Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy 1972!

listen man
last year was a downer
it totally bummed me out
like - the shows were cool
there was some heavy moments
last waltz
dark side of the moon man
i mean this stuff blew my mind man

but then i'd come home and turn on the tv
and it was debbie downer time
it was occupy this
and crash that
and then there were all those old cats in suits talking about money
and arguing
and then all this stuff about gas and oil
and i just got the feeling that i was hustled
and not hustled in a funky get your freak on way
but in a way that i'd never understand
and at the end of it i was mixed up
and just wanted to hear some music

1972 has got to be about the music man
we've got to get back to the garden man
we've got to love one and other right now

i think 1972 is going to tap into our collective consciousness
and everyone's gonna get together and do what's right
and that involves us going more concerts man
because concerts unite us
tv man
that's a box of hypocrisy
the real people are on the streets man
going to concerts and getting their minds blown man

i can dig all the messages everyone is sending everyone
but you can't believe everything you read
big brother is watching man
he's seeing everything and collecting information man
in 1972 we've got to be careful
and go to more concerts man
that's the secret

so like wow man
i can't wait for midnight
i'm already feeling groovier

happy new year

dec 31, 2011
doobie brothers man

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Woodstock Show

i love the woodstock show
it was put together with love for the decade

i took a lot of liberties with the show
the csny set was based on the original recordings of the songs
their set in white lake was fantastic
but i think the live experience didn't quite translate to tape
it was a question of 'you had to be there'
we weren't there
i was eight
so in reviewing the album and the movie
i decided to go with album tracks instead of live tracks

i also cut out a ton of joan baez songs
and the same with a bunch of other performances
we had to take three days and get it down to 2 hours
the deeper i went into the catalogue
the deeper connection i felt to the event
ultimately i decided to go for the songs that vibed me the most

soul sacrifice
i watch troy on this song
his sacrifice
he could be anything
but he decided to be a drummer
that blows my mind
troy - your dedication to your art is admirable

i wrote a nice blog about bobby
so i'm not going to blow anymore sunshine up his ass
but man - bobby - you were great on this show

marty singing joe cocker is one of those moments
where if you're not smiling you're not alive
we all love marty together
all at the same time
that's real currency
that's the stuff that makes your humanity come to the forefront

and nicky
singing stephen stills
and playing piano on sha na na
did you catch it?
we know nicky for the zep shows
but he's flexible
and tight
when he steps up to sing the who set
we remember
oh yeah - nicky - he's the best

and leslea
in america carlia sings the janis
in canada les sings it
i remember nicky telling me that to sing janis
you have to sing every song like it's going to be the last song you ever sing
they both do that
carlia brings the spark
leslea brings the authenticity

for the hendrix set
i told clifton to lead the band
this was a bold call
our stock in trade being the 'note for note' creed was hanging in delicate balance
but clifton channels 1969
he looks it
plays it
and lives it
his part of the show is important
it's the farewell
clifton kissed it goodbye with grace

i've been posting some funny stuff about the mud and the acid
but could you imagine something like woodstock happening in this day and age?
that much unorganization
people getting in for free
what a vibe
it's my theory that our imperfections are what make us attractive
woodstock was one big beautiful imperfection
they calculate how many napkins you take at the $12 beer stand
there's nothing rock 'n' roll about that

man i wished i was born 10 years earlier
would i sacrifice growing up with zep floyd and stones
for growing up with jimi janis beatles and stones?
i don't know
it's all so star trek worm hole stuff

the woodstock show goes into the vault
it's a strange time for me
i'm putting the imperfections away for a while
2012 has our american agency kicking in
big time
we're smart and exact now
and of course i like that
but it'll be nice to pull this show out in a couple years
and get back to the garden

all my love to all of our audiences
and the beautiful musicians who gave all they had show after show
2011 was the journey to see if we had what it takes to survive
we do

peace and prosperity

december 22, 2011
jack daniels - lots of it

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Rob Phillips

there's an energy to rob
he's one of the greats
he plays it like he lives it
and he looks like the albums we grew up with

he saved our life once
in florida in the van
swerved calmly away from an approaching accident
i was in the front seat
it was telling

i met rob over the phone
des had suggested we check him out
we were down a guitarist for a dark side show in vancouver
des doesn't fly
i called rob
and he immediately instilled confidence
we met at the airport
he was wearing a big green parka with who logos all over it
the show was great
he was fantastic
i immediately started plugging him into shows

at each show
the bar was raised a little higher
he did that
without saying a word
if rob's on the gig
you show up knowing your parts
or you're not on the gig

the hang is always smooth
the vibe is always cool
rob has a keen memory and a knack for voices
he can recite a great many things
with exactitude
it keeps us laughing

one night we're in orlando at the hard rock
and i'm eyeing the crowd
they're going bananas
the band finished their last song of the set
we're side stage confirming encores
i decide to pull 'echoes' in favour of 'have a cigar'
rob opposes me - strongly
no one has ever done this before
okay i say
echoes it is
it was the right call

he's a friend to us all
we're drawn to him
just like the audience is
it's such a gift to constantly be in contact with that kind of greatness

him and his wife play in a blues band together
troy plays drums
it's so cool
she's beautiful and you can tell that they love each other
and that's what it's all about
john lennon was right about everything
and rob mentors with john from afar

he's paid his dues with us
he's been in a ton of different situations
we've been through a lot together
he's the rock that guides us all through that difficult stretch of time
he keeps calm

one day some big rock star is going to snatch him up
i look forward to that
because i know rob
and no matter what
he'll always be playing
and we'll always keep a spot warm for him

december 20, 2011
pinot grigio

Sunday, 18 December 2011

2006 and Business is Booming

it's 2006
and it's a machine now
i've got my sister on daily operations
i've got one of my best friends - johnny b - road managing and blowing bass
i've got another one of my best friends booking me - steve butler!
and i've got the best musicians working with me

my dynamic with everyone feels good
i'll never quit the road
i like being with everyone

i realize that to many of the musicians
i'm their main source of employment
it's my decisions that shape the company
and keep musicians working
i start to pay strong attention to this

then i notice my dynamic changing
and i'm the boss
that takes some getting used to
but i got a good track record
and the shows go off
one after another
note for note - cut for cut

i started mixing the shows
it was the final step in my quest for absolute control of everything CAL
a lot of people don't realize
that what they hear in the audience is controlled by the sound-man
one day i just looked down at the sound board
and said i can do this
and began mixing the shows

i'd mix the eastern tours
that's where i learned about sound
in the maritimes
first with the zep band
then with the wall tour
i've always been hands on with the musicians and their sounds
i began to implement different changes they would make into my mix
i don't know of many techs that do this
our shows constantly change
different line ups
different gear
i can anticipate things with sound
the hardest thing to do is build the perfect 3 part harmony
each voice has to sit pretty
and the butter has to melt

i trust very few people with the mix
rich hagen is the best there is
he's got the gift of sound in him
and he's graceful if i have to bark instructions about a mix mid show
that says a lot
with rich there is no feedback
other than 'nice mix'

I also began to rethink how i do business
our shows are void of creativity
our boundaries clearly defined
so i thought i could be creative with my business dealings

it started with my bank
i was standing in line
in the business line
i pay a premium price to stand in the business line
it's supposed to move faster than the non business line
but i'm waiting
so every time  i'm in line
i get the receptionist to clock me in and out
and make a note of it
then i bill my bank $1200
i sent them an invoice
they phoned
i explained my situation
the bank manager said 'Well, Mr. Martin, we're not in a position to pay this. Is there something else you want?'
yes i said
wave my bank fees on all my accounts for a year
they agreed
right on

i began to apply this to other parts of the business
i get a business visa card with high reward miles
and i put my entire life on it
i pay it off entirely each month
i never payed a cent of interest
in fact
they're paying me now
i have a ton of air miles saved
this is good for the series

spending a lifetime on the road
teaches you the value of money
i keep things tight
i'd rather pay the musicians top dollar than another tech
we can load our own gear
we're not precious
we're strong and resilient

make sure to read the chapter on the imperial swan hotel (posting soon)
my god
we stayed dives
in a way i forced some of the players to pay their dues
growing up some us who gigged in the 70s and 80s
knew the lay of the land when it came to hotels
staying at the swan was slumming it for some of us
for others it was a throwback to another time
we all got through it together
i have many good memories connected to staying in dives

the best thing about a bit of success
is sharing it
musicians are honourable people
and CAL is a warm place for them to land
i aspire to employing more musicians
and paying them top rate for their work
isn't that a good reason to get up in the morning?
other than parenting
i can't think of a better one

revised on december 18, 2011
guinness and apple

Monday, 12 December 2011

Will Hare CAL Keyboardist Interview

i love will
he loves music and works very well with others
i'm always reviewing his sounds and he's always graceful about making changes
he sets a standard for keeping cool
i want him to grow his hair and grow a beard and develop a drug problem
but he plays it straight and takes my ribbing in good stride
because like all good keyboard players - he arrives preprogrammed
when will's on the show you can expect perfection
he's a good man
and becoming a good friend to many of us

here's an interview i did with him

What has CAL taught you?
For me CAL hasn't exactly taught me a lot of things so much as confirmed my beliefs about how one should conduct themselves as a musician.  It's proven to me that a high standard of musicianship has it's place and has it's rewards.   It has confirmed my beliefs about the value of teamwork - Never before have I dealt with companies of 10, 11 or 12 people.   I've always believed it crucially important that you get along with your bandmates and my experiences in CAL have demonstrated that.   So rather than teaching me something, CAL has shown me that I`ve learned my lessons well in the past.

Is there anything you can't do with your instrument?
I am not a strong soloist.  I have my days where I catch a magnificent wave and I don`t even understand how I`m playing what I`m playing but I can`t do that reliably.  Other than that, my instruments are my tools and serve me well.

Three Albums?
Fragile - Yes
Days of Future Passed - The Moody Blues
Tarkus - Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Beatles or Stones?

What has been your biggest musical challenge?
Maintaining a high level of musicianship - At a certain point it is no longer like riding a bike.   A high level has to be nurtured.   Playing songs like "Rudy", "Foreplay/Longtime" and most of Machine Head do not come easily - One just has to decide that they are going to play them and do the work required to accomplish this and ignore whether you think you can or not.  This takes a lot of time and commitment - That has been the challenge.

Monty Python or Spinal Tap?
Tough one...   Monty Python (but just barely)

What is the philosophy of your playing?
Assume you can play it.  If a song seems too difficult for you, believe that you just haven't seen the simplicity of it and continue to look for it.   Every difficult song will eventually cave into your persistence and hard work.   Ultimately, we're only as good as what we attempt to play.

Favourite album to perform?
Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd.   Absolutely magical.

Favourite road story?
More a sound check story - Really when Clifton David starting picking up the local radio station through his fuzz pedal when we were in Moncton.  Fortunately this was captured on video.  A true Spinal Tap moment.

Favourite venue?
You'd think it'd be Massey Hall and it's close but the New Jersey Centre for the Performing Arts has a real power to it.   It's probably impossible to play badly there.

Where do you keep your passport?
On my dresser at home but in an inside pocket when I'm travelling.

What's it like working with Craig?
Let him take the reins - That's what you do.  I'm not a showman - Craig is and you have to understand that.  Learned that during the Lennon Christmas tour last year (2009) - First show was a little flat but Craig moved in, took the stage and the shows had a centre - a focus to them.   Things improved.   You then learn to trust that presence.

When did you first hear about CAL?
On Q107 - In fact I called in and won tickets on "Riffer Madness" to the Sgt. Pepper Show at the Carlu theatre.   I think that was 2005...

When are you the happiest?
During sex - Won't lie to you.

Springsteen or Springsteen?
What was the middle thing?

What do you hear in your playing that mirrors your life?
I'm pretty low-key - Not a loud, frenetic or agressive person - and I play the same way - I'm happier playing "Great Gig in the Sky" or "Shine on You Crazy Diamond - Part ix" or "Meeting Across the River" - That's more my speed. 

Thursday, 8 December 2011

A Day In The Life

it starts like this
we get up in the morning and get into a van or a plane
we arrive at the venue and immediately walk onto the stage
greet the local crew
and go over our set up
there is always something missing
a mandolin
or a funny drum
or maybe something to do with the keyboard memory
but we solve it with phone calls and conversations
then we tune the guitars

then we head to catering
and have lunch
it's always sandwiches
once we've had lunch it's back to the stage
and we begin the long process of sound checking
we rehearse different parts of songs
sometimes only seconds of songs
we break at 5:30 providing there are no issues
then we tune the guitars

then we have dinner
it's always chicken with either rice or mashed
maybe a nice soup
and dessert
some of us have a beer
or wine
then we go back to the stage and tune the guitars some more
then the doors open at 7:30
by this time we're all in our rooms backstage
we're dress in our black and hang out in the dressing room hallway

this is a weird time
we can hear the audience in the distance
i sometimes sneak out to the lobby pre show
and have a look at everybody
3 generations at the shows
that's heavy

finally we make our way to the wings of the stage
and we can see everyone in their seats
there's always a lot of people
someone does some announcements
then the lights go out
and the house music goes off
and everyone cheers
we're really feeling the vibe now
we walk out onto stage
and tune the guitars

because we demand that our instruments be perfect
this is what classical orchestras do
for new comers this is the definition of being anti climatic
for the fans this is exciting
because they know that in any second
we're going to start the opening bars of hotel california
or whole lotta love
or come together
and we're going to play them perfectly
with the right tempo
the right sound
and most importantly - the right feel

there are people in audience who don't get it
at least not at first
they see a bunch of musicians just standing there
no costumes
no flash
no talking
and they feel uneasy
'i paid good money for this?'
but slowly they forget about the visual
and take the music in
and find excitement in a perfectly executed guitar solo
or vocal throw
and that's it
they're fans for life
and we love that they're sharing this music with us
the greatest music in the history of the world
performed by the greatest musicians in the world

after the show
we tear down our own gear
we're a tightly run organization
i keep expenses down so i can pay the musicians top dollar
we load our own gear
drive our own vans
make our own plans
and we look out for each other

once the van is loaded - it's back to the hotel
or a bar
we review the show
and have insane conversations about crazy things
rob can imitate anyone
clifton has a uniquely weird sense of humour
alex snorts when she laughs

we all hang out
that's a big part of the CAL vibe
the musicians hanging out
few of them met before CAL
you take one of the older cats like marty
and there he is hanging out and laughing with shain who's barely 21
i love that
i call it the cross pollination

i like the hotel rooms
i lock myself in
or internet for show reviews and emails
i venture down to troy's room
he's playing prog music for everyone
i take a drink of whatever is around
and smile and feel good

lobby call at 7:00am for a flight back to toronto
we gotta get some sleep

dec. 8, 2011
coffee and sliced apple

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Book is Dead, Long Live the Blog

well i scrapped writing a book
it was just too expensive
and i doubt that anyone would have bought it
once i started writing with proper grammar and punctuation
all the vibe evaporated

i had such high hopes for it
but i don't think the story is good enough to merit a book
it was the egotist inside me that spurned me on
my bastard id

alex has a theory that the world is divided into two types of people
fuck faces
and loomers
loomers just go with the flow
fuck faces try to control the flow
i asked her which one i was
and without missing a beat
she called me a fuck face
i'm okay with that

the book was becoming a burden
i started to force chapters
and it read accordingly
so i failed
my fault was announcing it
i should have just kept my mouth shut
but i'm not very good at that

i try to remain a creative person
our lines within CAL are so rigid
there's no way to colour outside of them
so i lock myself in my house
write songs
build lego with jack
debate with luke
cook with shari
it's important for people to spray paint different parts of their psyche
what's not important is telling everyone about it
some things are like poetry
i believe that poetry should never be shared in public

being a fuck face is hard work
the loomers have it made
they just blink at you while your attempting to hit a curve ball
babe ruth struck out 1360 times in his career
i've had a long list of strike outs in my life
a long list

i plan on blitzing a ton of book stuff on the blog over the next few months
it's free
but you should consider donating some money to charity
the plan was to sell enough copies
cover the expenses
and then donate all the profit to breast cancer research

i'm going to do just that
i'm going to donate the money that i think i would have raised
(this could be tense - because being a fuck face and an egotist i imagine that the book would have sold millions and that i'd lunch with oprah)
my ex battled with breast cancer
i'm going to donate in her name

the book is dead
long live the blog
the battle was futile
but the aim was true

december 6, 2011
toast and grapefruit juice