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A reversal: more KGLT changes for David

I'd actually gotten used to the idea that KGLT's role in my life was on the downswing. I had received the very clear message that my opportunities there were incredibly limited and there was no well-defined hope on the horizon. I was continuing my Loud Rock Director activities and staying well-informed about new releases but was only scheduled to do two shows before the end of 2012, each of those as a sub for AK on Friday night.

Just like that, it's changed (again). I received word on Friday that Justin Adams, who alternates with AK on Fridays at 9pm, is leaving KGLT. The one time slot where I can do my show suddenly came available and was offered to me. It's effectively a no-brainer. I said, "Yes".

So, starting Friday, November 2nd, the "Heavy" show is back on the air, 9pm to midnight (Mountain time, like Denver), every other week. I'll actually have three weeks in a row starting on the 2nd, because I'm scheduled to sub on the 9th. I'm hoping that will very quickly get me back to full engagement at KGLT. I'll be able to play the new stuff shortly after it's released and can once again really get involved in maintaining the Loud Rock library.

I'm hoping a few of you will join me as I get the show back in full swing.


Change: ready or not, here it comes

Last week I wrote an article about Nightwish, describing how much my family enjoyed our road trip to see the band in Salt Lake City. I mentioned that their lead singer, Anette Olzon, had been in the hospital for their previous show in Denver and they had performed with a makeshift lineup. I had applauded the band and Anette for making the show in Denver work and for coming back out the following night to put on a show we all enjoyed. Little did I know that at roughly the same time I published that article, Nightwish was onstage in Seattle, performing with Floor Jansen on vocals, because Anette had been asked to leave the band.

Just like that, my most-often played band on KGLT had gone through a major upheaval and there's really no way to know whether the next chapter will be as enjoyable for me. The music world has these shifts all the time. David Lee Roth split with Van Halen, and regardless of which version you like the best, the band was never the same after that (with Sammy HagarGary Cherone, and the return of David Lee Roth ). There are these magic periods in a band's creative lifetime and sometimes they are painfully short. And then things change...

I had been excited about my activities on the radio and had anticipated the onset of construction for the Music Tech Center. With the former, I felt like I'd really found a home, a place with like-minded music lovers sharing the common thread of highly eclectic taste. With the latter, I could taste the next step and see what the building would look like after completion. And then things change...

So, I now move on because that's the only thing any of us can do. Sometimes the changes come along and you can't stop them. We've got an election coming up. Even if political sentiment was the same as four years ago, things would still change. Under current circumstances there will have to be changes, some of which I will be unhappy about, and maybe, if I'm lucky, there will be a few things I'm happy about.

More importantly, though, I have to accept the ongoing progression of life and the many aspects I have no control over. Time is a big one for me. It passes no matter what I do to increase my efficiency or shortchange myself on sleep. I'm once again looking at how I spend my time and wondering which activities are really worth the effort. I'm also facing the challenge that the same creative juices are needed for blog writing as for songwriting. I'm taking 3 songwriting and music classes this quarter and barely having time to breathe. I love what I'm learning but to get the most out of the experience I'm skimping on a lot of other activities.

Honestly, it may be time to cut my losses with respect to the radio show. It hasn't been much fun since losing my regular slot and I'm not seeing a way back to that enjoyment level. The Music Tech Center is still very much up in the air, but I need are more conversations and more pondering, things I do better when I have some breathing room. Finally, there's the question of this blog...

I spend a few hours every week writing the articles for this blog. Over the last 2 or 3 months, I've had a harder time coming up with ideas for those articles. Now, the blog writing is butting heads with all my songwriting homework and without the radio activities I have less music-related thoughts to share with everyone. I think that my blog is going through one of those "And then things change..." moments. It was inevitable but it's still destabilizing. To keep the blog going and keep the content lively, I need some new pool of ideas. I need to be talking about something that I care deeply about and that I'm actively immersed in. Hence, the blog needs to change, much like replacing its lead vocalist or changing its record label, something to freshen things up.

At the moment, I see a songwriting and my efforts to release my next project(s) as the prime candidate. Yes, I've talked about those here previously, however, those were interspersed with many articles drawn from my radio experiences and suddenly there's a lot less of those. I'm thinking that the blog will become a way to keep all of you updated on my creative efforts. As such, I don't honestly know how often I'll update it through the end of 2012 with my course load and the holidays. Somewhere along the line, however, I anticipate things picking up again. As I start generating musical content, then the blog can serve it's primary purpose as an extension of my own experiences and a way to share those things that mean the most to me.


Loud Rock at KGLT - playlist analysis and demographics

Ever since I began doing my radio show at KGLT, I've been collecting playlist data and coalescing it into a spreadsheet. I've been interested in analyzing that data to answer some questions about my listening and playing habits. Early on, I just didn't have enough data to evaluate, then life got busy and I didn't have time. Now that my steady show at KGLT is no longer, I wanted to analyze the data (over a year's worth) and see what it tells me.

I've often made the claim that a "lot" of the bands I listen to are from Finland and Sweden, however, I've never quantified that. That's one area I wanted to investigate using my KGLT playlist data. I also wanted to look at my data in the context of some of the "metal demographics" maps that are out on the web. They typically show Scandinavia, especially Finland and Sweden as contributing a disproportionate amount of metal to the world per capita (see Demographics of Metal). Of course, my analysis will only be one view of the problem, specific to the music I play at KGLT, but I still think it's interesting to analyze it in the context of the bigger picture.

My data is arranged to show every band I've ever played at KGLT and how many times I've played them. The simplest version of the spreadsheet sorts that data from most often played (#1 Nightwish, #2 Amaranthe) down to all the bands I've only played once. Right off the bat, I see hints of what I already suspected: in the top 10 most played bands, 3 are from Finland and 3 are from the United States. However, Sweden only has one band in the top 10. Looking at the top 20, Finland and Sweden each show up 4 times but the US is there 5 times. So, at the simplest level, yes, I do play a lot of Finnish and Swedish bands, but not at any obvious cost to the US.

However, the US starts showing up in heavy numbers in slots 21 and below, quickly establishing a higher play count overall than even Sweden and Finland combined. In fact, the US swamps everyone else with 462 plays, with Finland the next closest at 86 and Sweden following at 77. That, however, feels a bit distorted to me. I'd spent many months reviewing the entire KGLT Loud Rock CD collection and had played any band that got my attention. That collection is fairly weak in imports, so the pool I had to pull from was a bit skewed against Finland and Sweden. Many of the bands during that library review period I only played once. With that in mind, I decided to trim down the data set and regenerate my charts. I ended up with charts just like the original except restricted to 3 or more plays, 6 or more plays and 8 or more plays. Only the most restrictive (8 or more plays) chart levels the tables, showing Finland in the #1 spot followed by the US and then Sweden, but all in comparable numbers. Clearly, when push comes to shove, the music I like to play the most is, in fact, biased towards Finland and Sweden.

I also have claimed that I lean toward new music, playing lots of recent releases and bands from the 1990s and 2000s. To test those claims, I rearranged the data to look at number of plays per year the band was formed. I was pleased to see the 669 of the songs I played were from bands formed in 1990 or later. Only 223 of the plays are from bands formed prior to 1990. Being disappointed by the prevalence of "Classic Rock" stations and the dearth of new music on the radio, I was happy to see that I've been doing my part to reveal all the recently released heavy music out there in the world.

Having confirmed my suspicions at a very high level, I started to wonder how that relates to the population size that's generating these bands. I was highly suspicious that the main reason the US dominates the overall list is based on population size. I've seen the "metal demographics" maps and know how small the Swedish and Finnish populations are compared to the US. In addition, given my own knowledge of variation in metal style between states here in the US, and relative populations, I was curious about how things would change if I treated states as comparable to countries elsewhere in the world.

The first chart I generated considering states as countries showed something that won't shock anyone. The entity that generates the most plays on KGLT is California, immediately followed by Finland, Sweden and then the state of New York. Also, as no surprise to anyone, England and Germany land in the 5 and 6 slots. The next 10 are mostly states, including a number that I would have guessed (MassachusettsFloridaGeorgia and Texas). I don't know that I'd have guessed New Jersey and Illinois would be this high in the list, but Washington makes sense considering Seattle's contributions to music. Those of you outside the US will be pleased to see Canada at #8, the Netherlands at #12 and Australia at #16, immediately followed by NorwayItaly and Greece.

I was still a little surprised to see California dominating the list but once again remembered all those single-play bands from my library review efforts. We know that California, especially the southern part of the state, churns out a ton of bands, so it might still be simply the result of excess availability relative to imports. With that in mind, I decided to try looking at bands with higher numbers of plays. Even at 3 plays, the playing field levels quite a bit, with California leading at 88 but Finland in the same ballpark (73) and Sweden at 56. Being even more restrictive and looking at 5 plays or more pulls Finland into the lead at 63, with California at 61 and Sweden at 44.


I also wanted to look at the cities spawning most of these bands. Now, at this point my data is a little less robust, since the Wikipedia, where I gathered band information, is a bit spotty on how it describes where bands are from. Places like New York City and Los Angeles often are credited for bands that were formed in a borough or nearby city. Even so, I think the table is interesting, keeping in mind that Los Angeles and New York City probably have higher numbers than reality. It's definitely interesting to see Gothenburg as contributing the second largest number of plays and Helsinki in the #4 spot (note I'm skipping the true #1 in the list which is "undetermined").

With all those questions answered, I still had a nagging curiosity. How much do the large populations of California, Germany and England help them generate large numbers of playable bands (for my show). So, I made one more table, scaling the number of plays by the population of the state or country.It's impressive that California has so many plays that it still lands in the #4 spot despite its large population. Sure enough, Finland and Sweden, with their smaller populations and large number of plays land in the #2 and #3 spots, but what about #1? I had to laugh when I saw it. I love Tyr and a played them a number of times, but they had never generated an entry anywhere near the top of my tables before this. Thanks to the tiny population of the Faroe Islands, however, it lands in the #1 slot. Basically, I can conclude that the Faroe Islands, per capita, are the most effective country for generating music I like to play on the radio. Go Faroes and Go Tyr!!

In the end, the data simply reinforces what I already know. I love Finnish and Swedish metal. Those two countries are highly efficient at creating new bands that I like, and at the same time generate a wide variety of sub-styles within the metal umbrella. The United States and California, where I was born and raised, clearly generate a ton of listenable heavy music, and I should not overlook many parts of the US for their contributions to the overall metal pool. Sadly, Montana does not even appear in the data. Perhaps I can take small solace in knowing that Oregon does not appear in the data either, and Portland is currently a lively music center. So there's always a chance I just didn't get around to playing that one metal gem from Montana.


Nightwish/Kamelot in Salt Lake City - the reward for months of planning

We've had this trip planned for around six months, the last of our big summer of metal travels. We split the drive from Bozeman to Salt Lake City ("SLC") roughly in half, staying in Rexburg, Idaho on Friday night and rolling into SLC mid-afternoon on Saturday. Our only complication was my son, Zane's, sudden onset of some GI ailment, leaving us unsure how much of the show he was going to see. But we managed to get the kids a quick swim in the salty swimming pool at Howard Johnson's, a satisfying dinner at P.F. Chang's and then we headed to the The Complex for the show.

We immediately knew that we'd "arrived" as we drove up. There was a line around the corner, down the block and all the way to the train tracks. This was definitely a metal crowd, lots of black attire and concert T's. It became clear we were facing yet another complication once we'd stood in line for 30 minutes after the doors were scheduled to open. Apparently sound checks had run over by 60-90 minutes and they'd only been able to let 400 people into the main lobby of the venue. Fortunately, much like Calgary, this was also a well-behaved metal crowd,

Eventually the line started moving and we all were able to redeem our Will Call codes to get into the show. It was fortunate that this show had no opening acts, just two headliner-caliber bands. Once we were all in the venue, there wasn't any further delay; Kamelot kicked into their set with a vengeance. I've never seen Kamelot before and was immediately impressed with their energy and polish. I was especially struck by the energy of their new vocalist, Tommy Karevik, and his ability to get the crowd involved. More so than recent shows we've seen in Sweden and Canada, the crowd in Salt Lake City made lots of noise, chanting, yelling and singing along throughout the set.

The four of us also had an extra connection to Kamelot, being big Amaranthe fans. We really enjoyed seeing Elize Ryd, one of Amaranthe's three singers, performing various lead and backup vocals for Kamelot. It was icing on the cake to see and hear Elize live for the second time in less than two months. Now we can hope that, with Amaranthe's new album due out in 2013, perhaps we can see Elize 3 times in one year. I was also impressed with The Agonist's Alissa White-Gluz's vocal contributions to Kamelot's set and was particularly struck by her stage presence. That makes we very curious to see The Agonist if I get the chance.

Kamelot wrapped up a very tight, and perhaps a little too short, set. Thankfully, after the long wait in line, it didn't take the stage crew too long to transition over and get Nightwish onstage. In truth, Nightwish was the reason we made the trip and I was excited to finally be hearing them live. They immediately launched into "Storytime" one of my family's favorite Nightwish songs, and played "Amaranth", another favorite, third. I immediately found myself thinking about how much I enjoy Anette Olzon's easygoing and friendly stage presence, and her sweet, comforting voice. Yes, many fans were disappointed when Tarja Turunen was asked to leave Nightwish, but I have found that both the albums featuring Anette (Dark Passion Play and Imaginaerum) are in my "favorite albums ever" list. In a way, with Anette and Marco Hietala, the band became more listenable for me. The grandiosity of their symphonic elements is counterbalanced perfectly by the rawness of Marco's voice and the personal familiarity of Anette's.

It was fun seeing Marco, and how essential he's become to Nightwish's stage presence. He would be a natural fit for Kopiklaani, both in looks and personality, adding a raucous humor and forcefulness to Nightwish that I welcome.

My daughter, Kiley, had mentioned to me right after dinner that she wanted Nightwish to play a long set. Well, she got her wish. They were on stage for about 90 minutes, playing heavy hitters like the aformentioned "Storytime" and "Amaranthe", along with "Ghost River" and finishing up with "Last Ride of the Day". In between they treated us to acoustic versions of "Nemo" and two of their more folk-infused pieces ("Finlandia" and "Last of the Wilds").

Since the show started late, Zane was completely wiped out by the end of the set. Kiley gave it her all but was also pretty tired. Still, we were all content as we walked the few blocks back to our car and drove the quick trip back to our motel. Once we get back to the room, I was still pretty energized and not quite ready to fall asleep, so I dug around a bit trying to learn a bit about the show and some of the guest performers.

In the process, I discovered just how lucky we were. Having driven over 7 hours to reach Salt Lake City, and dedicated an entire weekend to attend this show, we hadn't allowed ourselves to worry that the show might not happen. Little did we know how close we came to that outcome. Reading through postings on Nightwish's Facebook page, I learned that Anette had been hospitalized the previous night, unable to perform in Denver. I also learned that the band had scrambled to live up to their commitment to the fans in Denver. Thanks to valiant efforts by Elize and Alissa from Kamelot, Nightwish played the Denver show, despite missing their lead singer.

To me, this is a testament to Nightwish's professionalism and commitment. By my rough count, 90% of fans' responses on the Facebook page were positive, although the other 10% were shockingly unkind and insensitive. Personally, I am in awe of everyone who scrambled to make both the Denver and Salt Lake City shows happen despite the difficult circumstances. As a musician, I have nothing but respect for Elize and Alissa, filling in on incredibly short notice and for the rest of Nightwish for pulling a show together. I realize the fans in Denver didn't exactly see the show they had hoped to see, but in a way, they got to see something extra special. I suspect many will remember the show as a unique experience, one that demonstrates success in the face of defeat and one that they'll remember for the rest of their lives. I also suspect that at least some of them will walk away with a greater interest in Amaranth and The Agonist, having seen what Elize and Alissa were able to do on short notice for Nightwish. Based on some of my own recent experiences with family health and hospitals, I think I can imagine how difficult it was for Anette to get back on stage and give an amazing performance, having spent the previous night in the hospital. I wish nothing but the best to Anette and hope this is just one of those sudden and brief medical challenges, much like I hope for Zane's GI complications.

For those Nightwish and Kamelot fans yet to see them on this tour, you are in for a treat; do not miss the show! For those readers that weren't planning to see them, but still have chance to get tickets to upcoming shows, you really should spend the money and go see this show. If you can't catch one of the remaining shows, but are curious about Nightwish and Kamelot, check out their recent releases (e.g. Imaginaerum and Sacrimony (single)). If you are impressed with Elize's and Alissa's efforts to save the show in Denver, be sure to check out Amaranthe and The Agonist. There's a lot of great music to experience between all of these amazing musicians and I recommend you explore it all thoroughly to find how it overlaps with your tastes.


Collaboration: when it's working, it doesn't hurt

As a result of the "Lyric Writing: Tools and Strategies" I took this Spring through Berklee Online, I've been thinking a lot about collaboration. The class format and the students in that class combined to create a highly interactive environment. We were spread all over the world, spanning an entire day's worth of time zones and yet everybody interacted and learned from those interactions. Strangely, though, when the topic of collaborative songwriting came up, many of the students were uncomfortable. Their concerns are similar to those I've seen across most of my life experiences, in music, in software, in school.

Collaboration scares people. It's seen as giving up ones own goals, degrading ones own vision. It's seen as the path to impurity and struggle. Sadly, there are so many examples in the real world to support this. Just listen to anything from The Troggs Tapes (careful there's lots of swearing) to the U.S. legislature and it's clear that working together is hard. Watch any reality TV show or This Is Spinal Tap and you will get a a vivid reminder that collections of people have a hard time agreeing on anything, especially when a shared creative goal is involved.

Despite that, however, there is nothing better than a successful collaboration. When it's working, it really doesn't hurt at all. The ideas flow more quickly and you look back at the end result with awe. The song or other creative work is something that no one person could have generated. Sure, sometimes you end up with the offspring of 100 maniacs but the beauty of creative endeavors is that you can always set one aside and move on to the next. In fact, many of us believe that's how creativity works anyway. Not every creative work is successful, but the practice you get on the unsuccessful ones combines with the raw output of repeatedly trying to assure that you do generate successful works.

Absolutely, though, it takes a different approach to be successful when collaboration is involved. Too often everyone thinks they have an agenda and when that agenda does not get satisfied in the end result, it's a failed effort. That's why it's important to alter the goal. The reason for collaboration is to generate an end product that could only exist through the efforts of many. It is not the product of one person's vision implemented by many. So, you really cannot know how it will turn out based on the first conversation or the initial vision. It will evolve through interaction, conversation and critique. And once complete, every one of the collaborators will see themselves and every other collaborator reflected in the final product.

Does that sound too hard? Do you have to give up too much of yourself to make collaboration work? No, absolutely not. In fact, with the right collaborators, you will find that you express more of yourself, especially your strengths, than if you try to do it all yourself. I'm a guitarist and part-time vocalist. Although the bass has similarity to guitar, I am not a bass player. I understand the mathematics of rhythm and the mechanics of playing a drum kit, but I'm no drummer. I can spend hours sequencing keyboards, bass and drums but experienced musicians can accomplish the same thing (no, really, way better things) in much less time. If I surround myself with the right people, ideas become songs much faster. They don't lose their freshness and excitement somewhere along the arranging and recording process.

So, the next time you find yourself shying away from an opportunity, fearful that interacting with others will erode the vision, think again. Go out on a limb and try writing a song with someone else. Try developing a software product plan with collaborators. Or, just plan a pot-luck dinner for next Saturday night. Then, let yourself revel in the unexpected outcomes. Enjoy the process, the ebb and flow as all contributors' personalities and efforts factor in, flavoring the final product. Then, experience the end product and think back over how each of you contributed and how each of you achieved things that were personally rewarding. With practice, you will be amazed at how much you enjoy the process of reaching the goal, and that the results of your efforts are unique and well beyond anything you could have accomplished on your own.