As mentioned in previous posts, I have spent the past few years recording music at my home studio in the hopes of releasing an album. This past year I encountered a pretty devastating hard drive failure and lost everything, except for the mix-downs that I had saved to my phone for offline review.

Imagine creating a picture by placing 10,000 tiny marbles on a table. It’s something you do in your spare time so it takes a long time. Every time you feel like you’ve made a lot of progress, you take a picture so that you can study what you want to do next. And after a few years, all of the marbles are generally in place, but some of them aren’t quite right, so you keep making adjustments and taking pictures to study when you have a free moment. Now imagine that you’ve hired a new cleaning person, and even though you specifically locked the door to the room with your marble picture, the cleaner goes in and puts all the marbles in a nice bag for you so that the table can be wiped off. All of your work is gone. You can do two things: start over or just start showing people the pictures you took.

I’m going to show you the pictures I took. And similar to putting my picture in a nice frame, I’m going to see what professional mastering does to spruce it up. I sent a song over to Universal Mastering Studios to see what kind of results I get. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Radio Bean – 12.13.14

The Grim Work and I did our thing at the Bean tonight. I was happy with it. I don’t know how it sounded to the audience but it felt pretty good to me.

  1. Dogs at the Door
  2. The Basement Song
  3. That Person Aside You
  4. The Meanest Thing I’ll Ever Write
  5. We Get Over
  6. Jesus in Chains
  7. Mind This Mind
  8. Rehearsing Our Goodbyes
  9. Gravity

I probably won’t be playing again before the New Year, so I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season. Take care of yourself and each other.

Radio Bean – 10.29.14

The first show playing as Milton Busker and the Grim Work. I was really pleased with how it turned out, for the most part. This was our first time at Radio Bean together so the sound was a bit out of whack. And we’re still pretty new to playing with each other so there was that tentative energy that occurs whenever you’re sharing something for the first time. Also we ran out of time and didn’t get to play a couple songs that we were REALLY looking forward to playing. But I was happy. Eric D got some recordings and posted them on this YouTube channel (link below). Our performance could have been better, but I’m very proud of what we presented and don’t mind sharing it with you.

The Set List:

  1. That Person Aside You
  2. The Meanest Thing I’ll Ever Write
  3. The Basement Song*
  4. Dogs at the Door*
  5. Babies to War
  6. We Get Over
  7. Ode to Apathy
  8. Jesus in Chains
  9. The Stranger
  10. I Put a Spell On You

We didn’t get to share our versions of the Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and I’m very disappointed about that. Maybe next Halloween.

Introducing… Milton Busker and The Grim Work

For those of you that have seen me live you have probably noticed that I don’t sound quite like my recordings. While I generally using a lot of effects on my vocals or guitar, you will probably notice that it sounds like there is more than one person playing or singing at various times, and you would be right. Through the magic of modern recording, I’m able to record and play with myself as many times as I want… yes, I know how that sounds. I don’t care.

But when I’m live, it’s just little old me, my guitar, and my iPad – which is limited to whatever buttons I can press with my toes.

So I’ve always wanted to put together a band to assist in bringing what I’ve recorded out to a live audience.

I haven’t done that.

What I have done is connect with a couple of phenomenal players: David Ball is a musician that I met years ago while he was a member of a band called Strung Out (and then Modern Crumb after another band who had lawyers and were also named Strung Out threatened to sue). He plays a solid guitar, a mean, harmonica, and whatever I tell him to sing.

Jom Hammack is a mandolin player that you’ve probably seen ripping it up with various outfits throughout Chittenden County and thought, hey I’ve seen that guy ripping it up on the mandolin before… He also has an uncanny ability to detect vocal harmonies that I never knew existed.

We got together this past summer to play a few tunes at the local Essex Junction Farmer’s Market and had so much fun that we decided to keep playing… Here’s a video of us from that time:

We’re calling ourselves Milton Busker and The Grim Work. We’ll be debuting at Radio Bean this Wednesday at 7PM. We’ll be doing a special set of originals and spoooooooky music since Halloween is only a few days away. I know I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it.

Radio Bean 09.20.14

It seems like it’s been a while since I last played the Bean and I have to say I have missed it. And you missed it too (unless your name is Joe, Tim, Alice, or Wright), but that’s ok. As I said earlier on Twitter, I wasn’t expecting you, but man you missed a fun set.

I had fun. I don’t normally do that. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy myself or feel good about performing, but I don’t normally have fun and tonight I did. Why? I don’t know. Well, I sort of know; I allowed myself to play around. I had my set list and I didn’t deviate from the songs, but I played around with them a bit – took advantage of the AniMoog and drew out the middle of Ordinary Day, expanded the intro to Dogs at the Door so that the weird noises and odd propulsion could breathe a little more. And I breathed a little more. I played a new song “Ode to Apathy (Ain’t Nothing We Can Do)” which was inspired by all the shit that’s gone down in Missouri; brought out a newish song “No One Needs to Know” inspired by Ted Haggard and people like him who preach about sin while taking advantage of their positions to enjoy that exact thing they say is sinful.

Oh, and I was loud. The bar had to steam some milk and I didn’t even care – that’s how loud I was. It meant I could hear everything I was playing and it was fantastic! To be honest, it may have been a bit too loud, but I did not care. Loud=Good. That’s math, people. Math only ever has one answer and it’s always right. I don’t have any fans that actually know anything about math, right? Good.

But I think the people there enjoyed it. I did. I’m going to keep this “fun” thing going if I can, so you should definitely come to the next show to see what that’s like.

It’s weird… for me.

The Set List:

  1. Ordinary Day
  2. Isham 605
  3. Jesus in Chains
  4. All the Same to You
  5. Dogs at the Door
  6. How to Grow a Woman from the Ground (Tom Brosseau cover)
  7. No One Needs to Know
  8. Ode to Apathy
  9. Rehearsing Our Goodbyes
  10. That Person Aside You
  11. The Basement Song
  12. Let You Down
  13. Mind This Mind

One more thing: if you haven’t heard “How to Grow a Woman From the Ground” – either by Tom Brosseau or The Punch Brothers, go listen to it. It is an astounding piece of songwriting.

Oh My God! They’re still in WAV format!

In the ongoing saga that is my lost data (also known as Fuck-You-Very-Much-HP), I have some good news: The last mixdown of my album prior to the crash is on my iPhone and has been successfully moved back to my computer.


There they are. Aren’t they pretty?

Also, they’re in WAV format, not AIF, MP4, or MP3. This is very good news for me. This means I can pull them back into Pro Tools and tweak them for mastering. It means that not all was lost (on a related note, I’ve been able to recover most of the photos from my hard drive, although it’s a process involving reviewing over 800,000 image files – think every image on every website you’ve ever visited). I’m happy about that.

But naturally I can’t stay happy about anything for long, so let’s look at the downside: there are fixes to the recordings that I will never be able to make. The bass that’s a little too hot in one song can never be pulled down. That vocal track that I was always meaning to re-record is now forever part of this recording.

But I almost don’t care right now. It’s there. It’s relatively whole. It will see an official release.

You Are What You Pretend To Be

I pretend to be a musician. I pretend to be a songwriter. I’m hoping if I pretend hard enough then one day it will be true.

I’m going to release an album this fall. Thanks to the hard drive failure I suffered a few weeks ago (fuck you very much, HP) it will not exactly be the album I had planned on releasing but it will be close.

Here’s what it will look like:


Here’s the track listing:

  1. The Meanest Thing I’ll Ever Write
  2. Dogs at the Door
  3. Redemption on Pearl
  4. The Interrogator (enhanced)
  5. A Jerk’s Lament
  6. Dogs at the Café
  7. My Fear of Losing You
  8. The Whole
  9. Babies to War
  10. Pitseleh

It’s not done yet. I would like to get it mastered so that I don’t blow anyone’s speakers. I also need to license that last song for release since I didn’t write it. Both of those things cost no small amount of money so I am investigating financing options. Option 1 involves being discovered by a Capitol Records executive who just happens to be vacationing with his family in Burlington and really needs a quick coffee so he stops into this little shop called Radio Bean (Kesha told him about it) and sees an enchanting performer in a suit… Option 2 would be some sort of crowd-funding project.

Yeah, I think option 2 is probably more likely too… stay tuned. There’s a lot of really hard pretending in my future.

Radio Bean – 06.14.14

Boy, am I late writing this up.

This past Saturday I performed the first of three scheduled brunch dates at Radio Bean. Music was played. Peppermint tea was consumed. Fun was had.

I normally only play for forty-five minutes to an hour; I put together my set list by carefully reviewing my list of original songs and choosing 10-11 of them based on my mood and what I played at previous shows. If I recall that a particular song got a good reaction at my last show I will throw it on the list. If I recall that a song got a terrible reaction I will leave it off the list, unless I really want to play it and then it’s “screw you, audience, what do you know about music, you’re going to sit there and listen to this song and like… hey where are you going? shit.” … I also like to choose two or three cover songs to throw into the mix. I love to play the music that makes me love music and often dream about starting various cover bands dedicated to individual artists – past thoughts have included a Beatles cover band, Elliott Smith cover band, Allman Brothers cover band, Howard Jones cover band, Huey Lewis and the News cover band, and a GWAR cover band (pretty sure that one was a food poisoning induced fever dream).

Anyway, once I have the list of songs, I will put them into an order, run through them once or twice to make sure it flows correctly and then NEVER DEVIATE FROM THE SET LIST! When I’m in front of the audience and I play a song that doesn’t really connect with them and I know that the next two songs are sort of similar, I play them anyway because you NEVER DEVIATE FROM THE SET LIST!

Anyway, For this series of gigs, I get to play for two hours, so I get to choose around 20 of my originals and 4-6 cover songs, which is pretty sweet. And I thought I would try something different, since I had two hours, I thought maybe I should try and read the crowd a bit more and just play the songs that feel right, which is a long way of saying that I didn’t go in with a set list. I went in with a song list and just played. I think it worked for about 90% of the show, but I’m happy with that success rate. I’m not sure I’ll ever do it again, though.

In any event, here are the songs that I played, in no particular order:

  • Gravity
  • Rehearsing Our Goodbyes
  • Ordinary Day
  • Jesus in Chains
  • All the Same to You
  • While Watching the Window
  • Mind this Mind
  • Let You Down
  • The Whole – this is a new one, played for an audience for the first time
  • Redemption on Pearl
  • The Interrogator (enhanced)
  • Stupid Lullaby
  • Drones
  • My Fear of Losing You
  • So Lovely
  • For Milly – With Mostly Squalor
  • Dogs at the Door
  • You Know
  • The Meanest Thing I’ll Ever Write
  • The Pentophobe
  • A Jerk’s Lament


  • Angeles – Elliott Smith
  • Blackbird – The Beatles
  • You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away – The Beatles

That’s it. It was fun. I’ll play a lot of the same music this Saturday, with the exceptions of the covers (unless someone specifically asks). Come down. Have brunch.

Dear @HP – you really messed up

Just today I received an automated email from HP asking me to complete a survey on my recent experience with their technical support team (loyal followers will recall that the experience was less than ideal). What follows is my response because I want this information somewhere other than HP’s internal survey mechanism where who knows what will happen:

“The overall servicing was a complete failure! Not only is the issue not resolved, your technician erased EVERYTHING on my data drive (the drive not being replaced). I have a two hard drive system with an OS drive and a Data drive (two actual hard drives, not one partitioned drive). The OS drive needed to be replaced so the technician swapped out my old drive for the new one and ran the windows recovery disks, but they installed onto my data drive; completely erasing two years of work, and ten years of photos, music, and other data. I have since had to send that drive to a forensics lab to try and recover the data, but have not been able to do so yet. This is completely unacceptable and I can’t understand how such incompetence is allowed to occur. Was the technician at fault? Do your procedures for swapping out an OS drive in a 2 drive system include removing the data drive until after the Windows recovery is complete? Because those are the instructions according the Microsoft Knowledge Base articles and the technician obviously didn’t do that. I have had to reclaim my original, failing OS drive from the technician in order to try and recover at least some of the data (as well as recreate my windows backup, which was erased). So now in addition to my problem not being resolved, I have a hefty bill from my local PC technician because I need to recover pictures of my children as babies, my father in law who passed away a few years ago, and two years’ worth of work. And while we’re at it, why is a hard drive less than two years old failing? My previous Dell computer went four years without an issue and was only upgraded to take advantage of faster systems and newer software.

Prior to this incident I had had no issues with my HP system and would have gladly recommended your company to anyone that asked, but now I would be hard pressed to do so. I trust this survey makes its way deep into your Service Center organization so that you can update your policies and procedures in order to avoid these types of disasters and keep your customers. At this point I find it highly unlikely that I will ever purchase another HP computer again.”

My alter ego works in IT. I understand that you cannot account for every unforeseen circumstance that may arise while working on highly complex systems. And I have to say that the technician that came to my house was very professional and agreed to return my original hard drive so that I could try and extract additional data from it. But man, did they mess up and you can rest assured, I was on the Internet within minutes, registering my disgust throughout the world. Worst episode ever.

The Cost of DIY

Milton Busker is primarily a one-man operation. There are many reasons for this; I have a pretty specific idea of what I want to sound like. I don’t have a schedule flexible enough to accommodate regular rehearsals. The only competing priorities I need to juggle are my own. I don’t have to worry about paying anyone. No one suggests that I throw in more dance songs to please the crowd. Hell, there doesn’t even need to be a crowd. The whole list is quite extensive and perhaps I will compile it one day. Probably not though, because in all honesty it makes me sound like a DoucheTron 5000. The point is when it comes to music I usually work alone.

But naturally there are some things about working alone that kinda suck. Other people add spontaneity and different perspectives that can deepen and expand my original idea. They can push me forward and force me to go places that I wouldn’t have thought to go on my own. They can compensate for my deficiencies. They can provide cover when things go spectacularly wrong.

But I work alone.

This extends to other aspects like the business side of things. I am responsible for sales, marketing, and finance. I am my own producer and recording engineer, and that’s where I’m really headed with this.

Something has gone pretty wrong. For the past two years I’ve been slowly amassing a collection of songs in order to release a full album. No magnum opus or anything like that. I’m not out to create a masterpiece, I just want to share with anyone who’s interested in listening (and maybe daydream that A LOT of people are interested). I record onto my personal computer and thought I had taken the necessary steps to keep that data safe – keep the OS and the data separate; run regular backups. And when one of the hard drives started failing I called up HP and had them send a new one and a technician. I ran a backup before he came to do the work. I didn’t keep any of my recordings on the drive being replaced so I felt pretty good about everything.

But they erased my hard drive. The one with the backup on it. The one with all of the pictures of my family. The one with my entire iTunes collection (with many recordings that no longer have the source material).

And they erased my recordings. The ten songs that I was planning to release this fall as a full length album entitled “You Are What You Pretend to Be”. They still needed some final mixing tweaks. The bass was too heavy in one track. The backup vocal on another was just a bit flat.

I was even going to get it professionally mastered. But now it’s not there.

I am a barely contained ball of rage and despair right now, but there is some hope. My hard drive is now with a forensic specialist and it’s possible that some of the data may be retrieved. Perhaps even a lot of the data will be retrieved. But not all of the data will be retrieved and I will need to reevaluate the plans I had just a few days ago.

Maybe this is a good thing, right? Hemingway lost all his manuscripts before he was successful and it allowed him to rid his work of dead ends that he couldn’t stop himself from going down. Maybe I had a lot of stuff that needed to be purged so that I could create something even better.

Shit, did I just compare myself with Hemingway? What a jerk.