Band Element of Surprise, Ventura County CA

Do you <3 classic rock? Strange pairings of music, such as Richie Valens & the Ramones meet Deep Purple? You may appreciate us. We're the band Element of Surprise! We may get thru the song-or it may go horribly AWRY. You pays yer money & you takes yer chance! We play a very eclectic mix of classic & alt rock...if you live in the SoCal area & listen to either KLOS or KRTH-101, you've heard most of our songs. We're a 6-piece consisting of Pat on vocals & percussion, James on lead guitar, Hector on bass, Rob on drums, newest member Danny on acoustic and electric guitars, and your humble scribe Rita on rhythm guitar/keyboard/harmonica and vocals. We've been together for 5 years (longer than some marriages!) and have had some memorable gigs. I started this blog to keep a list of them--and to chronicle our RISE-TO POWER! Well, not really--all of us have a day job, and we're all over 45 (except for Danny, who is young and impressionable!) so this is more of a hobby. But we all have an abiding love for music, and we have healthy self-images, and some of us are major hams, so here we are. Walking down the street. We get the funniest looks. From everyone we meet. Hey hey--no, stop, that's plagiarism. Anyways, I don't expect anyone (other than MY FRIENDS & FAMILY) to ever read this, but if you do and you have an interest in an elderly garage band on the first level of getting started gigging, welcome and well-met. If YOU have an interest in starting a band and are curious about equipment, etc-let us know. Maybe we can help you avoid a TON of trouble.
Well, cheers, and see you "on the cover of the 'Rolling Stone,'"
Rita aka MrsMMars :-)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

We recorded a CD today! MAN was it a lot of work X-P

...and what a trip *that* was. Guitar Center Recording Studios (and I do think they use the term "studio" kinda loosely) will let anyone with $30/hr go in, use their FABULOUS equipment (worth every penny here, folks; the Colonel playing through a Marshall JVM head & 4x12 speakers= L-O-U-D!) and lay down as many tracks as they can get out. We bought in for 3 hours. We hit top speed in like 0 - 2 songs and didn't let up for the 3 hours. MAN I had to pee so bad at the end I was dancing around like Michael Jackson on the 'Thriller' tour.

We went down with the idea to do at least 5 tunes (not in order but this is what they were): Love Shack, Running Down a Dream, Heaven, Twist n Shout, and Sabor a Mi. We got down there at 9:40 (they opened at 10.) So the Colonel & I drove across the parking lot to a nearby 'Jamba Juice,' where the 20-somethings behind the counter took 20 minutes (I AM NOT EXAGGERATING) to fix 2 yogurts and 1 smoothie. Did I mention there was NO ONE ELSE IN FRIGGING LINE? I finally sent Jim back at 9:55 to GC so he could at least get started unloading equipment, then got in my cardio for the day, humping back double-time when they finally gave me our order.

Oh BOY is it a rough go playing with new equipment. There was SO much to choose from! Even better, they had so many amps that I didn't have to run the keyboard and guitar through the same amp. For my guitar (the lovely Taylor solid-body electric) I chose a Fender head & amp Super-Sonic that is similar to my wonderful Super-Sonic combo at home, minus the beloved reverb (HUH?!)

OK before I go any further--I am NOT an electronic guitar player, folks. This may come as a shock to some of you. ;-) But there are so many details to know about the amps, the pedals, the whatevers, that it is a science unto itself, and you have to know at least as much general information about amplifiers & effects as you do to actually play the damn thing, that it is mind-boggling. Remember, my hero is Neil Young - who although known for both electric and acoustic songs, is more memorable for his acoustic work (which is why I started playing guitar in the first place.) But I ALSO LOVE ANGUS YOUNG!! (guitar player for AC/DC, for those who don't know--and shame on you if you don't. ;-)

Anyways (now that I've made my excuses) I was excited to see a Vox amp - the legendary VOX that (gasp!) the BEA-EFFING-TLES used! Let me interject here, that the lighting was more akin to what you'd find in an intimate restaurant where you'd take your mistress for a late lunch, rather than your whole band to try to get some work done. DO YOU THINK I COULD FIGURE THIS SUCKER OUT TO SAVE MY NECK? NOT IF YOU HELD A GUN TO MY HEAD. I felt better after asking Danny (aka Esteban) to take a look at it and tell me whether I was retarded, or the amp was. He was as much in the dark as I was, which made me feel ever so much better! Ignorance loves company! So there was a Marshall combo (like 80 bazillion watts) next to it, that I could understand; I ran my keyboard into it for the nonce.

OK, my blood pressure was now up in the triple digits (THIS CAN'T SUCK!! THIS CAN'T SUCK!!) and we set levels, got some idea where we were, and got ready to launch.

We did 'Running Down...' first. Then twice. Then again. ;-)

At this point, us thinking that this was a DIGITAL type setup, we wanted feedback (and not the negative kind.) So we tried to hit 'playback,' tried to hit the 'back' button, etc....all without the slightest effect.

We went running for someone who could help us (we're on the clock here, folks, and it's reading 10:45 at this point) and eventually a guy showed up who told us we needed to push 'record,' then 'play,' then left us. So we eventually got to the point where we could hear ourselves...and were horrified to realize that 'Running Down a Dream' sounded more like something Trent Reznor (of 9 Inch Nails) would have produced on an off day. Some knucklehead left a 'ring modulator' effect on the recording equipment that had the unfortunate result of making us sound like we were broadcasting from Deep Space 9 through a megaphone. I've uploaded a clip for your listening pleasure. ;-) Or not.

So, after straightening that mess out, we proceeded to lay down the track the way God and Tom Petty originally intended it. Then, wanting to hear the result, we tried to play it back...and found there was no playback to be had. We went running again to someone for help...and a young lady with lots of hair (and booty) came back to sweetly advise us that, "like, you only record a CD, you can't listen to it, cos then you finalize it and that's it." Fortunately Hector brought a handful of blank CDs, and we were able to record first one, then another.

We then went through 'Love Shack,' 'Sabor a Mi,' 'Twist and Shout,' then 'Heaven.' (2 times each. For the most part--there were a few technical difficulties that caused a couple of the songs to be repeated and re-repeated.) The vocals on 'Heaven' gave me EFFING FITS. I was NOT in the singing zone, and I forced my bandmates to endure me trying to find the song on YouTube on my iPhone, then made Pat & Robert go over our parts several times. At the end, I finally felt (kind of) confident, but only hearing the final recording will tell....

So! We wound up with something like 50 minutes left on the CD...what to do? I immediately suggested "Listen To The Music," which is one of our stronger numbers. After some debate, we agreed...then did that thrice (technical difficulties rose their ugly heads yet again.)

"Listen To The Music" has some FANTASTIC harmonies in it, we love them and spent a little while working on them. A couple of glitches required us to re-do this song, but we finally felt the whole thing come together.

We were down to about 15 minutes...THEN THE RED LIGHT OF DEATH CAME ON OVER THE DOOR!! GASP and HORROR!! This indicated we were at our last 15 minutes. What to do, what to do? I muttered under my breath, "Play That Funky Music," mainly because I don't play on that song--I knew I could deliver a growly vocal and 'lay down the boogie' with some au-tho-ri-tay. It was all up to my bandmates. Pat gave me a level look, got the cowbell, and took her place. Rob looked all around--you could tell he was trying to think, "Is there a song we do better?" We do have quite the catalog, so I was glad he was trying to think of the best number to end with--but I was smug about him not being able to come up with anything better. Danny said defiantly, "I am ready!" And Hector played a few notes and said, "Let's go." And then Jim opened up the heavens with, "Bomp-bomp-bomp" etc. The band launched into the song and it was one of those killer moments, the WHOLE REASON why we DO this--the planets all aligned, we were all in sync and in tune, and I gave it my best shot.

Then we got to do it AGAIN. It was THE BEST.

We finished (NO $#!T) at 12:57 (remember we only had 3 hrs) and Hector started the 'finish' process so we could get the CD done. I RAN to the ladies' room.

Hector had to take off, but the rest of us were STARVING, so we wound up at BJ's Brewery (Pat, Danny, Rob, Jim and I.) We somehow got onto the 'Gilligan's Island' theme and started singing and laughing like crazy. The food was great; likewise the beer.

We parted, dropped off Rob, and got home....where I started posting this (after a TON of trouble.) Anyways, I look forward to posting the results of the CD...I hope you all enjoy it as much as we did making it!!

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