July 25, 2023
Giants in the Trees
(November, 2017) This group blossomed from a jam session at the Skamokawa Grange hall summer of 2016. In May, I had graduated from my Washington State University Online degree courses with a B.S. in Social Sciences and immediately fell into a new band. We started writing songs right away. Our first song, on the first day, was “Sasquatch”. The next song, on the next day was “Center of the Earth” after I busted out an accordion riff. Jillian picked up the bass. Erik had the chorus riff on a mandolin. Ray strapped on the harmonica.
There were songs that individual members had that we Giantized. We eventually left jamming at the Grange hall to move to my place in Deep River. Erik recorded the album in a house with mostly consumer grade equipment. There was no pressure at all and we spent summer days and evenings in this house built in the middle of a pasture. You can see this place in our corny "Seed Song" video. We made music for sheer joy. That is how I felt, at least. I won't kid myself that there were no expectations from the others who came out of nowhere musically. All I knew was these were talented musicians. This was proven by the quality of the music we created.
This collection of songs has been referred to as Americana. Jillian performed all of the vocals. Jack Endino mixed the record in Deep River and Seattle. We were an independent band and spent no money on promotion. Our website was hosted on an old laptop turned into a server, plugged into a modem. Drummer Erik has great musical and coding skills. We played shows mostly around the Pacific Northwest.
Giants in the Trees Vol. 2
(May, 2019) This time we got together for about a month in an old creamery building and wrote songs almost every day. Some riffs came out of thin air. Ray could play something random and I’d be “what is that?” The spark of inspiration blossomed. There were some songs that people had we again Giantized. We kept playing mostly local shows at bars for about maybe 100 people. We did venture into California culminating a slot at the 2018 Cal Jam. Also opened for Foo Fighters at Safeco Field in Seattle. At the same time, Giants were not really an ambitious band. We lived our own lives between the infrequent shows. The band was just part of life — until the beginning of 2020 when socitey changed. You know what happened with the state lockdowns and this affected the fate of Giants in the Trees enough to where the band fizzled out. We did manage to make one last video in the fall of 2020. I will somewhat get into how the pandemic affected my musical endeavors, but in the meantime, will tell you about a parallel musical project I participated in. The video link is a good set up to my next recollection.
Butterfly Launches From Spar Pole
(September, 2019) An Art Music collaboration between myself and lepidopterist Dr. Robert Michael Pyle (Bob). Me, trying to play like John Fahey while Dr. Bob riffs spoken word. Ray from Giants in the Trees adds color. This project was cooked on slow roast as it was started in 2010 with Bob and I working in spurts and long lulls over the years. The words are mostly about natural science. Bob and I connect really fast. I can bring a some guitar phrases and Bob will meet with poems and story in candence. It's great how we just hit it off.
We recorded the piece "Ceremony" in one take. Jack Endino pressed the record button and Bob and I took off — had never played this together before and this was the first time I had heard the words. "Ceremony" is about personal loss and life. Jack's wife Mia was there and she caught the performance on a cell phone camera. When we finshed the song, Bob stood up and started sobbing in Mia's arms! We tried a couple of takes after because, we thought the performance was the first take and we surely could do better. Alas, no. There was something visceral about that first moment and this is what you hear on the record. Musical spontaneous combustion.
As mentioned, the Spar Pole record was made in fits of inspriation over nine years. Then Bob had health problems. He caught long Covid too. And the social impact of the lockdown took it's toll on him, like of course, everyone. Just found out TuneCore withdrew our music from all of the streaming services in September of 2022!😩 We did not pay attention to our Spar Pole email and there you have it; things fell off the map🙀. I got it back up on the streams, and you can hear it on YouTube music as far as I know. Should be on other platforms too. There are CDs and vinyl that we need to put up for sale again. We made a video that I slapped together. We perform in Bob's cluttered living room.
This was after Thea Pyle died. Bob's late wife kept a tidy home inside and out. Beautiful garden is now feral. I can go on, but want to draw attention to the bio-pic directed by Tom Putnam, based on Bob's book Where Bigfoot Walks. The film stars David Cross and Debora Messing, who play the roles of Bob and Thea in the period of the end of her life, and soon after her death. The link above from the last Giants video features Bob and shows clips from the film that Tom Putnam put together. It is another connection between Spar Pole and Giants, or rather, creative people living on the north shore of the Lower Columbia River. The good news is that Bob's condition is really improving. We are plotting our next collaboration. He is lecturing again, just returned from Switzerland, where spoke on the subject of Vladimir Nabokov's butterflies — another area of Dr. Pyle's expertise.
(April, 2022) As we know, pandemic turned everything upside down. Giants stopped jamming. Like I fell into a band right after graduating from college, another musical endeavor appeared right away. Jillian, Jennifer and I were invited to play at the pandemic version of the MoPop Founders Award tribute to Alice in Chains. Considering the social tumult, this was not the annual Seattle elite event, rather it was an international telecast. There were all kinds of state rules and a county "Covid Officer" on site of the performance. We chose the William DuVall era song "Drone" and were paired by MoPop with none other than Kim Thayil. Soon after, with all of the lockdown time on my hands, I was cleaning out clutter from the attic and found a CD-R with the title "Jams 2001". I put in in my old computer and discovered these sessions with myself, Alfredo Hernandez, Kim and Bubba DuPree. (This is a whole other story). Anyway, I ripped the CD and sent mp3s to Kim and Bubba. They dug it and Kim suggested we jam. It just so happened Matt Cameron had some extra studio time booked. We converged and recorded our jams. I took those jams, some based on the 2001 riffs, back to Deep River. I did some editing on my ProTools 6 rig and Jillian layed down some vocals. "I Choose Me" and "Diamond in the Cold" were born. The fellows dug what they heard and Jillian was invited to Seattle. This was a great development, but there were still lockdowns with associated hassles and headaches.
There were plans for three bands and three albums at this point. I felt this was going to take forever. Jillian and I had been writing for Giants and had some demos recorded. We then started recording serious takes with Jack. Martin Link Played drums on a couple of songs. Erik from Giants helped out too. This was going to be one of the three albums. Fate has it that Matt spends time on the Oregon coast and he would come to Deep River on his way south. One day he set up his drums and Erik set up the recording equipment I was collecting. (A consequence of the lockdown was how I got interested in recording equipment. I have spent a lot of time in studios but never got into the gear. I got into vintage German microphones and used them on the 3rd Secret recordings. Got into new and vintage microphone preamps too.) At any rate, Matt and I played the song "The Yellow Dress" from start to finish in about five takes. Just me on acoustic guitar in one room and Matt on drums in a big room surrounded by old Neumann microphones. Vocals, bass and Bubba's epic guitar at the end were all added later. This is indicative of the rest of the album. — it was built from various pieces.
Music was being created, nevertheless, I was getting frustrated that there was no unifying vision. I then had the idea for one album — made from the best material everyone was collaborating on. I really pushed for this and the others eventually warmed up to the idea. The product can be described as a Folk Grunge album. It really was stitched together with Protools tweaking by Jack Endino. Electric and acoustic guitar work. An accordion even makes it on this record — the bridge, for Jillian and I, between Giants and the next record.
2nd 3rd Secret
(June, 2023) This release finds a band spending more time together for some writing / jamming sessions. Jillian and I travel to Seattle where 3rd Secret focuses on writing and recording sessions with Matt, Kim and Bubba. Ten songs with a two electric guitars weaving riffs and licks. We jammed on riffs and ideas individuals shared. Jillian created the vocal phrases and lyrics. Matt had demos of complete songs which the band faithfully covered. We are currently promoting this record so will leave the stories for the media we engage.
So there you have it, I have made five albums since 2017. Nevertheless, I get the question, "Doing anything musically?" I am so off the grid, it's my own fault few seem to know about the music I make.