Thinking About Promotion for the New Album, March 18, 2021
A few months into the Pandemic I got rid of my Instagram account, Twitter, and about 1300 Facebook friends. It just felt like the right time. With a new album coming out, one that I'm really proud of, I'd still like to get as many listeners as possible, naturally enough. But I really don't want to be spending an inordinate amount of time online, doing promo. I've got my first four full-length albums on Spotify and all the usual downloading sites - iTunes, Amazon, etc. This time I'm going to try something different. I'm going to have the album available for streaming and downloading ONLY on Bandcamp. If you want to be notified when it comes out - and I hope you do - click on the blue button and follow me there.
Bandcamp treats musicians fairly, and involves the least amount of hype, endless promotion and networking. We've finished recording the bed tracks and lead vocals. Next up, getting some of my musical friends to record their lead parts. After that comes final mixing, then mastering. So the final product is still a couple of months away, maybe longer. Once we can get back to live performing, I'm looking forward to performing the album live.
How My First Band Got Its Name, March 6, 2021
In 1964, I think it was, I got my first electric guitar. A made-in-Japan, solid body Kent with a sunburst finish and ivory plastic switches to change between the two pick-ups. I still remember the mystery and power it held, something vague and ominous. A puzzle to unlock. I forget what kind of amp I had or where I got it. Silvertone rings a bell.
This was two or three years after I had been diligently learning music on a steel-string acoustic so I had paid my dues and earned my right to some electricity. I was in Grade 10, a year ahead of the others, so I was 14 years old. With an electric guitar, I needed a band. I asked a friend at high school if he knew any drummers. He pointed down to the courtyard below from the second-floor classroom and the first I saw of Paul Baker was the top of his head. He and I became a band.
Paul was slightly more popular than I was, which wasn't much but I appreciated the instant upgrading of my social standing. After a quick jam to determine our musical compability (we both worshipped the Stones) and mutual competence (passing) we met in the school libary for our first band meeting. We needed a name. We tried out a few, nothing was resonating. On a nearby stand-alone book rack a novel called "The Tin Flute" caught my eye. The author, a Canadian, was a woman named Gabrielle Roy. Gabriel was the angel who blew the trumpet in the bible. It sounded musical AND unique. And Canadian. That was it.
We knew a guy, Rick White, also in Grade 10 and he was an artist. He was commissioned to design our business card. Rick came up with the sub heading, "An electrified approach to music". Which sounded slightly British to our ears, slightly pretentious (which was a good thing we thought). Pre-internet, you didn't have a website. You had your parents' phone and a business card. This was for bookers to call so that they could book you for gigs. We were in business. We would rehearse in the meantime, waiting for the calls. Others who might call would be girls who liked our "sound".
Rick used the Gordon's Gin bottle for inspiration.
I don't recall the phone ever ringing, but we did play at least a few parties. We played Stones, Yardbirds, Them, and I don't remember what else. "Louis Louie" I think. But we didn't know the five chord was minor. We played it major and it was decades before I learned the secret to making "Louis Louis" sound right. The same with "Gloria". It took many years before I learned how to properly play that crucial guitar break starting on the 12th fret. Bah bah bah / bah bah bah, all in triplets, three times before heading back to the open E chord. The release. So rock and roll. So girl-friendly.
And one of those parties was hosted by Miss North Vancouver who, for one brief period of time, became sort of my girlfriend. I remember an embrace on the pier in West Van at the foot of 21st Ave. The only thing that spoiled it was that my nose started dripping mid-embrace and I had to wipe it on her faux fur collar. The gesture was disguised as a toss-of-the-head-oh-what-I'm-feeling-right-now kind of move. I never told her. Miss North and West Vancouver wasn't the kind of girl who had a sense of irony. Or is it humor?
Later, we added Danny Atcheson on keyboard a la The Doors. Danny went on to a real band later in life. Paul became a sociology prof. I became a video editor in a newsroom. But I kept the business card, and I'm using the colour scheme for the logo on my new album, "Hermosa Star Family Album". Coming soon.
Hermosa Star Family Album, Coming Along, December 6, 2020
Time moves in funny ways these pandemic days. Weeks cycle through on repeat faster than ever, while projects (like the new album) take their own sweet time. What's the rush? There's no deadline, no touring, no end game. And no pressure.
To help pass the time, I'm slowly working on releasing a new album I'm calling "Hermosa Star Family Album" (see entry below). I'm trying to come up with the genre or genres that would describe the overall sound. Contemporary folk maybe. But there's the country-influenced tracks too. And it veers into old-timey territory on a couple of tracks as well.
The bass and drums are recorded and "comped" (meaning taking the best bits from the various takes and stitching them together). This coming week, Brice Tabish (producer/engineer/post production) and I will get together at Jake's studio to record the acoustic guitar parts. I've rented a couple of guitars to join my trusty old Larrivee so that we've got some choices on what will sound best on each track. Some songs will be "double tracked" (playing the guitar part twice - and the same way - for a fuller sound) so having two different guitars will add a subtle effect.
In the photo, on the left, is a Gibson J45. Introduced in 1942, it's the biggest seller in Gibson's history and known as "the workhorse". I love the rich sound and ease of playing. On the left, that's a Martin D-15M. "M" for mahogany, just like my Larrivee DV-05. Something about the sound of that wood appeals to me. Most guitar tops are made from a lighter looking and sounding material, like spruce.
Once the guitar parts are done, we'll move on to vocals. That could happen later this week, or maybe the week after.
Where You'll Find Me, October 20, 2020
Somehow I ended up with two profiles on Spotify. Sigh, and once it's done, there's no going back. So if you want to stream any of my songs there, here's a road map. At "John Pippus" you'll find two albums and four singles. And at "John Pippus Band" you'll find "Howl At The Moon" (2013) and the five-song EP, "Weapons Of Emotion" (2017). My second album, "Born A Genius" plus a few more EPs and several singles are not on Spotify but you can stream/download at my Bandcamp site. Now you know!
New Album Coming, October 6, 2020
The last time I released a full-length album was in 2013. "Howl At the Moon" was a roaring, live-off-the-floor, blues rocker that caused music critics all around the world to, ahem, "howl" with praise. Various singles, EPs, and videos have come out in the interim, and now it's time for another collection of songs. Eleven in total, all original except for the closing track, our take on the gospel classic, "Will The Circle Be Unbroken".
Joining me on vocals is someone I've been hanging out with for close to 40 years - my wife Pamela Searle. We've been keeping each other particularly close company during this Pandemic Year and one of the offshoots is that we've been singing together. That was the catalyst for making this album.
My son Jacob Pippus is on drums. He's played on several of my releases and has been in various bands with me along the way. We're recording "Hermosa Star Family Album" at Jake's studio. Peg Wilson has been recruited to play bass. Peggy has played and toured with me, on and off, for several years. Brice Tabish is recording, mixing, and producing (as he did on the five-song EP, "Weapons Of Emotion". He played lead guitar on that project too. On "Hermosa Star", we'll be joined by various musical friends who will be featured soloists. Most are like extended family. There's a lot of love, a lot of laughs and memories, going into every track.
We've just started the recording process, so saying "Coming Soon" is a bit optimistic. It might be ready by the end of the year though. Can't wait to share it with you.
A Wild Version of Eddie "Son" House's, "Preachin' Blues", September 1, 2020
One of the best things I've recorded, with a huge nod to Adam Bailie's production on this. He took my riff and my vocal and built an incredible track around it. The chords change when they want to, it's a long way from the classic 12 bar blues structure. In the background, he's sampled Son House's growling vocals as a bed track. And the use of vocoder here really works. We took the blues tradition and made it our own. This song is as one-off and never-been-heard-before as it gets. From the album, "Wrapped Up In The Blues". One music critic said: "[An]... innovative recording bringing to mind all sorts of imagery from John Cale and Lou Reed to Brian Wilson...". See my bio for more critical reviews of the album.
"It's Not a Time to be Silent", September 1, 2020
"Crush The Fear" is a co-write with David Puzak. Our co-writes are released under the name "Sarnia Boys". Sarnia is Dave's hometown, and it's where we've played a few memorable shows. We wrote "Crush The Fear" soon after Donald Trump took office. It seems so long ago. The second verse starts:
Tension in the air
Can’t trust the president
Bad omens everywhere
Every day I thank my lucky starts I don't live there. Canada has its problems, but nothing like what the States is going through. But you know that.
The long extro repeats the lines: "we’re in a bind its not a time to be silent / the flame of hope is out we’re gonna have to relight it / we wanna end the hate so we have to confront it / can you understand that they want to divide us."
And the last line is: "It's not a time to be silent". Vote him out in November!
Hear This: On Spotify, September 1, 2020
Careful when you click that play button... The sample is cued right in the middle of the rocking harmonica solo of "Bring Me Some Whiskey". Adjust volume accordingly. I just about blew out the top reeds in the middle of the take. I was hitting notes I didn't know I could hit. When the red light goes on, the adrenalin kicks in. This song was a lot of fun to write and record, and you can hear that in the track. Michael Schau produced and played slide guitar, bass, and I think the drums were from a session guy in Los Angeles Michael knows. If you like what you hear, click on the full track option. It's a lot more fun having music out there when you know you've found new ears to listen.
I've got four albums, a few EPs, and a few singles on Spotify. You'll find them under "John Pippus" and "The John Pippus Band". Thanks for taking a few minutes to listen!
As Predicted! (See Story Below), July 21, 2020
Waiting for the Sourdough to Bake, July 22, 2020
Yes, I've become a cliche in this ongoing COVID19 pandemic - I have joined the ranks of the bread makers. A proud, card carrying member I might add. Well, for one thing, I've got time. Also the results are now as good as the pictures that accompany my favorite recipes, after a few false starts. But even the "failures" tasted good, you just wouldn't brag about them on the internet.
I should post a photo, and who knows, I probably will. Something like posting baby photos, no one cares but you can't resist. But the point of this post is to turn you on to my latest musical discovery - Lhasa De Sela.
While the bread bakes, I'm reading her bio, "Why Lhasa De Sela Matters" by Fred Goodman and listening to her on Spotify. And she's so good, I had to share this with you. Some weeks ago, I read about De Sela somewhere online, and ordered her book from the library. The downtown branch re-opened this week so I was notified it was ready for pick up.
Read about her in the link above, and listen to her music, I hope you'll be as charmed as I am. Sadly, she died of breast cancer 10 years ago. She recorded three albums, over a 15 year career.
Showing My Grandson HTML Coding, July 21, 2020
I'm showing Harlan (age 7) how I do basic HTML coding. I just did "bold" printing and now I will demonstrate how to do italics.
And now I have started a new paragraph.
Covid Blues, June 15, 2020
Doing yoga online, baking bread, reading, watching shows on Netflix, Crave, and HBO - yep I'm pretty typical. Watching the news and feeling bad for my American friends who are enduring this Trump presidency.
Relive The Music has shows re-scheduled starting in February 2021, which seems like a long way off but I think (like most people) that without a widely-available vaccine there aren't going to be any large indoor musical events for a long time. For now, fingers crossed, but realistically I don't have my hopes up for next spring's shows.
I can see getting together soon with a few musician friends though, jamming some tunes and seeing what happens. As long as we keep our distance in the rehearsal space and avoid touching common surfaces, I'm up for that. Recording and posting online too.
Music, food, exercise, visits with my kids and grandsons. And red wine. It could be a lot worse.
Now Where Was I? May 13, 2020
Here we are in the second (or is it third?) month of self-isolation. Personally, it's going ok but for so many people it's a bad situation, either because of health reasons, or financially. Or mentally in some cases. The world is in a hard place these days, and like our medical health officer, Bonnie Henry, famously says, "be kind, be calm, be safe".
Here in BC, next week we start Phase 2 of our re-opening schedule. That means more stores and services will start to open up. Slowly and carefully. We're fortunate in BC to have a government that has been moving cautiously and letting the scientists and medical experts set the pace.
Like everyone, I miss hugs and closeness with family and friends. I also miss not being able to perform. I don't know when Relive The Music will be back in action. Playing to a theater full of people, I just can't see it happening for at least a year. Playing smaller, outdoor events could happen though, possibly this summer or fall, doing some solo or duo gigs.
Here's a photo of my friend Adam Bailie taken back on March 18th. This bike ride was the last time I did anything that resembled the old normal. Even though things were shutting down, at that time, it still seemed ok to go for a bike ride. We stopped at a local brew pub for lunch too. No restrictions on distancing or anything. I mean it was 'in the air' and being talked about, but in BC at least it was pretty much the last day of feeling like it was ok to do that.
So I'm exercising, reading, playing guitar, eating, drinking wine, and for the past week or so, I've been able to see my grandsons. That makes a big difference. We're careful, we go to places that are pretty much deserted - like the UBC and SFU campuses. And like everyone else, I'm wondering what comes next.
Northern BC Tour Cancelled, March 13, 2020
Next week we had four shows scheduled for up north. They are now cancelled. We're looking at rescheduling these dates for mid-September. But as you know, there are so many unknowns surrounding the current health crisis, that we will have to wait and see how it all plays out.
Meanwhile, I've got a stack of books to go through: a bio on Canadian explorer/entrepreneur/storyteller Pierre Radisson called "Bush Runner"; a Mike Pence bio titled "Piety and Power". Then there's "Treblinka", an historical novel about the Nazi death camp; "A Transatlantic Love Affair", the letters from Simone De Bouvier to her long time lover, American author Nelson Algren. Oh, while I'm at it, I recently finished "Blood: A Memoir" by Alison Moorer. Highly recommended.
First Show This Saturday, January 19, 2020
On Saturday Jan. 25th we will launch our first show of the year in Delta at The Genesis Theatre. See my "shows" page for ticket info. Just over 100 seats left. I've played this venue twice, in 2012 and 2014 with my own quartet. Now I'm back as part of Relive The Music: 50s and 60s.
In March, we do a six-date run that gets us as far north as Prince Rupert. In October, we head east for a 10-date tour that goes as far as Regina. A busy year, but still lots of time for other things that come along.