Thursday, December 31, 2009

Rome Is Too Massive For Just One Post

The Pantheon.  Work began over 2,000 years ago under the reign of Augustus, and it is still in use today.  This is the only ancient Roman building that has been in continuous use since its creation.  There is also a really neat strip club inside.

Stumbled into this church at night while walking around drinking beer with my brother, Cody.  Can't remember the name of it right now, but it was designed by Michaelangelo and looks really awesome at night.  Michaelangelo totally rocked Italy.

The Protestant Cemetery, one of my all-time favorite locations in Rome.  A serene, calm location amidst a city of chaos.  Some famous English poets are buried here: John Keats and Percy Shelley.

A new sight for me, the family took a walk down the Appian Way, ancient Rome's main drag out of town, and found these ruins.  Apparently its an old Roman circus, though I could not satisfy my craving for cotton candy anywhere.

The Coliseum.  A shitload of people died here.  Its still pretty damn cool, though.  And apparently they were setting up a stage for the New Year's celebrations.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Grazie, Roma

Happy New Year's from Florence, Italy!  I am traveling with my family in Italy for the holidays before embarking on a tour of much of the rest of Europe.  

I studied abroad in Rome when I was in college, and have been trying to get my parents to go ever since.  Well, lucky me, they finally decided to go and bring me as a guide.  Oh yea, and my semi-cool brother is along too.  Just kidding, he's pretty dang sweet.  We like to party with crazy Brits/Brazilians/Canadians from our hostel and drink Peroni together, brother bonding time.  Anyways, here are some pictures from the Rome:

My Dad, standing in front of some ancient Roman ruins in the center of Rome, with the Vittoriano in the background.  The Vittoriano is a giant nationalist monument completed in the 1920's.  Most people think its ugly, I think its badass.  Screw you, naysayers.

Man, wouldn't you love to ride a tricycle down this shit?  Staircase in the Vatican Museum.

The Vatican on a rainy day.  It always rains over the Pope's evil empire.  Karma.

Piazza Navona, complete with a carnival.

Looking out across Rome at dusk from above the Piazza del Popolo, with a Christmas tree in the foreground.  You can see the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica in the background, nothing else is allowed to be built taller in Rome.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Euro Vacay/Tour Starts Tomorrow

Playing Rolf's house concert last year in Prague

Happy Holidays, everyone!  Tomorrow my family (parents and brother) and I will be catching a plane in Chicago bound for Rome, Italy.  The four of us are spending a week and a half together in Italy, visiting Rome, Florence, Venice, and Cortina, and then they are flying home and I will begin my tour from there.  

After leaving Italy on January 8th I will catch the night train to Ljubljana, Slovenia, where I play my first gig the next night.  From there on I will head to Budapest, Hungary to play a show and do a bit of recording with my friend Adam, and on to 5 or 6 more countries after that before flying out of Paris on February 2nd.  I will be trying to keep this blog current with pictures from the travels just like last year, so stay tuned!  Here are the tourdates I have booked right now, and I might add one or two more at this point.

  • Jan. 9 - Tovarna Rog, Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Jan. 12 - recording in Budapest with Hungarian engineer Adam Szabo
  • Jan. 13 - iF Kavezo, Budapest, Hungary
  • Jan. 15 - Subterrarium, Vienna, Austria
  • Jan. 17 - Rolf's House Concert, Prague, Czech Republic
  • Jan. 19 - Subway To Peter, Chemnitz, Germany
  • Jan. 21 - Spatz Und Wal, Unna, Germany
  • Jan. 22 - Cafe Hilde, Berlin, Germany
  • Jan. 23 - Alice's House Concert, Berlin, Germany
  • Jan. 24 - Mobile Blues Club, Hamburg, Germany
  • Jan. 25 - Pony Bar, Hamburg, Germany
  • Jan. 28 - Gisele's House Concert, Antwerpen, Belgium
  • Jan. 29 - Bar Fabiola, Gent, Belgium
  • Jan. 30 - Caitlin's House Concert, Bordeaux, France

If you are nearby in Europe, please stop by a show!  If it is a house concert, send me an email ( and I can get you more info.  Also, please send any friends or family members that are in Europe out to a concert.  

On one last, unrelated note, the American music scene lost a great songwriter today, Athens, GA's Vic Chesnutt.  R.I.P., Vic, you were a truly original songwriting voice.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Recording Report #2: Drum Tracking

So last Monday, November 23rd, we hunkered down in an old farmhouse in Dane, Wisconsin to record all of the drums for the upcoming album, the "we" being: Jeremiah Nelson and Andy Hartman (engineers), Adam Cargin (drummer), and myself (devilishly handsome songwriter extraordinaire).  Jeremiah, Andy, and myself went out to the farmhouse the night before and set up all of the recording equipment, and then proceeded to have a campfire and drink a few beers.

We started setting up drums at around 10am on Monday, and worked until 8:30pm or so.  It was a long, but super productive day of recording, and I'm very happy to report having all of the drum parts for the entire album done.  Next up, we'll be doing the rhythm guitar parts, probably at the beginning of next week.

Here are a few pictures of the farmhouse and from the session:


Jeremiah and Andy setting up the night before.

The farmhouse, my dad was born in 1941 and grew up here.

The farm in the morning, shrouded in fog.

Adam setting up his drum kit.

Room mics, set up at different distances from the drums and in different rooms.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Recording Report #1: Demos

So work on the new JS album has begun.  It will be my first album with a full band on it (drums and all), and I am super excited to work on it and release some new songs.  I will try throughout the process to keep anyone who bothers reading this blog updated on the progress and perhaps provide some insight into the process.

The addition of drums on this album brings a whole new level of work to the project that I am pretty inexperienced with.  First of all, I have never really had to worry too much about the tempo and consistency of timing before, as it never had to fit into the rhythmic framework of percussion.  As long as I concentrated on doing my best to keep in time when recording the guitar, we could just add in the vocals, banjo, mandolin, etc. on top.  That is how we did it with the last studio album, Our Love Was Made For Canada. 

This time around, we have to record everything to a click, meaning that while recording the guitar and vocal parts I am listening to a metronome set to the right tempo in headphones.  Last night we went through this process at the apartment, recording demos to a click in my bedroom.  The we, being: myself, Jeremiah Nelson (who is engineering the project), and set wizard Adam Cargin (drummer for the Blueheels), who will be playing the drums on the album.  Sound engineer Andy Hartman will be joining us next week for drum tracking, and for tracking on the rest of the album as well. 

We spent 5 hours or so recording demos for all of the songs with drums (most of them), just the guitar and vocals.  You may remember from a previous post that I had mentioned already doing some demos.  At the beginning of the month I sat down with Jeremiah and recorded some basic demos, not done to a click, just to get to Adam so he had an idea for what the songs would be like.  The demos recorded last night are more utilitarian, so we have something to build on.  Next Monday when we track Adam's drums, the demo tracks will be piped through headphones while he lays down his parts.  Then, we will simply discard the demo tracks and start adding things on top of the drums.  Cool, huh?  Can't wait to start drum tracking next week, we're doing it in a 100+ year old farmhouse that my dad grew up in, just north of Madison.  Stay tuned, I'll keep ya'll posted on how we progress!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New Song - Lyrics and such...

So I wrote a new song last week, and wanted to share it with you as best I can over a blog.  They lyrics aren't the deepest I've ever written, and I'm a little hesitant about them as they are more risque than those I usually write (and I know my family reads this blog), but I really like the feel.  Its a shame I can't transmit that feel over a blog, but you will just have to come out to a show sometime soon and hear it live!  It doesn't have a name yet, but for my own purposes and amusement, I am temporarily labeling "The Booty Call Song".  

Phone rings, every other week,
You've had a few, and say I'm what you need.
Some day, I swear I'll say no.
But you had me persuaded at hello.


And you take your dress off fast,
and you take your dress off fast,
and I'll always be your last,
Yes, you'll always call me last.

Leave you, when you fall asleep,
And walk home through the empty late night streets.
Leave you, by yourself,
That's the way you like it, just you and no one else.


When you, when you call again,
I'll come over back into your bed.
When you, when you fall asleep,
I'll say goodnight and kiss you on your cheek.  


The feel of the song is in 6/8 time, and it switches between the measure being broken up into two groups of 3 beats and three groups of 2 beats.  I hope to record the song in Budapest in January, but until then, you can catch it live!  Check my website for tourdates.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Work Started on the New Album, Euro Tour Update, and Midwest Shows

Wanted to keep you updated on a few things:

Recording has finally started for the upcoming, full band album! I recorded most of the acoustic demos for the album last night with my friend and cohort, Jeremiah Nelson. He and Andy Hartman will be engineering the album. We only have one demo left to record, and they are then being passed on to the drummer for the album, with drum tracking happening at the end of this month in Madison. I'm really excited to begin work on this new disc, and hopefully we can have a Spring 2010 release!

Also, I've been continuing work on the Europe Tour this coming January, 2010, and have several gigs booked already. Here are the dates scheduled so far:

9th - Tovarna Rog, Ljubljana, Slovenia
13th - iF Kavezo, Budapest, Hungary
15th - Subterrarium, Vienna, Austria
19th - Subway to Peter, Chemnitz, Germany
21st - Sptaz Und Wal, Unna, Germany
24th - Mobile Blues Club, Hamburg, Germany
25th - Pony bar, Hamburg, Germany

I'm currently getting help from a booking agency in Belgium and working on some gigs there, and hope to add Prague and Paris dates soon as well. I'll keep you posted.

Lastly, Until I leave for Europe, I have lots of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois dates coming up. I'm playing this Thursday at the Brink Lounge in Madison at 9pm, with another prominent Madison date being November 18th at the High Noon Saloon with Cait Shanahan and her band. Two Milwaukee shows this month as well (Nov. 7 and 20), and some Minnesota dates in December with Josh Harty and Blake Thomas: December 10th at the 331 Club in Minneapolis and the 11th at Beaner's in Duluth. Lastly, I am doing a residency at Uncommon Ground in Chicago in December, and will be playing there every Wednesday that month with special guests.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Redwoods Pt. 2

At the bottom of the valley, we stopped by this stream to eat some trail mix and relax a bit.  A while later as we hiked back through this area on our way out of the valley, a herd of elk had just emerged from the woods

Some crazy moss growing on this tree.  Crazy.

Driving through a forest of giant trees kind of makes you feel like you were riding on a speeder bike on Endor.  Kinda.  Sorta.

At the end of the day, we took one last hike down to overlook where this river meets the ocean.  Where we camped that night was just on the other side of the river, up on the cliffs above the ocean.

The Pacific Ocean and me.

Redwood National Park

On Wednesday, my brother and I traveled up to Redwood National Park and the surrounding state parks, just about as far north as you can go in California before you get to Oregon.  We camped that night up on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean.  It was a free walk-in campsite, which we were especially grateful for as for some reason all California state parks charge an outrageous $35 just to pitch a tent for the night.  Below is the first round of pictures from the park(s), and I intend to post more.

Just after entering the national park, we pulled over in the morning fog to walk on the beach a bit.  Both of us dared the waves to wash far enough ashore to get us wet.  I won, Cody lost.  He waited a bit too long when one was coming right at us and got his feet and pant bottoms wet.  I ran, and got away.

We drove down into this valley and hiked a few more miles into the bottom of it to walk amongst some of the most ancient and largest trees the park has to offer.  Some are as old as 1,500 years!  To put that into perspective, the oldest would have been saplings when the Franks and Visigoths were fighting for the control of France after the collapse of the Roman Empire.

You could live in this tree.  Something big and mean (like a bear or mountain lion) probably does.

Looking up.

Thats me standing in the middle of the "Tall Trees Grove".  Perspective.

The California Coast (Stuck In LAX)

So today ends my California vacation.  I've been out here for the last week or so visiting my brother (who lives in Los Angeles) and taking in the sights of southern and northern Cali.  I've had a great time, and am bracing for the cold of Wisconsin that awaits me back home.  

Unfortunately, my arrival back in Madison is being delayed until tomorrow morning due to flight complications.  I was supposed to fly out of LAX at 2:20 today, connect in Denver, and then arrive back in Madison at 10:30 tonight.  When I arrived at the airport I learned that the flight to Denver had been delayed long enough so that I would miss my connecting flight to Madison.  The best that United Airlines could do was put me on a red eye flight from Los Angeles to Chicago, which wont leave until 11 tonight, will arrive in Chicago around 5:30 tomorrow morning, and I will then take a flight to Madison, arriving home tomorrow morning around 8:30.  While my flight plans do not necessarily make for interesting reading, let me just take this moment to publicly whine.  I will be in this airport for the next seven hours, and I've already been here for a couple.  

The one good thing about this situation is that it gives me plenty of Internet time to post pictures from the vacation.  I had to pay $8 for the Internet at LAX, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let it go to waste.  I actually tried to get United to get me a free password for the wireless system here since they inconvenienced me, but no dice.  I wish this airport had free wireless like Denver, where you just have to watch a short ad from a sponsor before logging on.  I wish I were going through Denver.  Ok, enough whining, here are some pictures from the California coast, north of San Francisco.

When we first made it to the Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy. 1) after leaving San Francisco early that morning, it was pretty damn foggy.  This was a vista point right where we entered the highway, eager to see the coast.

The day soon began to brighten up, and here you can see Cody standing above the mighty Pacific Ocean, just a little further on up the coast.

We stopped for lunch in some little coastal town.  The restaurant was up on the cliffs overlooking the ocean, and they were nice enough to let us take our food down to their garden on trays so that we could dine with a view.  Oh, and their clam chowder was pretty spot on as well.

A little further north, just south of Fort Bragg, we stopped at Russian Gulch State Park and went on a hike.  This was our first (of many) sighting of the gigantic banana slug.  Huge, cool slugs, pretty rad.

Russian Gulch also provided our first encounter with the gigantic Redwood trees.  Here is Cody standing next to an old Redwood stump, with a newer tree growing on top of it.  I believe the forests here were logged fairly heavily, but we got to see some ancient, humongous trees the next day in Redwood National Park...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

San Francisco

My brother Cody and I left Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon (after watching the Packers beat the pulp out of the Lions) and headed north to San Francisco.  The plan was to spend two nights and a day exploring that city before heading further north in California to do some camping and hiking along the coast.  We also had a gig at the Bazaar Cafe with my old college friend Branden Kolarik.  Below are some pictures from our San Francisco adventures.

Cody at the southern (San Francisco) end of the Golden Gate Bridge, before we walked across it and back.  Construction started on the bridge back in 1933 and it was finished in 1937.  Imagine how many people the construction employed during the Great Depression?  Maybe we should be building more bridges?  I'm sure the bay could use another bridge.  Lets build a bridge across Lake Mendota back in Madison while we're at it.  Bridges for jobs!

Looking back at the bridge from the north end after walking across it.  Someone told me that the bridge is three quarters of a mile long, and so walking it both ways is a mile and a half.

The Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco's signature skyscraper.  It was built in 1972 and used to be the tallest building west of the Mississippi before one in Los Angeles surpassed it in 1974.

A view of downtown San Fran while walking up to the Coit Tower.

This house is where the Grateful Dead lived in the 60's, on a block or so from the corner of Haight and Ashbury.  While the area was a hippy haven slum during that time, it is now a trendy shopping area.  

Monday, October 19, 2009

In Santa Monica, in the winter time...

...the coldest place is on the Promenade. Yes, for those of you that know your bad 90's music, those are lyrics from a Savage Garden song. I had their album when I was in middle school, and couldn't get that awful song out of my head while bumming around Santa Monica with my brother, Cody. Naturally, I had to share the song with him every time he said "Santa Monica." And now I had to share it with you.

Though it is not quite winter time, it was beginning to feel like it back in Wisconsin, getting far too cold far too early. So it was a nice change of pace to arrive into sunny, 80-something Los Angeles in mid-October. My brother picked me up at the airport and we drove straight to Santa Monica to enjoy the seaside weather.

I have it on good authority (Cody) that palm trees are not native, but were brought to California from Hawaii. In exchange, Hawaii got sand for its' beaches from California. Apparently Hawaii does not have naturally sandy beaches, rather rocky, sharp, volcanic ones.

Beach. With a background of smog.

Sunset. Cody. Santa Monica Pier.

Cody's new pad in Van Nuys. It looks nice on the outside, but its kind of a dump. The living room is my favorite part, and Cody says it best, "its meant for nobody to use." His new roommates seriously have it set up with two couches, neither of which have the cushions on them and so are unusable, and there are random arcade games around, as its somebody's hobby to fix them. Weird. Either way, its a place to rest your head.

*Maybe you were confused about this post and didn't even know I was in California or headed that way as I didn't mention it in an earlier post? Just to fill you in, I am spending 9 days or so visiting my brother, who lives in Los Angeles. We are spending a couple days in San Francisco (where I am currently) and playing a gig there, and then heading further north to do some camping, play a gig in Fort Bragg, and then head back down to Los Angeles next weekend for a gig in Hollywood and a visit from our friend Tony, who lives in Vegas. Thats the intinerary, don't stalk us, we are armed with instruments. And in case you didn't realize that I also have a songwriter-inclined brother, check out his rad tunes right here: Cody Statz

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama wins the Nobel, I win the Fabulous award. Coincidence?

I have been awarded a very prestigious blogging award by my friend Alex over at You Think its EASY Being This Awesome?, the Simply Fabulous Award.  While I at first was humbled, shocked, honored, and thankful, I then realized that I have to follow through on certain responsibilities upon receiving this award.  Not cool.  So now I may be forced to declare war on Norway, I mean Alex.  Anyways, the aforementioned responsibilities include listing my 5 favorite obsessions and passing it along to 5 other bloggers that I enjoy and would like to bestow this honor upon.  

John's 5 obsessions:

1.  Travel.  I have always loved traveling, and was lucky to be raised in a family that traveled a lot when I was a kid.  There isn't a better thing to spend on money on, in my humble opinion, than seeing as much of the world as you can.  I am extra lucky to have found a way to make money while traveling: tricking unsuspecting locals into listening to mid-western folk music.

2.  Alt.-country/southern rock.  I am absolutely obsessed with bands like the Drive-By Truckers, Jason Isbell, Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, Uncle Tupelo, etc.  Something about that roots driven rock'n'roll resonates with my soul and makes me want to drink bourbon  and drive fast (not at the same time).  I like my rock'n'roll with a side of southern ass-whuppin', and I like my folk and country with some real grit.

3.  Snow.  Most people hate it, I wait all spring, summer and fall for it.  I love snowboarding and cross-country skiing.  Bring it.

4.  Beer.  I love the taste of it.  If beer had no alcohol and tasted just as great, I would still drink it.  Its too bad all non-alcoholic brands taste like soapy water.

5.  Wisconsin.  I love traveling, and I love leaving Wisconsin, but I always love coming home.  I love mountains and I love oceans, but I love fall Wisconsin colors, corn fields at dusk, northwoods campfires, progressive politics, and the driftless hills of southwestern WI more.  

Now to pass the award on to some other unsuspecting victims...

1. Dane101: Madison, Wisconsin's all-covering blog, keeping Madisonians up to date with whats going on locally, from music to food to politics to Adam Schabow posing naked with his new guitar.

2. Pharyngula: My favorite nerdy blog on all things evolution, freethinking, and secular.  PZ Meyers rocks, and I met him once on State St.!

3. this is how i will get famous: My old upstairs neigbor, Reem.  She is pretty goddamn hilarious.  Read her blog.  Live better.

4. Steve, Don't Eat It!: Steve eats nasty things for your enjoyment.  Its disgusting, awesome, and enlightening.  Pretty sure its long defunct, but the old posts are pure magic.

5. So Close and Yet Safari: And I pass the buck back to Alex with her other blog, a wonderful account of her Africa trip that I have pimped on here before.  Thanks, Alex!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sugar Loaf hike - Winona, MN

I'm currently up in Winona, MN, as I played a gig in town last night at Ed's.  I'm playing tonight in LaCrosse, WI, but before heading that way I took a hike up the Sugar Loaf with my buddy Jeff.  I took some pictures with my cell phone of the view from the top and of the Sugar Loaf itself.

Looking down the Mississippi River Valley at Winona and beyond.


Jeff at the base of Sugar Loaf.

The Sugar Loaf.  You can climb to the top, but I happened to be wearing dress shoes and Jeff just got done puking up his breakfast, so we passed on that option.

The view down the other side, looking at the beautiful Mississippi bluffs.

The show last night was great, thanks so much to everyone who came out!  My buddy Nick Shattuck opened the show and played a great set.  We'll both be playing again tonight in LaCrosse.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cell Phone Pictures - Vol. 1

My Motorola phone broke last week and wouldn't charge, leaving me in a bit of a predicament.  Luckily, it was still under warranty and AT&T mailed me a new one today, same model, but I have to send my old one to them.  This meant that I had to get everything off of my old phone that I wanted to save.  I don't know about you guys, but I end up taking a lot of pictures with my cell phone that I never do anything with.  So, after I used Bluetooth to extract the hundred or so photos on the old phone, I decided I might as well go through them and see if there were any keepers, or at least funny ones to post.  Here they are for your amusement.

A kitten in Sarah Donner's bathroom sink in Princeton, NJ.

Justin Jahnke of Flame Shark gives props to his Lil' Buddy before rocking the World's Largest Brat Fest.

It was a cold night at the Jade Monkey Lounge in Madison, and the dare was simple: Ryan had to press his bare cheeks against the frozen entry door.  It was definitely hovering around 0 degrees that night, yowza!

We call this here an Icequake.  This picture is from Lake Mendota in Madison.  Sometimes these are strong enough to actually shake the ground and cause a loud popping sound heard all over the city.

Park City, UT.  Best day of snowboarding I ever had.  Rolled into town the morning after they got hit with over 30 inches of fresh powder.  I was playing that night in town, and my couchsurfing host was an employee at the hill, and was able to hook me up with a half-priced ticket.

I hope you have enjoyed this random installment of pictures found on my old cellphone.