Make some noise

Me, Myself, and this blog,Music — Sean Bonner @ 7:18 am

Last month my friend Adrian told me he had an idea, and wanted to know if I’d be interested in collaborating on a project with him. He’d been reading my 30 days of fiction stories listened to some of the synth noise I’ve been messing around with and thought there might be an interesting fusion between those and some footage he’d filmed recently. It sounded fun.

The trick of course is that Adrian lives in Tokyo and I live in LA, so we couldn’t just get together and make it, so instead we started sending bits and pieces back and forth to each other. He’d send me some video, I’d send him some audio, he’d tweak the video and send back, I’d record new audio and send it, etc. It actually worked out pretty well, and the resulting piece of video art is something I’m quite happy with.

You can read Adrian’s blog post about it or go directly to the video hosted on vimeo.

Somewhat related, I’ve been having a lot of fun making this crazy noise stuff recently and think I might do more of it, but it seemed weird enough that I thought it should have it’s own name. So I’m calling it KILLAKEE CAT and I got the domain killakee.cat to house it. It’s a nod to this fun story. You can also follow @killakeecat on twitter for updates on new things whenever there are some.

self confidence and collaborations

Articles,Me, Myself, and this blog,Music — Sean Bonner @ 1:41 pm

I’m not exactly sure when but at some point in my life I started ranking collaborations higher than anything I could do on my own. Of course, I should note, there is value in both. But there was a solid section of my life when I knew that no one wanted to work on anything with me so if I wanted to do it my only choice was to do it myself. And I did. And I was happy with the results. Perhaps due in part to some of those results, people I looked up to started getting in touch, or maybe having some experience under my belt I wasn’t nervous about reaching out to them. Anyway, I’d talk to some of these people and on occasion one of us might propose working on a project together. I was always flattered. Seriously, anyone I’ve ever worked with in my life has been a dream come true for me. At first anyway, but that’s a different story. I’d only ever consider going in on something with someone I already respected, so that someone I respected was down for a collab with me felt great.

I’ve been lucky to work with or build things with a great number of people I think are serious badasses. And I’m incredibly proud of the outcomes of the vast majority of those collaborations. I wouldn’t undo them for anything. Even the ones that didn’t work out exactly as I’d hoped – all still awesome. But somewhere along the way I started second guessing anything that I didn’t have a collaborator to validate. I don’t think this was a conscious shift, at first it was just if a had the choice between doing something on my own or with someone else I’d opt for the joint endeavor because two heads are better than one right? And then as that went on it turned into a feeling that I needed some outside perspective or expertise to shape whatever my contribution was. And eventually that maybe they were the one with the value and I was just lucky to have the opportunity work with them, but without them my piece wasn’t all that interesting. I don’t think any of those are especially productive positions to take, but you know, hindsight and all.

It’s only after years of a slow shift and later a conscious decision to recognize it that I realized how many ideas, projects or things I put off because a collaboration hadn’t materialized. The slightest hint of interest from someone else justified an idea to me, and lack of interest nullified it. It’s like I stopped trusting my own internal gauge of what was worth doing. Similarly, if someone else thought an idea was cool but was unable to work on it with me I made myself believe I couldn’t do it on my own. That I needed that other person to help my ideal materialize. Of course none of that is true and these are just the things doubt fills your head with. The slide into that negative space is so gradual that it’s hard to recognize, so just realizing this is happening is a huge step. Having identified the culprit it’s easy to cast them out.

If I think I have a good idea, it doesn’t become less of a good idea just because I don’t have someone to collaborate with. If I do, great, but if I don’t, no biggie. This is probably a similar feeling to being in a relationship for a long time and when it ends, feeling uncertain about your own choices and quickly looking for someone else to shack up with so you don’t have to face all that on your own. Or choosing to be single for a while and seeing who you really are. So in a way, creatively, I’m trying to embrace being single for a bit. What does that mean? Probably means I’ll be producing and putting out a bunch of garbage that you all will have to sort through. But it also means I might make some things I’m happy with. I think about my friend Jonathan’s theory here – make lots of stuff and some of it will suck but some of it will be great and it’s worth it for the great stuff.

Dear Friends, Please Help Me Spread The Word

Me, Myself, and this blog,Music — Sean Bonner @ 10:24 pm

Two things I’m not terribly good at and very uncomfortable doing: Talking about myself & Asking for help. Especially when there are so many other more important things to talk about these days, but this is me attempting to do both.

A little over a year ago I started talking about an art & music project I’d been working on with some friends called Cross My Heart Hope To Die. Almost non stop since then I’ve been working on physical art pieces – photos & sculptures – that I’d hoped to show off publicly in a real art world setting. That went from a crazy idea to a goal to a plan to a reality – the gallery exhibition opens this Saturday July 26th here in Los Angeles. Admittedly this project has been very hard for people to really wrap their head around – a band that makes physical art? An art collective that releases music? Treating music like photos? Treating photos like songs? It doesn’t make immediate sense to people looking to categorize it in the context of something else they are familiar with and I’ve been immensely lucky to have a handful of friends who believe in my crazy ideas and have been helpful and supportive of them. This wouldn’t have happened without them, for-fucking-sure.

This gallery show is 2 years in the planning, and I can’t even begin to tell you the sweat and stomach acid that has been generated putting it together. And on top of that, at the opening on Saturday we’ll be performing publicly for the first time ever as a band.

I’ve put on tons of gallery shows, but I’ve never been in one. Certainly never a gallery full of work I created.

I’ve put out records and toured with bands, but I’ve never been the one on stage performing.

I’m super excited about both of these things, and at the same time horrified. Not that people won’t like it, I’m completely confident in the work and what we’re doing, I believe in it 1000% – I’m scared I will have spent all this time and all this money making this work and no one will see it. I know that is fairly irrational because a lot of my friends will be there for sure, but still. I’m scared. And here’s the asking for help part – please, pretty please, help me get the word out about the opening and help me get people there to see the work and the performance.

The details:

The exhibition is called “Vita E Morte” and is being held at SUBLIMINAL PROJECTS gallery,  1331 W. Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
The public opening is Saturday from 8pm until 11pm and the live performance will probably be around 8:45 and should last 30 minutes or so.

Here’s some more info and images of some of the works in the show – it’s not everything, but it’s a lot of it. Full images will be together soon, in the meantime hopefully this gives a good idea of what we’re up to. It’s very high concept, so much happening behind the scenes for each and every piece, but I trust it’ll make sense when you see it all together. And I trust that the whole project will make more sense after this show. Some people see it as a band doing some weird art thing on the side, I’m confident this show will illustrate that it’s so much more.

Also we have a new record coming out next week too, you can hear some of the songs already on Soundcloud, and it’ll be up on the pirate bay soon too. Amazon and iTunes too I guess and we’ll have CDs at the gallery opening, but only 100 of them.

But seriously – if you are in Los Angeles and can come out that would be amazing, and if you can pass the word on to your friends and audiences and anyone you pays attention to you, that would mean the world to me.

Thank you.

 

I’m holding on

Me, Myself, and this blog,Music — Sean Bonner @ 2:30 pm

I often say that music has been and continues to be incredibly important to me. All of the crucial moments in my life have a soundtrack, either what I was listening to before they happened or what I turned to after the fact to help me get through them. Music has been my rock and my salvation. It’s the only thing I could always count on – no matter what. Lots of people say music is important to them, but without a doubt music changed my life. No, fuck that – music saved my life. I can say with full assurance that if it weren’t for discovering a handful of bands in my early teenage years I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I might not even be here today.

I’d always liked music and as early as 3rd grade I can remember recording songs off the radio with my tape deck so that I could listen to them repeatedly, though admittedly those songs were probably just catchy musically but lacking in substance. Getting a “Weird Al” Yankovich tape for my birthday one year got me listening to lyrics. Before that I think I’d just thought of vocals as another musical element, but trying to understand all the references and jokes “Weird Al” was making made me realize the depth of the content that could be there as well. Discovering Run DMC, Beastie Boys and Public Enemy would take that interest in lyrical content to an entirely new level.

But there was still a disconnect in that those people were rock stars. What they were talking about was obviously important to them, which made it interesting to me. And educational on many levels. But there was always a bit of voyeurism because I could tell from their lyrics and photos that these people were from totally different worlds that I was, and lived very different lives. I didn’t know anything about parties or girls or global politics. I moved around a lot so I didn’t have many close friends and my family didn’t have a lot of money. And as a kid too young to get a job, I had even less. Which is probably why discovering punk rock a few years later was so powerful for me. These people were not rock stars. They didn’t have gold chains, fancy cars, airplanes.. they had jack shit. Just like me. And they often talking about how important friends were, which is something I wanted so much to believe in.

My list of “influential” bands would take days to read though (in fact very early version of my old website had a soundtrack section that listed out just a few of them) but the ones that really grabbed me, changed my world view and pointed my in the right direction is probably three. Three bands. I could easily make that ten. Or twenty without much effort. But if I’m honest about it, really honest about what were the watershed moments, which songs really made a earth shattering difference to me, there’s three of them. Of course that those three existed inside of an ecosystem absolutely bursting with awesomeness helped a lot too.

I’ve written before about trying to kill myself when I was very young, and made references to a whole host of things that kept me mopey and depressed for solid chunk of my childhood. I don’t bring that up to get all emo, but to make the point of just how much impact a few kids in garages out in the world putting words that ment something to them to music, and risking humiliation sent them out into the world could have on me. (more…)

CMHHTD

Music — Sean Bonner @ 3:47 pm

“Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in…”

I’ll save you the epic backstory and just say that when I walked away from the music industry in the late 90’s one of the many reasons I chose to do so was because, frankly, it had gotten boring. People (and bands) were just running through the motions. They were executing a prescribed set of actions because that’s just what you do. I missed the days of people doing things because they loved them. Because they thought they were awesome. Because they wanted to be proud of what they were doing. Doing the same thing that you’ve already done, that everyone else has already done, over and over again, isn’t at all fulfilling or interesting to me.

So I left the music world and went to work at this exciting new place, the internet. The music industry had a lot of perks, but it never had lolcats. In the years since then I’ve helped a few friends out with the occasional music project here and there, but I’ve always kept things at arms length because on some level it was the same old thing. It’s was a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

These frustrations were echoed in a conversation I had with a few friends last year. We went on to ask ourselves, what does success mean, or even look like if it’s not just living up to someone else’s metric? Obviously if we were going to spend time working on something we want it to be successful, but maybe more importantly we talked about how we wanted it to be something we were proud of working on. If the absolute worst case scenario is that we spend some time working on something we think is awesome, how bad is that? And anything above and beyond that is even better. So, thinking about a music project from that perspective, what would we want to address? What would we want to do differently?

Turns out, a lot. (more…)

Discovery

Music — Sean Bonner @ 11:10 pm

Used to be there was something exciting about discovering music. It was a challenge, and an accomplishment. It was something exciting and to be proud of. I’ve been talking about this a lot, and telling these stories because it’s something that actually means a lot to me.

Growing up in Florida and being into punk rock, finding the new stuff that I would be into wasn’t easy at all. Or rather, it became easy through a set of practices but at face value was next to impossible. I live in Bradenton and if I wanted to buy records in person there were exactly two stores that I could consider. Daddy Kool (which was in Bradenton originally but moved to Sarasota pretty early on) and Alternative Records in Tampa. Both of these were an hour away all things considered. Take into account that at this time I was also not yet driving, so getting anywhere relied on organizing a ride with someone else. Anyway, once I actually got to either of these places – ideally on Tuesday as that’s when new records came out – I’d start flipping through records. Labels were a huge part of this. They were almost curators. You could generally be safe picking up a record by a band you’d never heard of if they were on a label that had some bands you knew you liked already. If Revelation put out a new 7″ I’d buy it without ever hearing it and know that I wouldn’t be disappointed. But so would everyone else, so that was obvious.

What was less obvious and often the source of some real gems was thanks lists. Every record came with liner notes – lyrics, credits and a thanks list. In punk rock you would get no where if not for your friends and the way to repay those friends was a mention in the thanks list. In fact not mentioning people could be seen as a real diss. (There are records that I’m not thanked on that I’m still bummed about.) So if I liked a band I’d read their thanks list and see what other bands they thanked. These were likely bands they had played with or bands that their friends were in. Maybe bands they lived with or shared a practice space with. I’d write down the names of those bands and then go to the folks at these record stores and ask them to track down any music by these bands. They’d make some phone calls, and in 2-3 weeks – if I was lucky – a 7″ or cassette would show up with some songs from one of these bands. Sometimes those songs would be amazing.

After that I’d make mix tapes of new stuff I’d found and give them to friends, asking in turn for mix tapes of stuff they’d discovered. Some of the most influential bands in my entire life I learned about from these mix tapes. Knowing about the new stuff meant you’d get the records first, and in the world of limited pressingings due to limited budgets, if there are only 500 copies of a 7″ made ever – you might not have a second chance to get something. And if you heard that a band was good but couldn’t get the record, you might never get to hear those songs. It took me 5 years to get the first Shudder To Think album – I hunted for it relentlessly – and I’d never once heard the songs on it. I knew I liked the band, I knew the record existed, but there was no way to hear the songs unless I had the record. It was incredibly rare and I didn’t know anyone who had it. When I finally got it and got home and pulled the record out to listen to it, I don’t even remember how many friends had rushed over to hear it for the first time as well. A lot for sure.

So it was a big deal to know about new stuff. Hip hop and death metal (the soundtracks to my youth) were similar. And there was some serious feelings of ownership when you found something first and then got to be the one to introduce all your friends to it. There was some real skill and value in being that guy.

Now, any band we talk about you can hear online in seconds. There are a million options. That impossible to find Shudder To Think album? It’s all over YouTube. Anything you want is within reach. Which is great, but also not so great. The thrill of finding something new and awesome is gone. The sweet payoff of finding something you knew about but had never had access to is gone. Everything is available.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. How that excitement has been lost, and how it could be regained. How it could be exciting again. How it could be special. I’m not sure I have the answers, but I have some ideas…

Punk Rock: A History of Political (In)action and Social Response

Music,Philosophy — Sean Bonner @ 9:02 pm

Earlier this evening a friend tweeted:

“Punk Rock: A History of Political (In)action and Social Response.” This is a class I would attend. Any teachers out there?

And my head instantly exploded. Because obviously this should already exist, yet for some reason dosen’t. Which means I have no other course of action then to try and rectify that.

One of the main draws to punk rock for me when I was going up was that here was a group of people who by all accounts had been rejected by the society around them – they were the freaks and the weirdos – yet this small group refused to sit still and was going to actively play a roll in shaping the world around them. This was incredibly appealing to me on so many levels, and shaped much of my world view going forward. I’ve never questioned that a small group of dedicated individuals could have a huge impact on whatever they set their sights on, and I’ve always scoffed at the people who assume individuals can’t make a difference. (more…)

Upgrading MP3s with iTunes Match, or Adventures in Cloud Syncing

Music — Sean Bonner @ 12:19 pm

I heard about this little hack that will upgrade old low quality MP3s you might have hanging around your iTunes library and thought I’d give it a shot. Basically iTunes Match gives you access to any song you have in your library, from any of your devices. It can do this because they have a huge archive of songs and just match up song titles, the trick is that all the files they have are in 256 kbps quality. (more…)

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