Cooking up a storm over the holidays. That is the modus of my Christmas vacation this year, which is extremely fitting based on the kind of year entertainment has had. Unless you’ve been under a rock its patently obvious to me that its been a horrendous year for legends and icons of music and film.
Hell within 48 hours of Christmas we lost George Michael and Carrie Fisher.
George a musical icon that created some amazing music and of course Carrie who was part of one of the biggest movie franchises in cinematic history.
Beyond the strange string of deaths that lined 2016, I spent a good portion of the year creating. There’s been a new design on the website. There’s been over 60 new songs in production for various co-writes and other things. I’ve been writing new music for release. But my favorite thing this Christmas is the cooking lesson I got as a gift from my sister.
She’s got some great connections in her little spot of the world and its led to us having a nice lesson in cooking last night with Chef Veronica.
Chopping & Cutting
The menu started with crab cakes – so very tasty. It was followed by the group of us chopping up all the ingredients for the main dish Duck L’Orange with ravioli.
The beauty of all the chopping is that I received a super amazing chef’s knife. So sharp that I barely had to drop the knife on the item I was cutting and it would cut itself. Like a hot knife thru warm butter. Drop.
Seriously, having the right tool in your hands makes doing something so much more enjoyable. Like in music, having a great instrument can help you sound better, having a better knife and help you cook better. I’m sure of that assessment. Its probably a lot like getting access to a top end compressor while recording.
One cooking technique I learned was called supreme. Supreme is the art of cutting out citrus so that you don’t have the membrane to deal with while cooking. Yet another reason to have an amazingly sharp knife.
Speaking of sharp knifes tends to remind me of a guitar teacher I had who refused to have any glass or knifes in his house. His reasoning had to do with having an incredible fear of severing his hands – which would mean an end to his ability to play guitar. Aside from rock climbing and bowling, I never shared that fear. For me, rock climbing is super rough on the muscles for my guitar playing. Thus I don’t have a problem with glass or knives, but I don’t do rock climbing and I bowl with my right hand (so I don’t waste my left hand for days on end). BTW – I suck terribly at bowling.
While I’ve made regular pasta, aka spaghetti, in the past, I’ve never made ravioli before. Its a slightly different ballgame in the pasta field.
We got the filling, a mushroom and ricotta filling, finished and chilled first. Then we turned to the pasta dough where we spent time running it thru a pasta roller, over and over. Nothing new there. But when it came time to make the ravioli, thats where things took a turn.
First you lay out the bottom and then get your top half together (hoping that you get them roughly the same size and shape.) Once you have the bottom you dab out the filling in uniform spots on the flattened dough. Once there’s a line of filling, you place the top over it and press down.
I learned a cooking tip that its wise to use an egg wash to help seal both sides of the ravioli together. Meaning I had to do this prior to putting the top on.
Then I had some fun with a couple of different ravioli cutters that were laying around. A heart shaped one, a round one, and also with a pasta cutting wheel to make square ones.
This was the first time I had cooked duck as well. Chef Veronica showed us how to score the skin prior to cooking. Duck is not like chicken. Much like a Les Paul is not Moog. It requires an entirely different method to cooking. So we scored the skin with crosshatches. Then set it into a hot pan to start searing and cooking the fat side down.
Once the duck was nearing completion…
Into The Water
That’s when the pasta took its turn dunking into a hot bath. What’s awesome about fresh made pasta is that it cooks in roughly 3 minutes.
Out of the water came the pasta. The ravioli got covered with a brown butter sage sauce. The fettuccini was topped with the duck and a tasty orange sauce (made from the supreme’d oranges).
What a tasty and fun way to learn to cook something new.
It gives me an idea of how I could bring the idea of producing music into someone’s home…
He’s making a list checking it twice, that’s the phrase many people learn throughout then known planet of earth.
That time of year when people are generally supposed do things to relax, be merry and happy. The ultimate in humor is that many people do the exact opposite thing. Many are ignoring their better judgement and running around getting extravagant gifts, being stressed out and sometimes down right rude to others.
What Do You Do
You know what’s real odd? How does one approach wishing people greetings based on their religious or non-religious background. Do you stick to your own views? Do you try some politically correct thing? Ask their religious background and use that? What does one do?
See, as an atheist who has a childhood linked to a religion that dealt with Christmas, I’m most accustomed to that and I’m fine with it.
In that sense, I technically enjoy the idea of Christmas. I doubt it would matter much to me if it were Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or any other religion’s concept. The reason I stick with it is to cause less issues with the immediate family. Plus its a familiarity thing.
Whatever your preferred religious background is, know that I wish you that address.
Year End List Checking
The big thing a lot of publications do is list checking, or rather year end lists. Top 10 this. Top 20 that. Best of the Year this. Worst of the year that. So many lists. I’ll admit there have been times when I pay attention to them. Not any more. Not this year. Too many crazy things have happened from a celebrity death list to insane politics that I’ve pretty much checked out of the whole list checking thing.
This time around I’m hanging with family, watching movies and keeping a low profile. I’m taking a break from recording. I’m not concentrating on anything other than spending a bit of time with family, friends and loved ones.
It goes without saying that nearly everyone on this planet loves to get gifts. True reality is that most people are not natural born gift givers. Maybe this is what list checking was meant for – to make a list so that its easier to purchase gifts for others.
Personally, I fall in the camp of not being really good at giving gifts. Though I do think I made some much better strides this year. At least this is what I’m being told by family already based on gifts I’ve given so far.
One thing I’ll be doing is watching a lot of movies and munching on popcorn. Mostly holiday themed classics like, Its A Wonderful Life, Love Actually, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, etc. But I’ll also be watching some movies like Passengers, Rogue One (Star Wars), Collateral Beauty, and La La Land.
What are your holiday movie plans?
Whatever you do this Christmas, be happy. Enjoy the company of others and know you are loved.
Oh, and give me a special gift of adding my Christmas song “Christmas Brought Me You” to your favorite holiday playlist.
Its late at night. I’m in the studio working on different rhythms for the vocal and lyrics in a new song.
This particular song has been going thru a long process of rewrites. I had the initial idea for it a good long time ago. I laid down a demo of the song, then left it in a pile of 70+ other songs that were eventually going to pulled back out and tweaked for release.
Those 70+ songs got voted on in an effort to eventually do a classic example of a album. Voted on by a select group of fans. Then I wised up and took a look at how people consume music – they listen to streaming services and singles. Understanding that led me to switching spending time on each individual song as its own entity to be polished to perfection.
I was poking around my hard drive of songs and realized that recent events really dictated that I pull this particular song back out and give it some serious attention. I took it out of its original hard driving hard rock format and turned it into a pop bound rocker that is much more modern in arrangement. Keeping the same drive but really adding a slew of elements to propel the song in to a much wider audience of listeners.
After the arrangement was up to snuff filled with little nuanced tracks, it came time to work on lyrics. The track is flowing with such force that I felt the original lyrics were lacking. The idea was there but the focus was off. Not as laser sharp as it should be; and this was already the 3rd incarnation of the lyrics. I started bouncing rewrites off of friends. I removed two lines and replaced them with a better idea. Where my first idea was saying the same thing as another line in the song (but the second line said it better). Then I changed the title / hook of the song. The original title was apparently too passive and I wanted action!
Once the lyrics got tweaked, it required retooling the melody, or rather retooling the rhythms of the verse. Why would I work on different rhythms? Primarily, I had to get used to the new flow of the lyrics. Also I want to make sure I keep the song going in a way that the listener wants to hit that repeat button to listen to the song again and again. Which is where I sit right now. I spent a couple of hours trying various ways to play with the rhythm of what I was singing. I narrowed it down to two different rhythms that I really like.
What gets me is how people react. A first reaction can tell me if I’m really on the right track. Usually I don’t bring a lot of other people in on the process of my writing, but I felt like hey, I could use some help on which different rhythms I should go with for this verse.
I already know the chorus is an anthemic banger. Yet I need to make sure my verse compels you to get to my chorus. Its that simple. Once I have which of the different rhythms I’m going with for the verse, I can start going to town on the vocals and really make it fly.
My goal is to get this particular song ready and released by January 20th. There’s a significance to that date for this song and if you’re a U.S. citizen – you would be well to know why. If not, I weep. For everyone else, its still going to be an awesome song to bounce along to and play loud and proud in an arena or your party.
When Good Monitor Goes Bad
A couple of nights ago I was working my way thru the re-recording of a song demo. It started with a guitar part that maybe 2 people in this town could play, me being the other one. There I was going knee deep into the studio zone of percussion. I had finished the drum parts when I started to take on adding additional epic cinematic drum hits. Midway thru the 3 track of said epic drums there was a sudden quick drop in volume and low end.
Where Did It Go
I tilt my gaze over to the left side of the studio thinking that maybe a Gremlin, or quite possibly a house elf, had taken the monitor speaker to another dimension. Alas my eyes weren’t being deceiving as the monitor speaker was still there. Dammit.
Nothing like losing half the sound right in the middle of the take.
Next up was an endless series of troubleshooting steps. First thought was, hey, maybe the power went out. Flip the switch on and off, still no sound. Maybe something went out in the monitor volume device. Nope. After switching the cables between speakers it was still showing as working out of both outputs for the remaining speaker.
Call A Friend
Pensive, not quite panicked, phone call to a fellow studio friend. Explain the problem of the monitor speaker. Words come drifting back thru the speakerphone saying “Did you check the fuse in the speaker?”
I take another gander at the speaker’s enclosure. Search high and low. Up. Down. Left. Right. Front. Back. Nada. There is no fuse for the speaker to blow. Dang it.
Knowing that the speaker is no longer manufactured, I grudgingly pull up the website to see if there’s information about getting repairs and to peruse the what-replaced-this-model version of their speaker line.
After drooling over what could replace the model I have in the studio, I make a note to Siri to remind me call the company in the morning to get a repair ticket going.
Here Come The Headphones
The disappointment of a monitor giving up soon abates. How do I proceed with my next recording session? A recording that needs to be recorded, mixed, and mastered before 11 am the following morning. Hmmm. In come the headphones. There is no other choice after a certain time of night when all normal humans have gone off to visions of sugarplums and cherries.
Producing high quality recordings via headphones isn’t the most ideal means. However, when the chips are down and the music must go on, you make do by crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.
It All Works Out
I got the session done. Turned it over to the co-writer for the purposes of submission to a distant land for a commercial use. When you get feedback stating “It sounds great.” You thank your stars that you didn’t have to attempt to mix without some form of stereo sound.
The beauty of it is, the speaker company is able to repair the monitor for a price considerably less than the new alternative. The added icing on the cake is that you now have an in to chat about possible endorsement. That’s priceless.
I can’t wait for you to hear the fruits of this labor. Unfortunately you will have to wait until sometime early in the new year of 2017. There’s still more recording and production that needs to be done. Ooh, and mixing it. Finally mastering it. Its a process that will be interrupted by a little thing called Christmas and New Years.