Dan has rented a number of fun-looking boxes with lights on them.

I’m back at Dan’s in Minneapolis; we’re in the home stretch. Mixing. Dan’s rented a bunch of compressors and EQs that look lovely to me, but I have no idea how one would actually implement them. Like I’ve said before: I’m not an engineer. Don’t pretend to be. My essential function here is to say, about three times a day, “Yeah, that sounds great!”
(although “Get Along” from Evenhand, one of the Skittish/Rockty bonus tracks, is a home recording of mine, don’t that beat all?)
My manager Jim calls up and jokes: “What’s up, Sir Mix-a-Little?” I say: Man, you are overstating my participation in this process by a long shot.
So: this process is about keeping distracted. Lots of magazines. Spending much time on Dan’s stationary bike. I intend to buy Mutual Funds for Dummies. And, of course, searching frantically for more items under $10 on Amazon, as you people keep snapping ‘em up.
Everything’s sounding really good, though. Guitars thicker, bass growlier. (that sentence a la ee cummings, “muscles better and nerves more”–?!).

Gift City.

My half-joking Downloader’s Amnesty Plan has been weirdly successful.

Good people have already purchased, on Amazon, for me: a set of pens, a bar of soap, three nice notebooks, three pairs of socks, a ball pein hammer, and fake-fur lined handcuffs.
Every day this past weekend I’ve had to troll through Amazon, searching for cheap items to put on there, so that one doesn’t click on the wishlist and think, “I downloaded one song, and this guy wants me to buy him an iPod?!”
I want to just say for the record that you really don’t have to buy me this stuff, it’s OK by me if you’ve downloaded my songs.
But, if you’ve got a yen to band together and get me that Nord Electro keyboard–who could argue?
PS–Whereas it’s hilarious to buy me some tiny non-sequitur of a gift, a better use of money would be to donate generously to the Musicians’ Assistance Program. They help people.

The Skittish Downloader’s Amnesty Plan.

Those of you who’ve downloaded Skittish illegally sometime between 1999 and now–I’m not gonna insist that you buy it all over again when it’s rereleased on December 7–I’m gonna let bygones be bygones. I propose an offer of amnesty:

The real drag, for me, about all the surreptitious downloading is the passing-around of unfinished, rough-mixed versions, sometimes with scratch tracks of certain instruments that I really don’t want on the final version, scratch vocals that aren’t comped, etc.. (particularly the rough mixes of the new record I’m doing with Dan, ouch, that sucks.)
But many come up to me at shows expressing anxiety about ripping me off economically. Which really doesn’t bother me all that much–file-sharing in general has been a real boon for me. (nonetheless, those that stand in the CD-selling line and say, “Could you sign my burned copy of Rockity?” Uh, NO.)
But, if your guilt is truly overwhelming, any of these will be graciously and gratefully accepted.
PS, I did OK at Thanksgiving–that is to say, I ate like a maniac with tremendous sensual pleasure. Thanks to all that wrote nice notes about my battle with the inner fat man–I lost 20 pounds this year, mostly by changing my woefully unexamined teenage rock and roll eating habits. I’m just trying to stay diligent.

Where’s Paris?

I battle the inner fat man.

Going up to Connecticut. A good friend is deep frying a turkey. I meant to diet solely on salad for the week preceding this lard fest, but sadly, last night at the Knicks game (a friend gave me his season tix that he wasn’t using–I’ve never been before), my companion bought me a footlong, Skittles, nachos, and Edy’s ice cream with nuts. What was I supposed to do?

These Roads Have Me Vexed.

I’m remembering this rapper I saw in Asheville, North Carolina.

A couple Summers ago, I was skint and didn’t take my annual trip to an exotic location: instead, I rented a bitchin’ Mustang, and I drove to my friend Kelly Sue’s in Kansas City. Then I drove south, to Branson, to Oxford and Clarksdale, Mississippi, Memphis, and then I headed to Asheville with the intention of driving up the Blue Ridge Parkway and then back home.
It was the day of the New York black out, which, after an initial panic (I asked a waitress at a Tennessee Cracker Barrel if she knew what was going on, and she replied, in her charming Southern drawl, “You mean here in Cooksville?”), I was melancholy to be absent for.
It was raining torrentially. I drove into Asheville, checked into a hotel, and headed to the Mellow Mushroom, which you may mock but is in fact a ridiculously tasty slice of pizza.
There was a DJ spinning instrumental hip hop tracks, and local hippie kids were getting up on the mic and rapping. It was fascinating: I mean, these were hippie kids, dreadlocked, poncho-wearing hippie kids. A procession of them got on the mic and rocked it to varying degrees of proficiency, each with, hilariously, a take on a current rapper’s style: a hippie kid Snoop, a hippie kid Del, a dreadlocked Nelly manqu

Mini Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaves.

Saw Mason Jennings at the Mercury Lounge Saturday night.

We went out to Vegetarian Dim Sum House, on Pell Street, to eat before the show. Lotus root cakes, mashed taro treasure boxes, vegetarian mock pork steamed dumplings, turnip cakes, sesame paste buns. Mason and Chris (the bass player) and Chad (the front of house guy) were unfamiliar with Chinatown–“What’s it called? Dim Sum? What is that, exactly?” That’s the brilliance of living in New York–for all our tiny homes and surly fellow passengers on the F train–the joy of taking visitors to eat amazing, exotic food.
His songs were taut and drawly, Chris bobbing and bouncing, cracking, papery snare and chiming, arpeggiated acoustic guitar. Ben Kweller (my new labelmate, who hugged me when he met me) and Haley Bonar guested. Sometimes the songs heated up, and Mason would get so passionate he would seem dangerous, whipping the guitar neck around in a fast axis, WHAP! such that I would fear Brian, the drummer, getting conked in the head.
Hung with the musicians in the Merc’s dank basement afterwards. Glenn Morrow, head of Bar/None and chillest man in the music industry, was there. Chris and Haley tried to force cannoli on me, and when I refused, pleading that I was battling my Inner Fat Man, Chris ate them theatrically, describing them in erotic detail as he munched.
There was a piece of graffiti in the dressing room: TITS ARE STILL COOL.

I Met the Charlottesville Mafia.

Dave and I are very suspicious of you.

OK, no, we’re not, really.
I went down to Charlottesville to meet the peeps at my record company. It was awesome. They have this air of liberation about them–as in, they can work in the music business without having to live in New York or Los Angeles. I liked ‘em a lot; they’ve clearly got a powerful and funky operation; this is gonna be good. As I’ve said here in the past, ATO is pretty much my dream label.
Before the gig, I was summoned to the DMB studio–one might say, the Dave Cave–and thanked Dave for inviting me into his righteous cause. They also played me a few tracks, which sounded great–there was one in particular that I thought was a really fantastic progression for them, I fear mentioning the title would be talking out of school. Also, their choice of producer, which was suprising and great.
Dave gave me a tour of the Dave Cave; it’s a swank set-up, for sure.
A fun show, too; I was energized by the hang with Dave, and I felt like I played great. The crowd was fun and friendly, except for a couple of chatties up front (I hate it when the chatties are up front–c’mon, pal, go back to the bar, at least, willya?)
I was signing stuff after the show and two girls walk up. “We have two things to say to you.” Okay. “First of all, in ‘Rising Sign’, when you say ‘I resent the way you make me like myself,’ do you mean, I resent you making me appreciate myself, or I resent you making me similar to myself?”
Both, it’s a double entendre.
“Oh, wow! It’s such a great song, wow, I love that song so much! And the second thing is: WHY DID YOU YELL AT US FOR TALKING, WE’RE MAD AT YOU AND YOU LOST TWO FANS TONIGHT AND WE’RE NEVER GONNA COME SEE YOU AGAIN.”

Home; And, Memory of a Near-Miss.

I found myself in a strangely familiar place when I arrived at JFK last night.

I deplaned, and found myself walking down a long hallway as I moved towards the taxi stand. Suddenly I realized where I was.
Years and years ago, I went to Jamaica with school friends–and a girl that I was mad for who broke up with me like three days before our vacation–and had to come back early to start a job driving a delivery van for a gourmet ice cream company. I smuggled some weed in my socks. Just a little; packets that fit snug in the arches of my feet.
When we got to JFK, we were walking down a long hallway, then suddenly were stopped. A flight from Eastern Europe deplaned, and they were let right through. I believe it was Lithuania. Why them and not us? I thought. A bad, bad feeling.
Suddenly, a little door opened up at the far end of this ominous, sleek hallway, and a cop came out with a scrappy-looking little dog. We were instructed to put our bags down on the floor beside us. At this point I was shitting bricks.
The dog came close. He was a few feet behind me, and barked. “Good boy,” said the cop. Then he went a few feet in front of me, and barked. “Good boy,” said the cop.
Then they let us through. I thought I was home free. I picked up my guitar at the baggage claim and went to the supermarket-checkout like customs station. I was chatting pleasantries with a tourist lady, and then two cops and a guy with a cop-mustache, dressed in a black t-shirt, with a badge on a chain, came up. Step over here, please.
The tourist lady got a great cocktail story; I was talking to this seemingly nice kid at customs–turned out to be a drug smuggler!
They asked me the same questions over and over again, as they sliced open my guitar case with a knife (I had secured the locks with duct tape, and I guesss they found it easier to just slice the lock off than fuss with the tape), dumped my dirty clothes out on a table. Where are you going? Where did you come from? Why do you live in New York but have a PA driver’s license? Why are you travelling alone? Oh. Oh. I see. Now where are you going? And why are you travelling alone?
They took me to a private room. Gave me a thorough pat down. I was near to bursting into tears. Take off your hat, said the mustache man. He shook it out, smelled it. Now take off your shoes. He shook each out, smelled them. I was waiting for him to ask me to take off my socks.
But he sighed, and he let me go. I gathered up my dirty clothes and guitar and hacked-up guitar case haphazardly in my arms, feeling lightheaded, babbling ha ha ha jokey stuff to sound innocent, and then I got on the bus.

Scramble to Wrap.

A couple passes at vocals on a couple songs, a few more guitar tracks, then madly going through everything to make sure we’re done.

Theoretically, when I return to Mpls after Thanksgiving, we’ll just jump into mixing, without fussing with the overdubs. Dan’s going to do a lot while I’m gone, a lot of comping.
I sleep in New York tonight, then I fly to Charlottesville in the morning. All day I meet the people at my new record company, then play Starr Hill that evening.
Bruce, my A&R guy, called to check in last night. Dan spoke with him, then handed it to me. “It’s your A&R guy,” Dan said. Wow. It sounded so surreal to me. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a record deal.

Dan Wilson: Wild-Eyed Wild Man of Rock and Roll.

The indomitable John Munson came over in the morning and played trombone parts on “American Car.”

I woke up late. 8 am! “Like a pasha,” said Dan, as I stumbled out of the guest room, which is adjacent to the studio. He was already working, on headphones. Oh, I hate oversleeping. Though it’s a rare musician that feels guilty when starting work at the advanced hour of 8:30.
Munson, ever delightful, came over with his horn, jumped right in the booth, and did a great part, a whole choir/section of trombones following the changes: an idea we cribbed from Joe Tex’s “The Love You Save May Be Your Own.” He’s been crazy busy with his adopted daughter Jing-Jing, so he had to rock and get the hell out of there.
Dan and I talked about Dig!, and the scenes we dug: the familiar treachery of the A&R people, the scene where the Dandys hork the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s party crash pad for a photo shoot, showing up while the BJM are still sleeping off hangovers, camera crew in tow, and setting up shots in various rooms of the house as members of the other band emerged, rubbing their eyes.
We anticipate that Dan and my records will be out around the same time in the Spring. We resolved to do our own version of the Dandys/Brian Jonestown feud. With Dan in the role of the crazed, careening Anton Newcombe of the BJM, interrupting tunes to scream at bandmates who do their parts wrong, then pushing them off the stage, kicking audience members in the head. Of course.