Who’s scruffy-lookin’?

If you missed Nerf Herder’s first album in the mid-90s, you missed an early pop-punk gem. There is a good chance you have heard their song “Van Halen,” which for me is as close to a 12-step group as I am likely to find. I have always wondered what happened to the band (aside from them providing the totally bitchin’ theme to Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and I am pleased to find that Crawdaddy has the scoop. This is a funny interview, even if you do not know Nerf Herder.

Weird Al, live in 84

Wolfgang’s Vault is awesome, and I’ve heard some really great recordings of old concerts (look for the 1988 Prince’s Trust on there). But I didn’t expect this chestnut from 1984, where Weird Al, touring between In 3D and Dare to be Stupid, does songs he never recorded in the studio, including the ultimate Billy Joel dis and a surprisingly filthy take on Jim Croce. It’s also fantastic to hear “Polkas on 45” in front of an audience that has no idea what’s coming next. Every 15 seconds you can hear a cheer go up. (And when I was a kid, I never got that “Mr. Popeil” was a B-52s homage — it was just a funny song about all those TV commercials I saw between afternoon cartoons. I obviously get it now!)

Just another little bit of inspiration as I get my musical head together.

Jude stuff

Jude and I are getting back in the Palette-Swap Ninja groove. We had an idea last year that we couldn’t get done in time, and we’re putting it back on the front burner. We’ll have a finished song in a month or so, and we have three more ideas.

Also, he’s very quietly launched a small blog for his arcade restoration hobby. He just got a house and the house has a basement and the basement has coin-ops. He’s in the process or rebuilding an Atari Star Wars machine that some moron made into a MAME cabinet. See for yourself.

The stupid-ass Robot Guitar

Gibson’s Robot Guitar features a special bridge and motorized tuners. You turn the knob, it automatically tunes your strings. You want an alternate tuning, it twiddles the tuners for you. MSRP: $4000, retail around $2500.

When I heard about it, I was skeptical. When I saw and heard it myself at CES this year, I was convinced by their own demonstration that it was a bad idea. And now — no surprise at fucking all – it’s on clearance. $1400, anybody? (That’s still $300 more than a standard SG Special.)

Why did it fail? Because innovation is bred by need, and failures are bred by gimmicks. Musicians do not need this technology. If you are blessed with perfect pitch, you already have an electronic tuner on your pedal board, or a $3 tuning fork. I don’t need hundreds of dollars of extra shit on my headstock to do what my ears already can. It’s actually pretty insulting. And this is a classic dumb move where a company comes up with a product and tries to invent a need for it, only to find what any real consumer could have told them before they wasted all that money: no need exists. So suck on the excess inventory of your failure, you arrogant bastards.

Gibson, if you want to drag guitar technolo into the future, stick with the MAGIC system and the HD.6X-Pro digital Les Paul. Bring the costs on that down to levels normal human beings can afford and you might have a cool creative tool. Someday, someone will improve on what Les and Leo did in 1952. Automated tuners? Fail.

Fast Times Live!

I have had several thoughts that I wanted to share but don’t have the time to blog about. Twitter is becoming more and more useful for that stuff.

But a few folks recently said “I am sorry to hear you’re leaving the band, I never got to hear you sing live.” Well, there’s still a few chances — notably a Halloween show at Jillian’s at the Metreon in SF — and of course, the whole point of leaving the band is so I can focus on other musical stuff, so I’ll likely still be inflicting my voice on you in recorded form instead of in a club or at a casino. If I make anything I’m proud of, I’ll post MP3s.

But for those of you a bit further away who still wish you could have made it to a show, here’s a live medley I edited together, which was part of the band’s recent media kit refresh. This is straight out of the board at Club 88 at Cache Creek Casino from a two-night stand this summer, so it’s a pretty accurate representation of what we’re like live (though we couldn’t control the board mix and I was hoping a few things would be a bit more balanced). And now, it makes a nice audio time capsule for me as I exit.

Fast Times – Live Sampler 2008


Tonight is a big charity event — Knocktoberfest, a hybrid show of live 80s music and burlesque dancing to benefit the fight against breast cancer. Kat and Kimzey did most of the heavy lifting, but it has been neat to be involved at the ground level of a charity event.

Full details on the event are here. And if you are inclined to throw us a PayPal donation, that would always be appreciated. Hopefully I’ll have some incriminating photos to share in the coming week.

How do you want to make up your mind?

As I divest myself from the band a little more each day — even though there are still five gigs before my official parting date — it’s that magical time toward the end where every little thing gets on one’s nerves. Lately it’s been how the band makes decisions. It’s always sort of taken care of itself but this year it got what I felt to be needlessly complicated; things that were decided got undecided and work was wasted. Since then, I’ve started to look at how we actually reach decisions to see if I can figure out how that happened.

We have always said we were a democracy, and we do often take votes, but I realized that’s not always the best definition after a friend sent me this very informative link. Like, in a group democracy, what happens when people simply don’t respond with a vote, or when someone just brings up more data when asked a yes/no question? That happens a lot, unfortunately, and I think it changes our decision-making category mid-stream. It looks like our band is more like a consensus, with occasional flashes of autocracy (in times of crisis or apathy). I see elements of the other categories in our past decisions, too.

You’ve all been in groups of some sort — charity organizations, creative teams, sports teams, choirs (hi, Jenny3K), whatever. What was your system, and how did it work for you?