Thursday, 21 November 2013

Slow pokes

Since "Heshien" turned out so well, we continued using the same collaborative song writing techniques for the next few months. Myself arranging riffs of Derek's, composing songs from them, and then going through his "poetry" with him to piece lyrics together. I can't remember exactly how long it took us, but it felt like we had a handful of songs in no time. Our band "Slow Poke" now had enough to record a demo. Our new songs were "Underfed", "Neptune", "Torpedo", & "Born Loser". Each song had it's own uniqueness to it, while still preserving the overall style and sound we were forming, which I was still unsure of how to classify by genre. I guess essentially Derek wanted us to be a grunge band, on the cusp of this new unheard of sound. To describe our music, the riffs were slower, sloppy, loose-groove type riffs, that felt good and made you wanna nod your head, similar to say... Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf".

Another head nod factor was also the beats I provided. Being a long time fan of rap music, I wanted to add my own element to this new sound we were giving birth to, so naturally most of the beats I provided were directly from classic rap songs. Playing these beats on the drums however in a more aggressive manner gave a completely different dynamic to them. Majority of the beats I "jacked" were from Beastie Boys songs, as they were my all time favourite band at the time & still are to this day. The fusion of these chunky guitar riffs & dope beats definitely brought something magical to the table. Although we now had songs & lyrics, we still had two roadblocks ahead of us.

As I mentioned before, Derek's guitar playing was very "elementary" at best, but the first time I hear him sing I was absolutely mortified. I was digging the songs we were making, but vocally our visions were a bit different. D's voice was somewhat whiny, crackly, and not even close to being in tune. When he sang, or screamed rather, during the heavier parts, he sounded great, but his actual "singing" made me shudder. I never mentioned this and decided to look past it, as this band was more so his vision even though I had taken the reigns as far as our song writing was concerned. Over time his voice developed & matured with each song, and eventually I actually started to like it. It worked well with the music & he had range, despite still being out of tune sometimes....but hey, the guy had NO training whatsoever, and like I said previously, he had heart, the most important quality next to talent.

Derek was attending S.E.E.D., an alternative school in Toronto, and now I was spending time there quite often as well, meanwhile I was still enrolled at my own high school and was still partaking in the co-op program. My days at the animation studio were now spent working on art, band related art, and I was now getting into writing "poetry", which was inspired by Derek. My "poetry" soon turned into writing "raps" naturally. The Mondays I was at my own high school, I'd be happy to spend time with "Iceman" and catch up with my fellow classmates and hear about their co-op experiences. One fellow wanted to be a detective, so I coaxed him into xeroxing me crime scene photos from the books at the police station. I'd also get to see Mike Myers, but I was hanging out with him & Mike Chapman a lot late nights now after my days in Toronto with Derek. D would usually drive me home in the evening, then go spend time with his girlfriend. After she went to sleep, he would return to pick me up & we'd meet up with Mike & Mike for a late night hang.

The nights Derek didn't make it out, Michael, Michael & "Kevin Michael" (Michael is my middle name) would still get together to hang out. We had now graduated from reciting Beastie Boys songs to trying our hand at our own rhymes, which were unconventional, under-developed, but thoroughly enjoyable. This was also planting seeds in our minds to try and start our very own rap band, something Derek didn't seem to thrilled about the first time I mentioned it to him. He knew I loved rap music above all els,e so I guess he figured I'd quit the band if it actually developed into anything. I was totally down for double duty, but I looked at it like both bands were just for fun. I really had no other expectations from these musical ventures except having fun with my friends.

Slow Poke wasn't even officially a band yet regardless. We were a guitarist/singer and a drummer with 5 or 6 songs and no bass player.The other major roadblock we were still dealing with...

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Song Writing 101

As Derek and I had our first jam at the new rehearsal spot, things felt good, but we needed to make a new song! It didn't take me long to realize that as
much as Derek enjoyed music, he didn't know shit about song writing! I asked him to play me some riffs that he had, and he obliged, squealing out some noisy, blistering riffs. After giving me a handful of riffs, I told him which two I liked the best, which were coincidentally the two riffs I felt would work best together for a verse/chorus idea. 

We hopped on the instruments and jammed those two riffs for 8 bars each back and forth for what felt like forever. Once I had figured my beats out, we were playing quite tight, and things were sounding good. The song now needed a bit more structure. As it stood we would come in with the chorus as an intro, from there we would use the verse/chorus recipe twice. Now we stood at a point in the song where we needed a solo. 

Derek was a piss poor guitarist, but the guy had heart, ambition, and the drive to succeed. He was also into a new type of underground music called "Grunge" that the world hadn't heard of yet, and this genre had moulded his mind to believe guitar solos were passé, or a thing of the past, and Derek was absolutely against them. Especially the seriously intricate wanky guitar solos often associated with heavy music. Being raised on metal, this was a hard pill for me to swallow, so we opted to have a "noise part" instead of a solo, which consisted of D thrashing himself about the floor like a child throwing a temper tantrum, his guitar screaming with intense noise and feedback like a cat being burned alive. 

I wasn't quite sure how to bring the chaotic-ness of the noise part back into the third and final verse, so I borrowed a bit of help from Slayer's song "Raining Blood" in particular the breakdown hits towards the end of the composition. These hits gave us a good buildup to flow back into our third verse/chorus combo. Now all we needed was an ending, so once again I borrowed from another band, Corrosion of Conformity, who in my opinion were the masters of the "breakdown" If you are unfamiliar with what a breakdown is, please visit google or Wikipedia, although I think it's fairly self explanatory. 

So for our breakdown on this particular song, we took the chorus and played it in half time, meaning it was half the speed we played it during the song. This created a nice, slow, heavy groove for us to bring the song to a close. We played the breakdown for four bars, each one slightly slower than the previous, the final one almost at a crawling tempo. We ended up adding an intro that was inspired from the beginning of the song "High Plains Drifter" by the Beastie Boys, and we also used a smidgen of it after the breakdown to have the song end abruptly. Our song was done and I had virtually composed the entire thing with the exception of the riffs Derek brought to the table. From here we needed some lyrics, so we started going through Derek's "poetry" writings, and again we cut and pasted some choice stuff together in a collaboration that resulted in us having lyrics for our song. 

We decided to call the song "Heshien" in ode to one of D's friends who lived out in Los Angeles, his name was Gerrard, and  heshien was the word him and his friends used to describe a long haired stoner. Perfect we thought. So we now officially had two songs "Rugburn" and "Heshien" we also had a band name now that Derek had come up with which was "Slow Poke" although that would later change. I could only wonder what was to come next...


A mere two years later, performing "Heshien" @HMV Superstore, Toronto Canada

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Boot the Bassist

Having to kick someone out of a band is never a simple task, and this was the first time in my life I had been faced with the challenge to do just that. I put it right up there on the same level as breaking up with your significant other. What made it even more awkward on this occasion, was the fact that we jammed with Tyler earlier that fateful evening. Once we dropped him off afterwards we decided to break the news to him, and he did not take it well. 

Essentially, we explained that our visions of the bands direction differed from each other, but the truth of the matter was Tyler was just an angry young man we cared to deal with no more. I myself was battling through my own personal anger issues, meanwhile Derek was very laid back, so throwing Tyler in the mix was not healthy for either of us. We had also questioned wether Tyler was racist, as we had heard a few questionable things pass through his lips before, which made Derek uncomfortable considering his girlfriend was a black Jew.

I also remember Tyler suggesting we change the title of our one song "Rug burn" to "Love burn" an idea Derek absolutely loathed. Although a lot of lyrics Derek wrote were about girls and love, he felt the word "love" itself had no place in lyrics or song titles. Looking back at the situation now and how things unfolded, I almost question if Derek disposed of Tyler because he was opinionated, because as time passed it became clearer and clearer to me who the captain of the ship was. The shot caller, the control freak if you will....every band needs one, and this band was Derek's baby. 

So now here we were, a two man band again. One green guitarist and a mediocre drummer. It felt like we were right back to square one again with this "band" Not long after giving Tyler the boot, Derek informed me that we could now jam at his girlfriends parents house in their basement. This was good news because it meant we had a "jam space" so we would not have to cart our gear back and forth from Brampton to Toronto each rehearsal.  I'll never forget how excited we were getting the room all "pimped out" to our likings. We even set the mood with incense and candles as well as some inspiring decorative art. 

Derek strapped on his axe, I jumped behind my drum kit, and it was time to jam! After playing our usual "rug burn" loop for 15-30 minutes, I couldn't take it anymore. I angrily declared:

"We need a new fucking song dude!"

Monday, 11 November 2013

Kick Out The Jams

It seemed like it was not long after I mentioned to Derek I had a drum set, that we were packing my 5 piece pearl drum kit into the back of his van and carting it down town. We were actually going to jam INSIDE of the store, which I thought was pretty damn cool. I definitely felt like a Rockstar now, booming out tunes for the hipsters on Queen street below to hear briefly as they passed by in their uber cool travels. 

I had also now met Tyler, the bass player Derek had been in cahoots with. Tyler was an interesting kid to say the least, he was tall and lanky, simular to myself. He wore a strange hat reminiscent of something Santa's elves would wear, and he was slightly obsessed with Red Hot Chili Peppers, even more so than me. Their bass player Flea, was his idol, and Tyler loved trying to emulate his frantic slap style of bass playing. Tyler was also into old funk such as Ohio Players, Funkadelic, etc. but I assumed he only "liked" these bands because the guys in the Chilis did. Tyler was a very outspoken kid, and I could tell this made Derek rather uncomfortable, as he was a very non confrontational person.

We had our first jam and we came up with a song we called "Rug Burn" it was a loose, heavy groove that we played over and over for the duration of the jam. It was at this first jam that I noticed Derek was probably the worst guitar player I had ever seen or heard in my life. His only saving grace was that he made up for his lack of experience with an over abundance of enthusiasm and passion. Tyler and I both agreed we would need a second guitar player so Derek could focus more on singing, as he was to be the bands front man. 

The next week we were at it again, jamming in the store after hours, and trying out people for the position of Lear guitarist. Even my best friend Jerry came down and auditioned for us one night! It was always strange jamming with complete strangers however, I compare it to the awkwardness one may experience with a virtual unknown they picked up at a bar for a one night stand. So here we were, jamming our "rug burn" loop over and over with an assortment of string strummers, yet it seemed like we just couldn't find anyone who fit the part. We decided we would continue on as a three piece band, but we strongly urged Derek to get his shit together, perhaps even take some guitar lessons. 

As the jams went on over the course of the next two weeks, friction was building between Tyler and Derek. D came to me with his concerns and we talked things over for awhile. It was obvious what had to be done to restore balance to "the band" Tyler had to go...

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Current updates 11/06/2013

What's going one everyone? 1000 apologies for my being AWOL the past week. As per usual the trials and tribulations of life prevented me from
finding the time to write. Fortunately the powers that be have relinquished me for a hot minute, so I am taking that hot minute to get at you.

Not much new going on with me, same old really. I've been working on a sculpture, tattooing, and hanging out with my son in my free time. I've also been very consumed in the world of Grand Theft Auto 5 online, I fear it is taking my life over. If you play gtaV online for Xbox be sure to add me:
CabalwithaK 420

Musically I am still currently working on my latest full length "What's below remains below" as well as getting material together for "Tales From The MixTape volume 2" As I juggle those two projects, I am also still working with my homeboy Mach Spitz on our new collaboration "Street Trash" Be sure to follow our progress as we release new material:

Another issue I've been dealing with is my vlog. I am feeling very overwhelmed at the thought of having almost 200 blog posts to cover just so I can catch up to the current timeframe in the story. I'm seriously contemplating scrapping the idea, but I'd still like to do something video wise. I shall keep you posted on this subject over the next few weeks.

I've also been working on my new podcast with my buddy Jon. We just recorded our third episode yesterday, and after a long day of editing and mixing it is finally available to the public. Be sure to check us out, and please like/share us on Facebook.

Have a great week everyone!