Two Wheels - Six Strings

Random news and thoughts about various two-wheeled projects and music, especially my band, Skull Full Of Blues.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Milestone for SFOB

As of tonight, all of our original music for the new CD is on tape! It's been a long, hard road, but I think that the destination will make it worthwhile.

We have a bit more work to do, including the final mixing and mastering of all the tracks, producing the cover art and liner notes, plus some icing for the cake. Then, "Subtle As a Sledgehammer" will be ready to ship.

I am excited by the sound on these tracks, and I hope that you guys will be, as well.

More, later.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Busy Week

This past week was a bit hectic, for me. I was inundated with samples, at work, which all needed to be tested "yesterday".  I had a meeting of the Emergency Response Team, for our building, and then I had to prepare for, then help conduct, the monthly certification session for WAQTC. Then, of course, I had to do the follow-up work for that as well. (All of this in a four-day work week, due to Veteran's Day.)

In the meantime, on the home front;  Steve returned from Tennessee and we got together on both Thursday and Saturday, to do some recording. The Thursday session was pretty unproductive (partly due to us not playing, for a while ... partly due to the fact that I had gotten up at 3:45 in order to get to work at 5:00 so that I could do the final prep for WAQTC, and I was just wiped out by the time I got home.

Friday night, I ran down to Herman's Hideaway, and talked to the booking guys about our next show. Being out of circulation for 6 weeks, we had sort of fallen off of their radar. We may, or may not, have a show on the 11th of December. I should know, tomorrow.

Saturday was a busy week, all on its own. I went down to Kaladi for coffee, then over to pick up a used guitar case, from a buddy of mine, for my old Phoenix/Electra guitar.

Not bad for $20.00...

The guitar was made in 1984, in the Japanese Matsumoko factory, and I bought it in a Memphis pawn shop in 1987, for $99.00. It didn't come with a case, at that price, and I never had one for it (other than a gig bag), until now. Interestingly, this is the heaviest guitar that I own. The body is solid maple, and that gives it a very nice tone, and a lot of sustain. But, it makes my shoulder and back sore to play it for more than about 20 minutes at a time, standing up.

After I got home with the case, Steve texted me and asked if I wanted to do some recording at 3:00, before we were to go see Robert Harrison and the Outsiders, at the Bluebird Theater, at 8:00. Of course, I did.

I took advantage of the time before Steve showed up to put some new wheels on the fat bike. After last week's fiasco of an attempted ride, I had decided to just bite the bullet and get some new wheels with the correct spacing, quick release axles, sealed bearings,  and a freehub for modern cogsets. There is a company selling complete wheelsets, on eBay, for the same price that a 170mm rear hub costs, so I ordered a pair. They arrived on Wednesday, but I could find neither the time nor the energy to deal with them until Saturday.

Beauty shot

I pulled the wheels out of the box and was somewhat surprised to see that the rims were double-walled. At this price, I really expected single-wall rims.

 I installed a new 8-speed 11-32 cogset that I had lying about, and swapped the brake rotor and rubber over the new rear wheel...

...then I swapped out the rotor and rubber on the front wheel.

I like the black rims, a lot. I had been contemplating painting the original rims black, as a matter of fact. 

Now, the bike is ready to roll.

Once Steve arrived, we started playing. The session was much more successful than Thursday's had been. We ended up getting a couple of songs in the can, including "I Got The Blues", which we have probably attempted 30 times. For some reason, I could just never get the tone and the energy flowing at the same time, until Saturday.

The funny thing is, the take that is going onto the CD is one that we played at the tail-end of another take. We finished the first try, and I decided to just keep playing. We ended up just jamming on the song, for fun, with no pressure to try and make it "perfect". So, of course, it came out awesome. I am very proud of how it sounds, because it really captures the "live" feel that we are going for.

The rest of the evening was spent at the Bluebird. Adam, Adam, and John played their hearts out, and it was a really tight set.

The view from the balcony, via crappy iPhone photo...

The Bluebird is one of those places where I would really like to play, myself. I was happy for these guys to get the opportunity.

So, the week played out, and I realized, this morning, that I had never gotten a chance to post anything since last weekend. Hence, the big, long, post. Hope you enjoyed it.

Until next time...

Saturday, November 09, 2013

One Of Those Days

First off, I overslept. I meant to be on the trail, at Mt. Falcon, by 6:00, but I didn't get up until 5:30.  As I loaded the bike, I took the front wheel off, and noticed that one of the mounting bolts on the front caliper was missing!  What next?

I got to the trailhead, and put the wheel in the front fork (I had replaced the missing brake bolt). At that point, I noticed that the front tire was flat. I apparently picked up a thorn on my ride around town, yesterday.

Two hundred fifty strokes of my frame pump later, I had the front tire aired up sufficiently, so I took off up the hill.

After I had ridden through the ravine, just out of of the parking lot, and started up the side of the mountain, I noticed that the freewheel was a bit balky about back-pedaling. Eventually, it got to the point that I had to constantly pedal forward, or the chain would get dragged down around the cog. I stopped to check it out, and realized that the freewheel was pretty much locked up.

At that point, I turned around and headed downhill.

Once I got home, I disassembled the freewheel and found that one of the pawls was broken, and one was bent.

So, I removed the cogs from the freewheel body, and put them on the body of the freewheel I had been using, before. (They were the same freewheel, just with a different range of cogs.) Then, I patched the tube, and I was back in business.

On the plus side, I did answer the three questions I wanted to address, on this ride:

1. Do these tires work well, on dirt? Yes, they do. Even with the rear tire somewhat over-pressure, the tires hooked up well and performed nicely.

2. Does the weight of the bike make it unpleasant to ride, on the big climbs?  No, it does not. I was probably not as fast on the bike as I would have been on the 29er, but I didn't notice that the heavier bike was harder to deal with.

3. Does the longer rear end (compared to the Mukluk), and the "cruiser" geometry have a negative effect off-road?  No. I had no problem lifting the front wheel and climbing over the waterbars on the trail, and it handled just fine. In fact, it reminds me of late 1980s/early 1990s mountain bikes.

So, I am happy with the bike, when it comes to performance and handling. Now, if I can just keep from having a mechanical, on the next ride...


Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The Hard Way

I was riding along on the fat bike, last Thursday, on my way from work when I started thinking about what I was doing. It was my seventh day in a row of riding that bike for at least an hour a day, and my knees were a bit sore. For three weeks, I had not ridden enough to speak of, and I was really enjoying riding back and forth on my commute.

But, why was I commuting on the bike, out of all the bikes I own, that takes the most effort to get down the road? My knees probably wouldn't be protesting, as much, if I had been riding my cool titanium bike, for a week, instead of the near-50-pound Beast.

In a word, I was riding that bike because it was hard, rather than in spite of that. I wanted the most ride possible, withing the time and distance constraints of my commute. I wasn't looking for an easy ride. I was looking for a more intensive ride.

This got me to thinking about other aspects of my life.

Steve and I are in the middle of recording the second Skull Full Of Blues album. We are doing that the hard way, as well, per my choice. About a year ago, we went into a professional studio and recorded the first CD/album/collection of songs (I'm not sure how to refer to it, nowadays ... nobody calls them albums, but the CD is on its way out, as well). Kyle, the studio guy, miked us up and set the levels and all we had to do was play.

It was a bit too easy.We got everything done in a day, and it was representative of our sound, at the time. But, something was missing. The effort level was just too low, I think, and it lacks something, to me.

So, for this album, I decided to take the hard road, and record on tape. So far, we have worked on the album for a solid month and we have eight songs in the can. We are recording on tape, with two microphones, in my living room. It took us two weeks to figure out how to get the room sound to translate to tape, and two more weeks to manage to get the songs we have down to sound right. And, we have six songs to go.

The sound is not as clean as the studio sound. There's some electronic noise due to the bad wiring in my house, and my microphones are not near the quality of the studio mic's. But, I love the sound that we are getting. It sounds like it was recorded the hard way, live in a juke joint, and that's the sound of SFOB.

Blood, sweat and tears = soulful living, for me. Your mileage may vary...