Monday, June 22, 2009

SambaDá is going to Brazil

After more than 12 years of playing music in santa cruz and around the country... SambaDá is heading for it's first international dates in Brail! We land in Sao Paulo July 15 or 16 and play for a festival in Sao Paulo on July 19. Then we go to Bahia to play for Ile Aiye, the first carnival group in Brazil consisting of African decendants.

This group was ground breaking for the civil rights movement in Brazil. It is amazing to think that just 35 years ago, segregation and racisim were so strong in Brazil, that black people couldn't parade in the streets. Now it is impossible to think about carnival without thinking of afro-brazilian culture.

Ile Aiye is throwing a welcoming party/show for us! This is one of the highest honors we have ever recieved. What a dream!

Aine, my fiance and I, went and stayed with Graca, the first female singer from the group in Januaray and February of 2008.
We went to the house of Ile Aiye 4 or 5 times. Saw them rehearse, and saw where they make all their drums... The group is more than a band... they are a cultural institution, a school and the heart beat of Afro Brazilian music and culture.

Here is a picture of the group from europe...

I think that the drummer in the middle is Marcio, a percussioninst who has played with SambaDá regularly over the years... another man born half way around the world that is like a brother to me. He was also in brazil when we went, and showed us around... Marcio just came and visited for a month (from New Orleans) and I recorded him for 4 days for the new SambaDá album...

Here is a link to Ile Aiye's website:

Friday, June 19, 2009

Banana Slug String Band album....

I got my first production gig. I am producing an album with 14 songs for the banana slug string band... From left to right we have Solar Steve, Marine Mark, Doug Dirt and Airy Larry, aka the SLUGS These guys have been playing music for children and families for 24 years. My band SambaDá played a party for them for their 20 year anniversary... Gary, our drummer also plays with them from time to time.

Side note: They had their name before the UCSC adopted its mascot (the banana slugs).

It has been a great experience for me. But now there is an added bonus. Due to the outreaching of the group (mainly Doug, I think, but might be wrong) Jack Johnson has agreed to sing on the album. We have sent him two songs, broken down into stems (or sub groups), and he will sing on one or both of them. He has an amazing thing going (to say the least), more specifically a totally laid back style (down to the bone), 15 million albums sold world wide, a solar powered recording studio, a foundation for childrens' eco-education, and a record label.

Victor Whooten is also planning to lay down his FUNKY bass... Vic is one of the best bass players on the planet. Period. EXCLAMATION POINT!!!!

Also, the Cajun music LEGENDS Beausoleil from New Orleans came into my shack (previous studio/garage) and instantly turned one of our songs into a masterpiece. It was amazing to watch them work... we have accordion, two fiddles, and washboard. What a treat!

Also, we have some major local musicians lined up.... Barry Phillips on cello (I can't wait) and George Winston, the great pianist. He will actually be playing Slack Key guitar for a song about coral reefs... I also have Anne Stafford (SambaDá) who is going to help me arrange horns, and play sax, and more to come...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

This is my new (musical) home. Rich Williams is the studio owner. We are running the whole system off of my computer, and I have a couple of microphones, and all my drums in there, but otherwise, it is an amazing system that Rich put together. I wasn't really savvy to all the amazing gear that Rich has the first time I went in. I saw the couch, and kind of thought that the place was run down. But it is truly a sonic paradise!

(Don't judge a book by it's cover). Rich used to work for Universal Audio, and designed a number of crucial products that they have put out. Rich has TREMENDOUS ears and is another angel in my recording career. I am learning as much as i can in a very short time... The board is all analog... no automation, so I am still getting used to that system.

But to my left as I work is this amazing tower of love:

Add ImageI have been a little overwhelmed with all this gear, but it is getting to the point where I don't think I'll ever look back.

I used to do everything inside of pro-tools... all software based. Meaning, I woudl use a preamp to go into pro tools (that red focusrite on the left is Len's and I am still using it) but then everything else I did was software based.

Now I have access to the LA2A, 1176, INSANE Analog to Digital converters, and much more.

I am happily growing into all this gear... it's ridiculous.

Here is a look into the live room... I am in HEAVEN... with all the mics and a wood floor for drums.

Right now SambaDá is finishing up our latest album... And today I am going to do some final drums for the Banana Slug String Band album, which is all about saving the oceans. Till next post!

Studio history. (long winded)

It was 1 knock at my door, from a Santa Cruz Police officer, at 4 in the afternoon, which prompted me to relocate my recording studio. I started out with a very modest home studio, somehow jammed into the one bedroom cottage that Aine and I have lived in for the past 5 years.

One day, Gary (drummer from SambaDá) told me that Len, who had recorded our first studio album, had packed up the studio, and all the gear was sitting in storage. Gary kept on me to call Len and see what he had.

So I called. Len is from the south, (the southern United States, not Los Angeles)... and has the southern hospitality thang DOWN!!! I ask len to buy one of the nice mic's that we all loved. He tells me that they won't sell the mic's, but I can BORROW all of them, (I still have them) and that they want to sell the entire system. I told him that I only have $3,000. They had been trying to sell the system for $12,000...

A couple of days later Len calls back and says: "we'll do it for $3,000." I am shocked, to say the least. The deal includes a custom desk that Len personally built, a computer, monitor, automated mixing board, pro tools software, hardware etc etc etc. Len just says that he wants it to get used. "Do you have a place to put it"

One of the first people I called was my good bro Tai (Nitianda Das Farmer) who just had showed me the neglected 3 car garage below his studio that he was going to turn into a "music room". Tai immediately expressed interest in having me move a recording studio in...

During this time, Marcel (percussionist from SambaDá) really insisted that we call a producer from San Francisco who's name had come up from lots of famous musicians we know (such as Raul from Ozomatli...) I called Greg Landau one night after marcel forwarded his contact info. WIthin a day, I checked my messages and was shocked that he had agreed to work with us, before we actually spoke on the phone.

Greg immediately saw my hunger to learn and took me under his wing. He has showed me how a producer works. It was under tai's house that I started learning how to engineer, how to manage 64+ tracks, how to edit, crossfade, arrange... etc etc etc.

I named my recording studio Shack in the Back Studios. We finished Salve A Bahia (SambaDá's second studio album), then Tai and Kristin got a two month notice that they were going to have to move. So I packed it all up....

After about 9 months, I finally found an 18 x 20 garage on the west side of Santa Cruz. My friend Kelau is a reggae DJ in town and his mother owns the place. I filled the room with carpet... and as much foam as I could. Then I set up my newest configuration (brand new Mac Pro tower, with Pro Tools HD2... ) This is the room where eventually the cops came. I have to admit, I did find two notes over the months... one was very polite. I found it on my gate when I was practicing for an audition with my favorite band of all time, Ozomatli. I was frantically cramming, by playing my ass off for hours and hours. The second note I got was when tracking drums for SambaDa's current album, and I think it said "STOP THE FUCKING DRUMMING".

So when the cops came, I wasn't totally surprised. While in New York with my good buddy Miles Kennedy, he said: "why don't you find a studio in Santa Cruz and just rent out some time?".

By the end of that month, back on the west coast, I had given notice and was set to move into my most current setup....