Holding On and Letting Go

New Matt Jaffe video is just up –

I played guitar on that recording, along with young Matt and his fabulous Distractions. He’s a helluva songwriter and musician, and it’s been a pleasure to work with him and watch him go from open-mic wiz-kid to budding rock star. I’ve been by turns, a session player, coach, and even tour manager for this band, when they supported Blues Traveler on their US tour last fall.

“Holding On” is one of my faves in their live set, and I dig the “rollercoaster” metaphor in the vid. Occurred to me also, that “holding on” is like attachment in the Buddhist sense, the cause of suffering, and that gives the chorus its power. But I think too much. “Holding on, cos I don’t know what’s true.” Amen, brother.

Recently I’ve been making some new recordings of my own, and young Matt actually co-wrote and played guitar on one of them. So the circle is complete! More on that later. Cheers all!

Drinking A Case Of Joni Mitchell With Pollyana Bush

As a guitar player, I’ve rarely used anything but standard tuning. I don’t even like capos. So it was a new challenge to learn three custom tunings to accompany the amazing and beautiful Pollyana Bush, on three Joni Mitchell songs. This is part of her concert series, “Full Circle, musings on Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, and Carole King.” We’ve done the gig once in the East Bay, and tomorrow we’re doing it in San Rafael.

One of the songs, “Case Of You” was challenging for another reason – I couldn’t not cry when we were doing it. Ridiculous, no? But seriously, once I got the song down, every time we’d play it and Pollyana started singing, my eyes would be raining. This leveled out after a while and I was composed during the performance. I can’t recall another song/singer ever affecting me in that particular way. Why am I sharing this? Oh, I don’t know, why not.

We’re doing “Case Of You” in an open-G# tuning, and I needed to figure out how to make it sound something like a dulcimer doubling a guitar. Luckily, Pollyana has a Taylor acoustic with a cutaway, which is perfect for this. Another song I’m playing on is “Help Me,” which is open-tuned to C Major 7th. Who does that!? It’s been a great experience learning these songs, and to sort of get a glimpse into Joni Mitchell’s creative process. You couldn’t play these songs in standard tuning, it’s physically impossible. I found myself wondering – does Joni play with the tuning and THEN write a song, or hear a song in her head, and then tune the instrument to fit? Both approaches maybe? She uses so many tunings, and they are wildly different. Now I’m fascinated enough to find some interviews with her, and see if she talks about this. Tackling this was made much easier by the wealth of info provided by Joni Mitchell herself, on her own website.

I’m thrilled to be on this gig, with some amazing cats, including the great Raz Kennedy. Raz called me asking if I knew anyone who could do this kind of guitar playing, a few weeks before the earlier concert. I recommended a few players but none were available, so I started learning the odd tunings to see if I could even get there. It turned out to be a really fun and rewarding guitar lesson, and now, as a consequence of this, I wrote a song in open-G! A good friend told me years ago the day you stop learning is the day you die. I guess I’m still alive.

Here’s the concert info, I think some tickets are still available if you are interested.

Oh, and Pollyana, this happened to your guitar case. But don’t worry, Lucy is very neat and does not have fleas.

Case Of Lucy
Case Of Lucy


I don’t think I’m actually signing any petitions demanding that congress do its job re: Supreme Court nomination. We don’t sign petitions demanding anyone else do their job, do we? You pay them and they fix the sink or whatever and that’s it. I’d like that – plumber comes over, sits down, says “I refuse to even hear your arguments about that leaky faucet. Fuck off and die. Oh, and pay me.”

I’ll miss President Obama. I don’t agree with him on everything of course, but that’s not the point. He’s a great president. In harsh contrast to his predecessor, and most who scramble to replace him, Barack Obama is highly qualified for that office, while most persons simply are not.

I hope Bernie Sanders wins, and I’m doing what I can to help make that happen. But much of America is deep in a self-destructive kick. To say economically disadvantaged people often vote against their own interests is a whopping understatement. On the one hand, they’re nominating a belligerent fascist buffoon. On the other, maybe a dedicated servant of Wall Street, the Incarceration For Profit Industry, and the Department Of Lobbing Bombs At People. She’s rational. And reasonable. In comparison to the raving, psychotic idiots of doom. And that’s the deal. We’re supposed to be happy with the lesser evil in this context.

There’s no need for satire anymore. Reality has replaced satire.

There is exactly one candidate for president in 2016 whose positions align with the interests of most Americans, and not with the entrenched corporate forces of greed and devastation. His name is Bernie Sanders.

If you, like many Bernie supporters, are discouraged by yesterdays not-so-super-Tuesday results, have a look at this optimistic assessment for a morale-boost and reality check:

Bernie Sanders Had a Phenomenal Night — Here’s Why

And that’s it, I have nothing more. Donate to Bernie’s campaign if you agree and are so inclined. Phone bank etc. if you have time. We can win, but key word is “we.”

Oh, and I’m playing a gig Friday! With the amazing and beautiful Pollyana Bush, and her amazing and beautiful band! It will be amazing, and beautiful. Info here.

Here are some rabbits.


Happy Birthday, Dad! John Dinwiddie Original Music, Recorded 1971 and 1973

Today’s my dad’s birthday. He left this physical world on Sept. 25 of 2015, so it’s a year of firsts now – first holidays without him, first birthdays, each one with its own meaning. I celebrate the dude. He was a brilliant and unusual man.

In his younger days, John Dinwiddie was an active composer. And only in recent years, some of his pieces have emerged on the Interwebs.

Here’s one of my favorites, “An Avalanche Of Pianos,” played by twenty-one pianists on twenty-one pianos in a Berkeley piano shop in 1971. The KPFA radio crew did an amazing job of recording this, and I’m so glad it’s available to listen to now. There’s a little background info at archive.org about this program, which was performed exactly once. After “Avalanche” is a performance by the same group of Philip Corner’s “C Major Chord”. (Note – there’s some warm-up and intro sounds at the beginning, then they get going)

Also performed live on KPFA but in 1973, this 80 minute set contains several John Dinwiddie originals, including two versions of “Quiver.” (Also hosted with some background info at archive.org)

“Quiver” involves placing glass lenses on the strings of a grand piano and tapping them, causing the lenses to quiver back and forth on the strings as gravity slowly brings them back to inertia. John and his friends used to practice this sort of thing at our home when I was very young, and I was utterly fascinated by the whole affair. I remember asking my mom, “what are they doing?” To which she replied, “they’re having a rehearsal.” Now, I didn’t know what a rehearsal was, it was not yet in my 5-year-old vocabulary. But, at that moment, I decided that I must have a “rehearsal” too! It just looked like too much fun.

They experimented with every parameter of what you can call “music.” It was at the height of John Cage’s obliteration of conventional constraints on musical notation and everything else, and my dad and his friends were in the thick of it.

Here is a picture of John at work on his piece, “Winters,” in which he hung an array of mirrors and attached a small contact microphone to each one. The audience would wander through the structure and tap at the mirrors, the sound of which was sent through some electronic filters and amplified through loudspeakers in the room. And that was the whole piece. This spectacle was, for a time, the dining room in our house.


I’m grateful and I miss the guy, but, I get the sense he’s doing something unusual and creative and fun, in some form or another, perhaps without the constraints of linear time.

Happy Birthday, Dad!


The official position of streaming music companies toward recording artists and copyright owners seems to remain:

“We will try not to pay you anything, for as long as we can get away with it. But don’t worry, we LOVE you!! And someday unicorns will fart money your way, because awesome.”

This has not left many music creators feeling amorous.

Spotify Slapped With a Second Class-Action Lawsuit…

Watching with interest.

Tip o’ the hat to –


What Madness! A Mashup Of Guitar Solos, from Yours Truly

This is a reel of solos I plucked from various records I’ve played on over the years.

Here are the tracks and albums they are from:

1. “Radiation Boy” – The Uptones – Skankin’ Foolz Unite! – 2008
2. “Psychotic Reaction” (Count 5 cover) – The Fashion Slaves – Check Out The Fashion Slaves – 2011
3. “Write A Song About Me” – Matt Jaffe & The Distractions – Blast Off EP – 2015
4. “Sky High” – HOBO album – 1993
5. “Not From Here” – Stiff Richards – Email EP – 1998
6. “Fell In And Out Of Art” – Stiff Richards album – 1996

Pink Section Cover Story on The Uptones by Joel Selvin

When SF Chronicle pop music critic Joel Selvin interviewed Paul Jackson, Moose Lethridge and myself for his article about The Uptones’ reformation in the 2000’s, we had no idea it would be part of a cover story in the Sunday Datebook. Shortly after the release of our Skankin’ Foolz Unite! CD, there it was next to the morning coffee and we were gobsmacked. Pat Johnson took the cover photo and Katy Raddatz got some fun color action shots of the band in rehearsal in West Oakland. You can read the saga in SFGate. Thanks Joel, and thanks everyone who has enjoyed this long, strange, ska trip with us.



RANCID – “… And Out Come The Wolves”

“… And Out Come The Wolves” is my favorite Rancid album, and “The 11th Hour” is a collaboration I’ll always be proud of. Tim Armstrong and I wrote it in about three hours spread out over as many days, as the band was deep into the finishing stages of recording. I was surprised that Tim wanted to push one more song through the works, but it not only made the cut but ended up being track #2 on the record. There’s a 20th Anniversary remastered edition that just came out, more on that at Epitaph Records. This album was the soundtrack to my life in late 1995.


STIFF RICHARDS Infamous “Email EP”!

This record from STIFF RICHARDS features 5 original songs with lead vocals from The Rev. Paul Jackson, and some phenomenal drumming from Tuan Titlestad. On the opening track, “Not From Here” (later covered by The UPTONES), you hear the collision of Bennie Wood’s commanding ska bass style and Tuan’s all-out rock drum approach. That sets the tone for the whole EP and it does not let up. “Halibut” is a personal favorite of mine, especially as it finds Paul channeling Sasquatch, explaining, “Don’t call me Bigfoot.” The set closes with “Bonnie and Clyde” (also later covered by The UPTONES) which was composed in the studio. These songs called for me to go hog-wild on guitar, and I love how it all come out.

Available at iTunes.

L-R Eric Din, Tuan Titlestad, Paul Jackson, and Bennie Wood. Photo by Victor Hall


At Last A WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com Definitive Guide

I get these questions often: “Should I use WordPress.com? Or download the software from WordPress.org and host it myself? Which approach is better?! Help me understand!!”

Thankfully wpmudev.org just published a handy guide that answers this question in neat detail. It’s conveniently titled:

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: A Definitive Guide For 2015

So read up and don’t fret. Go boldly forth into the wonderful WordPress world. Remember, you can always start a free account at WordPress.com to get your toes wet, and then export your juicy content (very easy to do with WordPress) and import it into your new fancy self-hosted install later, if you like. You have freedom. And options. Isn’t life grand? Gutenberg would freak out.