I haven't dressed up for Halloween since I was in college (except for one year where I drew spider webs all over my entire body with a marker). Despite my collection of Halloween masks and body parts, I don't really celebrate this holiday anymore.


Notes From GA RG OT


It's an engineering technique that I've never used and I'm going to overdo it on my next album. On everything. I feel like an idiot because I've known about it for so long but didn't understand how it related to what I do. Now I see that, as a home recordist, it's a luxury I should have been utilizing all along.

I feel confident about the guitars on this next record, I'm just worried about the drums, vocals and monitoring issues.

I have a large room to work in but it's carpeted with a low, drop ceiling, flourescent lights. A small, generic office. Terrible for drums. Awful for monitoring. It's what I have.

I haven't played drums in years so to say I'm rusty is an understatement. In addition I want to use double kick on every song. I've never played double kick in my life.

I want to use another side of my voice that I explored briefly as a teenager. But I have no idea how it sounds. This will take some practice but I've decided to leave vocals and words until the very end.

Lyrically and conceptually I'm focused. I know what I want to write about and what the theme of the record is.

I have a clear idea of the artwork and I should probably start taking pictures and painting now. I know what color combinations I want to stay within. I know how I want to present the record.

I know how I want to mix it, what template I can apply to each song. I know who I want to master the final recording. I know what the focus is for every second of every song. I know what tricks I will do to shift focus throughout the songs. I even figured out what software to track into and what software to mix out of.

The songs are 80% written. There are some grey areas that will tighten up as the project progresses.

I know what ambient recordings and movie samples to layer in, I've been compiling stuff for months. I know what secrets to place throughout the recording. I'm hoping I will be the only person who can decode them.

I have no idea what label will put it out. I have no budget. I'm doing everything myself, on my own dime.


Unfortunately a shitty drum sound, played with Meg White skill, will destroy the album. If the vocals aren't working, that will kill it as well. If it sounds great on my speakers and really bad everywhere else, well what good is that?

The problems areas are huge and gaping. Everything around it is infinite. But if I can't resolve the problems I'll pull the plug on the whole thing. Without a second thought.

There is too much bad music in the world, I can't contribute anymore. On the hipster circuit I've met so many pretty boys and girls that had no talent and no ideas, but they looked good on stage (I'm thinking about specific interactions I had in the past that came up again recently). Especially in NY and LA, as you'd expect. But its as bad if not worse in these small midwestern scenes where they are revered. People that confuse modeling with music. The connection is forgivable but the career similarities stop where art begins.

There I said it. Now back to workee so I can buy myself a nice big casket!

You Can Teach A Monkey To Play Fast

Zakk Wylde said something to that effect, basically dissing the League Of the Ungodly Fast (LOUF)-- essentially the lead guitarist in every death metal band in the past decade. His point was the speed doth not a good guitarist make. It's about passion, note choices, feel, phrasing, blah blah blah. Yadda yadda yadda. Ho ho fuckin ho.

I don't know anything about Zakk Wylde except that I used to put his strings on my Jackson before I switched to Elixir baritones. But I found that comment weirdly inspirational.

In fact, I've been practicing every day for nearly a year now since I heard him say that. It runs through my mind every time I start to doubt if the practicing is doing me any good. When I'm setting the metronome slower instead of faster. Every time I start to think that I should've spent that hour doing something with tangible results it passes through my mind.

"Even a monkey can learn to play fast."

It's true. People dumber than I can whiz up and down a phrygian scale and follow it with a sweeping arpeggio flourish across all six strings. In the blink of a friggin eye.

Articulated speed is a learned skill. Like typing. It's not something you're born with, despite what Yngwie would lead you to believe. It's just a matter of coordinating the right and left hands in unison.

"Even a monkey can play fast."

I already know the other stuff; phrasing, feel, evocative note choices. I can do that. It's playing fast that is the most difficult and the most impressive. I respect BB King but I'd like him more if he threw in a shredding lick once a year.

Still, I find it chuckle-worthy that my source of inspiration is an insult. If I ever put out an instructional DVD, that's what I'm gonna call it.


Dirty Purple

Saw my first snow of the season, mingling with the rain. Some trees were stripped bare and receptive to winter. But most were still passing a light mauvish crimson, dirty purple, and blood orange.

Madrigal Night

The clutter of dead leaves
Knocked up by the wind
Outside the van

Gives the illusion that
There is someone
Walking out there

Scratching at the window
Behind the curtain
Peering in

madrigal: a polyphonic vocal setting, usually unaccompanied, of various kinds of verse that was extremely popular from the early 16th century to the middle.


Cheap Brushes

On my way home, after I take Behold... The Arctopus to the airport. They're European tour starts tomorrow. Cheap brushes with greatness: Good Fellas was filmed in the neighborhood I've been staying. I met Moby at a club in the West Village, then ran into Nicky Katt at a bar nearby. But the best was running into Gavin, ex-editor at Vice, in Williamsburg with two kids in tow-- he had a hilarious take on parenting.
Looking forward to going home. No plans for Lousyville. This trip was more productive than I expected. As a result my chain is pulled taut to get started on documenting these songs.

I can't drive through Strausstown PA without buying something Pat Garrett's Sheepskin Outlet. It's actually a Mobil service station. But my Xmas gift shopping starts in a few hours.


Multiple Posts

Just noticed the mess I've made of this blog-- I really need an iPhone. Haven't been on a computer in a fortnight, it's been a nice vacation. I'll clean up the clutter when I'm back at home. Taking the drive slowly.

Polaroid of the Future

I wish I could have take pics of my songwriting setup in Queens before packing it all up. You would have been amazed-- probably not for the reasons you're thinking.

Re-mixed and re-sequenced the demo. Its slowly beginning to paint a picture of the final product. I now have a very blurry polaroid of the future.

Even in this highly isolated recording environment I can hear the wind outside. There is no-time in recording studios, time is paused as soon as you lock the door. But every once in a while there is a clue from the outside world.

For a while there I thought that art was only good for comedy and horror. Then I saw Stan Brakhage's short films and decided there was always room for surrealist and experimental cinema.


I Saw It Deep

Manhattan to pillow is 20 stops on the train and a mile of walking. I was damn skinny when I lived here. Ohio creates cow-like bodies.

Today I walked through all the various Brooklyn neighborhoods, from Queens. I saw it deep. Random memories of old friends came flooding back. Some of them I actually ran into on the street.

And I gave up on those memories, I gave up.


Menegroth Songs

Burned a CD of Menegroth song ideas today-- 12 tracks, 33 minutes. I'm going to re-record all the songs, maybe combining different ideas, into a more concise, listenable demo. Right now it's all very raw. But there are definitely seeds for some seriously cool landscapes.

Also, I need to write out tab for each guitar part, on each song. Otherwise I forget this shit.

Finally settled on a name for this project. Can't share it yet, but the name has additional meaning if you read it backwards.

I'm sitting on the L train, going out for a coffee and a drink. It's 11pm and still uncaffeinated. There's a man passed out in front of me who clearly hasn't slept in a bed in months. It's freezing out. He has a cane, long fingernails. When no one else was on the car I slipped a twenty in his coat pocket.

Krallice killed it last night, absolutely destroyed. I'm glad I came out here because they're so inspiring. Good group of dudes, excellent musicians.

Also inspiring: Forest, Steve Reich, Krisiun


Explore Explode

It's like cramming for a final exam. I'm leaving NYC soon and I don't have enough finished songs. The four that I have are epic but I need at least one more bomb in order for it to slay the con artists disguised as saints.

iTunes isn't very friendly towards albums with three or four long songs-- people can purchase your entire album for three or four bucks! It's a failed system based on quantity. If you split the same three songs up into twenty snippets, people can purchase each song for .99 (totaling $19.80) or download the entire album for $9.99. Suddenly the same piece of music seems like a bargain.

The problem with putting track IDs all over your songs is that many MP3 players have a noticeable glitch if there isn't a second or two of digital silence between tracks. Not to mention that a song is meant to be heard from the beginning, not the middle!

I'm keeping all this mind as I document my ideas. Some artifacts fit together nicely, others are meant to stand on their own. I wish I didn't have to write with iTunes in the back of my mind. But as a career musician that makes non-commercial music during an economic valley, I need to make decisions carefully if I want to persevere the storm.

Vote Black America

NYC is the only city where people stop me on the street for an autograph. So strange. I wish I could be more kind when it happens but I'm genuinely surprised and unsure how to react. In the rest of the civilized world I'm still nobody. New York too actually. Someday I'll move back.


Took Myself On A Date

After dinner we went into the city to see Sex Drive. Then to Lit Lounge for shots and that awesome train home. Me myself and I!


Persevere, Preserve

Sitting on the J train, making the sticky trek home. At the party, we ignored the bright lights and posing to appreciate the innocent conversations. With diligence I will conquer-- with diligence only.


Bowery Power

Songs originate, as all things do, from the Void. But they are, as we all are, unrealized potential until given the breath of focused intent. We meet so many people with brilliant ideas. And some people with fairly cool ideas. The only thing that separates a genius from your average idea-dude is that a genius makes his ideas happen. Good or bad, they become something tangible and up for scrutiny. We respect even our enemies for this ability. But with that same breath our enemies will be disemboweled.


Today Tonight Tomorrow

I've been on songwriting trips before but didn't realize it at the time. Usually it involved driving a rental car a long distance (say from LA to KY, for example), in a $2 suit, no shoes, and living on yoghurt. Tail between my legs and no soul to speak of. I don't remember writing the songs, I barely remember recording them. It seems like they were already fully formed and I was just a documentarian.

That palm-sized digital 4-track I got in 2003 was money well spent.

This is the first time I've ever consciously traveled to write music. What a brilliant concept. I'm at Menegroth studios, home of Colin Marston (Krallice, Behold... The Arctopus, Disrhythmia) and, for lack of better expression, the future of USBM. Yes, I truly believe that.

I haven't shaved, exercised, showered, or changed clothes in three days so I'm grungy, smelly and flabby. But this time I'm catching the music instead of chasing it in circles. Having ensnared it, I'm busy trimming it into shape. I'll do the same with my beautiful body but not yet-- I came for the music and so I remain.

I finally have a lofty ambition for a record again, some shot in the dark I really have to stretch to get near. As always, a good record has a spiritual function. Without getting too far-fetched, you have to enter into its world. Records that enter your daily life are ultimately disposable. The recordings that stick around are the ones that take me inside of them. That's the kind of music I'm trying to write. Today, tonight, tomorrow.


Drunken Spree

It takes nearly two hours to get from Manhattan to the studio I'm staying at in Queens. At 4am this can be a very blurry task. Right now Krallice is working on new material, absolutely killing it. It's truly incredible-- sounds way better live than any recording could ever sound. Sorry, I can't seem to write words today, only music.

Welcome to NYC

Some crazy dude in the lower east side just told me, "If they assassinate him <Obama> I'll eat my ass. Trust me, it aint gonna happen."


Overnight Van Slumber

Holiday Inn parking lot, somewhere in Pennsylvania. Too cheap to get a hotel, I'll just open up the duvet in the back seat. I'll be sure to find a parking spot in Queens tomorrow, when everyone's at work. Can't wait to get set up in the city but it's quiet here, the air is clean and I'm cozy in the van.


In The Evening's Defense

In the evening's defense, I did have a standoff with the hyper-natural. In the front yard there were two male deer standing in the moonlight. They didn't run when I drove up so I carefully and quietly walked up to them. Over the course of about 15 minutes I got within arm's length. They were dark against the grass glowing silver. Undignified previous events were overpowered by this silence.

Lies! All lies!

We had a Dead Child meeting at a Mexican restaurant near Churchill Downs. Within 45 minutes we established what had already been established. Watched Unleashed and Obituary destroy a club I've been attending for two decades. Louisville has a vibrant, supportive metal scene. At Cahoots two mega-rednecks tried to kill me for no reason, one of them had a knife (I would say "brandished" a knife but that gives him too much credit). The cops came swooping down on them and the whole bar cheered. I'm trying to write this before I forget it, while a man vomits on the steps next to me-- sounding uncannily like early Gorgoroth.



- Skeletonwitch sticker on guitar
- Shut Up Little Man! sticker on guitar case
- Please Don't Hit Me I'm Not 100% Sure About My Coverage on guitar case


Psychic Pugilist

Supernatural revenge is stronger than anything my enemies can throw at me. There's a new agenda, much tighter and robust than the well-intentioned strategy previous. The spiders are laying eggs on the backs of his eyes. The monkeys are plotting mutiny with smiles. Already the disease is spreading upon his malnourished soul.


How To Vote

Presidential elections aren't about voting for who you want to see running the country, but about voting for the candidate who is most likely to defeat the person you DON'T want running the country. I had to learn that the hard way-- don't make the mistake I did, friends.

Creepy #90

In 1977, at the age of 9, I stole a brand new issue of Creepy. The cover scared me so much I had nightmares every night for a week. Kept it hidden under my bed. Finally told my dad that I had a magazine that was scaring me really bad. He said I should give it to him and he would throw it away for me. That's what fathers are for.

A year earlier, in third grade, the teacher asked each kid what they wanted to be when they grew up. Everyone said the usual occupations, "Cowboy" "Doctor" "Ballerina" etc. I said, "A horror make-up artist". The teacher made me repeat it. I was very serious.

I just found a copy of Creepy #90 at a comic store--it looks exactly as I remember it.


Hard Sell

The only thing I heard when I walked past the theater was "There's only so many people in this life that's gonna love you, and you're a fool if you waste em." I was supposed to be moved the dialogue but I'm a hard sell on emotions these days. There's just so much I can't believe.

From another theater I heard "Normally I don't drink, but when I do I don't drink normally." Ah, now that's sensible!


The Joy Of Rot

We work until sleep hurts. But we love to eliminate the unnecessary. Partial to fleeting, flighty flirts. And music that makes your head turn in on itself.

Deaf Magnetic

There is a war going on and if we're smart we'll have our first black president. Meanwhile, yours truly is signing Online Petitions to protest the production of the new Metallica album.

That's pathetic, I know. But these squashed ("loud"), modern CDs are destroying my ability to enjoy the music. Music is supposed to make you choke in its humble majesty and technology is supposed to facilitate that. Instead we have distorted MP3s coming through bluetooth headsets. You want pathetic, there you go!

In other news, there are now ex-members of Dead Child.


Harmony And Sin

Up all night organizing 2007 receipts, fun fun! Deadline coming up fast. Reward my procrastination by going to see that asshole Alexis Laiho tonight. Great guitarist though, when he's not drunk.

A three hour conference call with Slint. We are trimming ambition down to a tangible reality.


Wrinkles, Money and Dark Hearts

The saddle is rough and worn but it's mine. It never looked like much to begin with but it gets the job done.

Watching 'Iron Man' I mentioned that I'd been to Bern. A few times. She responded, "I don't even know where that is." There is a Paul Klee museum in Bern that I remember well because it had two Adolf Wolfi drawings.

Talked to some old friends yesterday about the various wrinkles in the leather. I just realized they are both millionaires. They don't mind that I'm far from that. Maybe they like me because they know I could care less about their money.

But anyway, that old saddle metaphor. It's nothing really, just another cliche from the bottom of my dark heart.


Diddly. Diddly. Nadir.

Sorting through a hump of receipts. Found an accounting statement from Touch & Go Records. Everyone asks me how much Spiderland has sold over the years. I just found out: over 100,000 in North America.

A slow burner, that one.

I've been very disciplined about practicing guitar every day, intense practice sessions. I keep making these little breakthroughs in technique. Sometimes nothing for a few months and I start to wonder if I'm wasting my time on this pebble. Then these little bumps, these little rewards, nudge me to a more advanced plateau.

An apex where I can go, "Diddly diddly" really fast.