The always amazing Brian Villalobos started the #sitcomonologuechallenge by posting 4 great videos of dramatic readings of sitcom theme songs. Here is my contribution. Channeling my best Quint from Jaws to tell a tale of woe from the seas.
Cerebral Flotsam And Jetsam - My Mental Maelstrom
“Fear is the mind killer.”– Frank Herbert, Dune
“On second thought , let’s not go to Camelot. ‘Tis a silly place.”– King Arthur, Monty Python And The Holy Grail
A friend gave my name to someone who was looking for a musician to play acoustic and sing in the courtyard of the condo complex she managed. She contacted me about it, and I told her that I’d love to do it, but it might have to be a little later as allergies have been wrecking my voice.
Now this is absolutely true. But it was also a convenient excuse. An excuse because the truth is that somewhere in me I was scared of doing this gig. Now, if you know me at all, then you are probably thinking the same thing that I was thinking at myself: “That’s ridiculous. This is not only one of your careers, but also one of the things you feel is your reason for existing. One of the things that makes you feel completely in your element, fulfilled and like your truest, brightest self. Why would you possibly be scared?”
Because fear is stupid but almost ever-present. It is the root of almost all negativity in one form or another. Yes I am a professional musician and I love it, but my usual element is playing with bands or recording. I haven’t done much solo playing in a long, long time. I love working with others and being a part of a team. When it’s just me I feel so much more exposed and vulnerable. I feared because I hadn’t been honing my solo act, that I wouldn’t have enough good material to play 90 minutes. That my real voice problems would make me perform at unacceptable (to me) levels. That people in this complex would not want music foisted upon them. That they would not like my song selection. one would be too obscure and no one would know it. The next would be too cliche and played out. There were infinite reasons to not do this gig. All of them, ridiculous for the most part.
Just picking songs that I do with bands and could do solo would be far more than enough material. Yes my voice isn’t 100% but it’s probably not noticeable to anyone other than me. Every song will be loved by some and hated by others, it’s the nature of art which is totally subjective. In this time of being quarantined at home, most people would probably love a little music in their lives. Were my fears completely unfounded? No, they were within the realm of possibility mostly, but pretty far fetched and unlikely.
I had referred her a couple of friends’ names as possibilities as well (she had someone who was supposed to play tomorrow flake out on her at the last minute). In the end, I messaged her and said that if she needed me tomorrow, I could do it. It still scares me. I still find that ludicrous as well. But most importantly, I don’t want to live and make decisions based on fear. Especially when it keeps me from doing something I’ve meant to do and wanted to do for as long as I can remember, which is actually get my solo act going.
And this is how we arrive at my Dune/Monty Python quote mashup: “Fear is the mind killer. Tis a silly place.”
So here’s something extremely silly I did. I used to work with the Paramount Story Wranglers which is an AWESOME group that goes to elementary schools and teaches kids about writing stories, then takes the CRAZY stories they writes and turns them into skits and songs for a show that the Story Wranglers perform at their school.
For one of the shows, I took one group’s story about Salvador Dali and turned it into a song. Tonight while looking for something else, I found the demo I had made of the song so we could learn it for the show, and decided that it needed the full production treatment to be a finished song. I wish I knew the elementary kids to credit for writing this story.
I am Salvador Dali, that is my name
I practice and I practice for my art
I want to be a painter of extraordinary fame
But my art room is a mess and I guess that makes it hard
It makes me oh so mad, that I can’t paint
I feel I’m not the person for this craft
Maybe mom and dad can help with my complaint
And help with brainstorming ideas and maybe painting a first draft
So we drove to a museum filled with other people’s art
Just so I could see ’em, get ideas of where to start
That’s when I saw a flyer and I found myself obsessed
It said “Want to become famous? Join the Art Museum Contest!”
I went back to my art room and I painted and I painted
I sent it to the contest, it was done
And when I told my parents the good news, they nearly fainted
My painting didn’t win 1st place, but 2nd place I won!
I told myself no matter how my painting looks
There’s one thing more important than the rest
Regardless if my name ends up in history books
At least I’ll know that I tried my best!
I previously wrote about how sometimes I want to express something and yet simultaneously don’t necessarily want a lot of attention on it and so this rarely (if ever) visited website is a perfect medium in some ways.
Sometimes, a little snippet of poetry (though for some reason, I hesitate to call it that) comes to my mind. It always feels a bit strange writing poetry or lyrics about modern things like texts or social media. I’m not sure why. I guess, art feels so ancient and powerful and it feels strange or somehow shallow or dumb to write about that stuff, though I know that’s ridiculous. We live in a modern age and art can express anything we want it to, so why should modern subject be any less valid or meaningful?
Anyway, if this is about you, I apologize. I checked my analytics and I’m fairly positive the subject that inspired this mental snippet on my walk tonight never comes to this site, so I don’t think there’s any risk of guilt or poking sore places.
Do you ever secretly hope it’s me?
Do you feel a phantom vibration and reach for it, somewhere deep in the electricity of your brain, the blood in your veins, the air in your lungs, hoping to see my name?
A faint, strongly denied and resisted flicker of desire to see the combination of letters representing my being on one of your digital avenues?
Or have you really so thoroughly deleted me from your neurons that not a single synapse fires on my behalf any longer?
Still, even now, still
Forever a part of me
Time is meaningless
Things I’ve done since lockdown that you should definitely (I mean, if you wanna) check out. #shamelessselfpromotionedition
- Recorded and released a new song. Here’s all the details including the story of its making. I also thought of a few last-minute production things that made me cackle with glee even though most likely no one will detect them but me so it was just updated today with the final version. I say final because if it isn’t I’ll have to rename the song “Someday, I’ll Stop Tweaking This song, But Not tonight.”
- Redesigned my website. You’re looking at it now.
- Re-wrote the problematic lyrics to the Rolling Stones song “Brown Sugar” into something tasty and useful.
- Wrote a special Quarantine Love Song.
- Covered an apropos Jellyfish song.
- Recorded a dramatic monologue for the #OneMinuteMonologueChallenge on Instagram.
- Live streamed a dramatic reading of Masque Of The Red Death and then a very not-dramatic reading of it.
- Re-mixed the Friends Theme to have way more claps because of an off-hand silly comment on a friend’s post
Recorded VO as a foul-mouthed pirate cat for a web series, began recording audiobook narration for 4th book in a series by Andrew Hunter (I also narrated the previous 3). Played a lot of video games. Slept a lot. Took lots of walks. Got my diet in much better shape. Have stuck to a regular push-up regimen. Edited a series of videos for a friend and re-formatted his book. And probably a lot of other stuff I’m forgetting.
I”m not bragging or trying to detract from the seriousness going on in the world, but for me keeping track of the good and the light is the best, most productive and positive thing I can do. Everyone’ handles things in their own way, and however you are handling it, it’s right and okay. Maybe some of the stuff I’ve done can entertain, make you smile, or have some positive impact. That’s all I can really hope for is to try and put my little orbs of light out into the world. #quarantinethrive
This is what I love about TikTok. It feels like an open playground. A creative sandbox where you can just play with any old idea that pops into your head no matter how inane, random, stupid, or absurd. It’s so freeing and has made me realize how often we stomp down or throttle our own creativity because we deem it “not good enough” for a million different reasons or just cerebral flotsam and jetsam. I feel it’s good for the mental muscles to just let it run free like we did as children. This video was literally just a spur of the moment random neurons firing. I talked myself out actually capturing it 3, 4, maybe 5 times because it was stupid, nonsense, meaningless, of no value.
Then I just did it. And I kind of liked it. It made me smile. A lot of humor I like has those same flavors. Much of Monty Python could possibly be described similarly (not that I’m at all comparing myself or this to their genius). It felt good to let go of that fear of judgment and just let my brain spit out the piece of absurdity it wanted to play with. Because this is me. And I have a thousand moments like this or more every day.
When I joined TikTok to check it out, I really thought I’d hate it. That it was an app that teens used. I thought I’d check it out and pretty much immediately determine it was not for me and delete it (which is exactly what happened with Snapchat) but to my surprise I fell in love. There are all kinds of people making all kinds of videos and I find myself endlessly sucked in and scrolling and getting crushes on all kinds of awesome people I wish were my friends. But most of all it feels like a wonderful outlet for literally anything my mind wants to express. It doesn’t have to be genius, or fully formed, or polished. Or even good. It just feels so good to stretch those creative muscles and the worst case scenarios is that you get a few views, maybe a crappy comment and then the moment is over. But it still felt good to let it out into the universe.
You ever spend way too much time and effort on a throwaway joke? Like when a post by a friend makes you jokingly say that you want to create a version of the Friends theme that has claps through the whole song? So you get the Friends theme and painstakingly find some group claps in your drum software, and then tune them and tweak the Abbey Road Chambers reverb plugin trying to perfectly match the sound and tone of the original claps? And they’re still not perfect but you realize how much effort you’ve put into this and all the much better things you could have put that effort into so you call it “good enough” and move on with your life?
No? Just me?
From a spark in my brain to finished song: 13 hours.
Long version: I had some dreams last night. I woke up at one point this morning and the idea and chorus for this song were in my head. I was still tired and wanted to go back to sleep, but I couldn’t. And this song kept nagging at me to give it life. So I got up and fired up my studio. I knew this was going to be different from anything else I’d ever done. I knew it was going to be all synthesizers when I’m mostly an organic guitar-driven guy. I knew the exact vibe and atmosphere I wanted. I also knew I was going to write it in a way that I’d never written before: as I went along. Just tinkering with sounds and parts.
So, where to start when you have many different synths, each with hundreds if not thousands of sounds? I did a search for every sound that had “Dream” in the title. Then I started going through them all and finding ones that I thought might work for what I was going for. I ended up with about 20+ tracks of synths ready to be used. I started piecing it all together part by part. After about 10 or 11 hours, the music was done and I had a verse and a chorus of lyrics. I took a walk at around midnight and finished another two verses. I got back home and finished the last of the lyrics, thinking I would record vocals tomorrow.
Then I realized that I was going for a very soft vocal style on this song, so despite sleeping roommate’s and roommate’s child, I decided it couldn’t wait. I recorded all the vocals, did a few overdubs and edits, and here we are. Approximately 13 hours from when the muse kissed me, her gift is done. A song completely unlike anything I’ve ever written or recorded before. Everything but the vocals was done with Reason 11 in Reaper.
Some of the identifiable (to me) influential ingredients in this musical casserole:
- Billie Eilish
- David Bowie
- St. Vincent
- Pink Floyd
- Annie Lennox
A list of (most of) the synth sounds used (all the “dream”-based sounds):
- Analog Dreams
- Dream Sands
- Ethereal Dreams
- Galadriel’s Dream
- Alan Turing’s Dream
- Wavetable Dreams
- Porpoise Dreams
- Spock’s Dream
- Start Your Dream
- Acoustic Dream
- Toy Dream
- Dream Central
- Soft And Dreamy