Friday, September 10, 2010

I'm Making a Record

I saw my second member of "The Slipnuts" on the subway the other day. If I see a third I will have achieved a Slipnut trifecta (that's a phrase I just made up, which you can feel free to use. You're welcome). I frequently run across various writers and cast members from "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" in New York, and for me, a former obsessive viewer of the show, hearing Andy Blitz's laconic observations on the L train is like watching Mike Schmidt fielding pop flies. Why Mike Schimdt? Because he had an awesome moustache and because he played for the Phillies and I happen to be in Philadelphia this very moment making a record.

When I joined the Columbia House record club as a teenager they sent me giant packages of LP's that I bought with my own money, which I played on the first stereo I bought with my own money, having recently upgraded from a Donald Duck record player with Donald Duck on it (I suppose a Donald Duck record player *without* Donald Duck on it would be an ontological paradox and a gyp.)

Thanks to the wonders of mail-order (and despite the evils of negative option billing) I was, monthly, treated to the delights of whatever my older sister and her friends happened to be listening to, which was mostly monumentally awesome British rock from the 60s and 70s. Back then, albums (and their covers, thanks largely to Storm Thorgerson of the British design group Hipgnosis) were something you could lie down on the floor and immerse yourself in for hours.

Now albums are on the way out and so are CDs, and the internets are full of kids lol'ing at various European governments' futile efforts to shut down "the Pirate Bay" and other torrent sites, and these kids can't for the life of them figure out why anyone would pay for a CD. Some of them haven't bought a CD in their life and never will.

And I wish they'd get off my lawn. Oh wait, I don't have a lawn.

Anyway, I'm recording at Miner Street Studios with a fellow named Brian McTear. Personnel will include Josh Stamper and Patrick Berkery, on bass and drums, respectively. Josh and Patrick comprise the rhythm section of Danielson, the Northeast corridor's best and only Indie-Christian-nurse-uniform-wearing folk/pop collective. (edit: last night Josh, perhaps fearful of being known for wearing a nurse's uniform on stage, informed me that what they wear are "service uniforms.")

We had our first rehearsal last week and it went really well. Right now Patrick is getting drum sounds.

I hope to keep you updated on the project here. As things progress, I hope you'll keep in touch and spread the word about what we're up to. If we’ve lost touch over the years, I'd love to re-connect with you (especially if you live in Philly and want to buy me dinner).

You can find out more goings-on at Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and

Friday, August 20, 2010


He's without-a-doubt the most brilliant songwriter I know, and possibly the most brilliant songwriter I do not know, and I'll stand on Steve Earle's coffee table in my Vibram Fivefingers and say that.

It's Peter Beyer. Go to, check out "In Magenta Skies" and "Looking Alive" and see if you don't think It's lovely stuff.

You can also read his blog and stuff.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Joshua Stamper's "Wend"

Elevator pitch: The music on Joshua Stamper's new album, Wend, sounds like Dave Brubeck after watching an all-night Rockford files marathon, or Vivaldi after riding in his cousin's '82 Camaro driving down a red clay road in the late afternoon with Kansas' "Leftoverture" in the tape deck. What? Vivaldi's cousin didn't own an '82 Camaro? Well excuuuuse me, Mr. Fancy-facts!

I first met Josh when he was a fresh-faced (albeit bearded) kid at Hampshire College. At the time, he didn't play guitar, or if he did, I didn't really pay attention because I am an incredible narcissist. I met up with him a few years later and discovered that he had turned into a tremendously gifted guitarist and composer. I also discovered that his wife, Kory, (a terrific writer and lexicographer who helps decide what words go in the dictionary, but that's another story) makes a green chile stew that is to die for. Over many bowls of green chile stew I got know know Josh and Kory and was treated to the glorious sounds of Josh and his guitar, and of the many groups and ensembles he has written for and performed with.

The musicians on "Wend" play violin, cello, double bass, alto saxophone, bass clarinet, marimba, flute, clarinet, percussion, and guitar. The music is full of unusual time signatures, but you're having such a good time listening you forget that your standard diet of 3/4, 4/4 and 6/8 is being spiced up. It's fun, inventive, cinematic stuff, warmly and intimately recorded (on "clay" you can hear the endearing sound clarinet keys clacking, reminding you that this is music made by humans in real space). You can check it out here:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


So I've been living in New York. Brooklyn, specifically, where life is lived on the street, as opposed to Manhattan, where life is lived in tall buildings. People hang out on stoops and talk and whistle and holler and jump rope and drink beer wrapped in brown paper bags and listen to music with thumping bass. Now that it's February most folks have retreated inside, but there are still a few die-hards who stand or sit outside and blast their music into the cold, and who can blame them? When you're really digging something sometimes you don't wanna keep it to yourself.

Every few minutes you can hear and feel a train from the JMZ line rumble by on its way to the Marcy stop. The JMZ line was formerly known as the JZ and was supposedly the namesake of rapper Jay-Z (although Wikipedia puts the kibosh on this theory and says nope, his name is a permutation of the word "Jazzy," which is decidedly less cool, partly because, well, DJ Jazzy Jeff kinda already used that). The city was briefly talking about eliminating the "Z" line as part of its terrifyingly-named "doomsday cuts," but reconsidered and the Z remains. En route to Manhattan, the JMZ goes over the Williamsburg bridge and offers a stunning view of the skyline.

My neighborhood is comprised mostly of Dominican and Puerto Rican families, with a few Hasidim and "Hipsters" sprinkled in. I fall into this much-maligned latter category even though I am not hip. I mean, just look at my shoes.

My housemate/landlord, Bearden, says I walk too slow and look around too much. "You gotta keep moving, man" he says, and whenever we walk anywhere together I have to trot to keep up even though my legs are twice as long as his. He's a hell-raising, Barry Hannah-reading, Rolling Stones-and-Bob Dylan-listening, Razorbacks-football-loving Arkansan with the loudest voice I've ever heard. Bearden is a writer and the front man for a band called "Sheriff," of which I'm an adjunct member (I play lead guitar and sing harmonies). I don't like Bob Dylan nearly as much as he thinks I should, but we connect on a mutual love for Bob's one-time disciple Neil Young and the great pulp writer Elmore Leonard. Bearden and his wife, Laura, are two of the most passionate, creative, and generous people I've ever met.

Here's a picture Laura took in front of their apartment.

Friday, July 31, 2009


After days of sweating through my clothes, my friends clothes, my friends sheets, and all the non-vinyl upholstery upon which I've sat, the weather is finally gorgeous in Vancouver, sending cooling winds wafting through the coffeeshop. Unfortunately, I have to leave. This USA-bound Americano is downing his second (6-shot) Americano, marveling at the barrista's dual shamrock neck tattoos as she marvels at his body's capacity for caffeine. Goodbye, Canada! Thanks for letting me in this time. Thanks Regent College, Kurt and Jennifer, Peter and Kristen, and Brian Moss for having me.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gym Misanthropy

I get most of my songwriting ideas after I've drunk my daily carafe of grainy black coffee, gone to the gym, and hopped on the elliptical machine. The frantic activity on top of the caffeine makes me feel really good and then Oh Wham!! I get assaulted with ideas. Wonderful dreamscapes with shapes and colors that will change the way people think and make humanity want to do a collective cartwheel -- or better yet, billions of individual cartwheels -- of ecstatic gratitude. And I think, "oh Jason this is good stuff," and then later "Jason, should you write this down?" and still later, "Jason, what was that idea again?" But it's too late, the idea is gone, along with the elation, which has been replaced by a generalized antipathy. Sometimes not so generalized. Sometimes the antipathy is very specific.

For instance, if someone is talking really loudly on his cell phone, I want to go up next to him and start screaming unintelligible offensive noises into the multiverse(s). One day I actually had a fantasy of walking up to a guy and telling him he had stupid hair. Only because he was checking out his own biceps for so long and so unapologetically. I mean if you don't bide by the self-adulation time limit I have the right to tell you you have stupid hair, right? Isn't that in the gym by-laws? Of course, inevitably, this same man who is the center of my hate-filled fantasy will later hold the door open for me with a big smile, or tap me on the shoulder in order to hand me the forty dollars that's fallen out of my wallet, or will wave me in front of him in bumper-to-bumper traffic, thus proving himself to be a stellar human being and proving me to be an incurable misanthrope, chastened, sweaty, and out of ideas.

Ok, in deference to my ADD and to lighten the mood let's have a new topic: What are your favorite celebrity memoir titles? Mine are:

"I am not Spock" by Leonard Nimoy
"I am Spock" by Leonard Nimoy
"Goober in a Nutshell" by George "Goober" Lindsey
"Mr T." by Mr. T.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Song writing. Songwriting? Writing songs.

I recently put myself on a songwriting regimen which requires me to write a certain number of songs each month for the next few months. I've got a few friends here in NYC keeping me accountable to make sure I deliver. Physical beatings have been threatened if I don't write.

Additionally, I have to write a song on the theme "snowed in" for a songwriter's series I'm playing in CT next month. My favorite "snow" song is "Valley Winter Song" by Fountains of Wayne. Occasionally those guys are a little too self-consciously poppy for me, but that is one beautiful song, and sometimes I walk around in the New York cold listening to it over and over.

I harbor a secret dread that my best songs are behind me, products of the overwrought emotions of my fleeting youth. A friend of mine recently used the phrase "self-forgetfulness" to describe the perfect state for creation and for life in general, and I believe that is true of my state when I wrote my first songs. I didn't think twice (as I do now) about whether I had the ability or the talent to write good songs . I simply wrote, awkward phrase after awkward phrase, until one day the phrases weren't awkward and the songs worked (although admittedly, some of them worked awkwardly).

The first song I ever wrote, as a kid, while mowing the lawn on a hot southern Saturday, was a pre-adolescent sadist fantasy called "Hop Away Little Frog," in which I warned various forest creatures against the perils of venturing too close to the mower blade, then described in ever-increasing detail the results of what *could* happen:

"Hop away, little frog, thank you, thank you.
Hop away, little frog, so I don't run over you
with the lawnmower that I'm pushing little frog
Hop away, hop away.

If you don't hop away, you might be dead.
This lawnmower blade could chop off your head
Or it might chop off a leg or two
Or it might chop up every part of you.

Hop Away, little frog, thank you, thank you.
Hop away little frog, so I don't run over you
with the lawnmower that I'm pushing little frog
Hop away, hop away."