Archive for the ‘chef menteur’ Category

It’s been a minute.

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

I had known this little outpost of the internet wasn’t functioning for awhile now. I hadn’t posted to it since 2014, so I figured it didn’t matter. Most of the “readers” were bots and spammers, and I disabled the user registration because they were only registering so that they could comment about deals on athletic shoes and cosmetics and luxury watches, and maintenance was a hassle for a blog I wasn’t updating because everyone was on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.

But, as I contemplated starting a new place to dump musical (and potentially other?) ideas I’m playing with, especially with my growing disillusionment with all forms of corporate-run social media, I finally made peace with resurrecting this blog. I had accidentally erased all of the files but some sleuthing into my own backups eventually proved successful. One of the first things that happened was an alert from my hosting provider that I had installed a captcha plugin that had been used maliciously to spam fake dialog boxes on unsuspecting users.

Since I last posted here, we had a fascist President come and go, we lost several beloved pets, I joined a talented singer-songwriter’s band playing atmospheric guitar harmonies, my main band (having ascended from trio to a quartet) lost its long-time bassist/multi-instrumentalist and was replaced by another talented friend, rehearsed for 4 years, played one gig, and then fell apart again without releasing anything more than one single… then the drummer and I rebooted again with one of our oldest and best friends on bass, and honestly things have never been more fun and satisfying, playing late 60s-inspired original garage psych instrumentals with funk and jazz influences from Curtis Mayfield, Jimi Hendrix/Band of Gyspies, the Meters, the Beatles as well as 80’s-early 90’s shoegaze/jangle/goth bands and African guitar music…. We got to play one gig at the Circle Bar (RIP), with a brand-new set…. and then of course COVID-19 happened.

The three of us have been getting together outside to jam on various acoustic instruments during the intermission, but soon we’ll all be fully vaccinated again and looking forward to returning to electrified amplification. I hope our neighbors haven’t gotten too used to the quiet in the meantime.

Personally, I’ve miraculously come into possession of my dream synth and have quietly been making droney, lush, and pulse-oriented evolving analog sounds that have been a form of meditative exercise and escapism for me during the pandemic. I need to find the time to finish mixing them and release them. Also I’ve been spending some time in Max/MSP again, working on some custom sequencer patches. I also have a design for algorithmic composition that I’ve sketched out and am working on implementing, inspired by Terry Riley’s In C. (Which I have written about and produced an Ableton Live version of here before).

Meanwhile as a guitar player I’ve been concentrating on learning a bit of theory that puts more chords, patterns and scales in my arsenal. After most of my lifetime as a guitar player thinking that too much learning would keep me from expressing my “true” sound, I am pretty comfortable tapping into that and now wish to increase my vocabulary. I’d also love to be able to hang with any musician in any impromptu jam situation at any time. Honestly a lifelong dream is to just show up with an instrument and just be able to play. I’ve acquired a much better ear but I still hit the occasional wrong note from time to time. I can play a melody or harmony almost intuitively but not a diminished chord or an augmented one. (I’ve just leveled up to being able to play major-7ths anywhere on the neck. Not that it was hard, but I just never learned it. But that is just half the battle — the other half is training your ear to know when to play the major 7th.)

Finally, as a guitar geek I’d be remiss not to share my love of a couple pedals I’ve acquired in the past 5 years. The Eventide Space has given me the Twin Peaks style atmosphere I need for playing with Saint Lorelei, but I use it a lot in everything. The Dusky Hypatia is an extremely versatile fuzz/overdrive pedal that gives me the tone I need when I want more than the Tube Screamer boost.

Anyway, like funerals are more for the living, perhaps blogs are more for the writer than the reader. But I still hope a few people get ideas or interest from anything I’ve posted. I’d still love to hear from anyone who wants to trade ideas or share experiences. May peace and good music follow you wherever you go.

Audiobiography (for Disquiet Junto)

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

My third (or fourth?) entry to the Disquiet Junto is a 2-minute narration that was uncomfortable to do. I initially resisted doing this “audiobiography”, as I generally dislike the self-consciousness that arises from talking about myself or hearing my voice, but as so many others in the Disquiet Junto have done it, I felt like I was cheating by skipping it. By the time I was finished, there were many things I didn’t talk about that contributed to the whole picture that didn’t make the cut : Indian music, analog synths, field recordings, Autechre, My Bloody Valentine…. but I was already several minutes over the allotted time when I started editing.

I also created a new SoundCloud account to post works from this site. I’ll be retroactively posting all the tracks from this blog soon.

background music: Chef Menteur – “Io” (edits)

More on this #60th Disquiet Junto project

More details on the Disquiet Junto at: Groups – Disquiet-junto

More details on the SoundCloud “audiobiography” project at:

Chef Menteur video made with Max/MSP

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

I used Max/MSP to filter and mix semi-autonomously a couple of video loops I shot in Greece, and put it to music, that being the Chef Menteur song “Narconaut” (the first track off the new record).

Chef Menteur: “Narconaut” from Chef Menteur on Vimeo.

Music by Chef Menteur | Photography by Alec Vance

(c) 2012 Backporch Revolution Records

Interview on My Spilt Milk

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Former Offbeat magazine editor Alex Rawls was kind enough to sit outside in the heat and talk to me for an hour about psychedelic music, krautrock, Terry Riley, generative music, Murmur, and what’s going on with Chef Menteur.

Listen to the podcast interview on his new music site My Split Milk.

A brief history of Chef Menteur, part 3

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

The Farfisa organ was also part of the setup (where it remained and became my main instrument for years), running through Electro Harmonix phaser and delay, but the K2000 was eventually retired because manually playing back all the samples was too much like DJing– and not enough like playing an instrument. The other guy in the band, Jim, played mostly bass and tweaked loops that I’d programmed on his Roland drum machine.

When Mike from the Electrical Spectacle started playing drums with us, things really started to change into something that worked better as a live concept; I’d figured out it was better to loop synths as patterns in the Roland which freed me up to play guitar again. I’d taken a long break from playing guitar and found a way of approaching it that could avoid the clichĂ©s. Mostly, I stopped concentrating on chords (especially those I already knew) and started concentrating on notes, especially long, single tones and the harmonic relationship between them; not in any kind of intellectual way but in a purely intuitive way.

Of course I could have sat down with a music theory book, or even some simple Mel Bay scale books, but I was afraid of being led into playing scales that I didn’t really want to play, and my ear not being trained enough to know which ones I liked, I had no tools in my arsenal except the blues scales and the C major scale; which I avoided like the plague.

After playing many, many bad notes I realized I liked playing certain scales which sounded vaguely Arabic and surfy. That led to a fascination with music from that part of the world; really everywhere from Spain and Morocco, through the Mediterranean (Greece, Turkey) through Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and of course India.

Many people who’d left the indie/pop world to focus on other aspects called their music, or had their music called “post-rock.” Tortoise, at least in our minds was the pinnacle of these bands, and almost all of them seemed to be in Chicago. We had many people tell us we needed to move to Chicago. Staying in New Orleans was certainly a bridge to nowhere. The live shows were fun, we had 40-200 people depending on the venue and the other acts, but we’d already hit the ceiling in New Orleans. That was OK with me. I didn’t want to tour; the live shows were fun but they were also stressful because of the complexity of the gear setup, and the unpredictable explosions that could be involved, and I wanted to focus on the recordings in the studio.

My friend potpie recommended that we try out his friend Chris on drums and he became our drummer for several years; my friend Bryan joined us on samplers and his very sweet custom-modded Pro-1 synth freeing me up to do more guitar work. The album We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire was culled from a series of mostly live improvisational recordings from this period; only three tracks were specifically tracked for the album. We did some live shows with both Chris and Mike on drums; the epic “Gilgamesh” was always a highlight for me as they played off each other brilliantly as Jim played the dubby bass line and I played my neo-Babylonian scales on the electric sitar.

Dan from godheadSilo, a good friend from work who was my partner in the electronica duo Time Promises Power, joined us after Katrina to fill in for Bryan on the Moog; a 6/6/6 tribute show to Black Sabbath conceived by potpie resulted in Dan getting behind the kit . Needless to say, if you know Dan and drums, you won’t be surprised to hear that he never left!

That show was also a turning point for me in that I felt I had achieved enough stylistic confidence in myself as a guitar player to no longer have to obsess about avoiding clichĂ©s. I had enough tools in my arsenal to pick the one that was appropriate and sometimes, when you’re playing psychedelic guitar, that’s going to be something very like a blues scale. I’ve never been a metalhead but I’ve loved early Sabbath since I was a kid. I could hear what was great about Tony Iommi’s guitar style without being led down the path of excess. As always, the subtlety, the tone, and the minimalism speaks far louder than a million Steve Vai notes per second.

With Dan in the band, there was enough collective concentration and patience to make a whole album’s (The Answer’s In Forgetting) worth of compositions that were based on more concrete ideas. The improvisational element was still heavy in some songs, but it was nice to build an album track-by-track, consciously, instead of waiting for the Muse and always having to have mics set up and the tape recorder ready-to-go whenever inspiration struck. It also enabled us to make some thoughtful chord changes (see the track “Exit the Thief” for example) in the arrangement; which in the past would have been against the rules for our minimalist drone outfit.

As before, with the track “Io” that ended We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire, we added a long ambient drone track, “Farewell Callisto.” I’ve been questioned before on the inclusion of such tracks, even by some drone afficianados, because the idea is that people who want to listen to such tracks want to listen to only them and those who don’t, don’t. That may be so, but I can think of at least one exception: me. I have found (thanks to the Internet mostly) that most of my geeky and obscure obsessions aren’t nearly as unusual as I thought they were, so someone else out there must also like the long ambient tracks?


A brief history of Chef Menteur, part 2.

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

Here is part 1 of this post. 

I hadn’t played a live show in what seemed like ages, and the most technology I had ever used onstage was using a distortion pedal AND a delay pedal on my guitar. Now I was leaving the guitar behind and bringing a mess of pedals for three keyboards (Farfisa organ, K2000 synth/sampler, 1980’s Yamaha toy synth), going through a mixer. Fortunately it was “just a house show” at our friend Chris Crowley’s Flophouse® and there was minimal external pressure… but having come from a indie rock background I honestly didn’t know if we could pull this electronic thing off live.

Countless hours were spent loading samples and patches into the Kurzweil K2000. I had Mellotrons and Moog samples as well as keymapped snippets of pieces of Art Bell’s AM radio show “Coast to Coast” where he’s talking about aliens and the Quickening.

The Quickening by Chef Menteur

People weren’t really doing laptop live shows quite yet—at least not in New Orleans—but my work Powerbook G3 was used with a microphone and a borrowed projector to make psychedelic improvisations based algorithmically on the music, using a visualizer named MacCthuga. (We later moved on to a more advanced visualizer called G-Force, later integrated into iTunes) — this was before visualizers were commonly built into iTunes and WinAmp, so the idea that the projections could reflect the waveforms of the sound we were playing was quite revolutionary at the time.

The visualizers we used could be pre-scripted as well as “played” live to a degree, so that you could set it up to have a better chance of showing the kinds of patterns you wanted to see, and could use keyboard shortcuts to advance color palettes or animations to the next one in the list. I spent a lot of time practicing this, but in the end it was too difficult to pay any attention to the video and still make a half-decent effort at performing, so although we did get some help at shows from a couple of friends, essentially it ended up on autopilot…. but still interpolating from the actual music being played through the microphone, which was the main point. I wanted to have a video member of the band that was of equal import to any of the musicians—especially (a few years later) after seeing Stars of the Lid perform at the Mermaid Lounge, who not only did that but did it with vintage film equipment.

Our first show was a success I was told, although it was a total blur for me. Our next couple of shows we tested in real live local rock clubs: the Circle Bar and the Mermaid Lounge.

Another song that we played for the first few shows was based on a Chinese pop vocal sample from my friend Mack that we had improvised over, put to a club beat, recorded to 4-track, edited and looped:

Chun-Li by Chef Menteur

Before moving on to part 3, I realized I’d forgotten another gem from our pre-live days that should probably be in part one. Probably the most acid/house of all our tracks (thanks to the 303s) it nonetheless is really rooted more in dub:

Terra Incognita by Chef Menteur 

Stay tuned for part 3. Meanwhile check out the tracks above to see what Chef Menteur started out sounding like and how far we’ve come— and please, please consider supporting our Kickstarter project!









Chef Menteur new videos, kickstarter, shows, etc!

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

A lot has been going on in Chef Menteur world, as we try to get our album made.

Two new videos this summer (so far) featuring songs from the album, and we just announced another show.

(I’m not gonna duplicate too much info across blogs, you can follow what’s going on over there.)

BUT…. Please support our Kickstarter project!

A brief history of Chef Menteur, part 1.

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

I’ve been involved with a lot of different musical projects, as songwriter, collaborator, hired gun, organist, guitar player, engineer/producer, and so on, but for the past decade, my main musical project has consistently been a band called Chef Menteur.

Chef Menteur started at a time when I’d tired of indie rock band clichĂ©s, and wanted to do something different: focus on experimenting and improvising instead of writing the perfect 4 minute indie/pop/folk/country tune. Having been spent some concentrated time in London’s electronic music scene, I had never been able to get that out of my brain, and technology was finally allowing those of us who couldn’t afford the vintage gear prices to do rudimentary sampling and sequencing for much less.

Listen to “Shotgun”.

At Rue de la Course, a coffehouse on Magazine Street in New Orleans, I saw an ad that mentioned My Bloody Valentine, John Coletrane, Sea and Cake, and John Zorn. And so, Chef Menteur started out with drum machines, keyboards, synthesizers… sounding like some weird mutation of Stereolab, the Chemical Brothers, Bruce Haack and weird Ninja Tune b-sides.. with fuzzed out guitars/bass that could be from Sonic Youth’s Sister.

Listen to “Chef Menteur Hwy”.

A four-track Tascam tape recorder was used to capture live sounds and Pro Tools Free was used to edit and mix. The plugins could take 4 minutes to render 10 seconds of audio and the Mac 8500 we were using would often crash, forcing a complete reboot. Each song took ages!

Listen to “An American Favorite“.

We put some tunes up on (this is before myspace) and claimed we were big in Japan. We started getting some plays on WTUL and well-loved and respected DJ Chris Crowley offered us a show at the the Flophouse, which was kind of a communal living/party space.

Listen to “Betty B Free”.

We said yes, but were terrified: this changed everything! How could we play live sounds that were so studio-based?

Continue with part 2… Meanwhile check out the tracks above to see what Chef Menteur started out sounding like and how far we’ve come— and please, please consider supporting our Kickstarter project!