Category: Flotsam and Jetsam


Pedantic Music Nerdery

I was just discussing with my Yacht Z band mates how I have a strange and irrational hatred of doing songs in keys other than the originals. I know this will likely get me some flack as so many bands do it, usually to make it easier for vocalists. Now to be clear, this is not meant as any kind of attack on anyone as this is just my personal preference and it is a subjective opinion that is not “right” or “wrong.”

Firstly, if I can’t sing a song in the original key, then I just won’t do it. I subscribe to the school of thought of only doing songs I can do. I find it interesting that altering keys for vocals is a standard practice but yet it would not likely be cool if someone was like “Eruption is too hard to play. Can we do it 20 BPM slower? That will make life easier for the guitarist.”

Secondly, often altering the key makes life hell for other instrumentalists, especially guitarists where chord voicings are often very key dependent. Especially if they use open strings or such. Sure you can use a capo if you’re going up but if you take a song down (usually the way it goes) a lot of guitar parts become impossible to play without completely retuning (a MAJOR issue if you have a floating vibrato system) or using some artificial digital detuning which never sounds or responds quite right.

Thirdly, and this is probably the most subjective of the bunch, different keys just literally have a whole different sound, feel and vibe. I’m always amazed at how altering even a single half step can make something suddenly just feel completely different and off.

One caveat here is when a band plays in a different tuning. For example Guns N’ Roses, Stevie Ray Vaughan and other liked to tune a half-step down, so in those instances if you are in standard tuning , you will actually be playing the song a half-step up if you play the correct chords, voicings, lead lines and such. While that will still be affected by my third point, that’s the least important and it’s far more important to be able to play the parts as they were played. For example SRV’s “Pride And Joy” has lots or low E string and open strings in the leads and such, so playing that in Eb in standard tuning is a ridiculous and impossible prospect. In instances where a band detunes, the playability far outweighs the sonic differences of playing it in standard tuning.

I will admit that one recent gig had a song lowered by a half-step which made the piano part WAY EASIER for me, so I just counted my blessings on that one.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk on Pedantic Music Nerdery.


The Minutiae You Miss

Let me begin by saying that in general I’m totally fine being single. I’ve never been someone who needed someone else to feel complete or happy or who felt this desperate NEED to find a relationship. I try to focus on the benefits of whatever my current situation is as both have their perks. Going years between relationships is not unusual for me.

That being said, sometimes I’ll miss the most strange and random things. I’m sitting in a hotel lobby waiting to be seen for a fitting that’s running late, and I just found myself missing that constant connection that’s always there when you have a partner. Someone you maybe text/chat with throughout your day and just that feeling of always being connected even if you’re not actively communicating.

So yes, basically it boiled down to missing someone to text mundane boring fluff to. “Still waiting. Love you. I need to go get an oil change.”


A Moment Of Gratitude In Honor Of My Past Self

As I get ready for some upcoming gigs, rehearsing, organizing sounds and setlists, I had a random moment of extreme gratitude aimed at teenage Heath. I remember as a budding young musician lusting after guitars and equipment that was so far out of my reach that it might as well have been a million dollars. I remember this amazing multi-effects unit, the Roland GP-8 that I wanted so bad. I remember my amazement when Scott Eddy brought over his Roland JX-3P synth and it was like magic to me.

Now I’m a professional musician with 5 amazing high end electric guitars, 2 acoustics one of which is made of carbon fiber, 2 amazing basses, a keyboard that makes that JX-3P seem like a toy, digital models of thousands of synths, effects, guitars, amps, cabs, mics, etc. at my disposal.

I would say I’m living young Heath’s dream, but that’s not accurate as I don’t think he could have dreamed this big or known what would one day be possible and in his arsenal.


Dream Theatre 70

Woke up from exhausting cliché theatre dreams.

In this one I was starring in yet another production of Cyrano (my 3rd, and my 2nd go as the main antagonist, De Guiche). Clare Costello was Roxane. This was pretty much my typical theatre stress dream.I had just come off from a scene as pirate (there aren’t actually pirates in Cyrano, but the Gascony cadets are similar) and had to change to come back on as De Guiche for a scene with Roxane. I couldn’t find my costume pieces so I decided to check the other end of the theater but the only way to get there without the audience seeing me was to go outside, run around the side and then enter this side door that led to a little nook for a Stage Manager or something. When you opened the door, there was a very tall chair right at your level which allowed whoever was sitting there to view the stage through a high window. The floor was a good 10′ or so below. I managed to make my down safely but realized there was nowhere I could go from here without being seen by the audience.

I climbed my way back up avoiding a roach on the bottom of the door frame and ran back, around to the backstage area. Luckily I realized that I had more time than I thought but I had mostly wasted it with my trip around the theater. While frantically searching for anything that might work for a costume, I realized that the next few scenes felt very unfamiliar. It was closing night and I suddenly wondered if we had accidentally skipped these scenes the previous 2 nights. I asked Clare if we had done these scenes the last two nights and she wasn’t sure but also said she wouldn’t mind if we hadn’t or skipped them again because that was less to worry about, then she went on stage for a scene with and older man. I really hoped everything would just come to me once we started the scenes because they were my favorite scenes of the show, and I was also bummed that I most definitely wouldn’t have the right costume but, if I was lucky, something thrown together that would work and didn’t look like a pirate.

I started looking for a shirt that would work thinking that it would be easier and quicker if I didn’t change pants and that these pants could probably work. Someone told me to go check this deeper storage area where some costumers had been putting away stocks of stored unused costumes, but that area was already mostly cleaned out and bore no fruit. Back in the main area some costumers were hanging up some new bulk costumes they had ordered. On stage, Clare’s elderly scene partner was totally forgetting his lines and Clare was trying to help by whispering them to him but since everyone was mic’d up those whispers were loud and obvious. The man eventually laughed and apologized to the audience.

At that point someone decided that since the founders of Theatresports were in attendance, it would be good to maybe take a break and do some comedic improv games. They started calling some of the cast out to play and they called my name. I was standing in a shirt and underwear at the time so I shouted “I’m putting pants on” which got a laugh from the audience. I found a pair of pants I thought would work and I set them down so I could change take my shirt off as well to change. When I then reached for the pants again, I couldn’t find them. I was baffled, I literally had just set them down. There were boxes of new pants arranged by sizes that the costumers were hanging up though so maybe they had just grabbed mine to hang up thinking they were just laying around. Regardless, I couldn’t find them. I saw another few piles of pants of the right size but they were tux pants and not nearly right for the show.

Someone ducked backstage to once again ask if I would come out and play in the improv game break, and I said I was trying but couldn’t just come out in my underwear and was trying to find clothes to get dressed. They acknowledged me and went back to start some games with those already there.
At this point, I woke up exhausted.


Unendingly Refusing To Lose Faith In Our Bond

You and I are not inexperienced in the strongest of romantic emotions
You are well acquainted with the agreed upon parameters as well as I
Total devotion is the concept dominating my mind
This you will find unattainable with all other potential male suitors

I only have the strongest desire to speak my innermost emotions to you
Must ensure that you fully comprehend

I will unendingly refuse to lose faith in our bond
Steadfastly shall I never fall short of your expectations
There will be an absolute absence of skullduggery and abandonment
You shall never weep due to my actions
I shan’t ever bid thee “Adieu”
No false words shall leave my lips, nor shall I cause you even a moment of pain

-Sir Richard of House Astley


Cleaning Out The Mental “Junk Drawer”

I know you’ll never see this, but sometimes things just need to be put out of my head and into the universe.

I’m sorry for who I was after our breakup. I was a broken, desperate, shell of a sub-human in overwhelming pain who didn’t really want to be alive. I wasn’t myself, or even close to my best self or the person you fell in love with. I wasn’t someone I even remotely liked. I hope that’s not the lingering, persistent memory of who I was, if there is memory of me at all. I may have a lot of regrets, but falling in love with you and sharing a life for a little while are not among them.


Dream Theatre 67

In this dream I was visiting Alie Ward, wonderful human and host of the Ologies podcast (one of my absolute favorites) among her many jobs, as well as her husband, Jarrett Sleeper. I think Jarrett was convalescing from some illness or injury (as is true in real life at the moment) so I hadn’t really seen him much. It was the end of my visit and Alie and I both had some last minute errands to run before I left.

For some reason I assumed she was taking Jarrett’s car (a small blue two-door like a Kia or similar make) and I decided to take Alie’s car, which was a big, old, 70’s clunker, like a Buick or something. After I had left I suddenly realized I hadn’t asked her if I could borrow it and felt really self-conscious about it. Maybe I could get back before her and she’d never know it was gone. Hopefully I wasn’t wrong about her taking Jarrett’s car.

I wanted to go to a shop not far from their home, which should have been a simple trip. I had to go down, take a right, then presumably just take another right to get there but somehow the neighborhood ended up being more complicated than that and I had a hard time finding it. I did eventually make my way there. It was a cool, kitschy two-story shop in a small “Little China” type district. As I browsed, there was this teenage boy who was approaching random customers and asking them weird nonsensical questions in an obvious attempt to be entertaining and humorous. I don’t remember what he asked me but it was meaningless fluff something along the lines of “Yeah, do it. Right?” as he nodded with a knowing smile. “Absolutely, do it,” I agreed, humoring his little game.

I got whatever it was I needed, and jumped back in Alie’s clunker to head back to their place. I remember being surprised that this was her car. I made it back down to the end of the street where I had previously turned right and had not seen the house. I went back the other way and somehow missed it again. One more time back and I still hadn’t seen it, so I parked and decided to walk back for closer investigation. Walking up and down that street, I finally saw it and remembered that it was a very small, subtle wooden door in the wall of a busy thoroughfare in that Little China district that was not very obviously a residence and was also set about 6 inches off the ground, and there was a giant gold Chinese symbol of some kind on the wall. Now I needed to go retrieve the car to bring it back.

I tried to walk back to the car but suddenly now the street wasn’t really a street any more and my path back was obstructed in many ways by tables, objects, a small stylized red Chinese pedestrian gate with, etc. I was baffled as I knew I had just driven this way moments before. Then I woke up and tried to shake this frustrating and slightly anxious experience out of my head. Totally worth it to visit Alie and Jarrett though.


Dream Theatre 66

Last night I dreamed that I was sleeping on my friend Chris Thompson’s couch. The couch was directly across from the TV, and as per real life, I was sleeping in super late. Chris had been up for a while and was sitting in a chair off to the side and playing a video game on the TV. As I eventually started to get up after noon, I sensed he was a bit irritated by my sleeping in. He asked what I’d been doing and I tried to play it off, “Some reading, some trigonometry,” as if I hadn’t just been sleeping the whole time. Then I realized that playing video games from the side chair was not a great angle and said “Oh if you wanted to sit on the couch to play, you should have just told me! I would have moved!” and went to make some breakfast in the tiny adjoining kitchen (really all part of the same small apartment room). Then I woke up.