26 March 2007

If you knew I was loosing you would you find me? If you heard how I needed you would you run to the garden of Shilo?

Peter Himmelman is not someone I think most people have heard of. He’s not on the top ten radar, despite his interesting voice and well written songs, and he’s not in the tabloids as some jerky rock star. He’s a guy who has put out 21 albums over the years, including this year’s children’s CD, My Green Kite, but unless you are listening to any one of the eclectic internet radio stations out there, or paying attention to the music in the TV shows “Bones”, “Judging Amy” or “Men In Trees” you most likely have been missing out.

For the most part his music is your basic rock and roll with a little rap thrown in on a tune, “Prelude” from his 1994 album Skin: “I’m a wealthy guy who just happens to be fantastically handsome”. It’s clever, tongue in cheek and a fun song to listen to. But I think his strengths lie in his quieter more contemplative songs such as “Nowhere Else To Go”. “What to do with all these useless plans, that well up in my heart and overflow, I know it aint right and I’m at your door tonight but I got nowhere else to go”. The song highlights his scruffy voice and his melodic sweetness more than his rock stuff.

One of the cooler things about his songwriting as evidenced in the above mentioned “Shilo” (from Skin) and his song “Whispering Days” from 1991’s From Strength To Strength are the spiritual undertones in his music. “These mystical days and my faith can’t be broke… these are whispering days and the harbour is still, not surrendering any secrets now but tomorrow it will….I’ll sing it for you my lover these whispering days…”. It’s not preachy stuff, it’s just there , but it makes for songs you can listen to over and over and never get tired of because there is always something new to discover in every line he’s written.

Whether you like out and out rock or are looking for something a little deeper and more meaningful, you’ll find it on any given album of his, so find him and have yourself a listen! www.peterhimmelman.com

I spent another long 12 hour Sunday at the kiddie theatre yesterday – it was my eighth day in a row and I have 3 more to go before I get a day off and am essentially done with this show. I can’t wait! I’m very tired of these rude children and some of the parents that are attached to them who look at me like I’m a ghost, or are just out and out dismissive and rude themselves. Thankfully most of the parents are actually pretty cool and nice. They give us hugs, say thank you and it’s obvious they know how hard we all work to make a good show for their kids. Thank god for them or I might completely loose my cookies!

One of the cool things is the after-show people watching. Being that we are in Hollywood you never know who’s in the audience and yesterday Rosanna Arquette was in attendance. I have no idea why she was there – if she had a kid in the show, or if she even HAS kids….but she was there and not the politest of people. Not to nit pick, but I did hold the door open for her and she didn’t even say thank you. When later I needed to get by her, as I politely excused myself she gave me a dirty look and a bit of attitude. In all fairness it may be that I’m just tired and cranky and wasn’t in the mood to deal with anyone at that point so it may not have been all her. But still, there’s no reason not to at least be polite or congenial.

If she only knew that I don’t give a shit about her ‘star status’ (possibly B List status?) or her crappy show “What About Brian” – which if it never aired again wouldn’t be a loss – and if she only knew that the only thing I wanted to ask her was if that Toto song was really about her, than maybe she would have been more human. Who knows? Maybe she was having a bad day. Maybe she should visit the garden of Shilo…hell…maybe I should!

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Monday….CHEERS!!!

19 March 2007

Tell her something in my mind freezes up from time to time…..

They hold the record for having the shortest single on the U.S. Top Ten coming in at 2:12 for their song “Roll To Me” a hit in 1995 and most likely the only reason most people have ever heard of Del Amitri (www.delamitri.com). This band fronted by original members Justin Currie on bass and vocals and Iain Harvie on lead guitar have been around since their college days in 1982 but aside from “Roll To Me” have had little commercial success stateside. It’s a shame on so many levels. They have/had (no one sure if the band is still together) this kind of celtic, pop thing going with intelligent, clever lyrics (co-written by Currie and Harvie), and occasional accordian for good measure. I can’t say enough about how unique their sound is but what gets me the most are the lyrics:

“Tell her the chips are down I drank too much and shouted it aloud, tell her something in my heart needs her more than even clowns need the laughter of the crowd…Tell her what was wrong I sometimes think too much but say nothing at all, tell her from this high terrain I am ready now to fall, tell her not to go, I aint holding on no more, tell her nothing if not this all I want to do is kiss her, tell her something in my mind freezes up from time to time.” (“Tell Her This” from Twisted, 1995). This is probably one of my favourite songs by them, and one of the few songs I dare to cover in my live sets.

“So the night is coming down, drowning us in blue, and it all points towards the things we know we shouldn’t do, and as I look at you, and I fall under your spell, I know I should be thinking of her lying there herself, and when faced with temptation you know a man should stand and fight, but you will be my downfall tonight…” (“Be My Downfall” from Change Everything, 1992). We’ve all been there – but could we all say it like Currie and Harvie do? I wish. Or maybe I don’t, maybe I just wish I could say it that well.

Of course during this process of hopefully shining some light on some lesser known bands, I do research and managed to link up to Justin Currie’s myspace page: www.myspace.com/justincurrie. I must say I am nearly in tears. I can’t stop playing every song on his space. In particular, his song “What Is Love For” is truly a masterpiece. “What is love for? Does it wash good people ashore? Does it keep the world from the door? What does love do? Does it make life worth going through, keep you safe from the suicide crew?...What does it do with love I can’t use for her anymore?...” It has a beautiful and haunting melody with a string backing reminiscent of James Newton Howard’s work on Elton John’s Live In Australia album - clearly this guy is getting better with age and with or without the rest of Del Amitri is worth listening to – in fact, I’m going to go get his stuff as soon as I’m done writing this. So should you.

I’m exhausted. I am back to working for the kiddie theatre again. This time, however, it’s not as much fun and maybe some day I’ll be able to talk about it. Needless to say I worked a 12h day yesterday with no break. Seriously. But I did have Saturday off, it’s my one guaranteed day away from screaming chitlins and bad music. I had to take this one day so Rebecca and I could continue finishing up NUMB. Hey, if I’m going work at least it’s on my shit and not someone else’s, right? So there we were – ready for a break after combing through pictures we took last Saturday for the cover. Time to grab a bite and head out into the world after having my dear friend Holly and her sweetie, Julie over for some St. Patty’s day beverages (all work and no play….).

Hmmm……St. Patty’s in L.A.? Yes, as you can assume, it IS indeed an oxymoron. It’s not like the Oscars where the energy is in the air and you can feel it with every breath you take. It lacks the excitement and festive atmosphere of Boston or N.Y. I know, it’s kind of a no brainer but still, one can hope, right? Every year I think it will be more interesting, but alas, it’s not. I think in my neighbourhood it’s just another Saturday night only with more police and more people wearing green. Still, the people watching was fun, the food was good and we got a nice little break but that’s about it. If you want a real St. Patty’s day’s head east. Maybe next year.

So, my mind is indeed frozen, my laundry is almost done and I’m going to head off and save you all from the numbness that I feel in this tired state.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Monday…CHEERS!

12 March 2007

Turn the clock to zero honey, I’ll sell the stock we’ll spend all our money, we’re starting up a Brand New Day…

I think one of the coolest concerts I ever went to see was Sting at The Greek Theatre here in L.A. during the Brand New Day Tour. I had always wanted to see him, it was a sold out show, but because I was working for Miles Copeland’s record company, Ark 21 Records, we all got first pick of tickets before they were released to the public. Despite this, the tickets were very expensive (I paid $125 each – more than I will ever spend again), but the show was worth it! Dido opened for him – I was already a fan of hers and she was part of the reason I wanted to go to this show. All around the whole night of music was really amazing.

What I didn’t expect that night was the ‘star’ power that was in attendance. It was my first real idea of how odd the realities of this place this can be. That you can you walk around outside a concert and see the entire cast of “Friends”, turn your head, be face to face with Dustin Hoffman and his kids was kind of trippy. Until that moment it had never occurred to me that there were places for ‘us’ and ‘them’ to interact outside of a soundstage – and that it would be part of the ‘normal’ deal here. Some days, even all these years later, I still shake my head and go…WOW! You almost never get used to it.

I have to say – I really love Sting’s work. My uncle calls him Stink, but I disagree. I know his solo work isn’t as edgy as his work with The Police, who I also love, but that’s the point of it. It’s a different form of musical expression for him that has always touched me. As a solo artist his music imbues the intricacies of jazz and rock while staying true to his romantic and literate self .

His first solo project, Dream Of The Blue Turtles, I thought was without a doubt the best CD of 1985. It started him on this path of expression that would set the tone for the rest of his career. You never know what he’ll come up with next and you never know what musical genre he’ll infuse into his repertoire. Whether writing a country song about a friends divorce in “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying” or using an old Russian folk song for inspiration on “Russians”, or feeling an African beat “Desert Rose” he reaches out and does something slightly different every time - he’s simply not afraid to explore.

Speaking of exploring… Rebecca and I set out Saturday to take pictures for NUMB. The idea was to capture NUMB in it’s most basic and expressive form. That meant no beach pictures, no mountain scenery, and no lakeside shots either. That’s cool. I can step outside of my comfort zone and see what the world holds. That meant going downtown to the warehouse district and points farther east to see what we could find. We found a lot. We found streets I’ve never been on, seen people I’ll never see again, and discovered that there are parts of this city where very few tread on the weekends. We almost felt alone.

As we were searching for our next location I looked up and saw an OLD Mcdonalds restaurant that had been converted into a Mexican food joint. It may have been one of the first Mcdonalds in L.A. for all I could see. It coincidentally was lunch time so Rebecca swung the car around and pulled in. Great idea. One problem. I don’t speak Spanish (I speak French) and thusly couldn’t understand the menu. There was a moment of panic, and not just because we were the only Gringos for miles around the parking lot, and considerably out of place, but because I didn’t want to embarrass myself when I got to the counter. What do I do? If I order the wrong thing I’ll be destined for life in a bathroom thereby cutting off any chances I have of finishing this CD. My life and my stomach hung in the balance and depended on my ordering the right thing.

Thank god for cell phones. Thank god Abby answered. As she translated the menu, which alone started to make me sick (ew, tongue, brains and all that) I got to a point where I just had to ask her – what CAN I eat? Just tell me what chicken, pork, and cheese are and I’ll go from there. She saved the day. So did the guy in line behind us. The only other person to acknowledge us hopelessly lost creatures was also a big help. He guided us through and made tasty suggestions. I got pork and chorizo tacos and by far it was one of the best Mexican meals I have had in a long time! Though I did spend some unwelcome time in the bathroom later that night (they may have made/mixed stuff with beef products – not the place to ask whether they do or not) it was still a very cool experience and one I’ll never forget. Overall it was a very cool and fun brand new day!

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Monday….CHEERS!!!

05 March 2007

There are times when you think you’re part of the scenery…Take The Long Way Home…

The girl named Lisa Beran and the band Supertramp will forever be synonymous in my brain. We met in 5th grade when her family moved back to Connecticut from London. I had lived there for 2 years and heard about her from our mutual friend Lili harges. When Lisa and I met it was instantaneous friendship. We just clicked. We spent the next 3 years before she went off to Groton basically attached at the hip. Days were spent sliding in the mud, taunting poor Staige Grimes (I didn’t say we were the nicest crew), hanging out at Lili’s and the Silvermine Market (our ½ way meeting point) and attempting to spend the night in the cemetery (I had convinced several friends to do so – but couldn’t convince them to stay all night – we packed up and left before midnight).

There was something about Lisa, me and Lili. It was indeed a special union. I think some of it was that all of us were artists in different ways. Lisa – a brilliant painter, me the musician, Lili with the artist’s soul. After moving around a bunch before landing in Connecticut their friendship was a comforting and stabilizing force in a town of long-time residents, old money, and many kids who had known each other since before birth.

When Lisa announced that she was headed to boarding school my world changed. While Lili and I stayed friends the rest of our pre college years, Lisa and I saw each other only intermittently and didn’t reconnect until 11th grade. We continued to hang out through college, and even some of my Boston years. When last I heard she was living in Salem, Massachusetts. But that was too long ago.

Thanks to my uncle who is a mere 12 years older than me (more brother than uncle), I was aware of music before my time. Supertramp’s Breakfast In America album was in my brain during those childhood years with Lisa and Lili. You can say it was the soundtrack of that life. Songs of rebellion, one night stands and love – all I was too young to fully understand but somehow connected to anyway. Now that I’m old enough to understand, these songs take on a different meaning and somehow mean more to me now than they did back then. Perhaps that is the true test of good music – withstanding the years from innocent child’s ears, to adult’s wisdom or sometimes lack of it.

We didn’t mean to go on an 8 mile hike Friday – it was somewhat of an accident. We had done a quick hike to solstice canyon’s famous waterfall on Wednesday and on the way noticed a trail I wanted to take. So we made a point to go back on Friday and hike it. What we misunderstood from the sign and map was that it was a 4 mile roundtrip hike over the river (twice), up the mountain to another trail that was 2 miles roundtrip. Thinking we were lost we hiked down a bit, only to discover that we were on a service road that led nowhere. We headed back up and found the real trail back down towards the park. We were accidental tourists in a land of scenery, dust and a river. It was quite a trip!

Thank god for the river and my gps brain. After 3 hours of uphill climbing, and very little downhill action we found the river again (at it’s 2nd crossing). After a brief lunch – it was 2.30 and we feared light loss and becoming subjects of the show “I shouldn’t be alive”, I convinced abby to hike down the river instead if going back the still long way home. It was a gamble, for sure, but one I knew we should take even though abby isn’t a rock climber and I wasn’t sure my wrist and elbow having been broken 2 years ago would hold up. In my brain it seemed to be the most direct route – it was simple - we would head down and meet up with the 1st river crossing which would take us back to the trail head (which was a mile from the park entrance/car, in case you’re doing the math). Though abby initially thought I just wanted to do it because it would be more fun (that was part of it, of course), I convinced her that if we stayed on the river it would be the shortest way back and potentially the best way not to spend the night.

I was right. While It wasn’t always an easy climb down -there were some treacherous moments on huge boulders and gaping holes, it was a very cool hour of my life. It was probably my favourite part of the hike and our long way home – or at least back to the car. It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t mean to do it.

Thanks for tuning in…until next Monday…CHEERS!!

01 March 2007