Mad Noise at Dana Street Theater

Posted on July 29, 2011

Mad Noise

Mad Noise, Left to Right, Pharoah, Chris Weir, Mogli, Khalil Sullivan

A prayer bowl elicits a solemn mood with its cutting yet peaceful ring. Mogli heightens the mood with a loose djembe beat. If the drummer is holding a single djembe, how then, is there two sets of drums sounding? It is Khalil escalating the mood, rapping his guitar with his palms. The drum kit lacks a bass drum among its assortment of paint buckets, yet one is sounding. It is Chris pounding his upright bass with his fist. With these transformations of the sonic space, Mad Noise has suddenly taken us from holy to raunchy with Khalil’s lyrics, vocalizations, and pitching having long past innuendo.

Having been friends with Chris and Khalil for a year already, I am ashamed I have not seen their band, Mad Noise until tonight. The preceding description is but one instance of the creative and emotional energy that goes into their performance, and a small sampling of their depth and range. I have clearly been missing out.

Mad Noise: Khalil on guitar and vocals, Chris on bass, Mogli on a drumset consisting of paint buckets a splash cymbal and a tambourine, and Pharoah on harmonica and other percussion, deftly handle their simple setup. Mogli’s rhythmic counterpoint drives each song with a persistent and joyful excitement. Khalil’s guitar fills the space with a surprisingly spacious and encompassing ambient sound. At the same time, he has his own powerful underlying rhythm that delivers the structure and mood to the music. Chris’ bass work strengthens the structure, adjusting sensatively with each change of mood. Pharoah’s harmonica dances to the music matching and pointing out the development and overall arc of each piece.

To me, tonight’s performance reached into my own body and drew out the latent feelings and emotions that every human being has. Whether demonstrating tranquility, unbridled sexuality, anger, joy, or sadness, Mad Noise connected with the audience, allowing the listener grasp these emotions not only from personal experience, but through the filter of the musician’s experiences as well. This ability not only describes great music, but true art.

Mad Noise has been consistently playing music at all costs, busking at farmer’s markets, street fairs, DIY venues when necessary to share their creative blues and gospel tinged originals and creative cover arrangements. Their hard work has paid off in the form of numerous “Best of” awards from publications across the Bay Area.

Be sure to catch Mad Noise when they play at Yoshi’s San Francisco Wednesday, August 10. I’ve got to say I am jealous of their success, but proud of them as well. They deserve it.

PS: A quick note about the venue. Dana Street theater is a cozy and welcoming space. Phillip is a gracious host, gave an outstanding performance himself, and is himself a Best of the Bay award winner for his venue. Read more here.


Upcoming Release

Posted on July 28, 2011

I’ve been listening to the rough mixes from Monday’s recording session and I am pretty pleased with what we’ve done. It is going to sound amazing when the tracks are fully mastered. No guarantees yet, but I think I will go all the way, and get nice cd’s with cases and liner notes printed on CD baby or some similar service.

First Day’s next appearance at Vessel gallery has been moved to August 27th. The lineup is still TBD. With any luck, I will have physical cd’s by then.

Until then, enjoy some videos from last Sunday’s gig at Momi Toby’s

If you simply cannot wait to listen to some of the recordings, like my facebook page and send me a message, and I will send you some some rough mixes to tide you over

Recording First Day

Posted on July 26, 2011

Today I did my first recording session at a real studio. I have to thank Charlie Wilson from Sonic Zen Records for recording us. He is extremely supportive and shared many insights from his experience as a musician and recording engineer. An even deeper thanks to Forrest Riege and Benny Amon for sharing this musical journey, which began one year ago, and ends with this recording. (Congratulations to Benny who is moving to New Orleans, but whom I might not be able to replace as a drummer and comrade).

Forrest, Benny and I had not played together since April. Incidentally, I managed to book a gig at Momi Toby’s Revolution Bar and Art Cafe for the night before, which I thought could serve as a nice warm up for the session.

I could tell from the moment Howard, the man that set up the gig, greeted me, that we were going to have a lot of fun. The staff at Momi Toby’s were really friendly and seemed like they were ready to accept anything. The patrons were the same way. We started off favoring standards and straight ahead playing, thinking it best to be conservative. This precaution turned out to be unnecessary. As the night progressed, I could feel the energy in the whole cafe rising. We let go of our inhibitions, and got into some pretty “out” spaces. People dug it, especially a few gentlemen sitting up front who were really getting into the music. I definitely would like to return to play there again. The combination of the musical chemistry I share with Forrest and Benny, and the accepting atmosphere in Momi Toby’s was an incredible musical experience for me.

Mixed blessing. We ended up playing until around 10:15 (we were scheduled to end at 9:30) and we got home a little late. We may have over-exerted ourselves right before a full day in the studio.

I came into recording day with a vague idea that we would set up (a couple hours) do some killer takes takes (with a lunch break in between) and have time left over to master the best takes so I could go home with a finished product. In reality, I think in order to accomplish all I wanted to get done I should have taken three days, which is, unfortunately, way out of my budget.

We did, indeed, take a couple hours to set up. Mostly it was the drums that needed tuning (Charlie is a whiz at getting the whole kit resonating with itself) and mic-ing. Once everything was set up, Benny’s kit was mic’d, my guitar was going through an amp in a completely different room, and Forrest was in an isolation booth. In order to hear everything together, we each had headphones with our own mixing stations. The set-up was not like playing live at all, or even like any of the amateur set-ups that I had done before.

I should have expected it, but set-up aside, the actual recording process is tiring, if not trying. In the back of my head there was a lot more pressure for everything to be perfect, and I had to work extra hard to keep any flubs from sticking in my head for the remainder of a take. Being in separate physical and sound spaces made it difficult to give cues, and had at least a psychological effect on our cohesiveness as a unit. I could not look at Forrest and Benny at the same time, and I am not sure if Forrest and Benny had a very clear line of sight to each other. The process of doing and redoing takes also got us weary, especially since we returned from our gig late, and had to get an early start to make it to the session.

Aside from the discomfort of doing something new, recording was a blast. I had never seen so much sound equipment in a single room outside of a music store. Everything was organized from hundreds of sessions’ worth of experience and Charlie (and Forrest) handled everything fluently. He also gave a valuable fourth opinion, encouraging us to do that one last take when he thought we were just getting warm. These extra takes often resulted in incredible moments where the creative barriers disappeared, and we were able to really connect musically despite the physical barriers between us.

We ended up recording the five notated originals from my Honor’s Project (as opposed to the verbal scores) with between 2 and 7 takes each. By the time we had done that it was 6pm, an hour before we were set to leave. An hour is enough time to roughly master and export the 5 best takes. I will have to return to get the tracks polished, but I have a good feeling about what we have. Until then, I will post some video from our gig at Momi Toby’s, I’ll consider releasing some of the unmastered takes.


Posted on July 21, 2011

Here is my first real blog post. I wanted to start off with a cd or concert review so that I did not start blabbing about myself right away, but life has been a little bit crazy lately, and I have a big weekend coming up. I figured I might as well talk about it now, since I was planning to eventually.

I will be playing a couple gigs this weekend in San Francisco. I am sitting in with Wesley Woo at “Union Street Sidewalk Sale” this Saturday from 1-4:30, and I am playing my own gig at Momi Toby’s Cafe on Sunday from 8-9:30. Hopefully I will get Forrest and Benny from my Honor’s Project band to play with me, since it would be a good warm up for our recording session on Monday.

I am excited about recording, especially because this is my first time going to a real studio where someone else will be doing all the hard work, and all I have to do is relax and play the music. Moreover, this band has probably been the greatest musical experience that I have been directly involved in. I have never been so proud of music that I have made, and I am pleased that I will soon be able to share it with even more people.

Meanwhile I have just started working in the city at a Music/Internet Technology company, and am about to sign a lease to an apartment right in the center of San Francisco. If you can imagine, life has been hectic between planning the move, adjusting to working life after so many years of school, and trying to get a career as a musician started.

I feel like I am on a good path, even if it is a slow one. I have long since resigned the idea that I am secretly a prodigy waiting to burst onto the scene. When I began college I realized I was a terrible musician compared to my peers who had been going to jazz camp since fourth grade, who had practiced more and all the right things, who had listened to much more jazz, or who were simply more talented than I. Nonetheless, I am still a musician, thanks to the kindness and encouragement of my teachers and peers. I worked hard in order to finally feel comfortable calling myself one, and I will continue to work hard so that I can fully express the music that I know is possible. In the mean time I am at the first step, playing out as much as I can, and getting ready to make a recording that I will be proud enough of to share with the world. This is the beginning of my career as a musician.

An introduction, so to speak.

A few bits of news today

Monday I will be recording with my Honors Trio, Forrest and Benny. I am super stoked to have a real recording session booked and cannot wait to have the professionally recorded and mastered tracks in my hands. I will have the tracks out as soon as I can. Depending on the quality I will release it as a demo, or as a self-released album.

I will be playing at Vessel Gallery with First Day again on the 27th of August. Lonnie at Vessel has been enthuisastic and supportive in this partnership, and I hope that we get to continue to play in her beautiful space for a long time to come.

I am no longer playing regularly at Sushi Lover in Belmont. If I work out a better time to get down there I will return. In the mean time, drop by for tasty cuisine: 500 Masonic Way, Belmont, CA.

Finally, I am working on updating the website, which is why I have not been posting new so often. You should be looking forward to a blog, more frequent and streamlined news posts, and a lot more music – especially from First Day

ps, follow me on twitter

pps, update! the website has been updated, and the blog is up. I will be posting reviews and other thoughts soon so stay tuned.