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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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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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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Under His Eye

In this case, the title of this week’s blog does not refer specifically to the creepy greeting from The Handmaid’s Tale. Rather, it describes how I felt playing last night and earlier in the week for two of my favourite songwriter friends, Michael Sheen Cuddy and Jody Ferrer.


Relish Show: September 29, 2018

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Photo by Cam McInnes

After a week of working trough the songs, I was as well prepared as could be to do justice to Michael’s challenging yet fun songs, but still felt the pressure to do well, given that many of the song recordings I used to prep were produced by and featured guitar work by the great Tim Bovaconti, which I was hoping to satisfactorily emulate. On top of that, playing with Paul Brennan (drums), and David Macmichael (bass), two players whose taste and ears I massively respect, further drove the need to excel. It did not make things easier when another superlative guitarist, Cam McInnes of Cadre renown walked in and sat a metre away from me. Still, I think I held my own, certainly enjoyed the night, and I’d love to do it again as I’ve learned the material now!


Leadfoot Studio Session for Jody Ferrer: September 26, 2019

Recording for Jody Ferrer (Jody and the Friendzone) last Wednesday turned out to be more of a challenge than I expected. Although I had prepared for it, with charts and a mockup recording to work out the riffs, for some reason I could not get through a full song without making a flub somewhere along the line. Hopefully, digital recording magic and patience from engineer Mike at Leadfoot Studio should fix things. We’ll see…


Three Guys – One Rhythm Section

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Poster courtesy Fraz Milne

Looking for a fun night this coming Tuesday, October 2? Make it down to the Linsmore Tavern for a great evening of original music (and some covers) by friends Fraz Milne and Sal Indigo, and with the Cats and me. As you can see from the poster, drumming and bass will be shared amongst the three acts, ably performed by Chris Bender and Neil Morris respectively. Can’t wait!

Until then, be well!

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Attic Antics

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🎶 Every day I get in the queue 🎶[/[/
Back in the big smoke now, and the first order of business was Long and McQuade‘s Attic Sale on Friday morning just past. After a 3 hours wait, finally got in and nabbed a used MOTU 8pre eight-channel ADAT preamp to replace the Focusrite OctoPre I had been renting all summer. Officially ready now for 12 simultaneous channels of recording fun!

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Out and About

img_0852.jpgFriday night was the occasion to catch some fine music in the clubs and I wasn’t disappointed. First off was Mimi O’Bonsawin‘s excellent set at the Dock on Queen, complete with a preview of her latest video. Mimi and suitcase kicking percussionist and partner Ryan Schurman delivered a catchy and eclectic mix of original songs (and one cover) to a small but enthusiastic crowd, closing off a summer of extensive touring and sightseeing in Northern Ontario.

img_0860.jpgNext up was the weekly Blues Jam at the Salty Dog, where the Sons of Rhythm were featured. Host Mike Sedgwick sat in with this virtuosos trio, further raising the bar, bit follow-up Sal Indigo did not disappoint. I only regret not being able to stay later but a morning commitment loomed.


Nova Scotia Highlights

Those who read last week’s remote blog will know I was travelling in Nova Scotia. Beautiful place and lots to relate, but let me just focus on a few oddities.

First was this guitar shown below made from the type of coal shovel as was employed early last century by miners in Cape Breton. This one, signed by George Jones, is on display at the Miners’ Museum in Glace Bay. By the way, once you visit this place, Merle TravisSixteen Tons takes on full and concrete meaning.

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🎶 Working’ in a coal mine, going down, down.
Workin’ in a coal mine. Whew! About to slip down. 🎶

Another intriguing guitar that I played briefly at Fortress of Louisbourg. The gentleman who allowed me to pick it up explained it was a reproduction of an 18th century guitar. I do not have the expertise to say one way or the other. The guitar was set up with paired strings (like a twelve-string), but without the low E pair. Very Keith Richard!

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Finally, not sure if any comment is required regarding the following photograph. This is just outside of North Sydney.

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Special Gig Alert

Image may contain: 4 people, people smilingI have the great pleasure to be guesting with Michael Cuddy this coming Saturday, September 29, 9:30 PM, at Relish Bar and Grill. I am a big fan on Michael’s songs, and very much want to do them justice.

On top of that, his latest recordings feature guitar work by Tim Bovaconti, who regularly performs with Ron Sexsmith and Burton Cummings, as well as leading his own excellent group. That’s who I am supposed to cover for!

Piling on, the rhythm section is David Macmichael on bass and Paul Brennan on drums (honorary Cats btw!), some of the best and most tasteful musicians I have ever played with.

So I have my work cut out for me but it will be an inspiring challenge. Please come down to see how well I do, but mostly to hear Michael Cuddy’s eclectic and superbly crafted songs!

Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday!

Be well!

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Wise Words

Ace blues guitarist and host of the highly successful Friday Night Blues Jam at the Salty Dog Mike Sedgewick recently posted on Facebook some thoughts about musicians’ complaining about poor turnout. It’s worth taking a moment to read what he suggests.

I hate seeing posts from musicians who get angry that people don’t go out to their shows or that the live music scene is dead. I never hold it against anyone who doesn’t make it out and I always try to make a point to thank people that do come out, especially those that I always see at venues who constantly support live music. If you want people to make it out to shows try doing things like:

1. Make it a better experience for the listener. Have an act that gives reason for someone to spend their night/money at a venue. Make it exciting. Have appropriate sound levels! It’s great fun to blast through classic rock covers at rock concert volume but it’s an attack on the senses on people who would otherwise enjoy the music for a longer duration. There’s only so long anyone can handle deafening volume. It’s exhausting. Also, don’t think that because your band can competently get through tired covers or your original material it makes for a good show. If you are on stage disconnected from the audience just going through the motions then what reason do people have to not just stay at home and listen to the radio?

2. Engage the audience. I always make a point on breaks to go around and say hi to strangers or friends at tables and thank them for their patronage. It might seem silly but it makes people know they are appreciated and only serves to make a night more memorable when they can talk to the musicians they see on stage. Be approachable. I always see people walk by and you can tell that they want to talk/say hi so I make sure that I at least acknowledge them and look friendly so they have that opportunity.

3. Realize that the live music scene HAS changed immensely from what it used to be. But it is not dead. Be grateful that it still exists. There are plenty of great local acts who constantly pack venues. Obviously they’re doing something right to consistently draw and I doubt anyone would leave these gigs thinking “oh the live music scene is totally dead now why bother”.

4. Don’t take yourself too seriously and try to have fun. If you’ve been toiling for years to write groundbreaking original material that’s gonna change the world and finally are ready to debut the masterpiece, realize that a lot of people are just out to have a few beers and chat with their friends. The next day they’ll remember the night before as “that was fun to get out and see live music”.

Rant over. That’s just my perspective. I’ve been lucky to have had some grassroots success with some of the things I do and when asked why it works I can only guess that the above points have something to do with it. Also I’m sure some great musicians who I respect a ton may have issue with some of these points and would love to hear any feedback as to what I’m missing or got wrong.

At the time of this post being written, there were 60 comments following his “rant”, and all positive. Mike just may be on to something!

Happy reading and be well!