music, noise, art | lucio menegon

Virtual Mentors

(this is a repost of an original blogspot post i made in 2007)

I got into studio recording, engineering and production after purchasing a Tascam Porta One four track cassette recorder from Manny’s in New York City in 1985. Because recording has always been a process of trying to maintain ‘right brain’ musical integrity while not over-using the necessary ‘left brain’ engineering side, the musician/engineer must avoid reinventing or perhaps even fully understanding the wheel. A intuitive shortcut is needed, something to fully grasp only what you will initially need and actually use. One way to achieve this is to have a great mentor. Two SF Bay Area people were key mentors in my progression: great audio tech, friend and fine musician Lawrence Fellows-Mannion has saved me countless hours over the years with his advice and guidance, and high end audio gear engineer/specialist Steven Jarvis is another person who helped so much when I made the leap to the professional.

Of course, good mentors are usually very busy, so you gotta have some virtual mentors too. Pete Townshend was one. Besides his great musicianship, Pete was one of the first to grasp the advantage and power of the home recording studio. His Scoop ‘demos’ LP was an early inspiration – especially the tantalizing gear pics and recording details in the liner notes.

Nowdays, we have the internet and look what I found today! An amazingly detailed interview (sadly EQ magazine is offline) with Pete about recording that covers his many studios and methods from the early monophonic to the present polyphony. If you ever wanted a superchared version of the Scoop liner notes, this is it. The snippet below is some of the best advice that could be offered to anyone concerned with making a better studio recording at home:

For the composer, computer tools present a dilemma. For most people, creative ideas emanate and are nurtured on the right side of the brain. However, technical matters are dealt with on the left. So one immediate problem is that before we can get creative with a computer we have to do things like organize our tracks, create a file, make sure we have somewhere to store it, etc. Being able to just run a tape machine (analog or digital) on a whim, always set up and ready to go, is a good thing to have in your life. Or you could have something like an Edirol R09 digital recorder handy. Try to stay in the right side of the brain until the music is properly shaped. Computers (and compact microprocessor controlled digital studios) are wonderful to arrange and modify what you have composed. For me, tape machines offered a way for me to compose, not to record great music, but merely to ‘write it out’ as I had no other way of doing it.

Of course those people who work entirely within the computer environment, using loops, MIDI, samples and reflex-driven software like Ableton Live, can get used to making very frequent jumps from one side of the brain to the other. But the music they make tends to sound a little different to the kind of music most of us feel reflects something of the heart. There are many exceptions. This is not a rule, but I often urge musicians I meet who love to work with MIDI software to ‘try some of the old methods out’ however, getting a decent tape machine is not easy, nor is it cheap.

So remember, start with a good sounding space. And if it sounds bad, fix that first. You may just have to deaden it right down. Next, buy at least one truly great microphone. Next, buy at least one truly great mic preamp. If you can, buy a single module from some old board, an API, a Neve, or whatever. If not, buy a new ‘classic’ channel, or something as good as you can afford. Next, pick your recording medium, and use your brain. If you start with tape, use nothing less serious than a reel-to-reel Revox, TASCAM or Fostex of some kind. If you start with digital hard disk, try some test sessions at different sample rates and bit depths – you may be surprised that your system sounds better at lower quality rather than higher because it doesn’t have to work so hard. So, use your ears if you can when making these assessments; pretend to be one of those old jazz guys who could really hear. I would recommend using a single pair of earphones for some of these kinds of tests. Pick the ordinary ones used in studios. Use your speakers just for playbacks of these tests and checking detail. If you can afford none of these things, buy a small tape Portastudio. Four tracks will sound better than eight. Remember that what you are doing is using a medium, not a modifier.

So cool. now you know why i bought a 3M M23

Amp rigs

P&HrigMy frighteningly awesome sounding amp rig circa 2000-2. There have been many such combinations, but this one, taking elements of both Neil Young & Ry Cooder stage set ups, was one of the best. Certainly the most…robust.

signal chain:
60s Vox wah (modded)->80 Dyna Comp->Matchless Hotbox->Memory Man (modded)->Boss Tu2 trem->70’s EP3 echoplex (with volume pedal mod to control mix)->

1965 Princeton Reverb. The heart of it all and remains my favorite amp ever. Onstage it gets mic’d for house and has a custom made instrument level tap that comes off the speaker and travels->

1971 Hiwatt 100. Unbelievable headroom (this one rated 120 watts clean, 170 full up) and responsible for whatever stage volume needed. It fed either 2 or 4 Bell & Howell 1×12 movie cabs, often set at an angle or backwards depending on the room.

Sponge Bath

It was hot in Cambridge’s Weirdo Records last night. Here is a descriptive review of the show from Flash Notes

Your savings account zeroes risk we will enjoy it and you will feel it and it will be painful Lucio on banjo eking out eerie high strung sounds like a wine glass being rubbed Dave running the smallest cymbal over the snare drum head Lucio now with a violin bow rubbing the strings beyond the bridge now it’s melodic a carousel organ with children riding up and down on the horses and it may be a fox hunt with trumpet over the country gardens now Lucio with his spanking black electric guitar and the sounds are strafed and echo Lucio in his straw pork pie hat and beige suit and tie is dashing Dave gets mosquito squeals out of the snare Lucio sly with pick in his mouth Dave getting buzzing alarm sounds out of a bow against the rim now low tones drones hums very quiet as echoes rise

Lucio stands up and strums what goes up must come down what goes down must come up so buy low sell high rocking out on electric strings both of them mad it’s a jungle or a country pond with the flora and wildlife waving in the wind Lucio takes rock star stance scritching and scratching sounds getting wilder rings on the strings clown balloon sounds at the circus wild and fun times balloon gets big it is clear gray and the guitar hums like an engine very quiet slight clicks of lips on bubble

Martha Colburn & Ramona the Pest

Today I found several very cool items in my pile of old show posters. This being a prime example:

Ramona and the Pest by Martha Colburn

Ramona and the Pest by Martha Colburn

Back story: Ramona The Pest was a band I played in/produced with my longtime friend and collaborator Val Esway in the late 90s and early 00’s. Martha Colburn, then an underground artist based in Baltimore, was pals with our film friend Keith Arnold (who now programs the Castro Theater in SF). They wanted to get a show together when she came out to CA, I think in late 1997 or 98. RTP played and Martha screened some of her films at the Starry Plough, our local watering hole on the Berkeley/Oakland border (which was a tad dodgier back then) to a small but rowdy audience. I definitely remember an early version of possibly Skellavision – lots of skeleton bodies and flames shooting out of porn star heads.

Martha made up this cool poster for the show. She either heard it wrong or was playing with the name of the band – not the first or last time that happened. Ramona and the Pest is probably a better name. Awesome stuff.

New Joe Rut CD gets a nice review…

…and they gave me a little nod. It was inspiring to play a packed house at SF’s Great American Music Hall – a really great show as the live CD confirms.

Musically, Rut has never had a better band than he did on this night, and highlights abound. Danny Allen’s echo-drenched slide solo on “Monkey Boy” oozes and crackles like a brick of firecrackers stuck in molasses, and Lucio Menegon’s reverby Telecaster excursion on the touching “Hole in Space” perfectly carves that hole before the band slams back into the almost Pink Floydian bridge, “I like now/now is enough/now is the only time we have to love.”

Tree-forts of sonic fun

Check this nice show review of a set performed with Rob Wallace in Bowling Green, OH this past February. The set was part of a film/music series Rob co-hosts called, Other Musics: Four Free Films on Free Sounds, the focus of the write-up, but receives some considerable attention:

Lucio used his entire instrument in service of his art, pounding the body, sliding a magnet along the frets, even pouring lighter fluid on the neck (which I will admit made me wonder if we were in for a Jimi Hendrix moment), to achieve the just-right tone he was going for. Wallace used his whole body as well, kneeling in front of his smorgasbord of sound, sometimes using both hands and his mouth, each on separate instruments, to accompany Lucio’s play. Any attempt I might make to capture the tonal qualities of this musical performance will surely fail. Suffice to say, I was transfixed, smiling like a loon at the sheer whimsy of it all. This music is “play” in its purest form. Both musicians are professionals and well-trained (Wallace is steeped in musicology and quite a good tabla player), and they certainly needed that foundation to build their tree-fort of sonic fun upon.

tree-fort of sonic fun is my favorite new description. Totally awesome. This is why small town such gigs are worthwhile – you just never know. It is also perhaps the reason Jack Wright likes to play them.

Year of the Dragon

Phuket Old Town, Thailand

The past two months were a blast with two cross country solo tours from New York to Cleveland to Los Angeles and back to Boston with a diversion to southeast Asia in betwixt.

It is an interesting thing when you tour, playing night after night combined with the vagaries of travel, to note the subtle change that begins to overcome your playing – especially where free improvisation is concerned. You get more in touch with the idea that nothing is so important or really matters. That you are there to just play and be present to the moment. Genre becomes irrelevant. You get into the zone. And lo! It just gets better and better (despite the occasional setback).

And who can dis couch surfing when you get to hang out with so many good people? On that note, thanks to my generous hosts Emily Hay, Zoe, The Grays, Mateo Barnett, Derek Johnson, Rob & Kara Wallace, Art Pinsoff, Grady in San Marcos TX, whoever it was we stayed with in Nashville, the DAIKAIJU HOUSE (where my birthday was well celebrated), Gavin and Allison MacArthur, Super Happy Funland and Janet Dewey.

To my intrepid tour mates Joey Molinaro and Eric Alexander – xo, you rock. And to the many players I got to collaborate with onstage – Amy DeNio, Brad Dutz, Emily Hay, Eloe Omoe, Rob Wallace, Alex Henry, Nate Scheible, Bob Drake, Angela Sawyer, Shayna Dulberger, Luther Gray and Steve Norton – you are all so stellar.

I’ll be uploading music and video evidence soon.

Upcoming shows (with more to pop up for sure):

Mar 4 2012 Richard Lainhart Memorial Concert
@ Roulette 509 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY – 3:00 PM
A very special memorial concert for Richard Lainhart (1953-2011). One hour program of music and remembrances following by a 30 minute screening of Richard’s last film work, History of the Future with live score by the Orchestra of the Future. I’ll be playing in the sixteen member orchestra and doing a short live ‘duo-piece’ on prepared/processed lapsteel guitar.

Mar 6 2012 LM @ Brooklyn Scramble
@ Freddy’s Backroom 627 5th ave, Brooklyn – 8:00 PM
with Alice Bierhorst on drums and Ben Galina on bass. Expect a scramble of rock song, instrumental sountrack and free improv.

Mar 9 2012 LM (in a round robin of sound)
@ The Spectrum 115 w. 23rd st. apt. 22, New York, NY – 9:00 PM
a round robin of sound with Spiff Wiegand, Clara Engel, An Historic Beninghove’s Hangmen, Emile Lesbros, Upholstery, Valerie Kuehne

Mar 24 2012 LMNo! (a night of duos)
@ Wombat Zone 68R Dane St, Sommerville MA – 8:00 PM
a night of duos with: LMNo! (LM – guitars/electronics & Steve Norton – reeds/electronics) and Morgan Evans-Weiler (violin)/Marc Bisson (dada guitar mayhem)

Mar 29 2012 AvanT! GuitaR! Night!
@ Legion 790 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY – 9:00 PM
Really excited about this one – with James Beaudreau (from Billy Nayer Show) duo, Rob Cambre (New Orleans)/LM/Marco Buccelli trio, Brett Zweiman, Valerie Kuehne trio.

Mar 31 2012 Prehistoric Horse
@ Sonorium @ The Griffen Theatre 7 Lynde Street, Salem, MA – 8:00 PM
The Horse (David Grollman, Valerie Kuehne, LM) rides again at Andrea Pensado’s series. improv, sound collage, noise, ambient, performance, projections with
Gang Clang Mafia, One-Armed Mist, High aura’d, Northern Machine

Apr 5 2012 LM & Laurie Amat
@ Vaudeville Park 26 Bushwick Ave, Brooklyn, NY – 8:00 PM
An improv session with visiting artist Laurie Amat (SF CA)

Apr 7-14 2012 Grollman/Landis/Menegon – a new twin-guitar/electronics + drum trio featuring short spastic pieces
Sonic Circuits, Wash DC – April 7
LaunchPad, NYC – April 14
more dates tba

Apathy Destruction in Reverse

Apathy Destruction continues. This time running backwards, like so many politicians. This will be great fun.

Feb 17 2012 LM solo/collab
@ The Wreck Center 155 LBJ, San Marcos, TX – 8:00 PM

Feb 18 2012 LM solo/collab
@ Bernadette’s 2039 Airport Blvd, Austin – 9:00 PM

Feb 19 2012 LM solo/collab – LM solo/collab
Tba in New Orleans, LA or Little Rock AK – 8:00 PM

Feb 20 2012 LM solo
@ Solidarity 1609 Bardstown Road, Louisville KY – 8:00 PM

Feb 21 2012 LM/Rob Wallace
@ Grounds For Thought Coffee House Bowling Green OH- 7:00 PM

Feb 22 2012 LM w/ Nate Scheible, Bob Drake, etc
@ Bela Dubby 13321 Madison Ave, Cleveland OH – 8:00 PM

Feb 23 2012 Flexfest! – LM & David Grollman
@ Flopera House 381 Congress St, Boston – 11:00 PM

Feb 24 2012 LM (solo meditation bowls set)
@ Church of the Advent 30 Brimmer Street Boston, Boston – 8:00 PM

Feb 24-25 2012 LMNo! @ XFEST 2012
@ 119 Gallery 119 Chelmsford Street, Lowell – 11:55 PM & 2:00 PM