My Looping Adventure (or, How to Survive Bad Brass Bands): Part 1by Tim Mungenast
It began with a series of flattering invitations that I always had to decline due to lack of plane fare: the worldwide guru of loop-based music, Rick Walker of Santa Cruz, California, invited me to perform at his annual looping festival.
(EDUCATIONAL TIDBIT TIME: Looping is recording a phrase or phrases, letting it repeat, and playing over it, often while adding numerous layers and sonically mangling them with various processors. Famous loopers include Brian Eno, Adrian Belew, and David Torn. Rick Walker is a master, as is his brother Bill.)
Rick liked my contributions to his Looper's Delight forum
(http://loopersdelight.com/loop.html) and better still liked my music,
even though relatively little of it was true loop music.
This year, still in no better financial position than before, I realized I could also incorporate a long-deferred visit to my mom, so I accepted Rick's kind invitation and spent the next 6 months trying to a) scrape together the dough, and b) re-train myself in the fine art of looping.
I had some good cheap digital delays suited to the task, but making rhythmically workable repeating phrases on the fly is a hell of a lot harder than it sounds, and I wanted to make sure that my performance would not be what scientists call El Sucko.
I'd be sharing the bill with some magnificent musicians from all over the world, so El Sucko was not an option!
In looping, your timing must be dead-on when you push the pedal to record your phrase(s) and then again to make it play. If you come up with a catchy phrase but your timing is not perfect, you will come up with a 3-legged dog of a phrase that MIGHT be crappy enough to be cool but more likely an embarrassing turd that you must try to polish into a diamond in front of an expectant audience.
Picking a guitar for the occasion was more difficult than I'd first imagined: After trying several purpose-built travel guitars and finding them either awkward or pricey, I decided to look for a cheap-but-cheerful regular old electric guitar, with the intention of unbolting the neck from the body and stashing the pieces in my suitcase. It would still be subject to the depravities of the baggage handlers but would not have the tempting, tell-tale silhouette of a guitar case. (Thanks to Peter Lauria for the idea!)
I saw the perfect axe for the job in the window of an Allston, Massachusetts consignment store: a Laguna from the nineties. This Indonesian knockoff of an Ibanez super-strat was love at first sight, with its improbably luscious 3-color sunburst finish beckoning in a sultry-but-not-slutty way.
The guitar had a thin-but-disturbing layer of mystery crud (probably from some stoner playing shirtless), but the neck felt just right. The whole damned guitar felt just right, like I had known it for years, so I jumped on it like a bear on a salmon.
It was exactly right for my purposes: good enough to not hold me back in any way, but not so dear that I'd be devastated if it was ruined in transit.
(Well, that was the theory, anyway. I was a little worried over how quickly I was bonding with it.)
Finally came departure day, and preparatory jitters gave way to the giddy joy that only comes from a major leap of faith.
The controlled crash of a landing was more funny than scary, and the real adventure began.
Having endured the humiliating ass-ache that is post-9/11 air travel, I texted another Santa Cruz-based friend, Jule Potter (maker of some of the world's scariest amps), to let him know I had arrived, and his first reply was "Sorry about the fog." He needn't have worried. I found Santa Cruz to be a gorgeous town even when it was buried in slate-grey mist worthy of Mordor. (And the mist "burned off" by early afternoon anyway, as I and my pelican friend (below) can attest.
The hotel presented the kind of minor vexations that make for good stories once you've survived them: the treacherous underground parking lot; the friendly-but-clueless twentysomething bikers wondering why nobody liked their straight pipes roaring in the parking lot at dawn; the rat struggling to free itself from a garbage can outside my room; and most surreal of all, the marching band competition--one cheerfully, earnestly inept band after another, marching down the main drag starting at some ungodly hour. OK, some of the kids were quite talented but I was in no mood to admit it at the time.
Thank Jimi that the guitar reassembled without drama and was ready to play in half an hour. Last-minute practice with my looper and my dementor pedals (Boss PS-2 and PS-3) was likewise less troublesome than I had feared, and more fruitful than I had hoped for. Whether I was ready or not, I FELT ready, and that was enough.
Stay tuned for Part 2, wherein I survive Pre-Minstrel Syndrome* and generally got 'er done.
*Tip of the hat to Doug Marlette, creator of the comic strip "Kudzu," for coining that little gem.
- Posted by Tim Mungenast on April 08, 2013
- Posted by Tim Mungenast on February 10, 2013
- Posted by Tim Mungenast on January 24, 2013
- Posted by Tim Mungenast on December 03, 2012
- Posted by Tim Mungenast on November 12, 2012