Archive for May, 2016

RELEASE: Pee Police

Last month, I saw a horrific video going around, that one of a cop slamming a butch lesbian into a wall and out of a washroom for not performing femininity to his satisfaction. And, after I was done shaking with rage, I wrote this song.

It’s very angry, very political music, with an eye towards bitter humour. Klopfenpop called it “Pete Seeger meets Pussy Riot,” and I have to say, I’m pretty happy with that reaction.

That video I mentioned above was the first of a flood of similar incidents being reported after North Carolina rushed through the anti-TLGB (and safety and child labour law repealing – didn’t know that part, did you?) HB2 in a several-hour-long special session.

Sure, these abuses happened before it became this year’s fundamentalist-button-pushing issue. But the people who get off on this have certainly felt emboldened ever since, to the point of this North Carolina school system voting to let people pepper-spray transgendered students. It’s that fucking bad.

Pee Police lyric video on YouTube

There are several such bills going around, in various permutations, all sourced from the same choose-your-own-oppression master bill by a fundamentalist/rightist organisation. The one offered here puts a $2500 bounty on the heads of transgendered children, targeting the most vulnerable in this particularly vicious hate campaign. The legislative version did not make it out of committee, so they are now gathering signatures to put it onto the ballot. They can’t win, but they can wage hate for months and crank up fundamentalist turnout – and, of course, hurt lots and lots of children.

Pee Police on Soundcloud

Hurting people – particularly very vulnerable people, like kids – is the point, of course. That’s how they get off, and just putting all that out there is the whole point of this new song. Well, okay, they also have the goal of boosting fundamentalist voter turnout. It’s always about that, and if people get hurt along the way – well, so much the better. As long as it’s the right people, like women who don’t know their place.

Din of Thieves will be a lot harder-edged than Bone Walker, and this is part of that aesthetic. I’m not making any guesses about the far end of its range – it won’t be a whole album of this kind of four-chord metal-influenced punk, but I feel like I have some things to prove, and that’ll show. How much, I don’t entirely know. It’s all written, and some of it is the most hopeful stuff I’ve ever written – ask anyone who has heard “Supervillain For I Love You” or – most of all – “We’re Not Friends.”

I guess what I’m saying is: this is a pretty emotional song – one I hope is cathartic – and Din of Thieves will be a pretty emotional album. Because it’s… it’s a pretty damn emotional time.

Pee Police on Bandcamp [Explicit lyrics]

Share it around. Particularly where you think it might do some good.

almost ready

Setting up Bandcamp and working on the a lyrics video for Monday’s release while we have a lovely cool, rainy day outside. <3

single art

Art for the new single coming out on Monday. It’s kind of driving me crazy holding onto this one because there’s so much insanity over this right now, and when I saw that video of that cop slamming that butch lesbian against a wall and then out of a washroom for not performing femininity correctly – so angry – the song that popped into my head virtually wrote itself.

This is still “test” art – I’m not sure it’s there yet. It’s in the neighbourhood tho’. It just seems too… I dunno, bright? But I like it. So I’m torn.

Ah well, I’ll figure it out before Monday.

eta: New version:

the new song

Playing the current mix of the new song around a little bit, privately.

“This is like Pete Seeger meets Pussy Riot” — Klopfenpop

You know, just in case Pussy Riot wasn’t already political enough. So I think I’m doin’ this right. Subtlety is not the idea here – I GOT A FEVER AND THE ONLY PRESCRIPTION IS MORE BULLHORN.

(It is also not getting any more worksafe. I think the cover art should maybe just be a big PARENTAL ADVISORY label. This is fun! 😀 )

oh dear it’s another project

Or more correctly, a few other projects. Or hilarious things I found out.

ONE! I need a bullhorn for the chorus of this song. YES A BULLHORN. Yes, I can fake it with plugins but searching around for advice online, the most common answer by far was Just Get A Bullhorn, They’re Cheap. And they are, you can get a decent one for $9.

TWO! I’mma gonna build a carbon button microphone – think antique telephone, like those things from the 1930s-1960s – and nobody can stop me. Turns out the parts are cheap and you don’t have to spend $250 for that one from Gold or whoever.

THREE! As I posted on Facebook over the weekend, turns out those old Square credit-card readers for your phone or tablet that let you take credit cards at shows? They’re purely analogue devices, which is why Square upgraded everyone for free last year. Meaning they output sound. Meaning I just recorded the audio of my Costco card and this is hilarious.

I need some quarter-inch magnetic tape, stat. XD

interviewed on tumblr

Over on Tumblr, monsterquill interviewed me for a project, and I figured hey, let’s post it here too. Particularly since yep, still busy! monsterquill is in bold italic; I’m in regular text. Enjoy.

Why do you do fan music, what do you like about it?

Oh, well, mostly, because it’s fun. I mean, sure, I’m not going to lie; it gets attention, because you have a pre-existing audience to leverage, and all that. But I was coming up with fan music when there wasn’t a receptive audience for that kind of thing, I just wasn’t recording it – just because it’s a way to do fandom.

How did you get into it?

Same way as people get into fan fiction or fan art or anything else fannish (to use an older term) – THIS IS AWESOME I’M GONNA DO A THING! And then I did a thing. I also drew some fairly terrible (and some halfway decent) comic art and wrote fanfic. Music is just another aspect of that.

How are you involved in fan music community, & how would you describe it?

Well, I started nwcMUSIC, a geekmusic festival held as part of Norwescon, and ran that for six years – this immediate past year was the first one they ran after I handed it off, and I think they learned some things, and will continue to improve next year.

Describe it? Jeez, that’s a bit of a question. There are so many different such communities – the chiptunes crowd and the nerdcore crowd definitely overlap, and they talk to each other a lot across geographic regions. There’s an older folk tradition called “filk music” which was the first really organised geek or (”fannish,” in the old language) music community, and they started releasing audiocassettes in the 1980s. (Look up Off Centaur Publications and go from there if you want to dig into that part of the history.)

There are a fair number of differences in specifics, but it’s funny how the patterns repeat. Like, nerdcore people get together in the hiphop tradition and do improvised/freestyle rapping over beats, which tend to come from chiptunes, and it’s at homes and sometimes at events and everybody’s just getting together to do stuff, right? These are called cyphers. But filk started doing almost exactly the same thing a few decades before, but folk-music-y, and called them “housefilks.” Chiptunes people have a name for their improv/workshop/fun playing get togethers too, but I don’t remember what they’re called at the moment.

How do consuming a fannish thing and producing your own work relate for you?

Well… in both cases, I guess, I’m playing to the same audience, which is to say, me. And also people who like the same things as me, at least, within a certain range.

What genres of music do you tend toward, & what subjects, & do those affect each other, & do you use different ones?

There is very little geek metal out there, and while I’m playing acoustic instruments most of the time, what I’m really writing a lot of the time is metal. Early metal, rather than more modern metal, but still – that’s why the most common comparison by far that I hear is to Led Zeppelin. (Occasionally I’m thrown in as folkpunk, and get comparisons to The Pogues. But most of the time, it’s Led Zeppelin.)

My personal background is a mash of Newfoundland folk, metal, and electronica. In released material, I mostly hang out in the folk/metal arena, but I’ll drop a rock track once in a while. Pretty much always, I just go where the song says I need to go.

Like, when I did my first released fannish track – which was really an exercise in how to use a digital audio workstation – it was straight-up rock and roll, because the song required it. There’s a cult classic film called The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension, and it’s an odd, odd film, and I really like it. Part of the shtick is that Buckaroo Banzai is a brain surgeon, physicist, and! leader of a rock band called The Hong Kong Cavaliers, and successful at all three at the same time. (And also, he’s a pulp adventurer, but I digress.)

Given all that, it bugged me that they never got to do a whole song in the film. They start a couple, but plot happens, and they’re interrupted. Soooooo… a bunch of new lyrics, some additional instruments, and a zillion edits later, I’d scraped off every note out of the film and finished that song.

And it’s called The Diesel-Driven Eight Dimensional Jet Car Blues, and it’s on my fan-music page, to this day. 😀

What’s your songwriting process like? What inspires you to do a song?

The problem with a day job is that you have a day job. The advantage of a day job – at least, one that doesn’t eat your life, and I note that I didn’t do any music while I was a software developer in the industry – is that you can really pick and choose.

But even without that option – everybody writes for the same reasons, be it writing fiction or drawing artwork or making music. It’s all the same answer. I guess for musicians, it’s “I want to say a thing about a thing, but with a good beat.”

I heard a good analogy the other day – artwork is how we decorate our space, but music is how we decorate our time. I really like that. I also think – while not at all asserting there’s no overlap, because of course there is – that art is how we write down what we see, writing is how we write down what we think, and music is how we write down what we feel. Music is transcription of emotions, and lyrics add thoughts to give specific context.

Or that’s how I look at it, anyway.

that “apple is stealing your music” blog post

There’s an “Apple is stealing your music” blog post going around on Facebook today, and people are freaking out in that “we’re freaking out about this” way that they do, and as someone who talked about this when Apple Music rolled out, I have to step in and say some things.

First: This is Apple Music, which is to say, Apple’s stream-everywhere service. Think of Pandora, but also streaming your ripped CDs and so on. This is not core iTunes functionality (tho’ it is delivered from within iTunes if you enable it), this is not your iPhone, or iPod, or whatever. You have to sign up for this and pay for it. It’s $10/month.

Second: Here’s the thing. I don’t like Apple Music and don’t use it, for several reasons, one of which being this one. I am not an Apple Music fangirl defending my platform here, I don’t like it or use it.


The whole pitch of Apple Music, the whole point of it, is to make “your” music available to you everywhere, as well as give you access to Apple’s very large streaming library service.

I use quotes around “your” up there, for very good reason. You don’t own most of your music. You just don’t. See this four year old but still relevant commentary on so-called ownership of music for details. What you own are limited rights to music.

This means that Apple cannot legally upload your specific copies of licensed songs to their servers without paying the RIAA buttloads of money – far, far more than your monthly Apple Music membership fee. Cannot, as in, it’s illegal. The only way they can offer this service is to have a licensing scheme set up, which pretty much means the reference-library approach they’re taking.

Now, they can upload stuff that is actually yours, with your permission. And they’re doing that, according to this article. (And other sources, for that matter.) They have to do that, in order to share it around; that’s kind of implicit with the service.

But they’re probably not going to store uncompressed WAVs. They’re huge. Your phone’s data plan will be hammered if they stream WAV files. Everybody and their mother would rage about that, and for good reason, and the mobile market is most of the reason to have this at all. So, for these very good reasons, they’re going to compress.

(Now, they might upload a WAV and then stream you down AACs – disk space is cheap – and I don’t know what they do internally. But let’s assume they’re not. Given it’s Apple, I don’t know what format they’d use on their servers, but it’d probably be some very-low-loss AAC variant, which is very good. But that’s kind of a side question that I bring up only because the “Apple is stealing your music” post author brought it up, as well.)

Now, once they’ve set up the service, with your library’s use rights transferred to the cloud, they will treat all devices as peers, and make them all into echos of the central cloud copy. That’s the clean way to do it; it’s the elegant, least-hacky way. Their architecture is based around the idea that the “primary” machine is their set of servers, and all other devices are thin / empty / stream-on-demand clients. This lets them do really good backups, and provide all the similar cloud-centric services which really are the point of that whole system.

But that means setting all the client environments to be the same and reflect the server, and that’s why it’s set up as it is. (There also may be multiple-copy licensing issues? The RIAA would certainly insist that there are, and this avoids that fight.) All the (thin) clients are in the same state, so all the information is common across all of them, status is always synced, etc. Which means that the local library echos have to match what the server thinks they should be, and there’s no room for exceptions.

It doesn’t have to be that way. They could have – and, to my mind, should have set up exemption rules to avoid exactly this problem. (eta: and at some point after version one in fact did – see below!) And they chose not to (at initial release), because it makes the implementation a lot less elegant if you do that, and/or because the cases where that’s actually an issue are a tiny slice on the edge of their market, and/or because the support costs would’ve been higher, and that’s both inevitable and expensive.

Which of those factors was more important, I can’t begin to guess. I’ve known a lot of managers from Microsoft who would’ve made the same call, and I’d’ve been screaming at them, and probably would’ve lost that fight. Or who knows, maybe I wouldn’t’ve. I don’t know.

What I do know is that the edge-case argument is demonstrably valid. Apple Music has been around nine months. A bunch of us complained about the architecture when it came out; now silence, until this. That’s one new high-visibility blog post about it in three-quarters of a year, which averages out to 1.33 persons angry enough to get it attention about it again, per year.

That’s a pretty small number, particularly given it’s out of 13 million subscribers or so. I may be part of that edge case, but that doesn’t stop it from being an edge case.

Still, ignoring that edge case – and completely blowing up the “least surprise” principle of user experience management – that’s where this was a terrible, nearly Microsoftian design decision. Giving each device the possibility of having a list of first-copy/exempted/whatever songs is, as above, a real technical and support problem. But they could’ve solved it, should’ve solved it, and decided not to.

And that was terrible and leads directly here, and is why I don’t use Apple Music.

But they aren’t “stealing your music.” For the overwhelming majority of users, you already don’t “own” it, you just have transferrable rights. And if Apple wants to offer the service they’re offering, they’re kind of stuck under current copyright law. They just are.

(They could also just back up your old library. But since edge-case people in particular will still add new non-library songs to their personal library while subscribed that means you have to sync the backup as well – yay, more code to maintain! More support to do! – or otherwise, when they quit Apple Music, HEY SOME OF MY SONGS ARE GONE APPLE DESTROYED MY MUSIC!! and we’re right back here.)

The only place I see an even remotely-possible legal issue is that I think they should auto-download all your licensed and owned music without having to go through by hand (as the guy describes in his article as something he doesn’t want to do) when you drop Apple Music. That’s arduous enough that I think you can make a restraint case out of it – particularly for the non-library/actually-owned-by-the-user parts of the library, that edge case that he has and I have and so on.

But the rest of it – the licensed material, meaning all the ‘purchased’ music, none of which you are ever actually purchasing, even if you buy it in physical form – that’s most likely legally solid, and the ground rules are dictated pretty heavily by the RIAA.

Who are monsters. But that’s a whole ‘nother series of articles.
eta: Hey, turns out, Apple Music even tries to tell you what it’s about to do and lets you opt out will still using the service for the rest of your library, which means I’m wrong, they do in fact build the exemption list I described above now, which they didn’t in version one. Maybe that was in response to our round of complaints last year! But the wording – while correct – is confusing to many people, like this guy. (And to be fair, it really kinda is.)
eta2: From another source, the uploads of your local files are made as 256Kbps AAC.

This is a related entry in the Music in the Post Scarcity Environment series of articles about the music industry, and trying to make it as an indie musician in the modern environment.

recording today

Recording today, no time to type much. I don’t write particularly topical music, because I guess I hate success? But I have a highly topical song and I want to get it out there.

Those who know what I mean when I say “this is another Mary Kaye and the Cosmetics song” will, um, know what I mean by that? Sure. That works. The rest of you will have to wait.

And honestly, I can write some difficult changes even into four chords, I’m just saying, and I don’t even know why. This is why it’s not out already. I’ve been practicing it for days.

Oh, separately, yesterday, I fixed the leaky valves in that barely-post-war not-yet-East-Germany-made Cajun accordian that I’ve had hanging around for a couple of years. Tim Walker – one of the GoHs at this past Rainbowcon, and who actually plays various kind of squeezeboxes for real – looked it over and gave me some tips. One disassembly and set of adjustments later, no more extraneous tones. Thanks, Tim!

The inside of this thing is amazingly clean, by the by, it’s like it got shipped off from the factory last week. DID I TAKE PHOTOS NO I DID NOT TAKE PHOTOS BECAUSE I DON’T EVEN KNOW. It’s approximately 70 years old, but you sure as hell wouldn’t know it from looking at it, not even on the inside.

Anyway, enough accordion, time for a more electric kind of loud. Let’s see if I can get some good takes today. Rrrarrrr.

aw yeah this is the raw stuff – captain z-ro and colonel bleep

Due to reasons, I’m scanning my old science fiction club’s old newsletters, and one of them mentioned a series called Captain Z-Ro, which the editor watched as a kid, and nobody else seemed to remember existing.

Thank you, Internet Archive.

This is the hard stuff. I am serious, this is kind of amazing. Not good, don’t get that idea, but… wow.

Captain Zero’s Laboratory

Captain Zero in his lab. Golly!

See also: Colonel Bleep. I kind of unironically like some of the design in Colonel Bleep but wow it’s not good either. XD But at the same time, they’re both swimming in that weird retro cliche charm. If Sparks Nevada, Marshall on Mars had actually been a period TV show, it would’ve looked kind of like this.

Rainbowcon I minireport, Rainbowcon II is Go

Had good fun at the small but enthusiastic Rainbowcon I over the weekend; met a bunch of new people; Annie and Tim Walker and Dave Clement (the GoHs) are all really nice, and I may have recruited Tim into a bit of fan music silliness I started at one point and have been wanting to finish for a while. (He can play horns.)

There were workshops and lots of playing sessions and more workshops and also we did a whole set of songs about dead animals for some reason.

Why are there so many / songs about corpses?
Why did they all have to die?
Was it the bullets? / Or maybe a comet?
What was that thing in the sky?

Rainbowcon II has been confirmed, with GoH announcements on Saturday night: April 28-30, 2017, Seattle; GoHs Alexa Klettner (Germany), and Trickster & King (Ada Palmer and Lauren Schiller, together the band Sassafras). Details here.

Front row, L to R: Dave Clement, Annie Walker, Tim Walker, Rainbowcon I GoHs, in workshop

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