Saturday, April 21, 2012

Why so much devil, Trakan?

You may have noticed that the devil makes a few appearances in my songs and videos.  

For instance, you might remember the "Sean the Devil" character first showing up in my video for my song "Summer," from my first record a couple years back, Opening Soon Under New Management

So, after releasing the new video for "All I Need" last week, an observant fan pulled me aside and worried, "so I see Satan makes another appearance in your new video."  

No no no.  

This isn't that Christian character "Satan."  Notice "Sean the Devil" is not sporting horns or tail or pitchfork.  Instead, my devil is a metaphor.

Maybe you're confused.  You might be wondering...

"Your devil, Trakan? Explain."  

"Why the occasional references to demons on this new CD [in the back stories for songs like "All I Need"]?  

"On the new CD I bought from you, I see a song called 'Cab Six Six Six'?  Is there really such a devil cab?  Why are you riding in it, Trakan?"

"Who exactly is this 'Sean the Devil' character?  (And where did he get the badass leather jacket I see him wearing in the videos and occasionally on stage with you?)"

"Really...why so dark, Trakan?  I thought you were a nice guy."

Whoa ok ok ok.  One question at a time!

See, this is why I'm writing this blog today – to clarify the details on the devil, and to introduce you to the man behind that super-cool leather jacket (By the way, I don't know where he got that jacket, but I do agree it's super-cool and I too am envious.)

And I can't say too much right now about "Cab Six Six Six" yet.  (If you bought the CD already - thank you!  Please do go get it and put track 6 on while you read the rest of this blog!)  

I can say this:  I'm releasing "Cab Six Six Six" for free download in July when it's hot as hell outside.  You will be able to download it for free at that point via the website - just like you can STILL download "Valarie" for FREE the last ten days this month!!

(Oh and it is definitely a real cab that patrols the north side of Chicago.  I've never ridden inside.  Caroline Horist took the picture you see in the CD's liner art, from the cab's back seat.  Again, I'll give you all the details here on the blog in July.  Check back in this summer!)

Any rate, "All I Need" and "Cab Six Six Six" off the new CD are songs built on metaphors about defeating self-doubt, fear and temptation. 

My devil, the devil who appears in my project represents mischief, temptation, personal demons, and an occasional "damn I had too much fun last night and now I'm in hell this morning" experience (which actually does happen every time I run into Sean the Devil, by the way!)

My poetic, metaphoric devil represents envy and jealousy, and making decisions that leave other choices you could have made on the table - with the very human problem of "never knowing what could have been."  Cuz, sometimes I feel "cursed" pursuing this music thing.  

I mean I can't stop writing songs.  I'm a song-writer.  I love writing songs.  My hell instead comes from deciding whether I record or perform the songs I write.  Whether I should kill my bank account hiring PR people and wrapping the CD in plastic packaging. Whether I should write this blog instead of taking a nap.  Whether the sacrifices I am making will lead to regret.

It's lonely and expensive sometimes. And other times, it's full of ego and temptation.  And it's all a mirage and sometimes it's feels like it's "cursed," "damned"... what have you, my devil is about my very human experience... this "hell on earth" personal battle wiggles its way into my conscience a lot when I'm writing.

So again, my devil is metaphoric, not literal.  There ya go. 

Now who's this cool cat Sean the Devil who keeps showing up in the videos and occasionally on stage?

Let me introduce Mr. Sean Shadrach  (aka Sean the Devil or Old Man Sean).    

Appropriately I met Sean at one of my local watering holes. I used to stop by this bar on the north side called "The Daily" in the Lincoln Square neighborhood.  Neither one of us hang out there too often anymore.  The whole neighborhood has changed a lot since then. It's all baby stroller-y and packed with Michigan refugees now.  And the staff has changed a lot.  For me, I used to swing by to have a beer with a familiar staff of friends, and the cool regulars.  

There was a contingency of dudes who are a bit older than me - you know, guys "from the neighborhood" - a throwback to the tavern scene that my old man says existed in Chicago before my era when Mayor Daley messed everything up.

One of these bar-flies was Sean. 

We actually first broke the ice over the subject of carpentry one afternoon.  Me? I used to spin wing-nuts in college during the summer, building trade-show displays at McCormick Place. So I'm a part-time "used to be in a carpenter's union" guy with a genuine interest in the craft. But Sean is the real deal - a cabinet maker and finishing carpenter, it turns out he discovered that bar while installing its booths, and he just kept coming back to hang with the same cool staff. 

This "carpentry" conversation happened just as I was about to release my first CD, Opening Soon Under New Management, which opened with that song called "Summer." (Maybe you bought a copy? Thank you for supporting indie music! This is the point where you should go into the other room, find the CD, and cue up the first track "Summer," to listen along while finishing this blog.)

So you know the lyric, "the devil raises a glass and makes a toast to the summer," right? I felt I needed a scene with the devil in the video.  So I looked to my left at the bar stool next to me and there was Sean.

I mean look at the guy - tell me he shouldn't be cast as "the devil."  Beside, he really does have this devilish knack for showing up just when I need to go home, and twisting my arm into more beers and shots.  This was a no-brainer.

And Sean was into it.  Steals the show in the "Summer" video

He got into it so much and did such a great job, a "fan" started a myspace page for him and he got cast in another band's video as well!  We're making stars here! :)

But here's the really cool thing.  During the course of this project, no one has been more supportive of my music, more respectful to me and Veek, and more eager in promoting my songs than Sean. He's turned into a great friend, and probably my most supportive "fan."

And what devil wouldn't continuously feed your ego and tell you to keep a walking a path of the damned when you're about to give up?!  He's always there telling me "you're my favorite band," or "if this was the 70s, you'd be a star.  What is it with these people these days?" whenever I find myself playing to a small crowd.  

He even actively tells other people about my project - which is a borderline miracle in the white noise of this social media era (If only he was a writer for the Tribune or a PR mogul!! ) 

What else can I say about Sean in this bio here?  Genuinely enjoys life.  No perceived drama.  Toasts the summer (a Leo of course).  Hell of a conversationalist.  Great laugh you can count on.  Perfect Devil.  A true pal.  Thanks, Sean!

So if you see Sean at a show, give him a "hi," and encourage him to drink a little more at the bar so he gets the nerve to jump up and dance on stage during "Summer."   A karate student with excellent dance footwork, you will not be disappointed with his moves. And even a devil needs to be tempted and encouraged sometimes, so buy him a shot and get him on stage.

And or course, if you haven't yet, be sure to look for him in the corner of the room in the new video for All I Need!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Official Record Release Party - Set One (part b)

Here are some more photos taken at the CD release show on February 22, taken this time by Mr. Kennedy Shenberg of Chicago's Coldforge Studios. Hot off the DVD-R he handed to me just the other day! Thanks Kennedy!

No idea what Chris has stuffed behind the kick cover up there. I prefer that it remains a mystery. Let's get started...

A nice shot from the second row (above). What a great crowd!

.... and another from the front row (below).

(I'm not invisible in reality. That's motion, y'all! Captured by the magic of photography!) Ms. Roxy Swain on bass and Mr. Matt Walters on guitar. We were cramped... I only bumped into Matt a couple times throughout the night somehow.

These are out of sequence, I just realized. My fault. Below, this is us just prior to the first song of the set, "We'll Be Strangers." Don't ask me how I know. I just do... Ms. Claire Halpin on fiddle back there, and working double-time carding Chicago's youth as they come through the door. No no no. Just fiddle. No minors were in attendance.

This photo below is a little later in the first set... maybe we're back in sequence, now? Lovely Roxy harmonies!

Nope. Still totally out of sequence. This photo below is "Long Way From Home," which we played second (and will be available for free download in May!! This month's free download will be available on the "Listen" page on April 17, for those keeping up with my free stuff on the website.)

People keep asking me if that's Jesus on the guitar strap above. As you know by now, we swap instruments a lot on stage. In this photo above, Freddy is playing my acoustic, and I'm wearing Freddy's strap. That's not Jesus on Freddy's strap. Although he might disagree.

Matt acting invisible now, below...

Matt also sporting the "Wino" shirt below, the second in my growing collection of Trakan-brand hand-made t-shirts.

(Thanks again to Webster Wine Bar for all your support - for letting us release the record with you, and of course for letting us film the video for All I Need upstairs! We're forever honorary Winos!!)

Damn. Here's another photo (below, and out of sequence) from the very first song...

But I wanted to showcase it last, cuz it's just about the closest a photographer has gotten to date, of capturing all six of us in action on stage at the same time!! Turn your head right a tad, Chris!! Almost :)

I'll leave you with that for now. Awesome photos, Kennedy! Thanks my man!!!! And thanks to everyone who came and filled the wine bar to capacity on that super-fun Monday in late February!!