Mouse:1, Tiger:0

Around the beginning of this year my friend Jens, a very gifted professional jazz drummer, confided in me a deep, dark secret: he was a closeted singer-songwriter. And he wanted to form a group to play his songs. I told him I’d be interested in helping him out, but I wasn’t sure if, by “singer-songwriter,” he meant that he wrote “singer-songwritery”-sounding songs. And by that, I mean the sound of a really annoying college frat/sorority dude/chick sitting on a stool strumming an acoustic guitar, spewing out cliche after horrible cliche of bland mall music. Luckily, I found out that by singer-songwriter he simply meant that he wrote songs and sang them. Who would have thought?

In fact, his songs we nothing of the aforementioned sort, but rather influenced by Radiohead, Portishead, and the Bad Plus, to name a few. His roomate Justin, an ex-Saxophonist-turned-electronic musician supplied atmospheric Sonic Youth-esque guitar sounds and beats via laptop. Our friend Mike Gam played upright and electric bass, and I rounded out the group by playing drums, playing my MPC500 sampler, and manipulating Jens’ vocals with my Korg KAOSS Pad.

After a few haphazard shows it dawned on us that we were, indeed, a band. Justin started writing songs for the band too. It soon became clear we needed to make a recording, so Jen’s friend Barak brought over his live rig and recorded us in Jens’ apartment. I co-produced and mixed the recording along with Justin, and Justin mastered it. The record is a 5-song EP entitled “Music is the Weapon of the Children,” and I’m quite proud of how it turned out. We put a lot of work into it and did everything totally grass-roots style on our own. Oh, and it’s a FREE DOWNLOAD here. That’s right, it will cost you nothing, so give it a listen and spread the word.

Mouse Kills Tiger is playing tonight (Wed September 24, 9pm) at Tangier (no cover!).
2138 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027

Published in: on September 24, 2008 at 2:03 am  Leave a Comment  

wilderness, albums, and an ADHD world

Spending four days exploring the wilderness at Devil’s Postpile National Monument up in Mammoth was a very moving experience for me.  It’s been far too long since the last time I went camping or backpacking, and I’m still trying to process the experience.  By the third day my life back in the city began to melt away in the background, and my attention and concerns went from the internet, playing gigs, and paying bills to things like observing the present moment, listening for animals, finding and chopping wood, and keeping warm–things that felt more natural, more real for an animal such as a human to think about.  I’m still trying to figure out ways in which I can bring back that feeling and inform my normal life with it.  Actually though, I did bring back something tangible–I made some field recordings using my H4 recorder, and I think I’m going to figure out some interesting ways to use them.

On the car ride back, my lady, who rode in a separate car, noticed that our friend who was driving had the habit of listening only to the first few minutes of each song before getting bored and skipping to the next track.  That got me to thinking about how our listening habits have changed in these days of mp3 downloads and iPod shuffles.  I mean, I myself have to admit that it has been a very long time since I last sat down by myself, turned down the lights, and listened to an entire album from start to finish.  And if every song was a tightly constructed pop single that was meant to stand alone, that wouldn’t be a problem.  But when LPs became popular, artists began to see the possibility of an entire record as a flowing, over-arching statement or journey.  To me this began sometime in the late 60s, reached it’s peak in the 70s, and slowly declined until the point we’re at today.  There are some songs that really can’t be appreciated fully unless they’re listened to in their proper album context.

With that in mind, here are some of my favorite album moments that really reward your full, undivided attention.  I’m not including jazz albums because, well, that’s basically all jazz albums.

1) Stevie – Innervisions, side one
Only a genius could create this indescribable, intangible emotional journey.  Firstly, Stevie puts you off your balance with the swirling, disorienting funk of “Too High.” Now that you’ve been knocked out of your day-to-day world, he lulls you into his world of contemplation with “Visions.”  Then he fully emerges you into the reality of social injustice with “Living for the City,” which climaxes in the most incredible way, and then brings you gently back down with the beautiful, earthy “Golden Lady.”  Listening to this side gives me chills every single time.

2) Abbey Road, side two
I know, this one’s obvious, but I had to include it.  I mean, by the end of the medley you get this feeling like you know that an enormously important chapter in the history of recorded popular music has just come to a final close.

3) Blackalicious – Blazing Arrow, whole album
Whereas most hip hop “concept” albums implement their thematic development through mainly just lyrics, this album takes you on a journey with both lyrics and instrumentation.  I don’t know if any other hip hop album has done it this successfully.  Not only with it’s clever Harry Nilsson-sampled theme, but with the various moods and colors that are created from song-to-song.

4) Hendrix – Electric Ladyland, side three thru track one of side four
If you ever need to escape to a far off land through music, man, this is the album to do it with.  First Jimi transports you to a down-home jam session in some funky apartment as the rain begins to pour outside with  “Rainy Day, Dream Away.”  As  you stare out the window and daydream, he takes you to an underwater sci-fi fantasy with “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be).”  After he’s done with his story, he leaves you on your own to tumble through the ocean with “Moon, Turn the Tides…Gently Gently Away.”  And as you slowly regain consciousness you realize you’re back in that funky apartment jam session, “Still Raining, Still Dreaming.”

Well, of course there are tons of album moments I’ve missed but those are some of my favorites.  How about you, what are your favorites?  I’d love to hear some suggestions.

Published in: on September 17, 2008 at 3:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

L.A. Record Review

I feel enourmously blessed to have already received one great review of Boundary Waters, but lo and behold, another one pops up–and in one of Los Angeles’ best indepent music newspapers, L.A. Record!  It’s on page 6 of this month’s issue, and you can pick up the paper at almost any local music store.  Unfortunately the record reviews are only in the print edition, not online–but it’s worth checking out their website, which is a wealth of knowledge on upcoming shows and the local music scene in general.  But for those of you who don’t cruise by Amoeba Records on a weekly basis, here’s is the review for you to read:

SF transplant Miles Senzaki has spent nearly ten years in Los Angeles carving out a niche as a first-call jazz drummer.  His debut album Boundary Waters, under the alias Senz of Depth, finds him striking, plucking and scratching every recorded note, seamlessly mixing organic instruments (drums, guitars, glockenspiel!) with a host of electrically powered gadgetry.  The result is nine tracks that swirl with a natural fluidity rather than slump as a handful of ideas united solely by key and tempo.  The trilled mellotrons of “Camera Obscura,” spidery guitars in “Downpour” and the bubbling swamp-funk of “Restless Mind Syndrome” coalesce into a unified ambience that embodies all of Senzaki’s influences from jheri-curled royalty to sour-pussed hard rockers.  All the building post-apocalyptic shadows climax with “Deckard’s Dream,” an acid rain dirge that pits the ethereal Vangelis against an unforgiving Tony Williams.  Senzaki has created an instrumental hip-hop record that never begs for assistance from any sharp-tongued MCs.  “Boundary Waters,” from its propulsive opening blast to its horn-laden closure, is a solid collection of accessible complexity that slows the listener’s heart rate to a peaceful swagger with great arrangements and impeccable musicianship.

Eros Sinclair

I’m really glad the influence of the jheri-curled royalty comes through in my music!  That is a very high compliment indeed.  Oh, and also big ups to brother Tad for featuring me in his blog, the best place to go for the intersection of art and activism (and unapologetic Lakers fandom).  Well, I’m off tomorrow to make a much overdue journey away from the city and into the wilderness.  I’ll be up in Mammoth camping until Sunday, so unless I manage to find the wi-fi enabled Sequoia trees, I may be a bit hard to reach.  But I guess that’s the whole point.  Good thing I don’t twitter or I’d really be having some withdrawal.

Published in: on September 10, 2008 at 1:16 am  Comments (1)  

beautiful noise

I wish I was cool enough to have known about the Boredoms performance last month at the La Brea Tar Pits.  I remember someone mentioning that 88 drummers were going to play at LACMA to commemorate the date 8-08-88, but they sadly didn’t mention it had anything to do with the Boredoms, so in my mind I pictured some musically lame Guitar Center-esque event where they try to set some record by assembling the most drummers possible like this thing.  But after reading this review in LA Record and watching the video below, it seems I missed out on an amazing experience.  I was playing a gig at the time, so I wouldn’t have been able to go anyways, but I bet it was so loud I could have heard it from my house a few miles away.

Don’t you wish you had a magic staff that could trigger the sound of the gods?  I don’t know what’s more awesome, a magic staff or two glowing balls. Actually even one ball is awesome.  Either way, it’s probably healthier (though not necessarily less awesome) on your ears than screaming into a feedbacking stack of Marshall amps (I love the polite applause and “arigato” at the end).

Published in: on September 6, 2008 at 8:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

a bed of mic cables

Already several knowledgeable people have suggested to me that maybe my horrible sleeping habits (going to bed late, waking up late) are partly a result of what they call “bad sleep hygiene.”  Apparently this does not refer to your ability/inability to sleepwalk into the shower, which is what it sounds like to me.  Instead, it has to do with what your general habits are before going to bed, and how your bedroom is arranged.  And I’ve been told that the fact that my bedroom currently has to double as my music studio is not good sleep hygiene–it mixes my work space with my sleeping space.

Speaking of which, the other night I slept on the floor because there was no room.  I had set up my drums for recording (working on a very exciting new collaborative project which I will write about soon), and in order to do so, I have to flip my bed up against the wall.  I was working away and by the time 3am rolled around, my drums were still set up, fully mic’ed with cables running everywhere, and I had a Leviathan Brothers rehearsal the next morning in that very room using those drums.  When you’re faced with the task of spending an hour tearing everything down only to set it all up again the next morning, the floor looks like a very appealing place to lie down.  I guess I not only have a bedroom studio but also a studio bedroom.  Sigh.

Anyways, I was having fun watching this video featuring a blues/roots band from London called Kitty Daisy & Lewis (found via Blogarhythms).  In the video, Lewis (the one guy in the trio of siblings) shows off his collection of awesome vintage recording equipment (which the band uses), and I thought, here’s a guy who can appreciate my problem with music gear.  He even has an old 78 rpm record cutting machine which he actually uses himself!  Now that is hardcore.  In a time we’re debating the differences in sound quality between mp3 bitrates, it’s nice to hear a young lad discuss the differences in sound between 45s and 78s (78s have more “bollocks” he says!).  And their music isn’t just retro-fad, it’s authentic, alive, and very much rough around the edges.  Now that the radio is full of auto-tuned voices, it’s really cool to hear new music like that.  But the amazing thing about this band to me is not the depth of knowledge and appreciation these young musicians have for the roots of rhythm & blues, nor their multi-instrumental capabilities– it’s that they’re siblings and they play live with their mom (on upright bass) and dad (on guitar).  I mean, holy crap, how do they pull off that without wanting to kill each other??  Now that is a family that knows how to get along.

Published in: on September 5, 2008 at 8:32 pm  Leave a Comment