Tag Archives: music

New Music Inspired By The Podcast – American Monsters!

So this weekend our band, Sunspot, released our latest EP, American Monsters. What we’ve been doing is creating song demos for the podcast for every episode and then after a few months, we pick our three favorites and go into the studio and record them. We’ve always used the paranormal and pop culture as an influence for our music, I mean we’ve made fan videos for everything from Torchwood to Star Trek: Generations, so our love of sci-fi and the occult has always been baked right into the music. We were having a lot of the discussions that we have in the podcast already (usually in the van at 3 o’clock in the morning as we were driving through the middle of nowhere) so we thought we might as well talk about it too!

sunspot music

We called the EP American Monsters because we thought it was a really catchy name and the episode we did wth Linda Godfrey was one of our favorites. She’s one of our favorite investigators and authors into the weird (and bonus, she’s from Wisconsin too!) Since she covered plenty of American monster legends in her book, we thought we’d take the symbolism of the wild creatures that she writes about like Bigfoot and werewolves. While most of us won’t encounter bipedal canines, most of us face outrage and anger on the Internet every day.

American Monsters: An Interview with Linda Godfrey

While I’m not a fan of the phrase “political correctness” (it’s mostly just a code word in the culture war), I do believe in diversity of opinion and that unpopular opinions (even ones that offend people) have a right to be heard, not shouted down just because some people don’t like it. You don’t win the war of ideas through crushing dissent, you win by convincing people you have the best idea. That’s the essence of our “American Monsters” and it’s a track that’s very classic Midwestern Power-Pop (think Cheap Trick, we even do a sly play on  “Dream Police” in the song.)

Silver Screen Saucers: An Interview With Robbie Graham

“Seeing Is Believing” was inspired by our conversation with the author of Silver Screen SaucersRobbie Graham. It’s a synth-rock Disinformation Age conspiracy anthem about media manipulation. Of course, the song is about how the UFO mythology of the past fifty years was exactly what the CIA wanted us to believe (something even the new X-Files embraced), but it really could be about any story that we get distracted by to take our mind off something that would enrage us.

Alien disclosure would be awesome, but I don’t know if it’s as important as knowing the food pyramid we grew up with was heavily influenced by the meat and dairy lobby, that the Drug War is necessary (and hasn’t destroyed millions of lives), or that the NSA has an actual Artificial Intelligence program named after Skynet from The Terminator. More people know the domestic grosses of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice than know these things.

Have an Out of Body Experience: With Luis Minero

I’ve never had an out-of-body experience but one of these days I’m going to, dammit! Dr. Luis Minero gave some simple steps to attempt an OBE in our podcast interview and one of the things that struck me was when he said you once you reach the right state, you just “push yourself out of your body” and that seemed like a cool thing to express in a song.

Have you ever been in a situation so traumatic that you would do anything to escape but you couldn’t physically leave? Something terrifying or horrible? A lot of people say that when something like that happens, they get that detached feeling of being somewhere else, watching the thing happen to them  – that’s called “derealization” and it happens often during traumatic moments. That’s “Push”, a song about escaping those moments, forcing yourself out of your body to be able to face what you need to.

Anyway, we just thought you might like a little background on the tracks. You can download the new EP for free at http://www.sunspotuniverse.com right now.

If you’re interested in learning more about our band, Sunspot, we have won the Wisconsin Area Music Industry‘s Artist of the Year (an award won by other cheese state luminaries like Violent Femmes, Garbage, and Bon Iver) and have won also Best Rock Album from the Madison Music Awards three times. Some of the latest reviews we’ve gotten are:

“Sunspot learned to embrace its charming weirdness… the band members are making some of the best music of their career.”
– Isthmus, Madison, WI

“They sound oh so, familiar and like nothing you’ve ever heard before.”
– Power Play Magazine, UK

“A perfect piece of Pop Rock.”
– Get Ready To Rock Blog 

We’re really proud of the new music and if you enjoy it, please let your friends know about the songs as well (you can find a bunch of ways to share it on social media right here). Most of all, thanks for listening!

Happy Birthday Ed Sheeran, Is There A Ghost Voice In “Thinking Out Loud”?

It’s a big week for famous singing ginger, Ed Sheeran. First, “Thinking Out Loud” wins the Grammy for Song of the Year and then it’s his birthday on February 17th. I first heard his music during the end credits of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug and liked it and I figure if the guy is alright with Peter Jackson, then he’s alright with me.

But the reason that we’re talking about “Thinking Out Loud” today is that people were hearing a “ghost voice” in the track. The moment happens at about 44 seconds into the song.

So, the Internet being the Internet, the rumor quickly went around that the “ghost voice” was actually a spirit who never found love and is sadly singing from the other side.  Or that the studio that the recorded it in was haunted and that it was the spirit who was singing along with Ed in the vocal booth.

This trended on Twitter last year and became a big topic of speculation for his massive teenage fanbase. Kids love ghost stories, cute singers,  and gossiping with their friends about it, so this was kind of a perfect storm.

And of course, when a topic is trending, there’s no reason not to have a little fun with it, here’s a video with over 100,000 hits purporting to analyze the track and find the ghost voice (but it really just contains a jump scare at the end.)

And this weird speech-synthesized video actually explains the whole issue as just an effect of the reverb.

Reverb? I doubt it. Sounds just like he was putting a little extra inflection in his voice with the word, “heart”. I can’t even hear a harmony background vocal in there on the verse. But when you tell people there’s a ghost voice in there and you can only hear it with headphones they start to convince themselves that it’s in there, especially if they listen to that section repeatedly.

I’ve been in the recording studio and have had that same effect. You’re listening closely to something over and over again and you start to hear phantom sounds. An echo or a weird note can show up that’s not really there when you listen to something repeatedly in a short stretch. Your mind starts playing tricks on you, that’s why it’s always recommended to leave for a little while and studio guys have special tricks to “keep their ears fresh“.

Ed, you’re a Grammy winner now, so you can finally afford that comb you always wanted!

The first studio engineer that Sunspot (Wendy and my band, we write a new song for each podcast episode) worked with was named Ted Weigel and we recorded in his Madison, Wisconsin recording studio that’s now long gone and replaced by the Brink Lounge. We would often start recording sessions in the evening and since we were paying the day-rate and didn’t have a lot of money, we’d record for long spells into the next morning.

Ted would always say “my ears are fried” when needing to close a marathon recording session. We’d always laugh to ourselves about that statement. We were still energetic teenagers and didn’t understand yet how your attention and hearing and senses would just get worn out, like a muscle after a hard workout.

I think the only way to hear the ghost voice in this track is to listen to it over and over and convince yourself that it’s there. So to anyone that can still hear the creepy background voice on the word “heart”, I’d say what Ted used to say in the studio so long ago, “take a break, man. Your ears are fried!”

70 – Spiritual Awakening: The New Age Music of David Young

Twenty years ago, I could never have imagined myself writing this post. New Age music to me when I was a teenager was the saddest, silliest, and least passionate music that I could imagine. It was a crime to art akin to Muzak, which ripped the heart out of what I thought were passionate songs and just left them with a lifeless shell of toothless melodies and tame Mom-friendly synths.

I know I shouldn’t be so cynical, but COME. ON. man…

I was a Rock purist and a musical bigot. I still felt that music had the power to shock the old out of complacency and that’s was its mission. It was the artistic agent of social awareness, change, and rebellion. And some of it was, but by the mid–1990s, that agent of change wasn’t rock music anymore (I guess you could make an argument for the Lillith Fair at that point in history, but the charts and headlines were overwhelmingly dominated by Hip Hop by the middle of the decade.) Someday we’ll talk about the social impact of Grunge and what the death of Hair Metal really meant (but maybe not here, unless we can tie it into a conspiracy theory or something… Well, hello Kurt and Courtney!)

Anyway, this is just a long winded way of saying that I thought New Age music was a joke, something played by men in silly frilly shirts and women with flower tiaras. I mean, I love Ren Fairs as much as the next guy, but Yanni with his pornstar mustache and songs that didn’t even really sound like songs just made me want to barf.

I was very much a stereotypical Angry Young Man and I had an opinion on everything. And most of those opinions were ridiculous and based in what I thought I should be feeling. Indeed, if I really was a Rock purist, then how deep inside could I love Disco and robot music so much too? I felt like one of those televangelists that carries on a secret love life of prostitutes and interstate motels.

The truth is, I started discovering that music could be a lot more fun when you open yourself up to different genres, let go of your ideas of what’s “real art and authentic” and what’s not, and when you realize that other human beings might have different motivations and appreciate things in a different way then you do. In other words, I lightened the Hell up and discovered there was a ton of stuff out there to appreciate. And New Age music with all of its pan flutes, synth strings, world instruments, and thirty something Yuppie Yoga studio atmosphere are certainly part of that.

It’s not just Dreamcatchers and Chakras, look at this guy’s abs. I’m gonna go do some Yoga now…

Music isn’t only art, it’s also a tool. Yeah, it can be that agent of social awareness (from John Lennon to NWA), it can be symbolic of revolution (like Ozzy and Bon Jovi at the Moscow Music Peace Festival) at the societal level. But at a personal level, it can get you pumped for a big race (looking at you Andrew W.K.) or chill you out and help focus your mind when you’re meditating.

And when Wendy and I were talking about the interview in the intro, I realized that I needed to eat my Angry Young Man words to accompany this discussion with David Young. That’s right, I’m defending New Age Music and I’ll take anybody on, because it you don’t like it…

the dude abides

David is a charming and talented New Yorker who has sold well over a million albums in his career. He moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s seeking Rock stardom and he eventually found his way to the Venice Beach boardwalk busking to make extra money playing the recorder accompanying a harpist.

And that’s when things started clicking because the music they started making together became Celestial Winds, a duo whose homemade tapes alone would sell tens of thousands of copies.

That might be my favorite takeaway from the interview, he shifted to what he saw that people wanted, what they were asking him for more of, and that’s where he found what he was looking for. He stopped forcing and started opening himself up to what the world was telling him, he stopped beating his head against the wall, and ended up with a wildly successful and long music career.

After going off on his own and releasing dozens of his own solo albums, Young’s music is heard in thousands of healing centers around the world and his concerts have become less about just listening to music and more about using the music as a jumping point creating a spiritual experience for the attendees. He calls them “Soul Activation Workshops” and they’re all about healing and meditation (and we’ll have an episode about all the wonderful benefits of meditation soon!) He encourages the concert goers to close their eyes, but not after a little showmanship, (and this is pretty impressive I have to say) he plays two recorders at once…

…which made me think of Michael Angelo from Nitro and his double necked guitar solos, who we played with once at a Wisconsin Area Music Industry event…

Sure, meditation is a powerful tool, where we can quiet the mind, get out of our frantic headspace for a little while, and find some comfort and relaxation. But it’s what happens next that make Young’s concerts so memorable. He claims that more people have had out-of-body experiences while listening to his music than any other musician alive. Or they’ve had a visit from a favorite dead relative or even an encounter with who he calls “the Heavenly crew” or “Ascended Masters”, historical spiritual icons like Jesus, Buddha, or the Blessed Virgin. Often, multiple people will share that they saw the same Ascended Master at an event and that they were shown a sign in the form of a flower or animal that they all saw independently.

He ties this in to a Great Ascension he calls it of people becoming more spiritual throughout the world and how that’s leading to greater understanding and love between people. It immediately made me think of the religious Great Awakenings that occurred throughout history and those fundamentalist moments seemed to cause more harm than good (see our episode on the Pilgrims and Satanic Thanksgiving.)

And he gets to hang out with Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull, which is awesome!

But David’s attitude is one of optimism instead of pessimism, and I can dig that. While we often link a rise in fundamentalism to the bogeymen of ISIS or the social intolerance of Evangelical Christians, we forget that there is a scientific basis for the human proclivity for spiritual experiences, we seek them and want them desperately. Spiritual awareness without religion provides the comfort and that “we’re all in it together” feeling without the rules that make us judge each other. The more of that the better, I think, and it doesn’t matter if it’s attributable to wishful thinking and imagination or whether there really is a “Heavenly Crew” watching out for us and the people we love.

So, check out a little bit of David’s music right here and if you’re looking to explore your own spiritual experience, we have a five-minute meditation track that we wrote at the end of this podcast. So, that’s right, I made fun of Yanni’s dark long flowing locks or Zamfir and his ridiculous pan flute… And now we made our own New Age track, man. So close your eyes, clear your mind, and take it in.