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Author Archives: dannykatzmusic

About dannykatzmusic

'80s Flavored Folk-Pop Singer/Songwriter. 33 years in and around New York City, now folking it up in Tokyo. I relocated here November of 2009 to launch DK English Language Services, information on which can be found in my LinkedIn profile. I continue to perform live music and support the local Japanese indie music scene. Info on that can be found here: www.dannykatz.com. I'm fascinated with, and use this blog to reflect upon, progressive business practices, new media, social networking, technological developments and gadgetry, the music industry and culture - both local (Tokyo, New York City) and global. Many of the entries contained here are extended commentaries on things I have tweeted about at www.twitter.com/dannykatzmusic. And if you're a curious masochist, the blogs I follow can be found here: http://bit.ly/infojunky

Ayo typography

So this is my first blog entry written on my iPhone. Curious to see how long this lasts given that my last burst of blogging ended after a hot minute. I don’t think blogging and untreated ADD are a marriage made in productivity heaven but here’s hoping.

Having said that, this phone has already saved my ass. If your concentration is as bad as mine I cannot recommend CLEAR enough. It’s a remarkably intuitive way to keep track of things.

Ok – unpaid product endorsement complete. Time to… Oooh, shiny…

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2012 in adult add, technology

 

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Info nom nom nom? Write a song instead?

How do you balance the need or desire to learn with the need or desire to create?

I’ve been long interested in learning about the machinations of the American music industry, but being in Tokyo, getting my hands on trade publications like Billboard is a bit tricky – and a bit expensive.

So it was with great joy that I belatedly discovered Google Reader. Yes, my 67-year-old mother who vividly remembers WWII has a Kindle and a SmartPhone and I didn’t even know about Google Reader? Shut it.

Unfortunately when I discover something new I’m like a kid on a sugar high and I ended up adding something like 40 music industry blogs to my Reader. Meaning 130+ posts to read a DAY. FML. Fortunately my undergrad literary theory days taught me how to skim, but trying so hard to keep on top of new industry developments makes me wonder if I should just shut the door on the noise (or rather close my browser), unsubscribe, shut off my computer and get back to songwriting.

For those of you creative types who are also info junkies, if you work too much on your craft do you worry you’re missing the passing technology ship? And if you’re too addicted to reading about industry developments, do you feel like you’re not creating enough?

How do you balance the need or desire to learn with the need or desire to create?

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2010 in Music Business, Songwriting

 

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Happy 20th Anniversary to Me?

This month marks my 20th anniversary as a songwriter. There I was 20 years ago, 13 years old and sitting in Kathy Connon’s English class not paying attention as usual. Usually, my magical a.d.d. butterfly friends would transport me to a land filled with man-crushes covered in sequined Speedos and sparkly angel wings. But lo, this time, they took me to a far more enchanted and magical place – one where unicorns frolicked while shitting glitter and Pete Seeger songs played from a rinky-dink Fisher Price fake record player.

It was in this magical land that I penned my first song entitled “Daydream the World.” Looking back, it was one of the more earnest and creepy lyrics I’ve written.

Why earnest? Because at 13 I wasn’t faux-jaded yet. All I listened to was Erasure and The B-52’s. Happy gay music! Sure the jocks were cruel to me at that age but now that we’re friends on Facebook, it’s all water under the bridge. Or at least my therapist says so.

But why creepy? Lyrics included “Leave me now/I wanna be in a shell/Boxed up from/This real life of hell…” Boxed up? BOXED UP??

Sounds like I’m singing a folk song to a coffin. Egahds. But I digress…

As I thought about how to celebrate 20 years of folk-pop goodness, I was tempted to get myself a celebratory Cookie Puss Carvel cake. Then I realized FML I’m in Tokyo and the closest thing would be a Hello Kitty cake. Now THAT’S creepy.

Still, once I started thinking about cake and Cookie Puss, I had a flashback to a commercial like this one, forever etched into the Betamax in my mind…

As children of the 80s, with commercials like these, is it any wonder we’re all in therapy?

But yes, other than eating a cake that looks like an alien with a d*ck for a nose, how would you suggest I celebrate this 20 year milestone?

 
 

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Tokyo Hummers

Get yo head out of the gutter, boy. It’s not what you think.

As probably the only person in Tokyo without an iPod or some other music playing device, I often hum to clear my head and drown out the constant barrage of noise that this city has to offer. While short on NYC’s charming horn-riding antics and inter-personal warfare, Tokyo’s got everything from train door closing chimes to shop owners screaming out “Welcome!” if you get within 5 feet of their property, and my personal favorite – trucks screaming out announcements in a high-pitched women’s voice that go “The truck is turning left, be careful! The truck is turning left, be careful!”

Seriously?

So what, do you ask, am I humming? Today it was an eclectic mix of “Edge of a Broken Heart” (Vixen), “Baby” (Justin Bieber – shut it) and “Defying Gravity” (wicked). No… homo?

On an aside, I’ve noticed the absence (thankfully!) of folks that sing or rap along to whatever they’re listening to. That shit drives me crazy since 9/10 people have no flow and are totally tone-deaf. Way to make my ears bleed.

So yeah – I’ve noticed that NO ONE IN TOKYO HUMS. It’s bizarre. They’re all so… quiet? Is humming considered culturally rude? According to this, humming is a rude habit – equal to drumming your fingers on the table: http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=76882.65;wap2

Do you hum when you go about your day? If so, why? If not, why?

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2010 in Music

 

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The Sumo Playing Folky

Last Thursday was a Japanese national holiday whose name and purpose escapes me. But I took advantage of the day off to catch my first sumo tournament. Over five hours of lumbering giant sumo swagger. Highly recommended. Especially when drunk. And the fans are f*cking insane.

During the matches I couldn’t help but think about how different the life of your average professional sumo player (or most likely the life of any professional athlete) must be from the rest of us. For one thing, once you decide to pursue sumo, there’s no turning back – as I understand it, you join your sumo stable (team/family) at around age 16-17 and then your entire life until retirement is about eating, breathing and sleeping sumo.

So what exactly does sumo have to do with the ramblings of a scatterbrained singer/songwriter?

At the risk of making some rather sweeping cultural generalizations, sumo reinforces my view of Japanese culture’s emphasis on repetition, perfection, linear thinking and upholding of rules and tradition. And while I was technically raised in a Japanese/Jewish household, as someone who can barely stick with a task for 10 minutes, I wonder if I’m a perverse representation of stereotypical American culture – bucking authority and rules, thinking non-linearly, being creative and intense but sometimes sloppy in execution.

I can’t even begin to fathom the mindset required to dedicate 1000% of my life to something. Sure, I’ve been doing music in one capacity or another for almost 30 years, but my goals and practices have deviated wildly from year to year. I honestly feel that the only thing that has stayed consistent is my desire to write and perform songs.

As someone with diagnosed a.d.d., I can’t help but wonder how much of my way of doing things is because I was raised in the U.S. What if I was raised in Japan instead. Would I be a more linear, methodical and even-tempered person? Would I have set my sights on trying to be a professional pop-rock star from the get-go without my deviations to angry folk rock and 80s covers? Or might I be stuck in an office job with a wife and kids – and if that was the case, would I even mind it that much?

Nature vs. nurture when it comes to how you approach your creativity and your career.

Given your current career and/or what you see as your life-path, how has the culture/country in which you were raised shaped it? Do you think you’d be that different if you were born and raised somewhere else?

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2010 in Music

 

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Bikini clad folksy Google docs?

Admittedly the life of a folk-pop singer/songwriter is filled with plenty of Cristal and bikini clad chicks… right. Can you seriously imagine me in that kind of situation? Chances are I’d be in the corner sucking my thumb and crying into my blanket…

It’s more like at least 75% of my music business life is spent as “crouching sciatica hidden carpal tunnel syndrome” perched fighting stance with caffeine IV-drip in an uncomfortable office chair firing off emails and crunching numbers in Excel. Glam, I know. Bitches best recognize. Clerical assistant extraordinaire hooooooooo.

Bearing in mind I have the memory of a flea and the attention span of a gerbil on meth, handling the not-so-exciting business aspects can be quite the challenge. I mean – I can have an extremely productive Tuesday and then come Thursday I’m insanely depressed, feeling like an a.d.d. failure because I will have no recollection what I got accomplished on Tuesday.

Yes, my memory is THAT bad. (The only reason I ever get anything accomplished is that if 10 years of paralegaling taught me anything, it’s learn to fake whatever organizational skills you lack…)

A few posts back I asked how you organize your creativity (and – in some cases – your businesses as well). I got plenty of great replies and having sampled a few of them, wanted to share the ones that appear to be working great for me now. Of course, with my attention span I might forget I wrote this post in 5 minutes but be nice…

The basic survival tools:
1. Google Calendar with added task list feature for keeping track of pretty much anything that’s deadline specific – I cue reminders to be sent to my email and phone as well so there’s far less chance I’ll forget to do something. That is, if I remember to put it in the calendar in the first place…
2. Google docs – for budgeting I use the Spreadsheet feature and for blog drafts, brainstorms, lyrics, etc. I use the Document feature. All fine and dandy until the Cloud explodes (i.e. Google is cranky and doesn’t want to work)

Additional tools:
1. Etacts.com – like having a personal assistant reminding you to email folks. I love it.
2. Toggl.com – set up like a standard billing system, it’s an easy way to keep track of whatever you’re working on, and since I’m a sucker for analytics, I can see what percent of my day is being devoted to what tasks (e.g. songwriting vs. pr vs. administrative stuff, etc.) Definitely helpful when I want to determine what projects are worth outsourcing.

Do any of you use the above programs too? Are you happy with them? More importantly perhaps – do you think it’s the program or the user/uses that determine its effectiveness? (Musicians I’m definitely directing these questions to you, but everyone chime in!)

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2010 in Music Business, New media

 

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What makes for a good cover version of someone else’s song?

If you’ve caught my live shows you know I enjoy mixing in 80s songs with my originals. It puts the audience at ease by offering something familiar and nostalgic before I hit ‘em over the head with new Danny Katzisms. And since I’m taking a break from touring, I figured I could use my down time to upload some 80s covers to YouTube.

I was practicing Erasure’s “Chains of Love” last night (favorite group evahhh – you have not lived until you’ve been subjected to Andy Bell in red sequined speedos, body glitter and angel wings) and was trying to find a way to make my interpretation unique and worthy of a YouTube upload.

If you surf YouTube for a bit you get the impression that anyone and their mother can record a fairly decent cover version of a song – most pop songs are straightforward and if you can bang out 4 chords on a guitar you stand a chance of doing the song at least some justice. But it seems like the cover versions that truly captivate are by musicians who are extreme virtuosos and/or are extremely tech savy.

I posted to Facebook regarding what songs you would like me to do Danny Katz folk-pop style and got quite a nice range of responses – everything from Depeche Mode to NKOTB.

But given that I can’t even figure out how to turn on an iPod yet alone use one, what is a little simple folky like me to do – how can I make my cover versions remarkable? What makes for a good cover version of someone else’s song?

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2010 in 80s, Nostalgia