Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gregg Juke and the Mighty Web Site

It's got rhythm: Gregg Juke and the Mighty No-Stars. Start tapping your foot in a strong 4, and say those words. Bah Bop a da BoP ah BaDah. It's practically the whole song.

Last week on American Routes on public radio, Nick Spitzer did a long piece on the Meters, a funk band from New Orleans. One of the good stories was of their trip in their Mercury station wagon (just right, huh?) when the motor sucked two pistons but kept running and produced, for these four opportunistic, creative players, a beat that they converted to a song. My visual image is their lurching down the highway, a 2-laner, of course, smoke chuffing from the back of this faded yellow land barge, and hands on both sides out the window, thumping on the roof (Mercuries resonate particularly well in my imagination)in complex time.

Since then I've been sensitive to rhythmic opportunities, but in the end I come back to words.

Words like "full disclosure." Joel Thomas is a bass player who endorses the Barker Bass. He is the bassist in Gregg Juke and the Mighty No-Stars. And that's how I got to their newly-minted web site.

It's a dandy. In fact, as I was reading through it, I kept noting how well it was written. This was puzzling in its uniqueness, given what we often encounter in the way of words at band sites. The No-Stars paragraphs have panache. They fit the photos.

Though they don't put it up in a banner, I think there's a mission statement in the text, thoughtfully woven. Again I am wondering about the quality of the writing when I come across the part about Gregg Juke being a published writer. And we know he likes to read, and it's not just comic books, though he has the platinum self esteem to include them in his list.

And back to the photos. Ok, I give them a 7 for the ultra quaintness of the brick building with the creaky wooden staircase, but I'm up to a 10 for the messages on the faces. These are guys you'd invite to your table between their sets at your family reunion. (Provided Melvin wasn't there; he always tells the same trucker and accountant jokes. I get the feeling these guys have heard them all, too.)

There's something else on this site I have never seen before. They honor the subs. My observation is that most bands kinda mumble names when there's somebody new sitting in because Leon had the epizootic and couldn't get off the sofa. Not these guys. They put their pictures right up there, practically giving them equal billing, honoring them for what they are: heroes of the first water, willing to head to the front lines and see action when they're needed.

See what I mean? This is a site of sites.

Spend a little time.

Ponder that painting on the bricks. How'd they do that?

Now I think they owe me a T-shirt. Size L. I'll pay the postage. I didn't say all that much nice, and besides it's all true, nearly.

I'm headed back there to listen to some blooz:

A Mercury Station Wagon is about all they need. Faded yellow if you can.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What's At The Center Of Good?

"Passion," Cyndi said. I hadn't seen her for maybe months, and we go way back. I hadn't really asked a question directly. We just crossed trails in the produce section at the grocery store Saturday and so we stopped to chat. She was talking about managing her office and inspiring her staff, and she kept coming back to the word.

I wouldn't have thought of the word when I was looking about for a company to do the Barker Bass website, 5 or 6 years back. I just knew I wanted it to look good.

Just like every neighborhood seems to have a guy with a Sears tablesaw in the middle of his garage which he refers to as his "cabinet shop", so does every extended family have someone who "has done a whole lot of web sites and he/she could do yours, and fast too!" Right. And they do it in their spare time, no doubt. If you pursue this line of thought, I'll guarantee you'll find a bunch of not so good sites and many broken hearts before you're done looking.

If you have not been to the Barker site, you can get a flavor of it by looking at the header here. More?

Turn down your subwoofer, ignore the flash, and look around like you had just been ushered into a garden. It's beauty everywhere, at least that's how I see it. And I don't say that because it's mine, I say that because the man behind it, Ian Blackie, envisioned the colors first, passionately, and has done the work since. We talked about palette before we had prepared a word of text or talked about taglines or discussed what I wanted the site to do.

Ian comes from printing. Sounds odd, doesn't it. You'd think a good web designer would come from techie stuff, from flash and html and the eerie Land of Codes. If I had it to do again--not likely--I'd look for someone with an eye for color. It all seems to start from there, and if there's passion at the center of good, there can be only one outcome.

Even now, after years, if I am imagining an addition to a page, we'll talk about the colors and how we want it to tie together and where we want the first impressions to land.

That might seem odd for a site that's about an instrument that makes music, but it's not. Our concern is about first impressions.

I get a lot of compliments on the site. They're usually in the superlative, and have never been followed with a conditional or exception. I'm remiss in not passing these sweeping words of praise on to Ian, who is at

His passion shows in his work and we shouldn't let that slip by. We need passion at the center of good more than ever.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My Shadow is Bigger

"I see how your instruments sound so good--it's because of what you put into them, with your hands. Can a factory, where everything is controlled and precise, get the same quality, along with consistency?"

That's not the kind of question I can answer (though I stumbled at it, hands in front of face), nor is it the kind of question I expected from a high school kid who spent the afternoon with me in the shop and the office.

His name is Brandon, and boy howdy can he ask questions. Good ones.

It wasn't a random matchup. When he was asked by his job shadow advisor where he'd like to spend a few real-world hours, he said, in humor, "at a guitar maker's shop." He didn't know there was such a place, but the advisor did, and the connection was made. An afternoon seemed to me like an easy enough contribution. Meantime Brandon had prepared his resume (and, yes, there were jobs other than ones with the word "pizza" in them) and a portfolio of his interests and abilities.

He is a musician, and though it wasn't written there, I'll tell you he is gifted. He writes, he plays guitar, drums and bass, and he hears stuff. And, it seems, he hears it in layers he can unpack so others can recreate his ideas in ensemble.

It's clear that he loves music and instruments and all that surrounds that. He also likes innovation and problem-solving. We had lots to talk about. I had plenty of listening to do. I think my plateful of learning that day was bigger than his.

If we, at any age, think back to how we learned about the workplace, how we act in it, and how it eventually became demystified for us, we might even go out and look for opportunities like the one that stumbled through my phone--a chance to host a high school student for half a day and answer some questions and ask some, too. It's a very good thing to do.

You might be the one hitting the bouncing base hit that allows the 18 year old runner to advance to third, poised to score her or his first real job on an intentional career path.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Rolling From Interest to Passion

Cooper is 5 years old and lives next door to us. "Is that an easel?" he asked as I was unloading one of Linda's one day. "Yep," I responded, pausing to gauge his interest. It was there. "Artists use them to hold their work while they're painting or drawing," was my See Spot Run description.

He turned nonchalant, bouncing his basketball. "I have an easel too. I use it every day. I'm going to be a professional illustrator when I grow up." I realized I was the one who was about to get the learning.

Cooper has a passion. Early. But some of us start with interest which might not go anywhere.

That would be my case with astronomy. Interest. If I see an interesting volume at a used book sale, I might buy it, might not. Might read it, might not. But I would read it with interest.

Linda and I met Will Witt some years ago at a BassQuake in the Bay Area. He was with his cousin, who is a demonstrative, enthusiastic musician who took to the Barker Bass right away. He ooohed and aaaahd and played it and backed away from it to view it from all angles. Will hung back.

As I write this today Will leaves California, with his Barker Bass, to play in Papua, New Guinea and eventually to Singapore. And doubtless some other places. The band is called Kokua, which means "to help or assist" in Hawaiian.

Will's interest in the Barker Bass, seemingly slow blooming at first, has turned to a passion.

He took bass lessons from Doug Mancini, another Barker player, in Santa Cruz.

In recent years he has grabbed every opportunity to play all sorts of music with lots of different musicians at a wide variety of venues.

He has become an anchorman in our NAMM booth, ready with the invitation to play, helpful with the explanation of the notions behind the design of the bass, and eager to demonstrate how easy it is to play.

And he hands out postcards. One year, after Gene Simmons had stopped by the booth with his son and a film crew, we were all standing around stunned while Will trekked off down the aisle and handed some Barker postcards to Mr. Simmons. That's passion.

It was Will who took the time a year ago to drive to the Barker Headquarters in Central Oregon to help us conceive and, humbly, to star in, some YouTube videos. And it was all his original music.

This is the young man who was hanging back while his effusive cousin took the spotlight.

When you meet Will you get a sense that his passions are deep and that, in his life, they will lead his decisionmaking.

We are grateful that part of his passion is expressed through his playing a Barker.

It's likely that Cooper will indeed become an illustrator, and that he will be as good in his calling as Will is in his. It is a privilege to be present to watch them both.