Brad Spurgeon's Blog

A world of music, auto racing, travel, literature, chess, wining, dining and other crazy thoughts….

Today’s Long Lost Interview is a 1996 One with Frazier Mohawk / Barry Friedman, the Record Producer, Circus Impresario, Farmer and all the rest

October 31, 2018
bradspurgeon

Frazier Mohawk and Nurit Wilde

Frazier Mohawk and Nurit Wilde

PARIS – For the second day in a row I am stunned to have found in my archives an interview I never knew I had. This time it is a long and wide-ranging one with Frazier Mohawk (born Barry Friedman), who is best known as the founder of the Buffalo Springfield band, and producer of many other albums of the 60s and early 70s. He was also the director and founder of Puck’s Canadian Travelling Circus, and a friend of mine from my teenage years. I wrote about him for a special article in the Careers section of the International Herald Tribune in January 1997, and this interview – which I had forgotten I had – was done for the article. What makes it valuable to anyone interested in Frazier – and I see lots of hits for my other articles about Frazier Mohawk, like about his death in 2012 – is that it covers much of his life that has not already been covered by all the usual interviews focusing on his work as a record producer in the 60s. It focuses much on his recording studio at Puck’s Farm, and on his childhood and youth. You really get the sound of his voice here too, so if you knew Frazier Mohawk / Barry Friedman, or want to know what he sounded like, read this interview in my articles (as opposed to posts) section of this blog.

Two Films and a Second Open Mic – Copenhagen’s Mojo’s Workin’

March 22, 2017
bradspurgeon

Copenhagen

Copenhagen

COPENHAGEN – It was tight timing, but it was a reflection of just about everything else in this tightly organized festival and my trip to attend CPH:DOX and play at open mics: I had a film at 7 p.m., followed by a film at 9 p.m. followed by an open mic at 11 p.m. And despite the rain, hail, snow, freezing weather and wind, I managed to achieve all three things. (I exaggerate only slightly on the cold, horrible, depressing Copenhagen weather.) The most fun in all that? Maybe all three, the totality. From the “Sour Grapes” documentary about a wine fraud, to the snippets of a cameraperson’s filming life in the film called “Cameraperson” to the open mic at Mojo with more Copenhagen singer songwriters, it was all about as good as it gets….

The wine film was a delight, as I have a very strong interest in wine as well as in wine frauds, as one of my very first unsold novels, “Bacchanalia,” dealt with an imaginary wine fraud story in the 1980s, and was inspired by the true-to-life wine fraud over fake bottles of wine supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson. (I posted my many-times-rejected article on that very story of the Thomas Jefferson wines on my blog a few years ago.) This film is a similar, but actually much wilder story of a young Indonesian who ingratiates himself to the wine world in the U.S. in the 2000s and ends up selling 10s of millions of dollars of fake wine to collectors before being caught and put in prison. A lively story, and one of the most amazing aspects is how his victims fail to believe it is really possible that this guy did this, even once it has been made crystal clear by the discovery by federal agents of all the evidence they needed in the man’s home.
Cameraperson trailer

From that film I rushed over to another cinema – both cinemas and the open mic bar were close walking distance to my hotel – and attended the film “Cameraperson,” which is a series of outtakes and other moments from documentary films and reportages that Kirsten Johnson, a filmmaker and cinematographer, put together over her career. It includes some sad, touching moments with her mother during her final period with Alzheimer’s Disease. Johnson asks us to see the film as her version of a memoir. It is full of some very touching and strange moments of film – as for instance when she is filming a woman in the throes of anger against her mother’s suicide, when suddenly a huge mass of snow comes sliding off the room of her home outside the window, as if the mother was trying to communicate from the other side….

“Cameraperson” lasted longer than I had expected, and so I did not get out of the cinema until 22:49, and while I had planned to run back to the hotel, grab my guitar and return to the open mic, I was now faced with the reality that I would arrive at the open mic after 23:00 if I did that, and I had been told that it started at around 23:00. It took place in a blues bar called Mojo, and while it may be famous as a blues bar, the Monday night event is a singer songwriter open mic. So I was really looking forward to doing it, and decided I had better go first, without my guitar.

Besides, it was yet another night of rain in Copenhagen, where it has rained every day I have been here. Moreover, the rain was at its worst – as far as I could see – at that moment. So I walked over to Mojo, walked into this nice, warm, mainly wooden, cowboy-saloon-like joint, with a beautiful little stage across from the front door, and I found that the open mic had not yet begun.
Sour Grapes trailer

I eventually met the MC, the organizer of the open mic, Kira Martini, and she told me that it would run from shortly after 23:00 until about 1 a.m. So I had plenty of time to return to my hotel to take my guitar. I could also use hers, she said. But since it was a nylon-string guitar, I chose to return to the hotel. I immediately regretted that decision when I walked into the hail of gale-force winds and finally arrived at my hotel with soaking wet feet and jeans. But somehow I felt great that I would have the security of my own guitar.
another at mojo open mic in Copenhagen

The open mic, when I returned, was in full swing. It had a similar vibe to it to the CPH Listening Room open mic of the night before in that the audience, for the most part, was there to listen, and the performers performed only their own songs. And most of the songs were fairly quiet, personal, singer songwriter songs – as opposed to anything rockin’. The only person who decided to do a cover song was Kira, who at the request of a client, sang a famous Brazilian song, as the last one of the night (I think). It was a beautiful moment even so – and I still think there is a place for doing cover songs, even in a singer songwriter night. (Joe Cocker, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, and a few others would no doubt have thought so too!)
first at mojo open mic in Copenhagen

Anyway, I was, in the end, ecstatic about having achieved all of my goals in that very short period of time available. What an amazing week so far, at the halfway point of this visit to Copenhagen for me. Oh, the only problem was that after all the effort of going back to my hotel to take my guitar, no sooner did I finish doing my presentation of the first song than my guitar – which had worked on the soundcheck – suddenly decided to pull a temper tantrum and not speak through the pickup. We had to mic the guitar separately. But in the end, I think it sounded better that way!
Kira at Mojo

Learning by Osmo-sis. (Osmo at the Oz – Part II)

February 1, 2017
bradspurgeon

Oz Open Mic Paris

Oz Open Mic Paris

PARIS – So already another week has passed and somehow I have put nothing on my blog since the Osmo camera post last week after visiting the Café Oz open mic in Pigalle. And here I am a week later with Chapter II: Visiting the Oz open mic again, again with my new Osmo camera. On the other hand, I am happy to report that not only did I get a tiny little bit better with handling the camera, but the open mic itself was miles more fun for me than last week, thanks to the presence of a few friends who suddenly all showed up for the visit of the amazing Aaron Bowen of San Diego, on one of his frequent visits to Europe….

So there I was again with the handheld Osmo steady cam, and this time figuring out how to use it a little better in terms of the image and camera movements, but unfortunately, it was only halfway through the evening that I learned how to improve the sound reception. Unfortunately, for Aaron Bowen’s set, the sound level was still a little low, and so the volume is not very high, and the sound not as crisp as it should be.
Brislee Introduces Bowen and Saxo

I managed to correct that problem for the set of the amazing Ash Gray and his fabulous Lowden guitar and playing and singing. Is it possible to say that Aaron Bowen and Ash Gray are opposites in style? No, not really, there’s something that ties their music together, though I’m not sure what it is – maybe just the commitment. In any case, Aaron was in from San Diego, and this time with his electric guitar, and his ever melodious vocals. And this time, joined by Stephen Saxo, who plays…yes, you got it….
Bowen and Saxo first

Stephen, with whom I have played many times in the past, also played along with me last night, on my “Borderline,” and a song I rarely sing, but feel inspired to sing in the context of the Trump presidency, since the song is a kind of protest song against the establishment trying to take away our personal freedoms…. (It’s called “Sing It” and has a very 1960s feel and inspiration to it.)
Ash Orphan first

Also present was Ventru, whom I have written about many times on this blog, including when I ran into him at an open mic in Montreal, although he is from France and was only in Canada on a holiday. At the time he played last night, I was no longer filming, though, so I’ll wait for a future occasion to Osmo him.
Another Bowen and Saxo

In any case, as the experiences grow with the Osmo, I’m hoping it will all come together soon in the best sound AND images possible for this blog….
A second long Ash Orphan in 4K

Osmo at the Oz – A New View for Open Mics?

January 25, 2017
bradspurgeon

DJI Osmo

DJI Osmo

PARIS – I started this blog in 2010 at the same time as I bought what felt to me like a revolutionary little video and music-filming device, my first Zoom recorder. It was the device that since that time – with upgrades – allowed me to make quick and easy videos with great sound of open mics and open jams all over the world. Now, finally, seven years later, I have found a new device that could entirely revolutionize again the way I make videos for this blog. Or maybe not. Last night was the first time I got to try my new DJI Osmo steady camera video recording device, and I did so at a pretty typical kind of open mic space. The experience was mixed – with some really great high points, and some lower ones….

I first learned about this fabulous camera called the Osmo, from a fellow journalist covering the Formula One series; and that he was using this camera for pit and paddock interviews for NBC, the major American network, made me perk up my eyes and ears. The Osmo looks like some kind of extraterrestrial, some kind of ET, mixed with your mobile phone. I am using a Samsung, but any phone can connect to it. The telephone is used as your eyes on what the camera is doing, and it also is the base for the program you download to run the camera. The connection is done over a wifi that the camera itself produces – i.e., the telephone connects to the camera via the camera’s wifi.
Oz mic second

The beauty of this thing is that it is portable, it is not very expensive – I got it on sale for 499.99 euros at Fnac, since the newer model is out at about 700 euros, but also has a zoom – and that it films in 4K and, above all, is a steady cam. That means you can walk around with it in your hand and the image looks as if it is on rails. You move it with the movement of your arm, and with the joy stick that gives nearly 360 degree movement of the camera, as well as an up and down range. In short, for 500 euros you can produce perfectly still footage that looks like it came out of The Shining.

You also have a wide choice of resolution, including 1080p, which allows you to use a digital zoom, and right up to the latest 4K, as mentioned. I tried it in several different lighting environments, and it remains a natural image throughout.
Oz mic third

So where’s the down side? Well, I’m not sure entirely, yet, after just one use in an open mic. On the other hand, I know what I loved about my Zoom devices in open mics: I could carry a Zoom camera in my pocket, drop it, send it sliding across the floor of any barroom, without damage, even dropped the Zoom in the toilet in Australia only to have it return to life a week or so later, never having lost any footage on the camera. The Osmos is more delicate, has to be treated with respect, and while it cannot be carried in the pocket, it can be carried in my guitar case with no problem.

But ultimately, part of the advantage of this beast might also be a problem: With its almost fish-eye like capture, I may be ending up with more image from an open mic room than I want. I mean, does the open mic crowd want to be part of the film or not? With the Zoom, I could film just the performer. I can do that with the Osmo, too, but this gadget looks so strange and bulky compared to the subtle Zoom or any handheld camera device or telephone, that I cannot go filming in an open mic without being noticed as a geek, and potential threat to the naturalness of the situation. It stands out, and I do not want to get too close to the performer and interrupt the attention of his or her performance by everyone staring at my weird gadget.
Oz mic fourth

Next, there’s the sound. The Osmo has a built-in microphone that is absolute trash. Mine also came with a strange external mic you attach to it, but here, it is hell for music recordings as it picks up all of the sound of the camera and its motors as it turns about and swivels and stills the jagged movements of the handheld device. There is a setting where you can turn off the fan while filming, but the mic that hangs off the device still picks up all this mechanical movement sound.

Enter my hand held Sony mic that I bought more than a decade ago for my minidisc recorder. I plugged it into the Osmo and found a fabulously quiet way of recording. But while it was perfect for my voice talking, I feel that the sound quality difference to the Zoom is big for music, based on last night’s recordings at the Café Oz open mic. But I’m hoping this has to do with it being a vocal mic, and not a good mic for music – I’ll explore that. On the other hand, there is the “hands problem.” I mean, with a Zoom, you hold the device in one hand – with this Osmo, you are obliged to use both hands: One for the device, another for the mic.
Oz mic sixth

What is undeniable, is that for 500 euros, this is an insanely fabulous video camera. DJI invented its cameras first for drones, and then it came up with the idea of doing these handheld steady cam devices. And it is a real fabulous winner for what it does, and for someone wanting to make videos – music videos, reportages, etc. – this is a winner. I’ll just have to see if it really is great for me and my open mic adventure. Oh yes, and it seems to eat up my phone battery, and the battery for the device goes pretty quickly too….

So I’m not yet decided as to how practical and great this will be as a replacement for the Zoom – but this remains an amazing, amazing discovery and I will find lots of ways to use it – especially for my next music videos….

Check out the videos I did last night at the Café Oz open mic in Paris….

“Out of a Jam” Now Up on Bandcamp – With the Lyrics to the Songs

September 5, 2016
bradspurgeon

Out of a Jam

Out of a Jam

PARIS – Back in Paris after a long train ride from Milan, I’ve finally finished putting up on Bandcamp my CD, “Out of a Jam,” that I released this year. This is the first of what I’m planning to be many different releases for the CD on various sites – iTunes, etc. – and I really like this particular site, Bandcamp. Anyway, what is really really cool about the Bandcamp site is that it incited – no pun intended – me to use their feature to put up the lyrics of the songs too. So for the first time, I have put up the music – these are the mastered versions of the songs exactly like on the CD (my SoundCloud versions were not mastered) – as well as the lyrics, and where I feel I have some grasp of the names of the actual chords that I play, I have put up the chords too! So go check out “Out of a Jam” on bradspurgeon.bandcamp.com, if you do not already have a copy of the CD. Well, what the hell, go check it out even if you do!

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Paris

December 26, 2014
bradspurgeon

Paris Skyline

Paris Skyline

My worldwide open mic journey began in China in 2008 after the Formula One race in Shanghai, and little did I know that it was a journey that would continue for six more years and cover most of the globe, every continent except Africa (where I once lived and played music in an open mic decades earlier) and Antarctica, and that it would spawn a book, a blog, an album, a documentary film, numerous podcasts, music videos and other multimedia projects.

This year, 2014, I have decided to finish all of the projects and tie them together into a consolidation of multimedia. As part of my personal impetus to gather it all together for myself, but also put it into perspective on this blog, I have decided to create a page for each city I have visited on the journey, tying together samples of the whole multimedia adventure linked to that city.

So here is the page devoted to tying together the pieces of the open mic adventure that I have lived in Paris since I first started.

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Abu Dhabi

December 10, 2014
bradspurgeon

bait al oud

bait al oud

My worldwide open mic journey began in China in 2008 after the Formula One race in Shanghai, and little did I know that it was a journey that would continue for six more years and cover most of the globe, every continent except Africa (where I once lived and played music in an open mic decades earlier) and Antarctica, and that it would spawn a book, a blog, an album, a documentary film, numerous podcasts, music videos and other multimedia projects.

This year, 2014, I have decided to finish all of the projects and tie them together into a consolidation of multimedia. As part of my personal impetus to gather it all together for myself, but also put it into perspective on this blog, I have decided to create a page for each city I have visited on the journey, tying together samples of the whole multimedia adventure linked to that city.

So here is the page devoted to tying together the pieces of the open mic adventure that I have lived in Abu Dhabi since I first started.

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