I started looping five or six years ago and have experienced my own list of peaks and valleys of being a musician, artist, educator and any other title that comes with devoting yourself to a life onstage. What started as a passion project and many, many nights of “I wonder what this button does?” when I picked up my initial rig, has developed over the years into a career and brand that I devout time, blood, sweat and tears to every day. The spotlight hurts most when it is shut off and your back to the emails, phone calls and meetings that serve as efforts to rise above the noise and have your music heard and a living made.
So what happens when the phone isn’t ringing? What happens when the emails aren’t returned from venues? From vendors? From bands you want to share a bill with? I don’t have the only answer to that. “All I offer," as Kerouac would say, “Is my own chaos.”
It is easy to believe that our problems define us. I wish I was skinnier, fatter, taller, stronger, faster, etc…. But I’ve always thought that how we deal with adversity is just as definitive. Today I offer not only my experiences with adversity, but how I have chosen to deal with it.
Recently, I called a company and the voice at the other end asked me what do I do. The conversation went pretty close to this:
Me: I am a vocal loop artist.
Company: *Dead quiet*
The individual then got very short and just about hung after saying “I don’t know what that is.” (Despite my explanation and videos)
In the end, I never heard back and I ended up chalking it up to experience rather than a future working relationship. The story could have ended there and I could have let this person define my music, my art, my worth…but instead I found the next company on my list and contacted them. I am now in the works to do a high profile corporate event with them here in Las Vegas.
I’ve met musicians that are arguably the best or luminaries in their field and I’ve been around those just starting out. The ones that last aren’t always the best, aren’t always the most celebrated….it is those that persevere. It is those that keep at it. Success doesn’t come over night.
As a vocal looper the disadvantage I have is that there is a very small number of “us” out there and many aren’t familiar with this platform to deliver music. Inversely, as a vocal looper the advantage I have is that there is a very small number of “us” out there and many aren’t familiar with this platform to deliver music. Keep at it. Reach out to other musicians like yourself and see what works for them. The breaks and opportunities they have been presented with may not come to you…..but you will have your own breaks and opportunities presented…be ready when it happens.
The most important quality to have to be a musician, above stage presence, above ability, above image, is passion. If you have passion for your music, then your going to respect it. If you respect it you will want to be better at it. If you’re better at it, then you will keep at it. Passion is what made a Trumpet player raised in East st. Louis reinvent his instrument repeatedly, passion is what made three guys start a ad-hoc computer company in a garage. If you don’t love it, then don’t do it.
One week ago, I took full advantage of an opportunity that was presented to me by the perfect storm of personal perseverance and the professional relationships I have cultivated coast to coast and on two sides of the Atlantic. I was tasked by a number of leading manufactures and arguably the largest chain of family owned music stores in the country to host a live looping workshop at the Sam Ash Music Store location in Las Vegas. The groundwork for the workshop was initially laid two months prior as a vague outline of a looping event to take place at roughly the halfway point of summer. It would take every bit of that two months to gather vendors and corporate partners to make this one of the biggest events I have ever put together.
Finding a venue to host a show, concert, film fest, etc is sometimes the hardest part of any idea. It’s always the idea that is easy, but the execution is the difficulty. The team at Sam Ash was very excited to host the looping workshop and after a date was tied down, it was my own choice to get other vendors involved. Emails, phone calls, meetings and more solidified the support needed to make a note-worthy event. Once vendor support, and an idea of what I wanted to present took form, I took a look at my own calendar and saw the 18th of July fast approaching.
An earlier blog here on my site talked about the who’s and how’s of my teaching approach to workshops as a whole. This time around I was faced with a question with no clear answer, “How do I present a workshop with an array of gear to an audience….with an array of experience?” The choice was then made to give everybody the tools they could utilize that night after walking out with a new loop pedal from Pigtronix, a new mic from Electro Voice, new in-ear monitors from Westone or brand new cables from my friends in Tennessee at George L’s Cables. Learn today, put into action tonight. That was my mantra.
The drive to Sam Ash that afternoon was a windy, gloomy, cloudy and wet affair as an early monsoon made it’s way across the desert floor to unleash all sorts of trouble in Las Vegas. Pulling into Sam Ash I soon discovered they (Sam ash) were ready for the event, ready to receive the dozens of people that had made plans to be there and ready to make this event shine……If only the power wasn’t knocked out.
A few nights ago I was conversing with another loop artist a half a world away and we were talking about my workshop that I offer to schools, universities and professional groups. We talked at length about what makes a good workshop and how to do you make something as complex as looping and digital effects, relevant and easy to grasp for a room full of young musicians. I told my six-time-zones-away friend that in the end….it isn’t about how much *you* know….it is how much *they*will walk away with.
In college I endured classes that taught you “how to teach.” The irony was that they were taught by professors that hadn’t been in a public school setting for over ten, sometimes twenty years. Even as a malleable 20 year old, I knew what they offered was outdated and out of touch with today’s classroom. A few short years later, diploma in hand, I entered the teaching profession full time….and only four years ago I started getting calls to teach looping from elementary students to seasoned professionals.
Fast forward to a few nights ago, the task of giving lightning in a bottle to another artist who wants to teach others presented itself to me. My messenger window chimed a new message:
“Do you have students come up and get on your gear?”
“Yes, of course. It is one of my favorite parts.” I reply.
“I would be afraid of my gear getting damaged.”
Ahhh yes. The faceless enemy that moves without a sound and strikes from the crawlspaces of our ego and id. Fear. Calling up volunteers or even setting it up so a teacher will join you onstage is a great way to get the students on your side. In legal terms, it’s called “leading the witness.” “Hey, who wants to come up and sing a few notes, or make a drum beat.” Now you’ve asked for volunteers and taken away the guesswork of what they need to do. Sing a few notes….make a drum beat. Got it. I’ve taught thousands of students over the years…and still….my gear has yet to erupt in fire and brimstone because a 15 year old girl came up and sang a major triad.
In the days of Vines, Instagram, Snap Chat and more …the human attention span is being vied for at a quicker rate than probably ever. Keep your workshop moving. Talk about a topic, show in context…and keep moving. The workshop in many cases serves as an overview of whatever you’re talking about. A few years ago, I was at a Paul Gilbert workshop. Paul was a very engaging educator. He would explain a certain effect, technique, style , etc and then show it in a performance setting, or drop it into different contexts. Show it, do it, keep moving.
The power of yes is often celebrated. Few celebrate the power of “no.” Even few will acknowledge the power of “I don’t know.” There are leading figures in music, business, sports and more that I’ve see at a loss for an answer. That’s ok. If you don’t know, acknowledge it. Seldom will an audience lose respect for you. If you make something up….or blur the line between truth and fiction though….you’re on your own!
The pictures I posted on today’s blog feature a number of the young musicians I worked with in recent workshops. Boys and girls ranging from middle school 12/13 to high school 17/18. Although the way I go about teaching may change…they why I go about does not. To let students know they have their own greatness to achieve. No Tony Robins buzzwords, no airplane bestseller key points….just music by unconventional means that allows a young student to achieve something bigger than themselves. All of that, tucked into a few pedalboards, forty feet of cable….and a microphone.
Everyone has their own skill set they can pass onto others. The “others” are out there. Find them….share with them….and see if you don’t make something positive….something lasting……something bigger than yourself.
June 13, 2015
I am very excited to announce I was recently interviewed by Scarlett Entertainment. This is an exciting organization that books events, talents, shows, festivals and more all around the world and has some ace talent on their roster. I am pretty stoked to announce that they chose me as their featured artist for June 2015 and sat down with me for a short interview. The interview is after the jump below. Give a read, it was a fun time chatting with their team and with any luck...my passport is going to gather a few more stamps this year!
Check out the interview right here!!!!!
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
May 26, 2015
Tucked into the eastern slope of the Colorado Rockies in an anonymous business park, magic is brewing. On the south side of Colorado Springs incredible feats are running rampant. At 6,035 feet (1839m) the ground work for the extraordinary is being laid….. one handmade piece at a time. In the shadow of Pike’s Peak dream makers and technology leaders are one of the same and instead of “why” leading meetings and watercooler discourse….the creative, crazy brave engineers look at a product and music market and ask “why not.” Although the energy that permeates this place of cutting edge technology has no name, the location and people that make this collective band of engineers, marketing gurus, road warriors and industry pioneers does.
The invitation to visit and perform at Westone was a very exciting email to wake to a few weeks ago. I pulled up to the low slung business-meets-warehouse designed building that from far away, blends in with any of the litany of business park tenants you drive by in that area of “The Springs,” however the orange letters out front and festooned on the front door serve as a beacon for the creativity and excitement that sets it apart from it’s neighbors, and as I would soon learn, it’s market peers.
We live in an exciting time when new music technology comes out almost daily and the envelope as musicians, both on and offstage , is pushed further with options and avenues to express our creativity. As a vocal loop artist, the music industry is plush with options to build your sound and deliver the best show you can. Recently Pigtronix invited me into the stellar artist family and I’ve been asked to help raise the awareness of their flagship loop pedal, The Infinity Looper. I have spent the past number of weeks waist deep in the Infinity and culled an initial knowledge base that has brought to light some very exciting options and features tucked into the infinity that will be of use to instrumental loopers, vocal loopers, beatboxers and even entire bands! My initial thoughts on the Infinity Looper? It’s about time somebody thought of that!
In the future I will be releasing videos, both performances and tutorials on the Infinity. Today’s blog serves as my initial thoughts on the Infinity, and I will be following up with additional blogs/videos in the coming weeks and months.
If you’ve made it this far into this blog more than likely you are a musician. You have played clubs, bars, concert halls, festivals, churches, temples, street performed, toured, recorded and have your own viable experiences and knowledge base about looping. Remember that one gig you did, where the pedal didn’t engage when it should have and it left you hanging? Remember that feeling of: Man, if my pedal only engaged when I wanted….Man, I’d kill for a pedal that had near-zero latency. Well, the Infinity is that pedal you wanted when you looked down at your pedal board forlornly wanting a quick looper. You want playback? Here it is. No lagging. You want reverse? Fine. You want a one shot armed once you hit the bridge? Done. The engagement speed of the Infinity is about as quick as I’ve seen.
This is a broad topic, but I want to include it on my initial thoughts on the Infinity. The flexibility of the Infinity is going to appeal ambient loopers. The duel input and outputs will be very useful to bands that want to incorporate live looping onstage, I also think it will be useful to studio guys/gals that want to input two different instruments and/or go out into two different amps. A USB port will allow you to upload/download content and update your Infinity so it has all of the latest patches/updates/etc. The after-market support from Pigtronix is very active and helpful. I’ve recently invested in another hat to wear. After watching some of the best ambient loopers on tour this past fall, I started practicing using independent loops instead of phrase looping. The Infinity takes two looping banks and removes the constraints and bonds of a definitive form and gives you seamless freedom and a ….pardon the expression…near infinite options to use two alternate betwixt two independent loops at your leisure.
Pigtronix has just launched their micro-site dedicate to the Infinity Looper. It can be found here. It is available for purchase worldwide at your local dealer. Big thanks to the Pigtronix team for inviting me aboard and you the reader for taking the time to invest in my blog. Look for more Infinity Looper posts in the future!!
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
April 7, 2015
"It's one of those hot nights, dry and windless. The kind that makes people do sweaty, secret things."
When Bill Walkers latest album ‘Sanctuary’ starts, the mood is instantly set with the brooding, moody ethereal opener, ‘Little Twisters.’ Rain soaked streets with street lights pooling on the damp, isolated intersections, vacant lots, windows with no occupants, run-down buildings, back alley rendezvous, uptown double dealings, downtown consequences, fast times, bad times, good times, dangerous women and a lone hero: weathered, worn and with just enough grit to drown his sorrows in cheap whiskey and muster the strength to make things right, or go down trying.
Throughout the just-shy-of-seven-minutes opener a driving rhythms speeds us through the underbelly and empty streets of a city has both out stayed her welcome, and long since had her glory days behind her. Walker’s reverb-laden guitar gives us small melodies that come and go like lights reflecting off a windshield but the melodies and textures delivered aren’t without consequences or with permutations that revisit the listener later on liike vivid memories that come flooding back and die out in the same breath. Textures utilizing both filters and reversed playback that keep you just off center with the next melody or sheet of sound - the only thing that is capable of breaking you fall.
‘Little Twisters’ is a soundtrack to an unseen post-modern film noir that could easily features the hallmarks of any film noir double feature. The femme-fatale, the charming yet dangerous antagonist and the world-weary private eye that dances cheek to cheek every night at the Blue Bongo Room with a bottle of Jack and makes it home by sunrise to a breakfast of cold coffee…and doubt. ‘Little Twisters’ could easily subplant any of the music from the movie ‘Drive.’ With it’s ambient textures, the driving electronica rhythms and Walker’s use of the volume pedal (see: master class), it could easily find it’self in the next chapter of the unnamed Drive(r) series. ‘Little Twisters’ ends with a the tempo, volumes and textures getting slower until we are brought back with rhythm taking the spot light from melody and Walker’s guitar dropping shades of sound (with the use of the reverse effect intermittently) until we fade out the way we came in. With a shadow of sound, isolated….remote….alone. Much like our hero. Wether he lives to solve another case, or the tempo was a reflection of his heart slowing and reminding him that is not long for this world….that is up to the listener.
And that is just the opener….
Our second track, ‘Phantom Carousel’ has a strong ‘in medias res’ quality. It sound as if we have walked in on a conversation that is important and leaves little room for intrusion. I am left wondering if this was a late addition to the album or if happened later in the recording process. It seems completely different from the opener and more free form than the driving pulse of ‘Little Twisters.’ One of main themes of the track I enjoyed were these small melodies, one bar, two bars that are more of characteristic leitmotifs rather than a melody you will isolate and sing on the way to the pizza joint tomorrow night. He were start getting until the extreme high end of the guitar, this is deftly done by Walker as it invites the listener in, instead of pushing them away.
The third delivery ‘Rain In May’ feels like it exists in the same story as ‘Little Twisters.’ Driving rhythm, reverb laden guitar….but there is a different mood in this one. More optimism than cynicism, more weekend road trip than night time flight with the police close behind. ‘Rain In May’ is the song that your car stereo deserves. Turn it on, roll the windows down and let the music breath. You won’t be disappointed.
Track four has one of my favorite guitar tricks in the world. You here it in so many genres of music with some of the best delivery coming out of the rock and country schools of guitar. Like garlic, ranch dressing, sweet tea, bread and strawberry jelly…I simply cannot get enough. Late one night last week relaxing at home I had ‘Sanctuary’ on my CD player(!) and heard and it stopped me in my tacks, and I soon found myself standing in front of my speakers, like fly drawn to the light of a neon window in the July Lousinana Bayou. This guitar technique? Bottleneck. Man, I can’t get enough of it. ‘Kannon’ waits to about the third act of the song…..the song….fades…….Bill keeps us waiting…the song is looking for the release and …..boom. Bill drops the bottleneck right in the middle range of the song. Then we fade out.
‘Crazy Cat’ lends itself to give credit where credit is due to the post production and sound designer and editor of ‘Sanctuary,’ Erdem Helvacioglu. (Easier to type than to say.) Helvacioglu manages album wide to keep the EQ modalities in a very warm arena for the listener’s ear. As an armchair audiofile, and still very much a student of sound design, I culled a lot from the layering of tracks and how they sit overall in the mix. How much of this magic is Bill’s and how much Erdem is responsible, is above my pay grade. ‘Crazy Cat’ is the shortest track on the album right behind a very taut closer ‘395’ that clocks in under two minutes.
I want to go over to track seven (‘Firecaster’) and showcase a texture that Bill utilizes on his guitar. I don’t know how he does it but it sound like a (Harmon) muted Trumpet. Very effective and with percussion being featured in the front of the mix more, it adds two brand new colors to the album. Very exciting to listen to and this track feels almost like a pop-up Jazz Club in the midst of the album!
If you look at the back cover of ‘Sanctuary; it features bill on a stack of boulders playing guitar in the sunshine and master of his domain. ‘Cass County Waltz’ has a the waltz feel to it, but it is more of a (subtle) folksy vibe more than powdered wigs and wanting to dispatch Mozart. If I had to match a visual Bill provides with us, it is the back cover to the eighth track of ‘Santcuary.’ It brings images of the isolated beauty Bjorn Isfalt underscores in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
‘A Dream of You’ plays like a Brian Eno-esque moment of “How much can we take out, and the song will still stand on it’s own?” The space in the album is much more effective than any note, texture or shading of tonality Walker delivers in this track. As a loop artists myself, and in and around “loopers” at home and abroad, silence is the last thing many loop based musicians will allow or invest in during a performance. The silences of ‘A Dream of You’ play all the right notes.
‘Sanctuary’ is an album in dire need of a movie studio to pick it up. I have listened to it numerous times, and every time a new element presents itself to me. The aural imagery provided is lucid and definitive. Bill Walker is based out of Santa Cruz, California where he keeps busy teaching, performing, inventing, putting on festivals, or being featured in Guitar Player magazine. His CD can be purchased through his website and is available for download on CD Baby.
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
March 4th, 2015
10. Sound check is a luxury you won’t always be afforded
---We all have had those gigs in town or tour dates on the road where everything has been set between you and the venue you’re performing at….or at least you thought it was set up. I’ve shown up to shows in the past and the “PA” the venue prided themselves is actually a guitar amp. If possible bring your own PA. If it means you have to show up to the venue earlier to set up. So be it, at least you are familiar with your own set up, and will know how to abbreviate your sound check, but still insure your sound for the performance.
9. The “Vegas Matinee Clause”
----The “Vegas Matinee Clause” was passed my way from a notable entertainer in Vegas who told me, “Never have your show scheduled after a show with animals.” It was hard for him to deliver a Sinatra torch song with…..well…..remnants of the show before him still onstage..
8. Haters Gonna Hate
---If you earn fans, you will earn detractors. Videos, social media posts and even venue choice is subject to praise or scrutiny. The “professional” part of “professional musician” to me means you will rise above tit-for-tat in social media and allow the the grief and drama that some may give you the chance to roll off you.
7. The Limelight/Spotlight is where your cable/mic/power supply/etc will go out
--- True story. I was filming a segment in a booth at the NAMM Show a few years ago. There’s a sizable amount of people around the booth listening and watching…then my mic cable goes out. Luckily the team over at Monster Cables set me up with a new cable (that would last three years!) and the video shoot was finished. Bring extra cables!
6. Treated With Respect and Dignity 9.7435 out of 10 Sound Engineers Will Do Anything For You
--Lost your mic? Cable bag disappeared? Monitor Wedge buzzing? We’ve all had those nights. I have been fortunate to have worked with a number of sound professionals that have saved my skin more than I will admit to. Treat em’ right and they will take care of you.
5. Make time for your fans
--- A friend of mine band was on tour recently and I received a text message in the middle of the might from him telling me a person in (insert quasi-Midwest city) asked if he knew me. My friend said he did, and they talked for a long while about the concert and yours truly. The next morning I had a message from said friend in the city talking about what a class act these guys were and how they took time to talk with everybody, take pictures, etc. It meant the world to my friend in the Midwest and is still being talked about today. The flip side of the coin, is those that can’t/won’t/shouldn’t be bothered to talk with those that came out to see them. Music is a people business. It is people that come out to see you….Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja can wait….get out there and say hello!
4. Today’s supporting act is tomorrow’s headliner
--- The more bands/solo artists you work with the more opportunities can be opened up for you. I’ve done shows with artists in the past and a week, a month, a year later you get calls asking *you* to open for *them.* True not every bill is one for the ages, but if isn’t broke…..there is no need to redesign it.
3. Open Mics
--- Open mics are is the politics, religion, death penalty hot button issue of many musician friends of mine. Can they be a drag? Of course. Can you discover new talent and forge new relationships” Yeah. Open mics vary city to city, but the raw and open still of each night is uniform. They also serve as live beta-testing for new songs too. If you haven’t worked out the bridge to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at home…or at the open mic, then you better keep this classic out of your song list on your weekly Friday night. (Lest the flying monkeys will get you)
2. Don’t Be “That Guy/Girl”
---“Can I borrow your mic/guitar/cables/boyfriend/girlfriend?” I will lend you a guitar once, maybe twice. After that, it’s time you invested in your own. Opening up for an artist in two weeks, but not posting on social media? Not hyping it up? Showing up late to the gig? Complaining about “having to do a soundcheck?” (see above) Again…..don’t be “that guy/girl.” It is a team effort…do your part.
1. Opportunity knocks when you are in shower
----You promote that show your performing or the album/EP you’re going to drop like your life depends on it. Social media has been churning out updates and your bandmates have covered the city in fliers…..and nobody shows or it doesn’t live up to your expectations. The week after, you’re playing a backyard BBQ for ten people, but two of those people can book a tour overnight,get you radio play or wants to present a high visibility opportunity for your music. What will you do? That’s why it is important to perform every show, for 15 or 1500 people with a reckless abandon. Go for it. Don’t let the size of the audience dictate the quality of your show. You never know who is watching or listening.
The Halo setting was something that stood out for me as currently I use another pedal that gives me a ethereal string section quality to my reverb as it engages my direct signal. The Halo setting, coupled with a delay (digital or not) made for a shimmer sitting right…..on…top of the sound and opened up a series of creative choices that didn’t present themselves until using the Polara. Studio guys might enjoy the Polara as the reverb signal itself has a very respectable bottom end in the EQ, this might work well for percussionist that wish to add a degree of body to their sound and add dimension to their outgoing sound.
The Jam Man Vocal XT is (drum roll) dedicated solely to vocal looping. This is reflected by the XLR-in and the XLR-out for true mic level signal. It has very intuitive operations with single button record/overdub then double tap stop and features the ability to take out the last thing you put in. This is attractive to me as it was very quick in undo/redo function. The Jamsync function is very, very, very cool…I don’t want to spoil a future blog and/or video…So look for more on that in the coming weeks.
I plan on writing a more in depth review of the Digitech products I invested a morning at NAMM looking at and an evening here in Vegas performing on. Keep an eye out for it.
Gear wasn’t the only thing showcased at the NAMM show, personalities were on full display as well. More so than the post-apocalyptic –zombie bands. (Some of the nicest guys I met….honestly) but world class musicians who are heralding their own lines of products.
Pittsburgh native (and acapella mainstay) Mike Why’s EP “Run My Mouth” was released with six well-arranged and diverse tracks that showcase the width and depth of Why’s talents both in the studio behind the mic and the console. It is obvious Why has spent years honing his crafts in the acapella circuit and found an audience coast to coast and has since set out as a solo artist that makes a very strong statement with his first solo album, ‘Run My Mouth.’
Starting with The White Stripes 2003 hit, ‘Seven Nation Army’ Why introduces the song as a two part harmony and within the first verse we have expanded into fully realized vocal percussion, electric guitar, point/counterpoint and an attentive call and response that finds Alex Clares runaway hit, ‘Too Close’ dropped in between verses. An interesting choice to bring two pieces that are harmonic cousins and have them mix well together. It is also a subtle choice as it works without having to make any rhythmic or harmonic addendums in real time and thus keeps the momentum Why establishes in the opening sixteen bars of the album. Listening to the vocal percussion on ‘Seven Nation Army’ the ear is never lacking variety as Why includes “live” drum fills in transitioning into different sections of the piece and also accenting key moments of the piece.
The second track is one of three original pieces Mike Why includes on ‘Run My Mouth.’ ‘Say What Ya Say (Blah, Blah, Blah)’ is a declaration of keeping focused and motivated while enduring naysayers and detractors on your own journey to the top. ‘Say What Ya’ say opens with a pedal point with a (vocal) horn section sitting on top that wouldn’t be out of place out of a Chicago or Tower of Power record that serves as an overture to Why’s anthem to self-reliance. For the most part it is an ABA form, but the midpoint of the song Why takes the hook and reharmonizes the B section before releasing us back into the A section for one last push to the end.
The Neon Trees lend ‘Animal’ to the third track on ‘Run My Mouth.’ ‘Animal’ combines the best of the previous tracks (horn sections, interesting vocal percussion and a deep understanding of four (sometimes five) part harmony) and showcases them in an uplifting, taut arrangement that tools his vocal percussion more an ensemble than as a substitute for a drummer. I would be curious to know how many voices Why used in the making of ‘Animal,’ keep an ear to the defacto bridge as Why’s tenor-centric “Hush, Hush the world is quiet” takes your ear into a peaceful spot and the main melody sails over the top to bring the song to a close.
‘Set Me Free’ is the second original piece Why gives us in ‘Run My Mouth.’ As a loop artist, composer and arranger; Mike’s use of reverse playback, filters and phasers pushes this song into a truer form of Electro than any other track on ‘Run My Mouth.’ The interludes and harmonic reworking that Why incorporates into other tracks is absent here, and I wonder what would happen if he reproached the song as a straight up Electro take. What I found effective is the use of smaller pieces of vocalization that offer new ways of exploring rhythms along the way. Instead of a true bass line, ‘Set Me Free’ uses a drone sitting on the bottom the entire song both during the verse and chorus. The reverse playback is used as an effect as well and not over done. The choice to use it as subtly as he does shows a deft hand in arranging that some artists lack.
‘Gold Digger’ finds it’s way onto Mike Why’s EP and rightfully so. Groove, hooks and catchy lyrics make this tune a joy to listen to, and if you have ever seen Mike Why live….a joy to perform! For me this tune is the most fully realized on ‘Run My Mouth.’ Mike pays tribute to both the Hip Hop and R&B worlds by using the close harmonies (Think ‘Thriller’) that make the transitions easy and push you over the bar line and into the next verse.
‘Run My Mouth’ draws to a close by revisiting ‘Say What Ya Say (Blah, Blah, Blah). This time with a few reworkings and more importantly featuring a rap interlude by Billy Pilgrim. This cut of ‘Say What Ya Say’ like ‘Gold Digger’ Mike uses octaves to beefen up horn sections and also vocal pads beneath the melody. It gives the ear something to grab onto while harmonies expand and contract around them if not only to serve as extra punch both as a harmonic , but also rhythmic device.
‘Run My Mouth’ delivers throughout its taut six tracks and there are moments that certain clichés from the looping world could have been utilized and become, well, cliché. Mike Why gives you just enough of one thing then moves onto the next. The vocal percussion is never flashy or over the top, but it is effective both the placement and execution. A few spots lend themselves for another listen as a creative gem was starting to get culled, and then moved onto for something else, but not enough to ruin the integrity of the record.
Moving forward, I am curious to see if Mike Why employs vocal effects be it live or in post during his shows and recordings. What he delivered on this EP I have seen him very effective in translating it live, to see what happens next while be an exciting experience. On the flip side of the coin, if Mike went back into the ranks of the acapella community, how would his experiences as a solo artist effect him in that setting?
‘Run My Mouth’ can be picked up at Mike Why’s website WhyMikeWhy.com. Mike Why can be followed on Facebook here and be kept up with in the Twitter-verse at@ MikeWhyTweets.
January. 17, 2015
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Greetings and Happy New Year everybody! If you have made it this far in to 2015 with me then you more than likely were a part of a very exciting 2014. I first owe you the reader an apology. I know December came and went and my blogs were pretty scant. The tail end of 2014 was a white-knuckle ride of travel, TV appearances, shows, new equipment (and the associated learning curve) and taking my music to the next level.
But I survived…
To catch you up my Fall 2014 tour ended and launched me right into the holiday season that had a number of public and private shows and a number of media spots as well. I launched my newest video and within two weeks it had already gathered 1600(!) views and was shared by leading music manufacturers worldwide, (Roland, BOSS, Fusion Bags, Electro Voice).
So what does 2015 have in store? No sooner did 2014 pass into memory when some very good news came my way. I was invited by the team at LiveLoopers.com to serve as an administrator in social media content and also invited to offer write ups on their website. I was also recently contacted by a few artists to review their own original material as well. It seems 2014 only served as an overture as the drums of success started banging away and ushering in 2015.
The NAMM 2015 Show is right around the corner again, and I have plans to return this year and check out all of the new toys the guys and dolls in the music industry give creative types like us to play with, around and on. There are a number of artists I exicted to listen to as well. The artist roster has been published on who will be making appreences and the established artists and those that have found their success through viral campaigns are side by side. Funny how the industry has changed even in my lifetime!
One of my goals for this year is to put out a sizable amount of videos. Demos, music performances and product reviews, etc. I know, I know, I’ve been slow in getting new material out, it is there…yet I only have 24 hrs in a day. Be patient…they are coming. Tonight I was going to do one…but it ended up being a photoshoot....fair trade.
Keep your eyes here and on my social media front as well for all of the latest going ons in the life and times of Just Alliance. Happy New Year to all of my friends, fans and fellow artists and a huge thanks to all of the companies, local, national and international that have extended their support to me.
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Monday January 5, 2015
Lots has been going on since I made home after my tour. Still going through photos and editing videos to post in the coming weeks, months, etc. Yesterday I shot a video with the help of Daniel Park, a Las Vegas based musician who performs regularly up and down the strip. The film is getting chopped, mixed and dressed up so I can post it soon, so keep an eye out for it.
In other news, the NAMM show is coming up next month and I have plans of attending. I am beyond excited to see all of the new music products from the established companies all the way to new start ups that are showcasing their wares. For my fellow artists out there, you should attend the NAMM show at least once....twice....thrice....or four times in your life. It is incredible! Last year I attended caught some amazing performances in addition to picking up a lot of product knowledge.
Looking forward to 2015, there are some exciting things on the horizon. Of course I can't go into too much detail yet, but you will see it here first when it does come down the pipe. I hoep wherever you are, and whoever you are with my blog finds you happy, healthy and able to spend the holidays with those you care about. Big love from the Southwestern United States!
December 9, 2014
In every “team-versus-the-bad-guy-movie” there is always the requisite scene where it introduces each character doing what they do best. Think of it: The A-Team, The Dirty Dozen, The Avengers, Ocean’s 11, each movie has a part where each team member is introduced in their own environment often times in an outlandish situation where only a particular skill set saves them from getting in trouble…or blown up by some super villain, or casino boss…or member of the Bad Guys Inc.
I was reminded of this a number of time through out the past six weeks when I would show up to a festival and be unloading my gear and look up to an artist who I had exchanged emails with, social media posts, or maybe even a short phone conversation with…and now there they were in the flesh. Performing, or ordering a drink, or struggling to carry in all of their own gear in one trip. (The latter part I never could do…despite my efforts…across three time zones.)
FreshFX and I share enough inspriration in the loop community to keep us talking for hours on who we like and why, but we also share enough dissimilar inspirations to learn a lot from each other. He puts on a number of local shows in and around the Columbus area that keeps him busy year round, and he is very much interested in brining further cohesion to the vocal looping community and blurring the local, regional and international borders between artists to further promote a oneness with all of us that will enable us to share tips, stories and a collective knowledge base.
When I first dived into vocal looping a number of years ago I was coming out of career in music education and traditional music education. I had been in the classroom for a number of years forging students, but I also spent many years in the rehearsal hall as well making musicians. One name kept popping up on who also combined music, vocal looping and pedagogy in the vocal music industry. One name also kept coming up of people who are as active as an educator as they are an artist. This name also popped up in the national loop championships a number of years ago.
Mr. Tim was one of the initial performers at the Northwest Loopfest in Seattle and we also share the stage in Portland, Oregon. I doubt a blog that is published on the world wide web is the not the place for trying to hide something, but I will say this: It felt awesome being on the same bill as an artist you have been watching since your initial start in vocal looping. Mr. Tim and I finally had a chance to chat backstage in Portland and Jean Paul DeRoover weighed in as well as the three of us swaped stories, tips and tricks on the tour road and shared our inceptions of becoming loop-based musicians.
Mr. Tim has cut a trail that I have crossed a number of times. Passionate about both music and education, we both share a larger part of the shared venn diagram than not. Mr. Tim knows my hometown of Vegas as well, and we compared notes on fun venues…and the best place to get late night eats after a show. My answer: Blueberry Hill. Look it up….it is where late-night appetites go to die. I am happy that Tim and I finally shared a show together, and am looking to do it again in the future.
The vocal looper I have done the most amount of shows with, and a true road warrior is Mike Why. Mike has shown up in an earlier blog a few weeks ago here on my website and rightfully so. Mike’s show and ability to craft exciting music with little to no effects has impressed me from Santa Cruz, Long Beach, Las Vegas, San Antonio and Austin. For me, the most engaging show was the last one in Austin before our tour routes became separate entities again as he pointed his sights toward the east, and I started making my way home through rustic, isolated wilds of West Texas into Albuquerque into Vegas.
Mike’s music is respectful of it’s roots in the acapella vein, but also serves tribute to the hip hop, reggae, pop rock, and singer songwriter arenas. His tour was almost twice as long as mine and I respect his stamina and work ethic to keep pushing across the country (twice) and back to Steeler country there in his home base of Pittsburgh. There are shows to be shared and more long stretches of tour that have yet to be shared with my musical brother from the City of Bridges. Keep an eye to his website and Facebook page, he is just as adamant about updating them as I am my own web presence.
The question remains, “What happens next since your tour is down?” Well the answer is pretty simple, “Watch and see.” I have new ideas, new perspective and a number of projects in the works. If you followed me the entire tour or are a new arrival, I do thank you for all of your support. The future looks to be very exciting and I am happy to have you the reader aboard with me. Thanks for all of your support.
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
November 16, 2014
The Y2K14 International Live Looping Festival was a perfect storm of creativity, opportunity and a family atmosphere that united dozens of loop artists and visual performers from both sides of the country and from three continents. The organizers took a deliberate interest in programming loop artists that are unique in their approach and execution of their art onstage. I was reminded of music camps I went to years ago that kept you immersed in a creative dialogue with not only yourself, but also your fellow artists from the time you woke up until the time you went to bed.
Manu and I got to know each other as much as our couple of weeks on the road allowed us. I was always quick to help him set up his gear. His too, takes up every square inch of a six foot table. (That’s 1.82 meters if you are reading this in France) With Manu, I found him to be such a gentle and caring soul that has lived a thousand times and every time has been reborn as a creative cleric. We spoke about life back in France and our creative inspirations. I found him to be soft spoken, but his words that he did share were always encouraging and loving.
Earlier I compared his music to mobiles and light. Manu is a man full of light and love. The morning after his headlining performance, we all had to bid ‘adieu’ to Manu. His path on the looper tour route turned east in Santa Cruz and took him back home. Like any loop, it will come full circle and Manu and I will have the chance for a creative synergy once again. A bientôt mon frère musical.
In the coming weeks I will blog about my experiences further down the tour route. The Southern California Loop Music Festival brought me in league with new artists, some years in the making. The night after the SoCal Fest ended, I was in a packed events center east of Hollywood watching the one artist he single handedly brought me into the world of live looping. Who that was and what happened will be coming to my blog in the coming weeks…..
On tour in Long Beach, California USA
Oct. 25, 2014
I will say this. The Seattle-Tacoma area (or SeaTac for those in the know) has culled more new fans then any place I think I have ever played. A number of friends of mine and music contacts had always told me, "You need to go to Seattle...or Portland, people there love outside the box stuff." The past week of shows has shown that to be very true. The fans at the festivals I have performed at and the events and venues in between have been supportive and have invested in the Just Alliance swag I have brought on the road to sell.
As far as the area itself, it is unlike my native high desert of Las Vegas. Green trees everywhere(!) you look and a the people here in the Northwest seem to have a more clearly defined identity and culture than some of the spots I have performed at in the past. I have also been very impressed with the independent music shops I have checked out. A wide selection and a number of pieces available that you didn't know existed....or you forgot about.
The past three days have delivered an incredible amount of creativity from the artist roster of the Northwest Loop Festival. Three days and nights of performance divided between two states and a dozen or so loop artist that have music as unique as the men and women that perform it. Chapman stick performers, avant-garde artists, noise music, guitar players, singer-songwriters, mandolion players and even a stray vocal loop artist or two.
And these are just the first night of performers....
The first night was like an 'Dirty Dozen,' 'Inglorious Basterds,' 'Maginificent Seven' kind of movie where the first act is devoted to each of the characters and their respective expertise. Thursday night at the Royal Room in Seattle was not any different. Men and and women who had existed through emails, social media and an occasional phone calls were now flesh and blood and they were now showcasing their own music from Paris, Osaka, Los Angeles, Denver, San Antonio, Stockholm and beyond.
To see so many varied types of loop artists in one place was beyond spoiling my creative palette. It was a celebration of kindred and creative spirits. Many had just driven, flown or taken a train that day. Once food, drink and a bit of fellowship were imbibed in, many of us settled in and found our own niche socially speaking and the same person who 24 hrs prior only existed on paper was now your dinner buddy, or giving you a ride or providing you with a place to stay.
There is so many things I want to write about and convey to friends and fans worldwide, I am going to have to spread it out over a few blogs. Instead I can start by simply saying: being a part of this is one of the best ventures I have ever done in my career and I am very proud of it and my fellow artists.
Now with a trio of festival performances behind me on this tour a number of others outside of the festival circuit, I am more motivated ever to push my self harder, dig deeper into my artistic well, and also learn from those around me about what makes them tick both on an offstage. I have included a few behind-the-scenes pics from the festival. The legendary backstage parties and fare of concerts doesn't show up here. Instead the realities of the road are reflected. 10 hour drives. 20 hour international flights. Sleeping 4 to a room. Sound check. Downbeat. Load out. Repeat...
But man......is it awesome. I wouldn't have it any(!) other way.
Near Seattle, Washington USA
P.S. Mark Taylor with Allstate Insurance......the team at Design One Printing and the massive support from Electro Voice and Fusion Bags has been incredibly generous in their support for my tour. I thank them all for being part of my corporate sponsorship team.
Yesterday's workshop at Yakima Valley Community College was a very rewarding experience. The students I had the opportunity to teach were in the earlier part of their college years and had to yet to transfer to area four year colleges to start on the selective (music) degrees. The performance two hours earlier served as the first official performance of my fall tour and with the first show behind me I am very excited for the coming Seattle show in two days time.
Just Alliance's Blog
Thoughts, ideas and musical musings from this Silver State Loop Artist.