Vote for “Gone Too Far” on Lafango.com

I have entered “Gone Too Far,” one of my techno-industrial songs from the mid 1990s, into the Electronica 2012 contest on Lafango.com. After listening to it in the Soundcloud player below, please feel free to vote for “Gone Too Far” at Lafango.com if you like what you hear…or if you just would like to help me out. Voting concludes at noon (ET) on Aug. 31, 2012.

This was written and originally recorded on a 4-track during my more angst-ridden days, but I have updated it for this contest by recording it with GarageBand on my MacBook.

Anyway, thanks for reading this and thank you for your support.

A blast from my musical past

If you search “TMC” or select the “TMC” category on this blog, you’ll find a bunch of posts about a music group I was part of back in 1988-90 called TMC + The New Generation (although, shortly before I left the group, we informally changed our name to Interläken Pröbe to reflect a shift to a more industrial hip-hop sound). The group consisted of me and my friend Christian Beach—who went on to become very talented singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist—on keyboards, samplers, sequencers and drum machines…and a rapper from Asbury Park, N.J., named Tariq Mohammed.

Christian’s father, Gorgo, also a musician, put us in touch with Tariq, who was a rapper looking to work with a band rather than using backing tracks or a DJ. Knowing that Christian and I had recently started working on electronic “new age” music together, Gorgo suggested to Tariq that the three of us should get together and see if we could combine rap with electronic music.

The full story of TMC + The New Generation can be read here, but the short story is we obviously didn’t get anywhere as a band.

Looking back, though, you could say that we were very ambitious—actually, TOO ambitious. But what we were trying to do—combine rap with electronic music AND multiple pop/rock genres—wasn’t very common in those days. And here we were, three teenagers along the Jersey Shore (and not one of us drunk or with a stupid nickname) to create this type of music with an array of electronic instruments we didn’t fully understand. As you would expect, we just were not experienced or mature enough to properly turn our musical visions into reality. But there were moments that still exist on old recordings and videos in which a glimpse of brilliance shines through. One such moment was a song that started out as something we nicknamed “Reggae Rap.” Tariq had the idea of rapping over a reggae-style song so we started playing a preset reggae rhythm pattern on Christian’s Roland R-8 drum machine and improvised some keyboard parts over it.

Eventually, we added a three-part harmony to the chorus and the song became known as “You’re That Kind of Girl.”

We performed the song a couple of times, including once at The Green Parrot—the long-gone rock club that used to be on Route 33 in Neptune, N.J. Someone videotaped that show for us so, despite the poor quality of the audio and video, it  provided us with a recording of a lot of our material. Unfortunately, videotape doesn’t last forever and the quality continues to get worse over time. My copy of the tape, which I believe is the only one still around, actually broke near the beginning of “You’re That Kind of Girl” and I had to repair it to salvage a partial version of the song.

Anyway, I’m rambling so here’s the deal…after a few years of being in and out of touch with each other after our TMC days, Christian and I have been reconnected since 2005 and I have even performed and recorded with him a few times over the past few years. More recently, a virtual TMC reunion took place when Christian and I became friends with Tariq on Facebook.

Tariq and I have since exchanged messages via Facebook and an audio excerpt of the live version of “You’re That Kind of Girl” popped up unexpectedly on my iPod while driving a few days ago. It got me thinking that I should record a decent version of the song…so that’s what I did. Of course, since I never knew the lyrics rapped by Tariq in the verses (and the lone surviving recording is mostly unintelligible), I rewrote the verse lyrics while retaining the spirit and melody of the original version (and, yes, I rhymed “me” with itself at one point…I wasn’t spending THAT much time on this). I also tweaked the arrangement a bit.

But, overall, the 2012 version of “You’re That Kind of Girl” is pretty much just an updated version of the 1989/90 version…and I even included a some faux auto-tune as a nod to the song’s rap origins since I was not about to try rapping.

Enjoy…

“You’re That Kind of Girl (2012)”
[audio http://tandemwiththerandom.com/misc/music/You’re%20That%20Kind%20of%20Girl%20(2012).mp3]

Putting a dream into action

Howard Jones
Howard Jones

This post started out as a recap of the notable moments from Thursday night’s Howard Jones show at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pa…but evolved into something completely different.

So, yeah…I went to see Howard Jones perform this past Thursday night, marking the fourth time I’ve seen him live. The first time was a solo performance of “No One is to Blame” on a digital piano during the June 1986 Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope Tour finale at Giants Stadium (where he was introduced on stage by Michael J. Fox). I saw HoJo again in June 1989, this time in full electronic mode in Holmdel, N.J. (with the incredible Midge Ure from Ultravox and Visage as the opening act). Then, I had the chance to briefly meet and talk to HoJo after seeing him perform in an “acoustic duo” format (even though he was playing a digital piano) in Blackwood, N.J., in January 2008 (I would have had a picture, too, if my camera batteries hadn’t died).

Last night, HoJo was in full electronic mode and, for this tour, is playing all the songs from his first two albums, both of which I probably listened to thousands of times as a teenager.  The first half of the set included all the songs — although not in track-list order — from HoJo’s 1983 debut, Human’s Lib; the other portion of the show featured all the tracks (again, not in album sequence) from his 1985 follow-up album, Dream Into Action.

Personally, what was great about this show was that Howard Jones was the artist who really inspired my teenage love of electronic music and served as the catalyst for my purchasing two pro-grade synthesizers, a sampler, a sequencer and a drum machine by the time I was 17. I felt I had the skills to create songs even though my technical musical ability was — and is — extremely limited. This prevented me from really working with musicians in a traditional band setup so I felt this equipment gave me the means to do everything myself, as well as correct all the flubs due to my craptacular playing ability.

Eventually, I found a like-minded spirit (at that time) in the form of my friend Christian Beach, who was my bandmate from around 1988 until late summer 1990. He lived just across town from me and also owned an array of synths, samplers and drum machines. There were two other advantages working with Christian – 1) his gear was better, and 2) he is much more talented and gifted than I could ever hope to be.

While many people in the mainstream have this idea that electronic music is easy to execute, the reality is this is not the case. You still have to write the music and lyrics, and play all the backing parts into the sequencer…and this took forever back in the 1980s and early 90s. To prepare for playing live, you needed to do a lot of programming of your instruments and saving those settings into a MIDI file stored on a floppy disk in the sequencer. The song sequences (which include the drum and bass tracks, and any other parts not being played live) were also saved on floppy disks. Since the instrument and song data took up a lot of room on those old floppy disks, we needed several disks…that needed to be loaded (quite slowly, mind you)…in specific order during our shows.

As you might expect, this led to some embarrassing moments like having a saxophone coming in as a hi-hat part, or the wrong song sequence popping up, or a footswitch not set up to start a song when it was supposed to be…stuff like that.

And Thursday night’s HoJo show reminded me of all the joy and pain electronic music has brought to me over the years. As exciting it is to create all the parts of a song on your own, I remember all too well the difficulties of making the so-called “easy-to-use” technology work for you when you need it to.

Two such instances cropped up Thursday night for HoJo. During the Human’s Lib portion of the set, it seemed like the sound assignments for his keyboards on “Don’t Always Look at the Rain” weren’t set up right. That threw the whole song off after a few measures, resulting in a total restart of the song.

But that was a minor hiccup compared to what happened during the Dream Into Action half of the show, when “Assault and Battery” — a song I was really looking forward to hearing played live — had to be restarted…TWICE! On the first attempt to play the song, HoJo got through the piano intro only to have the sequence from the previous song kick in (been there, done that…a few times). On attempt No. 2, HoJo completed the piano intro and the right sequence started…and then stopped inexplicably about four measures in. The third time proved to be a charm, however, and the audience was treated to “Assault and Battery” in all its glory.

Anyway, I was just happy to see one of my earliest musical influences. Granted, aside from the more recent organ/accordion work I’ve contributed to some of Christian Beach’s live shows and recordings, I haven’t done anything musically significant in my life (although Christian did use lyrics I wrote for a chorus in the song “What Does It Mean to You?” by one of his old bands, Slave of Id, that received some airplay on long-departed 106.3 WHTG-FM around 1993…that was kind of cool). But I still write songs when I can and still do all the parts myself, thanks to Apple’s GarageBand application…and Howard Jones’ influence.

Here’s Howard Jones performing “Look Mama” from his Dream Into Action album at the Keswick Theatre on Oct. 20, 2011 (courtesy of YouTube user Nostalgicflashback)…

Ben Folds at the Tower, 11-13-2010

Ben Folds at the Tower Theater, 11-13-2010
Ben Folds at the Tower Theater, 11-13-2010 (taken with my BlackBerry)

Alison and I went to see Ben Folds last night at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pa. And, as usual, Ben was awesome and played for a little more than two hours.

Ben usually has really great opening acts. I saw Tegan and Sara open for him a few years ago at The College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J., just weeks before their song “Walking with a Ghost” (later covered by The White Stripes) from their 2004 CD “So Jealous” became a hit on adult album alternative (AAA) and college radio stations. When we saw Ben earlier this year in Montclair, N.J., the fantastic Australian singer-songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke — who went on to contribute backing vocals on Ben’s new collaboration with author-lyricist Nick Hornby, “Lonely Avenue” — was the opening act.

For this tour, Ben has enlisted the three-piece Lady Danville as the warm-up act and they were quite entertaining. And bonus points go to percussionist/vocalist Matthew Frankel for his use of a cajón (see video of Lady Danville in action at the bottom of this post).

Regarding Ben’s set, it’s amazing how deep his catalog is at this point of his career. He didn’t even touch a Ben Folds Five track until he played “Mess” as his 18th song of the night.

Here is Ben Folds’ set list from last night:

Working Day
Doc Pomus
Belinda
Sleazy (Ke$ha cover)
Gone
Cologne
Saskia Hamilton
Bastard
Still Fighting It
From Above
Rock This Bitch (Tower Theater)
Effington
Landed
Claire’s Ninth
Annie Waits
Levi Johnston’s Blues
The Luckiest
Mess
The Last Polka
Practical Amanda
Zak and Sara
You Don’t Know Me
Kate
Rockin’ the Suburbs
Not the Same

Encore:
Philosophy
Chopsticks (Liz Phair cover)
Army

Related Video

Ben Folds – Philosophy (incl. Mirsilou) + Chopsticks (Liz Phair cover)

Ben Folds – Saskia Hamilton (Tower Theater, Upper Darby, Pa., 11-13-2010)


Note: Apparently, shot vertically…most likely with an iPhone.

Lady Danville – “Frames & Molding” (Live at Largo in Los Angeles 06-28-10)

Another reworked song from my past…”Domination”

Back in the summer of 1989, my friend Christian Beach and I were in a misguided — but well-intentioned — synthesizer-based rap outfit called TMC+The New Generation that was the brainchild of a rapper from Asbury Park, NJ. I’ve often described this band as something like Depeche Mode-meets-Run DMC…but not in a good way.

Of course, this wasn’t for a lack of trying — or a lack of talent. We were just too young to know any better. I had just graduated from high school and Christian was still there. But even back then, it was easy to see a ton of musical talent in Christian that just needed time to fully develop (and today he is a really talented singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist).

Anyway, that summer of 1989 was probably our most productive time writing songs for TMC. One of those songs was called “Domination.” The night before a rehearsal, I had written most — if not all — of the lyrics for the track and told Christian about it. He then said he had been playing around with a synth-bass line that fit the lyrics I had written perfectly.

As we often did, once we got the foundation and structure of a song together, we would record a rough live version of it so we could listen to it away from rehearsals and think of ways to improve the song. Fortunately, that means a copy of an early version of the song exists, which you can listen to below.

A year or so ago, I was listening to the original version of “Domination” and thought about reworking it a bit and making it a bit more modern. But the 80s techno quality is really a big part of the song so I wasn’t sure how to go about it.

Well, during the past month or so, I’ve been slowly but surely finding bits of time here and there to work on a new version and now feel ready to present what is sort of a “Domination 2.0″…with the possibility of subsequent “Domination 2.x” revisions or perhaps even a “Domination 3.x” to follow that.

So, for your listening pleasure, here is the original recording (with some vocals added recently for improved vocal depth) followed by the 2010 version of “Domination.” Enjoy.

Domination (Original w/ 2010 vocal overlay)

Domination (2010)

By the way, that female-sounding vocal in the 2010 version is actually me. I used the “male-to-female” vocal transformer effect in GarageBand to do that. I did it as a joke at first, but I liked the contrast in the vocal quality (even though it’s not the cleanest of effects) so I kept it in.

Oh, for one more treat, below is a video of us performing “Domination” at the long-defunct Green Parrot in Neptune, NJ…this is chock full of my forgetting lyrics in the first verse, stepping on and pulling out the microphone cord and — by mid-song — just wanting the song to end so I could return to the relative safety behind my keyboards. And all of that doesn’t even mention my hair, which was a complete disaster on its own.

24 years of Peter Gabriel fandom: “Secret World” (1994)

So here we are…the fifth and final installment of my Peter Gabriel video series this week, marking my 24th anniversary as a fan of PG. This is sort of a wild card for me as I didn’t get to see PG on his recent “New Blood” tour in support of his orchestral covers CD, “Scratch My Back,” and that would have been the next progression in the sequence of live videos. However, I wanted this week to kind of recapture the joy I have experienced during PG’s live shows over the years. Since I didn’t see the “New Blood” tour, I’m basically picking today’s video out of a hat.

Well, that’s not entirely true because I knew right from the start what the last video would be…my favorite Peter Gabriel song of all time, from my favorite PG tour…”Secret World” from its namesake tour!

Strangely, because it’s the last track on Peter Gabriel’s “Us” album and because I had originally purchased that album in cassette format, I never even listened to it until weeks after I bought the tape. And when I did finally listen, I never stopped. It’s an amazing song that is even more spectacular when seen performed live.

I love how the live version of this song builds up to the dramatic, high-energy bridge…only to come back down and build right up again before the very end of the song. As you can probably tell from the ending, this was the number that closed the regular part of the set back on the “Secret World Live” tour. PG and band would re-emerge from the dome a few minutes later for the encore, which usually included “In Your Eyes.”

You may be able to hear how “Secret World” influenced a song I originally wrote and recorded on my old, analog 4-track in 1995 called “The Greatest Love,” which I recorded in digital format on my Mac back in 2004. For comparison, you can listen to the 2004 version of “The Greatest Love” in the audio player below the video.

Peter Gabriel – “Secret World” (Secret World Live, 1994)

Brian Kelley – “The Greatest Love” (1995/2004)

24 years of Peter Gabriel fandom: “Solsbury Hill” (2003)

Well, so far on this journey through my 24 years of Peter Gabriel fandom, I haven’t posted anything really all that mainstream…no “Shock the Monkey”, “Sledgehammer”, “Steam” or “In Your Eyes”.  It’s not that I’m not a fan of those songs…in fact, the live version of “Sledgehammer” is always awesome. But I have wanted to explore some of the deeper tracks from the PG catalog this week. However, after much internal debate about what video from 2003’s “Growing Up Live” tour (during which I saw PG three times…one night at the Meadowlands, the next night in Philly and then the following year at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ), I decided to go with something a little more well known…”Solsbury Hill.”

Thanks to its use in films like “Vanilla Sky” and others, “Solsbury Hill” — a track from Peter Gabriel’s first self-titled solo album in 1977 — has eventually become somewhat popular. What many people may not realize is that the song is about Gabriel’s departure as lead singer of Genesis in 1975.

And really…how could I not include a PG performance that has him riding a bike on stage…

Peter Gabriel – “Solsbury Hill” (Growing Up Live, 2003)

24 years of Peter Gabriel fandom: “Come Talk to Me” (1994)

Here is part 3 of this week’s 5-part series of Peter Gabriel videos marking my 24th year as a PG fan. One of the great concert events of the 1990s was Peter Gabriel’s “Secret World Live” tour (1993-94) in support of his CD, “Us.” Today’s video is the set-opening “Come Talk to Me” from that tour, featuring a then-unknown Paula Cole, who was still about two years away from success with her album “This Fire” (with “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone” and “I Don’t Want to Wait”). PG gave Cole her big break when he hired her to fill the female vocalist spot for this tour.

Peter Gabriel – “Come Talk to Me” (Secret World Live, 1994)

24 years of Peter Gabriel fandom: “No Self Control” (7/20/87)

Well, today officially marks my 24th anniversary as a Peter Gabriel fan and I have decided that my PG video posts this week shall be a chronological journey of my fandom. Yesterday’s video was of PG’s performance of “Biko” the first time I ever saw him live, at the Amnesty International concert at Giants Stadium on June 15, 1986. Today’s video is from the first actual Peter Gabriel concert I ever attended — July 20, 1987, at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. The video quality isn’t all that great, but the mere fact that this footage exists — and on YouTube (thanks to YouTube user Magog64) — is amazing. Here is one of my all-time favorite PG songs, “No Self Control”…and if you ever have time to kill, you should check out all the videos from this show…just incredible stuff.

Peter Gabriel – “No Self Control” (Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA, 7/20/87)

24 years of Peter Gabriel fandom

So I was driving home from a meeting the other day, listening to XM Radio when Peter Gabriel’s “Biko” came on. I hadn’t really listened to the song in quite some time, but I thought it was an appropriate lesson in recent South African history with the World Cup currently being staged there.

While listening, it reminded me of my greatest, personal musical memory. Back on June 15, 1986, my sister and I were in the sold-out crowd at Giants Stadium for the final show of the Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope Tour. It was an amazing day and night of music that allowed me the opportunity to see the genius that was Miles Davis perform live. Last night, while watching the Tony Awards and hearing so much about the musical “Fela,” it reminded me that I also saw the late, great Fela Kuti perform that day.

Anyway, back to “Biko” and Peter Gabriel. It was the powerful, chilling performance of “Biko” during that show that turned me into a huge Peter Gabriel fan. It also made me truly understand the power of a great song and a great artist.

So, in honor of my 24 years as a Peter Gabriel fan, I will be posting one PG video per day on the ol’ blog here this week. I’ll start it off tonight with the video of his performance of “Biko” at the Amnesty show on June 15, 1986, and continue adding one each day through this coming Friday.

Enjoy!

Peter Gabriel – “Biko” (Amnesty Int’l Conspiracy of Hope, Giants Stadium, 6/15/86)