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Note 2021-07-03: For those who just tuned in... This blog was originally made at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown. After over a year of daily posts, I've slowed down on how often I post - the lockdown is effectively over after all. But I still like the blog, and I still use it all the time. So it remains.

I have removed the Data Visualizations that were there, mostly because they don't mean much anymore. But also because the data source (Wikipedia) has changed stuff around, and I don't much feel like re-wiring all that data since, as I said, it doesn't mean anything.

New links are posted above for newer projects that I'm working on. And the blog will continue. Enjoy!

 

Running thoughts (the shut in is over) (Music)

2021-09-01 - Music bio

Music Section Introduction

It occurs to me that I have stuff all over my various websites that cover the entire gamut of all the stuff I've been doing over the years.  But there is nothing here that is really centered on music.  Which to many people may seem strange.  Because that was my primary focus for much of my younger life.  But there is a good reason for this.  I haven't really played as a professional musician for a long time.  My primary focus has been on a long list of other projects.  Music has always been there, of course.  But I more or less keep it to myself nowadays.

Until recently, that is. 
You likely found this site because you were reading up on the musicians that worked on The Cosmic Alloy's most recent project.  When Art asked about my bio, I had a whole lot of no answer.  So I decided to dedicate a portion of this site, by jacking the existing blog to create a section specifically for, and dedicated to, my experiences as a musician.

Since I have not really written about this, well, ever...  This might get a little wordy.  Here, why don't you just hit the play button and let this go while you're reading. Here is my recent YouTube upload.  The ending solo for Comfortably Numb.  It's not perfect.  But I LOVE this solo, and did my best with it.  In the end, I'm thrilled to be able to play it this well.  Which isn't perfect, as I said.

My bio in a nutshell
I started playing when I was around 15 or so.  That's well over 30 years now, if you're counting.  The first 6 months or so was spent learning to pick off my favorite music by ear.  Which was the double live album Live After Death from Iron Maiden.  I learned how to play every song on the album.  Both guitar parts.  You could balance the sides, and cut one guitar off, making it really easy and cool to play one guitar line along with the band.  It was awesome!  And by the time I was done, I learned pretty much all I needed to know about how to play.

From there, I did what all young musicians did.  Found some friends with similar interest and different instruments, and started jamming out.  The late 80's was a great time for this sort of thing.  There were people everywhere, and everyone was looking to play.  I really cannot clog this page with all the stories about that.  Because it's just a lot of stuff.  So I will concentrate on the bigger projects.

Belial: The early 90's
This was my primary gig for a whole lot of years. 

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And I have already written at length about this.  So I won't write all of that again.  I will simply summarize by saying, that was a bunch of great years, and some great times!  We wrote, we played, we had a blast!  In many ways, that was precisely what I was looking to accomplish as a musician.  Write my own music, get out on stage and perform the shit out of it for anyone that wanted to see and hear it!  It was very thrash.  Very death metal.


Nick Clemens Band:  Around 2010 or so
This was an odd situation.  I wasn't looking for a band.  I wasn't looking to play live.  But I got a call from Timmy.  He was not only a good friend since high school, he was also the bass player for Belial.  His words were something along the lines of, "We need a guitar player who can play this material and isn't a f'ng jerkoff."  He went on to say, "I know it's not the kind of stuff you normally play, but it's nothing you can't handle."  So I learned a few of their songs, and went and auditioned.  I got the gig.

The first run of this didn't last very long.  We played a couple of small shows, and then nothing happened for a while.  And then something drastic and unexpected happened.

Clarence Clemens, the saxophone player for The E Street Band, suddenly and unfortunately passed away.  In case you are missing the connection here, Nick, the leader of the band, is Clarence's son.  I got another phone call from Timmy.  "This isn't a question.  This is what is happening.  You know the material.  We are rehearsing on Tuesday, and we are playing The Wonder Bar on Sunday."  And so it was. 

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The show was billed as a tribute to Clarence.  And all his friends were there.  Including Spingsteen himself.  He told me, "That was some fine guitar playing." 
"Wait...  Did Bruce Springsteen just tell me he liked my playing?!"  It took my ego a little while to come down from that.

Anyway, the story continues on that Clarence was booked to do a lot of shows, benefits, and stuff like that.  The promoters for those shows called upon Nick to cover those shows.  So next thing I know, we are playing shows all over the damned place.  We were playing at least twice a week, sometimes twice in a night.

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And playing with these guys was a completely different sort of scene than anything I had ever dealt with before.  In my years with Belial, we had a very rigid set.  The music was very rigid.  Fast, unchanging.  It was live as could be.  But there was never any deviation.  With that kind of music there couldn't be.

But with the NCB, it was even more live.  And by that I mean, there was a basic structure for songs.  But there was a lot of flexibility.  There were always guest musicians on stage with us.  Horn players, piano, violin, 2nd guitar, vocalist, all kinds of stuff.  And each of them was able to make those songs a little different.  And us 3 core members of the band, were there to keep the backbone.  But it was even weirder than that.  There were many many times when Nick would announce that we were about to play [some song].  And in many cases, I'd never even heard the song, let alone played it.  One of the other guys on stage would usually look at me and say, "G Major."  And that was the entire direction I would get.

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On a personal note, there was one other very strange thing about this.  The Asbury Park music scene, as it is known, has been around since long before anyone heard of Springsteen.  But his fame is what has kept it alive for all these years.  And someone like me is from a generation, and music scene, that is completely disconnected from that.  So I was an outsider.  I'm hanging around with all of these people that are literally legends in the music scene, and for the most part, I have no idea who they are.  Made it easier for me, I suppose.  Because there was never a time that I was starstruck by any of it.  And it was always amusing to me how so many of the fans at the shows were totally in awe of these folks.

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It was actually pretty awesome.  And all of those musicians were just the coolest people.  True veterans after decades in the scene.  They totally accepted me even though I was clearly an outsider.  And for the most part, they were more than willing to help and guide when needed.

I walked away from that situation back in 2012.  I wanted to get back to normal life, career and family.  All of which were adversely affected by the constant work with the band.  And I have effectively not done any live music since.  Such is the closing of that chapter.


This brings the story to today
As of the time I am writing this, my time as a musician is almost entirely relegated to playing along with YouTube in my home office.  And my time right now is spent learning how to do things that I should have learned how to do 30 years ago.  For my entire career, I have always considered myself to be a rhythm player.  I could do some solos.  But I never really worked on that stuff.  Because unlike almost every other guitar player I've ever known, shredding and soloing was not my primary focus.  I would learn how to play songs from beginning to end, and I would continue to play rhythm through the solo sections.  I never learned the solos.  It wasn't my thing.

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But more and more I have been identifying solos that I absolutely love, but never learned to play.  And I am learning them.  Or, if you go by the video linked above, doing my best with it.  I have had to learn much of the technique and the nuances for how to play that stuff that had completely escaped me for all these years.  And in the past couple of years since I've really been concentrating on that, I have seen some serious improvement.  I actually understand how to bend the notes.  I understand the phrases and the picking patterns.  All stuff I was never able to do before.  This is a long way of saying that even after over 30 years of playing, I am still learning.  I am still improving.  So, if you are a guitar player that is just starting out, remember that I said that.  You will NEVER stop learning.  And that is what should keep you going!


This brings me to my experience with Art Dorety and The Cosmic Alloy
I've known Art for a number of years.  I honestly don't even remember when we first met.  But I DO remember being at a party at his house, some 20 years ago.  He had a studio space there, and any musicians there were welcome to grab something and play.  So I did.  Timmy was there too.  The same guy I mentioned from my other two bands.  So we jammed with these dudes for a while.  Sounded like a bunch of stuff from outer space.  It was an awesome time!

A couple of years ago I hooked up with Art again, and I went out to jam with him, his brother, Chris, and a drummer, Rich.  As it turns out, these are all the same people that played on The Cosmic Alloy album.  We played all kinds of shit.  Some worked out really well, some clearly had no direction.  It was all great fun either way.  Not long after that, Art mentioned to me that he had a bunch of music in the works, and wanted some help with the guitar tracks.

Last year is when that project finally came together.  Initially, I was being called in to do some solos.  But I ended up doing a lot of the rhythm tracks as well.  I didn't play on every song.  For the most part the solos were improvised.  But there was a lot that was composed too.  Each song was different.  For the rhythm tracks, the routine was to go through each section, learn how to play it, record it, then move on to the next part.

It was much the same with the solos.  Whether composed or improvised, I would practice and record on the fly, multiple times.

So it must be said, that I didn't actually know what much of this project was going to sound like until weeks later when Art did the final recording and mixing of the songs.  And, man, he did a great job with everything!  I will stop there because this is not intended to be a review for the CD.  I think people should listen for themselves!  But I will add that Art really knocked it out of the park in seeing this project through.  This project took years to complete.  And he did it on his own.


So what now?
I dunno.  I will keep this blog going.  Now that I have a specific section for music, I will keep posting here when something interesting is going on.  And with that, I'm signing off this post!