Keep on Rising

I’m in the midst of recording my February release for the second of my monthly EPs in 2013. Listen to the first one here. Some amazing musicians have graced this record with their playing, and have eaten some pretty nice loaves, if I say so myself.

I made Adam Moss a great whole wheat sourdough round. Adam is a great fiddler and violist, who plays lots of bluegrass and klezmer. Adam also likes bread. Here’s the recipe I made for him.

Mix 1 cup of starter (recipe in previous post) with 2 cups whole wheat flour and one cup water. Thoroughly mix so no dry flour bits remain. Allow this sponge to sit until its bubbly and alive. At least 5 hours, up to 24 hrs.

Once your sponge is vibrant and bubbly, mix in:
– 1.5 tsp of salt
– 1 tbsp olive oil

Also- lately I’ve been adding 1/4 tsp of baking soda to the mix. This cuts a bit of the sourness, and helps a bit with rising, as sometimes sourdough can be slower rising than bread with commercial yeast. If you’re sensitive to extreme sourness but like a mild sourdough try this out. You can experiment with amounts of baking soda.

Other optional add ins:
-1 tbsp ground flax seed
-chopped fresh rosemary or sage

Then- add flour til it feels like a nice dough. I know for novice bakers this can be a daunting direction- but I find that the amount of flour I add at this point really depends.

I still like a dough that is on the wetter side- many sourdough recipes that i’ve used get too dense, and a wetter dough allows for the bread to rise more.

You will probably add between 3/4 cups to 1.5 cups of flour until it feels right. Mix the flour in gradually, and when you can no longer mix, it’s time to start kneading. Lightly flour your kneading surface, and knead for a good while. I want a dough that is still malleable, a little moist, and you can still indent with your finger.

Then- roll dough into a ball, lightly oil, and allow it to rise in a bowl until it roughly doubles in size. Anywhere from 4 hours to 24 hours. I often let the dough sit overnight at this point.

When the dough ball is risen (like your favorite religious figure, fill in the blank), preheat your oven to 450, and if you have it, preheat a pizza stone in there too. 30 minutes to preheat.

Remove pizza stone, lightly flour. Transfer the ball o’ dough to the stone carefully (don’t burn yourself!).

Put the stone & bread into the oven. Bake for 22 – 30 minutes, until the outside looks crisp and firm.

Take it out, allow to cool on cooling rack. Eat!

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It All Starts with Starter. Ahem.

November and December have been busy and exciting in preparation for my January EP release! As I mentioned in my last  blog entry, each musician who plays on any of my releases gets an advance of home made bread, made by me.

So I’ve been baking up a storm! Bread’s have been baked for Carmen Staaf, one of my favorite pianists; killin percussionist and drummer Yoni Halevy; powerhouse drummer Chris Berry; gorgeous alto and songstress Eva Primack; and one man horn section brilliance Alec Spiegelman; and xylophone / marimba / glockenspiel 94% virtuoso Jon Singer who also is the furry brains of the Xylopholks.  I’ve become a regular Suzy Homemaker. Or maybe Suzy Breadmaker. Except with beard and penis.

This process of an EP a month is pretty fresh. As such I thought it would be appropriate to gab a bit about sourdough starter- and soon I’ll post a sourdough bread recipe. All sourdough  recipes call for a starter, which is a living yeast culture active and bubbly as it eats away at the soupy mix of flour and water that it calls home.

How do you make it?
Super easy.
Take some flour. Add equal parts water. Mix thoroughly. Allow to sit. For about a week, or more. It will start to bubble, and grow. Mix and check it regularly. If you work from home, like me, say hello as you make your tea between projects. Give it a mix. Add a bit of flour. Pamper your starter. It will get bubbly and frothy an take on a yeasty life of its own.Image

It could take a couple days if it’s warmer, or it could take longer in the winter.You can add a little sugar, or commercial yeast to jump start the process if you are impatient.

But unlike family members, pets, or lovers, if you ignore your starter, it will usually be okay. Forget to feed it for a while? Should be fine, just add some more flour and get it soupy again. No prob. Also if you leave town you can freeze it so it doesn’t dry out.

And if you are really really negligent and ignore your starter to the point where it becomes a stagnant puddle of moldy death, simply pour out most of the junk, mix a new flour and water base in a new container, and add a little dab of your old disgusting starter to get the new one frothing. Exciting!

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Get your starter ready, I’ll have a sourdough recipe next time.

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Sustenance in Song

I started a blog in June!

Then I was an absentee blog-lord!

Eek! What happened?

The short of it- I got sick. I spent a week in the hospital in late July, and spent much of the latter part of the summer and early fall getting better.

But if getting sick is good for anything, it is an effective anvil to the brain delicately asking, “What the fuck are you doing with your life?” The anvil taught me that I can be rendered frail and powerless at anytime. So I had better get off my entitled rumpus and work for what’s important to me while I still can.

Best not to put it off then.

I’m feeling ambitious.

I have a plan.

In 2013 I am committing to digitally release a short play record with between 5 and 10 original songs (an EP) per month. I will do all of the writing, recording, production, and mixing myself or with the help of friends who are involved in the music making process. I will produce the lushest orchestrations and sounds that I can on a shoe string budget. Monthly. Because I love it, I can, and there’s no reason I shouldn’t.

How is this possible you ask?

Good question.

In the past several years, I’ve invested in building and learning how to use an increasingly well equipped home studio. So perhaps shoe-string budget isn’t fair, as I spent a significant amount of money that was gifted to me by my late grandfather and life-long visual artist Dave Fox, to assemble the building blocks of what has become my home studio.

Currently, however, I’m short on cash. I can’t ask musicians to work for free. So what can I do?

An exchange.

All the musicians I know could use some more bread (subtle pun, YOU UNDERSTAND?). Myself included. And I love to bake, as evidenced in previous posts and interviews in the blog (not a pun. YOU UNDERSTAND?).

I will have friends and musical peers play on the record. They will either come to my home studio, or I’ll visit them with a mobile setup. I’ll give each musician I record an advance of a loaf of bread. They’ll play. We’ll east some bread. They keep the loaf.

This is how I’ll flesh out each monthly release. It will be available on bandcamp for friends, listeners, fans, what-have-yous to stream for free, and /or to name a price from $0 on up to a bazillion dollars for a download of the album. The first $500 of each release I make goes directly to the musicians who played on the record. The next $500 (should it ever arrive) I take a 50% cut of, the rest going to the players.

So far, the first part of the plan is working.

I’m writing up a storm. January’s EP is written, basic tracks are recorded, and I’m in the process of adding more musicians on top of the instruments I played myself. February is written, and I’m beginning to sketch the songs out in recorded form.

I will use this blog to describe the recording process, the breads I make, post pictures of people playing, vids, links to download, solo editions of songs…. It’s gonna be a party. On your screen. More to come very soon.

 

 

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Bake a Bread, Blow a Horn. Talking with Ben Syversen.

This last Tuesday, July 16th, I had the good fortune to meet up with my fellow musician and baker, Ben Syversen. Ben is a wonderful and versatile trumpet player. He leads Cracked Vessel, a kick ass instrumental band that straddles the labels of improvised music, jazz, and rock. Ben also plays Balkan brass music with Raya Brass Band, and wears many other hats as a freelance trumpet player.

Ben is also a great baker in his (limited) spare time. We met at Barbes, a bar and music venue in Park Slope, to drink some beer and talk about bread making and band leading. Ben’s bread recipe is included at the end of our conversation. I’ve edited the interview for clarity, btw, not a direct transcript.

Avi Fox-Rosen: So let’s start with the important stuff. You bake?

Ben Syversen: Yes! I like to bake bread particularly. I had a college housemate whose dad was a crazy Russian emigre who baked bread. My housemate’s dad sat me down and taught me his bread recipe.

AFR:  Was this a Russian black bread? Pumpernickel ?

Ben:  It wasn’t a Russian black, just a very basic guide to bread. “You use about this much flour, to this much water. And use about half bread four.” Nothing too specific, but just an accessible way to think about making bread. He liked to put tea in his bread, and for a long time I used tea instead of water also, but now I’ve gone back to water. Lately, I’ve been working with the no knead recipe. It’s great because the texture and crust come out great, but the recipe is also very malleable. With bread making I like the things that are looser, with room to be flexible and creative.

AFR: Why do you make your own bread?

Ben:  I like knowing what I’m eating, I like knowing what I’m putting in the things I consume. And the no knead recipe is really easy, and the quality is the best that I’ve come across, particularly with regards to texture and the consistency of the crust. I’ve found the no-knead technique to be as good as or better than most bakery bread.. These days I make a no-knead thing with a mixture of about 1/2 white flour, with whole wheat flour, oat meal, corn meal, and steel cut oats for texture. I met a baker, a friend of Matthew Fass who leads Raya, who has a bakery upstate. And he makes a great bread, where he cooks the oatmeal before adding it to his dough. It gave it a great creamy texture.

AFR: Right – and often vegans will use oats as an egg substitute, since oats bind other ingredients together and lend a creaminess.

Ben: I find that in my recipe if I let the oats sit all night, but don’t precook them like Matthew’s friend, I get a little bit of that creaminess, but the steel cut oats keep their hearty texture, and the corn meal also adds bite.

AFR: Baking is great. Ain’t it? But you don’t stay up late at night obsessing about bread I’m assuming… perhaps wrongly. Tell me about the band you lead.

Ben: My group is a trio with trumpet, guitar and drums, called Cracked Vessel. It’s always hard for me to describe – but the music has  a lot of improvisation in it. The players in the band come from much more of a rock background, though obviously they’re pretty open to many different influences. The drummer’s name is Jeremy Gustin. The guitar player is Xander Naylor. Neither of them come from a super straight “jazz” background. They have some university training in jazz, but they’re not really jazz players, per se.  And the sound of the band exploits their uniqueness as players – players who have some jazz language, but have a rock feel. There are moments where it’s really grooving, and there are moments where the music is very out of time.

AFR: How did you come together? And what is your process for working up music?

Ben: I’ve led a trumpet, guitar, and drums trio for a while, starting when I lived in Boston.  But the guitar player in that band had issues with repetitive stress injuries in his hands from playing… and now he bakes bread! So he left, but then I found Xander. We shared a bill a few years back. And then Jeremy actually lived with my old guitar player, Dave. Jeremy has a band called The Rex Complex, a great rock band, and that seemed like a sound that would work for what I’m trying to do.

AFR: Let’s talk about the choice to lead a band without a bassist. You lead a bass-less trio, and I also lead a bass-less rock band that’s much more on the pop wavelength. We work in different musical contexts, but we’ve made the same aesthetic choice to avoid the obvious anchor. So – why no bass ?

Ben: There’s definitely more flexibility without a devoted bassist. Someone can play the bass function… or not! And the lack of a bass player makes for a creative limitation. If I had a band with more conventional instrumentation, I might be more likely to fall into more conventional writing patterns. So this automatically forces me out of that, because I can’t rely on things that might work in another setting. I think it’s a good creative restraint.

AFR: In a jazz context, if you had a bass player and wrote within expected forms, you might bring a melody with a chord chart. But without a bass, and with different structures, do you score things more thoroughly for your guitar player, to guide him a specific direction?

Ben: Actually – I score less thoroughly! In this band there only a few tunes that have chord changes. And even those tunes will feature standard chord motion for only specific sections of the songs. The thing I’m trying to do with this band is to create a music that has the viscerality of rock, meaning it has an emotional accessibility, while still experimenting with musical forms and the role of different instruments in the band. So things can go a lot of different ways, and I try to maintain an “anything is possible” mentality in what we do. Sometimes I’ll have scored counterpoint written between me and the guitar. Or sometimes I’ll have just one unison line, but the instruction is “play this, or don’t depending on what’s most interesting.”  We have a tune we’ve been working on lately where the written material is just one unison line. But I will play the melody in one tempo, and then the drums and guitar choose an unrelated tempo to play the same melody, tagging along after me. And eventually we’ll meet back up. A lot of the process for this band has been coming up with weird interesting musical problems and finding ways to get around them. One thing I really like about Jeremy, our drummer, is he has a great ear for what feels good.

AFR: What feels good? Say more about that.

Ben: He’s pretty attuned to when something might go into the realm of self indulgence, or inaccessibility. I’ve brought in open vamps or grooves that will have some metrical quirk to them. And Jeremy will often say, “I get this, but we can’t do this for too long… because it won’t settle into anything.” So where I’m trying to pose intellectual musical questions, Jeremy brings the ear of the listener to ensure it will hold someone’s attention. I’m the only writer in this band, but there is a strong group process for arrangement.

AFR: What about Xander’s playing? What do you like about how he approaches the guitar?

Ben: When we first me, Xander and I played a couple times  just as a duo. He has a great textural approach, and he’s not a coming from a bebop line-oriented place. And I really like that. When we first started playing together, he tried the line oriented approach with me, and I told him to avoid playing lines, and go in a different direction. Now we’ve been playing together for 2 or 3 years, and he’s settled into a role where he keeps a strong sense of color and space.

AFR: A guitar player who leaves space!

Ben: He actually likes to push that! Jeremy tends to want to give the listener what they want, but Xander, when given the opportunity, will push silences almost to the point of discomfort. So between the two of them, there’s a really interesting push and pull. Hopefully you won’t get bored, and you won’t always be given what you expect. Jeremy + Xander are good friends, and they both play in The Rex Complex together. And they have a very silly personal rapport, and that can come out in the music. I can come across as a serious dude, so having these 2 guys who are really playful brings some levity musically and personally.

AFR: So you have rock musicians playing with you, but you’re playing trumpet as a lead voice in this group, and pushing forms and improvisation. You’re straddling a few different boundaries. Do you think of yourself as a rock musician in this context ?

Ben: That’s interesting… usually people ask if i think of myself as a jazz musician! But I don’t know. We went to France on tour last summer, and we played a festival in northern France, kind of a hippy festival. I often worry that people won’t “get” my music, but we played at this little hippy festival with a bunch of 18 year old kids from England and France, and they were totally into it! They were cheering, trying to get Xander to take his shirt off! That was the first taste where we really thought, “oh! we’re kind of a rock band!” In this totally weird way. The folks there came up to us and were referencing other bands they thought we sounded like, “Oh Yes! Mr Bungle!” Which is not exactly what we’re doing, but there’s a similar energy. And it was cool that they saw that. But as for your question, am I a rock musician, is this a rock band… I don’t know. It’s hard to pin down. I want to put us forward as a rock band, but I have lingering reservations. Is that really what we are? So I’ve been a little hesitant to put ourselves forward that way. But it kinda is… It’s rockin music.

___________________________________

As promised – Ben Syversen’s Bread Recipe:

Ben writes: “The amounts are somewhat approximate, as I usually use just a full and half cup measure and combine several grains in one 1/2 cup measure depending on what I feel like that day, but here is an approximation of what I do, adapted fromhttp://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/dining/081mrex.html?_r=1&ref=dining

1 3/4 cups bread flour
1/4 cup corn meal
1/4 cup oatmeal
approx. 1/8 cup steel cut oats
5/8 cup whole wheat flour (just measure 1/2 cup, then when use a 1/4 cup measure to portion roughly evenly between steel cut oats and the remainder wheat flour)
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp standard (not rapid rise) packaged dry yeast (Fleishman’s, Red Star etc)
~1 1/2 cups room temperature water

1. Combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix with your hands. Depending on seasonal changes in humidity, you may need more or less water, but the recipe is very forgiving in this respect. The dough should be quite wet…when you are first mixing it, you will find that it is dangerously close to being very thick batter. This is ok, as the harder grains like oatmeal will absorb some of the water while it is rising. Your hands will be messy. The messiness makes it fun, right?!?

2. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rest for 12 to 18 hours. If it is cold in your house, find a relatively warm location for it.

3. The dough should be considerably larger and show small bubbles on its surface. Squeeze the dough out with your hands and let it rest for an additional fifteen minutes.

4. Using plenty of flour, form the dough roughly into a ball with your hands, and place seam side down on a floured mat. I use a silicone baking mat but a lint free dish towel and a generous amount of flour will work too as long as your dough is not too wet (in which case it could stick to the cloth. Some people like fabric as an ingredient in their bread but I prefer mine without). Cover the dough with a dish towel and let rise for two hours or until roughly doubled in size.

5. While the dough is rising, half an hour before it is ready, put a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron or ceramic stock pot works well) into the oven, preheating to 450 degrees. When the dough is ready the fun begins. Remove the pot from the oven (and take the lid off!). Then, carefully, with surgical precision, lift the mat with the dough and flip it over into the pot. You only get one shot at this part so don’t fuck it up. It’s ok if the thing looks kind of messy, as long as all of the dough makes it into the pot. Shake the pot from side to side a little if necessary to get the dough vaguely centered, then replace the lid and put the whole thing back in the oven.

6. Cook for 30 minutes, remove the lid, then bake for an additional 15 minutes, until browned and the bread makes a nice hollow sound when you tap it. Let cool in some elevated fashion…a wire rack is great if you have it.

7. Enjoy!

Variations are endless: experiment with other grains (as long as you keep the bread flour to roughly half of the total flour), adding fruit such as raisins, etc. Some fruits may be best added after the overnight rise, others before, it depends on how mushy you want them to be.”

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Well folks, that’s it for this installment. Check out Cracked Vessel, click through and listen. It’s awesome. Try Ben’s bread recipe and let me know what you think!

Til next time – signing off. Coming soon – mixed tracks from my band DoubleDouble’s debut demo, and notes on the mix process. And after that – a great indie rock musician with a killin mac and cheese recipe. And after that, one of my favorite recording engineers and producers in New York, with his take on bread and classic compressors. Because those are totally a part of the same conversation…. Thanks for reading, and happy summer!

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Anatomy of a Song

This past Thursday, July 12th, I recorded a 2 song demo with my new band DoubleDouble.  In this post, I’ll take you into my writing and recording process for one of the songs on the demo, called “Microphone Man”.

I wrote “Microphone Man” in November 2011. The first piece of the song that came together for me was the verse. I started humming the melody on the subway… in response to the conductor’s voice on the PA system being ear-splittingly loud! I came up with the little motif that became the first line of the song, “The man with the microphone talks too loud…” and then hummed the rest of what would become the verse. I didn’t have a recorder with me, or notation paper so I kept repeating this section over and over again, vocalizing on the subway, so that I wouldn’t forget the melody!

I sang it all the way home, just the little motif, “the man with the microphone talks too loud…” and upon walking in the door immediately recorded that fragment to come back to later. Unfortunately, I can’t find that original recording, or I’d share it here!

Later that evening, I returned to the fragment with a pen and paper, and a guitar. Which is how I tend to sketch out most songs I write. I wrote the full verse and chorus, added a bridge, and kept revising until I had a song.

Here is a link to my first recording of the full song – into my pocket recorder that’s captured hundreds of fragments over the past several years.

At this point, I put the song away for a couple weeks… until I decided it would be good to bring to my band. DoubleDouble hadn’t really come together yet at this point, meaning the 2 drummer 2 guitar bass-less rock band, but I was playing pretty regularly at The Way Station with many friends in my musical orbit. In the past few years since I’ve been building a home studio, I tend to make a basic demo recording to share with other musicians who play with me. I find it’s better than sending my pocket recorder dross… and I can put more thought into instrumentation and arrangement when I have multiple tracks to work with. I’ll certainly share home demo versions of other songs in later posts. They’re pretty interesting to compare to what the songs become later with the input of other musicians!

This home studio version of Microphone Man is pretty spare; just 2 acoustic guitar tracks, a few vocal tracks, and a synth track. That synth track would later be adapted by my buddy and guitar player in DoubleDouble, Yoshie Fruchter. Here’s my home studio demo.

I shared the recording with my band-in-the-making, and usually played it pretty loose. But I booked a gig at The Way Station in February of this year with an unusual grouping, kinda on a whim, just to see if it would work. I called 2 of my favorite drummers, Chris Berry and Yoni Halevy, and Yoshie who I mentioned above. I didn’t call a bass player, which is usually a no-brainer addition for most musical situations. So I subtracted the brain, just to see if I’d like it. Apparently I did.

The song developed.

DoubleDouble is a rock band. A hard hitting one. And in this video, you’ll see some changes to the vibe coming through. The song is a bit slower than previous recordings.  Yoni + Chris developed a killing drum part that supports the tune, and Yoshie is adding a generous dose of rock. Also, you’ll see in the video – I’m giving some pretty ridiculous looking cues  to keep the band  together. One of the more glorious side effects of leading a band while playing in it is you get to make amazing contortionistic movements to communicate to your players while you’re carrying a vocal line. So… what I’m tryin to say is I look a little silly.

And yes, that’s a hot pink guitar I’m playing. And yes, I’m a head and a half shorter than Yoshie.

Check It.  

And then – this past thursday – we take the goods we’ve developed, and go into The Can Factory Studio in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Some amazing records have been tracked there, including some notable early John Zorn recordings, Sonic Youth, The Swans, Yiddish Princess (haha), and many many more. Don Godwin engineered.

Here’s a rough mix – and you can here this is a much tighter recording than the video above, with more arranged backing vocals, big drums, and dirty dirty guitar sounds. Whoop Whoop.

So what comes next ?

World domination, clearly. But first, I’ll need a solid mix of the song. I’m excited to be working with Dan Molad, of Sounds Like a Fire, and Lucius, for mixing. I do run a capable home studio, but when I’m mixing my own material I find I get the best results when I have other ears contributing at every stage of the process. And I really like the work Dan’s been putting out for the last several years.

And – that’s the anatomy of this song. Yes, you have been exposed to The Microphone Man’s private parts, but that is what happens in anatomy class. That does it for this post.

Coming soon – more tunes, interviews with wonderful musicians who are ALSO great bakers and cooks, and their favorite recipes.

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And then there was Bread.

Ok, music music music. Clearly a sustaining factor in my life. But a boy’s gotta eat, and telecaster doesn’t taste so hot with mayo.

In addition to discussing music making, songwriting, gigs,and the hustle of being a musician, I’m also going to share my adventures in bread. And… believe it or not, there’s lots of slammin’ musicians in the Brooklyn area who are also slammin’ bakers. So – we start this bread escapade with a lonely loaf. 

yum

Today’s bread – a pretty straight forward sandwich loaf. 

The ingredients:

1 cup unbleached white flour, 2 cups whole wheat, 1/4 cup rye flour, 1 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp bakers yeast, 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1 tbsp of ground flax seed meal, 1 1/2 cups water 

To be totally transparent… all of these measurements are more feel based than precise. I use a cup that contains a little more than a cup… because I want a bigger loaf that 3 1/4 actual cups of flour will yield, but I don’t care to do the arithmetic to change the recipe… so I approximate with a water glass that probably holds about a cup and a third. If you’re doing this recipe with standard cup measurements, use a bit less salt, and a bit less yeast. But always maintain a pretty consistent flour to water ratio for a good loaf. That ratio is roughly 2 parts flour to 1 part water… doctored for taste and flour needs. 

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl until you have a nice doughy consistency. You may need to add a touch more water to get there. Let rise for 2 – 24 hours. You can be really flexible in the first rise. More rise time will only add more flavor as the yeast does its thing.

Then – when the dough is a least twice as large as when you left it – dump your dough onto a floored wood board, and work it a little – til its a bit less sticky. 

Oil a bread pan. Shove your dough on in and beat it down with your fists. This part is good for releasing tension. Life is hard, and your dough likes the abuse. It swings that way. 

Turn your oven to 350 farenheit to preheat as you let the bread rise another 30 minutes.

Bake for 45 mins. Slice and eat. 

Eat me. You know you wanna.

 

 

 

 

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Best to start at the beginning.

Welcome!

My name is Avi Fox-Rosen, and I’m the author of this blog, Six Strings and an Empty Page. I plan to use this forum to share my thoughts about songwriting, music making, and many of the assorted joys and challenges that come with this territory.

Why start now?       Why not?!

I have a lot of musical irons in the fire that might interest you.

They certainly interest me… and in the process of pontificating and waxing poetic for you, I might make an insight that could be useful to my own music making process. One can hope.

I will now follow these flimsy promises of interest with cold hard evidence that there are musical irons in the fire.

Musical Iron in the Fire #1 –

A New Band.

Yup, another one of those. Gasp. Amazement.  A rock band from Brooklyn.  It’s called DoubleDouble.

Before I detail this one, I’ll take you back a few steps.

I’ve been writing pop songs, singing them, and putting together groups to play these songs since I was a wee lad of 12 or so. Step with me for just a moment into the 1990s.

In high school I recruited my brother on bass, Benjy Fox-Rosen (who remains my brother and musical collaborator to this day), and a moderately disgruntled prepubescent drummer to play my tunes. And that’s what we did most weekends in a garage in Van Nuys. Not much playing out or recording, sadly.

In the 2000s, in college, I studied jazz guitar and abstained from the pop song for several years. I was busy reading biblical criticism and thinking about superimposing triads over other triads. Big mistake. I should have kept writing pop songs.

After college, I recorded a solo EP featuring, you guessed it, pop songs. This one I called Idiodicy. Amazingly, not a hit. No band backing on this recording, just me playing lots of instruments with my buddy Ian Kirkpatrick engineering and drumming. I’ll share some of this material in a later posting.

In 2007, I got to work writing a bunch more songs and put together a band to record what I would consider my proper debut album. Self released. It is called “One” and can still be obtained on the interweb. This is the first band I led featuring drummer Chris Berry.  It’s a great sounding record, featuring great playing by a whole host of bad ass musicians and some cool arrangements by me. Engineered and produced by Aaron Nevezie, at the old Bunker Studio. This one got some good reviews… and some pretty bad ones.

In 2008, having not reached rock stardom with the “One” band, I put together a new project. The Amazing Frozen String Quartet was an americana influenced group, with more great musicians. We made a really light hearted and fun record, contrasting well to some of the material on “One”. The record fell totally flat, and I lost interest in promoting this group. Seems to be a trend.

But I was not deterred! I vowed to lead a band that would shake people up, out of the apathetic stupor of web based existence. So I put together a totally different project, a sound that could be categorized as absurdist rock cabaret. I recorded and released “Welcome to the Show” in 2009, and this record made few ripples. I was nominated for a 2009 Independent Music Award, and got some really exciting reviews. I made a totally awesome ridiculous music video.

And then … i wrote a shitty musical that went nowhere, based on my experience of working closely with a charismatic religious narcissist.

I got rejected for a grant in the last stage of elimination because “my project was not jewish enough”. This to a rabbi’s son, and avowed jewish atheist. Fuck that, fuck them.

I got distracted by my work as a supporting musician and music teacher, got tired of booking and promoting my own work without any traction, and basically sat in a musical funk for 2 years.

In this interim, I’ve been continuing to write songs, mostly because I seem unable to stop writing songs. But I didn’t perform under my own name for a couple years.

I started to really play out again after my great lull of 2009-2011 in the fall of 2011. And I’ve put together a band to play these songs.

No bullshit. No pretense – just good songs, good playing, and rock.

DoubleDouble.

That’s just some background… I guess I didn’t really get to Musical Iron in the Fire #2. That will have to wait for my next entry I suppose.

Coming soon though – a bit about DoubleDouble and rough mixes of the 2 song demo.

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