East Village

On my way home from “work” (today was hardly work) I stopped at my favorite guitar shop, Ludlow Vintage Guitars–not to buy anything mind you, although I was browsing around for a small amplifier. I just thought I’d play some vintage axes rather than think about the unsolvable difficulties of life. Ludlow is in the East Village.

To get there I walk from my campus out in Queens to the Long Island Railroad station; the train takes me into Penn Station. From there I grab the A subway downtown. Usually I take that line all the way to Brooklyn, but to get to the East Village, I change to the F at West 4th Street and get off at 2nd and Houston. Two blocks of walking and I’m on Ludlow:


This is old New York, or at least what’s left of it. Far more interesting than Midtown and Rockefeller center.

Two blocks down, I reach Lodlow Guitars:


For about a half an hour, I jammed away through a retro Fender tube amp, trying out various guitars, not least the Fender Jaguar displayed in the window of the shop, as well as a 1980s Stratocaster that looked liked someone had never once cleaned the neck, and then had thrown it down a stairwell a few times.

Now I have to make up for my leisure by working well into the night.

So, what did you do today?


43 Responses to “East Village”

  1. I proved that I am just a drummer with my incredibly incompetent recording of Batphone. Anyway, it is in your e-mail in all it’s awfulness. I hope that it, in the very least, gives you an idea of what I was thinking as I wrote it.
    Obviously Chops would need to sing as I cannot…
    Other than that, I worked all day + some overtime (which I don’t get paid for as I am a salaried managerial type) and then my typical long commute home.

  2. Boy that’s pretty, er, funny. Now I think you are far more disturbed than I previously imagined! Reminds me of some sort of Marilyn Manson nightmare song.

    Seriously, though, what’s wrong with the recording? I only hear it in mono on my left speaker and even there it is very low and broken up. Do you have the inputs set correctly? Does your microphone work?

    I’ll have to listen to that a few times (shiver) to get your idea, although I think I picked up part of the melody, which is definitely minor key and somber. I like that!

    Long commute home, eh? How about my commute: from Ohio to New York City! And my daily commute in New York is about an hour and a half. Of course, I’m not driving. I do lots of walking and sitting on trains. A year ago I had a visiting appointment at Miami University, which was 45 miles away from Dayton, through Ohio farmlands. The commute was one hour fifteen minutes. Boring. I want a job where I can hop on my fixed-gear bicycle and pedal to the office in about 15 minutes. That’s what I want. Can’t have it, apparently.

  3. I told you the recording was “bad”. Shoulda believed me.
    Anyway, I figured out what I was doing wrong. (Too embarrassing to say.) I also figured out why it was mono=final output setting I didn’t notice to change to “stereo” and it defaulted to mono.

    My commute is an hour each way, but I’m the one driving. I actually don’t mind all that much is it’s usually the time that I listen to music or “write” songs.

  4. Come on, share your idiocy! What did you do wrong?

    I listened to Clipboard on my iPod this morn during my commute. Now I’m thinking I should remove the kooky synth–which I only put there as a sort of test/joke anyway. Perhaps a Hammond Organ instead? That’ll give it more of a 70’s feel, rather than 80’s Styx, which I really don’t like.

  5. OK.
    1) I am/was using the laptop’s built in microphone. Total garbage.

    2) I was not using headphones…I was using the laptop speakers. So I record track 1 fine. I record track 2 (some “musical” cues) and it’s a combo of track 1 & 2…but with distortion.

    3) As I am too blockheaded to figure out that I am creating an infinite loop of distortion, I try to redo track 1 but sing as balls out LOUD as I possibly can. (Practically screaming…my wife asked me what I was doing.)

    4) So I try to “mix” and end up lowering the all the tracks except my “screaming” track…but it has the “music” distorted.

    5) I give up and export the music as is…but in mono.

    6) I e-mail it to you two…and 10 minutes later as I lay down into bed the brain starts working and I realize what I was doing wrong…

    Lessons learned:
    A) Just go out and buy a damned microphone cord and plug it in.

    B) Get out my headphones so any tracks past track 1 are done in a “clean” environment.

    C) Register myself with the state of Illinois as a person of mental deficiency.

  6. I might have to erase that entry so no one else will know what you are doing. Also, Mr. College Graduate, work on your grammar! This blog is run by a PhD. I might have to start doling out grades.

    1. If you buy a microphone that’s worth its salt, then you’ll have to buy a USB condenser mic (expensive) or USB dynamic mic (cheaper). You can’t plug a mic with an XLR plug into your computer, unless you have a mixing board that you can plug into your computer’s line in. Then you can plug your mic into the board, the board into the computer, et voila.

    2. I forgot what 2 was going to be. Oh, yes: can you plug your mixing board into your computer? If so, problem solved. Once you buy a mic cable.

    I’ve been debating getting a USB condenser, but the cheapest one I can find is $89, and the one that I like is about $129. And they go on up from there in price. I come close to buying, then I remember: I have almost no money, and if I can save anything for “discretionary” spending, I ought to buy an amp. Crazy that I make more than I ever have before, but practically all of it is being used.

    Choopski, how did you record your vocals? You have a mixing board going into your line in or into the USB plug? What sort of mic did you use? It must have been a good one since you got a very nice sound out of it.

  7. I may just buy a USB microphone and avoid dealing with the whole problem.

    …and how’s THIS for grammar? FU.

  8. Ha ha. Just relax. Go lie down. I rarely give bad grades.

    And while you’re buying a USB mic, buy me one, too. Mate, chum, bud, pal.

  9. Holy Crap! No!
    I just went online and checked out the prices.
    Those things cost plenty!!

  10. Chopper Newt Says:

    I have an Electrovoice RE20 that I bought off a radio station owner that I worked for in Tallahassee before he sold out and I went across town to work for Corporate Monolith Clear Channel. It IS quite nice sounding, but you ought to see it, to paraphrase Clint Eastwood in Escape From Alcatraz, it looks like it’s been up somebody’s ass. Best C-note I ever spent.

    It goes to a Mackie VLZ 12-channel that does have an on-board mic preamp, and then to the computer line-in through a really janky stereo RCA to 1/8″ cord.

    I attempt to do voiceover out of my basement, that’s why I have the setup, but it works for this, too.

    The guitar does the same thing basically, direct line into Rockman, and thence to the mixer. I’ve isolated the worst of the noice to the unfortunate 1/4″ to 1/8″ adapter I have to use to accomplish this.

  11. Chopper Newt Says:

    Um, noise, I mean.

  12. Yeah, those adapters usually aren’t shielded well enough. I have a Monster guitar cable, which is 98% shielded, but to go into the Mic plug on my laptop (there is no line in that I can find), I bought a 1/4″ to 1/8″ adapter–but I bought a really good one at the music shop for $20. Still, I can hear a slight buzz through the headphones, so the money was probably wasted. The serious noise I’ve been getting is from the software amplifier simulator. When I turn on the overdrive it growls like crazy. The more distortion, the worse the noise. Doesn’t make sense, really.

    I’ve been trying to get my hands on my old Ibanez distortion pedal, which was a good one and never produced much extraneous noise, but it’s somewhere in my parents’ attic, and they can’t seem to locate it. As I recall, it had a short in it anyway, but I could probably fix it. Too expensive to buy a new pedal: they’re at least $100. But maybe on e-bay!

  13. I have bought no cables yet…of any kind…

  14. Well here’s a weird turn of technological events. I’ve been looking up USB mics for my Mac…and they are almost ALL universally panned. They get great reviews for Windows usage, but not for Mac.
    Weird because usually it’s the opposite.

    So I don’t know WHAT I am going to do…

  15. Don’t bother with a mic, then. Worry about recording your drums.

    I’ve been looking up my old distortion pedal on ebay (the Ibanez Metal Charger). Goes for more now than when I bought it in the 1980s. I sure hope I can find mine. I’ve also been looking up the old Ibanez Tube Screamer, which now goes for even more, well over $100. Pisses me off that I let most of my old equipment go. Particularly my old Ampeg tube amp, which would probably be worth thousands now.

  16. Chopper Newt Says:

    I have a Crybaby! somewhere…

    Never did figure out how to not make that thing sound like shit.

  17. Which crybaby? I was looking at an old wah-wah today. It’s the one pedal you actually can’t really replicate with software or an effects rack. You have to be able to work the pedal to replicate the famous sound.

    The guy who owns the vintage shop in Dayton I visited today had a ’73 vintage fender tele deluxe for $3000. It was pretty beat up, too. He had a very low opinion of the reissues, which he claims need new pickups and pots to be good guitars. Maybe he’s right, but I played the reissue in New York and the neck is damned sweet. One of the nicest guitar necks I’ve ever used. And the whole guitar is beautiful–but everyone says the guitar sounds like a thick blot of ink spattered on dirty paper. My Squier vintage modified tele, which is set up like the deluxe, sounds like that, so I guess they’re right. It’s one of the ugliest sounding guitars ever made, I suppose. I’ve also found that only the bridge pickup is really usable. The neck pickup tends to distort too easily. But even the cheap Squier is a good looking guitar.

  18. Well, I found one that is well reviewed for Mac. The Blue Snowball USB…except it’s $100. I’m such a moron I’ll probably end up buying it.

    = = = = = = = = =

    I remember Chomper’s Crybaby. He was accurate with his assessment that he could only make it sound like shit. I have in my possession a tape of him using it for Devil and it is not good…

    = = = = = = = = =

  19. I read pretty bad reviews of the Blue Snowball. Anyway, what are you going to use it for? Vocals only, right? Find a dynamic mic, it’ll be cheaper, and maybe it’ll sound better for vocals.

    Have to finish revisions to my book’s Introduction this week so I can send it off to a potential publisher, then work like a madman on a conference paper/new article. I hope I have time to play some guitar.

    I also bid on ebay for an Ibanez tube screamer. The question is: will it overdrive a computer simulation of a tube amp?

  20. Where did you read the bad reviews? I pulled a couple and they were positive.

    An aside:
    I have recently been acquainting myself with the music and history of The Band. (I’ve known “of” them all my life but very little “about” them or their music aside from the hits.) Today I watched the documentary The Last Waltz, the final performance of the original group in 1977. [Awesome…I recommend. It is being played frequently on VH1 Classic.]
    It was once said that Chops on stage resembled a “young Jimmy Page”. I know strongly disagree with that statement. Chops on stage resembled a young Robbie Robertson. In stage presence and musical style.
    Nuff Said.

  21. 1) Sent my “improved” Batphone demo

    2) listened to Clipboard. Awesome. (I sent some critiques via e-mail.)

    3) I sent Matt the Freep version to get his opinion

  22. Boy, those are as different as they could be. I dig the guitar on the FF version–is that you Chops?–but I like the new version better, if only because it fits the tone of the lyrics better. And I’m probably biased since I came up with the rhythm for the new one. The bass is pretty darned cool on the FF version, though. Also dig all the guitar feedback.

    I don’t see any reason to make the “slack jawed bastard part” more staccato, as it will just sound like the original version that way.

    Of course we need “real” drumming. The loops in there are just place holders. They sound nice, but there’s not enough variation to be convincing. Anyway, that’s your issue Metro. I’m ready to hear your playing on there; then we can do a high-quality mix down. At our current rate, we’ll take as long as Axl Rose to produce a new album.

    Haven’t listened to the Batphone stuff yet. This eve, I’ll get to it.

    Didn’t win the Tube Screamer. Maybe I’ll just go buy one…. I need a better sound on my guitar. Which Rockman do you have, CN? The original from the 80s? Those are worth big bucks, now.

  23. I really like the “groove” of the original arrangement. I always argued that the Bum-Bum-Bum-Bum was overused and interrupted the groove. It should’ve only been brought in during the chorus. Anyway, I guess that’s all moot at this point.

    Feel free to build-up and build-out on Batphone. My ideas are just skeletal.

    And the way I look at it, it doesn’t matter how long it takes to do these songs. They are (for the most part) for our pleasure and to break up the tedium of adult life.

  24. Well, I’m into this for the pleasure of playing rock again. I can’t figure out why I stopped now! But I also think we’re coming up with some good stuff and could make some extra dough selling our music, if we want to. As I said before, I know an indy music producer I’m willing to contact once we have a good demo. At the very least we can get his opinion. And there’s always the option of self-producing, advertising for free on sites such as sonific.com and myspace, and selling through a company like CD Baby.

    We probably missed the boat on “rock stardom” though, which is too bad listening to CN’s singing. He’s got the rock genius, without a doubt.

    I listened to Clipboard several times at the airport this eve. I can’t think of anything that needs immediate attention. The biggest problem is, as usual, the quality of the mixdown, but we’re working with mp3s here so that’s to be expected. Once we get Sir Pent’s drums and some good bass someone (I suspect I or CN) must collect WAV files of each track and do a good mix. Still, CB is amazing. I was also finding it amusing that Chops and I have switched guitar tones: in the old days I had the warm, saturated guitar sound and he the fuzzy, grungy sound. Now it is the opposite.

    I’m also wondering again if Choopski should sing Channeling Lou! By the way, I did a new mix of it I should post: with a very funny intro bit that sounds like someone trying to tune in an old AM radio and, just for a moment, hearing a lo-fi version of the original Channeling Lou recording, before my guitar chimes in.

  25. Chopper Newt Says:

    I would give CL a shot, if and only if the Gator would provide me with a lyric and a blessing.

    My attention is going to turn next to the Kung Fu song, maybe this weekend.

  26. I say Matt has to be the one to ask Gator!!

    Choops and I discussed the idea of “selling” the songs. I like the idea, but agree with Choops sentiments at the time that most rock acts write their own music. That’s kinda how we got to the idea of country music…that market still uses a lot of independant song writers. (Hence my slew of country songs forwarded to you.)
    Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea…but I am treating this as a “hobby” right now so as not to get myself overly worked up at the thought of being a songwriter.

    Now, if we want to try and take a trip to the land of POP…

  27. Well, Gator did say he was coming up with new lyrics. If we ever hear from him we can find out what he wants to do. But you, CN, are the only one of us trained to sing, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t trust my voice to produce anything good, even though I don’t have a bad voice–just no idea how to sing, really.

    I listened to the new, improved Batphone bit, but haven’t had a chance to come up with ideas. If I get a moment this week, I’ll listen again and see what emerges from the maelstrom.

    Chops, I’m wondering what your guitar looks like. You’ve described it, but words don’t do it justice. Can I do a post with pictures of all of us with our instruments? I’ll see if I can snap shot myself with my black tele. Then you with the green tele, and ol’ Sir Pent sitting at his electric drums!

  28. Naw, I don’t want to “sell” our songs. I’d sell recordings of us doing our own songs.

  29. We could (in the event a name artist chose to buy) make a lot more cash as songwriters…

  30. Damn, I just wasted half my day grading student papers when all I wanted to do was revisions to my own work. Guess that’ll happen tonight when I’m dead tired.

    Anyway, regarding songs, I’m not much of a songwriter, really. I just come up with music, and barely know how to write it down. Forget lyrics. Whenever I write lyrics I think they sound pretty darned stupid. So, if you can make money writing songs, then go for it. But unless you’re writing for Avril Lavigne, who’s going to buy rock or pop tunes? Don’t they write their own songs?

  31. I couldn’t grade papers. I have to give “training sessions” occasionally. At the end they have to answer questions. I am supposed to ‘grade’ and turn it over to HR. I often fail to get through the first one. My hat is off to you.

    = = = = = = = = =

    That’s why we work together as a songwriting TEAM. Choomp or I come up with lyrics or melody idea…you provide the music. Also, if you have the skeleton of a song, Chops or I can help co-write the lyrics. As far as I’m concerned, if you guys like a song idea I have but want to change lyrics…all you need to do is let me know. I’m open to compromise.

    (With a little direction from Choomper) I looked into submitting my demo song “Let’s Pretend” to some ASCAP houses. What they look for is:
    1) membership in the union [of course]
    2) solid lyrics in written form
    3) solid demo, on media (CD)

    = = = = = = = = = = = =

    As a side note, I’m not against the idea of trying to sell our music. I also enjoy creating artwork and such.
    Any of the options you mentioned are “viable”. I know that myspace has a music store service where we could CHARGE people to download our songs. (There is a Myspace fee to change your webpage to a store of course…)

  32. Well, I suppose selling country tunes, as you mentioned earlier, is certainly viable. I just can’t see selling rock songs. Rock artists create their own music, mostly–don’t they?

    Damn, I AM tired, but after dinner it’s work work work this eve.

  33. Chopski, I keep meaning to ask you: what are you saying in the “background” vocals of CB? I can’t quite make them out.

    Just realized I can’t actually pay both my credit card bill and my taxes this month! How fun is that? I can’t afford to work. Not in New York anyway.

  34. Chopper Newt Says:

    It’s really just a mumbled version of “Yeah they sent him up the river”. Metro is right, it does suggest TTWS. Actually, I was going for an REM feel – I’ve been listening a lot to their new CD, and I wanted to get that Mike Mills thing going, with two different vocals in the chorus. But since I can’t sing high like that, it doesn’t sound like REM.

  35. Funny how the style makes the lyrics sound so profound.

    Haven’t heard the new REM CD, although I read the Rolling Stone review which pointed out that finally REM had gotten back to their cool roots. It is interesting how rock is getting even more retro. There’s a regular desire for the 70s. Everybody wants to recover the sound. Every guitarist I know wants vintage axes and vintage tube amps, old tube screamers–even if they have to artificially age new guitars to make. I saw a guy in Ludlow taking a regular Squier bass and dipping the parts in carbolic acid to quickly age them. Nothing funnier than fake …. whatever. It’s like buying brand new ripped up jeans.

  36. TTWS…told ya. Not that it’s a bad thing. I do think, however, that with my sloppy drums and a real bass part it will give it more of a “rock” feel and edge it closer to REM-ish territory.

    It’s funny that you say that about retro concerning guitars, bacause I’ve noticed similar things with drums. Rock drummers are moving away from the giant kits to minimal bass/snare/2 toms/1 crash/1 ride/hi-hat combination. Even the builds are going back to more natural wood components. I watch a lot of TV concert footage and I’m noticing it more and more.

  37. I’m all in favor of natural wood components, if the wood is available, but it isn’t always. Apparently the new American made Fenders, made of Alder, don’t sound as good as the old ones because there is a paucity of good Alder in America–so they have to build the guitar body from several inferior pieces glued together. Good wood sounds nice, however, especially if it has aged well.

    I listened to old Rush today coming home from Queens and I have to say I’m not opposed to giant drum kits. Neil Peart absolutely rocks, and he had (has?) a huge drum kit. It all depends on what you want to do. After listening to “La Villa Strangiato” I want to record an uber-cool, super-long, really classical rock instrumental. I was thinking I should revisit my long-lost instrumental attempt “Chasing the Dragon,” which had some potential but was never fully realized.

    I may soon have more time on my hands, too, for recording since the price of fuel has driven up airfares to such a degree that, at this rate, I won’t be able to commute to New York to teach next year. They don’t pay me enough. I lose money by working. Of course, I have to find a job in Ohio. Maybe I’ll get a job in a music store! For, like, $8/hour! Won’t that be fun? I suppose it would be if I didn’t worry about things like college for my daughter and retirement. I figure even if the world collapses in the next decade, people will still have to have jobs and pay taxes… to somebody. It won’t be like I Am Legend where you get to drive a Mustang down empty Manhattan streets shooting at wild deer. No, the apocalypse will probably be tedious and difficult rather than wild and fun.

  38. Ah, I lost the bid once again on ebay: this time on an ’80s Ibanez overdrive pedal, the very one that I in fact own, or used to own, but can’t find–the very one that shorted out on me all the time, particularly I recall once when we played a bar and I was about to do the Funk This College Life solo. I stepped on the box and… nothing happened. I still recall CN’s scream of outrage.

    I would have entered a bidding war if not for the fact that 1) I must still have this pedal somewhere, if only I can get a chance to look for it I may find it–I also have a great stereo chorus pedal from the same era that should be hiding in the same spot–and 2) I’m so out of mullah right now I have no business trying to buy anything. So I let it go. If I can’t find mine, I’ll try to get one in the future one day, when they’re worth even more, no doubt.

    And fake authenticity was what I was thinking of earlier. Even authenticity is fake in our society.

  39. Wow. You’re really getting “the glass is mostly empty” aren’t ya?

    I’m not against big kits. That’s what I grew up envying. (Bands like Rush, KISS, any hair-metal band.) My favorite ridiculous kit of all time was the band SteelHeart. Just plain stupid…but awesome anyway.
    I think the minimal kits I’m seeing today are as much about “fashion” as sound.

    Back to music…has anyone heard anything from Gator in a while?

  40. I forwarded the demo of Clipboard to him and recently posted something on his blog, but he’s AWOL. Probably spending all his time gnashing his teeth that he quit playing bass and can’t record really cool rock music with us now. he he.

    I don’t know SteelHeart. Were they a hair metal band? Geek that I was, I just loved Rush when I was a youngster (Can you believe Rush is still producing albums? A new one is supposed to appear this year). Then I discovered Yes. Still love their stuff, like Starship Trooper and Close to the Edge. I had some metal favorites, too, I think, like Judas Priest who I saw back in, what, 1987? As for hair metal, I did have an affection for Motley Crue back in the day, and they were soooo bad.

    Forgot to mention: I listened again to your rap of Batphone and came up with some ideas, following your melody but altering it a bit. Although it’s now 11:13, I might plug my guitar in and thrash it out a while.

  41. Chopper Newt Says:

    I’d like to see like a Simmons electronic drum set with all the flat pads, and then a gigantic gong behind it. That would be awesome.

  42. Is that what you have, Sir Pent? A Simmons kit? That would be cool, indeed. We’d be ready to play some Duran Duran for sure. At any rate, it’s far easier to record a good electric set than an acoustic one. If you can get good sounds from your kit, recording should be a breeze. I still want a picture of everybody’s instrument posted up here. That’s the next post.

  43. Matt…I heard that as far as hair metal, you used to have an affinity for Steve Vai and…if I remember correctly, didn’t you and the Gator once try to re-record 18 and Life by Skid Row?
    Chimper Newt was more of a Damn Yankees fan. “Smile when ya say Damn Yankees!”

    I can’t remember the “brand” of my electronic drums…but it was NOT Simmons. THAT would’ve been awesome. No. Mine was kind of a “lower Level”…kinda like a Mr.Pibb to a Dr. Pepper.

    As soon as I can get it out and set up, I’ll take a pic to post.

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