Sunday, September 13, 2009

Beginnings

Hello,
This is my very first blog.
I hope to keep you informed of the latest happenings in my world and to let you all know about upcoming events that i find interesting .
Hopefully, I will be performing at some of these events. I will be sure to let you know.
Also, I will be sharing thoughts and ideas floating around in my head.
Who knows what will happen?
I'll give you free music downloads and tell you some stories.
Anything goes at this point!
Here we go!

So I played my first official show as New Fumes last friday, September 11, 2009 at a little house in Arlington, Texas called "The Wasted Words Art Collective".
Man, it was smokey in there. The folks putting on the event were super friendly and enthusiastic.
The event was a sort of an anti-war benefit with free speech rantings in between bands.
Seems most of the other acts were on the experimental noise side of things. Some were just extremely abrasive and others were harsh , yet soothing. "Soothing" to me can mean a lot of things. When i was a teenager , Ministy's "The Mind Is a Terrible Thing To Taste" used to lull me to sleep. So , last friday, if someone was playing feedback and their music had a nice ballance of lows and highs, i found it "soothing".

I played second. I brought a laptop, a guitar, an omnichord, a few foot pedals, an amp and a P.A.
I had my set Pretty well planned out to take the audience on a journey. there were segues between songs that were partially impromptu , but the majority of the set was planned.
This was also my first time singing a set of songs for an audience.

I have always been the "guitar player" in bands, never the core songwriter, singer, front man person. So this was a big step for me.
Honestly, i never really wanted to be the front figure of a band or a singer. I just wanted to play guitar or whatever and add textures and melodies to other people's songs... or in the case of Ghostcar, we were totally improvising. It was mostly a democracy of spontaneous composition.
That's fun, and just by the pure nature of the instrument, the trumpet ends up taking the lead and i form clouds of guitar texture and throw in some hooks here and there. Moments happen that way that could never be planned.

New Fumes is different. It's pretty structured.

As the story goes: I was making a bunch of music on my laptop over the past few years, mostly instumental stuff and i was taking part in the Laptop Deathmatch events that Wanz Dover was putting on here in Dallas and calling myself "Frogboy".
Frogboy was a name i decided to use because i needed a stage name for Laptop Deathmatch.
Wayne Coyne named me "Frogboy" when i was touring with The Flaming Lips in 2002 on a tour right when "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" came out. Wayne had their stage hands dressed up in different animal outfits. Kliph Skurlock was "Dog Bear" and i was "Frogboy".
They were kind enough to let me play a little casio sampler keyboard i brought with me on the trip. iI also played some guitar on a song or two on some radio sessions and on that "Can't get You Out of My Head" song during the show each night.
I look back on those six weeks i spent on the road with them...and wow, it changed my life.
I liken it to trying to jump on a moving train. Not a slow moving train, but one that is really hauling ass. I was unprepared and perhaps a bit naive. I was trying to learn songs i had never heard while riding in a van, i was wearing furry animal outfits on stage during a mostly outdoor festival in August, i was dancing, controlling strobes and smoke, and i was sweating my ass off.
I was dehydrated, not sleeping at night because i had headaches and i was starting each day with several cups of really strong coffee. I was attempting a cold turkey detox from a daily habit of smoking marijuana. Not to mention i was on the road and on stage with what was probably my favorite band since i was 16 or 17 years old. So yeah, it was weird.
I should also mention that i am not really all that "good" of a musician. I wanted to be, but i was nervous and awkward and had almost no musical theory or vocabulary. My knowledge of chords was minimal. Now, it's just a little bit less minimal.
I relied a lot on my ear up to that point. I would play until something sounded good or interesting and that was how i rolled. I had never been formerly taught.
My point is, i don't feel that i did all that well playing with the Lips and i was probably not the best roady, but that's okay.
That experience really served me well in the long run, and i am so grateful for that.

When i got home, i was inspired and determined. I wanted to be better and an expert at jumping on moving trains (if other moving trains were to present themselves).
So i practiced, read up, learned my chords (and what to call them), recorded a ton of songs on my four track and started more bands with friends. Ghostcar kept playing from time to time and that was/is always a great exercise.
Throwing yourself into a situation where you must improvise and sweat, i think it really builds character and strength musically.
Without all of this, i would not have been able to jump on the Polyphonic Spree train when they asked me to do so.
Annie Clark apparently quit the Spree by not showing up to bus call after their SXSW shows to finnish the little tour they were on. I had called Tim or CP before they started the tour to see if i could catch a ride with them to Denver so i could visit a sick and dying friend. They were headed there after the SXSW shows and i thought maybe i could help out by guitar teching or lugging equipment (or something) to earn my ride. They didn't really answer, but they called me when they were on their way home from Colorado and asked if i would be interested in playing guitar on an upcoming tour because Annie had left the band.
I never thought i wanted to be in The Polyphonic Spree, i didn't own their records and was only familiar with a couple of their songs. I gave it some thought and talked it over with my friend David Willingham , who was running sound for the Spree, and we agreed that if David would do another tour, i would join on for atleast one tour. So, everyday for a month i familiarized myself with Polyphonic Spree records and tried to learn the songs. What i could not figure out on my own , or where i could not hear what the guitars were doing, i had Rick Nelson (viola) tutor me on the chord structures by phone from New Orleans. Then, a couple times each week i met up with Ryan Fitzgerald (guitar#1) to work parts out with him. So, in a month's time, i learned all the Spree songs i needed to know to do the tour (and a few more) and i was on the road.

The ten day tour I originally signed up for turned into seven months of touring.
We circled the U.S. a few times, we went to do Summer Sonic in Japan, we toured the U.K. and Canada, i made a busload of new friends and had some incredible experiences. Some of it was hard, stinky, snotty and sweaty and some of it was just fun. I gained a whole new respect for what Tim Delaughter is doing. He is the real deal. The musicians in the Spree are wonderful characters and superb at their craft. I am a better person and musician for working with them.

At the beginning of January, 2008 I told Tim and Julie that I was not going to be touring with them any more. No hard feelings, my heart and mind were elsewhere. They were completely cool and understanding.

That whole winter, spring and summer i was a recording fool.
I was up till dawn every day and night hashing out ideas and sounds , recording and arranging everything on my laptop . I think maybe I was starting to lose my mind a bit.
I wasn't sure if what i was doing was Frogboy material of not, I was just making music.
By the time the summer rolled around i found myself singing over some of the the tracks and it just didn't feel like Frogboy any more.

I was at work in a photo studio one day, painting a ton of sets white. For weeks on end we painted white white white white and white. I was working with this really trippy , older hippy dude that seemed like he took a ton of acid back in the day. He was a master carpenter and just an all around interesting character. I remember he was mixing some paint, primer and some other chemicals and with his really high, southern voice he said ,"man, we're gettin' some new fumes up in here".
"New Fumes" stuck in my head from that point on. It became the title of this group of songs I had been singing over.

There you go...New Fumes is born.

I have been laying low for the past year. I did a couple laptop battles and a couple Ghostcar shows, but mostly i was getting my head and life together. I Gave up the weed (I've been weed free for a year now). I have no desire to smoke, but still love the smell. I stopped drinking coffee. Again, still love the smell. I drink on occasion but don't get drunk (i get enough headaches without alcohol). I found out i have an allergy to gluten. This is good, because i eat awesome food and i feel healthier without gluten in my diet. So yeah, big changes this past year.
Maybe the most exciting thing is that i finished and mastered a New Fumes E.P.
I have had a couple of small labels express interest in releasing it and i am pumped about playing shows.
Since the show on friday, i have booked a few more and have several prospects for playing in some other cities.
For now, New Fumes will be just me and select items in my arsenal, but I do think that I will be adding other musicians as I play more shows and figure out exactly what this needs.

I hope you will return to this blog and see what's going on. Hopefully this experience will be entertaining, enlightening, informative and inspiring.

Peace!


2 comments:

  1. You write beautifully. Looking forward to more.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a journey!
    I agree with amy=)

    ReplyDelete