Friday, April 15, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Practice Room

Last year, I spent most of the summer buying guitars. While I overbought (I just got rid of two of them) part of the drive was that I finally had a dedicated room in my house to play and display them.

In the nine months that followed, I auditioned for five bands, joined one, gigged with them, came back to NY and played a show, came home, quit the band, auditioned for three more and started my own. Since I had the room we meet once a week in my basement for practice.

So the room had to change. It was no longer a man-cave/guitar museum. Now it was a workout room designed for five musicians rather than one. Things had to move.

First I bought a P.A. A cheap 150 watt one didn't cut it so I sold it and two Indiana Jones statues for this Peavey 1200 watt mixer. It should work when we play at venues that demand we provide all the sound. But more importantly it allows me to hear myself and doesn't shock my teeth.

The first few practices I was stepping over guys to switch guitars and tweak amps. That was stupid. All my stuff had to get together. It took awhile to move the washer and dryer to another room in the basement but now I have both my amps and main guitars at my fingertips. That's a VOX AC30 for cleans, Marshall JCM 900 half stack for heavy. The Strat and SG follow the same pattern.

Here's the floor of that same area. The pedalboard hasn't changed much since the last pic other than the upgrade of the Dyna Comp to an MXR Custom Comp that breathes more for the Rickenbacker 12 string. I also added a Rust Booster for solos because with a 3 guitar lineup, I need every advantage I can get. The Marshall channel switch is there in case I want to run the Big Muff through the stack and the a/b switch gives me both amps (sometimes I'll run them both for a solo). Since I'm once again a lead singer (oh joy) the music stand holds my iPad to look up lyrics (the PC behind me wasn't helping) and the cheapie Kustom monitor means I can stop screaming into the mike. The $20 Home Depot carpet keeps me from tripping over all those cables.

I moved my rig near the computer so I could call up iTunes to solve a debate on a cover. The computer speakers are 150 watts. Serious. The digital 8 track is already on its way to making our demo and the chair slides in so I don't trip over it during practice. Hanging on either side are the guitars I use less frequently. I grab the Rickenbacker 12 string whenever the song calls for one. The Les Paul has always been my number one but with the other guys playing modern humbuckery Shecters and the like the more trebly Strat and SG sit in the mix better. It's mostly hanging here because it looks so pretty. All my other guitars are cased in the corner.

Our drummer Jesse was dragging his kit back and forth from Aurora which either cost us 45 minutes when he moved it or a week's home practice when he didn't. I found this TAMA Rhythm Mate on craigslist for $600. Some kid played it in high school and didn't in college. It was in excellent shape with a nice double kick pedal. Now that I own a kit, I really should learn how to play one. Chris left his bass rig here and after helping him move it I don't blame him. That's a Yahama tube head pushing two Acoustic 15"s. It just POUNDS. The other guitarists are bringing their amps back and forth though I keep telling them they shouldn't.

The old couch is still here though it doesn't get much use. We tend to just keep jamming until we drop. The Kirk chair lost it's place of honor on its own wall for space. Its plywood construction tells me it may not be long for this world.

This is another one of those posts where I start the last paragraph "it's taken me 20 years..." but I finally have a real practice room. When I started playing in the late 80's I had a room as big as this one in my parent's basement. My grandfather had built an apartment there and I eventually moved down in college, turning the living room into a studio. Thing is I had no money for equipment then and no one wanted to cross the bridge into Rockaway every week. We ended up using it more for improv than jamming.

Once I moved I had a recording booth in a walk in closet but no one else could fit in there. And when I moved in with Renee, that studio had to share space with the office. My dream was to buy a house and turn the basement into a practice/ screening room. The ceiling was too low for a projector but the rest worked out just fine. Now if I can only find a name for this band...

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Cartooning Financially

"Only in the world of cartooning could freelance writing be considered a cash grab."
-Ted Rall

The Village Voice has a stark look at the living situation of most cartoonists. I know I'd still be doing comics if I could have made any type of living from them.

Check it out.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Green Lantern Footage

Two of my favorite super heroes growing up have a lot in common. Both Green Lantern and Iron Man were 'B' list characters that seemed like they should have been 'A' list. They each had a rich mythology, cool costumes and a sci-fi bent that no other book could capture.

Yet the comic was never very good. As strong as the work Denny O'Neil did on both characters, they never quite reached the heights of a Batman or Spider-Man. And in lesser hands, both books could be very, very bad.

But in 2005, things changed. Almost simultaneously, Warren Ellis wrote "Iron Man: Extremis" as Geoff Johns penned "Green Lantern: Rebirth". And crystallized their mythologies into something clear, strong and identifiable. Johns has stayed on Green Lantern since, adding more and more layers to the character where he now stands toe to toe with Superman and Batman. And Matt Fraction's work on Iron Man a few years later has held the torch for the armored hero.

Then in 2008, "Iron Man" changed everything for comic book movies. Not only did it transform Tony Stark into one of the most recognizable Marvel heroes but it opened the door for lesser known heroes. If the movie was good enough people would go to a Thor" or a "Captain America".

Or a "Green Lantern". For the first time in DC history, Warner Brothers is about to launch a super hero movie that is NOT based on "Batman" or "Superman" (even "Steel" and "Catwoman" were basically spin-offs). The first trailer was wincing, trying way too hard to be "Iron Man" quirky. I anticipated a "Fantastic Four" sized disappointment. Fortunately Wondercon this past weekend showed another four minutes, giving the film more of a JJ Abrams "Star Trek" feel. And I'm looking forward to it. It may not be as good as "Iron Man". It may not be as good as "Thor". But at least I feel it won't be horrible.

Wondercon footage:

And for the sake of argument, that first trailer which caused all the problems:

Monday, April 04, 2011

PG-13: A Bad Idea?

Here's an excellent article describing how the PG-13 rating actually led to the ruination of PG movies.

Check It Out.