Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Sick today. Took Gina to the airport at 6:00 this morning. Three day trip to New York for work.

Anyway, don't think I went to sleep until about 4:00 am, and when I got back from O'Hare, I just couldn't face the idea of going to work. Luckily, things are a little slow this week, so I was able to justify calling in and going back to bed. I got another hour of sleep, and I feel a little bit better. I'm going to use this free day to get a bunch of music-related stuff in order and hopefully have a little extra time to write later before I attempt to go to rehearsal.

My sleeping patterns, which are never good, seem to get even worse when Gina goes out of town. So the next few days will probably be sleepless. Oh well.

"Now the days turn into more than you can stand And every midnight lamp you burn marks you with a brand The ashes fall in time, the nausea comes in waves But if music's mercy then we'll all be saved" 


Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Well, another Thanksgiving's come and gone and now we're staring down the barrel of a loaded Christmas. Huh? Well, you know what I mean.

Thanksgiving was good and filling. Much food and company, many laughs. Spent Thursday and Friday up in Lake Geneva with Gina's parents, and then had my family over to our house on Sunday afternoon. We also went to my sister's house warming party on Saturday night. So there were many opportunities for holiday cheer. Which I took advantage of in spades. And I feel bloated. And that's probably too much information.

So this week it's back to the usual routine: work, teach, play music. And try not to consume 5000 calories a day. We have a couple of rehearsals in anticipation of our return to the stage at Schubas next week. Good times. Looks like we'll debut 4 new songs, most likely the very 4 we'll be trying to record in the early new year. I'm getting more and more excited about going back into the studio so quickly.

The songs are shaping up and I think they'll reveal Burn Rome Burn continuing to develop and explore our sound. Hopefully, we'll be the kind of band who can change its aesthetic from album to album without losing our essence and ethic. Other than that, I'll be trying to break into my new writing journal. I have a lot of musical ideas and over the last few days, some new lyrical themes have been pestering me like gadflies.

In album news, it looks like Bottle Boy will be delivered (ha) next week, so we (Burn Rome Burn) have a ton to do to prepare for a full on press blitz... advance copies will go to newspapers, radio stations, on-line music critics... which will hopefully generate some momentum into the new year and our CD release party.

So I guess the word of the week is hopeful. Which should be the word of just about every week.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005


for reading. for commenting. for looking. for listening. for caring. for loving. for health. for food. for sleep (or lack thereof). for warmth. for a home. for transport. for safety. for presents. for family. for friends. for pets. for rock and roll. for enough. for Chicago. for inspiration. for dreams. for leading. for failures. for pain. for love. for loss. for the past. for the future. for beauty. for that one. for coffee. for Burn Rome Burn. for learning. for life. for time. for my sea. for giving. for taking. for thought. for oral hygiene. for good genetics. for hair. for ghosts. for angels. for doubt. for mistakes. for obstinance. for procrastination. for persistence. for determination. for thick skin. for belief. for trust. for faith. for getting older. for wine. for song. for more songs. for six strings. for truth. for the holidays. for making it this far.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Out with the old

Anybody else just floored that it's already Thanksgiving? Sometimes, I just don't know. Of course, with the holidays comes the attending logistics of doing two Thanksgivings and two Christmases... but after two years of coordination, we're getting pretty good at it. Plus, there's nothing wrong with having two Thanksgiving dinners.

This year, we're going up to Lake Geneva for Thanksgiving day and then having my parents over to our place on Sunday for another Thanksgiving. In between, I'll be (gulp) trying my hand at hunting pheasants up in Wisconsin. Something tells me, the birds have nothing to fear from a guy who's gone to a shooting range exactly once. I'm sure there's some old nugget of wisdom about spending time with one's father-in-law and guns...

I did manage to push through the final page of my writing book. And it yielded the final verse to the song

Someday We'll Watch the Highway Burn. Saw the light on the city behind Saw the firefight in your eyes Just another day coming on Just another restless dawn Someday We'll watch the highway Burn Thought that maybe I would stay As the morning slipped away Thought that maybe I would break The midnight spells you couldn't shake Someday We'll watch the highway Burn As you would say, this is the end Of what the heartbreak couldn't mend And then And then and then you will be free To light the fires of your dreams Someday We'll watch the highway Burn


Feels like a good way to end a writing book that's been as productive as any I've had. I went looking for my first writing book from high school, but I think it's packed away in the basement. I did find a book from 1997... boy is that interesting. The strangest thing about looking back at old writing books is that there are things I don't remember writing. I usually go through a book every six months depending on how big it is, so I can generally remember writing almost everything in my current book.

Not so much with the older books, which feel like they were written by somebody else. The other strange thing, is that from all these books, we play exactly nothing I wrote from before 2001. And very little written before 2003. So there are about 8 years of books with nothing but... well... crap. I'm not being hard on myself. Actually, I am.

My point is just that it took me almost 8 years of writing to get to the point where I was consistently writing songs that held my (and the band's) attention. But that's how I've developed whatever work ethic I have today. Most of the Bottle Boy album was written in one book. And this book I just finished produced a good dozen tunes, most of which will become Burn Rome Burn tunes.

So... I guess that really puts it in perspective. Or as David St. Hubbins said "Too much fucking perspective."


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Rawk, Role

Right. Well, another BRB song is ready for the masses. Last night, we braved the cold of our rehearsal studio to put together a new tune called Regret.

As we said after putting together Atlantis, Regret sounds different than anything we've done before. Which I think is a good trend. It's a country/folkish thing in 3 (waltz feel). Very spare and atmospheric. Doc and I stayed after Barret and Aoife left to work through some cool harmonies, which will add quite a bit if we can pull them off together.

To wit:

REGRET Left something beneath the moon that night As the desert sky swallowed our hearts Had the pitch, the count and all the signs But I just couldn't knock it out of the park Regret You mean nothing to me You mean nothing to me We all believe that time stands still Even if we act like it don't I've got a silver bullet and a bulletproof voice And I'll never leave you alone Regret You mean nothing to me You mean nothing to me And I wish I was there before The ghost signed its name upon your door Maybe the part of this that you never knew Would have been too much Would have been too true Now it's done, time to move on Let the chips fall where they might The years and miles could never keep us apart And I'm not going down without a fight Regret You mean nothing to me You mean nothing to me Regret You mean nothing to me You mean nothing to me


Actually, in looking back at my writing book (more on that later), I see that this tune was actually written in April and May of this year. I also started scouting out studios for our planned early 2006 recording project. My first instinct was Electrical Audio, of Steve Albini (Nirvana, Magnolia Electric Co., tons more) fame. I think we'd be able to manage blocking out a Friday-Sunday there. If it worked, we'd try to spend Friday setting up and getting sounds, Saturday getting basic tracks all live (drums, bass, guitar) and maybe Sunday getting violins and vocals done.

Electrical Audio has a beautiful space and the capacity to capture the live type of sound we're going to shoot for on this project. Depending on how these songs take shape, we'd aim for getting 3 full band tunes, and maybe one acoustic tune... although the new stuff is taking on such a great, simple, straight ahead feeling, that we might be able to squeeze out another if my vocals could take it.

That's exciting. Good times.

Coming next week: I publish actual excerpts from my first songwriting journal, circa 1995. I've got one page left in my current writing book (an anniversary present from last year), and I'm ready to move on to my next book, a beautiful leather bound journal Gina brought me from Italy. After that one, I've got a stylish book Barret and Aoife got me on their honeymoon. I take these writing books very seriously, and I'm very superstitious about them. I believe that each book has a unique character and my writing in each has a unique character...

I've thrown away writing books that I feel have bad feelings or karma attached. So as I finish one writing book, I like to look back at some of my previous books, just to get perspective on where my writing has been, and where it's going. I have every one of them dating back to high school...

So check back next week for vintage, scintillating, SCINTILLATING high school-era lyrics from yours truly. And get ready to clench those gluts.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A fence is a fence is a fence

As a matter of principle, I don't sleep much. More hours awake = more hours of productivity. But sometimes, my body rebels against this strategy and just, well, shuts down without asking permission. 

Which is what happened last night/this morning, apparently. Because I remember trying to keep my eyes open for the end of the football game last night and then suddenly it was morning and two hours after I usually wake up and start writing. I guess I needed it.

The weekend was a little disjointed because Gina was sick with the flu and I spent a good amount of time making sure she was taken care of... although I did pick my spots. On Friday, after a happy hour at work downtown (or as we call it, "ecstatic hour"), I met up with my friend AJ and we went on a wine tasting/buying mission, finally settling into his South Loop condo to test out our finds and listen to Guided by Voices.

Saturday was spent teaching and caretaking. Sunday, I met up with Jake and Josh, some old dog park friends I hadn't seen in a long time, at a local pub for some bloody marys and football. We drank, ate, and cheered a fifth straight Bears' victory. Sunday was also marked by persistent winds of over 30 mph, which managed to blow down a portion of our back fence. I noticed this upon returning from my football-related socializing, and spent an hour or so stumbling around with a large section of wooden fence and cursing as the intermittent gusts mocked my efforts at nailing the offending portion back to its corresponding posts.

But I did finally defeat the inanimate object and to celebrate, I went out and bought a hammer drill. And some groceries. Anyway, after wading through a dreary Monday, the week is now unfolding before me like a pile of laundry. What? That doesn't even make sense.

We've got rehearsals on Wednesday and Thursday this week, which I think we're all looking forward to quite a bit. A good chance to get more new material together and start to focus in on our future recording project.

As far as Bottle Boy... I think it may be time for a C-section. Actually, the artwork is finally (I think) done, so we really should be only weeks away from delivery. So to speak.

Wow. I think I'm going to go back to bed now.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Back in the Saddle

From now on, all the titles of my entries here will be Aerosmith songs.

I can't wait for Dude Looks Like a Lady.

Actually, what's back in the saddle is the juggernaut known as Burn Rome Burn. After a quiet month or so, we've begun making noise again, as witnessed by rehearsals last night and the night before. After brushing away some cobwebs, we worked on some of the boatload of new material that's been pieced together over the last few months.

We finally finished arranging the song Bright Dark Times, a song we started working on months ago. In the end, the arrangement hinged on one of Aoife's violin lines buttressed (hunh hunh, I said "butt") by a rhythmic variation by Doc. The whole process was a nice little example of how far we've come in terms of arranging and writing as a group. We've been trying to come up with a way to end BDT for awhile and were collectively stuck in the idea that we should find a way to come back to the beginning, to end with a variation based on the start of the song.

This resulted in a lot of ideas, but nothing that struck any of us as being all that interesting. In fact, most of it was pretty bad. Think jazz-hands-bad. So when Barret left our rehearsal studio to take a call, Aoife, Doc and I kept working. Doc came up with the idea of changing our focus from the beginning of the song to the chorus. He and I tried some variations of the chorus and he finally hit upon the simple idea of playing the chords from the chorus, but for half as long, known in musical parlance as "double time."

On top of this, Aoife transplanted her violin line from the bridge, and suddenly we had exactly what we were looking for: an ending which was new but also connected to the rest of the song, in fact, connected to both the chorus and the bridge. Barret came back in, and we spent a few minutes trying further variations before we locked into a nice concise 10 bar "outro." Good times.

Even better, we then went on and banged out (I said "bang") the maiden (... nevermind) version of Atlantis. Atlantis turned out to be yet another measure of where we are as a band. I wrote this song with the idea of staying as simple and direct as possible. It's really a three chord song with a modulation. No bridge, just 3 verses and choruses. I started playing the verse groove, and Barret and Doc immediately locked into what can only be described as a deep pocket. Just thunderous. By the time we ran the tune for the third time, we could have played it live. Everybody just dialed it in. We all realized right off the bat that the simpler we played the song, the better it would sound.

Almost like a Tom Petty or Cracker tune. If our next project is going to be about recording songs in a quick, live fashion... Atlantis is the perfect candidate. Because of scheduling, we can't practice this weekend, which is a bit of a bummer. As we walked out, everyone seemed re-energized, especially with the prospect of working on more new tunes.

You could even say we were all... "Pump" ed. Get it?


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sartre? You brought her

Is it totally sophomore-in-college-philosophy-class to talk about existential angst? Does it reveal me to be the child of the Nirvana era that I am? What did Liz Phair say about Kurt Cobain? That he made it okay for men to cry? Does anybody still care what Liz Phair says or sings? What's the world record for consecutive rhetorical questions in a blog?

Somebody research that and get back to me.

Don't know what it is, but I'm having a little trouble getting any sort of traction this week. The weekend was good if not a bit muddled. My grandparents' anniversary party on Saturday was fun and, most importantly, they seemed pleased with the whole event. My sister, her boyfriend and I extended the party at my place and then went out for some food. Not being able to leave well enough alone, I met my friend Greg at a bar and we proceeded to close it down at about 2:30 am.

On Sunday morning, I convalesced until the Bears cured my, er, illness. So maybe my body is still dealing with the 13 hours of partying it endured on Saturday. Or maybe it's just one of those weeks... 

On the bright side, Burn Rome Burn practices tonight and tomorrow for the first time in a month, with a lot to be excited about and a lot to work on. So that's something to look forward to. Additionally, it looks like we'll be returning to the stage in December at Schuba's, a club I've wanted to play, but never have. That show should be the beginning of some serious work for us, as our official "hard" release date of Bottle Boy will probably be the middle of December and we'll be busting our asses to promote and put together a CD release party early in the new year.

After writing that, I feel a little better. Or maybe it's the 64 ounces of coffee I just consumed.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Camera Obscura

The light collides with the night Dust settles in the street I am my father's only son I turn the pages as he reads It seems the truth is trapped inside a song That plays within your eyes The buildings fall upon a wall that holds The secrets of the sky I am for you and you alone We tried so hard to bury the bones It took so long for us to see That love is really all we need We had it once before But it all fell apart First one, then two, then four And the beating of a heart Could have been the start of something more And now I believe While I'm writing songs I can listen to you breath I am for you and you alone We've tried so hard to bury the bones It took so long for us to see That love is really all you need


Growing Up

Thanks to a recently purchased box of Target brand sleeping pills, I've actually been getting some rest this week. Thanks to some recently purchased charcoal water filters for our badass Cuisinart coffee maker, my coffee has been crisp and pure this week. Thanks to the fact that it's Thursday and I'm not teaching this Saturday, the work week is almost over.

Indeed, this Saturday I'll be attending a party in celebration of my maternal grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. 60 years! That, my friends, is amazing. Pair this staggering matrimonial accomplishment with my parents' marriage of 36 years and counting, and I've got some pretty successful models for how this whole "being married forever" thing works. And you can add in my in-laws having been married for over three decades too.

If marriage longevity is passed on genetically, I'd say Gina and I are in pretty good shape. As fun as birthday and anniversary parties are, it's hard to watch your family get older. For me, these things are always accompanied by the guilty feeling that I don't fully appeciate the fact that at 28, I still have three living grandparents. The fourth, my paternal grandfather, passed on many years before I was born. So I've never really experienced losing a blood relative (knock on wood). And inevitably it leads me to think about my parents growing older. And then me growing older. And it's a bit of a slippery slope into thoughts of mortality and the like...

But why should I go down such roads when it's a beautiful fall day, I've got a good cup of coffee in my hand, and I've got a new tune kicking around my head? Indeed.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What's a hour among friends?

Ah the extra hour of sleep that accompanies the end of daylight savings time... how sweet it was. Of course, as I arrived home in near darkness at not much past 5:00 last night, I thought a bit differently. Time to get ready for hibernation.

We had a fairly busy but somehow relaxing weekend. Friday was reserved for sleeping. Saturday morning we got up early to go out to Oak Park to deal with the logistics of taking out a loan to pay for cooking school for Gina. More on this in a later entry, but let's just say that it's frighteningly easy to borrow large sums of money when you 1) own a house and b) have a decent amount of equity in it. 

After teaching all day Saturday, I came home and soon thereafter we set out on the October installment of our ongoing "surprise dates" series. Gina and I take turns each month planning a surprise date for one another. Past dates have included concerts, dinners, cooking class, and even weekend getaways. This month, I went for something a little more laid back and we ate dinner at Charlie's on Leavitt (near our house) and then walked across the street to the new wine bar Cork.

A good time (and good wine) was had by all, and we especially had fun costume watching. After drinking in our glorious extra hour of sleep, we headed up to Rogers Park to attend my Bubbie's (yiddish for grandma) 90th birthday party. The full complement of relatives were there and the highlight was easily the birthday cake with (I kid you not) 90 candles that the diminutive Bubbie succeeded in blowing out. 90 years... and she's doing pretty darn well, aided by her children (my father, two uncles, and one saintly aunt who lives in the same building on the second floor) who have really put into place and executed a plan to break up the work of caring for her and allowed her to continue to live "on her own" for longer than most could manage.

After the party, we sped home to catch the dramatic end of the Bears' game and then took care of our usual Sunday shopping augmented by a trip to Target. Is it me, or is there some sort of $75 minimum at Target? Regardless of how little we set out to buy, we always seem to spend at least $75, but that may have more to do with my wife's "gift" for finding things we "need."

Speaking of things I need, I am so behind on buying CDs, it's ridiculous. Just shameful. I've been meaning to pick up, among others, the new Chocolate Genius, one of the new Ryan Adams' discs, the last Rufus Wainwright (which came out last year I think), the Suffjan Stevens Illinois album... and I've already got my eye on the forthcoming live Wilco record as well.

Looks like I've already got my Christmas list made up.