Monday, August 31, 2009

Would it kill you to be nice?

Hey there,

Just wondering a simple little question today. Is it that hard to be nice? I know sometimes it seems hard to be nice when someone isn't complying with your required intelligence level for communication and I am guilty like everyone but some places seem harder than others to illicit a nice response or interaction with someone. Whether its on the phone or in a store or on a city sidewalk it sure seems tough to get peeps to be nice.

I'll tell you one place where it isn't too difficult though....In the country. Now by country I mean rural area. maybe its because you depend on your neighbor if shit hits the fan or because you can't just go to the store when you run out of toilet paper.....I dunno. But I can tell you in my experience it seems easier to have a pleasant interaction with someone in the country than on the street.

Sure there's an initial assessment on what the f@ck you are doing on their property but after a quick explanation things are usually very cordial. Im thinking of all this because today I was out in Taymouth with the phenomenal Bruce Devlin scouting for a location so we can shoot some press pics for the band. We were trying to find out who owned a particular gravel pit so we can ask permission to use it. I know some peeps might say "why not just go ahead and use it"? well I'll tell you....1. they might need to work there when we are there and 2. although country folk are nice, i myself was raised in the country and know you don't just go tramping around someone's property without askin'.

Anyhow, we met a fella on the side of the road who's name was Luke. Very nice chap. After assessing that we weren't casing the area he had no problem telling us who owned the pit up the road and then also didn't mind taking us across the road and down to the river where his grandfather has an old gravel pit that is no longer in use. Not only did he give us the tour but he was kind enough to give us permission to use it at our leisure. Thanks Luke. Mighty kind.

Would this happen in the city? I can't say for sure it wouldn't but people sure do seem more content to be about themselves don't they. Now here in the maritimes this isn't as bad as say in a larger metropolitan area but it still happens. So i'm imploring folks to go out of their way to be a little kinder to each other and note the difference it makes in your day. I spent my whole youth trying to get out of a rural New Brunswick and spent my twenties living in cities all across Canada. Now that my hair is not just brown I find myself longing more and more for the country life and its friendly atmosphere. Maybe thats old age setting in early or maybe its just me having a more difficult time adjusting to people's shockingly unfriendly demeanor. I know everyone has a bad day and we can't all shoot rainbows out of our asses all the time but since i have tried to be nicer to folks (i really believe my miserable demeanor was killing me) iI have enjoyed a much happier quality of life.

so go ahead, I dare you to try and be nice to everyone you meet. Now these things should be eased into so you don't snap but try and hour or an afternoon first then up it to a day, hell go for a week. I warn you it isn't easy but it CAN be done. And as silly as i sound here, it IS rewarding. Be nice people, i dare ya!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Genius and the Evil Empire

Today i did two things that if asked ten years ago i would have said i would never do.
1) I voluntarily, happily, went to starbucks for a coffee
2) I voluntarily and happily bought a greed day cd

Now, i know these two things to some people might not seem strange at all. If you know me at all, though, you'll know that up until our last canadian tour i loathed starbucks (evil empire) and up until last year thought Green Day was a ridiculous pop/punk band of little significance.

Explain please!

1) Not too long ago i would have categorized Starbucks in the "Evil Empire" slot of my busy little brain. Not only did i not understand why there needed to be one on every corner of the world but i couldn't stand having to jump through hoops to order a simple coffee. Honestly some of the things people order when i'm in line make me think they had to go get a degree just to pronounce the words.....a half-decaf-soy-frappawhat-the-fuck-was-that? 
If i was a Starbucks employee i'd probably have a heart attack just writing the test (i assume there is a test to know all these fancy assed coffee thing-a-ma- jigs).

I gotta say though on our last tour when we were in Edmonton it was soooo blazing hot that we thought, "hey, lets grab some air conditioning and an ice tea". well when starbucks is your only option, thats what you have to do. We each grabbed an ice tea, mine was the fruity passion flavour while the bastards grabbed a black unsweetened i believe (what's that tell y'all about us?). Maybe the heat had gotten to us, maybe it was the eight weeks on the road who knows....what ever the reason those ice teas were fucking delicious. So good, in fact, when we went to the grocery store, we each got another at the conveniently located starbucks kiosk right there in the Safeway grocery store. How convenient. Evil? Empire? Maybe a little but we were starting to crack.

One thing the Bastards and i love and covet in life, especially while on tour, is a real good, strong, tasty cup of coffee. far too often when traveling you get the "brown water" treatment. Let me tell you, at 3am after a long day of driving and gigging this can instantly cause the rage and certainly cause you to take notes of any shitty little Esso's in Saskatchewan that repeatedly serve the "brown water" with pride. So on this note i have also started to enjoy the starbucks blend as it is just what we like, a strong, coffee flavored coffee. i spend money at all the coffee places here in fredericton and with the exception of Jonnie Java's (best coffee ever!) downtown at Paradise Imports i find starbucks to have the most consistent cup of joe. 

Now i know a lot of peeps out there are going to put on their high pitched voices and say "but starbucks is evil they do bad things in business and they squash the little guy" etc, etc.  
I hope at this point people realize that most of our favorite companies that sell our "must have products", somewhere, deep in the organization, probably spend their money on something that may be ethically questionable to you. Just like some people like different things than you, and chose to make different choices in life. So i guess tolerance and being less judgmental are the things to really search for in ourselves and in others. its all too easy to make a blind judgement on people, music, and yes even little things like coffee. I think in fact it might have something to do with being lazy. instead of researching or taking the time to listen to someone's view we just automatically tune them out or deem them "wrong" as soon as we realize that their views are different than ours because we can't be bothered to take the time to hear them out. I know I am certainly guilty of this a lot of the time. I recognize it though and do try to make an effort to change it in myself, and i confess, it sure ain't easy!

On that note.......
here comes the segue....
cue the tunes.....
DA DA DAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!
that last point leads me to my explanation of number 2).........

I bought a Green Day cd. What the fuck? Over the last year when i heard  the radio (the radio is in love with Green Day) blasting a tune from 'American Idiot' it struck me how different it was from the normal top 40, radio rock, Nickelback-y, kinda tunes. Although its undeniable in its pop content it also has a depth to it. From catchy melodies and nice simple chord progressions to complex lyrics about important social issues? What? Is this the same band that put out 'Dookie'? Is this the same band that was banned from Fredericton because Billy Joe performed a tune buck nekid at the Aitken Centre? Could these faux punk/pop stars have something to say? I decided I would start listening harder. Sure enough the reviews I read all hailed them and very few had anything bad to say about the Genius of Green Day. Here was a band that had previously made their mark in radio with POP hits, writing tunes about the current political climate on our continent. I can't think of one other band that has the radio support that Green Day has, that writes tunes that are the seemingly perfect balance of pop, punk and lyrically relevant. 

When their latest album came out I realized it followed the same format as American Idiot. I again thought the same thing, cleverly conceptualized rock and roll. but was it punk? hmmmm.
I went as far as renting a DVD, 'Bullet in a Bible',  from the American Idiot tour. Great live show, rabid fans and some good coherent snippets about the concept of the album and how it differed from their previous work. All that aside what struck me most about the DVD was their attitude while performing these "pop" tunes. It was without question undeniably Punk. 

Oh wait, I can hear all your high whiney voices coming back on again, "Green Day is NOT punk" etc etc.....I'm not hear to debate your opinion of Green Day or even Punk Rock (see explanation #1), BUT, MY opinion of punk, or RocknRoll or whatever you want to use for a descriptive term is this.....

While there is a Genre called Punk and a Genre called Rock i think these are different than what i am talking about. I'm talking about an attitude, a way of life. Punk is not a style of music, Rock n Roll is not a style of music. I believe these to be descriptive words of individuals who have a specific state of mind. You might even go as far as saying Punk Rock and Rock n Roll are the same thing or at least BORN from one another. Like blues and Country or insert you two fav descriptive pigeon holing words here. Everyone is really caught up in being able to categorize music. Usually the first question people ask is "what kind of music is it?" What would the world be like if we all subscribed to Ray Charles theory of music? Two Categories: Good Music and Bad Music. I can usually find a good band i like to "rock" out to in any genre of music. I think thats what brother Ray, the genius, was talking about wasn't it? I think Green Day is currently as relevant as any band that shook the seams was, whether we're talking about Dylan in the 60's or the Clash in the 70's. 

So maybe we shouldn't be so quick to judge? look around. If you look hard enough you might just stumble on something you like. I know I'm trying harder not to dismiss a band just because they are stuffed into a genre i wouldn't normally listen to.

So, does Genius live next door to the Evil Empire or are they in fact roomies? which of these words apply to you seems to be determined by how you art or product is accepted or perceived by the public. Is Chad Kroeger (Nickelback) one or the other? Is he both? He's smart enough to have multiple tunes in the top ten in an age when record companies don't allow one artist to rule it like that. This ain't the old days of the Beatles folks.....but ole Chad was smart enough to figure out how to do that anyway. The Genius, Ray Charles was one of the first artists to negotiate his contract so he OWNED his master outright. For the day and age it was amazing. Brother Ray started his own evil empire. 

Genius? Evil? I guess these things depend on your view of business don't they. Does Success mean you're Evil? Even if you've made a point to be as nice to everyone you can, you still won't be able to win over  everyone all the time. 

I for one, am ok with that. Are you?
I'm going to watch Purple Rain now and try to remember why i started playing guitar.

Ross AKA Master Bastard, 
head of my own Evil Empire, and proud of it. 
Join us before it's too late!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

blues, bottles and blogs

hi all

well i am getting caught up on some things today and one of the things on my list was to start a more permanent style blog. Soooooo, here it is. you'll be able to interact with me a little more frequently here and there will be all kinds of photos, videos and all things related to my musical endeavors.

as some of y'all know, we are headed to mississippi in january 2010 to record a new record. we were super excited when the infamous memphis music guru Jim dickinson agreed to have us visit his Zebra Ranch studios to record. sadly Jim went to the great gig in the sky a couple weeks ago. this news saddened us in many ways. we were upset that our hopes to work with him were ripped away and even more stricken for his family. after a day or two I was contacted by Mary Dickinson, Jim's wife. Mary encouraged us to come down as planned and also mentioned that her son Cody was interested in producing the album. since we are all fans of thenorth mississippi allstars and various other projects Cody has been involved in, it was a pretty easy decision to go with him as producer.  we are super stoked to have Cody on board. we feel that keeping it in the family not only keeps Jims legacy alive at the Zebra Ranch but will also maintain our idea for the original vibe of the record. So we are happy to say that all goes forward as planned. We look forward to having our project be part of the trend of ass kicking albums that come out of the ranch.

so our fundraising continues. our mega bottle drive (four months) is in full swing. There are satellite bottle drives in PEI, Moncton, Saint John, and Toronto even! Very Cool! 
if you dont know what the hell i'm talkin' about  visit this link BOTTLE DRIVE  in the mean time here is a lil video marking our progress in fundraising:


video

We will be having a few other fundraisers in the coming months between national tours and xmas so keep in touch and be on the lookout for fun things like an acoustic house concert lottery! 

Whats this you ask? well, let me tell you....we are printing up 100 tickets, and if you live in the fredericton area or you are on our tour schedule you could win an acoustic performance by yours truly and the Sufferin Bastards right in your living room!!!! Tickets are going to be ten bucks and we'll be releasing where you can buy them next week. Big thanks to our friend Michelle Colford for this idea. you rock michelle!!! stay tuned for more info!

and dont forget, if you want to donate to our cause or pre-pay for an album you can! just send the $$$ to:
Ross Neilsen
PO BOX 31 
570 Queen St.
Fredericton NB
E3B 4Y9

in other items of note the new live album is almost done and we are onschedule to release it at this years Harvest jazz n Blues fest where we'll be rocking the town no less than seven times so get on out and find yerself a copy. they are ten bucks, limited to 500 copies and you can ONLY get em at a show. It's called What You Need Vol. 1 and was recorded last year at Dolan's Pub during the Harvest fest. hope ya ike it. 

The dates for our October, November national tour will be up soon so be sure to check the website


So me and the bastards are off to Nackawick this friday to rock bobby's rec room. if yer in the area you'd best stop in and get some on ya! if you are in our area on the ole interweb be sure to join our fan page here   looking forward to hearing from you. see ya out there

Ross