Tour of Love 100%!

Yesterday morning, I arroved (was arroven?) back in Omaha after successfully completing the “Traveling and Recording” phase of the project.

THE GIST: I am now done touring and recording!


I will now address your questions. (Many narrative devices raise their hands.) Yes, you in the back.

Q: Did you go to all 50 US states?
A: No, that was never my goal. I had no plans to drive to either Alaska or Hawaii.

Q: Fine then. Did you go to all 48 continental US states?
A: No. I had to skip North Dakota due to the aforementioned computer problems.

Q: So you went to all 48 except North Dakota?
A: Yes.

Q: I think North Dakota only counts as half a state anyway.
A: That’s a good idea, but I still only went to 47 states.

Q: No, because there are 50 total states, so the extra half has to come from somewhere.
A: Where?

Q: Probably California. Yeah, let’s say California counts as 1.5.
A: Okay. So I went to 47.5 of the 48 continental states.

Q: Cool! But… this blog still has you in Portland, OR.
A: I liked it there, why not stay?

Q: Haha! Seriously though.
A: Now that the touring is complete (which was rather exhausting, by the way) I’ll have some time to start catching the blog up to the present. Don’t expect me to catch up lightning-fast, because I have only a couple weeks to prepare everything before I go back to Korea (where I will teach ESL again), but you can safely expect more regular updates.

Q: Can we get a promise, say 2 posts per week?
A: No. In the history of the internet, that never works. I won’t waste your expectations.

Q: Okay. What’s next?
A: The next phase of the project is the hole-plugging phase. I recorded a massive smattering of happening peeps, but some of the songs still have sections that need a little something. I will be working on trying to fill those holes, either by recording people in Omaha before I leave, collaborating from Korea with musicians in America over the internet, or playing stuff in myself.

Q: The question everyone wants to know the answer to is: when can we hear it??
A: It will still be several months. Don’t panic, but don’t hold your breath either. Rest assured that I will keep working on the project just as hard, even though I’m no longer Touring. While you wait, read my exciting posts about the awesome places and people I encountered and recorded. Play a game. Call a loved one. Perhaps enjoy a cold mojito. Above all else, chillax.

Q: What does that mean?
A: Kind of like hanging out, but a really cool type of hanging out.

Q: Sweet. Will do.
A: Awesome.

Q: Yes.
A: Okay, stop now. These aren’t even questions.

Q: I know, right?
A: Every time you say something I have to answer you to keep the Q&A format intact, but it’s really annoying when you aren’t even asking a question.

Q: Okay! I’ll stop.
A: … *sigh*

Q: What?
A: NOTHING! Shut up.

Q: Got it.
A: Good.

I hope that all of your questions were addressed in this highly informative Q&A session. If not, please submit any further questions in the comments, but they may not be answered unless you include “Q:” at the beginning. Just FYI. Thanks.

Q: You’re welcome.
A: …

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).


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!