The Willowz ~

The Willowz

When Anaheim was bad she was very very  bad. (Think “The Block at Disney” and The Mighty Ducks)  and… when Anaheim was good she was very very good… think “No Doubt” , good Udon, cheap mexican food (The “B” on the window as you enter means: “BEST.)”   The Cold War Kids, The Mighty Ducks in ’03 and ’07… and THE WILLOZ!!   Anaheim, a sometimes Fickle and brazenly pompous beauty, has redeemed herself by allowing the germination of this  willowy band of musical choristers.

The Willowz were once called “Just out of high school long-hairs” with a  “Billy Corrigan on helium” for a lead singer.  Now everyone’s eating their words.

Punk, soul, blues, an electric hybrid.  Isn’t that what making music is all about?  Bit o’ pixies, bit o’ sonic love, go ahead pull up a chair and listen.  Have a pen and paper nearby, you’ll have to make a list of the influences that you can hear and yet listen hard and close because they are so well blended, twisted, molded, melded and lit up with a blow torch that you’ll have trouble really naming them.  Again.  That’s the way it should be.  At once familiar and yet not, what goes into the willowz is original and made in the perfection of it’s own collective raw personality.  A sonic, yet organic, tree like sound.  Yes the Willowz are like trees.  Branches wild and strong and able to span in any direction.  2007 ‘s release “Chataqua” proved that they band could comb new limbs and encourage growth in new directions.  Witness “Evil Son”  …met a man with an evil stare said I’m the wicked one and quite aware, I lost my nerve, I said don’t despiar…My evil son time to prepare.” The song traverses melodic soulsey balladry and progresses to a Wolfmother  free-for-all in a matter a few stanzas.  Complete with a gong and a slide of the entire neck of a gretsch or the like and some bells, These Willowz aren’t afraid to make a rattle in the garden.  The rattle in this song isn’t entirely the stuff of seasoned auteurs, but the seeds are sewn.

From the bedroom and into the bedlam, Willoz made the trek in 2002 with Richie James Follin and Jessica Reynoza leading and grew their sound.  Perfecting the best and losing the rest, this band is an organic petrie dish project that has been obviously carefully nurtured.

“Willowz” came to Jessica in a dream  when a tree told her that the word “Willow”  would being her musical enlightenment. I’ve had dreams where a word was prominent but they told me things like, “Ride your horse to the front of Vons and then fold it into the baloney package, take the stairs in the pagoda go to the top and  attend school given by headmaster Angela Merkel sporting a small whip made from whale bone.  But I digress.

Good news can travel fast even if all your friends don’t listen to NPR.  Later in blustery ’02 The Willowz  released a 7” on the infamous Posh Boy records with  Robbie Fields producing.  Traipsing back to the arms of that  “mean girl Anaheim”  that somber fair weathered friend who pushed them around at the lockers and ignored them in the hallways, The Willowz then began playing kick-ass shows to ever growing crowds.  Simultaneously moving and in and around Los Angeles, in 2004, Dionysus records soon released their first record “The Willowz.  In a pungent and yet sweet turn of events the OC Weekly named “The Willowz’s” record as one of the top 10 albums of the year!    v

They had snagged Paul Kostabi as their producer and the record was done in a few days.  There’s nothing like raw unknowingness to lend a disjointed and yet energetic spell of desire to the sound of a record.  The Jackson Pollack method of laying music like paint worked well.  Wild abandon tempered with some direction to the splatter of the sound.  Okay some say J.P. planned every stray swath of paint but he applied but  I do not agree.  There’s joy, surprise and improvisation even in the most wild, fractured and wonderful art.

The Willowz

Soon after touring greater North America, and Europe the Willowz music was featured in the cinematic and odd “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”  Soon nominated for a grammy, Willowz were surprised when the Eternal Sunshine filmmaker Gondry had a dream about the Willowz song “I Wonder” and flew them out to NYC to make a video for them. Soon touring with the likes of the Weirdos, NY Dolls, the Dirtbombs, the Greenhornes, Wolfmother, the Ponys, Tom Vek, Ted Leo, YGM, OK GO, the Gossip, Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Dwarves, Burning Brides, John Cale and many others, The Willowz had come full circle and seemed to be the musical version of someone’s  Tibetan dream set in Yarlung South Central Tibet was coming true. But noone was selected as the Rimpoche just yet.

In February 2005 the Willowz re-released their self titled album on Sympathy For the Record Industry and titled the album “Are Coming” (with a four more songs on it). The follow up “Talk in Circles” was released June 2005 (also recorded in a garage by Paul Kostabi, this time as a four piece and with a little more focus on making an album) on the Long Beach, CA label Sympathy for the Record Industry by way of record mogul Long Gone John. “Talk in Circles” received extraordinary reviews, including “46th Best Album of the Year” by Rolling Stone and was also featured in another one of Gondry’s films, “The Science of Sleep”.

The Willowz were nominated by LA Weekly as one of the tope bands of 2005. More singles followed “Talk in Circles” on such labels as Contaminated, Acid Bird, and Sympathy. The second album was followed by a DVD, “See In Squares”, released on Sympathy. “See In Squares” contained 27 unique videos, all by different directors, and additional live concert footage at a catholic school summer camp in Oklahoma, several of these videos have gone on to win national and international awards.

For the third album “Chautauqua”, to be released on Steve Aoki’s Los Angeles label Dim Mak, the Willowz headed to the eastern countryside and set up a studio, this time in a basement, with Paul Kostabi producing again. They recruited Aric Bohn on guitar and Tony Mann back on the drums. “Chautauqua” provides the energy and rawness of the first albums with a thicker rock sound more focused on songwriting. They came out in ’09  and are in heavy rotation in a round L.A. with Steve Aoki lending support.  Do not miss the chimerous impression that is “The Willowz.”

~  Chrissylong


Note:  The new music section will be written by Garet Whipple and has yet to be cleverly named!  But keep a watch for Garet’s new column!  Music spans from new pop to dance, trance and rock.  Garet knows the scene and writes with reverie.  Stay tuned.

Psychology Today: Everyday Creativity

Picture 1By Carlin Flora, published in Psychology Today on November 01, 2009

We all marvel at other people’s artistic achievements and ingenuity. But most of us fail to nurture our inner innovator. Start living creatively and reap the benefits—including fewer relationship headaches and more fulfilling workdays.

The tattoo artists throughout Russia’s prison system have never had lessons in painting technique (nor, apparently, hygiene training). They don’t have ink and tools at their disposal. And yet they create entire murals on one another’s chests and backs: onion-domed cathedrals, intricate cobwebs, chilly grim reapers. And they’re not just beautiful decorations—they are coded biographies, telling those in the know their bearer’s history and affiliations.

One would be hard-pressed to find a tougher environment than the jails where these artists work. Their ink is made from soot shaved off their shoes and mixed with urine. It’s injected via guitar strings attached to electric shavers. The tattoos are a brutal mafia ritual. But they’re also a mark of determined resourcefulness and self-expression.

When we think of creativity, we think of Mozart, Picasso, Einstein—people with a seemingly fated convergence of talent and opportunity. It’s too narrow a set of references, because the truth is that all sorts of people, possessing various levels of intelligence and natural ability, are capable of engaging in fulfilling creative processes. Just because you’ll never be Brando or Balanchine doesn’t mean that you can’t harness your idea-generating powers and make your life your own masterpiece.

Some do so every day. Pete Herzog noticed that his three kids rarely drove the expensive battery-powered toy car he had bought them for Christmas because it was always out of juice. One afternoon he spotted a broken solar-powered garden lamp rolling around and took off its panels. He hooked them to the toy-car battery, using parts he melted off the lamp’s circuit board. Now the car, left to bake in the sun all day, is always ready for joyrides.

Herzog is director of the Institute for Security and Open Methodologies, a nonprofit dedicated to researching how security works in all aspects of our lives. His job requires him to think like a top-notch computer hacker. So it’s not surprising that he can solve nagging problems in his own backyard. But he doesn’t think of himself as a creative person! Buying into a limited definition of creativity prevents many from appreciating their own potential.

That would be a shame in any era, but in today’s economic environment, no one can afford not to innovate, whether it’s doing more with a shrinking budget (household, corporate, you name it, it’s contracting), or positioning oneself to join a new industry. You may have to be creative to survive right now.

The good news is that you can build up your innovative abilities in many ways—by doing things (noticing details in your midst, wearing your hair in a new style) that don’t sound intimidatingly ingenious. You can simply get to know your personal problem-solving style—everybody shines at different stages of the process; understanding where you fit in gives you a big advantage. And perhaps most important is adjusting your overall attitude toward life—approach your experiences with an open mind and cultivate the belief that possibilities and solutions are always within reach, and you’ll be equipped to handle any challenge with flair.

I: What Is “Everyday” Creativity?

“Every day, we use language to speak sentences that have never been spoken before. We express thoughts that have never been expressed. All of this is so deeply ingrained that we don’t notice how creative it is,” sayscognitive scientist Art Markman, co-editor of the book Tools for Innovation.

The concept of everyday creativity was defined, assessed, and validated in 1988 by Ruth Richards, Dennis Kinney, and colleagues at Harvard Medical School. They defined it as expressions of originality and meaningfulness. Rebecca Whitlinger, the executive director of the Cancer Caring Center in Pittsburgh, tapped both areas when surveying her voluminous and seemingly useless collection of bridesmaid gowns, in all their gold lamé and satiny peach splendor. The clichéd promise “You’ll definitely wear this again!” swelled into an evil chorus each time she opened her closet. She resolved not only to wear them again, but to wear them everywhere. Whitlinger enlisted friends to take snapshots of her wearing her maiden gowns to construction sites, to passport photo sessions, to the voting booth, and even on a parasailing expedition.

Then it occurred to Whitlinger to translate the shenanigans into a fund-raising event for Cancer Caring Center. At “Ushers Unlimited and Bridesmaids Revisited,” guests were encouraged to wear an outfit (such as a bridesmaid dress) that they would ordinarily be unable to wear again. “A couple got married at the event, making it the World’s Largest Wedding Party,” she says. Novel? Check. Meaningful? Well, the fund-raiser grossed $90,000 between 1998 and 2001.

“It’s too bad that when considering what endeavors may be creative, people immediately think of the arts,” laments Michele Root-Bernstein, co-author with Robert Root-Bernstein of Sparks of Genius. “It’s the problem-solving processes they exhibit rather than the content or craft that make them so. Just about anything we do can be addressed in a creative manner, from housecleaning to personal hobbies to work.”

Imagine you wake up one morning and put on electric-green eye shadow instead of your usual beige tint. Then you call a friend and invite her on a spontaneous road trip to a city you’ve never visited. While there, you order dessert for lunch at the local diner. Then on the way home you tell a long, hilarious anecdote that makes your friend laugh for two minutes straight. Would you call such a day merely interesting, or an expression of your creative self?

Zorana Ivcevic, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at Tufts University, is a scrupulous collector of everyday creativity. By quizzing college students about the frequency of hundreds of potentially creative acts from joke-telling to road-tripping, she was able to come up with a taxonomy of expressive behaviors anyone can easily try. Making wacky recipes and dying your hair an unusual color qualify, as does working on a scrapbook of memories for a friend or making oneself the center of attention.

While some students fit into more traditional creative slots, as amateur dancers or musicians, or serious scholars and budding scientists who had already contributed to professional fields in some way, many others expressed themselves through more routine acts. About 30 percent weren’t creative by any standard, which marked them as “conventionals.”

Ivcevic found that students who practiced forms of everyday creativity share, on average, certainpersonality traits with their “officially” artistic classmates—qualities lost on the conventionals. They share a tendency toward open-mindedness and curiosity, they are persistent, and they are positive, energetic, and intrinsically motivated by their chosen activities. Whether engaging in everyday creativity could foster such personality traits in the conventionals remains a question, but other studies show that taking up creative pursuits actually makes people more flexible and less judgmental.

Adaptability, in fact, is what Jennifer Schweikert considers the source of her own creativity. A Virginia-based interior “re-designer,” Schweikert reinvents and reworks what a client already owns to make rooms functional and stylish. “I was a military brat and married a military man,” she says. “I’ve moved 28 times in my life, so I have a tendency to accept what I’m given and to make it work.”

When Schweikert encounters a new space, she quickly sizes up what needs to be done and then, in a serenity prayer of sorts to Ste. Martha Stewart, she determines what she can change and can’t change about the space. Recently, at a temporary women’s shelter apartment, the problem was a door with an uncovered window facing a common room, violating the tenant’s privacy.

The most obvious solution—installing a curtain rod—was ruled out since she couldn’t drill through the steel door . “I took a piece of Plexiglas, spray-painted it black, and cut it to the size of the window opening. Since it would be good for the residents to still be able to use the door window, I glued heavy-duty magnets to the four corners to make it removable,” Schweikert says. The shelter’s director reproduced her innovation in all of the building’s apartments.

The first step to increasing your creativity quotient is believing you can. Even if no one has ever assigned the adjective “original” to anything you have ever done, you must acknowledge that you have inventive powers. Don’t think about making something from nothing or exposing your deepest feelings—just acknowledge that you can solve problems better if you approach them with a different mind-set.

The Root-Bernsteins cite playful experimentation, a willingness to learn from mistakes, and persistence as keys to unlocking creativity. Laura Bergman, a mother who lives in rural Pennsylvanian Amish country, began an odyssey by picking up discarded glass she found when out running errands. She felt compelled to collect the shards and didn’t censor her dumpster-diving impulse. One day she spread her shards across the dining room table and was taken aback by their sparklingbeauty. “This old glass is as pretty as any gem,” she thought.

Bergman slowly taught herself how to cut, drill, and wrap glass. As she started to sell her pieces in town, she noticed that customers loved to hear the history behind the jewels, so she began including a “story of the glass” with each item. Eventually, she was able to leave her job of 15 years as an advertising manager to run a jewelry company.

When psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied eminent people, he found that they held almost contradictory impulses and qualities within: a desire for solitude but also a need for social stimulation; superior knowledge on a subject but also a childlike naïveté. These qualities seemed to fuel their ability to come up with great ideas and their ability to execute them—quite a combination. Exploring the less-prominent parts of your personality could activate the same yin-yang nature found in creative geniuses. If you’re usually a busy bee, slow down and explore your lazy side. If you’re very girly, dress like a tomboy.

Creativity coach Eric Maisel suggests that those who want to up their extracurricular creativity output figure out what really turns them on and cultivate the quality of creative desire. “You need to distinguish between interests and passion, because mere interest won’t sustain you over the long haul,” Maisel says. “People are convinced they need to become more disciplined, but when you are passionate, you don’t need to cultivate discipline; it follows naturally.”

Take the tiny town of Holguín, Cuba, where a hip-hop group dazzles audiences without the track-making and mixing software on which their American counterparts rely. Such programs are not commonly found on the island, and anyway an hour in a cybercafé costs as much as a month’s worth of food. The group has devised a low-tech solution for creating melodic loops to rap over: They literally cut and paste together repeated sections of cassette tapes. The ultimate result is just as affecting and danceable to fans. The behind-the-scenes process is tedious, but for them, it’s a small price to pay to do what they love.

The real question isn’t “How creative are you?” but rather “How are you creative?” Innovation is rarely a one-step deal; the trick is figuring out how you solve problems. That way, you can build on your strengths and team up with people who compensate for your weaknesses, says educational psychologist Donald Treffinger.

Brainstorming often launches the process, as does framing the dilemma at hand. We’ve all heard that there are no such things as bad ideas during initial brainstorming sessions. But during office meetings, barely- formed suggestions are often immediately shot down.

If you want to come up with truly original schemes, it’s essential to separate idea generation from idea evaluation. Otherwise, you’ll be too quick to dismiss seemingly implausible yet brilliant notions. Tina Seelig, executive director for the Stanford Technology Ventures Program and author of What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20, asks her students to come up with the best business idea they can muster and the most horrendous start-up idea imaginable. She then dramatically rips up the “good” ideas and redistributes the “losers” among the students, with instructions to turn them into viable proposals. One student’s joke of a bikini shop located in Antarctica was morphed into a jet-set-friendly exercise camp called “Bikini or Die,” designed to get clients in top form for the beach. A “cockroach sushi” pitch became an exotic restaurant featuring non-traditional foods: “La Cucaracha.”

Stumped? Get out the eraser board: Visual thinking can yield more initial ideas than written lists, says Markman. “It’s often easier to sketch relationships between concepts than to describe them. You can use arrows and boxes to say things that would be difficult to put into words.” And since many different areas of the brain are involved in vision, sketching essentially calls in more brainpower to fuel your abstract-thinking abilities.

Treffinger and colleagues at the Center for Creative Learning provide an online test to help their clients in the nonprofit world figure out their personal problem-solving styles. “Explorers,” in their framework, are great at coming up with completely novel ideas but not as good as “Developers” at executing and making them work. “Developers may have gotten the idea that they are not creative,” Treffinger says—think engineers—”but both groups are equally creative.”

Another style point turns on whether you are “Internal”—meaning you like to gather and think about information quietly, by yourself—or “External,” drawing energy from talking and sharing ideas with others. The final dimension to Treffinger’s test gets at what you emphasize when making creative decisions—harmony among people or the demands of a task . Those who conform to the “Person” style seek decisions that all involved can comfortably buy into, whereas “Task”-oriented people base their decisions on facts and what makes logical sense. Work groups made up exclusively of developers (detail-oriented craftsmen with no architect to give a big-picture plan) or explorers (a film director and set designer without a producer to tell them what’s possible and within budget) would both be at risk for total dysfunction, which is why a balance of styles yields the best collaborations.

III: Start Innovating

Even if your heart is fully in it, you still need to get into the habit of creating. Creativity coach Maisel believes that your waking hours are best since they enable you to apply your “sleep thinking” to glitches in your haiku-writing, furniture-designing, or quilting. (Studies confirm that “sleeping on it” indeed allows for stellar solutions to make their way to the forefront of your mind.) Furthermore, Maisel sees carving out morning time for a creative pursuit as a way to infuse the rest of your day with existential meaning. The boost you get from your 7 a.m. compositional breakthrough could propel you through a rote desk job.

If you take up a creative project you may soon fall prey to what Maisel calls unfriendly self-talk: “I’m not talented,” or “Why should I bother with this—there is too much competition out there.” First, listen to what you’re saying to yourself, then dispute the utterances that don’t serve you. Lastly, substitute more affirmative statements and get back to work.

The most important thing anyone can do to improve creativity is to find unsolved dilemmas to address, says Robert Root-Bernstein. He suggests starting today at work: Why not force yourself to come up with 10 ways for your office manager to save money, or take what your team is good at and think of 10 new ways to turn those skills into a new service you could sell.

We spend so much mental energy either avoiding or unproductively mulling over problems that the idea of chasing and embracing them seems strange, and yet it is a hallmark of the creative orientation to life. Seelig warms up her students by telling them to solve a problem they have with an object already in their homes. Last semester a young woman faced the headache of a looming moving date and no way to haul her boxes to her new digs. She sifted through her half-packed possessions and found an unopened case of wine, left over from a party. She put an ad on Craigslist—”Case of wine in exchange for a ride with my stuff across the Bay”—and quickly secured a willing man-with-van.

ust because a solution is orthodox doesn’t mean it’s not excellent. Take one of the winning teams in Seelig’s challenge to earn cash over a weekend with just $5 of seed money: The students were told to make as much as they could and to report back to the class on Monday in a quick presentation. A sharp observation of their college town yielded one team’s plan to make reservations at popular restaurants and later sell them to hungry parties waiting in lines. The enterprise raked in $200. (And it’s perfectly legal.)

One team generated much more—$650—by turning the problem inside out. “Their insight was that their most precious resource was their three-minute presentation time on Monday,” Seelig reports. “They decided to sell it to a company that wanted to recruit the students in the class. The team created a three-minute ‘commercial’ for the company and showed it to the rest of the students during their allotted three minutes. They recognized that they had a fabulously valuable asset just waiting to be mined.”

IV: More Benefits of Creativity

Stumbling upon a way to eliminate a nagging concern or pushing your abilities to new heights is wonderful for its own sake. But living life imaginatively comes with additional benefits—and can even enhance your most important relationships.

“Personal problems usually result from people having mismatched expectations of each other,” says Robert Root-Bernstein. “Imagine yourself in the shoes of the person with whom you are having problems. Try to imagine why they respond to you the way they do. Look for patterns of behavior that solve or avoid the problem you are having. Playact the new behaviors in your mind, and try to select the best ones.” The attitude shift alone, from “Oh God, we’re fighting about this again?” to “What’s a new way to handle this argument that keeps being replayed?,” is in itself calming and therapeutic.

Parenting can be the ultimate opportunity for exercising creativity. When Seelig’s son was 15 years old, the avid athlete asked for an expensive bicycle. She was reluctant to shell out the cash and could have just said no. Or she could have said yes and then felt resentful about the purchase. Instead, she asked him to come up with a creative solution: “What do you think you could do for me to make this worthwhile?” she asked. He countered with an offer to do laundry and cook dinner three times a week for the rest of the year. They both felt very satisfied with the innovative arrangement.

The hectic routines facing parents of little children can sap any desire to do extra work. But Gretchen Rubin, author of the forthcoming TheHappiness Project, found that if she went to the trouble of getting up early on holidays, dying her children’s food (black on Halloween, red on Valentine’s Day), and spreading treats and decorations on the table, the girls’ delighted reactions to their novel breakfasts actually energized her.

Ruth Richards, one of the researchers who coined the term “everyday creativity” and a psychology professor at Saybrook University and Harvard Medical School, has uncovered even more reasons to start innovating. Expressive writing has been shown to improve immune system functioning, for example, and older people who think more innovatively tend to cope better with aging and illness. Engaging in creative behaviors, Richards argues, makes us more dynamic, conscious, non-defensive, observant, collaborative, and brave.

Creativity provides opportunities for self-actualization. “It makes you moreresilient, more vividly in the moment, and, at the same time, more connected to the world,” Richards says.

Ivcevic’s study supports Richards’s idea: Students who were engaged in everyday creativity had a greater sense of well-being and personal growth than non-creative classmates.

One day last year, in another constrained prison environment, the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the Phillippines, Warden Byron Garcia noticed a horde of orange-uniformed prisoners clustering in the yard and found the bright waves of colorful forms in motion intriguing. Since he wanted to start an hour-long exercise program anyway, he began leading the inmates, many of whom are accused of committing violent crimes, in group dance numbers set to disco and pop classics. The inmates’ interpretation of Michael Jackson’s Thriller leapt over the barbed wire and spread throughout the world via YouTube.

After Jackson’s death last July, 1,500 inmates rehearsed a routine to the song “Dangerous” for nine straight hours, delivering exactly the kind of tribute that fans wanted—a sincere expression of joy and freedom. It didn’t get them out of jail, but it got them somewhere.

One Bright Day

Here are some tested tips for injecting powers ofinnovation into your routine.

Wake ‘n’ Write: Creativity guru Julia Cameron swears by free writing (no self-censoring) until you fill three pages. Get intrusive worries out and productive ideas flowing.

Relationship Shake-Up: Practice creative loving: If your partner annoys or upsets you, react the opposite way you usually do. You might be pleasantly surprised with the result.

Disrupt the Daily Grind: Jolt your brain out of automatic pilot by taking a new route to work.

Don’t Compete, Collaborate: Team up with a coworker who has complementary skills: If you’re a detail-oriented person, find a big-picture partner, or vice versa.

Daydream in Long Distance: Psychologically distant thoughts spur creativity. Think about designing a new product in Bali and your perceptual abilities will soar.

Search for Inspiration: Go to a museum or sit for a few minutes in a beautiful building or park on your lunch break. Try to notice all of the aesthetically pleasing details surrounding you.

Get Ahead: Start tackling big projects now. Procrastination does not fuel creativity, despite what procrastinators tell themselves.

Hit a Blue Note: Decorate your cubicle or home office in blue, since a study showed that blue surroundings boost creativity.

Be an Aficionado: Creative people often have hobbies, and those who play musical instruments are better at associative thinking. So dust off your old guitar or stamp collection.

Sleep on It: Think about a thorny problem before you go to bed. REM enhances creative problem-solving and may even deliver the answer to you at dawn.

The coolest band to photograph in the studio….ROUGH CHURCH

Greg Franco’s Rough Church invited me to photograph them in the studio and let me tell you these are some cool people. There was alot of laughter, raunchy jokes, talking about politics, green action, current events, good food seite mares sopa anything and everything.  They recorded at Andrew’s studio “Grandma’s Kitchen” in Silverlake. My D2H was sick and stuck at Nikon who promised it by the 7th and their update on it was nary to be found. (thanks guys)  So instead of having a tantrum, (which would have given me some bad personal mojo)  Calumet saved me by renting me a D90.  Photographing Rough Church was a breeze.  They didn’t mind me being ‘in their face’ so to speak.  Which I had to be, actually.  How else was I going to get the kind of photos that I like?  I like sharp angles, color, movement and design. Okay, so they hung with that.  Most of all I was amazed at the process of recording. It’s such a play between the producer and the band. It’s  a creative negotiation interspersed with humor, joking and serious technical audio and studio knowledge.   There’s this ability to let go get “into” the song, (pushing it out of your instrument and your body in a way that works with the rest of the band) and is also what’s being aimed for with regard to the track. And then then there’s this uncanny the ability to turn on a dime, stop and assess the track, your part and take direction from the producer on how to change or fine tune things based on the band’s goal for the sound of the track and ultimately the record. There would be banter about one part or another and some onomonopeia used to indicate some part of a song that was hard to describe.     How did these guys know what minute part they had to go back to and re-do?  Amazing.  Not to mention their technical craft and expertise.   Greg is an AMAZING lyricist and singer, he’s on angst filled growl  and rhythm guitar. Ever-sunny Jef Hogan pounds out a steady Bassline,  and Jon Franco works the the kit (even with a sheet over it for a dampened and thicker tone).   “Five” “Five Track” or “Fiver” leads melodically or grindingly on guitar, piano and sometime percussion. Studio work is part an acquiescent note by note assessment of the vibe, tone, tempo and energy of a song.   There are also some extemporaneous bursts that definitely provide for new and occasionally unexpected ideation.  Usually ideation is done before the studio time, but sometimes those things just burst from time and space and then everyone has an “Oh shit, keep that!”   moment, and so it goes. I knew ahead of time that each person would be on their own channel being miked, playing their part, playing their heart out, whilst listening to the full mix in their headphones.  What I didn’t realize was how tired doing this for two whole days from 11AM to 9PM at night can make someone!  Especially the drummer!   We took breaks and hung out in the control room or the lounge,  ate Thai food and ventured to “The Tribal Cafe” for smoothies, sandwiches etc.   I also just happened to discover THE ABSOLOUTE BEST PLACE FOR COFFEE IN ALL OF LOS ANGELES…The Tribal Cafe! They grind, brew and concoct Eurasian, Ameriasian, South American, Latasian, and latin coffees.   Some of the coffees are autentico and others the cool ideation of the owner.  Everything is hand made with passion and care, with health and vibrancy in mind.  You can get all manner of health and energy shots in just about anything.  AMAZING. The Minty Brew is KILLER. Do not miss it! I REPEAT, DO NOT MISS IT!!

Gentlemen to the core, within Greg Franco’s Rough Church there are no prima-donnas or  ‘mike hogs.’  These guys are all well tenured artists, some from the Los Angeles area and some hailing form the North and Five from the East Coast, Woodstock to be exact.

I’m always interested in the ‘language of music’ (how it works) and there’s was no shortage of  “studio-speak” for me to learn.  It’s changed alot since I’ve been in a studio years ago. At times it’s like sort of an esoteric audio dialect between these keepers of beats /syncopation and the guy assessing the beats and making suggestions.  You need these guys in an arena where you’re tryin’ to get some technical shit done!  Obviously the culture of anything this demands that those that ‘live in it’ speak the language!  Anyway… Andrew the owner of  ‘Grandma’s Kitchen’ has all the best equipment, a great console and basically an AMAZING STUIDO with all the best acoustic accouterments to be found. For the last recording, Rough Church asked me join in with a host of singers for a sort of ‘end of the album’ mock bar anthem called, “Rub one out for me” (Not unlike The Beatles’ “why don’t we do it in the road”) and  I sheepishly agreed.   I  sang my little pink heart out with people that were actually trained.   My only hope was to meld into the wall of voices, (not unlike Ike and Tina Turner’s ‘wall of sound’ production for ‘I forget what song it was…)   and stay somewhat unrecognizable.  I’m not sure if they had to surgically remove my baleful voice or not , but here’s to hoping that it was pleasant and actually helped the recording.  Enjoy this  visual smattering of pics from the recording.  Be sure to buy the new Rough Church CD when it comes out.  Some of these pics will be on the as of  yet to unnamed CD.  If you Bookmark this site, “The Trouble With Milk” I’ll take care of ‘ya….and make sure you know when it’s released.

For an overview of R.C.’s sound see my post:  Sounds West:  The Best Music in Los Angeles. Scroll down to the paragraph on Greg Franco’s Rough Church.  It also talks about Greg’s solo project, The highly revered in Australia and New Zealand “Greg Franco’s Wandering Bear.”  ~ Cheers!  Christina Long

for more info on my photography, you can find a bit on this blog and you can also go to:

049_49 The Life and Lonely Death of Noah Pierce

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The Life and Lonely Death of Noah Pierce

A small-town soldier returns from Iraq broken. He is not alone. He thinks he is. wrote:

We can’t ignore PTSD, or more importantly the anger, psychosis and confusion between right and wrong that war brings.

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Deadmau5:   Techno?  Tribal?  Electro?  House?  Trance?  Short answer?  E.D.M!!!

Explained by none other than DJ Joel Zimmerman

Deadmau5 in Berlin

Deadmau5 rocks Berlin

DoNt  B  LeFt  oUt  – kNoW  yEr  sHiT.

Deadmau5 (pronounced “Deadmouse”) is not to be confused with Modest Mouse the band or Modestmouse the DJ.  is a progressive house andelectro house producer from Toronto, Canada. His extensive discography includes tracks such as “Arguru” and “Not Exactly”, which have been included in compilation albums such as In Search of Sunrise 6: Ibiza, MixMag’s Tech-Trance-Electro-Madness (mixed by Deadmau5 himself), and on Armin van Buuren‘s A State of Trance radio show. His debut album, Random Album Title, was released in 2008, with its follow-up compilation album of old and new songs, For Lack of a Better Name, in 2009.

As well as his own extensive solo back catalogue, Deadmau5 is recognised for his work alongside numerous other DJs and producers, such as: Kaskade, MC Flipside, Rob Swire of Pendulum, andSteve Duda under the BSOD alias.  This music (along with Killthenoiz IMHO),  is so cool that  I can smell Madonna’s blood hounds just around the corner.  Hurry Move the cheese!  Before Madge finds someone ELSE to rip off in order to re-invent herself again!  either that or…. Jay-Z ‘comes-a-callin.’

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How to make a Mars Volta – Recipe for a rainy day.

Take one part Steve Wynn Dream Syndicate guitar, 2 parts Raspberry puree, one part voice of emotive  the love child of Serj Tankian and Tommy Shaw (find it in the  alt / prog rock section of your local Trader’s preferably the one in Glendale,) dust lightly with some finely ground Mothers of Invention, and finally add a pinch “Exploding Plastic Inevitable”.   Mix well.  Add two teaspoons John Fruisciante  into the mixture and boil down to a nice reduction.  Let cool, add two drops of alt / prog / Roger Waters and whip to a slight screamo (wait until you see peaks).   Mix some  Thurston Moore (be sure not to use any Kim Gordon though) pour into  a  9×12 ungreased pan and set aside.  Now, prepare your oven.  setting it to “burn / sizzle and pop” and trip out on the fog that forms inside.  Put the visceral confection in the oven at 425 for 30 minutes.  Soon the concoction will ignite and send sparks in all directions!  What you have here is a creation that will burn your hands but… you won’t be able to move away!!  Pour this eclectic, yummy paroxysm into your limited edition “Nick Cave” serving plate and enjoy!  Feel the sweet burn as each bite of this prodidgeous culinary course goes down.  Aint it kinda beautiful?

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Newsworthy Smart stuff

Picture 12Hey there smart stuff! If you’re reading my blog, you are def a more enlightened, creative  type of individual so you probably are already pretty on top of this stuff, so ignore the following scriven “beating” that’s about to occur.   If you know a mall-rat or at least an”office tapir” that skulks ’round the coffee machine’ every AM waving around their Nordstrom card and talking about gettin’ some “deals” on their lunchbreak, then Implore these capricious consumers to  resist non-fair trade products and instead set an eco-conscious example by buying online at” Purchasing with creativity and conscience is a win-win for all.   Tell those demented denizens of Dillons, those natiform naves of  Nordstrom that with merely a few drags of their index finger and a few clicks with the thumb (oh! that’s MAC, and it’s easier, sorry… I should not assume…) they can go to and help folks!   Some of these people have quit their ‘maquiladora-type’  jobs (the ones that actually had the freedom to do it anyway), and joined a coop where they share the profits from the products they make.  These products are made from recycled materials procured in and around their communities. Coops help people to build a  better lifestyle and they afford their members an alternative to working in “sweat production houses.”  They gain a semblance of self esteem and some form of monetary sustenance.   If we’re gonna “consume” then maybe it’s a good idea to think about how we do it. Oh…yah..for all you soccer moms that will buy anything based on looks and whim, (“well, I know it was expensive but I just walked by and saw it and I just HAD to have it…) you won’t be sorry.  These items are beautiful, made with love, happiness and genuine craft. Who wouldn’t be proud to own something made with passion and independence?   There aint nothin’ better than being a part of thriving as opposed to suffering.

The bowl pictured above is called “Spread The News” and was crafted from magazines by the Mai Vietnamese Handicrafts coop. This organization was created in 2006 by four college graduates.  Who saw the need to fairly employ a growing group of marginalized women. They now have 20 artisans in rural Tuy Hoa province!  The coop provides health insurance, scholarship funds and a living wage for it’s artisans!  Now that’s newsworthy! ~Chrissylong

Band Spotlight: The InFlight Nymphs: Chords don’t lie.

At the time they had two albums,  Three girls,  and a foreshadowning of a great band down the line.   Fresno California singer-songwriter Jessica Taylor began her organic career, chaneneling a smoky Joan Baez  by way of a post “Horses” Patty Smith.  While alternately pounding her piano and plucking her guitar, Taylor hit the clubs in 2001.   Interspersing her compositions with Deanna Pierro’s smoky Neneh Cherry-esque  mini-slam verse.   Pierro, though co-conspirator on several songs, soon went on to other projects.  The brooding trip-hop-spoken-word dalliances were lifted out of the bands’ master plan and traded in for the beefed up sound of Janell Brown’s bass.  Audrey Johnson was soon added on drums eventually being known for banging out organic, thick and desperate beats. The Nymphs have an organic sound from the past and represent like a pure and simple powerhouse.  Think Femme Black Keys with an Ani Difranco square of carpet on the linoleum floor.  Okay maybe they would argue that.  But you get the idea.  Hey! you can’t pigeon-hole The Nymphs, but I’m sure I’m not the first to try.  In order to put a “sound” in someone’s mind, (in order to get them to decide whether to go see the band – based on words), you’ve gotta do it.    In reality, there just  isn’t any place to corral them!  Built Tough and real, no lip-schtick needed here.  The Nymphs are pure poetic angst without a bone of pretension to be found.  Real music, Yep.  Fresno?  No. Wait. Really?  yep!….Central California?  Like the place that started out as a sandy / loamy desert?  Yup. Congregations from Fresno Churches at the turn of the century dug the first canals to bring water to the fields.  An African American man and his wife planted the first grapes, giving rise to the areas precious Thompson Seedless variety.  Plenty of people know what it’s like to back down, but the town of Fresno just doesn’t  do it.  How do you turn a desert into the fertile crescent of California?  With hard work.  These folks are   California’s keepers of all the feeding flora.  Inflight Nymphs, are becoming the  “raconteurs du jour”  of the “fresno sound”  Now there’s a real reason to be excited about Northern / Central California’s music scene:  Fres-NO, is slowly becoming, “Fres-YES.   Okay, it’s true that Fresno’s the only town in Cali with air that you can ACTUALLY SMELL!   and whose city government is so brutally out of touch that that when deciding what acts should be put on the coveted  G/L for “special events,”   they actually chose Andre Bocelli to ring in the arrival of the new “Save-Mart”!!!)  At any given moment, The Inflight Nymphs are somewhere between Fresno and San Francisco  and occasionally tripping on over  to La La Land. Right now they are probably sitting at one of their favorite “Fres-no-torious” dives comfy  in  low rise jeans, stringy hair, and Sticky Fingers T-shirt, hashing out another song list for a show.  Gotta plan it, make it right, make it rock. These things matter, Cuz hips may lie, but chords don’t.

P.S. if you didn’t get to Fresno to Andie’s you probably missed The Nymphs again.  Go to “ for future dates.

As soon as I get MP3 links, I’ll load as many songs as I can. Until then…

Cheers!   ChrissylongPicture 78

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Health care reform is like a relationship

It is unfortunate that the health care reform issue has become so politicized.  There are 46 million Americans who are without health insurance.

Everyone seems confused.   Here is the “clear up” on what is being proposed.

Myth #1: If this reform goes through,  you will have no choice in benefits. WRONG.  The bill simply says that if you are pleased with your present insurance, you can keep it.

The legislation now being considered in Congress ensures lower costs, prevention coverage, and no annual or lifetime caps on benefits. It also ensures that pre-existing conditions are covered!!!

Myth #2: Reform would make it illegal to provide chemotherapy for our older Medicare folks! What?? did I hear that right?  This is not true. Reform will actually improve Medicare benefits!

Myth #3: The bill will insure people who are here illegally. The president himself has stated on television that he would never sign legislation that allowed that.

Myth#4: The bill creates “death panels” for seniors!!  This is a game of telephone that has been used as another scare tactic that came about from the provision that a doctor can be paid for end-of-life counseling if the senior requests it! (Personally, that counseling would be great because I have an 87 year old grandmother that is very depressed about  even being near the supposed “end of life” (who knows – she may live to 100!!) , but is seeing her friends pass away!  She needs counseling on how to deal with that!  If I saw even one of my friends pass, I KNOW that i’d need counseling!    That counseling is good for living! for anyone and everyone, and ‘end of life’ has GOT to be thee hardest time.  E.O.L. counseling helps people to reconcile that time in their life and be better able to be free of depression!  There are no death squads, or counseling to MAKE anyone want to end their lives.  There’s no Kevorkian clause here.

A public option,If approved, the requires for the federal government to be in competition with private companies.  I believe the insurance monopoly should be changed and competition encouraged, we would all benefit.

Let’s not be partisan, or take “sides.”  Let’s just be people together  put politics aside and support this long overdue legislation? Is it perfect? No. Nothing starts out that way. Can it be amended?  Hell Yes!  Let’s get something going that’s good!  It’s a growing thing!  You pick the best and make it better!  It’s like an intimate relationship right?  We’ve been dealing with this crap since Roosevelt. How do we take care of ALL the people.   It’s like my cousin Stacey, who won’t marry (even though there have been some really great guys in her life), because they WERE NOT PERFECT. I’m not suggesting a woman “settle” but when the guy is perfect really (by your own admission), and  Some of the ejections are based on amount of hair! it’s a bit silly, and you wonder what the underlying reason is.  Okay so this one guy had tons of hair, but  his dad lost most of his  in the two  years between 40 and 42!  So she was worried about appearances later in life, what people would think etc., etc.  One guy was a loan officer at a bank and going to school but almost ready to graduate with his bachelor’s.    She said he had to be a VP or he wouldn’t be able to guarantee her security if they got pregnant before then.  Wise girl in a way, but for the love that she professed for him, it didn’t add up.  They could take action to prevent this.  Four or five other guys came along and again, a few of them seemingly great relationships.  Stacey should open up a dating / match website, because she’s good at it.  But even though a few of these guys proposed (one she dated for 2 years and was desperate to marry her), but weren’t perfect. Her consistent reason was “He’s not perfect.”  She could not define perfect (Not un-like our health care situation..) Yet she could not take the leap.  I told her, it’s time to explore.  Explore yourself.  What do you want? What are you afraid of?  What is the realy reason you don’t want to get married? If her reason was that she just plain didn’t WANT to be married, then so be it.  Nobody can blame a person who declares this!  It’s a 50-50 plunge these days!  but she asserted that she was desperate to wear the dress!  Frighteningly similar to our legislators, who all want this health care situation solved, everyone covered, but they don’t want to commit to anything). Okay, can we just do a trial live-in situation?  (health care legigislativly speaking?)  We don’t have to get “married” or anything!  Dare I say, a  “Friends with benefits” situation might work?  I am laughing out loud right now, but I WILL NOT, repeat WILL NOT use that lurid acronym!

It’s time to make the leap, (it’s so much better and near perfect), and we can and will make it better. Why let Americans die without health insurance?  Why can’t my grandma get counseling?  Why did my friend’s husband have to sell items on Ebay over six months in order to make enough money to pay up ahead for insurance so that his wife who is pregnant can have medical care? She was six months along before they could afford it!  The husband’s  job no longer offers insurance and he’s not going anywhere else for a job in this economy.  He’s happy to have one and he’s got a mortgage to pay!

Isn’t it right for ALL of our fellow Americans to have affordable health care?  The sooner the better. Let’s all make a commitment of some kind and fast.