Friday, June 17, 2016
Saturday, June 11, 2016
Saturday, April 16, 2016
Hi folks, I know it's been a long time. No Kickstarter, no finished album from the Stone House Project. Truth is, I really felt it was nothing more than begging to ask you all to chip in and help get this project released. It now looks like I will be able to swing it myself, and quite frankly, the music still sounds incredibly fresh and timely. I had a blast making the videos for this and they are still very relevant. John sounds as if he is still with us on his very moving "Beautiful Illusions" and "Canal Street" especially. Again, I want to thank Bernie Moss, Mark Huntley, Rick Davis, John's family, especially Joanne Lynch, Julie Last, and every one else who helped to make this a timeless recording.
The released album will be virtually the final mix John and I both heard before his passing. We had a few plans to make some additions etc. but I have left it exactly as it was all those years ago. Coming soon!
The released album will be virtually the final mix John and I both heard before his passing. We had a few plans to make some additions etc. but I have left it exactly as it was all those years ago. Coming soon!
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Many years ago, too long now it seems, running through the streets of a small dying industrial town in southern Vermont. Hauling heavy, now vintage, guitars and buzzing Fender amps. Smoking Camel non filters (humps) and other home rolled varieties. It was both a magical time and an anxious time. The Beatles had broke up.Elvis had not yet died on his Graceland toilet. The Vietnam draft was hovering over everyone. The town had just opened a new High School and it had an experimental "open concept" we, as new students, of course took full advantage of. My father had just died of a long bout with cancer and I had then been asked by my School Principal to leave school midway in my junior year or figure out a way to graduate early(which I did). I had long hair then, an earring, and ran the school newspaper which was leaning more towards poetry at that point. I was also considering a run for class president in my upcoming senior year and I still think I would probably have won which probably had the Administration nervous. ( Yes, even then I had politics in my blood.)
The school had given John Lynch, Glenn Gibson and myself access to new video cameras and we had made a film that I hope still exists somewhere of our new school run as a concentration camp with executions, teachers as guards and a rock and roll soundtrack which I think we composed. We had all been playing in various bands for a while but this was, I think, the very first and maybe last time we all three teamed up on a project. It was the start of a long relationship with both Glenn and John and I that culminated with "The Stone House Project."
Tink Lewis's Grandfather, Charlie Stebbins, Kim Fennoff,
John Lynch and Peter Veitch. Taken outside the New HighSchool
before a gig-the gear was hauled in the back of that truck!
It was a universal love of Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Beach Boys,and in John's case the Grass Roots(!) that pulled us all together. Glenn was living with a much older and very attractive woman which I think really impressed us. He and John were "River Rats" from Saxton's River while I was living in "Fellows Balls." We would hang out in various barns and old, out in the country, houses and "jam" for hours and hours, drinking beer, smoking lots of cigarettes and flirting with the young girls who were always hanging out. I guess if we had known jamming would be so big (as in Phish,) we would have kept right on going but none of us saw it coming at that point. We were always trying to get the songs under three minutes in the proper 1950's tradition.
When Vermont winters came and all the practice spaces in the barns turned frigid, rehearsals would be very limited. At one point, we had access to the music rooms at the Old High School thanks to being janitors and all having keys to the place. Of course, still drinking beer and smoking tons of cigarettes with the occasional home rolled variety. Bernie Moss had his family's VW bus that was perfect for hauling us and our guitars around and going to see bands like the Allman Brothers, J.Geils, Yes and even Frank Zappa and the Mothers when they came through the area. Windham College had a big field house that hosted a who's who of early seventies rock and roll heroes. We also traveled to Franklin Pierce and UVM, maybe Castelton. Jefferson Airplane, NRBQ, Mahavishnu Orchestra, I'm sure there were more. One of our very favorite bands was a local act from Worchester Mass. called "The Joneses" that reminded us all of the MC5 who we idolized (until they went commercial I guess.)
Both John and Glenn were bass players in the various groups we had so we never really all played together on the same gigs. The group boiled down to mostly Bernie and John, myself and a revolving cast of drummers Charlie Stebbins, Rick Blazdel, Mike Joy- an early Spinal Tap moment. We played various school functions and one very memorable gig at the CC camp in Grafton while we were known as "Holy Ghost." The local nightclub was called "Meatland" because it had once been a butcher shop and grocery and was on the "circuit" with many regional bands coming through. They were mostly 3 night stands and there were very creepy rooms above the club where they all stayed. Somehow along the line, we were booked to play every weekend for a whole summer there. It was a great time to hone our chops and we even wrote a few songs together. One was called "These Long Years" and I actually have a copy and will attempt to post it to this blog. My brother Peter ran sound, a home made affair that probably didn't sound too good. Or maybe by then we had the Fender column speakers that would make any surf band proud. That summer long gig came to an abrupt end with a large street brawl as the club emptied out one night in late August, someone started something, and next we knew the police were there, throwing people into squad cars while we snuck up the other side and let them out. It was a real rock and roll moment. Like maybe what the Who was inspiring in Brighton or something. They hadn't invented pepper spray by then which was I think a good thing. I took it as a badge of rock and roll honor.
Not too long after, Bernie, John and I went our separate musical ways, I traveled to NYC with a 9 piece horn band for a while and worked the Catskill ski circuit, joined another large all black (except for me)soul band from Middletown CT. that took me into the heart of Roxbury Mass and a Black urban underground very few white people ever got to see. We performed at the maximum security prison in Windsor and much to my surprise, our female backup singers were actually strippers who had their clothes off before we finished our first song for the inmates, some of whom were related to members of the band. My last gig with the band included a gun and knife fight that broke out between the band and members of the audience-in mid song. They hadn't invented Kevlar yet either.
I jumped around quite a bit musically- worked with a small combo in NYC called "Marbles" that didn't really want to travel outside the city and went on to make a name in the CBGB/ Max's Kansas City Downtown scene after I left. I entered then what was to be my "jazz" period where I played a Gibson 175 and teamed up with Glenn on bass and did a number of apre ski gigs around Vermont in 4/5 and 5/7 time. There may have been a few gigs here and there with Bernie and John during this time but I don't remember them.
|From one of the early Putney recording sessions|
It wasn't until I started writing my own songs and thinking about recording them that we started to drift back into each others spheres. We rehearsed at a big house I rented in Grafton and recorded several sessions at what became "Soundesign" in Brattleboro. Then it was in a large barn in Putney and unfortunately, the masters from these sessions are apparently lost or hopefully just missing. They weren't all that great but from a historical perspective it was some of my very earliest songwriting and some of our first work on original material . I'm sure I can find some of it on old cassettes but as I said, they were rough.
|"The Secrets" John Lynch, Michael Veitch, Gary Spaulding and Bernie Moss|
This was the pre curser to what became "Big Deal" and ultimately "The Secrets." Bernie and John, myself and Gary Spaulding. Gary had some gigs that paid, one was the Owls Club, a country and western rod and gun club in Ludlow that gave us a chance to get into some rockabilly and blues. They loved the 50's rock and roll which was clearly getting outdated by then but we were still really into it and many people always danced which was great. Blue Suede Shoes, Rip It Up, Route 66, I think I was still playing a Gibson Firebird I bought from Bernie for $75 in those days or maybe a Gibson 335. I think I used a black faced Fender Bassman with a two twelve cabinet. Maybe a Marshall 50 watt by then. It's all a blur.
One summer, not sure where it fits into this timeline, we were given free rehearsal space in down town Bellows Falls overlooking the Canal in what was the old newspaper printing offices of the Bellows Falls Times. It was a magical time. Big room, lots of jamming. Open doors, lots of locals drifting through. You could still smell ink in there. One day, a guy showed up with a very valuable and very old Gibson Les Paul Junior and asked if we would take care of it for a while. I agreed and played it all that summer before he returned to pick it up. I didn't ask any questions but have always wondered what that was about. Probably worth 10's of thousands if it still exists.
Our rehearsals there were open and many nights would find a younger than us Chris Whitley, who was a very close friend of John's, (I was close with his mother, who was a bronze sculptor) )sitting in the back watching us. In later years he told me I was the first person he had ever seen play a Les Paul, probably that one previously mentioned. A continuation of the learning through watching and listening that we all did as hungry young musicians-there was a lot of live music around-they would let you sit in the back of Meatland or the little club/bar under the Hotel Windham called the "Barn," being underage, and watching very young versions of the bands "Better Days" or "Fidgity Feet." It was a really wonderful time in a small town-home to 14 bars by the way. I think we also made a bit of a stir when we decided one day to run all our equipment up on the roof of the Times Building and do our Beatles "Let It Be" thing. If nothing else, we had a lot of fun with it.
The Secrets came into being during the New Wave era. The Clash and the next Elvis, Costello, had turned everything on it's head and it felt like time to make our move. John had been hanging out in Boston which I'm sure we thought to be very exotic, and agreed to come back to Vermont to help launch our attempt to get signed or at least make some kind of splash. I think at that point, John had actually met Elvis Costello at the Rat in Cambridge. I had just left one of the big Top 40 regional bands, Teaser, and it all became one of those seminal moments, a reliving the past and jumping into the future, all at the same time.
We worked as a four piece playing the small clubs, somehow staying pretty busy. There was still a vibrant live scene in the clubs then and we were tolerated by a small circuit with the occasional high school gig. Gary's father had a large panel truck that burned diesel and looked pretty hard to keep on the road. I don't think it had any heat which made the winter gigs challenging. We added Charlie Hawthorne who had played on those Grafton/Putney sessions and things really started to take off, working the Ed Malhoit circuit consistently and making, I guess for then, what was decent money. I was playing a 1968 Gibson Les Paul Black Beauty that I had somehow bought from John, and a Rickenbacker 12 string electric I had bought new. We recorded a 45 rpm single called "Take Me Tonight" and released it ourselves. It got tons of airplay on the local radio station in Claremont thanks to a DJ named Bob Rivers who went on to his own fame and fortune and which may have sold 10 copies. We also made a trip to Cape Cod to audition for a producer who had worked with one of our heroes, Joe Jackson. It all felt like it was starting to happen as we had projected it. Alas, while we all had the youthful energy, looks and exuberance, the songs simply weren't there. And cover bands don't get signed to record deals. Again, all of those masters are lost in the ether.
I eventually split with the band and went into hibernation while they continued on briefly with Bob Leitgeb in my place as The Secrets. I decided it was a good time to hunker down and maybe start to finally learn or teach myself how to write good songs. It took me years, including a stint with "Andrew Harrington and the N" who did write good songs and who I learned much from-(still watching and listening I guess). John was moving on at that point , starting many of his own bands including "Sly Dog" and " The Johnny Lynch Incident." Gary was joining Charlie to form 8084-named after Ed Malhoit's phone number. Bernie joined a band called Vehicle. It was just more rock and roll and it was great that everyone kept playing out. I had a long solo stand at a steak house in Chester VT called the "HindQuarter." It was that kind of world.
I pulled out the 1978 Guild D50 I had stashed under my bed for nearly 15 years and had bought new from Don Whitcomb's Music in Claremont NH. for the grand sum of $600. Lo and behold, it sounded great finally and I was keeping ears open: The first Elvis Costello record had a big impact-Peter Case was releasing great music. Steve Forbert, James Taylor, Suzanne Vega and Shawn Colvin. Traveling Wilbury's I think were happening at that point. Bruce Springsteen released the Ghost of Tom Joad. Richard Thompson put out some great stuff during his" Capital years." Good songwriting was in the air and it finally started to jell with me. I had all the Chuck Berry chops and Keith Richards chops and even Jeff Beck chops but it seemed like the acoustic guitar was the vehicle for new found lyrics. I also had a fairly complex basement studio at the time and Andrew Harrington had gotten me access to one of the early digital synths-the Synclavier. Mono but it sounded great. Needless to say, it took over a hundred tries to finally pull a decent song from within my heart and soul. I think it was " Last Farmer in Vermont." It poured out fairly quickly. Fortunately it wouldn't be the last.
|Michael Veitch performing at Newport Folk Festival 2001|
Fast forward through a solo acoustic career that saw many many coffeehouse dates and festival gigs, a notable gig at the Newport Folk Festival, a tour with Shawn Colvin, two CD's released on the Silverwolf label, three CD's self released, a visit to the White House with Shawn, Simon Tassano and Leo Kottke, hours and hours spent at the Jack Hardy Songwriter's "Monday Evenings Exchange" learning the craft (more watching and listening) and a move to Woodstock NY.
Fast forward: Bellows Falls calls and is trying to raise money for some new seats in the Opera house. I get the great idea that maybe I should try and reunite the Secrets for the gig. Bernie and John are in, Gary has a conflict. Charlie is no longer with us having crashed the van on Interstate 91 late one night.. Doug Hook fills in on drums in our continuous Spinal Tap moment and it goes really well. I admit to being a little nervous getting together after all these years("Those Long Years") but I think it rocked out as I had hoped. From there, I started talking with John again for the first time in many years and it felt like maybe there was some songwriting together in our future.
|Coldbrook Studio, Bearsville, Woodstock (original oil painting, Michael Veitch)|
The Stone House Project started with John and I writing together a couple of songs about our good (and at that point dead) friend Glenn who had sadly committed suicide the previous year. It seemed fitting that we would try and see what we had to offer to the event, as I'm sure he would have wanted us to give it a go. My song was "Ocean In You" and John came up with "Beautiful Illusion." Both are pretty strong stuff(and may have channeled a little Glenn) and they give the Stone House Project what I think is it's real depth and meaning.Of course, we both really missed the guy. I wished he had given me a call when things were going south for him.
Many more songs followed. We met a few times for co-writing sessions that went amazingly well. We started looking around to record some of the stuff and Gary Spaulding was again unfortunately not available for the dates we could record. John knew Mark Huntley from Vermont who could play great drums, so, once again in the true Spinal Tap tradition, our little band took on yet another drummer.
We asked Rick Davis to help us record the rough and live rhythm tracks at his Majik Kabin Studio in Ascutney, VT .I thought it would only be fitting to work with someone who grew up in the same fishbowl as we did. John drove up from Boston and me from Woodstock NY. I think we had sent some demos to Mark but everything was done with a minimum of fuss and no more than three - four takes. Sessions went amazingly well and had a nice live feel which is not always easy to get in a studio. The drums, bass and acoustic guitar were all recorded simultaneously, along with a scratch vocal that in some cases I think we kept. After wonderful burgers provided by Marilyn, we headed off with our files to Julie Last and her Pro Tools setup at Coldbrook Studios in Bearsville/Woodstock, NY to help us with the rest of the recording process.
I had worked very well with Julie on my CD Painted Heart (www.michaelveitch.com) and she and John hit it off as well. In all, we had co-written 13 songs which comprise this project. The recording went great with Bernie Moss coming in for tracks, Chris Zaloom, Peter Biuttner, Bruce Milner all adding to our project. Joe Villette lent us a wonderful 12 string handmade Gryphon for the sessions. Off course, Julie was great with production ideas and getting great performances from the player as well as adding some super vocals.
We worked on it over about a year, 2008-early 2009?, off and on, at Julies' whenever John could make it over from Mass. As we neared the end we tried to figure out what to do with it and what made sense given our complicated lives. There was a lot of information we had created here.
It wasn't the old days, pre-computer, pre-email,-pre-ITunes etc. John was always great about answering emails quickly so when I didn't hear back from him after a few tries I started to get nervous. He had been going through some medical treatments that were causing him trouble and I was worried about him. It turns out he had gone to sleep one night and didn't wake up. Just like that, leaving behind a wonderful wife and family. Shock is not the right word for what I felt when I heard the news, more like an earthquake.
On one hand, I am honored to have been able to reconcile with John after some fairly bitter squabbles from our past and many years of total silence. It was also a gift to have been able to work with him as a co-writer in a very comfortable give and take situation that, as writers know, is so rare. It's not easy finding co-writers you can work with like that. I knew I had experienced something very special.
The Stone House Project sat for a bit but the dreaded moment came to finish up the mixes without John. He had always been present when we worked on the stuff so that all decisions were made together. Some of the last bits were vocals he had not finished because of his medical issues and we had to go looking for stuff that sounded good that could be flown into the tracks. His wife, JoAnn, graciously gave us access to his home computer which thankfully had some recent vocal tracks he had worked on. Rick Davis went to Boston and picked it up and Julie and I had the somewhat eery task of piecing it all together without him there. I prepared myself by watching the Beatles Anthology where they discuss doing "Free As A Bird" without Lennon. Ringo said "we just acted like he had gone out for tea." So, in the end, I just pretended he had gone into town or had to leave a little early and Julie and I got through it. It was a very moving experience for both of us and I know at times I felt him in the room.
It's been a couple years since then and I've been living in Germany doing a lot of writing and home recording ( as well as performing out.) I have checked in with The Stone House Project recordings occasionally and they still sound very fresh and have a great live feel. At one point I heard that John was speaking through a medium back in Vermont asking when the record was coming out. I wasn't surprised.
So I think I have come up with something he would like-a Kickstarter release of the record-
available for download and on CD through CDBaby and ITunes. I've taken steps to start the mastering process and develop some artwork for it. Proceeds from the Kickstarter and sales will be split with his family and to pay off some leftover debts from the project. The only way this will ever get off the ground is if everyone who hears it and really digs it, encourages their friends to also buy it and so on. If a song or two ends up in a movie somewhere, all the better. He and I agreed right from the start to split it all down the middle and we will. I will honor that going forward.
If it all works out, I will try and include a disc of the demos and roughs we did-it's really interesting to see the development of this from its inception. Not to mention the very old and decrepit "Those Long Years,"
It was a very interesting time that I won't exchange for anything-from the very first days of "Hardstuff" and the "Holy Ghost" through "Secrets"to the very last days of "The Stone House Project." Thanks, Johnny. And thanks to all who helped out greatly to make this happen.
|Standing in front of what's left of the Berlin Wall|