Wednesday, April 25, 2018


I'm back. I found my old blog by coincidence after a fan told me I didn't keep my fans updated with new projects and maybe I should start a blog to inform people. Well I guess I didn't have to start a blog but I'm definitely reworking the existing one. I created a few pages and am in the progress of updating the content. I have plans for a mailing list and will highlight all my publications. Best of all I will keep people up to date of what's to come. 

On the agenda are additional pages for music, media, pictures and bio.
The music page will have links to all the projects for purchase with information on inspiration, players and random tidbits. 

So stay tuned for more...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What If

What if or what would have been are not questions that I ask myself very often. In general, these questions refer to choices we have made in our lives where we are in control. When looking back, we can reflect on the choices we made because we see how they turned out. Even though I can think of a lot of significant moments in my life where it could have gone left or right or green or blue I am very happy with where I am at and what I do. Although I sometimes ask myself what would have happened if I had started gigging with X or played with Y I usually stop myself pretty quickly because I wouldn't have met my wife or we wouldn't have had our kids. So even if I spoke of choices earlier I do believe in destiny.

Last week, a very prominent figure in the music world died. Les Paul had probably more influence on the shape of modern popular music than Elvis and The Beatles together. Although he made numerous inventions, there are two that overshadow everything: the development of the electric guitar and the multi track recording device.

Granted, if it wasn't him someone else would probably have created similar instruments at the time. But it was his vision and perseverance that turned his equipment into the major successes that they were and still are to this day.

Both inventions are very important to me since I consider the electric guitar my primary instrument and I love nothing more than recording guitar tracks in my home studio.

I find it amazing that his passion for music had driven Les Paul to a constant stream of innovations. His creativity never stopped which especially shows in his music. He performed on a weekly basis in a club in New York until he died at age 94.

Thank you, Mr. Paul.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Face The Day

Sometimes great things happen. For example you write a CD review and the band that recorded the CD reads it. And then they ask you to leave the past behind and focus on their latest release. Who am I to turn them down? I feel honored.

The band I'm talking about is 24-7 Spyz and the topic of today's review is their 2006 release Face The Day. The band was separated for several years between 1998 and 2003 when they reformed as Jimi Hazel on guitar and vocals, Rick Skatore on bass and Tony Lewis on drums. They released a DVD in 2005 before recording and releasing Face The Day in 2006 with new member Tobias Ralph on drums.

Bare the title in mind when this CD hits you like a brick wall with the high-energy punk-rock opener Unknown Wellknown. While it makes sure you are awake for the rest of the 14 (!) song album it also teaches 24-7 Spyz history.
Heavy Metal Soul 4 Life is the description coined by the band itself for their music and I think it reached a new level of perfection on Face The Day. While some songs are heavier and others more soulful the border between styles disappeared almost completely. There are elements of both in most songs but not changing abruptly rather than smoothly integrated.

If you take Face The Day, Waiting For The Sun, Soul Sucker and Ride To Nowhere for example, they rock your socks off. You get hit by powerful metal riffs to bang your head to ecstatically while your booty moves at the same time. Tobias and Rick are an incredibly tight rhythm section that drives Jimi's vocals and guitar playing on and on.

Once you wipe the sweat off of your brows after this onslaught the pace slows down a little with Faithless, The Saturday Song and Angel. What surprised me most about these soulful songs is their groove and Jimi's vocal melodies and harmonies. The voice has a very distinctive sound and the harmonic arrangements are fantastic.

Now, don't think that this is what HMS4L is all about. It's a way of life and pushing the boundaries. This becomes very clear when you reach Blues for Dimebag. It is a tribute song to the late guitar hero Dimebag Darrell Abbott. It's a bluesy instrumental filled with guitar solos from Jimi and guest Bumblefoot. The blues is followed by Running, a ska song and Anything For You which is a mixture of pop-rock and ska.

Personally, I enjoy Plastique very much including the topic of the outer beauty obsession.
The album finishes off with a cover of Thin Lizzy's Bad Reputation and the inspirational Stand! The feeling I was left with after listening to the album was a longing for more. The arrangements are well thought out, the musicianship is great and everything is executed professionally. The CD is available at and probably other outlets as well.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Music is a way of life

Music is an important piece of my life. Only my family takes priority over music. Sometimes it means that working to support my family comes before music. But in my mind, there is always music playing. It can be a song I started to write, the brand new song from fill-in-name-here or an old album from my collection.

Music is a language and full of stories. Last weekend I was blessed to share some of these stories with someone who was involved in making the music of those particular stories. As I probably pointed out one too many times already, the early 90s were a very active musical period for me, playing as well as listening. The rock music scene was alive with bands that were blending all kinds of different styles. Those were challenging and interesting times. While the industry was busy finding labels like crossover, funk-metal or rap-rock to categorize (and market) these bands and there music the bands were busy finding their own way to earn money and spread their music.

One of these bands was Victim's Family. It was a three-piece band with a sound so unique there was no label for them. The music was groovy and punky, it was slow and fast and full of dynamics. I saw them live in 91 and 94 and was mesmerized by the quality of their playing. There was a high level of energy in the air. Three individuals that merged their instrumental skills into a finished product. Bass player Larry Boothroyd played more than just bass, he played melody lines, slapped frantic rhythms and always grooved. Drummer Tim Solyan had the smallest kit I had ever seen, a kick, snare, tom, floor tom, hi-hat and one crash. But the limited amount of equipment wouldn't keep him from expanding the sound capabilities he had. The hi-hat bell would substitute for a ride cymbal and every groove sounded fresh. He would tread lightly but never shy away from hitting hard using the full range of dynamics available. Guitar player and singer Ralph Spight brought licks to the guitar that could be called unconventional at best. Power chords were often missing completely. It is a mystery to me to this day how he could sing or speak endless sentences over rhythmic passages.

In the beginning, they were called hardcore. But since there were so many elements present in their music that were not hardcore and other typical elements missing the phrase jazzcore was invented for them. Yet there really wasn't any jazz in the music. When I met Tim this weekend we talked about the style for a little bit. I learned that after the category was coined the band would actually work short jazzy pieces into their music just for fun. It was interesting to hear him talk about the band. They considered themselves punk rock not so much as a musical style but as an attitude of doing everything themselves. They had a small label for distribution purposes and that was it. They played the music they wanted to play. They took care of the recordings and the touring. Driving around in a van, sleeping on the floor if they had to.

All three members of Victim's Family are still playing music today. Everyone has their own projects and none of these sound anything like Victim's Family. It is refreshing to see people hone their skills and continue to develop.

Check them out at their website or myspace page and listen to the examples.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Video killed the radio star

When MTV started broadcasting music videos in the 1980's, a lot of people cried foul because it was going to kill the radio star. Someone even wrote a song about it. But did it really? Was it not just another revenue channel for the artists that were already played on the radio anyway? Or did the radio stations fear loss of income because of the new competitor? It could have been the perfect opportunity for them to redefine themselves and distinguish themselves from their visual counterpart. It could have added to the diversity in our media landscape and increased the exposure of lesser known bands and artists.

Video didn't kill the radio star. Marketing kills music and it keeps chipping away at it until today. Advertisers bring in the money. In order to get advertisers you need many listeners on the radio. To accomplish this, most radio stations play the same music by the same artists that are popular. Record companies supported this model because the return is greater if you spend a lot of money on your big dog instead of splitting the same budget on ten lesser known acts.

Why did no one invent LiveShowTV? A channel that would broadcast concerts 24 hours a day. Any style, any genre, just music played by people for people. I know VH1 has started a few shows on their classic rock channel but it is very limited. The problem is that a lot of acts in the charts can't perform live. They can't play or sing what we listen to. Britney Spears wouldn't be on LiveShowTV. Once again, the whole idea of LiveShowTV would fail due to the lack of viewers and thus the lack of advertising.

It's funny that we prefer to watch a cheap, amateurish clip placed under existing music rather than someone perform the music live. A few clips were created and filmed professionally and it shows, but the majority of them were not.

Even though there is a huge amount of material out on YouTube in varying degrees of (sound and video) quality it has a lot more to offer in terms of music videos than any cable network ever will. Seeing shows from bands or artists that no longer exist or perform can be a great experience and otherwise unthinkable. Because YouTube runs on user generated content it doesn't discriminate between styles and genres. Unlike radio or TV where you have to play a certain genre to fit in a certain show so you can attract viewers, listeners and advertisers you're free to view whatever is available on YouTube.

In the next few posts I will present a few more acts that never made it big although they are probably a lot more musically talented than the majority of the chart toppers.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A sad day for music

It was sad to see Farrah Fawcett lose her long and strenuous battle against cancer yesterday. I was shocked later in the day when I heard of the death of Michael Jackson. My first reaction was disbelief. Surely, he wasn't done yet. He just booked 50 shows in London. They were all sold out and the king of pop was going to do what he does best, perform his music.

When I realized that the news story was real I felt sad. Sad about the loss of a true and great artist that has influenced music and all of us in so many ways. There are few people who had such a huge impact on music as we know it today. Michael wrote and published such ground-breaking songs in the 80s that changed the musical landscape forever. His greatest hits are timeless and I cannot say that about many artists from the past 30 years.

My thoughts are with both Michael's and Farrah's families. Every death is a tremendous loss.

Unfortunately, in recent times Michael was more in the spotlight for his alleged behavior with children. To this day I don't know if any of it is true or not and I leave this to others to judge. What I know is that Michael had a rough childhood and he probably never had the chance to work through issues that were caused by that. But when it comes to celebrities, everyone is fair game in our society and every action in the public and private life will be observed through a magnifying glass until it is distorted.

Let's remember one of the greatest musicians of the late 20th century, the king of pop for his musical legacy. It lives on through all of us, especially the ones growing up during his years of fame.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Yesterday I received a comment from Dave Grossman on my metronome blog and I wanted to thank Dave for reading my blog, contemplating the contents and taking the time to comment. One of my goals is to have a discussion with readers and appreciate the input.

I wanted to clarify a few points regarding the metronome issue. Many musicians and music educators believe in metronomes and the value thereof. I don't have a problem with that. My personal issue is that people put too much emphasis on the use of metronomes. I find it interesting that the supporters of metronomes in musical education constantly ask for proof that metronomes aren't effective in learning and developing an inner time source.

Personally, I believe that no one will be able to prove the effectiveness of metronomes in a positive or negative way unless scientific studies are conducted. Since this question is really not of the greatest importance there will never be funding available to conduct such a study. In the meantime we can look at results from different music schools that heavily utilize metronomes or condemn them. But the results of such comparisons are always flawed since the students at these schools have different backgrounds in their music education prior to taking lessons.

What Jeff Berlin reports from his Players school (and this is reported as well by review boards) is that he sees great improvement and success rates with his students. This is great for him and the method he employs. Undoubtedly there are other schools worldwide that reach similar results even though they use metronomes during lessons.

Another issue raised is that it is vitally important for aspiring musicians today to be able to play with a click track. What you would accomplish by practicing with a metronome is exactly that, being able to play with a click track. However, if you practice your instrument and develop a good sense of time by doing so, you will automatically be able to play with a click track. You don't have to dedicate time to learn playing with a click track.

When I first read about Jeff's outspoken opinion about metronomes I reacted similar to most musicians, surely he can't be serious! A metronome was something every musician would have in their home and use when they saw fit. I also overlooked the subtle statement that the metronome simply doesn't contribute to the improvement of the internal sense of time in Jeff's opinion until he explained that to me. Misunderstanding and misinterpretation of statements is easy and widespread. After Jeff's explanation I started to think about my own development on the guitar for the past 25+ years. I was quite surprised when I came to the following conclusion:

When I started learning to play guitar in 1982 I received classic guitar lessons. My teachers over the next 10 years did not use a metronome during lessons or advised me to do so. I must have done some good practicing because in the late 80s I even made it to State championships.

I bought my first electric guitar in 1986 and taught myself Blues and improvisation through books and listening to records. In 1989 I went to a popular music school to take electric guitar lessons and participate in band and studio workshops. During the studio workshops we would record tracks with a click and the results good. At the time, I never even thought that playing with a click would impose a challenge. I didn't experience any. If you know your instrument, the material you play and you developed a good sense of time you will be able to play with a click.

It wasn't until I started college in 1992 that I experienced lessons with metronomes. However, these were not individual lessons but groups with bass, piano and guitar for example. Overall, I can say I never used a metronome much, I never even thought about it much in the first place.

What surprises me is that no matter how progressive musicians are in developing their own art they tend to be quite conservative in their views on teaching and slow in adapting new methods. Just because a majority of people does things a certain way doesn't mean it's the right way or the best way. If you create good and positive results with your method, I am happy for you and can only encourage you to carry on. If another method causes you to reflect on your method and incorporate changes I encourage you as well. To me life is not black and white or right and wrong. And the majority doesn't always get it right.

To be perfectly clear, I don't condemn metronomes. They have never been important to me. I don't believe that they help develop ones sense of time or speed up the process. Learning music and an instrument takes time, practice and focus. There are millions of people in the world over the course of history and today that learned playing in time without ever using a metronome.