Adam Puchalski

Artist Focus

Part Two

Guitar, Song Writer, Recording and Mastering Engineer

https://www.windstudiomusic.com/

Adam: My first experience with digital audio was Voyetra. It was basically a MIDI orchestral arranger. Before Voyetra I was using Cakewalk for its MIDI capabilities.  Do you remember how you discovered MIDI?

Mackncheeze: Yeah.

Adam: A buddy of mine had a Yamaha drum machine.  I had a Casio CZ-101; I still have one.

Mackncheeze: We did an album with a CZ-101.

Adam: The sounds that you can get out of that thing, it’s the only place where you can get those sounds.  We did so much with that thing, so much. 

How I figured out MIDI was that the drum machine had MIDI in and out and I had a set of MIDI cables. The very first thing I did was use the drum machine controlling the keyboard.  From there it was like, “What else can I do?”

From that point on digital audio workstations would combine both the digital element and the MIDI element.  

I was already at the point where I was editing MIDI with Cakewalk, that was before audio was integrated. I was using every component of MIDI, I learned everything that it could do. If the performance wasn’t doing what I wanted I would look at another control to see how I could manipulate the response; that would get me closer to what I was hearing in my head, basically just playing around with numbers. You have the value 0 to 127  in about a thousand different places.  What am I going to do, what are the combinations of 0 to 127 going to be? At the time the possibilities were endless.  

Me: Do you manipulate audio transfer with MIDI?

Adam: Sometimes. One of my songs I took the vocals, I turned it into a MIDI file. I’ve got that file playing strings in unison with the vocals; and it’s dead on.  

Now I consider using MIDI like ketchup; it’s an accoutrement. I don’t like ketchup; I don’t put ketchup on anything but meatloaf. Sometimes I need to make a choice of which is the more direct route to accomplishing my goal.  Sometimes using MIDI is faster, sometimes manipulating the audio is faster. Mostly what I’m doing with MIDI these days is globally tweaking the velocities.  I don’t do the surgical shit I used to.  

I’m glad I know the surgical process because every now and then I’ve got to go in and just change one note.  

Mackncheeze: I’ve never had the patience to go to that level. What made you make the transition to multi-track recording?

Adam: It just kind of happened; probably very slowly. It was one of those things where I just looked back and said, “Ten years ago I was doing that and now I’m doing this.” It wasn’t a conscious process; my abilities would outgrow the equipment that I was using. I’m like,  “Okay, I’ve got to get more money to get more equipment.”

Mackncheeze: Awe, so you’re a gear slut. Tell me about your guitar processor.

Adam:  It’s a DigiTech GSP 2101 which I bought in  1992.  It was really ahead of its time.

This thing is not a modeling preamp, it’s a tube preamp. Every effect that is available is in there; wah to resonance to everything in between. If I could get it done with a tube amp I would use that.  The DigiTech has tube distortion so if I need that crunch it’s there, there is no solid state processing. It sounds like an amp.  

Me: What are your philosophies on recording?

Adam: You have to capture the mood as early as possible; without losing the mood. Get the best sound that you possibly can; get the idea down while the mood is there. The first impression is always the most important. Whatever made you want to record that idea in the first place, you’ve got to capture that, if you can capture that on tape you can recreate it.

You can learn that mood. If you can make it feel the same way, you’ve nailed it. I don’t know if I can actually do that but at least I can capture the mood, the groove and tone that inspired me in the first place. Then I get the euphoria when I do something great, now I’ve got something to build on. 

Mackncheeze: What is your songwriting process?

Adam: Pretty much what I just explained; it’s never planned. Usually I’ll be getting ready to practice, I’ll turn on the amp, I’ll put on a drum loop, drag the loop out for about a hundred measures, and I just start jamming. As I’m playing along something inspires me, I will stop and press record. Most of the songs that I write, if I write a song and finish it, it’s usually right then and there.  From beginning to end I have about 90% of it, the whole concept is there. Every single song is different. 

I have no habits when it comes to songwriting.  I could sit and just jam on rhythms for hours; work with a drum loop and just go. Why? Because it feels good and that’s it.  

Mackncheeze:  What are your current projects?

Adam: I’m working with John Wright, a great friend and great guy.  We first met when he came over to just to do a quick 3 to 4 singer-songwriter type demo. That turned into the Stone Lantern CD.  Nothing that I have written is on that CD. We took the project up to Paradise Sound in Index and had Paul Higgins lay down drums. I did all the mixing and mastering here.

https://www.windstudiomusic.com/stone-lantern

Videos that Joe O’Hearn and I are working on for the Wicked Snake Bite project.  

I’m working with Amy Turner. 

Working with other musicians, it needs to be instinctive. Practice is everything; if you don’t practice you don’t see the results.   

Mackncheeze: Some challenges you face?

These days everything takes time. The other day I was getting mad because I was thinking, “I have to work today but I have no errands to do.” I was thinking I was going to get 3 to 4 hours of practice in. It was 8:30 before I could sit down to do anything; I barely had enough time to warm up. I was too tired and not in the mood anymore. No one’s fault, it’s just the way life is.  

Mackncheeze: Where do you see yourself headed?  What are your motivations?

Adam: My motivation is the same that it has always been; it is to make me happy first. I don’t think of money.  The ultimate goal is to just have some fun and do it.  If I’m in a situation where it’s not fun anymore, if it’s getting too political, or people in the band or arguing the difference between an F or an F#, as far as I’m concerned, pick one or the other, we’re not cutting a Yes album. I refuse to argue about music; it’s not worth it, nor am I interested. I can’t motivate myself for something I’m not interested in.  

If there’s decent money on the table then I might be interested other than just doing it for fun. Money can be as much a motivator as a cool voicing you’ve never played before. “Triads, you want to pay me for triads? What kind of triads do you want?”

Mackncheeze:  So you’re running Sound Forge and Cakewalk? Is that a new version of Cakewalk?

Adam: It’s the new version; it’s the one that Bandlab took over.  Bandlab bought Cakewalk from Gibson after Gibson pretty much abandoned it; they just stop developing it.  I had paid a lifetime licensing fee for it and then Gibson dumped it.  

Mackncheeze: What is it you want to say?

Adam: Music is just for everyone to enjoy, it’s not a competition, it’s not a statement, it’s not a protest. I hate protest music, some great stuff has come from it but I’m not interested in messages.  I’m not against messages, obviously that would be very stupid. I just don’t need a message in the music. I grew up on Van Halen, Rush, AC DC, Judas Priest; I like instrumentals, I like jazz , there’s a lot of country I enjoy,  I love the early days of rap. I can listen to some old Judas Priest and say to myself, “That was pretty Neanderthal wasn’t it?” Did they do a good job of it? Damn right they did; not a lot of deep messages there.  

Good lyrics?  I don’t really hear the words as much as I do the syllables; it’s like I’m color-blind in that way.  I hear the syllable with the notes and if they flow that’s great. I could listen to a song my whole life and not know the words.

I don’t care what the words are, I just want the music to flow.  Someone could ask me what the words to a specific Zeppelin tune are and I’d have to say, I don’t know. If someone starts singing it and I’ll say, “Oh yeah, I know that song.”   If they speak the words I’ll have no idea what the song is. Music is about feeling good, I don’t care about the message.  

As far as my own playing? I’m probably like every other musician, I am my own worst critic. I very rarely like my playing or what I do. If I capture the moment, I like what I did right there, something I can listen back to a lot.  

Mackncheeze: Thanks Adam, that was good stuff.

Is there any way we can help you?

bryan@mackncheezemusic.blog

Adam Puchalski

Artist Focus

Part One

Guitar, Song Writer, Recording and Mastering Engineer

https://www.windstudiomusic.com/

Mackncheeze: My very first question, who are you?

Adam: I love music. I do what I say I’m going to do and that nails it.   If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it; I’m not going to tell you otherwise or act otherwise.

Mackncheeze: What got you started in all this?

Adam: Weed and Kiss. Seriously.  

A friend of mine had an old Sears guitar and a Vox AC 30 amp. We didn’t know what we had.  Before we knew how to make it work we would just turn up the amp feedback on the reverb and throw out  obscenities. We didn’t sound any better than my six-year-old nephew who’s right now trying to learn guitar. We were having a ball; we destroyed the amp and the guitar.

We were sitting in my friend’s bedroom, listening to Kiss and I had the guitar in my hand. I played seven notes, and you know that feeling you get when the music you’re performing is just perfect, you get that high, it was like, “Hey, these things actually work.”   From then on it was like, “Hey, that’s it!” The magic was there.

It’s like being addicted to a drug. Sometimes it happens in the studio, sometimes it happens on stage, sometimes it happens just thinking of an idea. I’ll be in bed thinking about something and telling myself I’ve got to record this thing.

For the rest of my life I’ve always been searching for that feeling. Ultimately, when you are playing music, you’re trying to please yourself. You hope everybody else likes it but if you please yourself then there is success. That’s what it’s all about for me. It’s such a rare occurrence and I’m trying to get back to that point again. I know it’s only going to last a minute or so, and then I spend the next three months trying to make it happen.  

The Younger Adam

The best thing that ever happened was Facebook because the people that really mattered in my life, we are now all back together again.  Most of us stayed involved with music one way or another. We loved every minute of it and still do. We share our projects with one another with a little more expertise than we had when we were younger.  

Mackncheeze: So your high school band experience…

Adam: We had different bands; we weren’t actually doing the high school dance scene or anything. There was a group of us and we knew we were good; we were having fun playing and we knew we could play. 

Mackncheeze: So tell me about your dad…

Adam: My dad is amazing. Growing up we used to hear him every single day just playing scales on piano; all scales and exercises everyday, four hours at a time. We grew up listening to virtuoso practice everyday. It was the way it was and that’s how my father lived.

We would go into Manhattan regularly and my dad would be working on some Off Broadway show. There were always good musicians and good music around the house: classical, jazz, Henry Mancini, Burt Bacharach. He would be listening to this stuff and then just rip it at practice.

I had to know where I stood on the guitar before I realized how astronomically good my father was. There was nothing he couldn’t do. Give him any tune and he could play it stylistically perfect in any interpretation: Fugue, jazz, classical, whatever he felt like doing.   That’s how he played all the time, it was amazing.

Mackncheeze: Did your dad teach you?  Did you go to school?

 Adam: No.

Mackncheeze: Where did you learn all your theory? You know theory backwards and forwards.  

Adam: We were sick of Reno and my friend Bob Knight, who is an amazing bass player, we both moved to Washington. My dad was already here and said there was a pretty good music scene going on.

After we moved to Washington from Nevada, I went to Bellevue Community College for  a year.   I had been playing guitar for four years and playing in bands for regularly three.

 Mackncheeze: What casino was your dad working at in Lake Tahoe?

Adam: His regular gig was playing dinner piano at the top of Harrah’s, but he would also get side gigs at other casinos. Before that he was the piano player and arranger for my grandfather’s band, The Al Tronti Orchestra, at the Sahara Tahoe.  My dad played with Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Sonny and Cher, The Jackson 5,  Frank Gorshin, The Carpenters, Phyllis Diller, with whoever. Think of the major acts of that era and he played with them.

The Al Tronti Orchestra

After that my dad had to hustle.  He came to Seattle in about 1982 or 1983 and did a 20-year stint at the SeaTac Holiday Inn playing the main dining room.

I came up in late ’84. When I had first moved to Seattle I took Bob with me to an audition for this band called The Earl White Review.  Bob was getting ready to audition for the band and I was talking to Earl and he found out I was a guitar player. He asked me to bring my guitar and amp to his hotel the next night and I sat down and played with some tapes.

I was playing along with a bunch of tunes he had and he asked me if I wanted to play in the band. I said, “Oh yeah, this will be kind of interesting.” I’d only been playing for four years; I wasn’t a seasoned pro by any means. I had been playing mostly 80’s pop metal, and now all of the sudden I’m playing covers like Tina Turner, Chuck Berry, a huge amount of Motown, some goofy hits from the 40s to the mid-80s.

That was a Tuesday that I took Bob to the audition, it was a Wednesday that I sat in the hotel room and played to the cassette. Thursday I showed up for rehearsal and by Friday the guitar player and the keyboard player were gone.

I didn’t know any songs on the set list and we opened on Friday at the Cotton Club on Martin Luther King way.  We were booked for a week. My plan was to follow along discreetly with the set and try to stay out of everybody’s way until I learned the music. But now I was told I had to carry the whole thing and I didn’t know any of the tunes.  That night we played a lot of Blues.  

I worked with Earl for about a year and then that ended because of extenuating circumstances.  After my tenure with Earl I went to Bellevue Community College.   

That’s where I learned theory. Because I was living with my dad at the time, if I had questions about something that didn’t sound right, he would direct me into the way I needed to go. My dad was an arranger and he was used to writing out music for an entire orchestra. He would do all the copying for each part for each instrument; every bit of it was second nature.  

Mackncheeze: How did you get involved with recording?

Adam: Before I even knew how to play I would plug my guitar into my dad’s stereo quarter inch input.  I didn’t have an amp at the time. It sounded like garbage.  I recorded onto a little Radio Shack cassette thing. I was farting around with the cassette player, I would play something through my dad’s stereo and record it and then I would jam along with the playback. I decided it would be cool if I could record me trying to play along with those cassette recordings; I bought another cassette player.

I had this cheap little mic, I had my little practice amp, I would play back the cassette recording and jam to it and record it onto the other cassette player via the little mic. 

I realized the cassette player had outputs, so I was able to accomplish a multi-track recording by recording one track into the right Channel and another track into the Left Channel. I was 15 years old and I realized I needed to do something else.  I utilized that for a while before I got a 4-track cassette recorder. It was a Tascam Ministudio Porta One, which I still have.  

Mackncheeze: You never got rid of it?

Adam: I keep it because I still have old recordings that I can play back. 

We recorded my dad at Kearney Barton Studios in Lake Forest Park.  His Studio was immaculate. He had a full size grand piano. Hendrix had recorded there a few times, among others, a veritable whose who.

I mastered my dad’s recordings on Cool Edit Pro which was freeware.   I paid 10 or 20 bucks for the pro version in about  1994, 1995. I didn’t know what I was doing; I just winged it and it turned out okay.

That was my first mastering experience.  For that time, it was basically a light version of sound Forge. That was my introduction to a stereo digital audio processing workstation; strictly working with stereo files. That’s when I when I made a distinction between recording and mastering. I was using DOS 2.0; this was before Windows even existed.  

End Of Part One

Is there any way we can help you?

bryan@mackncheezemusic.blog

John Passarelli

Artist Focus

John Passerelli Has Been Local Force In The Seattle Area For Decades

Mackncheeze: My first question-who are you?

John: I have some cute answers. I consider myself to be, how do I put this, a positively charged rhythmic and melodic confluence of heart and mind. That’s my musical self, which is most of it. It’s what I have been doing my whole life. There isn’t much else except motorcycles and dogs and women and alcohol.

I’m very simple, I don’t need a lot to get by.

The last couple of years I’ve been living a bachelors life. Myself and two other room mates, musicians; they’re both bass players.

Mackncheeze: Wow, two bass players in one house.

John: I know, as long as I get the girls.

Mackncheeze: I’m glad that’s working for you. What kind of dreams or aspirations are you focused on?

John: When I was young I had very big dreams. Especially with music. When you’re good at it, and you’re in a decent band, people take notice. You would like to think you could take it to the next level. I know a lot of people who aspired to that and never achieved it and a lot of them just don’t play any longer. I could never do that.

My aspiration is not necessarily success oriented but to keep enjoying music. It pacifies me when I’m angry or down. Music, you know, is more than something to just listen to. I stick with music and I just want to keep doing it as long as I can and to keep playing with people I like; having fun, not taking it too seriously.

I’m primarily a stage performer. I’ve got a couple of albums under my belt with other bands, but my home is on stage. I feel a little less comfortable with studio work. The problem with studios is the pressure of time constraints.

As long as I can connect with people at a venue, if somebody appreciates what I’m doing, when I play I can see it in their faces. After a show, when they come to talk to me, that is some of the best payment I can get. I’m done with trying to get money from it even though I earn more now than I ever have. It keeps me from working too hard at a day job.

Its a good plan; I have always wanted to be part time employed and part time music. Life isn’t worth working yourself to the bone unless it makes you happy.

Mackncheeze: You were at the top of the Seattle Grunge scene?

Paisley Sin

https://youtu.be/auC0HW_fB90

John: Yeah, we were called Paisley Sin. We weren’t Grunge enough. We were a little more pop oriented, we could play different styles in one show. There were a lot of bands that made it, per se, that were more one dimensional.

We had our moment. We went down to L.A. a couple of times and met some lawyers at Capitol Records. It didn’t work out; they signed Blind Melon instead. Look it where that got ’em. Their lead singer, Shannon Hoon, overdosed on a tour bus. Everyone from Paisley Sin is still alive.

Mackncheeze: There’s a lot to be said for that.

John: Paisley Sin’s lead singer Gerry Smith and I have worked together for thirty years. I’m working with him in Sweet Emotion.

Mackncheeze: Our friend, Eric Ritts, just did NAMM as an exhibitor for Marco Bass Guitars. You’ve been to NAMM?

John: Eric’s great, I went to high school with Eric.

Yeah, it was a work thing, it was still a lot of fun. I was with THD Electronics. Andy Marshall, he’s a friend of mine, I’ve known him 30 years; I was one of his first clients.

NAMM was a lot of work. We brought our own isolation booth; they won’t let you play very loud without one. If people wanted to test one of our amps, we had a room for them. It was pretty cool; it had its own air conditioner and everything.

We shared a booth with O’Donnell Custom Guitars from Australia. Craig is a great guy. He didn’t give me a guitar, though.

Mackncheeze: You digging that Marco Telecaster?

John: I love that thing, man. There’s something I want to say about Marco Guitars. The reason I like that Telecaster so much is because there is a connection between the player and the instrument; there has to be. If it’s natural right off the bat you are ahead of the game. You’re going to be inspired by not fighting it. When I picked up that guitar, it fit me, I knew I was going to enjoy it for a long time. That’s the greatest thing. Those axes are something special and they should make more.

https://marcobassguitars.com

Mackncheeze: Who are you currently working with?

https://www.theaerosmithtribute.com

John: Sweet Emotion. We’re an Aerosmith Tribute Band. We had all kinds of shows booked from March on out.

ZZ/DC

A side project I have going on is called ZZ/DC. Its pretty self explanatory. We’re not doing stylistic interpretations like Hayseed Dixie; a little bit of ZZ Top and a little bit of AC/DC.

There was Guilty Pleasure; we worked hard on that band. We had two female singers and a different collection of songs; a lot of stuff I had never heard. I learned all this stuff I had never played before and it was fun.

Mackncheeze: What have been some of your biggest struggles?

John: Wow, yeah, interpersonal band member things. A band is like a relationship with four other girl friends, or what ever. I have learned not to carry grudges. Its too easy and humans are really good at it. People leave the band to start their own thing and its like, “Wait a minute, we had a good thing.” I can’t hold it against them.

Mackncheeze: Not holding a grudge is super important.

John: It takes a while to learn. Some people never learn it.

Mackncheeze: What is it that you personally want people to know?

John: That’s a rough one, man, because I really do this for myself. I just want people to know that I will do it if they will appreciate it. That’s my reason for doing it, someone getting off on it.

You got to take the negative criticism as well.

Mackncheeze: Whats your musical education?

John: I started playing trumpet in third grade. I played trumpet for eight years ending up on the Garfield High School Jazz Ensemble. We took first place in Reno two years in a row. There was a transition, there at the end, where I started playing guitar, and I let go of trumpet.

Mackncheeze: By the time you reached high school you probably had put in your first ten thousand hours?

John: Yeah. When I was 8, 9, 10 ,11, 12 and 13, I was playing in concert bands and symphony. Jazz band made it clear it would be a lot more fun. The band director told me I was one of the best sight readers he had ever seen.

When I picked up guitar, all my reading skills were put aside. I became completely ear trained.

I was sucked in by Rock n Roll: Robin Trower, Jimi Hendrix, AC/DC, Rush; anything with good guitar work. I started out playing covers before moving to originals.

At first I absorbed a lot of really good styles and all that has coalesced in to a style of my own.

After High School, I briefly went to college. Pre Engineering, at Western and the University of Washington. I just wasn’t that into it. That didn’t work out, so I took some time off, and then I went to Shoreline and studied music for two years. It was fun, but I was already ahead of most people. I was a working professionally, having recorded in big time studios, had done some studio engineering. I was like the Golden boy. I knew my shit. But what I really came away with was two years of theory. I already knew what it was, I used it all the time, I could recognize all these things I was already doing.

I’m always looking to break the rules. These days I don’t take theory too seriously. I’m not very modal. I’m a Blues Guy. If it sounds good I’ll make it work.

Mackncheeze: You sing very well; did you have vocal training?

John: Nope. In fact, I played guitar for fifteen years before I started singing. It started coming easier, because I was working on original music. I didn’t have to be some one else. I’ve been working with Gerry and we are connected well. I know his nuances.

I think there is much more magic in original music, whether or not a person is a very good song writer, its something to believe in and to be more attached. The magic is when you can get four people to make a song happen on the fly. It’s inspirational. That one idea makes me do something , then the bass player joins in, then drums, pretty soon you have written a pretty cool song with out even trying. That is the magic.

Sometimes the process is not collaborative. Sometimes someone brings in a great idea and wants to try it and we do it.

The other part of magic is the spontaneous combustion. Everybody should want to do both; bring in an idea to bounce it off one another or to go off in the moment. That’s the fun; that’s when you’ve found the right people. It’s whether or not they are your friends.

I’ve gone back to just playing with my friends.

We are going to release our music, we’re just going to give it away, it doesn’t matter, we’ll put it out there and hopefully somebody likes it, ’cause that’s what its about. You’re playing music to connect; there are far too many people that play great music and nobody hears it.

Mackncheeze: Do you consider yourself a prolific song writer?

John: I haven’t written a lot of lyrics in my life, but yes, as for music, I have unused ideas from years back. There is stuff floating around that I want to do something with. Then there’s the fact that I can just noodle something into existence.

Used to be I would get my best ideas from just watching TV. You’re just so disconnected.

Mackncheeze: You’re subconscious just zeros in….

John: You’re not contrived, hardly paying attention to what you’re doing. But then you have to go, oh, wait a minute, that was cool. Then you repeat it and hold on to it and keep it. I have lost so many of those things in my life by not remembering them, not recording them.

There are some that are still there, that are awesome, and all I can say is, one of these days.

Mackncheeze: What’s another part of the song writing process?

John: I trust my ear and the theory I learned in college. Things I listen to, things that influence me. Sometimes things that are new enter me. I would never change my style but new ideas infiltrate my writing process. It’s an intuitiveness that I have.

I really just go with the flow. Some days I write, some days not; some days I feel inspired, some days not. Though I never quit. Some of my best recorded work has been in inspirational, improvised solos.

Mackncheeze: What are some of the most influential shows you have ever seen?

John: Getting back to that Blues thing, in my youth, I was really in to Southern Rock. Back in the old days I saw ZZ Top, The Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, 38 Special, The Allman Brothers; I cut my teeth on that. It was fun; there was a lot of guitar work . Sometimes there were three guitars, a lot of bands with two drummers.

Mackncheeze: What would you like to say?

I want to write a book someday. It’s going to be called, Why Am I Still Here?

Mackncheeze: John, this has been a great interview, man. This was really a lot of fun. Thank you.

Is there anyway we can help you?