Zach Is Hit!

I’ve been hit! It’s true, yesterday I got rear-ended. Just what I needed at the beginning of a nationwide roadtrip, eh? It was raining and Minneapolis is pretty much a war zone, with the amount of construction that is going on. Seriously, I think they had to recruit extra help in the factories, to manufacture enough orange barrels to meet demand.

Back to our story. So I was on the detour around 35W (they’re getting close to repairing the bridge that collapsed from that earthquake a while back), and some young guy was probably gawking at the bridge construction progress, when he suddenly realized that a Lovemobile was stopped in front of him. Brake. Slide. Bang! Slide. Bang!

Two slide-bangs? Yeah, the impact sent me skidding into the rear bumper of the car in front of me. I felt like a domino in the Domino Rally of life. (Anyone remember Domino Rally?)

I realize you are probably highly concerned, and wondering if my car is ok. Well, mostly everything looks fine, but the rear bumper is pushed in a ways on the lower half. (Again, I’ll post a picture once I’m able to connect to the internet using Lappie.) I didn’t see anything wrong with the front, thankfully.

Of course, friends and family and all those who know me more intimately are probably even more concerned about all my expensive recording equipment. Allow me to reassure you that when I used all my stuff today, it all worked fine — even the interface, which had been in the trunk.

Also, other than a stiff and sore neck, I’m doing fine too.

I’ll call my agent Monday and figure out what I should do about the bumper/neck/etc. I could probably sue for damages and get rich! But I would feel like a jerk, so I don’t really consider that an option.

In recording news: My first two days have been highly unproductive as far as recording stuff, but highly productive in terms of meeting old friends and setting things up. I’ve got loads of sessions coming up, and, oddly enough, loads of gigs. I’ll be playing for several churches, and drumming for several events at Taste of Minnesota. Exciting!

I suppose getting hit was just reaping what I sow, after hitting the road so enthusiastically in my previous post. Those of you who believe in karma no doubt are nodding knowingly. Those of you who don’t believe in anthropomorphizing roads, however, probably think that’s a bunch of baloney.

Until next time, I’m Zach Bardon, and enjoy our Wild America.

The Road Is Hit!

And we’re off!

I'm hitting this very road.

I am pleased to report a successful beginning of my Recording Tour of Love! Right now, I am safely in the middle of the Twin Cities.

I am writing this from my host’s computer, so it probably won’t be lengthy enough to satisfy your curiosity… why are you so curious, anyway?

“Wait, what about the next post being about the carputer??” says the attractive girl from before. “I wasn’t kidding, I really want to know about it.”

Unfortunately for you, attractive girl, I forgot to transfer the pictures of the carputer install from my Korean phone before I left on the first Leaf. (I had planned on using my Korean phone as my camera, but last minute my sister offered me the use of her vastly superior digital camera. Thanks Stephi!) This means you will not be able to see all the exciting details of my carputer install until after the first Leaf is complete. You will, however, be able to see it in action. My GPS mapping software worked like a top all the way up here, directing me on all sorts of unpopulated state highways (instead of interstates) that ended up being more efficient, as well as faster. Yay GPS!

Where to next, KIT?

Speaking of my host, my first host on the Tour is longtime friend and draft dodger, Laura Dittmer. So far we’ve had great times. (I’ve talked with her for all of 10 minutes so far.)

Some late-night shopping for Original Breakfast Items.

Minneapolis! Home of the Twins, warzone-esque road construction, and thousands of light-haired Nordic denizens, it also happens to be the home of my alma mater, North Central University, and the home of many excellent musicians. To record in Minneapolis:

  • an amazing bassist
  • several fantastic jazz/pop/gospel keys players
  • a handful of tasty guitarists
  • lots of delicious vocalists
  • some great horn players
  • if I’m lucky, a legendary trombonist
  • you! If you live in MSP and want to be on my albums, hit me up!

The next week or so I plan to busy recording all of the above, seeing old friends, and making new ones!

An auspicious beginning?

The Touroflovemobile

a.k.a. my car, a.k.a. a major reason I haven’t left yet. It really does need a cool name, though. It’s a Crown Victoria, so the ideal name would have something about Vic, and of course Love. But the name can’t be “The Love Vic” because that’s just stupid. It also seems like some kind of pun about “vehicle” could be done, but I’m drawing a blank. Any suggestions?

Anyway, here he is:

Vicmobile of Love?

1987 Ford Crown Victoria. The last year of this body style (and my personal favorite body style for this model ever). Some call them “grandpa cars,” some call them “boats”, and a friend once aptly called it “a couch with a V8.” Well, let me tell you something about grandpas: they know what’s up. I got this one from a grandpa — the original owner — with only 114K miles. (On the car, not the grandpa. He had much more.) He kept it garaged, gave it regular maintenance, and pretty much just drove it to the grocery store, so it’s in great shape.

“If it’s in great shape, what’s the holdup?” asks a nearby attractive girl. Well, attractive girl, my answer is “Where did you come from? May I date you?”

“No,” she replies. “I’m here as a narrative device.”

“Oh. I’ll answer your question then.”

My car, awesome as it is, has a few quirks which need to be unquirked. Also, in accordance with my Master Vehicular Plan, there are a few enhancements which need to be… er, enhanced.

What a huge engine bay! Parked in front, 2nd battery (of 3) charging.

Quirks to be Unquirked

  • Top on the list: the A/C doesn’t work. No way am I driving through Arizona in August with no A/C. The car is in the shop as we speak. Yes, I know we’re not actually speaking.
  • The cruise control is non-operational. It’s a broken cable. Sadly, shops are unable to procure this cable anymore. Looks like a trip to a junkyard is in order. Sadly, it looks like it is in order after my first Leaf.
  • That’s it! Thank you, previous-owner-grandpa, for keeping this car in such great shape.

Three quarters view, a.k.a. $0.75 view.

Enhancements According to the Master Vehicular Plan

  • A CARPUTER.
    Car = cool.
    Car + computer = DRIVING EXCITEMENT.
    But seriously, why? Hmmm… I feel a sublist coming on!

    • The current sound system is a Clarion ARX-7170 system with a 12-disc changer in the trunk, and a 9-band programmable EQ/DSP under the front seat. But man, 12 CDs is totally not enough selection for a nationwide road trip. How about… 90GB of mp3’s? Yeah, that’s more like it.
    • What if I get lost? What if I miss a turn but don’t know it until I’ve driven half an hour in the wrong direction? (This has happened to me before, in Iowa.) How about… GPS navigation? Yeah!
    • How can I quickly and conveniently access the internet on the road? How about… a wireless a/b/g card with external antenna? Allowing you to access the internet from the touchscreen in your dash? In turn allowing you to access the weather, cheapest nearby gas stations, and check your IMAP email? Friggin’ sweet.

    Those are the main reasons for a carputer. Of course there are many more; for example, 1) it’s cool, 2) it’s awesome, and 3) it’s friggin’ sweet.

  • A component sound system.
    With a carputer, it doesn’t make much sense to use a head unit, particularly when you’re putting the touchscreen where the head unit goes. So, I figured I’d get an amp to take the signal from the carputer and drive the speakers. But I wasn’t going to buy any old crappy amp, and then I realized I couldn’t run a nice amp into the stock 1987 speakers. Sigh.

My old Crown Vic (yeah, that's me in high school)

Current dequirking progress: 15%. Probably jump up to 50% tomorrow when the shop calls and says “Hello? Is this Zach Brandon?” and then I say “Yes, that’s me” because it’s not worth it to correct him, and then he says “We have fixed your air conditioning for only $10!” and I say “Awesome!” And that will be that. Cruise cable has to wait.

Current carputer progress: 90%. Parts acquired. Computer assembled and tested on my dining room table. Power run from battery to under the seat. Head unit removed, climate controls relocated, screen mostly mounted. Left to do: install the computer itself. Wire everything together. Enjoy.

Current stereo system progress: 40%. Parts ordered. So far, other than the wires, only the amp has come in. And what a great amp it is.

“I want to know more about the awesome carputer and stereo stuff!” says the attractive girl. “I want to see pictures!”

“I could say the same about you,” I reply, winking.

Oh yeah, narrative device, right. I have deliberately not given many details about these things because they are awesome and deserve their own post.

NEXT POST: Carputer install, Part I.

For now, give me suggestions on the nickname of my car.

But You Don’t Go!

Those of you who are super attentive have probably noticed already: the departure date has been shifting back. I was afraid this would happen, but I was also pretty sure it would as more things kept happening that were not in my plan. Some factors include:

  • Delay installing the carputer in my car.
  • Taking my grandmother to eat some delicious Korean food.
  • Delay fixing the A/C and cruise control in my car.
  • Moving my 50-gallon aquarium from a babysitter’s to a temporary owner’s.
  • A final rehearsal with my Serbian band.
  • Delay procuring sound system components for my car.
  • And this one just in: my 10-year high school reunion is in Omaha this coming weekend.

“OMG,” says a nearby person who speaks in acronyms. “WTF? LOCIE!” Other than remarking that the last acronym is made up, I completely ignore that person.

“Oh my goodness,” says a nearby person who speaks normally. “What in the world? Lots of car issues, eh?” Yes.

Let us now discuss some of these factors. Or, just let me.

Serbian Band
I’ve been drumming for a Serbian band, playing Serbian pop and folk music with more electric instrumentation (it’s pretty sweet, I’m the token non-Serbian). I’ve planned the Tour around gigs with the Serbian band; I’ll hit Omaha (or sometimes KC) just in time for gigs, then launch on the next Leaf. Again, pretty sweet.

My Grandmother
is great. When I got back from Korea she wanted to go eat Korean food with me, since I had been extolling the virtues of delicious Korean food. This has not yet happened. It shall and it must.

My 10-year High School Reunion
is this weekend. In Omaha. I really ought to go to it. I had a small graduating class of 36 and was quite close with many of them, and friends with the rest. It shall be a two-day extravanganza, with feasting on Italian food and recreating at Mahoney State Park and who knows what else. I am going to go and enjoy my friends and avoid reflecting on how old I am and all the things I haven’t accomplished yet. Sound good?

My car
Until now, faithful blog readers, I have remained mute on the subject of my car. This is because my car is awesome and deserves its own post.

NEXT POST: my car.

Ask Not For Whom Matt Drums; He Drums for Me

I have had the great pleasure of spending the last several weeks recording drums with my longtime friend and excellent drummer Matthew Tobias over at Empty House Studio. Perhaps the name was originally accurate, but it’s not so much now:

Some Rack Gear in the now misnamed Empty House Studio

Anyway, I’m even more excited about the project after getting Matt’s tasty drumming goodness all over my songs. We ended up doing 18 songs of drum tracks, which leaves a few for drummers on the road, but mostly covers it.

“Why do drums in Omaha?” whines a nearby naysayer. “Doesn’t recording stuff locally conflict with your vision of a roadtrip album?” With that naysayer I must patiently disagree. These are intended to be Pan-US albums. Last I checked, Omaha is in the US. Also, this is Matt Tobias we’re talking about here. I’m quite familiar with his playing and trust him to play what the song wants. He handled the odd meters and other craziness with aplomb, as I knew he would.

The main reason I did drums first is so everyone else that I record will have a solid foundation to build on. Matt’s drumming has a way of making rhythms persistent and alive in a way that no loop or click could possibly produce. So, it will theoretically be much easier for all the other players to add their parts now, as opposed to recording with a loop or a click.

Caution: Drummer at Work Through the Looking Glass

“Well, okay,” says the converted naysayer (now yaysayer). “Tell me more about this ‘Matt.'” I’ve known Matt for quite a long time — I was always pleased when he would play at our church with some band or another, then later we played in church bands together for probably several years. Matt played drums for my performance prep* concert up at NCU, and through the years has been a consistent influence on me with his professionalism and thoughtful playing. It is inspiring the level of detail he brings to drumming. From time to time I would get some drum lessons from him.

Matt was very easy to work with. You don’t have to tell him anything twice. He is adept at building songs and devising consistent and interesting drum parts. Of course I already knew this going in, but they say in recording you’re only as good as your last project. Well Matt, breathe a sigh of relief: this project = also good. The bar has not been lowered.

I only wish I could work with musicians like Matt all the time. But, it’s also good for people to have something to aspire to. With that, I leave you with an action shot of Matt VIGOROUSLY MIXING:

Sometimes Mixing is Intense

* Performance Preparation is a two-semester class, at the end of which every student is responsible for producing and performing a half-hour concert.

Tornados and High Adventure

So, last night there was allegedly a tornado within a mile of me. “How do you feel about that Zach?” ask some curious dudes. I feel… excitement!

I was here:

I was chatting with my friend Jong-hun at about 2:30am, when suddenly we heard meteorological violence transpiring. We thought it was hailing, which was odd because we hadn’t heard it begin raining. So we opened the curtains of his second-story room and saw that it was not hail, it was just rain falling sideways. Smacking full force against the window.

It was like someone had, without warning, thrown a hurricane switch to ‘ON’. One moment: calm. The next: trees flapping around like flags. The wind was so strong and gusty that I could actually see rain turning corners around buildings and such. I was in awe.

Then, I realized that my car windows were still open. Dang.

Hopping into my flip-flops, I ran to the front door of the building, which was being violently pelted with sideways rain. Taking a deep breath and steeling my resolve, I opened the door and swam through the air to my car, where I jumped inside and furiously began rolling up the windows.

I thought about staying in there for a bit and enjoying the relative safety, but I could already feel wetness seeping into my jeans from sitting on the already soaked sponge car seat. So I ran back in.

I was soaked. Sirens were blaring. People were beginning to congregate and exchange nervous conversation. Some grey-haired fellow named Mark came down and began informing all of us impractical youths about all the useful information he had heard on the news. For example: a Walmart lost its roof. A home was damaged in Millard. I was just happy, and kept hoping there would be a tornado.

It made me realize, I have a really weird attitude toward disaster. Most people, arguably rightly, think “Disaster = UH OH. Avoid.” My brain, somehow, thinks “Disaster = WHEE!! Enjoy.” Probably has to do with the musicians-having-broken-brains thing. Tornados (and most other disasters, thankfully) are unfamiliar to me, therefore my mind automatically embraces them. Further, it gets excited by them.

I remember how excited I was to get West Nile fever. I don’t think anyone really understood, but I was truly thrilled. It was an absolutely awful experience, and I did not enjoy life at all at that point, but I was comforted by the knowledge that this dangerous experience was high adventure. Seriously, I didn’t just have a fever, I had a soaring fever and an infected spine! I might die from a relatively rare disease! Or at least have neurological complications. How awesome is that?! Answer: way cooler than some run-of-the-mill flu.

The storm passed really quickly. It hit really hard and pounded Omaha for a while, but after just 20 minutes or so it had tapered down to a slight drizzling. I was left to drive home in a wet car feeling slightly disappointed that I hadn’t been closer to the danger. (As it turns out, I was still pretty close, just not tangibly.) But I’m still a little bit high from it: high adventure can happen anywhere. I’m ready for more.