May 14, 2010

The Q*Ball Collaboration Project begins

The compact disc is dead. Maybe not for Linkin Park or Lady Gaga or Green Day. But for Q*Ball - and other artists like me - Rest In Peace, o wondrous shiny orb. It was a great run.

I remember the first CD I ever purchased. Bon Jovi's "Slippery When Wet." That was followed by the soundtracks for 'Weird' Al Yankovic's 'UHF', the immortal 'Cocktail', and the oldies compilation CD 'Spuds MacKenzie's Party Faves'. But that's a different blog for a different day. Incidentally, if you don't know who Spuds MacKenzie is, I won't hold it against you.

Back then, CDs came in a useless rectangular cardboard box, with the physical jewel case stored somewhere in the middle. It was a design choice that was essentially a complete waste of space. After removing the jewel case from the box, I used to cut out the covers and hang them on the wall of my room in my parents' house. Today, rather than the box it used to come in, the CD itself - as "compact" as advertised - has become the waste of space. When you're an independent artist who doesn't tour and you manufacture 2000 CDs right around the time when music fans have discovered free downloads and digital file sharing, you better have some serious storage space available (fortunately I do).

So I give in. You win, technology. I'm all in.

The next Q*Ball album will be digital-only. Hell, it won't even be an 'album', at least at first. What with CD Baby & iTunes (and others soon to follow, I'm sure) recently offering up single-download opportunities to independent artists, and the attention spans of music fans everywhere decreasing day-by-day in a vast Internet age, the single's the thing. For an artist like me, songs are ammo - an opportunity for a remix, a licensing opportunity, the offer of an exclusive free track for the diehard fans out there. So rather than stock up all my bullets and then finally firing the gun, say, a year from now, I'm taking one well-aimed shot at a time.

My last album, "This Is Serious Business" was released 3 years ago to little fanfare. Bumblefoot & I were in the process of writing a slew of new tunes together when Guns N Roses came a-calling, so I decided to collaborate with some old friends to help "complete" the album while BBF was taking his maiden GnR voyage. It was a pleasurable experience and resulted in some of the better songs on the album including 'Baby You Drive Me Crazy' & the title track. Fast forward 3 years, I'm now in another band (Return To Earth), and I'm also engaged in various other projects including a publishing company, a comedy CD, a puppet project, and, of course, I'm still running the label. So the prospect of completing another full album seems dim, regardless.

Looking for a foolproof plan to fix all of the above quandaries, the solution I came up with started with an e-mail to a bunch of people I'd been hoping to contribute to the Q*Ball project for a long time. The email text is below:
Fellow Music Nerds.

If you're reading this email, then I have (a) collaborated with you in the past or (b) have wanted to collaborate with you for awhile now. At age 35, I now own a home recording studio, I run a record label, I am in a signed metal band on Metal Blade Records, I own a dog, and spend most of my week playing slave to my commercial radio masters, an Ensign on the proverbial sinking ship of mass media. I do not plan to be Ryan Seacrest's towel boy for much longer.

This year, I am starting a print publishing company and I'm currently learning how to become a puppeteer. I am buying an upright piano and plan to put out an album comprised of ethereal moody material with apathetic lyrics (Sigur Ros, Portishead, Hammock are amongst the influences there). I am signing a band out of NYC that I really dig called The Head Set and will be releasing their album later this year.

Despite - and in spite of - all this, I am moving forward with a new Q*Ball album and hope to start tracking this summer. Most, if not all of you in this email list, have 'real life' obligations - wives, babies, day jobs, drug addictions, obligations to behemoth rock bands, etc. I know how hard it has become to get into a room together to make music, and I hope that my proposal below sounds appealing not only in musical nature but also in terms of time management.

I had always hoped that whatever I did next with Q*Ball would be extremely collaborative - I had the pleasure of not only working with Bumblefoot on the last Q*Ball album, but also with my old buddies from The Substance, and I want to expand upon that circle even further this time around. Keeping 100% ownership of a very small electro-rock pie has become much less important than the process of writing, recording, bouncing ideas, and making magic with friends and whose musical abilities I've always admired. I also just want to have fun making music again, and running your own label is unfortunately more 'work' than 'play' more often than not.

I have already spoken with some of you about doing this together and I plan to elaborate on the full details once I get my official roster of collaborators together. For now, all I need is your official "I'm in" and I'll send a follow-up email with details on the proposed process. Hopefully we can make use of friends' studios and recording setups in Jersey, Brooklyn, and in Staten Island. And hopefully I can grab 2-3 of you at a time to put together some song sessions.

So - let me know if you're in and we'll go from there. Looking forward to hearing from all of you :)

Everyone I sent this e-mail to was all-in, including fellow band mates Bumblefoot, Chris Pennie, & Brett Aveni. I sequestered Black Pig's Joe Milazzo, as well, plus some other ex-collaborators, choosing to take a long-awaited trip down memory lane. I'm a sucker for nostalgia.

So the plan is to put out a Q*Ball song out every month or two starting in June. One bullet at a time, no pressure, no manufacturing costs, and more space in the basement for all those Bumblefoot guitar tab books. I conducted my first session in Brooklyn with my buddy Bodega Brad about 2 weeks ago and, after a slow start, it went quite well, and I've begun filling my calendar with future sessions

Getting yourself into gear is not an easy thing, even when it's something you love to do. Sometimes we need each other to light those respective fires. Moving forward, that's what Q*Ball is going to represent, hopefully resulting in some of the best music I've ever released. If you're like me, frustrated that the process can be too slow and incomplete, those people are out there - you've just gotta find em and start pouring a whole lot of gasoline. Songs are ammo. So are people.