Just a short update as I’m starting to finish up pre-mastering on all the songs for the new album, one about every other week now. A little more than half the album is done now, in its final state to go to mastering, but even at the above rate there may be some slippage on the release date of June 24th. Hopefully not but we shall see – I don’t believe in rushing things.
This is a 2-minute preview of “Llano Estacado”, not the full song – I’m still tweaking it. The Llano Estacado is the “Staked Plains” in West Texas and eastern New Mexico and has been described as the “table lands between Austin and Santa Fe.” The Spanish explorer Francisco Coronado described the area as mostly “a sea of grass” in the 16th century. That’s true – it really is. And, other than the various caprock escarpments, it’s insanely flat. My Mom, no less eloquently, described it – on our yearly road trips in the mid-to-late 1960s/early 70s to Colorado through Amarillo, Dalhart, and Clayton – like this: “There’s nothing out here. It’s so empty… how can people live out here?” That always cracked me up… because somehow they did and still do.
Lubbock, Texas is the largest city on the Llano; I was there for 4 years, getting my undergraduate degree from Texas Tech University. I lived in Midland 2 hours south for a little while afterward. Between those two cities… some lifelong friendships, some good parties, knowledge acquired, a little worldly experience, constant wind, occasional dust storms, some not-so-good jobs, and a lot of bad apartments. I’ve spent a lot of time in this area, having living there, but mostly traveling through it over the course of 6 decades. For whatever reason, for me this area never becomes old. I love it. It may be tedious to drive through but it never gets old.
Places define us, shape us, change us, and any place we’ve lived leaves its indelible mark upon us.
It’s been quite a week. This November, everything got real…
One part of this post will be the fun stuff, one part will be rant. I’ll do the fun stuff first…
We came, we saw, we got married…
And we partied afterwards. Mightily. Loudly. A fun time was had by all at Lariat Lodge just up the hill on the other side of the highway – the reception was excellent, thank you guys! – and thank you everyone who came and celebrated with us. Erin and I are very glad all of you were there with us for our “alternative” wedding! It was one of the best parties I’ve been to in a while. Yay us… we did it!
And then we hit the road for a few days… down to Santa Fe, where I used to live for a while in the mid-1980’s. And our favorite place, Ten Thousand Waves. I had been going to the hot tubs since 1984 but I had never stayed in their rooms/suites before. Actually they’re more like casitas – small houses, and I highly recommend them. Do the full experience. Staying on site there, at the compound up in the foothills of Santa Fe at 7,700 feet, is an experience not to be missed. We went into town, checked out the art galleries, mostly on Canyon Road, and all our other favorite places. Santa Fe doesn’t change a whole lot, particularly around the plaza and everything that doesn’t radiate off of Cerrillos Road, and that’s one thing I love about it. The air always seems to carry the scent of piñon, the high desert light is bright and intense, adobe everywhere (“if you don’t like adobe, go home…“), and there’s always that spiritual vibe about this place.
There’s a song on the next Nights on Venus album (scheduled for spring/early summer, 2017) entitled “The Indelible Imprint of Place”… this is what I’m talking about. Always love a spiritual vibe in a place. Santa Fe may be our next home (for me…again) and chapter in life… and I certainly hope so.
A week later I wish we were still in Santa Fe.
There was just one little fly in the ointment… well, actually a rather large one. There was that whole election thing last Tuesday…
And now, the rant…
In the space of a week I’ve gone from fucking pissed to thoroughly disgusted… well, I’m still fucking pissed but mostly just more disgusted at this people-of-WalMart-WWE-reality-TV-shitshow-spectacle of an election. Sure, it’s all fun and games… ’til someone elects a fascist.
Stupid, stupid, stupid!!
To those who voted for Trump, you have absolutely no idea what you’ve done and I only have one thing to say to you…
Oh, what was that? Say it again…
Very sorry… and very, very soon, just like those poor souls over in the UK who voted for Brexit and then wanted to have a do-over vote when they realized what Brexit actually meant. Unfortunately, this is way worse and now all of us are on board.
The recurring image that comes to my mind about what happened and what’s most likely to happen now going forward is this scene from the movie Mulholland Drive with Naomi Watts and Laura Harring.When Harring’s character Rita begins talking in her sleep, Betty (Watts) awakens her from her nightmare and tells her “it’s OK” to which Rita responds, “No, it’s not OK.”
The last few days I’ve seen some posts come across my news feed on Facebook from people saying we need to come together now and unite as a country and get behind President-elect Trump. Fuck that. Go peddle that happy horseshit somewhere else.
Even President Obama said yesterday that “Americans need to reconcile themselves to a Trump presidency.” In this context, reconcile sounds more like “resign”. That’s not acceptance, that’s resignation. And so the normalization of these things begins – things that cannot and should not ever be normalized, including, but certainly not limited to, the demonization of others for starters.
Nope. Not going along with that either. There comes “A Time for Refusal“. Keep your humanity and basic decency intact. Don’t go along with the crowd, the mob, or the “new normal”.
Currently, the results of the national election show Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote by over 2 million votes (a lead that continues to grow, btw, a week later… hmm). It’s way past time for the Electoral College to go, to be gone. A couple of petitions: Make Hillary Clinton President on December 19 . The electors of the Electoral College still have to do a formal vote that day. This petition has 4.3 million signers as of this morning. It’s a longshot of course but if you really don’t want to see Trump take office, it’s one of the last chances you may have.
And finally there’s this, which may be the most effective. E-mail the electors directly at Ask the Electors.org. Longshot for sure… but it’s the last line of defense before Dec. 19th.
How bad could things get here in the U.S.? Chris Hedges over at Truthdig has a few ideas on that in his most recent essay. Well worth a read, even as sobering and bleak as it is. What’s that expression?… “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”
Also a good read this week, complete with some helpful hints for future reference, comes this essay from Masha Gessen, “Autocracy: Rules for Survival“.
As bad as the outcome of the election was, equally bad was the media coverage of it and the campaign pretty much from the get-go. In fact, the media coverage has been more infuriating and I didn’t even watch much of it on TV. They are more than complicit in this national disaster. It was just pervasive everywhere you went – online or otherwise. The sensationalistic headlines, the coverage of Trump seemingly 24/7, the polls, the dissemination of lies, the Twitter fights and ridiculous reports of them as if they were real news, and on and on ad nauseum. Again, disgusting. This applies equally to the leftist media outlets as well as those on the right.
The election cycle needs to be shortened and all the pundits, the pollsters, the smarmy commentators, most of whom don’t deserve the air time they get, et al. need to go the way of the Electoral College, i.e., out the fucking exit door, get rid of them all. It wasn’t just pervasive, it was abusive. The American people are in an abusive relationship with its endless proliferation of media and addiction to it. And you know what you do when you find yourself in an abusive relationship?… You walk away from it; you leave…
And you go on with your life. Live your best life now.
Recorded and mixed July – August, 2016 at the ‘Cave Recording Studio, Golden, Colorado
Craig Carrington Thomas – all instruments, programming, engineering and production
Mastered by Brian Hazard at Resonance Mastering, Huntington Beach, California, September, 2016
Cover artwork by CCT
About the songs… starting with the ‘B-side’ first…
When I first started recording “Confirm Humanity…”, I thought it was kind of a goofy song but I liked the beat and the synths. Actually by the end, I really like what the song turned into and I’m very pleased with this one. The title of the song is a ready-made… I was on some website, signing up on their mailing list and there was a captcha that asked me to: Confirm Humanity (I’m Not a Robot). I thought that was kind of funny. Boom. Title. The sort of sinister surf/spy guitar part was played on my Danelectro baritone. There’s no bass part on this and that double hit on the snare drum… I must have listened to “Incense and Peppermints” around that time – the infamous double hi-hat hit – and it just got stuck in the ol’ subconscious.
“Speed of Life“… this is the opening track from David Bowie’s album “Low” in 1977 and marked his new collaboration with musician/producer Brian Eno for the next three albums, the Berlin trilogy – “Low”, “Heroes”, and “Lodger”. I was somewhat surprised to learn that “Speed of Life” was Bowie’s first instrumental, especially since he already had 10 studio albums released by then.
Also very interesting when the licensing came back and I saw the publishing credits for “Speed of Life”. The first listed publisher was Tintoretto Music. Tintoretto was a 16th-century Italian painter during the Renaissance in Venice, most well-known perhaps for his painting, “Miracle of the Slave” (1548).
David Bowie was certainly a Renaissance man in his/our own time – musician, singer, songwriter, actor, art collector, and artist with artist being the broadest, most all-encompassing word to describe him. His paintings are probably the least known of his creative work but you can see several of them in this excellent article and interview with him from 1998, reprinted by the New York Times just a few days after his death this past January. And that’s really how 2016 began, what has set the tone for this year with the news of his death only 10 days in. It has been, for the most part, a very somber year; he and his artistic presence and sensibilities are very much missed.
“Speed of Life” is among my favorite Bowie songs and a song I have done live a number of times over the years, with various bands and at solo gigs. This is the first recorded version I’ve done of the song, in tribute to him and his life. I hope he would have liked this version.
A few milestones this month of October and on into November:
Nights on Venus turned 6 on October 8th.
I turned 60 on October 16th.
Erin and I get married this week.
Once again it’s time for the annual fall leaf tour and post. Fall has arrived (sort of… still a little too warm right now) and the last couple of weekends Erin and I have taken a couple of drives into the high country and done a few hikes. But first…
Some Nights on Venus News:
Mastering on “Speed of Life” finished up over the past week and the 2-song single will be released this Sunday, 10/9 on CD Baby and on Bandcamp initially. You can get both songs as free downloads on Bandcamp for the first week, through 10/15, and they will appear here on a post this Sunday via Soundcloud. Here is a look at the cover artwork:
This coming Saturday also marks the 6-year anniversary of my little musical endeavor, Nights on Venus… another milestone. Work continues on a full-length album – “We Are All Haunted by Something” – which is scheduled for release in 2017.
And now, back to the annual fall color “porn”…
And of course, with the arrival of fall, winter won’t be far behind. We’ll be breaking out the skis, boots and poles pretty soon, getting ski tune-ups and watching “Hot Dog, The Movie” – classic, silly ski movie from the 1980’s (think the ski ballet competition and Chinese downhill). Yep, Erin and I are still just a couple of ski-bum wannabes…
I hope your new year has gotten off to an excellent start, ten days in. Wishing you all the best and let’s keep the good stuff going all through this year.
With the release of the new EP/album Unearthly the last week of 2015 – and now available for download on CD Baby and iTunes, streaming through Apple Music, Tidal, et al. – it’s time for a little break… replenish the well so to speak.
Which means skiing on New Year’s Day and more skiing for the first 3 months here, and also the first major project of the new year. The one I’ve been putting off for 9 months since I brought all the LPs up from Dallas. The one called “going through the record collection”, as in vinyl, and it looks like this…
I realize this is a very age-specific thing here, although, believe it or not, vinyl records are making a comeback now. But if you’ve grown up with just downloading or streaming, you might ask: why even bother with these relics? Well, I love the vinyl/LP format… that’s what it really comes down to. That and the quality of sound from a clean copy (no pops, scratches, static, etc.). I love the CD format as well. Here’s an interesting little infographic I found out there on the web…
And it’s not that I don’t want to go through most of these records and listen to them again. On the contrary, it’s just that, that is the problem in and of itself: I will end up listening to many (most) of them and the process of going through them will take at least twice as long. And after a week of this, that is exactly what has happened.
The overwhelming majority of these vinyl record albums come from the inventory of my former, and currently defunct, art gallery/record store, Excellent Sky Gallery & Empire Records (2003-2007) in the small mountain town of Empire, Colorado, 36 miles west of Denver. The rest are from my own personal collection over the years. I had thousands of records in the store at one time; I still have quite a few left… and as I started to go through them I was surprised by how many I have that are still unopened, 8 1/2 years after the gallery closed and decades since those albums were first released. I had completely forgotten.
So I’ve been listening to these artifacts (relics) all this week… and right now. I’ll let the character Rob, from High Fidelity – who’s something of a hero to me – explain:
Rob is the main character from the film which comes from the book, High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, and if you loved the movie, check out the book as well – it’s a good read. Sifting through the unopened albums, I come across these gems:
ZZ Top – “Eliminator” and the follow-up, “Afterburner” from the mid-1980’s (and for some odd reason I have 4 copies of their album “Fandango” and they are well-played). U2 – “The Joshua Tree”, from 1987… that weird time when the music industry was switching from vinyl to the next big thing – CDs. Sting – “The Dream of the Blue Turtles”, his first solo album from 1985 – features the hit “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” and “Russians”…
Patti Smith – “Horses”, still unopened, though I suspect not for long.
Shoes – one of my favorite power-pop bands from Zion, Illinois and their album “Tongue Twister” from 1981…
Prince’s “1999”, unopened…
The Pretenders’ 1st album from 1980…
and, OMG… Paris “Big Towne, 2061” – Bob Welch’s band between Fleetwood Mac and his solo career.
And on and on it goes…
OK, so I’m working backwards through the alphabet here; continuing on I find surprisingly clean copies of Three Dog Night’s “Suitable For Framing” and “Harmony” (and one very embarrassing, politically incorrect – by today’s standards – inner gatefold photo of the band)… 4 copies of Elton John’s “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player” (?), and even the more obscure albums like the “Times Square” soundtrack (from the equally obscure 1980 film) play quite well after all these years… and, Head East! And here I think of the old RIAA “this record will never become obsolete” notification on the back of the early Beatles’ albums.
Eventually I come to Boston. “More Than a Feeling” Boston. Their album, “Third Stage” from 1986. 8 years after their previous album “Don’t Look Back”, which was their 2nd album. 8 years between albums is a mighty long time, especially back then. I’d never heard the album in its entirety, just the two hits – “Amanda” and “We’re Ready” – and it’s unopened. So yeah, it’s time to open it, give it a spin…
Standard operating procedure dictates that when you open a vinyl record album and put it on the turntable the very first time – its maiden voyage – you burn a copy onto another format. From the 1970’s through the mid-90’s the blank cassette tape – usually from Maxell – was the de facto choice for this. Then later in the 90’s, it was on CD, CD-R. And when you had burned a copy, you put the vinyl record back in its sleeve and never, ever took it out of its sleeve again, for any reason. Under any circumstances… unless/until of course the tape got jammed up or the CD started skipping…
This is how you make your vinyl last – treat it gently, treat it kindly, and it will reward you with years of ‘high-fidelity’.
So, back to Boston… I’ve been listening to this album most of this past week – now burned on CD-R of course – revisiting 1986, which in the Boston/Tom Scholz universe sounds very much like 1978. Which is to say they picked up where they left off and I kinda love it, as it takes me back to that time of their heyday when I was in undergraduate school in the late ’70s. That trademark layered guitar wall-of-sound that can level tall buildings if you would only crank it up high enough is still in effect on “Third Stage”, and it’s a great-sounding album. Great-sounding now, again by today’s standards, and I’m sure this was even more awesome back in 1986. I’ve got the two sets of oversized speakers so I’m crankin’ it; Erin comes down to the basement and says, “You’re like a teenage boy in the basement!…” and I’m like, “So, what’s your point, Shmoopy?”
And so she sits down and listens to the album with me…
Like I said, 8 years is a long time to go between albums and as it took 6 years to record “Third Stage”, according to the liner notes, it seems that the rest of the original band drifted off to other things ’cause only Tom and the late lead singer Brad Delp appear here. Have to say I think this is their best album, even more than their impactful debut album from 1976. This in spite of the fact that the guitar riff from “I Think I Like It” is a lift of a riff from Journey’s “Anyway You Want It” (it is, listen to it). Tom, what were you thinking? Dude, you graduated from M.I.T. – you know better. Also very interesting is the pipe organ pipe motif in the album artwork – it’s in the body of the spaceship on the cover and then on the inside sleeve photo, dimly lit in red light. Real curious about that – would like to hear the story, as I have more than a passing familiarity with pipe organs. Just sayin’…
Well, it has been fun this past week re-discovering, re-acquainting myself with the old record inventory, and the fun will continue until I’m done consolidating… as in the meantime I find 3 very good (+) to excellent copies of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours”. If you’re a vinyl LP aficionado you know the scoring system:
M – Mint (unopened, unplayed)
NM – Near Mint
EX – Excellent
VG+ – Very Good plus, but not excellent
VG – Very good
G – Acceptable… and I never took anything below this in the record store, because if I played it and couldn’t listen to it – excessive pops, scratches, static, whatever – I wouldn’t sell it.
Which is my way of saying I hope to re-open the gallery/record store at some point in the future, back up in the mountains… preferably sooner than later. I’m making plans to paint again in 2016 after a 6-year hiatus, along with continuing the recorded work I’m doing in Nights on Venus. Full-length album this year, possibly by August…
“Unearthly“, the new 6-song EP was released on December 30, 2015 and is available onBandcamp, CD Baby, andiTunes.
First of all, Merry Christmas to Everyone, wherever you may be! “And Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men…”
Peace and goodwill… two things we need a lot more of in this world after what has been a very tumultuous year in 2015. I wish those two things for everyone, as well as joy and happiness and prosperity – having enough and not being in lack – and hope, not just during the holiday season, but throughout the year, every year as we move into 2016 and beyond.
Oh, I left out kindness. We need a lot more of that as well, especially here in the states… (some people have forgotten what this actually is).
Unearthly, the 2nd EP from Nights on Venus this year, releases officially on 12/30, but it is available now on Bandcamp as a FREE download. The entire album… or as much as you want (individual tracks are free as well). From now through 12/29…
So here it ’tis…
To download the album: click on the Unearthly – EP link, listen, check it out, and click Buy Now; enter “0” in the name your price box, then click the Download Now button… and away you go.
And I hope you enjoy it!
For those of you out there who have been following Nights on Venus for a while and/or listening and downloading the music, this is just my way of saying thank you for supporting my efforts these first 5 years of Nights on Venus.
And now that Christmas is upon us, there will be much cooking taking place here at La Casa NoV today and tomorrow. There will be “It’s a Wonderful Life” and 24 hours of Ralphie (“A Christmas Story”) on the tele – I love ’em. There’s snow on the ground here (and I predict it will be here until April – strong El Nino). It’s going to be cold this weekend and we’ll have the fireplace on.
No, I have not forgotten what this season is about… It is about Light coming into the world at a time when it is needed the most.
Nights on Venus will be back with new music in 2016 – a full-length album probably around late July/August…
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!
“Unearthly“, the 6-song EP will be released on December 30th, but is available now on Bandcamp as a free download until 12/29.
The track list and sequencing has been finalized… 6 new songs, and they are:
Porn Stars Stole My Subaru
All Become One
Past the Tipping Point
We Move Off Together
I’ll be finishing up pre-mastering on “Lightning Trees” next and plan on putting up the mastered demo version by the end of this month.
Today in Golden we are getting some much-needed rain. Except for only two or three days of some kind of rain, it has been bone dry in the Front Range since the 3rd week of July (as the pics below taken yesterday in the high country will attest to). For the last few years the seasons have been shifting to later in the year by about a month here in Colorado but with rain and snow forecast for this week we now appear to be fully into autumn (and it’s about time!). Cooler weather ahead… yay!
Nights on Venus began its 6th year of existence on the 8th this month, we celebrated my 59th birthday this past weekend, and Erin’s birthday is coming up next Sunday, the 25th. We love October! Pics of this weekend’s hike up Mt. Flora (13,132 ft.) on the Continental Divide follow…