San Marino on the rocks

When the week began, we had S. Kyle Robinson in the house; Sunday was the second day of doing overdubs, then Monday and Tuesday we worked on vocals, doing lead vocals for all his 9 songs, and I did backing vocals, vocal edits and added more overdubs if I found something was still wanting. In the nights after our sessions, I did the last mix for the country album, the live take of “Time of the Preacher” with Keren Ann in Paris; not much to mix– I had a stereo track to work with, but there were some mouth clicks and other things to pencil out; I added some reverb, and got the level up substantially, the take was recorded at a very low level to avoid peaks.

Wednesday was the last day for touching up Mimi Schell‘s mixes, make instrumental mixes, etc. A big job, there were some songs that didn’t need further touching up but a few needed some relatively important changes. We did have time to take dinner with Kyle, tho, at the Chateau Tortiniere, just outside of Tours. Aden came too, and we had our aperitif on the terrace over looking the pool, and the surrounding valley and woods. Beset by mosquitoes that should have aircraft identification letters on their tails, we took a table, at well, and Dom & I navigated home in the dark, despite the earlier of a massive, yellow moon. Back at the house, I worked until very late on the rest of Mimi mixes.

Thursday morning we got Aden to school, and I busied myself getting ready to go. Dom was kind enough to drive out to the chateau and give Kyle a ride to his train — my train was leaving from Tours, so I was on my own. Dom took off after lunch, I futzed around, cleaned up the house, made sure all the towels were out of the dryer and hanging in the sun, did every dish I could find, hit the road. A great day for a train ride, and the first step of the journey was a nice one — a TER, that is, a non-hi-speed train, to Le Mans. I had the solo seat at the very front of the first class car, so I was barricaded in by my suitcase, and could look out the window at the golds and greens of the French countryside. In Le Mans I had just a few minutes to find my TGV, but find it I did, and it wasn’t long before I was at the Air France check in in Charles De Gaulle. For European flights, the process of check in is now fully automated– you print and apply the tag to your luggage, then advance to an unmanned check in desk, use a scanning gun to scan your boarding pass and bag tag, put your bag on the belt, and it’s done.

I had a lot of time to kill. Pretty sad little dinner in terminal 2, and I spent the rest of my down time analyzing the mixes for the country album, Mimi’s album, and check the mastering for the Phantom Sound album, which tho it took ’em a while, is amazing. Emily Lazar did it, at the Lodge…pretty legendary place, and I have to say, I have almost zero comments on it; typically on the first round of mastering there’s a handful.

By the time I boarded my flight to Bologna, I had a list of things to try on the country mixes, Mimi’s mixes, and a few notes for Marisa on her mastering. So, on the flight, I could snooze without guilt.
We landed, and I got my suitcase. My friend Suz, who set up this weekend’s activities, was there waiting outside bag claim, with her friend Cristian. We had a train to catch, and my flight was a little bit late getting to the gate. But…all of a sudden, Suz’s train app informed us the train to Rimini was delayed by….23 minutes. Of course. We ended up with time to kill on the platform. They announced the train was coming in on another platform, the one behind us. No problem. We got on board, and only then did Suz think to check where our seats were…well, no problem…just the other end of the train. We started walking. Most of this late night train, which starts in Milan and goes all the way down the length of the boot, was wagons lit. It gave the train a strange air. Sometimes a car would be completely shut up tight, no sign there were people on it. Other times, there were doors ajar, and you glimpsed people, looking, frankly, kind of miserable, in their beds.

At last we arrived in the compartment. Two other guys were there, one was chatty, one dozed. Oh, and a studious looking young woman. She watched something on her iPad, but eventually talked to us. Stops were not announced on the way, and the train was so far off its schedule the app stopped working. Because our car was the last, we usually couldn’t even see the signage on the platform to see what town we were in. But the girl was getting off at the stop before us, and we figured it out. Meanwhile, the conductor appeared, and Suz presented our reservation info. According to the conductor, we were on the wrong train; our actual train was so delayed it hadn’t even left Milan yet; trains were running 4-5 hours behind. Out of loyalty, we should have sacrificed and waited, perhaps for another day, for our train. So, we got a lecture, even though it was the train company’s fault that the trains were that far behind, and in fact, none of this was apparent. On the platforms we were presented with the trains as if they *were* on time. Remember in Italy, this kind of stuff can get to the Monty Python level of absurd.

We got off in Rimini, it was about 1am. Incredibly, Suz had convinced the desk clerk from our hotel to come and get us. And there he was, with his girlfriend — now having waited about 45 minutes for us, as compared to our original arrival time.

Where were we going? Why, the Most Serene Republic of San Marino, of course.

San Marino, the world’s oldest republic, is a tiny fortified town perched high on a nearly vertical column of rock, shooting up some 750 feet from the towns at the base. San Marinus, a stonecutter, hiked his way up there some 1700 years ago, and stone cut himself a church, which, in that time, got you a sovereign nation and sainthood. Now, it would get you a few youtube hits, maybe. It’s been a republic since those times. No king. San Marino even boasts a truly unique historical achievement: it’s the only country in the world to have an *elected* communist government. That is, it had a communist party in power, without having a revolution. This was in the 1950s, as the country had to rebuild itself after The Second World War had left things rather untidy. Perhaps it was a way to organize that task to that every citizen took part. Nowadays, it’s a little tiny country, which makes money from tourism, enjoys very low taxes, and more or less operates with the same features — open border, the Euro, etc — as the the countries of the EU, Schengen and the Eurozone, without being a member of any of these organizations. In other words…they get to keep their money, and it shows — the standard of living is higher–everyone is a little richer than their neighbors in Italy.

Well, at nearly 2am, there wasn’t much to see. Which concerned me, as our driver, Marco, was taking these hairpin turns on the way up the mountain at about 60 miles an hour, and I don’t think he could see any more than I could. And I was in the back seat. Evidently, there’s just a few roads in the whole country — you get comfy.

The legend of our hotel, the iDesign hotel, … was that it was built a decade ago, and was shut down soon after; the owner, already a nightclub owner of great enterprise, was using it to facilitate his interest in the sex trade. The police shut down the hotel, and this man evidently simply packed up his suitcases of Euros, and moved to Brazil, none the worse for wear. The central bank of the country bought the place, fixed it up, and sold it to the next investor. Anyway, what you need to know is that ‘design’ in hotels always means you’re going to spend an extra 40 minutes figuring out how to turn the tap off, and that the bidet is square. Don’t get me wrong– I loved it. Breakfast was healthy and generous. Wifi worked like a charm. Bummer about this part of the world tho is that the posts/corresponding holes for electrical outlets are closer together than in the rest of Europe. So, my usual plugs didn’t fit. I had one plug converter that would work, which meant at any one time I could charge my phone (which has a very short battery life) or my laptop. The USB charger for my phone died just before I left, so I only have a wall-mount charger, from the US. First world problems. Enough of this chit chat, it was bedtime. We have a country to explore in the morning!

SAN MARINO, 6/5

They actually changed the breakfast time for the entire hotel, just for us. Normally it ended at 10, but Saturday they extended it to 11. I was pretty tired from the previous day’s travel, so I needed it. It was hot, already. At about noon, the hottest part of the day, Suz & I set off for the actual city of San Marino; the hotel was downhill a bit from the ancient citadel. We walked up the shoulder of the road; We saw no one else walking on the road. For one it was hot, for another, you need a car to get in and out of San Marino, except for the hourly bus service to Rimini. Tour groups arrive and depart on a regular basis, too. Only fools like us would walk in 90 degree heat, even if the route was generally shaded by trees the whole way. In fact, I love things like this. It was so extreme, so demanding. It was a quest, an adventure — with a goal. The thing to do, you see, is to visit all three of San Marino’s iconic medieval towers. But first we needed to find the city itself. Not a lot of signs on the way. But finally we saw a few buildings, and some people. We came out of the trees. I went into the first shop we saw, bought Aden a post card, wrote it; the shopkeepers asked for selfies with me, then we dropped the card in a mail box and worked our way into the old center. San Marino city it extremely small; other tiny capitals — Vaduz, Andorra La Vella…look like Tokyo compared to this little bourg. It’s just a few switchbacks and fortified walls. In the middle of the town is a quarry where much of the stone for the the fortifications came from. Oh, yes. Who runs this republic? The Captains Regent. There are two who run the country together, and they change every 6 months. Imagine. It never stops. On the day they are elected, the citizens have the right to present their grievances, in person. And the Captain has to listen and take note. Then, after that day, it’s no longer open for this kind of direct dialogue. The Captain Regent has another responsibility: upon being elected he/she must buy a crossbow, and put it in the state armory, to symbolically contribute to the defense of the nation.

Over the centuries…that’s a lot of crossbows.

We had lunch to strengthen up. While Suz called the hotel to see which restaurant they recommended. I watched a lizard, a wall lizard just like we have in my garden, pursue its prey at the edge of the ancient quarry that you find in the middle of town. The lizard was a little different than its French counterpart–instead of variations of brown, it was mostly green on the front half of its body. I enjoyed watching its agile jumps to snatch gnats from midair.

We lunched at il Ritrovo Dei Lavoratori Agostini Massimo, enjoying the local wine; red is generally sangiovese and excellent; white is moscato spumante and very refreshing in the heat. The food of San Marino is generally that of Emilia-Romagna. A typical dish would be a “Piada” which is flatbread folded around something…cheese, meat. It’s not hard to follow the etymology of “Piada” to “pita”. The typical pasta of the region is “Strozzapreti” or “priest-strangler” which is handrolled. It was also truffle season, and despite that we were warned otherwise, food in San Marino was cheap by Parisian standards. Something like €13.00 for ravioli covered in sliced truffle.

Fortified by our meal, we hiked the three towers. At some point, you’re looking down (and distrubingly, the walkway around the top of the tower has drainage holes, human sized, that are now covered with metal bars for safety, but still…below your feet there’s a nearly thousand-foot drop. Being inside these towers is vertiginous enough; what about the people building the things??

The third tower is the runt of the three; in fact, it has no apparent entry and you are simply left standing in the woods to admire it from below. Rather than walk back in to town, we decided to press forward, taking a trail that emerged at the national radio/TV station, and we could follow the road back to the hotel from there.

Naps and a little drum editing back at the hotel. Then, in the evening, Edri from the venue picked us up and took us to their tiny bar and cultural association, Il Macello. The bar as on a rampart of the city, so from right outside the door, the view of the sunset on the surrounding hills was magical. There was a piano there, and we brought in a small amp and a guitar. Andrea, the sound engineer was friendly and articulate young man. And the Panda! Nico, the other partner, who drives a gorgeously restored Bedford van from the 70s, arrived. He’s an expert gardener, and is all smiles. Soundcheck was done, we moved the piano in to position and repositioned the small PA, and got the sound going. And back to the same restaurant for dinner! No problem there.

By about ten, the club was opening and people were on the rampart drinking and talking. The bar was at the entry level; then the room for performing was down below, in a cool cave. It was a bit hard to get people motivated to head down there, the night air being so pleasant, but people came down, mostly quite young, settled in on the floor or the handful of benches, or stood, and I started to play–and got a roar of applause after the first song! Wow. Well, that was nice. People really responded well, and the show was reasonably long. I played an altered version of “Time of the Preacher” with humorous lyrics about my day in their country. There was an encore, and a duet, with Suz (who had performed it with me in Spain a few years ago). I sang well, and the piano was in tune enough to play as long as I avoided a certain C 2 8va below middle C. Or, just played it anyway.

After the show, I chatted with locals, drank red wine, sold CDs. And in no time…it was 2am. I drunkenly appealed for a ride, and The Panda gave us a lift in the Bedford.

In the morning, it was a bit tough to get up, but by 9am Edri, having just closed up the bar three hours previously (he wasn’t even sure at this point if he locked the door) picked us up and gave us a ride to Rimini. We stopped just inside the country to have a coffee with the Panda. I had, as I love it, a Caffe D’orzo, that is a coffee substitute made from barley, which you can generally only find in Italy. We got our train, now express, on time, and even air conditioned, to Bologna; Suz did the books and handed me the profit of the tour; put me on a bus to the airport and caught her train back to Rome. I flew back to Paris, and caught my train to Tours, working on preparing the first mix for Popincourt on the way. Dom & Aden picked me up at the station, and we headed downtown for a glass of wine at a wine bar, and Syrian food, all on the trendy rue Colbert. It was gay pride, so lots of partiers about. It was a miracle we found a parking spot downtown. Back at the house, I executed all the mix touch ups for the country album and Mimi’s album, and did all the instrumental versions for the country album. Woah! And so to bed. Another international adventure, perfectly executed. Friends made, music exchanged. Thanks Suz and to my new Sanmarinese friends!

Love
KS
Tours

is anything ever normal

The weekend, still reeling from the sudden death of our friend and bandmate Darius. Honestly, I’ve been in a fog ever since. I dove in to work. The country album with Holly’s campaign came to a close, we exceeded our goal. You can still preorder the album, of course. But I mixed it … all 14 songs. This week. And finished up the last mix for Mimi Schell‘s album, which had gotten a sidetracked with the news of Darius. And finished the Sweet Gum Tree mix, for the second of two songs we recorded at the top of the month. And then S. Kyle Robinson arrived last night and today we started working on his latest album, doing overdubs on basic tracks he recorded in Glasgow. Thank God for the work. It not only pays the rent, but it keeps me grounded, and also..gives me something to do…if I had to sit around and contemplate the loss of my friend, I’d go mad.

A little bright spot: on a real estate errand we went Sunday afternoon to Vouvray, and found it was the ‘fore aux vins’, that is, a wine expo for Vouvray wines. In a winding cave, about 20 producers of Vouvray wine — white wines that can be dry, sweet, sparkling — many expressions and styles of wine, but virtually all made from one grape, Chenin Blanc. You buy a glass, which you keep, for €3, and then enter and can taste all the wines inside, plus there were cheesemakers, the famous Hardouin, a charcutier of great renown in the region. Another branch of the cave was set up as a restaurant, so we had lunch. We tasted a lot wine, bought some, and left very happy. It was a gorgeous day. Other than that… I simply worked my ass off. One night when Dom was in Paris, and Aden was away on a school trip this week, I worked til 3am. In fact, on during this school trip, Aden turned 11. The first birthday we weren’t together, at least Dom & Aden, I’ve certainly been on tour for some birthdays but never has she been away from both of us. Wow.

She was fine, I don’t think she even missed us, she had a great time.

After the session tonight Kyle & I trammed down to the guingette, shared a bottle of wine and discussed our lives, our art. It felt good. There was a live salsa band playing. People breathing fire. The picture at the link makes the place look tiny, but it’s sprawling, I think there are on a weekend night around 1000 people hanging out, maybe more. It’s cacophonous, vibrant. It’s about as happening as Tours gets, so we’ll take it.

We found a dead lizard on our stairsteps. We don’t know why it died. The lizards here are called European Wall Lizards, they are quite numerous. Generally they are speckled brown, to match the rocks and the dead leaves in the undergrowth. We put it on some metal siding to dry out. A bird took it after a few hours, but before it disappeared, it did something interesting — it turned blue, cornflower blue.

The Record, which Holly & I have made. It’s really special. The idea was casually proposed, almost a dare. Make a country album about the people in “Doesn’t It Remind You of Something”. Get some friends to play on it. Very casual. You know what…it’s incredible what came out of it. Some amazing songs, some beautiful performances, and I think the country vibe suits me. It’s not cliché country. It veers…thru Tex Mex, folk, bluegrass…the songs are some of my best, and there are songs from other people too, that just sound wonderful. Holly wrote some gorgeous songs, and her singing — despite the fact she was fighting bronchitis for the sessions, is just…heart wrenching. This was music we were born to make. We took to the genre like ducks to duckweed. And we had incredible contributions from a bunch of musicians and singers, people have been very generous to us, with their time and their talent. I’m very grateful.

Just so you know.

Love
KS
Tours

Loss

CC0A5222 This image, by Niffer Calderwood, is from the Posies last Seattle appearance. A great action shot of the four of us, with Darius going crazy, like he could.

It was all going so well. A week at home. I was happily working on mixing Mimi Schell‘s album, I’d gotten to the last day, and was trying to mix a song so well I wouldn’t need the morning after to listen to it. The house was empty, on Thursday — I was looking forward to having a night where I could make noise and do whatever til the wee hours, to catch up. Dominique was in Paris for various appointments and projects. Aden was sleeping over at a friend’s.

The phone rang around 7.30, 8pm. I’d just gotten off the phone with Dominique, and I was downstairs listening back to a mix. My cell phone rang up in my room right after I hung up with Dom. I thought maybe she’d forgotten to tell me something. It rang again, straight away. Now, normally, my phone is off. People just don’t reach me on my French phone, for the most part. Folks in the US email me. Folks in Europe email me. Days go by where the phone isn’t even on, I turn it on when I’ll be carrying it around away from Dom and she might need to reach me. It was on, that night. I don’t remember ever giving my new number (I changed phone numbers here in France about 3 years ago) to Mike Squires but maybe he was coming to France on tour at some point recently and I gave it to him. The fact is, the chance that he had my number and that my phone was on, both, was really slim.

Anyway, it was Mike Squires, who rented the upstairs room in my Seattle house in the early 2000s. And it was he who told me the news. Our friend, one of our closest friends, and drummer in the Posies for the last 15 years, Darius Minwalla, was dead. My brain walked in circles while he spoke. What was he even talking about?

My heart rate immediately went through the roof, as the shock hit me. As I struggled with the news, even as I dialed Jon’s number, I was reasonably sure this was a huge prank being played, a sick one–it’s not nice to wind people up like that. Like a robot, I delivered the news to Jon, even though the human part of me didn’t believe it.

About an hour later, Darius’ girlfriend, Danielle, called me. It wasn’t a joke.

We still don’t have answers, there’s an autopsy being done. What we know — in the last weeks he had stomach problems and if I understood correctly, chest pains. He had a traumatic fall last year, we almost had to find a replacement for him for some shows, when he was still working at the Biltmore Cabaret, in Vancouver where he’s been living for the last…5 years? 6? We all think of Darius as a Seattle guy, still, by reflex. Even though he’s from Boise, and North Carolina by birth. Anyway, he put his foot in a leg-sized hole in the basement there, and fell, breaking two ribs on the edge of the hole. Was there further internal damage that wasn’t seen at the time? We don’t know. We know that Darius was home, from what I knew he was no longer working at the Biltmore, if I understood correctly. Danielle went to work. She texted with him about 11am (this would be Wednesday). She had urged him to see a doctor about the various symptoms he had been showing since coming home from Japan (touring with Hugh Cornwell) a couple weeks before; scheduled to do another tour with Hugh, she urged him to get a checkup before going. He agreed. He had spoken to his mom between 11 and noon. In the afternoon, Danielle texted to say she’d be working late, and was puzzled when he didn’t reply. She came home that night and found him unresponsive, in fact, he was already in rigor mortis. The paramedics on the phone asked her to do CPR, but he was cold, she couldn’t even unfold him to lay him down. He’d probably been gone since about midday. His laptop was open; he had been looking up a doctor to make an appointment with.

What to do with the news? I was fighting with its veracity. It had to be joke, or a mistake. At the same time, the adrenalin was shooting through me. I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t be in one place. Alone. No one to talk to. I opened and drank a bottle of vouvray (sparkling wine from our region here). Then another. The news started to go around the internet. People started to get in touch. I tried to work on Mimi’s last mix, or listen to other things…mostly I got extremely drunk and just felt awful. I think I went to bed at 5.30, finally.

at 9 I had to be up, again. I made an announcement on Facebook as the rumors were shooting every which way. I don’t remember even posting the announcement. At 10, Olivier, the singer of Popincourt, arrived and we did the second half of the vocals for his album; we’d done the first half in March. I was so glad to have something in front of me to do. We don’t have wifi at home so while working, the internet and all its bad news was out of sight, out of mind. I shut the idea of Darius off from my conscious mind. Aden was delivered after school by her grandma, and Olivier took a train home around 8. I cooked for Aden. When Olivier left, I opened up the computer, saw all the posts, all the reactions to my post. I’d IM’d with Sean Nelson for his Stranger piece at some point, in the middle of the night, I don’t even remember doing that. The feelings came flooding back. I was so sad. I went back and worked on Mimi’s mix, just to have something to do. Aden went to bed, Dom got home that night around 11.

Yesterday, the same feeling. Dread when I woke up, after the escape of dreams. I went to the market with Dom, the post office, a coffee. Little routines. At midday Liisa came, we were going to spend a half day touching up her mixes, seeing to small details, on the album we’ve been working on since 2010. Again, good to have someone there to distract me. The work with Olivier and Liisa was pleasant, engaging, not stressful. Then, at the end of the day, the internet gets plugged in to my computer, and I see all the messages– hundreds a day, from friends and strangers — and the reality comes back.

As Liisa was heading back to Paris, I joined her on the tram, went downtown, met Dom & Aden, and we had barbecue and vouvray at the guinguette. A guinguette is an outdoor drinking & gathering place. The city of Tours has established an elaborate outdoor space with food, drinks, a play area for the kids on the banks of the Loire. Dom and I stayed for hours, and I drank too much. Right now, I can’t be trusted, the pain is too great. I need to calm myself and accept Darius’ loss, and accept that life is here for the rest of us, it’s OK to be alive.

Jon met Darius, presumably when he was working the coffee cart on Capitol Hill in the late 90s. Just a kid, really. Something odd about the Posies drummers– they all lost their fathers to illness as teenagers. Mike, Brian and Darius. Jon, at this time, was a lost soul, I believe. He’d divorced his first wife, and announced he wanted to quit the band. We did our farewell album, Success. I was devastated by that, but I moved on — quickly. A few weeks after the Posies farewell show in San Francisco, I was on tour with REM, playing with Neil Young. Jon didn’t have such a warm place to go. He joined the band Lucky Me, which did a major label album, that as far as I know, never got released. He needed someone to show him that life was a good thing, he was pretty dark. Darius was all positive, looked up to Jon, really nurtured him. And he was young and strong — they partied together, a lot. Jon and Darius and Mike Squires and other friends toured behind Jon’s nascent solo catalogue (Jon’s album came some years down the road).

Three years after splitting up, our friends at Houston Party in Spain offered us a tour in Spain for their label anniversary, in February of 2001. We decided to do it, having already done some acoustic duo shows. Joe Bass was in, but Brian Young, by this time busy with Fountains of Wayne, declined. Who to get? Mike Musburger and we hadn’t really repaired our friendship from his quitting after a physical confrontation between himself and myself that was the final blow to years of tension.

Jon proposed Darius. I’m sure glad he did. Darius’ enthusiasm and the fun and warmth he brought to the band extended to life outside the band. He became our buddy. His inexperience, relative to Brian and Mike, behind the kit, toughened up quickly. By the time we toured with the Pernice Brothers & the Chamber Strings supporting us, that summer, we were a fucking furious rock band. Joe Bass wasn’t working for us at that time, and we’d spotted Matt Harris playing w Oranger at SXSW that year and asked him to join us. This band, Jon, Darius, Matt, myself — went on to make two great albums and tour the world. For almost 15 years. We had a lot of adventures, ups and downs. I’m not sure I can recall Darius ever being negative or bummed out. I used him on my own recordings, too. He plays drums on “You Drew” the opening track on “Soft Commands”. One of my favorite recordings of “one take D” as we called him — as he could nail a song on the first try — is my version of “Down on My Knees” by Bread for a tribute album. It’s not posted online to stream, but for D’s sake, download it. We sped the tape up after tracking the drums, so that they’d have a tighter sound, and it compressed the energy of the track.

When I toured the West Coast with the Maldives two years ago, we played in Vancouver at the Biltmore Cabaret. By this time, Darius was the venue manager and living in Vancouver. He had a great apartment with Danielle, who he’d met up there, around the corner. I stayed there that night. We had dinner together, all of us, at a great sushi place up the street. We had a wonderful show, and Darius hung out with us, as we drank tequila and stayed up late. An epic night, so much fun. I think about it often. The last time the Posies played together was at a kind of odd show, a free show in Wenatchee to kick off the ski season, last Halloween. It wasn’t our best show, but it was a great hang. That’s the last time I saw Darius. We were in touch, of course. But of course– you take your friends, who are healthy, and young, for granted. For the record, the last appearance we made in Seattle, at Macefield Festival in early October last year, was a barn burner.

Darius had lived in Pakistan as a teenager. His dad, a gifted surgeon specializing in the stomach, was from there. His mom was from Britain, they met there. He spent a year of junior high in Pakistan, and recounted incredible stories from that time. He was born in North Carolina, his dad being invited to bring his family to the States and take a position at a university hospital in the Research Triangle. Darius, accent on “Dare”, is a traditional Persian name, in line with his dad’s ethnicity. The southerners called him Da-RYE-us. Even tho, another well-known Darius, from Virginia is DARE-ee-us from Hootie and the Blowfish. I’m not sure what prompted the move to Boise, or when his dad died, etc. But he went to high school in Boise. His mom remarried. Darius has at least two sisters and numerous cousins — all female, it seems, and all very nice, and all loved Darius very much, so it was hard for me to tell who was a sibling and who was a cousin– they were all close. They lived all over the place — Toronto, LA, Argentina — we would run into them on tour all the time. Darius’ mom & stepdad hosted us in Boise. Darius just…wasn’t fucked up. Jon & I, we’re pieces of work. Matt can be a nutcase. Darius was ever upbeat, caring, fun. He played drums too loud, he played too fast. So what. He never played boring. I couldn’t even imagine writing all the memories of joy and laughter and music I have with Darius. It’s a book in itself.

Darius loved living in Vancouver. He loved Canada– anyone who knows him will bring up his love for the band Rush (Darius gave me his SECOND copy of the Rush 30th Anniversary DVD to make SURE I watched it). He loved the Toronto Blue Jays. Girls went gaga over him, he had years of growing up amongst loving female energy that made him very comfortable around women. He was respectful, and a serial monogamist. Over the years, I knew him as single only for a few months. Even with 40 approaching, he had the face of a kid.

He was very loved…by thousands of people. That is the good news, in all this bad news. His impact on the world was positive. It will be mourned, and missed. I loved him.

Here’s a great musical moment with Darius, to leave you with. I mixed this song, but Scott Greiner, who mixed several of the songs on Blood/Candy, had heard the tracks, and offered to edit the drum fill into the second verse. Technically, it’s out of time…I guess. I just hear it as a great spontaneous moment. It’s life. It happened, and I would never alter it in a million years. It’s beautiful.

Love
KS
Tours

Tour ends in Tours

What a busy week — I was deep in the mixing for Mimi Schell‘s album, absolutely loving how the songs were blossoming, I love these mixes (and songs). I also worked on Sweet Gum Tree‘s mixes and recorded a bunch of extra stuff on the tracks we recorded together the previous week. Guitars, keyboards, backing vocals, drum programming. I’m still tinkering with one of the songs, I think I need to add a little more fairy dust here and there. Honestly, I was working so hard, I don’t remember much else of the week…a few nice meals outside when the weather was nice. Lizards everywhere, we have a LOT. I love to sit at our table in the backyard and listen to birdsong. Oh, I did mow the lawn again. Hardest working man in showbiz.

The house across the street from us, which has been dormant since we moved in, came to life. It’s got a proposed works sign on it, and it’s meant to be torn down and replaced with a small apartment building, and no one wants that of course. The old man who lived there when Dom was growing up has been dead for some time, and his kids have agreed to sell to a developer. But the other folks in the neighborhood have sued to prevent the apartments from being built. And they might win. So, the house is worth something if its developable; if it’s not, it’s a lovely but extremely dilapidated 19th-century house that will need massive amounts of rehab. It’s got an air of mystery to it, not the least bit as the old man was some kind of inventor, odd creations of his are visible here and there in his overgrown yard. Some kind of doll hangs in a window. It’s less scary than it sounds. But the house came to life. The kids came to town, and cut back some bushes and did other maintenance. The ‘kids’ are probably almost 60 themselves.

BRIGHTON, 5.15

The last show of the Posies warm up tour. The night before I left, I went to bed super early, and therefore when I was up at 5.40 the next morning, I didn’t feel too bad. I bathed, shaved, dressed, had breakfast. Gently woke up Dom and she drove me to the station (the car is back, at last…we haggled with the insurance company and they agreed at last to repair it, not total it out). By 7.30 I was on my way to Paris. It was Ascension weekend, so Paris was really quiet. Checked in and boarded the Eurostar, I worked on the Sweet Gum Tree mix #2 the whole way over. At St. Pancras, Jon & I sat at a table at one of the coffee shops there, I was amused when I spied a very tidy Wallace & Gromit looking couple, cardigans and what not, brazenly pull out a bottle of whiskey and top up their cokes.

A lot of trains were delayed and cancelled, including the first Brighton train we could have jumped if we hurried. There was no reason to hurry. Everything was going according to plan. Our train finally came up on the board, a few minutes late, but running. Evidently the British Rail companies are either full of sick passengers, or they are very sensitive about sick passengers. Many of the train delays were due to an ‘ill passenger’. Got on our train, and we arrived in Brighton. Cloudy, but not too cold. Now, Jon had a small rolling suitcase, computer bag stacked on that pilot style, and a guitar. I had a huge suitcase w/our gear, and merch, plus my effects pedal bag (very heavy) on top of that, and a guitar. And a backpack. Gawd. I’d mapped the route in my head. We were walking. It was, at least, downhill. We ran in to Bella Hay on the street; and I guided Jon & I to the registration area, picked up our passes. Then, navigating to the club…the entire route, by the way, was about half a mile all told. A long way with all this stuff. At one point we had to walk between a stage with a live band, and their audience. The streets got very tiny, we were walking thru winding little alleys full of shops and cafes and festival goers. I knew the club was too our right, would this little alley be the right way? A young man with hipster facial hair emerged and I asked him if he knew the place we were going to, Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar. It was, indeed, right thru the alley and a half a block closer to the water. Right. No wasted effort. Our get in time was 4pm; when we walked thru the door it was, precisely, 4pm. I’m that good.

The Pierce Brothers were already sound checking, and actually finished early. So, we could set up. Oscar and the Wolf loaded in, which was good, cuz we were using their amp and keyboards (and several of their EU-UK plug converters). With the lines running hither and yon from snake to our audio interface, things were getting a little confusing, between myself, Aoife the sound engineer and her assistant, whose name was Annie, I think? Oh, it’s all a blur. But we did soundcheck, and after much wrangling, the laptop stuff sounded good. Then we got our stuff offstage and went to check in at the hotel, which was just on the block behind us. I did a little more mixing work, and then met up with Andrew & Amy from Lojinx, and Marisa from the Phantom Sound in the lobby. We had dinner together and then Marisa cut my hair (she used to own a salon in LA). Now, being that this was a showcase festival, we were getting paid peanuts, and in England, they don’t even give you peanuts. No hotel is provided, no meals, so…cost conscious band that we are, Jon & I shared one hotel room (it actually cost more than the fee we were paid, so on top of that we had the trains, cabs, etc to get from Tours/Paris to Brighton and back). Soon, said hotel room was filled with boxes of my CDs (from Lojinx) and tufts of hair. It Iooked like Keith Moon’s chest hair had exploded.

That took us right up to showtime, we hustled over to the club, I caught up with our booking agent James and watched most of Oscar and the Wolf’s set. Great band, they also play with a lot of computer tracks, but they do have a live drummer, I think I see the light here. One thing cool about this drummer is he plays all very dead cymbals, they barely ring, so everything is super tight. There’s a keyboard player, a guitar player, and a lanky singer (Oscar, I presume? No, his name is Max) wearing a kind of trench coat onstage. People loved it, they have kind of a modern electro pop vibe, with almost hip hop moments, some mournful vocals, a bit Bon Iver. They had a great groove (and much of that was in ye olde laptop). Then they were done, we got our stuff going, somehow the patching went all wrong (you could see that coming) so not everything came out of the computer as we were hoping, but we/Aoife got it sorted. The place was packed, and I saw some wonderful familiar faces. Anuj, who was the entire audience for my bizarre restaurant gig outside of Dehli a couple years ago. A few other fans and friends. It was a bit stressful getting onstage at the festival pace, and playing only new songs, and we hadn’t played in over a week, so we weren’t a well-oiled touring machine. And yet, it was pretty damn good. And people seemed to love it. I just dug in and tried to make the least mistakes possible. Tried to keep eye contact with Jon. It wasn’t relaxed enough for me to really feel groovy, but it was exciting we played all 6 of the new songs, and then did our epic piano/guitar vers. of “Coming Right Along”. Oh, and for some reason (maybe the result of hauling our gear on foot for half a mile in Billy Reid boots) i had horrible foot and leg cramps for about half the set, I felt like I’d stepped on an electric fence. And then it was done. Holy crap. Within about two minutes Aoife went from buddy buddy to stern taskmaster and was yelling at me to get my stuff off stage NOW. Uh…ok…yikes. I just scraped everything — guitar, cables, laptop, pedals…like you’re clearing off a plate before washing it. Offstage, I tried to account for everything. I revenge barked at Aoife a bit as we need our guitar cable #3, which was used by us and Oscar for the keyboard, and it was still plugged in to the snake. “I need that cable out yesterday!” I said, authoritatively. OK, avenged.

The charming and trim Neil Whitcher, from Fender, was on hand and actually packed up my guitar (which, being a Gretsch, came from his office, ten years ago). He helped me roll everything to the hotel, and the Lojinx crew helped Jon do the same. I took an inventory and quickly repacked, looks like I got everything. No merch was going to be sold, it was a music biz crowd anyway, people who have never had to buy a record in their adult life. It was time to commence drinking. Someone had helped themselves to most of our beers backstage but a few remained, I distributed them around and almost drank half of my 1664. I asked Neil what he knew of wine bars in Brighton, as the Pierce Brothers whipped the crowd into a frenzy, all stomping, celtic scales, digeridoo, etc.

Neil led us back the way we came from the train station, thru the incredible gardens of the Brighton Palace, and finally to Ten Green Bottles wine bar. There was Jon, myself, Neil, Marisa, Andrew & Amy, and our friend Steve, his lady Sue and their friend Michael. We drank….an incredible amount of wine and made a substantial amount of merry. Neil had to duck out, early morning meeting at work the next day, but the rest of us did some serious wine damage and closed the place out. Marisa left us, but Steve & Co had big AirBNB flat and some cheese so we….went on. At some point Jon & I stumbled back to our hairy hotel room and that was that. I think the show was great, I think the night was fun…as far as I can recall.

Up at 7.30, ow. I hadn’t even bothered to undress, I just rolled out of bed, packed up my stuff, brushed my teeth and went to the lobby. Jon followed a few minutes later and we had a straight (but uphill) walk to the station. And it was back to work, most of the day I worked on Mimi’s stuff. In St Pancras I had a tea at the champagne bar, where I was all alone at a table with a place to charge the laptop. I even found an empty seat on the Eurostar with a power outlet (our car had none) and worked the whole way to Paris. Cabbed to Montparnasse, worked in the lounge there, worked on the train home to Tours. Dom & Aden picked me up and as we turned the corner on the main drag near our house, we saw there was an art opening, an old building near us was taken over, and outside there was a small gathering…and what appeared, to my eagle eye, to be free wine. We parked and checked out the art contemporain installation, and then headed to the noshing. Evidently today was some kind of museum open house in Tours, with all museums open and free, and art things happening everywhere. And free stuff. There was chorizo, cheese, wine, and ‘cake’. What ‘cake’ means in French is a savory loaf, typically it would be ‘cake aux lardons’ which would be a savory loaf with some ham/bacon things in it. The one I tried a slice of was cake made with blood sausage and apples (this combination is a very typical one in regional cuisine). The free wine outside had attracted the attention of at least a couple bums, who were graciously served. One guy was clean shaven, and generally not homeless-guy looking, but he didn’t have a full set of teeth and had clearly pissed his pants. And was helping himself to a bit of cheese.

Back at home, I got the latest Mimi mix into shape, and went back to work on Sweet Gum Tree’s mix….Arno, if you’re reading this, I’ll have a song for you by the end of the week. Feels good to unpack, at last…no traveling for the next three weeks. I went to bed around 12.30 to find Aden in our bed…while I was away the girls were scared shitless, it’s woodsy and dark at our end of the street, and there’s an odd phenomenon in our house–I’ve been fooled by it many times. Noises from the outside–a car door slamming, stuff falling over in the neighbor’s garage, footsteps on the sidewalk–seem to be amplified in the upstairs of our house and are thrown down the staircase, amplified — so it sounds like things are happening upstairs, uncannily so. One time a delivery truck next door closed up its bay doors and it sounded like something fell over in the studio, I was certain — maybe a microphone on a stand had been left with the mic hanging forward not over one of the tripod legs. Went upstairs, nothing. Then discovered the truck out front. But you don’t hear the noises in the ground floor directly, I think because of the 6-foot-high wall around our house. Well. We were fine. We slept past ten and are going to brunch. Tour is over.

Love
KS
Tours

Why We Art.

Only 17 days left for the Ken & Holly campaign!!! We need your help!!! Please pledge to preorder our LP/CD/download of “The Record: A Country Concept Album”. Holly & I explore the backstory of the characters in my song “Doesn’t It Remind You of Something”. We based the format of the album on Willie Nelson’s 1970s concept record “The Red Headed Stranger”. Special guests include Keren Ann, Matthew Caws (Nada Surf), Vicki Peterson (the Bangles), Andy Shauf, Shelby Earl, and a host of great instrumental players too numerous to mention. Pledge here. We have a lot of great extras remaining too!

I spent Monday and Tuesday working in my studio on two new songs by Sweet Gum Tree, a one man band lead by Arno Sojo, a Frenchman living near Angers. His last album is an orchestral masterpiece, recorded in part with a Belorussian symphony orchestra. Good grief! How to top that…?? Well, you can’t, but you can take a different tack. We went for songs that were based on his guitar playing, and went for some fanciful, modulating, complex guitar tones. We added various keyboards, and some drum programming (more to come). He sang his vocals and some backing vocals (I’ll add more). We worked hard, and felt we had the basis for two great songs, provided I filled in a few details before mixing, which will happen this week.

As you may have read last week, my travel to meet up with Arno meant that I had to leave my hotel in Holland at about 5am, which meant getting up at 4.30. I’d only gotten to bed at 1, since the Posies show was long and late. The short sleep, even with a couple extra hours on the train, was not enough, and my body paid the price. Plus, it was cold and damp, even torrential-ly wet, in Tours. Laundry I did when I arrived was still wet Tuesday afternoon when the sun came out long enough to dry a couple of things on the rail to balcony. It was so windy, tho, that I had to bungee the lighter sheet to the rail. I had just enough clean stuff to make Arno’s bedding. But the lack of sleep (Monday night I was up late finishing last week’s blog) and the surprising coldness of the house — stormy and blustery as Tours was, it was warm– took its toll. The burning in my throat could not be beaten back, even with all the delicious juices–infused with ginger and garlic–that I was making.

HASSELT, 5/6

I felt OK, Wednesday morning, a sunny day at that, when Arno drove me to the station, but my throat could not be made to feel moisturized, it was dry and raw. I could sing, but I knew I’d be fighting this all week and the odds of beating it on tour were slim. I snoozed on the way up to Paris in the train, crossed Paris in a taxi, and got to Gare de Nord surprisingly quick. I had a meeting there with a band, believe it or not, my second meeting with a band interested in an album project; my third meeting with their manager. We met up at one of the coffee places in the station, and their manager Philippe was even kind enough to help me haul all my stuff to the train — I had my suitcase, which was full to bursting with a box of vinyl Holly had shipped to my house, I’d already broken a handle getting it in to Arno’s car; I had my effects bag with my pedal board; and a guitar. And my backpack, let’s not forget.

I boarded the train to Brussels, and tried to rest as much as possible. Jon was on this train, and we made our way to the platform for our Hasselt train, and Holly joined us there. This was one of those trains which splits in two, and unf. the cars are not marked individually, there was no signage on the train etc, this was one of those SNCB trains that comes straight out of Mary Tyler Moore colors. Well, we were on the right train, we just had to ask some folks. I passed the enormous crate of albums to Holly, she re packed her stuff on the train, and gave us chocolate in return — good deal! We got to Hasselt about an hour later, and hopped off the train. No chance for the handicapped at this station– godawful stairs down and up. Wow.

We loaded ourselves into a cab, who took us first to the wrong hotel, then the right one, grabbed the keys to our rooms, then proceeded to the venue, the Muziek-O-Droom. Some great shows here in the past: Posies acoustic in 2000, Disciplines in 2009, my solo show with Eva Auad in 2012. They’ve always taken good care of the artists, and the audience is adventurous and cool. We hoped for a more progressive reception than some of the folks in Holland gave us. Now that I had my effect pedals, I could set up more consistently each night. We felt OK onstage, we kept the soundcheck short as there were three artists playing tonite…more on that later.

We cabbed to the same restaurant where Eva & I dined before my show, I think the conversation we had that evening is where our acquaintanceship became less formal, and we became friends, and this laid the groundwork for me producing her album the following year. An album which just came out, and is incredible, by the way, and you should purchase immediately (here). An important night! Tonite, Jon, Holly & myself took an outdoor table, a bit risky with the blustery weather (it had hailed on the roof just an hour before) but it proved to be enjoyable.

Back at the venue, it was practically showtime, and Holly was on first. She did a short set to start the evening. Then, we had Andy Shauf. Holly turned me on to his music, Andy’s album, “The Bearer of Bad News” is a bedroom masterpiece; he plays, evidently, every note of music on it. Drums, pianos, woodwinds, strings…it’s downbeat troubadour music, if Beirut was less klezmer, perhaps, and slow core. Wonderful album. He came with a band, he plays electric guitar, he has a bass player — they both play 60s Japanese instruments and get mind blowing tones from them. The keyboard player plays a Rhodes and a little Casio on top of that, and, occasionally, plays some guitar. And then there’s a drummer. When their stuff came up the elevator, all that gear plus boxes of vinyl, I remarked it looked like Metallica was about to build their set. Musically, this is anti-Metallica of course. The live set is really wonderful, exquisitely played.

OK, our turn…the place was packed, it had been a long time since a club I played was so packed that I was sweating just by being there. We played an excellent set; the sound onstage was a bit muddy and thick which is consistent with such a low ceiling’ed room. People responded to the set, tho, it should be noted we got no encore– i think after two hours of playing everyone was ready, on a Wednesday no less, to get the hell out of that sweaty room. We pulled out all the stops in the set, too– we had Andy’s bassist Josh and drummer Ian play a very plunky, Broken Social Scene meets Zumpano version of “Flavor of the Month”, and we had Holly sing “Licenses to Hide”. Like, what other surprises were in store?? None!

At the merch table, I had to endure the usual lecture from the odd person who didn’t like our new direction. They have a problem with the fact we have no drummer — which of course, never happens when we play just an acoustic duo show. One guy, who bought no less than three CDs from the merch table, said he’d seen Thurston Moore play the same way, with a drum machine. He claimed that if we kept playing this way, we’d be playing to 5 people in a few years. I can see, with my own eyes, that the opposite is true — if we keep playing to the nostalgia of our mid 90s success, with the conventional rock band, we will play to ever smaller audiences; we’ll never expand without changing the sound. Again…see also: Bob Dylan. He disgusted much of his hardcore audience when he went electric and ‘sold out’ to modern sounds. 25 million records later, I think we all agree, his choice was sound (pun INTENDED). We will def lose some folks if we continue to explore this modern, electronic path. Even if we add a drummer, which I think would be fun anyway. But we’ll never gain a single new fan playing our 90s catalogue in a 90s fashion. Even Blood/Candy, which I think is a “classic” Posies album, which we worked very hard on, and I think should have absolutely touched our traditional base — nice mix of guitars and psychedelia, clever word play, etc…only saw our sales and live base shrink. We cannot, must not, play to the base. We need to expand the base. And anyway, this is not just about marketing strategy. I am an artist, first and foremost. I only look forward, and as an artist, it’s part of the process to kill your darlings. You need to shed skin to grow.

It’s not all bad news after these shows, but what we’re doing is different than before, some people have a problem with it, they are looking for what they know, and we’re not giving it to them (despite playing all our best known songs) the way they expect it. A painter explores. A filmmaker explores. Some (Woody Allen) make variations on a theme, more or less. Some (Kubrick) appear in different guises from film to film. I like artists who offer me surprises, stylistic twists. Pynchon appears in different voices from book to book. A true master of their craft can be fluent in several styles, and that is my aspiration.

OPWIJK, 5/7

The next morning, my cold was at its worst. Ugh. The less I spoke the better. I slept in rather than having breakfast, and took lunch with Holly somewhere in the cute center of Hasselt. Asparagus, in season. Our friend Willeke, whom we’ve known for years, wanted to come to tonite’s show, and the route from her home to Opwijk has Hasselt in the middle of it. She offered us a ride. Having four children, she has a big enough rig to take the three of us and our gear. At 1.30 that afternoon, she rolled up to the hotel, we loaded up and hit the road. After leaving the ring road around Brussels, we were on rural roads between villages. At one such village, we could see ahead two of the shiniest, slickest, blackest Audi sedans you’ve ever seen. Each with a little blue light on top. As we approached, we had to turn on the corner they were hanging out at, and a very well-tailored man emerged from a shop on the corner…Willeke exclaimed: “it’s the king!” And indeed it was. As we watched, he got into one of the cars, the blue lights started flashing, and the two sedans, with a police motorcycle behind, took off towards Brussels. What he was doing in that tiny village, we can only imagine. Maybe he likes to go to tiny villages to actually enjoy the freedom to enter a shop (and give the shopkeeper a heart attack) without being mobbed.

we rolled on thru a few more villages, and the GPS led us to an indistinct spot in a hamlet of small farms. There was an auto garage, and we asked them the location of the B&B we were staying in–in fact, there was the van owned by the B&B, up on the rack, missing a wheel. We were about 50 yards from the place, the GPS just not privy to the intimacy of this very rural spot. We pulled up to the place, De Kleine Deugd, and were greeted by Wendy, the owner. She runs quite a place, in her 120 year old house. She raises horses (incl a very handsome show horse called Chocolate Genius) and on the weekends runs a pub in a kind of semi-outdoor construction, clear plastic material in place of walls. Like a wedding tent, with booze. People ride trails in the area, and tie up their horses and have beers. They even have live music when the weather’s nice. They used to have the pub inside the house but it outgrew their dedicated room, now some 400 people pack the place every weekend afternoon. And, they run a B&B, it’s the upstairs of the front of the house, three little rooms with a common dining area. Perfect! She gave us a key and we headed for Opwijk central. In the center of this small town is a lovely venue, the Nijdrop (a contraction of the the first two letters of three villages in the area. It’s been a youth center since the 60s; the current location is a couple years old, they had a smaller facility in the past. Nice big stage. We set up sound checked, and I went to sleep on the dressing room couch. Woke up to eat a lovely meal, and went back to sleep til just before show time. Put in my contacts, brushed my teeth, I could hear Holly entertaining the crowd. An amazing crowd for this show, the place was packed. Sadly, as much as took my zinc pills and drank the ginger/honey/lemon brews Holly kindly made for me, my voice was really ragged. I announced as such before the show, along with the usual caveats — we’re trying out our new songs, we’re using the laptop to augment the usual acoustic duo show, etc. The first song, Throwaway, was tough. I’d taken one of my emergency meds, a Rhinadvil, a very potent over-the-counter cold med only available in France. It kicked in about a third of the way in to the show, and my voice opened up. Thank god! The new songs are easy to sing, written for a 46-year-old’s range; some of our older material is quite challenging to sing but soon I was cruising. I felt tired and I was sweating, but I tried to make things as natural as possible. We do a few songs as a duo, introduce the laptop and the new material for a few songs, resume playing as a duo for a bit, return to the laptop for more new songs and some catalogue material. We got a nice encore; in general the crowd was very mellow during the show and shyly demonstrative, but at the end, they showed us a great amount of appreciation. I know we did “Licenses” with Holly. I know there’s epic versions of “Burn & Shine” and “Coming Right Along” towards the end. It’s a blur! But a good one. Yes, a few people pointed out how we were supposed to have a drummer, blah blah. I politely agreed. Anyway, next time we’ll probably have one. Do I have to point out the artists who appear with different groups each tour — Beck tours solo, with his traditional band, with the Flaming Lips; Neil Young tours solo, with Crazy Horse, with the Stray Gators, etc… guys, we’re just like any other artist. We try different things, over the…30 years of being a band, it’s not going to be the same flavor year after year. We’re not Denny’s. We’re artists.

We had wonderful sleep at the B&B, and I woke up feeling not as sick as the morning before. We had wonderful pastries. In Opwijk there are vending machines around the rural areas and in town that sell staples — bread, dairy products, potatoes…incredible! Jon said they have the same where he lives in the outskirts of Paris. I’ve never seen it before. What a great idea!

We stuffed ourselves and our gear into Wendy’s loaner Volvo, and she drove us to the tiny Opwijk station. May 8 is VE day in most of Europe. Opwijk felt like a Sunday, maybe it always does. Brussels too. It’s a long weekend, so Paris was empty. Indeed, traveling thru Belgium’s fields, I have to say that my stepdad, Dewey, who turned 90 last month, passed thru here 70 years ago. He doesn’t discuss his wartime activities much, it’s a pity, as the stories will go with him. A humble infantry support truck driver, we’re proud of our Greatest Generation hero.

We had a very modern, nearly empty train to Brussels. We’d planned on taking a later one, but found ourselves at the station with earlier options, so we took the first one, tho it came with a different destination marked on its signage. Seemed to include Brussels in its list of stops, but on the board at the station it should have been a Brussels-only bound train. Once on board, it was only showing the next few stops, but a passenger confirmed it was Brussels bound, and soon, the signage did too. At Brussels Midi station, being a gold card holder for the Thalys, I had the right to use the lounge with a guest (Holly) and Jon, being a silver card holder, had the right to use the lounge too. We took advantage of the clean-sh bathrooms and free wifi and soon it was time for me to get on my train home. I had the perfect work for a travel day: I had to run off stems for the Phantom Sound album, so Marisa can potentially do shows with a laptop like we’re doing w the Posies, bandmates being hard to pin down at times. For this I don’t need to be in my studio, and I don’t need to record new stuff, it’s more like overseeing the baking of a cake. Once it’s in the oven, it just…bakes. You take it out when its done. Simple as that. Believe it or not, this is not that different. I just had to organize, prepare, and let ’em run. 5 stems per song, for 12 songs, except one song has a tempo change so the stems are in two parts. I could do this on the train, and at the flat at home. I checked to make sure they were all working, and also, the big job, load them all in to a session to look at the levels from part to part, song to song — the mixes might have louder or softer drums, bass etc, but for live, they should be as similar in level as possible. By about 11 that night I was leveling and re-exporting the stems with new levels. In the meantime, Dom & I could take lunch together, and dinner together, for a rare night out in Paris. On Saturday, I slept in til about 9, and felt much better, my cold was heading away. The stems resulted in over 1.5Gb of material, so that was a 5-hour upload, with our ridiculously slow ADSL internet. So, nothing to do but get out in the sunshine. We went to look at my flat, formerly my studio, which we’re renovating. We went to our favorite bio grocery and had lunch at their restaurant. I ran a few errands in the neighborhood, ran into some familiar neighbors. Also, after 12 years in the flat, we’ve acquired a ton of stuff, but being in Tours most of the time we don’t have the time to deal with it. Old clothes of Aden’s, toys she doesn’t play with, DVDs, kitchen stuff we don’t use…we are in the Ebay equivalent of D-Day. I carried stuff out to the charity shop. We even took our traditional TV down to the street; technically, the city will recycle it, but it will be snatched up way before they come along. We prepared shitloads of toys and other items for the ‘vide grenier’ that’s coming up at the end of the month, a neighborhood-wide garage sale, you set up your table at length of sidewalk you rent from the city, and sell what you can. Aden’s very intrigued by the business of selling toys to get newer toys, clothes, etc.

The upload done, I could start my work for the day, I’m starting to mix Mimi Schell‘s album. I needed to work on a song that needed no additional recording, so I worked on a song that was ‘RTM’. I got the mix close enough that it will be easy to finalize today. We ate at home, and by 9pm I was done with the mix for now. We could hang out as a family, even tho Dom & Aden were still organizing and sorting stuff in her room, I parked on the couch with a glass of wine. Went to bed early. This morning we had breakfast on a terrace, packed up tons of stuff, and hauled ourselves to the train station for our train back to Tours. School starts again tomoro, Aden’s been on spring break for two weeks. In the morning I had time to listen to a couple of good records — Klifton Filente’s “Common Ground” and D. R. Hooker’s 70s Jesus Freak rock album “The Truth”. I feel much better and am looking forward to mixing Mimi’s & Arno’s music this week, and performing the Posies’ new material in Brighton on Friday…

Love
KS
train to St. Pierre des Corps