Have you ever had too many good ideas?

My creative process usually involves throwing a ton of spaghetti at the wall. So when I’m building a song I’ll start by making lots of layers: a bunch of instruments all playing together. Some of them sound really good, and I’ll get rid of the ones that aren’t working.

Then I’ll arrange the song with verses, choruses, etc. This involves writing chord changes and maybe switching up the instrumentation in the different sections.

And when I’m done with the first pass I’ll have…something that’s way too complicated.

I was in a band called Stereo Braille, and we used to write a lot of our own tunes (here’s one). Our keyboard player was a guy named Sean O’Neal who was really, really good. And he knew all that pesky music theory stuff. And he taught me to strip out all but the core ideas. Some of those extra ideas can be used in other songs, and some just plain won’t ever work.

Keep it simple.

It’s a lifelong challenge.

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I mentioned Greg Wilson the other day. He is a guy who brings a knife to a gunfight…and wins! He DJs some of his tracks off of tape. It used to be all tape, but now he mixes it with CDJs. He does a ton of his own edits and he’ll mix 80s, 90s, and disco in all over the place. He is making the old skool new again.

You owe it to yourself to listen to his mix.

Greg-Wilson-@-Cosmic-Trigger-Photo-By-Elspeth-Moore

Practice, experience, and patience

Dave Chappelle puts on a great show. We saw him last night and he’s funny as ever. It felt different than the TV show: more loose, and you never knew what you were going to get. He was combining scripted bits with some improv, and he leaned more toward the improv the later it got. And we were laughing the entire time. There was a line around the block when we walked up to the venue. People love him.

I like Dave and I’m glad he’s doing well. I love that he’s figured out how to do comedy on his terms, and that he’s still got the magic. And he’s smart, just incredibly quick-witted.

I’ve been wrestling with synth sounds the past few weeks. I’m trying to get my tracks to sound like what I hear on the radio. It’s difficult. Mostly I use Native Instruments’ Massive, and I’ve gotten reasonably good with programming my own patches. A lot of the time, though, I’ll start with a preset and tweak from there.

I’ve been using ReFX’s Nexus as well for the past few months. It’s a nice complement to Massive. The thing is that it’s not programmable so you have to buy their sound packs. Which gets expensive. So I like it for seasoning but Massive is still the meat.

Output makes a couple of fun synths. Rev is also terrific for seasoning. It’s entirely made of reversed sounds that can be layered and tweaked and it’s easy to make ear candy.

I just downloaded Output’s new Signal synth and I’ve been playing with that as well. Signal also has layers, and the idea is to make pulsed sounds. They’ve recorded a bunch of both synthesized and acoustic instruments that can be tweaked, mangled, and combined.

So I’ve got a ton of options. And it’s still hard to make it sound like the radio. The stuff I hear in professional tracks is so dialed-in, whereas the stuff I make tends to be messier so it splatters all over the frequency spectrum. Which means it doesn’t hit as hard. I need to spend more time just screwing around making sounds.

It’s amazing to me that so many people get so good, because this stuff is HARD. And there’s so much to learn. But that also inspired me. If other people can do it then I can too. Eventually. It’s just a matter of practice, experience, and patience.

And that’s what’s great about seeing Dave Chappelle. He is a master at work. And speaking of the Masters, Jordan Spieth just crushed the competition at 21 years old. He was able to get insanely good in a short amount of time. Just like Skrillex, who won his first three Grammy awards at 24 years old.

It’s inspiring.

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This is a set my friend Matt E-Love recorded in Idaho a few weeks ago. He used to DJ professionally (with Paris Hilton in da house lol) and I’ve been enjoying his Soundcloud today.

How long has it been since you’ve watched that Dave Chapelle “Prince” skit?

I loved the Dave Chappelle Show. It was one of the funniest things I had ever seen. I couldn’t stop laughing, sometimes so hard that I couldn’t breathe. The Charlie Murphy bits, where they re-enacted stories about Rick James and Prince, were some of my favorites.

Dave was on top of the world. Comedy Central offered him $55 million for two more seasons of the show.

And then he walked off the set during production of season three. His Wikipedia page is an interesting read.

At one point Dave explained, “I would go to work on the show and I felt awful every day… I felt like some kind of prostitute or something. If I feel so bad, why keep on showing up to this place…The hardest thing to do is to be true to yourself, especially when everybody is watching.”

Here we was at the top of his game and he wasn’t feeling it. Things had spiraled out of control and he was doing something that didn’t feel right. But there was so much money on the line, and he had put so much work into getting himself there.

So.

Much.

Work.

It’s amazing to me that he actually walked away. That he made the decision he did. And that he did it in such a dramatic way.

We’re going to his standup show tonight at the Fillmore on Miami Beach. I heard he was coming to town and immediately bought tickets. I’m excited to see him live and in person!

I hope no one shouts “I’m Rick James, bitch” — apparently he hates that.