Thursday, March 1, 2018

Does Facebook really want to change the world?

[I originally published this on Facebook. But of course if I just leave it there then it'll gradually fade into oblivion. So I'm putting it here on my blog as well so it can live in a non Facebook universe as well.]


If Facebook is so interested in building community and changing the world for the better why do they make it so hard for music to play a role? I’m genuinely curious about this. There’s a mechanism for sharing video why is there not a mechanism for sharing music? Also, a simple  method of supporting (sending money to) musicians you like (or artists, or whatever) could be revolutionary. (I know they already have a send money feature, but it could be made a bit more apparent in relation to supporting the creative arts.)

The thing about music that makes it an amazing force for positive social good is that it has the power to affirm. It has the power to make us feel like we are not alone and that we can have shared emotional experience with other humans who have been in the same place. Pretty much any human emotion has a kind of music that expresses and then validates our feelings. That’s powerful stuff.

We live in a world where we’re screaming at each other constantly on social media about how “you have it wrong - let me tell you how this works. I’ve got it all figured out and you know nothing (you are nothing!)” We need to start finding more validation in our lives. We need to start to find more ways to feel like we can relate to each other more deeply. 

MUSIC can do this.  (As can other art forms, but I’m speaking specifically about the unique roll of music and how it is being left to die by a shitty record industry and an apathetic social media landscape.)

Are you listening Facebook? Are you listening world? 

[If anyone wants to help tun this into a campaign to pressure FB into changing their ways please let me know. I'm in and will do what I can to spread the word.]

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Redlands Records Coming Soon

What does it mean to start a record label in this day and age? Who knows, but we're going to give it a go. There is a crazy amount of really great local talent here in Redlands and the surrounding area. I think it really needs to be bottled up and passed around to the rest of the world. So I'm making that my mission.

I have spent the last 30 years with music as something of a hobby and a part time passion. Something that I was approaching with a "maybe some day" attitude. I've learned a ton over those 30 years and my passion (maybe obsession is a better word) has lead me to build a really decent little studio. And it comes as a little bit of a shock to me that that studio actually allows me to create music with production values to rival anything on the radio. Such is the extent to which digital recording systems have evolved over the last 10 years. It's also deeply apparent to me that reasonably affordable gear has evolved to the degree that the only thing truly in the way of making great sounding music is me.

Anyway, my career making instruments and pickups has been very good to me. I've got a solid ongoing concern that has given me the freedom to investigate one of my most crazy dreams of all - that of finding some success in the music business, er, world. Calling it a business means that in a conventional sense there would be the likely possibility some income would come along.

But in the music world making any kind of income from music is correctly seen as something of a moon shot. Especially in the insane digital wild west we currently find ourselves. The fact is as soon as one digital audio file is out there in the world it can be had for free if someone is determined to find it.  The de facto alternative to piracy is a subscription to a streaming service. Which is not all that much better. Owning all the rights to a song that gets payed on Spotify usually results in a payment of about a half a sent per stream. That means unless a track is obscenely successful there is really no appreciable income from streaming.

So, how do we find a sustainable economic model for a label? I have no idea. And honestly, right now I don't care. We will figure it out. Or we won't.

There are of course other ways to generate income. Ari Herstand wrote a pretty decent book about the current music business landscape called How To Make It In The New Music Business. It describes what amounts to a convoluted morass of potential income streams. There are literally dozens of places money can potentially come from. So what kind of maniac would decide it's a good idea to dive into that mess and try to sort it out?

Me! I love puzzles. And this is as complicated and challenging a puzzle as anyone could ever have conceived.

As far as I know at this point, step one is to make killer music. We got that, in my opinion anyway. Which is all I really have to go on as a producer. That and the great feedback I get from folks that I share the music with. In any case I believe enough in this music that I'm going to invest a great deal of time and energy getting it out into the world. Which brings us to step 2.

Step 2 is getting people to listen to that killer music we made. This is where it gets hard. This is where we need to build an infrastructure that includes a website and all the social media accoutrements.

Step 3 is to continue working at step 2. We need to make videos. We need to release tracks digitally. We need to make cd's and vinyl if it seems warranted. We need to make Patreon pages or figure out how to crowd fund our projects. We need to sell swag. We need to figure out how to promote the music and get it on blogs. We need to figure out how to get reviews and publicity. We need to make sure we are aware of the multitude of financial streams and have them all dripping into our coffers.

Whew! That's a lot. And it's probably just the surface.

So, even though there's nearly no money in this pursuit currently I'm putting my time and energy into making it happen. Let's call it sweat equity. I do hope it pays off, mainly because I want as many people as possible to hear the killer tunes we're putting out there.

And actually it looks like I have a handful of people that want to help make this happen, including my amazing life partner Cyndie. Also, Sonia here in the shop is helping with her artistic design skills. And all the artists I'm working with are getting involved as well, including Edward Heppenstall (my Moba Jones partner), Julia Lenhardt, Small Spaces, and Matt Coleman.

It's truly a labor of love. We don't really know what we're doing (not sure that can really be known in this day and age), but we're going to just dive in and do it.

Bottom line, I love music and I love making music. This is what I'm going to do and I will have a lot of help. I hope lots of you like what we do and help make it a viable endeavor.

Thank you. :-)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Jumping Into The Void

This is a post I've needed to write for a while. I've been modifying my creative trajectory for the last year and it's brought up some very interesting challenges that feel both new and very old.

Let's go back a ways. I can distinctly remember when I realized how mystical musical instruments could be. I had made the transition from alto sax to bass and was trying to decide what bass would be the best for me. At some point it became clear that it was a good idea not only to find a bass that I liked, but to also find one that others found impressive. I found that I would personally get a mood lift from what my friends would say about my instrument. This quickly became addictive.

(Interesting side note - I picked alto sax as an instrument in the 4th grade because I thought it's what I "should" play. I had an uncle that was famous in the family for his sax work in high school. Famous to the point of having a recorded version of Harlem Nocturne on a vinyl record made by his high school band. I thought maybe I could be famous in my family too I guess. Maybe even beyond my family.)

Anyway, the mood lift was so addictive that not long after discovering it I reasoned that the best way to get a really serious mood lift was to actually make my own instruments. This would blow minds! And I'd be the mind blowing genius to get all the acclaim. Fame and riches would be mine!

And for a time, they were. Well, maybe not the riches part. But the fame was there. And I got very good at my art. I had to. There was an anxiety ridden child inside that desperately needed the addictive hits to his ego. It was how he had learned to find love. But it wasn't really love. It had an alarming quality of being frustratingly temporary. My realization of this quality took some time. And pain.

The cycles of needing and doing and finding "love" and being broken by the loss of it went on for many many years. Eventually the lack of my ability to find authentic nourishment caught up with me.

Please realize that this lack of authentic nourishment was self created by my own conditioning and my unawareness of that conditioning. I had no idea it was even a thing. No idea that I was needlessly jumping through hoops over and over for no reason. I'm not going to cast any blame here. It's just the way I was made. My version of reality came with conditions that I had to fulfill in order to find any chance at feeling "loved."

About 10 years ago now the process of unraveling this web began. A dear friend of mine had come down with stage 4 cancer and gone into treatment for it. I was convinced that he would beat it and everything would be ok. He didn't. He passed away in the summer of 2008. His death hit me very hard. It wasn't just the loss of a dear friend (and customer who loved my work), it was the cold hard reality that the universe could be brutally unfair. No matter how much I believed something (he would beat cancer) it didn't matter. My deep narcissistic feelings of omnipotence had been revealed to be a fraud.

I withdrew from life. I withdrew from my wife. On some level I began to rebel against the unfairness of it all. I found the temporary hits I'd get from completing a fantastic work of luthiery were losing their potency. I was struggling with self worth on an existential level. Depression became the background noise of my life.

Fortunately I found ways to keep my career from completely collapsing. I found amazing people that would work for and with me. They were able to help stabilize me and together we created something that could be likened to a realization of the classic American dream. Something that I began in my garage with narcissistic certainty of success has survived my own struggles and with the help of these gracious folks grown to a size where we support 9 workers with employment and health care and have become a widely known and respected brand in our little corner of the music industry.

But I digress from my point, which from the title at the top has something to do with a void of some sort. The concept of a void tends to be very challenging for a lot of people. Nothingness is hard to grapple with for the human mind and all it's attachments and conditionings. But it's my assertion that this void is precisely the place where authentic creative self emerges.

And lately I feel like I've jumped into it.

Let me flesh that out a bit with another journey back in time. While my gyrations around finding my version of love were largely fruitless on a deep level my profound love of music started very young and has been a consistent source of connectivity and deep relation to humanity for me. Music is what kept me profoundly grounded in a deeply optimistic belief that we are all connected and ultimately more similar than different in our desire to be seen and known and loved just as we are, flaws and all.

I resonated powerfully with the thread of painful loneliness wound through so much of Phil Collins' music. In the aftermath of my divorce the spareness of Bon Iver's first album somehow comforted and validated the emptiness I now felt in the home that my wife and I had shared - a home that was suddenly more empty than it had ever been before. And I'm still powerfully moved by Peter Gabriel's Washing of the Water. So much so that it has become something of an anthemic analogy for my life (and many others I'm sure).

The power of music, which has been comfortingly and consistently present in my life, has finally exerted it's influence on my very way of being in the world. The void I speak of jumping into is the void of being a creative soul that needs to manifest itself musically as often as possible. That creative soul is moving into a space (void) where there is no certainty of acclaim and no more hoop jumping for emotionally empty accolades. I will make music and put it forth into the world. A world where everyone is a critic and there is no guarantee of even a single positive response. This world is also one in which there is an impossibly vast ocean of music in which untold numbers of similarly moved souls are also struggling to be heard.

This space in which this music is created and offered up is that void of which I speak. To be truly free to create the music that comes from authentic self one must be free from attachment to outcome. The creation must be offered up with the full acceptance that any desired reactions may not come to pass. This requires profound and complete vulnerability. It also requires being deeply grounded. And deep grounding doesn't happen without deep self work. But that's the subject of another blog post for another time.

What I'm trying to say here is that at this time I'm leaving my "career" as a luthier behind. I have a handful of instruments to finish in order to fulfill some obligations. After that I'm not sure what will happen. I'm not looking for lamentations from folks who have appreciated and supported my work and are saddened to hear of my choice here. Please know that I deeply value your support and love and am in no way meaning to invalidate or minimize any of the kindness and appreciation I've been graced with over the years. Thank you.

But I am moving in a new direction. I am attempting what is widely considered to be an impossibility these days. I am attempting to find a career in music. It's ultimately who I am and I can no longer deny it. Sheesh, it sounds like I'm coming out. I don't mean to be so heavy, but here we are and I guess the scared part of me is really showing up at this particular moment.

Anyway, over the last year I released an album I did with my friend Edward Heppenstall called Moba Jones - Soul Fish. You can find out more at our website. Currently I'm working with Julia Lenhardt and Matt Coleman on separate projects (both absolutely fantastic) as both a producer and as a composer/musician. I have my own website to that end here. There's a lot more music to come. And honestly, the music is the easy part of this.

The hard part is getting folks to listen and pay attention. The even harder part is to find income out there in this vast Wild West of a music industry we are now faced with. But that narcissistic child still has some obsessions up his sleeve and the main one he's curious about now is how to solve this particular puzzle. His puzzle solving skills are pretty imposing and hopefully they will serve both he and I well in this endeavor.

The hardest part of all though is the vulnerability required to put ones work out in the world consistently and authentically. I really struggle with this and this is where the void tends to get pretty scary. More on that in a sec.

Coming soon I will have a Patreon page. And we are starting a "label" called Redlands Records, which has a Facebook page (please go "like" it now if you don't mind) and we'll also soon have a website. We'll be getting into making videos because these days if you're not on YouTube with videos you don't exist. I'll be looking for placement in film and tv (one of the last bastions of potential musical income - any solid connections anyone might have here would be deeply appreciated). Etc, etc.

So, while all this is and will be happening I still have to deal with some of the "very old" challenges I spoke of at the very beginning of this piece. Primary among these are the profound feelings of inadequacy that show up and stop me cold from time to time. From this place there's the perception that I don't have any musical chops to speak of. I mean I can play, but not with the technical and harmonic ability that so many of the fantastic musicians in my professional circles have. Self judgement can be paralyzing this way. I know this is a common theme for musicians and we all struggle with it regularly. For me, it's a bit new. But the fear is old and very familiar. It's part of the void. There is nothing to hold on to in this space. Any idea I might have about who I am as a player (or person) can quickly become limiting. Being in the void means being free from those ideas and attachments.

But it also means I need to study and practice. In order to have true creative freedom we must have fluency with our medium, which in this case is music. And I have vast holes in my abilities. I'm working on my harmonic theory knowledge (now with piano). I'm working on my guitar playing. I'm even working on learning to make my cello sing. Oh, and then there's singing too. I've taken voice lessons for the last 3 years and seen vast improvement in my abilities. Learning to really find authentic voice and sing without tension is much like going to therapy in my opinion. It's a deeply personal practice. But again, that's probably a subject for another blog post another time.

The Audio company is going strong - stronger than ever. And it will continue that trajectory largely due to my incredible team here in the shop. I will of course keep watch over it and develop new products as the ideas come. We have the Rocket Surgeon pedal project which is just getting started. Who knows what other cool stuff will come along? Whatever it is I'm sure it'll be fun and exciting and we will continue to contribute to our little corner of the music industry and our place in it.

As I've indicated above I'll be spending a lot of time in the studio, but I have another project in the works as well. It's a podcast called What Makes Music and in it I interview prominent musicians about where music comes from for them and those they work with. I'm deeply curious about creative sources and I'm really looking forward to exploring that with my guests. Look for more on this project on my website coming soon.

In the mean time I'd appreciate feedback about this piece. There's a part of me that's terrified of this super risky direction I'm moving in and that part would love a bit of support. Also, the whole me would be open to exploring some of the admittedly deep stuff I've gotten into here. Hit me up with any questions, comments, or complaints.


Monday, September 18, 2017

AKG BX20e Fixer Upper

AKG BX20 fun!

I happened across a used AKG BX20e on Reverb a little while ago. The price seemed reasonable and it wasn't too far away. Actually, it was in Echo Park, which is quite excellently ironic as the BX20 is an old school reverb unit from the 70's. :-)

It was being sold as is with only one of the 2 channels functioning correctly. I love a good challenge, especially in the realm of old studio gear, so I paid for it and drove out to pick it up.

Here it is all strapped in and ready to go. Must have been quite a sight going down the freeway sticking way out of my car. 

Anyway, I got it home safely and proceeded to immediately rip it apart.

This is the top of the spring assembly. Those are big ass magnets. Alnico I believe.

Above you can see the gap in the magnets, which is where the spring drive and receive coils are suspended. They are tiny!!
They are also one of the more common failure points on these units, at least according to the research I've done. 

The first several minutes were spent simply trying to wrap my head around what the heck is going on with this crazy contraption.

Here, to the left, you can see the cardboard tube that the spring assembly lives inside.

The foam discs are there to keep the springs from moving around too wildly during transport. The ones on this unit were badly degraded and would crumble away when I touched them.

The springs themselves are crazy things. They are bent and crimped into an irregular shape in order to aid in the diffusion and complexity of the reverb's character.

Here you can see how they are held suspended and actually bent in a manner that allowed AKG to put rather long springs in a relatively small space. There are 2 springs that bend twice each so the unit has 2 channels. They are also designed to each have a different reverb character.

Here's where I was starting the process of sorting out what was wrong with the unit.

Here's what the foam discs looked like after I removed them as well as I could.

We laser cut new foam discs and here you can see them installed.

This is the multi pin connector that connects the reverb tank to the amplifiers. I started looking for continuity between the spring ends and this connector just to rule out bad solder joints or wires. I was crossing my fingers that those tiny coils were all still functional. 

I guess I got lucky, it turns out there were 6 wires that were not cleanly connected to the spring termination points and had failed somewhere between the connector and the spring ends.

So I ran new wire from the connector into the reverb tank.

6 pieces in total.

2 went to the top end and 4 to the bottom end.

Continuity problem solved it was time to hook it all back up and see if it worked.

If you're curious, here's my trouble shooting drawing. Might seem crazy, but it made sense to me.

The power light turns on!!

But oops. Something was hooked up wrong. Not sure it was me or someone before me, but there was a feedback loop so one of the amps was being fed right back into itself. Not good. Burned up a couple of transistors on one of the amps. You can see them here about halfway down the right end of the amp card. 

Here's the amp circuit schematic. I've written in pencil the part numbers for the transistors that needed to be replaced. I found original OEM parts on ebay and ordered them up. 
The parts came in a couple weeks later and I got them installed, reversed the bad connection, and put it all back together. The unit fired up and now it works flawlessly. 

The best part is it sounds amazing!

One last photo. This one shows the signal path for the springs. How the engineers came up with this scheme I'll never know. But it's works wonderfully well and I'm delighted to have such a killer piece of vintage gear now living happily in the corner of my studio.

BTW, if you want a really amazing plugin version of this reverb I can't recommend the Universal Audio BX20 emulation enough. Their plugin is the main reason I ever started looking for a real BX20. I did some A/B testing and the difference is so subtle it's almost insignificant. The plugin is more flexible for sure, but there's just an undeniably serious cool factor in having one of these beasts in the corner, quickly available in my sessions as a plugin insert. Love it!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Face Back

Facebook let me back in the club yesterday about 2:30 after 9 days in the wilderness.

Here's what I learned:

- Facebook is too big to be even remotely responsive with these kinds of things. I was fortunate to have a friend that had a friend that works there. I'm certain this was resolved more quickly because of that connection. And I'm super grateful for it. Nonetheless, Facebook needs to figure out a more expeditious way of dealing with this kind of stuff.

- DO NOT SHARE COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL. EVER. It's not worth the risk. Make your own original music. Like I did. Promote your own material. Create! Share! If it doesn't catch on keep creating and keep sharing. Get better. Keep going.

- Do not allow yourself to be made an admin on any page that you are not 100% certain will be carefully run. That's what happened to me. I'm not sure if getting disabled was a glitch or what, but I don't really care. I will not be an admin on any page that allows posting of cover content. (speaking of that I need to go clean up the Best Boutique Basses page right now!)

- Appreciate Facebook for what it is to you. I had a pretty hard time being cut off from what has become a huge part of my social existence (not to mention the business aspect). I'm not going to apologize for that either. For many millions of people, this thing called Facebook has grown into something that is fundamental to a modern social existence. I'm not going to say whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, but it seems undeniably to be true. And it sure felt true to me when it was unjustly taken away from me. Just ask my fiancé. It was a rough time.

- Diversify. If you have other barely active social media accounts invest some energy and keep them going. I spent some time digging into Twitter and now have a much more active presence there (NordGuitar). If one of your accounts goes down for any reason it won't be quite such a big blow.

- For critical communications and contacts make sure you get email addresses or find some way to communicate outside of Facebook if your account gets hosed. I was about to do a podcast Skype call with a notable online bass press company right when my account went down. Because of that I was not able to communicate with the podcaster and we missed the scheduled appointment. Please realize that if you are syncing contacts with Facebook that that will all go away if your account goes down. Back up those important contacts somehow. Screenshots, anything.

That's all I got for now. Be careful with your Facebook account. Be authentic. Don't spam. Don't try to game the system to build yourself and your accounts. What goes around comes around. Karma. Et Cetera.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Plot Thickens - David vs Goliath

The plot thickens.

Wow, what a wild week it's been. Dealing with the disabled Facebook account fiasco has taken a lot of my time. As you can imagine it's kind of a big deal to lose access to the largest marketing platform in world history. Not to mention being cut off from all of my friends, who I enjoy following and miss dearly.

To summarize:

- My account was disabled on May 30th at approximately 4:45 pm.
- Repeated attempts to file appeals have been met with silence.
- As far as I know, the reason my account was disabled is that I was an admin on a page that shared an Ed Sheerhan cover video. (see below)
- The poster of the offending content has not been disabled.
- The page the offending content was posted on is still active.
- At least 10 other prominent music industry folks have had their accounts disabled as well. Including Sonia Adame (who works for me), and Sheldon Dingwall, a super well known successful bass builder.
- I have not ever posted or shared any cover song content. Ever.

So I learned tonight that Universal Music Publishing Group is likely behind what's going on here. Please check out this story here to learn about this contentious mess. In summary, UMPG is going after any and all content that is even remotely possibly covered by copyright, including even very short performance cover videos. And a lack of and licensing agreement between UMPG and Facebook is not helping the situation at all.

This seems to be the tip of a potentially huge iceberg. I'd really appreciate again if you read this, and feel so motivated, that you share it far and wide.

I am seeking legal counsel in this matter. This situation is at best wildly unfair and at worst blatantly illegal. Keep an eye on this blog for further updates as we learn more about what's going on.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Facebook Blowing it Big Time - Please Help

Well if there's one way to get me to write more blog posts it's certainly this. My FB account is currently disabled and has been so for about 36 hours. Here's what happened as far as I'm able to discern.

At 4:54 I received the following email:


Because of several prior reports that content on your Page ({lob_url}) violates someone else’s intellectual property rights, this Page has been removed.  

You can find further information about intellectual property issues in our Help Center:


The Facebook Team

This one came in right after:


Facebook has removed content, Video caricato in 29 aprile 8:39:48 PDT, "Shape of You - Walk off the Earth (Ed Sheeran Cover)" posted on your Page (, because we received a report that it violates someone else’s intellectual property rights. The content was posted by the admin Alberto Rigoni.

If repeat infringement continues, Facebook will be required to block the ability to upload videos and photos to your Page. Ultimately, we could remove the Page entirely. The admin who posted the content has also been notified separately.

You should delete all content you don’t own the rights to or don’t have permission to upload. You can find further information about intellectual property issues in our Help Center:


The Facebook Team

Then this:


We’re following up with more details regarding content that was removed from your Page ( We were required to remove that content because we received a report from Universal Music Group that the content violates their copyrights. They’ve chosen to report your content because they believe you don't have the sync rights for the musical composition from them.

We’re committed to our mission of helping people connect and share, and we’re working towards broader solutions. In the meantime, we have no choice but to remove the content in response to the report we received. If you have additional questions, you may want to contact Universal Music Group directly.


The Facebook Team

No where in any of this is any indication that my personal page has been disabled.  But it was. Repeated attempts to contact FB have been fruitless. Alberto's account remains functional. Mine and several others, including my good friends Sheldon Dingwall (and Sonia Adame who works for me),  are still disabled and no one has been able to get a peep out of FB.

It goes without saying that a functional FB account is critical to my business life, not to mention my personal life. On top of all that, I'm trying to promote an album that I've spent 2 years working on ( ;-) and without FB it gets very challenging indeed. I also have tons of communication with friends and customers where FB is the only conduit. I was even supposed to do an interview with Nick from Scott's Bass Page today. It was supposed to start 15 minutes ago but since I can't communicate with Nick the interview isn't happening.

I'm not here to lament that FB has become such a huge part of my life in so many ways. It is what it is. I really enjoy it and I feel it keeps me in touch with the world in a way that was inconceivable as few as 10 years ago.

But this current situation is extremely maddening. My account has been disabled through no fault of mine. I posted nothing offensive and am always extremely careful to stay clear of copyrighted material.

In a nutshell, I was added as an admin to a page. Someone posted something that was reported for copyright violation, that material was removed by FB. The original poster's account is still active. He tells me managed to have the complaint removed. I and several other admins on that page are STILL disabled.

Why is this situation not resolved yet? I ask you, dear reader, to help make some noise about this. Maybe we can get FB's attention and get this resolved.

Thank you.