Thursday, July 30, 2009

We're getting a baby! (dog)

The stork is dropping her off on Aug. 15. How could we say no?
She might have some special needs... she's very shy. Was a stray, and is being rescued from a high-kill shelter in South Carolina or something. They were seeking a home with an adult well-adjusted dog and no kids. Sound like us.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New to You: Fending/Matis “Three Rocks” (2006)

Several years ago, I released this album as a very, very limited edition CD-R. I only made 20 of them, and most of those are still in my house. Since I bungled the original release, I'm delighted to offer it up now, far & wide, thanks to the interweb. Listen / download / buy it here (pay-what-you-like, $0 ok).

I used to play in a guitar / drums duo with Brian Fending. He moved to Buffalo. Now we don't get to play much.

Thanks to several things outside my control lining up just right, I was offered three days of free studio time at a cool little recording studio in Minneapolis. I'd never been to Minneapolis, and this seemed like a great reason to visit. In retrospect, the cost of airfare, hotel, and rental car came out to more than we would've spent for the same (or slightly more) studio time here at home, but it was fun to go out there anyway. Minneapolis is cool, and in the summer it's really nice.

We had no idea what music we might play, so we just set up and dove right in. Most of the record is improvised. I had a fortunate technology problem: my laptop got zapped by a virus when I joined the hotel wireless network on our first night. It wouldn't boot up or anything after that... so I did most of the session without fancy gizmos or looping. The studio had a beautiful Vox AC15 guitar amp that I think I might still be in love with. Yeah, a little bit in love with a guitar amp. Embarrassing but true. I did some overdubs and played the looped parts manually. That was much better. The first two tracks have “laptop guitar,” the rest are post-virus-crash-meltdown. (I'm still using that damn laptop and it's never really been the same.)

Some highlights:

  • Track 5 is a short little rock number. I love Brian's entrance.
  • Track 9, “Perpetual Motion,” is a math-y piece that we wrote at a bar after our first day in the studio. It's built on a cliché metal riff of steady 8th notes. After that's established, we each start dropping 8th notes (We each have a different pattern for the dropped notes). Eventually we only have one 8th note left (the “and of four” if you want to count along at home). We hit that a few times together and end it. I do loves me some math rock.
We did a very short little East Coast tour when we first put the album out. That didn't work so well, logistically, but the music was solid. We haven't played together since... but I'm still proud of this record and I hope you enjoy it.

Let me know what you think.

More history:
original blog post about the recording session
original blog post about the tour

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I am published

The last ad down is mine. McGreet / Mccob! Genius I tell you! The extraneous close-parentheses is an homage to some ads that ran over the last few months featuring ridiculous punctuation nightmares.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Two new solo pieces posted.

Some new guitar music. Let's call it a "Virtual 7" single." Two wacked out ecstatic improv tracks.

<a href="">Explosion in a Shingle Factory by Jonathan Matis</a>

If that embedded player thing doesn't work for you, it's on my page.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stick a fork in me

I'm Done.

I'm Done trying to:

  • be somebody
  • make things happen
  • build an audience
  • cultivate a fan-base
  • raise money
  • get publicity
  • get noticed
  • be cool

Turns out I've wasted the better part of two years (or more?) trying to get my music & "business" to coexist. For better or worse, I opted for a nonprofit arts organization business model. I think I did many things "right," plenty of things wrong, or incompletely. In any event, results have been disappointing.

I've written a mighty pile of grant proposals, mailed out over two hundred promo cd's to press people and sent a gazillion "follow up emails." That took a lot of time. What I have to show for it is a large collection of rejection letters and a tremendous indifference with which my work has been received in the world.

Reviewing these results / metrics, I think it would've been better to simply spend that time practicing and writing music. So now, I'm done.

I'm happy to continue making music, but I'm done trying to "do something" with it. Music is useless. Instrumental music is largely meaningless. No sense trying to commodify it or build myself into a "brand" or any such nonsense. I'm done. I don't need to make my artistic practice into a business. That was foolish. If you catch me trying to do it again, please smack me.

I'm going to keep writing and playing and practicing. Hopefully my friends will work with me from time to time. If you want to hear what we're up to, come on out to the house and we'll play it for you. You're totally invited and I'd love to hang out for a while. Or don't come. Either way, I'll be here. And the music will get better and better.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Rant RE: Fringe Festival Echo Chamber

This year's Capital Fringe Festival has begun. I know this because I am deluged with promotional materials: emails, postcards, facebook event invitations, and on and on. Feels like every artist I know (in any discipline) is working 24/7 to promote their damn Fringe show. I even received a postcard mailed inside an envelope. I think an envelope containing nothing but a postcard is actually an elegant metaphor for everything that bothers me about Fringe - especially as a business model for artists to self-produce their work. I would elaborate on this but I don't think it's worth the time to explain it.

As a performing artist myself, and one who spends considerable effort on self-promotion, I admit that this is some serious pot-kettle-blackness. I can relate to the folks working hard to promote their shows, but damn this onslaught of self promoted amateur and/or semi-pro stuff is leaving me in a near constant state of nausea that will hopefully subside when the festival is over.

Each new invitation, email blast, and postcard just makes me want to stay the f--- home. Besides, as an artist, I have precious little disposable income. So unless you're offering me a comp, don't bother inviting me to your damn show. I ain't gonna buy a ticket.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

May - June summary

Happily, I continued to exist throughout May and June. I did some stuff, too. Such as:


  • 5/16 DCIC at Hyattsville Arts Festival:
    We played a long & informal set in a little atrium space behind the gallery in "downtown" Hyattsville (my little home town). We invited some guests to sit in: Ted Zook and guitarist Ed Ricart joined us for the afternoon. I felt a good rapport with Ed right away. I hope we get to do some more playing together. He's gigging a lot around town, including a trio with Scott Verrastro on drums and Anthony Pirog (my guitar teacher). I'd pick Anthony any day over me, so I can understand that, but with Anthony moving to NYC maybe I'll get a chance to do some work with Ed. We'll see...
  • 6/13 Low End String Quartet at Comet w/ Tone:
    This was a fun night, but the show ran really late. Jodi was out of town so we were joined by Gordon Withers on cello. He's terrific (and look for his new album on the way soon; he was recording that week with J. Robbins up in Baltimore). We also found ourselves a new bass player: the inimitable Vattel Cherry. I made sure to make Vattel take a nice long solo during our set. He burned the place down. Tone has never sounded better. Those guys were awesome.
  • 6/26 Reversal at Artomatic:
    A fun Friday night free show. We debuted two new songs and played everything pretty much as intended. That's the best I can shoot for... the music is hard.
  • 6/30 Combustion at Source Festival:
    This one came up really last-minute. "Combustion" is a 20 minute inter-disciplinary collaboration between a musician, a playwright / actress (Allyson Currin), and a visual artist (Kate McGraw). They've been working together on it in a structured workshop setting for 8 months. The musician had a medical problem and had to miss the performances. So the day before opening night I jumped in and we had one rehearsal. First show was last night. We do it two more times: Thursday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm, at Source Theater. [tickets]

Projects / work:
  • LESQ "Blunt Objects" media push
    I sent out a big batch of cd's to various journalists and media outlets. Starting the machinery to try and get some reviews written. We'll see how that goes. Also thinking about doing a CD release event in DC this fall (October-ish). Any ideas where we should try to play?
  • Grant awarded: Prince George's Arts Council (PGAC): for LESQ to work with an arts-education consultant to develop an in-school concert program for elementary schools. We also got one from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities so we've got enough dough to get the ball rolling, but still only about half of the project budget.
  • I wrote a whole mess of grant proposals:
    • Cafritz Foundation: for the LESQ educational program (see above)
    • Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation "jazz.NEXT:" to hire Ben to help 10 jazz musicians utilize web 2.0 technologies effectively
    • PGAC: individual artist proposal: to commission me to write more music for LESQ
    • PGAC: organizational proposal: presenting an LESQ concert at Joe's in Mt. Rainier, and a daytime kids show for their after-school program.
  • ACF: some bad news: the local chapter will have no operating budget after September 30, so that part-time job (that has been shrinking gradually over the last few years) is going to vanish.Probably good for me, if I can find some other freelance work I should be able to make more money in less time.

I left the house to hear some shows that I wasn't playing in, and they were good:
  • 5/30 Isis at Black Cat w/ Pelican and Tombs
  • 6/16 John Vanderslice at Black Cat
  • 6/20 Soft Power at Comet

  • Cameron and I are off from our regular yoga schedule. There was a time when we made it to the Bikram studio three times per week. Not so much these days. And I have the belly to prove it.
  • I did not attend my 20 year high school reunion. I'm old. It cost $100 per person, so that seemed crazy to spend $200 (I gotta bring Cameron to show off, right?) to hang out at some country club in Bethesda with people that I'm not all that interested in... To quote one of my actual high school friends, it seemed like it was going to be "a waspy nightmare" so I opted out. I suppose "waspy nightmare" is totally appropriate for my high school. Hmm, college too, actually. But I went to my 10 year college reunion (some number of years ago) and that was kinda fun.