Archive for March, 2014

So

Posted in Uncategorized on March 20, 2014 by darryl zero

When I see the Kanye Wests and Lil Waynes of the world, I’m reminded of the Katt Williams bit when he pretends to lash out about the blatant racism he encounters in the comedy world, only to dismiss it with a “if they’re going to call you a…coon anyway, you might as well take them for everything,” completely ignoring the fact that the people calling us coons (or n*****z, whether in Paris or otherwise) aren’t giving you anything even remotely close to everything, and that playing to stereotypes only gets you a few dollars down the road when we as a people should be thinking of wealth, not money.

And then I think of the fact that my refusal to coon for people has me sitting in a cube, proudly making less in a year than West or Williams make in a month.

And then I read about West picking a fight with some kid for calling him a word he calls himself.

And then I read about the Trayvon Martins of the world.

It ain’t rocket science, people.

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voice, part one

Posted in Uncategorized on March 7, 2014 by darryl zero

My voice was my first instrument.

Not in the way you think. I was never one of those precocious star children—I was a ham, for sure, and a total attention-seeker, but never the kind to take the stage, forcing my parents into helicopter stage-svengali modes (fortunately, as I was a cute kid, and that could not have ended well). I loved music—any and all kinds—and approached it with analytical fascination.

We didn’t have any instruments around the house. My dad briefly thought he’d play the bass, but that phase didn’t last. Mum played the violin, I knew, but for years that instrument hid in storage at my maternal grandparents’ house. For the first eight years of my life, pickle barrels and badminton rackets were my drums and guitars. The sounds—those that couldn’t be struck or mimed along to—came from me. To my child brain, this was hardly an obstacle—I was already something of a vocal impressionist, and my own active imagination required that I provide sound effects for the various misadventures—and the blooming culture of rap music required that any kid worth his salt be able to beat-box.  I added to that with my knack for sound effects—when you don’t have a video game system, you get really good at spicing up how action figures throw down.

What it all came down to, though, was my ear—I was pretty damn good at hearing sounds and replicating what I’d heard.  I latched onto sounds that interested me even more when my eyesight started to get bad—and, more importantly, when dad would watch horror movies after my sister and I would go to bed.  The sounds of the pulse rifles in Aliensand the voices of the vampires in Salem’s Lot had just as much an influence on me as, say, the Bomb Squad’s productions or the Mahavishnu Orchestra. I mostly just loved how my brain parsed the data that came to my ear, how a waterlogged eardrum added extra info to a note and made my own voice sound modified in a way I would later associate with a Danelectro Fab Chorus pedal (and made the chorus of “Fire & Rain” sound like a robot had hijacked my voice) or how the pressure in my sinuses changed how I heard midrange and high frequencies before, during, and after a flight.

When I began elementary school, I immediately noticed I had a knack for picking up on music.  Singing made sense, of course—I didn’t realize it yet, but I was always on-pitch when I sang in music class, and found it very strange when my classmates failed to do the same.

I became most adept at doing voices when my family lived in Hawaii, when I didn’t have a lot of friends that I spent a ton of time with (I did have some—they’re all great, and I’m in touch with most of them now) and found myself doing a lot of things on my own.  My early adolescence was a wonderful time for my imagination (and little else).  All the stories I’d write (and read) took on a completely new life when I’d create the sound effects and dialogue—I picked up the habit of talking to myself at-length during this time period as well.  I listened to the radio constantly (mostly the station that ran the audio track for CNN’s Headline News feed).

During this time, though, I almost never sang in public.  I did in church, to my great discomfort, but always found it more comfortable to harmonize, to be part of an ensemble, more than handling a melody on my own. I think it was mostly because I didn’t like my own singing voice. It didn’t sound like Corey Glover or Terence Trent D’Arby, nor could it approximate the tortured shrieks of Yamatsuka Eye or the feverish roar of HR.  While I could make the sounds–I could match the notes needed for a given song, I often lacked power.  Nervousness and whatnot.

That continued for a long time.  By the time I got back to Iowa, I was at least a bit more confident in what I was able to do–but not very confident about explaining that to others. I often listened to the show choir at my high school, all the while thinking “I could do that better;” but, apart from getting together with a friend’s band and singing with them, I never proved it.

College changed all of that, when my buddy Jordan coaxed me into singing for the band we’d start.

It’s funny, hearing me try to do things back then.  I was still uncomfortable in a studio context (and recordings back then show it); I was more interested in sounding like what I thought I should have been sounding like rather than sounding like me.  Live, though, was a completely different beast–you gotta project to be heard over the amps in a room with tile floors and blank walls and a PA thrown somewhere in a corner, and that was where I really took off.

That was kind of my thing for a long time, until I got sick of the punk rock scene, graduated from college, and moved to Portland.  And everything got crazy from there.