Discography: Mike with others 1990-1999

1990 Dweezil Zappa – Confessions (Barking Pumpkin)

CD song list:

  1. Earth
  2. Bad Girl
  3. F.W.A.K.
  4. The Kiss
  5. Any Time At All
  6. Vanity
  7. Helpless
  8. Shoogagoogagunga
  9. Stayin’ Alive
  10. Maybe Tonight
  11. Confessions of a Deprived Youth
  12. Gotta Get To You
  13. Pain of Love
  14. Obviously Influenced By The Devil
  15. Return of the Son of Shoogagoogagunga

MK involvement:
Orchestral guitars on “Earth” prelude, piano on “The Kiss”, backwards guitars on “Any Time At All”, guitar orchestration and ending weirdness on “Stayin’ Alive”, twisted harmony guitar part on the intro to “Obviously Influenced By The Devil.”

Comments:
I wasn’t actually a member of Dweezil’s band at the time this album was recorded, I was hired as basically a session guy and did all my parts in one night. For our first experience working together it was very productive and enjoyable, and boded well for the future. A few months later we were a band. Ultimately the most memorable thing about this session was having my truck locked into the parking lot where I’d left it, and me sleeping on the couch in the control booth until 6:00 AM when I could get at it again.

VANITY CD single (Barking Pumpkin) released in 1991

CD song list:

  1. Any Time At All
  2. Vanity
  3. Return of the Son of Shoogagoogagunga
  4. You Can’t Judge A Girl By The Panties She Wears
  5. Vanity (Radio Edit)

MK involvement:
Guitar and vocal on “Panties.”

Comments:
These songs are all from “Confessions”, except for “Panties” which is a live recording from our June 1, 1991 concert in Fresno, California, and is exclusive to this EP. Sometimes artists will put useless rare junk on singles to lure people into buying songs they already have. In this case, it’s very entertaining rare junk, and wholly worthy of purchase.

STAYIN’ ALIVE CD single (Food For Thought-UK & Europe) released in 1991

CD song list:

  1. Stayin’ Alive
  2. The Return of the Son of Shoogagoogagunga
  3. You Can’t Judge A Girl By The Panties She Wears (Live!)

MK involvement:
Guitar orchestration on “Stayin’ Alive”, guitar and vocal on “Panties.”

Comments:
This is sort of the UK equivalent to the “Vanity” single. Besides the replacement of “Stayin’ Alive” for “Vanity”, distinctions include minor alterations in song titles 2 & 3, new liner notes by Dweezil and a different cover shot from the same photo session. Wow! I thought I was writing for “Goldmine” magazine for a second there.

1991 Andy Prieboy – Montezuma Was A Man Of Faith (EP) (Dr.Dream)

MK involvement: Acoustic guitar on the track “Where I’m Calling You From.”

Comments: Andy was the singer/composer/musician who replaced Stan Ridgeway as lead vocalist of Wall of Voodoo. Toward the end of that band’s existence, Scott Thunes began playing bass for them at gigs, and at the last Wall of Voodoo gig ever in 1989, I was used as a surreal show-opener: standing by myself at a DX- 7, playing Paul McCartney’s “Live And Let Die” completely straight and unemotionally as dry ice smoke enveloped the stage. The audience response was, at first, enthusiastic, growing steadily more confused and silent as I refused to stop and they realized that they had no idea who I was (Marc, the guitar player, watched from the audience and said it was one of the eeriest things he’d ever witnessed). Finally the band took the stage and verbally abused me until I retreated.

After this fabulous event, I started working sporadically in the studio with Andy, who had a publishing deal at MCA and spent a lot of time making demos in the studio there. Me and Thunes recorded a lot of stuff, some of which I remember as being really good, but the only released piece featuring me is one song on this five-song EP. My main memory of it is completing the track and Thunes telling me that he’d never been more impressed by anything I’d done. Andy is a truly unique songwriter and I’m sad that he hasn’t released more stuff (his one full length album, from which the song “Montezuma” is excerpted, has Thunes on the whole thing). This EP also has a genius country version of “Whole Lotta Love”, which has an uncredited vocal performance by Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde. My name in the liner notes is spelled “Keneely”, for which I gave Andy a lot of shit./expand]

1991 Andy Prieboy – Blood and Concrete (Original Soundtrack) (IRS)

MK involvement: Accordian, oboe and acoustic guitar on “One Girl In A Million”, a song written and produced by Andy Prieboy.

Comments: OK, not real accordian and oboe, but the Kurzweil equivalent thereof. Andy Prieboy provided several songs for the soundtrack of this peculiar film (available on video and occasionally visible on pay TV) which were sung by none other than Jennifer Beals of “Flashdance” fame. My performance is uncredited on the CD, but in the movie credits I receive an arrangement credit— albeit with my name misspelled. Thunes played, uncredited, on the track as well.

1991 Buddy Blue – Guttersnipes and Zealots (Rhino New Artists Records)

MK involvement: Atonal guitar accompaniment to poetry recital on “The Duke Of J Street.”

Comments: Buddy has been a fixture on the San Diego music scene for years. He was an original member of the Beat Farmers, left that band and formed the Jacks, broke up that band and made this album, and currently heads a swing/blues/jazz/roots rock ensemble (and recently released a second solo album). He has a great gruff speaking voice, which is why I asked him to speak at the beginning of “The Car Song” on “hat”; he also contributes great dobro to that piece. Buddy had a musical dream come true when he played guitar on Screamin’ Jay’s “Somethin’ Funny Goin’ On” album (he loved Jay’s music, and hated the sound of my guitar parts on the first two Jay albums I did, so having Buddy around for the third kept my slicker tendencies in check); he ended up writing the liner notes for that album as well.

My involvement on “Guttersnipes” is limited to strangling a guitar while Arturo Aguirre recites a moving poem in Spanish about barrio life. For this I got my photo in the booklet, looking like a schoolboy with his dad’s hat on in the middle of a bunch of convicts. The artwork is by comix legend Spain Rodriguez, who also did that odd pop-up contraption in the first “Beat The Boots” box.

1991 Earl Thomas – Blue Not Blues (Bizarre/Straight)

MK involvement: Lead guitar on “Your Love.”

Comments: I think I recorded this track the same day I did the Solomon Burke session…like Solomon, I hadn’t even met Earl at the time. My playing on this song is a mutant hybrid of Mike Keneally and Carlos Santana. It just pops up for a minute at the end of the song and fades politely away.

1991 Frank Zappa – The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life (Rykodisc)

CD song list:

Disc One:

  1. Heavy Duty Judy 6:04
  2. Ring of Fire 2:01
  3. Cosmik Debris 4:32
  4. Find Her Finer 2:42
  5. Who Needs The Peace Corps? 2:41
  6. I Left My Heart In San Francisco 0:36
  7. Zomby Woof 5:42
  8. Bolero 5:33
  9. Zoot Allures 7:07
  10. Mr. Green Genes 3:41
  11. Florentine Pogen 7:12
  12. Andy 5:51
  13. Inca Roads 8:20
  14. Sofa #1 2:49

Disc Two:

  1. Purple Haze 2:27
  2. Sunshine Of Your Love 2:30
  3. Let’s Move To Cleveland 5:52
  4. When Irish Eyes Are Smiling 0:47
  5. “Godfather Part II” Theme 0:30
  6. A Few Moments With Brother A. West 4:01
  7. The Torture Never Stops Part One 5:20
  8. Theme From “Bonanza” 0:29
  9. Lonesome Cowboy Burt (Swaggart Version) 4:54
  10. The Torture Never Stops Part Two 10:48
  11. More Trouble Every Day (Swaggart Version) 5:29
  12. Penguin In Bondage (Swaggart Version) 5:05
  13. The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue 9:19
  14. Stairway To Heaven 9:20

MK involvement: Manual performance of written guitar lines which were, and let there be no question about this, composed by Frank Zappa, and improvised fills here and there; keyboards on disc one-tracks 1, 9, 11, 12, 13 and disc two- tracks 1, 2, 7 & 10; lead vocals on “Ring of Fire” and part of “Peace Corps”, harmony vocals on remainder.

Comments: The Johnny Cash stuff is from Wurzburg, Germany—what you don’t hear is that at least half of that show ended up being sung in fake Johnny Cash voices by the whole band. Pity the poor Wurzburgians. A few days later Frank handed me “Rhymin’ Man” to sing. You’ll hear me screw up part of the monologue in “Peace Corps” when Frank threw me off guard. A couple of years later I had my revenge by doing the same thing to Eric Buxton during his recitation in the middle of “Jesus Thinks You’re A Jerk” at the first Zappa’s Universe show—sorry Eric! The “Torture/Lonesome” medley was usually great fun to play. Those readers unfamiliar with Laurie Anderson’s work might not realize that we’re parodying her in the middle section of “Lonesome”—“Sharkey” is a character in several of her songs. I suggested including the relentless “ha ha ha ha ha ha” vocal part, ripped off from her song “O Superman”, and I came to regret it on some evenings when Frank decided to keep the section going on forever.

If you’d told me when I was fifteen that one day I’d be playing “Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue”, “Florentine Pogen”, “Andy” and “Inca Roads” on stage with Frank I would have laughed very loudly at you. I’d have laughed even louder if you’d said we’d be playing “Stairway to Heaven” as well. When Frank mentioned that song in rehearsal he swore he’d never heard the whole thing, and relied on the band members familiar with it to get an arrangement happening. Frank had been playing an improvised solo in the middle of the song the first few times we played it; one day I showed Paul Carman the notes to Jimmy Page’s original solo, and the next time Frank called the tune, Paul and I started playing the solo in unison, without warning Frank about it first. He listened until we were finished, then stopped the tune and said “OK. Now show it to the rest of the horn section”. Audiences used to explode when that part of the song popped out. And to anyone who saw the East Coast shows where I ended the song on my knees at the front of the stage—Frank made me do it. I swear to God.

1991 Frank Zappa – Make A Jazz Noise Here Rykodisc

CD song list:

Disc One:

  1. Stinkfoot 7:40
  2. When Yuppies Go To Hell 14:36
  3. Fire And Chains 3:57
  4. Let’s Make The Water Turn Black 1:36
  5. Harry, You’re A Beast 0:47
  6. The Orange County Lumber Truck 0:42
  7. Oh No 4:43
  8. Theme From Lumpy Gravy 1:12
  9. Eat That Question 1:55
  10. Black Napkins 6:56
  11. Big Swifty 11:13
  12. King Kong 13:11
  13. Star Wars Won’t Work 3:33

Disc Two:

  1. The Black Page (new age version) 6:45
  2. T’Mershi Duween 1:42
  3. Dupree’s Paradise 8:35
  4. City of Tiny Lights 8:01
  5. Royal March From L’Histoire Du Soldat 1:00
  6. Theme From The Bartok Piano Concerto #3 0:43
  7. Sinister Footwear 2nd mvt. 6:19
  8. Stevie’s Spanking 4:26
  9. Alien Orifice 4:15
  10. Cruisin’ For Burgers 8:28
  11. Advance Romance 7:43
  12. Strictly Genteel 5:37

MK involvement: Manual performance of written guitar lines which were, and let there be no question about this, composed by Frank Zappa, and little solo bits scattered about; keyboards on disc one-tracks 2 and the electric piano solo at the beginning of track 9, and disc two-tracks 1, 3, 6 & 12.

Comments: The stretch of music on disc two from “Sinister” to “Genteel” is my favorite bunch of released music from the ’88 tour. I just love it. “Cruisin’ For Burgers” was my favorite song to play on the tour, it made me happy in ways I can’t describe. I’m endlessly happy that this album exists.

1991 Frank Zappa – You Can’t Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 4 (Rykodisc)

MK involvement: Keys and momentary laughter on “Take Me Out To The Ball Game”; guitar on “Filthy Habits.”

Comments: I think “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” is one of the most outstandingly absurd things ever to appear on an FZ release.

1991 James Morton – Rock Studies For Drum Set (Mel Bay)

MK involvement: Composition, guitar, bass, keys

Comments: Well, after the massive worldwide success of the “Let’s Make Rhythm!” tape secured me an audition with Frank Zappa, it was a while before I got back into the studio with James Morton, but our reunion produced much of lasting value. To whit: there are a number of things on this cassette that I actually really like for actual musical reasons, and as James allowed me utter leeway regarding the harmonic content of these pieces (my task was to set James’ 10 drum charts, highlighting rock styles, to whatever music I deemed appopriate), this is kind of the lost Keneally album. As with “Let’s Make Rhythm!” this tape accompanies an instructional book, and I guess it’s still somewhat available as I continue to receive quarterly royalty cheques in the seven-to-eighteen dollar range for my work herein. The songs are untitled, but my rough mix cassette at home has titles for the pieces (the only ones I clearly recall is the opening Aerosmith pastiche which I called “Love On An Escalator”, a Winwoodeque organ grinder which I called “Night Night” because a few years ago it seemed like any song with “Night” in the title got sub-let into a Michelob campaign so I thought I’d double my chances, and “Buzz Buzz Buzz”, the closing shred tune). Each song is heard twice, once with drums and once without. My favorites upon listening to it again yesterday are the second song on side one (which I’ll probably rework into a link on the next album) and the Steely Dan rip-off song on side two, which has a really nice little melody that I can’t believe I wrote. In the eighties and early nineties I did a number of shows playing James Morton’s original pieces (he writes a lot of odd-time stuff); we co-wrote an interesting instrumental called “Samba Di Quince”, one line from which I co-opted for inclusion in “My Dilemma” (the fast little melody which comes before the middle instrumental, and later before the bass solo). This tape also constitutes my first work at DoubleTime Studios and, gosh, we know where that led, don’t we?

Added info 2013: Currently available as an e-book from melbay.com. and the audio. Click on the tab labeled “Downloads” and download a .zip file containing mp3s of all the CD tracks. [Thanks Mike Pierry!]

1991 Mark DeCerbo – Baby’s Not In The Mood (Bizarre)

CD song list:

  1. Mama, Through the Years 3:48
  2. Blue in Clover 3:03
  3. Curtains 4:17
  4. Hold Me Tight (Lennon/McCartney) 2:37
  5. (Baby’s Not) In The Mood 3:56
  6. Anvil Of Love 3:41
  7. Find The Time 3:49
  8. Woo Ya 3:46
  9. Contagious 2:30
  10. Knotty Pines 3:33
  11. House On The Edge Of The Tracks 2:44

MK involvement: Guitar, keyboards, background vocals, arrangements.

Comments: The eagle-eyed Keneally enthusiast will recognize Mark as the provider of “sad vocals” on the middle section of “Uglytown” and backing vocals on “The Desired Effect”. Mark is a great friend of mine, and the sessions for this album were tremendous fun. The material is classic pop, and though the album is hampered by hasty engineering, there’s enough evidence to prove that Mark is a wonderful tunesmith and endlessly appealing singer. I was heavily involved in many aspects of the production, and there’s much on the album of which I’m very proud. Other musicians include Bob Tedde (another contributor to my solo albums), Burleigh Drummond (Ambrosia drummer) and Pat Mastelotto (currently drumming with King Crimson, and also the drummer on my beloved “Oranges & Lemons” by XTC). If you enjoy The Beatles, Squeeze or Nick Lowe, you’d do very well to check out this album.

1991 Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – Black Music For White People (Planet 3 Records/Bizarre Straight)

CD song list:

  1. Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby 2:54
  2. I Feel Allright 3:30
  3. I Put A Spell On You (Dance Version) 3:33
  4. I Hear You Knockin’ 3:11
  5. Heart Attack and Vine 4:22
  6. Ignant and Shit 6:00
  7. Swamp Gas 4:37*
  8. Voodoo Priestess 3:49*
  9. Ice Cream Man 3:22
  10. I Want Your Body 4:07
  11. Ol’ Man River 5:56
  12. Strokin’ 5:18

* co-written by Keneally

MK involvement: Aside from writing the above-mentioned tunes, played guitar, piano and background vocals, did vocal arrangements and the sax arrangement on “Is You Is.”

Comments: I’ve got the album playing as I write, and it sounds better than it sounded in my memory, but it’s still something of a missed opportunity- at the time I was very taken with the sound of a Stratocaster direct into the board, but the final result is far too antiseptic for what should have been a very gritty album. There’s some good playing but it’s largely too polite on my part.

Anyone who knows their FZ history will have a sense of how odd it was for me to be working for the reactivated Bizarre label, helmed by Herb Cohen, on an album produced by Robert Duffey (whose pants are mentioned on the “Dub Room Special” video). Duffey and I “co-wrote” two of the songs…in the case of “Voodoo Priestess” this literally meant he suggested a title to me, I went off and wrote the song, and we split the publishing 50/50. This is called “the music business”. For some odd reason, never explained to my satisfaction, the CD’s liner notes contained no songwriting credits of any kind (the British vinyl version, of which approximately thirteen were distributed, contains full credits on the label). The high point of the album is definitely “Ignant and Shit”, a totally crazed Jay improv rap with some actually inspired playing, all off the cuff. Tied for high point: Jay’s twisted spoken segues, captured and inserted throughout the album without his knowledge (such as a dissertation from Jay to his then- wife on “holy rolly” religious rites: “the shouting and the typing”). Low point: Ill- advised “dance version” of Jay’s classic “I Put A Spell On You”, the one song on the album, I’m proud to say, with which I’m completely uninvolved. Major point of shame: after Jay left the studio for the evening, Duffey would have me re- record his piano parts and smooth out all the rough edges. When Jay heard them later, Duffey tried to convince him that his parts had simply been run through a very sophisticated computer device. (At this point I became known as “The Keneally Correctizer” behind Jay’s back. I feel no small amount of guilt at being party to deceiving a genuine musical legend, but work was work.)

“Heart Attack and Vine”, a Tom Waits song, subsequently was used throughout Europe in a Levi’s advertisement, and when I was in Europe a couple of weeks ago I saw that the song is included in a compilation of songs from Levi’s ads over the years.

Promo single: I Put A Spell On You/Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby/I Feel Allright (Demon Records UK)

Naturally this desecration of “Spell” was chosen to target radio airplay. “Is You Is” is actually one of the neater tunes from the “Black Music” album; sax player Dana Garrett improvised some single lines, I then fashioned harmonies on the spot and he played them as well, resulting in a fairly nice (if slightly out of tune) horn arrangement.

CD single: Heart Attack & Vine (Columbia-UK version / Epic-Holland version)

In 1993 this song was used in Levi’s advertisements, and these two different cover designs were issued. Both versions contained another song written by me and Duffey, written as “Feline” but issued as “On The Job”, again for reasons never fully explained to my satisfaction. At least both of these releases contained proper songwriting credits.

1991 Solomon Burke – Homeland Planet 3 Records (Bizarre)

CD song list:

  1. Baby Please Don’t Cry 4:30
  2. Try a Little Tenderness 4:10
  3. I Don’t Need Nobody 4:35
  4. Make It Up To You 4:02
  5. Stayin’ Away 3:55
  6. Home Land 4:51
  7. I’ll Be There 4:49
  8. Love Ain’t No Easy Place To Be 3:45
  9. You’re Gonna Love Me 3:45
  10. What I’ve Got To Do 4:15

MK involvement: Guitar on a number of cuts.

Comments: Not much of a story to tell here—I’ve never even met Solomon Burke, a veteran soul/blues vocalist. This album was produced by Bob Duffey (he did the Screamin’ Jay albums) and he hired me to do overdubs on tracks already recorded. Real sessions musicians do this sort of thing all the time, but I’m not a real session musician. I haven’ t heard the album for a while so I don’t remember offhand which tunes I played on, but I did them all in one afternoon. A couple of years after the original release, they tried it again with an artier cover, and, presumably, not much more success.

Try A Little Tenderness – promo CD single (Bizarre/Straight) released in 1991

Although I don’t recall which songs on “Home Land” I played on without listening to it, I definitely remember playing on this, because it made me nostalgic for being ten years old and listening to Three Dog Night’s version on “Captured Live At The Forum”. There you have Keneally in a nutshell—real rock stars would never admit to such a thing.

1991 Zappa’s Universe – Zappa’s Universe (Verve Records/Polygram)

CD song list:

  1. Elvis Has Just Left The Building 2:48
  2. Brown Shoes Don’t Make It 7:26
  3. Jazz Discharge Party Hats 4:48
  4. Inca Roads 9:38
  5. Moggio 2:46
  6. Night School 5:00
  7. Echidna’s Arf (Of You) 3:53
  8. Hungry Freaks, Daddy 3:28
  9. Heavenly Bank Account 4:12
  10. The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing 2:54
  11. Waka Jawaka (Edit) 3:28
  12. Sofa 3:51
  13. Dirty Love 7:03
  14. Hot Plate Heaven At The Green Hotel 6:28

MK involvement: Guitar, vocals, keys on the fast sevens after Mats’ solo in “Inca”, leader of rock band.

Comments: You may well be aware that my feelings about this enterprise are mixed at best. I get a lot of comments from people who are extremely complimentary of my work on the project and love this album a lot, and I’m really glad that they do, but boy, did this ever not meet my expectations. I don’t want to come down too hard on the performance itself, because everyone involved put forth a gargantuan effort to make it work, but what was done after the fact borders on the criminal. Suffice it to say that PolyGram were less than utterly concerned with paying tribute to Frank and treating his music respectfully. I’ll limit my derisive comments to that, in case PolyGram has lawyers floating around out there in cyberspace (which wouldn’t surprise me).

I will say that if you don’t already own the album, I believe the video to be a much more entertaining investment—it also sounds better than the CD (unthinkably, though, it doesn’t contain “Night School”, which was one of the video highlights, as anyone who saw the unedited Swedish TV broadcast will attest). And I will admit to being very proud of my performance of “Jazz Discharge” and the solo in “Hot Plate Heaven”, so, even if only for those reasons, I’m grateful that this thing exists. I kicked in a window in New York City when it won a Grammy, however.

CHOICE MORSELS (promo PolyGram CD)

CD song list:

  1. Sofa 3:51
  2. Jazz Discharge Party Hats 4:48
  3. Night School 5:00
  4. Echidna’s Arf (Of You) 3:53
  5. Hungry Freaks, Daddy 3:28

This was a promo teaser distributed just before the release of the album proper, and is actually a nice selection of some of the better material. There is solid evidence of the earlier release of a PolyGram sampler CD which contains a rough mix of our version of “Can’t Afford No Shoes”, a song which was subsequently never officially released, but when I called PolyGram to find out about it, they lied to me and said it didn’t exist. It does, somewhere./expand]

1992 Frank Zappa – You Can’t Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 6 (Rykodisc)

MK involvement: Guitar, keys and vocals on “Honey, Don’t You Want A Man Like Me”, “Make A Sex Noise”, “We’re Turning Again”, “Catholic Girls”, “Crew Slut” and “Lonesome Cowboy Nando.”

Comments: My personal favorite MK contribution to a Zappa CD occurs in “Lonesome Cowboy Nando”, when I attempt to cram the line “I describe the little dangling utensils on this thing and tell him to draw it up so that it looks just like a brand new jellyfish” into the same space where I would normally say “stomp in his face so he don’t move no more”. The first time I listened to this song with Frank, he applauded me after that section. One o’ them priceless moments. You will also hear me lose control of my guitar after the Hendrix section in “We’re Turning Again”, to Ike’s audible amusement.

1993 Marc Bonilla – American Matador (Reprise/Warner Bros)

MK involvement: Organ on “Whiter Shade Of Pale.”

Comments: Marc is an excellent guitarist whose live band I was in for a little over a year, from late 1991 to late 1992. I was playing keyboards and second guitar, and we played a number of gigs supporting Marc’s first album “EE Ticket”, did some radio appearances on the “Mark and Brian” show and had a good time. It provided my first opportunity to work with Toss Panos, who was in the band and now plays drums in my band Beer For Dolphins (spectacularly). The whole time we were doing Bonilla gigs (which were subsidized by the terrifyingly solvent Reprise, but which still paid astonishingly little—for which I don’t blame Marc for a second) we were held at bay with the promise of great reward upon the recording of the second album. Instead the bass player was sacked just before recording, and I ended up playing inaudible organ on this Procol Harum cover.

One of the last straws for me was spending a lot of time learning one of the acoustic guitar parts for Ravel’s Prelude to “Le Tombeau De Couperin”, then being informed that Reprise did not want me playing guitar on the record for fear it would divert attention from Marc. This is called “the music business”. There is a good picture in the middle of the booklet, featuring the album’s participants in a “Beggar’s Banquet” tableau, where I’m caught in mid-grape throw. Toss and I are both very drunk in this picture—it was a fun afternoon. Joe Travers, drummer for Z and several “Dust Speck” cuts, now also plays drums with Marc Bonilla at live gigs. The great circle of life.

1993 Negativland – Negativconcertland (Bootleg CD)

MK involvement:
This a bootleg of San Diego Negativland performance which I attended. On the track “Dick Vaughn Speaks”, you can hear me laugh after the words “Jud Strunk”. Of all my recorded projects, it is of this collaboration that I am perhaps most proud.

1993 Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – Stone Crazy (Demon Records)

CD song list:

  1. Strange 3:15
  2. I Don’t Know 3:17
  3. Who’s Been Talkin’ 2:38
  4. I Believe 2:25
  5. Stone Crazy 2:35
  6. Last Saturday Night 4:20
  7. Call The Plumber 3:10
  8. I Wanna Know 5:48
  9. Sherilyn Fenn 4:55
  10. Late Night Hawkins 1:35
  11. On The Job 3:30 *
  12. I Am The Queen 2:36

* co-written by Keneally

MK involvement: Basically the same as BLACK MUSIC FOR WHITE PEOPLE, although I didn’t have as much to do with the background vocal arrangements.

Comments: This album is made up entirely of outtakes from BLACK MUSIC FOR WHITE PEOPLE, and is consequently somewhat rougher and arguably more entertaining. Jay’s performance is frequently priceless. “Sherilyn Fenn” is an improvised ode to Jay’s “Two Moon Junction” co-star. A brief snippet of the original jam is included on BLACK MUSIC; on this album we placed overdubs upon the complete jam, which was originally just vocal and Bo Diddley, Jr. (no relation) on rhythm guitar. It’s truly offensive and very funny. “Late Night Hawkins” is one of the greatest things ever—check out Rik Shannon’s heroic drum overdub, hewing closely to Jay’s peculiar rhythm changes, and Jay’s spectacular punchline. “On The Job” is the song which was on the European “Heart Attack & Vine” CD single. I was told that having a song co-written by me on that single would result in untold riches for me. Heh heh. Right now I’m listening to “Who’s Been Talkin'” and my guitar and piano parts are actually kind of entertaining. “Stone Crazy” has some pretty ridiculous wah-wah guitar in the right channel. I haven’t listened to these albums for ages; at the moment I’m enjoying them, but it’s tempered by contrition at my complicity in the acts of deception perpetrated on Jay. I hereby apologize. I apologize also for the absurdly inappropriate guitar solo in “I Wanna Know”. I was a callow youth.

1993 Z – Shampoohorn [European version] (Food For Thought)

CD song list:

  1. Singer In The Woods 1:11
  2. What Went Wrong In The Real World 5:45
  3. Did I Mention It Was Huge 4:50
  4. Jesus Clone 3:34
  5. Loser 6:04
  6. Kidz Cereal 2:56
  7. Mommy 5:20
  8. Dreaming 5:29
  9. Rubberband 3:23
  10. Mountains On The Moon 5:14
  11. Lucky Jones 4:47
  12. Leviathan 6:53
  13. Doomed To Be Together 3:39
  14. Bellybutton 4:29
  15. Them 5:37
  16. Shampoohorn 5:08

MK involvement: Guitar on tracks 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16; sitar on tracks 8, 15 & 16; piano on tracks 8 & 15; backing vocals on everything…the credit on the album says “special harmony arrangements for guitar & vocals & above & beyond the call of duty musical assistance provided by Mike Keneally.”

Comments (written in 1994): We recorded this, over a very long period of time, at Joe’s Garage, the facility owned by the Zappas where we’ve always rehearsed. This is the only album that’s been recorded there in its entirety (most of a Shankar album which included myself and Thunes was recorded there too—but it may never be released). During the sessions for this album we recorded something like 60 tracks, from which these 16 were chosen. A lot of good stuff from the sessions remains unreleased, none of which will be on the upcoming “Music For Pets” album. There’s going to have to be a box set someday.

The parade of drummers on this album became necessary when Josh Freese, who had played on the road with us and on “Confessions”, suddenly became not in the band anymore on the first scheduled day of recording for “Shampoohorn”. Rather than find a new guy capable of recording the whole album right away, we found a lot of capable gentlemen and had them do a few tracks apiece…Terry Bozzio, Mark Craney, Keith Knudsen, Morgan Agren (from Zappa’s Universe), Tal Bergman and my buddy Toss Panos. Toss actually became a member of Z for a few weeks before another work opportunity forced him away. Eventually he returned and joined my band. When Z suddenly found itself drummerless once again, I called up Joe Travers and the rest is something resembling history.

(1997 comments: None of the leftover “Shampoohorn” tracks were used for “MFP”, and there were some really good leftovers, particularly the infamous “Dragonmaster” which has lyrics by Frank Zappa and music by Dweezil, and a great jam with Bozzio called “Therapy”. I hope DZ gets around to them eventually, even if a box set seems a remote possibility at this point. The Shankar album has still not been released, and I think all my parts have been redone by another guitarist. Aynsley Dunbar and Doane Perry also drummed on a number of tracks during the “Shampoohorn” sessions, more potential gems in the vault.)

1993 Zappa’s Universe – Choice Mortels (Verve Records/Polygram)

CD song list:

  1. Sofa 3:51
  2. Jazz Discharge Party Hats 4:48
  3. Night School 5:00
  4. Echidna’s Arf (Of You) 3:53
  5. Hungry Freaks, Daddy 3:28

This was a promo teaser distributed just before the release of the album proper, and is actually a nice selection of some of the better material. There is solid evidence of the earlier release of a PolyGram sampler CD which contains a rough mix of our version of “Can’t Afford No Shoes”, a song which was subsequently never officially released, but when I called PolyGram to find out about it, they lied to me and said it didn’t exist. It does, somewhere.

1994 Earl Thomas – Extra Soul (Bizarre/Planet)

MK involvement: Co-writer of “I Am The Cool.”

Comments: The day I went to Herb Cohen/Bob Duffey’s office to submit the songs I’d written for Screamin’ Jay’s “Somethin’ Funny Goin’ On” album, Earl happened to be there as well. Even though I’d played on his “Blue…not Blues” album three years earlier, this was in fact the first time I’d met him. He hung around while Herb listened to my demos, and dug “I Am The Cool” to the point of recording it as well. He custom-tailored the lyrics to suit his own vibe, so his version is quite distinct from Screamin’ Jay’s, all you collectors out there.

1994 Jip – Glee (Xenophile)

CD song list:

  1. Impossible
  2. The Crossing
  3. Resonance
  4. Spoke
  5. Another Time
  6. Alpha
  7. Glee
  8. Packing it Up
  9. Ambition
  10. Somewhere
  11. Empty
  12. The City
  13. First
  14. Staying

MK involvement: Produced the album, played lead guitar and keyboard, background vocals.

Comments: If you’re a Keneally fan, this is the first thing you need to get after you’ve bought the solo albums and the Zappa stuff. Jip are a San Diego trio who were kind enough to ask me to produce this album for them, and I’m very proud of the result. The band (Brad Teaby on vocals and guitar, Paul Denton on bass and vocals, K. Kenworthy on drums and percussions) performs beautifully, and the songs are hypnotic and groovacious in the extreme. I play all over the thing. The solo in “Staying” is likely one of my best on record. The album was recorded in Double Time (where I do my solo albums) and is my first major non- Keneally production, so if you’re collecting me, it’s essential.

1994 Marcelo Radulovich – Marcelo Radulovich (Accretions)

MK involvement: Guitars on “Atomic Tonic” and “(Se East Poniendo) Negro.”

Comments: Another San Diego guy! I’ve been a huge fan of Marcelo’s for about a decade now. At the same time that my band Drop Control was gigging, Marcelo was the leader of a band called Playground Slap that did some of the most perverse and hard-grooving stuff I’ve ever heard. Marcelo’s studio work uses samples in a most creative way, and his textures and grooves just hit my soul hard. I’ve got hours of unreleased stuff of his on cassette that I hope he gets around to releasing in some form or another.

A few months ago I recorded a very altered set of songs with him and percussionists Robert Montoya and Marcos Fernandes of the band Burning Bridges (Marco produced Marcelo’s album) which I hope will be released in 1995 on Accretions. I would’ve played more on Marcelo’s album but the tape deck died in the middle of the second track. I called it fate and went to a record store.

1994 Robert Vaughn and the Dead River Angels – Robert Vaughn and the Dead River Angels (Miramar Records)

MK involvement: Guitar on “River Queen.”

Comments: Robert is a good, straightforward rocker, and a very fun guy to hang out with— dangerously so (prepare to drink, in other words). I’ve recorded a number of tunes in San Diego with him, it’s always very low pressure and a super good time. This song is the only released evidence thus far. I first hooked up with him when he was producing some demos for Kari Wuhrer, former MTV personality and an actress of growing visibility. Kari is very nice—she bought two copies of “hat” when she heard “I Can’t Stop”.

1994 Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – Somethin’ Funny Goin’ On

CD song list:

  1. Somethin’ Funny Goin’ On
  2. I Am The Cool *
  3. Whistling Past The Graveyard
  4. Rock The House
  5. Scream The Blues
  6. Brujo
  7. You Make Me Sick
  8. Give it a Break
  9. When You Walked Out The Door *
  10. Fourteen Wives

* co-written by Keneally

MK involvement: Some writing, played guitar and did some uncredited background vocals.

Comments: This album is somewhat more true to Jay’s legacy than the first two: for one thing, I played a Tele through a malfunctioning Twin which resulted in more authentic tone; more importantly, also on guitar was Buddy Blue, who has spent many more hours than I researching authentic blues and roots music. The result is certainly much greasier than, if not as funny as, the other two albums. Also, the songs I co-wrote with Robert Duffey are actual collaborations this time, as opposed to him suggesting a title and me writing the song from scratch. Sessions with Jay are always fascinating and fun, and the sessions for this album were especially relaxed and enjoyable, surprisingly so since Jay did the album under pressure (he wanted out of his contract and was forced to deliver this recording). Jay is a true eccentric and a true original—whatever one may think of the results, and my feelings on the matter are mixed, I really enjoyed working with him.

1994 Z – Shampoohorn [US version] (Barking Pumpkin Records)

Comments (written in 1997):

It’s been at least two and a half years since I heard this album. I actually feel nervous. Will I like it even better than “Bone-Us”? Let’s watch…

1. Singer In The Woods

Toss Panos on drums! Scott Thunes on bass! MK on pseudo-jazz guitar! And Ahmet sounding relaxed and happy, and all involved having a good time. I remember these days now. The concept of “Singer In The Woods” arose from a painfully funny re-dubbed version of “E.T.” (the actual film, but edited down to about 20 minutes, and with newly recorded dialogue, all done purely for private fun) with Dweezil voicing Elliot, Jan Hooks (at the time an SNL cast member) as Mom, and Ahmet as the lounge-singer E.T. – the “singer in the woods”. The fact that we would open an album with something as arcane as this says something about much fun we were having in our little bubble.

2. In My Mind

Bryan Beller and Joe Travers burst, LOUDLY, onto the scene. Listen to how fucking great the drums and bass sound on this intro! DZ rages! Ahmet just started singing – Cripes! Background vocals rock, DZ’s guitar is present and loud and killing. God, listen to this song! The shattering of bones is heard! How tumescent was Beller when he heard this bass tone coming back off the tape! OK, forget everything I said about “Bone-Us” being my favorite Z CD – just on the basis of the first minute and a half of this song this CD is my favorite. Now THIS sounds like a band. A happy, raucous, jizz-filled band wanting to eat the world. This song could sit completely proudly next to any King’s X tune. Ah, would you listen to that SOLO for a second?!! OK, NOW I remember – we were fucking bouncing off the walls at Joe’s Garage (where this album was recorded) listening to playbacks of this song – we KNEW it was amazing. Why does this sound 157,000 times better than “Music For Pets”? Joe’s Garage is a rehearsal studio, for pete’s sake, with far from state-of-the-art recording gear, and UMRK (where MFP was done) is, well, UMRK. And this RULES!! Could it have something to do with Marque Coy? And the fact that it was mixed at Saturn Sound? The song just ended. It rules the world. I’m going to listen to it again.

3. Did I Mention It Was Huge

OK, this doesn’t sound anywhere as good as “In My Mind”. (Just as a reminder, “In My Mind” and “Beef Mailbox” were later additions to the US version, recorded a year after the inital recording sessions, hence the difference in tone). This title also comes from one of DZ’s re-dubbed extravaganzas, an old Brooke Shields TV movie called “Wet Gold” (retitled “Wet Beans” in its Zappafied incarnation). The guys from the Russian rock band Gorky Park helped sing back-up on this. This song is so early 90’s it makes me smile. Tal Bergman on drums driving it home.

4. Jesus Clone

Wacky intro time. DZ liked doing those. Toss Panos on drums. Not enough Thunes in the mix. I think my only guitar playing on this is during the “Kumbaya” solo. More early ’90’s vibe. (JT just walked in and said: “This song used to kick ass.” It definitely was a killer on stage, we used to surround it with different little medley bits and have a blast.) Doing background vocals on Z albums was always fun – that was where I got to spread most of my Keneally-ness over the arrangements.

5. Loser

We beat Beck to the punch on this. This should have gotten some airplay. Yeah. Morgan Agren, Swedish phenomenon with the snare that goes BAAHHH, arrives to play this song.

6. Kidz Cereal

The “Catbox” intro is the sound of us having real live fun. Ahmet was like 18 or 19. We were all kids. Somehow I’m not feeling driven to write so much about a lot of these songs, but this song sounds perfectly lovable. I’m now wondering, listening to these songs going by, sounding pretty cool, whether or not I really like this album more than the “Bone-Us”. How about this: “In My Life” is, without question, my single favorite Z recording at the moment. I’ll give you the final verdict after the album’s done.

7. Mommy

A fairly chilling video was fashioned for this bit of Zappafried grunge. This was great fun to play live. Yep. Sorry if I’m running low on scintillating commentary. I think the “Bone-Us” CD was more exciting to me because I’m not so familiar with those tunes.

8. Dreaming

Whoa! Snap me back to attention why don’tcha! What a lovely little intro. Me on Yamaha electric grand piano all chorused out but not sounding all goofy like the US “With You”. This song is a little too sprawling structure-wise to be really classic, but it certainly works as a change of pace, and the overall timbre is utterly winning, and my little Brian May interjection at 2:09 just took me by surprise. Love the harmonies at 2:17 and the piano lick right after it. God, DZ could write some torturous melodies – coming up with harmonies for “anything that I wouldn’t do for you” taxed my brain but the results are bitchin’. This song is mostly a collection of really fun moments, but how very fun are the moments! My second fave song of the album thus far. Good drum sound – who’s playing? Mark Craney! Kick ass! Cool ending! Me all over the place! I like playing electric sitar! Fuck, I forgot all about this shit! I’m gonna listen to this song-shaped collection of moments one more time! (Boy, this essay is self-indulgent – thanks for reading this far.)

9. Rubberband

DZ and Bozzio heaven! Dweezil has a very cool touch on fretless guitar. I think this is one of Bozzio’s best recorded drum sounds – wonder if he likes it? Case study in Dweezil’s completely twisted approach to odd rhythms in the section after the percussion solo. Who else would write lines like that and make a drummer play them? Bozzio kicking ass on the fade. Good!

10. Mountains On The Moon

Not enough bass – it should have come in raging after the basslessness of the last tune. I think this song was more fun to play than it is to listen to. One thing is clear from listening to all of this music – Dweezil is not a dilletante, he’s got loads of interesting musical concepts and realizes them and compiles interesting, unique albums. The lad deserves more props than he gets. Seems like the bass gets louder as the tunes progresses, dunnit? The “love or limerance” line derives from a book which my psychology-major wife loaned to Moon (not being a psych major self I’m at pains to define limerance accurately, but it is, in layman’s terms, a crush). The book was never returned but the exchange was immortalized in song, so I guess that’s some sort of reward.

11. Lucky Jones

Home of the “I can make a lion swallow soup” line which I subsequently ripp– ah, appropriated for “Land Of Broken Dreams”. This is just a fun tune, kind of a throwaway of the sort which Dweezil could and did write in about four minutes, but it rocks and it was a lot of sweaty fun to play live. It was great watching audiences writhe in pain during DZ’s long sustaino feedback note at the end of his solo.

12. Leviathan

OK, here’s awesome song number three from this album. What a great sound. I’ve never heard anything else like it. Dweezil wrote, and we recorded, this song really quickly. This is another one where there was an incredible sense of fulfillment upon listening to the playback. This might be favorite MK recorded guitar tone on a Z album, that real weedy Beefheartian Fender tone. Dig it to death. Kill groove. Craney nailing it down. I think even Thunes got off on this song. I like the little twirl Ahmet achieves on “inside meeeeeeeee”. I loved playing this song live, even if it was a struggle to get it to sound as good as it does on the record. Pure catharsis playing the section starting at 3:28 – it was completely vicious on stage, all of us attacking our instruments. I’m feeling it now, I remember what it was like to stand on stage and play this fucking thing. Totally great feeling.

13. Doomed To Be Together

This was actually released as a single to radio stations, I think there were reports of it getting some moderate airplay here and there. Wasn’t it a minor hit in Belgium or somewhere? Keith Knudsen from the Doobies on drums. DZ writes a straightforward tune, but of course can’t write a song which stays in 4/4 all the way through – part of his considerable charm. Jeez, are my vocals loud enough on the chorus? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this ‘un. Rockin’ ass song number four. Killer – KILLER three-part harmonies on the double chorus at the end. Cool DZ/MK two-part harmonies on the fade.

14. My Beef Mailbox

GOD! I forgot all about that killer flange bass sound! Beller, you must have shat for weeks after hearing this! Guess what makes me happy? The fact that we played this twisted thing, with these TOTALLY twisted lyrics, on Conan O’Brien’s show, the same episode that Letterman was on so people actually saw it. (This was well before Conan got hip.) OK, so far we’ve got a completely rocking five-song EP out of this album.

15. Them

Make it six. Lyrics are a bit naive but obviously heartfelt but I dig the music all day long. I now take exception to our decision not to put a bass on this, DZ and I were in love with the airy sound we’d gotten without one (Thunes correctly thought we were nuts) but I still relish the uniqueness of the instrumentation, the composition, the vocal harmonies and the sincerity with which we executed all of it. The actual “bass instrument” on this song is me playing piano, which is a cool texture but we should have boosted the lows on it more, or at least turned it up a touch. A good remix was all this song needed to make it completely satisfying, but the mix it has does not kill all the fun. And Bozzio sounds great, surprise surprise.

16. Shampoohorn

Looks like seven. This album sure comes on strong at the finish line, doesn’t it? You’d be surprised how many of the guitars on this song are me; I did all the electric guitars and sitars for the first three minutes of the song (DZ is playing the acoustic, which gets totally swallowed up by my millions of overdubs). DZ finally enters electrically, to great effect, at 2:54. A very interesting piece of music is this. That’s DZ doing the guitar harmonies at 3:11. How about the drum fill going back into the modified head? More Keneally-rama from 3:48 out. I can’t believe how much stuff I played on this song. I literally forgot all about it. I’m proud of this! What a thing to rediscover! Blimey, listen to those Whammy’d guitars at 4:18. This ending is killing me to death! I’m in love with this fucking song!! Thanks for letting me play all over this, Dweezil! I’m really happy right now!

Phew. That was nuts. OK, nothing on “Bone-Us” made me feel as absolutely giddy as the songs “In My Life” and “Shampoohorn”. “Shampoohorn” is now my runaway favorite Z album.

Comments (written in 1994): Same as European release, except substitute “In My Mind” (4:07) for “Real World” and “My Beef Mailbox” (3:09) for “Bellybutton”. Also the US version has a peculiar sound collage at the end of the album which is not on the European version; it’s made from backwards snippets of the two European songs not on the US release, plus a sample from a Godzilla movie. The two new songs feature the new rhythm section of Joe Travers and Bryan Beller. Bryan now plays bass in my own band as well.

(1997 comment: Isn’t that just precious?)

1995 The Mistakes – The Mistakes

1995 Various Artists – Supper’s Ready (Genesis tribute album) (Magna Carta)

MK involvement: Guitar, kalimba, bell piano and recorder on Kevin Gilbert track “Back in N.Y.C.”

Comments: Since Nick D’Virgilio is on drums, all that keeps this from being Stanley Snail is no Beller on bass (Kevin plays bass on the tune – he also sings lead which marks it as a Gilbert solo venture). Those who were dragged by the Yes-mania of “Khatru” should be pleased with this interpretation, again largely the work of Gilbert arrangementally. Kevin sings the hell out of this, and I think the sound of the track is unbelievable. The “off we go” section is supposed to sound like a grade school band practicing. Overall I think this album is a better listen than the Yes album – other participants include David Hentschel, Pete Bardens, Crack The Sky (a really weird version of “I Know What I Like”) and John Goodsall doing “Carpet Crawlers” (Toss just happens to drum on that track) as well as all the Magna Carta regulars. I’m also honored that the track I’m on is positioned between Annie Haslam and Richard Sinclair, both legends and both sounding absolutely superb.

1995 Matthew Lien – Bleeding Wolves Whispering Willows

MK involvement: Electric guitars on “And Then There Were None” and “In Silent Repose”

Comments: I confess that I have not heard this entire album yet, but I can attest to the overall quality of the tracks which I’ve heard so far: very thoughtfully orchestrated and engineered instrumental music, with melodies entirely appealing in their directness, and drawing inspiration from all corners of the earth (as well as the earth itself). Matthew has very definite ideas about how his music should come across (calm but strong), and he knows how to make them real. I discussed this session in an installment of “Mike Types To You” a while back. Remember? I love the fact that Matthew lives in the Yukon. I just never imagined that I’d ever play on a Yukonian’s album. And now I have. You know, life is sweet. The session was engineered by Mike Harris, a good friend with whom I’ve worked in the past (some of the pieces on “Your Way Bitchin’ Bonus Tape” are from Harris sessions). He’s a maniac Beatle and FZ fan, and recently got to spend a couple of magical hours in LA watching Brian and Carl Wilson recording material for a new Beach Boys album. I’ll never forgive him for not calling me.

1995 Various Artists – Tales From Yesterday (Yes tribute album) (Magna Carta)

MK involvement: Guitar and vocals on “Siberian Khatru” as member of Stanley Snail, consisting of Kevin Gilbert, Bryan Beller, Nick D’Virgilio and MK.

Comments: Public opinion seems to be running about neck and neck on this tune. For everyone who considers it a highlight of the CD there’s someone who can’t see the point of us doing such a note for note version. It wasn’t really discussed that much…there was no rehearsal at all, we all knew the song so we just convened at Kev’s studio and recorded it. We did have to learn the Bruford quote in the middle and decide to stick “Heart Of The Sunrise” at the end. Those two items, along with my guitar solo, are the main signifying characteristics that keep it from being a carbon copy of the original. A defense could be made on those grounds – to my ears it’s something of an art statement when we hit that weird chord at the end of the second “river running right on over my HEAD” and veer off into “Sahara Of Snow” land (that was Kev’s idea by the way) after several minutes of stultifyingly accurate tribute. Others have enjoyed the accuracy of the new version on sonic grounds – it’s like hearing a beautifully remixed and mastered of the original. I’ll take my primary comfort in having met Chris Squire several weeks ago, at which time he told me it was his favorite song on the tribute album. For me, that will do. (The name “Stanley Snail” is derived from our corruption of one of the lines in the song. One semi-concentrated listen will turn it up.)

Other contributors to the album include Steve Morse, Patrick Moraz, Steve Howe and Annie Haslam, Adam Wakeman, Peter Banks and a rash of Magna Carta prog metal bands (I especially like Shadow Gallery’s “Release Release,” but I wish these kids would engineer a little breathing room into their mixes).

1995 Various Artists – Trummerflora (Accretions)

MK involvement: Guitars on “Experimental Breakfast” and “Crop Circle #119”, piano on “Gold Spot”

Comments: Four San Diego bands play their trade on this release: Z.O. Voider, Dodecaphonic, Wormhole and Ultra 7. I’m a member of Ultra 7, as it happens, along with a hero of mine, Marcelo Radulovich, and two wonderful percussionists from the band Burning Bridges, Marcos Fernandes and Robert Montoya. We just showed up at the studio and improvised some stuff, then I went away and the other gentlemen turned them into songs. I’m real happy with it, especially “Gold Spot”, a very altered acoustic-space improv which has a woman named Ute Apfelstedt telling a strange story atop it and doing violin and flute overdubs as well – very evocative, and I’m quite pleased with my piano part. “Experimental Breakfast” is very cool too, a greasy funk item with a great sax arrangement by Robbie Helm, and “Crop Circle” has a pretty huge groove that will move you (although my guitar in the left channel is a touch too quiet). The other three bands provide fascinating tracks also. This is a nifty release; check it out.

1995 Z – Music For Pets [French version] (CNR Music)

CD song list:

  1. Singer In The Woods (Again)
  2. Pure
  3. Here
  4. Flibberty-Jibbet
  5. Coyote Face
  6. What It B
  7. Ask Yourself
  8. Feminine S.D.H.
  9. Us
  10. Not My Fault
  11. Father Time
  12. Song For S
  13. With You
  14. Evil
  15. Based On A True Story
  16. Music For Pets
  17. Polar Bear
  18. Happy Song
  19. I Wants Me Gold
  20. Boodledang
  21. Chicken Out
  22. Enigma
  23. Badass
  24. Silverlady (Disco)

MK involvement: Guitar and background vocals all over the place; piano on “With You”; synclavier on “Silverlady (Disco)”; co-writing on “Singer In The Woods (Again)”, “With You” and “Silverlady (Disco)”

Comments (written in 1995): When we started making this, over a year ago, the idea was to jam it out really quickly and get it on the shelves by summer 1994 or so. Heh. Heh HeH HEH. HA HA HA HA HAHAHHAAAAA!!

Anyway, it’s a very cool damn album and I hope people other than French ones will be able to buy it soon. It’s actually a very good thing that we didn’t rush it, because we continued recording sporadically throughout ’94 and the beginning of ’95, resulting in some of the album’s best material. My favorite little block of music is the four-song set of “Polar Bear”, “Happy Song”, “I Wants Me Gold” and “Boodledang”…great attitude, great playing, great sound, just great. I crank it in the truck and become very happy. “Silverlady (Disco)” is one of several pieces we recorded as background music for “Manetti”, a cop show done with marionettes that pops up on MTV every once in a while. “Flibberty-Jibbet” and “Coyote Face” is a manic medley, lots of fun to play live.

It’s good this album exists because it’s the first Z record which is uncut Z all the way through…it’s a band and it sounds like it. The sound quality itself is a huge step up from “Shampoohorn” as well…UMRK is the magic. “With You” is a piano ballad for which Ahmet brought me a tape of himself singing the lyrics with no musical accompaniment. I then wrote the accompaniment but he had the whole form of the song (except the instrumental in the middle) plotted in his head, just from the vocal…very cool. “Father Time” I don’t play on, I just suggested harmony parts for DZ, and it’s an incredibly affecting piece; you’ll know when you hear it. Recording it was an intense experience. Overall this is quite an accessible album…will we finally get airplay? Stay tuned.

Z MY BEEF MAILBOX (CNR Music-France) released in 1995

Comments (written in 1995): The first 3000 copies of “Music For Pets” in France were accompanied by this bonus CD containing a live 43-minute version of “My Beef Mailbox” (with bunches of solos) and a 10-minute studio version of “Purple Guitar”, an instrumental we’ve been playing live for ages. Both tracks are excerpted from “Live Beef ’94”, to be released later this year, and I’ll speak about them in more detail at that time.

(1997 comments: “Live Beef” was, obviously, never released, and in light of subsequent developments I’m sure it never will be. [I have no idea what’s going to happen to “What The Hell Was I Thinking?”, the sprawling and ambitious instrumental work to which I allude in the song “Beautiful”, but I hope Dweezil finds a way to finish and release it someday, and I hope he keeps my arrangement of “Chatanooga Choo Choo” on there.] The last time I listened to this French bonus CD I was bummed, yet again, by my inability to relax and be myself during my solos, but impressed with the amount of solo time Dweezil allotted me – what he did was edit together boatloads of solos, of which maybe three or four were mine, recorded on DAT during the course of our 1994 tour and create a monstrous, ungodly long improv section for “Mailbox”. A very cool and interesting idea, and by far the largest dose of MK improv playing on any official Zappa release. Unfortunately the “Purple Guitar” on this CD was absolutely emasculated in the mix. This song is justifiably legendary but if you never heard it live, it’s a good thing that you haven’t heard this version.)

Z BASED ON A TRUE STORY CD single (CNR Music-France) released in 1995

Comments (written in 1995): This is the first single released from the album for the French market, “Based On A True Story” (about AZ/DZ’s childhood). The other track on the album is “In My Mind”, which was on the American “Shampoohorn” but has not previously been issued in Europe.

1996 The Hooligans – Last Call (Skizmatic Records)

MK involvement: Producer; background vocals on “A Town Called Hell” and “Here’s To You And Me”; percussion and background vocals on “Ain’t Gonna Drink No More”; voice of the producer on two unlisted bonus tracks

Comments: I just stuck this CD in the CD-playing device and it’s sounding great to me. I produced the album in early ’96, I think, and as much as I enjoyed the experience I haven’t had much time to reflect on it in the months since. The need to type up this little discographical entry has driven me back into its arms and I’m glad. It totally rocks.

The Hooligans are a three-piece hardcore-rockabilly band: Heath Cooley on drums, Jerry Rig on bass (Jerry, under a different name, is also the bass player in Jip, another great band I was fortunate enough to produce), and Gig Fortier, the guitarist, lead vocalist and songwriter. Gig’s songs were the main characteristic which enticed me to join these guys in the studio – they’re incredibly accomplished for a guy so young. You’d be hard-pressed to find such assured songcraft on many other debut albums. “Ain’t Gonna Drink No More” is clearly a classic-to-be. Gig is also a seriously nasty vocalist (I mean that in a good way) and his guitar playing is utterly psychotic. He’s all over that friggin’ thing. The whole band is killer. There’s also the thrill of hearing the massed vocal performance of the word “Bring!” over and over again on the song “Bring Down The House”. I guarantee you the word “bring” has never before been invested with such vigor.

The vibe of the recording is that of a high-energy live performance accurately captured on tape, with a few overdubbed touches here and there. I’m usually hyper-critical of my productions while they’re happening, so I’m pleasantly surprised to find this such a vibrant recording. It was recorded at Double Time and Jeff Forrest engineered it, so it definitely falls into the category of a must-obtain for the Keneally completist.

1996 Z – Music For Pets [US version] (Barking Pumpkin)

It’s Dec. 3 ’97, nearly two years since my and Beller’s regrettable parting of the ways with the Zappa organization. I’ve never done an overview of the “Music For Pets” collector’s box (which contains the “Music For Pets” album, a bone-us CD of leftover tracks, a video and a variety of things printed on paper) and now I feel like it. First, the album proper. I’ll just let my thoughts drop where they may whilst I listen. Note: it may not be pretty.

The album proper:

1. Silver Lady Disco

This is the one which was used as the soundtrack for the ESPN spots Ahmet and Dweezil did, or so I’m told, as I never saw any of them. Stunningly appropriate drum sound. I got to play The Synclavier on this (the flute, string and horn parts), a unique thrill for me. I also did the vibrato-wah guitar in the right speaker, a too-timid performance. I now believe that I always played guitar too cautiously on Dweezil’s recordings, as though I were afraid of revealing too much of myself. Sorry DZ. This is a good opener and probably one of Z’s more successful studio achievements sonically. Hear the “Odd Couple” quote in the flute part at the end? This track is 57 seconds long.

2. Coyote Face

Dweezil struggled manfully to mix this album and it was a complete nightmare for him. I understand completely how easy it is to lose perspective in the studio. This is an interesting song with an odd mix, wish I could hear BB better. I like DZ’s three-against-four rhythm guitar part on the left during the verse. I’m doing my Split Enz tribute rhythm guitar part on the right. This track is 1:46 long.

3. True Face

It’s really a trip for me to hear this album again. I practically forgot this song existed. Geez, DZ sure mixed me loud enough there on the right. Thanks Dweezil! Arguably the weirdest instrumental bridge of all time resides within this song. It’s hard for me to believe we weren’t consuming vast quantities of drugs when I hear this. I like it a lot. Sheepers, I just figured out what the vibe of this song reminds me of – “OK Computer”! We were 18 months ahead of our time!

4. Feminine SDH

Sort of a regrettable title for what was a really fun song to play. Almost every vocal track on this album was distorted or altered in some way. BB has moments that leap out of the mix a bit on this song, you can hear him champing at the bit a bit. What pure misery the recording of this album was for him. There’s me ripping off Jimmy Page during the middle eight and guitar solo. It was lovely of Dweezil to assign me the solo on this tune. Again, I wish I’d seized the opportunity by the balls a lot more. This track sounds great. Cool fade.

5. Boodledang

Great Dweezil riff-rocker. Yet more shockingly audible Keneally guitar on the right and I sound like I’m enjoying myself. This song was really REALLY fun to play, and a perfect showcase for twisted Ahmet-isms. I love the way he says “crash my Cadillac”. Five songs in and at the moment I’m finding this album to be very entertaining. Good JT fill on the second chorus. Rockin’ AZ/DZ/MK vocal harmonies in the bridge, and two low-voiced Keneallys saying “a boodle oodle dang”. I’m still channeling Jimmy Page during my portion of the guitar solo, but my playing sounds more committed than usual for this band. Dweezil’s playing sparkles. Know why? ‘Cause he’s comfortable enough to play like himself. I never allowed myself to feel that comfortable with Z. The drum fills are too loud during the solo section, but hey.

6. Music For Pets

Wherein my attention wanders. What an unfortunately anemic mix this sports. Give me a sec – I want to compare this to the French CD mix.

Unfortunately, there is no copy of the French MFP here at Chatfield Manor. Quirky little instrumental bridge. I HATE HATE HATE my last guitar note on the quirky little instrumental bridge, fucking little lifeless cynical no-soul guitar note. Further evidence of the low-level spirituality from the Keneally corner. Why should I have picked up a guitar if I wasn’t going to be balls on the line all the time? No wonder Dweezil didn’t have a problem with letting me go. It’s all in that note. I do like my Dave Gregory tribute at the two-minute mark, wish I’d been a little more committed about the performance though. Fuck the Keneally which recorded this track!

7. Us

Hey, what am I doing in the left speaker on this song? Slashing out “Sgt. Pepper” guitar chords, that’s what. This has a cool groove but the song as it exists on this piece of round aluminum feels somehow disconnected (I seem to recall the mix on the French version feeling a lot more intergrated – am I high?). The loud hollow thwock of the snare drum sucks the life out of too many of these songs. I like the chords at the end of the vocal bridge. Hear DZ’s “Sofa” quote at the beginning of the instrumental? Hear my barely-committed “Mr. Tambourine Man” twelve-string quote later in the instrumental? I’m starting to piss myself off.

8. Chicken Out

Songs 6-8 form a real bummer of a triptych for these ears at this moment. It’s the sound of squandered potential. This song should rage relentlessly, and it just kind of happens and there’s Keneally sort of playing a little Tom Petty guitar part over there. Better drum sound, I’ll grant you that, but the band still sounds like it’s a few rooms away. Good guitar solo from DZ, but this doesn’t feel like the music of a band that wants to rage and rule the world, it sounds like a series of thoughtful gestures shaped into a rock music-like form for our own momentary amusement. I HEAR NO PASSION, except for the vocals. Let me tell you something, Z on stage, for all of our parody and self-conscious cleverness and anti-rock cynicism, rocked like rapacious motherfuckers. We were DEVASTATING on stage. I have some videos of us on stage that tear my heart out, they’re so good. Our failing as a band, the reason why we went nowhere, was because we never came close to capturing that in a studio. No wonder Dweezil had to remix these songs a zillion times to try to find some life in them – there wasn’t much to be found. And, fuck: this applies primarily to my own performance. Everyone else seems to be doing a fine old job.

Pay no attention to me. I’m just spewing out first impressions as I listen. It’s just that I’ve learned a lot about passion and commitment and giving your all over the last two years – thank you, John Coltrane – and what I hear when I listen to my work on “Music For Pets” is a guy who’s saving all the best of himself for his own solo albums. Conversely, I listened to disc one of “The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life” last night and enjoyed my performances there more than I ever have – I hear an eager kid playing his parts with style and enthusiasm and wit, happier than fuck to be on that stage playing those tunes. And when I listen to “Sluggo!” I hear a guy desperately and proudly tearing out pieces of his soul and presenting them unafraid for all the world to hear. On “MFP” I hear a too-old muso smirking at his predicament, feeling overqualified, hacking cynically through his little guitar parts. FUCK the Keneally on this album. I am really sorry, Dweezil. I should have given you more. I’ve learned a lot since then. I’m doing great now. How are you these days?

9. With You

On the original French version my piano has not been altered to sound like a cheap movie house spinet. On this version it has, effectively trivializing everything I play. After what I played on the last few songs I deserve it. I did have fun writing this song with Ahmet and being Elton John for a second or two. I wish I’d been in the studio the day the cello guy came to do his overdubs, I could have helped to arrange the fuck out of the middle section. Drums are again just too absurdly loud and huge upon their entrance. I know the French version is a better mix. The two best things about this version are Ahmet’s completely sincere vocal performance and his naked picture in the booklet.

10. Song For S

47 seconds long. It’s pretty, which is appropriate.

11. Father Time

Best song on the album. Great acoustic guitar part from DZ. No accident that Keneally does not appear, although I did help to arrange the harmonies. I declined Dweezil’s invitation to sing on the song, I didn’t feel right having my voice anywhere near it. Joe played the drum part (which is a very cool part), then doubled the whole thing so that there’s two drum kits playing everything. Sounds good – big without being a parody of hugeness and the tom fills don’t swallow everything in their wake. Pretty tweaked instrumental bridge, DZ at his most architectural (see also “Farfignewton”). I remember sitting in Frank’s chair in the control room listening to AZ and DZ do their vocals and listening to the playback and burying my face in my hands trying not to cry.

12. Happiness

This sounds fucking great on the intro! MK’s guitar on the right sounds good, appropriate, committed. My performances on the 1995 recordings (such as this and “True Face”) have a lot more spunk than the 1994 recordings which comprise the majority of the album, 1994 being when I was preoccupied with the illness and death of my father and FZ and the birth of my daughter and the creation of “Dust Speck” and various other traumas. My mind was everywhere but the job I was being paid to perform. AZ/DZ’s devastation at the loss of Frank permeates this album. This song, like so much of the album, creaks with despair. No amount of surface goofiness or dog heads can cloak it. In fact as I listen I’m growing to appreciate the album for its accurate depiction of our state of mind, even down to the fatigue of my own performances (yeah, I was making an art statement, that’s it – I WAS obsessed with the concept of ennui around that time, wasn’t I?). It’s a snapshot of a point in time, that’s for damn sure. I just don’t like the guy I was then. At least I managed to squeeze out “Dust Speck” while I was down there. This is a strong song and the performance and mix do it justice. (Something funny I just discovered in a “Paul is dead” vein: on page 5 of the booklet, behind the left column of text, the one picture of me which is not covered with a dog head looks as though I’m glancing directly at the words “Bryan Beller” – it looks like I’m thinking “I’m out of here, and I think I’ll take THAT guy with me…”)

13. Pure

One of the better of the 1994 tunes, with a really good mix and a firecracker snare sound. Fun fact: I play all the guitar parts on this song (except for the tacked-on Van Halen-ish textural intro). The real guttural sounding stringed insturments on this track are a couple of 12-string basses played by DZ. There is good music on this song: alive, weird, unique. Ahmet sounds good.

14. Mind Control

They sort of did this song while I wasn’t paying attention. I just showed up at the studio and there it was. I don’t play anything on it but I sing and did some vocal arranging on the “you don’t need a reason” sections which I really like. Really nice acoustic playing by DZ. This song could have used, perhaps, a more varied verse melody, but it does make the more expansive melodies of the other sections stand in out in clear relief. BB finally steps out a bit on the instrumental bridge, although I wouldn’t be surprised if he feels the same way about this performance as I do about some of mine – squandered opportunity. Drum sound is really good and the percussion overdubs really work. The ending is great, among the best music on the album.

15. Flibberty Jibbet

What used to be a fast song all the way through (on the French CD) gets remade and dragged down into the mire of this album’s general despair, at least on the verses. The bass and the overall arrangement on the fast chori sounds fabulous, though. The ubiquitous distorting of the vocal tracks starts to get on my dick around now, then I remember again how unhappy we all were and it feels right – it makes sense that we’d try to hide behind effects.

16. Based On A True Story

Joylessness. Maybe a childhood reverie will cheer us up! Nope, maybe not. Funny, despite everything we laughed as much as we ever did while we were making this album, but most of what made it onto the tape was the sadness and fatigue underneath the facade – the tape don’t lie. There is, though, something I really love about the sheer stupidity of the way DZ and I sing “Na na na na na. I had a rabbit”. This song was released as a single in France. It was the biggest selling single of all time there, although I might be confused about that. Even Ahmet’s monologue about the Six Million Dollar Man sounds disaffected, unhappy. Sigh.

17. Silver Lady

Killed in the mix. I swear that the mix actually drains the song of its humor – there were rough mixes of this song which had me sore from laughter, because in addition to the truly idiotic lyrics and vocals, the song itself really rocked, which made you feel good about laughing at it. In this mix Dweezil opted to make his rhythm guitar, the cornerstone of the arrangement, virtually inaudible. There’s nothing to latch onto. You sure can hear Joe though. The hollow snare thwock and overall low-end rumble returns. This song is a mess.

18. Choke

I almost can’t listen to this, it’s so lifeless. We used to completely explode on this song live. This version seems unconvincing, distant, almost confusing. Many of the songs on this album could and should have been salvaged by a hired professional to help with the mix. But really, I understand what the mixing process can do to a brain and I sympathize. Still, listen: there’s actual interaction and creative thought from all involved parties, even me, during DZ’s extremely inventive solo. Band involvement! Spontaneous musicality! A taste of what we could accomplish when we cared to! Notice how much better the song sounds on the ending, after the solo, than it does before the solo? All that playing energized us. We should have re-recorded the whole first part of the song again and edited it onto the good stuff.

19a. Singer In The Woods…

“Nice trees, they’re still there, OK…”

19b. Evil

Sounds great. No sign of Keneally mucking things up, just good slodgy power trio rock. I’m digging it. As simple as can be and absolutely fine. Ahmet sounds great, and the lyrics feel like something the listener can relate to and be chilled by, not just self-pitying musings of the privileged (of which I’ve been as capable as anyone, I’m not just pointing fingers here). This is a good song and a strong way to end a strange, half-baked, depressing but all-too-accurate (regarding the mental state of its makers) album. While these songs were being recorded I was also writing and recording the “Dust Speck” and “Mistakes” albums, both of which also feature their fair share of despair, don’t they. A low point in my life (except for Jesse, thank you, thank you) thoroughly, vividly documented. All better now!

Things printed on paper:

My favorite is the heart-shaped sticker which says “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful, Goddammit”. That’s inspired. There’s also a Z/Ahmet & Dweezil Zappa sticker which is kind of cool, two bitchin’ postcards (one of which bears the very entertaining caption “Bing Jang & Arkansas consider mysterious cloud formations while visiting ancient Rome” – that too is inspired), a survey card and a little sort of semi-poster semi-pamphlet with some actual solid information about dog care, although I’m not sure about “Crates are an invaluable tool for housebreaking and destructive chewing as well as a safe place the dog will love to be”. Then there’s the box itself which is a nice piece of design work and is covered with lots of groovy text (trivia question #4: who am I quoting here?). Dweezil is a damned entertaining writer. There might even be a little backhanded tribute to me on the back of the box there: when “hat.” came out Dweezil told me he was especially entertained by the way the word “accoutrement” was delivered in “Eno And The Actor” – he found it absolutely reprehensible and important. And there’s the word “accoutrement” on the back of the “MFP” box. I’m moved. Grade for things printed on paper: I’d considered giving it a B+, but I’m in a good mood, so A-! Great job, guys! (Sheesh.)

The Bone-Us CD:

1. Badass

Good mix! Sounds good! The Bone-Us CD makes a good first impression, in fact it starts off sounding a lot better than a lot of the album proper. I’m pretty sure I have absolutely no involvement in this song. I am not missed. Guitar mix and tone are really good. Killer solo, I think I like this solo better than any of DZ’s solos on the album proper. Darn that album proper. At 3:35 Ahmet, in the midst of improvising some rockin’ vocal interjections, destroys everyone present by singing “44…hips about 20”, demonstrating his complete innocence of the specific meaning of female measurements. He willingly copped to his ignorance while the rest of us struggled not to die from laughter and, of course, it was kept in the track. This song sounds great.

2. Enigma

Wish this had a super-present mix with no reverb on the vocals and super tight and loud rhythm guitars but it doesn’t. I don’t believe I played on this song, but I did some backing vocals. It’s a good song with a washed-out arrangement. We played it really well live though.

3. Fuckin’ Glad

Another confusing mix. My first guitar performance on the bone-us CD, Townshendisms in the right speaker. I like this song despite the mix. Interesting vocal assignment: DZ/MK on the verses, AZ on the slow bridge. Distinctive, and I become accustomed to the mix as I listen. We did this one well live also. So far this CD is starting at least as strongly as that danged album proper.

4. Happy Song

Oh yeah! This is a really good song, although the drums are still too loud in relation to the guitars. This was a very important part of the French version and a major loss to the album proper in my darned opinion. Fun fact: Paddy Mahoney’s tin whistle solo was actually played a half-tone off from what you hear (can’t remember whether it was sharp or flat) because he didn’t have any whistles which were in the same key as the song. ‘Twas I who suggested he play it through a harmonizer and saved the day, but he had to struggle with hearing the basic track in his headphones a half-tone off from the solo he was playing. This bone-us CD is good. Anyone who bought just the “MFP” CD and not the box should be unhappy with themselves.

5. I Wants Me Gold

You know what? Stupid as this song is, I like it a whole lot, and the mix is really good for most of it. Contribution of which I’m most proud: the line “they took out my money shot” (to which Ahmet appended “where I’m burning children for fuel”).

6. You Used All My Soap

This song is a lot better than you think it is. We RAGED on it live. All power is missing from the recorded version, except for the ending which offers a taste. You know what it reminds me of? I saw Missing Persons a bunch of times in the early 80’s and they were stunning on stage. Then they started putting out albums and I was totally stymied by how small and unexciting the albums sounded in comparison to the live shows. That’s the story of this song. Inspirational couplet: “I want to fly like a bird/I want to stink like a horse”.

7. What It B

Bryan and Joe just loved this song when Dweezil wrote it and wanted really badly for it to be on the album. I thought it was unbearably 80’s and was happy for it to be hidden away. I was wrong! It rocks and grooves and the album would have benefitted from the addition of it (and the subtraction of one doom-and-gloom-fest of your choice). LOVE the way Ahmet says “Malt liquor”: total Cheech Marin. We, the vocalists, sound committed during the “feeling is building” bits. Hear the “beelding” on the last pre-chorus?

8. Farfignewton

I had nothing whatsoever to do with this! This madness is all from the mind of Dweezil (except for the last five chords, which I wrote [DZ edited them from an unused section of “The Finger” – the edit collage which leads from the backwards stuff to those “Finger” chords and the angular drum fill which follows to the opening chord of the next song is startling and musical and wonderful, my fave moment of both discs so far]). He can be pretty tweaked when it’s needed.

9. Ask Yourself

Not only a cool song, but a good performance and a fine mix! Why ‘nearth isn’t this on the A.P. (album proper)? Good singing from DZ (lead) and MK (backgrounds) with help from AZ on assorted lines – I like how it expands into three-part harmony here and there, Ahmet’s voice is such a “lead” texture that it’s really interesting when it’s used for background parts. The harmonies on the ending are great. This song is inspired.

10. Polar Bear

It sounds great and it’s genuinely funny and we’re enjoying ourselves. We laughed SO HARD while Ahmet was doing his vocal tracks. Moon Zappa on background vocals on the second line of the second variation. We also did one with Moon singing lead as Cher – sorry you can’t hear that one. It’s official, kids – I like this bone-us CD a LOT more than the A.P.

11. The Finger

Here it is! Dweezil and Keneally’s only truly collaborative songwriting effort! Really good mix! Hear how interested I sound over there? Beller always hated this song for some reason but it sounds really good to me on here. What you’re not hearing, and not missing, is the five minute middle section wherein DZ and I struggled to play a couple of interesting solos. It works a lot better as a two minute attention grabber. I’m a lot prouder of this song than I thought I was. I came up with the main intro riff at Dweezil’s request that I “write something like ‘Rosemary Girl'”. The riff is like “Rosemary Girl” sideways, sort of.

This Bone-Us CD is fucking great!

12. Not My Fault

And the inclusion of this song clinches it. It might be Dweezil’s best song ever. Perfect performance from everyone, even me. The mix works and Ahmet sounds terrific. It’s SAD but it’s not DEPRESSING – big difference. This is a real song. And DZ’s solo rules the earth – wish he’d mixed himself up a bit more and me down. Oh God, I’m reeling with regret at the fact that the existence of this recording is such a secret to the world. Perfect ending. This song is the shit. Over here, world! Check it out! We were so proud of this song after we recorded it. How many copies do you suppose this collector’s box actually sold? The Bone-Us CD rules.

13. Rice Pudding

DZ recorded, I think, four different versions of this in quick succession. I think we were waiting for Ahmet to write some lyrics so he could finish his vocal tracks and DZ whipped this out in the meantime. It’s a real-live solo performance, he’s singing and playing at the same time, very impressive considering he was barely proficient at that particular discipline (chip off the old block) when the DZ band started rehearsing in 1990. Again, we did a lot of laughing.

14. Here

This pumps along right nice. Still bears the oversized snare which mars very many of these mixes but the overall mix is totally pleasing. MK on acoustic, I believe my only appearance on that instrument during the entirety of these sessions. Very cool intervals at the end of DZ’s solo, and nice vocal thing after the solo. Texture! Features! Dynamics! Nice solid song-y way to wind up the album! No secret bonus shit, the point is made and the CD is over! I feel a lot better now! I played well on these songs, my mind wasn’t completely elsewhere all the time, just for a lot of the songs on the damn A.P. What a weird venting excercise this has been. I wonder if I’ll even bother letting the world read it. Oh what the hell.

I’m going to have to listen to “Shampoohorn” again and see how it stacks up. I was shocked by how good “Loser” sounded when I watched the video that comes with this “MFP” box. But at this moment “Bone-Us” is my favorite Z CD. It should have traded places with “Music For Pets”.

The video: Although the most devastatingly funny parts of the “Master Pets Theatre” segment were edited out of this video, it’s still funnier than the Halloween episode of “South Park”. Ahmet shines. The songs “Music For Pets” and “Based On A True Story” sound better on the soundtrack to this video than they do on the CD, but I’m not sufficiently motivated to discover whether that’s because the mixes are different or if they’re benefitting from video tape compression. The live snippet from the Viper Room demonstrates how much more energy we invested in performance on stage than in the studio – hardly a unique phenomenon, but in our case the distinction was just way too drastic for comfort.

But we had our moments in the studio, as “Bone-Us” proves. I guess we were better than I tend to give us credit for. I guess I wasn’t the total slug I thought I was. I guess I guess I guess. Blah. Given the opportunity to do it again I’d do it better. And while it would have ended, I wouldn’t have let it end the way it did.

Gonna take a break and listen to “Shampoohorn” and see what that does to me. First, though, here’s (see above) what I wrote about the French “Music For Pets” at the time of its release; an interesting contrast to everything I’ve just written…

1997 Faux Pas – This One’s For the Children

1997 Mark Craney & Friends – Something With a Pulse (Laughing Gull)

Comments: Mark Craney is a fabulous drummer. I was first turned onto him in 1980 when he played on Jethro Tull’s album “A” (prior to that he’d played with Jean-Luc Ponty and Gino Vannelli). At a show on the “A” tour I was dazzled by the sureness and precision with which he negotiated those tough structures, especially the ear-tickling tom fills he sprinkled between the changes. The concert was a fairly profound influence on me, actually – I was tickled by the possibilities suggested by the juxtaposition of complex compositional ideas with tight pop song structure.

Later I worked with Mark on the “Shampoohorn” album – among several other tracks he plays on “Dreaming” and “Leviathan”, two of my top four favorite songs on the album. Recording “Leviathan” with him was especially a pleasure – we sat and watched Dweezil write the song, quickly came up with parts that worked and had the basic track on tape within a couple of hours. Since then I’ve placed great value in the idea of presenting a song to musicians on the spot in the studio and seeing what they can make of it (ie. “Own” on “Sluggo!”).

Mark has had a seriously rough time, medically speaking, the last few years and this album was conceived by Doane Perry and Bill Forth as a means to help Mark with his medical bills. My song, “Craney”, is a heavily Miles Davis-influenced instrumental with me on all instruments, recorded during the “Sluggo!” sessions. Continuity with “Sluggo!” is achieved with the drum part on the B section, a pattern which also appears in “Cardboard Dog”. “Craney”, which I wrote in the studio moments before recording commenced (another nod to “Leviathan’s” lasting effect on me), was actually based around the drum part, which I recorded first, then laid down a bass track which felt nice against the drums, then added the guitars and keys playing a melody derived from assigning notes to the letters in the sentence “Mark Craney is a wonderful musician and friend. I wish him happiness and peace.”

This album starts with a great live track from Tull’s “A” tour, “Black Sunday”. Tull fans will also be delighted by the appearance of a March 1997 re-recording by Ian Anderson, Martin Barre and Andy Giddings of “Song For Jeffrey”, the first song from the very first Tull album from three decades ago. Very cool rearrangement of this classic. There are also tracks from Eric Burdon, Tower of Power, Gino Vannelli, Dave Garibaldi, Fairport Convention, Terry Bozzio, James Taylor and many more…

1997 Various Artists – G3 – Live in Concert (Epic)

CD and video released in 1997

MK involvement: Guitar, percussion and keyboards on “Answers”; electric sitar on “For The Love Of God”; guitar on “The Attitude Song”; vocal (with Steve) on “My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama.”

Comments: The first recorded evidence of my tenure as Steve Vai band member escapes to the public on these slices of live guitar nirvana. As corporate rock product goes, both of these releases are actually highly entertaining.

My guitar parts had to be redone in Steve’s studio because the microphone which was placed on my amplifier for the live recording was trashed and useless, so I got to experience the magic of re-recording my “Attitude Song” part under the watchful eye of the composer. It was fun! I haven’t had such minute attention to detail focused on my playing since, oh, 1988 or so. We did a lot of laughing and I enjoyed being subjected to such scrutiny. Let me re-emphasize: I REALLY LIKE being in Steve Vai’s band.

The performances on the video, although they’re the same songs, are completely different performances than the ones on the CD, and I think the mix on the video might be a little more sympathetic to yours truly, especially where the “My Guitar” vocal is concerned. Both products are fine investments for lovers of good guitar playing – leave us not forget that Eric Johnson and Joe Satriani appear as well.

One point which I found interesting: on the tour from which these products arose, the order of performance went: Vai, Johnson, Satriani, all three. On the CD and video it goes Satriani, Johnson, Vai, all three. Naturally, since Satch was the headliner, it makes sense that he’s placed first on the CD and video, but in terms of the listener/watcher’s actual experience it’s as though Vai is the headliner. Ah, just an observation.

1997 Various Artists – Merry Axemas – A Guitar Christmas (Epic)

MK involvement: Piano with Steve Vai on the track “Christmas Time Is Here”

Comments: Hot on the heels of the G3 live releases comes this smooth holiday item. I think our track sounds like shimmering magic. Steve fashioned a beautiful, witty solo over Vince Guaraldi’s sophisticated changes, and I admit to being proud of my piano solo – I’m learning how to play the spaces around the notes these days. Coolest of all for me, after all the madness accompanying my entrance into Vai land, is the appearance of Bryan Beller on bass on this tune – closure at its finest.

Our track is my second favorite on the album. Number one is Eric Johnson’s “The First Nowell” (sic) – masterful? Exquisite? Such words do this performance scant justice. Eric is unbelievable. I miss him a lot, actually – we occasionally got to spend a bit of quality time together during the ’96 G3 tour, but not nearly often enough. I also really like hanging out with his keyboardist Steven Barber, who co-arranged this track and is a masterful composer as well – the Meridian Arts Ensemble has performed and recorded Steven’s work.

Other standout tracks for me are Jeff Beck’s “Amazing Grace” and Brian Setzer’s “Jingle Bells”. Alex Lifeson did a sweet “Little Drummer Boy” as well, and Steve Morse is his usual amazing self. Also appearing are Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Joe Satriani, Joe Perry, Richie Sambora and Hotei. Steve and I tried really hard to think of a better name for this album but John Kalodner shot down every one of our suggestions, so “Merry Axemas” it is, unfortunately, but don’t let that stop you from picking one up – Eric’s track alone will keep you cheered through the holidays, and our track won’t hurt you none either.

1997 The Ed Palermo Big Band – The Ed Palermo Big Band Plays the Music of Frank Zappa (Astor Place)

MK involvement: guest guitarist on three tracks

Comments: I can’t conceal the fact that this album, wonderful though it is and a thorough triumph for my bud Ed, makes me sad. That’s only because I had to dash into the studio, record my little parts, and dash out again in seemingly a matter of minutes, thanks to the extremely tight recording schedule to which Ed was forced to adhere. As a result my cameo on “Peaches” does not convey anything close to the vibe it should. My solo on “Aybe Sea” starts off tentatively but ends up telling a fairly nice story (nothing compared to Mike Stern’s virtuoso turn on “Who Are The Brain Police?/Holiday In Berlin”, but there’s no logical reason why my solo SHOULD be as good as Mike Stern’s) – unfortunately the end of the story, a little collage of “Inca Roads” and “Yo’ Mama”, has been swept away by the tides of anti-creative corporate evilness and cannot be heard here. “We Are Not Alone” has a long coda featuring an “Abbey Road”-esque series of guitar solos – it goes Palermo, Stern, Keneally, Palermo, Keneally, Stern. My tone bites (not in a good way). I was using an unfamiliar amp but I’m not making excuses – an experienced stylist should be able to have his way with any tin can with string attached through which he’s forced to play. The day I showed up for this session wasn’t one of my most inspired, and what makes me sad is that a few months before this recording session Beer For Dolphins performed on a bill with the Ed Palermo Big Band, and I played with Ed for practically the entirety of his two sets, not just as guest soloist but as a member of the ensemble, playing parts, and sheer magic occurred from start to finish. I’d hoped to be able to recreate some of that in the studio with Ed and it just wasn’t possible – I was merely a guest, after all, and I’m glad just to be a part of it. In any case this CD is invaluable as a document of Ed’s vital, intelligent and downright fun arrangements of Zappa material – Ed has every reason to be proud of the result. The definitive Palermo/Keneally document is still to come, I reckon.

1997 Various Artists – Giant Tracks: A Tribute to Gentle Giant (HyberNation)

MK involvement: All vocals and instruments on “No God’s A Man”

After a protracted gestation period this Internet-hatched project finally sees the light of day, and the results make me want to repent for all the snide things I’ve written about how long it took for it to become available. It emerges as a truly touching tribute to many people’s love for this band, and the diversity of approach makes it a varied and exciting listen. Listeners will have their own favorites, but I’m not interested in choosing; everyone contributed to this album out of sheer love and it’s wonderful that all the contributors have this excellent release to show for their efforts. I’m honored to be part of it.

Of course, for me the most moving track is the opening contribution from Kevin Gilbert, “Suit Canon – Fugue Of The A&R Staff”. An original composition done in the GG madrigal style, it’s an unbelievable piece of work: utter teeth-bared bitterness at the misery which is the commercial record business, magically transformed into a heartbreaking, moving piece of music. If you’ve never heard Kev’s music, this would be a fine place to dip your toe; if you have, the song will make you rue his passing all the more intensely.

Daniel Barrett maintains a Gentle Giant Website which contains all the information about this album you could hope for, including my own detailed information about the making of the track “No God’s A Man”. Go wander over there at http://www.blazemonger.com/GT/ and find out about all the contributors.

1998 Chris Opperman – Oppy Music, Vol. 1: Purple, Crayon. (Purple Cow Records)

  1. Sophia’s Dream (vs. Reality)
  2. Shipped To The Sky
  3. The 22nd Overture
  4. Snot Woman: Act I, Scene 4
  5. The Park Bench Canal
  6. Sharel’s Lullabye I
  7. Ain’t Got No Beef
  8. Lincoln, Lincoln
  9. Beware Of The Random Factor
  10. The Day Big Bird Turned Blue
  11. Send Your Money
  12. Sharel’s Lullabye II

MK’s involvement: Producer; lead guitar, synthesizer (“the Netherworld”) and spoken word (“Marcelo Bi’Afro”) on “Sophia’s Dream (vs. Reality)”; electric piano and high keening background vocal on “Shipped To The Sky”; backing vocals and woodblocks from 5:35-5:38 on “The 22nd Overture”; spoken word (“Humphrey Boogart”) on “Snot Woman: Act I, Scene 4”; spoken word and lead vocal (“Taco Bell Employee of the Month”) and James Brown impersonations on “Ain’t Got No Beef”; synthesizer (“Hell Noises”) and partygoer on “Send Your Money.”

Comments: This album is one of the most important things I was involved with in 1998 – involved with EVER, actually. It happened in Boston at the end of April, at a time when I just happened to need a bit of a morale boost, and it turned out to be a magnificent precusor to the headiness of May (May ’98, in case any of you haven’t been hipped to this yet, was the single most significant month in the history of BFD’s development – we gained a lot of ground in those seven gigs). In April, BFD did a gig at the Roxy which was hugely important to me, and thank goodness it was a great success, but it was quickly followed by a mostly solo gig at Lumpy Gravy during which I felt like I lost a lot of ground. I was an adrift little artist and I found myself questioning my abilities; then I had to go to Boston and supervise a batch of Berklee students, most of whom hadn’t recorded before, in the rehearsal and recording of a clump of weird songs by this kid Opperman, who had been inundating me with email, charts and tapes for quite some time. I never listened to the tapes but I looked at the charts and met with him at a couple of Vai gigs – I admired his spirit and ambition, and he was really funny. So he hired me to produce his album and I said sure, but spiritually I wasn’t completely there yet. It’s a hard thing to use the word “spiritually” in 1999 and not sound like you’re ripping off people who rip off Jewel, but I couldn’t think of a better word.

I’m in Boston and start having the time of my life. I get to a rehearsal and hear Oppy’s music for the first time. My jaw hits the ground. What a fascinating hybrid – my first impression was if Monk and Zappa wrote a Broadway musical about cans, it might sound like this. But the more I focused on Oppy’s piano style and his arrangements I realized that there was real individuality there; he was receiving messages to which other people are denied access. Here’s what I wrote about his music in the liner notes to the CD:

“Can you imagine a silken scarf, studded with turquoise Necco wafers? Opperman’s music starts on the ‘and of 2.’ If you think you understand it, you’re wrong. There’s this weird little plot of land occupying a hitherto unexplored region between rock, jazz, contemporary classical, and some weird fucking shit nobody can explain. There’s Opperman. I don’t know if you’ll ever get there, but Opperman’ll let you watch.”

I wrote that while I was spectacularly drunk at a party at Ty Paulsen’s (drummer on the album) apartment, but I meant it and still do.

The making of the album was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a recording studio – definitely in the top two. All participants were smashingly capable and enthused. Lots of hangers-on, too, which really doesn’t bother me – there was a constant and wonderfully amusing parade of personalities throughout the sessions. We worked all night and day for three days – engineer Steve Revilak and I became a mean recording machine. I frankly adored being the big guy in charge of all these young’uns, and I could feel my temporarily drained creative power and self-confidence returning a thousand-fold. By the end of the session I felt completely unstoppable (if very exhausted), returned to my band in California, and May ’98 happened.

This album is packed with memories for me:

“Sophia’s Dream” – it was Oppy’s dream, actually, to have his first-ever CD (out of a planned 50, to be released one per year) start with a song featuring a five-minute guitar solo from me. Sorry, Op, it’s only three and a half, but I wouldn’t change a thing about it, especially the communication between myself and Ty that happened – check out the moment of absolutely inexplicable synchronicity at 4:30. There was a lot of happy screaming in the control room during the playback of that moment. The main body and ending of this song was recorded completely live, two guitars, piano, bass, marimba and drums – I think Oppy said somewhere that my guitar was overdubbed in San Diego, but that’s wrong wrong wrong. I didn’t bring any gear with me to Boston, but Joe Conley (one of the two main guitarists on the album) had a Clapton Strat and a Rivera 2×12 100 watt amp, my regular guitar and amp, so I felt awfully darned at home. The Netherworld section in the middle was concocted in a matter of mere minutes at Double Time in San Diego; Oppy and I piled on synth overdubs until it sounded sufficiently evil, and then I whispered into the Eventide on a couple of tracks – voila! The Netherworld! We accomplished a lot in a very short time on this album. The other happy thing in this song happened during the mastering, when we matched up Oppy’s San Diego-recorded synth line at the end of the Netherworld section to the fade-in of his Boston-recorded grand piano performance of the same line – more happy screaming.

“Shipped To The Sky” – Jim Klewin’s guitar solo on this was recorded around 4:00 AM towards the end of the session – we were all beat and Jim really wanted to nail a good one. After several attempts he thrusted forth the manly solo heard on the CD – yet more happy screaming. He received a pile of condoms for his efforts.

“The 22nd Overture” – what a beast. The basic track for this was the first thing recorded at the sessions – nice way to start an album. There’s so much beautiful music in this song – my favorite moment is the chord which the final sung “amen” resolves to, on the downbeat of the fast section in five. Everybody worked very hard to make this song happen, it was an intense team effort. And I had fun playing the woodblocks. Opperman’s fiendishly twisted piano solo tells you a lot about Opperman the guy – and you need to see his look of utter, stock-still concentration while he plays that sort of stuff. I think he’s a riveting performer. This is a good time to mention percussionist Tricia Williams, a little 20-year old phenom who showed up at rehearsal, folded out the chart to this tune upon her marimba and proceeded to kill everyone in the room with her calm efficiency and massive talent. She’s all over this song, doing a great job.

“Snot Woman: Act I, Scene 4” – Chris had to talk me into doing the spoken part on this, twice I think, because I was actually sort of offended by it. But it ended up being fun to do, and the unthinkably cute Amy Millette does a fabulous job as Snot Woman.

“The Park Bench Canal” – I think this is both Oppy’s and my favorite song on the album. It’s perfect! Such a killer little melody.

“Sharel’s Lullabye I” and “The Day Big Bird Turned Blue” – what I think of when I hear these two disturbed little computer pieces is hearing them for the first time in Oppy’s filthy little dorm room on headphones, reading the charts, and both of us just laughing our heads off at all the little musical jokes Oppy has stuck in there. You really need to be standing next to Chris with a chart in your hand to get the full benefit of what these two pieces have to offer.

“Ain’t Got No Beef” – the opening trumpet chorale with weeping melody, the opening and closing comedy skits, and the lead vocals, were done at Double Time, and gosh, talk about a good time. We laughed forever. I think the most fun was when Jeff Forrest broke out the sound effects CDs for the fight scene at the end, and this one little flying whistle sound that pokes through at one point – we cracked up for about a half and hour at that. Back in Boston the abiding memory from this song is a guy named Ron who attended the sessions; he had a different dance for each stylistic shift in the song and provided us with a lot of entertainment. I think Oppy was planning at one point to have pictures of Ron’s dances in the CD booklet to illustrate the song, but the always amazing mr. wolrab won out.

“Lincoln, Lincoln” – piling on the voices was a lengthy process, but really funny, and very rewarding as the chords began to come to life. Hearing the choir nail this in rehearsal was a great moment, too – the instrumentalists were in one Berklee rehearsal room practicing stuff, while the singers were in another, and when they were ready to sing this song for Chris they sent a messenger over. We all tromped over and heard them sing this, perfectly the first time out. One or two of the singers from rehearsal didn’t make it to the recording, though, so Tim Franklin had to sing several different parts. The funniest thing about the recording was Tim’s faux-basso profundo, which he could only achieve by INHALING as he sang. Listen to the lowest-pitched vocal and realize that it is being inhaled as it is sung, and it will enhance your enjoyment of the track.

“Beware Of The Random Factor” – for me, a close second to “Park Bench” for my favorite track on the album. Oppy has done this with BFD live on several occasions, playing the melody on trumpet, but the vibe of this studio recording is very special. I love the sound of the wah guitar, and I am happy to claim responsibility for making Chris Eskola overdub three trombones on the last repeat of the melody – I love that texture to death. Since I have yet to work with horns on my own albums, it was great fun to mess around with them on this album.

“Send Your Money” – Notable is Joe Conley’s guitar solo, which occasionally sounds so much like me it’s a little scary. Cynthia Levinson’s “yeah, take it bitch” during the Hell section is a reference to the punch line of the single most prevalent joke of the session, which involves an elephant and a mouse. It’s a good joke. “Flute cat go boom” at the end of the spoken intro (you can also hear me weeping the phrase twice during the intro to “Beef”) was an onomotopaeic verbal drum fill which I uttered at various times during the sessions, and which found favor in the swirling cranium of Opperman.

“Sharel’s Lullabye II” – on the last day of the sessions, I finished my work around 6:00 AM or something and had to scoot to the airport right away to catch a flight home. It was an emotional time, because we’d all been through a lot together, but there was no time to be sentimental about it ’cause I had to leave right away. Immediately upon my departure, Oppy recorded this piano solo. It moves me very deeply.

Anyway, this is a real good album.

1998 Steve Vai – Flexable Leftovers (Epic)

MK involvement: Keyboards on the track “Fuck Yourself” (although you wouldn’t know it from reading the liner notes)

Comments: Robin DiMaggio gets credit for drums, and Steve Vai gets credit for “everything else” on this track. Hey. That’s me playing organ (actually a sampled organ patch), and Steve also extrapolated some of my organ performance, switched patches in the computer and changed it to horn parts. Forgetting to list me was just a simple oversight, which I’m not angry about, but which I’ll happily never let him forget about: during the recording sessions for his new album, which took place in December ’98, Steve took a moment to thank us, his band, for helping to make the album come to life before his eyes and ears; he’d always dreamed of recording a real album in real time with a real band and we were bringing his dream to life. It was a very touching moment, which I then blew to pieces by saying “yeah, just put our names on the fucking album.”

“Fuck Yourself” is a very fun, nasty-sounding song with a great, long guitar solo and somewhat surprising lyrics. I especially like his little message to people who get on his case because he knows how to play the guitar – that was a long time coming.

1998 Ultra 7 – Trummerflora 2 (Accretions)

MK involvement: Guitars on “Experimental Breakfast” and “Crop Circle #119”, piano on “Gold Spot”

Comments: Four San Diego bands play their trade on this release: Z.O. Voider, Dodecaphonic, Wormhole and Ultra 7. I’m a member of Ultra 7, as it happens, along with a hero of mine, Marcelo Radulovich, and two wonderful percussionists from the band Burning Bridges, Marcos Fernandes and Robert Montoya. We just showed up at the studio and improvised some stuff, then I went away and the other gentlemen turned them into songs. I’m real happy with it, especially “Gold Spot”, a very altered acoustic-space improv which has a woman named Ute Apfelstedt telling a strange story atop it and doing violin and flute overdubs as well – very evocative, and I’m quite pleased with my piano part. “Experimental Breakfast” is very cool too, a greasy funk item with a great sax arrangement by Robbie Helm, and “Crop Circle” has a pretty huge groove that will move you (although my guitar in the left channel is a touch too quiet). The other three bands provide fascinating tracks also. This is a nifty release; check it out.

1998 Frank Zappa – Cheap Thrills (Rykodisc)

1999 Various Artists – Tribute to the Titans (A Sampler of Great Performances from Magna Carta’s Tribute Series) (Magna Carta)

1999 Marcelo Radulovich – 2 Brains

1999 Frank Zappa – Son Of Cheap Thrills (Rykodisc)

1999 Mullmuzzler – Keep It To Yourself (Magna Carta)

1999 Mullmuzzler – Six Pack: Multi-Artist Radio Sampler (Magna Carta)

1999 Neil Sadler – theory of forms (Bleeding Arts)

  1. jazz bastards
  2. dna for beginners
  3. suehiro
  4. theory of forms
  5. sid sings
  6. runRim
  7. wFb

MK involvement: Guitar on everything; Bryan Beller on bass on tracks 1, 2 and 7. Also appearing are Walt, Steve and Bruce Fowler, Kurt McGettrick, Albert Wing and Joel Woods.

Comments: What a great album. Neil is a composer/keyboardist/percussionist who first got in touch with us by sending a cassette containing early versions of some of these songs to Beller. Bryan played me several of the tracks while he and I were shooting heroin in the front seat of his van, and I was completely taken with the weird dark visions that Sadler’s music manufactured in my head. Here’s what I said about Sadler for use on his website:

“Sadler’s music sounds like some of the darkest dreams I’ve ever had – and I really like bad dreams. His is a unique voice and the absolute integrity of his vision oozes out of every fractured melody, foreboding rhythm pattern and sideways chord sequence he conjures up. I adore his music and I’m honored to have been a part of it.”

These charts are REALLY complex, and soloing over them wouldn’t have worked if I had tried to actually “play over the changes” – I had to invent melodies that felt right to me over Sadler’s contanstly shifting soundscapes. Actually “soundscapes” is an appropriate term to use since I employed the same approach improvising with Fripp in ’97: abandon intellect, trust that any needed technique will be there when it’s needed, and fly. Sadler prepared very thorough charts for all this material, and I do play some composed lines, but for the most part Neil just handed me my head and let me loose in the playground. I am intensely grateful to him for that, and I’m really proud of this album.

1999 Steve Vai The Ultra Zone – Epic/Sony Music Distribution

Discography: Mike with others 1980-1989 Discography: Mike with others 2000-2009