Friday, September 30, 2005

Sunday Night

Steven did some exploratory work on harmonies for "Sunday Night."

---this is serious work, folks. harmonies are tough because the vocals don't sound right individually, you end up having to sing these weird and counterintuitive melodies.

Mean Song finished

Ringo Starr played the bass drum on "Mean Song" in 1969. Steven finished mixing the song, so that's another hit we're taking to our graves.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Homegrown and happening

Today's Calendar Weekend section of the Los Angeles Times has a cover story about new indie bands in the LA area. Unfortunately we're not part of the story, since we're hardly a band at the moment.
Los Angeles has no "music scene." It has a bazillion niches populated by musicians of every stripe who cultivate their small followings and clamor for more attention, all in the shadow of a music industry that magnifies the line between commerce and art.

Myriad sensibilities abound. What's cool on the Sunset Strip might be crass in Silver Lake; what rocks Orange County might earn shrugs in Hollywood; what's hip in Long Beach might be harlequin in the Valle
It goes on to profile seven bands representing seven styles that can be found in the LA basin. Additionally, there are mini-profiles about "10 more homegrown artists you ought to know" and "Bands to watch: '06." Little do they know... 2006 will go down as the year of the Tonics.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

What genre are we?

Arta: "[Mean Song is] the same sort of 50s/early 60s and 80s mix that we've been doing lately. it's what rock would have sounded like if the 70s hadn't happened... pop as defined by a line traceable from the beatles to the smiths. no disco, no arena rock, no metal. no prog. nothing psychedelic."


Steven recorded harmony vocals for "Mean Song."

---they're the trippiest harmonies since the bop-bop-bop-balalalalala line in 'lucy tricked me into something.' prepare to be shocked.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Let's talk gear

Arta and Steven installed a new Gibson pickup onto Arta's guitar. Which means it's time for a WHERE WERE THEY THEN: A FOLK HISTORY OF THE TONICS' MEMBERS AS TOLD THROUGH PRIMARY SOURCES -- PART THREE

Today's primary source is a photograph of Arta's Les Paul and the tools required to upgrade its bridge pickup. Many of the pieces shown are from the RadioShack all-purpose soldering kit. Successfully tinkering with one's own instrument is the music nerd's nirvana, but we sure saved lots of money by abstaining from professional help.

---I've fallen and I can't get up, my bathroom is locked from the inside, I live alone and no one's going to find me until I'm a rotting corpse. But I have some great news!
---What's that?
---I just saved a bunch of money on equipment upgrade by soldering the wires myself!!!!

Sampling on the RP300

Alan Lawrence cut The Graceful Accident down to 19 minutes, and retitled it Trains Map the Arteries of the Heart. Arta and Steven recorded an instrumental called "PDT," with electronic drumming by Alan. Here's a list of Tonics songs used in the film: "Bartleby," "You're Only Human," "Mad Men," "Last Sun," "Heart of Darkness: The Rock Opera," "Distance," "Therefore Play Music."

Sunday, September 25, 2005

"Are you going to finish the album?"

----No, I'm going to Disneyland.

"Really? Are you thinking of signing with Hollywood Records, a Disney-owned record label with a roster of pop artists including The Polyphonic Spree?"----Hell, no. We're not getting anywhere near those fucking hippies... despite the song "Telegraph Avenue" from our back catalogue.

"I'm shocked by the way you used the f-word. Will you please tone down your language?"----The only way I can tone it down is to turn down the gain, and maybe reduce the treble- and mid-frequencies a little bit. And then run the whole thing through a low-pass filter.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The band lives to see another day

Today, Steven came back from the bay area. To this band, however, his weeklong visit has only been an unnecessary disruption to the progress of the album. When confronted, he mumbled something about "some internship opportunities with big publishers" and "maybe working at an academic press might be fun." Neon Phosphor would like to barricade Steven in his room until he finishes the album.


The Beatles started out playing in Hamburg, Germany. Sculpted Static, on the other hand, started out in their high school's German Club. Hey, kids: see if you can find the four founding members of Sculpted Static on this list.

While the fucking nerds Arta and Steven teetered perilously close to hipsterdom with their abortive film careers, Mark proudly carried the flag of geek culture by setting up an Apache/2.0.53 (Debian GNU/Linux) mod_python/3.1.3 Python/2.3.5 PHP/4.3.10-9 Server, or "hodos," for short. This server would later prove useful for proliferating cassette-quality demos of Mark's hobbling rhythm guitar and nebulous vocal melodies.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Neon Phosphor Breaks (for Children) Again

Steven ran off with the soul of the band yesterday, driving both the remaining Tonics and their publicist into murky silence. Rumors of a new website mix with those of a new album as the public waits awed and anxiously. Honestly, there's still an album somewhere in the works. When it does come over your shitty pair of vintage FM radio sunglasses, we ask that you remember one thing:

Sunday, September 18, 2005

"Mean Song"

Arta, Mark and Steven used a 4-track recorder to lay down the instrumentals to a re-conceptualized "Mean Song." Mark overdubbed acoustic guitar and lead vocals. Ian did his usual fine job from within the drum machine.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Nothing was accomplished today

but the Tonics are supposed to meet tomorrow to work on "Save The Day" and ready up other recordings for release. Congratulations to Arta who got a job.

"I heard 'Mean Song' and it sounds like Mark's the only one on it. Did the other Tonics refuse to play on it?"----Yes, and it is obviously a sign that we are about to break up.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Sunday night on a Friday night

Mark recorded two guitar parts and his lead vocals for "Sunday Night." He also recorded the lead vocals for "The Clapping Song."

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Neon Phosphor takes a break

Joshua Abraham Norton (ca. 1815January 8, 1880), also known as His Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, was a celebrated citizen of San Francisco who famously proclaimed himself "Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico" in 1859. Although he had no political power, and his influence extended only so far as he was humored by those around him, he was treated deferentially in San Francisco, and currency issued in his name was honored in the establishments he frequented. Norton also corresponded with Queen Victoria, and he was referred to as His Imperial Majesty by local citizens and in the newspaper obituaries announcing his death.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Therefore finished

Arta recorded several guitar parts for "The Spanish Song," also known as "Therefore Play Music." Ian retroactively recorded some cymbal crashes. The song will be mixed and mastered tonight, probably.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Mark is coming tomorrow

giving us a few days to record.

Monday, September 12, 2005


Rock-and-roll and auto racing are two of the most glamorous industries in our society. Not surprisingly, there is quite a bit of crossover between the two.

Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason is an accomplished racer, having competed in the 24 hours of Le Mans. He also has an impressive collection of sports cars, and has even invented a new rear windscreen for the Ferrari F40 to increase visibility. Here is a humorous account of his appearance on BBC TV's Top Gear.

The F1 Rejects site has a profile on Slim Borgudd, a session drummer for ABBA, who later raced for the ATS Formula 1 team.

In 1964, The Beach Boys released a hit single "Fun, Fun, Fun," which contains a reference to the "greatest spectacle in racing":
Well the girls can't stand her
'Cause she walks looks and drives like an ace now
(You walk like an ace now you walk like an ace)
She makes the Indy 500 look like a Roman chariot race now
(You look like an ace now you look like an ace)
Ex-Beatle George Harrison was also a big fan of the sport, frequently appearing in the pits during Formula 1 events. Here is a page with some pictures, including him with his personal sports cars. Harrison released a song about racing, called "Faster."

Back when we were Sculpted Static, we recorded and vetoed a song called "Bernie's Racing Car." More recently, Steven tried to turn the surf rock instrumental into a song about Ford Escort, but it didn't quite work. Nevertheless, Steven and Arta are planning to compete in a navigational rally organized by the Santa Monica Sports Car Club.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The daily non-update

A planned rehearsal/recording session at Alan's house did not happen because of a new shipment of yarn.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The graceful soundtrack

Arta and Steven met with Alan Lawrence to talk about his film projects. The soundtrack of the short film-in-progress The Graceful Accident currently has "Salvo Social" in the opening credits, "You're Only Human" and "Distance" during the car scene, "Telegraph Avenue" during the shower scene, and Mark's chorused guitar bit as the main theme. We're going to record some more music for Alan over the next few weeks.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Cube

This is the view looking south on Camino Verde in the hills of South Pasadena. You may enlarge the photo by clicking on it:

Steven ripping apart (no pun intended) the band?

SOUTH PASADENA, CA - Tonics keyboardist Steven Chow has decided to go to the Bay Area the same time that guitarist Mark Williams is coming down to LA for a recording session. Rumors are, this is no coincidence. According to sources close to the band, Chow is reportedly sabotaging work on the new album to protest the vetoing of several of his songs, including "The Spanish Song," "One Steven Two Steven," and "Stan the Catamaran Man."

Chow's publicist denied the speculations.

"Steven is making a routine trip to Berkeley to visit friends and potential employers," said Neon Phosphor in a prepared statement. "There is no truth to the rumor that he is frustrated by the album's progress. The Tonics will be recording for at least two days prior to Steven's departure, and will continue to work on the album during, and after, Steven's trip. The band is feeling very positive about the album, and is even talking about releasing a triple album.

"I would like to take this opportunity to confirm that none of Steven's songs have been vetoed. In fact, 'The Spanish Song' has already been recorded and will soon be mastered for release as early as October."

The rest of the band did not return phone calls today.

Amidst speculation that Ian is being replaced by a drum machine, the Ian Fan Club (IFC) of Colorado Springs has circulated a petition demanding the truth behind their favorite drummer's status in the band.

Neon takes a break

There's nothing to report, anyway. Let us all save some bandwidth.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"Hi, I really like the song, but who is Lucy? She must be one lucky gal."

----Lucy Parsons (1853-1942) was a radical labor organizer, anarchist and is remembered as a powerful orator. She was born in Texas (likely as a slave) to parents of Native American, Black American and Mexican ancestry.

In 1905, she participated in the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World. In 1939 she renounced anarchism as a counter-revolutionary ideology and joined the American Communist Party. She died in 1942. The state still viewed Lucy Parsons as such threat to the status quo that after her death, police seized her library of over 1500 books and all of her personal papers.

For more information, visit the Lucy Parsons Center.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Guitar parts on "Country"

Steven recorded guide harmony vocals. Arta recorded two acoustic rhythm guitar parts and a lead electric guitar part for the chorus.

Monday, September 05, 2005

"I heard that the new album is influenced by Noam Chomsky."

----It's true. We slipped a copy of Chomsky's The Common Good underneath Arta's RP300 unit to reduce pressure on a cantankerous footswitch.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Erika wants to know...

if we want to play at the Emergenza Festival:
My name is Erika Moore and I'm in charge of booking for the Emergenza Festival in 112 venues across the U.S. in such clubs as the Avalon in Boston, the Metro and Double Door in Chicago.

I was wondering if you would be interested in having your band perform. You will find all of the information and the necessary form at

You can contact me at or phone me personally, or any member of my staff at the toll free number: 1-888-923-2263

This is the largest contest ever for unsigned bands in North America. 45 US cities, 8 Canadian and 90 European ones, will be involved in the project. 5000 american bands will be booked to play live across the U.S. combining 1600 nights between November 05 and July 06 to showcase them.

Support slots at the tweeter center (30,000 capacity venue) in Boston, free recording at the world's top studios, songs on nationwide/European compilations and submission of your material to our label and management partners, are a few of many projects that are also available.

The entire festival is produced in cooperation with the top music partners and radio stations across the country.

All shows are co-produced with Ernie Ball, Crate, Ampeg, Sabian, Mapex, Remo, D'andrea, Sennheiser and Regal Tip. These companies will award the best musicians with 1000,000 US$ in prizes.

The best bands will tour Europe all expenses paid and will also be booked to play in the Vans Warped tour. Thanks for your time!
The Tonics will not achieve fame and fortune by playing games such as this one. You can call it sour grapes, but we call it forging our own path to stardom. It is important that we don't get caught up in the machine; part of our art is building a new machine to destroy the old one. We do not aspire to be the cream of the crop (as the thousands of bands at Emergenza will hope to be). Instead, we are a new type of crop. When you're not part of the system, you have no competition. No agents, no record labels, no Simon Cowell to tell you that you haven't made it. As completely independent artists, we will just keep improving our music until it earns a place in the musicial canon. And that's how The Tonics will go pop. I don't think we're that far away, either.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

"How's the magazine coming along?"

----Great. It'll have a web launch to coincide with the release of our electronic music.

"I heard that there's a lot of copyright violations on the upcoming web site."----You can get away with anything as long as you are not yet famous. Right now, our lack of fame enables us to pursue art to its fullest extent. For instance, one of our songs will have a 30-minute sample from Sgt. Pepper. It's a deep statement about... something.

Dave Zirin: Monument to a Rotten System--
Leading this carnival of disgrace is Mr. Shock and Awe himself, George W. Bush. Everyday, President Bush doles out comments that signal his removal from any basic notion of humanity. Perhaps the most galling, "The good news is -- and it's hard for some to see it now -- that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch."

Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans

Molly Ivins: A Flood of Bad Policies --
To use a fine Southern word, it's tacky to start playing the blame game before the dead are even counted. It is not too soon, however, to make a point that needs to be hammered home again and again, and that is that government policies have real consequences in people's lives.
Maureen Dowd: United States of Shame --
Why does this self-styled "can do" president always lapse into such lame "who could have known?" excuses.

More work on "Country"

Steven recorded a piano part and guide vocals for "Country."

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Country song recording

The country song lyrics were finalized this morning, and they are about the late Princess Diana. Arta recorded an electric guitar part for the country song. The recording session ended early because of issues with the acoustic guitar.

But we are really in no mood to record anything, with all the deaths and suffering happening in New Orleans and Iraq. We feel helpless in California, and can only remind everyone to donate to the rescue/relief efforts if they can, but hopefully our government will do more to help because they are the ones with the resources. Every minute that help is delayed is a minute that thousands of desperate people are living in the hazardous muck infested with snakes and insects.

There is also the news that Fats Domino, a pioneering rock and roll musician, is missing in New Orleans.

Update: There are now reports that Fats Domino has been rescued, based on a photo taken Monday night. But his current whereabouts remain unknown, and there is still no information about his wife, who was with him when the hurricane hit.