How To Herd Cats

This Is A Bit Of A Stretch…

Definition Of A Cat:

Evidently Cab Calloway coined the term in the 30’s. Back in 1938, he published Cab Calloway’s Cat-ologue: A “Hepster’s” Dictionary. Wikipedia has a great page on the origins of Jive; vastly entertaining.

A “Cat” could have been a jazz musician in a New Orleans whore house. Or simply the demeanor of players as they strutted on to stage or into their solos; stretching it out, like a cat.

So, yeah, I’m sort of using a double entendre here. Herding cats is a metaphor which emphasizes herding that which is incapable of being herded. Cats, i.e., musicians.

I have utmost respect for my friends who have been capable of keeping their bands together year in and year out with super low turn over of personnel.

My experience is contrary. I have run bands, with mediocre outcomes. I have experienced lack of interest, motivation and dedication coupled with politicizing. Let’s not forget about flat out prima donnas.

The same challenge has risen its head in the studio. Trying to keep folks focused, even on their own projects, can become totally frustrating. Scheduled day of recording, not even a phone call to cancel. Sure hope you ain’t hurt or in trouble. A text takes, what, 10 seconds, max?

How about all the times I have been asked to attend meetings in various projects in which I’m involved . Sometimes not even the person who called the meeting shows up.

The flip side; I’m trying to help others hook up with people who might be able to support and help. Ah, the beautiful Seattle passive / aggressive. “Yes, I will be there.” Not even a peep when the person doesn’t show.

My favorite: “Would you be interested in an interview?”

“Sure, how much you paying me?”

Only time will tell if you are that great.

Will a carrot and a stick work? How about a day timer and a whip? I suppose that’s not too practicable.

Last thought – A good friend offered me the chance to record my podcasts at his world class studio.

Instant scheduling nightmare.

Don’t you know, “I float like a butterfly and sting like bee.” I’m stealing quotes from Mohammad Ali.

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Motivation

Still True…And Don’t Forget the Vocalist

Actually, that was my entire reason for getting involved in music, oh, and besides the fact that music constantly runs through my head. I think I was hoping for side benefits. Those benefits did materialize, whether that is a good thing was decided later.

Defining success: confidence, proficiency, articulation, enjoyment. Those are nnderlying factors in the journey of motivation.

I have been on fire for music many times in my life. Usually, the passion for it rekindles after the dissolution of the last failed romantic relationship. It took long years to understand, for me, music and relationships do not intermix. As much commitment and effort that goes in to sustaining a successful relationship, there is always a part of my brain nagging me to not put down my passion. The two just never have mixed. Is it the music that is the adulterous, or the woman in my life?

Maybe I’m extremely selfish?

Throwing the amalgam of all my side projects into play, the goal is clear and succinct. I just want to record and play music. It is the engine that drives the machine.

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Seven Examples Of Counting The Cost

What are you willing to give up to chase your dreams? If we want it badly, we have got to sacrifice.

Obsession, it’s what we do regardless what is happening. First thing in the morning pounding it out. Last thing at night, getting the final two cents in.

Priorities:

Woody Allen: “80 percent of the game is showing up.”

Warren Buffett: “Really Successful People Say No To Almost Everything”

I have read that I should think like my prey; it’s an old concept. Not that I’m trying to sell anybody anything, or eat anyone, except that there might be a possibility we could help one another.

That’s what my podcasts are all about. As well as my You Tube Channel.

Life is a big process of negotiation, ask any parent. I’m not a parent, but I know lots of parents.

Toxic relationships will not facilitate progress, inspiration or direction.

Health is an underlying factor, if I am not well, how am I going to able to move forward.

A band I was in, years ago, was a dedicated bunch. Three rehearsals a week, staging, PA, light show and a big semi-trailer to haul it. It was all about the show.

We would do gigs in 24 hour stints. Load in at 5:30 am, hit the road for two to four hours, load out, play the gig, load the truck, drive home, unload by 6 am the next morning. That’s commitment, a shared devotion to a cause, each person involved having reason for being there, from the musicians to the road crew.

I’m not afraid to work and collaborate, as long as my vision crosses path with someone else’s, consider me in.

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Mackncheeze Music Podcast #13: Sean Farchild

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Freedom

Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. Or so the song goes.

I chose to define freedom as this: I personally make more decisions for myself than my boss , my family, my government and my friends.

Henry Thoreau said, A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to say “no” to.

Junior once said, “Free your mind and your ass will follow .”- Oliver Stone

If you have not read Humble The Poet , I highly suggest you do. He says, “True freedom only exists in discipline.”

If it’s discipline that will drive me to have more freedom of choices, then bring it on. Nose to the grind stone! What more can I do? Prioritize!

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Mackncheeze Podcast # 12

Interview with Todd Ainsworth AKA Murl Hartwood of Seattle Country Band, Hartwood

Hartwood’s ‘Enumclaw’ available on Amazon and CD Baby

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K.I.S.S.

Keep It Simple Stupid

I first learned of the K.I.S.S. concept in college jazz lab band. The professor, a horn player by the name of Bart, introduced the notion to soloists. I loved Bart; he was awesome.

Evidently there are two ways to interpret K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid, or, Keep It Simple, Stupid. I always considered the latter as proper interpretation. Evidently, the U.S. Navy, who by the way, coined the acronym, identifies with the former. Just keeping things stupid simple, or simple stupid, alleviates greater frequency of errors.

I’ve always thought in terms of, “Hey Stupid, keep it simple.” But that’s me and my sarcastic mind set.

I think it is a perfect way to interpret a mix, especially when starting with a foundation. Simplify, keeping the concept stupid simple, identify your substructure: drums, vocals, melody, rhythm tracks, use your own judgment, then base your mix on that.

I constantly cross reference mixes from the big boys, using compromised sound sources ( iPhone speakers, bluetooth speakers, crappy head phones, extremely low volume near-field play back, listening from another room, car stereos while driving…)

For me, the ultimate foundational K.I.S.S. mixing technique: Isolate the kick and the lead vocals. Make those two voices as musical as possible, then move on. That’s what I do. E.Q. and compress the kick drum and vocals and blend them the best I am able; everything else follows.

K.I.S.S. can also be applied to personal rehearsal. Being a drummer, I imagine the concept is much less complex. I break down rhythmic passages into 2’s and 3’s and slow the metronome to excrutiatingly slow BPM, requiring painful concentration, actually making my brain hurt.

When practicing like this, I can actually feel new neural paths carving different channels through my brain. I have told this can delay Alzheimer’s but does nothing to alleviate Some Timers or Delayed Intelligence.

In all my endeavors, I try to start with as basic as an idea as possible. It’s overthinking that complicates matters.

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Mackncheeze Music Podcast # 10:

Adam Puchalski and Bryan Discuss EQ and Panning For Application In Home Studios

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Getting The Mix

Getting a great mix can be very tough. Recording well requires quality inputs, correct performance, and extreme listening skills. The adage, “It’s not the gear, it’s the ear” holds a lot of truth. Better listening begets qualitative judgement, which enhances desire for equipment that can satisfy ever expanding qualitative judgement, which creates gear sluts, people who always need some better gear. That’s me.

Of course subjectivity is involved, but its more satisfying to be objectively subjective (oxymoron, maybe) when proper equipment is utilized.

My first real studio experience was when I was 19. We had no idea our band was terrible. Spending three hours recording four cover tunes on traditional two inch tape and some big console, excitement and expectations were huge. The engineers mixed it out for us in about a half hour. Those big old JBL studio monitors sounded great at full tilt; you know, loud is best. We were presented a cassette tape of our session which promptly went on to the car stereo.

Feeling like rock stars, disappointment was huge when we compared our three hour session to cassettes produced by big labels. We had no understanding that those projects could take weeks and months of ten to twelve hour days before release. And that’s before mastering. Mastering?

We understood nothing. Sometimes it still feels that way.

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Mackncheeze Music Podcast # 8

How To Sustain Your Bands Longevity

MICHAEL CLUNE: SONGWRITER, ALL ROUND MUSICIAN, BAND LEADER

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Inspiration

I choose to hang with folks who are smarter, more talented and more driven than myself.

Daily, I take time to read and garner other peoples ideas, checking to see if their concepts and practices are adaptable to my circumstance. I think I have applied maybe 1 out of 1000 suggestions. You might think it takes a lot of time to do this. I ain’t going to lie, it does. This habit is actually an extension of personal rehearsal and reading habits. I understand the results of constantly applying myself, seeing no immediate return on my efforts. It’s a cumulative effect; more fuel creates a bigger flame.

As you can imagine, 1 out of 1000 ideas acted upon isn’t a huge return. Face it, most concepts I look at aren’t that great and most are just flat out stupid. That’s okay, I can live with it.

The biggest result is increase of process. My process is far greater now than when I first started churning out ideas. I spent the first months of idea gathering just thinking of anything and writing it down. Any concept is worth writing down, no matter how dumb or inaccessible.

Still, the biggest purveyor of new ideas acted upon is personal rehearsal. Music is a limitless world of possibilities. Virtuosity is achievable in so many different genres, it is truly mind blowing. I believe that music has direct connection to elements of the universe; I see and understand this more and more.

Back to my first statement: I can’t over emphasize how important friends are for inspirational growth. Because they are who they are, just being around them is a form of collaboration. For me, innocuous collusion is cool. It is truly awesome to sit in front of the console and flat screen, together, piecing out arrangements, parts and voicings.

In my world, friendship is everything.

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Don’t Forget To Laugh

One of my nicknames is Chuckles; I snigger a lot. There’s too much that could make me cry, so I choose to counter with a grin and a snort, embracing absurdity. Yeah, man, life is too short and difficult.

Another nickname is Pelon. My Latin friends gave me that name but usually there is a preface that I won’t mention. It’s quite amusing in Spanish but the English equivalent translates in very harsh terms. The first time I heard it I almost cried I thought it was so funny.

My journey along this path has been littered with countless failures and disappointments; I could dwell on those ad nauseam but what’s the point. I choose to find humor in life’s challenges because of the monumental ironies which preclude its course.

Those I choose as my friends need to have thick skins, big smiles and the ability to shrug off the inevitable shortcomings of this existence.

Laughter is the best medicine, so they say.

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Red Light Fever

We have all had moments of epiphany: a moment when a veil uncovers our eyes, blindfolds are removed, an ‘Aha’ moment.

Mine came many years ago in a recording session. We had a 10 song project with plans to finish taping in three weeks. Everyone had full time jobs so we were only able to record in the evenings, three times a week.

I made it through four tunes. By the fifth, I was so over wrought, over thinking my playing, I could not continue. A ringer was hired to finish drum parts for the project.

That experience was the deciding move to home recording. I figured I better get used to that red light which represented active recording enabled.

I work with some folks who have the same challenge. Playing live is not a problem, but putting on a pair of headphones and really hearing every note they play raises blood pressure and handicaps performance. I relate, I get it. Even in today’s recording environment, we still undo our flies and let it hang out. A recording experience can leave a person feeling quite vulnerable, especially second guessing each note that we play.

I have full recording capabilities; my home recording studio is literally a home that is a recording studio. Full keyboard set up by the fire place; the entry way can be used as the vocal booth, with isolation. Upstairs, drums fully miced, a full array of tube and analog preamps, more inputs than I need. A hundred foot snake allows me to utilize each room of my house as a tracking room; complete with independent head phone mixes and talk back capability.

Now it’s a turn around from performance anxiety to idea anxiety. I invited some friends over the other day to lay down ideas at the studio. Call it cavalier confidence; “Hey, if we all get together and lay down some ideas we could get some keeper tracks.” Yeah, right. We breezed through my ideas, afterwards sitting down down to discuss chord structure and arrangements. Then we had dinner.

It’s great being a drummer; a person who hangs out with musicians.

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The Good Old Days

Does any one remember rotary phones? My biggest challenge with those phones was lack of privacy. There was no solitude when conversing; who ever was in the kitchen or living room became an audience to conversations with girl friends. I hated that.

I remember my first debit card. It felt like The Beast was taking over civilization, creating minions of mindless citizens who no longer had to count out cash. Now there is currency based on algorithms; who knew.

I finally started talking to Siri. My Iphone face plate needs replacing and I discovered I could open apps by commanding Siri. She is the only person I’m comfortable with not thanking, but still catch myself.

The ultimate good old days: using analog and digital drums for decades before going back to acoustic.

If I’m using a loop or sample, I make my own. It’s first generation and hasn’t had its 2nd and 3rd harmonics erased and then manipulated back. The weird thing – my samples actually punch through the mix with out having to depend on much filtering.

Me, author and perfecter, so to speak.

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Excuses

Excuses are like armpits: everyone has two and they both stink. Doesn’t matter the subject or the situation.

Social media, brother, what a rabbit hole. How many times a day do I check my phone? Leave it up to a former smoker to fidget, having an intense need to have something at my finger tips; a great way to waste time.

Delloitte, a multinational professional services network, conducted a study on smart phone usage. They found out of 270 million smart phone users, each looks at their phone 52 times a day. That is a total of over 14 billion times each day. What a waste of time. How did we survive pre-cell phone?

How about getting lost on the internet? When I first discovered online I would be just ‘Gone’ for hours; lost in front of the screen.

The simple reason I’m not getting anything done – I’m not getting anything done. I allow constant distractions. There isn’t actionable motion; progress is only accomplished one step at a time. Spending my life away on a smart phone isn’t helping.

I started writing a blues tune called Flat Screen Zombies but never finished it. My Facebook feed blew up and, well, you know.

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Happy Independence Day

The Reason Times Are Strange

Yep, I’ve figured it out; the ultimate conspiracy theory resolved. I’m staking my reputation on this and those who know me understand the bar isn’t really set that high.

The reason why there is so much confusion and uncertainty in this time Covid 19 is because the aliens have invaded us. Some people will expect me to prove that the aliens are actually here. My response is –

Prove to me they are not!

Can you?

It’s the only logical conclusion.

I’ve been around for a while and have seen some things. I remember when I was little, year after year my Mom would put water in Ball Mason canning jars. I would ask, “Mommy, why are you canning water?” And Mom, in her motherly wisdom would tell me, “Well, Honey, in case the Russians drop the atomic bomb on us we need to have enough water.” Oh, that makes sense. Being five years old, and having watched a war movie or two with Dad, I understood the implications of being blown up. Back then it was the Russians, they were the problem, because I couldn’t prove that the Russians were not going to blow us up.

There is confusion at all levels of society, especially in national, state and local government. As humans, we don’t operate well in shades of grey and unknowing. Well, there is no need to be uncertain.

It has to be the aliens. I hope Will Smith can save us again.

There you go, one less thing to worry about. You’re welcome!

Happy Fourth Of July

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I Want To Sound Like Garth Brooks

The Thunder Rolls

Some vocalists have super powerful abilities; lots of line in their voices, tremendous breath control and two to three octave ranges.

This vocalist has great pitch control but is a super quiet singer. Certainly great in laying down tracks quickly and efficiently, but, he ain’t Garth Brooks.

And I get asked to do this?

It’s kind of like a bald guy asking the barber to make him look like Jason Momoa.

Vocal Sub Mix Compression. I really dig Smack. Squished but not Smacked.

Okay, I’m guessing he wants more depth.

Vocal tracks were cut with a Neumann TLM 102 through an LA 610.

I duplicated the original tracks four times and routed the tracks into a sub mix. I did a high and low shelf Eq on the sub mix, cutting off those frequencies which did not effect the tonality of the vocal track, reduced or flattened nasty ones. Track 1 had no plug in assignment with volume set higher than the others. Track 2, set at lower volume, had no plug in assignment but I put a little sub mix of delay. I used a two millisecond slap delay with a Waves H Delay plug in. On tracks 3 and 4 a I put two more delays of varying time delay, panned hard right and left. When those tracks were auditioned as solo, they sounded like a big gobbilty goop of delay bouncing all over the place. Putting them way down in the mix, almost to the point of inaudibility, thickened the overall vocal landscape.

(Side note, I really suggest watching Funkscribe’s break down video of Stevie Wonders Superstition. What Stevie did with delay is awe inspiring.)

I then added a vocal plate with a low pass filter, cutting off most of the verb frequency at 2 k, boosted the vocal eq sub mix with a bit of 100 hertz, and, surprise, not Garth Brooks, but one happy singer.

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Social Capital

What is the price of our relationships? I often joke that I do not have the emotional, intellectual, spiritual and financial capital for another girl friend.

I ask myself: what am I willing to spend to consummate my musical relationships?

The answer is simple yet surprisingly complex.

First: I haven’t got time to work with folks who are unpleasant. A good criteria – is this some one I would break bread with? Do they have a good heart? Is their conversation engaging? Do they like animals? Are they funny?

Second: Is there proficiency in their playing? Is there commitment? Are they able to back up words with action?

Third: Are they worth my friendship? I used to be altruistic in my musical relationships. No more.

Posture

Has any one you have worked with ever committed to a rehearsal and then not shown up? Did they even contact you?

I get that there exist extenuating circumstances.

Did you reschedule with them and have the same result? Those actions are an indication self importance. It is happened to me many times. I no longer give people power over me.

Maybe I appreciate the one trick pony. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

In my network and associations, I have experienced superficiality among many players; they just won’t get back to me. But the moment they want something……

Anymore, I’m not jumping through hoops. Done with that circus.

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Island Time

Have you ever lived on an Island? Is “Laid Back” a term you would use for island life?

This mind set actually exists, having lived on an island and experiencing it myself. For many, regardless of ability, attainment, and professional accolades, this pattern is endemic.

Why? I don’t get it. I can’t be late for my job. Isn’t the pursuit of musical endeavors a commitment to work with others? Aren’t others expecting realiablity from their fellow collaborators?

I used to take it personally. No more. Its not a judgement on me. I am not responsible for my peer’s behavior.

In my experience, this challenge exists on every level of musical success. I just shrug my shoulders. How does anything get done? How do these businesses succeed? Why am I not able to take a person’s word at face value? Perhaps these are rhetorical questions.

What I have learned is to take my fellow musicians with a grain of salt. Creatives can pulled in so many different directions in so many different ways that their mind’s focus on the most important tasks at hand regardless of prior commitments or ideas.

The issue at hand is not my fellow musicians actions, its my relationship to those actions.

My favorite situations are when I have comfirmed place, date and time and no one shows up. Passive Aggressive behavior? In most circumstances, no. I chalk it up to habits of distraction and inattentiveness.

My survival is dependent on planning; always having plan B, C and D in place. Options make the difference. When so and so doesn’t show up or is late, what task is at hand in which I can make some progress in lieu of said players nonappearance?

Besides, my vision of success lies in my mind, not anyone else’s. I am totally dependent upon me.

Anyone along for the ride?

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Today Was A Good day

I, for one, am happy to be alive. I have my health, my mind is somewhat right ( my friends may differ ), friends, a loving family, I am well fed, have a warm bed to sleep in, income ………the list goes on.

I do suffer from a slough of first world problems. These challenges mean very little in the big scheme of things.

The person in the grocery line holding us up because they forgot an item or have fouled up the payment method. Stuck in rush hour. A fellow coworker who whines incessantly while in the habit of under performing. Prima Dona Players. Politicians, AAAAAAAARG!!!

Hey, another day this side of green; doesn’t sound that bad.

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I Have A Dream

I once dreamt I was a chicken. I am not sure what the underlying psychology of chicken dreams means in relationship to reality; but there it is.

Cocking my head and eyeing the gravel, looking for that kernel of corn. Thrusting my beak towards that tidbit of seed, grabbing it and swallowing it down my gullet. Feeling it reside in my crop, my stomach turns to acid. Seems the previous evenings pizza turned my belly, ensuing to chicken perceptions of existence.

What Are Your Dreams?

My dreams are not as all encompassing as those who dream of the betterment of Human kind. My dreams are self centered aspirations for the betterment of Bryan Kind. Call me selfish and self centered. Ain’t no one taking care of me when I’m 95 except the hired help.

I Want To Reach For the stars

All kidding aside, hope and aspiration drive me. After all these years I can honestly say, “When I’m not at the job I am living the dream.”

Interspersed with the dream is a constant reminder of how much further I need to go.

Fat Fingers

Last weekend I had plans to do a three camera live video and audio shoot of a gig I was playing. My audio interface has the possiblility of recording 24 tracks simutaneously. Thursday evening was spent linking ADAT light pipe to the Focusrite and laptop. I get to the gig and spend two hours preparing for the shoot. Ten tracks to audio, two cameras runninng independently and one video cam off the Mac. Plug everything in, and, viola, no audio to Logic Pro. Spending another hour trying to figure out what command I Fat Fingered, I gave up. Better to keep my cool and play well than to end an evening of joy in pure frustration.

The path to success is littered with failure. There’s a lot of litter on my path.

Thanks for reading. Onward and upward.

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Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Another Night Buried in the Trenches at The Metropolitan Grill

I love to play music, I love to record, and, to the best of my abilities, I love to produce music. But what I also love is a super cool job, health insurance and stability. Call me double minded.

I have been a Sommelier with a restaurant group for the last 29 years, the last 16 spent at The Metropolitan Grill in Seattle. We are one of 91 restaurants in the world which have been recognized by the Wine Spectator as a Grand Award Winning Wine List.

Yes, my friend, I am blessed with a super cool and exciting life and feel so incredibly grateful for the opportunities given me.

One of four wine rooms at my Sommelier gig.

I have always juggled my love of music with my love of food and wine. They seem to be inextricably linked. Both are expressions of my inner most passions. Maybe I have hedonistic tendencies………ok, I have hedonistic tendencies; passion reigns in my interests.

The biggest challenge is juggling a job, requiring working evenings, week ends and holidays, with music, which usually requires gigging evenings, week ends and holidays. The days are pretty free, however, and I am not strapped with a teaching gig. Working around all this is super challenging and frustrating. My heart is in the music; my belly pays the bills.

Thanks for taking the time.

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Distractions

A Normal Morning In My House

Get out of bed, wander down to the coffee maker, get some Joe brewing, wander over to the lap top, fire it up, oops, my feet are cold, wander back up stairs, put on some socks. I got to pee, wander in to the bathroom, pick up the tooth brush, oh, coffee is ready, never mind, wander down stairs. Oh, that load of clothes needs to be dried, throw those in the dryer, wander back to the lap top, sit down, pull up my daily habit check list, itemized in degrees of importance, oh, some one’s texting me, return the text, back to the check list, coffee cup drained, wander over to the coffee maker, sit back down …How in the heck do I get anything done? Check my daily habit list.

My friend Pete wrote a poem ( thanks for the contribution, Pete )

Roses are Red ,

Violets are Blue,

Let’s ride bicycles!

Can I mow your lawn?

No, I’m not ADHD; some times I just can’t focus. Wait a minute, I got to check Facebook, maybe some one’s gonna mention me.

Its intersting, despite the slow warm up to the day, oh wait, just got a text, it says, Hey, what do you think about compressing the crap out of that guitar solo? Thats a good idea, maybe it will hang in the mix better.

Got to let the cat in, Master of the realm. Anyway…Yeah, I got the set list…What was I talking about? Oh yeah, focus, yeah, focus. Thats the ticket.

The surest way to focus is to turn off my I Phone and I Pad, oh, the blasted message app went off on the Mac Book, who is that?

Never mind, I’m turning off today’s Blog.

After a while, Crocodile!

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Habits

I have read the books.  I have stood in front of the mirror yelling at myself.  I have gone to the conferences.  I have read the blogs.  I have reaffirmed my affirmations.  Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah.

I have found out what habit is – its habit.

The daily routine is what moves me forward.  No matter what my day entails, two hours minimum on the drum kit, period.  I wish I had more time but its the best I can do.  Drums are my passion.  Drums are the foundation of everything; my recording studio, my bands, this blog, performance, recording, production, song writing -everything.

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bryan@mackncheezemusic.blog