Friday, December 2, 2016

One Year Later / Twenty Years Later

Today is the one year anniversary of the shooting at the San Bernardino Inland Regional Center.  This post is about how a certain part of my life has unfolded over the last year in relation to that horrific event.

This post is also about a friendship that goes back over 20 years has become crucial to my musical and personal growth.  If you've read the "about me" part of my website then you know that I started taking bass lessons with a fellow named Ed Heppenstall around that time.  His influence on my musical tastes was immediately a positive one and it became apparent very quickly that we had a LOT in common in that realm.

Well, life happens, and my career path involved leaving my home town of Redlands for many years for school and to work for Steve Azola and then Suhr Guitars.  Eventually I moved back to my home area about 14 years ago (dang! - almost to the day) when I started Nordstrand Guitars and Nordstrand Pickups in my garage.

This return was a good thing for me musically.  I had in mind from very early in my friendship with Ed that I wanted to make music with him.  It always seemed like a very natural fit.  But, I was simply not ready.  My abilities were severely lacking.  And I knew it.  And I was very insecure about it.  Have you ever wanted something so bad that it hurt?  Well, this was a version of that.  I've wanted to express myself musically for my whole life.  But I was too wadded up to even know where to start.

Anyway, Ed and I started to hang out more and more often.  A lot of these hangs would involve us each frantically scouring our respective iPods looking for the next tune we'd play for each other in an attempt to elicit the chills that would indicate that we were listening to something that really hooked up for us.  Back and forth we'd go for hours.  Sharing our love of our favorite music and hoping to find something the other had not heard yet.

In all of this the allure of making our own chill inducing music was growing more and more powerful for me.  So I got to work.  As I could afford it I bought a recording interface and a ProTools license.  And I started learning how all this newfangled stuff worked.  Again, if you've read the about me page, you'd also know I went to school for recording engineering and worked in a professional studio (Devonshire Sound) shortly after high school.  So while I had a foundation of skills for recording I was also learning how to record into computers in a somewhat new and unfamiliar way.  And the entry level gear was just not that good yet.  I struggled to record anything that was even remotely compelling or anywhere near what I was hearing in my head.  But I kept at it.  And kept at it.

Over the intervening years my sonic journey lead me to finding and creating some very compelling products in my day job.  It also lead to the gradual acquisition of legitimate recording gear and instruments (read - Universal Audio Apollo).  And a little more than two years ago it lead to me being able to put together a space near my shop that was purely dedicated to making music.  Over the last two years that space has become instrumental to the advancement of my musical pursuits (and my product line).  Finally I had the space and the gear to make what I had in my head come out of some speakers.  But still, I had a lot to work on as a musician and I had even more to work on in terms of unleashing my creative energies and learning to get out of my own way.  (There's a very large spiritual component to this evolution, but that's another story for another day.)




Ed was and is a huge part of how this all happened.  At some point, the musical relationship really started to gel.  He'd pop in for lunch and a couple hours in the studio and I'd show him an idea or two that I'd recently come up with.  He'd "get" it instantly and start hearing words and melodies in his head so of course I'd throw up a mic and hit the record button.  Then we'd hash things out a little at a time over the next couple years.  He'd also start bringing in ideas here and there and and we'd work from them.  Or sometimes we'd start with a blank session and pull up a drum groove and just follow it where it wanted to go.  It was everything I knew was there in me and in him, finally emerging into the air.  It was, and still is, an incredible experience and one that I'm profoundly grateful to be a part of.

So this brings us back to the somber anniversary that today brings.  I'm sharing a song here that was a product of both what happened so very near to us (the perpetrators lived not 1/4 mile from my shop) and also what happened in Paris only a few weeks before with specific personal relevance for Ed as he had traveled to Paris at the end of the year and was able to witness the makeshift Bataclan memorial in person and was deeply moved to tears at the huge display of loss and love lining the street.

The song I share here came from the profoundly painful and yet somehow deeply encouraging reaction we had to those two horrific incidents.  I hope it moves you in some way.  I hope you get out of it some sense of what we put into it, which is that even in the face of unspeakable tragedy, as a global human race, we will come together in the aftermath of such terrible things and emerge stronger and more powerfully connected with love and compassion for all.

With Love,
Carey and Ed (Moba Jones)

https://soundcloud.com/user-688592928/disappear-11-1-jp-mix-rev-2

If you like what you hear here you'll be pleased to know we have a full album worth of material in the works.  Also, a website and a video for the above tune - Disappear.  Please contact me if you'd like to be on our mailing list.  We're hoping to have more for you very soon...



Friday, May 20, 2016

The Charity Bass



This bass has quite a story to go with it.  And it's a story that has taken a while to evolve to the point where it's ready to be told.  Stories can be funny that way sometimes.  

This bass is a manifestation of love in many ways.  Love, and pain.  Actually quite a fair bit of pain. The kind of pain that usually accompanies love and loss.  The kind of pain that is too often pushed away and buried until it's ready to truly be felt and processed.  I apologize if this is getting heavy, but it IS heavy.  For me at least.  Still.

I made this bass for my friend Adrian Garcia in the fall of 2007.  Adrian was very special to me and many others in the custom bass community and we had a wonderful friendship that had developed over several years.  But let me back up a little and start at the very beginning.  

When I began building basses full time at the beginning of 2003 I made a batch of instruments that were not to fill any orders.  A sort of opening salvo representative of what I thought I was capable of. At that time there was a microcosm of custom bass enthusiasts that filled up a website forum called Talkbass.com.  It was a pretty special place.  One of the regular and well known guys in there was named Adrian Garcia.  He was a dealer for a handful of high end brands.  More than that though he was an unbridled custom bass enthusiast of the highest order.  He became interested in my work as I progressed through the builds and posted regular updates on my website.  I happened to have one available instrument and I was looking for dealers.  

Adrian decided to come to my shop, which was in my 3 car garage at the time, and check out this particular bass when it was finished.  


He loved it and decided to buy it.  It was official, he had become my first genuine bass dealer.  I do remember having quite a bit of difficulty when I realized that he was actually going to take the bass with him.  What the heck?  But it was too late to change my mind and I definitely needed the income to keep things going.

Over the next several years my relationship with Adrian evolved and deepened as we worked out specs for quite a few instruments for his shop and for him personally.  I grew to both enjoy and fear our conversations as Adrian's enthusiasm for working out even the tiniest details seemed at the time to be a bit overblown and unnecessary to me.  But it was hard to be upset with someone whose wide eyed curiosity and enthusiasm about all things bass was so deep and infectious.  He just flat out LOVED basses and he loved the process of having one made, hoping it would realize the latest vision he had in his head, ears, and heart.

This was the way of things for several years.  

I can't remember the exact timeline at the moment, but there was a point in late 2006, I believe, where one of our bass conversations had an added component to it that was deeply upsetting.  Adrian let me know that he had contracted stage 4 colon cancer.  

I hadn't been exposed to cancer very often at that point in my life so I didn't really realize the serious nature of the diagnosis.  I was also probably a bit naively optimistic that he could beat it.

He started treatment right away.  We still had many conversations about custom basses and he had orders that we were filling.  Things seemed fairly normal from my end except for occasional indications of fatigue and sadness on his part.

Sometime in the fall of 2007 I came up with an idea for something I wanted do for Adrian that would really show my appreciation and love for my friend.  I drove to Vegas so I could let him know in person what I planned to do.

We decided to go out for sushi shortly after I arrived.  We went to his favorite place and got 2 seats at the bar.  Somewhere in the midst of the meal I pitched my idea:  I would build Adrian a bass.  Anything he wanted.  No cost - no limit.  Let your mind run wild.  

There was a catch though.  If (I still naively believed there was a strong possibility he could beat it) or when he lost his battle with cancer the bass would be auctioned off to raise money for a charity of his choosing.  

As you can imagine, many tears were shed at this moment.  And it was one of the most special moments of my life, never to be forgotten.  

Our conversations about the specs for this new bass took on quite a special cast as we both realized the magnitude of our undertaking.  He was more excited about this bass than he had been for any that had come before.  

And I have to say there was definitely a bit of extra care and humility as we went about gluing up the body and cutting the neck and installing the blocks and binding.  The whole process felt, well - important - in a way that I had not experienced before.

At some point before the end of the build Adrian let me know he wanted a bible verse etched into the back of the head stock.  The verse he chose was just perfect - 

"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity."  (Love)
1 Corinthians 13:13


The bass was finished in time for NAMM 2008.  Adrian drove down and came to the show, but he was not feeing well and only managed a couple hours before he had to leave and get some rest.  I presented the bass to him at the show and he lovingly accepted it and sat down to play it and get to know it a bit.  But then he had to head home.  He was just not feeling well at all.

We kept the bass in the booth for the length of the show and told the story behind it as often as we could.  The week after the show I drove the bass up to Vegas and officially handed it over.  I even hung around to see him play it in a Vegas show.  

When it was time for me to head home we hugged and said goodbye.

I think we talked on the phone a handful of times after that.  He was always deeply appreciative of what we had done together.  

I remember the last time I called up after he had made a turn for the worse.  He wasn't able to talk on the phone, let alone talk much at all, but I was told that he had tears in his eyes when they told him it was me on the phone.  

He passed a few days after that.  

The funeral was scheduled a few days later, June9, 2008.  I was deeply conflicted about going, still in disbelief that he has lost the battle for real.  At the last minute I decided to make the drive.  That was a very challenging day.

After the ceremony, his friends presented me with the bass we had made, and I was invited to dinner at Red Robin with family and friends.  Then I drove home.

And I put the bass away.  For a long time.  Too long of a time.  Guilt started to eat away at me, but I just couldn't follow through with the auction.

I had my reasons.  Lots of them.

The loss of Adrian hit me really hard.  I believe I fell into a pretty deep depression.  That depression didn't do much to help my marriage at the time.  

Then the economy crashed.  It didn't take long for financial stresses to pile onto an already fragile situation and break my marriage for good.  My wife moved out and I was left with a lot of empty space and a house missing its family.  

I did the best I could, but those were dark days.  Eventually I decided to let the house go back to the bank.  Like so many others in those heady days of the real estate boom we had gotten caught in the insanity.  But at least I had my business to keep me going.

That wasn't the end of the heavy financial stuff for me, but I won't go into details here.  Suffice it to say, losing the house, my wife, and my ideas about who I was and what life was supposed to be like really kicked my ass.

And there was zero room for me to even begin to deal with auctioning off a bass that represented one of the hardest losses I've yet experienced.  I just was not emotionally capable of following through at the time.

It's still hard.  But I believe the time has come.  

I have had the bass around for a while.  It's even come out of it's case on a regular basis.  I've used it to test new pickups, and we put our own preamp in it a while ago, replacing the original Audere that was in it when Adrian had it.

It currently sports our new Big Blade pickups and our 2 band preamp.  And it's going to stay with a  really good friend for a while.  That friend is Andy Irvine and he's going to help me share this story.  He's starting an online community he's calling The Daily Funk Club.  He's going to use the bass for demo videos and he's going to mention this story often.  

So now we can really do this thing justice.  And we can raise as much awareness for this auction as possible.  So that when we go through with the auction later this year we will raise as much money as we can for Adrian's chosen charity.  With Charity the bass.  

That charity is St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.  Adrian was deeply affected by the kids he'd meet when he'd go in for treatments.  The unfairness of being stricken with a terminal disease at such a young age troubled him deeply.  And he wanted to help them.  

I consider it an honor to have had this experience with Adrian.  If I could, I'd trade all of it to have him still here with us.  But that's not how this went.  

Please, if you're not able to bid on the bass when the auction happens, at least drop a couple bucks over at St. Judes.  And accept my deepest gratitude.   

Otherwise, stay tuned.  The auction will be announced as we figure out the best way to make it happen, and after the bass spends a good stretch of time with my friend Andy and we spread the word as far and wide as we can.

Thanks for reading,
Carey

One Door Closes, Another Door Opens

"One door closes, and another door opens." Sounds like a common cliche, doesn't it? It's something someone would quickly say to help you feel better then walk away and forget. Something i would have once written off as a simply saying without much substance or merit. Things happen for a reason and one door closes, another one opens. Cancer happens for a reason. Hmmm...OK, I know this now. It happened to make me a better man. It improved me. I am a better man, and I can get better yet.

I now have purpose in my life Real purpose. Not purpose to drive a better car. Not purpose to buy a more expensive instrument. I am quite content with what I have. I have a Purpose to make a difference, To let people know that therer is hope. Purpose to take time out to help someone in need. To live right, to love, to forgive.

To do good things. And all good things come from above.

So let God's love and His blessings rain down upon you. And begin to live life with purpose. Begin loving, begin blessing, and be blessed.

- Adrian Garcia, 2006

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

No More Bass Orders :-(

Effective immediately I am no longer taking orders for basses.  I apologize to those potential customers out there that were hoping to place an order soon, but my time has become so impacted with staying on top of the pickup company and developing new products that it's just not feasible for me to keep taking orders.  At the rate I'm building now I have enough orders for another year and I have no desire at all to make that even longer.

I will still build instruments and make them available for sale upon completion but it will be at a very slow pace.  And with the little time I have in the woodshop I intend to see what kind of crazy instruments emerge.  Hopefully covering a bass in copper foil is just the beginning of a whole new creative streak for me.



This was a very hard decision to make, but something had to give and this is it.  To all of my bass customers over the last 12 plus years THANK YOU!!  Your support and enthusiasm has meant the world to me.

Onward and upward!!

Best Regards,
Carey


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Lakland. Again.

EDIT!!!

Ok everyone!

Regarding the Lakland P5 pickup issue - John at Lakland assured me that they are still selling through old stock and will not make those pickups any more. He also mentioned that they intend to order NP5 pickups from us for that model bass in the future. This is what we talked about at NAMM almost 2 years ago.

I have to publicly apologize to John and Lakland for not checking with him first about this situation. I simply assumed that they had decided to continue making their own pickups because of the amount of time that has passed. Not fair on my part and again I do humbly apologize for not checking with them first.

I hope all my supporters that expressed outrage in that (now deleted) thread will take a step back and let go of any outrage or ill will towards Lakland. We are moving past this with the best possible arrangement.

Thanks,
Carey





A couple years ago this happened - Interesting Lakland

I spoke with John at the NAMM show that year (2014) and thought we had come to an understanding that I was not ok with this and that they were going to do something about it.

Well...

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/5564SB

Also, there are many instances on Talkbass as well, easy to find now.

It's interesting that you can't really see the pickup clearly in the product photo on their website.  Wonder why?

Looks to me like they are still going at it with that pickup.  (sigh...)

Here's my question - if you saw someone playing this bass in the wild, whose pickup would you think was in that bass?

It's looking like the legal options need to be revisited.  But of course, I do not have large cash reserves if it gets into litigation...

So, I'm putting this out there again to see where it goes.

I can say I'm not happy about this.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Some Post 2015 NAMM Thoughts

Sitting here on the Tuesday morning after the show I'm and still feeling NAMM lag.  Even after 12 years of doing the show I'm still amazed at the physical toll it takes.  I even got in shape for several weeks before it this year to prepare.  It helped a lot, but I'm still really needing the Monday and Tuesday that we traditionally take off to recover.  Whew.

We did things a bit different this year and stepped up to a 20' booth.  We had a fine selection of instruments from our OEM customers and friends and I think it was a big success.  I'd like to thank Roger Sadowsky, Michael and Daniel Tobias, Mike Lull, Spector, Tino Tedesco, Laurus and Federico Malaman, Warwick and Framus, Ibanez, Sheldon Dingwall, Frank Pasquale, Luke Sheridan, Mozina Guitars, Tim Cloonan (Callowhill), Aquilina Basses, Oscar Prat, and Darryl Anders.  I am truly humbled to have had such a stellar lineup of instruments on hand, all with our pickups and preamps in them.  Amazing.



I'm also really excited about the new CND pickups in several new Ibanez basses that are coming on line.  I was truly humbled at how many instruments in the Ibanez booth had my N logo on them.  I counted 16!  Absolutely incredible!

And the response we got to the Nordstrand Audio products was better than I could have hoped.  The preamp pedal was very well received, but the response to the cabinets was amazing.  The typical reaction was a few notes and a big smile.  Followed by a reluctance to stop playing.  I couldn't have asked for more.  A big highlight was having Bobby Vega play his Shark bass thought my rig.  It was like a sonic bass bath.  Inspiring!



A few notes about the Nordstrand Audio thing.  The products we had at the show were prototypes and were there to gauge player reaction.  Given the incredibly encouraging response I am going to move forward with the next step and begin the process of starting up the product line and making Nordstrand Audio official.  There are many ducks to line up to make it happen, but things are VERY promising.  Given the proper lining up of the aforementioned ducks, I expect to have pedals available for purchase in 3-4 months, cabinets in 4-6 months, and with any luck, at least a 700 watt amp in 6-8 months.  Pricing will be announced as it can be determined with some degree of accuracy.  A website is also in the works.



Another cool thing that is happening is our discovery of how awesome Alnico III is for bass pickups. It's stellar for Tele pickups, as the response to our NVT A3 set has shown.  Premier Guitar magazine reviewed them and gave them a Premier Gear award and the reviewer even purchased the review set.  Michael Thompson loves them and went so far as to say the neck pickup is "about the best I've ever heard".



After all that I thought why not try some bass pickups with the A3?  So we started with a NP5 that I put in my personal vP5 bass and I was blown away.  Warmer and more organic than A5, the A3 offers an inspiring alternative flavor that I'm really enjoying.

Here's a recording of how the NP5 A3 works in a mix:  NP5 A3 Demo

We quickly made NJ5 and NJ4 sets and the love affair continued.  Then I put an A3 set of Big Singles in my personal NJ5 and they are just fantastic.  At this time, we have plans to put the A3 magnets in just about every pickup we make.  The overwhelmingly positive response to the A3 at NAMM really helped me decide on that commitment.

Oh, there's one more thing.  The new on board preamps will be available in late February.  These are a surface mount epoxied version of our current hand made through hole design.  Having these made for us will increase the reliability, make them smaller allowing more installation options, and most importantly lower the price.



All in all, it was an amazing NAMM show.  Undoubtedly the best I've had in my 12 years of doing this.




Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Three Fold Way to Freedom

Five and a half years ago my life as I knew it exploded.  Tensions that had been present in my marriage finally reached a point where something snapped and it was over.  My wife left.

At the time I couldn't understand why.  I was crushed and felt like there had to be something I could do to fix it and make it better.  It took me several weeks to move to a place of acceptance.  Several surreal, confusing, and painful weeks.

Even when I found acceptance there was a feeling of rebellion and resistance in it.  Kind of like "ok fine, you really want it to be over then I'll stop trying to fix it.  Let's see how you like THAT!"

Didn't matter.  My wife had grown tired of my controlling and judgmental nature and was done.  Now, looking back after all this time, I totally get it.  As a matter of fact, there are things that happened in my marriage - things that I did, judgmental nasty things - that now cause me great grief and elicit quite a bit of pain and regret.

The things is, I didn't know at the time how much of a monster I was.

How could I not have known?

Conditioning.  Adaptive survival conditioning that happened when I was very, very young.  Unconscious somatically embodied conditioning.

How do I know that?  I found a way out and became conscious of it.

How did that happen?  Well that's a bit of a long story.  It started with a bit of luck and a desperate attempt to end the pain resulting from the end of my marriage.  I went searching for a therapist.  I had decided that I could fix myself and not only end my own pain, but I could become what I needed to be to make others (like my wife) happy and love me again.

I did an online search for a therapist in Yucaipa/Redlands.  I ended up on Psychology Today magazine's referral page.  There was one man in Yucaipa (I lived there at the time) that looked great.  I called and left a message.  I also found a man in Redlands named Michael Sieck.  He got back to me first and we set up an appointment.  This was the beginning of a journey of awakening that I had no idea was even possible at the time and am still to this day quite amazed with.  (And it never ends.)

What I found in Michael was not only an incredible Western therapist that was able to help me intellectually understand my "issues", but a deep, non judgmental, spiritual, and witnessing presence that allowed me to finally, over the course of several years, let down and find some awareness of my conditioned "self".

My progress was aided by my participating in a retreat group that met every 3 months.  This was a "process" group that involved an instructional component at the beginning and then group work for the remainder.  Every participant got about an hour to bring up their "stuff" and then work through it in the group.

As profoundly effective as the personal therapy with Mike was, the group work was absolutely transformative.  I'm not going to get too deeply into the details here, but there was one weekend in particular that revealed to me how subconscious the need to be loved (exalted really, from the perspective of the very narcissistic adaptive self) had twisted my way of being into a nervous performance designed to "be" what I perceived the other wanted and needed.  I really had no idea of the degree to which it affected me until my anxiety was pointed out to me and I was invited to believe that I didn't have to "be" anything other than myself.  Or that I was ok and loved even if I revealed horrible and shameful things that I had done.

Essentially, I didn't "need" to be anything other than my true self.  I suppose this could sound really weird and quite possibly not make any sense.

But if it does make sense to you on some level then I invite you to start your own journey of self discovery.  I invite you to learn about a Way and a place and some amazing people that can help you find awareness of those unconscious ways of being that bring pain and frustration and impede your dreams and desires.  I invite you to begin a process of discovery of your true underlying self.  I invite you to find that self and allow it to come forth into the world.

You can start here - www.threefoldway.com.  This is the brand new website for the Three Fold Way, which is the system that I so luckily stumbled into when I found Michael Sieck in my moment of panic and pain.  I have very involved in putting this site together and am even interviewed in one of the videos on the "personal growth" page.  I am honored to be a part of it and share it with you now.

Please feel free to ask me any questions you might have about all this.  I'll do the best I can to help and provide answers, if I have them, given my available time.

I plan to have more writings about my journey of self discovery soon.  In particular I'm currently taking singing lessons and am learning a LOT about how my self emerges or is constrained in the voice.  My personal path is deeply related and intertwined with music and I think there is much that may be of value to many of my musical friends.  So much to share.

Thanks for your time.






Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Rather Interesting Lakland Bass

We had a bass come in for a pickup replacement and some other work today.  It's quite interesting to say the least.


Here it is.  A Lakland.  Cool!  It has our NP5 pickup in it!  Wait a sec.  Then why does the owner want us to change out the pickup?

Well we opened it up and discovered that it's not our pickup.  It's a copy. 


And not an exact copy.  It has Neodymium bars on the bottom and shorter pole pieces.  Apparently the owner is not happy with the sound of this pickup.  

Lakland used to buy NP5's from us.  They stopped a couple years ago.  Now I know why.  

I looked for this bass on their website and couldn't find it.  There was a confusing post on Talkbass a while ago too.  But nothing that was that conclusive.  When this bass showed up my suspicions proved well founded.

I'm conflicted about this.  On the one hand I'm quite flattered that they like the basic design enough to copy it.  On the other I think it could be very confusing for the bass playing public to see and hear a bass like this and assume that it's our pickup and then have a wrongful impression about what we make.

Not sure what to do here, other than this blog post.  Maybe I'll look into legal options.