photo by Micah Beree
I'm thrilled to announce my joinning the Parker Mouthpiece team!
This is the first time I've been using a stainless steel mouthpiece, and I've got to say that I'm really enjoying it. The intonation is the best out of any mouthpiece I've ever used (ever!), and the size allows for maximum power and projection, combined with maximum dynamic, range and articulation contrast. I'm also enjoying the 3-piece modular design, which allows for more options. The smooth stainless rim is a big help, as there are days where I might play 4 or 5 different gigs all with different bands all in different styles, and fatigue can be an issue. I have put this piece to the test and it performs remarkably well. Parker and Hitz have put together a great product. You should buy one! or two!
I've been a resident of Harlem for quite a while - and am thrilled to be included in it's newest professional music project - the brass choir of the Harlem Sound Project. May 5 is the brass' debut concert -- with some heavy programming. Henri Tomasi's Fanfare Liturgiques (a tour-de-force!) and a new work by Sung Jin Hong called Harlem Fanfare. They are also doing Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat... a heavy brass show!
Check it on Facebook
a couple of days ago, New Beard went down to philly to rock with our pals the Weird Hot at Philly's Kung Fu Necktie in Fishtown. It was an awesome night and was great to get New Beard out of town! (more photos coming soon!) see New Beard on Facebook!
In 2012, the avant-garde collective Anti-Social Music released it’s Sleeps Around record, which includes the heavy-drone work I played on called Music for ASM composed by the experimental hip-hop group Dälek
(hear the work here)
This record is released on vinyl and is contained in an amazing record sleeve that is a work of art on it’s own. (it turns into a cube!) The artist who designed it called “Scrapworm” was just awarded an official patent for it’s design!! Awesome! (www.scrapworm.info)
I finally got a chance to hear the CD by the Jack Grace Band that I played on! It’s a fun, whiskey-soaked romp reminiscent of Johnny Cash, Elvis and Dire Straits. I play on several of the tracks: Bothered to Think, and Poor Boy - which includes a cute tuba solo! I also add some pads to other songs as well. This CD also includes a cameo by Popa Chubby and horn parts by Emmy-winning J. Walter Hawkes.
The initial "hit" song off of the upcoming Dillinger Escape Plan album, called "When I Lost My Bet" (DEP is a popular math rock / metal / grindcore band) got over 100K views in just over 2 days. The song features a literal choir of tuba tracks I recorded as the "sub bass" power chord sound as well as many effected tuba sounds and other brass parts mixed in throughout.
Those brave enough to hear/watch the track (it's intense and the video is GORY) will hear a bass swell at 2:22, a moment people are commenting about -- that's the tuba! Rumor has it that the band is also using TubaJoe samples in their sold-out live shows!
Gato Loco released official video to the song "Splinter"
Filmed on location in an abandoned bank in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, this video, edited by Stefan Zeniuk includes audio recorded in Brooklyn and Paris, mixed by Joe Peretore and Clifton Hyde. Music composed by Stefan Zeniuk, arranged by Stefan Zeniuk, Clifton Hyde and Joe Exley.
Joe contributed tuba as well as valve trombone layers, textures, and brass orchestrations to several songs on the new Dillinger Escape Plan album called One of Us is the Killer. This anticipated release from the famous mathcore/metal/punk band is to be released on 5/14/2013 on Sumerian Records.
(tracking with Ben Weinman in New Jersey)
A few weeks ago, NEW BEARD had our most recent video debuted by MTV (and then repeated by Liquid Television)
The video for our song "Solamente Cloud" off of New Beard City, was animated by Moscow-based artist Deems and features 1001 completely unique faces which sing the song.
New Beard is also featured in the Jan/Feb edition of Relix magazine.
Upon practicing recently, something re-occurred to me. When I was younger, I learned that practicing was largely about seeking out and eliminating the negative, always striving for cleanliness.
You know what I am talking about... the old adage of "Practice makes perfect" ...or even "Perfect Practice makes Perfect."
I am saying this is an inefficient process, and I am also saying this process is downright destructive.
While noble on paper, this approach actually teaches us to "accentuate the negative." This "seek and destroy" method creates an outrageous habit of microfocusing. While the intent on perfection is noble, to worry about perfection is, in my opinion... excruciatingly NON-musical.
Please allow me to digress...
Performance should NEVER be about perfection. Ever. Even the best performances have imperfections in them. Accept and embrace this fact NOW.
One of my strengths as a performer is audience communication. I feel that my singular job as a musician is communicating the intent(s) of the music. The more I play, the more I believe that simply, music is simply a form communication.
I know for a fact if I am concerned singularly with perfection or it being the top priority, the communication is not going to be as effective as it could (or should!) be. I am “in the wrong place” if I am focusing on what is right or wrong.
Am I saying give up mastery and be sloppy? Of course not. We should all naturally strive to maximize the execution of whatever music we are engaged in.
What I am saying is that is Practice Makes PERMANENT.
...meaning the intent you practice with will be the intent you perform with.
When we practice, we not only work out technical issues and train our bodies to execute certain processes, we ALSO (and perhaps more importantly) train our subconscious. In every process we go through in practice, our subconscious not only records what we do, it records how we go about it, it records what we really intend, and it records how we feel doing it.
AND when in the heat of performance, without fail, the subconscious reveals its power! You can't control it and you can't fight it. You must learn to embrace it, as IT is what drives the performance; not our conscious analytical side.
Now without opening a separate can of worms, let me suffice to say that when you practice, you absolutely MUST train your subconscious.
We do this by being honest with our method, and always keeping the "communication of performance" in mind and playing everything with a solid and clear musical opinion.
Practically and literally, I am suggesting the performer start by focusing on what is RIGHT with their playing, not what is wrong. Take what is right, and expand that. Be specific.
I am not suggesting the common pitfall of only working on what you already know... I AM suggesting however that you always try to build on what you do know and already do well... push your limits outward always. Don’t focus on eliminating imperfections themselves, rather focus on a clear vision and the correct organic approach to make the phrase that contains said imperfections. Slow the WHOLE lick down and work it out, all the while NEVER forgetting about where the lick goes and how it relates to other licks. ...this step is CRUCIAL!
Work out imperfections through INTENT. Ask why does this imperfection exist? Often times, you’ll discover that an imperfection exists not because of incorrect technique or execution, but because of malfocused or undefined intent. Give every note meaning.
Shedding a lick is great, but always keep the big "performance" picture going. Where is the music going? What's its intent? Why is it hard for me? Often the music itself will answer the questions.
Our subconscious is (and in my opinion should be) our default in performance.
My best, most memorable, influential, and rewarding performances are without exception, ones where I can calm my conscious mind, so it can be clear and decisive, and open the door to let my subconscious (instinct) support and guide me through it.
It’s not “muscle memory” (I don’t like that term) It’s the opposite actually, where once our instincts are correctly trained, they can guide us, and our conscious mind can execute the required processes without constant reevaluation or judgment.
Train your default to be solid and consistent, train your subconscious to be confident, and your concious to be simple, concise and non-judgmental.
TubaJoe Summer 2012 wrap up and photos. It was an intense summer -- I toured a lot in June through August... I went on the road with 4 different bands in consecutive trips.
The summer started out with some interesting projects around home in NYC Gato Loco de Bajo opened up its weekly residency at the lovely new ZirZamin in SoHo, and New Beard made another (big!) music video. Add that to the Red Hook Ramblers doing another historic Edison recording and the Ja Ja Jas hit the beach in Montauk ...that was in about the span of a week.
After the pre-tour in-town fury, it was then time for me to hit the road. In June, I was honored to be a featured performer in Austria's ‘Heavy Tuba’, an all-low-brass all-star rock/jazz ensemble that evolved as an offshoot of the legendary Vienna Art Orchestra. It was a thrilling experience for me to be amongst such amazing players. Heavy Tuba is a group I've known about for years... way back in Chicago, I managed a CD store and a traveling tuba player from Europe stopped in with his minidisc to play me this cool new stuff going on in Europe.
It was such an honor to just play with these guys, much less to be asked to be a featured soloist. It was an intense trip, mostly of rural Austria which is such beautiful country. Several full days of rehearsal learning new music, then a day of travel across the country, then a show at a folksy brass festival (keep in mind this is rural Austria!) made for an intense trip with no time for jet lag.
After a day in Munich of recovery and practice for my next trip, I had to rush to Canada, via NYC to join Toronto's amazing Saidah Baba Talibah and her kickass band. Saidah is somewhat of a hero in Toronto, with her soul-tinged rock called a cross between Living Color and Erykah Badu, ...with TUBA as her bass. I had to head to Canada twice, first to Toronto for rehearsal, then back to NYC for a few days, then back to Canada, this time to Montreal and to to meet the band for my first show with them.
Making the trip to Toronto from Munich via NYC was a trek. And unfortunately, as happens once in a while, there was a flight delay through London and my tuba didn't make the transfer. I arrived in NYC for my transfer to Toronto sans-tuba. No worries, a kind Canadian tubist lent me his Yamaha CC until I got mine the next day. Fortunately, my horn only missed a rehearsal day and I got done what needed to be done on the loaner. My horn showed up eventually...
The shows with Saidah were fantastic... first a large club gig in Montreal, then back to TO to play the main stage of the Toronto Jazz Festival in support of one of my favorite artists, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews. The Montreal show was a great induction for me, and TJF show was fantastic. While she is the niece of the legendary Andy Bey (she's the daughter of Salome Bey) her vibe is all her own... soul, blues, funk and hard rock (thats where my heart is too!) She embraces this mix fully in her sex-tinged power show. The first seated, surprised Jazzfest crowd absolutely loved it (not one II-V was played LOL!) and were on their feet screaming by the end of our set.
I got to meet Troy Andrews again (I met him a few years ago at the NoLa Jazzfest) he's not only an incredibly honest and dynamic performer, he's a complete class act as a person. He congratulated Saidah on her ability to kick the crowd in the butt! A good night.
I had a day or two to recover in Toronto (and to continue to shed!) and then we played the main Toronto Canada Day celebration to an estimated 25,000 people. That too was a rocking performance. 3 kickass shows with Saidah under my belt.
Next I had to hi-tail it back to NYC quickly as just a few days later the full 10-piece Gato Loco was due to head to Europe. One quick rehearsal, laundry, and then it was back on the road.
Gato Loco's first destination was 3 shows in Bordeaux, France. We were returning to the place of that band's first 'big gig' and where we recorded our live record; Bordeaux's outdoor Festival du Hauts de Garonne, which is presented by Musique du Nuit.
Arriving back in Bordeaux was an emotional thing, this was the site of my favorite gig I ever played. We instantly had to visit our hangout, the famous fountain, as always with a handful of locals. I had to get a meal of steak tartare and a glass of... bordeaux. Bliss.
The gigs in Bordeaux were cool, albeit a bit weird (one was on a high-rise rooftop covered in mattresses, the others in sculpture parks) but the vibe there is always great. I did get a chance to sneak off to Saint Emillion to get an insider's wine tour and taste some great wines. Bliss again.
We had to leave Bordeaux pretty quickly though, even though we felt like we were just getting started - unlike our previous visit where we stayed for quite a while and made a record. This time the road called.
A long train ride and we were in Italy. I LOVE Italy. A lot. Our first gig was in a rock club in Torino that was literally ON the bank of the (smelly) Po river, in some sort of catacomb-type place underneath the town square. Sorta cool. A quick, loud, rock-style gig, and we then had just a couple of hours to be back on the train. Venice was calling.
We got back in my favorite city of Venice for the second time in 3 months. I like Venice not for it's history or unique situation, but for the fact that it's such a timeless bubble.
And... Venice LOVES Gato Loco. We were to return to the exact site of our first big show there, the beautiful Serra dei Giardini. Again, presented by our good friends from Microclima, our job this time was to provide festivities for after the fireworks of the Redentore. The Redentore is the 'Festival of the Redeemer', it commemorates the end of the second coming of the Bubonic Plague, which hit Venice for a second time in 1575 and they've been celebrating every June ever since 1592. It's one of the city's largest festivals and it was packed to the gills with revelers from all over the world.
On our arrival in Venice, the Gato Loco band was *very* weary by this point, our travels had been tough this trip. We all were trepidatious going into this last show, simply due to exhaustion. However just a few bars into our fast "Coconino #3 "merengue-on-crack" tune towards the beginning of our show, all worries vanquished. The 1000+ crowd instantly turned into a mosh pit and people danced like maniacs for the next two hours. We had to barricade ourselves as people kept falling into the band! ...and we played on and on. It was complete mayhem... just the way we like it to be.
We wrapped up the show at about 2:30am, but the night was far from over. The longstanding tradition is that on the night of the Redentore, after a night of celebration, you sleep on the Lido; Venice's adjacent beach-island. Of course, we went.
The entire beach was partying, but I decided to take a long solemn swim in the warm salty Adriatic Sea. Heavenly.
The sun rose and we left the Lido, boarded the vaporetto (bus boat) and headed back to Venice and slept.
The middle of the next day we had one last gig, an outdoor acoustic performance on the Zattere at one of our favorite Venetian hangs, El Chioschetto. This was great too, quite tiring, but a good Campari Spritz took the edge off.
The following day the rest of the band headed back to NYC, but I stayed as I had more business to attend to. Before I get to that, I want to sum up my night like this: In a turn of events, I ended up cooking pasta for Venetians (talk about pressure) WHILE I fought off bats that had flown into the apartment. That's how I roll. Cooking while battling flying rodents. I didn't end up smacking any of the recording equipment, and the bat finally left. Most importantly, the pasta came out great. Venice.
Anyway... the next morning (more like the middle of the night) I took a boat to a bus to a train to a bus... to go to the other side of the Adriatic Sea, to Pula, Croatia on the Istrian peninsula. I was on my way to visit the Accord Case company, the makers of the finest, highest-end instrument cases in the world.
I have used an Accord Case for almost a year now and it has changed my life. My personal case is an early model in their revolutionary tuba case design, and was due for some adjustments. I have come to rely on this case so heavily that a trek to the factory was warranted since Pula is only about half a day's journey from Venice. After I rode a crowded train to the edge of Italy, then a crowded bus through Slovenia, into Croatia (an adventure for me as I had never been to Eastern Europe before)...and I certainly don't speak the language(s)! I was incredibly sleep deprived and exhausted, as well as a little intimidated by the Eastern European border officials that kept boarding our bus, so I didn't end up taking many photos of this leg of my journey.
Once at the Accord factory, it was wonderful -- a team sized up the wear on my case and did some needed adjustments. What an incredible company (more on that soon...)
After they were done, I headed out for a nice dinner then back to my hotel - a groovy old hotel built when Croatia was ruled by the Austrians, which was adjacent to the colosseum ruins from Roman times. Interesting place.
But again, there was little time for rest, as I had to be up at the crack of dawn to get back to Venice in time to get to my plane back to NYC.
Back on Venice, I said goodbye to my Venetian friends and to that amazing city... I had to head back home.
Once back home, I had a little time to catch up and dive back into the swing of things in NYC, but that was only temporary. I had had two pending, consecutive trips with New Beard - our first touring ever. It was now time for rock tour.
We loaded up in the pouring rain to head upstate to New England. A delightful trip (despite some nausea on the way home from the first one....) We hit Burlington, VT, Northampton, MA, and some little town in between, which I forgot the name of!
That was a good start, but was not the end... just a few days later we had a second trip, this time down to Florida - as part of the Heart of Darkness comedy and rock tour -- it was 3 bands all travelling together. The Heart of Darkness band with comedian Greg Barris, the band Corrupt Autopilot, New Beard, and the soulful Yazan did some solo performances too. It was all presented by the Florida Beer Company. Mmmm beer.
We flew down to Orlando and congregated at the home of our new friend Tierney from the great band The Pauses. Tierney’s house also had a special pet... Garbanzo, the giant tortoise!
Several great shows, Orlando, Boca Raton, and then Ybor City, and we made it out just hours before Hurricane Isaac. A good solid first rock tour.
Ok... that’s enough for now. Many more things coming up....
This is sidestage (raw) video from one of the more memorable shows I've ever done. In April 2012, the full Gato Loco was in Venice, Italy for an outdoor show, which got rained out. Consequently we crammed the entire band's setup, as well as a couple hundred people into a historic greenhouse and rocked the place. I love Venice.
8/23 - Will's Pub, Orlando
8/24 - Funky Bhudda, Boca Raton
8/25 - Crow Bar, Ybor City
Here it is! Video by Joel Barhamand
This amazing painting (featuring the main boss from the video game DOOM (holding my exact tuba) was done by the incredible Dima Drjuchin to commemorate NEW BEARD's leading track off of the upcoming epic LP release New Beard City which drops this summer. Yes, you guessed it, the song is about playing the game.
You can download New Beard's DOOM here:
I don't always get a chance to write about all my trips, but I do try...
This last one definitely calls for it! This was Gato Loco's most intense journey since Bordeaux in 2010, where it all started!
The center of this trip was the Stanser Musiktage festival in Stans, Switzerland, where Gato Loco had the privilege of our own show at our own venue - and the task of proving the afterparty after the legendary Medeski, Martin, and Wood. It was a request we simply could not pass up!
...so we built a tour around it. This was convenient, as our friend Paolo Rosso of the arts organization Microclima in my favorite city of Venice, Italy had wanted to present us for a while. I was thrilled as I have been an obsessive fan and amateur scholar of Venice for some time. To bring Gato Loco to such a place was just too enticing! Then to cap off the trip, we went again to one of our common European haunts of Munich, Germany.
These are 3 amazing places to play, but the situation posed some difficult logistic hurdles....
We set our home base of this trip to Venice/Milan. We flew in on a host of different flights, as coordinating ten full-time musicians is a task on it's own.
The bulk of the band ended up on a flight to Milan, strangely enough with almost an eight hour layover in Dublin. Well, what to do with such a hefty layover? Find the perfect pint, naturally.
We left the airport and headed to the famous Brazen Head... the legendary oldest pub in Dublin. And we found it... the perfect pint... and one of the best bowls of stew I've ever eaten. And after a nice chat with some locals and a nice walk around, we got back to the airport to continue our journey.
Once in Milan, we had to wait until the following morning to continue to Venice, so we crashed at a hostel there after some wild cab rides. Never a dull moment....
In the morning, we set off for La Serenissima, still weary.
After a nice train ride, we pulled through Mestre onto the two mile long causeway that connects Venice with the terra firma. Once in Venice, our weariness instantly evaporated. We were picked up at the train station in a boat.
Our gracious host, Paolo Rosso, chauffeured us and our gear in his "pimp-boat" as we called it... and at first we had to pick up some groceries for a feast that night, at the market in the Rialto. I was in absolute heaven. Running errands, in Venice, in a boat. Time stands still in Venice and life's actual poignancies seem to be less obscured.
We eventually got settled into our apartment there in the San Marco sestieri, and Paolo and Stefan immediately got to cooking.
After some amazing food, this being Gato Loco, we of course had to head out on the town. A festive night then ensued... in true Gato Loco fashion, hanging with a crowd of wonderful locals and travelers alike.
In the morning (which actually means early afternoon...) we had work to do. Some members went out for some last-minute promotional activities while the others got acclimated to the strange city of Venice.
Soon, it was gig time - and that meant loading gear.... into the boat. We then headed to El Chiosotto - a bar kiosk in the popular area called the Zattere which often presents public concerts. Permits for outdoor amplification can be hard to come by in a city nicknamed "La Serenissima", and it turned out that El Chiosotto didn't have one.
No worries though... this being only a promotional exhibition for the following night's larger concert, we adjusted a few things and I simply played the bass parts on tuba and we acoustically rocked it for a while for an excited crowd.
The following day, after a great breakfast back on the Zattere, it was time to get to work. But first, there was time for a prosecco toast!
Then it was time to load up Paolo's boat and take all the gear to the Arsenale / Bienalle area in the Castello sestieri, which is where our larger show would be. After several boat trips, we made it over to the other side of Venice, as did the gear. Nothing got wet.
After load in, it was time to hit the streets, or the canals rather for some more promotion. The horn section of the band, grabbed their axes and got back in the boat for some guerrilla music-making, in true Gato Loco style!
People across the city were serenaded with some floating (bouncing!) Psycho-Mambo madness... and they ate it up! We ended up mooring adjacent to San Marco and rocked it for a while to a large roused crowd! It was actually exhausting work to play and stay upright in a small boat...
Back at the space, near the Arsenale, some of us crashed for a few needed zzzs. This was our second full day in Europe, so that meant that it was also "jet lag day"
The snoozes didn't last long, however... it was showtime! Our gig was also to be out of doors, in one of the only green areas of Venice outside a gorgeous restored greenhouse named Serra dei Giardini, which is the homebase for the Microclima organization.
However... this being Venice... the weather loomed ominous...
It was a 50/50 chance of rain, so we went ahead and got our setup (which is pretty large) going outdoors. And then, as Murphy the optimist would have it, the rain started. We immediately grabbed a bunch of folks and dismantled the stage and moved the entire setup inside the greenhouse... which included literally dismantling a flower shop, and overtaking a cafe.
The band was a bit bummed. It looked as our Venice debut might be a bust.
We reset our concert setup in our contingency format... indoors. Fortunately huge windows on the side of the greenhouse opened up to the outdoors.
Concert time rolled around, and of course, this being Italy, not many were there. We waited a few minutes and casually got ready to play, sort of crestfallen.
However, about 20 minutes later throngs of people started showing up and we fired up the show!
It would then turn into what would be one of the most special and intense Gato Loco shows ever.
People kept showing up, and kept showing up. People were calling their friends and having them show up. The cafe side of the greenhouse completely filled up, people were practically on top of each other. The space behind the band then filled up, and soon there was a large crowd outdoors standing in the light rain listening through the large open windows. It became a concert in the round... the band played to all sides, the rain stopped and the crowd of several hundred was going WILD. This became a show of memory. The band absolutely rocked the hell out of it.
For the encore, the band split in two - part of it playing indoors, part of it outdoors... we had simultaneous dance parties going on. Complete madness!
We finished the show and the cafe had drinks for everyone and it was a party!
What a day. We immediately discussed when to come back.
Part II coming soon!
Here is an initial update of my international shows over the next few months. This is only preliminary info, more will be added.
With GATO LOCO
With HEAVY TUBA
With SAIDAH BABA TALIBAH
With GATO LOCO
...more shows pending!
See the full calendar for all my gigs!
on April 20th, Gato Loco will be playing at the Stanser Musiktage festival, in Stans, Switzerland
This is a great festival - we'll be there with MMW, Rabih Abou-Kahlil, Joseph Bowie and many other great folks!
Stans is right outside of Lucerne, so if you are in the neighborhood, come hang with us!
We will be doing a few more shows in Europe on that short tour - Italy and Germany. More info TBA.....
A new promotional video for Gato Loco with highlights of shows from Europe and NYC!
The Red Hook Ramblers (a trad band in which I play tuba) is the soundtrack to this great film short that appeared in the Huffington Post today.
The Deli Magazine, an important indie rock zine has nominated NEW BEARD for its "Band of the Month"
Please support us by voting for us in this poll!!!
Sunday, December 18th, at the Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg Brooklyn, indie-rock-band-with-tuba NEW BEARD will be doing a show to celebrate the release of our EP Moment of Peace. On this bill I'll also play with homeboys Gato Loco de Bajo as it will be a big family affair! ...and on the show our good pals Lavalier will play (with full-sized mics tho... ha ha, that's a joke), as well as the band Toys and Tiny Instruments.
This is exciting for me as the pre-release-release of Moment of Peace has been getting some kickass response! This EP is also to accompany the release of our video to the song "Given" which debuted a few weeks ago on Stereogum.
This is going to be an exciting night -- please join us!!!
This week is packed with some interesting brass music... tonight I got to play an exceptionally eclectic program with the Orchestra of the SEM Ensemble. It was nice to play with them again. I got to do some antiphonal Gabrieli as well as John Cage's Atlas Elipticalis.
Brass players all know to revere every second they get to play Gabrieli's antiphonal brass music (especially in a great space for it!) and Atlas Elipticalis is a work I've known about for some time, but had not, until now, had the chance to perform.
Also, the Paula Cooper Gallery in Chelsea is a great place to perform! It's big but-only-enough echoic space was perfect for both of these works.
Also through the week is some typical holiday brass quintetting. Always a decent time!
And then...tomorrow night I get my ass kicked! I get the pleasure of playing a NY premiere of a work for brass quintet, jazz tenor sax, and drumset, composed by NYC-Toronto sax player Quinsin Nachoff; his 'Pyramid Brass Project.' What a brass quintet to be a part of!! (I'll be shedding this one up until the last second before the gig!) I get to share the stage with brassers Ralph Alessi, Shane Endsley, John Clark, Ryan Keberle, drummer Dan Weiss, and tenorist/composer Qunisin. It's going to be brutal!
I have played on a Miraphone tuba exclusively since 1992. I have based my career on it and make my living on it. I still exclusively play the one horn I have ever bought. It's seen so much action... been ridden hard and put away wet, and still has so much character, flexibility and soul.
On Gato Loco's recent trip to Europe a couple of weeks ago, it was my extreme pleasure to get to visit and tour the Miraphone factory in Waldkraiburg, Germany, about an hour train ride outside of Munich, right in the heart of Bavaria.
It's a magical place full of magical people and magical instruments!
Upon arrival, I met Josef Eisgruber, a technician, artisan, and euphoniumist from the company. He was incredibly enthusiastic about his job at Miraphone, and explained how the company is actually employee-owned and every stage of their horn production happens right there.
Josef gave me a tour of every corner of the factory...
(click on each photo for a larger version, sorry some are a bit blurry, they are phone pictures)
Assembly bench with 4/4, 5/4, and 6/4 tubas in final stages of production.
The assembly room.
Raw brass, from Germany, used for valve tubing.
Raw brass, from Germany, used in the larger parts of the horn.
More raw brass storage.
Bow jig/mold for the 4/4 C and Bb tubas.
Josef with the press that uses the molds. A tenor horn mold is in there at the moment.
Bells of raw brass in an early stage of fabrication.
A worker hand fires and joins the edges of the raw brass to make a flugelhorn bell.
The bell is now made round by hand with a hammer and anvil.
This is used to further shape the bell (a mold, of sorts - this one is for a 3/4 tuba)
A worker further shapes a tuba bell.
A worker makes valves on this hi-precision lathe.
Miraphone makes all their valves in-house. These are rotary valves for a tuba.
Rotary valve paddles.
Valve clusters for the popular 'Norwegian Star' Eb/F tuba.
Tubas ready for lacquer then assembly.
Giant dryer to dry the parts before lacquering begins.
Complete horns awaiting assembly.
Horn assembly bench. This guy (and a few others) were rocking some serious blaßmusik in the background while they worked!
A beautiful new 188 (or "88" as they call it now) is almost complete.
Josef and the 88. All that's left to be added is valve linkage.
Josef and I with the 88.
A bunch of horns, almost completed.
Finishing each detail.
Even more detail work. I loved how this worker suspended the horn from the ceiling.
Stockroom with horns awaiting shipment.
Naturally, I had to have them give my horn a tweak! They replaced some parts of my valve linkage and tightened it all up -- I am guessing it is better now than it was when it was brand new!!!
Artisans working on my horn.
Amazing work!! Many many thanks!!!!!
While there, I also spent a lot of time playing horns... I was SO giddy, like a kid in a candy shop, that I forgot to take pictures of the showroom -- I even forgot my mouthpiece when I was done!! Wow, was I excited...!
I got a chance to meet and spend some time with their development manager Christian Niedermaier and I got a chance to play about a zillion different tubas. I played every single CC they had in the showroom, as well as a couple of prototypes, including the new 6/4 York-style horn which is still in development. (it was great, York-like, but still had a Miraphone soul) I played a few F and BBb tubas as well. The best tuba I played there (next to mine, of course!) was the new 5/4 "Bruckner" rotary CC. It was actually one of the best CC tubas I've ever played. I almost tried to buy it on the spot... It's absolutely outstanding. Another tuba of note was the good ol 88 (188) It still retains that old Miraphone soul!
That was a spectacular day and really was an honor for me. I'll definitely be back!! Thanks so much Miraphone!!!
Not 3 weeks after our previous trip to Munich and Salzburg, Gato Loco was back at it in Europe again. After a few really intense pre-tour rehearsals in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, all 10 of us hit the air to the Motherland.
We again arrived in Munich, as this time the first gig was actually there in town. The full band all congregated again in Munich's West End. Early the gig-day morning we headed out for setup, rehearsal and soundcheck at Munich's famous Unterfahrt Jazz Club. While the band only sort of rests on the precipice of jazz, high-end clubs like Unterfahrt (and Bimhuis in Amsterdam) seem to like us!
The club was nice, but not huge... akin in size to clubs in NYC like the Village Vanguard or Sweet Basil. The fact that it was in a basement even more reminded me of an NYC vibe. When we got there, the stage, barely large enough to hold all 10 of us, had a giant concert-grand piano right in the middle of it. This was a problem. We found the tech and the GL rhythm section all pitched in and we got that beast moved - at least to the side of the stage.
After getting creative to sort out some logistic sound issues, we hit that stage hard. The gig was great! Due to the venue's regulations we had to split our single rock-concert sized set into two separate jazz-type sets, but that's ok, we still made it rock! We wondered in that intimate room if people would hang out for our whole show, but the did! The place was completely packed. It was also fun to meet some new people who had already seen a few members of the band perform back in NYC and had made it to the show. The whole crew from our label, Winter and Winter, as well as our new friend, massive-instrument inventor Eppleshiem were all in the house. We had a really great night.
Gato Loco plays hard, both on and off stage. That night, after the show, the jet lag eventually hit me and I crashed back at the hotel, but rumor has it that some raucous activity took place late that night in München........
The next day our large band had a productive organizational meeting discussing the next levels into the future and our spring and summer tours of 2012. Awesome.
The following day was a big one for me personally, I had an appointment at the Miraphone factory in Waldkreiburg, about a hour train ride from München, (More on that HERE!!!)
Then the next day the entire band got on the train for a 4 hour ride to Göttingen, the city of Germany's oldest university. Gato Loco was to headline the town's week-long jazz festival.
We arrived in the early afternoon and checked into our hotel, which overlooked the car wash, bowling alley, a McDonald's and a Burger King. It was just like being in Anytown, USA. However, at this place, every band member had their own room and the beds were quite comfortable.
That afternoon, after a quick nap, some of the band went to the university to teach some lessons to members of the school's jazz band. We met for dinner, then some of the band tore up the festival's open jam session and celebrated into the night.
The next day was the festival finale, and I was well rested. We went to the venue which was on the outskirts of town in some sort of old warehouse. Nice place, and they had GREAT gear for us! The band took its time getting everything in order and we settled on for a nice soundcheck. It was definitely a "rock" setup, which is the type of situation that works best for that band.
It came to gig time and the place really filled up, it ended up being packed to the gills - and the band absolutely went for the jugular with that show! It was aggressive and exciting and the close-on crowd absolutely ate it up! We did one encore and they wanted another, so then we did another, and they wanted more so we gave them more... we probably could have played all night! Göttingen Loves Gato Loco (or Gatö Löcö...?)
Here's a nice review of the night. ...if you read German.
The next day we hopped the trains hit our respective departure cities and flew home.
We'll be back soon.
Here's the video from New Beard's song "Given", produced by Gustav Ejstes of Dungen. (I'm thrilled about the tuba sound... which is the bass sound, but still nice and tuba-y!)
The link to it on Stereogum.com
*note, Stereogum's article mentions that the band will be playing on Dec 2, I will not be on that show due to a family commitment. James Schoen of the band Edensong will be filling in on bass, as will Ben Wigler. I WILL however, be back in the saddle as New Beard's bottom end for our EP release show on December 18 at the Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The fall is always a marathon, and I now finally have a couple of days to catch my breath. This fall has been a time of constant motion... Have tuba will travel!
Starting in September, New York's notorious Ja Ja Jas kicked off our Oktoberfest tear with shows in New York at our home base of Zum Schneider. It was madness as always; a line down the street to get in (and we heard that someone actually slept in their car to get a good space in line!)
Right after rehearsing in NYC, the Ja Ja Jas immediately hit the road for the south, first down to North Carolina, then up through Virginia, back to NYC for a few shows, then back down to Virginia again.
(here I am with Herbie Abernathy of Valient Thorr -- was at our show!)
Big festival crowds and new friends and great food and... beer. Those shows are a lot of work, but are worth it for the vibe and the crowd!
I took a break from the Ja Ja Jas' constant string of Blaßmusik rocking, to head overseas again with the mighty Gato Loco for our third European trip in just over a year. We brought our "Psycho-Mambo" brand of jazz-rock to headline the Salzburg "Jazz and The City" festival in gorgeous Salzburg, Austria. (original home of W.A. Mozart, who I share a birthday with)
Gato Loco all converged in Munich, from what seemed to be a million different flights. We finally all made it in and got a great afternoon of rehearsal in a gorgeous art loft transformed out of an old post office in Munich's West End.
Here I'll mention that this was the maiden air flight for the famed Accord tuba case. This is the hi-tech carbon flight case which weights only slightly more than a soft gigbag. It worked great - I had to take 2 different airlines to get to Munich and they obviously put the case to the test (scratched the crap out of the outside of it, and beat the bumpers) but the ultralight case held it's own - no tuba damage! It came right out of baggage claim, right up the conveyor with the normal-sized suitcases, and I was able put the horn right on my back and walk right out of the airport and hop on a train. Tuba players will understand what a HUGE deal this is!
We visited this retro place called a CD store and look what we found displayed prominently!
and of course, we hit some bier halls!
The next morning, we got up early and hurriedly headed up the Alps toward Salzburg.
Once in this very pretty town, we got to the hotel and the band quickly befriended the dirndl-laden hotel staff and everyone got a quick nap to chill in our nice digs before soundcheck.
The venue was great - a large ballroom type of venue. The band and house staff got quickly to work putting together our sizable setup of two separate drum setups, two separate bass setups, guitar plus seven different horns.
During our soundcheck, a representative came to our venue in Salzburg from the Accord Case company in Croatia to modify my case for me! (Rockstar treatment! yeah!!) He set me up well!
Between soundcheck we had the pleasure of heading up the mountain to one of the most notorious restaurants in Salzburg which overlooks the entire town. Amazing! There we dined on Deer and got a chance to catch up with our festival-mates Bobby Previte and Steve Swallow, who had just finished their set. We didn't linger long tho... Gato Loco was on the clock and had a job to do!
We started our usual off-stage entrance and quickly surprised the crowd.
The band threw down for the entire extended-length set. The kind Austrian crowd ate it up, got out of their seats and danced the night away. It was a great show.
After the show, per Gato Loco tradition, we joined some of the locals for some reveling on the town.
Upon my return to the Big Apple, there was no time to rest! First, immediately, the De Bajo portion of Gato Loco played at our favorite home base of Barbes in Brooklyn, and New Beard was in rehearsal. I then headed with the Red Hook Ramblers for a quick jaunt to Boston, then rushing back for a show at Lincoln Center in NYC. Right from LC I ran to a CMJ spot with New Beard at Union Hall in Brooklyn. The next morning it was back to the studio with NB and then break and run to play an orchestral gig at Carnegie Hall, all of this within about 3 days time. Whew!
Fortunately this week I have a few days to recover and then in a week it's back to the studio with New Beard, Halloween with Gato Loco de Bajo, then back to Germany for a few more shows with the full Gato Loco.
Lots of things to come... some great media from both New Beard and Gato Loco to be released soon and more shows shows shows with all sorts of bands. Tuba Life is never boring in NYC!
The case came today. It arrived exactly on the day TNT shipping said it would. It was packed very well. It arrived at my door in NYC all the way from Pula, Croatia unscathed. Here is the box itself, along with my awesome helper, Fiona.
Here shows the good packing job.
The case (and Fiona) Notice the Sudhaus latches.
Accord Case company logo on the left, my design on the right (commissioned from Dima Drjuchin http://www.avrodesign.com/dima/) The entire case is absolutely gorgeous, a work of art. (it's gonna kill me when the airline handlers scuff it up for the first time!)
Interior of case -- note all the cushions. These are modular and movable, they included extras and many various shapes. The cushions are dense, but also lightweight.
My horn in the case. The lid has a bit of play in it when open, so care must be taken when closing so that the lips of the case line up correctly.
The Fiedler Backback System addon. It is very comfortable and the horn at first try seems lighter than it does in the gigbag despite being 5-10lbs heavier, due to the better support of the backpack apparatus. The entire backpack system is easily removable. This whole case package is remarkably lightweight!
...I'll post more photos and info as I use it.
Simple, Post-Summer update:
This time of year is always a point of change and rejuvenation. Leaning into Oktoberfest is always symbolic - it's more than a bier-soaked gropefest powered by Oom and Pah, It's a transition out of the slower moving, fragmented summer into the work-frenzy that Autumn always is for me.
Summer was good, but I am glad the fall is here. As usual, I been working with quite a few bands and ensembles, but here's a few summer highlights from a few of the groups I am more vested in:
Big growth for the indie rock band of New Beard... from the big show we all put on at Littlefield, to the recent pre-hurricane show at Union Hall (which kicked ass!), and Zebulon and others between, that band just keeps getting better (and soon will hopefully release the awesome CD that we spent a year recording...!) The songs and dudes are just great.
I spent a lot of time in the trad trenches with the Red Hook Ramblers... we played all over place, and did several records. Highlights included our residency at Galapagos' Floating Kabarette, and now to add the Way Station. We made a live EP of original tunes recorded direct on to wax cylinder on an original Edison cylinder phonograph from 1908. The Ramblers will also appear in an upcoming episode of TLC's hit TV show "Four Weddings" to air in January.
Gato Loco has been working hard, much of it behind the scenes. We've kept the fire burning around town, but more importantly we've been working on two trips to Europe: Austria in October, then a larger trip in November which includes, Germany, Switzerland, and Holland. We have a number of trips already in motion for 2012. Stay tuned for upcoming media coming from this group!
Stay tuned for updates from NYC's legendary Mösl Franzi and the Ja Ja Jas. This coming Saturday kicks off our rockstar whirlwind that is Oktoberfest. Wish me luck!
Other CDs are coming out or recently came out with me on them: Recordings by Jack Grace, Kiku Collins, Voltaire, and Sabrina Chap' in addition to bands listed above. I go in this week to record another... I don't yet know who it is for!
I want to share a new case situation with you all... as well as a plunge I am taking!
For years I have searched for an optimal tuba case situation -- something similar to what almost every other non-tuba playing instrumentalist enjoys: a case that is usable on a day-to-day basis and is also protective. Constant dings, dents, and damage while-in-the-case is considered to be an expected inevitability for tuba players, especially ones who drag their horns around constantly, such as myself.
As of now, tuba players must rely on soft cases for day-to-day use, and then switch to an industrial bohemoth for more protected transport.
Players of other instruments, even large instruments, don't seem to have this issue, or at least as much of one.
Cello players for instance, enjoy superior portability versus protection while their instruments are exponentially more valuable and fragile. I have also noticed that many of my trumpet, trombone, and sax playing colleagues have form-fitting cases which are lightweight and ergonomic.
Most current tuba hard cases are simply too large for reasonable cartage, much less daily use, and pose major logistic challenges and consequences for the player. The philosophy behind many of them is often one of excess and often downright ballistic in their design.
Protection of the horn is of course a good thing, but protection means little when practically unusable. I need a case that fits to what my personal logistic situation is - I haul the tuba most every single day to different locations, in a wide variety of transportation situations. I average 150 gigs a year, and that's not including rehearsals and giving lessons etc. This means I am dragging my horn with me constantly, and to venues which vary greatly. I often find myself in crowded, bustling situations where a gig bag is simply not enough protection. I require protection and maximum portability at the same time.
To add to this, I am playing more out of town lately, making the need for a better case situation paramount. I need a touring-quality case where I can reasonably go from an airplane to a train to a normal-sized car all within the same logistic sweep. I need a protective case which will easily pass through varying international airlines and airport situations. Before, I would use a standard flight case and take my empty gig bag along in a suitcase, then I'd have to beg people overseas in the city I was flying into to stow the flight case (and pick it up) while I traveled on with the horn in the gig bag via trains and cars.
I play a fairly standard tuba - an old Mirafone (Miraphone) 186 CC that I use for everything. I'm not really an F tuba fan, and a tiny travel tuba is out of the question for use in performance. For most of what I do, the 186 is perfect; not too big, not too small. I can dig deep and sound like a b.a.t., and I can make it sound light when I need to. Plus, I have played on this horn pretty much exclusively for 20 years. It fits me and I fit it. My relationship to this horn sort of akin to Willie Nelson and his guitar named Trigger.
In searching for a better case situation, I contacted some makers of fiberglass form-fitted cases for other wind instruments, and none were interested in making a tuba case.
I then ventured into the world of casemakers of other types of instruments. It seems that string players have the most options (probably due to sheer numbers of players) and have access to higher-tech materials such as carbon and kevlar. I figured something had to work for me. Size-wise a tuba is around the same size as a cello, and as far as tubas go, my tuba is not all that heavy, weighing in at around 18lbs.
I sought out hi-end string case makers, and surprisingly found that one actually listed a new hi-tech tuba case. I had never heard of it, but it seemed like it might fit the bill.
The company is Accord Case from Pula, Croatia, right accross the Adriatic from Venice. They are primarily known for their ultra high-end cello cases (Yo Yo Ma and Rostrapovitch use them. Yo Yo Ma's cello is an $8M Stradavarius!) and guitar cases (Santana, Sting, Eddie Van Halen) and their carbon and Kevlar technology is so revolutionary that Ferrari used them to make seats for their F1 racecar.
I found the representatives at Accord to be incredibly responsive and professional and were more than happy to work with me and help to put together a case that fit my needs. We corresponded constantly for weeks, always with a prompt detailed response and no language barrier. I had to provide them with many detailed measurements, photos, as well as a full-sized concise tracing/blueprint of my horn which I shipped to Croatia in a box. In turn they provided me with photos of my case, as well as photos of their prototypes with horns in them, showing how it would work.
It seems that their design is made for something similar to a 186 and/or any German-style 4/4 CC or F. The case is not too much bigger than the tuba itself, and then the fine-tuning is made with adjustments are then made to the the suspension on the inside, which is designed to suspend the horn with a series of bumpers, pads and straps. (more details on this when I take delivery of the case)
My tuba weights about 18.5 lbs (it's unlaquered and fairly lightweight) and that's about just what the case is supposed to weigh as well. So, what I should have is a flight package that weighs UNDER 40lbs! (my previous setup is 98lbs, having it in a prosound crate case)
Here is a stock photo of someone standing on the demo case, demonstrating the rigidity of their flight model case.
Here are photos of my personal case (while still at the factory) which is has a more rugged matte finish in Ferrari Red (with a design I commissioned from NYC artist Dima Drjuchin http://www.avrodesign.com/dima/ )
This is a whole new era and approach to instrument cases. Here is a Toyota TV commercial with classical guitarist Berta Rojas, with her guitar in an Accord case, which is very similar to the tuba case I had them make for me.
I just finished up playing simultaneously on 3 different records, and I sit down to plan another tomorrow morning, so recording is on my mind! It’s something I do pretty regularly and I have really grown to enjoy it.
Time is always crucial in a recording situation. Following are some things I suggest to make a session (with me!) go smoothly:
1.) Be prepared. Make sure that the engineer has everything setup, at least approximately, BEFORE the musicians arrive. Naturally, there will be some adjustment after they arrive, but have things approximated and *line tested* beforehand. ...this includes a headphone setup. Have a plan in mind beforehand on how you’d like to do things as far as setup, isolation, and tracking order.
2.) Be prepared. Make charts! I know you know your tune, but others trying to learn your tune by rote can be time-consuming and leaves room for mistakes while tracking. Sometimes, only a head chart, or even a basic chord chart with the form of the song is needed...nothing fancy. It's just a matter of having something to visually refer to when needed. This can be the difference of two takes or ten, or getting one tune done in a 3 hour block, or rocking out 4 tunes. Don't worry, having a chart does *not* take any of the vibe or feeling out of it. In this situation, it's merely a tool to help make things go smoothly!
3.) Consult your tuba player on mic selection. MOST engineers (even high-end, very accomplished ones) have little idea on how to make a tuba sound good...or worse, how a tuba should and can actually sound. In the past, I have had wonderful performances completely destroyed by bad recording practices. Nothing is more frustrating and tragic! I now will usually send the setup I prefer ahead of time to help in this process... I also do my best to utilize standard equipment with which most engineers will be comfortable. The mic setup will also affect how I approach the tone. Tuba tone is actually quite delicate and must be dealt with in a fairly specific way. Fortunately, these days with software recording, there are many options available and there is never a reason for a tuba to sound bad, gross, thin or rough!
Above all, realize the ultimate goal is to allow your musicians to communicate your music through their own horns and voices. Encourage and allow them to
communicate. It's easy to get caught up in the process and get bogged down. Put your music in the listener's ears and try to remember why and how they might enjoy your music.
It's really fun to record with the tuba as it has this tendency to really open people's minds. It has this incredibly versatile, yet somewhat unknown sound. It's not abnormal for me to go into a session to play on one song, then after the artist hears the tuba, they end up wanting it on many songs.
One last piece of advice I can give to artists using a tuba on their recordings is to take mixing and mastering seriously (especially the EQ side of it). Mastering is often overlooked in many DIY projects. (it's more than just sending the sound through a compressor plugin) Adequate approach to these steps are crucial in dealing with the unique frequency characteristics of the tuba. I PROMISE it's worth the effort.
The tuba has a beautiful sound, use it wisely, and use it often!! The tuba CAN rock, the tuba CAN swing, the tuba CAN elevate any ensemble to a new level. Do it!
PS - see my recording history here!
What exactly is a pedal tone?
This question comes up a lot, especially from younger players, and the term is sometimes slightly misused by arrangers, producers, even band directors.
Some believe that "pedal tones" on a brass instrument are just really low notes -- like notes on the organ controlled by the pedals. That's only partially true...
Pedagogically, "pedal tones" refer to notes that exist in the fundamental partial of a brass instrument. They are the "real" notes of the horn which correspond to the actual length of the tubing.
For instance, my CC tuba is 16 feet long -- exactly the same length as a low C on a massive pipe organ, and my fundamental a.k.a."pedal" C sounds the exact same pitch as a 16ft organ pipe would play. Its fundamental is known as C1, which is 32.7Hz.
A "French tuba" pitched in C -- which plays one octave above a modern tuba (it plays in the same octave as a euphonium or trombone) is 8 feet long and its fundamental is C2 which is twice the Hz of the octave below, approx 65.4Hz.
Going up another octave is the C trumpet (the trumpet used in most orchestras in the US and Canada)… yes, its fundamental is at C3 (an octave below "middle C" on the piano) which is 130.8Hz
…and so on.
(here is a video of me demonstrating a "Pedal C" on Bravo! TV)
Why do we use pedal tones?
Yes, they can sound funny, even kind of flatulent… however they are an essential tool in developing brass instrument technique. Playing pedal tones not only has therapeutic qualities for the "chops" (embouchure), more importantly, knowing how to play them opens up the entire low range of the horn. Suddenly (and subconsciously!) your brain knows that there are more notes down there, and the muddy low register is no longer mysterious and you are actually playing the "real" notes of the horn. And perhaps most importantly, the pedal tones are a great model of playing with maximum wind quantity and minimum pressure... as it is impossible to play a pedal with pressure. It is a model of how to maximize low-pressure playing throughout the horn.
When done correctly, they are also usable notes - I love to use them both live and on recordings. Here I use one in the rock band The Animators' song "The Senator Goes To Hell"
(tuba nerd info: it's a pedal Db fingered 1+2 as a privileged tone on the 4V CC)
It’s really fun and is a great exercise to play things down really low!
(hey band kids, In ensembles adding octaves down can support the sound of those above you...but don’t tell your band director I told you that!!)
How to find the pedal tones? Let your lips flap and just keep trying to play lower and lower. Once you find it (one octave below your "low C" or "low Bb" respectively) it will POP right out. How to know if you have it? It matches the note an octave up!
Once you get it, try playing the pedal going down through the valve series… see how low you can go! Be patient, sometimes it takes some time to find them!
A funny thing about learning how to play pedals… It’s kind of like learning to ride a bicycle -- it might take a while to get the hang of it, but once you do get it, you never lose it.
Early in the morning on June 25, after a painful night playing out in the Hamptons the night before, I got up at the crack and took the train up to Beacon, NY. Gato Loco was slated to rock the Beacon Riverfest.
It’s an AMAZING train ride upstate to Beacon, NY, which is a little over an hour north of the city. The entire route, from Spuyten Duyvil north, is on the right bank of the Hudson River. I have grown a fondness for the mighty Hudson. The Hudson has a significant place in our family’s history: My wife’s Great Grandfather spent his 30+ year career on the river as Chief Engineer on the SS Alexander Hamilton, a Day-Liner steamship that went up and down the Hudson every single day. It’s been said that riverboat was his first love, and my wife’s Great Grandmother was his second. It’s an awesome river.
Anyway, on to the gig. After a rejuvenating 70 minute train ride, my proximity app on my phone (awesome) alerted me I was near Beacon. I got off the train expecting to head inland to the festival site. To my surprise the festival was to the west of the train, in a park nestled on a tiny peninsula jutting out in the river!
This was one of the rare gigs ever where I am actually the first person there, but I was. I work to help coordinate this behemoth ensemble, so I took it upon myself to get there early to make sure logistics were cool.
I got into the park and even at this early hour, the tented soundstage was already rocking with sounds from Tao Seeger, great grandson of the great Pete Seeger soundchecking. His folk-meets-rock sound with some nice NoLa influenced groovin made for a nice introduction to the festival.
The Gato cars showed up and we got the day underway, a soundcheck, great amp selection, great food and beautiful location made for a nice day. My family even came up from the city! Here’s a photo of my daughter all gussied up in her dress-up accessories to, in her words “look fancy for daddy’s gig” Awww! (photo by Jan Meissner)
Gato took the stage in the late afternoon, and took it we did. I think we startled the folk-loving Beaconites a bit, but we rocked it nonetheless. It was good sound and we sold a big pile of Gato Loco merch. We met a bunch of new friends and it was all good in Beacon. (awesome photo by Jan Meissner)
On June 21, I joined about 20-ish other brass players at the shores of the Central Park lake to create / perform an ambient work set up just for NYC’s Make Music New York. This annual event presents large-scale (and I mean really large, to the point of being environmental) works throughout the city.
This specific mass-brass event was made up of members of and hosted by the new-music-brass collective named TILT which I occasionally play with, peppered with a nice handful of other players.
The day prior we met for a rehearsal at the amazing Seventh Regiment Armory on the Upper East Side. This great old building and sufficed well as we worked out and experimented with our plan for the outdoor concert the next day.
Set up by three Australian “sound artists”, the work was designed to be best heard from rowboats (which are cheap to rent from the city) out in the lake. We were to perform two sequential performances, each about 45 minutes in duration. It was ridiculously humid out, and we were sweating like mad, as well as swatting a mosquito or two or three or four. We pressed on positively.
We were segregated into many trios and were peppered surrounding the lakeshore. We all did our best to reflect our assigned tones off the water and to hurl them out into the midst as best as possible. My trio was the only low/conical trio, two euphoniums and myself on tuba.
The event got a pile of press including coverage by the NYTimes and NPR. Here is one good clip someone posted from a boat itself, I’m quite audible, sort of resembling a bullfrog, but not intentionally.
Logistically, the work was signaled to start via a sent text message to the leader of each trio, which came from the lead sound artist out in the lake. Thank goodness AT&T was behaving that afternoon. Each trio would then wait for a previous trio to start the long sequential pattern and start at an approximate self-counted time length after. The work had three consecutive “movements” per se, each following a specifically dictated row of tones, dynamics, and intent.
One of my trio was a composer / euphoniumist from Boston, Jason Belcher. He was interviewed about the experience here, it captures the event well.
(this page also includes a link to the great work for TILT Brass by Jason’s teacher, Anthony Coleman, which consequently ends with yours truly belting out a screaming *but* melancholy, unanswered tuba solo, recorded on the recent TILT release, which was a joy to record)
This particular event was surprisingly nice and extremely well received. I ended up enjoying it quite a bit.
It’s takes a certain type of energy to create an actual cohesive “vibe” out of tones out across a lake. I think we succeeded.
I am writing about this event after-the-fact as I was so wrapped up in the planning I was not able to do much else beforehand! Last Saturday night, 3 bands (2 of which I am a part of) came together to create a fun event called “Farewell to Normal Scene” this last Saturday night.
This event involved a host of performers: 3 main bands, an acapella ensemble an aerialist, and a cook. It all started about 6 weeks ago, when representatives from New Beard, Yula and the eXtended Family, and Gato Loco, descended on “The Hive”, the Bushwick, Brooklyn lair of my friend Yula Be’eri.
Representatives of each ensemble started to meet about 6 weeks ago and we came up with the concept in a really synergetic way and produced this promotional video.
We booked the show at this beautiful space in Park Slope called Littlefield, and worked it out to rock a Saturday night. The show turned out GREAT. We brought in a great crowd over the course of the night and all 3 bands rocked it. It was a big accomplishment for me as I had not been involved in the production of a big show in quite a while (it's a huge task!)
It was a night of great performances, New Beard emerged from it’s long hiatus with a bang, Yula and her family charmed the crowd, and Gato Loco, was well... Gato Loco! Our aerialist was wonderful, and while we had to squeeze the Bandanna Splits into a different slot, they were charming as well. I thought the whole night really went wonderfully. It was a lot of work, but well worth the effort. Response was great. Special thanks to Andrew Dunn and Stefan Zeniuk for really digging in and doing a lot of the legwork involved... special thanks to Darren Morze for the sound, Dmitry Drjuchin for the poster, and Caroline Craighead of Craighead and Company for publicity.
It's always an exciting day when a new CD that I'm on comes out! I absolutely adore the art of recording.
Recently, I got the pleasure to jam alongside my pal, trumpet monster Al Chez on the leading track of the rock-jazz trumpeter Kiku Collins' new record "Red Light." Kiku, boneman David Gibson, Chez and myself all get to bring it home on the jam-session styled tune called "Blue Patrol".
ps - all you trumpeters can pick up a copy in person, as she'll be at ITG this week
Mia Wolff does some great drawings of Gato Loco as we play. She was there at the abandoned convent last weekend. She captured me looking like a tuba hunchback as I stoop over a bunch of stompbox electronics.
Cool drawings!! Thanks Mia!
See the whole set HERE
While unearthing some archived media, I just discovered a documentary about a studio orchestra recording session I did about a year and a half ago. The video documents the recording of a beautiful and moving work by Kenny Werner entitled "No Beginning, No End". He wrote the piece about the untimely death of his daughter.
At about 2:06 in the video it shows me closely as we work out some of the orchestration and chord voicing.
One of the recently released CD's I am on is is a recording of new works for brass ensemble. The "Tilt" Creative Brass Band is actually a standard-sized full brass ensemble made up of more than just great players, every member is a creative artist all in their own. I was honored to be a part of this group and to play this amalgomation of works by NYC "Downtown" composers. It was an inspirational group of folks to play amongst!
The group is led by trombonist Chris McIntyre and the CD was prodced by the legendary Anthony Coleman. We recorded it at Oktaven Studios in Yonkers, NY.
Here's some tuba-centric excerpts:
In New York, anything can work as a venue.
As part of an art show, a trio of Gato Loco de Bajo improvised and played at St. Cecilia's abandoned convent in Brooklyn. Beautiful sounding room. and ghosts.
Photos by the amazing Jan Meissner.
A review surfaced from our Gato Loco show in Paris in March. Enjoy if you parle Français.
For music it to exist in physical space (outside of our bodies), it must first reside in our heads.
Fortunately, there is a very natural way of communicating this musical opinion; simple and organic.
Singing directly connects and communicates musical opinion from inside the head to outside the head. It makes that connection instantly and in a fail-safe manner. There is no room for error, it is either there or it is not. No variables.
It’s imperative that we SING as a primary step of learning to play a brass instrument, at any level, as singing is the physical result of that development of musical opinion, at its essence. It can lead execution (and is the most efficient path!)
I often consult with groups, and when they don’t know my methods yet, they are confused at first when I spend a lot of the time having the group sing. (wait, that’s not my show music??)
For some reason, in this country, singing is seen as nerdy; as weak. It becomes something to hide… it becomes secondary... which is truly unfortunate.
Singing (and all performance) has to be primary, organic, and have reckless abandon!!
One of the most dynamic people I've ever known was my first tuba teacher in college, Jack Robinson -- a true basso profundo. He loved to sing as much as he loved to play the tuba – and everything had to be in a romantic, profoundly singing style. His powerful singing voice had a huge impact on me.
Some years later I made the pilgrimage to Chicago to study a bit with the Jedi Master of windplaying, tubist Arnold Jacobs. And guess what we did just about the whole first lesson…? you got it, we SANG!! The then aged Mr. Jacobs, too weak to open the lock on his studio door, would powerfully wave his arm and sing with all the grandeur of Ezio Pinza!! He was just brimming with music… and it all flowed directly from within. It was so obvious that his most elemental musical essence dictated absolutely everything.
It took a while for that to sink in through my thick skull – eventually realizing that it was not a theatric thing, it was a specific training regimen and pipline to musical mastery -- making things work in the right order.
Part of Mr. Jacobs' monumental approach to things was also to (re)learn to see things as a child would… as children (from any part of the world) sing ALL the time! Kids love to sing simplisticly - it is completely inherent and instinctual... at its purest and most elemental level.
Inherent melody, Inherent pitch, Inherent idea, Inherent concept, Inherent VIBE. Yes. Singing is the “musical carpe diem”.
When taking a singing approach to things, there is no question as to what the specific mechanics regarding ideas should be, they are just there practically automatically. It is really that simple. Lead with an idea, lead with an opinion.
If you can sing it, it is easy(er) to play it. The converse is also true, if you can’t sing it, chances are you can’t play it.
Lead EVERYTHING with a singing approach… let it be your guide, and let it dictate ALL other aspects!!
The New Beard record was an outrageous process. We started right away, probably a month or two after the first show. We tracked the tuba and the drums directly to tape, right in the heart of indie country, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, USA, 11211.
It was an intense process, it took us a good chunk of a week. Fortunately the studio was very close to a beer hall (just because it's Williamsburg does not mean one has to drink lame PBR!!). We worked like crazy, and it sounded good! We went about it in the traditional *rock* way... doing the drum tracks first, then tracking the bass (in this case, tuba). The drums got the large studio and we tracked the tuba in the un-airconditioned upstairs of the small complex. It was a sweaty process, but that's ok, this is rock after all. We recorded the tuba with a bi-mic setup, which I frequently use in the studio.
Once that was done, they wanted to let the tracks sit for a bit..., but the madness had started! The record grew and grew and Grew and GREW!! This rock band now had an entire orchestra behind it with the arrangements becoming so lush! Tracks were added (all LIVE instruments!) in Brooklyn, Long Island, Yonkers, North Carolina, and later, Sweden! Dunn and Wigler had far outdone themselves! We had also added another member, the backhanded shredder Yazan Shouldertap to fill things out even more.
The sound of the band had grown immensely. Every week more tracks and players were added!! (including some by Gato Loco's Stefan Zeniuk)
This record had turned into a massive project with a massive sound and a honourably massive scope. It became obvious to us all that we needed a set of "outside ears" to unify it.
The Swede Gustav Ejstes and his band Dungen were huge inspirations of New Beard’s basic sound. So, why not just go to the source for this fresh perspective?! Ejstes enthusiastically accepted the band's proposal to mix the record, and not only creatively mixed it, he completely threw himself into the project and even appears on many of the tracks on a host of different instruments. Gustav gave it all a unified sound; a sound which was already organically inferred from the get-go. This full-circle really made it wonderful and only enhanced the heart that Wigler and Dunn, as well as Tony and myself and everyone else had put into it.
Now that the arrangements had metamorphosed to such a size, naturally, the application of the tuba parts had changed a bit. I retracked and retweaked many of the tuba parts right as the record went to mixing, this time with a slightly better bi-mic setup. We tracked it again in Brooklyn, but this time in Carroll Gardens. It was another sweaty process. The results were far better this time around, simply as my role in the band was more defined, my sound better understood, and the songs better ingested.
To add to this great synergy and new energy was the final musical step, the mastering by the legendary Greg Calbi (google it)
On top of the great songs and great vibe of the band, I’m THRILLED about how the tuba sounds! As of recent, on other records with other bands, I’ve had some tragic results with how the tuba tone was mistreated by bumbling engineers post-tracking...once it is officially out of my hands. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have the tuba sound so warm and clear, present but with no edge, even when within a large landscape of hoards of different instruments all rocking simultaneously.
It’ll be a little while before this record goes public. I simply cannot wait to play it for you.
The Tuba is a highly misunderstood beast. It’s the youngest of all brass instruments; created as late as the mid-1800’s, it’s only several generations into its history where players exist who specialize in it and can play it at a very high level.
I always find it ironic that most tuba players only aspire to play old music! I too adore when I get to sit in back of an orchestra and raise the risk of the viola players getting tinnitus during a romantic symphonic marathon. HOWEVER, there is a LOT more to tuba life than that...
For almost 15 years I’ve worked under the guise that “the tuba can fit into ANY type of music”, a phrase I’ll die by.
It takes people willing to think outside of the box, and it takes a wide appreciation for ALL music. It's the belief that *most* music is just as valid artistically as another, and instrumentation does not always denote a style or ability to play such. (nor does race, age, sex, or whatever is defined as coolness at the minute, for that matter!)
Sure, there are sonic logistic hurdles involved with adapting the tuba into various ensembles, but those with vision and openmindedness can supersede those obstacles. What they’ll find is a gorgeous sound that people really dig.
Above all, people LOVE the tuba. I’m serious.
Over the last year I've reasserted my real roots; my rock roots. As a kid brought up on radio, then MTV, rock is a huge part of who I am. As a tuba player, it can be a pain in the ass to assert; not in my own playing as it’s always a part of how I do everything, rather the issue becomes how the instrument is viewed and treated by other musicians. It's difficult at times to get taken seriously and to avoid that expected dopey "schtick"; that common road so many tuba players so easily and expectantly slide down.
Enter NEW BEARD. About a year ago, through a common friend, I was introduced to the songwriting team of Ben Wigler and Andrew Dunn, both formerly of the band Arizona.
Singer-songwriters contact me pretty regularly. Usually it is to add tuba the one or two “different" tracks of their record. It's cool, I don't mind doing it, and have done it on probably a dozen or more different records, and with some wonderful, honest folks.
New Beard was different. They actually wanted a tuba player full-time as the bass player of their band. This idea is not necessarily new, there have been a handful of bands that have done it. This specific situation, however, had a unique honesty about it that really intrigued me. They wanted to rock and were serious about it, and wanted the tuba for what it is: a solid, serious and kickass bass instrument!!
New Beard does rock, and to power the band they have a mighty prog-loving drummer with a right foot that's as fast as hell. Tony Waldman of the band Edensong drove and embraced the tuba vibe right from the very first note. (this is crucial, as the drummer is the #1 factor in how a tuba fits into a band riding the bass role)
The band has an incredible commitment to the music. It rules all. Right off the bat, I realized these guys were for real. They welcomed me with open arms, and made a solid commitment to make the tuba sound RIGHT.
We rehearsed our asses off for the band's first show, which we rocked. The vibe worked. They consequently asked me to join the band, and we soon thereafter headed deep into the trenches to make the RECORD.
Here's a clip from New Beard's very first show ever
On to read about the record...