RL262 - He Never Swore

This week, Merlin and John talk about

  • John getting a computer for a steak and a bag (Currents)
  • The first Mac Stores (Technology)
  • Automated Music and some music banter (Music)

The problem: "John has a friend in the diamond business", referring to the feeling when you know someone who can do things for you that other people won’t get.

The show title refers to something they said in their long banter about different musicians and bands.

Draft version
The segments below are drafts that will be incorporated into the rest of the Wiki as time permits.

John getting a computer for a steak and a bag (RL262)

John felt that he needed another computer besides his laptop, despite having more computing power than all the computers that sent us to the moon. He never used all this power, but he just used WordStar. It felt like this laptop was a special box that John put the special stuff in, but he needed a big box where he can put all the other stuff in, like the one from 2005 he used to have and that everybody laughed at him for. He was visiting his friend Jason Finn the other day, the drummer of the Presidents of the United States of America, and Jason had this Apple sitting around that he was about to clean up and get out of there. He got a laptop and doesn’t need the big box anymore. John asked for it and Jason would give it to him for a steak dinner. It would probably take one more upgrade and it was still useful for being the big box that John felt that he needed.

John accidentally found a little bag that he also wanted to give to Jason, a special bag that their local alternative radio station KEXP had given away many years ago as a bonus if you donated some big amount of money. All the rock musicians at the time had gotten one. They were bright orange, said KEXP on them and were big enough to hold a bunch of 12”-records. They had zero features, but were just a bag. A lot of people took those bags as their signature at the time. Nabyl had on, John had a couple of them, but they never meant so much to him emotionally. As he was going through bags about a month ago and opened up a big bag full of bags, one of them had even more bags in it and inside that bag was one of those KEXP bags that he hadn’t seen in a long time. Jason had one of them back in the day and he took it everywhere and wore it into the ground. He even asked KEXP to make it again, but it was 10 years later and nobody would accommodate him. Now John surprised him with the unobtainium bag and Jason got all teary-eyed and hugged it to himself like his childhood teddy bear. Now they are in this uncomfortable position where John has given him something that is worth a lot more to him than this dumb computer, but John is still on the hook of buying him a steak. John found this thing, he thought of Jason. Surprise! John is a surprise-person! Jason is also a stickler for the deal and therefore he sits down with his brand-new tear-stained bag, tucks his napkin into his shirt and orders a $65 steak. Not to be undone, John ordered a $72 steak himself.

John hasn’t plugged the computer in yet and is recording as usual on his laptop, but it is here and it looks like an Apple. It is big and silver on a stand that looks kind of like a paper clip. To Merlin it sounds like it would be an iMac, like he has himself. But today, Merlin records on a MacBook Adorable, which is small and cute and mostly useless unless your iMac is not working. John guesses it to be 4,5 years old. He doesn’t have anywhere near the computer attachment anxiety that 99,9% of the listeners would suffer from. He wouldn't mind if his laptop got left somewhere or if it got wiped or stolen. If John was Theodor Rosevelt giving a speech and the computer takes the blow when a gunman takes a crack at him, he wouldn't mind either. John does not have that problem, but he has the problem of the proliferation of boxes.

The first Mac Stores (RL262)

Eric Corsan from The Long Winters was formerly a genius in a Mac Store before Apple Stores existed. Such authorized dealers still exist, but they have always been very weird. The first Mac store that John can remember felt like a hobby place. Merlin remembers Mac Adam on 6th Street in San Francisco. It was the Valhalla or nerdiness! They would have software and hardware and many kind of devices, but they felt kind of shambling, compared to what we now think of an Apple Store. John has a friend who is the assistant regional manger at an Apple Store in one of the big malls in the region. He will visit him sometimes. Before it used to be like ”I got a friend in the diamond business” and John's friend doesn’t have to wear the T-shirt, but he has a shirt with a button-down collar that does not indicate he is a Borg member. Sometimes John sees him walking the mall with an employee, giving the employee a review. He is not a low-level operative, but if he speaks to Lord Vader he may still get choked at a distance. It used to be that you could waltz in there and say ”You know what I mean, nudge, nudge, the vision i forgoer” (? Monty Python!) and it is not that he would be able to slide you anything, but he would facilitate it for you. The last couple of times though John's friend just said that there had been a large crack down from HQ and he can’t do anything nice for anybody anymore, but John was welcome to come down to the store and get treated like a regular person. Still, he can get a genius to look at John’s problem without having to wait for a year. In the past there were mostly people who needed help using their ancient Mac, but nowadays there are actual problems with their hardware and it is not a fun place to work at. The new keyboards are not good. Turns out, one of the things they need to do once they ran the mandatory diagnostics is that the genius needs to press all the keys on the keyboard and see what it does. There might be a Roderick on the Line listener who just for their own amusement has already built a machine that hits every key on a keyboard. Eventually they will put it on Etsy, but right now it is just an articulated finger that pushes all the keys.

Automated music and some music banter (RL262)

John knew a kid who had some machines that played regular instruments. It is his band and it is phenomenal, but it would be impossible to tour with it, because he probably would have to rebuild it every time. Ever since the 808, drummers have mostly been optional. John has a little box that makes, I’m a hoggist, that’s why I’m so popular, you got a tight little music box, daddy never sleeps at night, come and flick my drummer, 4 on the floor.

Once John did a recording and the drummer complained that he had played the song 40 times and he is not going to play it again, but that’s what drummers do: They play it over and over and over. He countered that he had played it perfectly 40 times and the others need to get their shit together, but John said: Drummers play it 41 times and 42 times. If you would have liked to play an instrument where people cared what you thought, you would have picked a better one, like a violin or an oboe that people have a lot of respect for. As a drummer you are like a mouse in a maze. Just keep walking and I’ll tell you when you have found the exit! John picked up a chair and his whip, put him back in his cage and told him to keep fucking playing this. They banter a while about common stereotypes about drummers.

John has this little box made by the Boss company that makes drum sounds. There are so many cool drum machines including the 808 and you can even get an 808 simulator on your phone now, but all John wants to do is sit on a couch and tell somebody at a computer how he wants his drum pattern to sound. The box has two knobs, one is tempo, and the other one changes the pattern. There is a menu where you can change more complex things like the time signature. John likes the way it sounds a lot and entertains himself by running it through an amplifier. Pretty soon you are sitting there with a bunch of home-made instruments or you are playing everything through a BOSS pedal into a single amplifier and you are like LCD Soundsystem guy except you can’t afford having 25 people on stage with you. People really like that LCD Soundsystem guy. It disturbs John that he doesn’t have the technical ability to just make this his sound. Even if a live drummer would say they could play the part, John really just likes the sound of his box. This is the thing making music with other people, because the bass line John records himself is just the same note for a hour while the other instrument make changes and play other chords and stuff. Still, the bass is very crucial. The amazing skill some bass players have is to really play only one note through the entire length of a song and still be in the groove and not wander off and think about something else.

Merlin came to the bass as a guitar player and he is a very Lou Barlow-esque bass player. For him, the bass was just a hack, but he was able to figure it out. He noticed that there is a guitar-way of thinking and a very different bass-way of thinking. The role, the capabilities, and the place in the song are very different. Lay-people are mostly not aware of how massively different the two instruments are. It is amazing to John that there are lead-singers who are bass-players. Singing and playing the guitar at the same time is very natural, but singing over the bass is super-duper different. There are players like Sting, Getty Lee, Paul McCartney and Jack Blades (from Night Ranger). John has told the story before when he jumped into learning the bass, but he didn’t have to sing lead at the same time, only harmony, which is much easier. They always had a hard time figuring out how to play ”Blue Diamonds” on tour, because the piano part is not difficult, but it is sort of singly a thing that John would write and do. It is a piano part that is written by somebody who doesn’t really play the piano, so you can’t just give it to some piano player. To recreate it on stage, they figured out that John would play the bass, Eric Corson played the guitar and they just eliminated the piano. John was so terrible at the bass that a critic from the Village Voice who was at a show in New York said in the review that ”The Long Winters is a great band, but the lead singer can’t play the bass, fortunately he only tries to do it once”

They banter a while about the fact that Joe Pesci was in a band.

Merlin talks about the Metallica documentary and who played the different guitar parts in Metallica songs. John says that there are two good musicians and two bad musicians in Metallica. The only thing Kirk Hammett can do is to play a million notes which are non-melodic and nonsensical.

Merlin was a college rock guy, but not a denim jacket metal guy. He liked Iron Maiden, Metallica and some Judas Priest and into the 1980:s whatever was on Headbangers Ball.

They continue to banter about different musicians and John thinks that Merlin doesn’t make sense at all. John finds John Paul Jones a genius and a great player, but he is tragically underused in Led Zeppelin. He was not empowered, because it was not his band. There were two good musicians in Led Zeppelin and there were two people who owned the band and made everything in it.

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