January 11, 2007

Oh where oh where has my little blog gone

Filed under: Day to Day,News — Drew Johnson @ 10:11 pm

I have a bit of a dilemma.

I’ve started a new blog over at Blogger and have been doing some writing there for a few days. The blog is private so no one can see it but me. I like it.

There is one gigantic caveat with doing a public blog (like the one you’re reading) where people are allowed to comment: spam. Incredible amounts of it. Even if you read this blog regularly you probably won’t see it because I spend most of my time deleting it. I’ve had as many as 150 new spam comments in one day. And you have to delete them one at a time. I have been doing this ever since I switched my blog to this format. I could just let it go but I am sort of morally opposed to letting the money I spend on this site be used to run a link farm for pornographers.

When I started doing a blog it was for one reason: to get more traffic to the site. That’s it. If people see that there is something new to read they have a tendency to come back. Even better, if they can comment, they come back even more to see if you commented on their comment. So I would just ramble on about the album we were making and people actually started reading it. Not only that, I actually started to like blogging. It was cathartic.

I’m getting to the dilemma I promise.

The Formula Kid hasn’t been a band for almost eight months. There is really nothing more to say about the band. OK well, that’s not actually true. I could talk for hours about this band. I love doing that. I just don’t want to type it out. I’ve dug up all the old demos, all the videos, all the pictures, everything I can find that would give me something to post and talk about. The demo cow has run dry. I want to keep blogging but I just don’t know what to say anymore that pertains to this band.

My blog over at Blogger is very personal – and absolutely riveting I might add – and I’m able to say whatever I want and talk about whatever I want. It’s great. I’d sort of rather do that right here but something makes me think I shouldn’t. Here’s why.

This may not be news to some of you but I’m a Christian now. Ya know?…saved…born again…as in “except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3)…yes THAT kind of born again. This is actually rather old news. I just haven’t talked about it here. I wasn’t sure how my former band mates would react to me using the site as a real diary…not a band blog…but a REAL personal diary. This is not MY site. It’s the band’s site. I just do all the talking. Everyone else is gone. The lights have been turned off, the doors locked, and there’s Johnson – still talkin’.

But there are actually a few faithful readers of this blog. That’s why I hate to just pack up and move into the eShed with my ePencil and ePaper. I like the company here but the upkeep is getting ridiculous.

Undecided.

December 31, 2006

Stay

Filed under: Day to Day — Drew Johnson @ 2:29 pm

I haven’t done a movie review in a long time so here’s one. “Stay” is poop. This movie is riddled with the worst kind of filmmaking pretentiousness. Even the commentary made me mad.

**SPOILER AHEAD**

I had to read a bunch of reviews of this movie to figure out what was going on through the whole thing. The most common explanation was that the whole thing was a dream. I wrote a story in the fifth grade that only made sense when you learned at the end that it was a dream. I got an A and some congratulations from Mr. Brooks. This stupid little trick should not be used past the fifth grade. It’s a gigantic “Just kidding!” at the end of two hours of nonsense. It’s almost as bad as the imaginary friend twist in Fight Club. Here’s the difference: I loved Fight Club even after the stupid twist.

People who think that art is better when it’s hard to understand are wrong. Why? Because I said so. Yes, some brilliant art is painfully hard to understand but that is usually a bi-product, not the crux. People who guard the real meaning of their lyrics so the listener can put their own meaning to them bother me. This movie bothered me in that same way. When I got to the end of this movie I had no more of an idea of what it was about than I did when we started watching it.

Movies that have great surprise endings like Usual Suspects and Sixth Sense make you want to go back and watch them again. The more you watch them the more things you understand and that’s cool. “Stay” made me wish I could un-watch it. That would be the ultimate surprise ending.

Yes, this movie looked great and all that. Just like the fat, ugly girl who has a great personality. Consider yourself presented with the big consolation prize.

We watched the special features hoping for some sort of clue as to the meaning of what we had just witnessed. All through the commentary the guys kept shutting each other up when someone would get close to revealing anything about the plot. They said they didn’t want to ruin the magic of the movie. Right…yeah…magic…got it. Like a magician who can’t tell you which card you picked because that would be so predictable.

Please see this movie. Misery loves company.

December 30, 2006

My latest obsession

Filed under: Day to Day,News — Drew Johnson @ 10:05 am

Two weeks ago I decided to finally start working on my fingerpicking technique. I’ve been faking skill for a long time but I decided it was time to put in some real work and learn how it’s really done. The specific style I’m talking about was made famous by Chet Atkins and Merle Travis. This is the thing where you use a thumb pick and chunk out an oompa type of bass line with your thumb and pick the melody with your index and middle fingers. To anyone who doesn’t play guitar this style may sound simple and charming but it’s by far the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to tackle. I haven’t been this inspired to practice my guitar since the first time I heard Stevie Ray Vaughn play his version of Little Wing.

Here is a short clip of the two tunes I’ve been working on the most. The first one is called The Glory of Love and the second is Freight Train (I didn’t write these). I’ve made some huge strides in the last two weeks but my playing is only mildly convincing at best. To any real fingerpickers out there this would be the equivalent of an 8 year old kid posting a video on You Tube of him playing Smoke on the Water rather poorly. That’s OK though. This blog is just a diary of my progress as a human and a musician so this will serve as a snapshot that I’ll look back on and cringe.

Click here to download the mp3

There is a clip of a former world champion fingerpicker playing The Glory of Love on this page if you want to know what it’s really supposed to sound like.

And here is the ultimate goal. This is a clip of a guy on You Tube making my head explode.

December 20, 2006

The day the music died

Filed under: Day to Day,News — Drew Johnson @ 7:01 pm

Wanna see something really sad?

The Formula Kid

That’s the back of the headstock of my Tacoma. My good guitar. I had it leaning against the couch in my living room last night when my couch decided to end my musical career by kicking my guitar. It fell on its face and breathed its last breath. Guess what I’m getting for Christmas whether I can afford it or not?

December 19, 2006

How not to write a song

Filed under: Day to Day — Drew Johnson @ 7:42 pm

Kristopher posted some thoughts on the unfinished mix of Twenty Miles from Waterloo that got me thinking again about my four year long debate with myself over whether or not Twenty Miles from Waterloo is a good song. For those of you not familiar with this debate I’m going to spare you the boredom of catching you up but let it be said that there are countless posts on this very subject and even more than countless discussions that pre-date this blog.

My official position has always been that this is simply not a very good song. It works great when performed live at a show but falls short on tape when all of its wobbly bits are exposed. Its weaknesses were made apparent to us after hearing the original demo. We spent the next few years trying to fix this song and never quite got there. Waterloo was fundamentally flawed from the very beginning. It is essentially two different songs held together by a mathematically generated pre-chorus. We were basically trying to fix a house that had a gigantic crack in the foundation by painting the bathroom and re-finishing the hardwood floors.

Waterloo became a zero-sum game. Every improvement that was made usually caused a loss somewhere else. The tempo of the original demo was much faster than the latest version. This made the energy seem higher but caused the drum and guitar parts to be less funky. So we made the trade. Which is better is anyone’s guess. So these same types of decisions were made every step of the way. I would also attribute the higher energy in the original demo to us not knowing that we were bashing right through some major problems.

My favorite demo of the verses is this one. It’s more like Twenty Feet from Sweet Home Alabama. At this tempo (which is even slower than our latest version) the guitar parts sound killer but they don’t work over Dino’s killer drum part. So we went with the drums…which I think was the right decision.

The pre-chorus in the latest version is by far my favorite but the guitar part in the left speaker is so fuzzy that you can’t even tell what I’m doing.

Kristopher said in his comment “The chorus always perplexed me in that we don’t hear more ‘Drew’isms’.” I’m not sure if you mean the way I sing it or the way we play it but either way the Drew’isms are probably not there because this was my attempt at writing a Colony song. I should probably leave Colony songs to Colony…may they rest in peace.

The “splash/ride” cymbals Tammy talks about are (I assume) what Dino is doing in the chorus right? She’s probably talking about the way Dino is washing out his ride cymbal (or maybe a gigantic crash cymbal I don’t recall) on the and’s of the beat. I’m in total agreement with Dino on the way he approached that part. It’s supposed to provide a bed of noise while at the same time keeping the rhythmic motif of the verses. If he had played his ride as more of a “ping” it would have sounded too ska and if he had done it on the hi-hat it would have sounded too Korn – “Got the Life”. To each his own of course. I can certainly understand why someone would prefer a cleaner approach.

Anyhoo, this topic is always interesting to me because this song was a huge learning experience for me. I thought that I could fix this song with years of songwriting experience and education when my gut told me just to trash it. Oddly enough, I just got an email a few days ago saying that Waterloo is a “monster song”. Go figure.

In the couple of years surrounding the writing of Waterloo I think my songwriting was pretty hit and miss. There are more songs I don’t like from that period than any other I can think of. And the ones that I do like it seems like nobody else did.

I’m going to go ahead and shut up now. I’m now just blogging to hear myself blog.

December 17, 2006

Band names and such.

Filed under: Day to Day — Drew Johnson @ 2:31 pm

I promised Taylor in the comments from a few posts ago that I would tell the stories behind the various band names and album titles so here it goes. Taylor is my brother for those of you who don’t know.

The album “Invention of the Wheel” was obviously named after the song by the same name but the song title has absolutely nothing to do with the lyrics. The original demo that I did for that song was done before I had any real lyrics. So the lyric to the chorus was “The invention of the wheel had them scrambling to deal”. After the lyrics were written I just kept the working title. I think some people think the lyrics to that song are supposed to be sexy but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s supposed to be a lamentation not a recommendation. I guess you could write some sort of Beatles-esque back story to the whole thing since the lyrics are about swingers and the album cover has a wreath of nails combined with the title itself but it was never intended that way.

I had wanted that album to be called “Grandma and the Glue Factory”. Maybe some of you have heard the story about old horses being sent to the glue factory to be turned into glue. Well Angel’s Grandma was very sick a few years ago and her Grandpa made a statement about sending her to the glue factory since she was old and sick, thus the un-used title.

The Formula Kid came from Steve Nowels. I know I’ve told this story before in a previous post but I can’t find it so here it is again. When we were tracking Invention of the Wheel the drum mic we used on Dino’s rack tom was a Senheiser 409. When I was setting it up Dino asked me “What kind of mic is that”? I said “It’s a 409”. Steve chimed in with “Formula Kid”. Which could be interpreted “Formula 409 dude…get it”? So “Formula kid!” became the catch phrase of the band. It took on many meanings but it was used most often right before Dino would count off the first song of any show. In this setting it meant something like “Let’s knock ’em dead” or “Go get ’em tiger” or whatever. So when The Drew Johnson Band decided to change the band name The Formula Kid got the most votes. We thought of it as a super hero sounding name. If you look in the liner notes of Invention of the Wheel you’ll see that our ASCAP publishing company was named Formula Kid Music. Also if you look at the bar code number on that album you’ll see that there’s a 409 in there. That was our little joke.

The name of our “record company” was Angstrom Records. The word angstrom also came from Steve in that same session. He asked me if I could turn his headphones up “just an angstrom”. Of course I had no idea what an angstrom was. Turns out an angstrom is one hundred-millionth of a centimeter.

There was also a question about where the name of my old band Koffterweid came from. There is also a post about that somewhere but I can’t find that one either. It’s “coughed her weed”. I’ll spare you the story on that one.

November 21, 2006

It’s gonna have to wait…sorry.

Filed under: Day to Day — Drew Johnson @ 8:27 pm

OK I’ve got all of the tunes in my possession and I said I hoped to have them posted before Thanksgiving but there’s no way I’m going to be able to get that done. There’s just not enough time to upload everything and get all the HTML together and all that mess. I’m not going to be around here much through this weekend so I’ll do it all on Sunday or Monday I promise.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

November 20, 2006

Getting closer

Filed under: Announcements,Day to Day — Drew Johnson @ 9:26 pm

I hope to have the new record posted before Thanksgiving. We’ve run into a couple of hiccups in the last week or so but we hope to have them resolved shortly. J. Christopher Hughes has the last song to go on the record in his possession and he’s been in Nashville recording an album from dusk ’til dawn for the last couple of weeks. He was kind enough to do a fancy little file transfer of the tune but there was a little mix-up in transit but it’s on its way I promise.

Dino and I have been furiously trying to come up with a title for the new record. Naming a record is only slightly less cumbersome than naming a band. It’s probably going to be something along the lines of “Posthumously, The Formula Kid”. I remember how convinced I was that “Invention of the Wheel” should have been called “Grandma and the Glue Factory”. I still haven’t gotten over that one.

Have you ever taken one of those email-this-goofy-questionnaire-to-all-your-friends surveys? The ones that ask stuff like: Britney or Christina? Fold or bunch? What is your most embarrassing habit besides booger eating? Yeah me either but I was thinking about those things the other night as I was watching The Lawrence Welk Show. If those surveys ever asked “What are some T.V. shows that you watch but are embarrassed to admit to?” I would have two answers: The Lawrence Welk Show and Mind Freak. Needless to say I’m infinitely more humiliated by the fact that I’m fascinated with Mind Freak. Get off me, I dig magic…and narcissistic pretty-boys with high cheekbones and Jovi-hair.

November 19, 2006

My home studio

Filed under: Day to Day — Drew Johnson @ 10:07 pm

My project for this weekend was to get my basement cleaned out and to get all my equipment set up so I can start doing some real recording. My studio has recently resembled a pawn shop crammed into an 8′ x 8′ section of my basement. Lately my recording time has been divided between trying to locate a working SM57, tap dancing around guitars lying on the floor, wondering what ever happened that cool fuzz pedal I used to have, and…uhhh…oh yeah, recording music.

It’s time to start doing some real recording and that was simply not going to happen if I didn’t do something about my recording environment. I made some headway over the last couple of days. It’s still a work in progress but it’s way better than before.

So here are a few pictures of where I’m at now. Keep in mind that this is just a basement-basement. There’s no fire place, no den, no bar, just concrete floors covered in old carpet and cinder block walls. Rest assured that the rest of my house is a total palace. This home studio is pretty modest even by modest home studio standards but whatever, it’s mine.

The Formula Kid

The Formula Kid

The Formula Kid

The Formula Kid

November 8, 2006

Back again

Filed under: Day to Day — Drew Johnson @ 9:03 pm

Believe it or not I’ve actually been getting requests lately to keep the blog going. So here it is…going.

The tunes are mixed and ready to ship out as far as I’m concerned. I sent Dino and Nate CDs a couple of weeks ago so they’re living with those for a while to make sure that it all works for them. I haven’t sent Mike a disc because I can’t find him. If anyone knows the whereabouts of Mike Gregory please let me know. As soon as the mixes are all given the OK they will be available for download from here somewhere. There will probably be seven songs.

Dog and Pony Show
Outta Sight Shake
Cutout Bin
Home
To Mother from Her Son
On Martyrdom
You Devil You

Twenty Miles from Waterloo was never finished *sigh of relief*. And neither was Admiration Day Parade or Songbirds. May they rest in peace.

I’m not sure if anyone knew this or not but J. Christopher Hughes has his mix of You Devil You on his My Space page if you want to hear it.

I mentioned in a previous post that I was doing some work with Maxtone Four on their album. They now have one of the songs that I sang on at their My Space page. The song is called “Just Say I Know”. We were all extremely pleased with how the big vocal stuff turned out.

A band I’ve been digging very heavily lately that you should all check out is The Ditty Bops. Enough said.

I’ve been doing a lot of demo recording lately for my solo record. Don’t hold your breath. I’m sure it will never be finished but a boy can dream. I’m also learning to play harmonica. I was cleaning out my basement recently and found some musical instruments that I had forgotten I had. I found two harmonicas, a flute, and a clarinet. There are two instruments that I’ve always said I would learn to play before I die. The harmonica is one and the other is the pedal steel guitar. I consider the pedal steel to be one of the most expressive and versatile instruments ever created but unfortunately they ain’t cheap…and I am. It will have to stay on my to do list for now.

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