Featured band: Bill Martin

It’s always a joy to see singer/songwriter Bill Martin in our studio. His depth of experience, talent, ambition and heart serve his music well. On top of THAT, he’s so nice to work with. Bill brings in original songs and they’re not the typical project. He spends weeks layering little parts and listening and thinking. His lyrics are always developed into clear and heartfelt narrative. He thoughtfully crafts ideas and they become solid songs. Sometimes they’re 3 minutes long, sometimes 10. But each offers song dips and turns and beautiful detail. He impresses everyone that meets him with a  guitar in his hands. Whatever is creative and genuine and meticulous about Bill, I can’t get enough of it.

In this video entry; Bill discusses his new CD, “Still in an Anxious World”. He also introduces the first track on the CD “I Don’t Know Much About Love”.  You can check out his web site on Reverbnation, and hear 2 more songs from his CD there. Drop him an email and get one for yourself. Bill’s performance schedule is also available on his web site.

You can watch him introduce the song and download his song “I Don’t Know Much About Love” exclusively on this blog entry (below).  Here’s Bill:

Here are some notes from Bill:

There are so many great memories and stories to draw from! And that’s just in the studio! Not to mention the stories of the songs before they even reached your studio!
The whole “Misinterpreted” series, the “percussion orchestra” and the “weirdified” counterpoint vocals in “To the Sides of the Pit,” there’s so much to choose from!
“Fish out of Water” is really old and originated on an Ovation acoustic/electric with the Small Stone phase shifter right before Jimmy Carter became President. And that’s so long ago, I couldn’t even explain it now. The version we recorded together of course is the definitive version.

I’m playing at Potbelly Sandwich Works, Old Town, Monday and Tuesday lunches,Potbelly Sandwich Works, Knox/Henderson, Wednesday through Friday. Catfish Cove in Sunnyvale every other Friday evening from 6 to 9. I’m at Neuhaus Cafe at Preston/Royal Shopping Center every last Saturday evening of the month through April so far, 6:30 to 9:00.

I am also giving guitar lessons and find this not only extremely rewarding and fulfilling, but downright inspirational!
I grew up in Colorado and music has been in my life as long as I can remember. Even before The Beatles came out I was listening to music and Dad had music around us from the very beginning. I write and play because it’s who I am but it wasn’t always that way.

Download “I Don’t Know Much About Love” here

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Featured Band: Merry and the Mood Swings

Here is a band that has been in our studio, and that Chin’s Mojo likes to perform with live. They’re fun, they play a variety of musical styles and they really know how to entertain a crowd. Please meet Merry and The Mood Swings. The two folks I know best from this band (Mary Hestand and Mary Guthrie) visited our studio to introduce themselves. I asked them to share my favorite Mood Swing song, “Chickenheaded Thing”, which you will hear in its entirety.

Merry and the Mood swings are also veterans of our studio’s 24 Hour Music Race. I’ll publish that song later this week. They were the last band to record that night and so friendly in the studio – that I asked them to join me and my family for pizza after the session. It certainly surprised my family when I arrived with a band! But we had a great time.

Right now, let’s meet Mary and Mary. Here is their introductory video with a little band history and the Chickenhead itself.
-Tom

Some notes from the band:

Merry and the Mood Swings formed in 2005 when a group of middle aged women decided to get together and play music. Three of the original band members had been in another band called Frump that was made up of all moms.  Diane Harris recruited her friend Mary Guthrie to play guitar and Mary Hestand asked her daughter’s drum teacher if he knew any women about our age who played drums. He told us about Martha Germann, we invited her to come to a rehearsal… and the rest is history.  We played our first gig at the Granada Theater for Jerry Haynes`s (Mr. Peppermint`s) 79th Birthday Party.  Our second or third gig was at the Cutting Room in New York City during Mamapalooza, a festival of female bands and performers. Since then we have been featured on the Texas Country Reporter TV show and we have played their festival in Waxahachie for the last 3 years. We like to play festivals and events and have played the Deep Ellum Festival and the Dallas YMCA’s Turkey Trot for several years running.  We released our first CD in 2010 and one of our songs, Pick Up Your Socks, was in contention for a Grammy for Best New Song.  This year we finally let a guy in the band.  He’s a great bass player and we hope he can put up with the high estrogen levels. We hope to be rocking out together when we are in our 60s and 70s.

Mary Hestand has been in 5 bands – a country and western band called Cowboy Noir based in New York City, an all-mom band called Frump, a rock band made up of mostly middle aged women called Merry and the Mood Swings, a jazz band at First Unitarian Church of Dallas, and a band called Room101, which is really Mary and her husband Alan Tubbs writing and recording songs in their bedroom recording studio.  Mary H has lived in the Dallas area for most of her life except for 10 years when she moved to New York City to go to graduate school in directing for theater at Columbia University. She stayed in New York and worked with an experimental theater company called the Wooster Group, whose members included Willem Dafoe and Spalding Gray.  She also made a short film called He Was Once (see youtube) with movie auteur Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, Far from Heaven, Mildred Pierce) that was in the Sundance Film Festival and a lot of other festivals. With her friends, Mary created a theater piece called Magical Thinking that they performed at the Edinburgh Theater Festival in Scotland. In 1992, Mary moved back to Dallas with her husband Alan and their daughter.  She now has 3 children, of whom she is very proud.

Mary Guthrie  first played guitar in public for school and church functions in Danville, Illinois, when she was in high school, and one time raised eyebrows by playing “Light My Fire” during Sunday church service. Now living in Dallas, she joined Merry and the Mood Swings in 2005, writing rock, pop, blues and “the inexplicable,” playing electric rhythm guitar (a ruby-red PRS-SE) and singing backup and occasional lead.  For a year or so Mary also played bass for a cover band called RePlay (“All Hits! No Misses!”). Although she usually writes pop and rock and blues, she also writes singer-songwriter-style originals and occasionally performs as a solo/duo at  local open mics and occasional venues. She is an active member of the Dallas Songwriters Association, has served on their board twice, and has always had a love affair with writing and words.  Adding music just brings it all to a higher creative pitch – developing a new song is like slowly unwrapping a really cool present – what will it be?!  What will it be?! And then getting to perform it for others is a real treat – unlike anything else. Sure beats sitting at my desk at work.

About the song, “Was Anything Real?”:  This song was probably the most unusual one our band has worked on to date because of the way it came together.  Tom put out the invitation to be in the 24-Hour Music Race.  You want details?   Okay: Here is a blog post Mary G wrote not long after the Race:

24 Hour Music Race (originally posted to our blog)

Holy smokes.

Imagine writing a brand-new song AND recording it with a band in a studio —in one day. Oh– and the line “Was anything real?” HAD to be in it, as did a fortune cookie message pulled out of a bag: “When the flowers bloom so will great joy in your life.”

Thus was the 24 Hour Music Race, organized by Tom Jordan of Garland Recording Studio (and lead songwriter, singer and rhythm guitarist for band Chin’s Mojo). It wasn’t a competition; it was just a way to get the creative juices flowing in the music community.

It started on a Friday evening at 6. Tom gave me the two lyric lines that had to be in the new song. Met with vocalist Mary Hestand at 7, and for two hours we pounded out lyrics. No time to get deep or brilliant — all extraneous efforts were stripped away. After two hours Mary H had to stop – it had been a hard work week; we decided picking it up in the morning would be best. Before she left she sang a melody into my laptop computer (Audacity program) and we said goodnight; I worked til 11 on lyric sheets, chords, and a shift in chord progression for the bridge.

Next morning at 9 a.m. I zoomed to Mary’s house. We still had to get the skeleton of the song to Martha, the drummer, and our bass player Carol. After another hour of tinkering and singing into Audacity, we emailed the skeleton. All that afternoon the inbox was punctuated with questions and scratch-outs, and slowly the song developed. The first chance we’d have to play it together was at the recording session scheduled for 6 p.m.

At 5 pm we gathered at my house and drove to Tom’s studio in Garland. It is a small space, but plenty of Pro Tools and good speakers (and a great Gretsch drum kit that was borrowed) made it as big as was needed. Tom was amazing — worked very fast, and was a breeze to work with. He also was able to make a few quick suggestions that made our song better.

Since we had prepared as best as we could, and because we designed the song to be easy to sing and to play — no time for fancy tricks! — we actually recorded it in just over an hour, with 45 minutes left to do some mixing work. Way cool.

Did I mention Tom did this all for free? We really enjoyed meeting him and his wife Bethany and their girls, and are looking forward to hearing the other teams’ renditions on Saturday, March 19 at O’Riley’s on Forest Lane in Dallas. Each team had different fortune cookie messages, but we all had “Was anything real?”

Wonder what they did with it?

I highly recommend doing something like this –it really knocked the barnacles off the songwriting process.

About the song: Chickenheaded Thing was written by Alan Tubbs and Mary Hestand. Alan wrote the lyrics about an alien abduction by 9-foot tall chicken-headed creatures with tentacles for wings. He also put together a song `bed` made up of guitar and drum loops, a bass line that he played in a Cakewalk synth called Z3TA and an organ solo played on a Dimension Pro synth.  He gave all this to Mary and asked her to sing the lyrics over the sound bed.  After a couple of weeks of practicing in the car, the vocal was recorded in Alan and Mary`s bedroom recording studio. Once that version of the song was done, Mary brought the song to the Mood Swings and asked them to learn it.  Mary Guthrie and Diane figured out the guitar line, Carol Moxley came up with a new bass line and Martha hammered out the drums. Diane added a flute solo and then once we recorded the song, Alan mixed it for us.  He brought Dickey Johnson, one of our guitar gurus, in to add a second guitar line for the final mix. (Of course even as I write this, Alan is in the bedroom tinkering with the mix yet again. I swear I just asked him to put the wave files on a disk for me!  The fun just never ends!)

Our next gig will be the annual Deep Ellum Arts Fest the first weekend in April.

We’ve had some good attention paid to the band; we’ve been on Channel 8; all over Texas on the Texas Country Reporter show; covered by D magazine, Advocate magazine, Dallas Morning News etc.  It’s fun!

Download Chickenheaded Thing MP3 for free right here!

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Featured Band: Imperfekt

Here is a band that has been in our recording studio. Chin’s Mojo has shared a stage with them: Imperfekt.

I met this band in February, 2011. Raul responded to an event that was hosted at our studio called, “The 24 hour music race.” Basically, I host this event, allowing local musicians to write and record a song in 24 hours. I set up the guideline criteria, studio engineer, mix and master out the resulting songs.

Our studio has hosted several open door events like this. It allows us to meet many songwriters in Dallas and have fun with a lot of cool musicians and bands. You might enjoy reading about our studio events:
The 24 hour music race
One Day Meetup (working on the link)

One of the event guidelines is mandatory lyric inclusion: Each participating team is assigned (2) lyrics that must appear in the song. Raul’s first assigned lyric was “Was Anything Real”? (I selected that from the movie The Truman Show) and his other was, “You will soon be honored by someone you respect”, which he drew from a fortune cookie.  Raul’s band went home, wrote a song in 24 hours and recorded the song, “The King’s Legacy” at our studio.

I was thrilled with his song. Each year when we have the 24 hour Music Race, I meet some great people and discover some amazing music. Raul’s band, “Imperfekt” was a perfect example of this. I was pleasantly surprised at the song’s feel. In my opinion, it had an eclectic, funky acoustic vibe that I haven’t heard anywhere else. Best of all, Raul’s vocals are haunting and full of passion. He doesn’t have the classic golden throat voice you’ll hear in hundreds of rock bands. It’s a bit dry, soulful, and I like it a lot.

I am pleased to facilitate this introduction to Imperfekt. I’ll let Raul and Daniel introduce themselves on the video. We’ll also hear some comments in their own words, and a couple of MP3 songs you can download from the band. Let me know what you think of them, leave a comment!

Thanks,
-Tom

———————————-

From Raul….

‘The Devil’s Call’ is about someone who contemplates suicide and in the end, does it…It was pretty much entirely written by the lead guitarist, Zachary Henderson. A long, long time ago, he was at a very low point in his life and he actually experienced the first part of the song, staring at his rifle in the corner, contemplating it. Of course, and thankfully, he didn’t do it…He wrote this song recalling all of those emotions and you can tell by the powerful imagery it’s not something that came from thin air. That said, the song is not Satanic in any way. We’ve received a lot of hesitation and questions on the song asking how can we as Christians justify such a composition. The best way I can put this is in this quote I found online:

“Though demons may try to tempt us to kill ourselves, as Christians we have power over the devil and he cannot push us to do this if we sincerely call on the name of the Lord”

So therein lies the point. Nowhere in the song, does he call upon the Lord to help him…he is only listening to the devil’s call and as such that is the end result. It’s worth noting, that in the end he repeats he’s sorry for it all, indicating he fully regrets the decision in his final seconds. Also, there’s not a solid reason as to why he did it, which there never is. Basically, we’re saying he didn’t have to do it, it was a very poor decision and it was Satan that led him to it. Contrasting that image, we recently wrote another song dealing with suicide, called “My Sweet Angel” however this one, he calls upon God, and he ends up saving him. So that’s the message, I realize it’s very subtle, and many may not get it at first…but once asked, I believe this explanation will at least soften anyone’s objection to it. Essentially, it’s no different than when a preacher/minister/priest presents this idea in a sermon…all we’ve done is elaborately portray it, we mean no offense by it

We recorded this song as part of a project with musicdfw.com forum. The Forum is an online community specifically for Dallas/Fort Worth Musicians, started by a talented guitarist, named Scott Whigham, fed up with Craigslist being the only way to communicate with many musicians online and quite inefficiently. Last year he took it one step further by organizing a collaborative CD that was a showcase of many of the musicians on the site. Those that wanted to participate paid a small fee and were able to record a song to be included in the CD.  As part of the project, two individuals on the forum volunteered their home studio to record the tracks or the CD. We recorded with Nick Ryan in Frisco and he was great and really seemed to care about even the small details of the song. Tom Jordan masterfully mastered all the tracks for the project including our track and we were extremely happy with the end product.

The intro and the outro are our favorite parts, the way the intro builds with subtle nuances from Daniel’s high hats that are abruptly interrupted by the powerful toms and the whole thing seemingly crashes into the verse only held upright by George’s bass as it all collects itself back together. Later, the song as a whole keeps gradually growing in intensity until the big finish where it climaxes with painful howls that lead into a regretful plea that seems to be a struggle to let out. What we love about this track is the constant fluidity of the song. If you inspect it with a fine tuned comb, you will notice subtle fluctuations in the tempo. That’s because though we at first attempted many times to record with a click track, the song refused to cooperate. It needed to be allowed to breath and move on its own accord and though at times, this causes the track to seem as it’s about to fall apart, it doesn’t and just sort of works, I honestly wouldn’t change a thing.

‘The King’s Legacy’ tells a story. It starts out in the middle of prophetic dream of a tyrannical king, a warning as it were for the way he treats his people. The chorus speaks of a bright light which signifies he is waking and realizes it was in fact simply a dream. He goes about his day changing nothing, just being the bastard he is until the prophecy comes into fruition. The chorus repeats, but this time the bright light means something else. He sees his old friend spreading his (the king’s) ashes into the ocean and realizes what happened.

We recorded this song as part of another project, this time with Tom Jordan’s 24 Hour Music Race. This was a challenging undertaking. Essentially, after the teams or bands petitioned for a spot to participate and were chosen, each team/band was given two lyrical lines, of which they were to form a song in 24 hours from, and return to the studio at that point to record the song in 2 hours, including some fast and furious mixing done by Tom. The first line was: “Was anything real?” which every team had to use…for the second, each team pulled a fortune cookie from a bag. The one we got was: “You will soon be honored by someone you respect.” This was a great experience and we are extremely proud of the song we created.

My favorite part is without a doubt, Zack’s guitar solo…it’s simply amazing. He got it in one try, which Tom coined him ‘One Take Henderson’ for. He wanted to attempt to do it again, but we all emphatically denied him the right. The acoustic rhythm is done in such a way to give the image of someone riding a horse through town, which the King does midway through the song. We hadn’t met Daniel or George at the time, so a friend of ours, Andrew provided the Drumming, which was solid and on point. Now when we play it live, it is of course different with Daniel and George putting their own style into it, and we absolutely love their contributions and interpretations of the song.

Listen or download, “The Devil’s Call” MP3
Listen or download, “The King’s Legacy” MP3

and show Imperfekt some love!

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There’s a playlist in your brain that helps you

I believe music can touch our hearts and tickle our ears and provide the soundtrack and lyrics that console us throughout life. For example, I don’t even really like The Who, but I know that no matter who is elected President, you’re supposed to salute the new regime and keep going. You know what it’s from, right?

The Who / “Won’t Get Fooled Again”
Change it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fall that’s all
But the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they all flown in the last war

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
And I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

I recall these lyrics and message when NPR gets buried in the microscopic analysis of the most trivial political detail while I am driving to work. It brings me back to the big picture, which is that I should accept jaded, hopeless surrender from the government’s eternal scheming. I don’t own a single album by The Who, but I heard this song a million times on the radio and it was good enough to make it to my brain’s playlist. When I have heard enough political discourse and I start getting irritated, this message from The Who plays automatically and I stop caring and feeling irritated. Where does the message come from?

I take a lot of heat from Dallas bands. I’ve done favors for musicians and then several guys have insulted me online because they don’t like my position on this one issue: Cover bands. You know what that means – they’re performing other people’s music. Some very good musicians are offended because I have insulted their cover bands. Nobody else (that I know) draws this line in the sand as rudely as me; between musicians and artists. I don’t like cover bands. I do love many musicians that are in cover bands because they are talented, cool people, if that makes sense. You can be a great guitar player and run circles around me. But I am more interested in asking, “what have you written, what have you created”? I wouldn’t cross the street to watch your Van Halen tribute band. That’s just me. On the other hand, I would drive an hour to watch a Battle Of The Bands where everyone gets to play 3 original songs. Even if they suck – even if they really suck. Somehow, I can recognize inspiration, however deeply it is buried in mediocrity. In fact, I like that about me. I haven’t bought any music from The Who, but I have purchased music from The Shaggs, Daniel Johnston and Wing.

Hundreds of musicians and bands have walked into Chin’s private studio over the past 4 years. It’s impossible to predict what will walk in the door. Honestly, most nights I am working in the studio with another band, it’s because we’re paying the studio rent. My job is to find the inspiration, help polish it and deliver the best recording this person has ever made. Frankly, most of the time, that’s a chore.

You work in the mine everyday, eventually you’ll discover the jewels. A recording studio works the same way – stick around long enough and you’ll hear some.Somebody walks in, does their thing, and I just shake my head. Magic. “The world needs this”, I say to myself. Or there are people just doing so many things RIGHT. While the vast majority of the population is consuming live music simply to make drinking alcohol more fun; I’m listening for a different reason. And if you’re in the studio for years, every now and then, you get the reward.

How do I define that reward? Sometimes it’s the song, plain and simple. A singer that effortlessly shames me. But, talent is cheap. So it takes something more. I respect talent, but I don’t embrace it for its own sake.

I guess the answer is simple. If it touches me, or if the artist doing the work is sincerely crafting away at something and I see the wheels turning; then you have my respect. By comparison, if you are writing your 16 bars of rap lyrics on the studio desk just moments before recording… probably not. And MANY rappers do this.

I’d like to introduce you to some of the people and music that have earned my respect; either by virtue of the work they’ve done in Chin’s studio or we’ve performed with them somewhere. They all live in this area; none are making a living from playing music. These are the bands that have also “made it” to the playlist in my brain.

This weekend, I’ll do a video profile / video podcast of two bands. I’ll try to create profiles of dozens of these bands as time permits. I think these are stories that are worth telling, and I hope you’ll discover something that you like. I should have the first ones up next week… I’ll spend Saturday filming with Raul Tinerajo (of Imperfekt), and Sunday with Mary Hestand (of Merry & The Mood Swings). Video profiles coming to this blog just as soon as I can edit them! Give me a couple of days.

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Steve Kautz drum clinic, “Boys Are All Bad”

Steve discusses his drum kit hardware and 3 sweet riffs. He unwraps his new kick drum graphic, and performs the song in our studio. What an easy going guy to call a friend, and such a hard hitting technician.

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Chin’s Mojo Drowning Man music video with introduction

Our Drowning Man music video is here.

Our blog (this page that you are reading) will be a permanent page for Chin’s Mojo. We’ll share the inside look at what is going on at our recording studio. We hope you’ll subscribe or bookmark it and come visit our blog regularly. We’ll publish new content often.

  • Please do not share the Drowning Man video link or the video on Facebook until January 25 (our release date). This video is a sneak preview ONLY; it’s not for everybody. It is published only for our closest friends..
  • You can turn on the Youtube “CC” closed captioning if you don’t know the words. Or “off” if it is bugging you.
  • You can select a higher resolution playback using the Youtube buttons. This is an HD video.

We hope you like it. Leave us a comment!
Love,
Chin’s Mojo

and, for the win… download the Drowning Man audio soundtrack

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Drowning Man music video outtakes

I need to go back and edit this video, this is the first draft. But it’s still funny.

These are the outtakes from our Drowning Man music video (which we’ll release to the public on January 25).  They are just little moments when the camera is rolling and we are waiting for our cue to start.

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