BK Bulletin: I’m back…with news!

Yours truly in his new, makeshift home studio.

Hello there…it’s been awhile. I hope every one is doing as well as they can given the circumstances of these crazy past 16 months.

I come to you with some news…I have just officially released music for the first time ever, in the form of a five-song EP titled A Matter of Time, under the project name Ferocious Designs (see below for an explanation). It’s basically a collection of five songs I’ve written and recorded in GarageBand on my Mac over the past eight years or so, but I cleaned them up a bit to the point that I felt reasonably comfortable releasing them for potential commercial consumption.

The EP is currently available via Bandcamp and will soon be on streaming/download services like Spotify, Amazon, Apple and YouTube via DistroKid.

Visit ferociousdesigns.com for more information.

I released the first single, “Lay It on the Line,” a song co-written with John LeMasney during our old Technology and the Arts podcasting days, on June 18 to coincide with Bandcamp’s Juneteenth fundraiser.

Then, something completely unexpected happened. Longtime New Jersey music journalist Bob Makin reached out to me and said he was going to make “Lay It on the Line” his Makin Waves Song of the Week for when the EP was released, which was last Friday (July 16). So, yes…something I created is the current (for another couple of days, anyway) Makin Waves Song of the Week. Crazy, right?

It gets even crazier. Here is how Makin’s write-up appears.

As you might have guessed, that Peter Gabriel reference made my day. My entire worldview changed when I saw Gabriel’s powerful performance of “Biko” to close out his set at the Amnesty International concert at Giants Stadium on June 15, 1986. As the entire stadium echoed the closing chant of the song, Gabriel commanded “the rest is up to you” before walking offstage. The crowd kept the chant going for a few more minutes, but I took that call to action to heart, and seeing a seasoned music writer compare a specific element of the first song I ever release into the world to my all-time No. 1 music hero was incredible validation of this endeavor.

I have made two music videos so far for the EP, one for “Lay It on the Line” and another for the faux title track “Years Go By,” for which I decided to have fun with green screen and stock video footage from Videezy.com.

So…you may be asking “Why the name Ferocious Designs?”

Well, I never imagined ever releasing music under my own name, even when I was dreaming of being in a band in high school. Back then, I was obsessed with the name Omnium Gatherum, meaning a miscellaneous collection of things or a hodgepodge. But that name has since been taken by a European death-metal band, so that was out.

But the phrase “ferocious designs” — a lyric from Marillion’s 1991 song “Cover My Eyes (Pain and Heaven)” — had always stuck with me as a possible title or project name, so that’s what I went with. Listen for it in the first verse below.

Before I go, I should mention that a lot of this was spawned by working with my friend Christian Beach on his music since late March 2020. Christian released an EP called DoubleLife around that time and we worked on a couple of music videos remotely while under stay-at-home protocols, including this one for the amazing “Food on the Table.”

At the start of 2021, Christian released an album of mostly previously unreleased demos called Basement Noise and we again worked on a video remotely for the first single from the album, “Platte Cove Road.”

For the song “Missing Link,” I came up with a video idea that required us to shoot on location at a park just outside of Trenton, N.J., that once was the site of a popular amusement park in the early 1900s. The video’s centerpiece was the remnant of a grand staircase on the side of a hill that was a literal “missing link” to a bygone era. 

Also, this past winter, Christian assembled his live backing band — both in-studio and remotely — to record a new version of his song “Paper Ships” at Lakehouse Recording Studios in Asbury Park, N.J. I recorded an organ part at home and sent it in to be added to the mix. Christian released the standalone single in April, accompanied by another music video we shot at Huddy Park in Toms River, N.J. Oddly enough, a 2015 live performance of “Paper Ships” recorded at Huddy Park was included on the Basement Noise album. 

Oh yeah, I also learned how to make paper boats and used the dead roses left from the flowers I gave Alison for Valentine’s Day to create the single’s cover art.

So…this is what I’ve been up to during the pandemic. Honestly, releasing this EP was mostly a 50th birthday present to myself. But it’s been well-received and I am feeling a bit more confident about doing more of it. I don’t know when that will be, but I will always write songs every now and then. I’ve been doing it for over three decades so there’s no reason to stop now. I have some strong ideas in my head right now, so I guess Ferocious Designs will continue to exist exclusively as a studio project. It just might be a few years until the next release.

OK…that’s all from me. Again, I hope all is well with everyone.

Take care.

Making a music video while quarantined

hqdefaultMy longtime friend Christian Beach is a talented musician based in New Jersey who fronted a few industrial and alternative rock bands from the early 1990s into the early 2000s. Around 2006, he made the transition to a traditional singer-songwriter influenced by Hank Williams Sr., Bob Dylan, The Band and contemporary artists like Jeff Tweedy (Wilco). Continue reading “Making a music video while quarantined”

BK Bulletin: March 2020 – Coronavirus Edition

Welp…so much for the year and the decade being off to a good start, as I stated at the top of the last update. Less than a month later, we are living in the midst of a global disaster thanks to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Continue reading “BK Bulletin: March 2020 – Coronavirus Edition”

BK Bulletin: January/February 2020 – A half marathon returns to Trenton!

The new year—and decade—is off to a pretty good start, although I would have preferred if I sent this out a couple of weeks ago. The big news is that (fingers crossed), for the first time since 2017, a half-marathon race is going to be run in Trenton, NJ, in 2020. Also, I was able to see two favorite music acts of mine, China Crisis and Midge Ure, at an intimate venue just 15 minutes from my house.

Read on to find out what else has been going on since mid-December… Continue reading “BK Bulletin: January/February 2020 – A half marathon returns to Trenton!”

BK Bulletin – April 2019: Ten Years Ago…

Issue 9 (April 13, 2019)

Ten years ago on April 10, I asked Alison to marry me…on her birthday. Fortunately, she hadn’t had coffee yet and obviously wasn’t thinking clearly, so she said “Yes.” That very night, I backed my friend Christian Beach on organ, accordion percussion and vocals for his CD release party. Ten years ago on April 13, the Phillies lost their voice, Harry Kalas. Here is a look back April 2009, a recap of this year’s Phillies Opening Day with Graham, another new song from me, and a few more odds and ends…

Continue reading “BK Bulletin – April 2019: Ten Years Ago…”

BK Bulletin – February 2019: Better late than never

Well, I was holding off on sending this until Bryce Harper signed with a team, but apparently that’s never happening (and as I type this right now, it’s looking less likely it will be with the Phillies, but who knows?). Anyway, now we’re at the end of the month so I figured I should send this and share an epic Rider University journalism photo and some music I’ve been listening to lately…

Continue reading “BK Bulletin – February 2019: Better late than never”

BK Bulletin – January 2019: Already…ugh!

I closed out 2018 and welcomed 2019 with a completely ridiculous sinus infection (as diagnosed, although I’m not entirely sure that was correct). That was quickly followed up by a stomach bug and now a slight cold. In the few hours of decent health I’ve had so far during this newborn year, I somehow managed to write my first real song in ages. Read on for more about that, and other odds and ends…

Continue reading “BK Bulletin – January 2019: Already…ugh!”

Time Takes Over: 30th Anniversary Mix

Me at my keyboard rig around 1990. "Time Takes Over" features sounds from the Roland U-20 synth on the top tier of my Apex stand (over the Ensoniq ESQ-1 on which I have my right hand).
Me at my keyboard rig around 1990. “Time Takes Over” features sounds from the Roland U-20 synth on the top tier of my Apex stand (over the Ensoniq ESQ-1 on which I have my right hand).
“Time Takes Over” is the first complete song I ever wrote. I was 17 at the time and it was strangely inspired by a co-worker of mine at the time who was only a year older than me, but had the personality and outlook of Archie Bunker.

Anyway, we worked at what is now a long-gone Pizza Hut in Point Pleasant, N.J. It was summer 1988 — in between my junior and senior years of high school — and the older sister of one of my classmates got a summer job as a cook/server/hostess with us. I had known her brother for years and knew her a bit, and never would have imagined her wanting anything to do with my overtly racist, sexist co-worker. But they wound up hooking up that summer.

Of course, she went back to college in the fall and since our business dropped like a stone when the summer tourists left, that left a lot of downtime for my co-worker and I to talk. And, for the first time, he sounded human. He really did care for her.

Shortly after she returned to college, my co-worker went to visit her. He expressed to her how he wish they had more time together, and — this is what he told me — she said to him, “Well…time just takes over.” And, at that, she suggested to him they just stay friends.

So, that’s the story behind this song. And it’s weird that one of the most stoic people I have ever known opened up his heart to me and inspired what I think is a pretty emotional song.

Anyway, the following summer he hooked up with another summer Pizza Hut employee and wound up marrying her (even though my classmate’s sister also came back to work with us that summer…which was awkward). I’ve Googled the guy in the past — and just did before posting this — and it appears he’s living in central New Jersey and married to the woman he met at Pizza Hut in 1989. But I haven’t seen him since the early 90s…well, except for one time when I drove by him when he was a cop in a Jersey Shore town a few years later.

Regarding the song itself, most of the instrumentation you hear on this track is from a cassette of the original instrumental demo I recorded in October 1988 using sounds from my old Roland U-20 synthesizer. It wasn’t until a year or so later that I got around to recording the vocals, but by then the arrangement had changed a bit (so I spliced and rearranged this a bit to fit the finished version). I recently added the vocals, wind chimes/shaker track and augmented piano/bass parts to this version, so I would have a complete recording of the original version in time for the song’s 30th anniversary in October.

Now, obviously, this milestone means nothing to anyone but me. My music career went nowhere, and I’m not really a musician anymore except for when my friend Christian Beach* needs me to be one or when I’m inspired and motivated to compose/record something. But I’m still proud of this song. I’m not sure how many 17-year olds were writing songs like this in 1988, but it couldn’t have been many. I mean, at its base, it really is a bubble-gum song about young love that is ultimately unrequited. But it sounds and feels so much bigger than that.


*Speaking of Christian, during our time in a band together from 1989-91, we actually played “Time Takes Over” in one of our live shows. Here is video of that performance (from 1990?), which features my trying — and mostly failing — to sing with a terrible head cold.

And here is the most recent update of “Time Takes Over.” I recorded this version in 2016.