Thursday, June 30, 2005

Washington, DC, interview

"Here I am surrounded by Tonics and I don't feel a thing. Fellas, how does it feel to be in the United States?"----I think you've had a drink too many. And Ian is actually in China.

"What have you seen that you like best about our country?"----Our government issued passports allow a quick and painless way to get out.

"Now, do you have any plans or any arrangements to meet the Bush girls [the President's daughters]?"----Where did that question come from?

"They may come.... Are they coming to your show tonight?"----What show? What are you talking about? And why would they want to see us performing music that talks shit about their father?

"You and the snow came to Washington at the same time today. Which do you think will have the greater impact?"----It's the middle of the fucking summer. What the hell are you smoking?

"Have you ever heard of Walter Cronkite?"----Yeah, he spoke out against the war and appeared on the Outfoxed documentary speaking against FOX News. But why did you have to hear that from us?

"What do you think of your reception in America, so far?"----I'm not terribly fond of it.

"What struck you the most, so far?"----What if the scaffolding falls on us during a show? Where's our universal healthcare? Are we covered?

"In spite of the snow, you still got a good crowd?"----I don't think the snow at the Sierra Nevada really affected our show at Berkeley.

"Tell me this. Why do you think you're so popular all of a sudden?"----We're not. Arta refreshes the page, like, 20 times a day.

"Where did you get the idea for the haircuts?"----We're poor and we can't afford it. And we're too lazy to cut it ourselves.

"You save on haircutting, at least?"----Each haircut amounts to ten packs of Ramen, probably.

"Well, where do you go from here?"----The words are coming out all weird, where are you now?

"Are you still number one in Europe?"----It's not one country, man. Funny, that's also how John Lennon answered that one.

"Where are you number one then?"----In the hearts of our countrymen, or something like that.

"You call your records 'funny records'?"----No, we don't. They're totally serious.

"But, what I'm saying is-- Do you think of your records as funny records?"----Why, do you?

"Do you feel they're musical?"----Huh? Why the hell not? They have chords and melodies and rhythm.

"OK. Have a good time in America."----You lie.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

"Agoraphobia" press conference

"Mildred Spencer from the Gazette. Mark drops the f-bomb on 'Agoraphobia.' Are you concerned that family-friendly places like Wal-Mart might not carry your album?"----Fuck families. The cruelest thing is to let a child into this world so cruel. That's from an upcoming song, by the way.

"But isn't it wrong to be alone?"----What, and the walls here are made of holes? It's reporters like you who give me agoraphobia.

"Hi, this is May June from the New York Times. Can you elaborate on this upcoming song that you just mentioned?"----No, you're obviously just trying to make conversation. And what kind of name is that? Next question.

"This is Julie Casana from the Tribune. Agoraphobia is a mental health condition..."----No shit.

"...are you trying to raise awareness for agoraphobia among the record-buying public?"----No, we stopped trying a long time ago. As Thom Yorke once said: in songwriting, if you try, you're fucked.

"Tom Englebert from the Daily Herald. I was wondering if any of you are actually agoraphobia sufferers."----This press conference is over. I'm getting out of here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Mass e-mail sent today

Hello from The Tonics, the band consisting of Arta, Ian, Mark and Steven!

We are happy to announce the release of our new mini-EP entitled "Minds of Broken Plastic." It includes two new recordings "Elegy For Anne Bancroft" and "Agoraphobia." You can download them for free at

"Elegy" is a tribute to the Oscar-winning actress Anne Bancroft, who died on June 6. She is best known for her role as Mrs. Robinson in *The Graduate*.

"Agoraphobia" is a new recording of an old song that's been around since 2001. It first appeared on our album *Sound Check* as a waltz, but it is now in 4/4 time.

Our publicist Neon Phosphor has been keeping a daily journal since late-December! Read entertaining Q&A's, music recommendations, and keep track of our creative process here:

Hope you're having a great summer! Rock the box,

The Tonics

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Ask Neon

"I heard that Arta and Mark are meeting in davis next weekend to finish some more tracks"----Yeah, right. They're probably just going to finish off a few bottles of Carlo-rossi... you know, like "now they're just spilled bottles."

"Yo, Neon. What's the next number in this sequence: 14, 18, 23, 28, 34, 42, 50, 59, 66, 72, 79, 86, 96, 103, 110?"----The answer appears at the bottom of this blog.

"Who should know better than me what I should do?"----Not baby.

"Who is Lucy?"----How many times do I have to answer this question??? Lucy is the Quake III Arena bot, the big-ass biker chick who ducks a lot. Are you happy now?

Answer to the brain teaser: get a life, you sick fuck.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Ghost World

Do you have any old Indian records?

Indian records?

You know, like weird 1960's Indian rock n' roll music.

I don't have anything after about 1935. I may have one Hindu 78 from
the twenties in my collection, but it's not really for sale. I don't
really collect "foreign."

Enid wanted something like the opening credits of the amazing film Ghost World. The song was Mohammed Rafi's "Jaan Pehechaan Ho" and the music video came from Gumnaam (1965).

"Jaan Pehechaan Ho" itself is an amazing song with a horn section and a lead guitar like Eddie Cochran.

Here is a fan page that has a lot of other "weird 1960's Indian rock n' roll music" that enid was looking for.

The Ghost World DVD contains the complete music video of "Jaan Pehechaan Ho."

Friday, June 24, 2005

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Impossible to see the future is

"So what happens if Steven stays in New York?"----Same thing that's been happening for the last four years. You have to coordinate everyone's schedules. We are also very good at faking a live performance on tape, so we can have Steven record a backing track with guide vocals in 2005, Arta and Mark's guitars in 2006, Ian can drum in 2007 (if his drumming hasn't already been artificially created), and more detail/bass work in 2008. Keep in mind that we've managed to create an EP and many other songs and promote the band through two concerts, despite the fact that all four of us haven't been in the same room since December 2003. And that was filming the "Distance" video. You'd have to go back to July 2003 for the last time we played music together, which I believe was at the No Future concert. Still, we have done more than many bands, so we are not concerned.

"Why are you putting your personal careers ahead of the band? Don't bands usually have to at least play live in order to move up in the world?"----As we proved in Berkeley, The Tonics will not hesitate to get local musicians to cover the missing instrumental parts. Hell, we could probably license this franchise to musicians all over the country, maybe even play multiple cities at once. That's what they mean by "covering" your band. They're covering for you in your absence. Of course, we hope it doesn't come down to that... we expect telecommunication technology to improve so that we can have a holographic image of whoever's performing, like on the Jedi council.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Graceful Accident

I just got word that Alan Lawrence will be using Sculpted Static's "Salvo Social" in his upcoming film The Graceful Accident, which has been in development for years. Alan, as you may remember, did music videos for the Sunny Ash versions of "Apart" and "Distance."

A few years ago, we donated a bunch of instrumental scraps (and even a couple of real songs) for Alan's cinematic endeavors. Exclusively for readers of this blog, here are some examples of that stuff.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Minds of Broken Plastic EP released

I'm not sure it can even be called EP, which I think stands for "extended play." Our EP is actually 5 minutes long. I guess it's about the right length for a 45 single. Head over to the music department to download.

A mass e-mail will go out as soon as we're sure there are no problems with the website, the mix, etc.

Monday, June 20, 2005

An exclusive interview with Steven Chow

SC: yeah, what do you want?


SC: if by new york you mean the view of campus from my 6th floor dorm room, and the 5 blocks down broadway i walked to the nearest rite-aid... the answer to your question is: living my kind of life is not the way to like new york.

it's not my fault. i have summer school all day and night.


SC: like i said, i'm in a fucking lecture hall 7 to 8 hours a day, with two meal breaks. i'm learning how to publish things. so that one day i can publish the tonics anthology. or the blogs of neon phosphor. you know, like the journals of kurt cobain? he shot himself, by the way.


SC: okay, so imagine having to wake up at 8 in the morning to go to a continental breakfast. see, i'd have to imagine that, because i've decided to sleep through that one for the rest of my time here. then you have a 3 hour lecture. followed my lunch. another 3 hour lecture, maybe throw in an activity here and there, dinner, and yet another 2 to 3 hour lecture, before you're dead tired and want to go to sleep. they don't call it publishing boot camp for nothing. what was your question, again?


SC: bancroft's dead. as for agoraphobia, you just gotta deal with it. i'm boycotting our group breakfast, but with lunch, you simply have to eat lunch with them, otherwise you'll starve. and that's not cool. i missed dinner today because i had to go to rite-aid to pick up some bottled water. sometimes, a few drinks such as vodka and TONIC can cure agoraphobia. or make it worse. it depends on the person and their mood.


SC: a-ha! i brought my dynamic mic. i can actually work on the album in new york. i even found a piano in one of the buildings i have access to. it's not a good piano, the G key doesn't work, and the sustain pedal doesn't work. still, i can work around it. it's reasonably in tune. relatively speaking.

the worst piano i have ever played is at the salvation army store in pasadena. 1/3 of the keys are completely broken.


SC: die. eventually.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Saturday, June 18, 2005

More mixing

Steven did some mixing work at the Las Vegas airport. "A big, open space inside the terminal. It's got great acoustics, and slot machines to liven things up."

Friday, June 17, 2005

Last recording session for at least 6 weeks

Arta recorded a new guitar part for "Agoraphobia." Steven recorded the piano part. Arta added a guitar solo to the end of "Lucy Tricked Me Into Something."

"Anne Bancroft" will be released without Ian's drum part, which he did two years ago without knowing. Arta: "This is not 'Fake Plastic Trees.' It shouldn't turn into a rock anthem."

Steven is going to New York tomorrow, so all the recordings will come to grinding halt for the next six weeks. Mixing work will continue as usual. "I will have my laptop and I hope I can get my internet connection set up quickly."

We wish Steven a safe journey, and we hope that he will develop a deep hatred of "the Big Apple" so that he may return to the west coast to help the Tonics project continue.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

More work

Steven finished "Anne Bancroft" with more vocal tracks and a bass-keyboard track. Here's Steven to explain what happened next: "I really wanted drumming on certain parts of this song, but Ian is currently in China. But here at The Tonics, we have our own patented method of dealing with this situation, by going back in time and telling Ian, circa 2003, to drum on this song. He has since done so splendidly. Good job, Ian."

After this bizarre chain of events, he produced a mixdown of "Anne Bancroft" and a newly-restored "Agoraphobia."

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Phantom power

Arta and Steven recorded a new acoustic guitar, piano, and tambourine track for "Anne Bancroft", using the new condenser mic powered by 48 volts of phantom.

"What is phantom power?"----Surely the biggest scam to hit the recording industry since "Magic" Alex poured millions into a non-functioning studio for The Beatles. As far as we can tell, the phantom power box (and the extra mic cable), costing over half the price of the mic itself, has no function except to ensure that we got ripped off to the fullest extent possible, and has a green light to certify our ripped-offness. Should a box that delivers a little bit of power to a mic, a box that is probably nothing more than a modified AC adaptor, really cost $40?

Thanks to all the people who actually paid for the CD they ordered. We hope you feel good in your hearts that your $8 maximum went towards phantom power.

In other news, Steven says: "I don't like my lead vocals on 'Anne Bancroft.' This new mic is only making it easier to hear the problems in my performance."

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

List of songs for the new Tonics album, part 2

This is a continuation of the list started yesterday. Blog exclusive! for audio clips, download montage2.mp3 and montage3.mp3.

Songs finished (extra work still possible):

"Distance"----Indie oldies pop song. What's hot: Beach Boys harmonies. What's left: still some room left for pitch-shifting, especially in the ooh-ed last part.

"Sad"----Ancient Sculpted Static track resurrected for the album. What's hot: 3/4 keyboard against 4/4 guitar. What's left: nothing.

"Lucy"----Opener of Sunny Ash, our old Sculpted Static album. What's hot: solid, reliable song, good melody. What's left: the vocals sounded better on the original.

"Lucy Tricked Me Into Something"----An experiment in modular songwriting. What's hot: in conversation with the other song "Lucy." What's left: could use more guitar at the end.

"Thank You"----Penultimate track of Sunny Ash. What's hot: bass and guitar. What's left: more vocals, perhaps.

Songs being recorded:

"Save The Day"----80s dance pop song. Instrumental pretty much done. What's hot: harmonizing guitars, synth part. What's left: needs a new electronic drum track, mark's lead vocals.

"Apart"----Like the one on Sunny Ash. What's hot: fan favorite from Sunny Ash. What's left: overdone production will probably need to be cleaned up. Arta vetoed his guitar solo, but we may still record it because of the lack of other ideas.

"Agoraphobia"----First appeared on Sound Check. This one's in 4/4. What's hot: withstood the test of time. What's left: not much, really. It may be good to go already.

"You're Only Human (Do You Know What You're Doing?)----War-themed song not originally planned for the Tonics album, but it would be a shame to waste that excellent instrumental track. What's hot: Arta's lead guitar. What's left: could still end up on the album with new lyrics.

"Greenback (Blank Page)"----New Mark song with a cool guitar riff. What's hot: lead guitar on last verse. What's left: more instrumental tracks to fill in the verse, harmony vocals, additional percussion.

"Elegy for Anne Bancroft"----Simon and Garfunkel-esque song. What's hot: Anne Bancroft. What's left: vocal tracks.

"The Clapping Song"----Happy, bouncy Mark song. What's hot: amazing performance at 155 Dwinelle. What's left: needs a new lead vocal, more percussion.

Songs that we have started recording, but will probably need to be re-recorded:

"Portrait (London Bridge)"----Originally released back when we were Sculpted Static. What's hot: one of the more emotional pieces on the album. Issues: arrangement is boring at the moment. Steven wants it to sound more like Coldplay. Would probably require full band rehearsal.

"Crowds Of Nervous People"----A slow, piano song by Steven. What's hot: excellent melody, tempo change. Issues: like "Portrait," needs a better arrangement. The recordings from the winter sessions are too boring, not always in tune, and not done with the metronome.

"Hamlet----Written by Steven, sung by Mark. One of Arta's favorites. What's hot: depressing lyrics. Issues: current recording not really in tune. Does not sound enough like The Smiths. Ian's drumming sometimes off.

Songs vetoed:

"Tonight"----Unloved song most likely to get the axe. What's hot: lyrics fit the theme of the album, has a great bridge. Issues: current recording overproduced. It may be converted to different time signature. But we're not sure if the real problem comes from Steven's songwriting.

"Opium"----The original version (on Omer's Odyssey) is still the best. Sculpted Static made a mess of it during summer 2004. It was dropped in favor of "Lucy Tricked Me Into Something" at the last minute before scheduled recording started.

So that's, what, 20 songs towards the album plus 2 vetoed ones. From that, we want to trim it down further to 15 songs or 45 minutes, whichever comes first.

Monday, June 13, 2005

List of songs for the new Tonics album, part 1

Over the next few days, I will provide a rundown of all the songs in consideration. Today, I focus on the songs that we have not yet started recording.

Exclusive to readers of this blog!! A montage of demo clips to listen to, as you read the summaries below. Download here.

"Mean Song"----Late contribution to the album effort, written by Mark after winter recording sessions. What's hot: amazing chorus. Issues: Mark took out the lyrical/melodic hook of the song in a recent revision. Arta and Steven would like him to undo the changes.

"Sunday Night"----Solid song. What's hot: excellent lyrics. Remarkably catchy and flows well. Issues: written so recently that only Mark has ever played it.

"Alpha/Alpha (Alpha And Omega)"----in constant development since a year ago. What's hot: killer verse melody, harmonizing guitars. Issues: the song's taken forever to write. Will it lose its freshness? Chorus-to-verse switch not quite worked out.

"Therefore Play Music (The Spanish Song)"----By Steven, the version on Omer's Odyssey is the only one currently in circulation. What's hot: popularity at Stebbins Hall, melodically tied to end of "Tonight." Issues: Arta hates the E to F chord progression and violin part ("sounds too Spanish"). An acceptable version already exists, reducing motivation to record it again.

"Amaj7"----Slow piano song along the lines of "Crowds Of Nervous People." What's hot: great lyrics, one of the songs partially written at the "Davis summit" by Steven and Mark. Issues: unconventional song structure. Steven's piano songs are notoriously difficult to arrange ("Opium," "Radio," "Shoes," "Hamlet," "Crowds Of Nervous People").

The album is delayed again

The new mic's not going to arrive until Wednesday. Steven's leaving on Saturday. This gives us about 3 days to do something before rock dies indefinitely. we may still finish a song or two, but the complete album is not coming out this summer.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Amaj7 demo

Steven recorded the Amaj7 demo. "I think it'll sound better with the full band." Translation: "It'll be years before anyone else hears it."

"According to the hit counter, there have been 207 accesses to this blog, including 27 today."----The only hit counter we pay attention to is the Billboard Top 40 singles chart, which we will get on in due course.

Saturday, June 11, 2005


Not just a great chord, but a new song. Steven wrote lyrics and added extra melodies to a song fragment originally written by Steven and Mark.

"Why are you so mean to your fans?"----What the fuck are you talking about? Neon Phosphor updates everyday. Uncut and uncensored. Normally you'd have to wait for the special edition DVD to come out.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Sculpted Static flashback of the day

Star Ferry, known affectionately to the band as "Star Fucker," was the first song Steven ever wrote. It had all the elements of a real song: an introduction, verse 1, verse 2, chorus, bridge with a time signature switch, instrumental break, verse 3, chorus, and an outro. Few other Sculpted Static/Tonics songs could boast that kind of completeness.

Mark added a busy, but melodic, lead guitar part. Arta played the guitar solo and flanged rhythm guitar. All of this, combined with the keyboard and a synthesized "jazz" drum part, created a dreamy musical texture different from anything they had done before. Apparently a success with the band and their listeners, "Star Ferry" was played at every Sculpted Static concert.

Steven: "When I wrote 'Star Ferry,' I had very little clue how to write a song. It just kind of happened. I didn't really think about it at all. In fact, of all the songs I ever wrote, this one probably makes the most musical sense, too. A very satisfying melody. Lyrically, a sort of an interesting take on a love song. It really went downhill from here.

"They say the music you write reflects your mental state. Maybe 'Star Ferry' was the last song I wrote before I went insane. I guess it was. I was happy at the time."

Our favorite keyboardist, of course, went on to pen depressing shit like "Hamlet" and mean-spirited jibes like "Therefore Play Music" and "Lucy Tricked Me Into Something." God knows what happened to him after the bright and sunny days of early-2001, when everything seemed possible.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

"To the neon god they made"

"I read on Pitchfork that"----Fuck you. Go shove your pretentious indie rock collection up your ass.

"But I was going to say"----No. Go to hell, where you can enjoy being impaled by Satan's pitchfork for all eternity.

"Aren't you also"----No, we're pop go the tonics. Read the sign... pop-go-the-tonics. We're not indie. We're pop. We have better melodies.

"But you played The Strokes once"----See, but they actually went mainstream. And that's where we're going to be, someday.

In other news, Steven ordered a condenser mic from Musician's Friend. We will be recording some high-quality vocal tracks, at last.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

"Anne Bancroft" recording: Day 2

Steven wrote the lyrics, melody and recorded a demo take for the Anne Bancroft song. When finished, it'll sound like 1967.

Late in her life, Bancroft complained that she will mainly be remembered for her role as Mrs. Robinson, despite a lengthy career of television, film and stage work. One of her more outstanding roles (and one she is much prouder of) is her portrayal of Helen Keller's teacher in The Miracle Worker.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

"Neon Phosphor" recording

Today, Arta and Steven started recording an acoustic version of "Neon Phosphor," an old Sculpted Static song that I am named after. When completed, it will have a new melody and lyrics about actress Anne Bancroft, who died yesterday. May she rest in peace.

Monday, June 06, 2005

An exclusive interview with Steven Chow


SC: ha! i am neon phosphor, too!


SC: i know that, and so am i.


SC: you got me there


SC: music. that's what we do.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

"What's going on? Why isn't anything happening?"

----You can blame Elliott Smith's friends and family for demoralizing us by releasing From a Basement on the Hill, which can't be topped.

"Is rock dead?"----Yes, Elliott Smith stabbed it in the heart.

"Seriously, explain the situation."----We have a lot of songs completely written, but they still need to be arranged. Mark's not in South Pas, which is a problem, because we don't even have the basic tracks to "Alpha/Alpha," "Sunday Night" and maybe something else I'm forgetting. Steven and Arta may record a song in the next two weeks. If so, it will be a completely new song that has yet to be written.

The problem with taking a long break during the recording is that months later you think your stuff is shite and you want to quit working on it.

"So how do you convince yourself to work on old stuff?"----Turn on KROQ. Chances are, they're playing shit a lot worse than ours. That helps take some of the pressure off.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

A warm up

Arta and Steven practiced at Garfield Park. Nothing tangible was really accomplished. Steven learned how to play an aug chord.

Friday, June 03, 2005

The stunning lack of output

...continues. It's as though rock is dead. "The devil will find work for idle hands to do."

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Nothing to report

"Then why do you update this blog?"----Because Neon Phosphor updates everyday.