Merry Christmas from Dog Is Blue and Santa Wahs

DIY Santa Clause Snow White Auto Wah Guitar PedalMerry Christmas, folks!

In honour of the festive season, here’s a guitar pedal I built a while back that has become a necessity live. It’s a homemade Snow White Auto Wah on one side with an Easy Drive distortion on the other. I call him Santa Wahs (I hope that’s an obvious enough pun for you…)—makes for some very funky Jingle Bell Rock.

In fact, the wah portion featured heavily in the recording of “Hot Air Balloons (and Submarines).” You can hear it mostly in the lead guitar (along with a homemade phaser, for extra warble—starts about 13 seconds in).

Download the track by clicking the arrow button on the right, or buy the whole Hot Air Balloons EP from Zunior for only $2.22 with all proceeds going directly to the Daily Bread Food Bank. Happy Holidays!

Hot Air Balloons (and Submarines) by Dog Is Blue

Here are the messy gutshots—for all you gearheads like me (extra points for those who notice that the Easy Drive side is wired point-to-point!):

DIY Santa Clause Snow White Auto Wah and Easy Drive Guitar PedalDIY Santa Clause Snow White Auto Wah and Easy Drive Guitar Pedal

Dog Has Blues: Studio Space No More

Dog Is Blue Photo by Luther MalloryWell, it was good while it lasted. Sort of.

We had an amazing studio space for all of a month. It was a great place where Laura was able to work on art and the band could practice and record new material (like last week’s demo of our new song, “Southern Ontario”), all outside the confines of our already cramped apartment. I was looking forward to posting pictures of the space and videos of the band at work. It was all sunshine and lollipops. Hell, we had even started jamming on a new seasonal song…

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

I’m pretty sure the frazzled landlord just got a better offer (it all boils down to money, doesn’t it?). He broke up with us over text message.

The good news is that he was so flaky that we were never actually able to pay rent, so all that really happened was we wasted time moving in and out and got our hopes up. Now it’s all piled in our apartment*—the living room looks like someone made a fort out of an antique market.

Happy holidays indeed.

* That wonderful Howard Combo Organ we scored a few weeks back is now confined to its case, on end between our front door and the bathroom. Oh, the indignity!

New Demo: Southern Ontario

Foster 812 Mixer and R8 Reel to ReelAhh, the bittersweet financially-depraved love song. It’s the age-old “baby, I love you, but it’d be a lot easier to do if I was a millionaire.”

We recorded this last weekend in a studio space we just started renting—the usual tactic of throwing mics all over the room and hoping for the best. The electric guitar is, as usual, going through my homemade Fender Princeton amp, this time with the snowman Clari(not) pedal that I posted about recently thickening things up and adding a subtle warble (There’s a homemade phaser in the bridge too).

This song and “Tortoise” (that we posted a demo of last week) are the two that seem to get the most reaction out of our new material at our shows. I’m thinking the album version might need some Anna Atkinson viola.

Southern Ontario (Live Demo) by Dog Is Blue

Also, for Laura’s sake, let it be known that she sat patiently nailing her glockenspiel and vocal parts while I bumbled through take after take (listen to how happy she is at the end to have finally made it through the song). She’s the rock, I’m the roll.

Laura Heaney’s Men with Facial Hair

Ray Mitchell, by Laura HeaneyWhen Laura’s not busy being half of Dog Is Blue—and generally keeping me in line—her time is spent as an excellent Toronto-based visual artist. Specializing in photo-realistic portraits, her most recent series, “Men with Facial Hair,” depicts men from all walks of life with various forms of facial whiskers.

Initially complete portraits, she’s had to start leaving portions of each new drawing in a sketched state (see the excellent image to the left* for an example), as they are so realistic that passers-by were dismissing them as black and white photography. The resulting portraits demonstrate her uncanny attention to detail while also allowing her to manipulate focus and composition to great dramatic effect.

Most of the images can be seen at Laura’s website, but they are all currently on display at Broadview Espresso, an amazing little coffee shop at 817 Broadview Ave. in Toronto. They’ll be there until the end of the month, but tonight is the official “opening” so come by between 7:30-10:30pm to see these amazing pieces in person and show your support.

Oh, and if you look closely enough you might just find a portrait of yours truly in there somewhere too.

*The above photo is Ray Mitchell, Guelphite extraordinaire—he ran for mayor this year—and Jenny Omnichord‘s father. He’s a good friend to the band and makes for an excellent subject.

‘Tis the Season: Crazy Snowman Pedal

DIY Mid-fi Clari(not) in a snowman tin

It’s cold and sporadically snowy in Toronto, which means it’s time to throw some wild noise-making device into a festive watch tin for seasonal sonic destruction!*

This little bad-boy is my homemade take on the Mid-Fi Electronics Clari(not)—an insane echo/fuzz box that can go from subtle tape warble to all out elephant farts. Doug from Mid-Fi was kind enough to post the schematic online, so folks have been able to tweak it to their tastes. All I did was add a toggle that turns the fuzz on or off (making the yellow eye light up too).

We did another new demo on the weekend and used this to thicken up my electric guitar a little. I’ll try to post that soon.

Suffice to say, this is yet another in the long line of semi-musical noise boxes that I build to annoy Laura. Look closely and you’ll see it on my pedal-board at shows.

*…er, something like that. I actually built this in the summer, but we’ll keep that between you and me.

New Demo: Tortoise

Fostex R8 reel to reel and 812 mixer A few months ago we came across an old Fostex R8 1/4″ reel to reel recorder with matching mixer for a great deal. I’ve been wanting to try analog recording for a while, so this was perfect—there’s something just so damn satisfying about hitting a big “record” button and watching reels spin instead of clicking a mouse around.

We set it up in our apartment a few weeks ago and recorded an entire tape of live demos with a bunch of mics strewn about the room. “Tortoise” is the best of the bunch. It features Laura on backups and Korg Polysix/shaker and myself on hollowbody guitar through my little homemade Fender Princeton with a tambourine on my foot.

“Tortoise” is a live staple these days and also likely the title track for our next album.

Tortoise (Demo) by Dog Is Blue

Dog Is Blue on Talk Radio

Foxtex 812 MIxerMy friend called me up today and said “I’m in a jam that requires you to jam.” That bit of wordplay is right up my alley, so Dog Is Blue to the rescue!

Long story short, if you happen to be listening to Newstalk 1010 on the AM dial from 7-10pm for Friendly Fire with Ryan Doyle & Tarek Fatah, we’ll be providing musical interludes during the show.

Update: it was a crazy night on the radio. If you missed it, a portion can be heard on the latest Friendly Fire Podcast here.

Dog Is Blue Paintings!

Dog Is Blue Paintings!
I’ve been doing these paintings based on the …Makes Ghost Noises album cover for a while now. We sell them at shows and they include download codes for both of our releases. Most are sold, but I’ll be doing more soon (and Laura will be doing a series based on our upcoming album cover).

Here’s the page I just added where you can see the 24 paintings so far.

Check out the video we did a while back for “Raise Your Dead (Reprise)” to see how they’re made (Laura filmed me working on painting #14).

Show Recap: Phog Lounge with Wax Mannequin

Phog Lounge

  • When: Nov. 27, 2010
  • Where: Phog Lounge, Windsor ON
  • Who with: Wax Mannequin, Alex Carruthers & The Rhythm Brothers
    Set List:

  • Dusty Bones
  • Alligator Song
  • Southern Ontario
  • Aren’t You Glad (Beach Boys cover)
  • Stan & Georgie
  • Tortoise
  • Young Enough
  • Raise Your Dead

Windsor gets a bad rap. I haven’t spent much time there, so I can only comment on the following: the steak joint we ate at before the show deserves it, the Phog Lounge definitely does not.

We’ve wanted to play there for a while, so the 4 hour drive was well worth the excitement—add Wax Mannequin to the bill and it’s like Christmas came early. That’s not to say it was a show without hiccups. There were definitely hiccups.

Our blinking sign (which Phog manager, Tom Lucier, seemed to really enjoy*) had a couple dead lights, my little amp proved slightly too small, my guitar strap fell off at one point and I was getting what I like to refer to as “electrical tickles” from the vocal mic. Of course, if it all went smoothly there’d be no stories, right? Conquer adversity and all that…blah, blah, blah.

It helps that Wax Mannequin put on the best set I’ve ever seen him play, consisting of emphatic between song sermons about the mysterious power of crystals (done in what I can only presume was a Christopher Walken impression while holding—and throwing—various shards of plastic valuable gemstones) all culminating in a half-naked, fiery rendition of the Canadian classic, “The Log Driver’s Waltz.”

As a band, we like to get out of Hogtown whenever possible. I’m itching to hit Phog Lounge again soon…

*He eagerly told the crowd that we were the only touring band in Canada with a sign that blinked to the music and that sold paintings with download codes. We were very flattered.