Wednesday, December 31, 2008

So We Close Another Year

It is indeed that time of year again. The time to talk about how good or bad the outgoing year was and how great we all hope the new year is going to be.  There are lists and talk surrounding what was good or bad maybe in the attempt to commemorate the outgoing year as well as resolutions on how to improve oneself in some way in the new year.

I am one of those people which compiles lists, partially because of my writing for an online music publication, but I would totally be lying if I said I would not make them otherwise. It just feels like something that needs to be done. Regardless, these lists really are trivial but can be fun at times. Here is my top 10 list of things that happened to me this year.

- Realizing how amazing my wife is
- Band putting out record
- Spending time with my cats (Their antics are the stuff of legend in our home)
- Having my own home
- Having Good friends
- Hearing of friends' (John and Jen) families growing
- Seeing friends' families getting started 
- Getting to know family members better
- Seeing the sunset on the Pacific Ocean
- Experiencing some of Southern California

Honorable Mentions include:
Seeing the Night Marchers in a Mummers hall
Blasting the Night Marchers in the car with my wife...particularly their song "Open Your Legs"
Seeing Dave with short hair

Monday, December 22, 2008

Confessions of a Music Fetishist Vol. 1

"Records are not unlike fetish properties…"

Although a fictional character, John Cusack's portrayal of Rob Gordon in High Fidelity speaks volumes of what I feel in regards to music; although, I might go so far to say that music is my heroin, and boy does it hurt/ feel good to jot that down, but a fetish property not at all. I really enjoy listening to music for sure, tons and tons. It feels weird when I only have one or two new records a week to check out, and right now things are really really slow on that front. 

But in light of that, it makes perfect logical sense that I write reviews for an online publication, (, which gives me the perfect excuse to listen to tons of music while at the same time espousing my misguided opinions on said records. My goal this year was to write 100 reviews, and my thinking is that I will fall just short of that total this year. It has been a strange year in music as some of my favorite bands broke up (see Cursed) and others that I like (Playing Enemy) while new ones have sprung up to take their place like Have A Nice Life, Helms Alee, True Widow, Gods and Queens, and the Night Marchers. My top 25 records of this year will be posted at Scene Point Blank as well as a ton of top 5 type things so check that stuff out, but here will contain some unabridged versions a la listing records top records 50- 26 and other such things as that.

Here I Am, Here Is Infinity Part 3

There is something amazing about records. I am talking about the "making a come back" vinyl format which seems to be gaining in popularity again. The bigger "canvas" for artwork, the large round platter, the tangible proof that a band exists or existed, all make it my preferred choice for acquiring music. There are several selections in my collection which I count as my favorite slabs: a test press for Bloodlet's Entheogen, the original two disc SunnO))) Grimm Robe Demos picture disks (with intact wax seal...yes I have played the records), the test press for Unbroken's And/ Fall 7", the twelve inch single for Blitz's New Age, the Isis Sawblade record. All of these have their own stories that go along with my having these; all of them are special for different reasons. Yes, there are still some holy grails out there for me, but nothing will ever be as special as the time that I played the test press for my first appearance on vinyl, Gholas Here I Am, Here Is Infinity.

The surprise on my face when the realization hit me of what I was opening must have been priceless; it did not dawn on me to look and see where the package came from anyway. In any case, there they were staring me in the face tempting me to listen to one of if not all of them. The black vinyl with the smooth b-side sat in the box until my wife got home (I can be sentimental sometimes and really wanted to hear it first with her). It was worth the wait and a completely surreal experience. Hearing the record also brought back all of the memories of the last few months and the effort that it took in producing this record.

The mixing process for this record was long and arduous with much tweaking that was necessary, but we survived that with our minds intact. Having settled on the vinyl format (with an included digital download), the members of the band all set out to take care of aspects of its production. The initial artwork was done by my wife, Jennifer Kakoyannis, of Fireplug Media ( then members of the band added artwork and then did the layout for the record. We sent the masters out to the pressing plant (yes this is simplifying the whole process a great deal) and took the artwork to a place that silk screened the covers for us. We did some special covers for a
"friends press" as well.

To be honest as stressful as the whole process was, it proved to be ultimately worth the effort. When finally seeing the friends press, I thought it looked amazing. The normal press of the record came out particularly well also. For those interested, it can be ordered through the band. Visit our Myspace at or email us at to order. If you are not interested in vinyl we do offer the digital version on a donation basis. In fact, here is a link. If you dig it, drop us a line and let us know or if you are so inclined to donate towards our next record.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Here I Am, Here Is Infinity Part 2

So, I am a pretty obsessive music junkie and one aspect that can really make or break a record for me is the vocal aesthetic. Now, the vocals on a given record do not have to show off the pipes of an individual (that to me is the same as excessive guitar soloing) nor do they have to be perfect (autotune blows people please stop using it). The vocal performance or arrangement needs to add something to the sound of the record, a bit of je ne sais quoi if you will. Some of my favorite records owe to that little indescribable bit that the vocals add to them.

With this in mind, when the time came for me to track my vocals for the Gholas record, Here I Am, Here Is Infinity, there was a lot for me to live up to in my own head. I spent weeks writing and rewriting the lyrics as well as working on the vocal arrangements in preparation of the recording. There was no nervousness just a subtle anxiety because some of what I was going for was new to me.

Vocals were tracked late at night Saturday and then Sunday. Since most of the vocal duties in Gholas falls to me, I recorded as much as my voice would allow until it was shot in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Good thing because vocals on the two heavy songs (“Her Trainwreck” and “Do We Dream”) were mostly completed; although I must admit to harboring slight tinges of unhappiness with some of the performance on those, mainly because the final product did not turn out the way they were initially envisioned. However, there is a good amount of satisfaction with the final overall sound because I did accomplish some of what was planned.

The third song, “Always Ill, But Never Dies”, was a challenge from start to finish due to it having a much different feel than anything else that we had written to that point. The vocal arrangement is obviously different, but while recording much fun was had trying different recording techniques and such to give the song a character that I thought it lacked. In some ways this song is my baby and am very proud of how it turned out while in other ways I just wish that it turned out exactly as it sounded in my head. After talking to my brother (the other baritone guitarist of Gholas) recently about the song, he explained to me why he thought it worked, and I find myself having a new appreciation for the song.

Overall the vocals were interesting to work on from conception to performance; it was the first time that much effort was given on my part for them. The lyrics deal with some of what was going on in my life at that time masked by a certain author's imagery and ideas on gnostic theology masked through his own science fiction writing. The whole process was awesome and really quite challenging.

Check back for the third and final installment on the making of Gholas Here I Am, Here Is Infinity as well as pictures of the record and recording and such.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

For starters and Here I Am, Here Is Infinity Part 1

So, I have contemplated doing this for some time and finally stopped being lazy, and no this is not a new years resolution type deal.

I hope to do this regularly, but with anything I do, I cannot promise that.

Considering the massive and rapid changes that I have been going through personally this year, I am hoping that next year continues the positive changes of this last quarter. Maybe being a chronicle of change in part, maybe being a chronicle of my past, or musings on a distant future, I think that this title is pretty apropos...

A small lesson, The Hidden Archives of Dar es Balat is a fictional hoard of journals of the God Emperor in Frank Herbert's novel God Emperor (an excellent book and one which I would highly recommend it as well as the series to which it belongs).

The Hidden Archives of Dar es Balat is also the name of the "record company" which my band Gholas (another reference to Herbert's work in his Dune series) uses to release what is thus far a grand total of one record, our debut EP Here I Am, Here Is Infinity. Producing this record is one of the most satisfying (and stressful) accomplishments in my life so far. The band spent the Saturday and Sunday of Presidents Day weekend 2008 in Red Planet studio recording 4 tracks (3 songs and one ambient sound piece which we chopped up and peppered throughout the other three songs). In all honesty we rushed to the studio in order to participate in a planned split record with another band (Near Dark which is a fun band and the one guitarist, Joe Smiley, engineered and helped produce our record at his studio); but what we did was capture us in a creative mode.

Tracking of the instruments was accomplished live with some overdubs on Saturday during a long session. Since it was the band's first time in the studio we experimented very little at first, but we captured musical performances which all involved were satisfied with given all of our constraints (money, time, etc). I did thoroughly enjoy producing the ambient track (playing the organ for it was a pretty excellent experience) which greatly increased my desire to pursue more artistic expressions like it and fomented plans to do so for later dates. After the bulk of the tracking was completed we switched gears to vocals...