A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown


I met Henkka Seppala!

So, last week, wifey & I flew out to Ohio for 3 days to attend the Metal in Strange Places conference at University of Dayton. She spoke on a panel about research in metal studies. Her particular presentation was about using social media for ethnographic research – its a fairly new concept called netnography.

Anyway, on the last day, the final keynote speaker was Henkka Seppala, the bassist for Finland’s Children of Bodom. Apparently he’s an academic too, with a master’s in political history from University of Helsinki that he earned while touring the world – he spoke about studying on the road, writing his thesis during downtime between performances, and a lot more.

Here’s the sole picture I took with Henkka. It was at Oddbody’s in Dayton, for the conference aftershow. He played bass with Forces of Nature, one of the local Dayton acts – doubling with their bassist. As per the blog’s name, I’m the ugly one on the right. 😉



Updates since March

EMP Pop Conf 2016

Its been 3 weeks since I blogged or practiced. I paused during the week that wifey flew out to Seattle with a friend to present at a librarian conference. They did a piece on librarian stereotypes in media (specifically TV, I think) in the 2000’s. Next week, I’m going to fly back out there with her so she can speak at the EMP Pop Conference. This year’s title is From a Whisper to a Scream: The Voice in Music. Here’s a snippet from their website about it:

The EMP Pop Conference returns with its biggest roster of presentations yet, looking at the ways music lets us hear voices: singers, to be sure, whether virtuosos or idiosyncratic originals, but also other types of vocalizing. How do instrumentalists insert their selves into their music? When the dominant voices in our songs change, what changes with that, from personal identity to collective messages? A switch in voice—from croon to rasp to rap to Auto-Tune—alters everything it reaches. 

In dozens of panels, all free to the public (though we strongly recommend advance registration), we’ll explore musical voices across genre and time period: soul singers and rock singers, singers of exotica and Mexi-Cajun blues. Panels on goth-punk wailer Siouxsie Sioux, warbling rapper Future, and pop-rock duo Hall & Oates. Synthetic “vocaloids” and challenges to female decorum. Singing across lines of color. Good bad singing and bad good singing. Vocal coaching. Southern accents.

Wifey’s panel is called Noise Breeding Silence – Heavy Metal Voices. Here’s the description from the EMP website:

Metal remains fixed as a quintessentially white male hetero form in its most visible artists and presumed demographic. The emergent field of “metal studies” has begun to document metal’s appeal to women, non-white, and LGBTQ audiences, and to millions in the developing world. This panel considers to and for whom metal seems most to be speaking. Do metal’s various subgenres (death, black, doom, grindcore, etc.) all draw on the same underlying voice? Are different strains more or less inclusive? How do questions concerning metal’s inclusivity look different from a global vantage? What can we learn from participants who occupy non-dominant positions relative to core constituencies?


Recent happenings

may_you_live_in_interesting_timesIt feels like I’m living under the yoke of an ancient Chinese curse. Its been more than a month since I’ve picked up my bass. I’ve been swimming in work-related stress. I’m working on starting up a tech support company and spoke with two friends who have about the same amount of experience in I/T as I do, except that they’re more up-to-date. They’re going to be my backup, at least at the start, and hopefully will be able to roll into permanent positions with me if this grows large enough. I’ve been specialized in EMR development for about 14 years now, with a tech background going past that. They’ve been in various support positions for around as long as me, but they didn’t move into a super-specialized area like I did. I think that with the right marketing, we might be able to pull this off.

I’ve also been going through material to get certifications from CompTIA. Two of the books I’m working through are mammoth – one is about 2,000 pages and the other is about 2,500. I actually know the bulk of the material in them, from doing this professionally, but I’ve been relatively hands-off of hardware for a long time now, so its interesting to see how much things change while they remain the same.

While that’s going on, I’ve also spoken with my current company’s owner about picking up the torch and taking control of the company. To make a long story short, because the details are a bit frightening to me right now – I’m most likely going to do it. It’ll probably happen in October, and I might never see the light of day again.

Outside of the doom & gloom and general anxiety of trying to chart a course into the future, we did have two small breaks in the past month:

Two weeks ago, wifey & I went to Blackthorn 51 in Queens and saw Gospel of the Witches play. It was a great show. All of the acts were female-fronted & metal-oriented. The supporting bands were Earthbound (who are from here in Yonkers), The Missing (a goth/metal act I used to listen to years ago who got back together specifically for this show) and Alekhine’s Gun (featuring an actress from Orange is the New Black, a show I hear good things about but haven’t yet watched). Alekhine’s Gun’s rhythm section was really good.


River Roadhouse (4/11/15)

This post included tonight’s practice summary & thoughts, but I separated it into its own post, since they’re really two different things. Here’s some blather about a show wifey & I attended on Saturday night.

Didn’t get to practice during the day. We went to my sister-in-law’s with the baby and that ate the morning and afternoon. When we got in, we did some gardening – mostly pulling up weeds before they have a chance to really set in, and let the baby play outside for a while since it was actually nice out. At night, we ran over to River Roadhouse for the 1st time. There were 5 bands on for the night: Rise to Burn, Valence, Lies Beneath, The Hudson Horror and Thanatotic Desire.

I’ve known the drummer for Rise to Burn for about 20 years. We’re not especially close, but he’s a really cool guy and I love seeing him play – he also plays guitar and bass, and to my knowledge is versed in theory and can read. I think he went to school for it, and he’s engineered a ton of records for local bands over the years. I’ve seen him play in several bands, in various positions, since the 90’s, ranging from alternative to hardcore to death metal. They’ve generally been melodic bands. Back in the day, he filled in on bass for one of my friends’ bands – Insane Inside. I didn’t understand the ins and outs of it back then, but now I have a much greater appreciation for his ability to fill in for different bands in different positions. He has to actually learn all of those parts quickly enough and accurately enough to play them in front of an audience convincingly. That takes skill.

Wifey interviewed the drummer for The Hudson Horror about a year ago for her anthropology thesis work on women in NY’s extreme metal scene. She’s finishing her Master’s degree in physical therapy, a discipline I’m in contact with due to work. They’ve been in touch since then. She’s a smart woman and a great drummer as well. I do feel a little bad though. After their set, we chatted a bit, and as I’d spent their entire set standing up front with my wife, observing the bassist, I felt concerned about his right-hand (picking/plucking hand) technique. His wrist was bent very sharply at a 90-degree angle for the entire set. In virtually every lesson on technique that I’ve come across, this is bad form. Over time, it can lead to physical problems related to repetitive stress injury and carpal tunnel injury. I spoke with her, and another of her bandmates about it, but I probably shouldn’t have. I think I came across a bit strongly, which I didn’t mean to do, but I think that as I get older, I think about these things more regularly and didn’t want to see it impact another bassist if I could help to avert it.

I wrote her a message earlier tonight, partly to apologize, and partly to send her a link to a book I’d mentioned – Essential Bass Technique: The Definitive Technique Manual for Bass Guitar by Peter Murray. She has an interesting idea to specialize and become a physical therapist who focuses on musicians, and I think that this book could be helpful in that endeavor. I actually think its an awesome idea. I’ve never heard of a PT who concentrates on musicians, and it makes sense to me. Just like there are PTs who deal with different sports, or who specialize in geriatrics (most of the ones I work with, for example), but none, to my knowledge, with a focus on musicians.

Here are some other places where I’ve mentioned the book:

Gospel of the Witches & I met Ross Dolan (bassist for Immolation)

The wife with Karyn Crisis

The wife with Karyn Crisis

So, last night, wifey and I left the baby with her grandparents and went to St. Vitus in Brooklyn to see Gospel of the Witches. Its Karyn Crisis‘ new band, along with her husband Davide Tiso (Ephel Duath), Ross Dolan & Robert Vigna from Immolation and Charlie Schmid from Vaura – the only band I wasn’t familiar with.

I was up in the air about where to write about this, as I have an infrequently-updated metal blog as well, so I decided to write a little about it here for one main reason – we met and chatted with several of the band members after the show and one of them was Ross Dolan – bassist for GotW and Immolation.

I’ve been a fan of both Crisis and Immolation for about 20 years, and of Ephel Duath for around 12 years, so it was amazing for me to see an act comprised of members from all 3 bands. Crisis was one of the first (if not the first) female-fronted death metal bands. Immolation are one of the original NY death metal bands and are from Yonkers, where we live. Ephel Duath used to be black metal. They’re from Italy. I got into them with the 3rd album however – The Painter’s Palette. At that point, one of the 2 initial members had left and Davide restructured it into this amazing experimental jazzy metal hybrid that reminded me less of death and more of something like a super-textured Tool with elements of hardcore, metal and post-metal. I loved the crap out of it.

So, yeah, I was stoked.

I’ll skip the show details. I really should write about that on the other blog. I don’t make time for that one much, as this one consumes my online activity. But, in a nutshell, sometime before they went on, Karyn spoke to the crowd about the history of witchcraft and its perception through the lens of a Christianized West. It went into Roman history and the supplantation of a more feminine religion with the masculine Christianity. She spoke about the Craft and gave some of the history and differentiators between that and druidism, and how the Romans approached (and attacked) the female practicioners vs. their avoidance of the male ones, who had a more frightful reputation. It was interesting stuff. I hadn’t known before about the differentiation of “high” magic vs. “low” magic based on the level of codification and intellectualization. But the gist of it is that wise women, healers, medicine women, and the like were eradicated and became reviled and hunted as “witches.”


Marcus Miller @ BB King’s on March 18th 2015

So, last night, wifey and I went to BB King’s Blues Club, and saw Marcus Miller perform for our anniversary. It was a fun show. We haven’t been to a jazz performance in a long time. Its mostly been death metal and various industrial or harsh electronica/noise shows for at least 2 years.

So, we got there a little early. Doors open at 6:00, but I wanted a table and dinner, since we’re apparently growing old together. We arrived around 5:40 and waited on line outside. There, we met an older couple from Norway who wanted to confirm that they were on the right line. They were an interesting pair. She’s a scholar and was here lecturing about crime. She had just recently been to SUNY Purchase (about 20 mins from where we live) and The New School. They’ve been married for 20-odd years and were together for 44 years, which seemed to be a theme for the night, and they came to the show because Marcus’ keyboard player was staying at their hotel and they liked him, so they got tickets for the performance last night. Apparently, it was warmer in Norway than it was here in NYC yesterday – which surprised me. It was their 1st time seeing him play, but they were familiar with his music. That’s interesting to me because my parents are probably a little older than them (mine are close to 80) and aren’t familiar with too much American music. I like meeting people who are both younger and older than myself who listen to stuff that I wouldn’t necessarily expect. They didn’t seem too interested when I brought up metal, so I didn’t delve too deeply into it, though, and when wifey mentioned that she wanted to try to go to Helsinki this year for the ISMMS conference (she presented her Women in NY’s Extreme Metal Scene material at the conference in Dayton back in October) they did laugh that there were a lot of alcoholics in Finland.