the no expectations vacation

29 04 2010

When the one expectation I had for this time was met within the first 3 hours, it really makes for a relaxed ride.

Our decade plus in Spain was marked by frequent visitors – some expected and loved, others complete strangers.  It took a while to figure out that the key to a successful vacation experience for people had everything to do with the what they were hoping to accomplish.  So regardless of how well I knew people, the early hours of their stay were marked by planning.

I started with a litany of questions to sort out their expectations.  Were they art lovers who would drool over The Prado? Were they kitsch shoppers that would buy cheap T-shirts and key chains and call it a day?  Were they open to real cultural experiences that they would allow ME to do all the planning?  Did they need to eat every few hours?  If I had the answers to these questions, then I could probably come up with itineraries that would keep them happy.

So now before we plan any trip for business or pleasure or a combo of both – we work out those details as best as we can.  There has never been as smashing a success as last year’s great escape.  Not every time away can be centered around cliffs, sun umbrellas and a suitcase of books to be devoured.

This trip was a last minute mental necessity – a need to reconnect and get some face time with Best Boy and Mimi.  There is something strangely wonderful about being in the Entertainment Capital of the World and not needing to go or do or see any of the sights…except for hanging with them.  I dare say that our future holds return trips with Donny Diva in tow where we’ll be back at Disneyland or Universal Studios or Legoland or the San Diego Zoo or – or – or…

Not this time around though.  There is nothing looming on today’s horizon except for the fact that I know we’ll eat more than once.

and the beat goes on…

10 06 2009


Guerrilla record making.  Have friends who’s friends owe them favors.  Hire one of the best drummers in LA for the price of 2 Mountain Dews and a lunch from California Pizza Kitchen.  Gerry Porter laid down drum tracks for six songs- maybe two takes each-like it was nothing.

michaelIt never hurts when said drummer is childhood friends, harkening back to days in Cleveland, with a sound engineer wizard who runs Blacksound Studios-a perfectly vibey place with a throw back to the 70’s.  Michael Parnin  welcomed three strangers into his space and we left on speaking terms.  So much so that we are going back for him to do final magic before we head to the airport tomorrow morning at 6 a.m.


After a few hours in the studio – the boyz blow off some steam shootin’ hoops.

We know we’ll have some culture shock going back to MI now that we are fully entrenched and on a rockstar schedule.  Noon is the new 7 a.m. – warmed up to do first vocals no sooner than 3 p.m. (like just getting started on your work day) – our breakfast / brunch / lunch is your dinner.  There was a band coming into the house we are staying at in “the Valley” at 10:30 p.m. just getting started on some work.  We are officially screwed for re-entry into the real world.


My job while we’ve been here has been simple…keep the receipts and keep the food available at all times for when the preggers “talent” looks like she is flagging.  It’s been an adventure of the best kind.  The stories we’ll have to tell baby of its time on Skid Row…

stairway to heaven

8 06 2009

stairway1Notice that the garbage can notes the location.  These have been up and down days.  Emotional roller-coaster days for sure.  Long hours, hard work, tedious work – good work days and bad work days.  Life keeps happening around us even tho we are in this creative bubble.

DSC_0022The phone rings we get news that disturbs.  One of Best Boy’s business partners quite by accident – literally – discovers he has a brain tumor (check out his blog).  It reminds us all that we are living on a faultline.  None of us knows from one day to the next what will come our way.  But we know WHO is in charge.

nitewindowThe sun comes up  – the sun goes down each day has its own trouble – no need to worry about tomorrow’s trouble.  Living in the moment and hanging on for dear life.

simmer down…

6 06 2009

runawayThere is a scene in Runaway Bride where Julia Roberts is dressed to walk down the aisle yet again – starts to hyperventilate – and stands in front of an oscillating fan.  Shop Girl’s take on that was after being in the iso (isolation) booth which we call the Womb as it is a tiny, very cushy box for vocals and guitar tracks…but no ventilation.

So after an hour of tracking guitar and vocals and being extremely frustrated – she decided to listen to the demo and realized that she was playing in the wrong key.  Thank God for the fan – a computer – a demo and some brains.  We got a good laugh out of it.  Naturally she nailed the vocals when they were connecting with her brain…

palmDriving back to our digs that evening we did one of the ultimate tests of good sound recordings…cranking them up on a car stereo.  We took notes and knew what had to be fixed the next day.  But it was a moment in that magical light – to feel so good.

crosslaAnd is just like every production story…the next morning it all went south.  Our dongle went dumb.  No more Logic.  This is techy speak for OHMYGODWHATDOYOUMEANWECANNOTACCESSALLTHEWORKWEHAVEDONE!

angleBegging the studio angel of music mercy to have compassion on our lowly estate, she smiled on us and all “seems” well.  We borrowed a dongle and press on!

even in the rain…

3 06 2009

coreyyardI saw lightening this afternoon and heard thunder.  It’s pouring.  In the last two days I’ve seen more hummingbirds than sparrows.

dirtyguitarLast night, or was it this morning, Evan laid down some killer dirty guitar tracks…think Pulp Fiction.  They say things like that and know what it means.


It helps to have a guitar player / producer / keyboardist / vocalist who has tour tags from opening with the likes of Sheryl Crow and John Mayer helping you out.

micIt’s not about razmataz…it is about ears that hear.  It’s about making audio polaroids that capture just the right mood.  Translating melodies that roll around in her head – making them real…fully clothed and in all their splendor one layer at a time.

oooohstairJust as the homeless that line the streets outside are settling in for another night on their extra firm mattresses…you mic the concrete stairwell knowing that the echo will really echo and not be contrived.

lanight2So for all its flaws, all its raw scars, its sirens, urine and stench…there is a incessant low rumbling hum in LA.  It is energy – a creative energy – like in few places on the planet.  Fourteen hours after we got started, we stumbled out into the darkness and found our way to soft beds…feeling a tad guilty the whole time.

scratch track

2 06 2009

DSC_0002The first day is all about adjustment…like from the roof top of the six story building at the corner of 6th Ave & San Pedro in downtown LA where the studio is…there is plenty to look at.  We are smack dab in the middle of the real Skid Row so there will be more pictures another day of how I pass my time while Shop Girl is doing her thing.

DSC_0065The night before the first session she couldn’t sleep much just hearing the songs in her head and planning things out.  Not at all unlike Best Boy who is back in GR working on a three week reality show project.  We’ve come to understand that getting the first shot off gets him settled in – then his brain starts to unwind ever so slowly.  So in this setting – until the first scratch tracks are done, she couldn’t really settle in and get started.  It was a good day.  Sleepy vocals that are keepers.


There is always beauty to be found in these old warehouse converted loft studios.  The initial impression in the glaring light of day softens as moods are set as well as levels on a sound board.  But just like the magic of Hollywood looks so different from the inside out – this process is nothing like the final outcome.  It sounds effortless and simple but is the result of hours and hours of repeating things over and over again.

DSC_0085So day one is behind us and there are  9 more to go for this round.  When I woke up at 3 a.m. Cali time, then at 4 a.m. Cali time and at 5 a.m. Cali there was no lack of music and lyrics in my head.  So goes the process.  Looking forward to the magic that will unexpectedly happen today.  As long as she has been doing this and I have seen the inside of a half dozen studios with her, I have NEVER been in one that doesn’t have an old leather couch.  My process today will be a nap.