Sunday, May 17, 2015
Friday, May 15, 2015
…funny thing about drawing on my lunch break—people want to know what I'm drawing. Sometimes I know and most times not—this is one of the not drawings, but I'll leave it to this bit of dialogue from the best movie of the 90s, Johnny Suede:
Dalton: (raising a glass) To the lonely wolf.
Mrs. Fontaine: What are you toasting?
Dalton: Animal behavior, my dear.
Saturday, May 9, 2015
Thursday night was a tough one. I kept waking up thinking someone broke into the house, then I would dream about that and then the thieves would turn into monsters and demons… sheesh! But, it's not all bad because it's given me an idea.
Friday morning I chuckled to myself while listening to "Ooby Dooby" by Roy Orbison. Wailing out phrases like ooby dooby, beatin' on a ding dong and be-bop-a-lula are certainly a whole lotta fun, but I'm not sure what they mean. Sometimes it's a sexual metaphor, sometimes it's just something syncopated and rhythmic, in any case I like it.
Somehow my lack of sleep paired with some rockabilly nonsense got me thinking of 1001 Arabian Nights and specifically the story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. What if you turned that story into a kitschy rockabilly tune? or painting… paint-a-billy? I mean you've got The 40 Thieves, they're a motorcycle gang from hell. Instead of a cave they exit through the mouth of Hell's gatekeeper. You've got a blue collar wood worker in Ali Baba and you've got one clever, hardcore vixen with Morgiana. Ooo and you've got a sewn back together zombie (well in this version, Cassim is just a sewn back together dead guy in the original)! I'd like to turn it into a large painting at some point.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
I tell you, this headstock has been through the ringer. As I mentioned a couple posts ago for my 33rd birthday my buddies bought me a fretless bass neck—what they call rough-finished (still needing final sanding). It had kind of an Ibanez-lookin' headstock which I trimmed a little for the failed "tele bass." Then I started cutting away at it for the original "cubist bass" idea and then I settled on a kind of skinny upright looking headstock. Only, I wasn't really excited about it. I didn't know what to do with it so I set it aside and worked on the body.
…well a couple weeks back I decided to stop in the Chicago Music Exchange and play some professionally built basses when I came across an NS electric upright. I've seen these online, but in person I thought this headstock is great—simple, slick—and there you have it—I knew what to do. I came home sawed off the "ambivalent headstock" and roughed out my version of an NS headstock from paduak and poplar.
With the Dynamism Dog I tried to go about building it like I would paint. Which is roughing things out, reacting to it, repeat. When it comes to woodworking and specifically instrument making, I don't recommend that approach. It's not terribly time efficient and there is a lot of starting over which can lead to frustration. Eventually I got there.
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Aside from the journey of reminiscing, I had several reference points for the Dynamism Dog: I've been reading up on the Futurists—Giacomo Balla's Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash is where the name of this bass comes from (I should also note that Bowie's Diamond Dogs played a hand in the naming as well—a CD I lost and had to replace for the library); Picasso's guitars; space; mid-century sci-fi…
The cedar band that runs perpendicular to the neck across the top of the guitar is actually a little nod to Matt Verta Ray's Hagstrom guitar. He has a piece of what looks like gaff tape running across the top of his guitar around the neck pickup. I'm not sure if it serves a purpose, but for some reason I think its cool.
Monday, May 4, 2015
The instruments I build, the drawings I create, the projects around the house become historical landmarks imbued with emotion in the story of my life. The P-Bass is when my dog Buckley passed away—I can hear Paul Simon's Graceland, the sketchbook marked with an oak leaf I picked up the night my grandpa died... These are moments captured in sound, wood, paper and pencil.
As The Dynamism Dog approaches completion I’m realizing this bass is 16 years (or so) of my life in one place. 16 years built into this instrument which will be with me going forward. Very familiar, but unfamiliar…
The Dynamism Dog began life as an acoustic guitar. I think I bought it back in 1999, but it could have been 2000 and either way it’s the oldest instrument I have next to my trumpet. I went down to school in Champaign and as my desire to play trumpet lessened I bought Sam Ash’s cheapest Carlo Robelli acoustic guitar with the intention of becoming Eddie Cochran or Brian Setzer or Reverend Horton Heat. But, I found holding down 2 strings and strumming to be challenge enough.
Down in Champaign I became enamored with a local band, The Beauty Shop. Their frontman had an acoustic guitar with a Stratocaster-looking headstock and a single cutaway. So, I thought maybe I could give my acoustic a single cutaway and who knows maybe I could play actual chords. Sitting in my apartment’s living room with my friends I used an exacto knife and a hunk of balsa to take this little guitar to the next level. My friend, roommate and bandmate Jon, snapped a picture of this, realizing the blasphemy and absurdity of the situation far sooner than I did.
Although I had every intention of taking Champaign by storm with my mediocre unrequited love songs on acoustic guitar, it was about this time that I bought a bass. I found myself picking up the bass more often and slowly let the acoustic guitar get dusty. What I came to realize—to bastardize George Orwell’s Animal Farm—4 strings good, 6 strings bad. Over the course of a decade I took the acoustic down to 4 strings, down-tuned it, tuned it to fifths, got into Big Joe Williams and coupled the strings and then forgot about it.
The death knell for the acoustic was when I decide to turn it into a long-scale tenor guitar. I took a jig saw to the neck (to narrow it for 4 strings) and with a slip, killed it. So it sat again. The top removed the neck an arthritic appendage.
I had a real sense of remorse for the guitar, it just didn’t seem right to leave it in such a state. Without intention it’s best to let things rest until a direction presents itself…
As I mentioned back on March 13, I felt like I needed an electro-acoustic fretless backup. Here I was with a bass neck, bridge, electrics and 75% of a guitar body. As Home Depot would say (que music) “Let’s Do This.”
I look at this bass—The Dynamism Dog—and I think about the past, I wonder about the future and feel the reality of the present. :
In building or painting, let's call it creating things, there is a pondering and there is work, but also a time frame. These created things are time capsules. Physical objects that represent a reaction to the past marking an intention to move forward. Maybe executed under the pretense of processing the known or processing the unknown, but always marked with the intention of learning and leaving a marker of that thought.
I’ve had a real urge of late to revisit the places I’ve known. Now, I don’t know if that impulse was in its nascent stages when I began the project or if its a result of the project, but this deconstructed acoustic guitar being reconstructed as a bass has been a reflection of the places I’ve known. With this bass I will carry those places with me into the future… and there’s something really interesting about that—maybe “interesting” isn’t the right word… there’s something really comforting and beautiful about that.
Note: I came across a Dutch word: Gezellig which is an abstract noun. It can be translated to mean cozy, nice or quaint, but it can also be translated to mean a general warm feeling resulting from togetherness. It’s essentially untranslatable and some consider it to be the heart of Dutch culture. My hope is that the Dynamism Dog is gezellig.