Hey, There’s a Bird in This Mirror!

Diversion Enthusiast Society, est. 2007

The Mixtape and the Science/Art/Craft of Self-Promotion

with 2 comments

So I was planning on posting this earlier today, but didn’t get around to it. In the meantime, my wife managed to out-nostalgia me with childhood photos, out-sentimental me with a lovely paean to marriage, and out-“out” me by posting pictures of us on the site rather than redirecting to myspace pages that might or might not lead to our true faces being revealed for all the net to see. Nostalgia and sentimentality usually involve music for me, anyway, so I can tie this in. In fact, at the wedding she mentioned, I ran into an old friend who happened to be tending bar (just as he was at our own wedding three years ago – total coincidence!). We both played drums in our high school marching band, and he’s, of late, been teaching some kids how to play drum cadences. So, as Raina was getting in touch with her past by watching her childhood friend celebrate her marriage, I was trying to help said old friend remember the cadences we used to play by tapping them out on the bar.

So that’s my timely intro for this post that’s somewhat about nostalgia, but mostly just about me, me, me.

I recently became aware of muxtape.com, a fairly ingenious site that lets you post up-to-12 songs and construct a streaming music mix online.

Let’s face it – making a mix is inherently a narcissistic activity. Sure, you might try to rationalize it by over-emphasizing the patina of “sharing” that goes along with the act (after all, you usually don’t make mixes just for yourself, but for others), but it’s, first and foremost, a mental exercise for yourself or an attempt to impress others with your taste.

Mostly out of curiosity, I wanted to try muxtape, and I found that I didn’t have any pre-made mixes that were any shorter than 18 songs or so – I don’t think I’ve ever made a mix tape shorter that, much less a mix CD (which takes far less skill than a cassette, but considerably more than creating a playlist on iTunes or what-have-you). So I’ve decided to take my muxtape to the ultimate narcissistic level and use only songs on which I played. It’s basically a non-chronological selected musical history of Dave. For context…

Twelve-Step Failure was an Oshkosh, WI-based band, and we were together, under various names, roughly from 1993-1996 or thereabouts. We recorded on three separate occasions, but I only have one of those sessions on CD. I really need to convert the studio and live stuff to digital one of these days, since we had a pretty decent-sized catalog of pretty weird songs (that was actually the default compliment for a while after we broke up: “Hey, I liked you guys. You were weird.”). This recording sounds muted and quaint now, but we were actually pretty impressive live, especially for a trio. We played tons of shows, mostly in Oshkosh and Stevens Point, WI. For some reason, Milwaukee seemed elusive, which is kind of bizarre in retrospect. Also notable about this band is the peculiar naming phenomenon. When we started, there were four of us – three Daves and a Brad. Then one Dave quit, and we became a trio. After a while, we brought on a manager. Named Brad. And he’s probably reading this. Hi!

Dimes is probably the ex-band of mine that fared best. We were only together as an active four-piece from late 2000 until early 2002, but we managed to put out an album that got some marvelous local reviews; played scores of local shows and a few in nearby cities like Chicago and Minneapolis (never properly toured, though); amassed a small, but devoted fanbase (and, personally speaking, a blogging partner); and, on more than one occasion, bested a national touring band, performance-wise. Once again, we sound decent on CD, but we were better live. Also, the songs we’d written after we put out the album (probably a long EP or a short album’s worth) were probably better than 50 percent of it, but we’ve only got the live recordings to prove it.

I joined what became Crimes of Paris in 2005, and the band didn’t quite make it a full year. It was sort of a different experience for me, since I’d typically been involved in songwriting from the ground up, with all of the parts being hashed out in rehearsal. In this case, I was coming up with drum parts (and lyrics, in some cases) to songs that had mostly been written by the other two guys, and also bringing in a song or two of my own that were mostly complete. We broke up when our singer/guitarist (the same fellow who sang and played guitar in Dimes, incidentally, if you’re wondering about the similarity) moved out East. Then he moved back. It sounds like the other guys might be working together again, which is great, since we probably could have done a lot more with the sound. Oddly enough, the demo (recorded on a laptop with some rented mics) still has my favorite drum sound I’ve gotten to date.

Since I was band-less for a little while, I volunteered to supply a score for a lower-than-low-budget zombie movie a buddy of mine was making called Chaotic Evil (don’t bother looking for it on Netflix). Armed with my guitar, a borrowed keyboard, a mic, miscellaneous percussion equipment, and some recording software, I set up shop in our spare room (or “The Nervous Breakdown Room,” as we call it) and tried to get across the triumphs and sorrows of a lowly band of LARP’ers as they do battle with the undead hordes. Definitely a learning experience for me, For instance, if you put enough reverb on drumsticks hitting a radiator, it can sound kind of badass and ominous.

My focus now is on Curio. We’re currently working on getting our new guitarist acquainted with our material and writing some very promising new stuff. We played one show last year mostly as a preview of things to come, and that’s where the three tracks on the muxtape and at the myspace site originated. It was a damn good show for starters, but things are sounding terrific with the extra guitar parts.

Sbërtnërne… I’m not sure how that got on there. I definitely didn’t create all of the music and contribute some of the vocals. As far as I know, this is exclusively the work of Johnny Gash, Shirtless “Cliff” Spawncier, and Neil Bung. Regardless, I think we can all agree that there’s something timeless and essential about these songs, and that it would be a lesser mix without them.

Self-promotion over. Next time, I’ll reign it in some and write about classical music or something.

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Written by Dave

April 7, 2008 at 9:03 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I don’t think “manager” is an appropriate term. It was more like, “roommate that was a graphic designer so he made posters”.

    muxtape is cool, I was messing around with it the other day and made a covers mix for the heck of it: http://bradknapp.muxtape.com/

    brad knapp

    April 8, 2008 at 11:03 am

  2. Nice shoutout to Sbertnerne. Whatever happened to those guys?

    Chavez

    April 10, 2008 at 8:41 pm


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