Friday, April 22, 2011

Chapter 51: In Which I Discuss Tour Preparations

So, what have I done lately? Saw Pretty in Pink and Labyrinth at the UA Shattuck nostalgia night. Did my taxes. Smoked no weed on 4/20 because, like all ethnic holidays that aren't mine, I feel disingenuous celebrating it. If I don't go green for St. Patrick's Day, I'm not going green for St. Cheech's Day. Other stuff has gone on, some of which is actually interesting, and maybe I'll tell about it someday. I figured, since this blog is primarily educational, I'd give some insight into how a DIY artist preps for tour on a budget.

I'm going on tour next month. 12 days, 11 dates, 10 cities. Last week, I got a California driver's license. I got the license so I could rent a car. I'm renting the car to go on tour. My original plan was to start in my tour partner's homestate of Louisiana and gig across the Southwest, but reality is the throttler of ambition. So we're starting in San Francisco. How much prep did I do for this driver's test? Not a lot. I figured it would be common sense, but they really ask some obscure questions. If you come to a T intersection and the lights are out, who gets the right of way: the guy driving straight or the guy turning? Fucked if I know. But mostly it's common sense. Can you smoke in the car with someone under 18 inside? This is California; you have to climb a mountain just to smoke in public. What is the penalty for ignoring a highway cop telling you to pull over? A fine? In California, they jail people for littering and kill them for being rowdy on the BART. Best believe you'd go to jail. My favorite part of the test was the old man who started talking all loud to someone on his Bluetooth during the middle of taking it. He seemed genuinely miffed when they told him to put it away.

The part I find funny is that, in spite of the test, nobody in this state knows how to drive. Someone might disagree vehemently, but I find the inability to master a turn signal to be somewhat pitiful. I have no clue why everyone drives so crazy.

For the record: renting a car. Do Budget. Prepay online. Pick up from the hole-in-the-wall office by the railroad tracks, not at the airport. It was a pretty good deal, all things considered.

So I passed my driver's test and am now a full-fledged citizen of the state. Next comes my medical cannabis card. For my allergies. Another order of business: the audiobook.

I last stepped into the studio on November 23rd, 2010. It's been that long. The fellow whose recording me is named Edan Mason, an ambient musician from LA who goes to Mills with me. Last week we found some time to reserve the Mills recording studio. I was rusty, as evidenced by the 30+ mistakes I made. I read "Brother Roy" and the first two chapters of "Assistant." The former went better than the latter. "Assistant" requires some accents, but is mostly straight reading. "Brother Roy" is all dialect, and I had trouble keeping the different character voices consistent. It was a Saturday, and I read until my voice couldn't go anymore. We could have gone longer because nobody else reserved the space. Even if I hadn't been vastly dehydrated, there's a psychological jump from one section of "Assistant" to another, at least for me. I wanted to reflect on it before recording again. I'm an artist like that. The plan is to have everything recorded in the next two sessions, then I'll edit it together with Audacity. Which, by the way, is an awesome program. I've also listened to the recordings I've made. Nothing beats doing vocals in a studio. Everything sounds so crisp.

One of the inhabitants of my hippie house is a fellow named Asa Jones. Biggest hippie on the planet. Asa's a wonderful guy, and is currently touring the southern US with his zine. He also designed my tour flier, through the power of Photoshop wizardry. I don't have a good picture of it right now, but I'll upload one soon. Let's just say, I went to him and said "I want a giant bottle of Jack Daniels floating through outer space." He delivered. Pouring whisky on the Milky Way Galaxy was totally his genius idea. It has a 50s scifi vibe to it and I love the poster to pieces.

Now, the last time I did fliers for tour, a friend of mine who worked at a copy place hooked us up. Getting things for free worked well into our promotional budget. On the west coast, I don't have such connections. So I went to the Bay Area Alternative Press.

They are the real deal. When I tell people about this place, they don't believe me. An entirely volunteer-run printing organization. Not a non-profit, so there is no government interest. You can walk in there and print anything for free. I know because I did it. The first night I came by, they gave me an orientation, then asked "What are you working on?" From there, I was designing my flier on Adobe InDesign with one of their experts.

The printing facilities has an ink printer, two working letterpresses that are 150 years old, and an old-fashioned cutting machine, among other gadgets. I don't think I saw any equipment in that room that was newer than the 1980s. Love it. After Asa designed the flier, I got to do the hands-on stuff. That meant cutting paper into 11x17 size, then transferring my Photoshop picture to the offset printer to make a negative. This took longer than I thought it would, as the printing guru and I had to keep going back to the computer room to make sure the image was rotated correctly, or it was in greyscale, or all colors except black and white were turned off. This process literally took hours. Photoshop was being an asshole to us that night. At one point, the little film canister wouldn't snap into place in the machine. The solution? Stick a styrofoam block behind it. We didn't get to print, but I've been learning hands-on and the whole thing's pretty exciting. Saturday's the day we bust out 700 fliers. I like literally working to put my tour together. it makes the accomplishments feel so concrete.

The BAAP does wonderful things for the community, is ran by some old school Socialists and is truly independent. People print some radical stuff out of there, but I also saw a middle school afterschool program doing a poetry anthology at the press, which was all kinds of heartwarming to me. Anything you want to print, they'll get you there. I encourage everyone to donate money to BAAP. Stop by and fix equipment, or cook a meal. Anything helps. I feel happy to have such an institution around.

Tour is coming along. More updates soon.

Oh yes, about Pretty in Pink. Seriously, one of the great swan songs between an artist and his muse. By that point, John Hughes was done with Molly Ringwald. She was getting older and the svengali wanted to move onto other things. How does he separate from her? By making a movie in which every male character is in love with her. The whole film is a poem to the greatness of Molly Ringwald. And that is how you end a relationship. Molly can go to her grave knowing Hughes loved her enough to make this cinematic ode as his parting gift.

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