July 13 1997 5:32:47 PM Sunday, USA
I'm at the Chatfield House
My plans for the coming week are suffused with ambition. Little dripples of ambition leakage strain at the seams of this week's plans. First and most, I have six days at Double Time within which to complete all recording and all mixing for the album which we all now know to be "Sluggo". This will encompass some fleeting visits from Bryan Beller and Mike Mangini to do bass and drum tracks on "Egg-Zooming", and Bob Tedde and Mark DeCerbo to replace my vocal tracks on "TRANQUILLADO" (I don't like the timbre of my voice on the track as it currently stands), but for the most part the week will find Jeff Forrest and myself hunkered down by our lonesomes, comparing delay settings and battling advanced forms of cabin fever.
When I'm not there I'll be here typing, and paying specific attention to YOUR NEEDS...I am aware that very many of you have waited a long time for updating of the tour diaries; I have battled my schedule, my ailing computer and my desire to not type to make this a reality for you, and have lost the battle in every instance.
Now, my schedule is as unyielding as ever but I care not; this computer is not doing too well at the moment, freezing up every six lines or so which entails constant saving and rebooting, but my will shall prevail; and yea verily I desire to type. And so type I will and do.
For this next batch of tour diary excerpts we'll be going photo-less. I'm trusting that the text holds more intrinsic interest than the images, and when I have time at some point to sift through the photographic evidence supporting the words, some down-the-line retrospective illustration might take place. Yeah right. In any case it'll get done a lot faster if we don't need to worry about the photos.
There are also some new additions to the Keneally discography. One has been out since mid-1996: the Hooligans' "Last Call", which I produced. Two other additions are "Giant Tracks", the Gentle Giant tribute album which is finally available and really quite lovely, and the "G3" CD and video which, I'm pleased to say, surpassed my expectations - I actually like them both!
Please be advised as well that the great lost Keneally album - the accompanying tape for James Morton's "Rock Studies For Drums" instructional book - has just been reissued on CD for the new mid-price reissue of James' book. The CD contains ten pieces of music which I wrote to James' drum tracks, and appear on the recording both with and without drums (I play guitar, bass and keyboards). They are now the earliest Keneally recordings available on CD, and as such may be of interest to the freaks among you. In the US, call 1-800-8-MEL-BAY for those much-vaunted further details; outside the US, I guess you'll have to bug your local music stores to make them order it.
There should be another discography addition: The Ed Palermo Big Band's album of Zappa music, to which I contributed a couple of solos. However the release of the album has been delayed for reasons far too odious to be typed, so there won't be a Palermo album to add to the list until September at the earliest.
The big news for me personally on this last leg of G3 touring, which hopped around the East Coast of the US for the second half of June, was the opportunity to join Robert Fripp on stage during his opening set on the last five shows of the tour. Robert opened every show of the tour by providing "Soundscapes", which can be simplistically described as a high-tech update of his Frippertronics of the 70's, but when experienced in full flower by a receptive listener can provide ferociously gorgeous and undefinable pleasure, rivalling some of the more transcendent moments of "Civilization Phaze III". For Robert to invite me to improvise over these Soundscapes was an intense privilege and pleasure for me, and my best playing of the tour was definitely during these sets. Stu Hamm played bass quite often during the sets as well. However, the tickets for the shows did not make it clear that Robert begins playing the moment the doors to the venue are opened, so many concert-goers were not privy to these events. When G3 in the US starts up again in September, be advised that if you are interested in hearing Fripp do his thing in its entirety (and the invitation has been extended for me to join him again for the next leg, I'm giddy to report) you should get to the venue as early as possible.
I'll fill you in on what I hope to accomplish with "All About Mike", which has been tottering on the precipice of the '88 tour for a year and half now: somewhere in my house is a box which contains a bunch of microcassettes, comprising my audio diary of most of the '88 tour (during the European leg my wife joined me on the road and I became less diligent with the diary). When I locate them I hope to have them transcribed for use as the next installment of "All About Mike". It should be interesting and will hopefully reward the patience of those of you who've waited for the next chapter of that particular saga.
Scott's just walked in with a new computer which may work better than this one, and I've provided enough preliminary twaddle, so off I go. Before the night is through I intend to have the remainder of the Asia/Australia tour diary typed up for your pleasure.
Enjoy the flavor of moist, delicious cake,
11:41 PM Monday July 14 1997
Still in San Diego
Good day in the studio today. I did a whale's belly worth of orchestrational overdubs on "Egg-Zooming" and it's turned into a really twisted thing: I blew into a balloon with a hole punctured in it and manipulated the hole to alter the pitch and ended up sounding like Anthony Braxton, and I used an alphabet-speaking toy which I purloined from Jesse as an artificial background vocalist. Lots of odd harmonies and arrangement doodads throughout the piece, it's a real festival. Tomorrow the wonderful Mr. Mangini comes in to add drums to my madness.
Today I added the final overdubby touches to "Potato" and "Drum-Running", and Jeff and I mixed them both. We're adopting a new working method for this album, mixing songs immediately after tracking is completed, which is a much more pleasant approach for me than devoting a big block of time to mixing the whole album at once, which gets VERY wearying. Alongside the two songs mixed today, there are four others which are already mixed: "Looking For Nina", which is the song Frank Briggs and I recorded in his garage studio, and which was completed about five days ago; "What Happened Next", which is an outtake from "Dust Speck", and which will only go on this album if there's enough time for it (my plans to make this a shorter album than is usual for me have proven to be laughably impractical); "I Guess I'll Peanut", for which the rough mix we did a couple of months ago is more than sufficient; and "Sluggo", which is a piano solo and was recorded live direct to 2-track. That's six out of sixteen songs (or, if there's no room for "What Happened Next", five out of fifteen) in the can. LIFE IS GOOD.
It was really good the other night at Joe Travers' apartment when a bunch of us tried out the "Dark Side Of The Moon"/"Wizard Of Oz" business. OH MY GOD. Get together with some dear friends as soon as you can and do this thing, because it will destroy you in a completely good way. Next, let's see what happens when you listen to "Gretchen Goes To Nebraska" while watching "Prizzi's Honor".
I actually only did four days of the Asia/Australia diary last night, but I also did the discography entries for G3, the GG tribute and the Hooligans, so hey, get off my back. Back to the diary now. Talk to you tomorry.
Love one another illicitly,
July 15 Tuesday 11:41 PM
Scott's house oh yes am in still
Listening to "Flaming Pie" for the first time and liking it just damn fine!! Oh and I listened to "VROOOM" and "Thrak" last night for the first time in a while. You know how they say familiarity breeds contempt? Doesn't work that way for me - since I've started spending time with Fripp I enjoy his music all the more.
Mike Mangini, the famous and cute drummer with the Stee Vai band, today came in and played impossible drums on "Egg-Zooming". All he had prior to today's session was a rough mix of one and a half minutes of music (the finished piece is nearly seven minutes long) and the charts I wrote during the first two tours of this year. So he was confronted with many new sections today, including a super-hyped coda which he didn't even know existed because I wrote it after I gave him his chart. To say he acquitted himself admirably is total faint praise damnation. He was magnificent. The reason he got the gig to play the song was because he walked by me while I was writing out the charts on an airplane during one of the tours, and stopped in his tracks - he could SMELL the odd subdivisions. He looked down and saw a bar which contained a 19:16 tuplet over the entire bar (played by bells and moog) while the guitars are playing a septuplet in the first beat of the bar. Mike read the bar, calculated the movements required to execute both tuplets simultaneously, and handed me back the chart with the words "Yeah. I can do that". Ladies and gentlemen, he did it.
We also ate Chinese food and I met Frank Dolan, the lanky fellow who helps Michael prepare his instructional books. Frank was there when Mike whipped out his song-ending series of nineteen-tuplets (which may not be on the album if I decide to fade the song as planned), which Mike accurately described as sounding like an Air Force bomber flying over San Diego accidentally dropped a load of bricks which burst through the ceiling of the studio and landed on his drums. The fill was immediately transferred to Double Time's answering machine, so give a call if you want to hear it.
After a little head-clearing break, I recorded a couple of new rhythm guitar parts on "Why Am I Your Guy?", my fourth attempt at getting a guitar sound I liked for that song. I finally realized that I needed a thin tone to keep out of the way of Bryan's raging fuzz bass, and a couple of Telecasters on the bridge position lightly grunged did the trick. I also added some surf organ, mixed it low and stuck it over on the right; it adds some needed helium.
Whenever I need a nostalgia break, I hop in the van and drive a couple of miles to Santee, where my family lived 1973-1980. Yesterday I drove around Santana High School, where I spent four years doing stuff. I graduated in 1979. I am now more than twice as old than I was when I graduated high school. Two years from now will be my twentieth anniversary of graduation from high school. I needn't continue in this vein any longer, and will instead reach the conclusion this paragraph was quite obviously leaning toward: I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M THIS OLD.
But! I'm very very happy!!
Gaze at a toe,
[Note from Scott:
A week of recording and mixing and crashing at our house after the above entry, Mike joyously pounded out a detailed finale, praising the final mixes for Sluggo! and optomistically predicting a fall release date. He then headed north.
Immediately afterward, Mr. Power Mac took a mega-dump and, despite all Nortonesque attempts at rescue, this final MTTY remained unsalvageable. We traded phone messages of despair. The following day Mike called back to say that every analog mix they had done the week prior was seriously hampered by lack o' soundstage imaging and frequency response when compared to the digital rough mixes. In a word, they were as hosed as the MTTY file. So, gamely, we tried to look at the whole dual meltdown as Nature's Way Of Telling Us That Something Was Wrong.
Bottom line: New mixes being made for two days a week each week in September. Sluggo! should sluggishly appear before the end of the year. And it's all my fault.]