Life’s Strange And Beautiful Road

In 1999, I lived in Dallas for a year. My roommate Esteban and I went to see the Arcangels at a club in Fort Worth. The opening band was a band called Cadillac Voodoo Choir and we were both blown away by them. We were also both particularly blown away by the keyboard player, a guy named Danny Smith. He was a great musician, singer and just had a great stage presence. I got their CD. Later on, just for fun, I learned all the guitar parts on their CD, and thought, “Hey if they ever need a guitarist, I know it all now!.
Fast forward several years (I can’t remember the exact time). I have no recollection of exactly how this meeting came to be, but I was living back in College Station again (my home town), and I drove to Austin to meet the drummer of Cadillac Voodoo Choir (which I think may have been defunct at this point) to talk about a new project he was getting together. We met at Star Seeds, had a conversation and I gave him a demo CD with some of my originals. Nothing ever came of it.
Then tonight, I had a gig with Scottish Thunder. Through a series of random coincidences and chains of events, Danny Smith ended up sitting in with us tonight on keys, guitar and vocals. Super talented, and more than that just a phenomenally nice guy. The more we talked the more we seemed to have in common and I felt that “kindred spirit” vibe. The “brother from another mother” thing.
And as coincidence icing on the coincidence cake, I happened to mentioned one of my all time favorite artists and influences, Butch Walker, and while most people have no idea who he is, it turned out that Danny is friends with him. Now in my world this is kind of like if someone was like “Paul McCartney? Oh yeah, we’re buds!”
Anyway it was a phenomenally fun gig with 4 other super talented friends and I felt like we were pretty solid, put on a good show and at the very least had a blast doing it with good people. Life is strange and beautiful.

“Pride And Joy” Bass Tablature

I love that you can find many original isolated tracks on youtube which are great for really hearing details when learning songs. I found the isolated bass track to “Pride and Joy” by SRV so I could really work on the nuances. If anyone else would like to benefit from my painstaking work, here’s a PDF of the tablature. This should be almost note perfect. The only exceptions are that there are times when he is sort of muting the upbeats and such, as opposed to playing a really audible open string on the upbeat (which is a lot of the song) but all the important and audible notes should be there.

Dream Theatre 52

In this dream I was snuggled up on a couch with Jane Wiedlin, guitarist for The Go-Gos. We were both lying down on the couch (a tight fit for two people, but possible). I was reading and she was watching something on TV, I think. Something on the TV kind of bummed her out and she turned to me a little distraught with the state of the world, so I put the book down, put both arms around her and hugged her tight. In that moment, the world was a little better.

Dream Theatre 51

A trio of strange dreams last night. The first two seem to share a theme of fear of lending stuff to people. At least on the surface.

In part 1, I was working (not sure in what capacity) in a big space in a strip mall. My friend Kyle (who I once worked with at a video game company) had borrowed my car, which in the dream was the red Mazda 323 that was my mom’s car and the first car I learned to drive and shared with her in the subsequent years. He had supposedly returned from his errand and parked it back at the strip mall (where he worked with me, I believe). It was a late night of work and as I was leaving to go home around 7pm or so, I saw some people walking outin a group. There was something strange about their look and demeanor, and I think I overheard something indicating that there was about to a news story about them, and how they had been caught up in some scandal.

I walked out to parking lot to go home, but I couldn’t find my car. I looked all around the parking lot but it was nowhere. I looked several more times, thinking surely I had just missed it, but it was not there. I called Kyle to confirm that he had returned it and to ask if he had maybe parked it somewhere else. I was starting to freak out a little as I was sure it had been stolen.

Now the next part, in true dream non-logic style, I’m not sure if it actually “happened” in the dream or if it was just one of the branches my mind was contemplating as a possible explanation, but when I got Kyle on the phone, he was very apologetic and realized that he had just absent-mindedly drove it home when he left.

In part 2 of this dream trio, I was in a particular neighborhood of my home town near where my friend Esteban used to live. A woman (in the dream, I knew her, but I don’t remember her having a specific real world identity), asked if she could borrow my phone, so I handed it to her thinking that she just needed to look something up or make a quick call. She pulled up the navigation software and started walking away, and kept walking. Far too late, I realized that she was going to use my phone to navigate all the way to her destination, and I had no idea where that was or when I would get my phone back. At some point, I either got a hold of her or saw her again (I can’t remember which) and she said my phone was still at the destination and that I could come get it if I wanted to, which was highly inconvenient for me.

And in the last dream, I was being put up in a (purely fictional) apartment as part of a movie shoot. This apartment was right next to the (also purely fictional) apartment that my ex had lived in. The shoot had ended and I was now leaving the apartment when my phone rang and it was, coincidentally, my ex calling me for the first time in years. I remember the tone of the conversation being happy, sweet, close and immediately there was an intimate connection again. I told her how crazy it was that she happened to be calling at this moment as I was leaving the place I’d been staying which was right next to her old place. It was really nice.

Then I woke up.

Choo! Choo! All Aboard The Train Of Thought!

I’m simultaneously ambitious and lazy. Ambazy? Lazitious? Choo! Choo! All aboard the Train Of Thought. You don’t even need a ticket.

As I was taking a walk tonight (one of my very favorite activities), I found myself a bit irritated at how the night had misled me. I had stepped out and thought “Oh, it actually doesn’t seem too hot out right now! Let’s take advantage of that!” A little over a mile later, feeling sweaty and muggy it was obvious that I had been deceived. However, I had also been considering whether to take up French again. I had 3 years of French back in high school and I always find myself surprised at how much of it has stuck over the passing eons. I tested myself, seeing if I could translate my random thoughts and phrases into French and usually I could at least rudimentally get there. Or “Un peu” as they say.

Maybe I should pick it back up via Duolingo or something similar! And that’s when the plunge down the rabbit hole began. Look out the window of the car and enjoy the ride on my Train Of Thought:

“Ah, but Spanish would be much more practical and actually useful quite often. But I also wanted to learn Japanese to honor the Japanese line in my family. But that’s way harder. A whole different alphabet. Oh yeah, I also want to learn violin, and now I have one. But I already don’t do any of the things I “should” or “could” do and just waste away a LOT of free time. I mean I have many script ideas, short films I need to get going, songs and other random ideas. I should already spend more time on the skills I’ve been honing for 35+ years. Maintain and improve. Acting, guitar playing. Drumming, bass playing. I could be a way better keyboard player than I am. I pretty much never touch mandolin, ukulele, or harmonica unless specifically needed for something I’m doing. I really need to get more exercise and workouts into my life as well. And good god do I need to find a way to get my diet under control and stop being such a completely unattractive tub o’ lard. Oh yeah, and just generally figure out my life and where I want to go and what I want to do. Do I really want to pursue being an actor at the Disney Star Wars park and just give everything else up to have a cool, steady job doing something at least related to what I love doing and not have to deal with “The Hustle” of freelancing and pursuing my dreams? I mean is that even an option? That seems like it’s likely a difficult path as well. Wait, how did I get here? Oh yeah, maybe I should pick French back up. Man, I need a nap now.”

Army Of The Dead

Army Of The Dead” IS HERE!
Do you like huge, epic, cinematic, theatrical songs about necromancers, undead armies, and lost love? Then boy howdy, is this the song for you.

Andrew Hunter, who wrote the song, has been one of my best friends since 4th grade. We used to spend the night on weekends, play D&D, eat lots of junk food, play video games, and make up silly songs. Back then we called ourselves “AH-HA” (our initials). We were pissed when A-Ha stole our thunder and got famous with “Take On Me.” He is a talented artist and author as well (you can find his books on Amazon, and his audiobooks are narrated by yours truly).

I thought it might be fun for anyone interested to hear the original file he sent me as a guide to see how it started and then how it ended (my song). I kept all his synth parts in the final song. Eventually, the song will be on youtube accompanied by his original artwork accompanying it. We are both thrilled with how it came out and I love that we are still collaborating after almost 40 years.

You can also find it on all the streaming stores and services soon.

The Dilemmas Of The Creative Process

My brain wheels have been CRANKING ever since I wrote a new 10 page short last night and had a long analysis and discussion about it with one of my dearest friends, Brian Villalobos.

This was an idea that I’d had many, many years ago and never actually wrote. Recently when I switched to FadeIn as my new writing software, I was importing old scripts and saw this title among them (even though I never actually wrote anything). I was like “Oh yeah! That idea!” I then heard a podcast which actually related to certain elements of this idea, and with my shiny new software (Ooh! New toy!), I was off and running.

I knew there would be three related scenes, all set at the exact same location over three different periods of time. I knew roughly what the “story” of each scene was. I actually wrote them in reverse order because the last scene was practically complete in my head, the second scene I had a pretty good idea about and the first scene I only had a very loose concept of the basic theme. Scenes 3 and 2 flowed out of me like water from a firehose. I tried not to think too much and just let it get out of my head and into existence so I’d have something there that I could always go back and tweak. Then I had to figure out the first scene. I took a long walk. I had a few basic ideas and possibilities, but then on this walk, one of them locked in and it started writing itself. I got home and started pouring it out, and simultaneously messaging with Brian. I finished it and immediately sent it over, as one of the parts was written for him and I trust and respect his intelligence, instinct and feedback immensely. I told him to pull no punches, I’m not delicate, and I’m good at filtering what is useful to me and what is just “not in line with my vision” or such. I’m open to critique.

He gave me lots of great feedback, all of which I agreed with and as often happens, confirmed some of my own instincts as to what could be viewed as weaknesses. It was revealing. It got me thinking. Mentally exploring other paths and possibilities. It was late so I went to sleep on it. Today my brain still ruminated on it all. What does it want to be? What do I want it to be? What is my intention here? I still have not answered that question but it’s all terribly interesting to me.

The biggest (subjective) weaknesses (my word, not his, and I totally agree with this) is that there isn’t enough conflict and not really any stakes. It’s light, quippy, and (as most of my writing is) extremely dialogue heavy. Walls of bantering dialogue. Here was my biggest revelation of the day though: I’m not sure it wants to be anything different. Again, I completely agree with the feedback and even things that I just personally see as deficiencies that didn’t even come from him, but every time I thought of good ways to introduce more conflict or higher stakes, I wasn’t sure I liked it. I realized that what I had written was just three moments in time about love in different forms between three characters. By all conventional wisdom and “rules,” this likely is not a good screenplay. And yet, it might just be what it wants to be and what I wanted it to be. There’s so much conflict and darkness going on all around that maybe I just want three scenes about three good people and the love they share between them all. Or maybe not. Maybe there’s so much deeper it could go.

So it’s a strange dilemma. I’m trying to just get some distance and come back to it a little fresher later. I don’t want to “force” any changes on it but at the same time is there any chance of it turning out well under these circumstances? Could the story, acting, cinematography, atmosphere, etc. still engage people and make them feel? Or will it just be a boring 10 minute character study that doesn’t really go anywhere or do anything and keeps people from really connecting with the characters? I really don’t know. I have no idea where this journey will go but I find it utterly fascinating, and I always say that the journey is more important than the destination.

Do The Thing

For any given thing you may want to do, your brain will likely come up with a million reasons not to do that thing.

For example, I’ve had just over 30 original and cover songs recorded for quite some time now, starting as far back as 2000. Over the years my skills as a musician, engineer and producer have grown, as have the tools available to me. Consequently, over the years I have occasionally, tweaked, remixed or otherwise “improved” some of my previous recordings. This, obviously can get dangerous and you may end up like George Lucas, constantly “improving” and tweaking your old work. The thing is, as Admiral Ackbar would say, “IT’S A TRAP!” Perfection will remain ever elusive, just ducking around that next corner. It’s so easy to fall into a purgatory of never being “finished.” There is a saying (attributed to various people throughout history) that art is never finished, only abandoned.

In all these years, I had never taken the steps to get my music on the most popular streaming services and stores such as Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, etc., for various reasons. Some of those reasons related to what I’ve said above were that I needed to really, finally, finalize the mix and make sure I had exported them in the highest quality possible, as in my earlier years before I knew what I was doing as well, I had not done either of those things as best they could be done. So my music was only available on my Reverb Nation page where I could easily replace the file with a new one if I made changes and wanted to do so.

This week, I finally made the jump and using Distrokid, I uploaded all my originals and covers. Theoretically I could still make changes if I wanted to, it would just involve pulling my old song from all stores and then re-releasing a new one. Now there was a new angle: I had to add “album art” to each release and also decide if I was releasing a batch as an “album” or just singles. I’ve never recorded an “album” per se, every song was just recorded as it came to me. I joking have all my songs tagged as being part of the album “Best Of” because that amused me to have my debut (and only) album be “Best Of.” That’s right! No filler here! Every song I put out is my best! It’s also an ever growing album since every new original gets tagged that way as well. All my covers are part of my also, ever ongoing “Duck And Cover” album. So I decided I’d release every song as a single and just have the “album art” be either my “Best Of” or “Duck And Cover” art as appropriate. However, apparently stores don’t allow multiple singles to use the same art, so I quickly mocked up art for each “single” which was just the album art with the title of each single on it. In addition, I started worrying about all the old worries again “Is the mix good enough? Is the mp3 maximum quality?”

Sometimes it’s hard to know when searching for perfection is holding you back or whether you are allowing yourself to be lazy or mediocre and justifying it by saying that striving for perfection is a game you can’t win. In the end, I think it’s better for my imperfect music to be out in the world as widely as possible, than forever in purgatory waiting for me to “finish” it.

Intellectual Elitism

Books are not superior to film, TV, or video games. And on the other end, video games are not mindless wastes of time for immature people with Peter Pan syndrome.

Aw crap, Heath has something stuck in his mental craw and has to spout off about it.

This should not be a controversial or inflammatory statement, but likely it will be for some. Anyone who knows me even a little knows that intellectual elitism and snobbery is a huge hot button for me. People who think their opinions are facts, or are somehow more valid. “You like that thing? You have no taste then. That thing sucks.” It’s something I encounter quite often in various ways with regards to books and their superiority, and conversely about video games being the other end of the spectrum. A meme I’ve seen posted many times including a list of what “Successful” people do versus “Unsuccessful People.” “Successful People read books. Unsuccessful people watch TV.”

I saw a question online that asked “Could you date someone who plays video games for 2 hours a day?” To which a LOT of people answered “No.” And one of the key things that bothers me about these kinds of snobbery is that they tend to be one direction. I’ve definitely heard many folk laud the superiority of books, while I’ve never heard anyone who prefers film/TV/video games say “You READ for 2 hours a day? Pathetic. What a waste of time. I could never date someone who reads so much.”

I personally believe that they are all different but equal and equally valid. Books leave more to the imagination and allow you to revel in prose and (hopefully) well-crafted sentences. TV and film can have great writing, breathtaking cinematography, and incredible acting. Video games can have immersive original stories, exercise your problem solving skills and hand-eye coordination. They can all be some wonderful escapism and entertainment. They can all have soul moving gravitas. They all educate. They all have masterpieces as well as pieces of crap. In this day and age especially, TV and video games have really outgrown their stigmatic roots and come into their own with regards to creativity and originality to match the greatest books and movies.

But in the end, it’s a preference. An opinion. None are “superior” or “inferior” to the others. I like to get my share of all of them, personally. A (not quite) balanced diet. So, maybe try not to be so judgmental. You might be cutting yourself off from some seriously amazing people, and cutting those people off from the amazing person that is you. Let go of the tribalism. There’s enough room for us all to like what we like and still find plenty of common ground.

The Tale Of A Heart

Once I had a heart.
A wonderful heart full of magic, whimsy, love, and dreams.
An exceptional heart. An amazing heart. A wise and romantic heart.

She had had a heart that harmonized and synchronized with mine.
A perfect balance of similarity and complementary.
We opened ourselves and shared our hearts, unequivocally and in totality.

She cared for my heart like no one ever had.
Made it do backflips in the vibrant sun.
Discovered new rooms, dimensions and qualities that no words can describe.

Until the day it ended.
Suddenly and unexpectedly.
With no room for conversation or compromise.

A painful hole where my heart once was.
Ragged, black, scarred edges.
A place where nothing can grow.

This is the reality of my heartless existence now.

If I let it be.
If I choose that perspective.
If I let that be my identity.

And I do have a choice.
We have far more choice than we think or feel.
But we do.

So I let that voice have its say.
And I let my heart hide away.
But I feel its beat.

I am a Love Warrior.
Scarred and scared, but alive and strong.
My heart forever the beat of my song.