Friday, September 30, 2011

Frank Zappa Coffee Achiever!

Here's some great info about Frank Zappa from website Definitely a site I need to check out, (Thanks to Kate for this.) Without getting into too much detail, in the past I indulged in many things that ultimately didn't make me a better human being, let alone a better musician. I have been sober for awhile now and have been enjoying life a lot. I've even changed my eating habits and dropped 18 lbs since the end of summer. One addiction, however, that still has a massive hold on me is coffee. I have no doubt because of the amount I drink I will have to give it up eventually but until that day I plan to enjoy my last non musical "Jones". It's cheap, legal, and available everywhere!

Frank Zappa Coffee Drinker
Photo taken in Frank Zappa's home, November, 1988

"To me, a cigarette is food," said Zappa in his autobiography, The Real Frank Zappa Book. "I live my life smoking these things, and drinking the 'black water' in this cup here."

Alas, my friends, this is not - we shall concentrate on the latter of the two aforementioned vices.

Many are ready to assume that Zappa followed the lead of the herd of fellow '60s musicians in consuming a rich spectrum of drugs. His often trippy 1966 album Freak Out! was released a good year before the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band set the industry standard for psychedelic rock. The bizarre lyrics and sometimes grotesque instrumental features on Freak Out! and subsequent albums led many a listener to believe that Zappa's influences were chemical. However, Zappa's eccentricities were not born of narcotic drugs; a Zappa feature in a 1976 'Suosikki' Magazine article says it all:

Q: Do you have a drug problem?
A: Yes, with coffee.
Q: With coffee???
A: I'm an absolutely sober person. I don't consume alcohol. I don't smoke weed. But I drink gallons of coffee.

Coffee: A Driving Force

Even without the specific references to coffee drinking, it is apparent in Zappa's lifestyle and his art that coffee was a driving force. His approach to making music was not the erratic one we might expect from a rock musician. Rather, he played with the ethic of a genuine workaholic.

Biographer/groupie/musician Nigey Lennon describes her baptism by dark roast in her book Being Frank: My Time With Frank Zappa. Upon her initiation into Zappa's band, the Mothers of Invention, Lennon was permitted to play only after gulping down horrifyingly strong and dark coffee. When the rest of the Mothers had been similarly wired, the band was finally ready to begin its marathon jam sessions.

"I work as many hours a day as I can physically stand to," he said during an interview with Don Menn for Guitar Player magazine. "The average is about 15 now."

Little wonder that his fellow band members had to drink the most potent of coffee to keep up.

The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Coffee

Zappa's love for coffee was not bound to the rehearsal room, as he drank it on stage as well. Coffee even made it into the recording studio, often home to noise creations by Zappa that challenged conventional definitions of 'music'. For a man who spent his life seeing, smelling, and tasting coffee, it makes sound sense that he would eventually want to hear it, too.

"The other great noise was -- there are two people in this group who play didgeridus," Zappa recalled in an interview with Bob Menn in Best of Guitar Player. "One of them is the woman from Australia who is also the oboe player. And one afternoon, I imagined this awful sound that could be created if one were to take a didgeridu and play it into a partially filled coffee pot. And I asked her whether she would do it. She said yes, and let me say, it is truly nauseating. I was laughing so much I had to leave the room."

Overachieving, overreaching, overworking, Frank Zappa's approach to his work and art is reflected in the incessantly wired world of coffee drinking America. salutes him as a true coffee achiever.

Further Reading

Real Frank Zappa Book
Real Frank Zappa Book by Frank Zappa

Here's the man himself playing the beautiful instrumental "Watermelon in Easter Hay"

What Frank, no coffee?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A short rant

Remember folks, the opinions expressed etc.......
Sorry about the camerawork, maybe I should get a rubber Q3 to practice on! Plus I got a trumpet and trombone confused (who wouldn't?)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Odds and ends

Hey folks,
This one's going to be a bit of a mixed bag today.
First things first, Happy Birthday John Coltrane. Here he is with the classic quartet playing his reported favorite composition:

Also thanks to Jon McCaslin at Four on The Floor for hipping me to the book about Papa Jo Jones that's out. Read about it here. I was thinking, if anyone deserves to have his own stamp at this point, it's Papa Jo. Maybe we can start a campaign and see if we can convince Obama!

Also want to mention I'll be playing at U of T tomorrow night (Sat. Sept. 24th) with the Rex Hotel Orchestra doing a tribute to Rick Wilkins. He really is one of Canada's great treasures. Playing his arrangements again reminds me how beautifully and economically he writes. I have learned so much from him! Here's some footage of him playing with Rob McConnell's quintet, it's doubly poignant because Rob and the great Jerry Fuller (drums) are no longer with us and Rick and Ed Bickert have retired from playing. Enjoy!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Universal Mind of Bill Evans!

All musicians, heck all HUMANS should watch this. What a brilliant man.

"I don't want to deprive you of the pleasure of finding this out for yourself." "Find an avenue."
It's true, these are things you'd never hear a teacher say, and if they did, they'd be fired. I can also say from personal experience that the things I've discovered and researched myself, they have stayed with me and gotten me excited. let's all honour Bill Evans and the music itself by trying this approach.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Mental practice

Hey people,
I know, I know, I don't phone I don't write. Hopefully now that school is back on I'll be able to get into more of a schedule.
I wanted to talk briefly about mental practice. We play an instrument that is hard to get at sometimes and/or creates volume that doesn't blend with other people"s lives. Should we give up? No way! We can do what many athletes do (who are often limited by the amount thier bodies can tolerate practice), we can practice in our heads. I have been doing this for many years now and found it extremely beneficial. First I'll describe how I approach it, and then I'll discuss some of the things I've gained from it.
First I close my eyes and picture my instrument as clearly as I can. The colour of the drums, the perspective from where I sit, any dings or scratches etc. Next I take anything I want to work on and start imagining how it would sound. The pitch of the drums, the timbre of the cymbals etc. For someone new to this, you might want to take a very simple idea to strive to get the visuals and sound very clear in your head. Try maybe thinking of double strokes hand to hand, or something like that. Also imagine what the movements you make feel like in your muscles, but try not to move your body at all and just stay as relaxed as you can. Do this for as long as you can concentrate on it. It might be only for a minute or two to start, but that's fine. Like everything else we practice, it'll improve the more we do it. Sound flakey to you? We'll let's look at some of the pluses,

1) It allows us to feel loose and relaxed on the instrument when we haven't been able to physically play it. I can't tell you the number of times I've spent practicing in my head on a long flight or drive ( please don't do this while your driving, we don't need anymore tragic musician stories!) and feel refreshed and ready to play when I finally get to the gig.

2) It allows us to really hone what we want our sound/feel/physical approach to the instrument to be. If we can imagine what our drums and cymbals sound like in our heads, we can take that mental sound image with us wherever we go, and bring it to whatever drums we play. We can also rehearse what we want our physical relationship to the drums to be, even if we're only "virtually" there to start. I developed a much more relaxed style and rid myself of some issues regarding tendonitis mainly through my imagining a much more relaxed me at the drums.

3) It allows us to get away from always thinking of our instrument in a physical way. I've thought of certain combinations of instruments. ideas, etc. during mental practice that I never would have stumbled upon at the drum set. In fact, sometimes I imagine myself playing physically impossible things such as fast tempos, quintuple stops, etc. and these things have helped me feel a greater sense of the possible at the drums. even though I can't play some of the things I imagine.

So next time your stuck at a bus stop, have a free period at school (but no drums), or even have insomnia, check out imagining the great drummer you're going to turn into. You'll be very impressed by the results, I'm sure!

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Hey people,
Today's post comes via Seattle based drummer and educator Steve Korn. He's come up with a great compound rudiment involving triple strokes. Here he is explaining it:

It's fun, challenging, and there's a ton of applications for it!