Monkeys, Snakes and Cats, oh my!

Before getting deeply into the subject of this week’s post, just a quick report on the Félix & the Cats show at The Dock on Queen this past Friday. It was a fun night for all. A big thanks to supporters who came out and a special recognition to Tim, the Dock’s most loyal music fan! Thanks as well to the club for always making us feel welcome.

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Unlugged
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Electrified

The really exciting news is that we are slated to open for The Monkey Fightin’ Snakes on Tuesday December 18 at the Duke Live! This is a huge thrill and honour for FatC to be on the same stage as the MFS in all their awesome simian and reptilian goodness, and will be our first time at the Duke! If you don’t know Monkey Fighting’ Snakes, here is some background gleaned from their site.

The Monkey Fightin’ Snakes are a blues rock band from Toronto. This band is the brainchild of singer songwriter Matthew Davies. Their blues sound is little bit jamband-pop, a little world-folk-twang.

Think Eddie Vedder with Neil Finn and Tom Waits.

The key members are:
Matthew Davies – Guitar, Dobro, Banjo, Ukelele, Pedal Steel, Lead Vocals and Songs
Dave Stoyles – Bass, Guitar, Button Box, Souzaphone, Trombone and Backing Vocals
Daniel Szabo – Drums, Backing Vocals, Guitar
Eric Szabo – Keyboards, Backing Vocals, Bass
Darren Atkinson – Drums, Percussion, Mayhem, Backing Vocals

Monkey Fightin’ Snakes put out their first album of original music “Finish What You Star” in 2014, produced by multi Juno Award winning producer Michael Philip Wojewoda. Recorded live off the floor (through an old Neve desk to 2” tape, no click track, lead vocals and guitar solos captured within the take), the album featured 9 original songs written by singer and guitarist Matthew Davies. After extensive touring, the band returned to the studio to record “Broken Off-Switch” in 2017, this time with 14 tracks also penned by Davies. 2018 saw the arrival of brothers Eric and Daniel Szabo, and much new writing in preparation for the third album.

For a taste of MFS, check out the video below and click over to their YouTube channel.

I hope you can make it out to catch us on the 18th at the Duke, and if not already a fan, become one of Monkey Fightin’ Snakes! Until then, be well!

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Fellow Travellers – Part 7

Most of the musicians I have written about are people I have encountered at various shows and open mics in the city, but occasionally, these encounters take place in another context. Such was the case recently when I met two great artists at work, in an entirely unrelated context.

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Photo by Jen Squires – Photographer

First is Andrew Moljgun, a saxophonist and keyboardist who has made a name for himself as part of Blues/R&B band Bad Luck Woman and Her Misfortunes, as well as an impressive list of performances with a variety of top artists such as Jenie Thai, Peter Elkas, Tommy Youngsteen, and Colin James. If the planet can align, I hope to have Andrew in at ManCave Studio to be featured on a song on the upcoming and somewhat slow-moving Félix & the Cats début EP. It might be tight as he is heading off for a 10-country European tour with Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar right after the New Year.

dittEven more serendipitously, just this week, a singer-songwriter best known as Ditt happened into the front office on school business, and as I overheard him talking about music with the staff there, I had to find out more. Starting off as a drummer at a young age, then touring as tech support with his brother all over Ontario and Quebec for the band Swan led him to dedicating himself to being a musician. Building on his expertise on drums, he taught himself the guitars and began writing his own songs.

Ditt wrote, sang, produced and played on his début CD A Boy Can Dream, with Jake Kolodziej engineering. He exemplifies the kind of dedication and enthusiasm it takes to persist in the music business these days and I wish him well!


Gig Imminence

This Friday, Félix & the Cats are back again at the Dock on Queen, one of our favourite little places to perform. Come on down for a civilized 8:30 start and stick around for the evening. The guys in the band have asked me to feature the quieter acoustic material in set one, the rock it up for the next two, so you can adjust your stay to taste. Great beer too!

Looking forward to seeing you there! Be well!

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Screen Gems

It’s been a harrowing week for a lot of reasons, so it came an uplifting change to go to the movies last night to catch Bohemian Rhapsody. The film is not perfect (plenty of anachronisms and factual inaccuracies if IMDB is to be believed) but definitely good show and the performances are excellent, particularly capturing the band’s physical presence on stage. It also inspired this week’s theme.

IMG_0166Way back, the ABC Songwriters’ Circle, show #3 (November 7, 2017) had three uniquely talented musicians on stage: Tyler Ellis, m.e. law, and Jessica Stuart. A brief summary of the evening is in the blog that followed the show.

Just recently, a film has been released that documents Jessica’s search for a childhood friend when she lived in Japan. Produced by Loud Roar Productions in conjunction with CBC Docs, Finding Fukue is a beautifully realized and inspiring 20-minute film that celebrates how true friendship can bridge both distance and time. Jessica is featured of course, but so is her music in the doc’s soundtrack. I have embedded Finding Fukue below and encourage you to watch.

Thanks for watching!

Jessica Stuart will next be performing at the Dakota Tavern for a series called ‘Therapy’ (usually the first Thursday of the month), but this time on Wednesday, December 5, featuring The Jessica Stuart Few (including koto), with Moves and Montréal group Gabi Tomé.

m.e. law has shows scheduled for early 2019, which I hope to update you with as details are confirmed.

Tyler Ellis is performing with his band the Eddy Line and special guests on Saturday, December 8, 2018 at Dora Keogh.

All are well worth catching, Maybe I’ll see you there. Be well!

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Talent Pool

So let’s jump in!

Although this week was a hard one due to long days at work (long term contract – still officially “retired”), I had to make time to catch some live music.

46339351_1933660803414653_7611599694044594176_n.jpgWhat better then than the 100th Nightowl show for The Lonely Hearts, about whom I have written before. The Lonely Hearts are an original cover band. If that sounds incongruent, let me explain.

Some cover bands approach the material and attempt to play it as closely as possible to the original. This is fine. The LH prefer to select crowd-pleasing songs, and deliver their essence, dotted occasionally with mash-ups for interest, and inject their own feel into them. An example would be the way they cover Sixpence None the Richer‘s Kiss Me, taking a great catchy jangly-guitar pop song and rocking it further up with a grittier and punchier approach. It’s also a great showcase for Omar Saab’s vocals, as this is originally a song performed by female vocalist Leigh Nash.

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L to R: Curtis Courtemanche (drums and vocals), Graeme Moffatt (bass), Omar Saab (guitar and lead vocals) Dave McCamus (lead guitar and vocals)

FatC was there in full force to celebrate the 100th show, and watch the band perform to packed house, which included a video and audio recording crew.46449284_988394358000385_2143834570770874368_n.jpg

For a sample of the Lonely Hearts sounds, check out the promo reel below. The audience reactions are genuine, and if anything, the live shows I’ve attended are even more energetic.


On our way back to the east end after leaving the Nightowl show, FatC drummer Chris Bender and I stopped in briefly to catch the end of the always excellent Friday Night Blues Jam, hosted by Mike Sedgwick and Robin Hutchison at the Salty Dog. Regrettably, I missed the feature set by the very talented Sam Taylor, aka Little Magic Sam, but we had a chance to connect and talk a bit. Once my day job commitment end (6:15 rise + one hour commute to work is not fun), I may be able to get out there and catch more of Sam’s shows.


Just a reminder we have a few shows coming up in December, plus freshly confirmed shows in the new year at the Linsmore and Relish. Please check the sidebar, subscribe to this site and be on the lookout on social media for event announcements!

Be well!

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Mancave Studio Diary #3 – River Town

This will be the final instalment of the diary, for now. Perhaps the next ones will be on the recording the Cats and I are working on. Should be fun!

This recording features Leanna Yamada, whom I’ve written about on before, notably here and here. Leanna also appeared at the ABC Songwriters’ Circle back in March of this year. Here is her bio.

unnamedLeanna Yamada is a Toronto-based singer and songwriter. You can usually find her playing around the city with her band, which includes her creative partner and lead guitarist Chuck Majic. Together they write popular music with folk, blues and jazz influences. Leanna will taking advantage of the Songwriters’ Circle to introduce more personal material she has written as a solo artist, which comments on her own life experiences. (show #18 – March 13, 2018)

Leanna and I met when she started working at a school in North York. As we discovered we were both songwriters, this became a frequent topic of discussion. From there, catching each other’s shows followed. As I was starting to develop ManCave, I asked Leanna and Chuck Majic (her guitarist in the current project at the time) whether they would be interested in having some recordings done at my fledgling studio. They agreed, and were able to put down a few songs with her band.

Fast forward to a few months ago… Leanna had a collection of romantic songs better suited to a keyboard-driven approach. We agreed to see what they could sound like fully produced.

This one is my favourite. Early in the recording of it, I suggested that real strings would sound amazing on it. Leanna had been thinking the same and knew an amazing musician to fit the bill. Enter Daniela Gassi on violin and viola.

daniela.jpgDaniela plays viola regularly in the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra, as well as in semi-professional orchestras in and around Toronto.  She also performs with Brampton Music Theatre, playing violin in the pit orchestra for their musical productions. Outside of the classical realm, Daniela also performs as part of pop rock ensemble Three Seasons and the Move, and plays violin in many other indie bands, most recently with Ryan Bonner (Tides On Earth) and with Leanna live.

The concept from the beginning was to make the arrangement as sparse as possible to feature Leanna’s singing, but have a rich tone. Keyboard and vocals were done first, then strings were added at a later date. That session was a very creative one, where Daniela  doubled the signature piano riff, added harmony, and counterpoint to further enhance the song. Finally I played bass in a few spots.

Track List:

  • Electronic piano on Grand setting
  • Violin 1 panned right
  • Violin 2 panned right (on selected sections)
  • Viola panned left
  • Bass through “Modern Amp” model
  • Vocals: single track through the Rode NT-1A panned slightly left
  • Vocals: same as above through the Sennheiser MK-4 panned slightly right
  • Reverb to taste

Enjoy!

River Town ©2018 words and music by Leanna Yamada – (SOCAN)


New Gig Alert

I’ll have more to say about this show in a blog later, but for those who like to plan ahead, December 18 at The Duke Live should definitely be on your calendar!

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Until next week, be well!

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Angus Angst

I had hoped to post about another recording at the ManCave this week, but things are on hold until SOCAN registration can be established.

IMG_0938angus.jpgIn the meantime, for your amusement, here I am trying to channel AC/DC‘s Angus Young for Halloween at the school where I have been working for the last few weeks.

None of the kids got who I was, except one “old soul”. The closest from the rest were a few who said, “You’re that guy from School of Rock.” Close enough.

I think I’ve got the look more or less right, but not the intensely snarly attitude. Nobody does it like Angus.

Which reminds me of an oft reprised topic of discussion: can (or better still – should) you play guitar wearing shorts, unless you are Angus or Jimmy Buffett. Discuss…

Anyway, that’s all for this week!

Be well!

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ManCave Studio Diary #2 – I Won’t Tell You

Or maybe I will.

This week’s feature is John Mahler. I came to know John as the spouse of a friend who shares the same athletic activity I do. I came to find out that he was an aspiring songwriter, and after some coaxing and a few shared stages, John came to ManCave Studio to lay down some tracks. It seems to be going well, and we are working on our fifth.

Here is a bio of John from the old ABC Songwriters’ Circle.

John MahlerJohn Mahler asked himself a few years ago what he wanted to do with the rest of his life — music had always been his passion and songwriting his dream. Since his teen years, John had played guitar and written on and off, but life’s demands had invariably gotten in the way. Four years ago, he bought himself a new guitar, and re-engaged in the long-aspired-to commitment to finishing the songs of his youth, and to daily practice developing his own fingerpicked folksy-jazzy-bluesy style. With a growing catalogue of completed songs and renewed skills to play them, a friend said to him, “Now you have to perform them. After all, a song isn’t a song until it is heard.” Now John is applying himself to the craft of performing and sharing his songs with a growing and appreciative audience. (show #7 – Tuesday, December 5, 2017)

This song is I Won’t Tell You, which is a reflection on how the things unsaid can erode a  relationship, assuming I understand it correctly.

On this track, John sings and plays guitar on the first two tracks listed below. I play all other electric guitars and bass. The drums and percussion are Logic programmed with some tweaks.

Track List:

  • Guitar 1: Taylor T5 plugged in direct panned slightly right; light delay + reverb
  • Guitar 2: Taylor T5 plugged in direct panned hard left; repeating echos staring on second chorus
  • Electric guitar 1: I think I used a Gretsch Electromatic direct, amp emulation with chorus and a very light reverb. It comes in on the verse verse
  • Electric guitar 2: same Gretsch for slide on the bridge section; overdrive and delay
  • Electric guitar 3: as above with harmony line
  • Bass direct” only EQ and compression
  • Drums: Logic Brush Train Drumset loops
  • Percussion: Logic internal EXS24 plugin – Latin
  • Vocals: single track through the Rode NT-1A panned left
  • Vocals: same as above through the Sennheiser MK-4 panned right; slapback delay

This recording is a good example of the aim of the studio. Critical ears will catch the flaws for sure. At this point, it serves the purpose of putting the “flesh on the bone” for John’s song. And I’m always fine with going back to improve the product, especially with increased experience and fresh ears. Happy listening!

I Won’t Tell You ©2018 John Mahler


Dock on Queen Show Rescheduled

After sorting out the confusion (on my part mostly) about the canceled October 27 show at the Dock on Queen, the lovely folks there found a new slot for us on Friday December 7. So there will after all be another 2018 Félix & the Cats performance before the New Year. Best of all, early birds can catch the show because of a very civilized 8 PM start.

Put that in your calendar now! Thanks for reading and listening!

Be well!

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ManCave Studio Diary #1 – Come On, Come On!

As I’ve already alluded to, the studio has become an important pursuit for me.

Starting off, I had a fairly clear idea of what I wanted to accomplish, beyond recording my own songs. While at this point I don’t pretend to be delivering fully radio-ready recordings, I hope I have set the bar high enough to deliver reasonably well produced songs that can act as quality demos for securing gigs, or helping singer-songwriters realize a full vision of their compositions.

One of the first projects I took on was a recording of Gary Edward Allen‘s Come On, Come On. Below is the bio I used for the now-ended ABC Songwriters’ Circle.

GaryGary Edward Allen is a singer songwriter hailing from Vancouver now living in Toronto but born and raised in Ottawa. He plays an interesting mesh of acoustic styles ranging from Neo-classical to psychedelic freak folk. Rooted in classic 70’s rock and 90’s alternative, but with modern sensibilities, Gary takes you on a journey every time. His songs are online and readily available on iTunes, Bandcamp, Soundcloud and ReverbNation. He performs and co-hosts at a weekly open mic with Amber Durette at Legends on Danforth every Thursday night.  (show #6 – Tuesday, November 28, 2017 / show #36 – July 17, 2018)

Gary and I have known each other for a few years now, first meeting at the Linsmore, then when I have performed at the Thursday Night Open Mic at Legends, which he co-hosts with Amber Durette. Gary kindly agreed to let me take a stab at producing a song for him. He came in well-prepared, and the song is very close to what I think he had in mind from the get-go, with the addition of an intro and the suggestion to hold the long vocal note just leading into the outro. Gary plays all the instruments save the drums which are from the built-in software in Logic Pro X, and which I tried to program as best I could. Still learning…

Track List:

  • Acoustic guitar 1 through AKG D202 panned hard left
  • Acoustic guitar 1 through Rode NT-1A panned hard right
  • Acoustic guitar 1 direct centred
  • Acoustic guitar 2 (after bridge/outro fills) through AKG D202 panned hard left
  • Acoustic guitar 2 (after bridge/outro fills) through Rode NT-1A panned hard right
  • Acoustic guitar 3 (intro) direct panned partway left; delay & reverb
  • Electric guitar 1 with modelling amp and fx panned hard left
  • Electric guitar 2 with modelling amp and fx panned hard left
  • Electric guitar 3 (capo’d at 12th fret) with modelling amp & fx panned partway right
  • Electric guitar 4 (slide for outro) with modelling amp and fx
  • Bass direct with modelling amp
  • Drums: Logic Virtual drummer – “Liverpool” kit, “Darcy” drummer
  • Vocals: single track through the Rode NT-1A

The recording is still rough, and given more time and more experience on my part, I’m certain we could tighten it up technically. Nevertheless, we are both reasonably happy with the result as it accomplishes what we had hoped, which was to flesh out what Gary had in mind and establish the right feel for it.

I hope you enjoy it!

Come On, Come On! ©2018 Gary Edward Allen

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And Speaking of Recording…

The Cats have finally been herded and we have begun laying down beds for our forthcoming album?/EP?, tbd. It is such a joy to work with Chris and Neil as they are creative and professional in every way. Thanks guys!

band with wine
Photos courtesy Chris Bender

Gig Alert -Change

This coming Saturday’s previously announced show the at the lovely Dock On Queen (Queen East between Logan and Carlaw) is postponed to a date to be determined.

Until next week, be well!

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Tidy Up Time

Just a quick one this week. It’s been busy and this is my second attempt to upload after finishing a full draft and seeing everything wiped out 😦

Things have been busy again at ManCave Studio. While it’s not my goal at this point to produce radio-ready recordings, it still hope to produce quality demos that clients (and I) can use to secure shows or realize a fully produced song. As such, I’ve made some enhancements as shown below, which include a better storage system, a new cheap and cheerful set of matched Apex 185B microphones for drum overhead recording (and using the ORTF configuration which I have just learned about), and a spiffy new recording desk which you can see better below, and makes for more ergonomic and airier setting.IMG_0923

 

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With that as a preamble, and some recording sessions looming, I will be starting a new series on the blog hopefully next week, and will feature songs already recorded here by other artists pending SOCAN registration. Thanks in advance to the artists for going along!

The blogs will talk about the process of recording, the choice of instruments, some technical details, and production choices. A final mix will of course be included.

So please come back and check it out. Until then, be well!

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Three Guys and One Rhythm Section

42543870_1707178439392584_711399755636277248_o.jpgThanks to Fraz Milne for that title and the poster above he prepared for our combined show at the Linsmore this past Tuesday for their Indie Music series. I won’t say a lot this week on the blog, as Canadian Thanksgiving preparations are a priority, but there are a few people who deserve a special thanks.

First of all, to Mary Elizabeth Gilbert for her trust in putting this show together (it isn’t the first time either), for her tireless promotion of independent artists and the videos posted below. Thanks as well to the aforementioned Fraz, along with Sal Indigo for agreeing to do this show. Finally, and most certainly not least gratitude to my superb rhythm section, Neil Morris and Chris Bender who worked the whole evening for only modest compensation. Kudos to Sal for having the inspired thought as an experienced busker of putting his case out for tips. It helped a lot!

Hats off too to everyone who made it out and for the nice words after the performance.

Here is a sample of the night from each of us. We must have been loud as the phone that recorded this is a bit overdriven, but still worth a listen.


Fraz Milne


Sal Indigo


Félix and the Cats

 

Our next performance is October 27, 2018, back at the Dock on Queen. The last few shows there were acoustic, but for this next one, we are fully plugged in so it should be rockin’ fun!

Happy Thanksgiving and be well!

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