Friday, December 17, 2010

Photos from Great American Music Hall

Our good friends Rusty & Merin of Soma.FM took some great photos of Sid Luscious and The Pants performing at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on December 1, 2010 as part of the Silicon Valley Rocks Charity event!

See the whole set here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sid Luscious plays Great American Music Hall for Silicon Valley Rocks Charity

You know, for kids!

First: Go buy tickets. If you tell 'em you're our friend, you get $5 off  by clicking here:

But that shouldn't matter, because it's for a good cause: music education.

Second, Silicon Valley Rocks is a benefit for Music in Schools Today:

They only ask special people to play. Like everything else in the music business, it's all about who you know. Of course, they have a bunch of tech folks playing in these bands. Then they realized that hey, you know, you might want some "experts" on the bill.

So our agent gets the call, and we're showing up as ringers for this one. Looking forward to it.

We'll also be sporting a new drummer for this gig. Dante's taking a little break, and in his place is the extremely capable Captain Leasure. 

We'll be throwing down a short-but-sweet set as a way of saying thanks, and we'll be back with a new album and more shows in 2011.

PS new songs posted soon.

Sid Luscious Interviewed by Silicon Valley Rocks

As part of the run-up to our big show at Great American Music Hall, we've been interviewed by Silicon Valley Rocks!

These modern interviews are much easier than the old-fashioned kind. Back in the 20th century, the press actually sent someone to you - a reporter, and often a photographer. These folks would follow you around for some period of time - sometimes it was just a lunch, but sometimes it was a week or more of being shadowed. Of course eventually you forget you've got someone taking notes about everything you're doing and you slip up. You're human. Next thing you know, your manager is figuring out a way to bribe the press team to keep them quiet about your Doritos "problem" or arranging for a "mugging" where their equipment can be stolen.

Now, you get questions e-mailed ahead of time. You send back draft answers and you knock 'em back and forth until everyone is happy. Maybe less "exciting" for the readers, but here in the music business, we value certainty!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We have some footage from our last show at the Portola Festival:

More coming soon...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

GIG: Portola Festival, Sunday, September 26, 2010

We're playing the fantastic Portola Festival on Sunday, September 26, 2010.

Come see us!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Music Business in One Photo

A picture is 1,000 words. Image courtesy of Gizmodo.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Breaking training with Sid Luscious

As you no doubt have heard, Sid Luscious and The Pants have a show coming up. Since I'm no spring chicken, I've had to start training to get back into fighting/singing/performing shape.

When The Pants first got back together, I was shocked at how physically demanding performing had become. I'd finish practice sweating and winded, barely able to make it through our sets (and that was before we added the dance routines). It seemed so much easier when we were 15.

Now I know better, and I prepare physically and mentally. Doing so this time around has brought up all sorts of memories and thoughts for me.

The record business has always thrived on young, thin, good-looking kids to populate magazines, TV, movies, and stages. According to Hollywood, being fat is worse than not being able to sing, play instruments, dance, or write songs. If you're looking to be a star, you are seriously better off working on your abs than on your act.

So of course, I had to stay in shape, then and now.

I was born in the 60s, and started training regularly in the early 1980s. Things were different then, back in the 20th Century: The post-Pumping Iron era. Jane Fonda's workout videos. Olivia Newton-John singing "Physical" (a #1 hit). Aerobics were new. Leotards for everyone!

Some of the conventional training wisdom of the day:
  • Carbs are good, fat is bad. Eat carbs, avoid all fat!
  • Steroids are perfectly OK
  • Serious bulk for dudes. Lift heavy weights!
  • Otherwise, run your ass off (in every sense) with Jim Fixx. Maybe using HeavyHands or ankle weights.
  • Leg warmers are acceptable for everyone. Headbands, too.
  • Train until it hurts. Then train more.
  • If all that fails, just stop eating (also known as the 1,000 calorie-per-day Scarsdale diet), or try the fake Mayo "egg" diet, or drugs.
It was, to say the least, a lot of bad ideas. Couple that with a renewed desire to train kids hard - a product of new tennis prodigies like Steffi Graf and Gabriela Sabatini, the 1980 and 1984 Olympics, and movies like "The Karate Kid" and Rockys I, II, and III, Flashdance, Fame, and of course, the wonder that is Perfect and what do you get?

In my case, you get a supposed "ex-drill sergeant" having you drink raw eggs at 6 am on a Sunday before running you around the reservoir in a rubber suit until you either throw up or collapse.

You get to be 16 years old waking up at 5 am sore, running a few miles to the gym so you can do your morning workout, then going to school or the studio until the day is over, then going back to the gym for the evening workout, then trying to do homework before you fell asleep exhausted to start the whole thing over again.

And they try to get you to like it, to be grateful, to have a positive mental attitude. "It's for your own good", right?

Kids are weird, though. They can't really understand how messed up it all is, and they can still take some pride in accomplishments, whether it's winning a trophy, a smile from a demanding parent or coach, or setting a new personal best. At the time, it didn't seem all that unusual, just...difficult.

Kids' bodies just can't take that kind of punishment for long, and things break or wear out. I managed to escape with a permanently broken bone in my foot, some vertebral degradation, a wacky metabolism, and a little demon constantly whispering in my ear about how I look.

Many of my friends fared worse, ending up with temporary or permanent eating disorders (if they were lucky) and temporary or permanent drug problems (if they weren't). Some had wrecked knees at 16. Some had shredded rotator cuffs at 18. Regardless, we all got spat out of the machine with damaged bodies and body images.

Though I have to say we were damn good looking. All of us. I'd kill to look that good today. Plastic surgery, while an option for some, is just not going to cut it for El Sid.

The 90s were a rough time. I was both the thinnest I've ever been and the fattest I've ever been. Bad eating habits all around. A compulsion to exercise and little enjoyment about any of it. My fondest memories are of playing basketball with my friend Ian on weekends. My worst memories are consecutive weeks of hearing the alarm go off at 5 am and rolling out of bed so tired I literally could not see straight until I was halfway to the gym.

Now it's the 21st century. I find myself on the treadmill again, acutely feeling the impact of every step. After all these years of beating up my body, it's finally learned to beat back. I see myself in the mirror, and the little demon whispers in my ear and starts pointing out all the flaws.

Nobody said it would be easy. It never was, and never is. The effort is what separates the pros from the amateurs. But this time around, I'm going to appreciate and enjoy every bit of it - the hard parts and the painful parts as much as the joyous parts.

Older, wiser, still good-looking. What more could you want from your rock stars?

Monday, August 02, 2010

A brief trip to Musician's Hell

Sunday. Time was I'd wake up after noon, roll down to King's Road Café or some other amazing L.A. breakfast joint, have my people bring me a bowl of coffee and some carbs, and read Rolling Stone. Maybe I'd go program a synth or play guitar later. Relax and enjoy the day. But that was a long time ago.

Today, I have to get microphone stands for our rehearsal room. No more fancy catered rehearsals with roadies to get all the rented gear set up. Our current set of mic stands has seen better days. I'm one of the only Pants that has both a valid credit card and is allowed into most music retail establishments.

I drive down to Guitar Center. This is akin to Orpheus descending into Hades. No musician I know enjoys going to Guitar Center. During the best of times, it has an ambiance that makes Best Buy feel like Tiffany's. And there's a vibe worse than a used-car dealership: You know you're getting ripped off, you're just not sure how. Then there's the "help". As in no help.

I've posted other videos before, but this one succinctly captures the essence of what I'm trying to convey as few others could:

Now imagine spending 30-60 minutes there.

I end up parking several blocks away. San Francisco. Love it. As I stroll uphill, I pass several tour buses. Apparently some artist must be playing a nearby venue.

As I walk, I pass by a long line of pasty, black-clad teens. OK. Must be some sort of doom/goth/metal/industrial outfit. The kind with long hair, distortion, and Cookie Monster vocals. Piercings and dyed hair. Fat dudes standing next to waifish girls with incredible racks. Bulky dudes with "Security" windbreakers stand on the corners and help the guys with the laminated passes find the side entrance.

I sigh. The good old days. I remember being the kids waiting in line. And I remember being the guys on the bus, too.

Into Guitar Center I go. I figure I'll go check out the state of the art in synthesizers. They're kept in the back room. Where apparently a single light bulb is working. Recession, I guess. In this black pit, there are no fewer than 3 keyboards with chattering, cheap-sounding drum loops spinning out of sync. I turn them off.

There isn't much to see. There are a few really nice boards set up, and a plethora of cheap synths that feel like toys but are priced under $500. Naturally, they're all missing knobs and still have the packing plastic stuck on top of their buttons. It's just depressing. I bust out some Erik Satie on the Nord Stage Piano.

Time to go, I have to get to the gym, and this place smells like old socks and flop sweat.

The mic stands are up in the front, by the guitar pedals. Guitar Center carries 3 different mic stands, priced at $39, $49, and $59 each. The difference? Well, it's hard to tell, because they're all in boxes. Ask the help? They don't know. But I do.
Pro tip: Cheap mic stands aren't worth it. Pay the extra $10 or $20 and get something that will last. The cheap mic stands will strip their screws and leave you with a floppy boom that no amount of Viagra or duct tape will fix. And don't over-tighten them.
I load up with 3 mic stands and flop them on the counter. Which is when the longhair behind the counter asks if he can help me. "Yeah, you can ring these up for me." We move to the other register on the other side of the store. Why? I don't know.

I am subjected to the "receipt check" and allowed to leave the store. Now I have to carry these mic stands back to the car. I pass the kids standing in line for the metal show, pass the tour buses all in a row. My arms are tired.

I miss the days when I didn't have to deal with this stuff. When I had people. Walking by the kids and the buses, I just feel old. Another weekend musician dropping cash on the boring stuff: Mic stands. Guitar strings. Cables. A strap.

It's like that sometimes. The road isn't easy, but it's the one I'm on.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Pants Reboot, and a Dream

Last night the nearly-complete 2010 model of Sid Luscious and The Pants rehearsed for the first time.

Getting a band back together and playing for the first time is always a little nerve-racking. It's like meeting an old lover.

Will they be so fat they're nearly unrecognizable?
Will they be shockingly ageless?
Hotter than ever?

Appropriately, The Pants are like putting on your favorite pair of old jeans.

Dante's got a new drum kit. Pony's got hair again (and I think it's his, this time). Foxx Trott is holding down the low end. Naturally, there's a new keyboard player. We sounded surprisingly good, and by the time our big festival gig comes up, we'll be in fighting trim.

The Dream
I slept well last night. I had a dream.

I was in a house. It had recently been renovated. New bathrooms, with beautiful, soft white towels with teal stripes. New carpet that felt like beach sand beneath my feet. New paint on the walls. A few pieces of elegant, minimal furniture in the rooms - coming or going? Either someone had recently moved out or was about to move in, or both.

Oddly enough, balled-up newspapers and magazines were stuffed in all the air vents.

I heard voices as I wandered through. Out the windows I could see trees gently waving in a Spring breeze.

I found people in the living room, waiting for me. Some dead friends and relatives, drinking wine and chatting. My parents, together, and happy - before my near-success and the money and everything else drove them apart.

I was suffused with a tremendous and rare sense of peace and well-being. And as the alarm sounded reveille and the dream began to fade, I finally realized where I was:

Home. Home.
So many people have come and gone
Their faces fade as the years go by
Yet I still recall as I wander on
As clear as the sun in the summer sky...

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Monroes: A Story of The Music Biz

It's no secret the music biz has always been a "a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs." With a negative side, too.

Case Study: The Monroes.
These guys got together. Typical So-Cal dudes who loved playing music. They found a guy with an amazing voice. Name of Jesus Ortiz. Some folks will tell you he renamed himself "Tony Monroe" because all the guys in the band were adopting "Monroe" names as an anagrammatic play on "The Ramones". But part of it is A&R guys wouldn't sign a rock band with a guy with a Hispanic name fronting it.

They write some songs. They play out. They start to generate interest. They sign with a label based in Japan: Alfa Records. They go into the studio and record a fantastic EP, which features a song called "What Do All The People Know?"

"What Do All The People Know?" is a masterpiece of pop songwriting. The melody is strong, the harmonies are pretty. It's catchy. It's everything you want in a song, and it sounds exactly like the 80s.

So this track starts getting tons of local airplay. The kind where you can feel the wave building and you know it's going to break and fling you to the next level in your career. I've felt that wave tug at my heels more than a few times in my life, but never with the force The Monroes must have felt. Probably because I have yet to write a song as good as "What Do All The People Know?"
"You know I told you once tonight that you could always speak your mind
You work so hard to say what's right
I watch you do it all the time"
That's how the song starts, those ambiguous and surprising words sung in a tone melancholy, pleading, and accusing...over a rather peppy synth intro. The song builds from there, piling hook upon hook.
Could you be the girl I really love?
All the people tell me so
But what do all the people know?
That's the chorus, and I love that twist, that question. So surprising. It's full of wonder, but spiced with suspicion. We've all been there, in a new love's first early rush. Your friends all say "you are perfect for each other". They're all trying to push you together. But what do they know? Especially since they only see a small bit of the relationship. And then when you think you understand the narrator and the song, the bridge hits:
Do you think I'm blind to what you do?
Do you think I really care for you?
Or is it just another game
That you and I pretend to play
Do you think we both should let it show?
Do you think we both should let it go?
Or is it just another game
That you and I pretend to play
Just brilliant. I feel it captures that wary circling and feinting of two loves so well. Plus the song has handclaps.

So they're starting to plan tours - they've opened for the big acts of the day: Toto, Rick Springfield, and Greg Kihn. They're starting to think about a video. They're on the Mike Douglas Show (the Oprah of its day).

And then the bottom falls out of their world: Their Japanese label withdraws from the US market. While they're on tour. Their record is at #56 on the top 100. But now they have no money, no tour...they don't even have records to sell.

After a depressing year of regrouping, they manage to get signed to Columbia, but their spirits are sort of broken. Columbia won't release any of their music, and the band can't get out of the deal. They're stuck. They can't write any songs, their audience has vanished. The wave recedes, and the band slowly disintegrates.

They break up and go their separate ways, and the world never gets to see what else they would have done. MTV would have probably crushed these guys anyhow. By the time they were ready to blow up, video was king. These guys were amazing musicians, but they certainly weren't going to compete with Duran Duran, or even A Flock of Seagulls in the image department.

Here they are. The video is from their appearance on the Mike Douglas Show, but it's been edited to fit the recording of the song.

Monroes, I salute you. You guys were amazing. You deserved better!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Welcome Back, Adam Ant!

Music blog The Quietus has a nice interview up with Adam Ant - You'll recall I wrote at length about him. Well worth a read!

It's good to have him back.
When you get a number one
The only way is down
And if you have a sticky patch
They start looking, start looking around
In the night when things go bump
Think of me think
Here comes the grump, here comes the grump
Doctors said "Adam, sex kills"
So come inside and die
- "Here Comes The Grump", Adam Ant

Friday, February 26, 2010

Chilly B is Gone

Just found out that Bob Crafton, a.k.a. "Chilly B", died. He was one of the founders of Newcleus, known for their great songs "Jam On It" and "Space Is The Place".

I remember hearing "Jam On It" on DC radio when I was a kid. Blew my mind. So funky, so futuristic. I made my own DJ scratch dubs of the track. Wanted to get a synthesizer. Wanted to rap.

Check it out. Hear the icy cold synths and beats brush up against the warmth and joy of the vocals. Electro and rap. So far ahead of its time. Envisioning a future of hope, rather than glorifying hopelessness, guns, and drugs.

Look at that video - that's the joy of music, people. I've been looking for a band, a platform, and a vibe like that for most of my life.

Chilly B is featured at about 1:45. Dig that classic rap cadence and voice. Old school, obviously raised on Kurtis Blow. As Greg Kihn said, "they don't write 'em like that anymore". As Shakespeare said "he was a man, take him for all in all. We shall not look upon his like again."

Newcleus-Jam On It