Cerebral Flotsam And Jetsam - My Mental Maelstrom

05
Dec
2023
23:04

Cover Songs

Mysteries of Heath, #127:
I cannot stand doing a cover song and not doing it “right.” Now this is a complex and possibly volatile subject among musicians so let me be clear that I do not think that my personal preference is “right” and other opinions are wrong. The mystery here is really why it bothers me SO MUCH. Like it actually sucks a lot of the enjoyment out of a song for me. It’s painful.

I LOVE getting the details right. It’s fun. Will most listeners even notice? No. Hell, most listeners are content with half-assed, butchered, mediocre covers, but it matters to me. Now I’m not talking about purposefully doing your own spin on things. I’ve released many covers, some of which were painstaking recreations which are fun and educational in their own way, and some were very different takes, such as my all guitar versions of “Eleanor Rigby,” “Tomorrow Never Knows,” or the theme from “Downton Abbey.” Or my rock version of “Kiss The Girl” from “The Little Mermaid.”

The most egregious version of the “incorrect cover” to me is the “lazy” cover. People just can’t be bothered to put the work in to getting it right, so they get “close enough.” Luckily, this doesn’t apply very often to the awesome folks I get to play with. There’s lots of other reasons it happens, but it almost always really bothers me. Every time I play an altered version it’s like a little stone in my shoe.

Now of course, this often works in my favor when people are impressed with how prepared I was, or how accurately I got some cool details right, but it can also be a PITA both to me and those around me. I usually try very hard to be diplomatic and polite and bring it up in a way such as “So, I just wanted to check if this was an oversight, or a purposeful deviation…” I try my best to hopefully be easy and fun to work with and to feel out the tenor of every individual situation and be a collaborative team player. And believe me, I very much WISH that it didn’t bother me as much as it does, because that’s not fun for me. But it does. And I guess for better or worse, it’s part of what makes me who I am as an individual.

11
Nov
2023
13:17

Dream Theatre 78

I fell in love last night (in my dreams). There was some woman name Meagan (a fictional dream person) and we had absolutely magic chemistry. Like we’d just known each other forever. She was one of those people everyone falls in love with. My friend Esteban who was with me had fallen for her too but he could see that she and I had magic. We were all parting ways and Meagan and her friend were walking off one way while Esteban and I walked another. I looked back at her longingly, pondering if I should just let her walk away. Esteban smiled and waved her direction like “Go get her!” She and her friend disappeared around the corner of a building and so I ran after them shouting her name.

As I rounded the corner they were just…gone. Impossibly gone. It was a big open area and there was nowhere they could go I was baffled and crushed and confused. Had it all been a dream? Was she some mystical muse or something. I screamed “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” In frustration. It was too late. Then my tears woke me up.

11
Nov
2023
13:13

Dream Theatre 77

I was at a large table having a meeting with a bunch of folks including Paul McCartney who was seated directly to my right. The person to his right made a joke and mimed punching Paul, then Paul as a joke mimed passing it on and punching me.

I said “Oh you don’t want to do that. I’m from Texas and you our reputation,” and I pulled out my phone and opened up a gun app that had a gun on the screen that you could swipe to pull the slide then tap to shoot. I tapped it a few times. Paul laughed and then asked if I had the cool lightsaber app. I did and Paul and I both fired up the lightsaber apps on our phone and waved them around in mock battle making lightsaber noises with our mouths even though the app made its own noises.

30
Oct
2023
13:56

Dream Theatre 76

In last night’s dream theatre, I was doing a play with my friend Sharan. There was a lot of improvising and at one point there was a guest performer who showed up about halfway through the performance, and was going to do their act as intermission entertainment. Their act was pretending like they were deaf and so they didn’t know why they were there or what they were supposed to be doing. I went to greet them but the play was going on so I was trying to be quiet and was also confused as to whether or not the guest performer was actually deaf (they were not). Eventually it all got sorted. I feel like there were a lot more details about the play and my role in it and other stuff going on that I can’t recall now.

Cut to after the show, Sharan was driving a semi truck (just the front part without any big trailer attached) and I was in the passenger seat. We were chatting and as we drove up a big flyover ramp, we noticed some people up ahead waving and trying to get our attention. That’s when we noticed too late that there was a huge missing section of road. There was nothing we could do at this point. The truck plunged down nose first into a huge fall to the ground below. I closed my eyes and prayed to either be okay or for a quick and painless death. Even though I’m not religious (though I am spiritual) it still came out as “PLEASE GO PLEASE GOD PLEASE GOD!”

After the crash, miraculously, Sharan and I were both perfectly fine. At first I wondered how long it would take for rescuers to clear the rubble and get to us as we appeared to be buried. But then, in that illogical dream way, suddenly things were different and there was no rubble, but we were still waiting for rescuers as the truck was kind of mangled. Some people approached what used to be the windshield but was now just an open space and started asking Sharan for autographs as they were huge fans of her theatre career. We started searching around the truck for a pen but could not find one, though there were some dull pencils that weren’t really of any use. We were talking about how this was her husband’s truck (Her partner, Bryan wasn’t in the picture in this dream and her husband wasn’t a real person, just a dream entity). It also came up that her husband was real horrible POS. While searching for a pen we also found his porn magazine stash in a compartment on the driver’s side.

Then I woke up.

24
Oct
2023
20:32

Some Thoughts On Authenticity

I had some more thoughts on personal authenticity today. I’ve been on social media since the invention of social media. Early on I was much more hesitant to use profanity or post things I was worried might not be palatable to some of my friends and acquaintances. I tried to keep it more safe for general audiences. Over time, that felt more and more fake. That’s not me and I was restraining myself. I do also post lots of things that are totally fit for mass consumption, but I’m also someone who swears a lot and can get R-rated. I am deeply layered like a Bloomin’ Onion.

In the end I opted to just try and embrace my true self and be unfiltered me. Because no matter what we do we will never please everybody. There will always be people who don’t like us or for whom we are just not their cuppa tea, and that needs to be okay or you’ll always be fighting a battle you can’t win. I’m 99% sure there are people I love, respect, and admire who have unfollowed me or hidden me due to profanity or other things they may not like.

But even still, it’s a fight for me. Every time I post something that’s not necessarily fit for all audiences, I get a little twinge like “Should I do that?” I try to live absolutely transparently and genuinely. Those who know me best will tell you that my social media is not a curated version of me, it’s just me. You can actually, really, truly get to know me from my social media. And this is how I want it. I am an open book with no filters and that is exactly how I want to live. Actually, that’s not true. That’s my goal but I still get hung up with insecurities and such but it’s the goal I’m always working toward.

So of course it makes me laugh that the thing I am most widely known for on social media, the thing that went viral, was most definitely NOT something fit for general audiences. I guess that’s one way to get more comfortable with something. Get thrown in the deep end!

15
Jul
2023
15:35

Some More Info On The Actors’ Strike

A few people have expressed support and empathy for the actors’ and writers’ strikes but also said they don’t exactly understand what’s going on. Here’s a little more info. There are many issues on the table, but a couple of the key issues are residuals and AI usage.

Residuals are what actors get paid each time a show airs or a movie plays. In the past, TV and film residuals were how most actors (and writers) survived. You have to understand a few key things here. Firstly, 99% of actors are not rich. 99% of actors, even actors you might know from TV and film, are working actors just trying to pay the bills like anyone else. Our job is mostly auditioning. So, basically we are constantly interviewing for jobs. I once heard a statistic that if an actor is booking 10% of their auditions, that’s really good. 90% rejection means you’re doing well. If you book the job, there are many different levels and contracts, but in general you get paid a certain fee for the days you work. Then, with larger TV and film projects, you get paid a smaller percentage every time it airs. Just like how musicians get paid every time a song is played on the radio or on TV or in a film. This not only helps get us through to the next job, since we don’t get paid to audition, but is also only fair as the places playing the show or movie are making money from that every time they show it, so the creators also get a cut.

Enter the age of streaming. Streaming is still fairly new, and as such, both movie and music executives have used it as an opportunity to put more money in their pockets and screw over artists such as actors, writers and musicians. Streaming is considered a different medium from TV or film, and thus has different contracts. Those residuals that actors and writers used to survive on? They are practically nonexistent in streaming. Where someone in a major television show might have been able to survive for a year on their residuals in the past, with streaming they are literally getting checks for pennies. There are countless stories out there of actors and writers on huge shows making almost nothing from streaming. So this is one thing the guilds are fighting for. Just trying to get streaming in line with the contracts that have been in place for film and television for many decades. Streaming is not some weird “exception” that shouldn’t have to pay the same agreed-upon rates as TV and film. Streaming is TV and film now, and actors and writers should be able to make the same livings as they have from TV and film in the past. As mentioned, the same thing has happened in the music world. Whereas a hit song used to make an artist rich in the era of radio and albums, now you could have  the biggest hit song on the planet, and yet not make enough to live on from the streaming revenue.

Now let’s talk AI. The studios have proposed being able to pay a background actor, or “extra,” one time for one day’s work and then have the right to use their likeness forever with no additional pay or consent. This is ludicrous, and I’m sure will eventually try to  extend past just background actors. This would be like you getting a job, and then getting paid for one day of work to train a robot to do your job, and then you never work again. Eventually there would be no need to hire any new background actors, because if you have a data bank full of them that you can just pop in for free to as many crowd scenes in as many movies as you want, why would you pay some human to do that? There are a lot of very troubling potential precedents with AI right now. Offering voice actors a one-time fee to add their voices to the AI data bank so that they can then just generate future voiceovers without the need to hire you again. 

These are just quick, simplified, “tip of the iceberg” examples to try and help those of you who have expressed empathy and a desire to understand more about exactly what is going on. It’s not simply greedy actors, or successful millionaire “stars” asking for more money. Art, storytelling, and escapism have been giant and necessary parts of humanity practically since we emerged from the primordial soup. Everyone consumes it. Everyone uses it to get through hard times, to decompress, to get inspired, to feel something. And yet so many take it for granted and want to villainize those who create it as worthless, greedy children playing with toys. And the millionaire/billionaire executives want just that. For you to not be looking at them, but instead directing your ire at these “unreasonable, lazy bohemians!” I can’t even really blame the uninformed for falling prey to this. Our industry is strange and unlike the typical jobs people are used to, and therefore the inevitable comparisons just don’t work. You can’t compare “salaries” or “wages,” as it’s apples to oranges in how it all works and breaks down. I also realize that not everyone is lucky enough to be doing something they love or are truly invested in, and that can be tough. As humans we can fall prey to the “Misery loves company” aspect and it can be hard to empathize with and support others for many different reasons. I fall prey to that. I’ve definitely worked jobs that made me feel like a tiny piece of my soul died each day. That aspect of humanity, along with the lack of actual working knowledge of the job makes it easy to trivialize the arts as “not real jobs” that are frivolous and easy. A lot of it is amorphous, esoteric, and hard to quantize and explain to those in more traditional industries that are more familiar to most folks involving standard hourly wages or monthly salaries and a 40 hour work week. We all walk a unique path and I do find myself truly hoping that everyone I see is happy with their life whether it be as an actor, a programmer, a person working at a sandwich shop, a dentist, an accountant, someone who make tchotchkes for flea markets, or anything else I encounter on my path.

So to those who feel need to bash and trivialize artists and their industry, I can’t pretend to know the seed lodged deep in your heart that makes you feel the need for this bile, but I sincerely hope that despite your attitudes and efforts, we the targets of your ire get to keep making things that might help make your short sojourn on this spinning rock a little bit better. 

14
Jul
2023
22:13

First Impressions Of My Zoom B2 Four

I had been using my Line 6 Helix as my bass rig either direct to house or run through my QSC 10.2. It’s an awesome bass rig but I’m a pretty simple man when it comes to bass and I didn’t need that many options and I also wanted to see if I could find something smaller.

First I tried the Tech 21 Bass Fly Rig. I just didn’t click with it. I had looked at the new Zoom B3n but it didn’t have an XLR out which was a deal breaker for me. Then a friend and bandmate said she had the Zoom B3 and loved it. It’s the older, now discontinued version and in my opinion (and others I’ve read) superior to the newer B3n, and it has an XLR. I was looking at used B3s when I decided to search “bass multi-fx” here on Sweetwater and see if anything else looked promising. The Zoom B6 looked great but again, way more than I needed. Then I stumbled upon the B2 Four. PERFECT.

Small, simple, yet still LOTS of options, and it had an XLR out. I was also very impressed by the design in that the navigational buttons are on a raised corner meaning you can use them fairly easily with your foot too. Looks sleek. You can “only” have 5 FX at a time (that includes amp sims) but that’s plenty enough for me.

Today I went through all 250 presets and was very impressed. They sounded great and spanned lots of sounds and genres and most were very usable. It’s fairly intuitive and if I have one complaint it’s that the manual is pretty sparse and basic but has all the information you absolutely need. My first impression is that there are tons of great emulations and a huge variety of ways to run it. I’d be surprised if you couldn’t find many sounds you like and cover anything you would want.

There’s many varieties of all the different kinds of FX, plus a great selection of preamps, amp/cab emulations, and a dedicated switch that steps through 6 different modeled DI boxes, 3 tube varieties and 3 SS versions. Or you can just turn it off, which I do since I run amp/cab sims so it seems weird to put a modeled DI after an amp/cab sim.

I also wasn’t exactly sure how the preamp models should be used. It seemed strange to me to put a preamp in front of an amp/cab sim, but some of the presets definitely did that, and I mean there’s really no “rules.” If it sounds good, it sounds good. I might just be too mired in old analog thinking of “Bass into amp/cab.” I mean who knows, maybe a preamp into an amp/cab and running one of the DI models might produce something cool. I haven’t tried yet. The presets also serve as a great way to learn the unit by analyzing them and seeing what’s running verses what you’re hearing. I remember one preset that was running the pitch shifter module but not actually doing any pitch shifting, but the unit itself definitely drastically changed the tone just being on. Another one used that same unit with a pitch shift of 1 cent to get a pretty good “With A Little Help From My Friends” sound. I never would have thought to use it in those ways.

I’m very happy with it and can’t wait to give it full run at next week’s gigs where I’ll probably run XLR straight to front of house. I have a simple patch set up with a noise suppressor, compressor, drive, and chorus, into an amp/cab, and I can use the 3 footswitches to toggle the compressor, drive, and chorus on/off. Your mileage and needs may vary but this unit was EXACTLY what I was looking for.

14
Jul
2023
12:36

The Entertainment Industry

I made a post today about the SAGAFTRA and WGA strike and why I support it. It’s only noon and I’m exhausted already by the trolls and uninformed idiots with an agenda who have come out of the woodwork like roaches.

I want to make people understand the entertainment industry but also must accept that it is an impossible task. I’m curious as to how anyone with the spoons would have replied to the troll I deleted who laid out average salaries of TV writers and such as if it was ridiculous that they were asking for more. I couldn’t even. I’m tired. I can’t explain to every idiot why our industry is so weird, misunderstood, complex and abnormal. How making $2000 for a day of shooting a commercial may seem like a lot to people not in the industry but is NOT when you consider all things such as cuts that go to agents and such, and how that might be your only payday this month. How residuals are fair compensation and make up for the unsteady nature of our business and yes people do deserve to get paid not just once, but every time something is shown. The naysayers always have some come back like “Well then learn a real trade” or “Get a real job.” I want to make people understand and yet do not have the will. They just see the seemingly high numbers and have no understanding how that breaks down and can not be compared to a salary or hourly wage.

EVERYONE enjoys and consumes art. Needs it to survive. All the creators of it deserve what they get paid. Billions of dollars are made off it and the distribution of that is extremely uneven. Yet so many want to paint us as spoiled children who get paid ridiculous amounts of money for “playing pretend.” I want to make them understand, but I haven’t the spoons. And their minds are probably dense and impenetrable anyway so any attempt would be futile.