Tag Archives: johnny unicorn

“Angels In the Oort Cloud” – a new album by Johnny Unicorn

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If you’re reading this before August 20th, please watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQT1FTmI7T0

And purchase the album here: https://johnnyunicorn.bandcamp.com/album/angels-in-the-oort-cloud

A history of “Angels In the Oort Cloud”

Recording began on a hot Summer day in 2012 at Alex Hamel’s house in Grand Rapids, MI. I arranged for Alex, Jason Campbell (on drums), and myself to spend a day recording drum tracks for four songs that never made it onto Sweet Edith Manton (due to their original lyrics not being so good), and a series of drum improvisations that I would later compile into one song. That day, at least two of us were sick (I can’t remember which two). Alex’s studio wasn’t complete yet, so we had to record in a cramped living room. It took forever to set up, because we were moving very slowly, plus we had to stop frequently to pour more orange juice. After a brief period of reminding Jason how the songs went, we recorded the songs. When we finished with the songs, we had approximately forty-five minutes left to record as much improvised material as possible. Alex and I played bass and guitar respectively as a way to direct the improvisations musically. When we were done I went back to Seattle.

“Angels” – I took the improvised drum tracks, erased the scratch bass and guitar tracks, and took what I considered to be the best parts, and arranged them in as musical a way as possible, overdubbing new guitar and bass as I did it. Lyrics were written and rewritten, sung and resung multiple times. Naomi, Eric, Max and Ashley were added to the mix, and then it became the song as you hear it. The lyrics are vaguely about a space battle between humans and a very mean god, because why not?

“Creation” – This song was originally called “Art.” When I wrote this song in 2001, the melody was the same as the guitar part, and the lyrics were terrible. I changed the melody to something a little more melodious, and fashioned the lyrics to be an epilogue of “Angels.”

“LCD” – This lyrics to this song used to be a meaningless collection of nonsequitors and awful rhymes. I reconfigured them to be about angels watching you through your computer screen. Creepy, eh? The idea of an all-knowing deity has always creeped me out a bit, hence, this song.

“Nebraska” – This song is even older (written in 1998). I reformed the melody, and changed the lyrics, but kept the title. The song was originally about a trip I went on as a teenager, during which I attended a dance and slow-danced with someone from Nebraska. I wanted to keep the chorus, but change the content of the lyrics so that it was about angels. It was a bit of a stretch, but I have no problem with it, and neither should you.

“Floaters” – Here is another repurposed song. I wrote this in 1998 also, but didn’t like the lyrics. So it’s about angels now. This time the angels are coming down to kill the protagonist, who then becomes an angel. When I was a child, I used to think my eye floaters were angels (and not because anyone told me that, I just assumed it was true). When rewriting the song, I imagined seeing floating beings off in the distance and being attacked by one of them. It’s a horrifying thought. Hopefully that translates in the song. You can find video of me playing this song with my old band before I was Johnny Unicorn and before it was rewritten.

“Inertia” – This is yet another song from 1998. The lyrics were only slightly changed, but a long instrumental section was added to the middle. I went to the local music store to rent tubular bells and marimba for this piece.

I could not have done this album without the musicians involved: Jason, Naomi, Max, Eric, and Ashley
or the sound people: Alex and Jesse
or the people I borrowed / rented instruments from: Kennelly Keys, Phideaux Xavier, Jeff Watkins, Jesse Mercury
or the people whose musical ideas found their way inevitably onto the recording: all the musicians on the recording, Michael Bouman, and Jamie Grefe
Also, thanks to Chris Barrios for adding input to the live versions of two of the songs.
if I don’t stop now, I’ll just end up thanking everyone, since everything is connected and we are all one.

I spent a lot of time not making income in order to complete this album, so if you like it, consider purchasing it now. Do it before August 20th and an image of your countenance will be indelibly printed on the inner jacket of the CD package:
https://johnnyunicorn.bandcamp.com/album/angels-in-the-oort-cloud

Add an extra $10 and I’ll sing your name!

Thanks for paying attention to me,
Johnny Unicorn

Johnny Unicorn and Jam Unit 2013 Tour part five: Budgeting

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It sure is odd to write a tour blog about an old tour while on a different tour. But it MUST be done.

Minneapolis was our next stop. The Mini-apple. It felt good to arrive in a city with a skyline and a Trader Joe’s. Last time I was in Minneapolis I had a great time with a band called the Drug Budget, so this time I made sure to set up a show with them again. This time it was at the Kitty Cat Klub. If you haven’t been there, you only need to know one thing: it has a gigantic unisex bathroom that takes up the entire bottom floor. The toilets are located in tiny stalls along the wall with doors that you can’t peak under. The sink is sort of just a bird bath in the middle of the room. There is a lot of red light. It is LOUD.

The show opened with a bunch of comedians who were funny and enjoyable for the most part. The Jam Unit played second, and we were loud as heck, but we had a good time and we got some people dancing. The Drug Budget closed the show with a knock-out set that was fully entertaining, and probably even louder than our set. The lead singer, who’s name I can never remember, really knows how to entertain a crowd. The Drug Budget plays metal and horn-infused pop music and are unlike most bands. This band goes beyond entertainment into something else entirely. Most of the crowd was partying hardcore, but I was fully entertained just standing and watching. I’m always very happy to share a stage with these people, and on top of that they’re all super nice. If you live in Minneapolis, I fully recommend going to their show. They make a Tuesday night feel like a Friday night.

The following night we played a disappointing show to a couple of people in Milwaukee. We made enough money to pay for a tenth of the drive to the venue. Afterwards, I insisted we drive the five hours back to my hometown of Holland, MI to get some hometown comfort. I’ll talk about that in the next installment.

128 Thoughts On the Big Football Game

First of all, here’s a link to my latest release, a completely free-to-download 128 song EP:

http://johnnyunicorn.bandcamp.com/album/big-game-2014-128-song-ep

You may be asking yourself why someone like me, a person dedicated to a life of non-competition, would write a set of 128 songs based on the names of a bunch of people who play a competitive sport I don’t particularly care for. I’ve been asking myself that very question throughout the 5 days I’ve been working on this project. As far as I can tell, the story began just this month, in Seattle, where I live:

1. I found out that one of my favorite Seattle songwriters, Julia Massey, released an album of short, hastily recorded pieces (http://juliamassey.bandcamp.com/album/songs-from-the-nook). I liked the concept very much (and I liked when They Might Be Giants did it on multiple albums), and I wanted to do one of my own.

2. My friend linked me to an article about a guy who makes his living writing dozens of songs a day that are all terrible but there are so many of them that he’s able to survive off the small amount of dollars per song he gets from people craving a moment of novelty. I didn’t like where he was going with what music of his I heard, but it got me thinking about ways I could have a creative outlet without getting bogged down in details. I keep a very large amount of stray ideas in my mind because I have nowhere to put them. If I could just make them public in a perhaps unfinished state, maybe someone would find some use in them, but I could rest assured knowing that there would be no risk of losing the idea, and one day I could come back to it and use it for something else. And I mean “rest assured” literally: unproduced creative work actually keeps me up at night.

3. There’s a lot of talk in Seattle about football this month, for some reason. Everyone’s looking forward to this Big Game and I didn’t understand why. My whole life, I’ve been averse to the idea of engaging in crowd participation. With sports especially it’s like some cult-switch gets turned on in a surprising number of people. It seems to me that even the most avid Phish fan would have a hard time keeping up with the average football fan in terms of dedication. I don’t know what it is. Maybe the pure agression sets off some sort of primal instinct in a lot of people. For me, the main feeling I get when I am surrounded by any group of people who are all looking in the same direction and chanting is ANXIETY. I suppose that’s MY primal instinct welling up inside of me. In the back of my mind, I’m always thinking “what if I decide I want to support the OTHER team instead? Will all these people kill me?” Obviously, I don’t literally think football fans will murder me, but maybe my body does. As a result, I have always avoided football, and every other sport. (Also, I only reluctantly go to concerts, and I avoid protests at all costs, even if I think I’m on their side). But this year, I’ve been looking at my life and trying to get rid of bad habits — in particular the habit disliking things just because I don’t understand them — and when I made a snarky comment about not liking football, my sister pointed out my hypocrisy. And when she calls me out on something I take it very seriously. It was then that I decided I should watch the game.

That doesn’t mean I have to root for the home team. Usually in a skill-based situation, I’m rooting for whoever is in the process of trying to achieve an immediate goal. When everyone does well, it makes for a better experience in my opinion.
And it doesn’t mean I have to drink beer and hoot and holler with everyone. I could engage in the experience of a football game in a way that was more comfortable for me. I can expand my horizons without going so far out of my comfort zone that I become anxious. My hope is that I’ll become interested in the sport, because it can’t hurt to add something to the list of things I like and cross something off the list of things I don’t.

So I decided to live-Tweet the event. And if you’re reading this before The Event, it happens on February 2nd, 2014 1:00pm PST (I plan to Tweet the pregame all the way to the very end of The Event).

When I mentioned outloud that I would be live-Tweeting the game, Naomi’s mother suggested jokingly that I record songs about all the players. We all had a good laugh.

The next day, I started recording 128 songs. Less than a week later, I completed them, just in time for the game.

Here’s that link again:
http://johnnyunicorn.bandcamp.com/album/big-game-2014-128-song-ep

So when you’re at the Big Game party, do yourself a favor and open up a tab with my EP and another tab with your Twitter feed. Whenever some player does something worth calling attention to, play their jingle. It is guaranteed to liven up your game celebrations. And if you aren’t a sports person, listen to the songs anyway. I’m proud of a few of those pieces of music, and you might like them too.

So join me as I join my friends and family to see what it is they do on this mysterious holiday, and let’s root for the ultimate home-team: Team Everybody!

JU Summer Tour 2013 Part Four: Remembering People’s Names in North Dakota

North Dakota, the West-midwest. From Bozeman to Bismarck is a long, tedious drive. We had to rise early in order to make it on time to our show at Rhythm Records. Fortunately the caffeine-fueled Jam Unit was up to the challenge. I cannot remember what happened on the drive. Most likely it was a lot of silent staring at the flat, featureless landscape. I may have had earplugs in (don’t worry, I could hear just fine, we live in a really loud world). After an uneventful nine hour drive, we arrived at the record store and set up in the tiny space. I was not expecting there to be very many people there, so I promised that the band would improvise a song based on the names of every person in attendance at the show. The people showed up, probably about 20 of them, and sat down and listened to us perform our music. Many of them had seen me perform as a one-person act before and seemed glad to see the addition of a live band. As promised, we performed improvised songs based on the names of every person in the audience. We went as quickly as possible, and it took approximately five minutes. It was absolutely wonderful to play rock music at a reasonable volume level to a bunch of polite sit-down listeners in a shop full of vinyl records. Thank you to Robbie for letting us do it, and please, if you’re ever in Bismarck, stop by Rhythm Records. They have coffee and their selection of vinyl is small but good quality. I always find something I want there.

That night we stayed in a campground that was full of weirdos, and we couldn’t find firewood, so Naomi just took a bunch of cut-up trees from a pile. Later that evening, I decided I cannot eat veggie dogs while wearing a mustache. Also we snuck over to the RV section to use the bathroom, although, I think we were allowed to.

Then it was off to Fargo and the Red Raven Espresso Parlor! I had played there about four times before to extremely small audiences. But they were so nice to me, I just had to keep coming back to play, and I was determined to build up a small following, even if I had to do it one person at a time. But I like it that way, because I’m fairly picky about my fans. I want to make sure each one of them is okay with being part of a large group all looking in the same direction. I want to make sure they aren’t developing cult behaviors or anything like that. I want to make sure they are there to enjoy the performance. Anyway, I was expecting a small chunk of people to show up, but it turned out that the audience that came was about five times larger than I expected. That made me happy, but also a bit nervous, because I had also promised the audience of this show that my band and I would come up with improvised songs based on each of the audience members. Well, we played the show and people enjoyed it, and I think I even saw a few people dancing. We improvised everyones names and it took a really long time, but we got through it unscathed. I was very pleased with the way it turned out because Josie, from Bismarck, was at this show and the previous show, and we remembered how to play her song from the night before. Then, because it was Ian and Max’s (our guitarist and drummer) birthday (they’re twins), I surprised them with a birthday song, which I forced them to play without having rehearsed it. That was one of my favorite moments of the tour, just because I actually remembered someone’s birthday (edit: actually, I was just told that in fact I didn’t remember, Naomi told me. but I still remembered what she told me long enough to mention it on stage, which is quite an achievement). I was feeling really good about my own memory recall by the end of the show, and when I went out to push our merchandise on people, a very nice audience member who had come in with her teenage kids introduced me to them, and this one kid quizzed me on his name and I couldn’t remember it, even though twenty minutes earlier I had written a song about it (along with 35 other people). He seemed a bit bummed out. If he had known he was going to be talking to an absent-minded person, maybe he wouldn’t have felt so bad about it. Anyway, if you’re listening, kid whose name I couldn’t remember, I hope you’re still listening and enjoying the cd (as you might expect I once again can’t remember your name, but I do know there was one kid in your group named Chase…is that right?)

That night we got treated to a first class suite in an actual hotel. Thanks Brandon!

Stay tuned for the next entry, in which I will describe the nicotine antics of The Drug Budget and one show that went horribly wrong.

Movin’ To Montana – JUJU Summer Tour 2013 Entry Number Three!

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After months of doing things other than finish writing about my Summer 2013 tour, I am determined to finish these posts. They may be quick, and I may forget some names, and there will be typographical errors. Deal with it.

Now, here is part three, in which I discuss the Jam Unit’s entire first stay in the Big Sky Country:

After waking up and having a delightful breakfast at a vegetarian place in downtown Spokane, we hit the road to get to our next show, which was to take place at the VFW in Missoula, Montana. This was an exciting show for me because my good friends from Lansing, Michigan, the Plurals, were kind enough to get us a spot on their bill that night. I love sharing shows with them, because every show they play is a party. When we arrived, the guy who put the show together, Marty, greeted us with veggie dogs and a relaxing patio cookout. The Jam Unit and the Plurals hung out for a bit, talking about the past, the future, and pre-history, then we packed a PA system in their van (somehow) and took off to the venue. We had a few moments to spare before we needed to set up, so we took a walk around the great city of Missoula. We went to an ice cream shop, but the line was so long that ice cream suddenly lost its importance for everyone. On our way back, I found a copy of the free local Missoula entertainment magazine, in which there was an article about my album, that sounded like a bad review, but at least admitted that the album was listenable. Don’t worry about me, I’m happy anytime someone actually takes the time to listen to my album and say something about it. And it was clear this reviewer had actually listened to it. When we got back to the VFW, the show began. It was a raucous night of fun with local bands Needlecraft and the Hounds bookending the show and the Plurals and JU in the middle. The crowd was great and hung out the entire time, and everyone enjoyed themselves. A successful show. Later that night we ate more veggie dogs and talked ourselves to sleep. The following day, the Jam Unit drove up a long, dusty trail to a campsite with almost nobody nearby. There, by a beautiful flowing river, we ate slept and ate sandwiches and never got bothered by a bear.

Next:

Then it was off to the wonderful city of Bozeman. Thanks to the fantastic efforts of Ron Gompertz, we got a write up in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and a live session on the Coffee Show with Keith Suta. We also played at Cactus records to a handful of people and on the street to the hundreds of people that were walking by during Music On Main. We met a baton twirler named Poppy, who loved our music so much I decided to use her name in a song title. This was all leading up to our final show at Wild Joe’s coffee house. A bunch of people who saw us on the street showed up to the show, and we sold a surprising number of shirts that night. It was a great evening, and a great few days of music, and we couldn’t wait to come back (which we eventually did).

Stay tuned for tales from North Dakota.

JU 2013 Tour part one: The Secret of the Unit

Car!

Photo by Mike Brown

 

Firstly, I would like to apologize for waiting so long to begin my account of the Johnny Unicorn and His Jam Unit tour. And immediately after the apology I would like to make an excuse: booking shows, driving to them, and playing them requires so much of my emotional and physical energy that I needed to wait until two weeks after I returned home to even have the slightest motivation to begin writing about the it. So, here it is, part one of a series of perhaps dozens of posts on the Jam Unit tour, and it starts further in the past than you might have thought:

I had toured a number of times before on my own, and when I did so, I was literally on my own. I used sequences that I put together on an Ensoniq SD-1 as backing tracks, while I performed guitar, accordion, keyboard, saxophone and vocals. Since I was bound to the irrevocable rhythm of the machine, I was extremely limited in how much I could direct the flow of the songs, and since I am at best a mediocre player of any of my instruments, i was forced to play mostly my simplest songs. But, through a series of serendipitous and unexplainable events, I wound up with a small group of loyal and excellent musicians playing my music. Naomi Adele Smith (of Autumn Electric) first joined me on synthesizers, then Jesse Mercury joined on synth drums. Later, Max Steiner (also of Autumn Electric) joined on the guitar, which finally freed me up to stop ruining the songs with my hands. I decided I could never go back to the solo act again, because I loved the way the new band sounded. At the same time, I had just released my exercise album, “Sadness And Companionship.” I thought it was quite likely that the people who were digging the music I had to offer on previous tours would probably enjoy this new stuff performed by this new band. So I bought a van and enlisted the booking help of my friend Michael Trew and with much excitement we booked a tour for the Summer of 2013 with my new band (with Max’s brother Ian filling in on drums because Jesse regrettably couldn’t go). The band is called the Jam Unit. Remember that.

We dipped our toes in the water with a pre-tour out of town show in Anacortes, WA. Before this, the only thing I knew about Anacortes was that it was where you went to get on the ferry to go to the islands. I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when I stepped out of the van and was greeted by an actual city with stuff going on. One of that stuff was my band; my Jam Unit. The four of us, anxious about having to perform the longest of our tour sets on the very first night, stepped into the Brown Lantern with optimistic caution. Would they receive us with open arms and hospitality and provide us with all the necessary equipment to do a quality show, or would they hold us up against the wall by the throat and threaten us with further physical violence if we didn’t increase their alcohol sales? Fortunately, it turned out to be the former!

What I remember of the show now is mostly a blur of dark red and orange (as is my memory of almost every nightclub I’ve been in, except for the really fancy ones, which I usually remember as some shade of blue) and the nervousness of playing our very first show with this lineup. I probably don’t have to mention that there were plenty of “not-what-I-remember-from-rehearsal” moments, and for the first hour and a half, I was painfully aware of the fact that one shouldn’t wear a wizard robe to play fast music, and if one is going to wear a wizard robe, one should make sure to bring a pair of wizard shoes as well, because nothing else matches. But aside from those technical difficulties, we were received very well and we even connected with a few of the people that were there. And the management seemed pleased with how we performed our job. As a bonus, we learned about the real power of the “Jam Unit” name. It turns out that the phrase has at least one NSFW connotation, and that makes it a conversation piece, and therefore memorable. The guys that drew our attention to this fact were entirely unaware of my true intention in creating the name, which was to have a band name that had the same initials as my stage name.

With this success behind us, we proceeded to rush back to Seattle in the dark hours of the night, so we could sit in our homes, twiddling our thumbs for a week, waiting for the tour to start in earnest.

Kickstarting Sadness And Companionship

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http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1749889331/johnny-unicorn-exercise-album-and-subsequent-tour

I am finally finished recording my exercise album, “Sadness And Companionship.” It just needs to be put together and promoted, and that is why I’ve started a Kickstarter project. I’ve already sent out e-mails and made a number of posts on social media about it, but I think it’s time to make a blog post about it.

My goal for this album is fairly simple: to create a piece of music that can accompany an aerobic workout, but that relies on different musical tools than that which we’ve come to expect from workout music. In my own personal experience, I’ve had moments where I’ve been into techno music, but most of the time I want to listen to music that has lots of complicated parts and interesting concepts. But when I want to put on a piece of music that does a good job of keeping up with the increased heart-rate of an aerobic workout, that complicated music usually doesn’t work. The relentlessness of a techno song seems makes it perfect for exercising. But music with a lot of dynamics is not ideal. A Gentle Giant song might be very energetic, but out of nowhere it can suddenly switch to a harpsichord/recorder section, and throw off your workout completely.

So I took up the task of creating a progressive rock workout album. This way, at least one album would exist that could at once get my blood flowing non-stop for thirty minutes and keep my brain engaged in the way that I like. I think I succeeded in that. I also added a couple of remixes to the album, so it wouldn’t be so short. Those remixes are not really for exercise purposes, though.

Sadly, I have some negative associations with exercise. It all started in fifth grade soccer. That was when the other kids started actually being concerned about whether they would win or lose the next game. I enjoyed running around a field kicking a ball, observing a few rules of the game just to make it a little more challenging, but when these kids started getting competitive, it was an immediate turn off. so I quit. In sixth grade, I was forced to go to a swimming pool, where we had to get naked in front of everyone and then put on shorts that were way too short before being marched out to a pool where we were made to…I don’t even remember. I can’t remember the swimming part of those experiences, only the standing around in those ridiculous shorts. Actually, I remember diving. With eardrums like mine, going into water head-first is frightening. I don’t remember doing anything in high-school gym class, either. I remember kids coming up to me and pretending to throw basketballs at my head but at the last second catching them so they could make me flinch. Most of the time, they were never any worse than that to me. I remember being required to sign up for gym class one year, but not being allowed to sign up for art class (because I was already in band).

I’m not saying that these things bare the full responsibility for turning me sedentary. I’m just trying to give you a little background on me. Whenever I hear sports commentators or sports terminology (like “hustle up”), whenever I see a television screen with some green arena with a bunch of white lines all over it, or whenever I just look at a pair of sneakers, or the material that basketball shorts are made out of, I shudder a little. But I don’t want to be that way anymore. I want to overcome my fear of going outside in sneakers and shorts. This exercise album is part of that larger project to adopt a more active lifestyle. At this ripe old age, I’ve begun to realize just how fragile the human body is, and how important it is to keep it running smoothly for as long as possible. I’ve got a lot of stuff I want to do before Death finally closes its icy fingers around me.

Do you feel that way too? Maybe this is an album that you would like. Please pledge on my Kickstarter page. Remember, no amount is too large. And this is no donation. When you pay money, I will be doing work for you. I’ve already promised to do a whole lot of visual art so far. I’d like to write more songs for people. If you’ve ever wanted to have your own theme song, now’s the time to act. I have a less expensive “jingle” option, which means I’ll write a short radio jingle for you. It will be essentially a 10-15 second catchy melody with your name in it and brief lyrics about how great you are. You can put it at the beginning of your youtube videos or on the outgoing message of your voicemail system.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1749889331/johnny-unicorn-exercise-album-and-subsequent-tour

Anyway, thanks for reading this. I have to go stretch now.

-John

A new album approaches rapidly

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First, open this song in a new tab and listen to it while you read:

http://soundcloud.com/johnnyunicorn/sadness-companionship-remix

I know I haven’t finished giving you a day by day account of my last tour (way back in February), which is one of the reasons I keep neglecting to blog. But that has long past, and though I cannot remember the events with enough clarity to describe them to you in detail here anymore, I can assure you, that second week was amazing. I’m sure a lot of stuff happened…I recall a lot of driving around at night and a lot of unhealthy eating that was sure to stop after returning home. I remember lots of colors…but the color blue not so much, despite the fact that, to replace the paisley pants a fan bought off me in the parking lot out side the Ruby Room in San Diego, I bought a pair of blue sky-pants. I think it was because of all the warm lighting. Also, most of the colors I remember were dark, even though we slept through most of the nights. I remember wishing the vehicle were roomier. I remember in L.A. the drums fell apart, but we kept playing while my friend Chris, another drummer, saved the kit. I remember a really cool jazz rock band.

I hope that satisfies any curiosity that someone might have.

Now, if I’m right, you’ve arrived at the keyboard solo (and of course, if I’m wrong, you haven’t). This remix you’re listening to was designed with a dual-purpose. Since the album I’m releasing is a thirty minute aerobic exercise album, I thought it would be nice to include some more material, for the sake of having more material (I may have felt less inclined to do this if my last album weren’t nearly 80 minutes long). The second purpose is because the “exercise album” constraint I gave myself didn’t allow me to explore certain musical elements I otherwise would have. Plus, I just really like doing remixes. I never do it because I never prioritize it. But it’s fun. If you are a musician and you have any raw tracks you’d like to send me, I’ll do a remix.

The only thing in this recording that’s the same as the album is the vocal track (which has been severely cut-up). Everything else was put together step by step, using bits of the vocal track and trying out different basslines and drum beats underneath it, until a basic song was constructed, and then I went back and added synthesizers and guitar.

I’m aiming to release the album before the end of the year. The album is entitled “Sadness And Companionship.” It has two songs: “Sadness” and “Companionship,” each a little under fifteen minutes long. The compact disc and downloadable release will contain the two remixes. I am also working out details of a cassette release (which was the reason I did this project in the first place).

So, enjoy this remix, and please imagine what the album might sound like. Thanks!

Johnny Unicorn Tour 2011 Summer Final Part Four Part Three

After the haircut

I found myself at GTG Fest Part Three, watching 11 bands over the course of an evening. They asked me to perform in between bands to an audience that was hanging out in the alley behind marxist art gallery Basement 414. I did not know I would be performing, so I had no instruments or stage outfit with me. I performed in cargo shorts and t-shirt (a no-no for JU performances usually). What an audience this was. One section at a time, I got them to sing a four part backing track, while I sang “River To the Sea” and they got it perfect. I don’t know what it sounded like out in the alley, but from the stage it sounded great. They took direction very well.

Next, I found what during the school year is an open mic in Bloomington, IN. Since it was summer, there were no musicians. But they still had a stage and a PA, and when I asked if there was the usual scheduled open mic, they said “yes, but you’ll be the only one.” So I set up and performed for the six people who were there. It was a shame I had not had a real show there, because the sound system was good and the acoustics were decent.  I plan on booking a show there in the Spring if I can remember the name of the place.

Then it was off to The Mill in Iowa City to perform at their usual Monday open mic. What an appreciative audience. And a nice room, completely separated from the main bar area. J Knight’s open mic has been happening there since the seventies, or so I’ve heard.

Then, I had a scheduled appearance at Roxie’s Patio in Sioux City, IA. Now that I’ve been there, I understand the name. All the furniture inside is patio furniture, and there are umbrellas at the tables. I gave them the full performance, and I made a few fans. Someone even bought me a root beer!

Then the northern road to Fargo and the Red Raven. I’ve been going back to the Red Raven and building up fans a few at a time. A great coffeeshop, in a new location since last year. Nice stage and sound system, although the room is a little verby. Really cool people there. Bicycle people, artists, gamers…my kind of people. Folk duo Kaboom Rawr opened the show with their guitar/accordion rock songs, and electronic act  Lava Proof Boots did the middle slot and hypnotized us all with hard-hitting rhythms and electronic noise.

The next day, a scheduled appearance at the Thursday open mic at Rhythm Records and Cafe in Bismarck, ND, one of my favorite towns. The thing that separates Bismarck from most other cities in the country is it’s vibrant “strip” straight out of the fifties. Standing on the sidewalk outside the record store for an hour, I saw no fewer than 20 big trucks with a bunch of people in the truck bed screaming at people in the sidewalk. If you haven’t been screamed at from a passing vehicle, then you haven’t truly experienced the city of Bismarck. The show went well. Some of the regular people from previous Bismarck performances were there, plus a bunch of new people. Ryan Schweitzer did a poetry set, as usual, but this night in particular he was dead on. Man, what a performance! I purchased Weird Al’s first two albums and Paul and Linda McCartney’s “Ram” on vinyl. Records are arranged by price, and in no kind of alphabetical order. You simply have to look through every single record each time you go to the store. That night there appeared to be about 50 people, and it looks like about half of them were purchasing vinyl. I don’t know how well the store did that night, but it sure looked like it was going well.

Off to the three-day Why Not? festival in Minot. Three days and about 6 million bands. Highlights: the joke band Gallons of Bacon put on a stellar performance at 62 doors to an audience that was singing along to every song. I enjoyed their song structures and their sense of humor. Progressive Metal band from Australia, Dead, performed a bit after me, and I was transfixed. I bought their LP. And then there was the highly impressive Atom’s Rite. Honestly, listen to their music…it’s up there with Tortoise. They played a disappointingly short set. My show went as well as it possibly could have. My fanclub showed up wearing unicorn horns. People sang along. Everyone had a good time. And once again, the people in Minot showed me more hospitality than I could have asked for. It was the last show of the tour, and it was the best possible end for the tour. The floodwaters have receded, and the city has begun to clean up. The art community there remains as vibrant as ever!

Thank you everyone who helped me get in the black on this tour. Stay tuned for next year!

Johnny Unicorn 2011 Summer Tour Part Four Part Two

Michigan, U.S.A. – In the muggy mists of Michigan’s musty west I take a rest. With family, friends and foes from distant pasts I reunite. Mosquitoes thirstily drink my blood. Growls and tiny bleeps in the blackness of the nightwoods betray either terrible animal murder, or something much nicer; I never find out. The lake never has waves; I am forced to wade in still water so cold my feet freeze and returning to shore becomes difficult. Deadly solar heat only breaks for a horrifying storm: rain that sounds like a million frogs falling onto a lake of maple syrup and lightning that is as bright as the sun and almost as frequent. A small pool of swamp water builds on the floor of my car.

Tour: Eastern leg:

GTG Fest part two: Lansing, MI’s GTG throws their second of three shows. It’s Josh David and the Dream Jeans (check out “Aware of the Riverman”), Cavalcade and me. The audience is so good that it’s overwhelming, and I’m not even sure what to do. I fear that I could have done better for them. But they get to see part of the Universe music band. Naomi plays synth for half the set. The Plurals’ Hattie Plural sits in for a couple of the songs also!

Next I go to Lawton, Michigan’s Old Hat Brewery, where I play a long solo show. The audience is the best first-time audience ever. The show puts the whole tour in the black.

Bozart’s (a really cool gallery) in Toledo allows me to perform for unwitting art-lover’s during the city’s artwalk. Some of them enjoy the show. Some seem indifferent. All stay to watch the entire show, which is more than I ever hope for.

Jamestown, New York’s Labyrinth Press Company let’s me play a show at their coffeehouse, opening for progressive metal band Exemption. A great show, but a small audience. Afterward I go to a dance party and regret not dressing up.

Next, I backtrack to Erie, PA and the Crooked I. A bigger music venue / bar. It is their open mic, and they have given me a special slightly longer slot. I perform for a room full of people who have no idea what to expect. And as far as I can tell, a decent amount of them are impressed. The next 8 hours are the weirdest of tour! For legal reasons I will not talk about it publicly.

The next day, I go back to Jamestown to retrieve a cable I left there. Then it’s off to Buffalo, to host “Monday Night Inventory,” an open mic that takes place at Allen Street Hardware…this place has nothing to do with Hardware. There is not even a hardware theme or anything. It’s a restaurant. I spend most of my time being confused about this fact. The open mic allows me to just talk, without having to think about a big set of music. I meet some interesting people and hear some very interesting music. The artist who particularly stands out in my mind is Forevra Evra. just click on the link and listen. You’ll know what I’m talking about.

That leg of the tour complete, I drive through Canada and up to Alpena, MI to spend some quality time with my friend and fellow artist, Jamie Grefe.

More soon.