Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Playing with Zach

video
Zach is Craig and Jeannie's son, I love them like family. Here I am playing with Zach a few days after Christmas. He is a very bright young man. We had just played football on his new PlayStation 3, which I found to be pretty absorbing. The graphics are really cool and I am generally not interested in video games.
Not being near my sisters and nephews and great-nephews is felt. I see the pictures of them online and the boys (my great-nephews) are growing so fast and I haven't even met them yet. I'm so glad to have Zach in my life, his whole family actually. It can't replace what I am lacking in contact with my own family, but I feel so privileged to have them near.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Reflecting back on the year

It's not the end of the year yet but I am at home Christmas day thinking about all of the things that have happened this year. It has been an incredibly alive time and so much has happened I forget. Here are some pictures to refresh my memory.
Going to Europe was such a dream come true. Especially since I did as a band member on tour. Something I had begun to think I could not achieve. In the picture below I'm standing outside a gas station in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Playing in Stuttgart, Germany
with tour manager Ollie in Maastricht, The Netherlands
Playing at the Botanique in Brussels, Belgium. The picture was taken during our sound check.
Another highlight of this year was when both of my sisters came for a visit. I love them so much. In the first picture I'm with my older sister Stephanie.
With Adrienne and Stephanie
Friend and former bandmate Maureen made a surprise visit from France. Her son Leslie was the real surprise and I bonded with him immediately.
I have been blessed with seeing my friend Jane on three occasions this year. She lives in Phoenix but has been in town for a variety of reasons and is here now for Christmas. Jane is the woman in my life to be upfront.
to be continued...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I'm digging Opeth


So I am currently listening to Opeth repeatedly. There is such beauty as well as power in their sound. I've known about Opeth for a long time and have listened to them without really connecting. I recently bought 'Blackwater Park' because Steven Wilson produced it. The album blew me away. I've gone back to their beginnings and to my ears they started sounding special around "My Arms Your Hearse' and 'Still Life'. Right now I am playing 'Deliverance' a bunch. I like trying to learn the guitar parts as well. Really awesome shit.

Maybe

I had started to write my inner most thoughts to reveal and then wondered why I am compelled to do that. I already know that one is never quite understood. People will think they know you or understand who you are and you'll be knowing it's just not true, and you just bear with everything because you understand that people mean well. Everyone does not know the same thing or perceives information quite the same. But what a person knows defines life for that person. Does anyone have any idea what I'm trying to say?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Today

Visited with Frank yesterday and he had good news. He's recovering really well and the stint in his heart is helping it work nicely. He is not looking at further surgery at this point and I am so happy for Frank.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Finally


Been concerned about my friend Frank who had a heart attack about three weeks ago. He's finally starting to recover since having two surgeries. It was really good to talk to him after not being able to for it seems forever. I love Frank like a brother we have done so many things together. For the record, I have been to more excellent concerts with Frank than any of my friends and that is a distinction. I love music and the live music experience. Frank is so much fun to see a good band/show with.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Breaking the Silence


Funny how I start a blog and then I never post. Well here goes one.
Tonight I attended the annual fund raiser for the organization I work for called Community Alliance. Our guest speaker was Steve Lopez, the author of the book The Soloist that was recently adapted to film. He was very inspiring. I have worked at this mental health agency for 24 years now and the impact the work has had upon my life and countless others cannot be stated simply. The Alliance is a community based mental health rehabilitation service for adults. Like anything the business has its flaws but overall the agency is known in the midwest for being very reliable and effective. Steve Lopez was the perfect guest speaker for us. He could have easily gotten away with talking all night about how cool it was to have a movie made of his book with such great actors but he didn't. He told the story of how he met Nathaniel Ayers and how it transformed both of their lives. He spent much of the time talking about the devastating effect mental illness has on so many people. He talked about how upside down society is, how he learned about classical music and Shakespeare from a homeless man on skid row, while he himself lived in the hills in a nice house. Steve showed himself to be a man of integrity, recognizing that he has an opportunity to do something helpful by sharing his story and information about what can be done better.
It got me to thinking about how I left my job about a year ago to go on the road and play music and work on film crews. It was a wonderful time but practical need sent me back to my full time job. But even before I left I was aware of the impact the work I am part of has on my community. As much as I would really love to just be an artist I am very proud to be involved in work that attempts to heal. My older sister was in town awhile back and when we talked about this she simply said that it is obviously your path. I accept it. Mr. Lopez' words reinvigorated something in me tonight and I am thankful for it. Of course I still want to be a self sufficient artist but very clearly I recognize the value of my job and am feeling appreciation for it right now.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nebraska Pop Festival pictures

I had the great pleasure of playing with Labrador at the first such festival to be held in Omaha. I sincerely dig his music and it was such a gas to play with him. I also played with another band called Cleemann and some photos will be posted from that performance. Both artists are from Denmark although Labrador (Flemming) now lives in Berlin. Photos taken by Frank Zaccone.






















Monday, September 14, 2009

Events

Mark's wife Liz died last Saturday. She had cancer and had been battling it for years. Thinking about her passing does trigger self reflection and with that I refocus. Mark and Liz were together a long time, maybe 20 years in total. When I last visited them she was bedridden and he was right there at her side. I must admit that I don't quite comprehend this kind of love. Back to self reflection.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's like talking to myself

So I feel like writing. Was just on Facebook for a second talking to a couple of friends I made through doing film and it just brought me back to that feeling I get from working full time. "I'm working so much that I'm hard pressed to find the time to actually live." I'm just venting. I am so thankful for my job and the fact that I am half decent at it. The creative work that I've had a taste of through film and music really calls to me, though. I just auditioned for a part in a film being shot in Council Bluffs next month, as well as submitting my resume for crew work. I got an offer for crew but can't take it. Tied to the financial reality of my mortgage I have to opt for the security of my job. For now.
I still believe the opportunities are there for me to make a transition into a more art centered way of making a living. The challenging part of this transition for me, is to think more business-like in approaching my music and art. I'll get the hang of it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Family





My sisters are in town for an annual event called Omaha Days. It's a big reunion for the black community, people come from all over the country and probably the world. I'm so happy to see them again. We had a reunion last year when I was on tour. They live in California. My younger brother Patrick comes in town tomorrow and it will be the first time the four of us have been together since 1996. I'm really feeling it. I'm stoked.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I'm doing all right


Here I am last Friday night celebrating the gig my band just played. We had a splendid time and I am so happy to have a band. The guys do their best to play the music well.
We're also recording tracks for an album.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Just had a birthday

The 7th was my 54th birthday as well as the day of the Michael Jackson memorial. I worked as usual and it was a strange day. To me, the response to Michael's death illustrates to me how important pop culture actually is, as opposed to what we say is important. I mean, his story overshadowed all of the other news in the world. In many ways he has been a big part of the soundtrack to our lives these last 40 years. It's hard to find the words to convey how much this has affected me. I have always been a psychedelic rebel when it comes to music, having been a snob about commercial music much of my life. But Michael is such a magical person he transcends all of that. I am so sad that he is already gone.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I'm feeling it

I was inspired by The Jackson 5 as a teen.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

recording




It had been awhile since I'd done any recording at home. I broke the spell last weekend and did four new solo tracks. I call them so because they are idea captures more than songs. One of the recordings is available on my soundclick jukebox. Listen to "The Sky at Sunset". It's a new version of an oldie of mine.
So I continued recording in lieu of having band practice on Monday. We've recently recorded at a couple of different studios in town and have had varying levels of satisfaction with the results. Although I am not an engineer I seem to know how to get a certain sound when recording by myself. Getting a good drum sound with vocal microphones is not easy but we made some good headway towards doing that during the session. We're planning to record our first album (hopefully) at my house and I'm glad to have gotten the work started.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What I'm listening to


Listening is as important as playing for me and always has been. Forever it seems that music has been my solace, even my escape from some of the shittier aspects of life as a black boy in the midwest. Due to unfortunate circumstances the joy of listening to the blues was destroyed for me. I vaguely remember when T-Bone Walker entranced me as a toddler. But The Beatles saved my life quite literally. Ever since I have been drawn to the sounds of the continent (UK and Europe). Thanks to punk I reconnected to American music. All of this goes as a way of clearing some head clutter and also trying to explain my taste in music.
With all of that said I just bought a vinyl single by Fleet Foxes called "Mykonos" and am listening now. I love their vocal harmonies and the timbre it creates, soft but sturdy.
Other new music I like includes the latest by Animal Collective (Merriweather Post Pavilion). I'm especially stuck on the track "Are You Frightened". Love those vocals and the mess of a beautiful sound behind them. "Veckatimest" by Grizzly Bear is also real good and I've only started to listen to it. I am so intrigued by the originality of the song ideas and arrangements. I want to write more like this.
Other top listens at the moment are Merz, in particular the songs "Silver Moon Ladders" and "Presume Too Much". Really excellent British pop on the folkier side (I'm making up words) sound-wise. Beautiful songs.
To be honest, I listen to my own music a fair amount as well. It really serves its purpose, the music that I write. It captures a place I am not finding in other people's music. I am grateful for the gift of this music, to be able to express it.
On to the rest of my current playlist. Other artists guaranteed to take me there at this time are: In Gowan Ring, Dungen, HASYMO, Scott Walker, Tunng and The Bird and the Bee. Special mention goes to old favorite "Music for the Masses" by Depeche Mode. I'm just coming off a jag of repeating "Behind the Wheel " and "Never Let Me Down".

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I am here

So often the self censoring involved in my thinking. I end up not writing anything. What's on my mind? I like this new song by Grizzly Bear I'm listening to. I appreciate the cds sent to me by the person who has started a record label (Smallboypants)in New Jersey. I see them sitting nearby. I listened to one earlier and liked what I heard. Definitely meriting a return visit. Now I'm jamming to a bootleg of J. Mascis and Mike Watt rocking out at the Knitting Factory. That makes me trip back to touring last year with Son Ambulance and playing at the Knitting Factory in LA. It was a cool time and place.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I definitely recommend you see the movie


I went to the first showing of April Showers in Omaha last Friday night. I went later to the 'official' first showing of the film, the 7:00 slot where the cast and crew present were acknowledged. The theater was just about full and there were a lot of people connected to the movie present. It was exciting, it really was. Even more exciting is that the movie is good. It is rather intense emotionally and the cast delivered the goods. It's an engrossing story that draws you in pretty quickly. I had to dab away tears my first time through.
I have to talk about my work on the wardrobe. I was so thrilled to be entrusted with the whole job in the first place. I had only done one film previously (Lovely, Still) but I'm a fast learner. It's cool that I've ended up in wardrobe because I have always loved clothes and fashion but have not necessarily been a fashionable dresser. The film looks good, the clothes don't distract from the action. People look natural and 'of the times'.
Besides blowing my own horn, I am quite aware of the potential impact this movie has. Namely, the potential to touch people, get them/us talking to each other. Maybe it has the potential to encourage people to start or continue healing. Reconnecting. It has been a real growing experience for me, to say the least.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

April Showers the movie


It's a little over a week away from the national theatrical release of the film April Showers. I did the wardrobe for the film and the experience was pretty awesome. The film is based on director/screenwriter Andrew Robinson's experience of living through the Columbine tragedy. I missed the premier of the film at the Omaha Film festival due to being on tour in Europe so I have yet to see the finished film. I'll tell you that the trailer that is online looks pretty damned good and I'm very proud to be a part of this production. I must say that I think it's ludicrous that the film is rated R, the film is intense but not violent. It's almost like some people want to keep teens from seeing a film that attempts to realistically portray life events, because that's what the film sets out to do. Again, I'm speaking from having been a part of making the film. It was the kind of project and atmosphere where many of the people involved got to be like a family, we needed each others support because it was so personal and intense. The film is showing across the country starting Friday April 24 and I encourage everyone to go and see it. At the very least it will get people talking.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Back to the regular world

I've come down from the tour and I'm back at work full time. I didn't originally plan for this. No thanks to the economy tanking and foiling my original plan to work on-call virtually full time. It was possible before the recession really set in. Honestly, I'm thankful to have an employer to return to. I worked for 23 years at Community Alliance before leaving last year to do music and film as much as possible. I am so glad I finally did it. Working on film crews, touring and playing so much music with the different bands has been so fulfilling. I almost sound like it's all over but I don't see it that way. I have to refocus on maintaining my household for the moment but I have projects upcoming.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

In Austria

I so appreciate that someone dug us enough to tape this.

playing in Austria

A fan took this video of the band performing a song Dylan wrote in German while on the tour.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Greedheads

I don't know about you but I was never fooled. I sussed that there were no benevolent figures looking after the best interests of the common man decades ago. It seemed so obvious to me as a child that the only thing that seemed to matter was money/power. Everything else was a lie. The church and what it represented, the schools and they're supposed purpose, the public figures that asked for our trust all lied and continue to lie. Look at the current state of the world, the economic crisis. It was always about the naked money grab. We was hoodwinked and it is not going to get any better. Ever.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Back home


Being home from the tour is kind of tough. Life in general right now is a challenge with the economy being in such shape. I feel it directly because I gave up my full time job last year to do the band thing. Returning to the harsh reality of needing to get back to regular work hours is a bit daunting. I am constantly challenged by life. I would love to live the life of full time musician/artist but it still doesn't pay well enough. Time to readjust, take care of bills and put together a strategy to increase my music business.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Tour


The tour is winding down, we have two dates left in Dusseldorf and Brussels. It has been quite an experience. Many highs and of course, some lows. I think the most diplomatic way to describe some of the lows would be to say that I wish I had been touring with my band as opposed to being a band member. Several things would have been done differently. I also am very tired of the curious looks I get from people on the streets and sometimes in stores. It is 2009 for fuck's sake, what is with this continued attitude about race? It is not my imagination, some people's distrust or distaste with encountering a black could be cut with a knife it was so obvious. It enrages me that ignorance will not die.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Germany


So, the Son Ambulance tour is primarily centered in Germany where the band seems to have the most loyal and understanding fans. I love the old architecture along with the ultra modern that you find here. It also seems that the clean places are way cleaner than in the US. I'm comparing because I have always hated how the US always talks like it is the best. It is not and I am saying that as a US citizen. At my age I don't knowe that I would move to Europe, but the place certainly appeals to me. I will say that I am dealing with a bit of the typical tension I feel at home regarding race. The band tell me it is my imagination but I have lived with this all of my life and I know a rat when I smell one. All I can say is that it still hurts when people cross the street whgen they see me coming, some of the cold and downright fearful stares I catch when walking alone is still unsettling. I did not experience this in Japan. With those thoughts shared I feel better. Thank you blog.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'm in Europe!

Well I made it fine through the flights. My uneasy feeling about the flight was on time though. There was a medical emergency during the flight but everyone was safe. A man went into a diabetic coma and he was panicked and delusional. It was handled well by the crew but I had a feeling about the flight. There is so much to say but I'll just say that Europe has not disappointed me so far.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Preparing for journey

Today I leave for Europe. For me this is a big day. I know that people travel all over the world all of the time and it's no big deal. I can't begin to describe how I have longed to go to Europe since I was a child, thinking the possibility was beyond me. My family went through some really lean times and I know that has a lot to do with why I've supressed many of my dreams. They just seemed impossible. I am so thankful for this opportunity. It has not been easy getting ready for the tour. Frankly, rehearsals have had many moments of tension. I pray that the band will find its groove and that we play well for the people and ourselves. I enjoy flying but I have had moments of deep anxiety upon hearing about the recent plane crashes. All I know is that it is beyond my control. I pray for a safe journey for the whole band. Ultimately I pray for a safe journey for everyone. I want to openly declare my dedication to Son Ambulance, to doing my part to make the band strong and musically potent. I dedicate myself to making an effort to help the band move forward musically and professionally. I may not be able to come up with perfect pop bass lines, but I always play with soul. The audience has always made a point to let me know they feel it. I know that this is something I can contribute consistently.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Visit with Thomas and Nick



Last night I enjoyed a very nice visit with Thomas and his son Nick. Thomas is quickly becoming a new friend as well as band mate. I'm searching for the right descriptive words but it's basically the Native Americanness in his ways that I really like and am comfortable with. There's a spiritual essence in the way he lives. It comes through his son Nick as well. The kind of people I like to surround myself with.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Showing Zach my new camera

video
One of my life long friends is a fellow named Craig Chytil (that's him in the background on the phone). We've known each other since high school, have played music and experienced a lot together. We have a special bond. I remember the first time I saw Craig's wife (before they were married), I knew that he would marry her the moment she walked in the room. Craig like me, swore he would never marry. Zach is their son and he's 11. These people are like family and I love Zach so much. I just wanted to share that.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Thanks Randy


I played at the 31st annual Groundhog Prom in Omaha last night. It is a costume/freakers ball that's a big annual event in Omaha. I was able to take pictures of the event thanks to my friend Randy, he gave me a new camera after hearing about the death of my Fuji. I love taking pictures and just capturing moments. Randy sayed the day just in time for my trip to Europe. You can bet I intend to take a bunch while there.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My latest audio work



Recently I was contacted by German artist Kommissar Hjuler (http://www.asylum-lunaticum.de/) to collaborate on a piece. Kommissar's visual work is fascinating and disturbing at the same time, and I have been told that some of my sound work has the same effect. I agreed to receive a cd-r of text spoken by the artist and his wife/artist Mamabaer to incorporate into a sound work. The audio is finished and I have uploaded it to my Soundclick player. The name of the piece is "Anticipation of the Generalized Other". Scroll through the titles on the player until you see it and have a listen. Kommissar Huler will release the collaboration in Germany on his label SHMF in a limited edition with original artwork made for each copy. I am also making the work available on cd-r with cover artwork by K. The two covers I have chosen to use are displayed above. If you are interested in purchasing a copy send me an e-mail. dvhiggins@cox.net