Friday, March 28, 2008

Shadows Round Table: Rock Band

I recently got an email from my old buddy Scott Farr. For those who don't know, I met Scott through ROQUE keyboardist Neil MacPherson, and later played drums in the studio for their band, Shadows. Scott has also infamously interviewed me on the old Torch & Bacon site.

But today, poor Scott Farr was in dire need of some expert assistance on a most important musical question --one with great relevance to millions of people. And I feel that beyond the lackluster entertainment I provide you, my faithful reader(s), this exchange in aid of Mr. Farr was a rare opportunity for me to reach out and do my part to cure one of our society's most pressing ails.

The Topic: Rock Band (tm).

The Panel: Neil MacPherson and myself.

Panelist Bios:
Neil MacPherson: Neil's about as talented and versatile a keyboardist as you're likely to find, with a new solo album out, as well as a really great, groovy jazz/funk album. He also was the keyboard player in Tubby, which had the #1 Rock song on GarageBand and also was a top 10 finalist on NBC's STAR TOMORROW contest before tragically separating.

Me: And well, you've heard my playing. Obviously, Scott asked me to be polite and also perhaps because of the aforementioned desperation. Really, will any of us ever know the twisted mind of Scott Farr? I can't see how we will, I really can't.

The Discussion:

Need a little advice… So as Neil knows from our conversations, I’m going to be Phil Collins when I grow up. That said, I can’t get my feet to move independently of my hands… so I’m playing Rock band with my kids… (who love it) and I’m on the easy level drumming, because it’s basically all hands and occasional footwork, but now we have to move to medium and a song like “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden or “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden have a ton of footwork and quick 1/8th notes between the hands an feet that are driving me crazy… I don’t want to let my kids down, so what is your suggestion for a non-drummer that needs to get his kids to the next level. (playing the guitar is not an option, as that is Bryon’s chosen instrument and it’s about the kids)… :) should I count the song in my head? Should I count out loud? I think I have good anticipation with my hands on the cymbals and such, but feet are a definite problem.

Thanks guys,

Scott Farr

Due to the fact that I also play a strictly hands-based instrument I will have to defer to Cody on this one. I will say that the method I use to solo over complicated left-hand lines is to practice the left hand lines...a lot. So much that I don't have to think about them.

Good times.

Full disclosure: I've never played the game, so my advice is strictly towards the premise "I need to get better at drumming with my feet, pronto!" Forgive me if I miss the point.

1. In a typical rock beat, the right-hand hi-hat/ride cymbal is the real motor as far as a beginning drummer's concerned. You're going to be laying down constant 8ths with your right hand. Your goal is to not even think about this, just keep it steady.
2. Practice a core rock beat anywhere you've got a spare moment. Think of it as the "We Will Rock You" beat: two eighths on the kick, backbeat, all the while keeping your right hand going. You'll know it when it sounds right, but here's the pattern, where Foot=F, L=Left hand (snare), R=Right hand (hat): (F+R), (F+R), (L+R), (R), and repeat
3. For the time being, we're going to assume that as you count these patterns in 4, you'll almost always hit the foot on 1 and the left hand on 2 & 4, but what happens in between will vary. In real patterns, you'll very rarely hit snare and kick together, so let's discount those as well.
4. You want to practice different combinations of these as a prelude to just hearing what you want and doing it, without even thinking about what it's built out of.
5. When you get lost, it's like falling off the merry go round --don't bother chasing the spinning wheel, just stop, re-orient, and get ready to hop back on the next downbeat.
6. The following exercise will give you some common 2-beat 8th-note patterns that follow the assumptions above (I've broken this into bars of 2/4 to show each pattern individually):


Good luck,


Good Job you two…. The game forces what one on my other buddies calls an “open handed” technique so I’m switching Cody’s R and L, but that is a great example that I shall diligently practice this week in preparation for our European tour… :) by the way… if you guys get a chance throw in “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden and check out the drum line… it’s unfair. :)

Excellent work you two… we are all the way through the medium level and are prepping to go to the hard level, which if you’ve youtubed it is basically impossible… still can’t play “Run to the Hills” or “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who…. But we’ve been lucky with the song selection so far…


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Why bother?

(message received from reviewer)

"hi cody weathers, you don't know me and i don't know you. i reviewed one of yours and you reviewed one of mine.anyways, right now i'm at a crossroads and seeking your opinion before i choose a path. right now, i usually spend 20 minutes or so on each review in order to give the band some critical feedback. But then usually when i get reviews it's only 15 words long and it's some vague platitude with no real meaning. it's something like "cool tune, i like the guitars during certain parts." and that's it. i really can't use that for anything. i would rather someone tell me to redo the chorus or add something that i never thought of.anyways, i wrote you because i usually read your reviews of songs because they are great. and i'm wondering why you continue to produce indepth reviews when it would be so easy just to write down 2 sentences about nothing. i'm sorry i rant too much. let me know what you think."

(my reply)

Wow. You and I should go bowling. Naturally, I share your frustration with at least 50% of the reviews I receive. They remind me of haiku day in third grade with a bunch of grudging 8-year- olds finger-tallying their way through the requisite syllables in hopes of an early recess. I guess that for me, it's a matter of professional pride and the benefit of analysis that keeps me writing critique-style reviews rather than the vague platitudes you mention. If I'm going to do this at all, I want to do it as well as I'm capable of rather than embarass myself with an obvious lack of effort. But more importantly, I've really liked thinking critically about the true roots of my initial reactions to the material I hear, and forcing myself to justify and cite specific examples of problems or strengths. As I continue to listen to these songs, I feel that I'm becoming a stronger producer, and the patterns of my complaint and praise make me think very concretely about how I'll approach my own projects in the future. I hope you keep fighting the good fight. Cody

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Does the dude write about anything besides

It's official: in the past year, my daughters have written more songs than me. With the addition of "Babies and Boy Babies" (Babies and boy babies/Bouncing down the sidewalk/If you see a baby here/Turn it to your finger painting" (C)2008, Cara Weathers, all rights reserved) and "Hello" (Hello/Goodbye/Button (C)2008, Hadley Weathers, all rights reserved), the girls have outdistanced me by at least a half-dozen works. And all of their songs have that elusive je ne sais quoi of snappy, catchy infectiousness that makes me simultaneously beam with pride and hang my head in shame.

Meanwhile, I've been chipping away at not one, but two albums for two whole years. Since releasing Least Significant Failures, I've been promising Cat I'd finish up the latest Sunhouse Branch album, Cinema, and simultaneously claiming to Eric that I'd soon be done writing for my own new hard rock album, Haardvark. "What crap give I about thy 'magined toils/Hast not a fool a scepter for his dungslough?" asked my good pal, Billy Shakespeare. Well put, I must admit. Nonetheless, here's the skinny on the dung I'm currently slinging:

CINEMA: This is the second Sunhouse Branch album, a side-project experimental hard-rock album cowritten by Cat Mayhugh and myself. If you like Werner Herzog, odd meter, or confusing backstories, this is a must-listen for 2008ish. Right now, I'm done with the vocals, guitars, drums, and bass for all but two of the songs. This should be release-ready this calendar year.

HAARDVARK: Under tremendous pressure from Eric, I've been nagged into writing my own new hard rock album. I have about 15 songs written, but nothing yet recorded. Cat has, however, made a kick-ass album cover in his current oeuvre, and Eli Castillo (who did the photos and layout for Least Significant Failures) has agreed in principle to take some kick-ass photos of me for the interior. So the album cover is very much on track. The album itself is arguably less so.

Oh crap, I wrote essentially the same optimistic progress report last yearish in Memphis Evans' interview of me ([Part I][Part II]).

Monday, March 17, 2008

Jonatha Brooke Wants To Be My Friend

I first stumbled across Jonatha Brooke at a listening station in the now-defunct Sound Warehouse chain in Denver in 1995. I played the first few tracks of Plumb and was interested enough to buy the album. This was back when I was still steadfastly clinging to the notion that I didn't need to own a CD player, so I actually bought it on cassette. Incidentally, that embarassing anecdotal display of naive technological anti-savvy has nothing to do with the fact that it has taken me however many years to set up a MySpace page, or my continuing failure to post videos of any kind over on Youth Tube despite the sensible urgings of my technological betters to do so. I am merely convinced that those fads will fade shortly after I bother getting around to it, so you know, two kids, mortgage, why bother? One of these days, I'm going to be so right about that, and that's the day the funny face you're making will tragically freeze that way. Incidentally, financial tip: it looks to me like a good time to buy real estate or REIT shares. In any event, to this day, that remains one of my favorite albums (though now on CD), growing stronger in my mind with each listen, and I've been a big fan of hers ever since.

And amazingly, the very first thing that happened when I set this page up last year was that I received the second most exciting email I've ever gotten, next to the opportunity I seized to help a desperate Nigerian diplomat flee his war-torn country and the certain cruel doom that surely awaited him for but 500 of my hard-earned ruples. "Jonatha Brooke wants to be your friend." I enthusiastically approved her and awaited the first of our many inevitable compadre-to-compadre chit-chats.

Alas, as you already knew at least one paragraph ago, Jonatha was no Nigerian diplomat, and her friendship was not as it first seemed.

Indeed, I got the distinct impression that ours was a one-way relationship, existing only to allow her to inundate me with impersonal marketing posts. Can you imagine?! I know! I can't either! I'm so incredibly indignant, I just may need to utilize an emoticon on this surly occasion! And normally, I'm just like Jon Bon Jovi --a manly chiseled stone of iconless emotions. But not today!

When I first set up this MySpace page, being the naivenik that I am, I imagined that my friends would be MyFriends and that MyNewFriends would be my new friends. Of course, everybody but me understands the difference between "My Friends" and "MyFriends." When I was in elementary school, Chuckie Kapelke was my friend, but surprisingly, my Greatest American Hero lunch box was not immediately full of impersonal advertisements about his new lemonade stand. Then again, that could be because I forgot to thank him for the add.

Well, there were only two sensible options at my disposal: I could either go off the Andy Rooney deep end, bestrew my desk with garbage (or as my wife would say, more garbage), and start in with the non-stop grumbling OR --and you can see it's a big "or"-- I could take this high road I've heard so much about and convert MyFriend into my friend.

So when for just about the first time ever, Jonatha played a show closer to me than Dublin or Amsterdam (apparently her listserv monitor believes that I hail from Dover, not Denver, and now live in Portsmouth, not Portland), the wife and I went down, saw her play, and met her. As you can see, we are clearly actual friends at this point.

The end result of all of this hoo-ha is that I've decided not to accept any friends with whom I have had some actual connection. So in looking at my short list of MyBuddies, you can rest assured that each of them represents someone who I think is worth checking out. Or something like that. I don't know. I've been futzing with how to wrap up this stupid blog post for like six months, and I give up. Hooray, I got a C+!!!!