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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Back From The Road

Well, hey there, everybody...

Roger Landes and I are back in Taos, New Mexico after 12 days on the road and it's pretty good to be home, I gotta tell ya. We had four fabulous gigs in Lincoln, Nebraska; Hastings, Nebraska; Kansas City, Missouri; and Hutchinson, Kansas; and we loved doin' 'em all. Great reception from everybody, lots of laughter and smiling faces out there, and "Janissary Stomp" CDs sold like hotcakes. Whatta way to make a (sort of) living! Check out Patsy Terrell's blog at her website for some (mostly) unbiased reporting on our gig in Hutchinson, as well as some nice photos of us that Patsy took. Thanks, friend!

Roger and I hit damn near every guitar shop between Taos and Kansas City and back and came home with a couple of nice (and thankfully cheap) finds... ate at Arthur Bryant's Barbeque (damn fine!) and enjoyed the hospitality of Roger's brother Jim and sister-in-law Sheila (who made us the best... no, read that again, I mean it!) BEST fried chicken that's ever been cooked up on planet earth, and apple pie to boot! Thanks so much to Jim and Sheila, and all of Roger's extended family that took such good care of us on the road.

One pretty interesting thing happened on the way home... Roger and I visited my friend David Kyea in Clayton, New Mexico. David and his wife Lani sold me my wonderful house in Taos. David is also a walking dictionary of New Mexico folklore, and he was asking about the word "Janissary." Well, it turns out that all of the elaborate constructs that Roger and I used to justify the title of our CD has yet another fact to back 'em up... Talpa, the neighborhood where my house is located and where Roger and I composed so much of the CD, was settled by half-breed Spanish and Indians in the eighteenth century. The half-breeds were considered lower-class citizens, and shunted to the mouth of the canyon the Comanches used as their conduit to attack Taos. Thus, the lower-class folk would inevitably absorb the first blast from the raiders, sparing the upper-class folks the brunt of the attack. Well, the New Mexican Spanish word for these people is Genizaro or Jenizaro, and guess wherefrom it derives!? The Turkish Yenicheri, meaning of course, Janissary! The people who settled my neighborhood were, in a sense, Janissaries! More will be posted about this on our website real soon! Holy Cow!

Well, I'm coming down from the high of the tour, it's a gray rainy day here in Taos, Neko Case is playing on my CD player, and I'm lamenting the apparent demise of my heretofore-faithful Subaru Outback station wagon that ferried Roger and me on our travels, but blew a head gasket or two on the way down from the mountain in the last 30 miles of our trip. Crap. There went that new Gretsch guitar I wanted. Not to mention setting back recording dates for my maybe-never-to-be-finished new CD, Tinfoil Wings. Double crap.

Oh well. Whatta ya gonna do? I'm a musician, not an investment banker or financial planner, and shit happens. That's the price I pay for getting to do what I do, I guess. Anybody out there want to give me a new car?

Still, I'm glad to be in a place I'm happy to call home... thanks, y'all...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

One Last Quick Note Before The Road...

Hey y'all... well, I usually use this blog space as a strictly music-business-oriented spot to post tour dates and info on my upcoming musical projects, but I'm working on my new CD which has a political bent to it, and so I couldn't resist this quick note:

Because I'm headed for the road first thing tomorrow morning, and I'll be gone on that day of black infamy, April 15 - TAX DAY! I filed my income tax return today. It's an event that never fails to depress me.

I'm an independent musician and writer, and almost by definition I barely scrape by when it comes to paying my bills, muchless living high on the hog. Don't get me wrong - I'm actually quite comfortable on a daily basis, due purely to decent luck in my past - certainly not because music is making (or has ever made) me any money. Nevertheless, I had to pay income tax despite my hilariously tiny income - because I'm penalized for being self-employed.

I could speculate on why this is - my best guess being that since I'm not directly under the thumb of a corporate employer, the government has to keep me in check one way or the other. But my real reason for bringing it up is this:

I almost don't mind paying my taxes. I drive on public roads, I hike on public lands, and I enjoy the ostensible protections and privileges of living as a citizen of the United States of America. But I do mind that our tax system is intrinsically unfair, and that the citizens of this country that most benefit from its freedoms and opportunities pay the proportionately least amount back to that country, and the poorest and least privileged citizens of the United States pay the proportionately greatest amount in taxes.

I don't have the exact figures to back up that claim, though I suspect with an hour or so on the net you could find 'em. I do know from today's personal experience that my tax bill was almost one-fourth - twenty-five percent! - of my tiny, low-four-figure income! That's insane!

This post is not a platform for discussing how our tax dollars could be better spent, though I could go on and on about that, too. I'm not even going to argue for a higher tax bill for rich people, though again, I could probably make a pretty good case for that. All I want is something fair. That's all, just fair.

Despite my relative poverty (again, I'll concede I'm pretty comfortable despite my low-dollar-amount income) I am a staunch advocate of a national sales tax. Most activists for the poor don't like the idea of a national sales tax, because they say the poor can't afford to pay tax on essentials like food and rent and medical care. I say that the poor don't buy third homes in the Hollywood hills, and put 2 BMW's and a Hummer in the garage and a sailboat at the dock. They don't wear furs and alligator shoes, and they don't have wine cellars.

If a national sales tax was enacted, and food and housing was exempted, so be it... but that would have to be fair, too. If you're gonna exempt that trailer-home payment and that delivered pizza, you gotta exempt the house in Aspen and the caviar, too.

I say don't exempt shit. Tax everything. I'll gladly pay tax on my guitars and my recording time and everything else I purchase, if I know J.R. Moneybags is paying on his luxuries, too. And if Billy-Bob Bubba has to pay tax on his six-pack and pickup truck, well, it might piss him off, but he'll know that every corporate head, and his own boss that he hates, can't escape the system either.

This would actually encourage people to make more money, openly and above-ground, since they wouldn't have to hide their income from the Feds because they can hardly afford to pay their taxes. Furthermore, it would encourage bartering and lower-level local economies. Granted, the government wouldn't like that, since the Feds will do anything to help their corporate cronies make more bucks, and they don't like stuff like farmers' markets and bartering and recycling... but who said this is for the government's benefit, anyway!? Thirdly, it would be much simpler and efficient than the current byzantine system. Collect the tax at the point-of-purchase, and away you go. That's all there is to it. (Not only did I have to pay an amazing percentage of my income as tax, I had to hire somebody else and pay them to do the paperwork for me 'cause it's so damn complicated... no telling what I would've had to pay if I did my own paperwork!) Fourthly, it would be fair. Poor people don't spend as much as rich people because they haven't got the money in the first place. And hey, if you're rich and don't want to pay taxes, don't spend the money. Easy as that. Fifthly, all foreign tourists would pay just like everybody else. Think of all the money that would generate for the Feds! They'd pee their pants with glee when the bucks rolled in!

I'm sorry. I could go on and on. And since I'm no economist, I'm sure I'm missing something here that would trip me up in serious debate. But I'm feelin' it today, and I'm damn tired of how unfair the current system is. Like I said before, I enjoy the benefits of living here, and I'm willing to bear my share of the burden. But I want the next guy to carry his fair load, too. Anybody out there agree?

Take care, and thanks for your patience, y'all. Now let's get to the music!


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