Category Archives: Music

i meant every word i said

Dinner is finished, and Anne is helping Nolan with some homework at the dining room table. I’m sitting outside by the fire pit, enjoying the fruits of our weekend of patio labor. I am surrounded by freshly-planted wildflowers, two types of tomatoes, and the sweet smell of lavender, roses, and just-turned dirt.

I was listening to Big Tracks on XM, through DirecTV, on our home stereo. I sang REO Speedwagon’s Keep On Lovin’ You a little too loudly while I sipped a Stone Pale Ale and digested the most amazing chicken soft tacos (marinated in tequila, lime, salsa and Tapatio) I think I’ve ever cooked, when Ryan came out to the patio from the kitchen.

“Can I turn off XM and put on Live Aid?” He said.

“No, you can’t,” I said, a little perturbed that my REO Speedwagon rocking had been interrupted.

“But you’ve been monopolizing the TV, and you’re not even inside,” he said. Very reasonable.

. . . I meant that I loved you foreverrrrr, and I’m gonna ke–“ I sang. “Dude. I’m trying to get my rock on, and you’re totally harshing my mellow.”

“You’re trying to get your rock on . . . to REO Speedwagon?” He said, incredulous. Tough to argue with that. “You’re the only one listening to this, so isn’t it fair to consider the rest of the family?”

Dammit. I raised him to think like this. I’m so proud of him, but . . . Big Tracks, and Stone Pale Ale, and sitting by the fire pit! Shit. Shit. Shit.

“Did you ask your mom what she thinks?” I said.

“She’s going to say that she doesn’t care, because she’s helping Nolan with his homework.” He said.

REO Speedwagon ended, and Asia began: “I never meant to be so bad to you . . .”

“Okay,” I said, “let’s go inside and ask your mom what she thinks.”

We walked into the house, and found Anne and Nolan at the dining room table. Ryan related our discussion, and asked Anne if she cared if he changed the channel.

“I don’t care,” she said.

Ryan jumped up and pointed at me. “Ha! I told you!”

“I don’t care about the radio, either,” Nolan said, with a pointed smirk at me.

“Yes! I get to put on Live Aid!” Ryan said. He started toward the living room.

“Uh, wait.” I said, “we haven’t reached consensus.”

“Oh, we totally have, Wil,” he said with a grin, “you’re 25% in favor, and mom, Nolan, and I are
75% opposed. We have a majority.”

I was done. I’d lost, and now it was time to take it like a man.

“Dude, I have, uhm, extra . . . uh . . . powers.” I said.

“What?” Ryan said.

“Yeah, I went up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start,” I said.

“Okay,” Ryan said, “so you get extra lives on Contra. What does that have to do with the radio?”

I don’t know how he knew that it was the Konami code, but I’m sure he picked it up from me, somewhere over the years.

“Okay,” I said, “just because you knew that, you win. Go put on Live Aid.”

Queen is blasting out We Will Rock You, from Wembley Stadium in 1985, as I type this.

lately it occurs to me

wo out of three deadheads make me stabby, but since I first heard
American Beauty when I was in my teens, I’ve considered myself a casual
fan of the Grateful Dead. Put into nerd terms: I’d go to a Star Trek convention, but I wouldn’t go in a spacesuit. Well, maybe in a spacesuit, but certainly not with a latex forehead. And I’m not following Avery Brooks around the country in a van; that’s where I draw the line, man.

While I never wanted to go to a live show, (goddamn hippies with their
patchouli and their hemp pants) I absolutely love listening to recordings of
their shows, and I’ve spent a lot of time with some of Dick’s Picks, because the Dead are probably the best example of a band that makes good records, but takes their music to an entirely different level when it’s played live. For an example of that, pick up just about any live Dead recording where they play Darkstar, and make it last for six hours without ever getting lame, or pick up this 1971 show linked below and listen to The Other One -> Me and My Uncle -> The Other One. Wow.

I haven’t listened to the Dead in a long time, but earlier this month Pauly advised everyone to pick up the August 6, 1971 show from the Palladium in Los Angeles from
Because everyone else was doing it, and I wanted to be popular, I
grabbed it, unzipped it, and didn’t listen to it until this morning.

Wow. What a great show this is, and how surprising that it was recorded
at the Palladium, which is probably the worst venue in the entire city.
The energy, the quality of the recording, and the cool, bluesy strains
of their songs is just perfect writing music for today: it’s 79
degrees, my patio is covered with finches squabbling over the bird
feeders, my dogs are sleeping at my feet, and a gentle breeze is
carrying the smell of recently-transplanted lavender into the window.

A few minutes ago, I followed a link to the 2+2 forums, and found that
cool Firefox/Grateful Dead mashup image as an avatar, and took it as a sign that I
should post something about this cool music I’m enjoying today, and spread firefox.

Hey, everyone else is doing it – I just want to be popular.

there is always soma, delicious soma

When I work on Games of our Lives, I usually listen to Fred on 44 or Ethel on 47. I used to listen to Lucy on 54, but it’s recently become totally unlistenable, thanks to the addition of Sheryl Crow (on the “alternative” station?), and the heavy rotation of Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers, making my satellite radio just as annoying as my regular radio. Way to go, XM.

Today, however, I’m listening to some fantastic radio from the internets that I thought I’d share with the five of you who don’t know about it already: SomaFM, from San Francisco, specifically the Secret Agent station.

I used to listen to Soma quite often in the pre-Mac days, when I’d stream music over shoutcast on my Linux machine, but I usually listened to Groove Salad. I forgot about it until I found the Secret Agent station sort of by accident last night, and I’ve been listening to it pretty much nonstop since I got up this morning. So check it out, if you want to hear something you probably haven’t heard before, or are in the mood for something totally different.

And while I’m off to work on next week’s Games of our Lives, I encourage you to take a look at this week’s installment, Bermuda Triangle, which has some cool (in my opinion, anyway) Easter Egg-ish obscure references for your “hey! I got that!” pleasure. While you’re there, you may want to take a look at Guzzler, which I also think is pretty funny.

some cinderella kid

I ended up watching a few minutes of VH1 Classic before I fell asleep last night, and, uh, i kind of watched this crazy old video of Kenny Loggins.

It was totally rad, with the whites blowing out and the occasional old VHS noise, and the slightly greenish skin tones. He was playing an outdoor concert which was just filled with girls in tube tops and guys with horrible Kenny Loggins-esque beards, and the whole thing looked pretty stinky and coked-out. If that wasn’t enough evidence that it was the early 80s, he was playing I’m Alright, from Caddyshack, which is one of my guilty pleasure tunes (I didn’t realize until last night that it contains the lyric "No, no, cannonball it right away.")

So far, we’re okay, but you may want to prepare to throw up in your mouth a little bit:  he was wearing white ankle-high boots, a huge, puffy red jumpsuit with a novelty-sized belt around his waist, the obligatory rock-n-roll mullet, and seriously rocking out with his bad self while strumming an acoustic guitar.

Maybe I’m uptight, maybe I just don’t understand the rock like I think I do, but when he ran around the stage during a guitar solo (which he wasn’t playing; he had his 12-string a-strummin’) and jumped up on a raised platform so he could kick an amp off the stage, I didn’t think, "Oh man, that guy is a hardcore rockstar!" as much as I thought, "Uh, what the hell was that all about?"

I changed the channel when the Top Gun song started. There was no way I could endure shots of L. Ron Cruise after that.

my mind is filled with silvery star

This is the second time in about forty minutes that I’ve wanted to change the title of an entry. First: "when i’m boss of the universe . . ." should be called "new slang", or "gold teeth and a curse" if I wanted to be slightly more obscure and rewarding to anyone who figured it out.

"i call the big one bitey" is a nice homage to a long ago time when The Simpsons was still consistently funny, but "antmusic" would be cooler. "dirk wears white socks"  would be even better, but "kings of the final frontier" would probably be the most obscure and rewarding (the ant habitat was originally designed by NASA, and I’ll let you figure the rest out on your own.)

Now this is a little weird: iTunes must know that I’m writing about music, because for the last seven songs, it has taken me on a little time warp to my teens. These songs are listed in the exact order that they came up. It was set to shuffle through my entire library (currently organized by album title), which is pretty eclectic, so the choice of tunes is particularly eerie.

Songs with their associated memories:

Cinderella Undercover - I am driving my brand new 1989 Honda Prelude Si 4WS to work on Star Trek. I don’t know why, but in all of my memories, it’s early morning, it’s cold, and it’s a little foggy. I loved that car, and it’s the same one that was just slightly better than Patrick Stewart’s, if you’ve heard that story.

Don’t Be Square, Be There - My friend Guy (who was also my stand-in on TNG) introduced me to Adam and the Ants via the Kings of the Wild Frontier album. I can still see the tape, an old TDK number with "Adam and the Ants" on one side and "Kings of the Wild Frontier" on the other, written in Guy’s realy cool architect writing, in a smoky grey case with no paper insert. Guy lived in Costa Mesa, and after I got my Mac II — in color, with four fraking megabyes of RAM, man! — I’d put it in my car and drive down to Guy’s on the weekend so we could appletalk our machines together and play NetTrek and Spaceward Ho! People often asked me in interviews how I avoided the drugs and partying scene that claimed the lives and futures of so many of my peers; I’ve just realized that this is a major reason why: when they were getting high and courting the paparazzi in night clubs they were too young to be in, I was sitting in Guy’s house playing really geeky games.

Still Ill -
When I was in my very early teens, I had one of those massive teenage crushes that consumes your every waking moment and requires you to listen to endless hours of The Smiths in your bedroom wondering why she doesn’t like you "in that way." This particular crush was on Kyra, who was so beautiful, and so smart, and so cool, and so a senior when I was a freshman it was never going to happen. Kyra introduced me to The Smiths (on Vinyl, no less), the Violent Femmes (in her BMW 2002 while we were driving to see Harvey at a local college) and was goth before goth was goth. Though I had such a massive crush on her, we were great friends, and she never broke my heart.

Pale Shelter -
I heard this on the radio in my mom’s car on my way to my first day of public high school at Crescenta Valley High School, and it will always remind me of that day. I was terrified. I remember sitting into first period history class, and not even knowing that I was supposed to write "per. 1" on my papers. I remember that it was nothing like I’d seen in movies and on TV, and how the kids in all my classes were so cruel to me. I was shy, I was scared to death, and I was so withdrawn as a result, they all decided that I was aloof and arrogant and I never got a chance to correct that first impression. Wow – as I write this, I can feel that terror all over again. I feel it in my muscle memory and in my soul. Gods, I felt so tiny as I walked across the quad on that first day, like a little kid who lost his mom in the department store. The time I spent at CV was the absolute worst in my life.

How Beautiful You Are - Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me was the first compact disc I had, and it’s a good thing, too. I love this record so much, I would have worn it out in any other medium. This was also during the "W + K 4EVR" phase, and, nerdly little artist that I was, whenever I heard this song I longed to go with her to Paris and dance in the rain together. You know what I just realized? I don’t think I ever told her that I was so fiercely head over heels for her, and she either knew and didn’t call me out, or I had the perfect combination of infatuation and insecurity to keep it to myself. I wonder where she is today, and how she’s doing? Hrm.

Charge of the Batmobile -
My best friend, Darin, lived just over one mile from my house, across windy streets up in the hills above La Crescenta. We were such Batman geeks and we were such stupid teens, we frequently put this song on my tape deck and drove way too fast across those windy streets late at night between our two houses. It’s a miracle we never crashed or hurt anyone or anything.

Phonetic Alphabet – NATO -
This is from disc 2 of The Conet Project. I never heard a numbers station in my teens, but I spent a lot of time listening to my shortwave radio and my police scanner (I told you I was a geek) so it reminds me of sitting in the dark (because shortwave listening is so much better when you’re in the dark, for some reason) late at night when propagation was better, spinning the dial and thinking it was the coolest thing in the world to hear transmissions from the other side of the planet. I’m glad the Cold War is over, but boy do I miss the SW propaganda broadcasts.

And the Conet Project is the perfect coda to this trip in the wayback machine. That invisible woman’s voice, sending a message to some unknown person in an unknown land, shot into the ionosphere and back, captured by someone else in another time is almost too perfect. If I saw it in a movie, I’d never believe it. Good thing this isn’t a movie.

"romeo, romeo, lima, yankee, november, oscar, oscar, zulu . . . end of message end of t–"

bleating and babbling

rom the time I was old enough to recognize that music is important, I’ve gone through these phases where a certain band will jam a guitar into the base of my skull and twist around there until I listen to them enough to fill my brains with their music and push the guitar (which is usually a Les Paul, and occasionally a Fender Stratocaster) out.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you can see when this happens, because it’s usually revealed in the titles of my entries. There have been Radiohead and Pixies and Get Up Kids and Mike Doughty explosions, but the one band I’ve come back to over and over again since I was in high school is Pink Floyd.

It was Pink Floyd who introduced me to the concept album, and showed me that music could be something more than background noise. I’ll never forget the first time I heard Animals: I was working on a show called Monsters, which was a cool little Tales From the Darkside-ish anthology show. My episode was really cool: it was called Shave and a Haircut, Two Bites, and was about two barbers who do all sorts of unspeakably horrible things to feed a creepy blood-sucking Lovecraftian monster. We filmed the whole thing in a tiny little warehouse-ish building down near the center of Hollywood (I think it was off Santa Monica, between Highland and Gower, but I’m not sure) over the course of about a week in 1990.

I played opposite Matt LeBlanc in that show. To illustrate how weird Hollywood is: Matt was new to town and the entertainment industry, and though he was older than me, I was the veteran actor. I was also a Really Big Deal at the time (though the slow-but-sure slide down to the C list had already begun) and it’s this moment in time where you can see the graphs of our careers cross: he was rising and I was falling. Weird, isn’t it?

Matt was a relly nice guy, and a lot of fun to work with. He’s also singularly responsible for introducing me to The Simpsons. I remember sitting in his dressing room between setups one day, talking about TV shows, and he asked me if I’d seen it. I told him that I’d watched one or two episodes, and I wasn’t particularly impressed (if you look at season one of The Simpsons, I think you’ll agree that it was a very acquired taste back then.)

He was surprised, because we’d been talking about Monty Python and Life in Hell, and other types of off-beat humor, and he was convinced that I’d like the show. To prove this to me, he recreated the entire episode where Bart is sent to France and ends up slaving away in the vineyard.

I couldn’t tell you a single thing about working on that episode (other than being afraid I was going to cut myself with a straight razor) but I can still close my eyes and hear Matt saying, "Don’t eat ze grapes, Bart!" I thought it was so hilarious, I gave The Simpsons a chance, and was hooked pretty quickly after that.

But this post was originally about Pink Floyd, right? I was already into Pink Floyd a little bit by this time, and a casual fan of The Dark Side of the Moon, and Wish You Were Here. I don’t remember how I ended up with Animals, but I had the CD and a portable CD player (kids: way back in 1990, before the advent of MP3 players, your parents carried around CD players which were very portable at around five pounds each. We also carried around ten or twenty CDs at a time, in a wallet sort of thing. And we listened to our CDs while we walked uphill both ways in the snow to get to school because we liked it.)

At this point in the story, I feel compelled to point out that, even though I love Pink Floyd and The Grateful Dead, I’m not a stoner, and never have been. Stoners bug the everlivingfuck out of me, and nothing makes me leave a party or event faster than a bunch of pot heads. I also feel compelled to point out that the so-called War on Drugs is an abject and total failure (much like the Bush adminstration) and I fully support changing a lot of our drug laws here, especially de-criminalizing marijuana, mmmkay?  And I now feel further compelled to point out that I’m not casting judgement on stoners. I know plenty of stoners who I genuinely like a whole bunch; I just don’t come out to play when they’re sparking up.

Anyway, I had Animals on CD, and though I was initially turned off by Pigs on the Wing (part one), Dogs grabbed my attention, and by the time Pigs (three different ones) started, I was completely hooked. (After a few listens, I grew to love Pigs on the Wing (I & II) and even taught myself how to play it on the guitar. I can’t imagine Animals without those beautiful and tender songs wrapping up the rest of the album.)

I clearly recall leaning back in this shitty chair with wobbly legs, my feet up on a standard-issue office furniture desk, eyes closed, and nearly falling over when Roger Waters sang,

Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are
You well heeled big wheel, ha ha, charade you are

I crossed a Rubicon. I don’t know what it was about those lyrics (they’re not even the lyrics that resonate strongest with me from that album, let alone the entire Floyd catalogue) but the music,  the way he sang "ha ha, charade you are!" and the deep, dark, rich ominous weight of the whole thing spoke to me in exactly the right way. I guess it’s kind of sad that, at 19, I was already deeply cynical and responsive to that, huh? After work that day, I went to the record store (kids: it’s sort of like iTunes Music Store, but you walk into it and talk to people about what you want to buy, and occasionally disscover new and interesting music while you’re there) and bought every Pink Floyd album they had. I entered an extended Pink Floyd phase, where I spent hours just listening to and exploring the music. We didn’t have Wikipedia back then, so I went on several record store quests to find old magazines and books about the band, so I could get a better idea where their music came from and what they were all about.

Last night, listened to Animals and Wish You Were Here while I chased album notes and band history down the Internets’ rabbit hole (start here if you’re intrigued) including a re-examination of The Publius Enigma.

I wish a band would come out and be the modern equivalent to Pink Floyd. Green Day kind of did it with American Idiot, but that’s a hell of a stretch, I think. I want to hear concept albums that tell me a story from start to finish, that aren’t single-oriented.

Heh. I guess I’m saying that I’m still waiting for Radiohead to follow-up OK Computer. It’s a long way to go, isn’t it?


Oh, and I made this post in Performancing. (Then I did a little tweaking by hand, to add the image and clean up the tags.) Cool.

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i am NOT going to be at the James Brown Soul of America Music Festival

This comes from the Headlines-I-Never-Thought-I’d-Write department.

Last week, a reporter from the Augusta Chronicle in Augusta, Georgia contacted me and asked if I was performing at the James Brown Soul of America Music Festival on Memorial Day down in Georgia.

For years, I’ve been confused with Will Wheaton, Jr., the well-known soul singer, so I told the reporter that he was probably confusing the two of us (it happens all the time, especially when James Brown or Russian stacking dolls are brought up, for some strange reason.) The reporter told me that the festival made it clear that it was Wil Wheaton, the actor, which is weird because until the reporter’s inquiry, I hadn’t heard about the festival at all. In fact,I was surprised
to hear that I’d been mentioned in association with this event, because
I am solidly B or even C List right now, and not exactly the kind of person who would be a big draw at the James Brown Soul of America Music Festival on Memorial Day down in Georgia like, say, Will Wheaton, Jr., the well-known soul singer.[1]

I forgot about it until today, when Google News sent me one of those "Hey, Wil, you wanted to know when you were in the news, so now you know, and knowing is half the battle," alerts.

The entire story requires outrageously annoying and intrusive registraton, but here’s the part that mentions me:

Also, actor Wil Wheaton, of Star Trek fame, said he had no plans to
come to Augusta. He seemed amused when he responded to inquiries last

"I respect and admire the godfather of soul as much as anyone else,
and though I’ve been known to get on up like a sex machine from time to
time, I will be paying tribute in my own not-coming-to-Georgia way."

The whole story left me with the impression that there are a lot of questions about the event, and it all seems kind of shady, so now I’m actually happy that I may have been mentioned in conjunction with the event, because it could be sort of edgy, now.

[1]Note that it’s common for event organizers to invite a ton of guests
to an event, knowing that not all of them will show up, and advertise
those guests as "invited" or "scheduled to appear." This often happens because organizers have ambitions that aren’t practical, and you should never attribute to malice that which can be attributed to something more benign, like an overly-ambitious promoter. I don’t know what the case is, here, but what’s important is that I have an italicized footnote to this entry.

made of plastic and elastic

The Dresden Dolls are on a grueling tour right now, and Amanda is writing about it in her blog, which is wonderful and a great example of why we should always trade quantity for quality.

There’s an entry this morning which touched a nerve with me. She’s talking about the new album:

The reviews are 98% amazing, but we will focus on the 2% that think the
music is terrible and the lyrics are trite and overdramatic. How does
one scrape oneself out of the goth pigeon coop? This has been a problem
from day one. I never thought that wearing whiteface on stage would
land us in the predicament of being compared to Marilyn Manson. Are you
shitting me? Have you listened to our music, fool? We have as much in
common with Marilyn Manson as we do with Cher. Did people lump KISS and
david bowie together?

had a lot of frustrations with O’Reilly and the release of Just A Geek,
but the worst thing of all was that they classified my autobographical,
narrative non-fiction story as "Science Fiction," because I was once on
a Sci-Fi show. That’s as idiotic as comparing the Dresden Dolls to
Marilyn Manson, and a great way to limit the potential audience.

When someone doesn’t like my work, there’s not a lot I can do about
it; I try to dig something constructive out of it, and move along.
But when someone just doesn’t get it, and uses an entirely
inappropriate comparison or categorizes me with another artist based
on something as stupid as what kind of makeup I wear on stage (ahem), it
makes me want to deliver the cockpunch.

I don’t know what it is about artists, but so many of us can’t ignore
the bad reviews. It’s almost like we think that they know something
real, something secret, something that nobody else is willing to tell
us. I think that, deep down, we all know that this thing we’ve created
really doesn’t suck, so we listen to all the people who want to
convince us that it does. It’s like we have a dysfunctional,
battered-person relationship with some invisible force called The

question for Charlie Parker fans

I’m looking to add a Charlie Parker record to my Jazz collection. I already have The Essential Charlie Parker, and Diz ‘N Bird at Carnegie Hall.

Anyone have a suggestion? Bonus points if I can get it on iTunes Music Store, for instant gratificiation.

Lakeside Shadow

‘m not sure how many people are listening to Radio Free Burrito, but a bunch of you wrote in asking for a stand-alone MP3 of my ambient tune Lakeside Shadow.

Look, you’re totally not the boss of me, but I did sort of say that if enough people asked for it, I’d put it here on its own.  I’m proud of the composition, and I’m happy to put it out there for anyone to listen to, or use in a creative way.

If you like it, you’ll probably like some of the artists who influenced me over the years: Woob (especially 1194, and especially the track strange air) Dedicated (especially Global Communication, also called 76 14), and Solitaire (especially Ritual Ground). Also, Instinct Records (still alive) and Silent Records (sadly, tragically, defunct since 1996) released an amazing number of genre-defining ambient discs in the 90s. And now, just to prove how hardcore I am, I’m going to throw out Pete Namlook, and the FAX Label, but their stuff is far more experimental than the rest of my list, and isn’t what I’d use to introduce a new listener to Ambient music.

Finally, if you can find it, Silent Records put out an incredible record called Earth to Infinity (I think in 1994) which was pulled shortly after it was released, due to some sampling issues. I think it’s one of the greatest ambient recordings of all time, and don’t ask me for it because I’m not going to jail for you, Chachi.

Anyway, here it is. The file is 4.9MB, and is a 192kbps MP3, at 44.1kHz. It’s 3:30:  Download lakeside_shadow.mp3

Lakeside Shadow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. If you decide to do something cool with it, let me know and I may just
link it up. If you want to pretend we’re really in the radio business,
you can send me some money and a hooker to help influence my decision.

The photo in this entry, which is the photo I’d use if I’d made this into an actual record or whatever, was taken by jpmatth. I found it at flickr (using the tags winter and lake) and is used according to his Creative Commons license. Pretty cool, huh?