Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Holy crap it’s April 2016 already!!!

billberends.com [Home]


hahaha… obviously, I haven’t been keeping up with things here, which I apologize for. Between social media and email, I do a LOT of writing, but I often neglect keeping up on my own web site(s). I’d rather be working on music – or getting sucked into dumb arguments on Facebook, it would seem – than dicking around with HTML, so let me do a brief summary of what’s been going on since the IMDICF release.


My solo album In My Dreams I Can Fly sold nicely, but there are still a lot of people it didn’t reach, which I suppose is to be expected these days with the loooong tail. It’s not too late to purchase a copy! Or simply go listen to it since it’s all online, free. The Berends Brothers Band was gigging steadily up through the end of 2013 when I decided ‘this really isn’t what I want to be doing’ and called it a day. I didn’t set out in life to play old cover tunes in bars, as much as I enjoyed a brief revisiting of the past and it was good to concentrate on just pure guitar playing for a while. It was nice to get out and play just to keep playing, but it felt like moving backwards which was making me crazy.


Originally, I wanted to take some time off and come back playing my own music, but as fate would have it, our bass player moved a ridiculous distance away and much like (exactly like) with Mastermind, I wasn’t up to the frustrating search, yet again, for a bass player that would fit and had the musical chops to pull it off (my stuff), so I retreated to the studio to write and record. The first half of 2014 I was kind of moping around, bummed out at yet again being back at square one, but I started writing in earnest by the end of the year. Throughout 2015 I was doing a variety of studio work for various artists worldwide which I wrote about earlier in the News section of this web site, and working on shaping up my own new material.


For Mastermind fans…. 2017 will be the 30th Anniversary of the band and a part of me feels like it would be nice to pick that up again. At least do some reunion type shows, but they would have to be done right. I don’t want to throw something together just to do it. I’ve tossed the idea around with (Mastermind drummer) Rich and a few other folks, but nothing firm has come of it. The other part of me feels like I am not so sure I want to revisit that stuff. Again, it feels like moving backwards and without a great bass player, keyboard person, and proper production, slugging through just to do it would be agonizing. But I certainly haven’t ruled it out.


The Cassette Archives



Which brings us to the present. My musical tastes and interests have also been evolving over the years and given what I have to work with – just me, myself, and I at this point – I am moving back into electronic music which is where I was going before Mastermind became a thing. This brings me to what I really wanted to talk about now, which is both moving forward AND going way back at the same time.


Back in 1988 while we were struggling to get Mastermind off the ground I made another, now lost in the annals of time, cassette-release-only solo album entitled “Life Cycle” which some long-time fans may remember. It was kind of a heavy New Agey thing loaded with synths and a bit of guitar playing, similar in concept to what I’m workng on now. I thought it’d be nice to put that out there again before I put up anything new in the electronic-ish vein, if for no other reason than to show that this has been a part of my musical persona for a really long time. Not just blowing with the winds of change. All that took a back seat once Mastermind started gaining recognition because, you know, playing in a band is (mostly) a lot more enjoyable than staring at a computer screen all day by yourself.

The only problem was… I didn’t have a copy of the album anywhere! Maybe on 10″ reel or DAT, but the tape would need to be baked now, I’m certain, even if the old two-track machine does fire up, and the DAT machine hasn’t worked for years, so I started digging through the piles of old cassettes I’ve had in boxes for decades, looking for a copy. This has taken me in a completely different direction than I ever expected. Something that has now taken on a life of its own…. The Cassette Archives.


What I discovered when I started going through old tapes was a treasure trove of long lost, forgotten material, some as far back as 1975 and possibly even earlier. It suddenly felt urgent to get as much of this stuff as possible into digital format for preservation. As remarkably well as many of the cassettes have held up, I knew they wouldn’t last forever. I also wanted to clear out the drawers and boxes that have been taking up space for so many years. There are, quite literally, hundreds of cassettes I am working my way through and I have to sit there and listen to them which, of course, means hundreds of hours of my time. Many of the tapes are unlabeled, some have one thing at the beginning then something else at the end and who-knows-what on the flip side. The levels are all over the place, so I can’t just play them and go do something else. My full attention is required.


Once the stuff is in the computer it will also need to be restored and mastered into presentable shape. Also incredibly time consuming. One step at a time. This process naturally leads back to the boxes and boxes of old 7″ open reel tapes from 40+ years ago that are the source material, both in my possession and stuff my brothers have. Again, needing to be baked if they play at all. From the TANK days moving on into early Mastermind studio recordings, computer music in Win 98 software. Sadly, the Commodore 64 MIDI files are just lost forever beyond whatever audio recordings there are, which I have found a few of, up to the file cabinets full of more recent CD-R’s. Also in there are quite a few tapes from piano brother David’s post-Tank band “The Name” which I will also get to, as well as tons of stuff from studio clients over the years, but for the moment, Phase One is just getting all the personal cassette stuff reviewed and archived and this is turning out to be a gigantic task. Very much taking on a life of its own, as I said above.


The TANK Archives



Some of the things I’ve discovered are well worth the effort though, to me and hopefully others. There are the original three brothers Berends TANK demo recordings, which Mastermind fans in the know have been bugging me to release for years. Even more fascinating are the live rehearsal tapes including mind boggling cover renditions of ELP‘s “Pirates” and “Hoedown” which, especially considering our ages at the time, are simply incredible. I mean really. The shit is fucking AMAZING, there’s no other way to put it. Oh, and I did find a decent copy of Life Cycle as well!




There are tapes from almost every era of my (and my brothers and associates) musical history, from the original TANK tapes to the next generation Tank stuff with Kip Leming (bass) and later with Rich Harter (vocals) and Bob Delgado (2nd guitar), even stuff with my old college days bassist Angelo Grandinetti when we briefly called the band “Fortress” and then the pre-Mastermind line up with Phil Antolino called “Voyager One“. There are gigs and rehearsals with various bassists, MIDI demo sketches, out takes of Mastermind studio recordings, PLUS a ton of my own electronic 80’s pop-ish songs and commercial TV and film music which is what started this whole ball of wax rolling in the first place. Not to mention the drawers and boxes of VIDEO tapes I hope to get transferred at some point. OMG.


I am doing this both for family and personal reasons – The Berends Digital Archives – but also because there is a lot of great stuff here that the world deserves to hear! On top of all this there are two to three hours of all NEW music I am working on in spurts, some of which is finished, some not. Some of it still being revised. It’s a LOT of stuff. A daunting amount of stuff.


Basically I just wanted to explain that although I’ve been promising new music for a ridiculous length of time now, it will still be a while longer, so hang in there! It turns out taking time off from gigging turned into a good thing because I never had the inclination to go through this stuff before. My ears and brain can only handle so much and that was filled up with band noise. I do miss playing live though.


So… I am a curious and would love some feedback if anyone would be interested in CD versions of say, Tank, for example, or if downloads are the way to go these days. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below. I could see maybe a limited run of duplicated discs or something.


OK, I best stop writing and get back to work. I hope to keep things updated more frequently than every three years or so, but who knows!


Thanks for looking in and reading this far.


Bill

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Solo album Kickstarter – one more day!

Less than 28 hours left to go till my Kickstarter wraps up! I couldn’t just leave things hanging with the last video, so here’s a post storm wrap up. It’s been a long, stressful month, but I am super pleased with the outcome!!! If you haven’t already, please get your pre-orders in now, if possible, it may be a while before normal sales begin… however, I may continue pre-orders on my web site for another week or so, up until it is ready to go out to the manufacturer. Check back in a few days to see if that comes together. For now, please go check the kickstarter page here… http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/billberends/1920478859/

Again, many MANY THANKS (!) and a garland of martian fire flowers to everyone who kicked in to help bring this album to life!! You guys ROCK!!!

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New solo album video update!

Hi folks!! My solo album on Kickstarter as mentioned below has reached its target goal, so this CD will be happening and I couldn’t be more pleased!! You guys are awesome!!! THANKS to ALL of you who helped me reach my goal!!

Now solidly in the funded zone there is still a week to go on Kickstarter and I am cautiously optimistic about hitting a stretch goal of $3,000, in fact, it’s more than halfway there now. So while I am sitting here waiting for hurricane Sandy to come kick my ass (yikes!) I made a new video for your amusement with hopes that a few more folks will kick in with pledges and pre-orders before November 5th. Hoping all my east coast friends get thru the storm unscathed and happy Halloween to you all!

To make a pledge or pre-order a CD on kickstarter just go here… thank you!!
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/billberends/1920478859/

Thanks to those who have kicked in already!! Be safe in the storm and wish me luck!

-Bb

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New solo album: In My Dreams I Can Fly

Wow… it’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. Damn. Time sure flies! Well, I have something to talk about now! I would like to announce that I have finally finished my album of guitar instrumentals! The reason I set this web site up in the first place. Hey, you know.. everything takes time ;)

Rather than go the traditional route of trying to find a record label, I want to bring the music directly to you, but I need your help. I am now taking pre-orders on Kickstarter to raise the funds to get the CD pressed.

The album is called In My Dreams I Can Fly and features 12 brand new original instrumental works for electric guitar. Sort of in the vein of Joe Satriani or Eric Johnson perhaps, but with my own style and substance.

There are two videos on Kickstarter that feature sound clips from the album and a bit of a presentation by yours truly. The one down at the bottom seems to be getting the most interest, so please, stop by and have a listen. And, if you could, help me get the word out by sharing anywhere you can… forums, music blogs, facebook, myspace, anyplace. Thanks. The funding drive ends at Midnight, November 5th, 2012 so there isn’t a whole lot of time!!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/billberends/1920478859/

This is an all-or-nothing proposition with Kickstarter, so your money is not at risk. I either reach my goal and the CD gets pressed, or I don’t, in which case you won’t be charged. I really hope you can help me bring it to fruition by placing a pre-order now. I think it’s a great album that Mastermind fans can enjoy, but it’s good for classic blues rockers as well, and certainly for guitar enthusiasts! For prog fans I am pleased mention I have Jason Gianni of the Neal Morse band helping me out on drums for this record and Jason kicks ass!

I really hope I can get the CD out to you THIS year because this is a very important record for me. After this album gets released there will be a new Mastermind album coming, possibly next year, but a lot depends on if I can get this new album funded, so I am asking for your help. Thanks for reading and go check it out!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/billberends/1920478859/

Thanks!!
Bill

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2010 in review

As I prepare to bid farewell to another year, I’ve spent some time reflecting on the events and feelings of the past year, perhaps even the last decade, as we move into the second decade of the 21st Century. First off, the weather was pretty freakin’ weird. We started 2010 with two feet of snow on the ground and three more feet of the stuff fell before it was over. I haven’t seen snow like that in decades, if ever, and now we’re ending the year with more snow! Next came a few weeks of dismal, cold rain before becoming the hottest summer I can ever remember, with most of it over 95°F and several weeks of 100°F plus! It was brutal. Then more dismal rain before getting cold again, so in short, I didn’t spend as much time getting out as I would have liked. It was either too damn snowy, too cold, too damn hot… or raining! I really don’t care for this “new weather” very much at all.

One of the highlights of 2010 was finally seeing the long awaited Mastermind “Insomnia” album get released. I was beginning to think it might never see the light of day, so that was a both a personal triumph and a great relief. I was all jammed up and unable to move forward until this thing was out the door. The sad part is we haven’t had a live version of Mastermind up and running for several years now and the way things stand at the moment, I’m not sure when that may happen again. Unfortunately, as the case may be, we spent several years gigging and performing the album before it got released. Kind of ass backwards, I know, but at least it’s out there now and most of the reviews are pretty positive… now if sales can match the enthusiasm of the reviews, life would be grand.

Musically speaking, I’ve started to branch out into different things, doing some guitar tracks and session work for other people. Writing and recording music outside the realm and framework of Mastermind. I feel like I am searching for a new direction or new beginning or something. The Berends Brothers Band blues-rock thing is fun up to a point, but I feel the need to be more creative and get new original music going. I have recorded a solo instrumental guitar album, but I’m not really quite sure what to do with it at this point. It’s not like I’ve stopped making music! I just don’t know who, or how, or what it takes to get things rolling again. So I am reaching out. I am tired of sitting around, I want to be out playing!

On a personal level things were OK this year tho’ I do feel pretty isolated out in the Pines of New Jersey much of the time. More people used to come visit me, what happened? Oh, right… they’re too broke to do anything is what happened. The economic meltdown. I watched the value of my house fall tens of thousands of dollars this year while mounting property tax debt has me up against a proverbial wall. The new economic reality is just as extreme as the new weather… it sucks! Hopefully things will pick up in the not too distant future, but I’m not banking on it. Things have gotten a tiny bit better over the past few months, but the jerkoffs who ran the country into the ground seem determined to get back in there and finish the job. I really don’t understand how or why this is all being allowed to happen. Bastards.

Health wise I’m doing OK.. I try to eat well and keep a positive attitude no matter what is going on and I think that helps, though I haven’t been as physically active as I’d like to be. Not enough gigs! And nobody goes out anymore it seems, so it feels like everything I want to achieve or can achieve on my own involves sitting in front of a damn computer screen. Not really the life I imagined for myself.

What else… I bought and sold a few guitars in a continuing effort to find an ideal replacement for my trusty old ’68 SG which is needing a fret job at point. My poor baby. I regret letting a few of them go, but I still haven’t found “the one” yet. Maybe this year if I can muster up the cash, but I’m afraid the right guitar is going to cost a LOT of money and I balk at the idea of playing an instrument that costs as much as a car. Then again, money is worth less (worthless?) now, so it’s kind of like ten thousand Lira for a loaf of bread, a million Lira for a good guitar, right? Though it seems just as hard – if not harder – to earn those Lira these days, especially in east jabip. Especially with music.

Anyway, it seemed like kind of a slow year all around. Nothing super horrible happened and there were a few really nice moments, but I’m glad to see it go. We played a few good gigs, but not as many as I’d like. Studio work picked up, but I could always use more. I have some great people in my life, but I don’t see them as often as I would like. A few others have simply vanished. Weird. But what can you do. People make their own choices. I already said the weather sucked. New Jersey is too damn expensive for me to stay here much longer, but houses aren’t selling so it is something of a dilemma… and where do I want to be anyway? And what else can I afford is the real question. I’m sure I’ll work it out soon enough. I have to.

Hey, at least I finally got some stuff up on this web site! And there’s a reason for that, I promise you – anyone who may be interested – I will have new music to release this year. I have lots of great stuff written (IMHO), some of it is recorded, and I feel like my guitar playing is better than ever, so that’s cool. With some luck perhaps another Mastermind album lies in the future as well. We got started on one, but enthusiasm seems to have waned as I’m not real sure that’s the direction I want to go in right now and Rich doesn’t really have the time to put into it. Bummer. On the upside, I’m starting the new year off with a new project that seems pretty cool and I also have a few other good people lined up to work with, so I am feeling cautiously optimistic in a musical sense.

It’s funny in a way, I remember reading a horoscope earlier in the year saying 2010 would be a year of big changes, perhaps even turbulent change, so I kept watching out for this giant swooping change which never came. In retrospect, it seems like a lot of little things occurred that are starting to add up to something bigger. What that is exactly, I don’t know yet, but it feels like something is coming. Sort of like a freight train just over the horizon headed my way. I can sense it. I just hope I’m not standing on the tracks when it gets here! And maybe, just maybe, I can catch a ride on it. We shall see! In any case, I’m thankful I made it through another year in one piece and look forward to what the new year may bring. Onward and upward!

Best wishes to all for 2011… happy new year!

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Dirty little secret…

I have a secret. For some this will definitely be viewed as a dirty little secret, something to keep hidden away. People who know me closely know it. For reasons of political correctness it’s not something I advertise, but it is starting to weigh me down. Since I don’t think anybody reads this stuff I think I can safely reveal my secret here. It’s something I feel I need to get off my chest, so here goes, hold on to your hats…

I don’t like “prog” music.

Did I say that in my out loud voice?! How can this be since my band Mastermind is so deeply entrenched in the prog scene?! Say it ain’t so!! Unfortunately, I have to say it is so. I like many kinds of music, and a fair percentage of my favorite music falls into the progressive rock category… Emerson Lake & Palmer, UK, bits of Yes or Jethro Tull, the occasional Rush album, definitely Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jan Hammer and their ilk, but I consider that “fusion” which should be freed of the misnomer of prog. I like old Bo Hansson records, some early electronic music like the first Synergy album, Univers Zero is cool (although it all starts sounding the same to me rather quickly) and a few other select tidbits. That’s about it. I am very specific about the music I like and have to say I really don’t like most of the stuff that falls under the banner of prog these days. Sorry! So sue me.

I guess the reason I need to get this out is I am constantly approached by bands and related periphery with something that typically begins with “I see you are a prog fan….”. No, I am not. Full stop. I have made music that is categorized as progressive rock and therefore I keep in contact with some groups and places where it seems beneficial to expose that music, but overall I am not a fan. I would be happy to perform at your prog rock festival, but I have very little interest in attending one. Some people take great offense to this and respond with an attitude of “oh, well, if you aren’t a prog fan, then screw you”. I just don’t get it. Just because I don’t share the general consensus of the people that enjoy the music I have made with Mastermind, does that mean they should then therefore reject me out of hand personally because I am not a blanket prog aficionado? So it would seem. Hence my keeping it secret all these years.

I fear revealing even further… I am not a metal fan either. Not in the least. Sure, some of what I have done and a bit of the music I listen to has definite metal-like tendencies, but as above, it does not follow that I am a blanket metal fan. Again I am sorry! I could go into great detail about what it is that I don’t like about most prog, metal, and prog-metal, but I will refrain from doing so. I don’t wish to alienate anyone any further or insult their musical tastes, no matter how tasteless it may be to me personally. On the other side of the coin I’ll go even another step… as much as I do dearly love the blues, I find most blues music to be painfully repetitive, uninspired, boring and dull. Oh no!! It’s true though, and that applies to some of the biggest names in blues. In fact more so to the bigger names. My taste in blues is as specific and eclectic as my taste in progressive rock and metal. Perhaps because I’ve spent a lifetime studying and creating music and have something of a highly developed taste? Or perhaps I am simply that eclectic. I don’t know. Maybe there’s something wrong with me! What I do know is being viewed and approached as a broad fan of these styles of music, well, pretending to be one in order to not offend anyone just plain wears me out.

So, I am happy prog fans enjoy the music of Mastermind (quite a few of them anyway), and the same goes for metal heads. It makes me happy to see them happy and I have a lot of prog and metal fan friends worldwide I enjoy hearing from. We don’t have to share identical tastes to find some common ground. I’m also pleased the blues folks enjoy the stuff I’ve been doing in that vein recently, but if I had to say I was a blanket fan of any one particular kind of music, I couldn’t do it. I might begrudgingly accept the term blues-rock or hard rock.. but definitely the stuff that leans towards the far side. I enjoy Shostakovitch, Beethoven, Mahler, Devo, and Wes Montgomery just as much. Weird huh?

Thinking about this a bit further – actually, I’ve thought about this a LOT over the years – I think this one-idiom-only sort of fan behavior is what is responsible for making a large percentage of new music so dull and uninspired. If prog musicians only listen to other prog music, or metal guys only listen to their particular sub-culture of metal, blues people only listening to the blues etc, it all becomes far too inbred. Everything starts to sound the same and the quality degrades, much like a clone of a clone of a clone, to the point where it cannot stand on its own anymore. At least that is my thinking, and that seems to be where the world of prog and metal is today. Collapsing in upon itself and suffocating to death. It could be argued that this applies to the world of rock music in general as well.

The most interesting progressive rock music borrows elements from other styles and pulls them into a rock band format. The most interesting metal is not constantly banging your head – or even worse – the oh so predictable starkly delineated switch off between ‘brutal’ heavy parts and cheesy soft passages, and the best blues definitely pushes the envelope, steps out of the 12 bar rut, and refrains from singing “this is the blues” or “I got the blues” and so on. Most blues seems to be guys singing about blues music… it’s goofy. Like yeah, OK, and….? You think people listening don’t realize you are playing blues?

I guess there is some social element to it, a need to identify with some group larger than one’s self, to be a part of something. An identity. Like dude, I’m so metal I eat screws for breakfast, I live eat breath and sleep metal, all my clothes are black, horns up! Or I am the blues, I got the blues, this is the blues, I live the blues. I am prog, I refuse to accept music in 4/4 with major chords and songs under 10 minutes, lyrics must be about elfs and lost kingdoms. Kind of reminds me of junior high school, but those were much simpler times. You were either “soul” or “psychedelic” which basically boiled down to being a jock or a “freak”. You can imagine which side of the fence I was on. When the jocks started smoking pot is when I knew something had gone very wrong in the world.

As I cruise around social media sites and get hammered by band friend requests, the few I do actually listen to – which is very rare – I find myself thinking, ‘oh, well there already is a Tool’ or a Dream Theater, which seem to be the two most emulated bands on myspace. I am guilty of this myself of course. Much of the early Mastermind music wears its influence on the sleeve, but in our defense we were doing it at a time when the originators were assumed dead and buried. At least gone missing for a decade or more. We never expected (for better or for worse) for their zombie corpses to rise again! So in that respect we were trying to revitalize things we loved from a bygone era, but I also think we added our own elements and each album progressed away from that. Some prog-rock bands can manage to pull this off with some glimmer of originality, but the further time ticks along, the fewer there seem to be. In fact people seem to actually want the same thing over and over! Like, all I like is vanilla and if it ain’t vanilla I ain’t eating it. Weird. And boring. This is in large part the reason why later Mastermind releases varied so widely, I am searching for something… different! But not so far different, so far over the hill, that no one can relate to it. Maybe a few paces ahead or off to the side. There is comfort in the familiar and thrills in the unknown, the key is to balance those elements. But that’s a different discussion altogether.

The bottom line I guess, and original point of this rant, is my wish for folks to please not take offense if I don’t share your tastes, join your forum, or have an interest in your music. People take their musical tastes far more more personally than almost any other aspect of their lives it seems, as if saying I don’t like [your favorite band] is equivalent to saying you are an idiot for doing so. That’s not how I feel! Usually. And I do try to keep my ears open for new and interesting things, really I do! I listen to way more music than the average person I would wager, but for the most part as this article starts out, I am not a blanket fan of any one style of music. It doesn’t mean I dislike you personally, so please don’t hold it against me.

If I do like something, I will let you know!

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Super Annoying

Sometimes at night I listen to the radio (yes, actual broadcast radio) as I putz about the internets or make dinner or something. Nights with Alice Copper to be exact, on 107.5 FM (“The Hawk”… when did radio stations get names? It’s retarded). Alice generally runs a great program, is really funny, and plays some pretty good stuff quite often. A lot of Cream, ELP, Yardbirds, even Graham Bond (!). Then of course a lot of other classic rock (and 80’s pop-metal like Scorpions or Quiet Riot), some good, some not so good.

Tonight two things really stood out to me as being *SUPER* annoying… [COMMENT DELETED SO AS NOT TO OFFEND ANYONE]… they aren’t cute or sexy or ANYTHING, so why, WHY? Why do I even know who they are? Obviously I just don’t get what the public is hearing. Super annoying.

The next even MORE super-duper ULTRA annoying thing to come up… so annoying I ended up turning the radio OFF, was the most irritating rendition of [FAMOUS SONG] I have ever had the misfortune of being exposed to… by guess who? [NAME DELETED SO AS NOT TO OFFEND ANYONE]… This was so utterly repulsive I had to sit in silence for like 30 min’s to clear my head, like seeing a horrible accident or something.

Sometimes I can’t imagine what people think they’re hearing in music or why they like stuff, but clearly the public and I are not always in agreement. Sorry if I offend your ego, taste, whatever, I know tons of people love [BLEEP] – why I will never know – as far as I am concerned he gives blues a bad name because it isn’t blues at all, just acting. And bad acting at that. It boggles my mind why people worship this [guy].

Anway, ahhh…. I am appreciating total silence at the moment. Noise that masquerades as music can be very dangerous to your well being!! Mine anyway.

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