Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tentative Tour Timespan

Okay, so I've got June 26th through July 25th off. We'll probably start out on the road the evening of June 25th, though that's just a guess I'm making right now.

Now we just have to get the performance locations and dates.

Comment if you want to see us perform!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The compromise (part 2)

Today I went to work at around 9am, ground some coffee beans, had some coffee, got really, really buzzed because I never have coffee, waited around until people who needed to be there in order for me to proceed arrived, got some actual work done, signed some forms, and then spoke with the CEO and his partner.

There were vague allusions to glittering mountains of wealth somewhere off in the distance. For all the misty wording I begin to wonder if those craggy peaks are not, in fact, illusions. Nonetheless I find myself enjoying things there on the whole and having a three year finish line of sorts makes it all seem less monotonous.

Now for the important part.

"Yes, I think that's reasonable," said the partner.

With that it was decided: I am to work full-time starting May 3rd until sometime in June. Then I am free to go on rock tour for one month. After that it's back to work.

If you want us in your state, speak now or forever hold your peace. It may never be again that we come out your way, and it will almost certainly be a few years if we do.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The compromise (part 1)

I talked with the CEO of the startup I work for about the compromise. After reminding him that I would be working through May until sometime in June, I asked if I could start full-time sometime in July.

"Yes, I think that will work. I'll have to check with my partner, but that should be fine."

So it looks like I'm going to be able to do both the tour and keep my job! Now this means that the tour is only going to be a month long (as we have to be in Oregon this June to play at a friend's wedding and we really will need a month or so to get things set up before we set out) so we'll have to cut down the number of states we go to. This means that if you want us to do a show in your area, you're going to have to speak up!

As it is, I'm pretty happy with the arrangement. :-)

Part 2 comes this Sunday when the other partner has his say.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Commitment

I am pondering commitment.

Is it better to go on a rock tour, or to work somewhere three years and never have to work again? If I could see the possible futures this would be easier. However, as Yoda said: "Always in motion, the future is." :-3

So do I go or do I not?

"Wait a minute," I can hear you say, "I thought you made your mind up in a little post called 'Motivation.'"

Why yes, my droogs, I did. But now it has been un-made by a recent conversation with my band-mate. What, I wonder, should I do? I've been told to re-think my decision. And now I must ask: am I a man of my word or am I for sale? What a price though: a life of freedom for only three years, a rock tour, and a broken promise.

So which of these do I rez, my droogies? Yes, which indeed.

I am going to watch The Tale of Zatoichi and ponder.

Perhaps I can find a middle ground. And if not?

O, what is to come.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lauren is awesome!

Go look at the pictures she posted of us with our soap:
http://trashrocktour.blogspot.com/2010/04/soap-henge.html

Want some of the soap? Join our street team! (Yes, it's a low-down bribe; take it please?)

Just tell us if you're interested in us coming to your town, clue us in to the music scene there, and not only will we love you lots forever and ever, but we will also (if you but send us your address) ship you a box of awesome OST goodies (like the soap in the above blog, for example, and/or a t-shirt, and Vishnu knows what else!) We guarantee it'll be awesome.

Finally, let me just say: T.G.I.S.

No more cubicle until Friday! :-)

P.S.
The soap is vegan.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Today was interesting.

I was sitting in my cubicle at work, coding away. My boss was listening to a techno station with his door open. It wasn't bad stuff, so I was kinda' nodding along to it. Then a remix of Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco" came on. No sooner had I thought "huh, I'm going to San Francisco this summer... wonder if I should wear some flowers..." than my boss began singing along. Except a few of the lyrics were a bit different from how I remembered:

"If you're going to San Francisco
You're going to see Ryan with his band
When he gets back from San Francisco
He'll find his job has been given away!

"If you're going to San Francisco
You'll see Ryan on the sidewalk
In a cardboard box with a piano
Be sure to wave as you pass him in your car..."

Yeah.

Then later he said he'd told his wife about me and she'd said "kids these days just don't get it!"

"No, my good sir," I wanted to say, "it would seem to be you who does not 'get it.'"

Ah well.

"If you're going to San Francisco..."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Motivation

I'm sitting in the back of the Coffee Cottage right now as another band sets up. It's a cozy venue which lives up to the designation "cottage." The place feels like it was a house years ago, before its enterprising owner tore down the walls between rooms, put up Christmas lights in the arches, and began selling coffee.

I'm sitting here listening to this band do sound check, and I have to say they sound good. It makes my artist come out, the person I often hide, the person I forget I also am sometimes. When this happens I start doing silly things, like writing poetry. Or blogs. :-)

I came here to write on that novel I'd mentioned earlier. That was before I knew there was a band playing.

Artist overload.

Today was a hard day of work. It was hard because I enjoyed it. It was hard because my boss told me if I called off the rock tour and just stayed with them for the next three years, until they sold, I would never have to work again. It was hard because I believed him. And what would I do then, if I never had to work again?

Well, I'd write music. I'd write poems. I'd write books and essays. I'd try to do something to contribute to this mass of people we call humanity. I have a hope that we can become something greater than we are.

And if he was wrong? If the company failed to sell? If it sold and I got nothing?
Then there's three years gone. And I would either go live as an artist or sell the rest of my life to the status I'd become accustomed to.

Faced with the prospect of multiple millions of dollars just three years down the road, how can I throw it away on a rock tour?

Because if I don't do this, I might become something I don't want to be.
Because if I don't do this, I'll just be back here again three years down the road, perhaps better off financially, perhaps not.
Because I've already said I was going to do this, and if my morality is for sale then how can I lay peaceably on my deathbed with such a betrayal on my mind? For it would be a betrayal: a betrayal of myself and of Lauren, and even if Lauren is alright in the end with it, I couldn't be.

Besides, if I can make a living doing what I would be doing if I didn't have to work, then why not simply do that?

Of course, the question has always been whether I can make a living doing this.
That's been my question since I was in high school.
That's the question that led me to major in computer science, as nice of a second-best as it's been.

So now I'm in the Coffee Cottage listening to Tango Alpha Tango, ready to add my voice to the discussion, to add my bit of spitting, sputtering fire to the hearth. Because the forward motion of humanity (whatever it is) is the thing that matters.

O come, o come... but it'll be here soon enough, I think.

Nevada is a go!

Last night I talked to my roommate from last year. He lives in Nevada. He will likely have his own place this summer. We will be staying there. He also knows the music scene there pretty well.

Nevada is a go.

Also, I'm still working on that silly promotional software. Wednesday I wrote a 7 page paper in one go. Thursday I pretty much just worked on freelancing. Hopefully this evening, some time after work, I'll get a chance to return to the software. I suspect I might end up at a coffee shop somewhere instead though, writing. The second draft of my NaNoWriMo novel's taking a lot longer than I thought it would. (Wait, wait, I'm sensing a pattern here! :-3)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Today

Today I thought about tomorrow.
Tomorrow I have to go to work.
I would rather be on rock tour.

O come, o come, thou days of June.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Focus

I feel like it's getting harder to focus on anything besides the Portland-to-Portland Trash Rock Tour in one of its aspects or another. School and work just feel like distractions and if it weren't for the necessity of graduating and the necessity of making money I think I'd rather be without.

Can I just trade places with someone famous? I feel like that's almost the only way to do this sort of thing full-time. I know it's not true, but it's hard not to feel that way sometimes, especially with graduation just around the bend.

Quantity/Quality



Walking back to my car from my friend's apartment where I'd moved to continue my coding spree, I started thinking about marketing and how little I know about it and how heavily what we're trying to do will be affected by our skill with it. Can we pull this off without anyone beyond our hosts and venues knowing about it? Probably. Will it be half as good without people coming to our shows to see us playing? Not at all.

It's the question of quantity and quality that's getting me now. The software I'm writing is going to be great for reaching a large quantity of people in a broad and impersonal sort of way. I guess that's an important part of the marketing mix: getting things out there. On the other hand who might be turned off by it? Who are we shutting out by trying to reach everyone at once? If there's one person who can reach ten other people, isn't it better to forge one strong connection there than to form eleven weak connections with eleven people?

I'm not sure. It's certainly more satisfying. In high school I knew someone who was really into my music. She lived down in Louisiana. She did an art project based on the lyrics to a song I'd written and got all her friends interested. That was easily the happiest moment of my music career at the time.

So the question comes back: quantity or quality?

You know, I can't answer that. I think it's a little of both, but then I always tend toward the "middle path." I guess that's part of what this blog is about: documenting our path every step of the way so you can learn along with us.

Eventually the answers will come.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Why I haven't been posting

Last night (or this morning, rather; it was around 2am) I was sitting at my computer working on the MySpace marketing software we'll be using to promote our tour when my mind drifted to thoughts of homework. "Hmm, I have a presentation due on the 13th," I thought. "Isn't that in a couple days? I should probably get started on that sometime."

Ha. Yeah, read the timestamp on this post and you'll get it.

After about 2 hours of frantically pulling together a presentation, I managed to slip into bed at around 4am. This has been more or less my life recently. It does not help that I have started working weekends out in McMinnville.

Today I got a free day, which is why I'm posting. I owe this free day to a chemical spill on my university's campus. They had to shut everything down for about 8 hours while cleanup crews mopped up the (apparently) explosive substance.

I spent today working on the software. (Which might be open-sourced after I'm done; stay tuned kiddies!)

Days before that I was working on getting that drum machine to work. Here's what it looks like as of now:


The newly shiny innards


The difference a 42 watt CFL makes

Yeah, remember that faint, faint glow in the first photos? Wasn't nearly bright enough to illuminate the fiducial marker (the weird blobby thing in the top photo) for the webcam. So I stripped out all my LEDs, went down to the hardware store (wow, I feel manly saying that), grabbed a plug, a heater/lamp cord, and a light socket, soldered the suckers together, plopped a 150 watt equivalent (42 watt actual) CFL into the socket, and put the whole thing in the box.

Unfortunately this created some massive glare on the glass of the picture frame. The webcam couldn't see the fiducial marker behind the giant bright spot. Figuring that if I spread the light more evenly in the box it would help, I lined the inside with aluminum foil, shiny side up. It did help a little, but it still wasn't enough. Then I made an aluminum foil roof for the light bulb, which made it work quite a bit better. Strangely enough it seems that putting the roof on almost reduced the light hitting the fiducial to the point where the webcam can't see it again. There's like this magic angle for the roof where there's enough light escaping and where there's not enough glare to make a huge difference. Most of the surface works fine now, but there's still this one section where the camera tends to lose the marker...

I'm gonna' make it work guys. Really, I am. It's just going to take some time. Once it's happily pumping out beats I'll be sure to get a video up here! Same goes for that software. I'm writing it in PHP and Javascript, a very unorthodox choice for what I'm doing since it's designed to run for only one user at a time per install. However, JQuery and "simple_html_dom" seduced me with their simple, simple syntax and I'm finding the going a lot faster than I thought. I also needed to have something I could operate from the browser on Lauren's iPhone. This way I can keep marketing the tour even as we're rolling down the road out in the middle of nowhere.

Okay, that's enough of an update for now, eh?

Happy April 13th.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Stress, drums, and weekend projects

Before I start, let me just say how stressed out I am. I am very stressed. In fact, I might just have to keep this post brief because right now there's a little voice in the back of my head saying: "What are you doing? You have two seven page papers and a presentation due next week and that's just for one of your classes, you have freelance work coming due and overdue, you have a rock tour to plan and market with just a month and a half to do it in, you have wedding music to learn, you have personal projects, and I'm sure there's something else I'm forgetting but don't worry, I'll remind you once it's too late to do it."

I'm stressed.

On the other hand I did make this over the weekend:



It does this:



And it glows too:



This is relevant to the shoestring tour, I swear! How? Well, how the heck are we supposed to keep a steady beat without a drummer? Okay, so we could use our internal sense of rhythm, but the audience can't hear that. Hopefully this thing will let us crank out beats and maybe thicken our sound up a bit too.

Of course, I still plan on converting that DDR pad into a gigantic foot operated electronic drum set. In case that doesn't work though, this'll give us a backup plan.

I'll get a build log for this thing up sometime tomorrow, cortisol willing. I don't actually know if it works yet so I hope I'll get a chance to test that out too. If it does, you'll get a video. If it doesn't, you'll get me griping.

[EDIT] This is me griping. I built this thing with the leftover IR LEDs from my multitouch table project, but unfortunately there were not enough to provide sufficient illumination for the camera. I'll try to find a way to get more illumination going and I'll make a new post once I've done so.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Join Our Street Team!

Today we began trying to find recruits for our street teams. The idea is to recruit people a month or two ahead of time in each state we're planning on visiting, as well as each state that expresses interest, to help promote the band and, once we have a booking, the show. Each person that sends us their address and an expression of their interest in bringing us to their town will receive a box of promotional material, such as buttons, t-shirts, and perhaps soap. Anyone uncomfortable with sending their address over the Internet will soon be able to download and print out their own promotional material.

We posted a notes on our Facebook page, MySpace, and tour blogs. We also uploaded a video of us explaining the street team idea to YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace. The video is below:



In addition we began taking donations for the tour. You can donate via the buttons on our MySpace, Facebook, or just to the right in my blog sidebar. While the cost of the tour is still nebulous, it is certain that it will be difficult to cover. Any help is appreciated!

Cutting Ties With All Non-Mobile Engagements

One thing's for sure: if you're going to be running around the country for a month or two, you're going to have a hard time keeping any engagements you might have back home. Before I decided I was going on a trash rock tour across the country, I was looking for a job. A couple companies wanted to interview me. My final interview was today.

I was to meet my prospective employers at 1pm in McMinnville, a drive of an hour and a half from Portland. I got there on time only to find out that things were very busy at the company and someone was supposed to have told me not to come. Deciding to make the best of a poor situation, I ate the pizza and berry cobbler offered me and informed them that if they hired me I would not be able to start until sometime in August instead of May like I had originally said. As expected, they told me that they would probably need someone sooner, but they might still need someone in August and they'd let me know if that turned out to be the case.

"Do you have any time limits today?" They asked me.

"No, I pretty much left today open since I didn't know how long this was going to take," I said.

"Well, we've got some paper that needs to be sorted. Would you like to help us out? It'd give us a chance to see what it would be like working with you."

Since there was a chance that there still might be a job for me in August, I obliged. The next hour and a half I spent writing ID numbers on copies of invoices and moving them to various piles. This was interrupted twice, once by an impromptu foosball challenge and again by some words of encouragement from the CEO.

"Nice to see you're putting your college degree to work huh?" He said.

"Ha, yeah."

"I worked as an office assistant right after graduating from Harvard at the top of my class. Someone said the same thing to me. I told them, 'how can I be trusted to run the company if I can't be trusted to make a few photocopies?'"

I nodded. They who are faithful in little things are also faithful in much. I went back to my work until one of the programmers called me out to look at some of the code with him. We did some debugging for another hour and a half before he decided they'd kept me long enough. Before I left though we went back to the break room for more berry cobbler. As I was washing my cutlery, the CEO came in.

"Ryan worked for an hour and a half on the refund and helped me debug for another hour and a half." I heard one of the programmers say.

"Really?" The CEO sounded impressed. "So what's this about not being able to start until August? What's going on with your schedule?"

"Well," I said, turning to the body-building Harvard graduate, "my band is going on tour in June and we probably won't be getting back until sometime in August."

"Band?"

"Yeah." His face seemed frozen; it was hard to tell what he thought just yet.

"Okay, so who's financing this?"

"We are. I make enough money freelancing online and we have a bit of money saved up. Should be enough to cover the cost. I figure I might as well be a little irresponsible before I have to go be responsible again."

The man rolled his eyes and walked out. As he left, he called back down the hall: "Well, I hope you know while you're being irresponsible we may not have a position for you in August."

"That's legit," I called back. The man laughed as he always did when I said "legit." He was an attorney by training and had never heard anyone else use that word as a synonym for "fine."

I left feeling pretty good: I managed to impress my prospective employers and then turn them down with my trash rock plans. It was funny, looking back. I imagine the CEO of that company couldn't understand why anyone would willingly throw away a chance at a stable job with a nice income. Perhaps he wrote me off as just another kid with naive dreams. I know that if I don't take this time to run off and try my potential I'll never have any peace of mind about it. I guess that's perhaps what he didn't see: I'm not wasting my potential. I'm testing it. I'm proving it.

Still, I want to vindicate myself of his derision. I want to come back flush with a successful tour, a solid fan base. I want to be a rock star.

Will you help make it happen?