Chop Suey Joint Blog

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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Still Kicking

It's been nearly a year since the last blog post!!! Maybe that's a good thing - a sign that we have been too busy with music to write blogs. And I guess that's the truth. All of the musicians and singers have been busy with their own groups - just as Bertie and I have been busy with our own side projects.

Bertie has been taking his guitar-playing to unexplored new territory. I have been working on 12 pieces of electronic music. We have both taken up drumming in an effort to add even more rhythmic angles to our pop funk sound.

That doesn't mean to say that Chop Suey Joint has been inactive. We published our new webpage ( in July this year, and have been using it to increase our profile on the web. We have taken an interest in modern internet marketing techniques in order to get our foot in the door of cyberspace. No easy task - there are a lotta musos out there!

After a 3 month summer break, Bertie and I have begun talking about how to approach the recording of our 4th collection of songs. Pre-summer, we were meeting regularly to compose arrangements for the next set of songs, and now it's time to start composing solid ideas in ProTools. Recording will begin in the next couple of weeks. We are looking to go to sonic spaces where we haven't previously ventured. That's the plan. I'll keep you posted.

Man Jack



Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Continuing Adventures of Old Skool Composition

So, I think I've mentioned countless times that the CSJ recording process has always been to record and compose simultaneously. It's a risky business because sometimes ideas go up a dead end. Otherwise, we spend a helluva lotta time melding together all the ideas that do work. The end product is often quite a surprise, so it's kind of a fun way to do things. Or I should say that it has been a fun way to do things.

Now we are taking a different route. The same route I used to use with rock bands back in my teens. Chords and melodies. Guitar and voice based songwriting. We have two song structures in the pipeline so far. One of them has lyrics and the other has a just a hummed melody for the moment. One is happy pop, and the other swings moodily.

The moody swinging one is the newer of the two, which explains why it is still lyricless. It's apparently quite a simple bunch of chord changes - but nothing is simple with Bertie's guitar composition. Every chord he selects is usually inverted in ways my fingers had never imagined. This gives his guitar sound a unique feel which you can hear all over the CSJ recordings.

On the lyric writing side of things - I have a notebook which I fill with ideas - but only one out of a hundred scribbles ever makes it to the song stage. A song often demands that the lyrics be of a coherent character, and the rhythm of the words strung together has to be just right - so using old ideas is often a bit square peg round hole. Nonetheless, I scribble on, cuz the easiest way to write good lyrics is to be in the habit of writing.

And that's pretty much where we are at. There are some basic drum tracks set up in ProTools over which we will lay some rudimentary guitar chords soon. Bertie should be over in a few days which will give me some time to stretch my fingers around the new chords, and get some ideas for the direction of the lyrics for the new song.

Until soon.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Unplugged Composition

Chop Suey Joint took its first steps back into action today. After playing a series of shows as a 16 piece band six months ago, we took a break to plan the next chapter in this musical journey. And plan and plan.

The music on the three CDs we have recorded has evolved from sampled beats and improvised arrangements to something a little more complex, however we noticed that the compositions revolve around the studio and computers as sources of inspiration – and it’s time to move on.

In our case, moving on means turning the clock back to the days when songsmiths spent endless hours over their instruments, melding chords and melodies, forging solid compositions – old skool.

So Bertie dropped over with his acoustic guitar today. He plays left handed with different tuning, so checking where he is on the fretboard is often a challenge. We strummed for a couple of hours till we had 14 weird chords that flowed effortlessly through verses and choruses.

And then we went to lunch.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Takin care of Chop Suey Joint biz

It's been a while. I've been busy. Fine tuning my understanding of video editing and working on the footage of the gig for the presentation of First Call For All Passengers. Xip Multimedia, Juanki's gal Ana and my cards buddy Marco all shot footage on the night. There's about 50 GBs of inforamation all up. (The recording of the whole CD didn't use half of that!) They are all professional camera people, so it's going to be a good looking video. If I have one gripe - it's seldom you get to see any of the musicians - there are so many vocalists up front that it is hard to get a glimpse of the baaaaaand. Bertie has cleaned up the audio files we recorded on the night - melding the mix through the desk into protools with another stereo recording onto minidisk. He is still yet to feed in the audio from one of the cameras, but then it should sound pretty damn fine.

Keepin y'all posted


Sunday, March 15, 2009

CD Presentation and Show

What a process! 3 years back, I started building beats for a new collection of CSJ songs. It had been a year since we had finished Off The Radar, our 2nd CD. I had used the intervening time to thrash out a bunch of rock songs that had been filling up my memory. Hadn't quite finished that project when I started building the new CSJ beats. And I still hadn't finished it a few months later when Bertie dropped by, and we created the bass and guitar ideas over the newly constructed beats. By then, it was too late - the CSJ CD took precedence.

Musicians and singers started laying down their parts, and the songs took shape. A few months back, the new CD hit the home straight - Bertie came back on the scene and helped me master it. Almost at the same time, El Loco asked if CSJ would be interested in using their great club as a place to rehearse live on stage on Wed nights. Bertie got together a band of excellent musicians and vocalists and...

I interrupt this blog to tell ya bout a call I just received from Juanki, the passionately flamenco voice of CSJ - it's nearly 2am, so he knew it was a good time to catch me. He told me how much he had enjoyed the experience, how he loved the vitality of the band in action, and how he had totally dug hanging out with us all. And how we would be dumb to let something this special just go. I explained how difficult it is to have so many ultra classy musos involved in such a huge band for an extended time - not just for their busy schedules, but it's pretty tricky economically too. Juanki insisted we find a way. We'll be getting together for a coupla beers to talk about it one of these evenings...

Back to the blog. Bertie got together a huge band to play 14 songs - a selection from the 3 CDs - and we all diligently learnt our parts and came together to jam out the arrangements every Wed nite up until last week. Toni Belenguer and he burnt the midnight oil perfecting the scores for the brass and violin arrangements. Meanwhile, there was a whole lotta organising of CD and poster artwork to do, texts and blurbs to be written, and promotion to be taken care of. For that we have to thank our ever-creative graphic designer in Australia, Mark Stockdale; our erudite writer and narrator Jackie Grammkin and; all of the friendly people at El Loco. Must mention Missteria and Hayley who did some great PR for us. Introduced me to Eugenio and Xema, our two very groovy gogos. Javi, Pili and Ana offered to film the event. Telephone didn't stop ringing - always more details to be attended to.

The big CD launch show was looming ever closer and the CDs hadn't arrived back from the factory. A few hours before the show, the telephone rang. Missteria and I drove a coupla hundred kms to pick the CDs up. Had to do two radio interviews en route.

Got back and went to set up stage at El Loco. We had hired a second sound engineer, Ramon, to help Octavio organise everything - and we had given ourselves two hours more than usual to set up, but it still wasn't enough. Had a sandwich in a bar on the corner, changed my shirt, and hit the stage with the rest of the band.

The club was pretty full. The songs went by one by one. People danced. The band rocked. We finished the set. The crowd applauded like crazy. We played a coupla encores, took a bow, and then got down to the serious business of relaxing post gig.

2 days later and I am still trying to relax. There is a DVD of the event to produce; Bertie is polishing the audio recording of the show; there is a new webpage to design and; there is the new CD to promote: First Call For All Passengers. Gonna be putting some of the new songs on the MySpace player in the coming days.

Something else is gonna happen with CSJ in the near future. I'll let you know when it does.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pre Gig Rehearsal

Tomorrow night, we'll go on stage at 11pm for the big show, but tonight we had a rehearsal. Everybody was in attendance except for Dai who has been ill, but he has a history of touring with hard rock acts, so he's gonna be with us tomorrow, illness or no illness. Tonight, we were making sure that we all had a solid understanding of the arrangements. The brass section had a lot of new pieces to work into the songs, but they're pros, so it all went just fine. It sure is fun bringing 15 people together to make this beautiful noise, but gee it can sure be a challenge rallying their attention between songs. Luckily, that's Bertie's affair. Heh heh. Anyway, job well done. We ran through the set, ironed out a few kinks, had a few beers, a few laughs and finished up at 1am. Tomorrow evening, we have an early soundcheck. In the meantime, a friend and I are gonna drive a few hundred kilometres to a seaside town to pick up the new CDs for the presentation. Everybody gets one - El Loco - C/Erudito Orellana 12 - 12 March - 22:30 - 12 euros. Bring some funky dance moves with you. First Call for all Passengers...


Thursday, March 05, 2009

Last Live Rehearsal

Another Wednesday night at El Loco - candles on the tables - enthusiastic crowd - the band biting at the bit to flex some muscle. Lunah called just before showtime - couldn't make it due to illness, poor gal. But that left Tais all alone for the first time on gal vocal duties, but hey, she took the news bravely and forged ahead regardless, boppin and dancin with an unremovable smile. The brass section also couldn't make it tonight. It's inevitable with a line-up of this quality and size that some folk are gonna have other committments sometimes. That ain't to say that the boyz ain't active behind the scenes: Bertie has been working on 4 piece brass section arrangements for weeks, and today Toni Belenguer and he spent many more hours fine tuning them. I haven't heard the arrangements yet myself so I'm really looking forward to their unveiling at the big gig next Thursday night. Yeeha. Anyway, back to tonight's show, which as always I'm listening to on MiniDisc as I write. It was a stripped back affair by our (un)usual standards: 7 musicians and 5 voices. As a result, the band went exploring groovy groove territory, and that's always a cool adventure. The voices sound pretty solid on the recording - it's hard to know exactly what's happening when you're on stage. There are sooooo many people and so few monitors. That said, the soundman Octavio is a genius at keeping us all happy. The audience almost coaxed an encore out of us tonight, but we cruelly denied them satisfaction - primarily cuz we don't have an encore : ) We're skipping next week's Wednesday night show in favour of a rehearsal behind closed doors - our second! And then on Thursday 12 March, doors open at 10:30 pm for the big BIG show at El Loco, where we'll be giving the new limited edition CD away to all who attend. Neat, huh! So come along.

12 March 22:30 El Loco, Valencia

First Call for All Passengers...


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Show 6

So, after the gig tonight, Natxo - ultra funky bass player - says: 'I guess you're gonna go home now and write the blog' - and I said yes, came home, made a cup of tea, turned on the MiniDisc to listen to the recording of the show tonight, and since then I've been too distracted to think of what to write. There were a LOT of people on stage tonight - 15 in total - and there was a LOT going on - especially since Bertie had passed the last week writing arrangements for the brass section and violin - and tonight was the first time that they had seen the sheet music, let alone played it!!! Yes, it might seem a little adventurous, but these guys just can't put a foot wrong. During the gig, I was getting the feeling that everything was very regimented, and we weren't firing as brillianly as last week. But listening to it now, it's definitely the coolest the group has sounded. Very together. Solid. Confident. Hey, we incorporated our last vocalist in the line-up tonight: Jose Estela - sounds good - lotsa energy. Wow, just got distracted again - the brass section arrangements are dazzling. It's never sounded so pop. Edu's drumming is a lot more intuitive now, so there are a lotta cool sparks coming off his sticks. Sergio and Carlos are having no trouble keeping up. Bertie is finding joy in funky distortion. Alfie is finding his way among the many little keyboard licks. Voro, Toni, Latino and Herbert create a ridiculously amazing brass and violin section. So many to list!! Tais and Lunah dance and sing and make the stage a much more fun place to be. Dai is always taking his soul rock growl to new limits. And the list would not be complete without the all dancing, all funking, always having a ball Natxo on bass - who reads the blog. Como estas hombre? Mi descripcion de la noche te parece adecuado?

We'll be back at the Loco next Wednesday. Gonna explore some seriously interesting new territory. The pop machine is running smoothly. Upward and Onward.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chop Suey Joint sale del estudio

Hasta hace poco, Chop Suey Joint era “sólo” un colectivo de músicos y compositores que con hilaturas musicales de texturas y colores muy diversos urdían en el interior de su estudio de grabación preciosos tejidos sonoros con dibujos llenos de fusión y experimentación. Al público no llegaban más que en forma de CDs (hasta el momento llevan editados dos) o mediante la oferta de descargas gratuitas en internet. Esto está cambiando; gracias al apoyo de El Loco Club de Valencia hemos podido y podemos asistir, desde el pasado 7 de enero, a un proceso singular que el próximo 12 de marzo culminará con el gran concierto de Chop Suey Joint en esta misma sala: los miércoles por la noche, los músicos han ido subiendo- y van a seguir haciéndolo hasta el día anterior al propio concierto- al escenario de El Loco en distintas formaciones para ensayar en vivo y en directo las composiciones salidas del taller creativo de Chop Suey Joint. El primer ensayo contaba sólo con percusión, batería, bajo, guitarra y teclados y una asistencia de apenas diez personas (incluyendo camareros). Después, a cargo siempre de excelentes intérpretes, se han ido incorporando voces, luego trompeta y trombón y, más adelante, violín eléctrico y saxo barítono, y la afluencia del público ha ido creciendo de forma exponencial. Lo cual no es de extrañar: partiendo de un material musical fresco, sofisticado y al mismo tiempo pegadizo, la banda se divierte de lo lindo con la aventura de darle vida, y como espectador resulta fascinante seguir a los músicos cuando exploran sendas que ellos mismos aún ignoran. De ensayo en ensayo, las interpretaciones de las canciones se van consolidando, pero el factor sorpresa nunca desaparece: una misma canción (por ejemplo, mi favorita: “Serpentine”) puede sonar más latina, más rock, más funk, más jazz, más pop... A veces se producen momentos de locura y desenfreno, y el caos parece a punto de apoderarse de todos los músicos, cuando una mano firme e invisible (su gran profesionalidad) los devuelve a la senda de la canción original. De esas ganas de experimentar y probar y de los diálogos instrumentales trepidantes que mantienen entre ellos saltan chispas que acaban electrizando al público que nada más sonar la última canción ya está deseando que llegue el siguiente miércoles. Y ni hablemos de la expectación respecto del concierto propiamente dicho, el 12 de marzo, cuando, además, se presentará oficialmente el tercer disco de Chop Suey Joint.

Jakob Gramss


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Show 5 - Burning and Beautiful

Wednesday night rolls around again - 9pm at El Loco - the musicians start arriving and setting up their stuff - it's a big stage, but once again there were 13 of us - so it's a forest of mikes and a tangle of leads up there. The sound engineer does an amazing job - by 10:30pm we were all soundchecked and ready to go. People streamed in and at 11:20pm we kicked off the set with Get Your Act Together. Tonight we had Herbert Peres Jones on electric violin and Latino on baritone sax. These guys are part of the complete Chop Suey Joint line-up which will be unfolded in its entirety on 12 March for the CD new launch. We had decided to make it a short and sweet set tonight, but something happened, the band caught fire and we blasted away like crazy for over two hours. And all the time it got hotter and hotter - grooving intensely - riffs piling over rhythms - higher and higher. I've never seen a band like this before. Incredible - a truely majestic thing to behold. It just gets better every time. Great buncha guys and gals having a superb time.

I have mentioned that I record every show, right? I'll be cleaning up the recordings and posting them on our COMING SOON new and improved webpage - set to coincide with the CD launch.

Never know what's gonna happen next, but it's usually fun,


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Show Number 4

After having turned up to play an hour late for the previous show, we were under strict orders to take the stage at 11, . We started at 11:30. And didn't stop till near on 2:00. The energy built and built. Left the stage high as kites. Nice big crowd.

There were 13 of us - Drums, 2 x Perc, Bass, Guit, Synths, Trumpet, Trombone and 5 vocalists. Somewhere between a well oiled machine and a wild beast. It's getting better every time.

We're hyped and revving,

You don't wanna miss the next session,

Man Jack



To read more of the Chop Suey Joint MySpace blog, visit MySpace

Man Jack Page

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