Cigarboxes, hard drives, and other challenges of media management

I cannot count how many times I’ve heard the phrase “Eric, you’re going to have to finish that LOUIE LOUIE film.” Frankly, I’m getting tired of hearing this, and if all the people that made those comments would have actually made a contribution to the cause, then perhaps I would have finished this project many years ago. Talk is cheap, and there are times where I do get very tired of talking. I’d rather just gather all my pieces, and just assemble the thing for all of the world to see.

If only it were that easy. There are a lot of reasons why I haven’t been able to deliver a completed documentary in the time period that I would have preferred. One of the big reasons is the challenge of obtaining proper permissions. From the time I came up with the concept of this film, I have always tried to obtain proper licenses for every company that owned elements that I wanted to use, be it music synchronization rights, master performance licenses, clips from television shows, motion pictures, photographic images, or in some cases, right of likeness. If it weren’t for Richard Berry giving me exclusive permission to produce this ambitious documentary about his famous composition, I would have given up many years ago. Producing a music documentary about a world-famous composition is not the sort of thing that those meek in spirit would ever choose to do. It can be a massive headache, and the frustration factor is often unbearable.

Another factor that cannot be overstated, at least with this project, is the challenge of adequately researching a project, gathering the proper materials, and keeping everything organized so it can be easily accessed. Quite often, the process of producing the actual interviews with the subjects is the easiest task of all.

That being said, not every interview has been easy. While the majority of interviews I’ve conduced for this project have turned out quite well, I’ve had my share of awkward moments. Looking at some of the early interviews I’ve conducted, it sometimes pains me to relive conversations that I wish I could have re-written. Luckily, I’m proud to state that I’ve got some fantastic interviews with some fascinating people in spite of my own shortcomings.

This summer, I spent a lot of time transferring my video masters to the digital domain. When I first started this project, I was borrowing a 3-tube video camera with a portable 3/4″ umatic package from the local cable access channel. Over the course of this project, I’ve also shot with Betacam SP, Digital-8, Hi-8, S-VHS, mini-DV and DVCAM formats. I’ve shot hundreds of hours of footage, and it’s been quite a challenge to do proper transfers of all the different formats. I wish I could say that every transfer has been a smooth undertaking, but that would be a major mis-statement. I’ve had videotapes break on me, and the Hi-8 tapes are plagued by a snowstorm of really ugly horizontal dropouts.

I still haven’t decided how I’m going to fix the drop-out problems with Hi-8 footage. I have a feeling I’ll probably have to hire someone to do some video reconstruction, using specialized post-production tools to retouch every single frame. I’m not looking forward to it, as I’m sure it will be expensive. If I could re-shoot some of my interviews I would love to do so, but unfortunately, so many of my subjects are no longer alive.

As I have a limited number of external hard drives to store the digital video transfers, and a limited budget, my primary archival format has been high-quality consumer grade digital videotape. As I organize the hundreds of digital tapes that I’ve collected, I’ve found an excellent means of storing this material in space-efficient containers.

Cigarboxes.

I don’t even like cigars. I think it’s a vile smelly habit, and I really hate all tobacco products, but I love cigarboxes. The boxes are usually well-constructed, have beautiful designs, and make storage of videotape so much easier to handle.

Earlier this summer, I was inspired to pick up a pile of cigarboxes when I read a great article in Make magazine about how to construct cheap cigarbox guitars. I don’t consider myself a musician, but I figured this was a really cool project to do. When you make your own cigarbox guitar, it doesn’t matter if you use one string, three strings, six strings or even what type of string you use. You can use fishing line, cotton string, bailing wire, or even rubber bands. You make your own rules, and make your own kind of music.

I assembled couple of cigarbox guitars this summer, had some fun creating some semi-musical sounds, but in the process, I discovered how much I appreciated the art of the cigarbox. Not only I have embraced the use of cigarboxes for guitars and videotape archives, but I’ve also used these boxes to create my own specialized CD box sets. While I haven’t assembled anything that looks as cool as the Charlie Poole box set, I’ve had some fun finding new uses for cigarboxes.

In the meantime, I’ve tried to collect the proper amount of hard drive space that is necessary to tame the beast that is my documentary. I’ve been using a lot of different external hard drives, ranging from 120 GB to 500 GB, storing the various video clips, audio clips, photographs, and scanned archival material. This week, after saving enough money, I ordered a 2TB external drive that will compliment the other drives as the primary source drive for my main LOUIE interview clips.

Hard drives on a computer-based editing system are a lot like real estate. It feels so much nicer to be able run in an open field, rather than pull the little exercise bike in a crowded apartment. I can get work done in both places, but I’ll take the wide open spaces whenever I can.

There is an art and a craft to media management, and I feel pretty good about how things are coming together. With any luck, I hope to be able to find exactly what I need without a lot of frustration over assets that were not always clearly identified.

I am taming the beast, and it’s a wonderful feeling.

As I come down the wire of completion for this epic documentary, trying to build momentum on a limited budget, I have become acutely aware of the concept of “hurry up and wait.” Working from a mostly self-financed budget, I exercise new levels of creativity in writing, producing, editing and paying for this very ambitious project. I’ve never worked on a project that challenged me on as many levels as THE MEANING OF LOUIE has. It’s been quite a ride.

And if you are one of those people that would like to actively support this project, I am absolutely open to outside investments and donations for the cause.





More on Dirk Dirksen

Dirk Dirksen and Jello Biafra

Here’s details on the official Dirk Dirksen memorial:

Dirk Dirksen, the beloved and often despised “Pope of Punk” requests, no, DEMANDS, your attendance at his memorial Saturday December 2, 2006 at 11am -1pm

All friends, fiends and family are invited (required) to attend a non-denominational, non-traditional, non-conformist, well a, non-normal memorial to our mentor Dirk Dirksen.

Come celebrate what he has done for your lame careers. Bring stuff. Photos, Stories, Food and most importantly your sorry butts.

Be there you self centered little bastards… to celebrate Dirk, after all he loved you all.

Except when you went over your stage time…

Dirk we will miss you! Onward and Upward!

Dec. 2, 2006 11am – 1pm
Valente, Marini, Perata & Co.
4840 Mission Street
San Francisco

For more information, be sure to check out the HEAR auction for the Dirk Dirksen Memorial Fund.

RIP: Dirk Dirksen, San Francisco music promoter

Dirk Dirksen, San Francisco's Pope of Punk

The LOUIE REPORT just lost another great ally. Dirk Dirksen, San Francisco’s own “pope of punk” has passed away. Apparently, he died in his sleep Sunday night/Monday morning.

Dirk was the most influential music promoter during the heyday of punk rock in San Francisco. In 1976, Dirk began booking punk and new music shows at The Mabuhay Gardens, aka the “Fab Mab,” a little Filipino restaurant and club based in the North Beach district of San Francisco. In a sense, the “Fab Mab” became the CBGB’s of the West, featuring a lot of bands like the Dead Kennedys, Flipper, Romeo Void, Black Flag, The Dictators, The Nuns, The Mutants, The Avengers, The Damned, DEVO, Iggy Pop, The Ramones, Hüsker Dü, D.O.A., The Screamers, Minutemen, DRI, Redd Kross, JFA, and Metallica. He also booked music at the On Broadway, which was on the second floor of the building that housed the Mabuhay. The Mab shut down in 1986, and in recent years the space has become The Velvet Lounge, a swanky nightclub for a whole different type of clientele.

I went to a handful of great shows at both the Fab Mab and the On Broadway, including a hillarious evening of drunken stupidity with Flipper and Polkacide, one of the earliest shows with the Grand Mothers (former members of Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention), and the final performance of the original Dead Kennedys. Years later, the Octalouie team (myself and Jesse Block) got hired to shoot video of the final D.O.A. show at the DNA Lounge, which is available for purchase as a home videotape.

The last time I worked with Dirk, we videotaped a show with the San Francisco Mime Troupe, who performed a hysterical comedy at Dolores Park featuring a wild scenario involving a lot of silly political figures for the 2004 election.

Dirk had a wonderful sense of humor that I will never forget. Beneath his somewhat abrasive and sarcastic exterior was the heart and soul of a man who genuinely cared about his fellow humans. For many years, he’s been an Advisory Board Member of H.E.A.R., a non-profit organization dedicated to hearing awareness, and worked closely with the Unity Foundation, an organization that actively promotes world peace, cooperation, unity and tolerance.

Of course it goes without saying that Dirk will be missed. He was a great guy.

Dirk’s company- Dirksen-Molloy Productions

Wikipedia entry on Mabuhay Gardens

This Friday- Rock and Roll Lawyer radio show

This Friday, I’m going to be a guest on a special Rock and Roll Lawyer radio show that’s being broadcast from WPON-AM 1460 in Detroit, Michigan. It’s going to be a one hour show all about the legal aspects of the song LOUIE LOUIE, featuring myself, Eric Predoehl, producer-director of the upcoming MEANING OF LOUIE documentary, and Dick Peterson, drummer-vocalist-manager of the Kingsmen, who wrote the LOUIE LOUIE- Me Gotta Go autobiography.

So, if you happen to find yourself free on America’s busiest shopping day, and are close to an AM radio in Michigan, or a broadband-enabled computer at 6 pm Eastern Time Zone or 3 pm Pacific Time Zone, you can listen to this show live. Tune into WPON-AM 1460 or wpon.com to hear myself and Dick Peterson yack about this very special song.

Demi Moore does indeed sing LOUIE LOUIE for Bobby

Courtesy of Krista, a link from TMZ.com

Demi Moore sings a version of the Richard Berry classic, “Louie Louie,” in former flame Emilio Estevez‘s highly anticipated political drama, “Bobby.” Not known for her vocal abilities, listening to her sing this track might surprise you. And yes, TMZ has confirmed, it’s really Demi singing. Cool!

This sounds like a winner to me. If you’ve ever heard Julie London‘s version of the song, you can tell exactly where Demi got her chops. The similarities are uncanny.

I saw the trailers for this movie, and it looks like it will be an interesting motion picture about the final days of Bobby Kennedy from the perspective of the people that followed his candidacy. As someone that’s been directly involved with people-powered politics, this will be something right up my alley.

The CHEWY LOUIE dog bones

Chewy Louie dog bone

Dave Marsh just sent me a package of CHEWY LOUIE dog bones, which is a very cool product with a cool name.

Here’s a photo of the product, accompanied by the amazing Bubba, a fox terrorist terrier that I live with. So far, I haven’t opened the package yet, so Bubba is actually demonstrating excellent discipline- for a change…

Dave Alvin and the Legacy of California Music

Dave Alvin and legacy of California music with his new album West of the West - gee how many words can fit in this photo description?

Dave Alvin has always been one of those guys that recognized the essence of “roots.” His music, both solo and collaborative, be it with The Blasters, the Pleasure Barons, the Knitters, and the various other musicians he’s worked with over the years, was always one that recognized the legacy of rich traditions associated with American music. The past few solo albums (or CDs, as we like to call ’em in the 21st Century) are certainly no exception.

Public Domain, an album released in 2000, was a collection of old public domain songs that wound up winning a Grammy award for Best Traditional Folk Album. Ashgrove, released in 2004, was an album of Dave Alvin originals that acknowledged the impact of a little nightclub in the Los Angeles region where he saw such artists as Big Joe Turner, Lee Allen and T-Bone Walker.

His latest album, West of the West, continues the tradition, this time focusing on the music of California singer-songwriters. Dave spoke about California music in detail at the YepRoc Records website:

“I interviewed Buck Owens for Mix Magazine a few years ago,” Dave says, “and one of my questions was, ‘What was it about California that gave the Bakersfield sound that edge?’ And Buck said, ‘The biggest difference was that back East you had to keep a foot between the dancers, whereas in California it was all about rubbing up against one another and polishing each other’s belt buckles.’

“I think that’s true; California has that frontier, anything-goes openness and wildness that makes it different. It’s also a place with a lot of cultures, and that openness allows musicians from different cultures to trade ideas when they meet. You can hear the connection between doo-wop harmonies and surf harmonies, between T-Bone Walker’s guitar and David Hidalgo‘s guitar. To me it’s just amazing that the scope of California music accommodates everything from Brian Wilson to Merle Haggard. They’re both natives and one is no more valid than the other. Haggard was as shaped by the California experience as Brian Wilson was; he just expressing in a different way.”

This new album is an excellent tribute to the spirit of California music. There’s 13 songs by a diverse assortment of California singer-songwriters. While not every composer was actually born in this state, California was the place where they each embarked upon the transformation from childhood to adulthood, developing their own unique identities.

Starting off with a cover of “California Bloodlines” by John Stewart, West of the West takes the listener on a wonderful expedition, exploring music by such musicians as Tom Waits, Kate Wolf, Jerry Garcia & Robert Hunter, John Fogerty, Merle Haggard, and even the quintessential Beach Boy, Mr. Brian Wilson.

Dave Alvin’s version of “Redneck Friend” by Jackson Browne is an especially inspired rendition. To my ears, it doesn’t even sound like the same song.

Of course, I was especially tickled to hear Dave Alvin tackle a Richard Berry song for this new album. He didn’t cover LOUIE LOUIE, or even the next popular composition, “Have Love Will Travel.” Instead, he sang an under-rated little ballad entitled “I’m Bewildered.” It’s an excellent version.

I’ve been watching Dave Alvin for many years. When I lived in Los Angeles in 1997, I was a regular at Jack’s Sugar Shack, where Dave played under the moniker of “King of California” with admission prices approximately the same price as a draft beer. When I moved back to the Bay Area, I’d try to catch his shows whenever I could. I was very happy when he produced a few albums for Red Meat, who became one of my favorite local bands.

A few years ago, Dave granted me an interview for my MEANING OF LOUIE documentary, where he spoke glowingly of the impact Richard Berry had on the musical community of Los Angeles.

And now, we’ve got a nice recording of Dave Alvin singing a Richard Berry song.

Thanks Dave! You’ve got great taste!

Random thoughts, or Dead Man Playing

There’s a saying that if you live every day as if it were your last, then eventually you will actually be proven correct. There is no permanence in life, as every living creature is merely a temporary vessel on this great planet Earth.

Arthur Alexander

Yesterday was one of those days where I reflected on the temporary nature of life itself. Early in the day, I received my monthly email newsletter from Ace Records. The first release mentioned in the newsletter was a new compilation of music by singer-songwriter Arthur Alexander.

Like many other people of my generation, my first exposure to Arthur Alexander‘s music came from re-interpretations by the Beatles. “Anna (Go To Him)” was the most popular Arthur Alexander song recorded by the Beatles, but they also covered “A Shot of Rhythm and Blues” and “Soldier of Love,” which was more recently covered by Pearl Jam. The new Ace Records release, entitled simply “The Greatest” is an upgrade from a 19-year old CD of the same name, with expanded liner notes and photos.

On the Ace Records official webpage about this new release, Tony Rounce shares a poignant memory of seeing Arthur Alexander perform at a small stage at a Nashville music festival, only to die a few days later of a heart attack. This was the type of reminiscing that seemed so darned familiar- struggling with one’s schedule to see a favorite musician, only to discover later that the very show attended turned out to be the very last performance of that particular musician. It’s happened to me more than once, and it’s a bittersweet feeling to have experienced. Worse yet is the anticipation of seeing a musician, and missing the opportunity, only to discover that the musician died soon after.

Split Lip Rayfield

Last night, I had an opportunity to experience something similar to that. I attended a show by Split Lip Rayfield at the Attic in Santa Cruz.

Split Lip Rayfield is high-energy bluegrass band from Kansas. Performing with guitars, a banjo, a mandolin, and a one-string bass made from an automotive gas tank, this group plays their music loud and fast, performing a mutant mix of bluegrass twang with a punk rock attitude. They’ve opened for such musicians as Del McCoury, Dolly Parton and Nashville Pussy.

Back in January, front man Kirk Rundstrom was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. In June, Rundstrom underwent surgery to remove the cancerous cells when doctors detected cancer in the lymph nodes surrounding his aorta. It was considered inoperable, and it was at that time that doctors predicted he would survive “two to six months.” Rather than undergo chemotherapy for a terminal condition, Kirk Rundstrom decided he would go out doing what he loved. He assembled his band for the final tour, and hit the road.

Last night, they played Santa Cruz. Tonight, they played the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. Tomorrow, they play the Troubadour in West Hollywood. They have four other shows scheduled after that, including a Chicago show in January. As soon they complete this tour, Kirk Rundstrom intends to go home, fighting his condition with vitamin C, acupuncture and Chinese breathing exercises to strengthen his lungs. Unfortunately, he has many medical bills, and two very young daughters.

My heart goes out to Kirk during these very difficult times. He’s a fantastic performer, and I would encourage everyone that can see him to do so.

For more details on Kirk, his amazing band, and information about where you can send donations for his medical bills or his children, please go to:

http://www.kirkrundstrom.com
http://www.splitliprayfield.com