Friday, April 23, 2010

Phoenix to San Carlos - Friends, Deserts, Creative Decisions

(FYI SIDE NOTE - those of you who were curious about my Mt. Shasta attempt in a previous entry: yes, that was a failed attempt to the summit.  But, I am scheduled to climb it [completely] this August, along with Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood and with a team up Mt. Rainier.  Now for the entry/update at hand...)

It's going on my fourth unplanned week in the vacinity of Phoenix, due mainly to bad internet 
connections and the time spent on editing these video entries.  I really am going to have to 
start skipping them.  Plus, juggling that, along with the process of communicating with web 
designers and people at home helping me renovate my professional life, is just not an option at this point.  I have also been doing a lot of helping of friends in troubled times, but considering that most of them were once there for me in my time of need, it's pretty much a no-brainer.  And before I start ranting, unknowingly, I think I'll just run down what's happened since the last entry instead...

After visiting my good friend Doug Miles in a Phoenix hospital, for a brief operation he had, and then leaving Alma and Alexis, I went and visited Joe Jakub (Mr. Soon) for almost a week.  That one was my fault.  I enjoyed catching up with Joe so much that I just stayed and stayed.  
After prying myself away from him, I stuck to my original plan and visited Doug at his house in San Carlos, where he was recovering from a few things.  San Carlos is about 70 miles East of Phoenix and is right next to the town of Globe.  We enjoyed that but we were both concentrating on our individual delema's at that point, so it wasn't the usual "let's-get-buck-wild-and-take-a-road-trip-to-Santa-Fe" visit there.  I stayed long enough to record a live session at the Upper Salt River and at Coolidge Dam in San Carlos Lake.

If you look at the videos you can see both sessions.  Compared to other sessions thus far, they were flawless and the music was sweet, deep and appropriate for these areas.

Both of those sessions were supposed to be a couple of brief, extra locations I fit on the side of the main location in that area: the lower Salt River Canyon, which is like a next-size-down Grand Canyon in Southern Arizona (The Grand Canyon being in Northern Arizona).  The first day I tried to make it to Salt River Canyon to record, I got there at night.  I worked on instruments for a song there and then stopped before driving back to Globe the next morning. I figured it was time to get to work without being a burden to households, or being distracted by them.

Well, after then spending 3 days in a Globe coffee house to edit the previous footage, and another two days there moving around to try and get a decent wireless connection that could handle uploads (and living in my car the whole time so I can afford all of this), I finally left Globe failed and pissed.  

But taking it back a little: before leaving, I went back to Salt River Canyon again, where I was again late.  I continued working on what was now two songs there, during twilight: one ambient instrumental piece and one trip hop-esque piece with vocals (homage to how much of that stuff Doug and I used to listen to driving through there on our way to Santa Fe).  

I recorded the vocals during twilight and then the next morning I finished the ambient piece.  Due to all of the complications combined, I think the 'trip hoppy' piece came out better and more raw, but the ambient piece did have a somewhat "chasmic" sound that felt good to make as I was hovering over the overlook of a canyon that was a couple thousand feet deep.  I then left Salt River Canyon and stopped off at a small, unpopular canyon/wash along the highway outside of Globe that I call Teaser Canyon; it has some running water through it, like an oasis, and I hiked a short way up it to stop and make some very dry and intimate ambient music.  I then left the area of Globe in pretty much total frustration, aside from the little good I experienced.

I was never the kind of person to be angered by small towns and remote countries until I joined the present-day internet revolution by trying to keep blogs current on my trips.  I've always known how slow things get when you leave the city, but for some reason I didn't think this would be a problem.  Of course, it's probably just as much the fault of our state-of-the-art as it is small towns.

It turns out that, when it comes to wireless, we are still pretty much in the stone age.  I suppose we still have a ways to go before we overcome piracy to the point where signal-tap systems can be developed as a universal technology?  I don't know much about that.  But I do know that small towns are practically servivalist when it comes to wireless signals ("Get off 'o' my property!!").  Even so, I suppose I would/will be, too, whenever I retire there.  ,'-)
So I basically came back to Joe's, where I was embraced again, and am here now, writing.  I am having such a great time with Joe and his roommate Fabio that I can easily see being more irresponsible and staying indefinitely (we want to publish a cookbook about how to cook certain celebrities)--but now...  ,'-(  I have to go.  I am over three weeks late, late enough that I no longer will be able to go back to LA before heading to Reno for my Mom's graduation.  I will have to drive there from Provo, Utah now.  My mother's graduation probably only happens once, and at her age, I see no other achievement quite like it in my life at present.

So, due to this change, my whole rout has changed.  I will now be zig-zagging directly north, instead of up and down, the way I had originally planned.  Below you can see my old rout marked off on a map.  I will be covering almost the same territory now, but in a different order.
Plus, I have locations that I was planning on filming music at in the Reno area, so this music-making trip will no longer be separate from the next one.  This will be a Canyon Country/Basin Desert/Sierra's trip, and I will not return to LA until late May----lots of living in my car to look forward to...  
(GOD. Showers are nice!)

But I don't want to make this all sound negative.  There are obviously many moments of serious magic, and among other things, I feel very thankful to be hiking around here during a season when everything is in bloom and, despite the intense heat, the land is extremely lush with life.


SMP Phase 2 - "Friends and the Upper Salt"

As I said before, I will have to stop doing great edits of these video entries in order to be able to succeed in finishing the trip, so one of these videos is edited and the other is not.  The first one is, and the second one isn't.  You will notice them like night and day, and unfortunately, the day (the one that is not edited) is a taste of the videos I will be posting from now on.  Again, I appologize for that, but hopefully the magic and novelty of these places I'm visiting will fill in for any lack of production.

The first film was of the Upper Salt session, this one is for the Coolidge Dam Session.  The next entry will include the video of my Salt River Canyon session, the up-coming Weaver's Needle, and Sedona.  

Also, I will soon include links to the Native American charity that this project will be aligning with.  Stay posted for that.

There is a little more text after this video...


SMP Phase 3 - "Coolidge Dam Session"

And I want to list some desert-associated music discoveries on my trip so far:

Older albums I've been re-discovering:

Daryll Dobson - "The Mind Electric"

Kit Watkins - "Labyrinth" (beyond brilliant)

A Produce - "White Sands" and "Land of a Thousand Trances"

From Here To Tranquility (compilation)

Autechre - "Incanabula"

Thomas Ronkin - "Within/Distance"

Newer albums I've been RE-discovering:

Anthony Wakman and Mr. Soon - "Points of Origin"

Steve Roach - "The Lost Pieces"

Robert Rich - "Electric Ladder"


Little Dragon (so great)


Saul Stokes  (never gave him a try until now - amazing artist)



Thursday, April 15, 2010

Phoenix and The Lost Dutchman

My first 2 weeks of the trip were spent here in Phoenix, Arizona.  Tomorrow I hit the road again.

Excuse this delayed entry.  I have been doing nonstop things like visiting friends and doing charity work, of sorts, and all while trying to finish a decent edit of my video blog.  I'm letting you all know right now that I think I'm going to have to cancel the great editing jobs on these video entries.  They just take WAY too much time to do and I'm supposed to be concentrating on the destinations.  From now on I will post very rough videos, and I apologize if I have spoiled anyone with these present ones.  

The charity work?  Lol, well, I have been mentoring people who desire to be musicians.  Some of these are ex-musicians and some are not.  Some I know and some are fresh acquaintances.  On that note, obviously if you are a friend of mine, never hesitate to ask me for help with anything creative or music related.  If I have the time I'm usually game for it.

So I first arrived here to my life-long friends Alexis and Alma, in the town of Mesa on Easter Sunday.  They are mother and son.  The day I arrived, it was too late to comfortably record, so we all just went for a day hike at the Superstition Mts.  While there I realized that the foot of the main mountain, The Lost Dutchman, would be a good enough location for our first recording session.

Two days later, we went back to a similar hiking spot and recorded.  It was an interesting session for something so on-the-fly.  I had taught Alexis some of the basics of my software.  He has had an amazing musical talent ever since we were in Jr. High together.  

During our session at the Lost Dutchman, Alexis was able to play chords and do fairly decent cross-fading of rhythms while I played flute, but even though he was new to this form of music, his talents extend far past it, as do mine (as addicted as I am).  Alma took pictures and footage during the session.  It was a beautiful feeling, doing that with them there.  Alexis and I could have gone deeper into the mountains for this session, but it was important for me to have Alma's presence and her creative knack.

After leaving them, a week later, I joined up with my good friend and colleague, Joe Jakub (known as recording artist Mr. Soon).  I've been at Joe's for almost a week as well, in his awesome, eclectic-minimalist apartment in northern Phoenix.  Joe and I relate about a great many artistic 'issues,' and I'm sad to have to leave, but I'm scheduled to hike to Weaver's Needle in the Superstition Mts. tomorrow before continuing on my trip.

From there I will drive to the San Carlos Appache Rez where I always visit my good friend Doug miles, and I'll record the singing voice of his daughter Grace (possibly).  I saw Doug here in Phoenix almost a week ago, but that's a story for the next entry.

Also, a mention: Joe and I were talking about this project and he made me realize that since I've done projects in the past that tie into a charity, I should make this project the same.  When I tie into charities in this country it is always for Native causes, so thus it will be again.  I will use World Book Aid as a conduit and will start providing that link after Lisa and I situate the program a little better.  We will be juggling that with another program we are in the middle of.

Meantime, here's the video for the session with Alexis and Alma.

Notice: try to bare in mind that these videos are for the purpose of showing some friends and fans the project, and keeping a record of it.  They are not meant to be serious cinematic achievements of any kind.  You can continue offering suggestions if you like, but the software I am using on the road is very limited, and thus what you are seeing is the result of it's maxed-out capabilities.  I know---that's limited, but it still does the trick and makes for some webisodes the people seem to be responding positively to.  But I'll fix that...   ,'-)

To see this video as a better quality:

To see an extended version of this video that is funny and basically ridiculous:

Dean De Benedictis


Friday, April 2, 2010

Shasta Attempt, Later That Week

Regarding our Mt. Shasta climb last September, 2009:

Ordinarily I would write, but I realized that this video footage is pretty classic and says it all better than I ever could, regardless of some questionable sound quality.  I've got it posted in two places.

I also received a request to start cutting these videos shorter.  That may be difficult sometimes but I will definitely try.  Just as much for entertainment purposes, the entries and footage on this blog are a sole means of documenting the events of the project.  I will definitely do what I can, but I wish I had more time to edit these rough posts.

Whether swift or not, I can easily say that this video is entertaining at the very least!  (below)

All the best,

Dean De Benedictis

"I don't think the world knows how much my heart extends to them, regardless of what the rest of my body is doing." --anonymous