Logan, UT

After recording in Idaho a couple posts ago, the next day found me leaving Mountain Home,

This is the one that puts the "Mountain" in "Mountain Home".

hopping on the highway,

This road is what puts the "ghwa" in "highway".

and proceeding towards Utah, which happened to be a scenic drive to rival all scenic drives.

A scenic scene. A scenic scene, obstacled by a bridge. A place where, hypothetically, deer and antelope play. This is a glorious "essence of road trip" type shot. The bug splatters became pretty intense on my way out of Idaho. Man!  Being a good old Nebraska boy, these images never get old for me.

Soon I was entering the part of Idaho known as “The Super Scenic Part That’s Even More Scenic Than the Previous Part.”

Near all the livestock, the bug splatters took on a distinctly bloody color.  I want a steak right now. A lesson in singular perspective.  Lines converge towards a single vanishing point, colors become faded with distance. If I were a cow I would consider this the good life. Idaho: drive-thru safari?

Soon after that, I was crossing over into the part of the U.S. known as “Mormonland.” On maps, however, it is called “Utah.”

The sign says "Logan."  That's where I'm going.

“These scenic scenes are nice, although you probably photoshopped them all,” says Mr. Yerfulovit in his customary growl. “But you still haven’t answered my question.”

That question being…

“What’s in Logan?”

Well, I was originally intending to hit Salt Lake City, which is large and well-known. However, the only people to reply to me in SLC were busy or nonresponsive, and someone had contacted me from Logan, so that’s why I went there.

So, after entering Utah, I turned onto the highway headed down towards Logan,

Headed towards the valley wherein lies Logan.

whereupon I saw Logan stretched before me like a lion in the sun.

Therrrrrrrre's Logan!

A short drive later,

Glancing to the left. Glancing to the left again.

I was in Logan, whereupon I met-

“What the deal, man?” interrupts the mob of teenagers. “Why you all usin’ that fancy English?”

Why you barely using English, homeslice?

“Whatevs, dawg.”

Anyway. In Logan, I met up with my contact and soon to be co-conspirator, Anthony Aronovici. He had contacted me on Couchsurfing, mentioning that he could play some trombone, worked at a music store, and might have some other musical connections I could record. Sounded like good business to me.

“That’s good business,” I said to myself at the time.

“Are you trying to coin new slang?” asks Attractive Girl, with that one-eyebrow-up look that she does.

Stop asking that! Every time you ask that you cast aspersions upon the authenticity of my neophrasology!

“Haha, good one,” she chuckles.

Thanks. So, back to Anthony. I met up with Anthony and several of the happening peeps he lives with, including Kaelee Jensen. Over the course of eating some delicious grilled cheese sandwiches, I explained the project in greater detail and discovered that a) Kaelee also plays the trumpet, and 2) Anthony is totally excited about teaching English in Korea. Anthony was motivated to finish up some classes which would enable him to do just that.

I, on the other hand, was motivated to record them both. So Anthony, Kaelee, and I headed over to the music store where Anthony works and laid down some fine, upstanding horn tracks.

Obelisk of Strength!  That may not sound anything like Tower of Power... but they did. Actually, "Obelisk of Strength" sounds more like a prog rock band than a funk band.  They would do concept albums about ancient monuments.

You may question my use of “fine, upstanding” to describe horn tracks, but I assure you these tracks, if they were citizens, would be the type that recycles, votes, and writes their local paper. They did a great job.

Thanks for playing, guys!

They also hosted me for the night, and barring the unfortunate incident of a roommate’s early, recurring (and apparantly ineffectual) alarm, my stay with them was nothing short of awesome.

See you in Korea, Anthony! Hope you get over here soon.

NEXT: Either Fort Collins, CO or Carputer, Part II, depending on which gets done first.

Boise, ID

Get ready for Boise! I didn’t record anything there!

“Explain this long post then,” demands AG snippily.

Whoa, what’s gotten into you today?

“Sigh… I’m impatient to hear about further recordings, not just travels. I already know you traveled, and all those scenic pictures just make me jealous.”

Well, lucky for both of us then that my remark about not recording was a gimmick. I didn’t record in Boise, but I did record in two fairly close Idaho towns — Nampa and Mountain Home. But first, an interesting story!

So there I was, driving away from Bend.

The geographical center of nowhere.

I didn’t realize before leaving Bend that there would be no civilization at all for the next billion miles. I had a half a tank of gas, but it kept dwindling

and dwindling

and dwindling

until the fuel gauge was starting to go below E, still with no sign of civilization in sight. I actually found a couple gas stations — more like shacks — but they didn’t have prices listed (and had trees growing out of them), so I assumed they were closed.

I began to formulate a plan: the moment my car dies, call AAA. I took note of the mile marker and got my coordinates from the GPS so I could tell them exactly where I was. It would mean costly delay, but I was planning on using the time to fire up my laptop and get some work done.

I was well below E at this point. Another gas shack was coming up, but I assumed it was also closed until I saw a truck parked in front of one of the pumps.

SALVATION! I feel certain I was literally seconds away from running out of gas. I rewarded that gas shack with business by filling up and buying some snacks.

Interesting story right?

“That story sucked,” compained some of the teenagers.

You guys… what reprehensible vocabulary. I bet you’d like my story if I had sung it to the tune of “Love Shack”… “The gaaassss shack is a little old place wherrrre… we can get –”

“No, that sucks worse,” they agree immediately.

Anyway, the rest of the drive through Oregon was scenic as all get out. Which is to say, quite scenic.

This nothing is the most something-like nothing I've ever seen! On this trip I often thought about the engineers who built these roads.  They were the stuff of legend. Wide-angle lens would have been nice. This vista looked so huge and awesome in real life that I fully expected it to look this unimpressive on film. Now we join that river we've been loosely following on a trek through the mountains. Scenic as heck.  Actually, far more scenic than heck. Let's go in for a closer look. These mountains were to prove my undoing! On the other side of the mountains, having forgotten to put my seat belt back on after the photos.

I was about to safely leave Oregon, when suddenly,

Do you know why I pulled you over today?

I had removed my seatbelt to take some beautiful mountain pictures. This particular officer, unlike me, was attentive to my lack of seatbelt. Good job officer. It’s probably because he is used to all the mountains so they don’t give him a sense of awe which normally causes one to forget one’s seatbelt.

“Ok, fun stories about gas, scenic scenes, and tickets. Now what about the recording sessions??” says AG impatiently.

You’re going to have to change your name if you keep that up, Girl.

“Hmph,” she pouts cutely, folding her arms and looking away.

Haha, ok. So, very soon after leaving the attentive officer, I was in Idaho!

Entering ID.

Wherein I drove to Mountain Home, which oddly enough is not in a mountain. But it is kind of between mountains, so that’s permissible. Still better than Rhode Island. A fellow named Corey Grubb had contacted me via an amazing amount of text messages about the project, and we arranged to meet at a gas station in Mountain Home. He showed up in a car with some friends, and I followed them back to one of said friends’ house. (It doesn’t sound right but I think that’s correct grammar.)

Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow, follow the Idahovian students.

Wherein we unloaded everything and I got to officially meet Corey and his friends, Anthony Mazel and Stephen Kruckeberg. They are high school students who enjoy making music. Sweet. I set up the stuff and we started tracking!

L-R: Anthony, Corey, and Stephen, laying down the tracks.

I would like to reiterate my previous assertion that cleaning supplies make great mic stands.

This mic stand really sucks!

But sometimes so do … wire bins?

I was always pretty good at improvisation.

After that, I backtracked a ways to my host, who lived in Nampa and who also happened to be a musician with a sweet name.

Um, this is where someone asks me what his name was.

“What was his name,” mumbles a surly teenager, looking at his shoes.

His name was Amadeus DeKastle! Sweet name!

Amadeus, with instruments.

Amadeus did a lot of awesome things for me:

  1. He hosted me, which is of course awesome.
  2. The following day, he recorded all the above pictured instruments for me. Yes, that is a digeridoo (and a mandolin).
  3. He introduced me to joik, an amazing traditional music from the Sami people in Norway, and some of the modern bands which perform music in or based on this style.

I had a great time hanging out with and recording Amadeus, who is also a teacher. He’s a super friendly dude and I’m glad we got to hang out. As usual, however, the hangouts were cut short by my need to be at the next stop.

No one’s asking? Fine. The next stop is Logan, UT!

“Logan? What’s in Logan?” barks Mr. Yerfulovit scornfully.

You shall see, my skeptical friend. You shall see.

NEXT: Logan, UT!

Eugene, OR

Eugene! Not to be confused with the Korean singer/actress Eugene formerly from S.E.S., nor the software designed to aid political scientists in testing expected utility theory of war and dispute initiation (Expected Utility Generation), this Eugene happens to be a town in Oregon famous for its hippies. I didn’t happen to see any hippies while I was there (can’t say I looked for them either), but I did see an old friend of mine who claims that his name is Tim Bess!

Tim Bess, musician

Tim is a classy dude who plays keyboards and trombones and does a great job at both. In addition, he has gotten himself married to a classy short girl. I always enjoyed playing with Tim back in the day and enjoyed getting the chance to a) catch up with him and meet his wife over lunch, and 2) get him playing some trombone and keyboard on the project.

Tim keyboarding.

Yay!

Unfortunately, my stay there was brief, as I was on my way to Bend, OR that very day.

NEXT: On my way to Bend, OR that very day.

Portland, OR

Portland! How cool is it that I have now been in two Portlands on opposite sides of the US?

WAY COOL!” shout the teenagers en masse.

Wow, right on, guys.

I ended up staying in Portland almost a week, mostly due to an awesome friend of mine, one Ramón Chaparro, a good friend from college with whom I’ve always been able to connect very easily due to his unassuming frankness and humility. You may remember his parents from such posts as: Little Rock, AR.

The elusive Ramón, good friend and happening peep.

Ramón was very enthusiastic about the project and incredibly helpful as far as musical contacts. He helped me line up quite a few people to record that he knew in the Portland area, as well as hooking me up with the aforementioned Jenny Rose in Sealth. He had even taken a few days off work to traipse around Portland with me, and I was glad of his company. I offered him a deal traveling with me for the rest of the Tour, but he wasn’t able to make it work, sadly.

My usual channels gave me two or three contacts but only one of them actually recorded with me, the rest of the peeps were Ramón’s, which he generously shared for the project. The first of Ramón’s peeps was a girl named Shelley Bowers.

Oh clarinet, you had me from Henry Questa.

We spent a while coming up with delicious parts for her to play, and recording them, before we had to be on our way. I would also like to mention that she made some exceptionally delicious banana pancakes for us while we were there! I would also also like to mention that she and I are going to hang out in Korea, since she is planning on teaching English over there soon.

NOTE TO TIME LORDS: Unfortunately it’s been a while since I was there (it was the first week of October) and my memory for events is great, but my memory for sequence of events is terrible (this is why I did badly in history class). So this recounting of recorded peeps may be out of order, but you can count on there being no “factual embellishments.”

Another peep I recorded one of the evenings in Portland was a great soul singer named Lucy Hammond.

Lucy bringing it.

Lucy had a very versatile voice and added some great vocal colours that were otherwise missing from the project. Not only that, she is witty, chatty, and very personable, possibly helped along by her experience working in a salon, which is where we recorded. When Ramón and I arrived she was finishing up a manicure. Check this place out:

Andy Warhol would be proud.

We had a blast recording and chatting with Lucy.

Then — or possibly before — I’m sure it was a different day, actually, because this guy was first thing in the morning — we were off to record Peter Chan, a saxophonist specializing in free jazz and working on branching out into straight ahead stuff (kind of backwards from the norm).

Peter Chan honkin' the honker.

Peter added some really great stuff to a handful of songs, and did a nice solo thing on the bari.

Peter Chan, Saxophonist.

Our final peep from Portland is a fellow by the name of Ross Davis, who is quite a competant jazz bassist. He plays

— wait for it —

— keep waiting —

“Oh come on already,” groans a nearby old man on the corner, sitting smoking his pipe.

“Hey!” pipes in AG. “Those were lyrics from one of your songs. Are you trying to subconsciously prepare people for the release of your albums by including–”

No. I just wanted a delay to increase the suspense for what Ross plays. Anyway, he plays-

“That’s a juvenile tactic.”

Yes, my mind and my body appear to be maturing at different rates. But back to-

“Tch. Seriously.”

You realize you’re playing right into my hands by continuing to talk, right?

“…”

Anyway. Ross plays THIS:

Yes, friends, that is a 5-string upright bass.

Upright bass was one of the high-priority instruments on my wishlist. At the time of this writing (with one state left to go) only two instruments remain high priorities: french horn (Or should I call it “freedom horn”? Ridiculous.) and glockenspiel. I also still need a baby crying.

Ross added some fantastic upright parts to several of the songs. His playing needed very little feedback from me, and didn’t require a lot of my “acceptance of the unfamiliar” mindset. He pretty much played exactly what I wanted.

THE VERDICT: Ross Davis saved the project!

I must reiterate that I had a fantastic time reconnecting with my good friend Ramón the whole time I was there, and both I and the project owe him a great deal for his wholehearted comtributions of time, energy, and resources to the project. Thanks Ramón!

NEXT: The long arm of Ramón.

Seattle, WA

Seattle! A city deserving of our respect because it has a bajillion names: “Emerald City,” “Jet City,” “Queen City,” “Gateway to Alaska,” and of course “Rain City.” Its actual name comes from a local tribal chief named Sealth. Way to go, Sealth. It is my dream to also have a city named after me someday. In honor of that dream I will refer to Seattle as Sealth in this entire post. Perhaps for my entire life after this post as well.

If I were to give Sealth a few more nicknames, they would be: “Old Friend City” and “Best Restaurant Menu Ever City.”

“Why would you name it Old Friend City, Zach?” asks Attractive Girl dutifully.

Why, because Sealth contains all sorts of old friends of mine! Former college roommate? Yep. Former college floormate, suitemate, and TA? Yep. Former middle school BFF? Yep. Former elementary school BFF? Yep. Former Korean girl whose wedding I played piano for? Yep.

“What is a BFF?” asks the ugly passerby.

I think it stands for Best Friend Forever, but its origin is steeped in valley-girl-esque OMG-ism, so the “forever” is usually understood as being an intensifier rather than an indicator of commitment.

“Wow, where did you learn how to talk like that?”

I dated a really intelligent girl for a while. You should try it, you become really good at diplomacy.

First, the former college roommate, and also my host, a stellar bloke by the name of Timothy Towns Chang-Miller. I am putting his middle name on here because I happen to know it and it is awesome. When I met him I considered also changing my middle name to Towns. Then I thought, nah, I don’t want to directly copy him… how about Cities? But I wouldn’t want to show him up either. So I just kept my previous middle name (which is, of course, Metropoli).

What would be cool is if you played Settlers of Catan with him and you could be like guys, look at Timothy's Towns!

Tim and his awesome wife Young very kindly hosted me during my stay in Sealth. It was super great to reconnect with Tim, and also super great to get to know Young, since the last time I saw her she was a wee bit preoccupied (something about a wedding…).

Did I record any happening peeps in Sealth? Why yes. I recorded several happening peeps. First was a fellow who told me his name was Brendan Littlefield. He is a talented songwriter who thought up some really great ideas for some of my songs.

The man at his station.

He put down some tasty piano (pictured above) as well as some delicious mandolin (pictured below).

MANDO MAN

Then I was off to rendezvous with one of his amigos. This amigo (not pictured either above or below) was named Jacob Weaver, and he is a bassist with several groups around Sealth. Jacob put down some nice bass for one of my songs (which is increasingly drawing comparisons to Zappa, which makes me happy).

After a delightful dinner with Tim and Young at a restaurant with the COOLEST MENU EVER I was off to meet up with more of the aforementioned Old Friends. These friends include such friends as: Joshua Hays and David Hrivnak.

It’s totally amazing that I met Josh Hays, considering that we were something akin to BFF’s since fifth grade. We kind of went our separate ways in high school, then suddenly we ran into each other on campus. We happened to be attending the same university in St. Louis! Amazing! Our friendship was rekindled. … Not that anyone kindles friendships… I certainly don’t! Kindling is for fires. But our friendship was renewed.

(Writing tip: don’t use “rekindled” when describing friendships. It would mean your friendship is burning!)

Even more amazing is that I reconnected with a middle school friend, David Hrivnak. He and Josh had gone to the same high school, and were also BFF’s for quite a while, so it’s pretty awesome that they both ended up in Sealth. I always remember David with fondness because he was a great source of creative signature ideas, but mostly because he asked a girl out for me in sixth grade. (I left the classroom to “get a drink,” he popped the question, and then I came back to find out the result. She said yes, so then we were a couple for two days, at which point one of her friends gave me the “I think we should just be friends” note. I’m sure some of this ill-fated passion shows up in my songs.)

Anyway, Josh is quite a competant musician on the keyboards, and both Josh and David have plunged into electronic music with gusto. So, it was only natural that we would record a gigantic analog synth.

David working the analog synth.  And probably also his mojo.

If you don’t think this is amazing, you are a fool and should be quartered by cement mixers. It’s MUSICAL SCIENCE! This space-age machine was capable of delivering all kinds of crazy great sounds. I had them add some cool noises to several of the songs. David added some nice atmospheric sounds to one of the songs, and Josh added a nice synthy melody to one of the tunes.

On one of the songs, they were tag-teaming, adjusting modulators and tremulorrheogulators to perfuse the arpeggicator and things like that.

Josh modulating the perfidulus, Jacques oscillating the rhombulus using a sine pattern, and David transducing the oscillomorphonimbus.

Basically, it sounded like R2-D2. Also, I should mention that we went out to find mojitos and went to this awesome place. They had mojitos on the menu but they were out of limes. With bitterness in my heart, I ordered something else and went to the bathroom. Where I saw this:

Coolest bathroom graffiti ever.

The wall was covered with a wide variety of writings, including philosophical discussions, with quotes from various philosophers limning their arguments. And of course some people just write stuff like “Sarte sucks!” but it was still one of the most enjoyable bathrooms I have ever been in. (Another nickname! Enjoyable Bathroom City.)

Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, this is as close as I got:

The infamous SPACE needle.

It’s actually a ways away from the tall downtown buildings, and some of those buildings are taller. The pictures you always see of Seattle are taken from angles where it usually looks like the needle is right in there, towering over everything, but it’s just simply not the case.

One morning while I was there, I had a recording session at 5:00am (which is why I don’t remember which morning it was). She was a violinist by the name of Jenny Rose Wilson, and she worked nights and it was the only time she had available, so I dragged myself over to her church where her friend let her in and we recorded some great violin and viola parts.

Jenny Rose playing her amazing tranparent violin!

Jenny turned out to be a multitalented and friendly person. After recording with her, I went back to Tim’s for a nap to catch up on the sleep I lost. I thought later I had just dreamed about recording with her until I saw the pictures and heard the tracks.

Before leaving Sealth, I headed out for some lunch with Tim. We passed through a farmer’s market,

Evidently some farmer had grown these great musicians, but for some reason no one was buying them.

enjoyed some fine Mexican food, and then I was on my way.

MORAL: I will wake up early for music, but little else.

NEXT: Portanlth! I mean Portland!

Spokane, WA

Washington, unlike Montana, was full of happening peeps. In fact, it was pretty amazing just how many happening peeps happened to be happening in Washington. The first of such peeps was a fellow in Spokane named Steve, who plays a mean guitar.

“How mean?” asks a nearby international student. “Does it trip the old lady and shout at the passing child?”

What a great sense of humor you have, international student. Anyway, Steve, of whom I forgot to take a picture, has his own little music room (about the size of a king-size bed) which is crammed full with a drumset, guitars, amps, and recording equipment. Totally awesome.

“Which guitar was the mean one?” asks the international student.

Um, it’s not as funny the second time.

“Excuse me? I just want to know which-”

Yeah. So Steve and I spent a pleasant evening together recording and listening to each other’s stuff. Steve leans heavily in a metal direction, and he can shred in a way that actually sounds musical! Which is a pleasant surprise because I wasn’t sure if it even could be done. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to work up any harmonized butt-rock guitar solos, but we did put down a handful of various electric guitar tracks.

I had quite a few potential hosts in Seattle, but none in Spokane, and by the time Steve and I finished, it was too late to make a run to Seattle, at least not if I hoped to stay with someone. So, it was Car Night #4. I found an out-of-the-way spot in some incredibly scenic mountains (

Montana's mountains were rugged and dirty.  Washington's were lush and cold.

). It was like a little turn-off had been made for my car.

Probably two cars drove by here during the entire night.  And it only took me five minutes to get back out on the highway from here.

Also, there was entertainment in the form of this sign:

What I love about this sign is that if you read it the right way it means the opposite of what they want it to mean.  Yay English!

This is when I realized several important things:

  • My tour has taken longer than originally planned. This was meant to be a summer project, where I could always wear shorts and get a nice tan. Not freeze to death while trying to sleep in my car. Which I pretty much did.
  • It’s good that I did the eastern half first. That way I could be impressed by the Adirondacks and the Smokies. Then, when I got to the northwest, I could be doubly impressed by the real mountains.
  • The international student actually thought the guitar was mean! I’m sorry, international student — “he plays a mean guitar” is an idiomatic expression meaning that he plays guitar really well.

    “Ohhh! Thank you!”

    Don’t mention it.

    “Sorry.”

    No, I mean… you’re welcome.

NEXT: If a peep is happening somewhere, he’s likely to be happening in Seattle!