Skyypilot Posts

Oasis in the Desert

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Oasis in the Desert

Sanity in Chaos

Seems like I’m always looking for an oasis in the desert.   I’m learning webmastering on the fly (after leaving my web host for years), trying to get my  YouTube channel on track,  reading all kinds of technical stuff, listening to  remodeling going on around me, and, yes, remembering I’m working on an album!  Music is that oasis.

After working for a very demanding, tiring  job for thirty years, it seemed that my best writing/recording happened after a  really  trying day-gig… (Actually, it was a night one!)

In days past, I sought (like everyone else) a  perfect recording environment.  Now, I just do what I have to do, whatever else is going on around me.  I call it guerilla recording.  Naturally, I don’t want dogs, phones, talking, etc, etc, but it’s organic, baby!  Build a stage in the barn, and let’s have a play!  You are COMMUNICATING, so do that and let chips fall where they may.


So, each weekend, I try to refuel by listening to a little of everything, including things I’ve not heard before.  Everything is subconsciously filed away and the juices get flowing.  Then, I’m ready for the next week ahead.

Last  Sunday, we were reading to Albert King’s Greatest Hits.  Cream’s Wheels of Fire ( my first album) had a song he had recorded years earlier- “Born Under a Bad Sign”.  Eric Clapton had been heavily influenced by him, and since I’ve always loved Clapton, I love Albert King.  Despite his large frame, he had a smooth voice. He was a joy to hear, and his guitar-playing superb.  “Like a Road Leading Home” (from his 1971 album “Lovejoy”)  is one of my all-time favorite songs.

Next, I stumbled upon  “Miles Davis- December 19, 1970 Cellar Door Club, Washington DC“.  Miles Davis is one of my absolute favorite musicians.  I started music playing trumpet and I remember him amplifying his horn, playing it with a wah-wah pedal, and playing some out-there stuff.  He truly did his own thing.  This recording had Miles Davis (trumpet); Gary Bartz (soprano sax, alto sax); Keith Jarrett (electric piano, organ); John McLaughlin (guitar); Michael Henderson (electric bass); Jack De Johnette (drums); Airto Moreira (percussion, vocal) and was another musical gem.  I listened to all three sets of that show, then “Bitches Brew” today (doing dishes), and I’m refueled for another week!

© 2018 J. Mark Witters

Never Listen to the Critics

Never Listen to the Critics

What Do They Know?

Critics are everywhere.  You’ll see them on television, print, internet, etc.  There’s always someone better, more qualified to look down on us and shake his/her head in disapproval.   Too bad!

I could never “fit in”, so after a time,  I just didn’t worry about it.  No, I’m not in a conventional band.   I don’t “play out” and I’ve never played  covers, a  (Never even learned “Stairway to Heaven” :).   Even though “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”,   all one can do is be the best person one can be, and let the chips fall.


True ground breakers succeed from failure- a lot of it.  Without the countless failures before their successes, Thomas Edison and Les Paul would not have shaped the recording industry as we know it today.  It is so easy just to throw up your hands and quit.  You are never a loser unless you quit.  Even now, I discover music recorded by bands I’ve never heard.  Most is garbage, but I find a lot of hidden gems, as well.  Why didn’t I hear these records before?  Because for many, it was just easier to throw in the towel than to soldier on.  The BeatlesCreedence Clearwater Revival, Frank Zappa, and so many others were told  “no commercial potential”  and stayed the course anyway.  When you get to a certain point of rejection, what difference does another one make?

The Ultimate Solution

What it gets down to is this: Do what makes you feel alive.  Only you know the answer to that.  Do it the very best you can at that moment, learn from the many mistakes you’ll make, rinse, and repeat.  You are personally in charge of your own happiness.  The critics don’t care.  They aren’t you, and who made them in charge?

© 2018 J. Mark Witters

Music Adventures Now-Technology

Just Do It!

Starting Out

Technology can prepare anyone  to complete a journey.  You must take the first steps and the momentum will keep you going.  

While growing up, I discovered the joy of music and that it has only grown over the years.  I knew what I wanted to hear, but how do I create it? Technology is the answer.

Well, I knew yours truly was not the most gifted of musicians, so my task was to exploit my God-given talents.  I’ve always enjoyed writing, so I wrote poetry of all sorts  (mostly  drivel, but you have to start somewhere!).   I spent my early years learning trumpet, then music theory. Then, I started to learn guitar and put together a lot of stuff (Listened to James Taylor, Miles Davis, the Beatles,  Frank Zappa, and everything in between, so you can only imagine what I came up with!)  

In 1971, I went  to college when synthesizers were first coming out. There was a synthesizer room you actually had to schedule to use! I was able to figure out how to use patch cords (!) to get my acoustic pick-up-mounted guitar to play through an  ARP 2600 synthesizer, unheard-of in my limited sphere.  It was then I decided I wouldn’t become a music teacher, and left to pursue my adventure.  

This was 1973, and did not want to play in a cover band, nor could I find like-minded people, so worked night blue-collar jobs obtained a basic 4-track studio, instruments, and started writing and recording my original music.  It wasn’t pretty, but a start, nonetheless. A lot of isolation, but it was a learning experience for me.

Listen with Open Ears

Along the way, my ears were kept open to all music.  My natural limited-attention span would not let my chosen form of communication be boxed-in.  Rock, jazz, classical, Motown, blues, avant-garde, folk, and everything in between were all part of that gumbo.  Maybe  I didn’t know what I was doing, but kept at it anyway.

I studied “Music Business” in the mid-eighties and knew I wouldn’t fit into any of that mess, so kept my head down and learned Windows,  Finale music notation, VST, and midi-sequencing.  All this kept me busy through the nineties.  Technology is starting to work its magic!

Keeping my ears (and mind) open, I was asked by our daughter (Kerri Hirsch Upton)  to produce her drum/vocal band Spiral Rhythm’s first CD, so I did.  It was recorded right in our living room.  Ric Neyer and Kerri wanted to form an offshoot band from Spiral Rhythm, so  Skyypilot was born.  I joined Spiral Rhythm, and met Steve Collins (he literally built the stage we played on), who had a band named Moonstruck.  He needed a second guitarist, so I joined them for a time. Some nights, I would play three consecutive sets with three different groups!   Steve was a great guy who encouraged me to keep recording, so  I did!

What Technology Brings

Using an early Roland 16-track digital recorder, I recorded the first seven Spiral Rhythm albums, the first three Skyypilot albums, and “The Balance”, a fine album by Heather Jinmaku.  Since 2006, I have been recording all material “in the box” (on computer).  

Technology has been huge.  Now, I can use plugins for a tiny fraction of the cost (and space) of the original hardware.  I have software that replicates pretty much everything the Beatles used on their Abbey Road recordings.  I have software (Amplitude 4) that lets me record a guitar part with dry signal, then manipulate it in any way, then back to original if I don’t like the amp or effects. My music can be released online and streaming almost instantly.  

I decided to make my own Skyypilot music videos, so I subscribed to Videoblocks and began editing downloaded content using Windows Movie Maker.  I set up a website and just started blogging, so it is always a work-in-progress.  No longer doing the blue-collar thing, I am now diving into even more challenges.  One can try to prepare, but there’s nothing like going in there and thrashing it out.  You learn from your mistakes, believe me… Just do it!

Authors note: I received no compensation for any products mentioned above.

© 2018   J. Mark Witters