Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hijacking Madison Fest and beyond.

I felt like I should take the time to explain this video and my concept of "hijacking shows". Why I started and why I stopped.

It came about when Brandon Z. asked me to play Madison fest but then didn't put me on the schedule. He later told me it was because I canceled a show I was supposed to play in his back yard a week after he asked me to play Madison fest, and Madison Fest was only for people who'd performed in his backyard.

I of course, didn't know that at the time. I was personally insulted that I didn't end up on the schedule--in fact, pretty much any show going on without me on the bill summons me to say "why aren't I playing this". It's just the obnoxious way I am.

so, I decided that the real reason Brandon Z. didn't put me on the Madison Fest schedule was because he only wanted "real musicians" to play his fest. this of course was not true and primarily a product of my own paranoia.

Andy and I decided to hijack the show. I was fixated at the idea that old school rappers only needed a boom box to perform. If any rapper ever saw this video, I'm sure they thought "what's this fag doing?"

We snuck up from behind while these guys were performing, no one looked back at us, we didn't have our masks on yet. I found a baseball bat while walking through west park on the way to the fest and figured it was appropriate. we asked Jenn Smith to hold the camera but we didn't tell her what we were going to do. When we finished and she brought us the camera, she seemed both embarrassed and annoyed with us.

Andy and I waited for the band to say "this is our last song", which they did, but you can tell as we run up on stage that they wanted to play another.

In the video, you can see the moment when we put our masks on because Pat Elkins looks back at us and gets this great big smile on his face.

After we charge the stage and I stumble through my "don't hate us clause", I say something like, "we're P.E.S.T.S.--People's Electronic Synthesizer Terror Squad". Some crap I made up.

up to that point, it was truly the most awkward thing I'd ever done. The CD player skips when I dance to close. I'm clearly nervous. Andy runs out of bubbles.

As you watch me, you know, doing this goofy dance with a stocking on my head--Andy with a ski mask and bubble blower, it's important to know, that I have to answer to the video all the time, like when I met my girlfriends parents and I told them I was a musician. they looked me up and found this video and I'm sure, they questioned what the hell their daughter was doing, dating this idiot.

at 2:26 in the video, I get a phone call from Ted Miller. He asks "where are you guys" and I reply, "I'm in the middle of hijacking a show". I don't know why I answered my phone. It wasn't staged.

Then we pick up the boom box and run off stage.

However awkward this was, the reaction was really positive. It worked because we were "underdogs". People wanted us to win, so we were compelled to do it more and more.


I hijacked another show without Andy at the Olive St. house in Ypsi. It was the most epic of all the stolen shows. I asked Shelley to help me. I was trying a new "double decker boom box" I made. It was really heavy but Shelley was able to get the boom box in front of the Mic anyway. It was so well received though, I started to wonder if we were still the "underdogs" anymore. like, once you become the establishment, you can no longer parade around stealing other peoples shows when everyone was asking you to play legitimately.

After that, people started asking me to Hijack events, and by people, I mean event organizers. They wanted me to perform on a trolley during a festival, which felt more like shtick than a real thing. If I was gonna be asked to play, I didn't want to do it with a boom box. A strange thing about people who do funny shit, some of them want to be taken seriously. So, my heart wasn't in it anymore, I quit doing it.

We filmed the last one we did. Andy and I, at that party house in Detroit. It has this strange intro I filmed for it, which I don't remember doing.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Professional, along with everything on "Elron Hubbard" is centered around money, working and music--and how they all effect each other. The album is supposed to have a linear story, moving from a point of optimism through to skepticism & conspiracy--then finally to acceptance.

Professional is the first track and so it represents, for me, the idea that all one has to do is work hard and stay on course and things will work out. Professional is a song of faith in perseverance.

"I'm not an artist, I'm a businessman" is a nod to the opening of Diamond Dogs by David Bowie, when he says "this ain't Rock N Roll, this is genocide". It's also a reaction to what had become of me. I was so focused on making music my career that I spent more time thinking about business than about song writing. I should be clear here that when I say focused on making money, I mean, I wasn't making any money and I was trying to figure out how to make money.

The rising synthesizer intro was also a mild reference to Diamond Dogs, though, on reflection, it sure sounds a whole lot more like the intro to the Terrible Two's LP, which must have had some subconscious influence. The influence that the Terrible Two's had on the song "Handy Man"--track 2 on "Elron Hubbard" was meditated but far less noticeable.

The jangle piano line was written in attempt to capture what my piano teacher told me was the "Gospel" sound that Prince used on songs like "dirty mind".

here's a video of me playing the lead piano line. E on the left hand and a sort of broken G and E thing, coming together it could me heard as Em7 or E/G.

I was inspired by "Dirty Mind", I liked the way the bass note stays the same and then chords change and bounced around over it. It seemed dramatic. " Professional" follows the format of "Dirty Mind" with a bridge of sorts and a "start over" moment when it goes down to just the bass, though ours are reversed in order.

My song is much slower than "dirty mind" and in comparison far more lonely. not to mention "Professional's" main riff has that minor feel. ("Dirty Mind" is G bass with C and F chords over). In reflection it sounds less like the anthem of optimism it was intended and more like a pep talk one gives themselves when the chips are down.

Some of the more cinematic percussion sounds are a pair of grass sheers from my work and a large paper cutter I was using to make confetti. The paper cutter sound was very appropriate because it was actually a huge amount of work to cut up all this tissue paper to make confetti--I was doing it that way to save money--but really, I was putting all this work into this stuff that I was just gonna go throw at people, and it would look cool for a second, and then it'd be walked all over until it was swept up and put in the trash.

as lame as it is to keep on referencing David Bowie. In the end, the song comes out closest to "Nightclubbing", which is strange because as I am a huge fan of this song, It wasn't my intention. though night clubbing isn't as minor as Professional, the mood is more fitting.

All in All, This is probably my favorite song on "Elron Hubbard", as it was my attempt to show that I was capable of more than synth-pop. I tried to show that I had patience after "Edward Murphy". If you asked musicians about their recordings, A popular response is "I would have liked to have spent more time on it" and that is true of this song and album. I felt a lot of pressure to get my next album out, not to mention I was paying for studio time and I felt a lot pressure to keep cost down-because I needed the album to be profitable-- because I wanted music to be my career--so I had to keep a tight belt, I was thinking like a businessman--which as I said, is what the album is about. so, it makes sense really.

Charlie Slick: Elron Hubbard