Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A 10 Year Anniversary

Today marks a couple of really important anniversaries for Beatnik Turtle. Two years ago we had just launched The Song Of The Day and were toasting champagne to the tune of the first song, One year ago we were toasting the close of the project, celebrating the fact that we actually did it - released 365 songs in one year. Wow. That was huge!

However, I was just thinking about TEN years ago. I was invited to a good friend's New Year's Day recovery party - January 1, 1999 (that would be Tom Beeyachski - the mastermind behind some great songs of the day such as Well F--k and The C-Word). He was showing off his brand new Taylor 814-CE guitar. It was the first time I put my hands on this amazing instrument. Ten years ago. A decade. Luckily, later in 1999, he loaned me this particular guitar to play for a while when he spontaneously bought a Larrivee during a trip to Guitar Center to get some picks and strings. After a couple months he asked if I'd like to buy the Taylor. I said "hell yeah!" That wonderful guitar is still with me today. All the Beatnik Turtle acoustic guitar tracks I recorded were done with this guitar, so you can hear the sound on many of them.

Here's to ten years!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

So Long, Goodbye (Again)

A year really isn't a very long period of time. This last one blasted past in a blink. Right now, I'm working on re-mixing and mastering songs for our forthcoming Best Of album. For several of the songs on the collection, we have gone back and added bits and pieces that we would have if we had time during The Song Of The Day project. We've been able to take care of those always-present "oh man - I wish I would have added that guitar riff" regrets. I've also been working with new mastering tools (iZotope Ozone) and really learning how to do the sound justice.

As I adjust some things in the mix and master of So Long, Goodbye I can't help but reflect on the fact that one year ago I sat in this same spot finishing the song so I could post it to the site before December 31 so we could take off and head up to our Studio North facility in Lake Geneva for New Years. Right now I'm doing the exact same thing - finishing up So Long, Goodbye (with a couple of new surprises in store). Listening to the coda of the song, I can't help but get a bit teary-eyed nostalgic for that end of those long days of recording, mixing, and mastering that kept us SO busy during 2007.

I can't WAIT to get started on the 2009 RPM Challenge so I can have that taste of constant frantic music production once again!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Whoa! Social explosion on BT.

In an effort to increase our online sociability, you may notice a couple changes to the side bar on Stay calm, we are doing a social experiment (Pun intended). BT has big, big plans for 2009, and they involve you, our beloved friends and fans. In fact if you so desire, you can join the fun today if you have a Google account, a Yahoo account, and AIM account, or an an OpenID account. Login to the right and you'll be able to post your own BT based messages right here on our site. As always we love to here from you.

Oh, and if you haven't already, remember to sign up for the BT mailing list with our Reverb Nation based widget at the bottom of the right column.

Have a great Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Post-Winter Solstice or whatever festivity that floats your boat. And remember Santa may not like you, but Beatnik Turtle still does! :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Un-Holidays: Hear Us Christmas Eve (And Then Some)

Happy Holidays! Or, Happy Un-Holidays. Whichever you prefer, we don't judge...

If you're in the mood for some different type of Holiday music, then we got you covered. We're all over the place this month...

1. GeeksRadio - Christmas Eve (6-8 PM Eastern Standard Time)
Some of our Un-Hoiiday music will be featured on the new internet radio station, GeeksRadio at The show is hosted by John "Lumpy" Lemke and you can catch him and his show this Wednesday, December 24th from 6-8 PM Eastern Standard Time. All you need is your computer to catch the stream. And what better way to spend Christmas Eve than with your computer? Eh?

2. CD Baby & CD Baby's Music Discovery Podcast
Also, all this month our album, "Santa Doesn't Like You" has been featured at CD Baby as part of their Rock Christmas list. Our title track from "Santa Doesn't Like You" is also featured on CD Baby's Music Discovery Podcast. Their new podcast is well-produced and we highly recommend subscribing to it.

3. WXRT 93.1 Holiday Spectacular - Chicago Radio
We were also one of the indie artists that make up WXRT's Local Anesthetic Holiday Spectacular this year. Every year XRT DJ, Richard Milne, puts together an hour long show of Holiday greeting from local artists around Chicago. This year we doctored up "I Didn't Know She Was Into That" and added sleighbells. The end result was "I Didn't Know She Was Into Kwanzaa." Destined to be a Holiday classic, we're sure.

4. Directly From Us At
We've been featuring some of our Un-Holiday music on our podcast, including a sound check live version of "Santa Doesn't Like You" and some new ones from last year like "Lies Make The Baby Jesus Cry". Subscribe to the podcast and get a new song each week. It's kinda like getting a Christmas gift each week.

5. Get Our Album, "Santa Doesn't Like You"
Of course, if you want to support us a bit, just grab our album "Santa Doesn't Like You". You can pick up a CD, get it on MP3, or download it from the iTunes (and other fine retailers). It makes a great stocking stuffer. And it's great for kid's! Er...maybe not.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Fog

I'm sure by now, especially if you work in I.T., you've heard of "The Cloud." It's all about little-to-no cost storage "out there" on the internet somewhere. If you use a web-based email service like GMail, your emails are all stored in "The Cloud." What is "The Fog" you ask (besides a classic John Carpenter film)? It's a low rent cloud.

The Cakewalk Sonar files that contain all the individual tracks of all of our songs take up a HUGE amount of space. It approaches 500GB. Add in the Adobe Premier Elements video source files, Sonar files and mixes for our forthcoming Best Of album and we're starting to approach 600GB. We buy a lot of external hard drives. I think we have over 20 external Western Digital's - multiple backup copies of everything.

We just considered the idea of uploading all of these files to Amazon's S3 storage cloud. I did the math and, even though S3 is REAL cheap, it hits close to $100/month to store all these files on S3. They're just too huge. For that cost we could buy lots of hard drives. So, we make lots of copies of everything and toss the hard drives in remote places like my desk drawer at work, our homes away from the studios, and in our Studio North facility in Wisconsin.

We're never exactly sure where we'll find the latest version of a set of song files should our main HDDs crash, but we know they're out there. Kinda like "The Cloud" only much lower rent and not quite as precise - more like "The Fog."

Monday, December 1, 2008

Gig Tonight!

Hey everyone - I'll be playing a solo acoustic set tonight at Sylvie's on Irving Park in Chicago. Also playing their own 30 minute sets will be several talented folks from the Wednesday night open mic at Bad Dog Tavern. Sylvie's is a cash-only bar, but there's no cover for the show so spend those extra $ on some beverages! Here's the details:


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Podcasts, podcasts, podcasts

Besides being busy with mixing and mastering the upcoming double album, "The Best Of" (slated for January!), Randy and I have been busy steadily working on improving for our fellow indie musicians. But, we've also been interviewed on some podcasts over the last few months and wanted to share a few links below.

We were interviewed by Dave Slusher of Evil Genius Chronicles while we attended Dragon*Con 2008. It was great to talk to him as Dave is a podcasting pioneer. It turns out he first heard about Beatnik Turtle a long time ago on's old GeekSpeak podcast (where we did the theme).

Click here for Part I of the interview.
Click here for Part II of the interview.

We were also interviewed by Command Line on his excellent podcast:

Click here for the 2008 interview.

And, if you're interested, the interview we did with Command Line over a year ago is linked below as well. You can tell we were right smack dab in the middle of writing The Indie Band Survival Guide. We were so in the thought-process of the book, the podcast is dripping in information.

Click here for the Pre-The Indie Band Survival Guide 2007 interview.

Also, that old GeekSpeak podcast at It's back. Click here to listen to GeekSpeak 2.0.

Oh and - Happy Thanksgiving!

Will It Blend?

In anticipation of Thanksgiving and things cullinary, I thought we'd share a new use for a common Kitchen tool: the blender.

Here's our new YouTube friend, Tom Dickson, using his Blendtec blender on an iPhone. But will it blend?

To see Tom blend the living hell out of more crap, check out the Blendtec YouTube page. Also, to get you in the holiday mood, here's a bunch of BT songs about food and songs about drinking.

Happy Turkey day - Gobble,Gobble!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

BT Status Report. . . It Is Flippin' COLD!

To BT fans living in warmer climates: You people are geniuses. It is already scarf-over-your-face-to-prevent-wind-burn weather here in Chicago. And its only just begun.

As for what's been up at Beatnik Turtle Industries... Lots. Tom R., Jason, Ryan, and Carrie had been working hard this weekend touching up songs for the upcoming Best of album (Coming in early 2009). Meanwhile Randy and I are pounding away on the site: We have a LOT of upgrades in mind for December.

We've also been discussing some plans for the 2009 RPM Challenge an how to involve you (Yes, you. The person in front of the monitor.) Don't worry, you'll get an update on that well before February 1st, 2009. Keep checking in for more info.

Hey, you have to do something to fight the cabin fever when its this cold.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Free Shipping With Code for BT Shirts Through November 28, 2008

Beatnik Turtle ShirtBunsen Burner Shirt
Been wanting your very own BT Shirt? Maybe one for one of your many friends? Looks like our T-Shirt shop will be giving FREE ground UPS domestic shipping if you use one of these codes now through November 28, 2008*.

Coupon codes:

Visit Beatnik Turtle's T-Shirt Emporium

*Minimun $30.00 order required. Offer available for domestic US shipping only.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Geek Shout Out: John Williams is the Man

Okay, I don't know who this guy who did this is, but he's awesome on so many levels. Major props!

Not enough Star wars for you? Try these: Star Wars (A Film Like No Other) or The Empire Strikes Back

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day... Finally

Wow, its getting CRAZY here in Chi-Town. They're re-scheduling trains, closing streets, and enforcing parking bans in anticipation of today: Election Day. And with the unseasonably nice weather, the turnout should be HUGE. If you are coming downtown have a plan to get in and a plan to get out: You will have both Commuter Railway Blues and Why Don't You Drive syndrome.

Speaking of the election, remember what Neil Peart said; "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." No matter who you vote for to be the next US president, Barack Obama, John McCain, Bob Barr (That's for you Neil) or someone else crazy enough to want the job, get out and do it. Because there's often more than just the next president on the line. Nobody Voted for this Guy could actually be about a governor with a 13% approval rating, a senator, a representative, a judge, a county coroner, or even hugely important state issues, like the Illinois Constitutional Convention (or Con-con) which could have major implications in the Land of Lincoln.

So don't be the guy in Smarter 'n Better 'n You... Well, unless other people ARE smarter 'n better 'n you. Yee-Haw!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Geek Shout Out: Spaced

On a lark, I rented a British show featuring Simon Pegg and a few others you might recognize from Shaun of the Dead. It's called Spaced and, this is why Americans love the BBC, its bloody fantastic. I just finished Season 1 and am joyfully looking forward to Season 2 coming in the mail.

Pegg is great in this (As always) as Tim, the broken-hearted comic artist/geek, but I really appreciated the other cast members as well. Jessica Hynes (then Stevenson), who co-wrote and plays the female lead, Daisy, is both shameless and hilarious. Mark Heap, who plays Brian, the disturbed artist from downstairs, is also excellent. Additionally the cinematography is top notch and a character in itself: a credit to director Edgar Wright.

The writing is funny and more referential then a Family Guy and Simpsons episode mashed together. Also the characters are strong and well written. Pegg and Hynes play character dynamics very well: Cheers keeps coming to mind.

If you define your self as a geek and a fan of sci-fi, pop-culture and humor from across the pond, this one's for you.

Amazon Begins Fighting Wrap-Rage

THANK YOU AMAZON (and cooperating businesses)! Tom R. and I are sort of usability buffs and have had MANY conversations about how frustrating and annoying those clam shell, twist-tie, over packed products are, especially when you buy online. I suppose there are very minor points to the wasteful and cumbersome packing for a "brick-and-mortar" store to deter what the retail industry calls "shrinkage" (No, not the same thing that George Costanza got on Seinfeld). But there is no reason for that crap with online vendors.

The video they have is cute too. Especially for those of us who have bought a kid a toy and had them loose interest/joy because unwrapping the thing took forever. Wrap rage indeed.

Hopefully Amazon will not stop there. If we can just remove what Denis Leary calls the "Dog bone mother-(expletive deleted)" packaging from CDs and DVDs. But since online downloads came around, that can be avoided... Unless of course you want to maybe give some stocking-stuffers.

Which reminds me, BT albums make great holiday gift-a-reenos! I am shameless. I do not apologize.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween, Daylight Saving and Elections, Oh My!

Whoa. Big weekend kiddos. First its a Friday Halloween, which pretty much means Halloween parties all weekend, right. Fortunately, Daylight Saving(s) ends Sunday, which pretty much means an extra hour of partying Saturday night. Monday, You'll get up and the sun will up (Yea!), but come home and it will already be dark (Bummer). And to put a nice little bow on it all, Tuesday's the election.

Th honor these three rights of Fall (at least every fourth year) give a listen to the very creepy Dolls, the timely Daylight Savings Time is Gone Again, and, all of a sudden, Nobody Voted for this Guy.

Happy Halloweenie!
The Halloweenie
(Note: The Halloweenie is not very happy.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cool View

View from the office today. Thanks to Pavel Trebukov for taking a much better photo than I was able to with my iPhone camera! Check out Pavel's other photos on Flickr - he does some really great work.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Rich And Bold Obsession

Last year, our drummer, John Owens wrote this great tribute to a tasty caffeinated beverage. Since I've had a Venti and then a Grande re-up this morning I couldn't help but listen to the song. And send a link to a co-worker. Who then sent me a link to this classic 20 year old ad:

Because coffee is the calm moment that lets you think. Coffee gives you the time to dream it. Then you're ready to do it. No other drink does that like coffee.

Now if I could only kick this insomnia problem...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Metallica Situation

Metallica has a new album out. I've heard from a lot of people that it's the best album they've done since pre-Black Album days. I've also heard about some serious audio quality problems with the new album. Over the past several years, there has been what is known as a race for sound volume. Mastering engineers are being instructed by the industry to make their audio projects sound louder than competing albums so they stand out on the radio, internet play, people's iPods and so on. This race has a hard ceiling when it comes to audio quality.

I've spent a great deal of time learning about and experimenting with mixing and mastering audio. For those of you who don't know the difference, mixing is the process of taking multiple tracks of separately recorded instruments (bass, guitars, vocals, keyboards, drums, etc) and bringing them together into a two-track stereo file where all of the instruments are carefully balanced with one another. Mastering is the process of taking stereo mixes and making them sound good together as a unit such as an album.

During the mastering process, a bit of EQ, compression, limiting, and other effects are applied to give the track its final "polish" and to adjust its volume level so the song sits properly together with the other tracks it will be played with. For example, For The Song Of The Day albums, I spent several weeks re-mastering all 365 songs so they sound balanced with one another - even if you are listening to a track from January and then skipping to one from December.

Here's where the race for volume within Music Industry 1.0 comes into play: adjusting volume during mixing and mastering is not just a matter of turning the volume up as high as you want it. You have to compress the signal (eliminating dynamic range) and limit the peaks (further killing dynamic range) in order to push the volume level up. A little bit of this applied judiciously is a good thing. You want to bring the volume up a bit and can even make a song sound punchier. Too much will make everything sound absolutely flat (volume-wise) and will kill all the peaks, distorting the hell out of the sound. You will even end up causing ear fatigue when listening to such a recording, making it uncomfortable to listen to for very long.

Here's where the Metallica situation enters: they have hit a new low (high?) in the race for volume. Sure - the album is "loud" as a good Metallica album should be, BUT wow - everything is distorted all to hell. The drums sound like Lars was using a hammer instead of sticks (and not in a good way). The guitars are super distorted (and not in the right way from properly driven amps and effects). And there's this incessant static from the peaks hitting the digital volume ceiling constantly. It's headache inducing.

Many in fan community are speaking out. They've discovered that the Guitar Hero edition of the album does not suffer the problem. It supposedly came from an earlier mix/master to make the deadline for the game. I heard a rumor that one fan practiced and played through the game without making mistakes just to get a good recording of the album. I've also heard that those files have been shared "out there somewhere." A friend played for me the Guitar Hero and the release album versions of the files and now that I've personally heard the difference, it is incredibly striking. The release version of the songs ARE very hard to listen to while the Guitar Hero versions sound just about right.

The lesson for us do-it-yourself music pros? If you are mixing and mastering your own material, don't push the volume too far. Listen carefully and make it sound good. If you are working with pro engineers, don't let them push it too far. Let's not get into an internet music volume war - it'll only hurt what we independent musicians really care about in the end. The music.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Bunsen Burner Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. Normally I don't tell too many people and don't expect much of a big deal to be made, but these days, Facebook seems to tell everyone for me, which I have to admit is kinda fun.

Luckily this year, my b-day landed right at midnight during the weekly Scott Besaw open mic at Bad Dog Tavern. I'd like to thank the Wednesday night regular crew for making it a hell of a lot of fun. Randy and Tom joined me to play Going Commando and Sick of Sandwiches. At the end of the night, our fearless host Scott even asked me to play again. I took the opportunity to play a cover of Rush's Spirit of Radio (something I've been wanting to do for years), but also, I had to play Bunsen Burner. Here's why: Cathy, a good friend who's part of the regular crew gave me an actual bunsen burner for my b-day. How cool is that?

Bunsen Burner

One more birthday note: yesterday evening I was treated to one of those rare sunsets outside my front windows where the clouds reflect the light just right and, for only a minute or so, the whole sky glows red and purple. It's the kind of sky that inspired me to write this instrumental a number of years ago.

La Salle Sunset

Happy Second Bailout Vote!

Well with all the economic hullabaloo going on in the past couple weeks, I figure we could all use a laugh.

Found this very British YouTube video from last year off of
Oh, and speaking of last year, the Housing Bubble's always worth a listen.

Remember, if you can't laugh at yourself, everyone else will do it for you. :P

Audio Fake Out

Ok, I did this to myself. It just happened again from a neighboring cube. Every time I hear that stock Windows "startup sound" I turn around and expect to hear the first bits of The I.T. Department (Super Heroes of I.T.) from our album All In A Day's Work. I know it's my own damn fault for creating the rhythm loop of Windows sounds kicking off with the "startup" but well... Hey wait! I think it was Jason's idea to use the startup sound. Damn you man! :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Prohibition 2008

Okay, first the bar car, now the city is calling for no beer in Wrigleyville after the 7th inning. What's the deal Chicago? Next they'll want to ban Coed Naked Drunk X-mas Shopping or make Cook County dry. Its un-American I tells ya'.

What we need is a Bizarro version of the Untouchables running around with Super Soakers full of gin and rye.

Scoop: Word is they're going to repeal Prohibition. What'll you do then?
Ness: I think I'll have a drink.

-- The Untouchables (1987)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tips for Creative Groups

Just saw a great presentation from Adaptive Path's Bryan Mason and Sarah B. Nelson on managing creative groups (click here to see it on SlideShare). I really connected with it, especially since they interviewed a few on my favorites to get the material (The Neo-Futurists and Avenue Q). It had a lot of great points to consider for anyone who creates in groups. The presentation is like an hour, but worth it to get you thinking about how your creative group works. Nice work Adaptive Path guys!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

NYC: Oyster Shucking Fit and Meat Pies

So after the first day at the Web 2.0 Expo in NYC, I hit the hotel and remembered my brother-in-law, a tug boat captain of some renown, telling me, "Hey if you go to Manhattan check out Ulysses. The Oysters are great!"

Well being from Chicago where good oysters are rare and since we're in the tail end of shellfish being palatable (September does have an "R" after all) I decided no time like the present. I walked over to Grand Central Station (Which was, well, bigger than I expected) and caught the number 5 subway train to Bowling Green. I came up looking for 58 Stone Street, which confused me for a minute because it appeared that Stone Street ended in big building. Only after walking around the building did I see the REAL Stone street: a narrow brick street sectioned off for pedestrian travel only, and that was filled with tables.

Half way up the street I found it, Ulysses Folk House. I came in, took a seat, and a friendly waitress named Georgia, helped me get a beer right way: The Brooklyn Pumpkin Ale (It was good for one beer, but I wouldn't have more than that at one sitting: you know how flavored beers can get). Georgia asked me what else she could get for me and I said, "Well, I was told your oysters are excellent." She nodded at me knowingly and I ordered four oysters at $2 a piece.

Now, I'm not really an expert, so I was a little worried about eating raw shellfish for two bucks. However, when the came out they we big, firm, and tasty; no slimy, fishy, ugghh that would make me wretch back home in the Midwest. Just goes to show, get your seafood on the coast. I found that they were best with just a bit of horseradish and lemon.

After the oysters and the Brooklyn Ale I got a Guinness and a cottage pie, which was excellent. Tasted like fresh rosemary and sage and you could tell that the veggies were not from a can: a HUGE plus in my book. I left stuffed and feeling fine.

So, If you happen to be in NYC I recommend. In fact September 27th is their big Stone Street Oyster Festival. It should be a shucking good time.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Goodbye Bar Car - We Hardly Knew ‘Ye.

We don’t know if you’re aware, but last Friday signaled the sudden and unexpected end of a Chicago Metra tradition. The "Bar Car" on the RTA’s Metra system closed last week, leaving thousands of rail riders thirsty and, what’s worse, sober for their long commutes home.

In memory of this end of an era, we suggest all our fellow Chicago-ians... Chicago-ites... People in North-East Illinois go out, buy a tall boy of your favorite beer and ride the Metra while listening to some BT classics like Beer, Beer, Beer, Commuter Railway Blues (or watch the video on your laptop) or So Long, Goodbye. But if you do, please have a designated driver waiting where you wind up getting off. Oh and make sure to offer the conductor some beer... They love that.

Goodbye, sweet, sweet bar car. We hardly knew ‘ye.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Live Interview On Matt Pinfield's Morning Show

Tomorrow morning (Wednesday September 3), Randy and Jason will be talking about The Indie Band Survival Guide on Matt Pinfield's "In The Mornings" show. Check it out on the air in the New York City area at 101.9 RXP or online at Here's the details:

Matt Pinfield In The Mornings, 6am - 10am EST

Interview with Randy and Jason will take place at about 8:30am EST

Tune in over the air in New York City at 101.9

Get the online stream at

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Day I (Almost) Burned The House Down Part II

If you read my post from a couple weeks ago on this subject, you know I came home to find an electrical outlet melting in my living room.

The electrician swapped out the outlet and fixed some of the wiring behind it, so now it's OK (mostly). It turned out that the continuous air conditioner running on that same circuit was overloading some bad wiring behind that outlet.

As you can see, disaster was close at hand:

The Day I (Almost) Burned The House Down

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Beatnik Turtle Is Heading Out to Dragon*Con

A Beatnik Turtle “away team” will head down to Atlanta for Dragon*Con 2008, the largest multi-media, popular culture convention (focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film) in the US.

Tom Roper will be bringing a guitar, but the team is mostly hoping to meet and re-meet all the great podcasters they’ve come to know through their project. They’ll also be bringing a recorder so they can get promos from as many podcasters as possible to help promote them through Beatnik Turtle Radio.

Additionally, Jason and Randy will be sitting on a panel discussing Creative Commons, Copyright, and other legal issues that face podcasters and musicians as described more fully in their book, The Indie Band Survival Guide.

Follow the team's hilarious misadventures at!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Playing For Keeps

Last year, we created a theme song written by Randy for our good friend Mur Lafferty's amazing podcast audio novel called Playing For Keeps. Here we are, almost a year later and today, Playing For Keeps has been released from Swarm Press as a full-fledged printed book!

To prepare for the book's release, Mur held a video contest asking fans to create footage of themselves and their friends singing, dancing and playing air guitar to the theme song. She edited together the clips she received from her fans and created this way cool video of our song. I must say - all of you who participated in the video did a FANTASIC job - we love it!!!

Don't forget to check out the podcast audio novel here.
And Buy the book at Amazon.
And, to celebrate the release of the book this week, we are presenting an encore run of the theme song at The Song Of The Day.

Congratulations Mur! I can't wait to receive my copy from Amazon. They say it's sold out at the moment and I hope they get more in quickly :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Beatnik Turtle Threatened by Rival Band

After Beatnik Turtle became a featured artist of the week on ReverbNation, the Turtle-neck Beets, a rival nerd-rock band from the Skokie, IL, has declared an "all out band war" on Beatnik Turtle. Several of the Turtle-neck Beets band members, Jacob Payton, Rudy Trechbul, and Tim Lasso, called Beatnik Turtle on the evening of August 19th, 2008 from basement of Payton's mom's house, where they hang-out.

Payton said, "You stupid Beatnik Turtles have gone too far! We are the innovators - Not you. We deserve to be featured band of the week on ReverbNation. We rock - You suck! You started The only after me and Rudy said there was no way you could do it - so that's ours. And that lame book thing is sooooo lame! Once we get a web site up and figure out how to use the internet, we are so gonna' trash you butt-heads."

"Yeah! Trash 'em!" added Trechbul.

Randy Chertkow of Beatnik Turtle then pointed out that the "lame book thing" explains how to get on the web and create a web presence. He also referred the Turtle-neck Beets to the Indie Band Survival Guide web site for more information. He went on to point out that a band must be on ReverbNation to even have a chance of being an artist of the week.

"Shut up!" responded Payton. Trechbul also added, "Yeah! Shut up!"

It was at this point that Lasso began chanting, "Band war," repeatedly in the background which continued until the end of the call.

The call concluded with Payton declaring, "an all out band war," and advising the members of Beatnik Turtle to, "Watch your backs the next time you’re on stage."

"Yeah! Watch out!" Trechbul confirmed.

When asked what that meant exactly, Payton and Trechbul began giggling feverishly and hung up.

If anyone sees or has information on the whereabouts of the members of the Turtle-neck Beets, please do not approach them and contact Beatnik Turtle immediately.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Oh George... Why? Why, why, why?

Why does Lucas torture us like this?

Okay, okay we get it. You don't care about your core audience: Understood. You march to the beat of your own drummer: Whatever. You wear a tin-foil hat to keep the aliens from controlling your brain: To each their own.

But to do it over and over again (now with The Clone Wars), its like watching a family member who can't quit the hard-stuff.

George, you used to be so good... Remember StarWars: A Film Like No Other? Remember Raiders? American Graffiti: those were happy days. Come on, we want the OLD George back... Not some crazy, out-of-touch hermit who keeps shoveling out to the magic money machine.

What we need is an intervention. Can't Spielberg send in Jeff VanVonderen?

George, please, will you get help today? And the Skywalker Ranch doesn't count as a rehab center.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hey, Where's My Indie Band Survival Guide?

DON'T PANIC, we've got you covered like a warm towel. "The Guide" for musicians is still around and available, but now you can get it in two fantastic formats. Buy the updated book here or download the original PDF here.

The Day I Burned The House Down (Almost)

The gig last night was a blast! I played stuff from All In A Day's Work, The Song Of The Day, and Sham Rock. The sound system sounded fantastic and the crowd was awesome. The other musicians playing before and after me really rocked: John Mahoney, Chris Campbell, John Kuczaj, and Bernie and Mike (f.k.a. Zero Love and also Beatnik Turtle Alumni). I'd like to extend a hearty thanks to all the friends who came out to cheer us on!

What does this have to do with almost nearly burning the house down you ask? Well when I got home, I went upstairs to get ready for sleep and I noticed, in the dark, a weird glow behind one of my electrical outlets. I thought to myself, "that's weird - I didn't know there was a night light inside that outlet." Then I came to my senses and realized that there is NOT a night light in there. I looked closer and it was a orange hot glow inside the outlet and the thing (and the surrounding wall) were hot enough to cook waffles on. Amid an adrenaline rush complete with pounding heartbeat I managed to get to the breaker box and start shutting off circuits. Once I hit the circuit with my AC, the orange glow immediately went away. I took the outlet apart (still stovetop-hot) and poked around inside making sure nothing was actually on fire. The outlet itself and the wires around it were charred and melted. After waiting for about a half hour everything was cooled down again (except the room because the A/C is now off).

It's weird to think of the alternate thread of execution life could have taken last night. If the lights hadn't been off I wouldn't have spotted that orange glow. I would have gone to bed and not noticed a thing, maybe awoken by the smoke detector or my alarm system or smoke or flames. Or worse. This all sure conjures thoughts of how life is just a string of luck - good and bad...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Giggin' Tonight!

I will be playing a 20-30 minute set of Beatnik Turtle songs tonight at The Acoustic Showcase at Sylvie's Lounge, 1902 W. Irving Park in Chicago. John Kuczaj of Atomic Shop booked seven of us Bad Dog Tavern open mic regulars to play tonight. The music starts at 8:30pm.

Also performing will be Bernie Navarro and his good friend Mike Hernandez. Bernie plays a mean uke and Mike, if you're familiar with the name, is a Beatnik Turtle alumnus, having played bass on our first four albums.

As for my set , it's just me. And my guitar. Just like the Wednesday night open mic! It should be fun...

Monday, August 4, 2008

Weather And Friends

Actually, what I don't get is this odd connection between a couple of my friends and the weather.

A number of years ago, I went to my friend Uditt's house for a mid-summer barbecue. While flipping over burgers and steaks on the grill it started raining. We pulled the grill into the garage and watched as hail started coming down. Then the wind got nasty and the storm sirens sounded - all while we were still making sure the steaks didn't burn rather than taking cover in the basement. We were young and stupid - what else can I say. The funny thing is, this same incident repeated itself a few years later. That led to the obvious conclusion that when Uditt barbecues, there's gonna be a huge storm.

Fast forward to last year. During Song of the Day production, Jason and I took a number of weekend trips to Lake Geneva to record drums with John. I swear - EVERY time we set out for Lake Geneva, we ended up driving through blizzards or downpours or hailstorms or even huge wind. One time, we even drove through some food poisoning (but that's another entry some day). NOTHING would stop us from completing our mission. But we started equating being on the road to major weather disruption.

Tonight, Chicago was subjected to a monsoon. There were high winds, major rain, and the storm sirens were blaring. Just a minute ago, I spotted Jason's tweet on our shiny new Beatnik Turtle home page (not quite live yet). It read:

Safely home. Now to unpack. Night all!

OF COURSE! Jason was on the road. It all makes sense now! Jason on a road trip = major storm passing through. Now I wonder if Uditt was barbecuing...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Redesign Coming Soon!

There's a big redesign of the Beatnik Turtle website coming soon. Be on the lookout!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Who Left Their Brain At Home?

As someone who built their day career on database application development, I can't help but call attention to this situation: Some company called "Channel Intelligence" managed to patent the concept of creating lists of items in a database. In 2005. Huh?

Now, this "Channel Intelligence" is suing a number of small web 2.0 companies.

Check out the patent at Google Patent Search. I don't see Chris Date or Edgar F. Codd on the list of "inventors" on that patent.

How the hell does something like this happen? I think someone at the Patent and Trademark Office left their brain at home on July 12, 2005...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Star Wars Video At Atom Films!

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away (actually last year in our studio), Jason and I created a video at using our song, Star Wars (A Film Like No Other). Recently, we licensed the video to Atom Films to be part of their Star Wars fan film contest. As of today, it was posted on their site. Check it out and watch the whole thing! Give us a thumbs up vote while you're at it :)

Open Mic Tonight


If I survive the trek through this monsoon I'll be playing the usual Wednesday open mic at Bad Dog Tavern. Tonight I'll be playing some traditional Irish songs with a couple of other open mic regulars. I might be able to sneak in a rendition of Tell Me Ma, but we'll see. I have something else in mind too...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Interns On Grammar

Recently we had one of our interns look into the grammar issues that keep cropping up in some of our songs. Apparently, we has a problem with this.

Our intern , Brae Whether, analyzed the song What We Need Is Some Interns In Here.
I have no definitive answers, but after some extensive research I have some decent arguments about the sentence: "What we need is some interns in here."

"We" seems to be the subject, but I think that's the case only because it's a poorly constructed sentence.

I think an argument can be made that the real subject of the sentence is "interns." The sentence should be something like, "More interns are needed in here."

There's a grammar rule called the proximity principle which states that the verb should agree with the closest noun. Look at the examples below:

- What he needs are loving parents and a stable home.
- What he needs is a stable home and loving parents.

I think this song is more of an example of 1 than 2.

Finally, if your sentence is singular, then if follows that it can be turned plural. But I can't seem to make it turn plural. However, I can easily make is singular: "What we need is an intern."

Or, change the subject, make it plural, and change the word "interns" to something singular: "What the companies need are a scanner." See how that doesn’t make sense? If the subject of that sentence were "companies" then that sentence should read correctly. More evidence that "we" is not the subject of the original sentence.

Late for class. More tomorrow if you would like to continue.

Thanks Brae for that thoughtful analysis. We is going to write better lyrics in the future.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sham Rock (and more)!

Just a quick note today - we've been hard at work getting our newest music released for sale. Recently, our rockin' album, Sham Rock was made available for sale at CD Baby and at The iTunes. Here are the links:

Buy CDs and MP3s at CD Baby

Buy tracks or the entire album at The iTunes

Also coming soon! A very large release of albums from Beatnik Turtle. I'll give you a hint - we will be releasing 365 fully remastered tracks on 12 albums. I wonder where we might have found 365 tracks in our back catalog? hmm...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Open Mic Night!

For the next three weeks on Wednesday nights (starting tonight), I will be guest hosting the best open mic on the planet, Scott Besaw's open mic at Bad Dog Tavern.

Tonight, Randy and Ryan will be joining me to help kick off the night with a couple of Beatnik Turtle songs. Hint: the first song is about not wearing underwear and the second is about drinking coffee while programming... Any guesses?

We're scheduled to start at 8:30pm!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Walkway Update

On the way to get some chicken pad thai for lunch today, I crossed the infamous walkway (ignoring my instincts to stay the hell off it). It was closed a few weeks ago for "repairs" but it appears the repairs amounted to nothing more than placing traffic cones next to the deteriorating concrete. That makes me SO much more comfortable walking across.

The Walkway June 2008

Notice the odd angle at which the walkway sits - you can tell that water pools along one side:

The Walkway June 2008

I think I'll take the long way next time...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Report From The Road (Part 10) - Home At Last

I'm finally back home again. Over the course of the past couple of weeks, I was pretty fortunate to have really great weather - even in Vancouver and Seattle. Many who know me know that I don't like rain (even if it sometimes inspires songs). It seems I brought some good weather home with me - it's a beautiful day in Chicago and I'm about to stop typing and get outside for a bit - before I need to start recording some of the music I wrote while I was away...

Home At Last

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Report From The Road (Part 9) - Last Train Home

Well, I'm on the last leg of my journey - I'm on the Empire Builder train which just left Seattle bound for Chicago. I have some songs started which I need to get further along over the course of the next two days on this train plus some relaxing and scenery viewing to do. Some highlights from this trip:

1. Champagne served in the dome cars on Via Rail's "The Canadian" train between Toronto and Jasper:

The First Of Many Champagne Toasts

2. Playing guitar after midnight in the dome car:

Playin' In The Dome

3. Hiking through Maligne Canyon:

The Fifth Bridge

4. Entertaining a train car-load of Australian tourists:


5. Forgetting to get pictures of me playing an open mic at Darby's Pub in Vancouver.

6. Starting out of Seattle on The Empire Builder, writing this blog entry while cursing my cell phone data connection for not letting me upload the pictures I just took of my train compartment to Flickr.

I may stay in touch if my data connection allows, but for now, I'm signing off from the last train home...

Monday, May 26, 2008

Report From The Road (Part 7) - RailMall

This train I'm currently on, The Rocky Mountaineer, is a total tourist train. It's privately operated and is like a land cruise on rails. The publicly funded Canadian Via Rail (much like Amtrak in the U.S.) people do a fantastic job with service - very impressive given it's government supported. BUT, this tourist train is nothing short of amazing. They serve appetizers and wine before lunch, the cars are first class all the way and they even slow down so you can get pictures of sights along the way. Normally when I travel, I avoid anything that even hints at blatant tourism, but my train-geekiness overrode that instinct this time. And this is one fun experience. Every so often, someone from a car way in front radios back something like "bear on the right" and everyone grabs cameras and presses against the right hand dome-windows to try and get a shot.

At first I wondered how in the heck these people are making money on this endevour. The secret turned up right in front of me in the seat pocket. It's the train version of SkyMall. In this catalog, you can buy all sorts of souveniers, delivered right to your train seat when you board the next morning. While there's no whimsical statue of a bear that holds a bottle of wine, there's a few oddball pieces available amongst the usual decks of playing cards and wine goblets emblazoned with the Rocky Mountaineer logo. It really reminds me of my favourite song by Jonathan Coulton - SkyMall. This song really sums up my perspective on these catalogs just about right.

A lucky shot from the train thanks to someone who shouted the "bear on the right" mantra:

Bear On The Right!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I Haven't Found Them...

Hey Jason - I've been looking everywhere and I still haven't found your glasses. Sorry man!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Report From The Road (Part 6) - Worn Out

After 2 days worth of walking on glaciers, through forests, and hiking though waterfall carved canyons, I was worn out. I couldn't do more than just post a few pictures yesterday while I had dinner - only a few of the hundreds I grabbed. I remember the days of watching the little counter on the back of the camera count down from 24 to 0 as a roll of film was getting used up, taking care to shoot only the very best pictures. Now, the counter on the LCD starts at 1200 (2GB worth). You have to shoot video to start using up all that space (which is, of course, something I've been doing). Post processing video is a lot more work than uploading pictures, though, so I'll have to do that when I get back.

I'll post more after today's train journey from Jasper, Alberta to Kamloops, British Columbia - provided the hotel will have internet (fingers crossed).

Standing On The Athabasca Glacier!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Report From The Road (Part 5B) - An Explanation!

Thanks to a link sent from my good friend Cathy from Old Town School classes and our weekly open mic on Wednesdays at Bad Dog Tavern, I have an explanation for the railroad car warning. Apparently, there is a railroader's inside explanation which had nothing to do with what I was imagining. I suppose I thought it had to do with stacking cars or containers on top of one another. From a very good article explaining the warning "DO NOT HUMP" at

It refers to a common method used to sort freight cars known as "humping," which involves the use of a man-made hill, or hump. A track heads up the hill and branches into numerous parallel tracks on its way down the other side. To make up new trains, a switch engine pushes a string of cars to the top of the hump, where the cars are uncoupled one at a time. Having determined the car's destination, a worker in a nearby tower pushes buttons or throws levers or whatever to get the track switches (you know, those things where one track divides into two) lined up properly. The car is then given a nudge, causing it to roll down the hump and onto the right track.

There's gotta be a song in this somewhere...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Report From The Road (Part 5) - Obey This!

Passing a rail yard somewhere in Ontario, I spotted this strange rail car. I'm sure there's a perfectly good professional railroader's definition of what I saw, but for the layperson (no pun intended) it looks funny.

Here's the rail car:

Odd Car In Train Yard

And I'd obey the instructions stenciled on the outside if I were you:

I'd Obey These Orders If I Were You

Check out more pictures from the train journey on my Flickr page.

Report From The Road (Part 4) - Longest Days

If you are familiar with the instrumental song I wrote called The Longest Day (For Joe), you may know that my favorite day of the year is the one where we turn the clocks back an hour and that extra hour makes that day seem to last forever. I've discovered that traveling west at 40-60 miles per hour has it's advantages. Every night after dinner, we've set our clocks back an hour since we will cross time zones during the night. I've used those hours wisely, sharing various after-dinner beverages with traveling companions and also sitting in the deserted dome cars after midnight playing some songs on my guitar. Of course, just like that annual day in November, I spend that extra hour multiple times over and get no sleep. On this trip, I will have had three Longest Days by the time I reach Vancouver.

This makes me wonder if one kept traveling westward continuously, would they always enjoy 25 hour days? I think the International Date Line would muck things up and be the great time-equalizer, causing this brilliant plan to crumble like a Ponzi's scheme.

I suppose, just like Daylight Savings Time in the spring where that extra hour is lost, I will have to pay up along the way. On the way to Toronto, I lost an hour on the bus (no great loss there, really), and on the way home from Seattle to Chicago, I will lose two more. But at least I'm gaining those hours on the part of the trip that matters most here in picturesque Canada.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Report From The Road (Part 3)

If you're reading this, then I've finally found a data conection (a rare commodity out here in the wilderness). I'm writing this as I sit in the dome car on Via Rail's Canadian train - a traveling bubble of civilization moving through absolute Ontario wilderness - seemingly endless trees and lakes. The dome car is a unique experience and an absolutely stunning way to travel. Since you're above the rest of the train cars, you get a 360 degree view all around. I never realized how beautiful Ontario is - made that much better by seeing it this way. Pics will be posted when I find a fast data connection.

Yesterday I did a little guitar playing and writing during the day - just a little bit to get me back in the songwriting zone - it has been a while since I've written because I have been busy producing so much (finishing The Song Of The Day, Sham Rock, more weekly songs). It's nice to finally get away from Cakewalk Sonar and just play and write. Many people on this train turn in very early at night, so I took the opportunity to take my guitar to the deserted dome car. It was very dark and surreal - inside, I could only see the fluorescent glow from the lounge below and outside I could only see the locomotive headlamp in the distance as it lit up the trees on either side of the train. As I sat in the dark, I would watch the occasional train signal fly by as it changed from green to red when we passed.

As I mentioned to Matt Scholtka before I left that he could follow along with my trip on the Beatnik Turtle Blog, Twitter, and my Flickr account, he remarked how postcards have become obsolete. I thought that to be a very pertinent and funny observation. These days we can shoot digital photos, post them to Flickr (where there's a data connection, of course), embed them into a blog, and then tweet about it all on Twitter. You can tell everyone you know about your travels without hand-writing cards, stamping them, and dropping them into a mailbox. Just imagine trying to stay in touch with your entire network of friends by sending postcards! You'd never get a chance to enjoy traveling - you'd be writing the entire time. Speaking of that, I'm done writing for now.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Report From The Road (Part 2)

I wandered Toronto a bit this afternoon - a few hours' walk. Weather turned nice and I managed to fit in a visit to the CN Tower. I grabbed a few pictures while I was there - some at the equivalent of 147 floors above ground level, accessed by a windowed elevator designed to induce vertigo on your way up. I swear this tower was swaying in the wind while I was up there.

Here's a couple shots of the tower:

The CN Tower

The CN Tower Close Up

Looking out the "skypod" 147 floors above ground:

Looking out the skypod

There's actually a glass floor that you can walk on if you're brave. I had to walk away and come back before testing my weight on the glass floor. They say that each 40 inch by 50 inch pane of glass can hold the weight of something like 14 hippos. It still made me nervous - I don't like heights much. Here's a view looking through the glass floor:

Looking through the floor

There has to be a song in this somewhere...

Report From The Road (Part 1)

I just arrived in Toronto by overnight bus. It wasn't the most savory experience on the planet - especially when all the lights came on and woke me up at 2:30am for a 30 minute rest stop. How was that restful? I think the driver was just hungry... Around 4:30am the driver started dozing off and weaving around. Passengers kept going up to the front to say "hey - wake up!" That was scary.

The customs guy at the border was a guitarist. He asked to see my guitar, we chatted a bit, and he played a few notes on my "travel" acoustic (a Breedlove). He's a guitar collector himself and from those few notes I could tell he's got some serious chops. He said I should try flat-wound strings on my acoustics - they sound mellower but better tonally. I'm going to give that a try!

I'll have pictures later on... Now I'm off to check out this city. It looks really cool.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Save Live Music in Chicago

We at Beatnik Turtle want to raise awareness of a particularly troubling proposed set of regulations for Chicago. They seem to be tailored to destroy live music and small theater. To what purpose, we have no idea.

You can read about it at the Save Chicago Culture website, where you can find ways to sign a petition if you are a Chicago resident. If you are, we urge you to call your Alderman and write a letter.

Here’s an excerpt from the blog that explains the situation:
The “Event Promoters” ordinance requires any event promoter to have a license from the city of Chicago and liability insurance of $300,000, but that’s just the start:

  • The definition of “event promoter” is so loosely defined it could apply to a band that books its own shows or a theater company that’s in town for a one-week run.

  • “Event Promoter” must be licensed and will pay $500 - $2000 depending on expected audience size.

  • To get the license, applicant must be over 21, get fingerprinted, submit to a background check, and jump over several other hurdles.

  • This ordinance seems targeted towards smaller venues, since those with 500+ permanent seats are exempt.

  • Police must be notified at least 7 days in advance of event.

For the complete ordinance, check out Jim DeRogatis’ blog on the Chicago Sun-Times.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Demand Beatnik Turtle

Now that Beatnik Turtle is finally done with Song of the Day, we've gotten on Eventful, which is a service that lets you demand that we play in your city. If we can get enough people wanting us to play in a particular place, we can considering going on the road.

If you'd like to demand that we play in your town, just click on this below:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Come Hang Out With The Band (And See Some Great Live Music)

On Sunday, April 20th, Beatnik Turtle was supposed to play at the Abbey Pub for our fourth appearance at the International Pop Overthrow. We were excited, it's a great spring show for us, and we were gearing up to play lots of new songs from Song of the Day as well as perhaps a live version of Pizza: The Rock Opera.

Alas, the IPO this year is not to be for us. One of our band members had an emergency, and can't make it. Instead, the band Cyclesomething will be taking our place.

And we're going to be there.

Come on out, see some great IPO music on a Sunday afternoon, and hang out with the band in a way that you never get to when we play. Hope you can make it! We certainly will.

Sunday Afternoon, April 20
The Abbey
(All Ages!)
3420 W. Grace
773 478-4408

1:00 ScribbleMonster
1:30 Woodward
2:00 Gidgets Ga Ga
2:30 Blackout 101
3:00 Catsplash
3:30 Cyclesomething

Thursday, April 10, 2008

BT Live On the Radio!

Beatnik Turtle will be performing LIVE on the radio on WLUW on the Razor and Die show!

If you're not in Chicago, tune in from the website itself.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Abandoned Notepad Update

The abandoned notepad still lies unclaimed, now partially buried under today's Chicago Tribune. Whose scribbles are these?

Today's Abandoned Notepad

Thursday, April 3, 2008

News Flash - Abandoned Notepad Sighting

An abandoned notepad has been spotted in a corporate break room in downtown Chicago lying next to a copy of today's Red Eye. Whose could it be?

Today's Abandoned Notepad


A track from our RPM Challenge album, Sham Rock, was featured on NPR Public Radio today!

Click here to read the story and listen to the NPR radio feature.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Files, Files, Everywhere

WD Drive
What have I been busy with since my last blog post? MUCH time has been spent on file management. It would seem that writing songs, recording, posting, etc would be the bulk of the work that we undertook the past couple of years. Actually, managing the files that make up each song turned out to be a way bigger task then we ever thought. Each song is made up of multiple files - and multiple versions of those files. A song can be anywhere between a couple hundred meg up to 6GB, depending on number of tracks, takes, edits and so on.

Recently we archived all the files from The Song Of The Day project. The entire archive, including the videos, is close to 450GB. Over the past two years, we copied files to external drives to transport them back and forth between studios, resulting in multiple versions of many songs spread out between PCs and external drives. Reconciling these things to be sure we archived the latest version (in case we need it in the future) has taken HOURS. Given the amount of work that went into each song, we're in mortal fear of pressing the delete key - even if we're 99.999% sure that what we're deleting has been archived somewhere. So what do we do? We buy lots of 500GB external drives and keep lots of copies of our files in different locations. We're partial to the Western Digital My Book Essential 500GB drives. We've found it's best to stick with one model/brand so we have multiple cables and power adapters that we can leave in each studio and not have to carry them around. It seems we've evolved our file management system pretty well, but the work continues on...

What else have I been busy with? Oh yeah - that little project to produce an album entirely in February - our RPM Challenge album, Sham Rock. More files to manage...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

We Did It - A New (Irish) Album Coming Soon!

Well, we did it.

We spent all of February working on a new album. Just like last year when we created ALL IN A DAY'S WORK, we decided to once again take up the Record Production Month (RPM) Challenge and produce another album. It's just this time we had one extra day (2-29-2008) to complete it!

The new album's called SHAM ROCK and it's Beatnik Turtle's take on some of our favorite traditional Irish pub songs. Most of them have the guitars cranked to 11, thus the name John Owens came up with for the album.

Beatnik Turtle's Sham Rock

Since we write/record songs all the time, we wanted to try something a bit different. So, we hit on the idea of a new creative exercise: we would try to reinvent 10 public domain songs and "make 'em our own." We stumbled on this idea when we recorded a Beatnik Turtle version of "Beer Beer Beer" and "All For Me Grog" two years ago when we recorded it for a podcast (and also released it on We had a blast re-interpretting the songs in our style and found ourselves drawing on different song-crafting skills. So we figured, why not go "all in" and do a full album?

The challenge here is you're not building a new house, you're remodeling. You're hampered by something that's already there: a melody, a lyric, a chord progression. Something you gotta work around.

The hard part then becomes: how do you reinterpret it so it's fresh? How do you rearrange it so it sounds like something you’d do? How do you tweak the lyrics? The rhythm? The instrumentation? Where can you add new parts? Etc.

Well, through a lot of hard work, creative energy, and lack of sleep, we managed to create SHAM ROCK. We've handed in the 10-song version to, but are now working on the full-length album to add to our catalog. Like ALL IN A DAY'S WORK, we'll be adding 3 more songs recorded pre-February 2008: remixed and mastered versions of Beer Beer Beer, Whiskey Yer The Devil, and All For Me Grog.

So, look for the album soon at iTunes, CDBaby,, Nimbit, and of course, TheSongOfTheDay where we're continuing with a song a week!

It's got Irish favorites like Tell Me Ma, Mary Mac, Finnegan's Wake, The Holy Ground, Old Dunn Cow, and more. It's just these versions sound like we just might have written them.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Feels Like Home...

I've been playing a weekly open mic here in Chicago on Wednesday nights since September. I started because I wanted to get more practice playing our songs in front of a real crowd of people. Since we record SO much, we don't get out to play live very often, which is OK because I LOVE the songs we get out of our studio time. But, playing live is yet another skill to be developed, practiced, and honed and I found that the few times we DO get out to play per year, I was WAY rusty in my skills - especially as a singer. So I figured the best way to work out the kinks was to get out to open mics and get experience and practice. Well, I was right, but...

...I found so much more out there. I found more than just a venue and an audience and a place to perform a few songs. I found a group of talented people so passionate about playing music that they come out week after week, stay up 'til after 2 on a school night, cheer each other on as we each get up and play and we all sound good, sometimes great, sometimes OK, and it's always OK whatever happens up there as long as it's fun. And it's always fun.

Tonight was the first night after our host Scott Besaw from Old Town School moved our regular Wednesday open mic from Cullen's to Bad Dog Tavern. Cullen's was just starting to feel like home, being there week after week and all. I was a little apprehensive about a new venue, but as soon as I walked in the door and saw all the familiar faces I realized that "home" was the people not the place. And the open mic was awesome as always!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Cost Of Studio Time

Stuff costs money. Studio time costs money. That's why we have our own studios in our homes. We spend a bit up front on hardware and software and get a LOT of use out of it without having to pay hourly studio rates. That is, unless you are trying to record bari sax past 11pm on a weeknight and your studio happens to be in a condo with neighbors. There's a four foot thick brick wall between my studio and my nearest neighbor, but bari sax is REALLY loud.

We're seriously under the gun trying to get our album done by Saturday. The project is going very well, but last night was our last chance to get saxes recorded on one song. I actually had to bribe my neighbor last night for an extra half hour of bari sax recording. In essence, I had to pay for time in my own studio. Argh.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Open Mic at Pint

Yesterday, I didn't think I'd end up playing the open mic at Pint, but once I got to my class last night and started playing my fatigue dropped away and I had to get out and play some more. So I actually DID make it to Pint last night.

Pint is a pretty neat place - comfy couches all around and a fireplace. The format is pretty different from Cullen's - The host, Brian, doesn't announce anyone - you just get up and announce yourself and play. You get 15 minutes to play and Brian hits "play" on an iPod when your time is up (NOT in the middle of a song, though). The open mic is in the back room and people from the front bar tend to wander in and out to check out who's playing.

Pint is definitely mellower than Cullen's (my usual Wednesday night open mic) and is sometimes really quiet. Since I hadn't played for most of the people who were there before (about 12) I did a bunch of my standard open mic songs - Under The Radar, I Don't Want To Work Today, Do You Mind?, and Two Twenty-Nine.

I'm undecided on my 2-song set for Cullen's tonight. I'm thinking of some anti-Valentine's day songs (read: break up songs). Maybe "Are You Happy Now?" by Richard Shindell and Two Twenty-Nine. We'll see...

Monday, February 11, 2008

It's That Time Of Year. Again.

Well, we're deep in the middle of recording for RPM Challenge 2008! If you haven't heard of RPM, it's a call for bands and musicians to create an album complete with artwork during the month of February. For you writers, it's like National Novel Writing Month. It's not a contest and no one is singled out as a "winner." You win by participating.

Last year at this time, for RPM Challenge 2007, we were in the middle of writing and recording the songs that would become our album All In A Day's Work. To kick off the effort, we held one writing session from which emerged I Don't Want To Work Today, Get In Line, The I.T. Department (Super Heroes of I.T.), and I Don't Work Here (I'm A Consultant). It was a crazy month - fully producing an album in less than 28 days (we started late). I was also dealing with reconstruction of my condo after a water pipe break, so I had to move Bad Cat Studio to a temp apartment. I also spent many hours at various Home Depots picking out paint colors and tile for said reconstruction, keeping me from my recording tasks. But that goes to show that with a little determination (plus caffeine and sleep deprivation), anything is achievable. I love All In A Day's Work - I think we picked a great theme (work and technology). It's full of great writing and recording memories plus wonderful and tiring late nights mixing and mastering, culminating in one night of just 2 hours sleep before getting up to mail the CD off to RPM Headquarters on March 1 and then go into work.

So here I am again, in the middle of RPM 2008, stocked up on Diet Code Red Mountain Dew and ready for some serious lost sleep. Less than a month from now, we'll have another new album and more great memories from the experience. At least this year we get an extra day...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What goes around...

I've just been practicing Bunsen Burner for an upcoming Wednesday night open mic at Cullen's in Chicago (I'm there nearly every Wednsday to play a couple of songs and hang out). I was just thinking how oddly the world works sometimes. After Dave (one of our trumpet players and also the "Dave" of Dave, Where Are you Dave? - oh yeah and He's A Cop Now) suggested we should write a tribute song to the Bunsen Burner, I wrote most of the lyrics from research I did at Wikipedia. So I finished the song mid-last year and we posted it in July. Then, what appeared in that same article at Wikipedia? A link to the song (and not added by me or anyone in the group, I think)! It's funny how things come full circle sometimes...

A New Feed

Hey folks!

Although some of you are quite happy to get a song every week, we know that others want to get songs every day, like last year. Well, we created an encore feed just for the people that want music all of the time.

Just follow these instructions to subscribe.

Beatnik Turtle's Encore Song of the Day Podcast

Want music every day? Use the encore feed to get it!

  1. Click on Enclosure Podcast RSS Image (You can right-click or option-click for a shortcut).

  2. Copy the URL in the address bar of your browser (or from your clipboard) and paste it into your podcasting application.

  3. Alternatively, click on iTunes Podcast RSS Image to open this podcast directly in iTunes.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A New TwitterSong!

As you may know, we have a habit of making songs based on posts from our friends on Twitter. A few hours ago, one of our friends, Heather Welliver posted the following comment:

Oh noes my battery is getting low!

Following in the tradition of Just Getting Off The Call With Rob Safuto and Waiting For My Wheat Beer To Arrive, we now present Heather's post in song. Our drummer dubbed it Long Lasting Battereez.

Click here to listen to the new TwitterSong.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I Don't Want To Work Today

Well, at least I didn't want to work this past Thursday.

What does one do with all their time once such an intense all-consuming project like The Song Of The Day completes? Start staying out very late two nights in a row during the week, of course. Jam sessions and open mics are a LOT of fun but are starting to leave me more tired than when I was working on hundreds of songs late at night. Almost... But then again, it's worth it to experience performing I Don't Want To Work Today and actually have people in the crowd sing along. VERY cool.

On an unrelated note - if you live in a condo, avoid getting on the board if you can help it. In my case, I couldn't help it. The building is small and needed some managerial attention. Well, let's just say we're dealing with a catastrophic financial situation right now and it's a nightmare. More on this crazy story later...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Crumbling City Infrastructure

Many city dwellers like me know we live amongst dangerously deteriorating infrastructure. Jason was walking upon a prime example of this neglected infrastructure when he composed this week's song which really is The Walkway On The Way To Work. Check out a Google Street View of the walkway to see what we're talking about:

The Walkway On The Way To Work

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Spoontaneous Song

No I didn't miss-spell that or accidentally re-post my entry about writing the song Ants. Every time I see the title of that entry "A Spontaneous Song" I can't help but remember the first song I recorded with Beatnik Turtle which ended up as a Song of The Day. The first verse was written by a UK band called "Spoontaneous Combustion." and the song is called That's Chappy (When He's Got The Flu). The story behind the song is detailed in the song notes:

About two years ago, Beatnik Turtle got an email from a band out of the UK that wanted the chords to a song we wrote called "I Think You Think I Think You Don't Like Me." They wanted to add the song to their setlist. We gave them the chords, but in return, we asked for a song that they wrote. After all, it's only fair that if they were covering one of of ours, we should do something with one of theirs.

What we got back was what became the first verse of this song. It was about one of the band members, Chappy, and how he had the flu. Jason ended up turning the 20 second email idea they had into a full song and this is the result: a song created via a "US-UK Music Exchange Program."

A number of songwriters contributed to The Song Of The Day project during the past couple of years, but none as geographically distant as Spoontaneous Combustion. "That's Chappy" was a fun experiment - one we'd like to try again.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Response

One of the things we didn't have time for last year was upkeep of the blog. During that time, a few comments (and spam, of course) accumulated. Now that I've been getting used to Wordpress, I discovered this "comments in moderation" link and I found a really great comment which was never posted to the blog (until now).

Sometime last year I wrote a blog entry about generating music ideas randomly. A very talented and creative person who worked with us on several songs last year, Andrew Rose-Rankin (Whiskey And Women, Soul Crusher, Monkey See Monkey Do The Opposite) posted a reply to my blog entry that I didn't see until this week. Normally, I'd write a response to the comment on the post itself, but it was so long ago, I thought it warranted a "current" response.

This is what Drew said:
Do you actually believe that writing music ( at least anything that would be close to tonally acceptable by western standards) can be generated at random- if so, you should play the sitar and more 12 chord eastern influenced blah- ah halftones...
Either way, I prefer to write music through understanding of theory, not the five buttons on the Guitar hero controller

Drew is absolutely right - generating an entire song at random would remove all the craft and creativity from the songwriting process. Maybe I didn't state it very well in that post, but I wasn't suggesting that an entire song be randomized. I was trying to say that the deck of cards can get you to a starting point from where you apply your creative process to finish out the song. Randomization is a device that you can use to get yourself out of your default keys, strum patterns, and rhythms. It might get you going in a direction that you never would have gone otherwise.

When I wrote that blog post, the song that emerged from my deck of cards starting point would not be completed and released for another six months (It's Raining In December). The deck of cards only gave me to the basic rhythm in the verse - something I never would have generated on my own. I filled in the rest (choruses, melodies, etc) by combining my knowledge of theory with right-brain musical "feel." When Alex Burke (keyboards), John Owens (drums), Tom Susala (bass), Randy Chertkow (sax), and Scott Besaw (vocal) added their own amazing "stuff" to the song, the original deck of cards "starting point" became just that - a starting point. The cards were the critical spark to the song, but was really only the first few meters of the 26 mile marathon of the entire process. If it were not for that deck of cards, the song would not exist. Personally, it's one of my top favorites of the 365.

Oh yeah - since Drew mentioned it, I have thought of trying to compose something entirely with the Guitar Hero or Rock Band controllers. I don't know if it would work, but it sounds like a fun experiment...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Jigsaw Puzzles

When The Song Of The Day was done, I took a few days off of everything (music, work, email, phone) to recover, rest, catch up on sleep and some movies and TV that I missed over the past two years. One of the things I did during those days off was starting to assemble a jigsaw puzzle. I haven't done that in over 10 years - it's something I used to find to be a zen/meditative experience, so I thought it would be perfect for my few post-SOTD recovery days. And it was.

Right now, I'm assembling another kind of jigsaw puzzle. We've chosen a 47 song collection that we feel is representative of our 365 song accomplishment to become a "best of" package. As with all traditional albums (and now, iTunes playlists), these songs must be put into a sequence that flows well, makes sense, and tells a story. As I am going through these songs taking a stab at a sequence, it's a lot like the jigsaw puzzle I started last week. I find two or three songs that fit together, but finding a spot for them in the whole sequence - not so easy. Right now I have the "edge pieces" in place - the starting and finishing tracks of what will be each of 2 discs. It's the middle part that's still sitting in chunks. Just like the puzzle on my dining room table...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Spontaneous Song

I was at Randy's place Monday night and spotted the guitar he keeps in his living room which reminded me of the night Ted Blegen and I wrote the song Ants.

The Ants Guitar

Randy was hosting a games night in early 2006. His games nights are all about playing board games and enjoying Chicken Pad Thai from Thai Sookdee in Evanston, IL (the best Chicken Pad Thai in the Chicago area).

During a break in the board game action, I grabbed the guitar and started noodling a bit when Ted said "Hey let's write a song." So I started playing the chords that became the song and Ted started his "speech" about Ants. It all happened right there on the spot. Luckily we remembered the entire song and we were able to capture it in the studio the following weekend. It even later became a video:

This story illustrates one of the things that I love about the experiences we had making 365 songs. There's a story behind every one of them - a story about collaborating with highly talented people to create something new. I've occasionally been asked what I got out of The Song Of The Day or if it "paid off." For me, memories such as these are the payoff.