Unpleasant Twisted Cynic's-ville

Panama Drum Fest ’08 featured Frojax

After a month of non-stop rehearsing at our (Factor VIII’s) rehearsal space, last Saturday (1/5/08), I participated in the 2nd annual Panama Drum Fest. I had the honor of sharing the stage with other fine percussionist from right here in Panama, as well as from around the globe, most notably Billy Cobham. The idea of shelling out a solo right before a living legend such as Mr. Cobham was a bit intimidating, but in the end things turned out well.
I guess the reason as to why I never wrote about this here at the ‘ville was because sometimes I was a bit consumed by the irregularly long hours of practice in preparation for the festival (4-7 hours a day, five/six days a week from mid November to January 5), another thing was that I was in the studio by myself most of the time for extended periods. Something that can be equally as pleasant as it is “cabin fever” inducing. On a normal rehearsal schedule (w/o Factor VIII), I only run through stuff for 1-2 hours a day 4-5 days a week.
In short: by the time I’d get home I’d be pretty fried and hardly in the mood to talk about drum related happenings.
Aside from some minor monitor issues the day of the performance, the festival was a smash and everyone seemed pleased with the performances given by all the artists.

*I truly apologize to anyone that noticed that at the end of my set I didn’t acknowledge your applause with some kind of wave or bow. As I walked out of the stage door this was pointed out to me by my brother Chris. All I could say was “Oops!”
The reason I didn’t follow my performance with a bow was just due to a minor case of nerves. I don’t normally get on stage without my usual gang of primates (FVIII) serving as a barrier to take the brunt of any public scrutiny. FVIII’s absense caused me to storm off the stage in somewhat of a nervous little run/walk; I really hope that my absent mindedness didn’t bum anybody out. Thanks to everyone that came out, next time I’ll bow two-fold.

I’d like to credit the talented Jaime Anibal de Leon with doing a great job on stage as well as for putting together a great festival. I’d also like to thank my dear friend Omar “Mole” Torres (from the band Propiedad Privada) and his masterful bass chops for helping me put the solo together, also for just being an all around soldier during the past couple of weeks.

Here are some pictures:

John Frochaux @ Panama Drum Fest ‘08

John Frochaux @ Panama Drum Fest ‘08

John Frochaux @ Panama Drum Fest ‘08

John Frochaux @ Panama Drum Fest ‘08

John Frochaux @ Panama Drum Fest ‘08

John Frochaux @ Panama Drum Fest ‘08

John Frochaux @ Panama Drum Fest ‘08

John Frochaux @ Panama Drum Fest ‘08


The Merry X-mas Men

As we enter that time of year where a person’s self-worth is measured by how fast he/she can max out their newly approved credit cards; my somewhat-twin cousins and myself have decided to add more glitter to the mass hysteria by posting an x-mas “card” (or message) here at the ‘ville. Just to remind everyone of what Christmas is really about: good attitudes, nice shirts, odd ties, and distant relatives.

ARCADE UPDATE #1: Mail order madness

Finally, after some anticipation, the parts needed to build the arcade’s control panel arrived today; so far I’ve only been able to create a not so very detailed mockup of the controls. Hopefully by the end of next week I’ll have this part of the project chopped, cased, and hooked up to the working computer (which I’ve yet to put together). I’d say that I’m hardly off to a “start” of any kind; the buttons and joysticks are still in their plastic packaging along with the PS/2 chip.
On the other hand, its good to already have the greater part of the components needed to start the project on my side of the court. Now if I can only find some time for a Ground Breaking Ceremony.



Tools: a pale new dawn

Just last week my toilet attempted to take a midnight wiz all over my apartment and I was brought down to my knees (literally) to tightly hold a metal tube that had been punctured by fluctuating water pressure for the greater part of an hour. Fifty minutes and a nightmarish leg cramp after, the plumber showed up and fixed my disobedient plumbing with the daintiest twist of a wrench. Our minuit affair ended in a $100 plumbing bill. After an otherwise restful night, I decided that some changes had to be made.
There comes a time in every man’s life when some things need to be decided upon; things such as a insurance providers, appropriate coverage, weight loss, dieting, 70’s Ramones vs 80’s Ramones, arcade cabinet building, and marriage. But before any of the aforementioned queries can be tackled, a man must have the correct tools to successfully run life’s four-minute mile; in other words what is a man without tools? I’m hardly speaking metaphorically here folks, I don’t mean tools as in knowledge and/or intellectual well roundedness when standing on one of life’s proverbial cross roads. I’m talking about the galvanized and iron foundered tools you buy at the hardware store. Tools that, when used skillfully, posses the power to turn you into the handiest of men.
Today I crossed one of life’s portals, thus leading me into another facet of pseudo-adulthood. Today I maximized an aspect of my life… today I purchased my first complete toolbox, and I’ll point out that this wasn’t a pre-assembled set, no sir! My toolbox was strategically hand picked tool by tool by yours truly. Carefully tailored and designed to cater to any household situations and/or malfunction that may need the attention of variant degrees of brawn, craftiness, and of course tools.
While shopping for said toolbox, I took some things into consideration like; durability, usability, and stainless steel vs. other metals (i.e. When threatening someone with a hand-tool, a stainless steel wrench has more of an effective visual effect than a metal one because of the former’s polished finish. If faced with having to actually carrying out said threat you run the risk losing your tool; a metal wrench has a lower opportunity cost than one made of stainless steel. Conclusion: stainless steel is best for threats and impressing other kin folk, and in comparison metal is more expendable as far as cost go).
Once I had chosen all of my pliers, socket wrenches, and general tool-ery I made my way to the front checkout a paid. As I walked to the car toolbox in-hand, my innards rewarded with the feeling you get when you know you’ve acted efficiently. My gut echoed “John, this was a wise purchase”.
Upon my arrival at the apartment I praised myself for having done well, and proceeded to call family members and friends alike to indirectly inform them of my current status of Toolbox Owner/Craftyman.


Groundings, “Santa’s”, and e-mail

While my parents boxed the trinkets and furniture from their Florida home in preparation for their end of the month move to Central America, my father found this:

Deal with the kids

A contract made by my brother and myself dating back to December of ’93 that reads exactly as follows:
“December 4 1993
if you take us to Santa’s we promise we will behaive if we dont you mai ground us for a month
expires January 1
Christophe Frochaux
John Frochaux”

You can tell that contrary to my earmark, my brother had already established a working signature long before he penned up this here agreement, though I will say that it’s pretty endearing to see my infantile attempt at creating a signature just for the occasion. If you examine my signature (the one on the bottom) you’ll find that many of the elements found on Chris’ J. Hancock can be found in mine; it almost appears as if I’m using Chris’ as a template for signature making. Cue the “endeared public” sigh.
By “Santa’s” we were referring to a somewhat popular Miami theme park (fittingly named “Santa’s Enchanted Forest”) that opens every year during the x-mas holidays.
In hindsight, this really paints my parents as severe and overly strict reactionary-types (something they aren’t in the least). Seems like the only way we could manage to obtain a trip to the theme park was through documented bargaining; I mean, a month of unspecified punishment in exchange for a trip to the amusement park? Talk about all the eggs in a single basket, you’d think “Santa’s” was made of candy that made you grow wings and video games.
I’m sure I objected to offering this sort of collateral, but my brother has always been known to drive a pretty solid bargain so I’m sure I caved after one of his often-persuasive speeches, I’m pretty sure that in a passed life Chris was a Snake Oil salesman in the old west.

In the end I do remember going to “Santa’s” that year and really getting a kick out of it. Over the years I grew, and like many things when you grow, “Santa’s” progressively lost a good amount of its luster; I began to notice the carnies, the people, the allowance factor, and before I knew it the desire to attend “Santa’s” had just faded, only leaving behind entertainingly written contracts for my father to e-mail other folks in the future.

Thanks dad.

Ramones, Murder, and Youtube.

During my daily news-read, I came across this very disturbing article about Linda Stein’s (Ramones’ manager at one point) murder, something I hadn’t the slightest knowledge of.
Linda Stein worked with the Ramones for many years before going into real estate, and was responsible for booking the band’s infamous appearance in London’s Roundhouse in 1976, which turned out to be one of the most pivotal moments in the band’s career, if not the most; an event that defined the future of punk rock. I
won’t go into a long-winded diatribe about the origins of punk rock, but I will say this: The Ramones created and defined punk rock, Malcolm Mclaren just found a way to massively cash in on it.

“What do you think?.. Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

I’ve concluded that lieu of maintaining somewhat of an active blog, I need to provide myself with some sort of daily incentive to keep me a-writin’ (*a-bloggin’.) I wouldn’t say that my life isn’t exciting enough, I’d say it is; subject matter and desire to write are at all time high in John’s-ville, but what good is desire without decision. Problem is that the proverbial topic compass is at such an obtuse angle, that I constantly send ideas off on tangents that usually lead to nowhere (Man, I’m dense!)
With that said, I’ve chosen to give myself little tasks in order to vamp up the atmosphere here at “the-ville.” Who knows? Maybe once I work a couple of holy blog nights into my week, I may just be able to turn myself into somewhat of an avid blogger. So, with keyboard beneath my palms, smugly I venture further into the world of learning to write under various degrees of public scrutiny.

Task #1: Revisiting Records

“Life is musical”, “music is my life”, “I need music to stay alive”, these are all things I’m sick of hearing. Sure, we love our music, but just how discriminating are we when it comes to drawing the line between great records and pure crap. I imagine that by now the “who is this guy…?” lights just went off in you little head: So, who am I to get on a soapbox about music? Well I’ll tell you. I’m one extremely discerning and very boisterous young man when it comes to music. Also, in case you’ve forgotten this IS my blog; my blog my rules, and if this doesn’t sit too well with you, you should follow this link.

With Revisiting Records, I’ll finally have a forum in which I can willfully praise and slam records old or new, and best of all, without any real repercussions. I recently ended a short relationship with a local rag that was interested in my opinion with regards to music. When at first approached with the proposal, I jumped at the opportunity to write for an actual print on paper publication; after a brief stint as columnist for said publication, I took a walk. After my 5th or 6th column I began to witness, mainly through e-mails, the backlash of my invariant attacks on music in general. At the completion of my 7th column, to much relief, I abandoned my position as a wage-free columnist, along with a small group of livid readers. In the end knickers were knotted, and folks got offended.

Revisiting Records will base itself on a simple rating system based on ten categories. The system will play out as follows:

Songs: The most important part of a record, song writing (Poor, Average, Good, Outstanding.)

Sequence: The way a record flows is almost as important as its musical content.

Top Tracks: My picks on the record.

Production: Some records are hindered by their overzealous production, just like other records truly shine thanks to dingy “low-budgetry” during production time. I’ll even go as far as listening to the records through my NS-10’s in order to really nit pick the audio. I can already smell the burning torches.

Lyrical Content: Are the lyrics well written, are they good, or do they read like those you’d find the liner of a Bush record?

Record Title: Some are great, some are funny, and some are absolutely stupid.

Packaging/Artwork: When I was younger I bought Black Flag’s “Slip it in” just because of the Artwork. I’ve always felt that a record’s packaging/artwork should always be an extension of what’s inside the actual record. There are still some artists and labels that hold this part of the record making process to very high esteem, and I’m here to praise ‘em (and maybe even slam ‘em.)

LP vs. CD vs. DIGITAL: Would I buy the LP, CD, or stay Digital?

Personal Notes: Further self-absorbed banter about the record.

Overall Score: Self-explanatory; just a simple1 through 6 scale. 1 is un-listenable/Frisbee-able/burnable, 6 is masterful.

So now broad strokes out of the way, I leave you with my first visitation.

Face to Face
Artist: Face to Face
Album: “Don’t turn away”
Release Date/Label: 1993/Fat Wreck-Chords (originally released by Dr. Strange Records in 1992)

Songs: 78% of this record is brilliant; the other 22% is questionable. Great melodies and choruses can be heard throughout the record, even on the filler songs. For a band’s debut the songs on here sound amazingly well intentioned and very focused; the tracks that stand out are sharp, short, aggressive, and to the point.

Sequence: If I had to judge this record solely on its opening track, I probably would’ve thrown it in the trash right after the opening “1-2, 1-2-3-4” on “You’ve done nothing”, the record’s first song; a track that I can’t stand for numerous reason, one reason being that its cheesy sounding, another being that it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the record. I’ve yet to understand why it was such a staple throughout FTF’s career.
The rest of the record seems to file filler tracks between really great tracks; something that at times works, but not always. “Don’t turn away” becomes a little hard to take towards the end, where almost no good tracks buoy above the filler.
In conclusion, the record flows awkwardly, but it doesn’t find itself terminally affected by a sloppy song-sequencing job. You can chalk that up to the band’s ability to write good tunes.

Top Tracks: “I’m not afraid”, “I want”, “I’m trying”, “Do you care”, “No authority”, and of course “Disconnected.”

Production: “Don’t turn away” is a good example of a record that benefits from shoddy production. I couldn’t imagine these songs sounding any other way, I’m particularly fond of the way Trevor Keith’s vocals sound on this record (similar to “Big Choice”.) According to the band, T. Keith was sick during the tracking of the vocals on this record hence the gangly sound of his voice.
This record has very few overdubs; it was recorded live and apparently to no click.
If you listen closely to some tracks on this record you can actually hear the song start at a set tempo and finish a couple of BPMs over the original tempo.
In the end, many of the production errors on this record are what make it so special. The fact that DTW was done live and with little overdubbing really makes the record sound stripped down and authentic.

Lyrical: Very cut and dry, not much to talk about. The lyrics work very well in context with what’s going on musically. I’ve always felt that that’s one of Face to Face’s main traits.

Title: “Don’t turn away” is a fitting title for this record, it sums up the feel and the mood of the record pretty well. Ironically, the track “Don’t turn away” is not on this record. It was originally released by Face To Face a year before as a single called “No authority” (which included the songs “Don’t turn away”, “No Authority”, and a song called “One way or another”.) “Don’t turn away” is one of my favorite Face to Face songs, I feel it’s a shame that it was not included in the full-length.
Original pressings of the “No Authority” single (EP) are pretty hard to come by, although it is still available for digital download through various MP3 sites.
A live version of “Don’t turn away” also appears on Face to Face’s 1998 live record.

Packaging/Artwork: The artwork on the record is hardly out of this world; once again… the real gold is inside.
I’ve always found that when set in contrast with the title, the photograph of the guy backed into the corner with his head between his arms comes off as slightly melodramatic. Melodrama not withstanding, the artwork may not be great, but it doesn’t completely “strike out”.

CD vs. LP vs. DIGITAL: My record collection would feel little light without a copy of “Don’t turn away”. Verdict: CD and/or LP are a must.

Personal Notes: Good records never sound dated; 15 years after its release, “DTA” still sounds as fresh today as it did to a listener in 1992.

Overall Score: 3.5