Thursday, July 15, 2010

McCartney story

A guy named David Elkins went through the trouble of making a wikipedia page about me. It's very cool and he was very thorough in his research. He even put in something about me meeting Paul McCartney in high school. This bit of trivia was even displayed on the main wikipedia page yesterday.

On the wikipedia page this McCartney story is boiled down to about 2 lines. I figured this would be a good time to elaborate.

During my senior year of high school, 1998, my school music teacher, Lou Mannarino, got us tickets to see Paul McCartney perform on the Oprah Winfrey show. This was a huge thrill for us. We were all Beatles fans, and that spring we were putting on a Curtis High School symphony concert at Lincoln Center where the finale was to be "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End" from Abbey Road.

The Oprah show started and Sir Paul performed one of his latest songs live with help from himelf on accompanying video screens. On one screen he was playing bass, and on the other, drums while he played guitar and sang live. It was pretty freakin' cool. There was also the interview where he discussed the new album, and a bunch of other stuff. On the first commercial break, the screeners came through the audience to screen the questions audience members were going to ask Paul on the air. When they came to our row, we said that we wanted to ask Paul to play with us at Lincoln Center. The screener said something like, "absolutely not."

We were a little dissapointed, but that wasn't going to stop us. On the next commercial break me, and a girl whose name I can't remember right now, stood up and screamed in Unison, "Paul, will you play with us at our high school symphony concert at Lincoln Center?" He gave us this very playful shrug and replied with an enthusiastic, "Sure!" We went fucking nuts.

Now understand something, we just put the biggest rock star in the world on the spot, and he was cool as a cucumber. Although we got a verbal confirmation, some of us were still skeptical as to whether or not Paul actually intended to show up. He couldn't exactly say No in a room full of die hard fans. After the show, a reporter from the Daily News came up to us and said something like, "I saw the whole thing! I'm writing an article about this concert!" Now we were really going nuts. Not only did Paul McCartney agree to play with us, but there would be recorded proof in the Daily News confirming it.

The next few weeks were crazy. The news stations came down to our school. On my sister's wedding day, I had to do a tv interview before the ceremony! It was a frenzy. This was a very exciting time for all of us, but unfortunately there is a downside to this story.

Sadly, Paul's wife Linda passed away a few months later, and understandably, he was unable to perform at our concert. The show did go on, but without Paul. Instead, some of the students sang Paul's parts. I was lucky enough to be one of those students. I got to sing Golden Slumbers at Lincoln Center. It was really cool.

I remember we were really tight-lipped about what Beatles songs we were doing. It was a big secret. I convinced my uncle to come to the concert, and I remember begging my grandparents to come. It was a really difficult task to get Marion and Phil Castellano to close the music store and leave Brooklyn for evening, but after relentless begging on my part, they agreed to come. So when we went into Golden Slumbers, one of my fondest memories was looking out at my family and seeing their faces light up as they realized what songs we were about to play. My grandmother passed away a few years after that, and I'm so grateful to have that happy memory of her in that moment.

So there's my whole Paul McCartney story. I got to have a very short conversation with my hero, but I never got to play with him. Maybe one day......

Monday, July 5, 2010


Happy Independence Day!  We just played a ribfest in Illinois.  It was a good show.  Half our gear didn't make it on the plane with us, but luckily we had enough to get the job done.
I think we've come to a point where air travel is completely screwed.  So far we've had to deal with delayed flights, canceled flights, excessive charges, and missing luggage on many, many occasions.  It's like they're in the business of bad business.  I know everyone who has to travel for a living complains about air travel, but this summer is the worst yet.  The just screw with people, and lie to cover their tracks.  It's like they all go to training seminars on how to lie and the semantics of wording things to avoid liability.
Even though the travel is rough, it is nice to be playing.  BOC is a great bunch of guys and even when stranded in an airport, we can make each other laugh.  One plus to spending a lot of time on planes is that you get to devote a nice chunk of time to reading/iPod.  I've been catching up on Lost.  I just got to season 4.  While it's no Battlestar Galactica, it certainly is entertaining and it gets you hooked pretty quickly.  I especially enjoy the dialogue of the character Sawyer. That's some really funny stuff. 
I've also been reading more comics lately. There's a really great comic shop near me called Comic Book Jones.  I really like the atmosphere there and the people who work there are great.  Anyway, I'm really into DC stuff, especially Batman.  I'm currently reading the Return of Bruce Wayne, which is just awesome.  I can't wait for the next issue.  As cool as the Batman movies are, they never seem to nail the Bruce Wayne character like the comics.  Hopefully, we'll get to see more of Bruce Wayne, the Tactical Mastermind/Genius Detective in the next movie.
For a while I kept the comics thing to myself, but then I began to realize that a lot people are reading these things.  This weekend alone, I met 5 middle aged men with families and real jobs (including a physics professor) who are avid comics readers.  It's like a secret society.  We need a password and a handshake.
One thing I'm not happy about in the world of DC is this new Wonder Woman crap.  This is supposed to segue into a movie where they ignore a 70 year legacy of the most famous Super Heroine ever.  Don't they realize that people hate when they do this?  If you're wondering what the heck I'm talking about then let me backtrack.  They're giving wonder woman a new costume and a new persona.  Supposedly, this idea came from the heads of Warner Brothers in an attempt to modernize her and make her movie ready.  Sorry guys, but I think all of us want to see the classic armor and not a leather body suit.  Unbelievable.
Aside from the books,  I've also checking out some of the old Superman radio shows.  Whenever we do ground travel, I usually travel with our Tour Manager.  I downloaded these shows to pass the time.  They're actually really good.  It's total cheese, but in a good way.  The organist on these shows is awesome.  The guy is playing his ass off.  A funny thing about these radio shows is that they left the original Public Service Announcements intact.  It's amazing how different things were before everything had to be Politically Correct.  It's like no one can laugh at themselves anymore.
Back to serious stuff.  I've made some changes to my BOC gear.  I'm using ENGL stuff now.  It's really heavy.  Right now I just have the preamp but eventually, I hope to go totally ENGL.  I also picked up a really cool piece from Voodoo Lab called the Control Switcher.  It has 4 jacks that you connect to the footswitch jacks on your guitar amp.  Then you can pick any combination and save it as a preset which can be changed via the MIDI jack!  For example, my ENGL preamp has the following footswitch functions.  1) Clean/Dirty, 2) Gain Boost,  3) Mid Boost.  I plug each of these jacks into the Control Switcher which is connected Via MIDI to my TC Nova System Effects Pedal.  When I hit preset 1 on the pedal it switches my amp to Clean, with no boosts.  Preset 1 is a Chorus/Long Delay which I use for songs like "Harvest Moon" and "Shooting Shark."  So by hitting that one button on the pedal, is switches my effects and the amp.  When I hit preset 2, it switches the amp to Dirty, with no boosts.  Preset 2 is dry, but I have effects that I can add as I'm playing.  My Nova is setup so I can turn effects on and off within presets like stomp boxes.  I have a slap delay that I use for the Vigil, the Burnin' For You Flanger, and the Rudy-Medley Chorus all ready to go when I need them.  Preset 3 switches the amp to Dirty with all the boosts.  That preset also pulls up a Medium Delay.  I have other effects in that preset as well.  There's a chorus, and a C Major harmonizer there for the extremely rare occasion that I'd have to play Burnin for You by myself.
The coolest thing is that I also programmed this rig to work with rental gear.  We've been using it with the Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifiers and it works like a champ.  The only difference in the effects setup is that I add a little EQ to preset 3 to make the tone a little less buzzy which is an inherent characteristic of those amps.
Aside from all of the BOC gigs, I'm also in the middle of filming the next 2 tiger's fang movies.  I really didn't want to start filming during the BOC busy season, but a limited time opportunity to shoot in a really cool location just opened up and I had to do it while it was available.  It's just really crazy right now because I'm also in the middle of moving, so I have a lot of things going on.  We still have more stuff to shoot too.  I probably wont be able to start the post production on this one until we're settled in the new place, so in all honesty, I'd probably say I can have it out by November.  I know all the people who helped us with these movies is dying to see them, but all I can say is, be patient guys.  It'll be worth the wait.  So far it's completely awesome and is on a totally different level from the others.  The production value keeps getting better, but with that comes more work for me.  The first tiger's fang movie was a silly thing we did on a whim.  It took me a couple of hours to make.  Now they are elaborate productions that take weeks of planning, and months of post production which includes me and Steve Corn spending hours staring at a computer screen.  I have to say the biggest difference in this one is the amount of great people we have working on it.  Everyone is so charismatic about it.  When you have a bunch of people all working toward the same goal, it's amazing what you can do.
I've also mapped out the rest of the Tiger's Fang films.  To be honest, we've already shot footage for Tiger's Fang 7, 8, 9 and 10!  7 and 8 are mostly done.  We have about half of 9, and a quarter of 10.   And I plan to do a few more after 10 so stay tuned!
One final note.  As soon as BOC busy season is over, I'm looking forward to getting back to my local stuff.  Hopefully, I'll be able to do the Painter's jam more often, and I also really want to record something with MorningStarlett.