This week I present a radio feature that was part of my KMUD radio show Monday Morning Magazine on April 8. It includes music by Robin Parmar, Don Haugen, Michal Seta, Mike Rooke, and Kris Force. The Drone Cinema Film festival takes place on Saturday April 27th at Outer Space in Arcata, CA, starting at 7:00pm, with a short set of live drone music by me, John Hardin, on didgeridoo and electronics. The Drone Cinema Film Festival is brought to you by Silent Records and Outer Space.
My friend and fellow KMUD cohort bequeathed to me this odd musical contraption that he found in a dumpster down in the Bay Area. To me, it looked like someone had fashioned a musical instrument from some pieces of a broken chair and some scraps of paneling. I accepted it because it had four serviceable guitar-style tuning machines that I knew I could use. It appeared that originally there had been five strings and five tuners, but one had already been removed. I salvaged the tuning machines, but then I had this odd wooden box with a sound-hole and an oversized handle. The more I looked at it, the more I thought it needed more strings. I installed ten zither pins as tuners for ten strings and added a piezoelectric pickup wired to a quarter-inch phone plug. I didn’t have ten strings, however, so I strung it with whatever strings I had on hand and tuned it to a D minor chord. If you listen to the video, you can hear what it sounds like, see a few pictures of it, as well as some adorable cats and their kittens.
Go ahead! Who doesn’t like kittens?
Perhaps the most cherished holiday tradition in our household involves imbibing a dose of something psychedelic on the longest night of the year and staying up all night listening to some of our favorite music. This year we were blessed to have two strong doses of LSD to celebrate the solstice with. To begin our solstice, we usually spend the day cleaning our place up. Then we have dinner, relax a bit, and as the sun goes down we light a candle in a jar, safely ensconced in one of my tin can luminaries. Then we ingest our doses, turn on the power amp that drives a nice pair of JBL studio monitor speakers and put a CD in the player to start the session.
By the time the first CD plays all the way through, we can feel the doses coming on strong, and we’ve become entranced by the music. Listening to music in an altered state of consciousness usually reminds us of why we chose that particular artist to begin our session, and when the CD ends, we want to hear more by the same artist. That feeling only intensifies by the end of the 2nd CD, and so on. Last year on the solstice, we listened to eleven consecutive Tangerine Dream albums. The year before that, we listened to Peter Gabriel’s entire career in one night.
We’ve come to realize that we need to choose the album we play first on the solstice very carefully. We need to choose an artist who’s work I have in adequate depth in my collection. I don’t have a huge record collection, and I divested myself of all of my vinyl at the end of the last century. For the last 30 years or so, I’ve been so absorbed in my own music and media production that I don’t have much time to listen to other people’s music. I hardly ever buy records anymore, and lately, when I go to the record store, I don’t recognize any of the names on the record bins. Not only do I not recognize the artists, I don’t even understand the genres.
So I have a limited selection and there just aren’t that many artists whose albums I own at least ten of. If I do have ten or more records by an artist, there’s probably a reason for that, so we are not likely to be disappointed, but I think we chose particularly well this year.
This year we began our solstice trip with: Before and After Science by Brian Eno. I love Eno’s work, and I have most of his classics from the ‘70s, but Brian Eno remains one of the few names I recognize when I flip through the bins at a record store, and whenever I spot an Eno record I don’t have, I pick it up, because I know it will be good if I ever find time to listen to it. So I have the necessary depth in my Eno collection for a very long night of listening, and it includes a number of familiar old favorites, but also several albums that I’ve picked up in recent years but have hardly listened to. They all came alive for us that night, and it felt as though we were hearing them all for the first time, in complete rapture.
What can I say about Eno’s music? Listen to it! That would be the first thing. Then I’d say something about tender, wistful lyrics and playful songwriting, his style that blends genteel sophistication with wicked flamboyance, and of course his studio wizardry. I think that’s the only appropriate word for it. He took our breath away, and moved us to tears, all night, again and again. A lot of his later albums have a gentle low-key feel about them that makes them easy to listen to in the background, but they deserve your attention too. I highly recommend everything on this list.
Our 2018 Winter Solstice Playlist:
Before and After Science
Another Green World
Here Come the Warm Jets
Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy
Wrong Way Up (with John Cale)
Spinner (with Jah Wobble)
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (with David Byrne)
Another Day on Earth
801 Live (with Phil Manzanera)
We finished up by listening to Phil Manzanera’s 801 Live because it is the only live album I know of that features Brian Eno as the lead singer of a rock band. We followed that with a final encore: a live version of one of our all time favorite Eno classic tunes, The Fat Lady of Limbourg, performed live by 801 from another Phil Manzanera release: The Manzanera Collection that I picked up at the KMUD Block Party record sale a few years back.
By that time, we had put the candle out, because the daylight had returned. The acid was waning and we started getting hungry again so we turned the stereo off and made a little breakfast. Whatever you like to do for the holidays. I hope you have as much fun doing it as we did.
- Theme music by Randy Clark and John Hardin
When you see something you know is wrong, sometimes you have to say something about it. Here’s a letter I wrote recently, and another that I encourage you to write as well.
To the good folks at Sweetwater Musical Instruments and Pro Audio,
I am deeply offended, upset and disturbed by an image that appeared on the cover of the most recent edition of “SweetNotes” supplemental circular. I’ve been a customer of yours for years, and I always appreciate receiving your catalogs in the mail, but the image I saw on the cover of SweetNotes shocked me to my core.
Who thought this was a good idea? What possessed them to do such a thing? How dare you put it on the cover of your publication where anyone could see it, including innocent children, who have no idea what they are looking at. A Stratocaster with an F-hole!?!?
What were they thinking? What were you thinking? This is wrong! This is offensive! This is mutilation, humiliation and degradation! Whoever did this should be charged with Stratuatory Rape. We should lock him up in a room with an arch-top guitar and throw away the key. At the very least, he should never be allowed within 100 yards of a solid body electric guitar ever again.
It was bad enough when Fender put F-holes on Telecasters, but that didn’t bother me because Telecasters are for country music. Country music is songs about people who do stupid things, sung by people who dress like cowboys but have no cows. In other words, country music is all about being stupid and phony, so a phony F-hole on a solid-body Telecaster in a country band just fits right in.
That’s not OK for a Stratocaster. The Stratocaster was built for Rock-n-Roll and christened by Jimi Hendrix himself. Rock-n-Roll is solid and heavy. It requires a heavy, solid-bodied electric guitar. The Stratocaster just barely weighs enough as it is. Gibson’s Les Paul model, another iconic Rock-n-Roll guitar, weighs a ton, but you don’t see them routing fucking F-holes into it, do you? No. If Gibson wants to make F-holes, they build a nice arch-top guitar and put the F-holes where they belong. If Fender wants to cut F-Holes so bad, they should learn to make an arch-top guitar themselves instead of defacing a classic Rock-n-Roll legend.
You folks at Sweetwater should not encourage Fender to continue the practice of scarring these beautiful instruments with those ugly gouges, nor should you lead your customers to believe that you abide by such violence. We all deserve at least a modicum of decency and respect, including and especially the Fender Stratocaster. I was deeply offended by the disrespectful and exploitative image that appeared on the cover of SweetNotes and I believe that it is exactly this kind of smut that contributes to the aesthetic insensitivity of society at large.
My assistant didn’t know how to take this. I would have to assume this is just a phase that Fender is going through like weird body piercing. I also don’t expect this to become a classic.
Matt Kreager, Sweetwater Sound
That’s Not Good Enough!!
Obviously, Sweetwater does not take this issue seriously enough. That is why I ask all guitar players of good taste, everywhere in the world, to please write to Fender Musical Instrument Company directly and demand an end to this needless violence against innocent solid-bodied electric guitars. If enough of us stand up for the Stratocaster, we can stop this butchery today and forever. Here’s their email address:
(Here’s a sample letter)
Dear Leo, (I know he’s dead, but why not)
Recently I saw one of your classic instruments, the Fender Stratocaster horribly defaced. Some idiot had gauged an F-hole into it! Then I realized that this mutilated and deformed instrument appeared on the cover of a new instrument catalog, meaning that someone at Fender intentionally did this to a Stratocaster. The classic Stratocaster sound is not enhanced by the addition of an F-hole, because the Stratocaster is a solid-bodied electric guitar. But of course you would know this, at least you did when you were alive, and I’m sure that while you were alive, you would never have let such a thing happen. Today, things have gone haywire and the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket. I can see where people might find it hard to tell right from wrong, so sometimes we just have to spell it out. It’s wrong to put an F-hole on a Stratocaster. It’s just wrong, and you should stop doing it now.
Sincerely, (Insert your name here)
PLEASE SHARE WITH ALL OF YOUR GUITAR PLAYING FRIENDS!!!