This week I’ve mostly devoted time to my band’s album. Writing/recording at the same time, it’s a process that makes my brain hurt. So, my method for approaching this is to set aside lots of time, and hit it hard for a short amount of time — an hour or two– then walk away. ‘Hitting it hard’ means devoting my concentration and imagination thoroughly to the process of discovering possibilities that make me want to dive deeper. By this process, over the last two weeks, I wrote and recorded two new songs.

France and surrounding areas were deep in a heat wave, temps were over 100F at times, and generally hovering in the 90s. In Brussels they had their hottest day since 1901. Aden was home sick from school Monday and Tuesday, and we pretty much spent the week naked or nearly so. Aden went back to school on Thursday, for her last two days of elementary school — she starts at a new school in September, the equivalent of Jr. High in France, which is called ‘college’. Her final report card was a list of “A’s” and “excellents” as long as Fast Eddie Johnson’s rap sheet.

On Wednesday night I headed to Paris, slept at our flat there, and caught the early (which turned out to be….late) train to Brussels and had a great couple of days working on Bastian Baker‘s new album. I’ve now had the pleasure on playing on all three of this great songwriter’s releases. Bastian’s only 24, and it’s been astounding to watch him grow as a writer and dude. Generally my role has been to come in towards the end of the recording process and see what kind of twists, surprises, additions, etc could give the right shimmer and sparkle to the songs. From guitar to programmed beats to keys to…whatever we think of! In this case I played quite a few guitar parts, but some unorthodox things like ‘guitar as percussion instrument’, etc. We added a lot of textural synths, both digital and analog. I played guitaret, celeste. Autoharp, even — that was the first thing we did when I arrived, and after playing it with a guitar pick, we agreed it sounded better played with my thumb, so there was no pick scrape noises…oh, my, what a blister that made, in about 2 minutes.

Sessions took place at my favorite studio on earth, ICP. ICP is where the majority of Danzig in the Moonlight was recorded, and where I’ve worked with Carice van Houten, Bløf, Eva Auad, JB Meijers … it’s pretty much like coming home for me now. ICP has a mindblowing amount of backline so it’s ideal for precisely the kind of thing we were doing, overdubs, looking for exotic flavors, etc. Just the guitar pedal collection alone is…well, it’s more or less complete. Like, every pedal. Ever.

Tom, the engineer, is a veteran of Bastian’s last album; Tom was the house engineer at Angelic where we worked, that was a couple years ago; he’s now a freelance engineer par excellence. Great guy, gentle to work with, makes it all easy. We worked like crazy, til 1am the first night, then the second day we were back at it at 9.30, and worked up until we had our respective flights and trains to catch in the evening. By 11.30 that night, I was cooling off in a bath at home.

I’m probably blowing a state secret here, but since ICP has several studios in the complex, you always run into other musicians there. Sometimes it’s a friendly thing, sometimes, they’re into their own stuff and don’t want to socialize. This week, two of the studios were booked– and have been, for over a year, by French music icon Michel Polnareff; he hasn’t released an album in 25 years. We never saw the bloke, tho. I did see him live at the Bercy in 2007, when he did like, 16 sold-out nights.

This weekend we attended the “American Festival”, where the Parc D’Expositions was taken over by rodeo, tractor pulls, Harleys, gorgeous American cars from the 40s-70s, line dancing, vintage clothes & records, a mock up of a typical open range camp, teepees…we took Aden to get a good refresher on her heritage! And rode a rollercoaster. The only thing the place missed was someone, amongst all the food trucks, doing barbecue. Seems like they dropped the ball, there. We had a great day, there was just enough cloud cover to cool things off, but still feel like a summer day.

Last night we were sipping Vouvray in the garden to celebrate Dom’s mom’s 82nd birthday, and we found a female stag beetle (i.e., with normal-sized mandibles) It was black, very strong, and had two ‘headlights’ of gold on its front legs. She seemed weak and we gave her some water, and set her on a mossy outcropping, and when we checked back after half an hour…gone.

We’ve taken to calling our yard Jurassic World; in fact, the evening Aden & I went to the film, the air erupted with gnats, flying ants and such. We were covered with them. They had timed their flights in the dusky period where the swallows are less active and the bats are not yet out. When we came back from the film, the bats were making mincemeat out of the stragglers.

Today marks the day that Darius Minwalla would have turned 39. I think about him all the time.