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)

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  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,

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,