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Update: Taking A Big Swing!

Updated: Apr 5

Faithful reader, as I approach my 60th birthday, do you realize how far we've come, and how far we've still got to go? It's hard to believe a year ago, I asked Stacy Hogan, out of Nashville, to work on Hook, Line & Sinker. It was part 1. A helluva experience, too!



It was shortly after stopping work with Marty (guitar) and Ed (drums) because my job was closing its doors that I began trying to put a bow on the project. Still, I needed to find work in the explosives biz. All of this brought me to Maryland. Oddly enough, it was meeting Rudy at Goat Lips in Pensacola that foretold this inevitability. Rudy's old hang out is called Toots, a place my new band, Dirtyworx, plays. Who knew, we'd switch places? Literally?


The good news? I was forced to stop and consider my options. Mike Rozon, my favorite producer in the whole world, wasn't available to work with me because he was busy with Beaty In Chaos, and Ministry, plus was on tour with Jerry Cantrell (Alice In Chains). Below is my world famous photo of Mike, Mike's girl, Kiki and me in New Orleans at the actual Jerry Cantrell tour at The Fillmore. Of course, it was a few pounds ago. But meeting Mike and Kiki was great. Mike played steel guitar. I also hung with Mike Ciravolo, the president of Schecter Guitar Research, and his wife, Tish (Daisy Rock). My wife, Susan was there, but was camera shy that night.


Since I'm one of Dirk Doucette's many friends, these kind people took pity on my budding musical career. They're good people, and were very nice to me. I bought Mike a drink and snapped this pic outside before I went on my way. When I think about it, I don't think I've had a drink since then. Funny, huh?



To keep momentum going, I looked around for a number of other producers while Mike was on tour.


I found Stacy Hogan through a friend of a friend. Stacy's survival in Nashville is practically legendary, including surviving getting his gear stolen, and blowing up an amp on stage just before getting signed by two labels. But, I digress. And so, working with Stacy for a few months of going back and forth on what did and didn't sound good, Hook, Line & Sinker (part 1) was completed. Although for my taste, Stacy's guitars were a bit twangy. And that's fully captured in the CD. It's a Nashville thing, and so it got stamped that way.


Still, the songs, while pretty good in my opinion, needed some additional vocal work. I mean, come on! I just started taking singing seriously, and really didn't have any chops that would make the world stop in its tracks to take notice of my singing voice, right? Isn't that the constant struggle? It doesn't matter if you fail as a guitar player. Blowing up an amp on stage didn't stop Stacy from getting a label. But fail as a singer and the whole world gangs up on you. Just ask Jon Bonjovi.


I mean, Susan knows this, too. While she knows some raw talent lies beneath the surface of my immense ego, she knows it's taken years of hard work just to honk like a goose! And these days, while music industry professionals don't shit all over me for my voice anymore, I'm not exactly Pavarotti. Singing is a constant struggle. As much as I love doing it, I want you to keep in mind that you must deprogram your adult brain and rely on your baby brain to it right. It isn't as natural as pissing in the woods, either. You've got to sing from your belly. Just like a belly laugh you see infants doing. It's no wonder their voices are so loud! They get maximum volume with little effort and they're not even adults! Completely unfair! And you've got to do this every day. Forever. Or, you'll lose it. And if you do it wrong, you won't be able to sing forever. So, too much pushing big air from a little pipe and bingo! A trip to the doctor!


Singing is nothing short of another lifelong commitment. Doesn't everyone have enough of these already? So get in line, singing brain! My marriage, my songwriting, my career, my guitar playing won't take a back seat to you. Take a number!


But as I go forward, singing is becoming more important-er than guitar playing. What do I mean by that?


Well, now....


Music Industry Professionals say they want to hear more emotion. But they never tell me what that means. My research indicates it means singing loud or soft, or hanging on a vowel for just a bit longer or shorter. Maybe add some growl in there. Again, I digress.


As much hard work as I put in just to maybe get a thumbs up from someone in the biz who'll take my songs forward to one of the greats, like Cheap Trick, they always want me to bring them another rock. First, my songs sucked. Then, my guitar playing was rushed and raw. Then, my production was bad. Then, my singing wasn't great. And now, they want more emotion. It's like I got all those boxes checked, and they're just nit picking. This is why people stop doing music. Everybody just picks at you. You never feel good enough. And when someone does think you're great, you're really grateful.


But on the other side, nobody said the music biz was easy. Ever. It is a crucible of details that all add up to a great sound. You pedal board, your gain staging, your amp, your speaker cabinet, your equalization, your compression, your guitar, your pick ups, the list is endless. And that's even before we get to the songs. Or production, or vocals, or mastering, or photographs. or sales, or marketing or anything else on that list.


And it's expensive, time consuming, and demoralizing. People promise you things like how they've worked with all these great stars and how their contacts can help you, but you can't rely on that. And that's why Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift surround themselves with good people.


In this business, it doesn't pay to be a dick. You can quote me on that. You know what makes it worthwhile? You. If I can do one song that connects with you, it's all worth it.


Getting back to it, I think it's only fair to say my singing was as best as I could do at the time on the Hook, Line & Sinker (part 1) album. I was pushing into new musical territory. Experimenting with Hard Rock. Growing into different chord structures. Borrowing minors and augmented chords. Looking for something with more dimension.


And the album represented that new growth. But was the album any good? Well, folks who've listened to it told me that they really liked, "Like I Do" and "Ball Of Twine". I was surprised by that. I thought the title track would be the best one. They say this happens. But my favorite song on the album is Alice Knows. I think Stacy hit that one out of the park with production. I don't think I'll ever need to go back and recut it.


And for Ball of Twine, I wrote it at a time when my job was losing me. And I didn't want to be labeled as just another manager, or technical advisor. I wanted to break free of the labels. So, I coupled that with Elliot Paige's transformation from the Umbrella Academy. Elliot gives a nice speech about how it feels to look at yourself in the mirror and see someone everybody around you sees. But you are someone else. It resonated with me, so I wrote Ball of Twine, and sort of coupled it to a B-52's kind of song coupled to an Echo and the Bunnymen kind of song. I think it's a great tune. And it captured everything I was looking for.


Stacy's production felt a bit stiff for me. I wanted it to be more spacious and crunchier. Again, enter Rozon. He did a great job with it. It sounds perfect to me. You'll hear that one re-cut.


Songs like that highlight my vocal comfort zone. But I knew I had more in me. I had more stories to tell. More secrets to divulge about my inner workings. More vocal stuff to try to get out. I listened to Freddie Mercury. I listened to David Coverdale. I listened to Billy Idol. I kept writing more songs. I kept recording more songs. And that's the good news. And that's what's showing up on the back half of this album. It's a stretch. A big stretch. But not out in left field. Just trying to really dig in a little deeper, you know?


And there's more good news. Mike Rozon, again my favorite producer in the whole world, is helping me remake the album the way I wanted it from the beginning. That's right. Mike found some time to help me put this album together. I know I'm asking a lot from him and will do my best to take it easy on him. I will, no kidding, throw 48 tracks of crap on a recording and ask him to whittle it down. Mike, he doesn't want any of that bullshit. So, I try to keep things simple as I can and let him do his thing. So far, I've been blown away with what he can do to bring out everything in a song I need it to be.


I emailed him after being disappointed by the great number of producers out there, who were more than glad to take my money in advance and leave me ...well...dissappointed. I won't say these other folks are bad. I'm saying I won't use them again. And it cost me good money. If I've learned anything, I've learned you have to go with people with a track record. Hire people you know you can trust to help you with your vision. Rozon's definitely one of them. My secret weapon, when I'm lucky enough to have him.


There is one guy I ran into, Mike Tacci, who's also quite good to work with. He recently mixed a song for me called, "Little Miss Diesel" he did quite well with it. Mike's credits include Metallica, Cheap Trick, Lynch Mob and White Snake. So, when he became available, I took him up on it. Click the link above, you'll hear Mike Tacci's mix. It has the most likes of any song I've put on soundcloud. It's quite good. Tacci thanked me for being easy to work with.


In this business, it doesn't pay to be a dick. And you can quote me on that.

So, where we are right now? I feel like I've got stuff covered. Between Rozon and Tacci (the Mikes), the second half of this album will come together nicely. And it's not going to be cheap. Between mixing, mastering, and photographs and all that, it'll be well over $8K to get the project completed. And to make things even better for you, you'll hear songs that are closer to how I envisioned them. Rozon and Tacci, somehow or another, know what I'm looking for and are taking these songs where I want them to go.


Click on the links. They back up what I'm saying, and provide you complete access to failures and successes. I guess since my blog is free, you can at least get some free songs out of it, too!


At the end of the day, I want an album I can be proud of that wasn't rushed, and offers you, my friends, family and faithful readers, an incredible experience. I want to hit one out of the park. Hell, I want to hit them all out of the park. I want to make that one album that you can't put down. And I want to make it yours.


And it's a big swing.


Love & Rockets,

Russ












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