Thursday, May 28, 2009

Team Work

A new demo:

Looking forward to fleshing this out with the other Bens Franklin. I think it's good enough for me to play at the two solo/acoustic gigs I have coming up, but ideally I want way more rocking and electricity and a better chorus.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Good Question

Over on TPM Muckraker:
But the emerging evidence that "Maqsood" aggressively targeted these men, and may have convinced them to participate in the plot only by offering them money and gifts, raises a different question: is pursuing "plots" that may well never have existed in the first place were it not for the work of a government informant, really the most effective way for the federal government to spend its finite terror-fighting resources?

Monday, May 18, 2009

We're Back On the Airwaves! And the intarwubs.

Sort of. Jim Testa, after a year hiatus, has resumed the Jersey Beat Podcast with episode number 58. We're not on the track listing, but if you got to 28:48, you'll hear Jim talking up Ben Franklin, as he spins our jam "Tell Us How You Really Feel," right between Kevin Divine, and The Volunteers.

Holy crap, that Kevin Divine song rocks my face off.

This weekend I managed to get a start on a website for us. Not much there just yet, a player, some basic info on who we are. Needs work. But it was within my capabilities. I like the little jQuery slideshow.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Gonna Make Ya Sweat

Ben Franklin
So we got to the Iron Monkey's Automata Chino a bit early last night, me and Eddie. Ben Franklin was playing the last slot of the evening. And if you had told us while we were shivering on the roof deck eating our fish and chips that we'd be dying of the heat later on that night, we'd have laughed at you.

But the air conditioner broke (along with the house bass head) before anybody really even got started, so it was some sweaty madness as the night went on. 

So, before anything got started, Sweat Level: 2 (out of a possible 10)

First up was Frozen Gentlemen, who I'd asked to join Ben Franklin on the bill. These guys get better and better every time I see them. Real pros on stage, they gave an incredibly animated performance despite the fact that all four of them plus keyboards were crammed up on that small riser. These guys are just bad ass disco rock, straight up. At first you couldn't quite hear the vocals so everybody turned it down a tweak and it was all aces from there. Frozen Geez are infectious.

Sweat Level: 4

Next up was Caterwaul from Kingston, NY. These are the kinda guys who drag half stacks on stage in a tiny club and punch each other in the face between songs. Quite a riot, even if they seemed like they felt a bit out of their element. They were playing, IMHO, way too loud for the space, which to be fair is not hard to do. So I stuck some plugs in my ear and went up front. Most people didn't do this. It was a rough set for them. They didn't play badly, but the guitars were drowning out the drummer, and the vocals were really difficult to hear at all.

Sweat Level: 6

More and more people were filtering in at this point, and by the time Caterwaul got off the stage you couldn't move around freely anymore. Kilsy seems to have a really loyal, fun following that showed up en masse to support and shake their shit. I have to say, they really won me over, too. I didn't much care for the recordings on their MySpace, but maybe it's just the recordings - I loved the very same songs live, it was just a great performance, great music. The band was very much in control of their sound, a kind of new-wavey post punk dance rock, bass with chorus on it, keyboards, texture guitars, pretty hot drums.

By the time Kilsy was done doing her thing, it was Sweat Level: 10. Place was packed and hot. Sweat Level went up to 11 as we were setting up on stage. 

This was one of those evenings where your equipment seems determined to thwart you. I lost guitar in the middle of the first song, and had to just sing, dance, and clap and point my way through it until the end, whereupon we found out that the stage power strip somehow got turned off.

There was a monitor in front of me, but it was unplugged. All I could personally hear was guitar louder than everything (which it wasn't, but I was just standing next to it), and I couldn't hear myself singing at all. This resulted in me belting as hard as I could to be heard, so much so that by the end of our set I was literally suffering-out-of-breath, and dying from the heat! Like Eddie says, "everything's fine as long as you don't puke!" But it's really hard to keep smiling, staying in the music, and entertaining the people when your gear is shorting out sitting in beer and you're dying of overheating and not breathing!

Still, we persevered! There was a really supportive group of folks from JC who came out or who stuck around after Kilsy, and those smiling faces really keep you going. We pretty much nailed everything we played and by all accounts it was an excellent show! Especially for only our second proper gig, the three of us together.

So take off all your clothes

Friday, May 15, 2009

These Are the Most Delicate Songs

Well I've posted it all over the rest of the Internets, might as well finish the job.

Ben Franklin has a preview of the new record up. It's just three songs, and we'll be giving it out on a CD-R this Saturday night, and it's titled These Are the Most Delicate Songs. We're not making it available for download just yet, but you can have a listen over on our MySpace page.

I'm pretty excited about how it sounds, the recording quality seems really quite good, at least to my non-expert ears. Daniel Schlett who has been engineering and mixing our stuff has done a great job, and he's getting to use fantastic equipment over at the Pigeon Club. He's also adamant about using hardware compressors and pre-amps, many of them with transistors and tubes hanging out the back, instead of protools plugins, and I think that's part of the reason it all sounds so great so far. You can beat that old Spectre Sonics 610 for mixing a bass guitar signal! Ooh lookit i'm name dropping equipment. DOOOORK.

It's a little weird to listen to your own voice. I guess that will never change. But this is the first time I've ever had good recordings like this of songs I've written or been party to writing. Singing live on stage at a rock and roll show seems like old hat to me, but in the studio you see how much room for improvement you've got. I have a lot of that. A whole lot. But still, this is a good start.

One of the oddest things I had to get over was that my voice doesn't sound the way I'd like it to, it sounds the way it does. I know that sounds pretty elemental and stupid, but if you ever try this yourself you'll know you'll want to sound awesome, or rocking, or passionate, or like Tom Waits or Brit Daniel or take your pick. I sound like an 18 year old. That's how it's gonna be, that's what I've got to work with. So it goes!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Via Glenzilla:

Jesse Ventura was on CNN with Larry King on Monday night and this exchange occurred, illustrating how simple, clear and definitively non-partisan is the case for investigations and prosecutions for those who ordered torture (video below):

VENTURA: I don't watch much TV. This year's reading, I covered Bush's life. I covered Guantanamo and a few other subjects. And I'm very disturbed about it. I'm bothered over Guantanamo because it seems we've created our own Hanoi Hilton. We can live with that? I have a problem. I will criticize President Obama on this level; it's a good thing I'm not president because I would prosecute every person that was involved in that torture. I would prosecute the people that did it. I would prosecute the people that ordered it. Because torture is against the law. KING: You were a Navy SEAL. VENTURA: That's right. I was water boarded, so I know -- at SERE School, Survival Escape Resistance Evasion. It was a required school you had to go to prior to going into the combat zone, which in my era was Vietnam. All of us had to go there. We were all, in essence -- every one of us was waterboarded. It is torture. KING: What was it like? VENTURA: It's drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning. It is no good, because you -- I'll put it to you this way, you give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Titles for songs

What if genocide is good for housing prices?

Deep Thought

One day we're all going to look back on all this and laugh.

Nothing to do but scratch words in the dirt

Tomorrow, Ben Franklin returns to the Hudson County Pigeon Club in Hoboken to start vocal tracking and mixing of our record. I can't wait to show "everyone" [all ten people who sorta care] what we've been working on, and how great I think it is [also a dubious prospect, but we live in hope, yes?] I couldn't be more excited. It's actually a problem. I shouldn't practice any more singing, I shouldn't post any new notices about our show this coming Saturday until I get home really late tomorrow night with the early mixes we're going to put up and make available at the show....

So I guess I'm going running, then.

When I run, my mind wanders, it goes blank; I think of the past, I think of my breathing, I don't think of anything. Sometimes my mind wanders to very embarrassing old memories, the kind that will spur you to run faster, just to move on from the spectre, even though the mental and physical acts involved are pretty disparate. But I wouldn't say it's a problem I have with running, just something that happens sometimes. Sometimes my knees hurt, sometimes it's hard to breathe, it's the same thing, really.

Off we go, then.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

OMG Bobblespeak

This fella over here is providing "translations" of the political bullshit shows like Hardball and Meet The Press. Here's a snippet of David Gregory interviewing Hamid Karzai earlier today:

Karzai: ah i recall when the international community came to us in 2001

Gregory: the invasion?

Karzai: ah yes

Gregory: so it is too late?

Karzai: ah yes your Bush is quite a fuck-up

Gregory: since Obama became President i just became concerned about civilian casualties

Karzai: ah yes I noticed that

Gregory: so

Karzai: please stop bombing our villages thank you

Gregory: why is it that this issue bothers you so much?

Karzai: the dead children - ah well that's just the people you know how they are

Gregory: is your country pathetic and fucked?

Karzai: no not all we have many students studying abroad
One of the funnier things I've read in a little while.

Okay, back to programming with a dull hang-over.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


I was reading "An 'Uncontrollable': Protest to the Libertarians", a document that is from the Spanish Civil War. Really interesting to look into this basically hardcore anarcho-leftist business. Serious anti-fascist anarchists, dude, no fucking around. They weren't even down with communists (USSR was apparently helping to fund the fascists in order to stomp them out).

Anyway, it's super-melodramatic material, and perhaps appropriately so.

Certain nights, the dark nights in which -- weapon in arm and ear on the look-out -- I would strive to penetrate into the depths of the surrounding country, and also into the mystery of things, I would not find any other remedy, as in a nightmare, than standing up straight, unsheltered, and this not so as to relieve the numbness of my limbs, which would be steely because they were passed through the crucible of pain, but to grip my weapon with more bad temper, feeling keenly the desire to fire, not only upon the enemy who hides at least 100 meters from me, but also upon the other enemy, against the one whom I cannot see, against the one who hides at my side, and is still there at the moment, who calls me comrade while he basely fails me, since there is no failure more cowardly than the man who indulges in betrayal. And I experienced desires to cry and to laugh, and to run across the fields crying and wringing necks with my fingers of iron, as when I broke between my hands the neck of the vile "leader," and to blow up -- until only ruins remain -- this miserable world, in which it is so difficult to find loving hands that wipe away your sweat and staunch the flow of blood from your wounds when, tired and injured, you return from battle.

He choked a mother fucker! Damn.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Making it happen

Optimist album cover / poster, originally uploaded by Pintado.

A potential record cover / poster

Social Contract? I didn't sign anything...

Matt Taibbi digs in his heels to support "populist anger", or rather to point out that it's not as dangerous as the Elite Media declaim, in fact it's just about toothless here in the U.S.:

And this isn't about vengeance, it's about policy: if the "consequence" for blowing a $4 trillion hole in the economy is seeing masses of government officials line up to hurl billions of taxpayer dollars at you, that doesn't provide much of an incentive to fix your behavior....

The social contract has to be considered broken when some dumb schmuck can go to jail for five real years for selling a bag of weed while a guy who went to Harvard and Wharton and had all possible advantages gets nothing but a bailout and a temporarily lowered bonus regime for destroying billions of dollars of public wealth.
As for the credit card companies, fuck them.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Ben Franklin - tracking for Optimist

Ben Franklin went into Hudson County Pigeon Club last Saturday to record with Daniel Schlett. We managed to do all the tracking for 12 songs (sans vocals) live in just under 8 hours of recording. We spent about 3 hours setting up drum mics, amp sounds, fucking with pedals and weird old gear. We went home with an hour to spare; Eddie and I were holding onto the poles on the PATH train for support, our dawgs were dropping dead.

I tried out a ton of amps in the studio, and a nineteen-seventy-something Telecaster Deluxe, yellow, and used it to record the first track, "Drink to Forget," before I put the thing down and didn't use it again for the rest of the session. It's a great instrument, The Boss guitar, but it just didn't sound as good as my black beauty, even with all its flaws.

My custom tele with its floating bridge and three humbuckers is one of those problem models. I had it adjusted the other day and my guitar guy gave me the scoop. But you know what? It plays really well and it sounds really god damn good, so fuck it. It's just too easy to work with when it's in tip-top shape and it's just been set up by a tech who knows what he's doing. It ended up sounding great. Always best to work with gear you know. It's not like we were in a position to record one instrument track 14 different times until we found the right sound and then do it again for a 15th time.

Enough gear nonsense. We were all in the room together, singing into scratch mics, we had headphones on. Sarah was set up in front of me and Eddie, our pedals were at our feet, axes to the ready, and our amps were in two isolation rooms nearby, so we had to hear ourselves through our headphones.

On the one hand, this meant no sticking your bass in front of the speaker for insta-screech. And you had to really focus on what you were doing and what you sounded like, listening probably more closely than you would with everyone turned up in one room like a practice space.

And that's AWESOME for recording! You actually nail it. Well, it seemed to help. Rehearsal room sessions are always an epic mess and this went down pretty clutch. Also, having everybody doing it together, it's like kicking it live, because you are. You have to nail it together, and you get excited together, you vibe off each other. Sure, you can punch in a blooper thanks to the iso rooms, but there's no click track, and we swore on no over-dubs, no double guitar solos, etc. That meant we had to be pretty creative with how we worked out the rock n roll improv, which for people like us usually involve no small amount of Awesome and Neat noises. I guess the finished product will tell.

It's a balancing act, we traded in a lot of flexibility, but gained what we wanted in the process -- real improvisation, real live passion. I think it worked out. We looked like kids at Christmas when it was all done. Okay, we also looked dead tired, but we were really happy with how everything came out that day.

The song that we all thought would be the hardest to lay down ended up being the one and only first-take song. That felt good. I don't think anything went beyond five takes. None of them struck me as particularly fail-inducing, so I guess the rehearsals paid off. We had maybe a total of five rehearsals for this session, not including the time we'd spent together before on about half the material, and my sessions hanging out and singing with Eddie in his basement.

I'm really proud, but the job's not done yet. Vocals, mixing, a teaser EP for the show next week, gotta get some imagery going, figure out things like artwork, posters, stickers, and fuck me running I have a lot to do.

Chomping at the bit to start aggressively booking, but up until now we've only had crap music to post, and you're better off not having anything up. I cleared our MySpace of all the crummy demos except "Montclair" because Sarah suggested we keep that one up.

Need to figure out a release date and show as well. Probably won't be until the end of June.

Deep Thought

WTF happened to Facebook and it's great interface designers?

A few months back, maybe more than that, there was a *new* facebook layout and it was mad good. Huge usability improvements, all kinds of features and capabilities were easily accessible (perhaps dauntingly so?), but it was really pretty rocking.

Now we've got this newer design, a big pile of crap with rounded corners that seems hell-bent on mimicking twitter, where I have trouble just finding the goddamn events module to see who's coming to that show I posted a week ago (*hint* just go to events.php and save yourself the trouble).

It rained last night. Accordingly, Time Warner Cable of NY is shitting itself. Dying slowly in a pool of rain water and rat turds in a Manhattan basement somewhere.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

We Hunt People For Jesus

For real:

The Al Jazeera report also shows Lt. Col. Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, telling a congregation of U.S. servicemembers that their job as Christian is to “hunt people for Jesus.” “That’s what we do, that’s our business,” he said. Watch it...