Seven Digits of Delusion In Los Angeles


Everyone wants people to like them, right?

Even in my most “leave me alone” mood, I’d say life would be too difficult if no one liked me. It would be too hard to get anything done, and I’d most likely end up dead. That’s the practical aspect, at least. My own livelihood depends on four or five people liking me enough to do business with me. (And of course, my wife’s got to like me.)

I don’t mind the total number being in the Single digits. Double Digits works, too. I’m OK with that.

Then there’s the level of “I want everyone I meet to like me.” I don’t tend to get along with that type. Trying too hard to have too many friends. Life of the party. Trying to sell me on how likable they are. They’re annoying, so I go the opposite direction when possible. It’s fine, as long as they stay over there and do their thing. Extroverted salesmen, et cetera. That’s for the Triple Digits. When you’re selling cars and real estate, the more “friends” you have, the better. At least they’re still sane?

Then there are those who want MILLIONS of people to like them. (That’s the Seven Digits of Delusion at this point.) These are people who honestly believe everyone on earth should consider them special. “People should crave to hear my opinion. Things should be named after me. I should have a book, a show, an album, a perfume.” In this perverse parallel universe called Los Angeles (a.k.a. The Imaginary City), it’s absurd how many accept this as a simple premise and go about their day.

I was certainly one of them, and it’s how I ended up here instead of Florida. I think I’ve been here seven or eight years, and Los Angeles has had a profound influence on me: it SLOWLY forced me decide what I truly value, which is Reality.

For fun, I’m going to define Reality as the opposite of Hyperreality. As it was written by Wikipedia:

Hyperreality is a term used in semiotics and postmodern philosophy to describe an inability of consciousness to distinguish reality from a simulation of reality[…] Hyperreality is seen as a condition in which what is real and what is fiction are seamlessly blended together so that there is no clear distinction between where one ends and the other begins.

Yep, that’s it. Hyperreality is the Operating System of this place. I meet so many people who believe their own press (whether they’re actually famous or not). I happen to be someone who is not able to do that. (Understatement!)

Since shifting my focus, I’m back to Double Digits, and it feels correct.

Recommended Reading:
Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism)
The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (Vintage)
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business


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I’m Impressed by New Blackmagic Design URSA



Blackmagic Design have released a beautiful new camera, the URSA. It shoots 4K and can use my EF lenses, but that’s not what impresses me.

1.) There were a lot of complaints about their Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera being unwieldy bricks. Blackmagic: “No problem. Here ya go.” Far beyond expectations.
2.) A 10″ monitor that flops out, almost as big as the side of the camera itself? That’s so great it’s almost hilarious that no one has done it before. AND it has TWO other displays, one on each side? Insane.
3.) Can it also display waveform on the side display, or only histogram? Because I don’t like histogram. Phh.
4.) Only $6k? That’s nuts. Why can’t other manufacturers make their devices look this good? I suppose that’s where the “Design” part of their name comes from.

Now, if they can a.) actually ship their devices on time and b.) work as well as they look, I’ll buy one. (Don’t tell my wife.)


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My Thoughts On 4K Video

Sony 4K

We recently added a Sony 4K Handycam camera to our workflow at the studio. I’m not personally excited about it, because it’s just another tool to get some specific paying work done. It’s been sitting here for a week and I haven’t even tested it. In 2 years it’ll probably be in pile of tangled cables and old crap in the closet, with the rest of the video cameras we’ve grown out of in the past 5 years). We’ll be using it because we do a lot of zooms in post (for instructional purposes), and we want to be able to not go below 1080p as our final resolution. This will give us room.

Am I curious to see what the footage looks like? Yes, but 4K video isn’t impressive to me. I’ve worked in graphics and photo editing for years, and 4K is still a relatively small image. Still images will probably always be far ahead of video in the resolution department — because what is video, but 24 still photos per second? So it requires what, 24x the bandwidth? Something like that.

Funny to see so much hype about 4K these days. Last year, most of the talk I heard about it was negative. Worthless opinions like “No one can tell the difference” and “It will show too much skin detail and blemishes on the actors.”

Notice these same people don’t complain about a 22 megapixel still photo taken on a 5Dmkiii. (Why would you NOT want to capture and process with that much resolution in 24 fps video if you could? Would it not be beautiful if 5Dmkiii photos could move?)

In the next year, 4K hype is going to permeate the consciousness of the rabble, and I’ll hear about how so-and-so down the street shoots with a Blackmagic Design Production Camera 4K (because any film student with rich parents can afford one of those), and of course that’s good, because 4K is a higher number than 2K. Right? Anyone who can count 1-2-3-4 can figure it out.

Yet I’d guess most of the consumer-level 4K cameras right now are SHIT QUALITY, just like the initial HD consumer cameras were (remember those? I have some in my garage that I can’t even sell). Camera companies generally want to sell you the worst possible quality you will tolerate, because it’s the cheapest and most profitable for them. So until the general public gets used to what 4K should / could look like (remember, most people are totally satisfied with iPhone photos and videos, ugh), that 4K area worth of el cheapo pixels is probably not any better looking (in general) than current high quality HD pixels (or photosites, or whatever term you’d like to use for those microscopic conceptual units on the sensor and in the codec).

Back to 4K. The fact is, it’s higher resolution. It’s nothing revolutionary. It’s just an inevitable, incremental step in technology. The capacity to build it has existed for a long time, but it’s just now starting to become profitable for the consumer market. It’s the same with most technology — it *appears* to not exist until it can be manufactured and sold in mass quantities.

So, get ready to throw your current cameras and monitors and TVs away, I guess? Hooray for marketing!


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Seymour Duncan Slash Pickup Promo Video

Seymour Duncan: Stephen Chesney from Carl King on Vimeo.

I recently shot and edited this video with Stephen Chesney for Seymour Duncan. More details on this video and the pickups can also be found on Guitar World‘s site:

Guitar World

It was a lot of fun and Stephen was a total pro. Check out his website, too:


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Question Answered: How Do I Get My Foot In The Door?

Foot In Door

I received this question via email this morning and decided to turn it into a blog post:

QUESTION: Hey, I’ve been a fan for years now but I’ve been meaning to ask, how does one go about getting their foot in the door musically? I don’t mean with a band necessarily, but I’d like to session work as well as generate different streams if revenue online… I figured you could offer a bit of insight. I would appreciate it greatly!

ANSWER: Thanks for being a fan of my old music. Since I’m not currently a working musician (I haven’t even played much music at all in probably 5 years), I can only give you advice based on some of the successful musicians I work with.

1.) First of all, if you really want to increase your opportunities, it helps to live in a place where there is a lot of music work available. You’re going to have to connect with people who can pay you for your services, whatever they are. Later, once you’re established, you can live pretty much anywhere that’s near an airport, and even do a lot of session work remotely.

2.) In general, music is a terrible career if you want stability. I know many talented and hard-working musicians who graduated from places like Berklee and Musicians Institute and are still struggling month to month. They take whatever gigs they can, teach lessons, go on low-budget tours for small artists, and play in cover bands in order to pay for rent and food. It’s a treadmill, so it requires endless energy. After some unpredictable amount of time, they will start to get gigs that they can brag about on their resumes — although their income might not change all that much. Which means they have to stay on the treadmill while pretending not to be on it anymore! The rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle may seem like a dream come true when you’re full of nervous energy in your 20s and have no responsibilities, but it will most likely become hell as you mature.

3.) I know only a few (what I would consider) successful working musicians. I’m referring to those who can afford a “middle-class” living. They tend to have the following traits: sober, easy-going, hard-working, honest, financially responsible, appreciative, and realistic. And yes, you mentioned “different streams of revenue.” These successful few are not caught up in hype and pretense, which means they are willing to do real work, not just the glorious work. They don’t live in a fantasy world of “making it big.”

4.) Don’t be afraid to “green light yourself.” I don’t remember who came up with that term, and it’s probably a cliché by now. But don’t wait around for someone else to tell you that you’re officially a musician. You don’t need endorsements and a record deal and connections to get started. Only a handful of people ever took me seriously as a musician in the beginning, but it wasn’t until I saved up and paid Virgil Donati to play on a song that I got some attention from others and sold CDs. I had to decide for myself that I mattered and deserved it. Too many musicians are passive about their success.

5.) Get over the “I’m the chosen one” next-lottery-winner / gambler mentality. And don’t do the “I will suffer for my art” thing. Learn about healthy compromise. Don’t take your image / Wikipedia page too seriously. Stay away from drugs and alcohol. Being a musician is a marathon, and you’ll need all your health and good judgment and energy for as long as possible. Unless you want to collapse when you’re 40, a financial disaster with shaky hands.

6.) Try not to get involved with people who don’t share your principles. In the long term, non-virtuous people have a high-probability of failing. You’ll come across a small percentage of fools who happened to stumble into some form of “success.” It’s possible for some of them to stay alive / malfunctioning for a very long time on residual income and / or inheritance. As much as this can piss you off (and it definitely pisses me off sometimes), don’t let it distract you too much. Read some Warren Buffet and don’t invest in volatile stocks (A.K.A. losers).

7.) Rather than worrying about “getting your foot in the door” just focus on being valuable. Often, if you just consistently do great work, doors will open for you. Be patient. The music business is a life-long process if you truly want a career in it.

I hope those ideas are helpful. Remember, I can only base this on my own observations from the outside. I’ve met some amazing professional musicians, but mostly a lot of overgrown children. Maybe this is all too philosophical / abstract, but that’s what’s on my mind lately.


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Morgan Movie In Modern Drummer

Morgan Movie In Modern Drummer

Most everything I’ve released in the past 10 years has gotten some sort of mention in Modern Drummer Magazine. And there’s the latest. It’s nice to get some press for the movie (every little bit helps get Morgan’s name out there and sell a few more copies). But to be honest, this doesn’t have much tangible effect on anything. I know many people who actively (obsessively) chase this sort of thing in L.A., thinking that if they collect enough “delusion points” (reviews, endorsements) they’ll win some kind of prize. Still, it’s fun content for a blog post. And it gives me a chance to explain my point of view on hype and pseudo-events.


Morgan Ågren’s Conundrum: A Percussive Misadventure – Trailer from Carl King on Vimeo.

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Free Salamander Exhibit: (REVIEW + COMPLETE SHOW AUDIO)

Photo by Cari Veach //

[ Free Salamander Exhibit (sort of previously known as Sleepytime Gorilla Museum) recently toured California. My correspondent to the south, Mike Stone, wrote this review of the show and provided an audio recording. ]

• • •

Free Salamander Exhibit, Casbah, San Diego, March 3rd, 2014

Review and Recording by Mike Stone
Photos by Cari Veach //

Every so often I encounter a band that gets my full attention immediately, whose songs get instantly stuck on repeat in my mind’s ear, and in heavy rotation on the car stereo. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum was one such band, bludgeoning my senses with “Sleep is Wrong” from their 2001 debut, “Grand Opening and Closing!” They instantly became an all-time favorite with their artfully progressive and challenging music, full of hooks and emotion. Over the next few years, I saw them live every chance I got. Each show was more intense than the last, and their songwriting and production got more focused despite a vast scope. When they announced that they would be “closing the museum,” I was saddened. I sincerely hoped that the hole left by the disbanding would get filled, somehow. We’ve all seen it happen: our favorite acts lose a one or two key members and try to continue on without, often ending up watered-down or just simply lacking the chemistry that won our hearts.

Free Salamander Exhibit, comprised of former Sleepytime members, Nils Frykdahl, Michael Mellender, Dan Rathbun, and David Shamrock are joined by Drew Wheeler, have managed to pick up where the Museum left off.

Opening the show with “The Gift,” the band welcomed their fans with a refreshing familiarity: ethereal and improvised atmospherics jumping headfirst into a heavy and angular onslaught. Immediately noticeable here, was the healthy inclusion of metal. With David Shamrock on drums, double bass blazing, and the triple guitar melee with Rathbun’s underlying and powerful bass, this was a grooving and difficult piece, around twelve minutes in length. It was the only song that I had any familiarity with, having been posted on YouTube from a few sources, but the poor sound quality of the average YouTube clip couldn’t prepare anyone for the dynamic and exploratory sound of this band.

These are seasoned musicians, and the core of the band has worked together in many incarnations, and with a very necessary level of educated prowess, the chemistry I loved so much with Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is still very much here. Donning masks made of large wicker baskets and clothes made from strips of burlap, among other things, the band appeared as though from a dystopian and pagan time as their basket-heads rocked back and forth in cartoonish fashion with the music. It was a few songs into the set before they were to remove the baskets, revealing crudely applied but effectively dramatic makeup. They certainly haven’t lost the somewhat burlesque tone of the Sleepytime era. Transitions from song to song are segued through the characters that Frykdahl puts forth, sometimes a little crazy but always interesting and even funny.

Rathbun is easily one of the best bassists I’ve ever seen, not in any “flashy” way, but in his amazing ability to execute such twisty, angular parts with ever changing counts (as far as I can figure out). The bass tones were delightful: full and sonically gigantic without being overbearing. He also played an instrument that I believe to be the “Sledgehammer Dulcimer,” a log-length stringed instrument that is played with sticks and/or plucked, and with carpenter’s clamps used as capo’s to prepare for different tunings. The instrument is rich and full-bodied with a distinctive growl, a great merge of bass and percussion.

Photo by Cari Veach //

Next in the set was “Unreliable Narrator.” This was the only song that I could say hinted to any other bands, though only in glancing similarities to King Crimson and Meshuggah. This is heavy and grooving, and I could not help to nod along with the pulse, despite so many changes in the upbeat/downbeat continuum. The guitar work here was exceptional. Often when a band employs more than one guitar, we hear the guitarists simply mimicking each other or layering the same parts, but Frykdahl, Mellender and Wheeler kept an outstanding interplay, creating a richness of auditory vines, flowering here and there. It was difficult to decide whom to watch at any given moment. It’s really quite impressive to see this level of interplay displayed in the live format, and I can’t wait to hear these songs represented from the studio.

“Atheist’s Potluck” began with happy bells falling into a bouncing and carefree groove with lovely guitars intertwining through several progressions, eventually landing in a driving straight shuffle with crunchy guitar. It really does seem like there’s more metal influence with this incarnation. Devoid of lyrics, the song still told a story with clear paragraphs and an ultimately satisfying resolve.

“Who Will Speak For Me?” began with Mellender on another instrument I recognized from the Museum, also an apparent hybrid of dulcimer, guitar and percussion, but much smaller than the Sledgehammer Dulcimer. Performing a quick loop sequence, he then picked up a horn to accompany Wheeler on glockenspiel over lonely bass and guitar. This was the most lyrically engaging song for myself. Frykdal’s lyrics can often be so fast and rhythmically challenging that it can be difficult to keep up without repeated listens, but this was of a deliberately clear cadence. It began: “First they came for the communists, but I was not a communist, so I did not speak out.” Sleepytime’s music was always lyrically rich and highly interpretive, it was part of what made the whole experience a much deeper affair than your typical “rock show.” Similarly, these songs will beckon many listens and feed much speculation about the intent of the authors.

Photo by Cari Veach //

Mellender furiously switched from instrument to instrument in the course of many songs, Frykdahl, passionate in his executions of guitar, flute and the lion’s share of lead vocal duties writhed in reaction to the very music he was producing as though he was along for the ride as much as the audience.

Shamrock’s drumming was well thought out and smartly delivered, congruent with his previous Sleepytime tenure. His playing wove into the rest of the instrumentation so well that the clever nature of his rhythmic placement often was easy to overlook. Wheeler is an excellent addition to the group; also a multi instrumentalist, I am curious to learn more about where he comes from. The diminutive stage was such that he was a little bit hidden behind Frykdahl and Mellender. I look forward to seeing them on a larger stage as the interplay between these five performers is really something. A friend I had coaxed into attendance repeatedly called the performance a “breath of fresh air.” It is no small accomplishment to remember so many parts on so many instruments and play them all with passion as they do.

Next in the set, “The Keep” was cleverly aggressive: “Flute Metal,” if you will. The many tricky and polyrhythmic passages were delivered like punches. It was very heavy, yet still with a definitive pulse that was easy to clue in to.

“Undestroyed” was a sweeping and melodic offering. Written about Leonard Peltier, it was highly dynamic and dare I say, epic? The word is so overused in this generation, but how else could I describe a song with such strong emotional content and dynamic range? This is music for the challenging listener. Building and building to a raucous crescendo, it dropped back down into a breakdown reminiscent of wind-up toys running out of tension. This song was a ride with as much care put into the ending as beginning.

Photo by Cari Veach //

Frykdahl’s banter almost seemed like channeling. Channeling the next song? How much of this stuff does he come up with on the fly? This time, he channeled two people, dressed as Porters from the San Diego Porters Union, up to the stage, each with their own piece of old luggage, which they clumsily fumbled with as the “Porter’s Jig” was performed by the band. The second instrumental of the night, it was a non sequitur that brought another dimension to the night. Because, why not? This lead into the much more thought-out whimsy of the next song: “Time Master.” Full of juxtaposed parts and somewhat cartoonish vocals, it told some sort of science fiction story, but again, absorbing this cacophony for the first time, I am forced to learn about the story later. No complaints, though.

“Anxiety of Influence” was full of dark angst and more of the signature rhythmic interplay. With long phrasings and cleverly dissonant harmonies with a decisive conclusion, this was no vaguely presented faire.

Photo by Cari Veach //

More banter from Frykdahl lead to old-southern style a capella improvisations, dropped in on by Mellender on the baritone horn, as if announcing the races. This was to be the final song of the performance, and it started huge, heavy, dark and dissonant. Once again with a swinging, sweeping rhythms and angular punctuations, this reaffirmed that these musicians have continued forward from where Sleepytime left off. Again, I cannot wait to hear studio versions of these songs. The renewed fervor and heady injection of metal to the equation shows that there is much to look forward to from this quintet.


Opening the show were California Bleeding, a drum and guitar duo that liberally explored noise and doom in ways reminiscent of the Melvins crossbred with Hella. They were sonically thick with exploratory interludes and a healthy respect for space between heavy-handed flurries of sludge. I would definitely see them again.

Ana was an unorthodox trio with guitar, keys and an interesting setup for drums, including a 28” marching bass drum and a fire bell. It is refreshing to see that there are local acts that are still trying to do something really different. Their songs were measured and moody with great choices in tones. Very dark and dissonant. Overall, a great lineup to help open the new Exhbit.


[ Mike Stone is a musician who exists in Southern California, and has a red telephone on his desk that connects him directly to Demise O. He is working with the very first entirely online and international faction of the Immersion a Composition Society, the Interroclef Lodge ( ]

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Stupid Lifehacker Article About Creative Geniuses With Messy Desks


I just read this stupid Lifehacker article: Why Creative Geniuses Often Keep a Messy Desk.

1.) It mistakes Correlation for Causality, by suggesting that having a messy desk will make you a creative genius: “In case you are trying to be more creative, here are some ideas: instead of throwing out those magazines right after you’re done with them, leave them hanging around your desk.”

2.) Thirty-four Dutch students being rated as “More Creative” on a scale of 1-3 (as explained in the original study this article cites) is not the same thing as being a multi-billionaire businessman like Mark Zuckerberg. I would wager he is creative in spite of his messiness, not because of it.

3.) Regarding the photo examples of famous entrepreneurs with crappy workstations, it is likely you could find just as many “Creative Geniuses” who have clean / organized workspaces.

See also: Cargo Cult. If you want to read a good book on Creativity, I recommend the classic: A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative by Roger Von Oech.

Now, go clean your desks, you slobs.


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Asset Design For Harold Camping Movie

Harold Camping Advertising Assets

My filmmaking friend / sometimes partner Zeke Piestrup recently signed two distribution deals for Apocalypse Later: Harold Camping vs. The End of the World. As Producer, I contributed not only my input on the edit and scoring, but I also suggested the final title for the film — and designed the DVD cover / poster. I rarely do graphic design anymore (I consider myself retired), but I’m pleased with how these advertising assets came out.

The final trailer was just finished yesterday, and the official release of the film is May 1, 2014.

P.S. Harold Camping actually wrote several books predicting the end of the world. You can get Time Has an End: A Biblical History of the World 11,013 B.C. – 2011 A.D. on Amazon.


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It Took Them 9 Years To Review My CD


A strange magazine from, I think, Germany (?) sent me this review of my CD — along with an apology letter for it taking so long to finish the review.

If this review is the greatest thing you’ve ever read (let me know, because I don’t even know what it says), you can buy the How To Sell… CD in my shop.


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