Archive for November, 2008

Have You Seen It?

November 30, 2008

Up ahead the roads were closed
And the Gennys ran most of Buffalo
The customs man at border control
Said yes you can go
But you won’t make it home

Don’t be like that

Kathleen Edwards

Buffalo

Sometimes I find that a song reminds me of reading a great novel.  Usually it is a Canadian song that bring back feelings of diving into Wild Geese, Have You Seen The Wind, or Emily of New Moon. This Kathleen Edwards song is one of those.  The experience of music is, of course, very subjective. You and I hear the same song but it means something different to us.  Immediately after Buffalo on my main iTunes list is Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins. How is that significant? Well Danger Zone reminds me of my old friend Kern, who loves anything to do with fighter planes.  He’s like a Korean Tom Clancy with a degree in Environmental
Science (not studies, he would want me to note that).  So in two seconds I’ve gone from thinking about a classic piece of literature to an old pal who loves his dinosaurs with feathers and his women from
Russia.  Music has that kind of effect on people.

The retrospective of Urban Moon, Banana Company, and Pinstripe Mystery is over now.  Thinking back on everything that happened in the pursuit of musical genius (or recognition?) has been enlightening.  When I
think about any particular recording, gig, or project it doesn’t seem so difficult. But when I put together the last 10+ years of effort its astounding.  I gave up lots of free time, money, and dignity to play
around 50 or so gigs, and to record two full length albums an EP and a bunch of random CDs.  I have also hosted 9 or 10 Mid-Summer Festivals of Peace and Tranquility, including one that raised over $400 for Heart Cry Restoration Ministries. It led me to consider the pros and cons of it all. I had a lot of fun rehearsing, recording, and performing, and I still do.  It could also be very emotionally draining (see Frosh Week 2003) and liberating all at the same time.

What does all this have to do with anything? Well as this blog goes forward and becomes a forum for both my thoughts and ideas, and those of others, it will become part of the journey. It can’t just be a marker of time, it has to be an active part of that.  I am saying all this to encourage those of you who read the blog to post comments in reaction to what I write. I would love to start a dialogue about the songs, sites, pictures, and whatever that I post on here.  I would also like your response to my words and ideas. Many years ago I had an email list that I used to spread ideas, but never achieved the collaborative model I hoped for. That is what a blog can do. So comment away!

You can also leave thoughts about the podcast and I will respond to them on there. To find the podcast click on the link on the right. A new post will be up in the next day or so. In case you missed it The Lights I See You In Shadow is now available. Click on Get the Album to download it.

Advertisements

There’s Always Room For Two

November 29, 2008

God gave you style and gave you grace.

Coldplay

God Put a Smile Upon Your Face

As far as I can remember that was the only tune Pinstripe Mystery tried to cover. We were awesome in practice, but when we did it live it flopped.  This is the final post of this musical retrospective. I will continue to post other things, but this is the end of one more journey.  I mentioned last time that the band worked feverishly to finish up the album. This was greatly hindered by Jill’s reluctance to actually record proper drum parts, and led to some weird tracks, like The Tin Star. Overall the album was decent, not great.  I’m still happy we did it, and promoted it.  The title came from a question: can you make a muffin parfait? We talked about weird things at practice.  I will never forget hearing my songs on the radio for the first time, or how we charted at UW’s radio station two weeks in a row before slipping into deeper obscurity.  I have chosen three tracks to post here today: Imperial Street because it was the most beloved track for most people, Art Or Architecture because it is as much a classic as I have, and Clap Dream Injuction because it’s my favourite song on the album.  After Muffin Parfait came out we played a lot of gigs, appeared on the radio a few times, and tried our best to be a band that was out there.  In the end though things fizzled out.  Our last real gig was at the University of Guelph for about a dozen students in a field.  Our best gig took place at the Grad House at the University of Waterloo. We packed a room for a gig that featured David Hein and another band whose name escapes me. David is still making music as far as I know so I suggest googling him.  This show actually featured a brief experiment with a violin player named Emily. She added a nice extra touch to a bunch of our songs, even if it was only for one gig.

Pinstripe Mystery was the most successful band I’ve ever been in, which wasn’t a hard thing to be.  For awhile, some people knew who we were and what we were doing.  We even warranted a haiku in a Waterloo music zine.  I have it somewhere but I’m not sure where. Looking back the experience of playing fairly regular gigs and promoting an album was fantastic. I could’ve done without some of the headaches and battles but overall it was a positive experience. It certainly worked out for Dave and Crystal.

After Pinstripe Mystery I put music away for a bit aside from writing the odd song (most of which are on The Lights I See You In Shadow).  Some people have the benefit of leaving music alone for a long time and maintaining a legacy. I don’t have a legacy so the music will stay with me.  To say that The Lights I See You In Shadow is the best thing I’ve ever done with music would be an understatement. It would also be misleading. The best thing I’ve done with music is make lifelong friends like Matt, Dave, Dave, Crystal, and Ken. People whose ideas and sounds inspired me to make better songs.  The Lights I See You In Shadow will not be my final album, in fact I anticipate starting the next project immediately.  It represents a transition, from a past of grasping for musical success in the form of good recordings of songs I love to a future where I can do that everyday.  Please enjoy my songs and recognize that what goes into them is part of me. Sometimes it’s the part no one gets to see in my regular life.

Enjoy these songs and I hope you come back tomorrow.

Imperial Street

Art or Architecture

Clap Dream Injunction

I Checked Out The Time

November 28, 2008

The University of Waterloo on the recommendation of the Senate hereby signifies that Peter Michael Snow has fulfilled the degree requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts.

My Undergraduate Degree

Before I get into today’s post I want to point out that you can now download the completed album here.

The final year of my undergrad was kind of a musical canyon.  I don’t recall writing very many interesting songs that year, nor did I create any kind of CD. I did, however, put on a show near the end of the winter term at the Conrad Grebel chapel. It featured Dave Fallis, Matt, and myself all playing solo sets for about 20 or so people. It was a lot of fun and the venue was amazing.  I believe I filmed this performance, but that tape has been lost to time.

The summer of 2005 marked the beginning of Pinstripe Mystery.  It began with an ad on a music classified board that led me to our drummer, Jill Whitehead.  After we had jammed a few times we decided to bring more people on board. I met Crystal Kemkes through a mutual friend and she came down to play with us. We now had, guitar, keys, drums, and vocals.  We played our very first gig at the Festival of Peace and Tranquility. This time the venue was changed to Parkview Church, and over 100 people came to check out the music and enjoy free muffins. I am indebted to Ken Barr for his help with that event.  As part of the show we gave away a free CD that included songs by us (then known as The Free Mirrors) and Dave Fallis. Also on the bill were Ken and Matt. I have included King of Spades with this post because it features the trio and I actually like the recording.  Perhaps the most significant event connected to that concert was the addition of Dave Fallis to our lineup. Of course it was a cleverly designed plan to spend time with Crystal (they are now married) but it worked out for the band as well. With a bass player in tow we began practicing weekly and sketching out a plan for our future. The plan was to complete an album, find lots of gigs, get songs on college radio, and see where things went.

The fall of that year saw us come up with a new name, Pinstripe Mystery.  We each wrote several words on pieces of paper and threw them in a hat.  We then drew two out. As I recall Jill wrote Pinstripe and I wrote Mystery. A new name was born and we moved ahead with recording a CD.

We only played one gig during this period, a Christmas show at the Renaissance Cafe in Toronto.  This was one of the most annoying performances we were ever involved in.  We were told that Crystal and I could do an acoustic set around 7:30pm. So the band arrived in Toronto around 6, had dinner at a scary Pizza Pizza, and headed to the venue.  Upon entering we were told that the order of performances was posted so we checked it out. We were scheduled for 12:30am.  We now had to face several hours in this bar listening to 14 other acts go ahead of us. The quality of the acts varied heavily, but most of it was not music we were interested in. Add to this the fact that we were essentially playing for the other musicians there, and the sub-zero temperatures outside. It was a less than ideal night.  The highlight was walking to Coffee Time, three blocks away, to get a giant muffin.  Dave ordered “Nachos and Cheese” from the bar and paid something like $8 for $1 worth of nachos with cheese.  We had booked the gig with Scotia Entertainment because I had played a successful gig the year before at the Boathouse in Kitchener.  We did one more gig with them in Kitchener, which was only attended by our friends.

Over Christmas we held a marathon recording session to finish Muffin Parfait, and that (along with the second half of our career) will be the subject of tomorrow’s post.

King Of Spades – The Free Mirrors

here

Separate the Happiness from the Happy-nots

November 27, 2008

I am the LORD and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and delivery you from slavery to them.

Exodus 6:6

If there was ever one album that I could post every track of, it would be EKBALLO. The title is an ancient Greek word that translates to “I Cast Out.” According to the liner notes the title had a great deal of significance to me.  I consider EKBALLO to be the beginning of the musical journey that led to The Lights I See You In Shadow. In fact a number of the songs on that disc made their way onto Muffin Parfait.  But it is the songs that didn’t that intrigue me. When I first pulled out EKBALLO to look it over, I smiled as I remembered the various songs I’ve never played again.  India, Hymn, Senses, Ancient Words, October Fling, and Mysticism all appear there. Rain returned as a kind of retrospective piece. Me in the Afternoon and a new version of Blue Sky received their final listening.  The disc is broken up into three parts: “Studio Recordings” (my studio being my room), “The November Performance,” and “Other Performances.”  The entire thing was recorded by The Ordinary Banana Company Band, which was me in many disguises.  For the purposes of the liner notes I was joined by Sebastian “Minnesota” Flowers, Johnny Two Fingers, and Mrs. Frick.

I could probably write for days about the experiences that led to and followed EKBALLO. It’s the group of songs that took over Alex Bittermann’s computer when he left them on repeat for two hours by accident. I planned to record another album following EKBALLO but that didn’t happen until Muffin Parfait two years later.  The summer of 2003 found me living on my own in my aunt’s house, playing sports and working 6 days a week.  There wasn’t much time for music, even though I received a bass for my birthday.

It is tough to decide which songs to post here. I could include Imperial Street, India, or Art or Architecture because they chronicle my early battle with a drum machine.  Some of you may remember the loud hi hat in the latter. Or how about Cleveland, a song no one likes? Hymn was written when my aunt’s long time housemate passed away.  It was the first song I ever wrote thinking about death, and it’s overly spiritual theme seems a little odd to me. Ancient Words was the by product of my religious studies program, as was Mysticism. The latter was influence by the Anthropology of Religion and too many videos of half naked tribespeople.

Although it is a lot to listen to I am going to include the 6 songs that can’t be heard elsewhere: India, Hymn, Senses, Ancient Words, October Fling, and Mysticism. I should point out that Ancient Words and October Fling are intimately connected. I hope you can make it through them all and this will clearly be the largest amount of music I put on here at one time. Tomorrow we get to hurry through fourth year and into the beginnings of Pinstripe Mystery.

In other news, I have just launched a podcast.  The first episode is up and deals specifically with tracks on the new album. I am looking for guests to come on the show, and am focusing on music, art, and other creative endeavours. You can find the podcast here and the RSS feed here. If you have iTunes you can subscribe here. On to the music!

India

Hymn

Senses

Ancient Words

October Fling

Mysticism

A Big Sensation

November 26, 2008

You and I march to the beat of a different drum. Oh can’t you tell by the way I run, every time you make eyes at me.

Michael Nesmith

A Different Drum


The new school year (Fall 2003) began with a show featuring, Matt, Dave Zettel, Dave’s friend, and myself playing for 150 frosh at St. Jerome’s. We played exclusively covers, fell down a little bit trying to be cool, but basically had a great show. That kicked off an emotionally turbulent year for me. Somewhat living up to what the song above talks about.  I did, however, play plenty of coffeehouses at the SLC, St. Jerome’s, and St. Paul’s, and met Max Woghiren for the first time. He would later become a musical friend, and Pinstripe Mystery‘s biggest fan.  I actually put out two albums that year, the latter of which will get it’s own post tomorrow. In and Out of Tune is a collection of “live” performances that took place in my residence room.  I don’t think anyone was present for them.  When I think about that year, I am always reminded of Ken Cheney. He was a wannabe rock star who sang over midi tracks at various coffeehouses.  He did a version of Back in Black that made Raffi sound hardcore. It was hard not to laugh at him, but at least he was genuine about it. Winter 2004 saw a live performance where I played through a broken string to thunderous applause from one person, Jeff Akomah.

I think at this point it might be useful to explain why I went through all this every year for little or no recognition from anyone but my closest friends (who in any event had to be nice about the whole thing).  I really like music. I like creating something that is uniquely mine, but I can share with lots of other people.  It’s a rush when you write a new song, or add a catchy part to the end of an old one.  It is also a great way for me to get out emotions I don’t want to talk about.  People often wonder what my songs are about, and sometimes I will kind of explain them. But really everything anyone needs to know about a song is already in it.  If I wanted to say more, I think I would have.

I have picked up two songs from In and Out of Tune. The first was a fun little song that I wrote when I first bought my BOSS recorder. It’s called Elvis Costello Vs. John Lennon on the Ed Sullivan Show, August 3 1967. The second was a one off song that I never played again called Banana Republic. It was heavily influenced by a course I took on the preferential option for the poor and the plight of Latin Americans. I have never written a more political song. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve written another political song.

As you can tell, 2003-2004 was kind of a boring year musically, except when it came to EKBALLO, the subject of tomorrow’s entry.

Elvis Costello Vs. John Lennon on the Ed Sullivan Show, August 3 1967

Banana Republic

The Eggplant Revolution Revisited

November 25, 2008

She don’t mind the late night, late night radio.

David Gray

Late Night Radio

Second year was an exciting time at university. Chronologically we have reached the fall of 2002 and the winter of 2003.  I played a lot of coffehouses with the Daves, and alone.  I also dated someone for awhile, leading to a song, and a rule that I wouldn’t write songs about people (just recently broken!). It did include a favourite line of mine, which was repeated on the liner notes of Forgotten and Lost Songs Live, a summer of 2003 performance: “And this is a mystery that we’ve been waiting for, and this is our chance to be so much larger than before.” The song, and the relationship, didn’t really work out. The biggest event of 2002-2003 was my acquisition of a BOSS zip disk based 8 track recorder. Suddenly my recordings took one step up in quality and complexity. I was no longer stuck to what I could do through my laptops mic input onto cheap mixing software I got through shareware. I began the process of recording songs that would end up on the very long album EKBALLO, which I will discuss in a couple of days. I also made a tape (TAPE!) for my friends, but I don’t know if any copies still exist.

The CD that I put out at the end of second year seems to be lost in time. I do not have a copy of it and no one else seems to.  Instead I have music from a live performance I did in the summer while I was working at Mission Services (for the first of many summers).  At this point I should mention Ken Barr who will be an important part of the story especially with the early days of Pinstripe Mystery. He was working at the Mission when I started and we shared a love of music. Forgotten and Lost Songs Live features a lot of my old repertoire and most importantly three songs that never appeared anywhere else, Blue Sky, The Garden, and Lonely Soul (mispelled Lonlely Soul on the back). In the liner notes I encourage people to “Watch out for the Eggplant Revolution,” which was the title of a major album I never recorded. It was going to be The Lights I See You In Shadow before I had the means or the imagination to make it happen.  I have included these three songs today, in case you haven’t heard them. The one problem with them is their location at the end of the CD. By that point my voice had become very tired and dry, so the quality isn’t always great. What you can notice is a continuation of the storytelling theme in my songwriting. Enjoy!

Blue Sky

The Garden

Lonely Soul

One final note: This Saturday from 12-3pm on C101.5 FM you can hear one or more tracks from The Lights I See You In Shadow on The Jelly Report. It’s a show hosted by my old pal Matt Jelly. You can stream online here.

In The Frost That Formed On My Window

November 24, 2008

I’m on a roll, I’m on a roll, this time, I feel my luck could change.

Radiohead

Lucky

At this point in the story we have to back track a little bit to the time between the end of high school and the release of Lemon Orange Lime.  A few interesting things happened that led to new musical collaborations and performances, and a lot more writing.  Towards the end of OAC, Matt and I began playing gigs as an acoustic duo, doing mainly cover songs.  We played at our high school, at a Canada Day party (complete with wireless mics!) and at the annual Mid-Summer Festival of Peace and Tranquility (essentially a party in my backyard that has been held every year since 1999).  Very little remains of those shows, except one cover of a Seven Mary Three song called Lucky. We were very lucky to have such great friends who supported us the whole way.  The final show featured a lot of instruments, a ton of cover tunes, an exit sign full of funny ideas, and was a fitting end to high school.

At the end of the summer Matt and I both moved to the city of Waterloo to attend different universities. Our musical collaboration has never totally ended but it takes a back seat in the story.  It was in the first few weeks of school that I met the Daves, Fallis and Zettel, who would be a major part of my music making for the coming years. We would play at coffee houses and other events for the better part of 4 years before sort of going our separate ways (Dave Fallis was in Pinstripe Mystery of course). We “wowed” people at St. Jerome’s when we played Fifteen Floors. Apparently writing a halfway decent song was impressive!

Both of the “acts” I was part of adopted the name Banana Company, an homage to a Radiohead song, and a tribute to the fake (and real) bananas that Matt and I brought to shows. The highlight of the first year of the Dave, Dave, and Peter experience was a big show in front of 400 people at Conrad Grebel college. It was an amazing time and we played fantastically. I should also note that Dave and Dave joined Urban Moon along with Liz Mensa for a show in September 2002 at Fed Hall on the Waterloo campus. It was a benefit for local charities, and was the last time Rob, Matt and I were on the same stage.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any recorded material featuring the Waterloo Banana Company. I do however, have a copy of The St. Jerome’s Demos, a 5 song EP I put together for friends in the Spring of 2002. It features the first recorded version of 15 Floors as well as an early version of Contemplate (that second good song I struggled with). Of particular note is the song that I have posted here. Rain was recorded in one take at 3 in the morning or so. It is the truest song I’ve ever written. What I mean is it captures exactly what I was feeling at the time, and had been feeling recently. I am not proud of the sound quality or the performance, but the content of the song is what matters.  It is also about as “emo” as I will ever be. So take that for what it’s worth. Matt and I also recorded some of his songs, and I wish I still had copies of them. The St. Jerome’s Demos became the first of a yearly tradition, each of which will be discussed in the coming days, for now enjoy Lucky and Rain.

Lucky (Seven Mary Three) – Banana Company

Rain – Peter Snow

And My Gratitude Goes Out To You

November 23, 2008

And I say, hello hope, do you remember me, and all these things that make up a memory.

Matthew Blacquiere (Urban Moon)

Hello Hope

Today is Part II of my discussion of Urban Moon. I wanted to devote an entire post to Lemon Orange Lime an EP that Matt, Rob and myself put together in May/June 2002.  Rob had just purchased a very nice recording set up for his basement. After a year apart, when Matt and I went to university, we floated the idea of a small reunion. We each picked one song of those we had written and decided to pool our efforts to record and release them. The result still stands up well today, I think. My contribution to the album was Fifteen Floors, a song that I consider the beginning of my true songwriting career.  Prior to that I had written some terrible songs that aren’t worth remembering.  Fifteen Floors has a catchy melody and a bouncy score.  Lyrically it presents little scenes related to the main story of a disappointing relationship. For sometime after that I struggled to write a second good song. As we will see it did eventually happen.

The album artwork featured lemons, oranges and limes naturally. The title came from large, cardboard pictures of fruit that were picked up from Eaton’s when it closed down. Someone brought them to an Urban Moon show and we adopted them. There are very few copies of Lemon Orange Lime still around, if you have one, cherish it.

Tomorrow I will be moving into both my solo and Banana Company periods (they are essentially the same). For now here are the three songs from Lemon Orange Lime. Should you want to download any of the songs I’m posting in this series please leave a comment or email me.

Fifteen Floors – Peter Snow

Hello Hope – Matthew Blacquiere

Gratitude – Rob Rakoczy

Please Don’t Fight Me

November 22, 2008

In all this madness.

Matthew Blacquiere (Urban Moon)

Red River Project

I’m found of looking back into the past and stretching it out in order to find meaning. Over the next few days I want to look at the milestones in my personal evolution as a musician and songwriter.I am hoping to include clips from each of the periods, and I apologize for the quality but most of these were recorded under less than ideal circumstances.

My musical career began in Grade 10 Business Administration, more or less. I had been singing in theatre productions for some time before that, but I had never been in a band until that class.  I can still remember the first afternoon in Rob’s basement, with Matt on bass, and a crazy song called Airman coming out of the PA.  While I can’t say much for the lyrics or melody, Matt was proving for the first of many times that he could write great songs.  Back in those days we could never achieve any of our grand ambitions in recording or performance, but we were earnest in our efforts.

Urban Moon was always a group in transition. Members, including myself, floated in and out. We had 3 or 4 “final concerts” before we finally shut it down in 2002.  We played in people’s basements, backyards, a dingy hotel bar, an assisted living complex, and in one of the largest on campus clubs anywhere.  We peaked as a band at our very last show, despite the fact that I forgot the lyrics to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

I wanted to post a song from the Red River Project, an album put together by Matt and Rob, but I realized that I no longer have a copy of it. I gave mine to Jen Balen in high school, for the same reason that many men have probably given her things. I was not successful. So I have turned to the 3 disc set: Urban Moon: Live in Suits… Rarities, etc. for a live version of My Madness recorded at one of our so called last shows ever. I should point out that Matt wrote this song, and I am playing bass on the recorded version. You can find both Airman and My Madness right here (there is The Alder Fork news after the songs):

Airman

My Madness

We have reached the first post that won’t include a song from the album.  Hopefully those who have been coming to this site diligently will continue to do so, assuming I can keep it interesting. As a way of celebrating the release of the album (which will actually be next weekend officially) I thought I would give everyone a preview of the final order of songs. You could go back and listen to them all in order, or you can just wait until it is finally available in that way online. Some songs will have minor changes before the finished product is put out.

The Lights I See You In Shadow

Great Cliff-Face Real Estate
Affirmation
Twenty Five
Back and Forth
NOTLD
Easterbrooks
The Mountain
HG Plant Companion
Deer Deer
The Sunrises
Orsola
May

Obvious To Me

November 21, 2008

Please don’t stop playing Fry. I want to hear how it ends.

Leela

Futurama

Until the first DVD movie was released, that was the final line of the Futurama franchise.  I am a huge fan of that series and have seen every episode.  This line is particularly fitting for this post because today is the day that the final song on the album is released.  It also captures some of the meaning of today’s song. The album will hit Amie Street on November 29th/30th.  If you haven’t already downloaded the songs here you can get them there. They will be free at first and if enough people download they will begin to go up in price. What’s your incentive for paying for them when I’ve given it all away for free? Nothing really, but I won’t complain if you do! This album was not free to make, but I’m not in this for the money.

As a side note I will continue to post in this blog. Sometimes it will be music, sometimes it will be other ideas, thoughts, comments etc. I hope you continue to visit everyday! I will be beginning a retrospective of my music tomorrow, complete with old grainy clips!

May captures several feelings as they evolved over a period of time. This is one of the three songs in the Lonely Day trilogy of related compositions.  It is a short song, but in just a few lines it expresses several months worth of thoughts. It is significant for someone more than anyone else. I don’t need to elaborate on that.  I think the piano is the ideal way to end The Lights I See You In Shadow. It’s simple, straightforward and yet still interesting.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey and will continue to visit.

It may be the winter but somewhere it’s still May: