Saturday, 29 August 2015

freedancing


flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground
and miss
Douglas Adams





f r e e  d a n c i n g



far away journey foreign land,
chasing shadows in the rain











searching for the sunrise

It's what music sounded like 30 years ago.

Searching was my second album on A&M/Universal Music, recorded and released in 1985.   I was thrilled when I got the call from Michael Godin - VP A&R there at the time with the news that there was a green light on it, after my first (self-titled) release which did little in terms of radio so it really didn't make it to retail.  There was a renewed faith, belief/optimism that permeated my existence that year.  This meant $30K for the record and another $30K for a video - YES!  $60,000 was a lot of money in 1985.

Back then, labels knew that a commitment to an artist was essential because the average (successful) recording act didn't break even for 2-3 albums and maybe 1 in 10 signed acts made it to that place so,  here we go.    I had written most of the songs for it and they were most excited about my song "Little Boys" that ended up being the so-called 'single' and we put most of the money into the studio album and video for that song.   The video for 'Little Boys' is posted on my web-site (bottom of the music page).

I liked Free Dancing more (for a single), yes VERY different - but it was Michael's and the record company's call.   Little Boys received extensive air-play on MUCHMUSIC (nationally), and CFNY radio (now '102 the Edge') in Toronto, but Searching itself sold small numbers.  I had what they call an "All-In" production deal with A&M,  so it meant I was responsible for the production/planning and delivery of the album by a certain date - which I did.  I also got to spend some of the budget on gear so I could assemble it at home first, saving money AND having a studio to work in - in the future (without a label).

Even though Searching was the most expensive album I've made, tragically it's my least favourite.  What I've learned is that you can't make good art on a specific time-line/deadline.   Every creation needs proper time to breathe and grow organically.  This was a problem for me and being signed to a record company -  scheduled releases and a pipeline that isn't conducive to creativity.  There are several tracks on this album that just didn't get finished properly - needing the full term to incubate and only having a few months to plan, produce and realize in it's totality.









For instance, this version of Free Dancing has a guitar and vocal overdubs that didn't exist on the original version - and is actually done now.  Pulling tracks up later at home and adding/editing more.  I'm still proud of it though - came together nicely.  It just needed more time to simmer properly.  Pulling Free Dancing back up and do a new clip/video (30 years later) is a real treat.




























Friday, 28 August 2015

borderlines


two men look out the same prison bars
one sees mud and the other stars
Beck



b o r d e r l i n e s




this world keeps spinning us around
and I may never touch the ground


hidden messages?
oh yeah



oh - and turn it UP! 
because it sounds
good  












old friends
 

you could hear a pin drop ...
that was then ... this is now

your wildest instincts, i can't appease ...



borderlines
 
It's what I wanted ... to perform live more than anything.  Massey Hall?  Please.  An amazing band and this on a massive screen (back), imaging borderlines as we play it - just like this only way bigger.  I'd been on the road with lavish, theatrical cover-bands as a front guy (1977-1980), and loved it!  The road crew, big lights and sound, traveling/new places, new people.  What a blast.  I became distracted by machines though ... loved electronic music/sound toys.  I needed to get back into the studio and record.

Between 1980 and 1986, I lived in the studio.  Personal hygiene out the window - zero social life.   Still playing guitars but fascinated by music synthesizers, MIDI - big gear.  Large format recording/mix studios in Toronto - learning ... drifting/creating.  I was a sponge and it ruled me.  Addicted to BIG sound and the technology that manipulates it.  Yep.








This and many songs like it on "old friends", were recorded small format later on.  Apple Mac PLUS computer running "performer" an early MIDI sequencer sync/recording voices on my Roland R8 1/4 inch, eight track analog recorder/mixer combo in my home studio on small speakers - all crude compared to today's standards.  I loved having 24/7 access to a studio, albeit a humble one.

I was listening to a lot of new music that was off centre but amazing - Vangelis w/Jon Anderson, Enya, Swiss harpist Andreas Vollenweider - composer Mark Isham - the list goes on and on.  Music for me was about embracing chill in the chaos.

I recently pulled borderlines up, scraped it off and took a rag to it - re-listening.  Having embraced iMovie/Final Cut here,  I was inspired to put an audio/visual clip together - now 30 years later.  Best part ... I can do this - I can put my music to pictures, bringing it back to life in HD.    I think it's safe to say that there's an underlying sadness to my work, but if you look carefully you will see cracks in the surfaces where light seeps out - optimism.   Fretless bass by Dave Smith and alto sax by Jon Panshychyn.

Sometimes you get to work with these musicians ... who listen to the track once, then nail it - first take.  That's both Dave and Jon.

It's a place where I can go back and revisit AND bring you with me
an alignment thing. 




























 

Saturday, 22 August 2015

white kites

this piece was inspired 
by my very first “zen experience” 
there have been a few since
rare - but yes real
all because
of this




w h i t e   k i t e s










 it was early spring 1984
unusually warm, but still that familiar
chill in the air


 my younger brother and i bought two kites 
and on a beautiful Saturday afternoon
 we trekked down to the Thames River near Woodstock - to fly them

Dave always had a way with these things 
as his kite went up effortlessly and in minutes
  he laid back on the grass 
lit up a smoke and watched it sail 
beautifully over the river

  i struggled with mine for at least an hour  
 it crashed several times in a plowed, muddy field
cursing, dirty - fucked - bullshit, oK ... 
here we go

 when i finally did manage to get it up
 (no pun intended)... it wasn’t positioned right
  it was over the field, not the river 
 i continued to struggle with it 
until i eventually lost my patience 
and tied the damned thing to a bush
 not caring if it crashed again






 

 
frustrated, i went for a walk 
along the rivers edge

when i turned to look 
a couple of minutes later 
i was shocked to see that my white kite was gliding beautifully

over the river




w h i t e   k i t e s




my life 
hasn’t been quite the same since




dedicated to my brother - David
and to my Uncle George Enz
Woodstock, Ontario















night parachuting

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of weightlessness.  As a child I remember looking up at the sky and watching birds in flight, the stars at night, kids flying kites - soaring beautifully then falling/plunging down - around and around and down and crashing.  I was drawn to it - riveted by it.  To this day, I dream regularly of falling off of something high up.  Gravity.  Wow.  What's so cool, is having these simple HD video editing tools now.  I can bring this music to the surface and actually show you what I was 'envisioning' when I created it 25 years ago.  It's all about getting closer, to what it feels like - to fall.


Night Parachuting, was the first album I released after the two records I did on A&M/Universal Music in the late 80’s.  Even though the label had spent $100K+ on my music career, back in a time when that was actually done; there was a lot of pressure to fit into the pop music market at the time and there was a surplus of decent (radio friendly) Canadian music around.   They were molding me to be the next (Canadian) Supertramp or Chris de Burgh (both on A&M) only I was a solo artist, and felt totally comfortable around technology, bringing finished product to the table (the deal maker).   

It was a delicate balance.  To get signed to a record company in the early '80's,  you had to sound like someone BIG (50%) and yet have something original going on (50%) - to create a unique identity in the market and A&M loved my UK influences and the balance.   I played most of the instruments myself and brought in session players (rhythm section/winds and reeds), for the label stuff.  Night Parachuting was all me done at home, immersed in MIDI sequencing.  White Kites (and several other tracks) was created in a program called Jam Factory (an intelligent music sequencer).  I didn’t tour with this album or with the label, because there was no pressure to and A&M put money into music videos instead of touring (because it was a new thing).  With MTV and MUCHMUSIC, there was a new outlet to promote artists.  I was fine with that because it gave me time to work on a side project.  

Night Parachuting is a contemporary instrumental album dedicated to the art of flying.

Quite honestly, I was far more in love with the music I was doing for this project way more than becoming a pop-star, soon realizing that I was a better composer than songwriter.  My obsession with music was changing course.  When I wasn't working on my final album for the record company, I was at home secretly working on night parachuting.   In 1986, the label dropped me and it felt like I was jumping out of an airplane - only at night.  I just wanted to do an album that felt like suspension.


Every track on the album is dedicated to a free-fall - to the unknowing of what's going to happen (where we're going to land), and to the wonder and magic that awaits us in that.  Learning to trust our instincts, knowing that the universe WILL take care of us.  I recorded about 60 instrumental pieces between 1986 to 1991 and selected 12 of my favourites for this album which would get no label support (obviously) because it was an instrumental album and that was just fine with me because it’s really what I wanted to do and now had a studio at home to do it in.

In 1992, Night Parachuting was released and it is my most successful album to date.  Various tracks from the album were (still are) featured nightly on CHUM-FM, CHFI-FM in Toronto and on major market stations all across Canada and is my only album available on iTunes.  


























Wednesday, 19 August 2015

requiem


 i'm not afraid of your suffering
i'm not afraid of your joy
i'm not afraid of your hunger ... your desire
i'm not afraid of your rage
i'm not afraid of your love
i'm not afraid of your lies ... or your truth
or of the prisons you choose to live inside


e  q  u  i  e  m


i see you
i feel you
i need you
i love you














nuclear winter
"doctor - just give me something"

I'm cold - need heat

it's a dream I keep having

magic mushrooms
in a bad trip
make it go
away
  

i am become death
the destroyer of worlds
 J. Robert Oppenheimer







temple redux

 

Feral/stray rescue dogs and cats make the best friends.  It's a "thank you" that transcends the spirit - lover arrive.  That look when you feed them - touch them.   If all you can see is what doesn't work, then you will live in a world where nothing works. 

It's all so simple really - you do what you want to do - what feels right, then whatever happens, just happens.  If people get itIt's just a bonus.  If not - then you let go and move on.  I just really need to create stuff like this, because it rings true, to me.   

First the music, then years later (and with new tools), the pictures.  I'd like to think that it's a unique perspective, that means something - (even if it's just to me).  We Canadians are so afraid.  I've seen it first-hand, reading hundreds of posts/threads on the CBC website over the past week.  I really like going there to look, because it's a psycho-social barometer that measures the spirit of us.  We are scared shitless after the ISIS bombings in Paris - questioning the Muslim faith.  Many Canadians are like those who slow down to gawk at the carnage but won't get out of our cars to actually help anyone.  Not something we want any part of.

No.  We don't want to live like that - die like them.  So keep them AFAP (as far as possible).   HOW are we supposed to do this - and what if they kill us after we let them in?  I mean WTF, "do I look like a tampon to you"?





 




change

In late 1988, I went to see a film, “The Last Temptation of Christ”, knowing little about it other than it was Scorsese - and that’s all I needed to know.   When the film began, I was immediately struck by the soundtrack/music which hypnotized me until the end of it and saw the music composer credit … Peter Gabriel (right of course).  I was fascinated by the cross-pollination of ambient tones blended with tribal rhythms, exotic reeds/winds/voices all leaving me spellbound/transfixed and riveted for weeks/months, even years to follow.  I was already a big Gabriel fan … this was over the top amazing!   I had been listening to vinyl discs up until then and none of the 'Passion' pressings translated so I ended up buying my first CD player in 1989 and I was blown away, listening to this album that he released (film soundtrack), over and over again through my STAX electrostatic headphones. 

I'm thinking that this mix of sounds was going to take off and I loved it so here we go - gathering ethnic samples and laying down tragic rhythms, very new - a bigger picture.  Then there was Gabriel's WOMAD (1984-1988).  It was an ethnic music fusion festival touring world-wide that fizzled (not enough white sugar - guessing).  World music was just more interesting. 

I started experimenting with this "new world" music genre at home in my studio electronically with samples (early 90’s) - mixing in real instruments (musicians I met who were into same), eventually receiving for a grant from Toronto Arts Council to record and FACTOR (Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Record) for overdubbing and mixing between 1994 and 1996 when the first draft of the album was released on CD.   One condition on receiving the $12K FACTOR loan was that I needed to deliver 50 CD’s to their office within 90 days of issuing the funds or they would recall the loan.   So now there’s a deadline and that killed it.  I delivered the box of CD’s to their office but the album was nowhere near being finished.   The project (in it’s unfinished state) received a luke-warm response and I shelved it for 6 years, having run out of funding/inspiration and no way to continue.  


Granted, Temple was/is a very strange, dark creature.  People generally had no idea what to make of it and it was/is impossible to categorize anymore.  As brilliant as Gabriel's "Passion" was, it was delegated to the 'film soundtrack' bin/back of the music store and it was his least successful work as a composer/performer.  I still had to release the album, IN the timeline I was given. 










It was my last plunge - I did it and it hurt lots - but it's finished ...

My requiem for a dream ...

When Pro-Tools LE was released (desktop digital audio workstation) in 2002, I pulled Temple out, dusted it off, loaded it all into my Mac computer and spent 4 years dissecting/editing and polishing it at home.  In 2011, I remastered it using WAVE plug-ins and was proud to say in April 2012 that Temple was finally DONE (now Temple Redux), after finishing the artwork myself.  The prose, "I'm not afraid ...", (top) was performed/spoken (gargoyles) by Toronto vocalist Alla Kadysh in Russian-Jewish/Hebrew.  Voices in Requiem by Jim Lamarche and Pedro Aznar who went on to perform with Pat Metheny.  Winds and electronic reeds by Ron Allen.  Fretless bass and Chapman Stick by the brilliant Toronto musician/composer, the late Alun Davies who took his own life in 2008.

Requiem is dedicated to my friend Alun.  His talent/gift always astounded me ...
http://www.jazzworkscanada.com/the-tune-up-blog-archive/new-jazzworks-scholarship-honours-alun-davies 

So, can an album of music actually take 18 years to make?  This one did.  The clip was recently created to commemorate the project featuring Requiem and Gargoyles, the first two tracks on the album.




Saturday, 15 August 2015

nocturne


take this kiss upon the brow
and in parting from you now
thus much let me avow …
you are not wrong who deem
that my days have been a dream



n o c t u r n e









yet if hope has flown away
in a night or in a day
in a vision or in none
is it therefore the less gone?

all that we see or seem
is but a dream within a dream

i stand amid the roar
of a surf-tormented shore
and I hold within my hand
grains of the golden sand …
how few! yet how they creep
through my fingers to the deep
while I weep … while I weep
oh God! can I not save
one from the pitiless wave?

is all that we see or seem
but a dream within a dream


edgar allan poe





and so it began














spearmint lake

it's what I saw - when I looked up and out, and for once in my life, it felt like I was in the loop.



In May 1992, I received an Ontario Arts Council grant to fly into a remote lake in northern Ontario to record an ambient album.  


Spearmint Lake is about 40km northeast of Chapleau Ontario, high up on a ridge surrounded by towering cliffs of centuries old limestone and an open sky - no roads to this place and no one around.  I rented a generator and a van - some gear and packed up my studio - some synths, my Apple Macintosh “MacPlus” computer/Performer MIDI sequencer, some expensive microphones and headed north that August having absolutely no idea what I was doing.  The $9000, I received from the grant allowed me a short window to go up there for 7 days to explore the possibilities that summer.  My brother David and I had visited the lake the previous August fishing (monster pike) - we were totally alone in a humble tent camp with a 14 foot aluminum boat and a 10hp motor - it was amazing/breathtaking!  Spooky, especially after dark.  A quiet fire crackling on the only tiny sand beach near the tent - looking up into that sky - beyond words.  We had front row seats to the universe, knowing I had to return.  I wondered how amazing it would be, to have a recording studio up here - on the water!   Right - one of my many musical fantasies at the time.

When we landed on the calm lake (about 2km across) in our beaver aircraft a year later, our familiar camp had been torn up by a bear and I was a tad freaked out, spending the first day repairing the tent and setting up.  The idea was to build a raft that could hold my gear - powered by the generator which was buried back in the woods and a super long (heavy duty) power cable on styrofoam floatations so I could set up my synths and send drones out in the lake (to record the amazing circular echoes coming back) with PA speakers and 1000 watt amps, and capturing it all with an ambisonic mic (surround) into a portable DAT recorder (drifting 100 meters away on a canoe), so I could bring it all back to Toronto and properly mix it in a real recording studio.










I remember the first time there, standing in the boat and loudly projecting a long musical note and listening to the echos going around the lake both directions for about 30-40 seconds.  It sent shivers up our spines - so quiet, so dark - so haunting - almost unreal.  Ok, Spearmint Lake (the album) was ambitious,  I'll give it that but it didn’t quite work as expected.  The lake-drone stuff was useless BUT WOW - what happened in that tent over the time I was there?  Incredible and unforgettable.  Candles burning at 2am - always an ear out for what might be a returning bear that could tear through that tent like a hot knife through butter.  Best part - going back to the generator at 4am (alone) to put gas in the it with a flashlight - creepy/riveting!  I didn’t sleep the whole time I was there - didn’t need to.  I had been fortunate in taking in the Brian Eno/Daniel Lanois ambient masterpiece “Apollo” a few short years earlier, recorded at Grant Avenue Studio, Hamilton, having actually been at the studio producing a pop album for the Halifax band Screaming Trees and got to be around the making of Apollo in it’s later (mix) stages and it inspired me only I wanted mine to be different - a project that took a few years to realize and was a real stretch.  I wasn’t sure exactly … only knowing it had to be outdoors - same mood, different smell. Accessing the dream-state with the intent of documenting it aurally/visually.  

The lake had a sound all it's own.  A single family of loons on the lake and their calls were really out of this world ... chilling.  Being there even just with microphones/recorders was a real treat.  Problem was - the weather was disagreeable, raining most of the time so I didn’t get to do the lake stuff.  I did get set up twice out on the lake but it was overwhelming technically - didn't foresee that.    I set up the main studio in the tent (my contingency plan), hoping the bear wouldn’t return; (right - wishful thinking - yes it did on day 5 and I stayed out on the raft overnight from then on).  No sleep (ok little).  First 4 days were the best.

On the first night I was there after a long day of set-up - I sat on the lakes edge as the sun went down and got to see the most spectacular light-show I’d ever seen as it got darker - up in the sky.  Later that evening very late, I stepped inside my tent and started recording synth drones in the temporary tent studio I had set up and mixing in the SFX I’d captured earlier in the day in samples loaded into my Roland S550 sampler.  I recorded Aurora Borealis in about an hour.  That’s what I did the whole time I was there essentially - recording nature out in the woods - getting wet but worth it, then making music in the tent studio.  Magic.  All very crude but it worked.  Over the following week, I was all inspired by this amazing place.  Two years later, I finished Spearmint Lake in my home studio on Westminster Ave, Parkdale Toronto and remastered it in 2013.  These two tracks are the opening pieces on the album.

Some of these pictures in the clip were taken by me and others gathered from the internet just recently - August 2015 (23 years later).  It takes me back to a time when I was on top of my game.  Shaking/shivering out in the middle of nowhere and shaking at what was totally unknown - ok not knowing if this project would ever become a reality (or if I’d be around to tell this story). 


So yeah, the whole idea is to listen to the clip whilst reading.





 
It was a fascinating time of my life.  I was 36 years old and I felt like a kid - a child - in love with life doing what I loved doing.  Sleeping for days after getting back - mixing for months/years afterwards. 

Bringing this back - brings ME back.  The universe is sending me a message and I'm passing it along.  Tripping the light ...


This is a snapshot of a place where no-one lives - anymore




click to enlarge maps







.




Saturday, 1 August 2015

leave a LIGHT on


in the darkness
before the dawn
in the swelling
of this storm

I often wondered - when I was in my 20's
what music would sound like
in 30 years

what life will be like
now here










I'm a fleeting fox in a fragrant forest - ears up
sensing instability, sensing remorse
tripping the light. I'm on-line
 alone - sensing danger 

over there



I beg, borrow and steal, it's what I do - we do 

voices in the embers - tick tock, fading
haunting me and yet I listen still
because it's important
the reverberation
visitation

in my dreams
those I miss
most
 


sinister systems - twister tornados - in line
at Tim Hortons - orders misread
underpaid brown people - right

send it - them back

the Afghan mission was just
an expensive expression
 


millions are
lost from home
in the swelling
swelling on
running round and with a thunder
to bleed from thorns
leave a light, a light on







  


"wait a minute! 
I ordered fake cheese and mustard on this"  
faaaaak - bullshit

where's good service anymore?


sometimes I go away
for a long, long time
but I come home 
eventually
 


the takeaway - is positive change
a shift in consciousness 

we men need to change
hanging on to the horrific horror
in our duty-free damage control default detox
destiny disturbance drifter dreamer detainment

derailment disclaimer

a tragic trajectory written on tireless tombstones
some call it karma - I call it careless

in the darkness before the dawn
in the swelling
of this storm


need to concentrate
no interruptions 

go away

submersed in liquid learning
leaning forward into
soft keystrokes

lamenting










when I'm rolling with the thunder 
but bleed from thorns

sometimes I get swept away
by all this - and I write
on rusted mechanisms
in places I shouldn't
be - let's just say

it helps me
stay focused
sharp


great art is taking something different in
every time you let it in and yet
 remaining a tad chilly
in the aftermath

resistance is
futile

that unseen twist in the triangle
a terrible tragedy

ok, it's dark and it's late
there are strange sounds
out there - lost again 
radio's busted
flying solo 

crash and burn
falling again

"ouch" 

thank god I have 
night vision 

only it does me no good
right here, right now 










trapping fur
methodically
purifies

before the dawn
in the darkness
before the dawn
leave a light, a light on


early 1984 - settling back, electro-static headphones on
wondering what music will sound like
in 30 years, missing the magic

life is a tapestry
connecting the dots is something that comes with time

wisdom is acquired - trust is earned
ya - I'm old




l e a v e  a  L I G H T  o n



 
missing home
don't know where that is anymore 
pressing on



austerity aqualung acquisition acquiescing
illumination on dry land approaching - night parachuting
over water first and then arriving
careening then crashing
red rain 


into the trees
dangling

dripping


lost