Posts Tagged ‘#guitar’

Mara – The Making of a Video

I usually did not have to search for new projects.  There were plenty of musicians, bands and performers that did not have a lot of resources – or cash – when starting out.  Working at the local music store chain, I was lucky to know some great players, writers, and musicians of all sorts.  l am attracted to talented people of all kinds.  I often wish listeners of my music would give me the benefit of the doubt that I gave to many of the people I met and came to appreciate.  I realize my songs are not always ‘radio worthy’ or commercially viable, and always hoped someone would look beyond that and realize the songs I offered for what they could be if recorded professionally and marketed on a large scale.  Maybe that day will still come, but back then there were a number of artists that I could help take the next step.

Word got out that I had an understanding of technology and could usually pick things up quickly.  I absorbed owners manuals, dedicated time and when possible drafted other talented people to make projects work.  One of the fun and exciting things I got to do was shoot and edit live musical band performances.  MakeShift Kreations was an early company name I came up with using my initials: M S K.  I believe this was filmed way back in 1988!!!

Using the same video and editing suite from the cable company available for local access channels that I used for my first conceptual video: “Walking Man” I learned how to use multi camera filming and video editing techniques.  In some situations I offered to do videos for friends as this was a new (again, at the time!) medium and was very expensive for most bands.  In Part I, I would like to present the video I made of Mara, a local band with highly talented musicians.  My wife Ellen and I did all the camera, editing and post production work.  These are their original songs performed live over a two-night period. It was a lot of work, but I learned a lot and had a great time.

Please use the following link to see the Mara: Part I video:

https://youtu.be/VwKz1Po4_XM

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Fortunately, when I have too many things on my plate and never seem to get to putting some of my best lyrics to music, I have many talented friends that bail me out.  Often I write poems – but almost as often I begin writing lyrics intending to put music to them at some point.  Today I will share the lyrics and the original live recording to one of my favorites.

I found myself thinking of musical relationships and what, to some, becomes a long path that never gets close to ‘stardom’, whatever that is.  The late-night conversations with many friends – musicians reflecting on the efforts and rewards involved in the lifestyle we have chosen – became metaphors in these lyrics.

The title “Stainless Steel” refers to one type of guitar strings.  I also use silk and stainless steel strings on my Ovation 12 string guitar, but Stainless Steel captured the feeling I was surrounded by when writing the lyrics.  There is a certain pride creative people get when sacrificing for their art.  So many things are put on the back-burner or postponed indefinitely to accomplish turning a dream or idea into a treasure; even if it is only for a select few to enjoy.  No one else may ever know what gems were created, and it appears to many that you have nothing to show for your time and talent.  Only a few will understand the trade-offs you have made; those sitting around with you late at night, year after year.

In this recording my good friend, the late Mark Kelsey, plays guitar and sings.  He is accompanied by Ann Ellis from my band “The Personal Touch”.  Mark has worked through the arrangement a few times and I believe this is the first time Ann had heard the song.  He quickly recorded for me to listen to and was later to record a final version in a professional studio where he lived.  This is my favorite recording and I will always think fondly of him when I hear this recording.  While the living room quality is easy to hear, the mood and inspiration comes through clearly.

In our busy lives, it is all too easy for us to overlook the efforts our friends and loved ones make for us.  Sometimes it takes far too long for us to fully appreciate those acts of love.  I have let many go unrecognized – unappreciated – unacknowledged until it was too late.  Looking back I find myself humbled to realize how much my life would have been uplifted and how many friends deserved my  – – –  I do not know the correct words, but ‘praise’ seems as close as any I can think of.   It may also have uplifted their lives in a time when they needed it most.  It can be sad and joyous when time finally reveals the reflections of our lives.

Stainless Steel”                         Lyrics by MSK, Music by Mark D Kelsey  © 1984

 

Stainless Steel Shining Bright

Broken Glass Shattered nights

When we talk, What we feel

Lights the fire Turns the Wheel

Turns the wheel

 

Stainless Steel Sharp and cold

Day by day Bought and sold

Take my hand Close your eyes

Say a prayer Throw the dice

Throw the dice

 

Waiting for a Miracle is like waiting forever

When there’s nothing else to do

I hope that someone’s out there waiting for me baby,

The way that I ‘m waiting for you

Oh Stainless Steel

 

Stainless Steel Deep within

Who we are What we’ve been

Reaching out Find ourselves

Kiss goodbye, What the hell

What the hell

 

Stainless Steel Never bends

No one blames Or defends

Smiles will fade Tears will fall

Memories of Nothing at all

Nothing at all

 

Waiting for a Miracle’s like waiting forever

When there’s nothing else to do

I hope that someone’s out there waiting for me baby,

The way that I ‘m waiting for you

Oh Stainless Steel

 

 

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Our banner designed by Marty Gillaspy

“Chase The Dream”

When one of the bands I worked with collapsed under the pressures of day to day life, it was quickly resurrected in a new form.  Most of Euphoria members did not want to stop playing so we regrouped with a new guitar player to replace one of the founding members and became The Chase.  We played out with about ten different names for a few months – Scenic Route was another favorite of mine – until we settled on The Chase.  These guys were great.  We had a solid rhythm section, a great lead singer and back up vocals that were tight and an amazing lead guitar player that could feel everything he played. We could play cover songs no other bands would play live.  We also threw in originals from time to time.  The banner was hung one each side of the stage vertically as seen in one of the photos below, and horizontally behind the drum set.  It was pretty eye-catching and a lot of people complimented it.

I am an archivist.  I record everything.  Audio recordings of practice sessions and live performances. Video of many performances and photos of major events.  Before YouTube I posted a number of them on our cable TV Local Access channels using their video editing suite.  I had my fingers in everything.  Some of the projects got finished, but a lot of the raw tapes have only been viewed by me and a select group of people.

I just put together a new video that uses a lot of this vintage raw video and some of the photographs from the time period.  The medium is so old that the quality suffers, but it does a good job of representing the events of the time.  We played in many clubs and outdoor events and I will create future videos to highlight more venues.   For this video I used an original instrumental song that Nick Robinson was working on and our new band, The Chase, made it our own.  There is no video of the song as we only played it out a few times.  Nicky has since re-joined Euphoria when it regrouped a few years ago and is still playing out with some amazing players.

Please check out my latest YouTube post (and other videos while you are there) of his original tune: “Chasing The Dream”.  Enjoy!

Chase The Dream

I’ve admitted in earlier posts that I observe people a lot, and that I get a number of ideas for songs from watching other people;  friends, family, co-workers, I steal from them all!  I can empathize with people as they face challenges and triumphs in life.  I try to understand what it feels like to be in those situations even though I myself might not be directly affected by them.

I also have some rather obvious political points of view.  I can understand why there are those that do not always agree with my positions but in many cases I can still understand theirs.  In this song I basically insult every group I can think of!  As you are more than likely in at least one of these groups I apologize in advance.  In a lot of ways, this song summarizes the items on my Love – Hate list.  I hate things that should work but do not, and I really hate personal and corporate greed.  The song uses a lot of references to things we would hear on the news, although it was written a long time ago.  Unfortunately most of the issues are the same today!

Recording this song took a LONG time.  We did rough mixes here and there changing this or that, but it did not feel right from beginning to end.  Eventually, I think we rearranged some of the chorus/verse structure and it just fell into place.  For some songs this is the agonizing part;  all the components are there and sound good, but the piece as a whole just does not grab you.  I might have even tried changing tempo on this one to get it right.

If this is not the first song I did using my new Alesis ADAT recorder it was one of the first.  I was also transitioning from the Atari computer to a Windows machine, so not everything went smoothly!  I played electric guitar on this one (I have a few guitars and do not know which one was used for each song but my guess this is either my Ibanez or a Yamaha 6 string) and did all the sequencing and drum tracks as described earlier.  My wife does the vocal main lines.  Using the limiter/compressor chain I described from other songs the vocals are recorded so they stay soft and spooky and a little eerie as the lyrics become more and more cynical.  A bunch of family and friends came in and did the voice add-ons.  You can hear both our daughters, my co-writing brother and a few neighbors help out with the spoken parts.  I ‘sing’ the chorus.

The bass line in this one is particularly cool because it is my Oberheim Matrix 6 synth and it has this patch or sound that continues to play an arpeggio (sequence of predetermined notes) as long as you hold a key down.  So the bass lines are done by holding one note for a while but hearing many notes played.  We even got to play with one of the audio samplers from the music store and used it to trigger the ‘broken word’ parts.   Once we got the arrangement right it was just fun to ‘decorate’ the basic tracks and add a little movement to the mix.   Have fun with this one.

One Last Time

Posted: September 29, 2016 in Poetry
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

msk-sun-and-clouds-1“One Last Time”              (C)  MSK  9-22-2016

There are no ways to describe

How much I would give

 

To see the stars one last time.

To hear your voice again.

And feel the warmth of the sun.

To hold you in my arms.

 

There are no limits to how long

I would wait

 

If I knew I would hear your voice.

To watch you as you laugh.

Or share the sadness of your tears.

And love you as you grow old.

 

But there is no chance.

No last minute plan.

The end of this dance

Is already at hand.

 

I wish to see the stars one last time.

To tell you that you are mine.

I’d love to help in times to come

Give you courage when you have none.

 

But there is no chance.

No last minute plan.

The end of this dance

Is already at hand.                                                                                                                                                  ————————————————————–

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The time is all right,

The music’s all right

But that’s not the way you feel.

 

You think it’s so sad,

You drove yourself mad.

Don’t forget, you made a deal.

 

What happened that day, made you run away

‘Til your world seemed so unreal.

All of your friends said, you were living dead,

It takes time for wounds to heal.

 

You stopped and looked around,

What you need could be found.

Don’t need a lucky break, to handle what we make,

We can make it as two.

 

Your mamma’s all right,

Your daddy’s all right.

They both love you the way you are.

 

Yes snowflakes can fall,

And not land at all.

Life is not quite so bizarre.

 

What happened that day, made you run away

‘Til your world seemed so unreal.

All of your friends said, you were living dead,

It takes time for wounds to heal.

 

You stopped and looked around,

What you need could be found.

Don’t need a lucky break, to handle what we make,

We can make it as two.

 

This song is on my new album Before The Chase available now on itunes!

 

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In many ways it is difficult to believe I am in my sixties.  While some of the energy and physical abilities are not what they used to be, the drive, passion and beauty in my life still motivate and push me forward everyday.  There is always something new, grand and amazing to learn or experience. 

 I have reached another time and point of reflection.  Early February of 2015 my daughter Alisa and I discussed starting a blog.  She had an idea powered by an amazing sense of urgency.  She wanted me to not only give more people the opportunity to hear the songs I have written and recorded over the years – songs she had grown up with, went to sleep with, woke up with and watched as the final versions became etched in what ever media was available at the time – she was firmly committed that I should also tell ‘my story’.  She insisted (over and over) that I have had a fascinating life and wonderful experiences that people would enjoy and even learn from.   

 I don’t feel special, exceptional or – I hate to use the word worthy, but it does fit here – though I have known and attracted so many amazing people and been very lucky to have been involved with them to become a focal point in their lives.  

 I was not sure what the benefit was and frankly I – as I often do – found it difficult to believe others would be interested in the realization of dreams, struggles and successes I managed to accomplish over the many years.  I knew how much the people and music meant to me, of that I had no doubt and never down-played.  I could talk about them for hours.  It was the subject of promoting myself that was always alien territory for me.  I just never considered going there.   

 She did not give in.  She refused to give up.  She did not accept my cavalier attitude when talking about my work.  She also saw me as a person who played by the rules – sometimes to a fault – and saw the limited acknowledgement and success I had achieved while others became famous by using ‘tactics’ that were not even in my personal vocabulary.  Her design was to use my vocabulary.  To ‘play the game’ on my terms, to reach out to an audience without standing on a drowning man’s shoulders to get above the water.    

 That month; February 2015, I surrendered.  We launched the MIDIMike blog.  I wrote articles and ideas for posts.  She pushed and pushed to make sure I shared my stories and the feelings experienced for them.  She worked hard to set up the blog site, reach out to other bloggers, schedule releases of songs and so much more.  In fact, reading this article she will probably say “you are doing it again!”.  She would point out this is not about her, but about my work and my life, which are so often one in the same.   Old habits and all that LOL. 

 I was not sure if this would survive three months but I was determined to put in at least as much effort into the blog as she did.  I was not going to be the reason if it did not match her goals and plan.  If it lasted six months we could say we gave it a great effort. 

 The first anniversary for MIDIMike came this month.  I look at the articles posted, the comments from followers, the amazing relationships and shear talent of this community and wonder how I could find anything more ‘worthy’.  I have learned so much from so many of you it is difficult to thank each of you individually, but I am sure you are aware that I try very hard to do so.  I do not take your selfless time, effort and caring for granted.   

 You have allowed me to share past events and the emotions experienced during those and current events.  From deaths of loved ones, creation of new songs and old ones, tragedies, fires and life changing events friends have been faced to new poetry, ancient videos and my recent unemployment late in life.  It has been an amazing year. 

 On this anniversary, I am also aware of your support.  Your kindness.  I am only driven harder than Alisa could drive me, if you can believe that is possible!  I will continue.  Not only with MIDIMike and our community but with more of the music behind everything I do.  Your comments have inspired me to bring more of these gems out of deep storage, or to take unfinished works out of the closet and record them.   

 To take your advice and to thank you again for so much, I am releasing a new EP on this first anniversary.  “Before The Chase is now available on iTunes and CD Baby.  A new song along with new/updated recordings are on this first release.  I promise you there will be more and I will continue to share the stories behind them with followers of this blog, and I guarantee to listen to and be guided by your comments.  

Like so many talented musicians and artists we do not start out thinking ‘this is a great career path’ and we will be rich making popular songs.  We start because we feel it and enjoy what we do.  The truth is probably closer to reality – we do not become rich until someone else realizes they can make money from those talented people and their works.

 So much in one year.  Totally appreciated.   

Before The Chase on iTunes

Start To Stop Again              (c) Michael S. Kennedy 

A worker cries when the day is done,

Wise man only cries for peace.

A lonely man cries for anyone,

I cry, but I am none of these.

 

My children say life is ours to hold,

Old woman says that it don’t matter.

The blameless say they do what they are told,

Broken hearts can’t live without her.

 

Crippled child wants life; however hard,

Hypocrites only want their share.

Starving eyes want less than we discard,

You want something that isn’t there.

 

Ooh, Ooh, the way it’s always been,

We stop to start again.

Don’t think you can’t help out my friend

Because we try, we control the end.

 

Nobody cares, if it isn’t them.

Cold voices only care by phone.

Rich people care about every gem,

Friends care when it’s one of their own.

 

Ooh, Ooh, the way it’s always been,

We stop to start again.

Don’t think you can’t help out my friend

Because we try, we control the end.

 

There were a string of original tunes in the early 1980’s.  Some you have heard here already.   These were very profound times in a lot of ways.  Real work worlds.  Kids.  Relationships.  Marriage. Responsibilities.  Debt.

This song was not written in one or two sessions.  It took quite a long time to make this fit together.  I Often find snippets in other writings and combine with others to make a full song.  This is one that I may have done that with as there are so many different topics and observations.  Part of my challenge in writing songs people can relate to is being able to state the obvious in a clever, funny or different way.   So I would think of these ‘one liners’ and write them down.   Some were my normal trite stuff, but a few were well said and became part of these lyrics.

I like to play a few different ‘voicings’ or positions on the 12 string and take advantage of open strings or cool octaves when I can.  (it also reduces the hand-cramps you get when holding down all those strings!!)  In some chord changes you can play the same chord in different positions back-to-back and it sounds like you are playing different chords.  The guitar part is sparse and melodic.   It sets the mood during the intro.  Allowing the intro chords to ring out with a slow rhythm lets the 12 string shine all the more.  The lyrics paint a pretty good picture of life experiences I had during that time.

Don’t think you can’t help out my  friend.  Because we try, we control the end!

If we start from the stage things actually be come easier.  If the mixing or sound board is the hub of processing sounds, the stage is the hub for generating sounds!  Most Live Sound Reinforcement events would benefit if the engineer spent more time here.  It is not uncommon for the sound guy to spend fifteen minutes making sure the kick drum has every frequency needed pumped up loud enough to message your spine (and ear drums) but they take two minutes to set up the stage monitors.  And most do that right after the band sets up  - – – – – when there is no music playing!

So let’s take a minute and walk up on stage and see what it physically looks like.  If you are familiar with the band you have a good idea of acceptable arrangements:  Overall dimensions.   Where are the riser(s).  How tall are the ceilings. Where are the AC outlets.  You may not be able to direct where the performers set up in a number of cases but you can influence some.  Where should the drums/keyboards/horn section go.  Where is a good central place for the snake (multi-connector cable connected to the mixing board).  Where do the monitors go (unless using in-ear monitor systems).  For me, this is also a good place to determine where the house speaker cabinets and amplifiers are placed.  BTW, if you are not familiar with the band or act make it a practice to find out.  Go to their website or media page. Get an idea of what they do live, if you can.  Ten minutes on-line will save you a bunch of headaches if they turn out to have specific requests for their instruments or performers.  I can also tell you from personal experience if you go up to Player C and say, “Hey, I got that adapter you need for your axe”, the player is going to notice the effort.  They will relax and you can let them know they are in good hands.  Getting the band’s cooperation is not necessary.  It is not in the books.  In some situations it might even be a waste of time.  I will still try every time.  Getting their cooperation…… sets up a great performance.  Then I focus on stage sound…..  and most band members will go out of their way to help during sound check and throughout the performance before 20 minutes of equalizing the kick drum.

Now that you have a good idea of the dimensions and set up requirements, place each performer in the best location and set up their respective microphones and monitors as needed.  Set up House gear and test.  From the mixing board, use a ‘talk-back’ microphone sent to the stage monitors to test and communicate with the performers.  Band members might feel like they are inside a cage at the zoo, looking out at the visitors!  Sometimes all you can see are the stage lights in your eyes.  The venue may be quite dark.  So the more comfortable they feel; the more like rehearsal you make it feel, the better the blend among performers.  The better the blend, the better the whole event will unfold.

Going forward I will go over a few details and outline this process to make it easier as well fun!

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