Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Salon De La Guerre’

Salon de la Guerre’s 20th album, Air Is A Public Good, hits the music services today. It’s my first album dedicated entirely to country music. You can now find it on Amazon, iTunes and Spotify. Enjoy!

And if you’d like a more long-winded explanation about why I made a country music album (it has nothing to do with “Old Town Road,” no disrespect) please feel free to read my post on the matter from last week.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I am almAir Is a Public Goodost done recording my latest album, Salon de la Guerre’s Air Is a Public Good, which I hope to release in a month or so. The likely surprise to my fans, such as they are, is that this is my first album totally devoted to country music.

Longtime listeners might know that I’ve trodden these paths before on songs like “Alice Ploughshare,” but this is the first time I’ve devoted an entire album to the genre.

Like a lot of rock fans, I was hostile to country music for a long time. I grew up in Oklahoma, where C&W tunes abounded–most of them wretched. I absorbed some of my father’s affection for the Waylon & Willie album, but that’s as far as it went. The Urban Cowboy soundtrack was catchy when I was 10, but eventually I turned 11.

Then I went to college in Texas, however, and I was quickly informed by knowledgeable people that there was great country music everywhere and that I was an uninformed dodo who had simply missed it listening to bad radio (a rookie mistake for a young arts writer). I was instructed by mentors to seek out the good stuff. I figured out Kelly Willis and Mary Chapin Carpenter and that led me to Lucinda Williams and David Allan Coe. I pulled out Willie and Johnny Cash again. I dutifully listened to the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

But honestly, I still listened to country the way a professor studies 40,000-year-old bone flutes. I appreciated the music–started to see the common sources whence folk, blues and country sprang–but never actually craved hearing it the way I did proto-punk, classic rock, jazz, folk, hip-hop, classical, Tejano, salsa … almost anything else.

Then, dear reader, I say shamefacedly that I finally had my eyes opened the same way most people did in the last 20 years: by the fucking O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Yes, it’s really that prosaic an explanation. I cannot tell you how embarrassed I was to suddenly come out of my coma of snobbery with the help of a popular movie soundtrack, but there it was: the omnipresent music of my youth in a Southern state suddenly made sense. Everything snapped into place. Emmylou Harris. Alison Krauss. Gillian Welch. The Stanley Brothers. I finally heard the brilliance of the close harmonies, the structural brilliance of the chord and key changes in the songwriting (at least the good songwriting). More important, I came to understand the simplicity of the communication in this folk medium–that the horrific twanging I associated with this music was an unnecessary, disposable gimmick and that the subject matter was more fluid and nuanced than I had given it credit for. I went back to Lucinda. I found Neko Case. Hank Williams! I figured out Hank Williams!

Worrying I might get sidetracked into somebody else’s idea of tradition and mythology, I eschewed mentors this time and negotiated my own path through the history, focusing mostly on three acts: the original Carter Family, Gene Clark (in his post-Byrds career) and Gram Parsons (both within and outside his famous bands).

I learned about Maybelle Carter’s revolutionary guitar style, in which the melody is thumbed on the bass notes while the fingers tickle the chords, and Sara Carter’s simple, unadorned call, which seems like non-singing to the uninitiated. When you first hear “I Never Will Marry” by the Carters, you feel like you’re hearing a lot of hoarse people from the ’30s singing into a can. You’re not ready for how much the song resonates over time and grows in poignancy. By the time my son was born, I was singing this to him to put him to sleep. (He’s allowed to marry if he wants to.) On the song “Wabash Cannonball,” you can hear the DNA of countless singers in Sara Carter’s delivery (Lucinda Williams comes to mind again).

From Gram Parsons I learned the simplicity of the music could be preserved while the subject matter grew more mature and even incorporated harder electric instruments without compromising the musical values. The close harmony singing and soul accents of the first Flying Burrito Brothers album are a great blueprint for what this music can be when it’s allowed to grow.

Gene Clark, of course, was the first guy to leave the original Byrds. His solo career was sickeningly neglected as he moved away from folk-rock into country, working both on his own and with banjo great Doug Dillard. He eventually had to exploit the Byrds name again to keep eating (before he died in 1991). But Clark’s song “Polly” from Dillard & Clark’s second album, 1969’s Through the Morning, Through the Night, is one of the most perfect songs you’ve never heard. The first time I heard its harmonies, I thought I’d cracked open the Matryoshka doll containing Linda Ronstadt, Fleetwood Mac (the Lindsey Buckingham version), Walter Egan, the Eagles–all the L.A. studio rock of the next decade. All due respect to Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, but their version of “Polly” is horribly stiff and mannered by comparison. Clark’s delivery is simple and pained without using any tricks and so intimate that you almost feel like you’re invading the guy’s privacy just by listening to it.

What the Hell Has This Got To Do With Salon de la Guerre?

OK, I figured out country is great, but why am I making a country album?

Well, for one thing, I’m always writing music, even when I go on walks, keeping a list of chord changes locked in my head (I often have to get an idea recorded onto my phone recorder before I forget it. You’d laugh your ass off hearing me singing these hundred or so musical ideas onto tape, many of which I can barely understand on second listen). In any case, a lot of these bits I culled from the tape I realized just wouldn’t lend themselves to rock songs.

Second, once I figured out what Maybelle Carter was actually doing and how it informed all country music down to the present day, I asked myself a very simple question: I wonder what it would sound like if I tried her style on a guitar tuned the way Sonic Youth tunes it. Many of their strings are tuned identically, giving the notes more harmonic power and even changing the timbre of their instruments. So I sat down one afternoon and retuned my guitar to line up some of those strings. Later, I put the guitar in open C tuning (you can look that up). The thumb went to work. The fingers tickled out the Sonic Youth harmonics. Bang! Three new songs in a couple of hours.

The third motivation came from my intense curiosity about the banjo: Specifically, could I play one? I had never tried, yet the finger-picking style set down by John Fahey is something I’ve been aping since I first picked up the guitar. I was giddy thinking that I might be able to pick up a banjo immediately and make something. So I bought one. And though I’m no Earl Scruggs, I did get five new songs out of the thing the second time I picked it up.

Lastly, I had a simple question about myself: Did I have country music in my veins all along? This stuff was in my background my entire life. I might have hated it, but I wondered if my body had picked up the reflexes anyway and made this stuff somehow second nature to me. Could I do it without parody? Without twang? Without sounding like the feelings were false? I wanted to know.

In case you’re interested in more technical stuff: I played three of the songs on this album with electric guitar, played one song on acoustic guitar song and added banjo to five other songs. The rest of the music was synthesized on GarageBand–all the percussion, bass and piano (I do play the tiny one-hand piano on my tiny phone, though. I’m sure it would look ridiculous to an observer).

So here I add one of the first completed songs from the album, “Mirror, Mirror on the Floor” in the open C tuning. Enjoy.

 

Read Full Post »

There are a lot of Eric Rasmussens in the world, many of whom I’ve recently discovered are tilling the same fields that I am. I’ve seen Eric Rasmussens at work in journalism, law, literary criticism, polemics, music and fiction. That’s bound to create confusion.

Again, my full name is Eric Randolph Rasmussen. I’ve written a companion piece for this post telling you who I am. Out of respect for the other Eric Rasmussens, I felt the need to give you a list of the ones I am not:

Eric Ralph Rasmussen, pro baseball player.

This one seems pretty obvious. This was the only other Eric Rasmussen I’d ever heard of growing up. I never worried people would confuse us. I can barely pitch, catch or bat.

Eric David Rasmussen, physician, medical ethicist, humanitarian

Again, I’m not too worried about you getting us confused. This guy has an interesting career and is worth your attention.

Eric Rasmussen, writer, editor of Barstow & Grand

This Eric Rasmussen is a Wisconsin-based fiction writer and very nice guy who sent me a nice note and has an excellent blog and lots of excellent fiction. I do not wish to steal his thunder.

Why the confusion: We are both literary fiction writers. I do not see any novels on his resume (he mentions an unpublished manuscript), and I have never published any short stories (outside of a few bad experiments on my blog) but there are obvious reasons people are going to confuse us. For that reason, I have made sure to put “Eric Randolph Rasmussen” on most of my fiction, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to see it on my journalism.

Eric Rasmussen, jazz saxophonist, composer, band leader of the Eric Rasmussen Quartet, director of instrumental music at Scottsdale Community College

Alto saxophone player Eric Rasmussen has played with a number of big jazz names (you can find some of his music here), and his musical focus is jazz while mine is alternative rock and punk, but there are several reasons people might get us confused, especially if they knew me back in the day in Oklahoma.

Why the confusion: Several reasons. We have both been New Yorkers, we have both lived all over the country, we are both composers and we both play alto saxophone (though he actually worked at it his entire career while I gave it up for two decades). I have mostly stayed away from jazz on my albums, but Salon de la Guerre fans know that I have wormed my way through all sorts of different genres and finally jumped into some jazz a few years ago, yanking out my long-dormant alto sax chops for two songs on Salon de la Guerre’s album Clam Fake. I have done only two extended improvisations with jazz saxophone, one of which is on a song called “Red Clay Moses,” which you can hear on YouTube.  Jazz sax player Eric Rasmussen deserves his many accolades, but “Red Clay Moses,” a cross between jazz and Sonic Youth guitar, is all mine.

Eric Dean Rasmussen, associate professor of English literature at the University of Stavanger.

I first followed Eric Dean Rasmussen for a couple of reasons: He was a literature guy and, more important, he was the first of us with the cunning to grab the Ericrasmussen.com domain name. There can be only one, Highlander!

That said, most of his work, as far as I can tell, is literary criticism and theory, subjects I’ve studiously avoided since college. I never worried too much people would confuse us. Besides, he was in Chicago and then later, apparently, Norway.

Why the confusion: Still, we are both lovers of literature, and we both somehow at some point met with (and wrote about) famous superhero literary publisher Barney Rosset, founder of the Grove Press and publisher of Samuel Beckett and Henry Miller. Eric Dean met Rosset through his work at a literary organization. I met Rosset at a bar. Though the other Eric was seemingly better prepared for the encounter and knew more about Rosset to begin with, I must give myself some points for not misspelling Rosset’s name. (I have some advantages being a journalist.)

I see that Eric Dean and I also have a very tenuous connection through the website Altx.com. He has articles posted there, and I used to be associated with a literary magazine called Io that had links to the site as well.

Eric Rasmussen, internationally renowned Shakespeare scholar, foundation professor at the University of Nevada at Reno

Again, I wasn’t too worried about being mistaken for a Shakespeare scholar, though we are both authors and we are both on Amazon. He’s even on YouTube!

Eric Rasmussen, actor.

I took an acting class once and I’m enthralled by the subject, but I have mostly left that field to my wife.

Eric Rasmussen, professor of communication.

I don’t see much room for confusion here, though I do have a communications degree (in journalism) from the University of Texas, and it could be somebody somewhere gets us confused.

Eric Rasmussen, Twin Cities broadcast news investigative reporter, KSTP TV

This guy’s been in Boston and Minneapolis. I’ve never been in front of a camera, but we are both journalists.

I will leave it at that. I recall seeing other people with my name also pursuing music journalism (an old part-time vocation of mine) and statistics and hockey, but I’m not too worried about being confused with those people. I’ll add names to this list later if I think anybody is going to mix me up with someone else.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

It was difficult la-okc-trip-2004-029.jpggrowing up with the name “Eric Rasmussen” for a few obvious reasons. It’s a funny name for children to say, and given children’s talent for innovation, a fun name to mock. (“Raisin Muffin” was the sobriquet the junior high kids finally settled on for me.)

My name is now a problem for a different reason: It’s not anywhere near as as rare as many people think it is. “Rasmussen” is kind of like the Scandinavian “Smith.” and “Eric” is a natural fit for it. So not only are there tons of Eric Rasmussens in New York City (I even bumped into one at a party), but tons of them working in the same fields I work in–fiction, music, film and journalism. After I began recently releasing a slate of my novels, I realized there’s another Eric Rasmussen who writes short stories. He, like me, is published in several places.

I’m a hyphenate, which makes things more confusing. I’ve been working in at least four different media for years, subjects I’ve been passionate about since my teens. I never saw a reason not to pursue all of them at once, and I dare say I’m good at some of them. But to the outside world (and definitely to a career coach) it probably looks like I have multiple personality disorder.

So now I realize it’s become necessary to tell people both who I am and who I’m not. I talk about the latter in this companion piece. But for now, I’m going to give you my CV, if for some reason you get confused about which Eric Rasmussen you’re dealing with. My name is Eric Randolph Rasmussen. I grew up in Oklahoma, went to college in Austin, Texas, and I’ve lived in New York City for over two decades. I have a fairly large amount of content on the internet in multiple media.

Journalism

I’ve been a journalist since my college days. I focused first on arts and entertainment; in 1997, I started writing about finance. The following are the publications I’ve written for (if you see my name pop up in a different newspaper or magazine, it is not I):

The Daily Texan (the University of Texas student newspaper)
The Austin Chronicle
The Alcalde (The University of Texas alumni magazine)
Io magazine
Swing
magazine
Civil Engineering
Investment Management Weekly
Financial-Planning.com
Nurseweek
Financial Advisor magazine

Film

I’ve been making short films since 2006, and created a web series with my wife from 2007 to 2009. These are my works:

S&M Queen For A Day (2006)
Scrabble Rousers (2006)
The Retributioners (web TV series, 2007-2009)
Candy Rocks Doesn’t Grow Up (a screenplay and semi-finalist for the Austin Film Festival comedy screenplay competition in 2012)

Music

I am the sole musical artist behind Salon de la Guerre, which just released its 20th album. I worked on music through the 1990s, but didn’t start releasing definitive versions of my songs until 2007 on MySpace and didn’t start publishing them in album form until 2012. As of August 2019,* I had 290 songs in circulation.

I’m listing the albums here with the dates I published them on the streaming sites (these are not the copyright dates of the songs, which go back as far as 1993). My albums are:

Time-Traveling Humanist Mangled by Space Turbine (2012)
Four-Track Demons (2014)
Diasporous (2014)
The Mechanical Bean (2014)
Toe-Tapping Songs of Pain and Loss (2014)
Your Eyes Have Mystic Beams (2014)
Clam Fake (2016)
Roses Don’t Push the Car Home (2016)
Gravitas: A Life (2016)
Liberty (2016)
The Church of Low Expectations (2016)
In the Lake of Feral Mermaids (2017)
The Widowhood of Bunny (2017)
Keep Your Slut Lamp Burning (2017)
Driver, Take This Cab to the Depths of the Soul (2017)
All Else Dross (2017)
Yipano (2018)
You’re Going To Regret What You Did (2018)
Bleed (2019)
Air Is a Public Good (2019)

 

Fiction

I’ve been writing fiction for well over two decades; however, for many reasons, most of them banal, my seven novels sat unpublished on my computer for years. A couple of months ago, that all changed: I began releasing my novels as e-books on Amazon, with the hopes of releasing the paperback versions on the platform later in the year. As of yesterday, five of my novels are now available on the site, and I plan to release the other two (one of which has three volumes) later this year. The books are mostly comic, though they also stretch into historical fiction and absurdism.

Here’s the complete list (I’ve listed the dates I released them on Amazon, though many of these books were finished at least five years ago):

Zip Monkey (2019)
Detective J (2019)
Letters to My Imaginary Friend Leticia (2019)
Traffic Waitress (2019)
Did it End? (2019)
American Banjo (2019)
The Ghost and the Hemispheres, Vol 1-3 (planned release date: 2019)

Poetry

My big plan as a teenager was to be a poet, and oddly enough, this is the field I’m least prolific in. I have only some few dozen poems to my name, almost all of which are available on this blog. However, I did get a few bits into the college literary magazine back in the day:

Analecta 1989-1991 (the University of Texas literary and arts journal)

The Blogosphere

Beauty is Imperfection is the blog you are reading right now. I started posting these little musings on MySpace in late 2006 and switched over to WordPress in 2009, moving a lot of the MySpace content over after seeing that the latter platform was dying.

As my long-suffering readers know, even in my blogging life, I’m something of a schizophrenic. For its first few years, Beauty Is Imperfection was a comedy blog with lots of Top 10 lists and other silliness, most of which was meant to help create buzz about my web series, The Retributioners. In 2010, my mother died, and the blog took on a more somber tone, and I also started posting a lot of political material to give the world a taste of my long-stifled polemical voice. My posts have been infrequent in the last few years; occasionally I post new poetry, but otherwise I use the blog to let people know about all these many other projects I’m working on.

Hopefully, this post gives you a more complete picture of me. I rarely talk about these projects with friends and colleagues, mostly because I’m not the bragging sort, I don’t like to shove art down people’s throats and I know how much great, perhaps better art is out there that I’m competing with. I’m offering this summary of my career mostly to help people navigating the internet avoid confusion if they see a name like mine and don’t know whom they are dealing with.

For the record, I haven’t written any plays.

*Updated August 2019.

Read Full Post »

BleedSalon de la Guerre has just released its 19th album, Bleed. It’s a collection of punky, poppy and occasionally soulful songs that sometimes drifts into country-ish singing and which features at least one of my out-of-control guitar solos.

The album is now available on Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby and Spotify, among many other music streaming services in the U.S. and abroad.

I can’t speak for comparisons, but my friends say the album reminds them of Mark Lemhouse, the Pixies and/or Black Francis, Sugar and/or Bob Mould and Matthew Sweet. If you’d asked me, I would have said that I’d had the Rolling Stones, Roxy Music, X and (yes) the Pixies in mind, but only because I always have these groups in mind when I’m doing anything. I have two songs where the harmony vocals are probably the major attraction and I think I sound a little like Seals & Crofts. Not something I would have planned. At some point, your inspiration and direction must compromise with the reality of your voice and what it does well. I often wish I had a Sonic Youth voice, but I don’t really.

I wrote, performed and produced the album and I’m responsible for all the sounds and solos, some of which are on actual guitar, some of which make use of Apple’s wonderful Garage Band software for the iPhone.

Here is a sample of one of the new songs, with lyrics:

“Praise Javelin” by Salon de la Guerre
Music and Lyrics By Eric Rasmussen
Copyright 2019

Now the time has come to praise javelin
Civil war is now your brand
Biblical violence and the handshake of a salesman
A peaceful finger turn to warful hand

Sky worshipper protecting the land
Easy to use; easy to understand;
You see crosses and cross the land

You turned to homicidal ideation
When the masses came and turned on your man
You speak cant and speak the tongues of babble land
Fashion words into a fisted hand

Sky worshipper protecting the land
Easy to use; easy to understand
Biblical violence is now your brand

Where pretty baby did you get that complex?
Was it the woody finish of a vintage wrath?
Praise the father and his heart full of GORE-TEX
Praise the mother made of wire and cans

Sky worshipper protecting the land
Easy to use; easy to understand;
You see crosses and cross the land

There’s a scrap of the prophecy in my hand
No longer tied to the ideals of my homeland
There’s a scrap of the prophecy in my hand
And in my dreams, I inherit nothing but sand

 

Read Full Post »

I’m introducing a new song from my forthcoming album Bleed. Written, performed and produced by moi.

“Slow Combine”
By Eric Randolph Rasmussen
Copyright 2019

Show the kids you don’t know your place
The kids are having a harvester race
Trying to win the love of the girl next door
One of you is rich and the other one is poor

Put the combines down and press your bets
Check the gas and check your gears
Make sure that the engine is oiled
And that you’ve controlled your fear

You reap what you sow
And live off what you plant
The combines went out of control after that
No one foresaw what would happen next
The poor boy ran over her parents

Foot on the pedal
You drive that combine harvester
Drive that harvester
But don’t hit the buildings
Don’t rip what you sow
Don’t reap what you plant
Don’t run over people like the ants
Like the ants
Like the ants

Don’t knock down a building
Don’t destroy city hall
And don’t drive drunk
When you climb up on your harvester
You might raze a city
You might raze a town
And that would bring
Everybody down

Read Full Post »

In the next few months, I’ll be releasing an album of pop and rock songs entitled Bleed. Although I’ve been focusing mostly on my novels for the past few months, I did manage to get a slate of new songs recorded earlier this year and I hope to get them out once I fine-tune some of them. Here’s one of the instrumentals, “Egg Moon,” which I wrote, produced and performed on electric guitar. Enjoy.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »