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).
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.
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.
When 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.