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.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Apple Music: Why does it got to be so damn tough?

First, the search engine is awful. For example, I woke up singing Eddy Grant’s “I Don’t Wanna Dance” and thought “Gee, I’d like to hear that. And I wouldn’t mind playing Henry Electric Avenue or Give Me Hope Johanna either.”
So I searched for “Eddy Grant” and started off with this page of gobbledygook:
Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 8.23.53 AM
5% of which appear to be “original artist” albums (none of which resemble the original album covers), followed by 45% cheap-looking soundalike records (sure, the Caribbean and especially Jamaica are famous for their scale of bootlegging, but doesn’t famously fastidious and litigious Apple have ANY quality control over their content? If not, at least over ranking?)  The remainder appear to be single tracks on multiple-artist compilations, yet interspersed between those are Eddy Grant or Equals (his original group) releases of potential interest. Trust me, it goes on for another page.
 
The best part, though, is noting Anal C*nt‘s “Everyone Should Be Killed” smack dab in the middle of the ranking. Turns out AC has a song called “Eddy Grant” (which loosely resembles “Electric Avenue” yet is nowhere near as funny as “I’m Not Allowed to Like AC anymore since they signed to Earache” or “Song Titles Are F**king Stupid.”) Apple’s search engine isn’t even sophisticated enough to exclude it from my ALBUM search.
 
So while I am sure ICE (Grant’s original label) and Sony (North American licensee) are probably more to blame for Apple Music’s lack of decent releases than Apple is, it does lead one to question — couldn’t Apple have at least one person on staff to browse through the notable artists and make sure they have at least one legitimate, half-decent catalogue best-of? And if not, present the label(s) with a laundry list. If Apple Music is being sold as a best-of-class product, it needs quality catalogue.
I already feel guilty enough for likely reducing the short-term income streams of the artists I like (though I still reflexively buy/download records by the ones I LOVE — it certainly helps when I know they are their own label or work with fair, equitable partners) so why add all this UX friction to the mix?
And could Apple PLEASE poach a few people from Google Search to improve their search engine? (There’s no excuse for how weak iOS App search is, either.)

Friday, 22 May 2015

Darkest Sketch, Darkest Sketch

Hey Kids, Look at This! It’s already May, and it’s time for 2015’s first exciting post: “Nothing’s cool, nothing matters.”  Now go and buy that Bugger The Toast album you read about on all those cool blogs. You know the kind.

Also, could someone please write a plug-in that will suck all the “content” from my FB feed (stream? field and stream?) and stick it on my WP? You’re welcome. I’m going back to bed now. This has been an intolerably old-feeling year. Hey… You… get off of my lawn.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Dan Bryk on MuchMusic Rapidfax [Video]

Aaah, the spoils of youth. Classic photobombing by Danny Michel.

Dan Bryk on MuchMusic Rapidfax

Dan Bryk announces his tortured engagement to Scratchie Records with Rebecca Rankin of MuchMusic’s Rapidfax News Aug 7, 1997. Interview taped before a gig at The Horseshoe Tavern with band Kurt Swinghammer, Maury Lafoy (The Supers) and Paul Brennan (Odds, Big Sugar). Watch for videobombs by a can-indie legend/Lovers Leap guest star…

 

Monday, 31 March 2014

Whatever Happened to Dan Bryk?

2014, year of the Twerk. Oh, the Horse. The damn “new record(s)” is/are taking forever, but yet I keep stealing time for them from my busy busy actually-income-streaming life. You’ll like them, I swear. One of the catchier numbers was unveiled in Radio Free Song Club’s episode #30, of which I am understandably honoured to interlope.

Number 30 | Radio Free Song Club

TO PLAY THE SHOW: Click the arrow. Click in the text box to move forward or back in the show. Adjust the volume with the bars on the left.

I moved to Washington DC (“our nation’s capital!”) at the end of last year. I miss Dar but it’s also nice having my studio back again. I took a Coursera Songwriting MOOC with professor Pat Pattison of Berklee. While finding time for hours of lectures, writing and demoing whilst full-timing a three-year-old was tricky, I learned a ton of valuable stuff, even at my advanced age. The peer assessment feedback was priceless. Assuming you’re curious, here’s my final assignment:

 

Now that I am practically soaking with UAD mix horsepower, I  decided to dust off and finish up a couple more unreleased, abandoned, practically decontextualized recordings for the Lovers Leap bonus record — one you’ve heard if you basically EVER saw me play a show from 2000 on. The other one you’ve never heard of, I promise, but if you spent time in Parkdale in the early oughts you shall chuckle heartily. And the other other one was the flip of the ultimately non-existent Nova Bryk split 7″. (Those guys are so incredibly post-rock now, they were like “yes, take the rock from us Bryk, it’s yours now.”)

Also, I hereby promise never to Twerk.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Some old sh*t.

Came across this dead link while searching for Lovers Leap Deluxxxe reissue media. That beats Tiny Desk Concerts by a decade! Sadly, the actual files of the performances are probably long since deleted. 

Spin | Features | Spin Live

Spin Magazine: The Online Authority for Music and News

 

I keep coming across stuff that makes me wish I was still half as clever as I was in my 20’s. This is from an interview with Tokyo’s Kansai Scene:

Q: If some stupid rock critic asked you to list your influences, what would you say?

A: Late nights, loud music, and air conditioning. Rock critics always think my influences are Randy Newman and Jonathan Richman, when it fact it’s more like Walter Benjamin and Hoffman-LaRoche.

Q: What’s next for Dan Bryk?

A: Sleep, followed by strong mochaccino, some light exercise, a morning spent at the piano, and perhaps a late afternoon at the bookstore browsing Billboard and The Baffler. I will drive home, prepare a delicious meatless dinner entree, and then feel guilty about procrastinating all day.

But seriously kids, don’t squander your precious, precious youth! When you have a job and kids of your own, you will read statements like that one and feel incredibly envious of your younger self to the point of hatred. And then you will just feel stupid.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Zazzle, Scion and… Karen Finley?

And next up is Zazzle, who use a similar technology to Cafépress for multi-coloured print jobs, but at least don’t charge CP’s monthly or annual fees for the privilege of multiple style items in one shop, or widgety flash panels like this:

Neat, eh? And <*cough*> all for sale as of now!

But the best part of Zazzle is where you can pick “models” to indicate how the artwork fits the cut of the shirt, and how the shirt might fit different people, which resulted in this bit of digital magic…

mygrannysleptwithdanbryk

…which then reminded me of that Karen Finley song “Tales of Taboo” and its’ immortal lyric: “She’s a real nice granny/and I never touch her snatch/’cause she’s my granny!”

But I wasn’t sure I remembered the exact lyrics to that (and my “The Truth is Hard To Swallow” vinyl is sitting in my parents basement back in Mississauga) so I fired up google with the search phrase karen finley “she’s my granny” lyrics. And this is what I came across:

scion_karenfinley


WTF? I know she’s just a piece of random collateral in their campaign to sell Scions, but this is some of the text of the MOG-ged up track:

She dreams.  She dreams of strangling baby birds.  Bluebird, wrens and robins.  And with her thumbs she pushes back on their small feathered necks, pushes back against their beaks till they snap like breaking twigs.

She dreams.  She dreams of being locked in a cage and singing loudly and off-key with her loved ones standing behind her, whispering very loudly, “She has an ugly voice, doesn’t she?  She has an ugly voice.”  Oh, leave it to the loved ones always to interfere with our dreams.

Like when my father finally told me he loved me after forty years, then went into the bathroom, locked the door, put up pictures of children from the Sears catalogue, arranged mirrors, black stockings and garters to look at as he masturbated, as he hanged himself from the shower stall.  It’s that ultimate erection.  It’s that ultimate orgasm.  Whatever turns you on, girl.  Whatever, whatever turns you on.


I love this monologue, but it really doesn’t strike me as an ideal or even compatible marketing message to sell Scions with. (Erin used to joke that I should offer Fingers to the Toronto Conservatory of Music for an ad campaign.)  I can’t help but wonder what Ms. Finley would think about this juxtaposition.

The new corporate-sponsored music model once again makes for strange bedfellows.