Saturday, August 20, 2005

Live shot

Joe and Kevin like this shot and asked me to go ahead and post it here.

So, here it is!

This is from a gig we did at a really cool coffeehouse in Springfield, IL. My daughter took this pic with my cell phone camera. Given how it was taken, it turned out pretty good, I think.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

"Hey, lets buy guitars, practice and start a band."

Now it comes to pass that Doug calls me and utters those famous (last) words.

"Hey, lets buy guitars, practice and start a band."

So I did. Being somewhat more liquid than when I was in college, I was able to get a bit better bass. A bit.

I bought a Steinberger. Not the solid composite instruments you would have been able to see on Geddy Lee or John Taylor, no, these were new, bought by Gibson - sold online - better! They were in fact made at the same factory - or so I'm told - as the all-wood Hohner steinberger licensed basses. All wood - EMG Select (yuck!) pickups, impossible to find replacement hardware - Musicyo Steinberger Spirit bass. The fretwork was passable, the neck - 'Ok' - the pickups were, well, EMG's - but the bottom line EMG's (I love EMG's btw). The hardware was, well, cheap. The bridge was ok, as long as the screws weren't stripped out - which happens a lot.

But I had a bass. I practiced, and bought more gear - and more basses. First thing I needed to get was a rig - I had to play through something, after all, this is the electric bass. So I did some searching, thought about what I wanted (it had to be warm) and what I could afford. Most importantly - it had to be available. I was able to find lots of bass gear - eBay, Talkbass, Bassgearonline - lots of different places. The only problem was I couldn't always play what I found online. So instead, I began to use online as a resource for finding information about the gear I was interested in. Harmony Central - and the user reviews - as well as TalkBass and the BGRA (Bass Gear Review Archive) became tools in my quest for gear.

Before I could join a band, or even really play much - I had to have at least a practice amp. I found and started looking. I had heard wonderful things about Trace Elliot - little did I know not much was available anymore. But I found a practice amp online for a little over $100 - wow - great price! So I bought one. The Trace practice combo was great - for playing at home and alone. But I needed something for gigging!

Since I was really into the combo thing - hey, only one piece of gear and a bass then I'm good to go - I started out looking for a nice, large combo. I found a Gallien-Krueger 210. Not bad - sounded good - got fairly loud - looked cool. I was in.

After using the combo for a while, I discovered something disheartening - some light kept flicking on and off in the back of the combo. What was that thing? After doing some more research - I found it was a protection circuit for the speakers. Well, that's not good. I started looking for an additional cab - since I was obviously driving this one too hard.

I was kind of used to the GK sound, so I looked into the GK speakers. I found a rockback (wow - cool new feature) RBH - the 'Hi-end' of the GK cabs - 410. Hmmm - that should do. And for a while at least, my gear habit was satiated. Of course - I haven't begun to describe my bass aquisitions yet....

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Bass-less, penny-less, must be college!

So what happened in the meantime?

Well, I got off active duty (Air Force) and completed my add-on training, in Springfield, IL - the 183 FW. I met and trained with some fine folks down there - they know their stuff and did an excellent job of preparing me for working at the 182nd. While I was there - I bought a sax and taught myself to play. I could not make it sound 'great' - like the jazz recordings I listened to; not even close. I ended up selling the sax.

I went to college. I returned to Illinois State, where, after bringing my grades up from the series of class failures I had prior to dropping out, I got in my major the semester before I graduated. I got my Bachelor of Science in Philosophy, with a minor in Psychology. I had to retake some classes - but the professors were impressed when I was able to bring a grade from an 'F' to an 'A' - of course - that only averaged out to a 'C' - but that's passing.

I joined a frat. Sigma Pi. I met some great guys there - but, unfortunately, no long lasting friendships. I see some of the guys around occasionally, but thats about it. It was fun - a lot of work - and worthwhile.

Right before graduation, I was deployed - the Illinois river outgrew its banks - so I went with the Air Guard to assist. We worked hard - and we were bored, either one or the other it seems.... that lasted 2 weeks. I got home, graduated, and moved to Peoria to start my Masters degree.

Peoria was interesting. Needing work - I found a job at a Residential Treatment Facility for boys. The Children's Home of Illinois. I never knew how good I had it until I went there. I met some kids that had overcome some real adversities - that word hardly suffices for some of the things those boys overcame. Some of them may do well - some of them will not. The ones that manage to stay out of prison and live what we would consider a 'normal' live - have overcome nearly insurmountable odds, and are worthy of our respect.

So anyway - that job lasted about 8 months. Those boys are tough, and some of them mean - and the hours long - and the pay low. Frome there I went into social work case management - where I was for 2 years. I was able to become a therapist in the same agency and did my internship at the same place - as a job - getting paid the regular salary. If not for that fact - I would not have completed my masters.

All this time - no bass....

That was about to change.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Pre-StrangeLand history; or when I started playing bass

Since this blog was intended to be my running diary of life with the band, I should probably be posting about that. So, I've decided to put my story about the band, on the blog. The whole story - from starting the band, almost 6 years ago - to today.

Prior to starting the band, I had to start playing bass again. I was working in a social service agency as a clinical supervisor, overseeing several programs and a handful of therapists. We dealt primarily with sex offenders and their victims, but we also had some 'regular' clients that were just there for therapy. I had been there a couple months when I got a call from a very good friend, and my brother-in-law, Doug.

"Hey, lets buy guitars, practice and start a band."

Wow, ok, cool. Now, I *used* to play bass. Back right after high school - I used to jam with some buddies - like Justin Robbins - and even got good enough (relatively speaking, of course) to play in the church praise band. I remember buying an old bass to start with - I honestly don't remember what it was - but my first new bass was a Washburn, with bright red crackle paint, 4 strings, and active electronics. I didn't know much back then, but I knew a pretty bass when I saw it.

I then sold that bass to get an amp, with a 15" speaker, and a different bass. This bass was ugly. It was a kind of steinberger knock-off - cricket bat (boat oar) body, black, headless, and had 4 silver tuners on the end of the body, under the bridge. I think it was called a Jack bass - maybe by Kramer. Real ugly. But - it worked, and now with bass and amp - I was ready to rock!

It wasn't long before I was in a band - after all, I didn't need chords to play rock and roll! The name of the band was Ballyhoo (meaning: loud noise). We did covers - everything from Def Lepperd to John Cougar Mellencamp (he still had 3 names back then). The only problem with the band, besides the fact that most of us could barely play - was that the guitar player always wanted to put these ripping solos in every song. Even the John Cougar Mellencamp songs - > where they did not belong.

After a couple months of practice, we got a gig; a high school dance. I don't remember what school - but it was fairly small. We played for a couple hours - and only took breaks when the guitarist danced with his girlfriend, who had hired us. Ahhhh, politics even then.

After the dance, the guitar player decided that he sucked, and was quitting the band as soon as we could find a replacement. I didn't stick around to see if that happened - I quit too.

From Ballyhoo, I went on to play in my church band, with Wade actually, and shortly after I joined, quit to go into the military.

While on active duty - I did play in a pick up band. We did a couple AD/DC songs on base at Lowry AFB Airman's Club. It wasn't too long after that gig, that I sold all my equipment.