Tuesday, 28 November 2017

House Concert

Dan Bryk – House Concert – Nov 2017

Bryk’s return to “performance” after seven years of child rearing “sabbatical.” Nearly all new songs, warts and all. Utterly unprofessional recording grabbed from FB Live but don’t worry, the camera gets adjusted upwards once the set starts. You’ve probably never heard songs quite like these.

I opened a house concert for my old friend and tourmate Michael Holt. This is the warts and all document, sneetched from Facebook Live. Super rough around the edges and straight from the heart. All new songs except for the opener and closer, this is “what I’ve been up to”, sort of.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

songwriter questions file icon

Songwriting Questions… from a decade ago.

So I found this 2008 Word .doc on an external dump drive while hunting for a scan of an old, never-finished song. The file is dated May 17, 2008. I have no memory of which writer or publication even asked these questions–no hint in the file either–but never mind. I have a feeling this probably never even made it off my desktop.

In hindsight, I certainly take back my natterings about Lou Reed, though. The callousness of youth and all that. (R.I.P. Lou, may you find the rest you were denied here.) And I’ve certainly made my peace with I-IV-II-V, so long as there’s a solid supporting argument for it.

SONGWRITER QUESTIONS FOR DAN BRYK

What comes first; lyrics or melodies?

It depends. Melodies, if I’m sitting at the piano “trying to write a song.”  Words generally come any time a pen and notepad aren’t handy: falling asleep… driving in the car… in a meeting at work… post-coitus or worse, during. Awkward!

Are there any times in particular more fertile to the process? A couple of artists have told me that long solo drives tend to be particularly fertile….

I used to write a lot while driving, but I burned out the compact flash card in my old-school Olympus portacorder and I’ve been too lazy to hunt down a 16MB CF card. I’m really not good at writing while driving. I guess I could just buy a new note recorder (which might even have Mac OS X-friendly USB), but it was one of the first things I bought after moving to the Triangle (yaay Capital Pawn) and besides it’s the principle of the thing. We accept enough planned obsolescence as it is.

Influences – crib from them, or try to ignore them?

Wherever possible. Pop songwriting is a magpie’s art. I remember Nick Lowe saying something to the effect of “good artists borrow, great artists steal.” Or maybe it was “I steal, but I steal from the best.”  Hopefully the overall effect is more like Rauschenberg than say, Puff Daddy looping 8 bars of “Every Breath You Take” over and over and calling it your own.

First song you ever wrote – title? Theme?

“Please Please Please Lord.”  I believe it had something to do with asking God for a girlfriend. This was even before I got sent to the principal’s office for playing the White Album on the art room cassette player. It’s hard to believe that even in 1982 Pentacostals still had a problem with that “bigger than Jesus” bit. It was someone’s birthday.

Influential songwriters (3-5) – what about them in particular?

Randy Newman – American Genius. No one skates between pop song and art with such finesse.

Aimee Mann – huge influence on my album “Lovers Leap”. She hasn’t done shit for me lately, but “I’m With Stupid” is still my Nevermind.

Leslie “Sam” Phillips – one of the smartest, deepest thinkers ever to wield a sharp pop hook. I’ve been a fan for 20 years, even when she was still considered a “Contemporary Christian” artist, and her last three albums are her best. She is so underrated, especially in indie music circles, it’s just stupid.

R.D. Burman – the late Bollywood composer. I have been devouring everything I can find of his since I bought a box set on a trip to India three years ago. An incredibly versatile composer, syncretic in the extreme, he mixes up Indian classical music and ragas and bollywood pop with all kinds of western sounds in brilliantly idiosyncratic arrangements—I hear everything from Bacharach to John Barry to ABBA in his music, but it’s still unmistakably his, and he wrote for all the great playback singers. Young Indian composers refer to him as L.O.R.D. for a reason.

Elliptical narratives, opaque imagery, or specificity?

Whatever works.  I’m not very good with descriptive detail, but I’ve been working on that. Some people find my lyrics hyper-specific, but those people probably hate Douglas Coupland too. I’ve tried to cut back on name-dropping consumer products when it’s clear they’re not going to underwrite my work. No-one told me about that Taco Bell “Feed the Band” contest, and that hurt.

Do you write for an album, or is each song an island?

I try and write good songs and hopefully I write enough of them to fill an album every year or two. I consider myself lazy if I can’t write 10 good songs a year, but then again inspiration’s for the lazy. Pretty soon I’m going to have to give up using immigration as an excuse for not finishing up my records. I’m fortunate in that Pop Psychology sort of has a grand theme, but it’s failure. People will only put up with one or two albums about failure in a row. Ask Mark Eitzel.

When do you know if you’re in a rut?

Dust on the piano.

Is it easier to take a personal event and tweak it to make more universal, or to take something completely fabricated and personalize it?

Dude, that’s a ten-point essay question! Unfortunately I, uh, tend to write from actual life experiences. I always sucked at creative writing in school, I was more into The New Journalism. Also I find unhappy or tense situations to provide more compelling narrative than when things are going smoothly. And I never tweak to make shit more universal. Put them all together = I still have a day job.

Artists from other writing mediums impress/affect? Poets, novelists, Raymond Carver?

Love me some Copywriters: Mary Wells, Bill Bernbach, Edward Graham, Ron Rosenfeld, Phyllis Robinson, Shirley Polykoff, David Ogilvy, (mmmm) George Lois. They made art out of the art of suggestion. Probably explains a lot.

What’s the longest you’ve ever tinkered with a song?

17 years. It’s called “Lowering The Standards” and it’s been almost done for maybe 5 years now. I just need to get the lyrics right in the bridge… it’ll be worth it, I swear.

What’s one thing that will turn you off instantly to a song on the radio (or the computer-ish equivalent)?

A I-IV-II-V chorus.  It’s like the “hit” algorithm. Every lame-ass pop punk song, every formulaic song the Matrix shits out… my ex-girlfriend referred to that chord progression as the “money chords.”

Also, auto-tuned lead vocals. Well, maybe I’ll make an exception for movie soundtracks when the actor is supposed to be singing. I’d rather hear Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman sing “Come What May” with a little help from Melodyne than some ringers with perfect pitch.

Dylan or Lennon?

Costello. It’s like the best of both worlds, without all that irritating myth and hagiography.

Lennon or McCartney?

There’s no point in choosing, no choice really. Their genius… it’s so ubiquitous you just have to accept it and try to work around it. It’s like picking between air and water.  It’s like… Falkner or Brion?

Lou Reed or Tom Waits?

I am so fucking sick of Lou Reed coasting on his laurels.  New York was his last good album (not counting ‘Drella, but that was half Cale anyhow) and I was in Grade 11 when that came out. GRADE 11.  Tom Waits still writes great songs, cuts great albums, plays great shows. Plus, Tom never shilled for Honda.

Stipe or Malkmus?

Pollard.

All Wikidding aside

How, exactly, does one solicit Wikipedians to update one’s Wikipedia entry? Is there a dark web where one leaves offerings of Chocodiles and Samwell Tarly fanfic in exchange for accuracy, if not flattery?

I hesitate to edit myself lest my neutrality or hell, notability be called into question. However, friends and complete strangers think I still live in Dar Es Salaam.

Let’s see… I’ve been back in the states since 2014, living in Durham NC for almost a year now. I’m doing very well under the circumstances. I will have some new music out there sooner than you’d expect and later than you think.

You’re welcome!

Monday, 28 March 2016

The Definite Article

Played pianorgan on this sweet little King Radio song not long before my dad passed away. Not a song about grammar.

Definite Article

King Radio: The Definite Article Frank Padellaro: guitar and lead vocal, Paul Pelis: drums, Rob Cook: bass, Lee Flier: lead guitar, Dan Bryk: organ and piano, Brandi Ediss: backing vocal and vocal arrangements, Diana Chadwell Brown: backing vocal, Matt Brown: backing vocal, Bob Fenster: backing vocal, Lee Wiggins: tambourine.

Monday, 14 March 2016

An open letter to Bernie Sanders.

Dear Bernie Sanders:
 
I love you, man. I love what you represent. I admire your directness and dissatisfaction with the status quo. I respect you for financing your campaign without superpac/soft/dark money.
 
However, six or seven straight days of begging fundraising emails is enough. If you have something new and interesting to say, let me know. But please don’t fill my inbox with one-paragraph, content-free, bullshit “updates” — likely composed by some mid-level apparatchik but signed with your name — followed by three fundraising paragraphs.
 
That, dear friend I’ve never met, is called American politics as usual.
 
It pains me to remind you that we, the people — your supporters — are NOT an ATM to be withdrawn from at will. I imagine the demands of campaigning can make even the best-intentioned candidate forget this. But I will assure you a weekly fundraising email will deplete my political spending budget quite nicely, thank you.
 
Now go on and win it all you crazy diamond!
 
Love,
Dan Bryk

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Pop Up Chorus sings She’s An Angel

I almost forgot about taking part in Durham’s delightfully eclectic Pop Up Chorus a few years back, gleefully conducted by my old peep (and Pop Psychology hornsmith) Seamus Kenney. I never actually make it on camera (look for my striped blue short sleeve shirt from behind) but you can definitely hear me in there. It was a great time, but the next morning I got a brutal kidney stone. Damn you, salty delicious barbecue.

PopUp Chorus sings “She’s An Angel” by They Might Be Giants

“She’s An Angel” by They Might Be Giants, recorded on Monday, April 28, 2014, at Motorco in Durham, North Carolina. PopUp Chorus is held on Monday nights at Motorco in Durham, NC, and is brought to you by Community Chorus Project, founded by Lauren Bromley Hodge.

 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

My First Petition!

Now that I am officially part-American, I have finally created my first petition. Could I get a witness? I require 150 signatures for my petition to show up on the White House website:

Investigate Gov. Rick Snyder for gross negligence in the poisoning of the people of Flint, Michigan. | We the People: Your Voice in Our Government

Governor Rick Snyder’s actions have caused irrepairable harm to the families of Flint, Michigan. Gov. Snyder needs to be indicted for criminal negligence in the matter of the poisoning of the city water of Flint, Michigan, and if found responsible he needs to be charged.

So please, sign and share! It only seems fair.

#arrestgovsnyder

 

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Tough year.

It’s the end of the year and I realized I haven’t accomplished much beyond still being alive. I guess that’s pretty good, actually. It’s also the first year since my teens where I didn’t finish writing one single solitary song. Still reeling from what’s definitely my worst year ever, for a variety of reasons probably best shared over alcoholic (well, caffeinated for me) beverages.

Still, I have much to be thankful for.

Thanks to my rag-tag band of friends for a very convincing job of listening to what must have been tediously evolving tales of the same woe is me. Thank you O makers of Steve Jobs and You’re The Worst. Thank you Apple for finally increasing the iTunes Match limit to 100,000 tracks. Thank you DC cab driver who actually drove back uptown from Georgetown to return the iPhone I absent-mindedly left in your cab. Thank you Canada for voting out Harper and his band of cynical cronies. Thank you again and again President Obama for your Affordable Care Act — more specifically, the Mental Health Parity part. Thank you Judge George H. King of Los Angeles district court for your ruling in Rupa Marya v. Warner/Chappell Music. Thanks to my extended family for your love and concern and support. Thank you bendamustine and rituximab. And thanks to my amazing wife and kid for keeping things real, and at times even really great.

And a Happy Chrismahanukwanzakah to you.

Db

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Eulogy for my father Wally J. Bryk

Dad Florida Bedroom

My Dad was a straight talker. One of his favourite sayings was “Bullshit Baffles Brains.” If he were here today he would have said “keep it short and sweet” so I hope to speak as honestly and briefly as I can.

My Dad also loved to lean in and sort of point to himself and say “What You See Is What You Get” which was and wasn’t true. And he knew that. He was a simple man in that he had his work, he had his family, he had his faith, and he had his friends — but those four things all overlapped in amazing, complicated ways.

My dad was not a big preacher, I don’t think I ever heard him speak from the pulpit of this church beyond the occasional parish announcement. He was a man of understated faith, but faith that he held deeply. You never met a gentile who knew more or cared more about the holocaust. Every year or two he’d say “Get me this or that book” and it was about a survivor of Birkenau or Treblinka — my father honestly couldn’t wrap his head around human beings doing such evil to others and it fascinated him. Even before Fr. Maximillian Kolbe – the Polish Franciscan priest for whom this facility was founded — had been sainted by Rome, my Dad had sainted him in his heart. Not a lot of things made my dad cry, but talking about Fr. Kolbe stepping out of the safety of a Gestapo line up and volunteering his life in place of a man who cried out “My wife, my family!” — it was the most Christ-like thing imaginable, and it moved my dad deeply because he would have given his life for us too.

My dad was a street guy. At the age when I was in high school whining about not fitting in and not having friends, he had already dropped out. His father Benny worked hard, brutal work on the killing floor at Canada Packers, but my father decided at some point he wasn’t ever going to have a boss. (At least, not until he married my mother.)  He shined shoes, he sold fruit from a truck, he watched and listened and taught himself how to get by. He drove deliveries up and down the east coast. He knew the side routes and two-lanes and kept taking them even when the interstates were there. He has probably been to more useless places than anyone here.

He was a voracious reader despite his lack of formal education – business biographies, books about the war, all sorts of histories of Poland and Canada, and every day you would see all three Toronto papers strewn across his desk. He might ask me “What does this word mean?” but not very often. He wasn’t impressed by how many letters you had after your name. When he was invited on a trade tour to Cuba in the 80’s he came back ranting about the “idiot intellectuals” who acted like everything was fine and everyone was happy. They wanted to keep him in front of the whiteboard at the resort, looking at “facts” and figures and abstractions. Dad wanted to meet the packers, the drivers, the growers. After that eye-opener and especially after a later visit to communist Poland, he had little time for utopian academics. Dad would say shit like “Ph.D piled higher and deeper” and I imagine what he thought about me going to university for english and fine art, not business or medicine or law though he never said a word. But I’ll tell you, I never saw a prouder man the day I wore my cap and gown.

He worked so hard to build this church and cultural center. My father helped establish this parish in temporary space at Holy Name of Mary School, and I can still smell the incense as an altar boy in that first Christmas pageant there, and dad beaming with pride as I sang with the choir. He and his friends busted their dupas to transform that gymnasium into the beautiful church and facility that stands around us today. As the plans and ambitions of the founders expanded, I remember him politely telling Father Bak that we didn’t need such a big temple. I’m not sure he could foresee the size of his faith community, or even the cultural community from where he stood 30 years ago, but my god he was ever proud to have been a part of giving it a place and a home. When I was going through his things looking for memories to share today, I realized he had saved every membership card, every “Kolbe 100 Fundraiser” pledge pin. He didn’t boast about it — well, maybe after a shot of spiritus with his buddies — but he was so proud to give the suburban Poles a grounding place like the St. Stan’s or St. Casimir’s of his childhood.

Dad grew up in a different Toronto, where the Poles were treated as second class citizens by the waspy old guard, but that bigotry seldom manifested itself in how he treated others. He worked hard and built up from a single truck to a thriving business honestly and ethically, not to impress anyone or show off, but as if to prove he already deserved their respect. And he treated everyone as if they deserved HIS time and respect… at least until they proved themselves unworthy. The greatest compliment Dad would bestow upon you is that you were “solid.” I won’t share some of the words that meant you weren’t solid.

It didn’t matter if you were the head chef or the dishwasher, the boss or the truck driver, Wally would shake your hand and ask what you did, how you were, how was your family. He was a true people person and he loved to shoot the breeze with anyone. Last night I swear half the visitors came up to me and said “I just had lunch with your father last month” – he was always “alright, when are we going to go to lunch?” I might have been the musician in the family, by my father worked that telephone like a musical instrument. My father could start a conversation with anyone, any time, any culture, hell any language. He would find the shared interest, he saw the good in everyone.

And if, god forbid, you did fall short of being a good person in my dad’s eyes… you’d get the Wally Eye. Some of you know it. My brother and I knew it well, growing up, and it was a disapproval that you didn’t want. With not much more than that funny look, he would warn us about our friends and business partners. And most of the time he was right. But privately, he was as tough on himself as anyone else.

For all my dad’s business savvy, he could be a real soft touch. If someone came to him with a story of injustice, a streak of bad luck they could turn around with a little help — in my case maybe a totalled car — he was there with an open pocketbook, a billy club, the name and number of a guy who could help, or even just an open mind, a handshake and some solid advice. When he said he wouldn’t let you down, he meant it.

His relationship with my mother could be tempestuous, a ten dollar word he probably wouldn’t care for, but at the heart of their relationship was a deep-seated love that transcended all the things they could throw at each other. Sometimes literally. My parents both grew up in stormy marriages, but they were of the first era where you could walk away and start over without a lot of judgment — an option their parents never had — but they stuck it out, partly because of their faith, but mostly because they loved and needed each other, and because my brother and I were always their first priority, and they believed that a family needed to stay together. They helped each other through good times and bad, and their strengths generally complimented each others weaknesses.

It’s a testament to my dad’s strength that he was one of the most high-functioning raging alcoholics I have ever known. He could be gregarious and generous after a few beers, the life of the party, and that was part of the joyous spirit we all love to remember. I believe that he inherited his affliction, and though that disease tried to twist itself around his and our lives over the years, in the last two decades, with a lot of pushing from my mom and help from his friends, he fought it fairly successfully, and took much better care of both himself and his family. I’m sad that my Henry didn’t see more of my dad in his youthful glory, but I am heartened that the last two nights, everyone keeps telling me all he could talk about was his grandson – apparently all the time.

My cousins and friends and I are different kind of men than our fathers. We talk to our wives about our and their feelings, we change diapers, we clean and vacuum our homes (though our wives would probably say less frequently than we think we do) and most of all, we are always communicating with our children. Being involved in their education and play. Make sure they understand what we expect of them, and making sure their concerns are heard. Being there for them. A lot.

My Dad, not so much. It was hard to talk to him, slightly easier after a few drinks. He provided, he worked hard, he let us know when we were out of line, he bailed us out of trouble, he protected us. He could drive a Lincoln town car 24 hours down the I-75 straight on to Florida with a pack of Salem Lights, a 2-inch crack in the driver’s side window, and a backseat full of noisy kids. And if there was a problem on the interstate, he knew those state roads backwards and forwards from the cab of his truck.

Back in the roaring eighties, when my dad was at the height of his business success, he owned racehorses with one of his customers, and also I believe with his life-long friends Gordy and my godfather Rocky. He wasn’t much of a gambler — he preferred to cut deals — but I know he really enjoyed himself and mostly he loved the community, he loved talking with all the guys at the track. His favourite horse was named “Amazing Dan” and when that horse won (and sadly, was claimed) he brought home the photo finish and gave it to me, beaming with pride. He also lost a shit-load of money in that world, and later he would tell me “son, horse racing is the sport of kings… and your father… he is not a king!”

And I just want to finish by saying no dad, you were a king. You were an inspiration to anyone who knew you well, and a good man to those who knew you a little. I can only pray you knew how much I loved and admired you, and how much all of us here will miss you.

 

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Pop Psychology

So I started making calls to a few labels and publicists this week, wanting to get feedback on the new record.

I guess I’m beginning to realize that after all this time I may have lost the ability to externalize the constant rejection that comes with selling one’s own wares in (what’s left of) the music industry. I used to be able to shut out all the NOs while fixating on the handful of YESes. Now it just seems as everyone’s telling me what I already suspected was the case: we’re barely keeping our heads above water… kid, you’re on your own.

I went to a Billboard/Adweek “Music and Advertising: Bands and Brands” conference last week, and I left more than a little dispirited, as if I’d finally been cornered by the fact that NO ONE seems to be making a living from selling sound recordings. Now the consensus was that music artists were going to have to latch ourselves onto brands to make an income from music.  Seriously, if I heard “TV is the new radio” one more time, I was going to puke blood.

I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with syncing my music to advertising (I’ve written music for commercials and even sang a Labatt’s beer jingle), it’s just that it’s YET another small group of gatekeepers filtering out entire classes of music based on aesthetic choices that might have nothing to do with music itself. When I make a record, I’m making a record. I grew up listening to albums, and that’s how my mind works. Arts for art’s sake, money for god’s sake. Not all the music I make is meant to accompany a marketing message.

I guess I should also internally debate the whole “Should artists give away their music for free?” hand-wringing-devaluation-of-music argument here, but I’ll spare you the drama. I’m just kind of a funny mood today, I’m so tired of having to justify my place in this world of music, and I honestly just want to get this record OUT THERE for the hundred or so of you who still care.

Therefore, Pop Psychology is free for a limited time (payments also gladly accepted, thanks to Bandcamp)

http://downloads.bryk.com/album/pop-psychology

I suspect if you’re already here, you just might find it to be my strongest attempt at making “pop” music, though lyrically it’s a little bitter in places.

It sounds even better up here on the West Side, amidst the clamor of construction, the whirr-click of Yellow Cab receipt printers, and the whizzing-by of bratty kids with iPod shuffles clipped to their scooters (hell, even Elliott barks at them, but he barks at little old ladies in wheelchairs too, and BOY is that awkward.)

Thanks for all your love and support. I’m here all year, tell your friends.

Db