Portland, Oregon

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*this is a journal entry after our show in portland in 2001.

7/25/01

Wednesday. Portland. The gig, an old theater, is next to a park where the homeless hang. I saw this dude brush his teeth in the water fountain. I’m not sure he was homeless, just mad. He had this funny look on his face, as if he was wondering what everyone was doing in his bathroom. It was a strange vibe there. A few people were meditating, some were reading books, this one guy was strumming a beat up flaminco guitar with his shirt off.

I went inside and took in the venue, checking out the stage, the seating arraingments, the backstage facilities, the shitters, the showers, the whole burrito fandango.

Catering was downstairs, I had lunch next to Rod, Matt Shafer, Derek. Euros were the fare (however you spell them) so I had a tuna salad. I didn’t feel like lamb in Portland.

I took a walk after lunch. I was looking for a book store, but not in any particular direction. I just wanted something to do. I walked past the main downtown streets and found some out of the way shops. One was a clothing store, vintage and new stuff, I went in for a second, and feeling out of place, split quickly. Another shop was this mini book store that sold racy books and I’m-too-cool-for-you stuff. Everything was so indie in there I was tripping, laughing and thinking how much the guy could possibly hate our band. How rabbits f*$k, devil books, witch craft, pictures of dead or decomposing bodies, ya know, traffic accident victims, stuff like that. So I peer in and see this guy behind the counter who couldn’t care less if he sold a thing all day long. He’d rather finish that book on migrating fire ants. And all the books looked like crap anyway, dusty and not cared for. It’s just the fact that they’re bizarre that you’re supposed to buy them. All I wanted was Golf Digest. I tried to contain my hypothetical mind, laughing at the paradox I would be if I went inside. I don’t remember specifically what I was wearing, a surf shirt, shorts, Adidas shoes, hair slicked back, something like that- and I picture myself opening the door, bell jingling from a string. He looks up through greasy hair and thick glasses, ponders for a moment how he’s going to answer- sarcasm, hostility, pity, disgust, they all cross his entombed mind, but he just finds one, “Up the street,” he waves with his right hand, “Pike Book Store,” and our moment is over.

But alas, I never went inside. He knew all I wanted was the Tiger Woods tutorial on the full shoulder turn.

I did, however, get to Pike Book store all by my self, and found a copy of Golf Digest. (I also grabbed Golf magazine) The people there happily took my money and I was off.

When I got back I was a wee bit late for a meet and greet, which I promptly sat down for and started signing, shaking hands, smiling. It was easy for me to smile now, I had golf magazines under my butt.

Finished that and got a message that Julies cousins had a problem with the list, so I remedied that and went backstage to commence my gig preperation.

Did said gig, meet Julies family, signed some stuff, and had them meet Mark, which they were happy to do. Mark was extremely cordial, signing their stuff and giving hugs and ‘Prom’ style pictures for all.

Split for the bus. There was a small crowd on the other side of the street who called me over for autographs. I signed their stuff, and hit the bus for aftershow dinner. Chowed that down, and took a runner to the hotel with Craig. Slep and Craig were in the middle of an argument. Slep was pissed that Craig wasn’t coming out to sign autographs. Slep was contending that they’re the reason you’re here and have a house and a nice car. Slep was getting in his face and animated like he can do. It was very convincing.

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How To Submit Your Demo (Music) To A Record Label

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How To Submit Music To A Record Label

Since I have been working with Suspended Sunrise Recordings, I’ve been getting emails from people who want me to sign a particular band or artist they know of to our record label. Various people submit (bands themselves, friends, parents, family dentists) because they think they know of a band that has ‘what it takes’ to be successful.

But before we can even address if the band is amazing or horrible, we first need to address how you submit it. Because from my limited experience, there are good ways and bad ways.

First, the BAD:

Don’t write a long email. Keep it simple, short and to the point. Record labels love a band who knows exactly who they are and where they want to go with quiet confidence. Too many emails feel like they’re trying to hard. Don’t do that. This is not an opportunity to amazing people with your fancy writing. It starts and ends with great MUSIC. Let the music talk.

Never let your music be hard to find. If I have to go more than (2) two clicks to get to your music, then you have failed. Maybe somebody has enough time in their day to click through long winding emails and links in the hopes that we will find the next Lumineers, Lady Antebellum, Imagine Dragons, or Green Day, but the reality is that we probably don’t, so it would just be smart of you to put your music ONE CLICK AWAY.

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Do not talk about response you have been getting from family and  friends. How would I know how to judge their listening abilities? I wouldn’t. So avoid it altogether.

Do not try to tell a record label that you would be a good ‘match’ for them.  Essentially you are asking for a loan of cash and a significant time commitment from many individuals who you consider to have experience in the music business who could help you get to where you want to go. Beyond the investments in recording, producing, mixing, mastering, promotion & marketing for you are the salaries for the people who will be ‘working’ your record, your release. All that money is included as well… so who is to say you are a good match? If no one in your family wants to take out a second (or third) mortgage on their home to float you 10-50k then why should we?

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Don’t tell us about anything that isn’t finished yet. This is not very bright. And I say that with love. Does it sound harsh? C’mon people, why would you tell us in an email about a song or website or download that is about to happen. Keep focused on the stuff you have now. No excuses if you have a new song in the pipeline that sounds ‘like a hit’ but you haven’t uploaded yet. We want to hear it now, not later. We are trying to discover you. Help us help you.

Do not write emails IN ALL CAPS. Not sure why some submissions come this way. It just makes you seem like every word is being screamed at the top of your lungs with your shirt off and you just got thrown out of your favorite bar at 2:00am. Avoid it.

Now the GOOD:

Be different than everybody else. Just stand out. If you are asking us to invest all our time, energy and money into you, is that what you’re doing too? Have you gone all the way? And I’m not talking about being fancy spending money. I’m talking about being clever and using your brain to be different from everyone else. That’s free. If you are so dedicated to making music your career choice, standing out in a clever way couldn’t hurt you. (I’ll give an example- back in the horse and carriage days before my band got a record deal, we delivered IN PERSON to record labels a finished VHS tape [which was yellow with our sticker on it- different] INSIDE A PIZZA BOX. Get it, delivered? We were delivering our music in a unique way. If our music sucked, no, it wouldn’t have helped, but at the very least it gave us a chance to put a smile on people’s faces and really pay attention to who we were amongst all the piles of bland CDs that bands of our time were submitting. In short, it made us different and it gave the impression that we cared. Do the same.

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Include links. We like links. Even if your email has too many words, we can still see those links and we know we are very close to the music. We can then decide to skip your story and get to the point.

Call it your Music. ‘Demo’ is an old word and not used that much anymore because technology has made it where you can record great sounding albums and EPs on your laptop. To me what a demo really means is that you’ve recorded a bunch of ideas that aren’t really finished yet. What record label wants to hear that? Unless you’re an unbelievable superstar yet to be discovered, I think it would be smarter to wait until your realized vision is put down on your Garageband, or whatever you record on, then send THAT and call it your MUSIC.

Offer us something. Imagine what it would be like to read emails all day long about people telling you how great they are, and how they want something from you. It begins to feel less like discovering talent than people trying to withdraw cash from your company. A few emails have been different, and they offered us something, that is to say, they didn’t just tell us about them, them, them, them, them, as if we were blowing it because they were the next U2. Those few emails were well thought-out, and although they may not have resulted in a signing, we will remember and appreciate them more than the others, which isn’t a bad place to be.

The perfect submission: A short & to the point email, explaining where the band is from, what style they are and why they’re submitting to this particular label at this particular time. The email then points us in the direction of an online download hyperlink of an album or a song, for free, and it’s one click away. Two is fine. The music is recorded well, and the art (or photos) attached in .pdf form matches what they have mentioned in the email and looks professionally done, as if they spent time and energy making decisions to get their entire essence to be represented correctly.

If you’re a young band hoping to get the attention of a record label, hopefully these tips will help you in your cause.

Good luck.

I’ll be waiting at murphy@suspendedsunrise.com

Greatest What?

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In 2005 we put out a ‘greatest hits’ or ‘best of.’ There is some good stuff about that record and some bad stuff about that record.

Which first?

How about the good. Since our records were so all over the place musically, it gave us on opportunity to make one solid record that flowed… from mellow tunes… gently and gradually to the heavier stuff.

So that was cool.

But that was about it.

Now for the bad. The bad thing was that we put out that steaming pile ‘o crap version of a very good Cindy Lauper song ‘Time After Time.’ if you like our version, then I apologize to you for pissing on something you like. But to me, I hate it. I usually tell my kids ‘Hate’ is a bad word to use, but it works perfeclty here. That version is horrible because at the time, there was talk of getting a ‘single’ out of it, which is so funny in retrospect, because the only thing that does (thinking you want to record it like a ‘hit’) is put the brakes on. To use a sports reference, you go into ‘prevent D’ mode. You don’t act like yourself anymore, and you sell out who you are. We did that on that track and I regret it. We also were bending to whatever production David brought to the table at that moment, which was another component to us attempting to get a catchy song in play. Big, regrettable mistake. I love Dave and respect all he has done for us and everything he brought to the table so many time. But disliked his direction on that song very much.

And then it’s just a bit cheesy to be releasing a ‘greatest hits’ so early in our time. To me, growing up, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles put out greatest hits records. Not us.

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Putting out that record at that time also gave us one release closer to being out of our deal with Atlantic.

All that said, I offered to write the text piece that accompanied the CD, so that it came from the band.

Here is the final version:

Our first practice was 17 years ago, in a beach rental at 46th Street in Newport Beach, California. Mark, Rod, Stan, and I bashed out a few covers in a back room. I never knew Mark—he came to the first practice, longhaired and dressed head-to-toe in Adidas. He looked like a jock but a cool jock. I knew Stan and Rod from their band and because I was in a band at a rival high school. When our bands broke up, Stan called and asked if I wanted to meet down at the beach to jam. It sounded like fun, so I did. Rod, Stan, and I had all been in bands, so we kinda knew about each other. Mark had only carried their instruments, but he wanted to sing. The first song we played was The Cult’s “Wildflower.” There were some other covers, but it was a pretty quick session. I don’t think we could have dreamed how far that first jam would take us.

We called ourselves The Shrinky Dinx, and we played covers. We let everyone pick the songs they wanted to learn, which is a cool trait we still have: Everybody has a fair say. I think that’s what’s kept us together for so many years. I consider it an honor to have worked with the guys in this band, and I’m positive the ideas I’ve brought to the table have been turned into something better thanks to their contributions. Without them, I’d still be a guy in my room, playing guitar riffs, hoping to see them to fruition.

Our first gig was a kegger on 31st Street. The blue house and the backyard we terrorized are still there, just as they were 17 years ago. We were so nervous. But we sounded great for a backyard party band. We knew that the biggest problem most party bands have is that the sound dissipates outside, so we countered by bringing loud equipment. People weren’t ready for that, because most party bands just show up, plug in, and play. But at our gigs, even in the beginning, we’d orchestrate this huge plan to attack and conquer. We’d just go nuts. Rod would solo on Mark’s shoulders, Stan would bash his drums a la Keith Moon, his favorite drummer of all time, singing perfect harmony and throwing in jokes between songs that would have the crowd cracking up. I liked to keep the bass-playing simple—that way Rod could go off on a tangent and the rhythm would always be there.

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Mark developed in those early gigs too. He’d make fun of people in the crowd, like a comic at a club, and create and incite tension, a trait I think he picked up from John Lydon. It was always good theater. He’d berate skinheads, climb from the rafters, do David Lee Roth jump kicks—anything to leave people with a memory and a smile. He played those shows like there was no tomorrow. He also had this high, killer, screaming, rock ’n’ roll voice that cut through the guitar and bass and cymbals to stick its neck out and be noticed. He’d go for it, totally. No in-between. I always admired that. All or nothing.

After a few years of playing covers, we started writing songs. They were brainless, heavy-riff songs with titles like “Don’t Go To School,” “Lick Me,” “Three Piece And A Biscuit,” and “Golddigger,” but they rocked. (We still play them today in pre-productions for tours when we want to have a little fun.) And through a series of heavenly-sent lucky breaks, we got a record deal with Atlantic, signing our contract at Me And Ed’s Pizza House in Newport Beach.

Our first album, Lemonade And Brownies, was a fun record to make, because we had no idea what we were doing. We were like four kids in a candy store. We brought in Leor “DJ Lethal” Dimant (House Of Pain, Limp Bizkit) to scratch for us, then we found a full-time DJ band member in Craig. When we met Craig, it was like the band was reborn. Even though our recording career had just begun, it was like starting over. Which was an amazing gift. Without Craig, we simply wouldn’t be where we are today. The best thing was that he shared our same twisted and insane sense of humor.

We moved into a house in L.A. and toured Europe for two years straight. Our first official European gig was in front of 15,000 people at the Pukkelpop Festival in Belgium. “Hold Your Eyes” had charted there (of all songs and places), and the crowd screamed when they announced our name.

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But when “Fly” came out, our lives completely changed. I remember hearing it on KROQ in between Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and an Oasis song, and I ran out and got in my car and drove around the block and listened to it and screamed at the top of my lungs. Can you imagine! Hearing a song you made up with your friends, on your hometown station? That was unbelievable. And for people to respond to our other songs on 14:59 was just an extra bonus. “Someday,” “Every Morning,” and “Falls Apart” got us back on radio when it looked like we might be a one-hit wonder. To us, we were just happy to make another record. If your song resonates with people, it’s a gift, but it’s nothing you can predict.

Growing up under sunny skies doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be happy, but for us it came through in our music. We just wanted people to have a good time. To this day, we’ve been blessed by other songs, other opportunities. We continue to travel and play for people all over the world, and our lives have grown infinitely because of that. From the first notes of that 1988 jam session to our first gig as a signed band on tour to the songs we’re recording at this very moment for this release, it’s all about the music and the people who listen.

To you all: Thanks for listening, and God bless.

—Murphy Karges

 

A Few Days in May

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I always like to see what I’ve written in my journals on the same day in the past. But I couldn’t find anything from today, May 7th, from a quick glance…. I did find a May 13. Here’s a few days I spent in New York thinking about Jeff Buckley/weather in FL/Carson Daly world premiering “When It’s Over” on TRL at MTV and our manager falling in his soup in LA.

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LA to NY. I’m getting so used to that plane ride. I just read a single magazine the whole time. Skipped the choice of steak, chicken or salmon. Just read. I read about Marco Polo and his families travels all through Europe, through the middle east, into Asia, and wondered how the fuck his name ever got thrown into a swimming pool.

The hotel we’re staying at is the CHAMBERS. It’s kinda a fluff puff hotel. But they do have a DVD player – ha. Pop in Jeff Buckley live and holy crap, I notice that he played that concert exactly six years ago to the day. The Metro in Chicago, a place we played, too. I think we played there around that time, but I’m not positive. Anyway I’m enjoying it. And I’m watching it at about the exact hour he probably went on six years ago- 8:30pm Chicago time.

Big fat lines of black and white strike my face from my TV. TV sells you everything. Products, entertainment, the thinning of your wallet from afar, lots of things.

MONDAY 5-14-01 Monday evening, 6:56 pm. Writing with my feet up on the small art deco coffee table, staring out my window toward the sky that creeps between skyscrapers. My window is cracked and the sounds of the traffic fill my room. This loft/room is so different than our usual stay here. It’s more artsy fartsy, but it wears well. Truth be told, it’s good to worry about what kind of four star hotel you’re staying in. When you take that too seriously, it’s time to worry.

TUESDAY 5-15-01 In the van, going to the airport. It’s 4:20 pm on Tuesday May 15th. Today we went to TRL (Total Request Live) and Carson played ‘When it’s Over’ as a world debut. I was in the control room and they cut to me introducing it and putting it in the VCR and pushing play. I’m a great actor. I’ve had so much experience. I jumped into the photo booth and took a roll with Craig and Slep, then did a solo sequence. had my OBEY shirt on. Met the lead singer of FUEL. Then we went to VH1 and plowed through lunch. They’d brought Virgil’s Texas BBQ over and three pizzas. I had a bit of everything. I hope Bowie is OK. I hope Julie is happy. Haven’t talked to her since this afternoon.

The roads in New York, if you can call them that, are bumpy as shit. Right now I’m staring at the NY skyline. The sun is behind some streaking clouds and the buildings are all blacked out. It looks like a photograph you buy on Broadway at a tourist trap. I’m getting it for free. Now we’re heading down into a tunnel. Everybody is burnt from either getting up too early or talking and smiling and laughing for too many interviews. Happiness can be tiring. Or is it really happiness? Why would it be tiring? I’m curious. Maybe it’s something else. A front? A face you put on. Perhaps. Perhaps not. Possibly it’s that everybody is burnt for different reasons.

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(this was in Florida but a few years earlier shooting the SOMEDAY video)

I can’t wait for the weather in Florida. That’s where we’re headed right now. Miami. I’m just not a clothes guy, dressing up and wearing all kinds of shit, I’m happier in shorts and flip flops. I just feel comfortable dressed down like that. New York is a fun place for the right amount of time. Too long, and it’ll chew you up and spit you out. Just too many dirty black sidewalks and angry people to go around. A dent in your personal karmic amour.

That ‘Extra Special Something’

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The old way you knew a band was good was they played live and killed onstage and drew a huge crowd and there was a buzz in the city about their live shows.

Nowadays it seems like this is less so. It seems, at least in my looking at bands for the last two years, that bands record more, play live less, and get better in videos online.

But that doesn’t help their live shows.

At some point, you’ve got to go out and be amazing onstage, and learn what it takes to do that, whether you are a band that is mellow or comes out doing backflips and breathing fire.

In addition to being great live, it seems like bands have always needed these essentials to make it:

You need to be great live
You need to have amazing songs
You need to have a unique or cool image
You need to have a desire to be successful

All of those things will get you a local following and create a buzz, but there is one final, massive determining factor in whether or not you will stay in that pizza job or if you will be selling out 3,000 seat venues in the next 5 years:

That ‘extra something special.’

That’s what it was called for as long as I can remember. No one could explain it to me, they would just say its something that makes you stand out and be different from all the rest. In a good way.

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In fact, I remember when I was a little a kid, my dad had a hippie musician friend who had a band. He was totally into it. Really good guy, and really dedicated. I remember their band name, The Call Ball Band. I remember the logo. This was 1978! I remember they made demos in a real studio (something that was VERY expensive back then) His only problem was that to me, he just wasn’t as special as all the albums my parents had in their collection. That was his competition. James Taylor, The Doobie Brothers, Carole King, Elton John, Traffic, The Allman Brothers. And as a kid, that was who I was judging him against because that’s all I had every heard. So to me, this guy was not even close to them. He felt like a gas station attendant compared to those bands.

But I remember feeling bad as a kid because he was the most dedicated guy EVER and I just knew he wasn’t going to make it. Not on that level anyway. Perhaps he would keep on playing and could up make it as a professional session guy. Or maybe he would be a ‘club’ guy, which is someone who could play small clubs forever, never getting rich, but playing music forever nonetheless. Maybe he could find a way to be a side guitarist on a big tour and then taste the big time that way… But in terms of HIM being on the same playing field as Greg Allman, James Taylor, or Michael McDonald…

Not a chance.

Those are world class talents that come around once in a long time. And they have that extra special something. When they walk into a room, it lights up. Maybe their shine does have a lot to do with their songs being so good. That could be true. But the reality is that they have it. Maybe without his songs, Michael McDonald could be mistaken for a night manager at Burger King. But he wrote them. So maybe part of that extra special something is the deep rooted desire he had to make it and his unending work ethic for his craft until he found like minded musicians to help him record his hit songs. Perhaps.

But it would be hard to say that Call Ball, the hippie friend my Dad had in the 70s, DIDNT MAKE IT in some way. He can hold his head up high and look back on a life of pursing his dreams with dignity.

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Look, its easy to open a YouTube account and put your music online. Get a video camera. BAM. You put it online and get some hits. But its easy to hide that way. You need the real reactions where people ARE ACTUALLY SITTING IN FRONT OF YOU.

It would be like a comic putting jokes online. Maybe they would work. But a comic needs to feel that interaction, that immediate crowd approval or disapproval. They keep hitting the stage, honing their craft, working it to learn it, get it down, and become great.

Same for musicians.

So get your ass on a stage and sweat. I don’t care what kind: club, coffee shop, American Idol audition, bar or a street corner, and play some music to real human beings.

It will always be the greatest way to find out if you’ve got that extra special something.