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Posts Tagged ‘KCPR’

What do you to with your staged creations after you’ve shot your photos?

That’s probably the number one question I’m asked when people see my work in galleries. I’m asked if I ever sell the finished construction as a three dimensional sculpture, or if I have boxes of glassed dioramas littering my attic.

No, I take them apart and reuse all the figures and objects in future photos.

However, as many familiar with my work or YouTube channel know, I frequently take apart my constructions in very deliberate fashion, one component at a time, using this opportunity to shoot frames for animation — either stop motion or a “pan’n’zoom” technique I’ve developed that creates the illusion of a camera slowly moving throughout the composition as objects magically materialize into place. Creating animations is a lot of fun and provides insight into the three dimensional nature of my artistic process. And, as you would expect, the animation work has a process of its own, that (very loosely) looks something like this:

  • Develop a storyboard, in reverse, since I always start with the final image and work my way back to the start.
  • Capture all the frames, again, in reverse, as objects are removed from the scene.
  • Take all the captured frames, load them into my computer, and reverse them so that the animation will now run forward, from the beginning to the final image.
  • Add music and synchronize the action to the music I’ve selected. The end.

It’s that last step that is often the most difficult, as I attempt to choose music that fits the spirit of the final photo, has a complimentary tempo, and coincides with the loose running time of the captured animation frames. Even better if the lyrics or musical queues fit key transitions within the animation. It’s really not at all easy, as the animation is not created for the song, and the song is not created for the animation. When things work, it’s really all a matter of coincidence, a little bit of visual manipulation, and a whole bunch of luck.

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You’re going to Hell if you use our music

A not-so-quick note about copyright
It’s about here that I should note that — apart from one instance where permission was secured (thank you, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult) — I don’t have the rights to use any of the music included in my videos. Nope, it is totally illegal, though I shake a fist of Fair Use defiance at those who would suppress my creatively crafted mashup of audio and video. Still, technically, I don’t have the right to use Norman Greenbaum‘s Spirt In The Sky or my own slightly embellished extended remix version of The Globe by Big Audio Dynamite II to accompany my crazy animations. So each time YouTube flags the audio content of a video on behalf of Warner Brothers (bastards!) or Sony (cretins!) or Universal Music (despots!), I file a dispute to the claimed copyright infringement citing “fair use.” In most cases, the legal rights holders meet my dispute with some degree of kindness and allow the song and video to remain, albeit with the addition of a revenue generating ad. No big deal, the ad can be easily clicked away and viewers can still enjoy my creation. Other times, the legal claimants refuse my case for fair use, and the entire YouTube video is “blocked worldwide”, as was recently the case when I used the AC/DC song “It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll).” Thanks for that, Warner Music!

Sybil leaves nothing to Chance, as she prepares for a romantic evening at 21

Sybil leaves nothing to Chance, as she prepares for a romantic evening at 21

As I set about producing the animation for the photo above (and discussed in Part Three of this update), I was able to quickly develop a visual storyboard that would run from an empty stage to the final shot focusing on a plastic heart lying in a pool of water. Part one of the process done, check! Likewise, shooting the necessary frames was a breeze. This was going to be one of my pan’n’zoom animations where objects are removed from the scene one at a time, with a single photo taken at each step. Where a full scale stop motion animation often requires thousands of individual frames, pan’n’zoom is much lighter weight in the frame capture department. For this project I needed around 120 frames, which I shot, loaded into my iMac, processed, reversed, and — voila! — I now had several minutes of silent video animation.

Now, to pick the music…

And there, I hit an audio roadblock. I wanted the theme to be fortune telling, with elements of palmistry, tarot card reading, and predicting the future. I scoured through my music collection in iTunes, where a massive library of 68,000 songs failed to satisfy (and, yes, I tried using Fortune Teller in all its various versions, but it really didn’t fit). I then went to my stacks of vintage vinyl, sampling dozens of LPs in search of something that could help bring some life to my soundless animation. Again, no luck.

Ah! But then, the proverbial clouds parted and I found the perfect piece of music to accompany my video. All I had to do was add it to the animation track, synchronize things here and there, and… Judge for yourself!

And there you go! A finished and complete video with music from… the… Vinyl Nightmare Orchestra? Ummm… yeah, who are they, again?

Actually… me. Just me. Yep, that weirdly hypnotic tune (good or bad) was completely created by me, on my iMac, to specifically accompany the action of the video. After flailing away so badly in search of the perfect prerecorded song, I was struck by a thought…

Really, how tough can it be to write a song?

The musical center of my brain

The musical center of my brain

Probably, pretty hard, as I’d never written a song, and I can’t even recall ever having aimlessly dreamed up a whistling, humming, toe-tapping original melody. Sure, my head is always filled with music, but it’s always music I’ve heard, either on the radio, in my music collection, in commercial jingles, or riding on an elevator. As far as I knew, the Musical Hall in my brain contains a very large and lonely jukebox, but there is no well of original beats, chords and lyrics. Would that stop me? No way!

So I started up GarageBand, an application I remember opening once before and thinking, “This is stupid; I don’t know what to do.” It still looked kind of useless. I guessed it could be used with a keyboard or a guitar (neither of which I own or know how to play) and I’d heard it could be used to record voices for podcasts using a microphone. Big deal, that wouldn’t help me write a song for my video.

My brain... now with Audio Production!

My brain… now with Audio Production!

Then I discovered… loops — and a long dormant second center of my brain suddenly sprang back to life! Back in college I spent unholy hours working in the production room of the campus radio station, KCPR 91.3 FM, cutting up and splicing together pieces of quarter inch reel-to-reel audio tape for special programs, commercials, and general on-the-air mayhem. It was incredibly fun, and to this day it remains the best “job” I ever had.

With GarageBand’s loops I could essentially do the same thing I used to do in the KCPR production room — though, now multiplied by a factor of about a million. I could lay down tracks of audio, string together tempo-independent beats, pan left, pan right, adjust volume, and add effects. Want some drums? There. Drums. Layer a tambourine on top of the bass? Shake, shake, shake; I have a tambourine. Congas? Sure! Guitar? Why not? Oh my… GOD! THIS IS EASY!!! (It is about here that I am tempted to go into a lengthy diatribe about the ease with which much of today’s chart topping music is made… but I won’t)

Yay! Music! But what about words?

Since most songs include lyrics, I figured mine should as well. Hmmm… I didn’t really want to write lyrics. And, besides, who would sing once these mind blowing lyrics were written? Me? No thanks — even with the help of Auto-Tune (which GarageBand can more or less mimic through pitch correction). Instead I thought it would be fun to chop up a bunch of existing audio sources and basically drop those samples into the instrumental track to “lyrically narrate” the animation.

The Strangest Secret — Earl Nightingale, 1956

I spent some time collecting sources and identifying samples that would fit the theme of the original photo, then constructed the song as a sequence of instrumental passages that could be synchronized to the animation — dropping in vocal samples as needed to punctuate visual transitions and drive forth a narrative. Basically, I was “scoring the film” and writing dialog all at the same time. The record you see on the right, The Strangest Secret, was produced by Earl Nightingale in 1956 as a motivational tool for salesmen (yes, men, the record is VERY misogynistic in its gender roles) in the midwest. It is Earl’s booming baritone voice you hear calling out to “Build! Work! Dream! Create!” throughout the track, and it is audio from this record that provides the bulk of the vocal samples used to construct the song.

Complete list of samples

Because I really, really like to put together lists, here is the full chronological list of samples (apart from those plucked from The Strangest Secret) used in Build, Work, Dream, Create — the first ever recording from the Vinyl Nightmare Orchestra (and, no, I don’t have the rights to use any of these clips, but when has that stopped me from making art?):

  • “Read my future” — Orson Welles, Touch Of Evil
  • “13” — Jo Morrow, 13 Ghosts
  • “13 what?” — Martin Milner, 13 Ghosts
  • “Ghosts” — Jo Morrow, 13 Ghosts
  • “21” — Grace Kelly, Rear Window
  • “It doesn’t matter if it can foretell the future” — Patricia Breslin, Twilight Zone
  • “You’ve been reading the cards, haven’t you?” — Orson Welles, Touch Of Evil
  • “Captain Howdy, do you think my mom is pretty” — Linda Blair, The Exorcist
  • “Will I ever be married?” — Patricia Breslin, Twilight Zone
  • “Captain Howdy, that isn’t very nice!” — Linda Blair, The Exorcist
  • “What it must be like to be able to look into tomorrow” — William Hansen, Night Gallery
  • “Tomorrow” — Clint Howard, Night Gallery
  • “The sun will be different” — Clint Howard, Night Gallery
  • Sequence Dies Irae — The Nuns of Avignon
  • “I don’t want to know what’s going to happen” — Patricia Breslin, Twilight Zone
  • “You may never know! Do you risk finding out!” — William Shatner, Twilight Zone
  • “If we all concentrate on it, and the Ouija will answer it!” — Donald Woods, 13 Ghosts
  • “Oh!” — Grace Kelly, Rear Window
  • “It will! It’s magic!” — Donald Woods, 13 Ghosts
  • “Magic!” — Donald Woods, 13 Ghosts
  • “Dinner at 21” — Grace Kelly, Rear Window
  • “The more things I know about, the more things I can predict” — Clint Howard, Night Gallery
  • “Concentrate now; no cheating!” — Donald Woods, 13 Ghosts
  • “This is the same genuine, magic, authentic crystal, used by the priests of Isis and Osiris in the days of the pharaohs of Egypt” — Frank Morgan, The Wizard Of Oz
  • “You really don’t think that that gizmo can foretell the future, do you?” — Patricia Breslin, Twilight Zone
  • “Okay, now somebody ask a question” — Donald Woods, 13 Ghosts
  • “What’s going to happen tomorrow?” — Ellen Weston, Night Gallery
  • “Captain Howdy!” — Linda Blair, The Exorcist
  • “It all depends upon your point of view” — William Shatner, Twilight Zone
  • “It’s not possible to foretell the future, is it?” — Patricia Breslin, Twilight Zone
  • “Your future is all used up” — Marlene Dietrich, Touch Of Evil
  • “This machine is predicting out future!” — William Shatner, Twilight Zone
  • “What do you think?” — William Shatner, Twilight Zone

And there you have it! Give the video another listen (and view!) and see how many you can pick out!

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Okay, so I think most people who know me are well aware that my favorite album of all time is London Calling by The Clash, rated as such for no better reason than it simply is the greatest album ever recorded in any universe known to humankind. There. That was easy; no question about it.

So what’s second on the list I’ve never actually taken the time to sit down and pencil out on the back of an envelope? Hmmm… Maybe something by Bruce Springsteen? Prince? David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Beatles or Pixies?

Nope.

I gave this decision about 12 seconds of thought and quickly came to the conclusion that Ian Hunter’s 1979 slab of insanely great audio—You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic—is my second favorite album of all time.

You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic – Ian Hunter, 1979

Okay, full disclosure. I was motivated to arrive at this conclusion upon purchasing the 30th Anniversary Edition of Schizophrenic in a deluxe two CD set, and listening to the album all the way through for the first time since… When? College? In any case, I supposed you might judge my sudden proclamation of Greatness (with a capitol G) as being just a little less than thoroughly debated.

What?!?! Wait a minute. Second favorite? Of all time? When you haven’t even listened to the album in countless decades?

Well, yeah (and thank you for assuming that it’s been “countless decades” since I was in college).

And just why have you not listened to the album in all this time if you claim it ranks soooo highly on your list of all time favorites? What did you do? Forget it exists? Huh? Tell me that Blogger Guy!

Good question. Indeed, way back when I had the album on vinyl and (as was the case for every album in my cherished record collection) dutifully transferred the music to cassette tape on first play so as to not expose my precious vinyl to any unnecessary wear and tear. Horrors to have the grooves of my records touched by a diamond stylus more than once!

Me? Paranoid? Nah…
Let us quickly note that this first playing of the record took place with the volume of my stereo set to zero so as not to introduce any sonic vibration into my listening environment. So, basically, all of my many hundreds of vinyl records have been played exactly once. And, since the volume was set to zero… I’ve never actually heard any of my vinyl playing.

You do realize what a dichotomy it is to be soooo ultra paranoid about preserving the surface and sound quality of your records when you are transferring the music to AN INFERIOR FORMAT, right?!?!?

Yes, I do. Don’t bug me. I embrace my peculiar ways! Besides, I had very, very nice tape decks, and always used metal particle tapes. Now, will you please quiet down and let me get on with writing about Ian Hunter’s incredibly great album? Thank you.

But first, a retraction…
It’s not exactly true that all of my vinyl has been played exactly once. There are many LPs—especially live albums—that I’d haul into school during my disc jockey days at KCPR, San Luis Obispo. Though the station boasted a really great record library, mine was better. As such, my Play Only Once rule, was occasionally broken for the sake of Radio Excellence.

With Schizophrenic safely on cassette tape, I had the luxury of portability; something we take for granted in today’s digital age. Way back when, this was a really big deal. I could listen at home, pop the tape into my Sony Walkman, and keep the album in almost constant rotation on the tape deck in my car. When records gave way to CDs I told myself that I’d only buy CDs of music I didn’t already have, reasoning that I could still listen to cassettes (and car stereos with CD players were priced at princely sums). That promise didn’t last long, and today most of my vinyl has been supplanted by CDs (with all 60,000-plus songs now committed to the digital domain of iTunes).

Welcome To The Club — Ian Hunter, 1980

I have a big chunk of the Ian Hunter catalog on CD, but You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic somehow slipped through the cracks. With as many CDs as I own, I probably just naturally assumed that I already had such an important disc. Or maybe when in an Ian Hunter mood my mouse would dial-up his totally terrific double live LP from 1980, Welcome To The Club, which includes spirited live versions of many of Schizophrenic’s songs played in front of an enthusiastic crowd at LA’s Roxy Theater.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that it finally dawned on me that You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic is not, in fact, included in my gigantic hoard of compact discs. This sin was immediately rectified with the purchase of the aforementioned 30th Anniversary Edition, which expands the original LP with a nice collection of bonus tracks, PLUS a second disc filled with live recordings from the tour that supported the album’s original release. Yay!! Yeah, I already have most of these live recordings on concert tapes I’ve obtained through the years, but the sound quality of the CD is amazing, and it’s much more satisfying to hear Ian scream a choice obscenity during Mott The Hoople’s “All The Way From Memphis,” than the radio-friendly Beeeeep! that mired my previous recording.

Okay, this History Of Recorded Music Formats is nice and all, and I’ve read this far, but isn’t it about time you actually tell us why you like this particular album?

Well, first of all, it’s Ian Hunter, and Ian was the lead singer and de factor leader of Mott The Hoople. Points for that! The album also features the guitar work of Mick Ronson. You know… the guy from David Bowie’s Spider of Mars who was responsible for all the insane guitar craziness of tracks like “Jean Genie,” “Suffragette City” and “Ziggy Stardust.” Add to that the rhythm section of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band: drummer Max Weinberg, bassist Gary Tallent, and keyboardist Roy Bittan, who—oh yeah—had previously provided piano for David Bowie on Station To Station. Max, Gary and Roy had just completed Springsteen’s epic Darkness tour, and provide the drive and backbone to every track on Schizophrenic.

By the way, did I mention yet that John Cale (he of the Velvet Underground) plays keyboards on one of Schizophrenic’s cornerstone tracks?

And, just to keep the namedropping ball rolling…! The album also features background vocals from Ellen Foley (the woman with the huge voice on Meatloaf’s “Paradise By The Dashboard Light”) who was the subject of “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” while dating Mick Jones of The Clash. Mick went on to produce Ian Hunter’s next studio album, Short Back ‘n Sides, and appeared in a memorable scene in Martin Scorsese’s The King Of Comedy, alongside his girlfriend and three-quarters of The Clash, credited, simply, as “Street Scum.” You’ll also find Blue Oyster Cult’s Eric Bloom contributing backing vocals to the album, and right at the bottom of the liner notes on the back cover of the original vinyl 12″, Ian offers “Thanks to Bruce Springsteen.”

Ah! But can potentially great list of credits for an album suffer the same level of utter disappointment as so many star-filled Hollywood Holiday Blockbusters (i.e. New Years Eve, Valentines Day and any film where “big names” are shuffled in and out of cameo laden scenes like aces from a magician’s deck of cards)?

In this case, yes! The album holds up exceptionally well over the 30-plus years since its original release. The songs are well-crafted, and filled with excellent hooks and crisp playing. Standout tracks include “Just Another Night,” “Cleveland Rocks,” “Standing In My Light” and “Ships,” which Barry Manilow had the good taste to cover and take to the top ten—even though his interpretation was insipid, smarmy, and filled with enough rancid cheese to drive audiences across the globe into fits of auditory lactose intolerance.

So sorry about that…

And since I can’t come to you, live and in person, to properly eradicate the scourge of Barry Manilow from your brain with steel wool and Liquid Plummer, let me instead offer up vintage Ian Hunter from Cleveland’s Agora Ballroom during the summer of 1979 performing “Just Another Night” with Ellen Foley guesting on background vocals. The audio of this track (in much better quality!) is included on the live bonus disc that comes with the 30th anniversary set.

And, from the very same show (and, again, included on the 30th anniversary release), it’s “Cleveland Rocks” in, of course, Cleveland. Three! Four!

Ian Hunter is now, shockingly, 72 years old (!) an age I almost refuse to accept! He’s still touring and recording, most recently completing a 2011 fall tour of the northeastern US.

Man Overboard — Ian Hunter, 2009

In 2009 he released the nifty Man Overboard, but be on the lookout for Live At Rockpalast, a vintage recording from the vaults released this past year on CD and DVD, capturing a 1980 performance from Germany.

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“The Board” in the KCPR Main Control Room

Juuuust in case it completely slipped your mind to tune in to my return to the San Luis Obispo radio airwaves this past Saturday night (for which there is absolutely no excuse!), you’re in luck! I was able to capture a live stream of the entire “Dawn & John” show, and two hours of listening bliss is now but a click away.

Being on the air for the first time in 10 years, surrounded by all kinds of fancy modern technology was at first daunting and nerve wracking…. But ultimately, a blast! Oh sure, there was a little chaos right out of the gate, and at times the stubborn open/close button on CD Player One sent me into dead-air panics (which never actually happened), but those initial hurdles passed quickly and it was as if the clock had been wound back to a time when I spent more hours behind the mic than I did studying for class.

Teaming up with my good friend Dawn Roznowski, we filled our show with super cool music, occasionally witty banter, and a handful of requests from folks listening over the air locally, and across the country via the live internet stream. Two hours passed in a blink of the eye, and by the time our shift was ticking into the homestretch we pretty much wanted to bar the door and take the station hostage. Alas, good sense prevailed and we relinquished the controls to other alums anxious to relive their misspent music youth.

In any case, here’s a link to the entire show. Enjoy!

The playlist:

The Clash – Capitol Radio Two
The Replacements (with Tom Waits) – Date To Church
The Nerves – Many Roads To Follow
Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Thou Shalt Always Kill
Sugar – Man On The Moon
Thee Michelle Gun Elephant – Drop (alternate version)
The Corin Tucker Band – Doubt
Belle And Sebastian – White Collar Boy
LCD Soundsystem – Drunk Girls
Arling & Cameron – How About The Boys
The Kills – Fried My Little Brains
Billie Jo Spears – Get Behind Me Satan And Push
Negativland – Christianity Is Stupid
Iqbal Singh – Bombshell Baby Of Bombay
Goldspot – Ina Mina Dika
Gram Rabbit – Candy Flip
The Sonics – Psycho
Sleigh Bells – Rill Rill
Grand Ole Party – I.N.S.A.N.E.
Pavement – Unfair (live)
The Balancing Act – Searching For This Thing
Jenny And Johnny – Committed
Peter Case – Ain’t Got No Dough
LCD Soundsystem – New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down
T. Rex – Cosmic Dancer
Lewis Taylor – Stoned Pt. 1
Broken Bells – The High Road
The Ravonettes – My Boyfriend’s Back
Nick Cave & Neko Case – She’s Not There
David Bowie – The Jean Genie (live)

Now, to figure out how I can convert my guest room into a radio station so I can broadcast every night!

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