Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Always learning

For years and years and years, I've worn some silicone "tree"-like earplugs when I'm playing bass or going to shows. The ones I have are similar to this, but clear and made for music.
They cut out enough and let me hear what I need to hear, while protecting my ears at the same time. Or so I thought.

Last night at band practice, we really focused on vocals for a change. I recorded our last show, and let's just say that the vocals left a bit to be desired. The sound guy and mixed them hot, and I had the camera mic right near the speakers, so those hot vocals really jumped out on the video. Though not 100% awful, it's not good enough to let others hear.

I've known that we've always had opportunities to get better vocally, but we never really worked on it. We always felt we were close enough. After seeing that video, we definitely need to get better.

For a while now, with the Navins, at least, I've always thought I sang in key and as close to pitch as possible. Of course, I've never sang lead before the Navins, either, so a lot of what I'm doing is new. But I feel like over the past year or so, I've gotten a lot better.

When I heard the video, I still felt that way, that for rock and roll my vocals were good enough. That with more practice, I would get better than "good enough."

Last night during practice, Corey and I worked on our vocals. He sings a lot of backing vox and I always thought he would be flat. I was surprised when both Cain and Gary commented that my vocals were off a bit. Not that I'm not blameless, but to my ear, I always seemed to hear Corey's vocals tailing off.

I was getting a little frustrated as I couldn't tell how I was missing my notes. Then I remembered I had another set of earplugs I got from work a few years ago. I forget the brand right now, but I tried them on and a few things changed. I could hear a lot more treble; Corey's high-hat really cut through and stood out. Also, my bass seemed less boomy. But, most importantly, I heard my vocals in my head a lot better.

Normally, I've been singing with my nose literally resting on the mic. That allows me to sing with my eyes closed and not be blindly hovering away from the mic. It also allows me to hear myself better as I'm closer to the mic. Right on it, actually. But in doing so, anytime I sing loud, it really overpowers the mic and it's just too much.

I'm working on modulating my distance from the mic, but with the other earplugs, I'm able to back off quite a bit and still hear myself. I felt like I was really able to grab onto the notes I had to sing and hold. Thought I lost a lot of the bottom end of my bass, which I missed, the frequencies I gained in my vocal listening really made up for it.

We have a show in about a week and a half. It's our biggest show to date, being at the Sunset for the first time. We're opening for two bands with some juice (Guns of Nevada and the Meices) and we expect to see a lot of people there. With just one more practice to go, here's hoping we can get the vocals dialed in so I can post a video without fear of embarrassing ourselves.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

New watch: Citizen NY2300-09G

Sometime last week, I entered a contest on a watch website I frequent, www.watchuseek.com. On that forum, I've become a frequent poster in F71, otherwise known as the Affordable Watches forum. Every once in a while, when a member hits a milestone of posts about watches (it's up to the poster), they'll do a contest.

In this case, a member named KrisOK started a contest where the prize was a Citizen NY2300 automatic diver watch with a Pepsi bezel. He posted some pictures and I liked how the watch looked. He wanted us posters to note that we wouldn't flip the watch (worth about $90-120) and explain how we got into watches in the first place. He said he would choose a winner at random. Here's what I posted:
Brother, I would wear that with pride. I can't promise it to be an everyday wear, but it would make its way to the top of the rotation, for sure.
I've worn watches since at least high school. I wish I had photos of the ones I had back then. I remember a Patek Philipe homage of some sort I got from my folks when they visited Taiwan.

I remember Casios, both digital, analog and digi-analog. I remember a green Timex digital, likely an Expedition of some sort.

I got my first "real" watch when I got married. In fact, I got two. One was a Rolex from my parents. It was gold and beautiful, but not my style. The other was an Omega Seamaster, which was given to me by a family friend. That became my daily wear for 14 years or so. During that timespan, I did get a Timex Ironman ana-digi (the one that Will Ferrell wore in "Stranger than Fiction") and that made it in the rotation for a bit.

Even so, I wasn't "into" watches; I just wore them to tell the time.

About 2 years ago, I started talking to a guy at work who always had a different watch on. He told me about a "world" of "watches" website, so I started looking there. Like a previous poster, I had no clue about the markup on watches and thought these deals were fantastic. As well as the ability to pay $30/month for a few months for a watch. I never did buy a watch from there, though, just started looking.

Then, through the power of the internet, I discovered WUS. I started reading and researching and really found a home here on F71.

As I had a birthday coming up, I took that occasion to purchase myself a Casio EFM-100 diver, orange bezel, incredible bracelet, off of eBay. That started me down this path. I've probably purchased between 20-30 watches since then, sold 10-15 of them, and have settled on my current rotation of 16. I've given my 11 year old son my Casio Royale (on a red/blue NATO!), my wife a Timex Weekender chrono and a Withings Activite Pop, and my daughter my pair of Old Navy specials (2 field watches found for $5.98 each).

This year, I started a Project 365 for watches. I've posted many of them here at WUS in the WRUW threads, but I have every watch I've worn since 1/1/16 in a photo album at Flickr. (https://www.flickr.com/gp/gwonchang/oBKS05)

I am on F71 several times daily, perusing the WRUW threads, the epic "Is there no love for Timex" thread, Huunuu's "$20 and under" thread, and many many others. The respect, obsession, humor, dorkiness, and passion we all have for our timepieces (and each other) is what keeps me coming back.
A week or so passed and I checked into the thread from time to time. There were a lot of cool stories about how people became enamored with watches. A few days later, I got an email notification from Watchuseek.com. Usually I get these when I'm selling a watch or something. I had forgotten about the contest.

Needless to say, I won! KrisOK had used a random number generator website and out of 63 entries, my lucky number 18 won the watch! It just showed up today, and I had the pleasure of opening it up when I got home from work. Here are some photos.

A nice note from KrisOK

He had this thing wrapped nicer than watches I've purchased!

Free microfiber cloth and more bubble wrap.

He also gave a soft denim NATO strap along with the watch itself.

Brand new Citizen NY2300-09G, unworn!

Watch and tag.

Tried to put it on, but couldn't. Check the buckle. :)

After a quick strap flip, the time is set and the watch is on!

The stock, rubber strap.

Super stoked for this watch!
So there you have it, the new Citizen on the wrist. Other things I loved about winning this watch:
  • I don't have any Citizens, so this is my first!
  • I don't have a Pepsi diver, so this is my first! I've been eyeing a Seiko SKX009, but never got around to getting one.
  • KrisOK found it too small for his wrist. I think it's perfect for my little wrist!
  • Getting a free denim NATO.
Now I need to plan for my giveaway. I'm coming up on 1000 posts as well and I'm looking forward to paying it forward.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Ethyl at Tommy's 9/28/01 (video)

Tommy's was a place in the U-District way back. It was on the Ave and I don't remember much about it other than we played there a few times and the big garage door backdrop is cool when cars drive by.

Ethyl at the Lakepointe, 9/1/01 (video)

We practiced all summer at the Olympic Foundry, in the Georgetown area of South Seattle. If you look down at a manhole cover or a sewer grate, chances are it says Olympic Foundry on it and now we have something in common.

This show was played at the Lakepointe, a bar and grill in Kenmore. I remember a woman named Deb Rock used to book the place and for whatever reason, booked us there. I think we were on a bill with some friends' bands also, maybe Healer?

These were the days when you could still walk your spouse/girlfriend to the gate in the airport and not have to stand in line. A few days after this, I was in San Diego and then 9/11 hit and, well, you know the rest.

The video is boomy and loud and distorted in some places. I think I shot this before I got the off-camera mic, which cuts eliminates the distortion but may reduce some of the bombasticness too. I don't know. Either way, this show sounds pretty good and for a first show, we played pretty well.

Ethyl at the Central, 10/1/2001 (video)

This video is from 2001, the first time Ethyl played the Central in Pioneer Square. I don't recall how long we'd been rehearsing by now, likely just a few months. Even so early in our time together, we were pretty tight.

Both Johnny and Rob are not playing music in bands now. Well, Rob plays at church, I think, but in chatting with Johnny last night, he's been unable to find a band to work with in Roseville, CA. Which is a crying shame. The guy is a natural; looks great, sounds great, charismatic, funny, and people eat him up.

Since I've been doing the co-front man thing with the Navins, I've really wanted to up my between song banter. Usually I try not to say anything. However, sometimes, you just need to say something to break up the awkward silences during guitar tuning sessions, etc. At our last show, I said some things and I didn't hate them all. When I watch Johnny, he's clever and effortless and almost always cool. I feel like I'm trying too hard.

Practice makes perfect, right?

Get ready for more videos. Most of them will be from Ethyl. If you want to see more, you can look on my youtube page here: LINK.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Dusting off the oldies

Video 8 tapes and cassette tapes.
I was cleaning out a cabinet today and decided to go through old tapes. I had pulled out the video tapes last week to find a tape to record over for my Navins show. In the meantime, I left all the video 8s out. I organized them into piles. By far, the most tapes go to Ethyl. There's a big family stack, and then some other bands and some dedicated to Hay or Rye.

As far as cassette tapes go, I found a couple of Grasshopper tapes, some live recordings, and even some Whiskey Dick tapes. I'm talkin' mid-90s for those. Additionally, I found some old mix tapes and recordings from the radio!

Trouble is, I don't have any tape players in the house that work. There's an old Pioneer we've had sitting around, but last week when I tried it out, the tape decks don't work at all. I'm thinking Hay or Rye should have one from when they were younger laying around somewhere. I'll have to get those into the computer.

In the meantime, I've been downloading via video camera into my computer. I've downloaded a band I played in in the late-90s to about 2000 called While Away. We'll see if they see the light of day.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Hunt: update

Contact has been made and the Sterling has been located! I still don't know where in the world it is, but a nice man named Oliver is the current owner. We have started some internet correspondence and I've made it known I'd like to see about obtaining it somehow.

Stay tuned.

The Navins at the Blue Moon, 6/11/16

Well all right! Saturday was my first time playing at the Blue Moon on 45th. Last time I set foot in there was maybe 20 years or so ago when my sister-in-law, Alison, and her husband, Todd, lived up here. It was before any of us had kids and we had gone there on New Year's Eve. Well, we ended up there, somehow; we didn't plan on going there, I don't think.

But, even so, I'm guessing that 20 years ago, the only things different about the place were the hi-def widescreen TVs. Of which there was only 2. Still had books on the shelves, likely still had the same clientele there also. Leave it to the Navins and crew to modernize the place up.

First up was a little power trio called Vibragun. Joel on guitar and vocals, Crystal on bass and vocals and not sure about the drummer's name, but I think it was Preston.

Vibragun. Check 'em out!
They played a nice, tight set of shoegazy rock. Lots of pedals on stage, lots of different sounds, very moody stuff. As bands go, I enjoyed their stuff. Plus, they were nice! And Crystal played some badass bass! Her small hands looked like they couldn't do it, but she did awesome.

Next up was The Fucking Eagles. Apparently they get their name from the movie The Big Lebowski, where one of the characters hears the actual Eagles and mutters something about, "the fucking Eagles."

As they set up, it looked like there were about 7 of them. Turns out, it was a 5 piece (drums, bass, 2 guitars and a harmonica) and a guest on 2 songs. They were rough and riotous. It was dirty and nasty and their drummer was like Animal back there. They should put him up front, he was so entertaining.

The Fucking Eagles. Look out!
We took the stage after them and there was a nice little crowd there for us. I had six people there, 66% of which were lesbians! I found it amusing.

For such an old club, the Blue Moon had a decent monitor set up. At least I could hear myself pretty well. The sound guy only miked the kick drum and vocals, though. Our amps did all the rest. From where I was, though I could hear Corey's drums just fine, I felt like he was playing at practice volume. I didn't feel much energy from him, but it could have been him playing it safe as he was having slippery bass drum issues.

Emoting at the Blue Moon.
Sort of weird, though. I felt like we had a rough night. I did, at least. I had a several times where I forgot words, or sang the wrong words. I also wore my hair down and I didn't realize how hard it was to see the frets through hair. There were a few songs where I simply played wrong notes!

People didn't seem to care, though. Everyone had a good time. Even our onstage banter wasn't too awkward. Usually I don't like talking much, but I figured I should practice in case none of the other guys want to talk.

Overall, we played pretty well, despite my errors. I did bring my old Sony Video 8 camera to record our show. I've had that thing since at least 2001 or so, as I recorded lots of Ethyl shows with it. This is the first show I've recorded in years and, after reviewing it when I got home, it sounded great, it looked pretty good (only 480p; this was before HD), and, yes, there were errors, but not as bad as I thought.

I know that as the player, you're always your worst critic. Despite my misses, I need to remember that I'm pretty good at what I do and even though there were some clams, the show was pretty good. The video is processing right now and I'm gonna get it to the guys. After that, we'll put it on youtube for people to check out.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Hunt

All this bass talk recently, especially regarding my bass genealogy has gotten me looking around for my old Sterling.

According to this post, I traded it away in August 2008. I was happy with the Lakland I traded for, but in the years I've had that bass, it's been firmly entrenched as a #2. I play it at home, but I rarely gig with it. I'm just that in love with the SB-2.

However, I do think of the Sterling from time to time. I remember the guy I traded it to (Mr. Matt on talkbass.com) had it for a bit, and then he moved it on to someone else. Thanks to the talkbass.com website, sales on the board are tracked and rated much like ebay transactions. Some sleuthing and note taking show the bass went from: 

Me: 1995 to 2008
Mr. Matt (Bothell area): August 2008 to March 2009
willsellout (Astoria, OR): March 2009 to August 2009
RD (Seattle!): August 2009 to October 2009 (2 months!)
Basspro (Las Vegas): October 2009 to November 2009 (One month!)
Spufman (CT): November 2009 to April 2013
liverbird (overseas!): April 2013 to ???

And that's where the trail goes cold. I did send a message to liverbird (I'm thinking UK with a handle like that) to see if he still had it or if he knew where it went. Might be sort of creepy, but I really don't care. Marci told me once if I could get it back, I could get it back. But I gotta find where it is first.

All the guys that have had it sing the praises of it. The bass got a little of a reputation on TB as a beautiful bass, with a neck that has bird's eye maple on it the likes of which none of them had ever seen. So much love for that thing. And now I'm wanting to bring it home.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Riley on bass

Sometime last week I was noodling around on my bass and Riley sat next to me on the couch. I don't recall what sparked the discussion, but before long, he was asking to play it.

I set him up with my Lakland (it has lower action than the G&L) and showed him a few basics. Initially I wanted him simply to fret with his left hand and then pluck with his right. I showed him where his finger should go behind the fret in order to let the note ring. I showed him how the note would choke if he had his finger improperly placed.

He messed around for a bit and that was that. But he did ask if I was going to leave the Lakland at home...

The past few days, he's been playing on and off a few minutes at a time.

Tonight he came down with a printout of Yankee Doodle, complete with bass tab. I taught him how to read the numbers on the lines (it's like reading music for people who can't read music), and away he went.

I did tell him that since he can read music, that tab is just for him to learn the relation of the notes to the neck. That he can't rely on the tab to read music.

But he played for about 15 minutes and he was picking it up pretty well. I started playing bass after 7th grade. He's just finishing up 6th grade. Unclear if he'll continue, but it's a cool start and I'm stoked that he's showing some interest.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

My basses: the high school years

Today's my day off. I dropped some junk at a local recycle place (3 computers, monitor, TV) and of course stepped in the guitar shop next door.

Hanging on the wall was a beautiful orange/white G&L SB-2T. I played it for a few and really liked it. But for $1300 or so? I will just have to slum with the SB-2 I have now.

It got me to thinking, though. What basses have I had over the years? Do I have photos?

Well, lots and yes. But I'm too lazy to look for photos of all of them so off to the web I go.

Ibanez Soundgear.

Me and said Soundgear at my high school graduation.

My first bass was an Ibanez Soundgear that my parents got for me out of a Musician's Friend catalog. I must have been a sophomore or junior at the time. Played it for many years. It ended up being with me at least until 1995 or so. I think I gave it away in the early 2000s.

Kramer Fretless bass. If you look under the bed on the first picture above, you'll see the case for this bass!
Somehow I thought I needed a fretless bass. I got a model like this from a local music shop. I remember the forked headstock and the metal down the back of the neck. I also remember the giant black knobs: clear plastic with numbers inside. The bass was super heavy and I could never get the intonation right. I don't remember what I did with it, but it's not part of my life anymore.

Kramer acoustic bass
Weirdly, friends and I thought we'd be able to busk at markets to "get our music heard." Rather than lugging amplification around, we'd use acoustic guitars. Hence, the acoustic bass. For some reason, I think the one I had was a Kramer as well, but I can't honestly remember. This bass I didn't have for too long.

Hohner headless bass.
I first became obsessed with Rush during my sophomore year. I had heard Tom Sawyer before, but I was 9-10 at the time. When I played in a band called the Roundabouts in my sophomore (?) year, we did some cover tunes (So Lonely by the Police, Jet Airliner by SMB, IIRC) and for some reason, I was reintroduced to Rush. And then when I saw Geddy Lee playing his little Steinbergers and I saw a copy at that same local music store (was it MusicWest? I can't remember), I had to have one.

This little guy was tiny and sounded like crap. Then again, I had a crappy amp (still have it: Peavey Basic 40), and didn't have any clue (still don't) on how to get good tone. I loved the little kickstand you could use to play the bass while sitting down. It also had a XLR output on it for those times when you wanted to go direct to the board. That bass somehow ended up in the hands of an old bandmate. I don't know if he still has it but I'ma gonna ask. Maybe it'll make its way back to me.

Of course, knowing what I know now about basses, I wish I'd have "borrowed indefinitely" the basses I played in my HS jazz band. Every morning, I'd show up for jazz and play either a Fender P or a Fender Jazz bass. At least I think there was one of each. There definitely were 2 Fenders at my disposal. There was a big ol' Fender Bassman amp and cabinet, too. I'm sure they've all been put out to pasture by now.

I think those are the basses I had in high school. It wasn't until I got out of college that I graduated to other basses. I'll write about those next.