Keep Your Kool is another strong collection of improvisational songs from the Café Royd studio. Nerves are on tap as tales of circus tragedy, primate boxing, insomnia, landlords and so much more haunt this fun set of tracks.
Three Track Sampler
Track 01 – Circus Girl (Sheep Fiends)– This is one of my overall favorite songs by the Sheep Fiends. Sometimes everyone matches the same crazed energy and something amazing comes out. A spooky ambience is laid down then sliced open by a thrilling small town tale and heaps of reckless lead guitar. [Scratch on Guitar & Backing Vocals]
Track 04 – Love Squad (Sheep Fiends)– Just another tale of your friend’s lonely Mom drinking too much and propositioning you and the unexpected consequences and moral lessons that follow. [Scratch on Vocals]
Track 12 – Orangutan (Sheep Fiends)– Supposedly a true story. That’s what a guy at the farm claims. It’s hard to believe really but there is footage of this man wrestling a bear in a boxing ring so perhaps I need to expand my expectations of what humanity is capable of. Anyway this ode to idiocy and machismo is confidently explained by Mark with me playing the role of the title character when the occasion demands. [Scratch on Guitar & Backing Vocals & Samples]
In keeping with tradition, Farm Jam 8 took place in May 2018. Farm Jam VIII is Ba presents highlights from this event. I was not in attendance for this multi-day event but do appear on a studio track also included in the collection.
The new Café Royd studio got settled and our pace of jamming picked up. All this new Sheep Fiends raw material necessitated a lot of mixing work which Brian C. and I both took on with gusto. This increased activity led to a very strong collection in Blowing Away. Three ten minute plus epics center this release; surrounded by nine earworms from another time.
Three Track Sampler
Track 03 – Close to the Opening (Sheep Fiends)– Sid makes a rare appearance at our Chicago studio to spread a bit of his wisdom. A crunchy distortion provides an invigorating and upbeat musical experience. [Scratch on Guitar]
Track 04 – You Dropped From the Sky (Sheep Fiends)– Powerful drums and distorted mandolin provides the main riff. There’s plenty of time to stretch out and at least 18 styles of guitar provide color to Paul’s lengthy yet cohesive sci-fi story. Will you step outside? [Scratch on Guitar]
After the artistic and recreational success of Sheep Fiends’ “Farm Jam” the group was eager for an encore…every single year! Aaron and Mark joined in on year two and thereafter. Matt joined the caravan in 2013. For the fourth Farm Jam I fell ill and needed to quickly get back to Illinois. Along with the first two Farm Jam sequels this disc contains top performances from several jams and an enjoyable reunion with Dave L.
There are three solo tracks this time around. “Dracon” is an experiment with speedy drums and samples. “The Oldest Living Human is Always Dying” may or may not have a point to make. “Mobile Telephone” is a beefed up version of an improv acoustic track I made in my bedroom one afternoon. It’s pretty silly. But I think that’s just fine.
Four Track Sampler
Track 02 – Dracon (MX Skroch)– Here’s a speedy high energy instrumental where I play everything. From light rock to shrieking noise in under 3 minutes? Here you go – we aim to please! [Scratch on Bass, Guitars & Drum Programming,]
Track 06 – The Oldest Living Human is Always Dying (MX Skroch)– My rock-oriented take on dub music? Something like that. A reverberating bass swims around a drum loop, as sampled vocals are fed into the synthesis machinery – coming out warped, ruined. Then the narrator arrives – and is pulled into the same maelstrom. [Scratch on Bass, Keyboard, Samples, Vocals & Drum Programming]
Track 07 – 80 Degrees (Sheep Fiends)– Keyboards dominate this humorous mix as we examine our rising thermometers. What will we do? Why do we have coats on? [Scratch on Vocals]
Track 14 – Wood 4 Sale (Sheep Fiends)– Mandolins battle with keytars as the future confronts the past. The agrarians rise against the technologists. Oh wait, this is about needing firewood. A rather progressive and rocking instrumental with my Casio guitar powering a wall of delay over the pounding drums and rumbling bass guitar. [Scratch on Casio DG-1 Synth Guitar]
This Sheep Fiends release is mostly comprised of improv material from late 2016 and early 2017, right around the time I was trying to buy a house and move an hour closer to my job. I only appear on a few tracks here, upon which my performance is rather subpar.
You know the story by now. It’s Farm Jam! For a sixth consecutive year we braved the horrors of Ohio in quest of Pennsylvania solitude. Well, solitude with access to ice cream and Budweiser. Tracks are less about the drive and farm this time around, and I in particular found myself mired in self-reflection. So that’s your warning. And yes the cicadas showed up en force…
Five Track Sampler
Track 03 – Hoosier (Sheep Fiends)– A fictionalized (mostly) account of my actual upbringing in the state of Indiana. My downhome lyrical content is uniquely accompanied by a belching bass line and a heap of drooling slide guitar; eventually joined by a particularly aggressive staccato keyboard. [Scratch on Vocals]
Track 06 – Random Words (Sheep Fiends)– You can sing about some girl, or you can sing about some place, but sometimes you want to sing about what you happen to be singing right now. A spacy dirge that explores the outlook of improvisational freedom. [Scratch on Vocals]
Track 11 – The Flyswatter (Sheep Fiends)– This little instrumental travels to so many new places. Live from the freaking garage! [Scratch on Guitar]
Track 13 – Shards of My Psyche (Sheep Fiends)– Heaving and dissonant this is some darker version of Sheep Fiends. A speedy drumbeat provides the backing for all manner of scraping and grinding. [Scratch on Vocals]
Track 15 – Knocked Over (Sheep Fiends)– Another curious bassline from the farm. A profound retelling of recent domestic monetary policy, with a jagged post-punk swagger. Where else can you source material like this? [Scratch on Guitar]
The first five farm jams events resulted in a huge collection of recordings. We realized each farm jam had a few tracks we were fond of that did not make it on the official album. So that’s the rabbit hole that led to this collection of outtakes and excerpts – Farm Out, Man!
Three Track Sampler
Track 07 – The Bloodline (Sheep Fiends)– You can see why this wasn’t a perfect addition to the standard farm jam celebration CD. Yet…it’s really…something. Slurp it! [Scratch on Sampling Keyboard & Vocals]
Track 08 – Dreaming of Dreadlocks (Sheep Fiends)– This trippy little funked up jam is so fun. From that crazy guitar break in the middle to the blistering lead guitar outro it’s hard to imagine how this didn’t make the Farm Jam 3 CDs. [Scratch on Guitar]
I was largely MIA from the Sheep Fiends in 2015 as Brian began getting the Cafe Royd sessions underway. I had a horrific commute to work and wasn’t up to a few more hours on the weekends. So I just play on a few tracks here, the more intriguing of which is below.
Once we started going out to Pennsylvania every year for a weekend of farm rocking it just kept going. Here is a collection of the best recordings from the fifth annual edition of Farm Jam – Varm Jam!
Three Track Sampler
Track 06 – Shoshanna (Sheep Fiends)– So sometimes the oddest things happen at Farm Jam and Shoshanna certainly qualifies. I believe Mark floated the idea of doing a mad lib style song – so the band filled out a short story with nonsense nouns and action verbs. Then they turned up the amps, selected a whacky keyboard sound and put me on the mic to bring it to life. [Scratch on Vocals]
Track 08 – Protected by Love and Curses (Sheep Fiends)– I doubt Matt was thinking of such a hellish dirge for his lyrics about disappointment and betrayal, but that is what we provided for him! We make quite a wall of sound with this one. [Scratch on Guitar]
Track 09 – Slowdown (Sheep Fiends)– What doesn’t this song have? You get driving. You get well warranted criticism of Ohio. You get quality life advice. You get a fire burning out of control. And all of it presented with a smooth bluesy vibe. [Scratch on Vocals]
I finally got back into doing music regularly, but it primarily took the form of mixing multi-track Sheep Fiend recordings. The Rumpus Room Studio was fully functional and capturing everything. Good fortune shone upon us as Brian M got to know the evocative and personable man dubbed Faiz who has the power to make a guitar hit you like an orchestra. They recorded some jamming in the studio and sent it to me. I laid down some guitar, bass, and keyboard for the project that came to be known at the Rooster Davis Trio.
It was proposed that we take the Sheep Fiends down the road to Pennsylvania where Brian M’s farm resides. Despite no cell phone signal or Internet the band summoned primal instinct and recorded three days of music ultimately known at “Farm Jam”! As surprising as it was getting a group of guys to travel 500 miles to a remote area for an entire holiday weekend of luddite styled whatever, it is shocking still that as of this release there have been five consecutive Farm Jam events – and attendance is as large as it’s ever been.
This volume contains many songs where I recount events and situations from my ongoing existence. Tackling transportation (”The Road”, “Dan Ryan Shithead”), the dangers of childhood (”Through the Ice”) and the dangers of Farm Jam (”Crawlin’ in My Instrument”, “Fing-er Numb-er”); the lyrics tell stories infused with truth – at least as possible as that is with improvisation…
Experimentation is the other major aspect of this release – with “SidSense” taking delay and reverb where they dread to go and “Very Avant-Garde” and “The Fucking Drum Machine” offering remixed & humorized summaries of particular Sheep Fiend gatherings.
Four Track Sampler
Track 04 – Drawing a Blank (Sheep Fiends)– We had a visiting drummer sitting in on this jam and he allowed us to open up a bit more than we usually do. Faiz’s falsetto meshes so well with our funky low end and mandolin melodies. I’m so glad I picked up that bass so that this cool sequence of sounds could be born. [Scratch on Bass]
Track 06 – Lower the Goat (Rooster Davis Trio)– I went off in my own direction with these raw jam tracks of Brian and Faiz – is this shit like ‘Scratchbop’ or something? Weird horn flavored keys freak out with chromatic disturbance and trebled out guitar solos, but a haunting melody of sorrow threads it all together. [Scratch on overdubbed Guitar & Keyboard]
Track 07 – Space Time Metaphor (Sheep Fiends)– Sometimes you’ve got sit back and realize that the big picture includes not only all of reality; but also its intersection with infinite time. It’s a lot to take in. But still the group must burst out in song to celebrate this enigma with some kinda faux-reggae bounce. Live from the very first Farm Jam. [Scratch on Vocals & Guitar]
Track 14 – Big Bad Baby (Sheep Fiends)– What do you mean now is not a good time for some rockabilly? Screw it man – here is some sliding shimmering roots music about a failed love like all the rest. “I’m 6’4″ at least in my dreams”. So true. So true. [Scratch on Guitar]
“Letters to April” was a compilation we put together back in 1991 and was the third Brandtosaurus release. There were a handful of reasons for doing it – flesh out the Brandto catalogue, gain a little experience putting albums together, promote Dear Dead Delila a bit – and in all honesty, simply find some cool music to listen to. And it paid off in every respect. We enjoyed every band or artist on the compilation, and even built some years-long contacts out of some of them. And re-kindling not only those recurring contacts but contact with *every single band* on the compilation 20 years later is just icing on the cake.
The title and the cover? Well, i’ve always been a bit of an explorer, and one day while taking a van-load of trash to the landfill while at work with Karl (the ‘Fifth Delila’), we spied an old abandoned house down an overgrown driveway a quarter-mile off the back road. Naturally we turned in and took to rummaging through the place. And there on the floor was this nifty little booklet with “Letters to April” on the cover, which was filled with what were obviously letters from a bunch of schoolkids to a classmate who had moved away. While it was certainly the worse for wear, it was in darned fine shape considering the letters were dated January 1969. I snagged it, and still have it to this day. The album cover is the actual cover to that booklet, now quite fragile but preserved in a plastic magazine sleeve (i wanted to make the cover properly rectangle, but BC automatically squares covers off, so i trimmed away ‘from: your classmates’ off the bottom of the image to maximize potential). And due to advances in technology, it looks considerably better here than the multi-shrunk black and goldenrod image on the original cassette. I’d love to find this “April” and give it to her, but the 22-year-old booklet has now more-than-doubled to 45, and alas, i don’t even have a last name to go on…
This is our final CD recorded at Brian’s amazing Rumpus Room studio. There is a certain sadness to the songs as we end a major era. While largely recorded in 2014 this also features some real bangers from recent years that hadn’t yet been revealed – “Project RATATAT” (2010), “Dan Ryan Shithead” (2011), “Gawdzilla (2012) and the “Ghost Train” (2013) are all particularly unique performances and productions. We would soon take root at Cafe Royd, but never forget my friends. Never forget.
Three Track Sampler
Track 01 – Ziggarnaut Paranormalisisis (Sheep Fiends)– Give a man a meat cleaver and what did you think might happen? I guess we have to trust someone with the slicers now don’t we? But the regret really stings when the chopping gets more personal. [Scratch on Vocals]
Track 04 – Dan Ryan Shithead (Sheep Fiends)– This was a project that came out wonderfully. I was in the vocal booth at the Rumpus Room and Brian C. was beating on the drums. Other people may have been playing. As I sang in the booth while listening through headphones I recorded the video on my phone. We neglected to officially record this jam but my phone video had my singing plus Brian’s dampened drums coming through the walls. I took this audio and recorded guitars to build more of a song, and then incorporated traffic samples so that we can all relate with one another. [Scratch on Vocals, Two Guitars, and Sampler]
Track 09 – On My Way (There) (Sheep Fiends)– Sometimes the journey is all we have left. What is “(there)” when we reach the end anyway? A mid-paced cruncher for your imagination. [Scratch on Vocals & Tambourine]