Archive for the ‘life’ Category

Holy crap it’s April 2016 already!!! [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.



Holy crap it’s March 2013 already!!

Wow… has it really been four months since I blogged something?! Damn. I apologize for that… there are so many other places where I reach people in snippets (Facebook *cough cough*) that I tend to forget about blogging. I will try to be more diligent about it in the future, but I can’t guarantee anything. lol…

Well, in case you haven’t been paying attention (does anyone actually read this stuff, I wonder?), the kickstarter for my solo album was a great success and the album has been out in the world for nearly three months now, making people happy, gathering some nice reviews… which is great! In fact it’s sooo out in the world that it’s been pirated, bootlegged, and torrented all over the place – which is kind of cool – but not really. That doesn’t help pay for groceries or strings. So, I think I may add a “buy me a beer” or “guilty conscience” PayPal button so folks who obtained the album by naughty means can toss a few bucks my way. Then they’ll be able to get into heaven. People always offer to buy me drinks at gigs, maybe they’ll want to help keep the music coming by paying something when they can. That would be really helpful.

In any case, a few things have been going on with me and my muse I want to talk about, so check back in a bit and I’ll make an earnest effort to fill you in. It’s all music and guitar related, don’t worry, but I want to compose my thoughts a little more thoroughly before putting it out there. It’s all good! In fact there is a happy ending, or new beginning, depending on how you look at it. It’s a good story! You’ll see.

I just wanted to let folks know that I haven’t run off to Argentina with the kickstarter money! lol… and yes, there are a few reward perks I still need to fulfill, but everyone got their discs and downloads, so that’s the most important thing. I got into a discussion just today with a buddy who reminded me, oh yeah.. blogs!

So once again, my sincere thanks to all of you who helped get the album out into the world – you guys are the greatest! I will update you on my recent trials and tribulations shortly. And, for those of you who would like to get an official copy and haven’t seen the front page of the site, you can now purchase a legitimate copy of In My Dreams I Can Fly at any time. Thanks to everyone who has purchased an authorized copy!

ps#1: Happy St. Patrick’s Day to my Irish pals! You know, it has crossed my mind that being born on Dec. 18th… well, you do the math. lol… say no more!

ps#2: Speaking of born on… Alvin Lee (b. Dec. 19th), one of my favorite guitarists and early inspirations, passed away on March 6th, only 68 years old. Sad. Thanks for the music Alvin. See you on the other side.

ps#3: Spring is right around the corner! Hoo-fucking-ray. I am so sick of winter it isn’t even funny. Come on, Summer!!

ps#4: I figured out how to justify text here! Excellent Smithers. Release the hounds.

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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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It seems the older I get the harder it is to manage the overwhelming amount of STUFF accumulating in my house. It is possible I am just slowing down with age… but it doesn’t really feel like that. It feels like there is just an ever increasing amount of stuff piling up with each passing year. Add to that all the virtual stuff I have to deal with and sometimes I just want to burn it all to the ground and start anew. I would save my guitars, amps, computers, some old photos and memoirs perhaps, but that’s about it. So why is it so impossible to get rid of the stuff now?!

Just for example, CD’s… these things have invaded my environment, permeating every spare nook & cranny in the place. From my purchased music collection, to all the discs people give me – and this is a significant number let me tell you, people wanting me to hear their music. I have piles of it waiting to be heard going back years (really, years!) – to the ever increasing number of boxes and piles of backup data from my hard drives, music in various stages of completion, photos, artwork, videos, to studio client backups. It’s mind boggling. I have huge 5 foot four-drawer filing cabinets packed with CD’s, closets full of CD’s, desk drawers and shelves all over the house filled with the things… which now includes DVD’s, either video/movies or backup discs (at least a single DVD can replace 5 CD’s). The funny thing is I can almost never find the particular disc I am looking for at the moment I decide I need it! It’s a nightmare.

Oh, and I forgot to mention software… that’s what got me started on this rant, looking for the driver disc for a video interface I only purchased a few months ago. I have no clue as to where the box may be or the driver disc. Since I want to move it to another machine not connected to the internet (is there still such a thing?!) I need the disc. Damn. There goes tonight’s project, taken out by the stuff. Oh well.

Then there’s mail & magazines…. pile and piles of stuff I thought I’d want to look at at some point or another, various catalogs, an endless stream of special offers, local merchant ads in bundles… I can’t deal with it. I throw them out like mad, toss semi-important looking stuff (like bills) in boxes, then pile other boxes on top of those boxes till I can’t remember why I saved them in the first place. I get some cool magazine subscriptions free, being in the biz and all, but I wish they’d stop at this point! It’s all advertising anyway and I get enough of that online. But they won’t stop no matter how many times I ignore the IMPORTANT – Fill this out to keep you subscription coming. Make it stop, please!!

There’s also the 23 year history of Mastermind in paperwork, boxes and crates of photographs, video cassettes, letters & gifts from fans, business correspondence over the years, concert posters & artifacts, CD inventory & archives, this that and the other thing… it’s nearly a whole spare room full of more stuff! Not to mention all the recent recordings of gigs, rehearsals, etc. I need an intern to keep up!! I can barely imagine what it must be like to be super famous. No wonder big stars ignore everybody and everything. It’s just all too much unless you have some kind of staff to deal with it… which I do not! Other than being onstage with some other people from time to time, this is a one man show. Not that I am complaining, I am grateful for the attention the music has attracted, but just today someone was lamenting I don’t email them like I used to. I’m sorry, I just can’t keep up. Really! I’d be typing 24 hours a day.

Anyway, here we are in the information age and you know what? I get WAY too much information about everything!! And being the curious type I find it hard to tear myself away sometime even though I know ultimately it doesn’t matter AT ALL. The majority of it ends up being a stupid waste of time anyway. So I tear myself away and try to organize the piles and plies and boxes and and boxes of stuff lying all around everywhere. It’s a never ending task and a miracle I get anything done at all.

Not to mention the car parts, bicycles, tools, guitar parts, carpentry, plumbing, household crap, spare speakers, paint cans, antique computer parts, reels of analog tape (closets full), shipping supplies (ebay), and other sundry crap piled up around the other piles. Anywhere there’s a place you can set something, something has been set! It just kills me to look around sometimes.

One of the primary reasons it’s so hard to get rid of stuff is because I know as soon as I throw something away, I’ll need it the next day. It’s happened to me so many times it isn’t even funny. Another reason is, well, it’s cool stuff or I wouldn’t have saved it in the first place! And then there’s the ‘I’ll get around to it someday’ stuff that I never seem to get around to. Funny how that is.

Well, I better get back to searching for that driver disc. I’m sure I’ll find it one day when I’m looking for the matching glove to the single glove I found searching for that damn CD. Life goes on.

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