“The Bathroom Mirror” Reprint

In mid-1997, I put out my first record under my own name, The Bathroom Mirror. I’ve remastered it from its original tapes and reprinted it with its original booklet. It can be had as either download or cassette (CD-R upon request without an extra charge) through Bandcamp only.

The physical product, as it was in 1997, is a cassette in ziploc bag with booklet. If anyone would prefer a CD-R, just ask for it and you’ll have it at no extra charge.

 

Anyone who knows me knows the story of how this record came to be. The band I was in, the House Carpenters, collapsed while recording a second record. I had thought to write “combusted,” but reconsidered. The band collapsed; I combusted. I cared deeply about the band and felt we at some kind of creative peak. In many senses we were, but one reason for this is that we had two writers with two sensibilities, and by 1997 what had been a balance became unsustainable. I was stressed and disappointed and left the sessions in what for me was a surprisingly dramatic huff. The only genuinely solid recording (of my tunes) from the sessions is the version of “St. Louis” that I put on “Funeral Hymns and Outlaw Ballads,” unquestionably one of a handful of best recordings I’ve done to date.

Miserable, I retreated to San Diego, and there on the morning and early afternoon of April 11 recorded a series of songs to a walkman recorder. About half of the tunes had been in the House Carpenters’ repertoire and the balance were things of mine either unsuitable for the band or cover tunes that meant a lot to me. I didn’t have any conscious agenda including Richard Thompson‘s “Beat the Retreat,” for example, but it’s clear to me in hindsight why I connected with the song so well on that morning.

After a week convalescence I returned to Riverside and after a short time culled together, bookending the stuff from San Diego with two older recordings, what became the first piece of work I put out entirely under my own name. Somehow I imagined doing a little ‘zine-like booklet to include with a cassette. I feel like my sense that I could put it in a ziploc bag came from the memory of Scott Adams text adventures my folks got me, on cassette because a floppy drive seemed a frivolous expense, for our Atari 800 when I was a kid. I could be wrong about the precise connection, but the memory was real and, as seen above, ended up working nicely for the project. I cut photographs out of the New York Times for artwork, and hand-wrote the text. I have a clear memory of the deeply therapeutic effect of gluing the images to the paper of the booklet as it came together.

I sent the finished product out to several ‘zines friendly to the “hometaper scene,” and received an unexpectedly good response. 20 years later, the record strikes me as totally out of step with anything current musically. I’m really proud of it.

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New Record, “The Bliss-Chasers,” and How Best to Hear It

My most recent collection of songs, called “The Bliss-Chasers,” is now available. I’ve been working up to this finished piece since 2007. I am very pleased I did not rush it.

  • Bandcamp (digital and physical, very directly supporting the artist)
  • Spotify (stream)

I am happy if anyone hears and enjoys my music, but I would encourage you to enjoy it through Bandcamp. There are two reasons.

First, I looked back at all the ways I’ve made my music available to people, and the one that brought me and other people the most happiness is when, beginning with “The Bathroom Mirror,” I made photocopied booklets to go with the cassette and, later, CD, and put them both in a properly-sized ziplock bag. It fit my budget at, made by hand, had a feeling to it that was good. It was a labor of love, very genuinely.

For “The Bliss-Chasers,” I typed up the booklet, assembled it, added a little bit of public domain artwork, photocopied it, stapled it into a booklet, and then added the cassette or CD.

Listening to the music while holding the booklet in hand, reading the words and the text interspersed between songs is the real experience. You won’t get that just by streaming the audio.

I wrote in the piece about “Funeral Hymns and Outlaw Ballads” that I had two “hit by a bus” projects I wanted to complete: projects that I wanted to get done so I could have something to point to and say, “this is the best I had to offer in this life.” “The Bliss-Chasers” is the second of the two, the more important to me, and the most from my heart.

Compilation, “Funeral Hymns and Outlaw Ballads”

Funeral Hymns and Outlaw Ballads,” 23 songs recorded between 1994 and 2012, is now available.

  • Bandcamp (to download)
  • Spotify (to stream)

For a number of reasons, I have wanted in the last few years to have a single document of what I do as a musician. I wanted something that filled four sides without a weak moment and, at the same time, documented the variety of what I do.

I’m now 46, and while I’m not obsessed with mortality, I have a much greater sense of it than when I first put something out with my name on it at 22 years old. My feeling is that I have to approach things as if I may get hit by a bus any day: there’s not always going to be a next record to get it right this time.

This is one of two “potentially get hit by a bus” projects I’ve been slowly, too slowly, working through over the last years. With this, I have absolutely no compunction pointing to the record–digital in form only at this point, admittedly–and saying: “this is what I did in this life.”

The second of the projects is a record of new stuff. Not entirely new, I will admit, as three tunes that for a while were available on “Adieu, False Heart”, now reduced from its original 11-song size to 6, will be on it. That record was cut, solo, in one day. Nicely done, but in hindsight I became certain that I could do its best tunes better. One of them, “Making Money and Taking Life,” ended up on “Funeral Hymns,” in a version I cut to 4-track cassette in 2012. The others will be on this next record.

I imagine the new thing will be finished in a couple months. I want to record a pair of solo things for it, and then mix the whole thing right. My sister will, as she so often has, do a cover painting for it, and that’s in progress. So, maybe three months, maybe four, but definitely not six. Honestly, I’d have had the two solo things cut over the last few weeks if it wasn’t for this nasty cold that felled me.

Enjoy the music. I listened to the comp many times over as I was preparing it. I am very proud. Maybe I’ve done other good things in this life, certainly I have along with mistakes, but I have always felt that the best I have had to give has been my music. Everybody is good at something, and that is what I am really good at.