Thursday, September 30, 2004

Fact Finding MIssion in Borneo

Well folks, I just made it back from an educational adventure with the Wild Men of Borneo! Contrary to popular belief, they don't eat all tourists from Alaska. Just every third one...Apparently, I'm luckier than I thought. The voodoo curse I thought I had on me has passed the statute of limitations. That or they ran out of pins! (ouch...guess they didn't) I didn't touch the bouillabaise, it looked a little odd-fingers, perhaps? As far as shrunken heads, they had quite a few around the village. The mystery about Jimmy Hoffa is over-I'm fairly certain his head was among them. That or it was Tattoo's head in actual scale! Boss, da plane da plane...Okay, enough grimness-there was quite a joyous mood on the island. The plasma TV had just arrived and the chief "Mozz"was scoping it out, enjoying it on his new Dish. They have satelite dishes in Borneo-who knew? I'm happy to report that not only are there Wild Men in Borneo, but Wild Women! The unfortunate thing is their habit of "courting" is chasing you around the island with a machete' while singing Heart songs...It was the damndest thing, running for my life hearing one sing "Barracuda-and very well! They also have a Karoake console over there, that explains alot. In my past life I was a private detective. I found my ass with both hands once and decided to spend the rest of my career resting on my laurels. So the natives are being inundated by bad US TV and they now want to get a Burger King franchise! They are already singing bad commercial jingles! Say it ain't so....Other than a really bad sunburn, I came through the trip well. back to the parallel universe, Derek

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Trouble with Gravity

Ever have one of those days where everything you touch or think of picking up falls to the floor?! I got the distinct impression that gravity was not my friend. At work it was bad- knives, towels, lemons and gnocchi (dumplings) were hurling themselves to their apparent deaths to avoid my grasp...Hey, I tried to talk them out of an early demise, but what can you do, you know? Of course gravity is always especially heavy when I crawl out of bed every day. It's as if I'm Gulliver and those damn Lilliputians have lashed me to the bed! Apparently size does matter-he he! Or someone is fooling around with the controls, hitting that switch that gets those monstrous gravity gears grinding together. Or else it was that giant Asteroid that just passed by earth. Oh, there it is now! And who do I see waving from it? James Brown, the Godfather of Soul! "Get on the Good Foot"! Just dropped a CD jewel case---time to hit the hay before something really disastrous happens, like I get in a good mood! No smiling allowed here during my workweek-check them at the door for a modest fee! -Derek Ozelle

Monday, September 27, 2004

In Defense of Introspection

I've noticed that our culture here in the USA seems to be hellbent on getting outdoors and "doing things". An admirable pursuit, but often this leads to ending up at outdoor markets. It can mean spending a half an hour listening to your now ex-girlfriend discuss the benefits of flax seed with a vendor. Now before I get any email from you flax seed people, please be assured that I condone the practice of taking it. Discussing it's virtues for lengthy periods of time, I think not! I think that all of this hyperactivity is perhaps a grand design oriented conspiracy to keep us Americans from thinking about anything meaningful. (ha ha, just what we need, another conspiracy buff) Yes, keep the distractions coming ladies and gents. I sometimes wonder how our nation's youth deals with the myriad of entertainment possisibilities available. Giving yourself some time each day to truly appreciate the beauty around you is one of the sublime things you can do. Along with this, realize what a truly powerful instrument your mind is. How many fantastic inventions, concepts, etc. have come to those who were "just sitting around"/slacking. Imagination is the true treasure, for it is through it that the splendid creation of art has it's genesis.

Politically Incorrect Moments with Tuna

Hmmmm, what a dilemma. I have an albacore tuna exchange student living with me (don't ask me how this happened, it just did!) It seems he snuck into the kitchen just as I was wolfing down some sushi (California Roll), I tried to stuff it all in my mouth before he saw what it was...oh, the guilt. Now he's sulking in his room listening to Slipknot. Another fine day in Alaska!

Torment Infested Waters

The "Black Mood #98" crept in earlier tonight and I'm trying to get it gone. Still lurking in my mind is the subject of how I'm going to salvage what's left of my life, as well as make music a part of it. I don't recommend brooding on the "Big Picture" as much as I do, frankly it's counterproductive...but it's what I do on occasion. You see in my early 20's, I was the guitarist who was always practicing and not out partying like everyone else. Oh sure, I partied, but my eye was on the world and what I could do in it. I was going to "be somebody"-ha ha! When you drop out of college to pursue a career in music, you'd better be good at it or why bother, you know? So being the rugged individualist, I set out to see what I could do with music. In retrospect, it's been like a working vacation. I've been all over the west. Never quite made it east for some reason...Jim Morrison once sang "The west is the best"...As my bio says, yes I'm a starry eyed dreamer but pragmatism is a very strong undercurrent running through me as well. So I was over the mindless, unfocused and hazy jamming a long time ago. And no, I don't want to play at drunken jam sessions doing bad versions of good songs...That isn't to say I would love to put together a really good jam oriented band sometime...a focused one, that is. I know it seems like an oxymoron, but bands that jam and play very tightly arranged material as well are ones that are magical. I've liked what I've heard Phish do, the Dead when they were on, the Allman Bros, Hendrix, Santana, the Spin Doctors, even Earth, Wind and Fire...and so many others.

So these days I'm in a quandary. I can't just up and quit my cooking job-it pays very well and I have my son's child support to continue paying. I'd love to just hit the road and not look back. However, the road is where financial reponsibilities tend to fall by the wayside. And the last time I looked, there is nothing guaranteed in music. I did play a couple housegigs up here for a total of 6 1/2 years for security purposes, rather than dealing with the "Happiness is a Warm Gun" scenes with flakes. It was a trade-off, the musicians I played with weren't always ones I would've chosen to gig with, had I had any choice. Probably vice versa on their part, ha ha! I had a counselor suggest to me in my first attempt at sobriety that I should go to some senior's homes and play for them to "give something back." What would I play, acoustic versions of "Jumpin Jack Flash"? I really didn't know how to respond, was I travelling around the state and playing all sorts of music that I "loved"? That's the dilemma, if you're going to play in clubs, unless they're original ones, you have to play what the audiences want to hear...bottom line. No ifs, ands, or buts. (unless you've played the same circuit for awhile and have a following) I also had this rather abrasive counselor at the treatment center who treated me like I had never played a note in public before. Inotherwards, any concerns I had about my music she would ignore. Ah yes, live in the "real world"...(Speaking of which, I love those lyrics in John Mayer's song "No Such Thing";
"Welcome to the real world," she said to me
Take a seat, take your life
Plot it out in black and white

She was an "artist" and I can't say I've seen any of her work anywhere...that'll be my one sarcastic, backbiting comment for the year-not my style. The problem I wrestle with is the old torment is back, I'm just not a happy camper sequestered in the kitchen continually. I did try to completely quit music a few years ago. Let the whole thing rest. It would be quite a bit easier. But my guitars kept waiting...they have this way of hanging around and making their presence known. I did always keep at least one out on a stand. This recent debacle with my car is a set back I didn't need. But there is a certain level of melancholy that I've basically decided is always going to be a part of my life. I'm going to have to deal with it. This has been going on since my teens, popping Prozac isn't the answer. I just didn't have any concept of all of the damage that my drinking did to my life when I first got sober. Every year there seems to be something else that is revealed. These are aspects of my life that perhaps I'll never be able to get back. The jury is out.

There is a "young gun" guitar player here in town who I'll call "Johnny Gibson". I've seen him on the TV ads for the local blues club. He plays a couple of blues licks, ain't no thing... He's got the long muttonchop sideburn thing happenin', the Elvis 50's look. He's handsome, I'm sure the ladies love him. I've never actually seen this guy live, the feeling is, is he actually going to be any better than the players I've already seen? Or me, for that matter? The thing that absolutely kills me is that I'm the caliber player that should be playing all over with a kickass band, but I've got circumstances...and I'm in my 40's. Making it big is a dream that was over a decade ago, easy. (yes, I DO live in the real world!) I also have chosen not to hang out with any of my old drinking buddies so all of those contacts are out. I really don't want to start from scratch again either...see the irony here? oh yeah...Another reality based situation is 15 clubs that used to have live music have either closed or gone Karoake. The age of the full band up here basically ended in the mid 90's. It was simply impossible to make a liveable wage as a 4 or 5 piece. I played in a couple of 3 pieces, then a series of duos to make the decent wages. It's amazing, in all the years I've been playing up here, the money musicians make is still the same-meanwhile, everywhere else they've increased 20 to 30%! Does that make all of you want to start gigging? I thought so! So all I really have been thinking about is a duo, besides a full band is like a marriage to 3 or 4 other people. When it's bad, it's BAD!!!! When it's working, it's magic...sigh!

So, I wrestle with all of this quite a bit, but I have faith that there very well could be something either on or beyond the horizon. To better days----and hand me those binoculars please!
-Derek O

The Glamorous Workbench!

Yes, folks, I'm back from doing a little soldering on my 40th anniversary Strat. The front pickup was ailing, a cold solder joint was the culprit. Contrary to popular belief, the guitar repair bench in music stores is the real place to meet babes! Yessiree, a real chick magnet...and I have recently "remodeled" beachfront property in Florida! This is the less glamourous part of guitar playing, but it's important to keep the instruments in good working order. I replaced the original tortoise shell pickguard with the current pearloid because I've never been much for the looks of that brown. They also have those mirrored ones for those narcissistic players who can tip it up to look at "the one they love" onstage-he he...This Strat is really nice, ebony fretboard, Lace pickups (the extremely quiet single coil ones, mine are all gold in this model). They make several different types. The color of the guitar is the really unique thing, it's a sublime looking deep bluish green with very understated turquoise specks that only show up in the lights. There is a certain name for this paint/finish, but I can't remember it...It's elegant, yet has a wild subliminal thing to it...This axe hasn't been played out yet, someday I will. It's such a sweet instrument, I played it acoustically and knew immediately that it was going to sound superb.

Since it's an evening in the "shop", the only drag about this guitar is the licensed Floyd Rose whammy (vibrato) bar bridge on it. It's sometimes called a tremolo bar for some unknown reason, tremolo has nothing to do with variance of pitch, it's a variance of volume level. Who knows where this stuff gets started. This bridge is a real dog--it's an engineering disaster! I knew about it when I bought it off of ebay, I've looked for a Fender/Floyd bridge without success but will find one eventually. It also doesn't exactly stay in tune...not acceptable for stage! Floyd Rose licensed bridges I believe have their own section in hell! Those who've designed them are forced to take them apart and put them back together forever...Floyd Rose came up with the original locking bridge design and it didn't have fine tuners. He consulted with Eddie Van Halen along with a couple of other players and fine tuners were added, thankfully! I had one on a Charvel (a tres cool guitar very popular in the 80's) that I bought and it was a nightmare. I actually had to tune my low e string a half step flat and then tighten the nut to get it to pitch! Then the licensed Floyds came out and I have to say, I believe there are more than a few guitarists in asylums somewhere due to the dizzying array of models. At one point I had three different bridges on guitars. Every one had a different design! The beauty of it was some of them took metric wrenches, some regular. Nothing but constant headaches, especially when you broke strings. Now if you were on the road and lost a wrench or a set, good luck! Up here in Alaska there weren't exactly fully stocked music stores in most of the towns we gigged in. Some of them were made of pot metal and stripped out. On others the bars fall out-nothing like playing a burning solo and have that happen onstage! I wondered if any of these had been designed by anyone who actually played guitar! Adjustments were often amazingly difficult and I've personally seen 7 different designs, including the Floyd Rose original.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

When skinny dipping in volcanoes...

Generally it's a good idea to bring ice--maybe an extra bag in July...and some sunblock!

"If the Body is a Temple-

where does pepperoni pizza fit in the spiritual realm?"

"Has anyone told you that you ask too many questions, kid? That's like asking what would the White Whale say if he lost a baseball on Captain Ahab's deck."

(Priest overhead at church bazaar) -----> remember, don't shoot the piano player or the messenger!

Smokin'....Livin' the Blues

Yes, as long as we're on the subject, continue to smoke em if you got em. Just make sure that it's your cigarette etc. that's smoking and not your car! I had an unfortunate mishap last night involving excessive smoke billowing out of my exhaust and a police officer. I'm going to gloss over the hideous and extremely expensive details but it appears Bluzboy here is deep into the blues as we speak! No digital 8 track, no acoustic and no fun! And---no car--it appears it'll be impounded for a month...I have 6 electrics and no acoustic, what could possibly be wrong with this ratio? It's about the same as the men to women ratio up here in Alaska! Well, supposedly it's 2 to 1...When I was out in Dutch Harbor on the Aleutian Chain gigging the ratio was...drum roll please!....20 to 1! And to add insult to injury, half of the women were lesbians!
Since my name is officially alaskanblue4, yes I am into the blues and we should spend a little more time on them. Now I want to know, who are alaskanblue 1, 2, and 3? Currently listening to one of my favorite drivin' tunes "She'll be so Fine" by Roomful of Blues;

Now when you treat her like she's a queen
She'll show her beauty like you've never seen
You give her love, and some respect
She'll give you something you won't forget
She'll be so Fine,
You won't ever let her go


These guys have been around for eons and have had several different line-ups, but this "Under One Roof" CD is a very killer effort. Sugar Ray Norcia on the wickedly sweet harp and vocals, a full horn section, ivories being tickled, tastefully raw guitar, and a locomotive rhythm section kickin the proverbial ass. Curtis Salgado, the former vocalist/harpist in the original Robert Cray Band did a stint with them as well. A riveting performer, and yes, he was the inspiration for the Blues Brothers. It seems that one John Belushi was in Eugene, Oregon filming Animal House when Robert and Curtis were both singing together. It seems that Curtis and John had some of the same bad habits and they did alot of hanging out together. Yes, it's a true story and us Cray fans were a bit annoyed that they were doing well over 300 one nighters up and down the west coast for years, barely getting by while the Blues Brothers tour and album was making good coin.
My feeling at the time was it was good to give the blues more exposure, it's just a shame that the blues performers who were actually GOOD at their craft weren't fronting the band. Ahh, show bidness...That was a long time ago and Robert did okay (ha ha!)--more on him sometime later.
I sometimes wonder what Belushi would be doing now had he lived, what a waste of talent! Of course, I also wonder what Jim Morrison thinks of the literature, art, music and film going on in the world as it is now. This is assuming that he has the ability to look down (or up-ha ha) on the proceedings. I've heard from informed sources that if you're "down there" with the guy in red satin suit and the pitchfork, you're generally too busy to do much perusing elsewhere...

Had a hideous time at my straight job in the parallel universe, there were heavy portions of tedium, annoying people with ego issues, and gladhanding by the clientele. Our executive chef/owner knows how to work a room as well as put out some fine food. Schoooze on, oh great one. He also tells jokes, some are---good, but he manages to screw up the punch line 50% of the time...which is what makes them so humorous! I found myself wishing I could go back to my vagabond/stowaway life of gigging tonight. My depression has really been pulling me under, especially since last nights debacle with the car. Life was alot simpler back then, lived above the clubs or motels and felt more "myself". Lots of feast and famine activity, it wasn't always a glamorous party--but I was playing 5, sometimes 6 nights a week! Maybe I've just outlived my usefulness or perhaps I'm on the cusp of something good. Time will tell...
Uh oh, Roomful is into "Easy Baby", a slow and potent number by Willie Dixon, one of the true blues legends-wrote "Spoonful", "I Just Want to Make Love To You" etc etc etc...One of my favorite players is also Albert King. Without Albert, there would be no Stevie Ray Vaughn. Talk about deep, stinging bends--man, Albert was top notch. Sang his ass off too...
over n out, Sir Derek Ozelle

Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Dangers of Hanging Out In Bars!

I saw this headline on my homepage this evening and got a laugh out of it...checked out the article and the main point was secondhand smoke. Hmmm, yeah I used to joke about getting lung cancer from all of the smoke, now it would most likely be quite the inconvenience! Let's list some of the other dangers they didn't cover;

a) meeting "colorful" rebels, misfits, and out and out criminals. (This is often where you can get some good job references-ha ha! Actually, you'd be surprised how much business up here in Alaska is conducted in the clubs)

b) being introduced to drugs, sex, rock n roll, insanity, someone's ex-wife, someone's current wife, and firearms!

c) being introduced to drinking cleaning products-stay away from Mr. Clean and Janitor in a Drum, despite what anyone may tell you, they won't taste any better on the rocks or with cranberry juice!

d) being allowed to make your own drinks afterhours by the clubowners-Kiki, the keyboard player in Data and I invented "The Open Grave". It consisted of a blender filled with scotch, bourbon, tequila, rum, orange juice, Ouzo, Baileys and whatever else we could find! Oh, start with a little ice and blend well! Mmmmmm mmmm, enjoy and go say hi to the big white telephone! NOW we're having some fun, bay bee!

e) find yourself onstage playing country music with a woman who starts yodeling! (true story)

f) meeting brothers of rock stars who own mansions, yachts, and who like hanging out in seedy bars because they can't access their money right at this moment--- and want a loan.

g) meeting your future ex-wife/husband who will make your life a living hell, tear your heart out and sell it on ebay!

h) get a good education at the "college of musical knowledge/hard knocks"

i) learn parlor tricks like tying cherry stems into 7 knots with your tongue...

j) hear jokes from 1850 that are still making the rounds today!

k) learn to identify the brand of beer bottles as they whizz by your head.

l) if you're a musician, you may be asked at gunpoint to play "Achy Breaky Heart" and like it!

m) discover that pool cues aren't always used for actually playing pool...uh huh!

n) listening to the same Kenny G song on every break the band takes for an entire year....

o) and last, but certainly not least, you may be in danger of having the best time you've ever had! (just don't breathe in)

p) forgot about this one-being the witness to some of the most ridiculous idiocy known by man,
such as watching a coked up club owner snort B-52 shots off of a bar....

Is it a bad sign that you may be breathing too much secondhand smoke when you sing and smoke is wafting out of your mouth because there isn't any untainted oxygen in the entire bar? I thought so...Smoke em if you got em, but don't smoke em around me!

-Derek "I didn't inhale" Ozelle

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Give the Gift that Lasts a Lifetime!

Teach a tuna to read! ----------brump brump tssssssst...

Recovering Alkies

I think I made some mention of being a recovering alcoholic. My 7 year sobriety birthday is coming up later on this month, I can't say I'm that excited about it. Due to the grace of God and time in "the rooms" I've been able to remain sober. As somebody once wrote, "Sobriety gave me wings to fly and then they took away the sky". It feels like that often. After numbing one's senses for over 20 years and basically turning a blind eye to life in general, it's often a daunting task to get back into the stream of life again. The thing is I'm not sure I ever was all that immersed in it. Oh no, now I'm falling into the abyss of perspectives again-ha ha! Music is life, right? At least that's what a little bird told me once...or was it the vino?

This relates to what lurks in the mind of Mr see, I wasn't exactly happy playing all of these gigs playing alot of songs I wasn't very into. Hence the drinking. I did make some fairly good money, but drinking is very expensive, I don't have alot to show for it. I do have some nice amplifiers and instruments, but played ALOT of tough gigs to buy them. I still have very distinct memories of cigarette smoke thick as fog, and those ever-present beer signs glowing on the opposite wall. Along with that, some very "fuppduck" customers at times not paying the slightest attention to us. That never mattered to me, continue to play your ass off regardless is the rule. But even with the dreary circumstances, I still have retained a belief in magic. I've even had the experience of playing a song and been able to immerse myself so much into it, time has stopped and it's deliciously sublime. So I do know that there can be a miracle or two occuring for me if I'm aware of them. This life seems to be flying by these days, a little too quickly, so I'll keep my binoculars out and keep a lookout on ye olde horizon. Time to exit this babble-o-thon.

Sometimes it's Got to be Miles....

I have some Miles Davis on, "The Man With The Horn", done in 1981. Sometimes I like to just go sans vocals/lyrics and let instrumental jazz weave it's way through me. This album has no keyboards on it, just guitar, bass, drums, percussion and sax along with Miles on his unique, hypnotic trumpet. I wish I had more of his stuff, all I have is "Kind of Blue", "In a Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew"--in a perfect world I'd have all of his work. He did many, many superb albums on Columbia, as well as other companies. I also got a cassette of some nice stuff from the 50's (The Collection/A Retrospective) in place of some other one that didn't arrive from a cool ebay seller. As it turns out, in an interesting coincidence, the guitarist on most of the cuts of "The Man with the Horn" CD is Barry Finnerty, who just happened to be the guitarist I saw with the Crusaders in that live show after Larry Carlton left. Small world. I remember at the time we were wondering who he was...and was he even introduced? ha ha...hard to say. Of course, not having read the liner notes real carefully I had always thought Mike Stern was on EVERY cut on this, but he's just on one. Finnerty is on the rest. Stern is great, plays a very wild, modal and often chromatic type style. He's also a player I learned some really nice chordal voicings from, as well as different rhythmic chops. And Miles with his use of space, it's truly a thing of austere beauty to listen to how he uses rests. I have the utmost respect for jazz players, lets just say there isn't alot of money in it. There has to be a true devotion and love for the music...

Monday, September 20, 2004

A good thing to remember...

Never take a big mouth and nothing else to a gunfight
--Quick Draw McGraw

Happiness Is A Warm Gun

Here's a story from the musical trenches, the Beatles couldn't have come up with a better title for this one...(bang bang, shoot shoot). I was about 8 months into this hybrid band that had formed after Data, the band I came up to Alaska with originally, dissolved partially. There were two Alaskans, John and Scott, then Kiki and I. Roger, our Napoleon-like bassist/singer developed nodes singing too much Zeppelin in Ketchikan, a town in "southeast"AK. We arrived for a 10 week long gig in Kenai and his voice gave out the second night. So....the burden of singing all the songs, except four, fell on me. It was quite a challenge, but I was hellbent to get it done no matter what...this is "road mentality", persevere through whatever it is. As long as you get plenty of sleep, your voice will be alright, generally. Kiki, our beautiful keyboardist and designated "little sister" told me that she would pick a number of tunes to do to help carry the load. After repeated friendly reminders, she never came through. It began to drive a wedge between us and there was resentment on my part.

Being a babe in the woods as far as serious coke abuse, I didn't recognize the signs. She was sleeping until 7 at night, and spending considerable time with John and the members of his band partying. He was plying her with copious lines of the stuff and filling her head with visions of sugarplums, better money etc. One night he and his mates came into our club completely hammered, sloppy coked-to-the-gills drunk. Lets just say I wasn't real impressed with John's aggressive, know it all 'tude from the start. I was even less impressed when he threw a beer bottle at us and--missed! This sowed a seed that would erupt out of the shadows in the future. He just laughed it off...So Kiki was spending alot of time with John and getting along badly with Roger. They had had an affair during the beginning months of the band without my knowledge. It was a fantastic example of why one doesn't break the rule of "Don't sleep with the help"...
John ended up joining our band due to the fact that Kiki was loyal to me and wouldn't join his. Roger had decided to fly back to California and have surgery. It was a blessing and a curse,
he was not allowed to even whisper! I had heard many insane rants out of him and didn't miss those...We hit Anchorage for the first time, and our drummer was gradually phased out and sent home to California as a result of Scott, one of John's friends joining. So this band was formed, appropriately called "Lost and Found", considerably more lost than the latter...I had just lost my girlfriend in California and was heartbroken, drinking like a fish. I had called her up, heard the rustling of grocery bags and a baby's cry in the background. The child was not was so over! I had been away for 10 months and even though we agreed it was ok to see other people, I was in shock when I heard the news she was pregnant and had a new boyfriend. Yet another relationship down the tubes due to music.

So things didn't exactly start off well. This line-up gigging various towns for 6 months or so and it was a scene involving lots of booze, coke, and weed. Alcohol remained my drug of choice, but being the unapologetic hedonist I would do the others if offered. I was never much into pot, the strains up here were way to potent and it would reduce me to a lichen like state...I was increasingly resentful towards John because he'd just taken the reins of the band and was supposedly the "band leader". Communication was nil, and I made a few requests for a band meeting where everybody was sober and straight. It never happened. I heard rumors that Kiki was now "freebasing", smoking coke and her behavior was really out there. I never knew what to expect. She and John were a couple and fought 90% of the was a competely hideous experience. I never knew from one week to the next whether the band would even be together, I'd be fired or who knows...
So we flew up to Nome, way up north and I had no idea what to expect. As it turned out, this was a town where the professional drinkers congregated. It was possible to be a full-blown alcoholic and barely noticed as having a problem. It was truly like the Old West. On Front Street, there were 8 bars, once after another. Two had live music. It's heritage was one of the Gold Rush of 1898, people from all over the world came to seek their fortune. Wyatt Earp was one of them. Many of the streets were still unpaved and there was usually 3 inches of mud to deal with. Kiss any nice footwear goodbye. I had my first experience of real winter-winds in the 70 mph, wind chill -50 degrees, snow blowing sideways...

We arrived in the summer, the weather was actually very nice except for the wind...lots of dust at times. The tension in the band was really getting to a fever pitch I was getting extremely tired of the constant arguing. We were doing fine as far as playing a night of cover music, lots of classic rock Steppenwolf, Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Fleetwood Mac (both old and new),
along with the current stuff; Huey Lewis, Heart, Tom Petty...No disco to speak of, thank God. But I wanted to start doing originals and we hardly had formal rehearsals at this time. We were talented enough that John and Kiki could pull their parts together, and Scott and I always spent serious time with the tapes and dissected things. As far as originals, it required some sobriety and formal practice...

So it was one Saturday night, John and Kiki were extremely coked up and drunk. He had a tendency to get really mouthy and obnoxious (surprise...ha ha!). I went to an after hours party with some friends and started drinking heavily. Our host had some lines. Then many more. I was getting more and more agitated and had it in my fucked up head that I was going to beat the living hell out of John and get this overwith. I think our host was getting a kick out of this and kept stuffing our noses with the insidious stuff. And as anyone who's experienced the high, 7 AM came and went. We were still awake. I may have slept some, but left his house in mid afternoon. I then hit the bars, continuing to "talk shit" and apparently some of this got around to John. It was Sunday jam night and I poured myself into the bar. I'm not particulary proud of this, but I did know that my buddy Rob could play the night if I was too drunk to play. This was a first for me. I plugged in and it was obvious I was too inebriated to get through it. I was moving in and out of moods at this point, since the coke had worn off I was considerably more drunk...not pretty. I repaired to the bar. I watched them play a few tunes and then the rage came back again. I'd been wanting to do this for ages...remember the beer bottle he threw at us in Kenai? Well, I intentionally skated a bottle across the dance floor in front of them and flipped the double "birds" ( aka I love you sign in Borneo!) yelling at the top of my lungs to John "you suck!". How poetic, eh? Unfortunately, Scott, Kiki and Rob all thought I meant them as well. It took a few years to clear this! So "partyboy/Mr. assassin" (me) went next door to the band house and passed out....slept like a baby...

Then I hear this raving voice from downstairs, it's John. "Hey asshole, you want to fight? "Come on down bitch" or something to that effect. Lets just say I was very bleary at this point and wasn't thinking clearly. For some damn reason I went downstairs. John is more wrecked than I've ever seen him waving a GUN around...a LOADED gun around! "You want some of this asshole?" he asked. My demeanor softened considerably. Fortunately Rob was standing in the area between us. I have no recollection of what transpired conversationally after this really. John points his gun towards the ceiling and fires a shot!!! I'm now a little frightened...I'm whispering to Rob "do whatever you have to do, can you get him upstairs or out of this room?" John was still waving the .22 around and was really agitated, just glaring viciously at me. He was standing in front of the only door out of the place. I thought to myself, I'm going to get shot while in a lame Top 40 band? (As if a touring, recording act would be better? Now that's logical!)
I'm wondering if he'd hit anything or ANYONE (Kiki and Scott) were upstairs. Rob, bless his heart, even though he still owes me over 300 bucks, somehow managed to talk him down some and turned him away from me. I still have no recollection of how in the hell I got out of that house-but I managed to grab a few beers out of the fridge on the way out! Simply unbelieveable, well, alcoholics have priorities. Sure, add more risk to getting shot for 3 Budweisers...I was shaking as I hightailed it out of there to basically hide on the seawall all night until he'd passed out and/or sobered up. We managed to play out the last week without any problems, I quit/was fired depending on who you talk to. The most ridiculous thing about the adventure? Guess what he hit with the shot through the ceiling? His bass guitar case!!!!!!!!! (ha ha ha ha.....) Missed the actual bass though....just desserts for assholes. And I managed to complete revenge on the all important beer bottle throwing incident. Oh to be young and dumb. In retrospect I'm glad that no one died that night. Years later, he came into a gig Scott and I were playing with Kiki and apologized. What a long weird, trip indeed...

Sunday, September 19, 2004

When Going over Niagara Falls in a Barrel...

leave the pet porcupine at home!
-Sage advice from Sir Derek Ozelle (Still Raining, Still Dreaming, Always thinkin')

Saturday, September 18, 2004

When Painting Yourself Into Corner....

always have either;

a) a helicopter hovering overhead (watch out for those pesky blades and the wash!)
b) never go for the obvious Dali
c) or the Llama...he he (will be edited out if enough complaints are registered--so lame!)
d) quite a few rubber bands
e) a National Steel guitar, you gonna be playin' some blues!

-your host, Derek Ozelle

Nothin' LIke "Southern Comfort"

No, it's not the Elton John song of the same name, it's the title of the Jazz Crusaders CD I got yesterday. This is yet another replacement of my record collection. I hadn't heard this in years, and it's as good as I remembered. Sometimes the old tunes don't quite stand the test of time, but this is some very lyrical, funky jazz that just swings and simmers along. It's basically timeless, except for the telltale phase shifter on the guitar occasionally, usually a dead giveaway for the '70's. My old MXR's (both the 90 and 100) both gave out on me and I haven't replaced them. They do have a nice pulse and texture to them. A decade ago they wrote off wah pedals, they're back!!

Larry Carlton plays some very tasteful stuff on this, he used to use a Sho-bud volume pedal for swells and of course I had to get one. They were quite the pain to work on, Ernie Ball came up with a much more modular unit later on. Enough "gearhead" talk...I was surprised how few actual solos he plays on this, but when he does they are melodic and he takes a few nattily picked hummingbird flights. He plays it pretty! I spent quite a bit of time jamming with this album as well and it's quite interesting to hear some of the runs that I "borrowed" off of it (ha ha). I laugh because I had nowhere near the technique to play his style exactly. But I think I still use some of his approach. (Lull the listener to sleep with droning low register stuff, then blast them out of their chairs with squealing high harmonics with heavy whammy bar-I'm kidding...)
This was done in '74, before he helped arrange the charts on the sessions for the Steely Dan masterpiece "Aja". This band plays as a well oiled ensemble, precise and yet very free. Joe Sample is all over this with his signature Fender Rhodes electric piano. I usually prefer piano, but in the hands of someone as talented as him, a Rhodes is somethin'! It's a true joy to hear him and Carlton lay down the chordal thing while the horn players play some cool melodies in unison and then branch out on their excursions. And Sample plays superb solos himself.

I forgot what a masterful drummer Stix Hooper was on this-he lays down tight grooves, then pushes the soloists to further heights, building the tension with his brilliant cymbal work. Pops Popwell weaves his way through the entire set on bass, there are a couple intros that are absolutely brilliant. Flashy, completely different than you would expect, but not too "busy" detracting from the music. Melodic and rhymically so "in the pocket" it's pure joy to listen to. I do own and have played gigs on bass, but he's lightyears away from what I can do. But the beauty of it is hearing him makes me want to practice. I saw these guys live once and he broke a string on his bass solo--never seen that before or since! Unfortunately, Carlton had just left, but they were awesome. I think they are out of Houston, y'all, if my memory serves me right. The horn players (I've forgotten their names right now--later) double on soprano and alto sax as well as some smokin' trombone! It's not ordinarily an instrument I want to hear in a solo capacity often, but he "works it"! (My opinion of "band" music and John Philips Souza another time) I used to work with a bassist who played excellent trombone, but I could never talk him into playing the Who's "Face to Face" with a real honest-to-God trombone solo in a rock song! Dammit, that's when I knew a career as a used car salesman was doomed. "Hey you, you need this car! Driven by my very own grandmother only a total of 800 miles! Trust me, I'll get you the best deal...only pennies over what we paid for it!" nod nod, wink wink...

Part of my early musical education on guitar was I was introduced to some "fusion" by some friends of mine and it certainly turned my head on it's ear. In a way, it was sort of a hideous experience listening to these players like Alan Holdsworth, John McLaughlin and Al DiMeola knowing that I didn't possess anywhere near the technical facility to pull off any of their solos. These are just three out of perhaps 500 players who have interested and inspired me. I'm sure I'll get to them later. History has judged this era as way too self-indulgent and it's a fair assessment in some cases, but there was a playing level that was extremely high. There is another very scary band in this genre called, appropriately enough, "Brand X", John Goodsall has one of the most amazing right hands in the biz. Precision up the ass-I think I've heard him play 64th notes quite often and in a reasonably musical way! He could play some very riveting slow legato passages, then go into the blindingly wicked breakneck runs-ouch!

It's been a rough week at the restaurant (aka my career in the parallel universe) and it's been, as they say, a "mofo". I go from feeling fairly good about the world and my ability to live, play and prosper to all enthusiasm and ambition being sucked out of me until I crawl home a complacent droid. It's the repetive nature of it that tends to really make it a grind. Sometimes I don't even want to hear music, just silence=

It can be golden. Sometimes I don't want anything reminding me of what I should be doing. I had ten magical years where all I did was gig. That's all. I miss it! I've done an incredible amount of work on music in the past, it would be nice to be able to get back into "the flow" again. It's a tough proposition though. However, I've seen the rebirth of many things over the years and still retain some hope, and pray for a miracle or two occasionally. At times they even tide me over during the disillusioned periods where lackluster reigns supreme. I'll take "A Love Supreme" instead, thank you.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

A Quote...

The Best cure for hypchondria is to forget about your body and get interested in somebody else's.
-Goodman Ace (1899-1982)

Musings of a Musical Chameleon

Well folks, now it's time to sink down into it and see what lurks in the mind of a guitarist on "hiatus"...A thumbnail sketch; I've been a club musician for 20 plus years, played in California, through Oregon, Washington and then came up here to Alaska, where I've been for awhile. I came up here in '87 for a six month tour and it's been--17 years? Time flies doesn't it? And when they say what a long, strange trip it's been, they ain't kidding! The "Long and Winding Road" has taken a dip into a few deep valleys of hell along with Himalayan stays in hedonism. This "chameleon" has changed colors perhaps a few too many times as well. During this ride through almost every conceiveable type of music and bar I picked up many different styles of playing, so many that sometimes I have an identity crisis.

You see way back when, when I first picked up the guitar it was the Beatles, Dylan, the Stones, Jefferson Airplane, the Doors, Bread, Zeppelin, etc etc...This was on acoustic, then I switched to electric rather late at 18 and practiced 8 hours a day for a year...Ever tried to play "Purple Haze" on acoustic? No, it doesn't quite get it! The albums (yes, they were called albums back then-ha ha) of choice were the Derek & the Dominos "In Concert", Hendrix "Band of Gypsys", other Eric Clapton gems "Wheels of Fire", "Live Cream Vol 2", the John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers "Beano" album, the Who's "Live at Leeds" and Santana LPs, mainly because they had extended jams for a nubile like myself to learn the craft of guitar. And who wants to waste time pulling the needle up and placing back down on a 3 minute tune over and over? Unless you're learning it note for note, and I was nowhere near the level where I could learn songs well by ear then. Man, these were primitive times, cassettes hadn't even been invented--ho ho...Of course the cave dwellers had reel to reel tape and had just discovered fire! There are countless other guitarists and bands that I probably will mention some other time-this is 3 thousand word thumbnail sketch, remember?! (riiiight)

From the get go I had an affection for the blues, there was something incredibly spellbinding about the raw emotions conveyed by the intense, deep bends and singing vibrato. You could feel it right down to the depths of your soul...So by the time I began playing in my first band I was one of those blues/rockers from the start. Then we started gigging and as luck would have it, guess who had to play disco music to make the green? Yep...I had a bet with a progressive rock wizard friend of mine on who would play "Shake Your Booty"first? Guess who won? yesssirrreee...but he ended up playing it a year later in a Nevada showband! Just desserts for gloating SOB's. I was not real happy about this development and really felt like the proverbial "sell out". As we had quite a few personnel changes, we began to do some soul and funk, Aretha, James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, Kool and the Gang and others. I'd always loved Sly and really began enjoying the rhythm playing that's involved in alot of this stuff. Plus I was playing with this incredible rhythm section who had been gigging together for 8 years-groove machine to the max! The drummer had gone to Berklee and was really, really smooth.

I would insist that we do some rock and so we did practically every style imaginable. No, we didn't do "Muskrat Love", but we did do another Captain and Tennille song-ha ha! We crossed paths with them later on at a fair, a very funny story about that sometime later on. Flash forward a few years and I was playing all sorts of 80's rock and the other top-40. We were playing our originals, people were digging them, the vibe was happenin'. I had realized part of my dream, things looked promising. Then an originally oriented band came up here to Alaska and dissolved after some heavy traveling. I still am trying to figure out what we sounded like-ha ha!

The whole Alaskan experience involved being able to get back to my rockin' blues roots (very cool!) and a couple years of country! For anyone who knew me in my California days, besides the occasional "Don't Let Your Babies Grow up To Be Cowboys" and "On the Road Again" at gunpoint, I hated playing the stuff. I was once proclaimed the worst country player in the state by one of our singers-haw haw! Anyway, after a reintroduction to the style by some geniune pickers and grinners, it began to grow on me and now I have incredible respect for the style. I did spend some time on it and started to even get some kudos from the "Telemonster" pickers around. And a sidebar, pedal steel guitar can be the most amazingly beautiful and poignant instrument around...

So, to make this "thumbnail" sketch not to include every finger and toe, along with my musical career I had my other one. You see, one of the "rules of the road" for us macho lead guitarists is drinking. Alot. It used to be a requirement. So what started out as an idealistic foray into hedonism turned into a career in alcoholism. Suffice to say, it could've been much worse. But the general topic of this is "Jack of all trades, Master of some!". I took some time off from music to get some bad financial wreckage taken care of. I was burnt out on playing gigs on practically a mercenary basis and needed to re-examine things. I was hoping that after awhile what musical direction I wanted to go in would make itself known. It hasn't exactly happened. Now I'm becoming interested in acoustic singer/songwriting again, and...classic rock, jazz, old school R&B, funk , and yes, even country etc. As Jeff Beck once said when he was given free rein as a band leader; "it's like being a kid and being let out in a playground that's about 3 square miles--where do you start?"

I've been gradually working on my little studio, it's coming along. I bought a couple more Stratocasters, now have 6 electrics, don't have an acoustic, believe it or's crazy...lost my beloved Guild in a pawn shop. But I feel having a good digital recording deck and few other items will allow me to get to work on some of the serious music in my head. My antique 4 track is just a notepad/plaything...It gets the ideas down, then I want a mix that somebody else might want to listen to, won't happen with that deck! My life of sobriety is considerably less social than when I was the life of the party drinking...the old "lubricant" is gone. I've gone back to my sequestered ways. I was a classical clarinetist before I took up guitar and the practice regimen made an imprint on me. As any classical player can tell you, it involves alot of time alone, sometimes with a metronome in a practice room, going over passages over and over and over and....over! (and over! and...) So I'm used to solitude...perhaps TOO used to it. People wear me out at times. My battle with depression continues, some days are better than others, life goes on...At times I feel very fortunate that I'm still living, then there are others where...well, that's another subject altogether. over n out...

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Beware the Ides of March (and the Mechanic!)

It seemed like such a simple thing, a nice leisurely drive out to a country town to register my car out of the prying eyes of emission requirements. This is a legal loophole in this great state of Alaska, register it "out in the valley" outside of the Anchorage city proper and a smog test is not needed. I won't be driving the car more than 20 miles a week, so have no fear, staunch environmentalists...
Yes, a simple thing to ride out with my trusty mechanic, Lawrence, and see the sights on the way to the DMV. He pulls up at noon promptly when he said he would and was driving a nondescript sedan of some sort. Now I can't say I know Lawrence that well, only having met him a few days previously on a hi and by basis. My folks had warned me about getting rides from strangers...should've listened in this case. Gentlemen, start yer engines!
So I get in and the Alaskan 500 was off! Maybe the guy with the starting flag on the side of the road should've been a giveaway. I'm a little behind the learning curve. As he puffed away contentedly on a cigarette we jetted to the first stop sign. No worries. He just likes to push the envelope a little, Uh huh. Screeeech, and whiz bam-cathunk- we're leadfootin' our way through town like a couple of bank robbers fresh off of a heist. He said he was stopping for gas. I thought, oh cool, a chance to go back and retrieve some of my stomach a few blocks down...We then start out of town, he's inhaling a bear claw and guzzling down a Mountain Dew. Lawrence, I come to find out, is a native Alaskan, I've got 15 (or is that 17?) years under my belt, a legit "sourdough". Sour on the place, but not enough dough to leave! No no, Alaska is a state that grows on you. Like a fungus...He's got sort of a southern "Good Ol Boy" personna and is goodnaturedly joking away about this and that. "The wife is 8 months preggo and she's eatin marshmallows and pickles, it's crazy" he says...Then we hit the cloverleaf onramp about 60, yes ladies and gents, we've got some g-force happenin'. I'm flashing back to some page out of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and realizing that it appears I'm now living it, rather than reading it. Sheer terror is always much more fun up close and personal and-LIVE! Of course on the exterior, I'm cool as a veritable cucumber. "home, James..." et al....Then we hit the freeway. Immediately he guns it up to 80...or is it 90? I can't really tell, it seems that the speedometer is doing a dance between the two! I still can't recall what the make of this car is. I calmly ask if he's had any tickets...He laughs and says "oh, I've gotten a few, nothin' to worry about". All I know is if I was to drive this insanely, the troopers would be on me in a New Yawk second. Well, 4 minutes and 59 seconds later, a cop with ye olde flashing blue and red lights pulls around us. Yessiree...he's been busted!
The cop saunters up to the window and Lawrence almost absentmindly rolls it down.
"You were going 85 in a 65 zone" says John Law disgustedly.
"oh yeah, sorry--- I was just gabbing away and didn't notice..." he counters.
After the officer asks all the usual questions, Lawrence has none of the answers either the cop (or me!) want to hear-"uh, no I have no idea, I don't remember, my wife takes care of that" The cop reminds him that he's an adult and this is really lame. The cop takes my license, too, and repairs back to his car. And we wait. And wait. "Shoot, man, don't look all depressed now" he says, "he's probably pissed because his wife is sleeping around on him." Haw haw...he's a laugh a minute. I'm wondering if he's going to be arrested and he's doing standup. The cop comes up to the window which he's rolled back up...he waits...Lawrence is too busy smoking to notice. Right before I'm about to nudge him, the cop sighs and walks back to the car! Probably writing yet another ticket on some violation that he's making up on the spur of the moment! He comes back--this time Mr. Nascar notices him. Now we're gettin nowhere...
"I have 4 tickets for you...and my eyes glaze over as he reads them off, this has 4 points, blah blah blah, to a total of well over 800 dollars!! "And Mister, do you remember when I stopped you two months ago in that pickup? No? Well, I called your probation officer and this is the last time I'm going to warn you-next time you're going to jail!" I'm breathing a sigh of relief, then ask myself, he's on parole? For what? No, don't ask...I'm hearing Lawrence say in my mind, "oh, just a little manslaughter thing, I shot the guy 5 times by accident before I noticed the gun was loaded. We were just playin' around." And what else? Child molestation, credit card fraud? Nope, definately not going to ask.
I don't think I was ever happier to see a cop drive off-elapsed time on the shoulder-43 minutes! He calls and makes a couple of relaxed phone calls to the wife and the parole officer, it must be nice to be loved! He actually drives the speed limit, but I know that this is not something he does (or will do) very often in the future. We do the errand, are stuck behind a state trooper on the way back to town (thank God) . Probably an "escort" arranged by his "buddy" with the tickets. I swear, we're not in town for more than 30 seconds and he's got the pedal to the metal AGAIN! Screeeeeech! We actually go at least 65, whizzing by vehicles, almost clipping some of them. I'm reminded of that old song "Son, you're gonna drive me to drinkin' if you keep drivin' that Hot Rod Lincoln". Yes, telephone poles WERE going by like a picket fence! He mentions that we've gotten past 40 vehicles we didn't need to be behind as we jerk to a stop at the stoplight. Apparently in the Nascar Racing School he went to, they did cover proper traffic light etiquette. (Green-Go , Yellow-Gun It, and Red---Run the Sucker, Yee Haw! )
He let me off at my car...and oh so happy to be alive was I...So as a wise man once said,
Beware the Ides of the Mechanic...

Monday, September 13, 2004

Mob Paid Off/Time to Set Sail!

I just handed out some crisp dead presidents to the gladhanding,
femur breaking suits. All is well here on the "Good Ship Lolli-pop
-you-in-da-Glass Jaw" brought to you by the friendly folks at
MARS Inc., makers of M&Ms. (Hey, with overhead like this, one
must have a sponsor) Let the groveling begin...

I had a sublimely crafted intro but the cyberbeast ate the damn
thing and...I didn't retain it! Maybe later...

It appears that there will be little or no "order" to this blog. Along
with the usual melancholy/blanched enthusiam there will be
stabs at humor, mind numbingly dull accounts of my alledged "life"
and the occasional foray to Vegas when I do my Gigolo gig. Hey, they
say that sex sells! Hmmm, I suppose it depends on who's buying...
Also will be included memories of the musical trenches, aged in oak
barrels then distilled, as well as the bagged and tagged olympics...
This is when the stream of consciousness is flowing way too fast,
slippery like an eel, it floats like a bee, stings like Muhammed Ali.
Like Lewis Carroll on the Jabberwocky expresso bus...I must go!
over n out until something lucid appears on the horizon.