JJ vs the Digital Whale

by LL Music

In cart

JJ VS THE DIGITAL WHALE is a classic rock concept album in the style of Pink Floyd's "Animals" or Flaming Lips' "Yoshimi." It tells the ancient story of Jonah and the Whale through a modern lens. Jonah becomes "JJ," while the whale is portrayed as the constant barrage of electronics, media, and technology which surround us all. Through this device, the narrative transcends its roots in Christian, Jewish and Islamic culture and offers new perspective on connections in our disconnected world.

  1. 1
    In cart
    [Info] 01 I Know A Guy 03:08
  2. 2
    In cart
    [Info] 02 You've Got EWhale 03:59
  3. 3
    In cart
    [Info] 03 Ribs And Terrors 04:40
  4. 4
    In cart
    [Info] 04 Ride The Whale 04:57
  5. 5
    In cart
    [Info] 05 Seabound 02:19
  6. 6
    In cart
    [Info] 06 Nothing Nowhere No One Blues 05:47
  7. 7
    In cart
    [Info] 07 Ismi Azum 03:06
  8. 8
    In cart
    [Info] 08 The Art Of Transformation 02:07
  9. 9
    In cart
    [Info] 09 Sunbound 06:35
Lyrics: Shea Broussard & LL

I know a guy with something to say
I know a guy who thinks in waves
I know a guy who spent his youth
Living & loving & learning the truth
A hesitant prophet for the digital age
By the name of JJ

I know a child, 5 years old
With his barefeet he runs for the road
I know a child who seems naive
But every cell is a galaxy
The world tried to teach him how to be a slave
So he shutdown due 2 digital dismayyy

I know a man who I don't wanna be
A lonely old man who's lost at sea
He set a course for the sun in the east
And ended up in the belly of the beast
Now he's just driftin' with nothin' to say
A washed up prophet by the name of JJ

LL: Experimental demos started around the end of 2012.
Drums, programming, keys, guitars, home recording throughout 2013-14.
Aaron Parker:  Additional guitars recorded early 2014.
Scott Solter:  Recorded LL vox spring 2014.
Shea Broussard:  Additional vox recorded by LL mid 2014.

(c) 2014 LL Music. All rights reserved.

Music by LL

LL:  Demos started in early 2013. 
Drums, Piano & B3 recorded at Soundpure by Allen Palmer, spring 2014.
Guitars, Bass and Vibraphone recorded by Scott Solter, fall 2014.
William Dawson:  Trombone (recorded & edited by LL)
Shea Broussard: Goat Hooves

(c) 2014 LL Music. All rights reserved.

Music by LL
Lyrics adapted from Herman Melville (p.d.)

The ribs and terrors of the whale
Arched over me a dismal gloom
While all God's sunlit waves rolled by
And lifted me deepening down to doom

I saw the opening mouth of hell
With endless pain and sorrow there
Which none but they that feel can tell
Oh, I was plunging to despair

My songs forever shall record
That terrible, that joyful hour
I give the glory to my love
Hers all the mercy and the power

In black distress I called to you
When I could scarce believe you mine
You bowed your ear to my complaints
No more the whale did me confine


Drums and melodica recorded by Scott Solter, spring 2014.
Synths & accordions  recorded by LL at home, mid 2014.
William Dawson: Bowed bass recorded by LL
Curtis Eller's Banjo recorded by LL at home, fall 2014.
Vocals recorded by Scott Solter, fall 2014.

(c) 2014 LL Music. All rights reserved.

music & lyrics by LL

I caught a tiger by the tail, now I'm gonna ride the whale
I shook a hellhound off my trail, now I've got to ride the whale
I won't be held by any jail, Oh Lord, I'm gonna ride the whale

When I was just a boy on my first day of school
They tried to learn me right from wrong, they tried to learn me the golden rule
But I wasted the gift they gave me for the right to play a fool

I shook a hellhound off my trail, now I've got to ride the whale
I caught a tiger by the tail, now I'm gonna ride the whale
I got a feeling I can't fail, Oh Lord, I'm gonna ride the whale

I feel bad, bad, bad, feel as bad as the day is long
I feel bad, bad, bad, cause I still don't know right from wrong
I take these bad, bad feelings, chop em up and make a song
And it goes a little something like:

Now I'm going off the rails, and I'm gonna ride the whale
I'm like a hammer with no nail, and I gotta ride these here whale
I got a feeling I can't fail, Oh Lord, I'm gonna ride the whale

Drums recorded by Scott Solter, spring 2014
B3 recorded by Allen Palmer at Soundpure, spring 2014
Synths, guitars and vocals recorded by LL at home
Saxes played and recorded by Thomas Van Der Brook at Tonehaus in Austin, TX

(c) 2014 LL Music.  All rights reserved.

music & lyrics by LL

Do you remember me?
I knew you once
In a childhood dream
Now if you'll believe in me
I'll take your hand
And pull you toward the sea.

I am a dream of eternity
I am spirit transcending
I am a beautiful ending
Longing for a beginning

Drums, Wurlitzer, piano & Rhodes recorded by Allen at Soundpure
Vocals recorded by Scott Solter
Glockenspiel, guitars and Wm. Dawson's bass recorded by LL at home.

(c) 2014 LL Music. All rights reserved.


I wanna die, and i don't wanna go to heaven
I wanna burn, and that's just so I can feel something, anything
Cuz right now I'm looking in your eyes,
and baby I feel nothing, no one, nowhere
I don't feel like moving, and i don't feel like groovin'
I don't feel like singing (skittely bop ba ba whee ah) and I dont feel like swingin'
I don't feel like sinkin' any lower, I'm going nowhere, I’m going nowhere
Until I feel something, I found someone
I’m feeling something that I haven’t in so long
And I'm finally beginning to shake off the nothing, nowhere no one blues
Here I come loving everyone, here I come loving everyone,
Here I come loving everyone, here I come loving everyone,
And I'm finally beginning to shake off the nothing, nowhere no one blues

(Baby here I come) Baby here I come
(Baby here I come) Baby here I come
(I found someone) I found someone
(Baby here I come) Baby here I come
and I'm finally beginning to shake off the nothing, nowhere no one blues (No, no, no, no, no)

Here I come, lovin’ everyone (x4)
Here I come, lovin’ everyone, here I come, lovin’ everyone
Here I come, lovin’ everyone, oh, here I come
(Here I come, lovin’ everyone) Baby here I come
(Here I come, lovin’ everyone) Baby here I come
(Here I come, lovin’ everyone) Baby here I come
(Here I come, lovin’ everyone)
And I'm finally beginning to shake off the nothing, nowhere no one blues (No, no, no, no, no)

…(Baby here I come)
Baby here I come (Baby here I come)
I found someone (I found someone)
Baby here I come (Baby here I come)
And I'm finally beginning to shake off the nothing, nowhere no one blues (No, no, no, no, no x2)

I love someone oh yes I do
I love someone and that someone is you
So if and when I ever lose my mind
I'll remember your name til the end of time

Drums recorded by Scott Solter in early 2014
Piano, Rhodes & B3 recorded at Soundpure, spring 2014
Synths, guitars and ukulele recorded by LL at home
Guitars, more Rhodes & lead vocals recorded by Scott Solter, fall 2014
Saxes by Thomas Van Der Brook at Tonehaus
Backing vocals by Shea Broussard, Katharine Whalen* and Shawn Luby
*session narrowly saved by William Dawson

(c) 2014 LL Music. All rights reserved.

music by LL

Drums & piano recorded at Soundpure by Allen Palmer
Guitars & synths recorded at home by LL

(c) 2014 LL Music. All rights reserved.

music by LL

Drums, piano and B3 recorded at Soundpure by Allen Palmer, spring 2014
Guitars, bass and vibraphone recorded by Scott Solter, mid 2014
Synths, theremin, glockenspiel & porch piano recorded by LL at home, late 2014

Music by LL
Lyrics by Shea Broussard & LL

He slips to slumber, leaving worlds behind him
With winged feet he rises to her warmth
Ascending past what once were bones and truth
A star, like death, he folds into her arms

Illuminated by her ancient beauty
A dying, desperate heart, the young man cried,
"I yearn to know the things you know, and freely,
I'll choose the blindness just to see your eyes."

Do you remember me?
I knew you once in a childhood dream
Now if you feel my warmth
Deep inside
I'll take your hand and pull you toward the...

Darkness holding space amid her brilliance
A mind and body turned to ash and wind
The only way to see into her center
Is to close my eyes and to surrender
Surrender to the truth

I will remember you
As you say goodbye to the life you knew
And if you'll let go
I'll bring peace to your restless soul
And with our bodies gone
And spirits free
We'll be at one with the sea, and the sun, and the dream.

I am a dream of eternity
I am spirit transcending
I am a beautiful ending
Longing for a beginning

Drums recorded by Scott Solter, early 2014.
Piano, B3 and Rhodes overdubbed at Soundpure
Vocals, guitars and synth programming by LL at home throughout 2014
More guitars, bass and vibraphone recorded by Scott Solter, late 2014
Background vocals by Shea Broussard, Katharine Whalen and Shawn Luby
Banjo by Curtis Eller, recorded at home by LL in late 2014
Violins played and recorded by Thomas Van Der Brook at Tonehaus
Ending drum solo recorded in the Rambler garage, Austin TX, around 2007.
Additional sound effects sampled from ON (2003)

(c) 2014 LL Music. All rights reserved.

Artwork by Ben Belcher

You've Got eWhale! 

This week I released the tune "You've Got eWhale."  This song represents a lot to me so I'm gonna sit down here and blog about it.

The first part of the song I wrote was the bass solo at the end.  I wrote it in 1996 or 97 while learning to play bass for the Salem High Jazz band.  The whole riff is on the G string and utilizes a frantic "down / pull-off / up" picking pattern.  I would play it in a loop while warming up for class, occasionally a little too loud, sorry Mr. Reaser!

I never thought it was strong enough for it's own song so I slept on it for a while.  For about 15 years to be exact.  Meanwhile, I moved to Richmond in 2001 and started writing my 2nd solo album, Leaving and Returning.  It's last song is a weird acoustic tune called "Haunt," which depicts a stuck-in-the-rut relationship through a simple 3-chord sequence.  After I moved to Texas and put that album out, I thought I would re-work "Haunt" for a full band.  Unfortunately I never put that band together, and as my sideman career took off the Leaving & Returning album faded into a line on my bio.

Sometime around 2012, that simple little chord sequence wormed its way back into my dreams.  E B A.  A B E.  repeat and ad lib.  I started noodling around with it on the guitar again.  To change it up I just held out the B chord.  Suddenly the song had two sections and started to take form.  I realized that old bass solo would fit at the end.  I did a little creative modulating and the whole thing just took shape.

At the same time, I was dreaming up the idea of JJ vs the Digital Whale.  I had several goals:  I wanted to do a new solo album.  I wanted it to be in the style of a 1970's classic rock concept album.  I wanted it to have a story, not just a theme like Leaving and Returning.   I wanted to make the process part of the story:  I was finding all these old bits of music in my dreams, and trying to tell the story of how they all got there.  At some point I realized I was going to a very isolated place for my source material.  Why not look for a story that could be updated with my own experiences?  I think I read somewhere that good artists do that. :) 

One day at my preschool job, I imagined I was Jonah for about 5 minutes.  I saw a picture in a kids book of a whale and asked myself, how would I feel if I was Jonah, sitting there in the belly of that whale?  Within a day or two the rough ideas for "I Know A Guy," "You've Got eWhale," "Nothing Nowhere NoOne Blues," and "Sunbound" were arranging themselves in my mind.

For me composing music is a profoundly spiritual experience.  It requires tapping into knowledge, even wisdom, from the collective consciousness.  Then bringing that knowledge or wisdom into a fixed form so you can copyright it, put it on the internet, have a music career and stay alive.  Wow.  On a physical level it's making something from nothing.  But spiritually it's just like dipping your tiny cup into an endless ocean.

When music comes into my conscious mind, I give thanks to a higher power.  As long as I do that, it's amazing, all the music just arranges itself in my head.  I'll wake up from dreaming it and just have to remember it (and I'm getting batter at that).  I definitely feel that most of "my" best ideas are the ones that come from somewhere else.  Somewhere bigger, more connected, less physical. 

After being in that spiritual state it can be scary coming back into the "real world" where you have to promote yourself on Twitter and read about horrible things on the news and make pleasant conversation at dinner.  I wanted to really show that with this piece of music.  I realized that the Jonah story appears in Christian, Jewish and Islamic culture.  That really sealed the deal.  I realized that by using the internet to market this thing I could actually reach people in different cultures.  I had a vision of a music fan in Iraq or Pakistan coming across my album online.  In my mind at least, this album could really say something to them from across cultural lines.  Maybe even connect us across those lines.  Questlove was blogging last week about how musicians need to do stuff like this so I hope he finds out about JJ at some point.

These are some of the people close to me who helped make this new song happen:

Shea Broussard, my amazing wife, encouraged me to do the album.  She also played her cool goat hooves on "You've Got eWhale."

Sonny Ratcliff gave me an Mbox for a wedding gift.  I spent about 2 years recording covers and learning protools before starting the first demo of You Got eWhale.  None of the new album would've been possible without Sonny.

I met Scott Solter around the time I was starting to record JJ demos.  He asked me to assist a session at Kudzu ranch (a recording studio in NC) once.  I spent a day watching him wrestle vintage technology, getting amazing sounds at the end but going through an ordeal to get there.  Musicians are constantly battling gear that is designed to be replaced.  We've had a lot of good conversations on this topic, and Scott has influenced the album in more ways than he knows.  This summer Scott recorded the vibraphone, bass and guitar overdubs for "You've Got eWhale," and a few months later mixed the track down to 1/2" tape. 

Joe Perry of Aerosmith once had a custom Strat-style guitar made.  When he saw the off-green finish, he decided not to buy it.  His loss was Scott Solter's gain, because Scott ended up buying it.  Scott's gain was also my gain because the big guitar solo on "You've Got eWhale" was played on the Joe Perry-rejected guitar.  We're not really that close but I still want to thank you, Joe!

Allen Palmer recorded the Drum Set, Piano and B3 at Soundpure Studios in Durham.  Allen assisted on Curtis Eller's sessions and was great to work with.  Soundpure can be super intimidating unless you have Allen there pushing buttons and twisting knobs.

William Dawson has been involved with Curtis Eller's American Circus and our circle of friends for about a year.  William is an amazing multi-instrumentalist.  He played the trombone part you'll hear under the Farfisa solo.  He also introduced me to:

David Asbill Anderson, keyboard tech extraordinaire, who fixed up the B3 at Soundpure, as well as my Farfisa.  Its safe to say there would be a lot of unintentional noise on my keyboard tracks if not for David.

The sound of "You've Got eWhale" is supposed to represent the Whale of technology that engulfs us all in the modern day.  Listen to it on headphones, imagining that all those buttons and knobs, and TV screens and cell phones, and synthesizers and GPS systems, and PS4s and Xboxes and LCDs, they're all around you, squeezing you a little tighter each day, isolating you even while you're trying to text your girlfriend and order a pizza.   Listen to it and imagine that you're JJ for a minute.  He's really not very different from you.



Progress is the opposite of Congress.  I think Mark Twain might have said that.  Mark Twain wrote an amazing version of the story of Adam and Eve that inspired me a lot.  He took all the best elements of the story and rearranged them to showcase his unique views and phrasing.  What a great writer!  I'm trying to do something like that with my new album, JJ Vs the Digital Whale. 

First of all, rock albums don't usually have a moral so it's been fun to defy that convention.  Second, it's been really fun getting inside JJ's head and figuring him out as a character.  He's not exactly Jonah from the Bible, Torah and Qur'an.  He's an echo of one small part of Jonah-- that's why his name's JJ, get it?  I've also been thinking about God as a character in the old stories.  What does he really say?  That we have to blindly obey him?  Even when he doesn't directly tell us what he wants?  Or when we want something different?  Sounds fishy to me.  PUN INTENDED.

All the best stories are the ones you can imagine yourself a part of.  JJ is easy to imagine, he's just a normal everybody.  He goes to school, hangs out, walks around in the world, but the thing is he's constantly surrounded by technology.  Sometimes by choice, sometimes not.  Everyone he goes he's either watching or being watched.  All that technology is just engulfing him like that giant fish from the old story.  In fact that is the story, just him getting engulfed by all that technology, getting taught a cruel lesson by God, isolated from everybody.  But you can put yourself in his place very easily, right?

Does it have to be that way? Does technology have to isolate us?  Does God's will have to be at war with our individuality?  The album suggests no!  You can use all that technology to connect with people, fall in love, find God or Allah or Yahweh, find a new way of thinking, collaborate, change the world! 

In my version of the story, God is The Universe.  The World.  Everything and Everyone.  All the people you know and love.  They're separate, but they're connected.  They love you...but they will ultimately destroy you, and you WILL lose your precious sense of individuality.  That's the hard truth.  Can we run away from that truth?  Is all this technology an attempt to do just that????   

While those questions sit unanswered, progress on the album moves on at a renewed pace.  This weekend Scott Solter mixed the first two tracks, "I Know A Guy" and "You've Got eWhale."  This caps off a summer of overdubbing, building a new live band with Donovan Cheatam, and working on the video for "Nowhere Nothing NoOne Blues" with Michael Lucas, Brandy Lynn and Andrew Hiller (more on all these later).  All Curtis Eller's banjo parts are locked in.  I'll be releasing portions of Ben Belcher's amazing artwork within the next month.  Thomas Van Der Brook is adding the final saxophone & violin overdubs from Austin.  Katherine Whalen and Shawn Luby are going to sing on it, but I'm behind schedule on recording their parts.  Maybe after gigs this weekend.  Album release date should be late January or early February.  Thinking about a kickstarter just for a vinyl run.

Here's a rundown of the first two songs:

"I Know A Guy" -- a character portrait of JJ.  I wrote the guitar riff many years ago -- I remember unsuccessfully pitching it to Shaun Dickerson and Paul Tressel as a potential Screaming Zygotes song.  It slept for a very long time, but the lyrics came very quickly after I hit upon the JJ concept.  Shea rewrote my first draft and vastly improved the structure and phrasing.  I started assembling the drums in ProTools (thanks Sonny!) during the summer of 2013.  I incorporated a sequencing app called Pocket Band for the video game FX and drum machine.  I also used a theremin app for the whale sounds.  Aaron Parker laid down some wild guitar tracks and Shea topped the whole thing off with a harmony vocal.  I doubled down on guitar tracks and vintage synth samples.  Scott Solter's mix onto 1/2" tape made the whole thing sound like it's actually real!

"You've Got eWhale" -- An instrumental, and another old riff, this one came from Richmond around the end of Leaving and Returning.  It's actually a simpler version of the chord sequence to "Haunt."  The arrangement is intended to portray the behemoth of technology -- the piano and vibraphone sounds so innocent and inviting at first, but by the end, you're engulfed by the Farfisa and the bass solo melts your face.  Basic drum, piano and B3 tracks recorded at SoundPure by Allen Palmer, subsequent keyboard & guitar overdubs by Scott Solter and myself on Orient Street.  Features Shea on goat hooves and William Dawson on trombone.  Special thanks to Chris Traylor at Hohner for hooking me up with a great deal on the melodica I used on this track.

These first two songs will probably get posted online very soon.  The first place you'll find them will be at www.LLmusic.net.  I will also be screaming my head off on facebook and twitter about it so you've got that to expect.  Ah, progress!


JJ vs. The Digital Whale 


If you've talked to me lately, you might know that I have been writing and recording a new album this year.  Last weekend the project took a huge step forward when producer Scott Solter recorded my drums for most of the songs onto 2" tape.  Scott is my next door neighbor and someone whose work I admire a lot.  So now that I'm officially working on this thing I thought I'd just blog a little on it.

QUICK SYNOPSIS:  JJ vs the Digital Whale is a rock concept album in the tradition of “Dark Side,” “Quadrophenia,” “Gamehenge” or “Yoshimi.”  It tells a modernized version of the story of Jonah and the Whale.  Jonah becomes “JJ,” and the whale is portrayed as the whole barrage of technology that we are surrounded by every modern day.  Electronic instruments, computer programs, modern devices and apps are used to sonically portray the shape-shifting Digital Whale.  JJ journeys through the modern world seeking truth and external validation through technology.  He runs from both the truth inside himself, and true connections with other people.  Ultimately, he is swallowed by the very thing he was running from.  JJ does not emerge from his whale in the way of Jonah, though.  In the finale, JJ leaves his body inside the whale, as his spirit discorporates and he transcends the material world.

WHY?  1. It's been 4 years since my last solo album (not counting the LL Orchestra EP). 

2. As a fan of both classic rock concept albums and sci-fi, I want to tell a story.  I love how Battlestar Galactica turns ancient mythology and religion into a timeless narrative.  I want to do something like that, set to music that recalls early 70's Yes, King Crimson, and of course my heroes Pink Floyd. 

3. As a child, I had an unforgettable dream where I was flying.  It started as I was walking around my yard, then running, then realizing my steps were becoming more spaced and less connected.  Eventually I discovered a technique of jumping at a high angle and gliding for further stretches.  As I built my new skill, the music that would become "Sunbound" began fading into my consciousness.

Each time I would leap further up and the music would swell.   I would drift back down to the ground softly as the music for “Earthbound” played.  As I flew straight toward the absolute zenith of the sky, the two pieces merged.  Rain began pouring down into my face as I struggled to ascend upward like an arrow.  The music was so beautiful, and it was coming down to me directly from the beautiful Sun, a symphony of light and sound.  But the harder I struggled to reach it, my body would fall into limp exhaustion and I would again tumble down.  I was crying as the rain was hitting my face, but kept flying into the warmth of the sun until the music became so beautiful and intense that I woke up. 

I have remembered that music my entire life, and only recently developed the skill to feel comfortable recreating it with notation and recording technology.  It will never be as beautiful as it was in the dream, but I feel very strongly that it's time for me to share it.  When I figured out how to connect that music to Jonah’s story, the concept of the album basically took on a life of its own.  These are the riffs and chord sequences that just won't leave me alone.  They rearrange themselves into clever segues and remixing while I'm sleeping. 
          So just as Jonah emerged from his whale a changed man, I want to create a multi-layered musical and narrative project that communicates a sense of transformation and emergence;  to build on my own emergence from my childhood dream, and some of the musical ideas that came with it and after;  and to offer a humble suggestion for how us modern humans could emerge from our self-created whale of technological isolation into a new era of communication and connection. 

4.  Good stories deserve retelling, and the fact that Jonah and the Whale is one of the few stories that appears in Christian, Jewish and Islamic holy books might be a good indicator of its value.  I'm not trying to preach to anybody, especially not the choir.  I just needed a big concept for my next original project.  For whatever reason, the idea struck me and I went with it.

OTHER RANDOM THINGS ABOUT THE ALBUM:  I hope to have it available for sale digitally by the end of the year.  But I work for The Muses, and they don't always do deadlines.  So we'll see. 
         I've been doing some basic tracking at home and will be overdubbing the Scott Solter sessions over the next few weeks.  I'm going to try to write more about the creative process because I haven't blogged in ages.  But I always say that. 
         Aaron Parker will be on the album.  I recorded him through a virtual amp rig a few weeks ago.  He also built the main guitar I'll be playing on the album.  He also gave me a Bleep Labs Nebulophone that will make some appearances.
         My lovely wife Shea Broussard has been helping me a lot with the lyrics.  I tend towards telling and she's helping me do more showing.  I'm also planning to record her singing background vocals on most of the tunes.  Some other people who I'd like to be involved (but aren't yet) are Curtis Eller, Hugh Crumley, F.M. Turner and Grant Whitney. 
          I haven't said much publicly about this project because the last few albums I've done have taken a real long time to finish.  I'm writing this blog to start thinking out it as a real project with an end point, however distant.  So that's about it for now.  Thanks for reading! 


THE SAGA OF HOSS AND JEFF by Louis Landry & Shaun Dickerson 

 ***PART ONE***

Hoss and Jeff (that's what they used to call Freff) were hanging out while Hoss scratched his ear with his pinky. After they finished hanging out Hoss lit up a cigarette. Jeff was disgusted. "Ewww! Now you've got earwax on your cigarette!"

Hoss responded by calmly sticking his cigarette in Jeff's ear. "Ha! Now you have cigarette ashes in your ear!! So there!!"

Jeff screamed, "I can't live here anymore!!! I HATE THIS PLACE!!!!"



Hoss never found the answers he was looking for. He eventually went crazy and started building little piles everywhere he went. "Because," he would say, "that's what we do, isn't it? Yes, make little piles!! Ha!"

Jeff later changed his named to Freff, and a day later, his mind broke into a million pieces.

***PART TWO***

Two days later Hoss picked up those pieces, but he didn't really know what they were. Hoss put them into a little plastic baggie and tossed them into his cargo pants pocket.



Freff felt alone living in a cargo pocket, yet somehow he was at home. Luckily, he had brought his Twiddlethum. Twiddlethumb is a game that Jeff (Freff) loved. He could play Twiddlethumb everyday, although his parents never let him.

Twiddlethumb is a basic game involving your thumbs. You twirl them endlessly while you ponder other meaningful events in your life. You don't want to Twidlethumb too much, however; pondering life doesn't really take you that far. Which is where Freff went wrong in the first place. He would dream if a life as a painter. Not one that just painted walls, but one that would paint walls with meaning. Meaning that would mean more than anyone could possibly know what it's meaning was. Meaningful meaning, that's what Jeff would paint. If he painted at all, that is.

But he didn't paint. He lived in a pocket. That's why he plays Twiddlethumb.


PART FOUR: The saga Begins

Once upon a time Freff and Ed (that's what they used to call Hoss) were just little babies, like me and you. They were mean babies though. They would yell cuss words at their moms, then laugh about it. They would soil their diapers on purpose. They once hatched a plan to crack open their milk bottles and use the jagged edge to cut people.

The premise was simple. The threat of cutting = financial reward. SO they walked down the street corner with their milk bottles held threateningly, waiting for the victim who would feel the wrath of the sharp, cold glass.

Alas, the plan was dashed when Freff and Hoss got thirsty and drank the milk. Then they fell asleep in a pumpkin patch and woke up the next day on the inside of a giant leaf. A kind old grizzly bear found them and sent them on their way. And I was that grizzly bear.

***PART FOUR EPILOGUE (separate from the overall epilogue):

Eventually I grew up to be a very old bear with a huge vocabulary. People don't really think of bears as being very smart, and ultimately that was our biggest advantage in the Great Grizzly Uprising of '96. It was my catchphrase, "GRRRRRRRAAAWWWWWW!" that inspired a nation to victory. In my later years I became a celebrated literary professor and wrote several books. The most popular was "The Modern Bears' Guide to City Life." In all these years I have thought tenderly of Freff and whoever that other baby was, and all I really know is that those were two of the meanist babies I have ever seen. Go Grizzlies!

I also wrote the lyrics to the Grizzly national Anthem:

Grizzlys are great and we rule the world
The humans used run it but we took control

Now if the other species don't bring us some food
We're just gonna start eating them too Graw Graw Graw!



Twiddlethumb madness swept British waterways last January. British Naval Engineer Clive Stiggy said, "'hoo, me? Well, I took it up right after New years, I did, me dear ole mum showed it to me, and I ain't been the same ever since. Changed me life for the better, it did. Used to be I didn't have nowhere to put me thumbs, why, sometimes I'd just be holdin' 'em out at unnatural angles from the rest o' me body, and where d'y'think that got me in life? Nowhere, that's where. Since i joined the great British Twiddlin' of naught-8, well, it's all been on the up-and-up."

Pathetic! Twiddlethumb is nothing but mindless twirling and inanimate pondering. Introduce that combination is society and what do you get eventually? INANIMATE TWIRLING and MINDLESS PONDERING. Our artists need better inspiration than this constant twiddling. How else are they to paint pictures that will inspire the scientific breakthroughs that we need to survive in the third millennium of the common era? With all this mindlessness we are never going to invent things like electric toothbrushes for bears.

British people must hate freedom. Why else would they want grizzly bears to develop plaque, gingivitis and cavities? I wish all these freedom-hating, British, inanimate, Twiddlethumbing scientific-breakthrough-preventing jerks would just go back to whatever country Britain is in. Away with you, Stiggy! Your strong stance against dental hygiene has been duly noted.


Stiggy had a nightmare, then cried himself awake. No bear could crush him.


 (alphabetically) Louis Armstrong, Air, Aerosmith, Agents of Good Roots, Bach, The Band, Beck, Beethoven, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Bon Jovi (the band), Jon Bon Jovi (the solo artist), Count Basie, Mr. Bojangles, Sam Bush, James Brown, John Cage, Chick Corea, John Coltrane, Ray Charles, The Cars, Miles Davis, Def Leppard, Claude DeBussy, BoB Dylan, Earth Wind & Fire, Duke Ellington, Dr. John, Faith No More, Flaming Lips, Ben Folds, Flatt & Scruggs, Trilok Gurtu, Marvin Gaye, Herbie Hancock, Micheal Jackson, Jazz Mandolin Project, Jamiroqoui, Little Richard, Led Zeppelin, Lenny Kravitz, Kongar OOl-Ondar, Jerry Lee Lewis, Living Colour, Motley Crue, The Monkees, Bob Marley, Medeski Martin & Wood, Willie Nelson, Nirvana, Harry Nillson, Prince, Phish, Pink Floyd, Elvis Presley, Louis Prima, Queensryche, Queen, Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Sufjan Stevens, Talking Heads, Ween, Weezer, Whitesnake, The Who, Frank Zappa... As well as some of the amazing musicians I've had the blessing to perform/record/write with:  Charlie & Bruce Robison, Ryan Bingham, Jimmy Dean, Joe Morello, Shadd Scott, Joe Woullard, Shawn Nelson, Joe Faulhaber, PJ Herrington, Mooke, Sam Pulley, Nick Chambers, Adam Raven, The Portal, Graham Wilkinson & the Underground Township, Jessie England, Escalator, Schwill, Micah Berry, 40,000 Flies, Trey Pollard, Davy Tyson, Paul Tressel, Amanda Holt, Aaron Parker, Patrick Turner, and Shaun Dickerson.

I want to make special mention of some of the female performers who have influenced me...Erikah Badu, Bjork, The Cardigans, Ani DiFranco, Ella Fitzgerald, PJ Harvey, Emmylou Harris, Billie Holliday, Sarah Jarosz, Sarah MacLachlan, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstandt, Jill Scott, Nina Simone, Gillian Welch...

I've also been greatly influenced by all the sounds I have ever heard and all the experiences I have ever had.

I was hugely influenced by the music of my dad, James Landry (originally from New Orleans). He has played piano for over 50 years and still surprises me every time I hear him play.
I was also blessed to study drums for two years with Thomas Howard Curtis, a man who politely blows my mind away with the knowledge, wisdom, craftsmanship and artistry he displays on the modern Drum Set (it is impossible to use lowercase letters when he plays it)

If you ask me, some of the greatest American musicians of the last 50 years are Art Blakey, Johnny Cash, Jerry Garcia & Phil Lesh, Bela Fleck, Gregg & Duane Allman, Jack DeJohnette, George Gershwin, Charles Mingus, Bruce Springsteen, Igor Stravinsky (born a Russian but embodied the spirit of American classical music so well), Allen Toussaint, Tony Williams, Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, and Regi, Rudi, Joseph, Roy (Future Man), and Victor LeMonte Wooten. These are all folks who I unfortunately did not discover until high school, college, or recently.

My guilty pleasures are Christina Aguilera and Huey Lewis & the News.

Gonna do some bloggin' later 

 I have been slacking off bigtime.  Between touring with Charlie Robison and performing around Austin and Houstin with The Invincible Czars, I should be blogging my brains out.  But I haven't blogged since I don't know when.  Well, that's a fixin to change.  First I'm gonna re-post some old blogs from myspace and other miscellaneous sites.  Then we'll see.  Ok then.

your friend,

Czar Life 

 Czar life

By Louie Czar on June 12, 2009 – 12:41 PM

On the eve of the biggest Czars show I’ve done to date, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the time I’ve spent with this amazing group.

About a year ago, I was sitting at my old house in south Austin, probably eating some Torchy’s tacos or having a smoke, when the phone rang out of nowhere and suddenly Josh Robins was talking to me. He said that The Invincible Czars were looking for a new drummer and Dan Barrett (vocalist/guitarist for Porterdavis and co-owner of Red Leaf School of Music) had given him my name.

I must admit something at this point: I hadn’t actually heard the band before then. I had been noticing the name in a few different places - The Chronicle had written a little bit about their version of “Night on Bald Mountain” and association with Golden Hornet Project. After talking to Josh, I listened through an mp3 of “An Ounce of Confidence” and was immediately hooked. Not only did I love the song and the 11/4 and 13/4 rhythms, I thought that this group could possibly be able to help me fulfill some of my life-long musical career goals.

Some of those goals have included playing rocked-out versions of my favorite pieces of classical music. At this date, the following are all in the Czars’ active repetoire:

Noch’ na lysoy gore (Modest Mussourgsky) - A little tune we know as “A Night on Bald Mountain.” I first played this at age 16 in the Roanoke Youth Symphony. I forget which instruments I played - The score called for tympani, triangle, crash cymbals, bass drum, and orchestral chimes, if memory serves me. I used to listen to the opening bass line and imagine it played with a swing feel, adding in some jazzy hi-hat cymbal. One of my proudest contributions to The Invincible Czars has been adding these very soft, jazzy 4-bar phrases in the two spots where I have 4-bar rests. Josh’s charts are very easy to follow, but also indicate lots of opportunities to throw in interesting, unexpected surprises. This piece has a long tradition of being re-arranged, and I like that we have become a part of that …

1812 Overture - I learned this piece on tympani at Salem High School under the direction of a fine musician, Dennis Reaser. Mr. Reaser was a trumpet player for a military jazz band, and allowed young musicians like myself to combine musical study with self-discipline. He also stressed understanding the historical significance of this type of music. I learned how to use music as a way of understanding the emotions that world leaders, soldiers, and citizens of Eurasia must have gone through under Napoleon’s rule and conquest.

Pavane de la Belle au bois dormant (Maurice Ravel, 1908) - Also known as “Dance of the Beauty in the Woods Asleep,” or “Sleeping Beauty,” or “Sleeping Booty.” I learned this piece from Doug Richards, a great instructor at VCU. Around the same time I was studying “The Rite of Spring” and experimenting with playing it on drumset.

The Nutcracker - A whole album’s worth of tunes I have heard and played from a very young age. Playing “Marche” with the Czars feels like playing drums did when I was 6.

Later today, we are going to play most of these pieces for the audience at the OKMozart Festival. I see it as a turning point for myself and for the Czars. To prepare for it, we have worked up about 2 hours’ worth of classically influenced instrumental material. This includes all the above pieces, plus music from “ffortissimo,” our latest CD, and a few nuggets from the first Czars album, “Gods of Convenience.”

We’re also playing “A Cry For Peace,” which I wrote for string quartet in my last semester at VCU. It was written as the Iraq war was looking like it was going to last longer and longer … Like a lot people, I was pretty upset at the world’s reaction to the World Trade Center attacks. We were all terrified on that day, but it almost bothered me more to see how violent people were in their responses. I took Sept. 11 as a sign that we need to slow down, and question wether our everyday actions are hurting someone. People in the WTC were for the most part just there to do their jobs. They had no idea that there were people in the world who were plotting a violent attack against them. I wrote this piece to express that yearning for peaceful resolution which might never come. Josh heard it a few months ago and encouraged me to arrange it for electric violin, guitar and bass, soprano sax, synthesizer and drum set.

On that note, I want to write more about how cool it’s been playing with each member of the Czars, but time grows short and soon we’ll be playing at the festival. I like blogging on my new laptop so get ready for Czar life #2 soon.



Sustainable positivity manifesto 

 Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sustainable positivity manifesto

This is the 21st century, people. Time to get with the program. There is a new mindset in the world today. It is already shaping the 22nd century and beyond. I am a part of the new awareness that is encircling the globe.

First order of business: violence will not be an option in the 22nd century.

Next up: we have got to find love in our lives. We love our families, our friends, our neighbors, our elders. We open ourselves up to love and the universe shows us more than we can imagine. We love people from all countries, all religions, all races. Love is our protection, and in the nonviolent 22nd century love is our only weapon.

We are just discovering how powerful individual will can be. When you pick up an instrument of destruction, you destroy a part of yourself. When you pick up an instrument of peace you are directly contributing to the common good of all humanity.

When you waste energy you are hurting yourself. It is no longer a question of whether only a little bit of energy is being wasted. You might say, "I'll just leave the tv on, it's only using a nickel worth of electricity." Nope. You're either helping or hurting.  It's now a question of whether you are using energy or wasting it.

If your religion tells you to hate, fight or destroy other people, you might want to wake up to reality.  Does it feel right?  Or is just something rotten that's gotten passed down to you through your family, gang, political party or church?  When you hate another person because of what they believe, you're hurting that person, yourself, and the world.  STOP IT !

We of the new consciousness are dedicated to staying healthy. Statistically we have a lower life expectancy than the last generation -- Ultimately the earth cannot support this population. The people we love will eventually die. It is our practice to show others love as much as we can, then let them go peacefully when it is time.

We are commited to responsible choices concerning our environment. I manifest this at every level of awareness, from sorting the recycling to helping choosing leaders who support our global environment.

We are commited to sustaining the personal, local, global and universal benefits of positivity.

LL JW SS, 6 28 08 

Devin and Slade threw a killer party last night at my old house in South Austin. They invited me to play some music, so I called Shadd first, who quickly called Joe and Kris, who unfortunately was out of town.

Luckily Shadd and Jow agreed to throw down, which was a real treat for me since the three of us hadn't played together as a trio in many months. Joe recently got his baritone sax up and running, so there was a huge low end to the group. He also busted out his effects system for the first time in a long time. Shadd played a scaled down kit with ferocious precision.

My set-up included a gong, wind chimes, a lap steel guitar, melodica, the Korg microsynth and my old Roland Ep-3, the keyboard that went on most of my gigs with Shawn Nelson and the Ramblers from 2005 to 2006. I got this keyboard for free when 3 of them were donated to Brook Mays Music from a nearby school. Joe Faulhaber, Shaun Dickerson and I took all three apart, then reassembled two working boards.

Back to last night ... we started off with about 45 minutes of improv, beginning with a slow crescendo on the gong. After a single, slow, sustained drone in G, we riffed on some other tonal centers, including an uplifting Eb major progression. At one point there was an abrupt break in all three of our voices, which stuck me as very funny. Shea whispered something in my ear, and after a brief pause we shifted into a disjointed blues before settling on a funky Em / A7 groove. After that we paused to figure out which songs we still remembered. We pulled out a short setlist of:

First Steps of a Long Journey
The Lone Ranger

All four had some kind of improv at some point in the form. Don't remember exactly when Joe was on bari and when he was on tenor -- a testament to his natural ability to speak through whatever instrument he happens to be holding. Shadd's playing was a little restrained - who wants to flail their arms around when it's still 90 degrees after dark -- but to me felt very relaxed and focused. I think of myself as a very lucky person to be able to create musical experiments like the one we created last night.

Thank you so much to Devin, Slade, Shea, Shadd, Joe, Shawna, and everyone who put a dollar in the tip jar -- an unexpected bonus near the end of the night.

Thanks everybody who listened and hung out last night. We are planning to play again, with Kris, at another party this Saturday the 5th at Shea & my new house in NW Austin. Please call me if you need directions.


December Deals 


December Deals
A lot of great deals have been coming my way lately. For example the universe and I agreed to stop hating each other and try to coesxist peacefully. This is the shakiest deal (there have already been minor breaches in the agreement), but potentially the biggest.

Another deal is between me and God. I agreed to go play at a church Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. In return God will pay my rent. To sweeten the deal He also agreed to buy me a Nord NE73.

The State of Texas and I finally hammered out the terms of our deal. I stood against charges of Making Left Turns, Parking the Wrong Way in Front of My House, and Driving a Car Which Pollutes the World and Kills Baby Polar Bears. So it was decided that I will go into the Schools and teach the Children what I know.

Other deals are with people who want to learn to play the various instruments. I show these people how to play and they, in return, pay for my Groceries, Utilities, Phone, Internet, and the Electricity for everything except the fridge.

I truly beleive these are good deals for everyone involved. Me, God, the Universe, Texas, the Electric Company, the Children, are all big winners here.

Last but not least, Shea and I have the best deal there is: We love each other!