JJ's Take: Ashley Can Play Louder Than any Drummer I Have Ever Played With

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JJ's Take: Ashley Can Play Louder Than any Drummer I Have Ever Played With

Credit: Fally Afani

I'm reading a book called "Musicophilia, Tales of Music and the Brain" by Oliver Sacks.  It's a delight.  I've been thoroughly engrossed in descriptions of people who lost the ability to appreciate music.  I'm not afraid anymore.  But I can empathize to a small degree.

Way back in the year of our Lorde 2003, I played in a metal band called Tinge. I got the gig because I ran into a guy that I went to elementary school with back in 1933-97 named Tell. We just shot the shit and it came up that I play bass and he was in a metal band. He asked me to come out some night and jam for fun. The bass player on that particular night wasn't available so they were just gonna get together and jam. I went and did my Claypoolesque slap stuff and whatnot and they asked if I wanted to play in the band. I said, "Sure". They called up the bass player immediately and let him go. There was some sore feelings between him and the band for a while.

I say all this to point out that it was loud.  We played loud and we played hard.  But that is nothing compared to Ashley. Ashley can play louder than any drummer I have ever played with. Genre doesn't matter.  He doesn't always play this loud. It's definitely a tool in a very diverse toolbox for him. He can do pianissimo through forte just fine. But when we, as a band, are all in the pocket together and we are playing "Bananas" to a crowd that is soaking up the energy we pour out and begging for more... well... Ashley says "Okie-dokie" in his head and demonstrates that Fortissimo is just the beginning. He'll add about three "iss"es to that word when we hit the 12/8 outro and build and build and build.  If any normal man were to swell like this, he'd have to be admitted to the ER with the worst case of priapism in western medical history. (A later aside to this. I would be super interested in a professional decimeter about 4 feet from Ashley when this happens. Just curious.)

I say all THAT to set the stage for describing an experience I have occasionally when the volume gets "Ashleyissimo". It doesn't always happen but when it does, it sounds like all the sounds become a strange cacophony of metal crashing into each other. I can't tell what chord is being played and I can only tell where the beat is because I can feel the vibrations from the subwoofers.  I entirely lose my ability to discern music. It becomes noise and energy. It's not bad, but it's not recognizable anymore.

When reading "Musicophilia", this exact description was given by Mr. Sacks when he talks about amusia from a person he interviewed.  My experience has a label. Woo!

It got me to thinking. What do people hear when they hear my music. What do sounds sound like? Silly questions like "Does red look the same to all people?" become applicable and at least in the world of music, the answer is a clinically-supported "NO".  

On a slightly related note, maybe I should get those fancy earplugs that Mr. High C uses at our shows. I understand why...

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JJ's Take: Commitments are important

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JJ's Take: Commitments are important

Commitments are important.  When I tell my kids something, and I have three, and they do not forget, then I have a hard time saying I'm being a quality parent if I break that commitment. Even if there's a good business reason for that decision it's a stain on my reputation as a badass dad.

My parents are badass parents.  They quickly set me up with a $75 pawn shop banjo to learn on and got me started on lessons. Macklemore would be proud.

I think that some kids just enjoy stuff. I enjoyed playing banjo. Just to play banjo. I didn't like practicing but, by golly, I liked to play. And I think that's what it takes to squeeze the sounds you want out of an instrument, or to repair an engine, or to tackle linear algebra. It takes looking at it, and identifying the next little thing you can't do yet and grinding away on that little piece until you own it in your mind and your body.  That being said, if your kid is into something so much that they set aside things like video games and playtime so that they can do that something even more, just don't let them go into debt doing it if at all possible. Support them otherwise.

Anyhow, I digress... Y'all will want to be ready for that in my blog. A sentence is no good where a paragraph will suffice. I wonder if that's related to how much I like lots of notes and very few rests.

So there I am playing banjo, and jamming with my dad playing Styx and Marshal Tucker and Jerry Jeff Walker. Listening to a lot of Pink Floyd and some Police and that sorta thing.

Then I got a banjo teacher that made possibly the most tangential impact on my playing style possible. His name was Jamie and he introduced me to the music of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.

To be continued...

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JJ's Take: I like busy music. I always have.

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JJ's Take: I like busy music. I always have.

My first instrument was a banjo. I started playing around on it when I was just a wee bit older than nine, and have always found it suited my desire to make notes float and weave and drift by in little circles in front of my ears.

When I turned nine, my parents told me, "You have to pick an instrument." I immediately said, "DRUMS." Dad looked at mom. Mom knew what he was thinking. They smiled at each other.

"No." 

They told me not to rush it, and to find something that I would really enjoy. Then one morning I was eating breakfast with my parents, who listened to the local AM country station religiously. Paul Harvey's "The Rest of The Story" was playing as usual and it was always something my dad tried to catch.  This particular morning just as the radio show concluded the station played a song rather than going to commercial break.

I listened to the sounds coming out of the tiny speaker of the clock radio in the kitchen make spirals and circles and as the Flat & Scruggs classic "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" continued to tear through the air, I decided that this twang was just what I would enjoy trying to emulate. I said, "I wanna play that."

My parents looked at each other again, this time with confusion on their faces. My mom asked, "Isn't that a banjo"?

to be continued...

JJ likes to get busy.

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MidCoast Takeover / SXSW (Part II)

MidCoast was nothing short of amazing! We ended Friday night with a bang and were able to do three additional songs after our set! We were able to catch SO many incredible acts before we played too. Hi-Lux was one of them! They were such a tough act to follow. 

 I want to give a huge shout to the Midwest Music Foundation and Shangri-La for facilitating the event and inviting us to play! 

 Also as mentioned earlier, Kadesh Flow (our Trombonist) had a Nerdcore performance on Saturday and invited Kemet the Phantom, our male lead, to perform. Here are some pics of that as well as some other shots from the weekend!

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Clifford holding down sound check

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Kemet and Kadesh after Nerdcore showcase at SXSW

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On the way to Austin for Midcoast Takeover / SXSW

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On the way to Austin for Midcoast Takeover / SXSW

First off, hi! This is officially our first blog post. We are very excited about the chance to engage with our fans in more ways than we've done in the past. 

We are currently driving through Oklahoma City driving to Austin, TX to perform at the MidCoast Takeover which is an unofficial SXSW showcase put on by the Midwest Music Foundation. We will arrive in Austin around 6AM and will have to find something to do for several hours before we can reset and check in at our hotel. All good! In the van is Danny, Kim, JJ and Kemet (me). 

Kadesh(Trombone) has been at SXSW since Monday (lucky him!). He's been telling about all the cool shit that's happening down there. hes chance huge networking opportunity for us to have a chance to rep KC in one of the biggest unofficial showcases during SXSW.

our Trumpet player, Lawrence, and our drummer Ashley are driving down together. Ashley is driving back to KC pretty much after we perform so he needed to drive separately. Lawrence actually got in today from like Toyko. He's that big of a deal!

The drive down has been great so far. We have been playing our favorite tunes and overall this is kind of a vacation for us that allows us to bond more and take time to enjoy each other outside of a work capacity.

Kemet, our lead male vocalist, has a solo performance at Midcoast as well on Friday night. The Phantastics play at Midnight Friday/sat morning. We are headlining the night. What an amazing opportunity. This gig typically doesn't pay a whole lot, but we love the opportunity to perform outside of our immediate network. 

That's it for now! Check back later for more updates.

The Phantastics-

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