dead. Long live Posterous!

Three years ago I took long service leave and spent a few weeks home recording for the solo album I’d been intending to make for a decade. It’s still half finished. In fact I’ve just started working on it again.

The important bit, however, is that I documented the process. It started with getting my tremolo pedal repaired, and finished with me putting the final touches on the seventh song. (That should be “‘final’ touches” because most of the recordings are still waiting for drums, backup vocals, final lead vocals and feature instruments to be added.) Along the way I took several photos of my vintage guitars and random recording gear, learned how to use a pro-level digital multitrack recording program (the very fine and pretty-much free open source package called Ardour), figured out microphone placement for different instruments, and learned a hell of a lot (through trial and error) about musical arranging and audio editing and production. And it was all summed up in seven blog posts on Posterous.

A year ago Posterous was bought by Twitter, and a month or so ago they anounced they were closing down their site. This spurred me into action, so today I imported my Posterous posts – which consisted entirely of the seven-part recording diary – into WordPress and now I have a blog. The blog I always meant to write.

On this blog I will crap on about some stuff and rant about other stuff. Those who are connected with me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter or app.net will know what to expect. I intend to:

  • rant about politics and economics
  • muse about life in general
  • write about music and books that I find significant or inspiring or interesting
  • talk about software and gadgets that I find useful
  • probably share writings or songs that I am creating while in progress
  • probably other stuff too.

I’m thinking I’ll work up to posting regularly but for now it will probably be a bit random.

Anyway, that’s all for now. The Recording Diaries posts will appear sometime soon, once the import is finished. In the meantime, if you’re interested in checking out the not-quite-completed songs from my home recording efforts, they’re on my music website at deanlombard.com.au.


The Recording Diaries part 7: end of stage one

After finishing Like Me and Talk To You, a few days passed when I wasn’t able to record (due to my temporary recording studio being re-occupied by its rightful owner, and everything else associated with reintegrating a 15-year-old back into a household and a family). It was actually good having a bit of time away from it. It gave me a chance to listen over anything (making my last.fm profile look a little narcissistic for a time), and I soon realised that the collection was leaning heavily toward relationship-oriented songs.
I think there’s a reason that most pop songs are about love or heartbreak: of all the things we are faced with, matters of the heart are probably the most difficult to understand; and art is so often a search for understanding. But it’s also a mode of communication, and I have plenty more to say than crap on about highlights from my lovelife.
Accordingly, I picked out a few appropriate songs from my considerable repertoire. (I also decided to write at least two new ones, and also record at least one song written by my friend Brianna Schembri).
Poster Boy
I wrote Poster Boy a few years ago. I had just been filmed for the Channel Ten news, as the “man-in-the-street” offering my opinion and thoughts on the rental housing affordability crisis. I told them about my difficulties in finding an affordable house (at the time I had just moved into a dilapidated but expensive house after a three month search); I explained what I though was causing the problem; and I said what I thought the government should do about it. And there I was, on the 6 o’clock news (or whatever time it airs), sharing my wisdom with I guess millions of viewers. Problem was, I wasn’t really a man-in-the-street at all. I was a housing policy expert, working for a community based advocacy organisation that was trying to build public awareness of the problem in order to force governments’ hands to implement much needed reforms. It was all for the noblest of causes (and it worked ??? the State Government made one of their biggest ever investments in public housing and housing support services later that year), but it was propaganda all the same, and I felt bad about having participated in it. Hence Poster Boy.
poster boy rough.mp3
This was pretty straightforward to record. I had previously recorded it with just guitar, vocal, and harmonica, so I already knew what i was doing with it. All I added was acoustic bass guitar. However, my friend Jill Young has subsequently written a cello part for it and hopefully soon I will add that to the mix. Then I think it will be done.
This is about two years old. It’s really cheating, because while the lyric is an observation of a destructive, one-sided relationship, it’s all based on things that one of my exes said about me. I guess you can???t always be the nice guy. Anyway, I literally ran out of time with this song; I recorded a guide vocal and an acoustic guitar part, but just as I was about to record the bass line my darling daughter T came home from school and needed her room back. I hurriedly did a few takes but that is no way to get a good track., so I packed up and am now waiting for some time and space to get back to it. I’ll post it then
The future
For the last two weeks I’ve been back at work. It’s been good to be back among all my brilliant and wonderful colleagues, but even though I’m only working four days a week, combining that with running a household, looking after two teenagers and numerous medical appointments and dramas for one of them (my son J has a mystery Glandular-Fever-type illness, which is playing havoc with the demands of Year 12) has left me with little time to do much at all. Though I have been writing, which is good. Still, I expect things will settle down into a bit of a routine (it’s quite an adjustment going back to work after 7 weeks off), and then I should be able to use my day off and part of the weekend to record in very small steps. Onward and upward.