Thursday, April 26, 2012

etaoin shrdlu

I just saw Linotype: The Film, a fantastic movie about the machine and the interesting people who still use it.  This type-casting machine changed the way the world reads.  Before its invention in 1886, no newspaper in the world had more than eight pages.  Printed matter was composed by handsetting every character into place--a time consuming process, not to mention that each letter needed to be returned to its proper drawer afterwards.  The Linotype produced a whole line of type at once by arranging brass matrices engraved with characters, casting the lines in metal slugs, and then returning the matrices to their proper magazine channels.

Just as fascinating as the machine itself are the people who save the machines from scrapyards and still use them today.  The filmmakers, Doug Wilson, Brandon Goodwin, and Jess Heugel, did an incredible job interviewing the people, explaining the machine, editing the film, and telling a great story.  Director of photography Brandon Goodwin was at the screening I went to.  He answered questions in the theater and was fun to talk with at the reception afterwards.  The screening was hosted by The .918 Club, and Linotype slugs commemorating the event were generously given out to moviegoers.  If you can't catch the film at a screening, you should be able to see it on Netflix this fall.  Then you will understand the meaning of etaoin shrdlu!

Monday, April 16, 2012

the band, the man: Hudson Bell

I first heard the band Hudson Bell on Pandora and through iTunes, bought their amazing album When the Sun is the Moon.For over six months, I listened to their song "Slow Burn" every day like it was a vitamin.  That song and many others have a sound that makes me feel bliss and angst at the same time. Somehow there is something very satisfying in tunes that cause yearning, a paradox to be sure! The band lives and plays around San Francisco at the moment. The lead singer/songwriter/guitarist, also named Hudson Bell, kindly answered my zillion questions about his music.

ink: how did you find your present band mates?
hb: I met John Slater in 1998 by way of mutual friends from AR. As for Brian Fraser, I met him & Chris Palmatier (who recorded the last two records & has played 2nd guitar on tour) @ a going away party for a mutual friend from NC, though I didnt really get to be friends w/ them until a number of years later. John, Brian, and I have now been playing together since 2003?

ink: which do you come up with first, music or lyrics, or do you do both at the same time?
hb: Many times it is a simple title @ first, or an idea. But substance-wise, it is either the music first, or some vibe of the music, then the lyrics, or both @ the same time. Though I have put music to pre-written lyrics before, it doesnt happen as often as the other way around.

ink: i haven't seen the film lost in woonsocket yet, but thought the use of your song "the falls" in the trailer is beautiful. have you seen the movie? were you excited when they asked to use your song?
hb: The good folks that put that together first had an A&E show titled "Random One" that used a lot of my music over the span of the season. The film is an extension of that show. I have not seen the film yet. It was recently shown over the Oprah Channel, but it wasnt a good time for me to watch (if we have that channel, I am not sure).

ink: why don't you have any music videos (damnit)?
hb: A number of them have been started, but never finished. We do have a current project in the works that is a video of us playing some tracks live in our practice space. I guess that may see the light @ some point. We'll see.
ink: this one of you guys playing "merlin" could be an official video, it is gloriously intense!

ink: is this a correct and complete list of your albums?
under boxes of dirt
captain of the old girls
when the sun is the moon
in your head--single "over the hill" or album? all live?
out of the clouds
hb: "in your head" does not exist; it was something random I wrote on mySpace. that song "over the hill" was from a show in 2005 during the Noise Pop festival here - i played material i had been writing in the last few months - there was a project a number of tracks from that performance were to go on, but I sorta stopped working on it 1) b/c I became intimidated from the Pro Tools learning curve & 2) decided to release "Out of the Clouds" ------ also, just a side note: Under Boxes & Dirt is actually a compilation of tracks from tapes I made during the 90's, those tapes were T.M. Filler (1995), Atonal Life (1996) & Homemade Adrenaline (1997), mainly ---- at some point I hope to make available for download a lot of the tunes that didnt make it onto UBAD - I attempted doing so a number of years back, but then realized the  digitized versions only played through the right speaker, so I scrapped them.

ink: do you mind when reviews compare your band to pavement, dinosaur jr., built to spill, modest mouse, etc? does it bother you when reviewers use purple prose?
hb: I think writing about music can be a difficult thing. In that sense, reviewers, at least when dealing w/ a relatively unknown artist, have to give some sort of frame of reference. So those bands are probably a good reference to an audience who knows about those bands. As for the content of the reviews, I try not to think too much about it - to me, it's a good thing if anyone writes about us @ all - even if it isnt positive.

ink: did you spray paint all the out of the clouds record covers? when i opened it and saw it was scuffed and dirty, i was like what the hell, they sent a used record? harhar. i do like it that way, i love rips and chips and stains and scuffs that give things more character and a personal touch. did you write different lines from songs on each (or do they all say "down a staircase i looked for you")?
hb: Yes! Brian & I spray painted every copy. You can see some of the process at - The way St. Ives does it is that they send you a bunch of LP covers that were overruns - so it's a recycling process - some of the covers I remember us painting over were by Okkervil River, Mecca Normal, Zero Boys, all stuff handled by Bellwether Manufacturing & Secretly Canadian Distribution.
As for the writing on the records, I took all the lyrics of the album & chopped them up by line equal to the amount of records & wrote one line/phrase/word on each, so that if you put them all together you could piece together the lyrics on the album. I thought this was a cool way to make each one unique while having them all related in a "one time" kinda way. So, in other words, the record you have is the only one that says "down a staircase i looked for you".
ink: hey readers, that line is from the last song on the album, so there aren't many left! get yours here:

ink: i'm surprised after when the sun is the moon came out that you didn't become crazy famous worldwide! "slow burn" and "the falls" are absolutely amazing songs, and many others on that and on out of the clouds are nearly as perfect. how do you feel about the late and sporadic praise from new fans?
hb: It's nice when people respond to the music & let me know, whether it's an email or coming to a show & approaching me afterward. I'm glad the tunes have legs, and to be honest, if the music didnt still get a reaction, it would be much more difficult to justify booking a show, etc.

ink: are there any musicians you would love to work with or tour with?
hb: David Berman had mentioned the possibility of us opening for the Silver Jews before their last tour, but the timing was not good for me so I didnt follow up on it... That would have been a highlight.

ink: what is the next project, and how's it coming along?
hb: We just started playing out a bit after a sizable break & are working on new songs. Not sure when we will actually get to recording, but it will hopefully turn into something at some point & we'll go from there........................

ink: thanks hb for all your answers. i look forward to hearing more tunes!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Children's books

It's the pleasure of wee things that makes books about mice so fun--imagining yourself that small and all the tiny things people use that you could use also. Scurrying through the huge world would always be an exciting and dangerous adventure! Here are a few pictures from a variety of books about mice:

Ralph S. Mouse written by Beverly Cleary
and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

The Mouse and the Motorcycle written by
Beverly Cleary and illustrated by Louis Darling

Norman the Doorman written and illustrated by Don Freeman

The Cat and Mouse Who Shared a House written by
the Brothers Grimm, translated by Anthea Bell,
and illustrated by Ruth Hürlimann

The Country Mouse and the City Mouse written by Aesop, retold
by Patricia Scarry, and illustrated by Richard Scarry

All the Mice Came written and illustrated by Robert Kraus

Bear's Magic and Other Stories (The Birthday Party Wish)
written by Carla Stevens and illustrated by Robert J. Lee

Friday, April 13, 2012