Blogga Blogga...

Welcome to Semyon's blog page, which has the best of his bloggage over the past couple of years.  Make sure to read about whatever is new and happening to Celloboy7 and the fan-favorite epic 12-part blog about the trip to Japan in May and June 2008.  Or if you are feeling really adventurous, you can scroll to the bottom of this page and read the blogs in chronological order.  There is quite a bit of rambling on this page, so don't forget to use the search function (control+F) to locate specific topics and dates you are looking for.  Enjoy!

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

American Classics Is Out Now! - 4/11/13

Blogga blogga.  I haven't done one of these in ages.  To be honest, I think my ability to blog has been cut short by life, which has a funny way of carrying you along without much time to stop and catch your breath. They never tell you as a kid that time speeds up as you get older, but I'll be damned if the days don't fly by now.

So I haven't blogged, the "Static Tour" project came to a grinding halt (mainly because I took a video of myself and realized that I am not meant for TV or video.  I'm a musician, not an actor), and it's been over a year since I played a solo show anywhere.  I have, however, been keeping myself quite busy playing music - it's just been more studio recording work than public performance.

The result of those labors, however, is an album that I'm very pleased with - "American Classics-Parlour Music Revisted" on LiSem Records.  That's something I whipped up with my old man, Daniel Kobialka, who plays violin on the album.  My dad approached me about recording an album together a couple years ago and after tossing around some ideas, we decided to try interpreting the amazing songs and melodies from the Civil War era some 150 years ago.  These are some magnificent pieces of music and some truly great melodies.  Oh Shenandoah, Black Is The Color, The Yellow Rose of Texas, Aura Lee, etc.  My personal favorite might be a toss up between Black Is The Color and The Minstrel Boy (I am the minstrel boy himself!!).

I'm really happy with the album and now I'm back to square one again, wondering what I'm going to do next.  I have some ideas, and if I plan things right for once, then hopefully I'll be adding more content to this website on a regular basis... just no videos.

But if you want to see a new video that I was involved in, my good friend Amyn Kaderali put together one for the American Classics album - www.youtube.com/watch or www.youtube.com/watch

For now, I bid you farewell, but not goodbye... I'm not done yet, so I'll be back with more soon.

New Year, New Direction - 1/3/12

Blogga blogga,

O.k., so it has been almost TWO YEARS since I have blogged.  Wow.  Not only that, I managed to completely avoid doing my proposed "Static Tour" during that time.  Talk about broken promises, but I have my reasons.  Oh yes, there are always reasons, right?  Otherwise known as "explanations", or "excuses".  Well, here they are...

To begin with, things changed!  Actually, several things changed, but the biggest one was the fact that I injured my hearing a bit during a live show and it's given me pause when it comes to setting up gigs.  In general, the ethic for a singer-songwriter dude like myself is that you take each and every gig opportunity offered to you.  It doesn't matter what it is - just take the gig and try to make something happen.  That's the ethic, and I usually follow it as much as possible.  However, one night almost 2 years ago, I agreed to sit in on a gig for a friend having a birthday show, and we rocked out in a small bar where I was situated next to the drums.  Small bars and loud drummers are nothing new to me, and I have special ear plugs that I use and everything... and yet, after this particular show, I found that my hearing had dropped a good bit.  The next day, my ears were still messed up, and they haven't recovered 100% since.  That was a new experience for me, and I guess the years of attending loud concerts and playing loud music myself have finally caught up to me.

It totally sucks because one of the joys of playing music is listening to it as it happens.  Now I find that my ears are really sensitive to loud sounds, even to the point where sometimes I wear ear plugs in the movies.  THE MOVIES!!  I'm someone who attended heavy metal concerts several times a week thoughout high school, and now my ears are sensitive to the volume level in movies.  Not cool, and it definitely makes it hard for me to envision booking shows in the usual small, loud LA bar on a regular basis.  If I want to retain my hearing, I need to pick and choose those opportunities more carefully so I avoid going deaf before I'm 40.  That would REALLY suck.

So that's one important change that derailed the Static Tour - it's hard to promote live shows when you are worrying about losing your hearing via playing live shows.  The other change is the economy, which has been derailed and made it difficult for me to hire the excellent musicians I have been working with.  Getting into my car and touring around is also an economic impossibility right now because my car is old and it will probably blow up if I try to take it on an extended road trip.

That's all bad stuff, but there has been a silver lining to these changes.  You see, in the absence of being able to play live, I'm experimenting more with recorded music and I've got a ProTools rig set up at home that I've been working with.  It's a very different discipline to work on recorded music, but it also opens up entirely new ways of writing and performing music.  Instead of writing songs that I can play live by myself, I can now layer cello tracks one on top of the other until I get massive orchestral arrangements.  Where I used to be one solitary cellist strumming away on the cello, I can now sound like a full symphony and be complex in the composition and arrangement in a way that wasn't possible outside of recording.  It's a brand new world, sort of like how the Beatles ditched playing concerts in the second half of their career and just recorded albums.... or at least that's how I'd like to think about what I'm doing now.  Yeah... just like the Beatles.  That's me!

Anyway, I've got two major recording projects that I'm working on, and I'm really excited about them.  The first project is an album of music from the Civil War era that I'm working on with my dad.  I've recorded a track or two of cello on a couple of his albums, but this is basically a violin/cello album going through some of the most famous songs from the Civil War.  Some of the melodies are fantastic, and I'm having a great time exploring the songs and trying to find a new way of interpreting them.  Hopefully that album will be done by the end of 2012 and it will be released on my Dad's label, LiSem Records.

The other project is Echo Lake Acoustics, aka "ELA", which is a collaboration with Brian Irwin (produced and engineered "The Miracle Mile") and Bernard Yin (guitarist for many bands, including The Astra Heights).  We're three veteran musicians who decided to pool our talents in order to create original music to be licensed for movies, t.v., commercials, whatever.  Basically we want to follow in Ennio Morricone's footsteps and make really good score music, and so far we're discovering that the three of us are pretty good at coming up with musical ideas and arranging them.  It's a lot of fun and you can hear the 15+ clips we've done so far on our website, which is www.echolakeacoustics.com.

Well, that's what happened.  Things change and life goes on, but the good news is that the changing and going on can lead to new and exciting possibilities.  So maybe the Static Tour was never meant to be, but so be it.  I'm not that great on camera anyway, and the new music is some of the best stuff I've come up with so far.  Can't keep looking at the past when the future is calling to you, right?

So here's to 2012 and may you find new and exciting things in your future as well!  Happy New Year!

I'm Late To My Own Party - 2/22/10

Blogga blogga -

O.k., I'll admit it - I'm about 2 weeks behind on the whole Static Tour project. I said I'd have a brand new video posted on my fancy new website before Valentines Day and I still haven't posted a new video yet. I know, I know. Very tardy. What a typical musician, blowing off a deadline like a slacker, right? All those rumors about musicians being flakey are being proven true because I can't even live up to a random deadline I imposed upon myself. Shame on me! You can refer to me as "Celloboy6" until my punctuality improves a bit.

But I have a lot of excuses! Hooray for excuses! Excuses can be fun, especially when they attempt to explain something that probably could be summed up by saying "my bad" or "sorry". And I think issuing a simple "I'm sorry, I screwed up" would be the most boring way of explaining/apologizing/excusing my inability to post a video on time, so I'm going to give you the best kind of excuse - some wonderful half-truths which are partially true and partially hyperbolic b.s. constructed to save one's ass. You may have encountered this technique when listening to politicians and athletes hold press conferences in order to "come clean" on their latest scandal(s). So some of what I'm about to say is 100% true and the rest of it is done in the style of James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces" (you know, the book that pissed off Oprah because a lot of the autobiographical parts are made up). You can decide what's real and what's told with a forked tongue. Either way, it doesn't change the fact that I'm behind schedule. Here's what I'm testifying slowed down the Static Tour project -

First off, I've been constructing a new website from scratch and trying to make it as interesting as possible. I dumped as much content as I could onto the site and it just takes a lot of time. A lot of time, like almost 30 hours so far and counting. I even included all of my blog entries from Myspace in the site and amazingly enough, I have about 200 pages worth of bloggage that's piled up over the past 2+ years. That's no exaggeration - I cut and pasted everything into MS Word and I ended up with over 200 pages of single spaced typing. That's a lot of gabbing for someone who has held the nickname "the quiet cello boy" since high school.

Anyway, as I was slowly re-posting all 200+ pages of bloggage into the new website, one blog at a time, my computer was apparently hacked by Chinese Intelligence operatives working out of an island in the Black Sea. I kid you not. I realized this when my iTunes program on my Mac at home started streaming some of the communications between the Chinese hackers and someone addressed as "The Yangtzee Tiger" in Beijing. I was just sitting there, working on the new website when suddenly I heard someone speaking Cantonese in the background behind the music I was playing on iTunes (curiously enough, I was listening to Yo Yo Ma and I thought maybe he decided to recite Chinese poetry during his performance of the Dvorak Concerto - Yo Yo stretches the limits of what a classical musician does these days, so why not?). My Cantonese isn't as good as my Mandarin so I whipped out the Cantonese-English dictionary I always carry with me and started flipping through it to catch as much of the conversation as possible. I wasn't fast enough to translate everything but I did come up with this:

"... reporting to Yangtzee Tiger. What's up? Current surveillance ... [unable to translate] ... positive confirmation of extreme danger from agent code-named 'cello-boy-7'... [unable to translate] ... ties to Japanese and Tibetan government not obvious but believe that coded messages are transmitted through audio files masquerading as music... [inaudible] ... cannot be serious music as it features a cello instead of guitar... [unable to translate] ... will wipe out rice crops... [garbled] ... shrink Yao Ming to eliminate Chinese threat to American/European basketball dominance and... [unable to translate] ... flood of McDonalds restaurants... [inaudible]... send Jackie Chan immediately."

Jackie and I go way back and I know he doesn't want another beat down at my hands, so I wasn't too worried about that. I was more curious how the Chinese government managed to hack into my iTunes account to use it as a two-way radio. But that was something I'd have to investigate another day because I HAD TO MEET MY DEADLINE TO POST A NEW VIDEO FOR THE STATIC TOUR. I would not be deterred... but I wanted a snack first and I hopped into my car to go to the grocery store.

As I was leaving the store armed with snack foods, I witnessed a woman get hit by a car zipping out of the parking lot and I ran over to help her. Little did I know that the woman was pregnant and the shock of the accident had induced early labor - in addition to the imminent arrival of her baby, the woman had also broken both legs and I could not move her in time to get her to a hospital where she could deliver her baby. I had to act and I began creating make-shift splints for her legs to immobilize them as I directed traffic around the delivery scene with one hand. Pretty soon the woman's contractions began and I had to apply everything I learned from watching ER in order to save her baby. ER is a pretty good show, and before I knew it, the baby was out and the baby was delivered just in time for the paramedics to arrive and whisk away the woman. She cried out "thank you, nameless hero!!" as she was being taken away and her baby began to cry and reach out for me.

I went home, washed off the placenta and dove right back into working on my website. I had a deadline to keep! That's when my lost twin brother showed up and tried to kill me so he could assume my life. So annoying. I pointed out that the website was still incomplete and he decided that my life really wasn't worth stealing anyway. As he was leaving my place, he was attacked by Jackie Chan and that was the last I saw of him. But that's probably for the best anyway because it's freaky to look at someone who looks exactly like you.

I kept on plugging away at the website, waiting patiently as pictures were slowly uploaded one by one, ocassionally fighting the ninja assassins who have hunted me since the summer of 98' (a long story for another day) and fielding calls from President Obama as he asked for my advice on how to give the Democrats in Congress a backbone. In the end, the many distractions slowed me down to the point where I only finished with the new website last night. I did save the world several times over like Jack Bauer on steriods, so I guess the distractions weren't a complete waste of time... but I really wanted to stick to my schedule. Finish the website... save the world... finish the website... save the world. Tough choice indeed.

And so I hope you'll accept my apology for not completing the website on time and getting the Static Tour project off the ground. A thousand pardons. I swear I'll have a new video recorded soon, hopefully in a day or two,

The Static Tour Mission Statement - 2/4/10

Blogga blogga -

Hey, all you lovely people. I've been away from the blog for a while - what can I say, life has been strange recently and I've been preoccupied. But I'm ready to jump right back into the thick of the music thing and I think I've even got a master plan that should keep things interesting. THE STATIC TOUR! Here's the idea:

I love live music. I love the challenge of doing something in one take with no chance of a do-over. A musical performance with no editing, no studio magic to tidy up loose ends. I love the spontaneity of it and the way a live performance pushes the musician to do something spectacular and interesting in the moment because the moment is all you've got. At its best, a good live show will rivet you, make you afraid to turn away because you may miss something that will never happen again. It's one of the best challenges a musician can find, and the immediacy of the moment distinguishes it from the kinds of polished, highly edited recordings people are putting out in this era of ProTools and digital editing. I mean, people think Brittney Spears can sing, right?

My point is that musicians from all genres and walks of life seek out opportunities to perform live in front of an audience. Getting out there and trying to expose audiences to your music is just a part of the job, and maybe the best part of the job for a lot of people. That hour or so when you have a chance to take the stage is what keeps a lot of musicians dreaming of a time when they can do nothing but travel around and play music for a living.

But like anything, there is a lot of crap that goes along with "the job" of being a musician that isn't obvious to the outside world. To begin with, it costs a lot of money to hit the road a tour. You need transportation, lodging and food, and the more people involved in the band, the more expenses you ring up. And 95% of a tour is spent traveling and sitting around, waiting for that hour on stage (24 hours in a day, 1 hour on stage = less than 5% of your time spent doing what you want to do). How many people would enjoy a nice long 6-10 hour drive in a crowded car/van/bus every day for a month? Now imagine logging 30-40 hours a week in a cramped car with people who are tired, hungry, probably hung over and who rarely have access to a shower. Add in the fact that it takes a while to build up a fanbase in different areas, even to the point where you need to go to a club/city/whatever several times over a couple of years before you can assure yourself of even a meager amount of local recognition, and you are looking at a multi-year process where you will generate little to no income while spending a lot of money living on the road.

For as long as I've been a musician in bands, I've never been able to understand exactly how a musician without an established name and/or tour support can make any money for themselves. When you are a teenager or in your early twenties with little to no responsibility strapped to you, it's a romantic concept to "hit the road" and go from one town to the next trying to win over people one fan at a time. You sleep in the crappy van you are traveling in (usually the drummer has the biggest vehicle), you find people's houses where you can crash, or sneak as many people as possible into a single-bed motel room while living off of free ketchup packets when you can't afford a side of fries at the fast food restaurants that await at every highway rest stop. Maybe you meet some pretty ladies and play the role of the traveling musician - "don't you cuties want to hang out with the band? Uh, do you mind if the entire band crashes in your living room? Do you have any extra food?" Glamorous stuff. Or maybe you are unlucky enough to have the unthinkable happen to you and someone steals your van/truck/bus with all of your equipment in it. That’s happened to a ton of touring bands I know.

Sure, touring is a great way to improve the music and it can be a fun experience, especially if you have great friends as bandmates, but unless you are playing for packed audiences and actually making a little money here and there, it's a process that generally takes years before it pays for itself. And there are no guarantees of a payoff even if you put in the time and effort. In fact, usually it's a process that simply leads to the band giving up in frustration and moving on to a more stable, predictable career path because there is so little return on that investment of time, energy, and money, And if you want to start a family, life on the road is a huge complication.

So here I am with two albums to my name and a desire to get out there and promote them, but as I contemplate putting together a tour to do just that, I'm balking at the prospect. I'm no spring chicken any more. I don't have any tour support. I'm not even in a band anymore. It's just me now - I have great musicians I play shows with in Los Angeles and who record on the albums, but they are all free agents who play in as many projects as possible to pay the bills (more power to them. If you are looking for good professional musicians to back you up, give them a call). And because I personally believe musicians are often underpaid (or not paid at all) for their services, it's very important to me that I give my people the respect of payment for their time, even if what I can offer hardly seems commensurate with their skill and talent. I'm not in a situation like the bands I used to be in where everyone played for free in the hopes of equally splitting any money the music may or may not generate - the people I work with now will get paid for their time whether or not I make any money because I hire them to do professional work. I'm not going to change that - I know what it's like to be a sideman myself and I value the people who back me up and make me sound good. That's just how I roll.

In the end, a tour for me would mean paying for gas, food, lodging, and if I want to improve the music by adding additional musicians to the mix, that costs even more money. These are all expenses out of my own pockets, pockets which will not be getting refilled because I won't be working a day job while I'm on the road. And I'd essentially be starting at square one in most places, showing up at clubs for the first time and hoping to make a good first impression on complete strangers.

I'm too old for that shit now. Sorry to sound like a grouchy old man, but my days of being the prodigal son ended a while ago. Even though I've avoided it as much as possible, I have responsibilities that I can't easily ignore. My dog can't feed himself (if only he could play an instrument and join the band! Maybe he can drive...). I can't take off for a couple of weeks and then scramble to try to make up for the sizeable amount of money I lost, money that I don't have in my bank account to begin with. And, frankly, how many clubs are there out there that would be great venues for a singer-songwriter cellist to perform? I don't exactly fit a lot of venues, even if I'm game to perform anywhere.

Problems, problems everywhere. Bitch bitch bitch. But I'm too damn stubborn to quit and I feel like I'm just starting to get good at the whole singer-songwriter cello thing. So what's a cello-boy to do? Play the lottery and hope to win enough $$ to purchase a tour bus and a couple years' worth of gas and Cup O' Noodles?

Well, I think I've found a touring solution that works and I don't even have to leave my living room to make it happen. How? Simple. I'll use the internet and bring the music to anyone and everyone through my "Static Tour". Here's the plan - I will make a minimum of one video of a live performance a week which will be posted on youtube, myspace and my new website, www.celloboy7.com (currently under construction). Each video will showcase an uncut, unedited performance of a song or two that tries to capture the immediacy and improvisation of a live performance - think about how Saturday Night Live is pre-recorded before a live audience. It's a recording, but it's still a "live" performance you are watching. And you, the audience, will be in control of everything. You can watch/hear these videos any time of day without paying anything. You won't have to travel to a club, pay the cover charge, and then stand around waiting for the show to start (live music shows always run behind schedule). You won't be paying $5-$10 for watered down beer - you can just sit in front of your computer naked and drink cheap bourbon straight from the bottle (my target audience). And if you are thinking that you will miss out on meeting attractive members of the opposite sex by not going to the club, I'll tell you right now that your chances of meeting someone are much greater if you simultaneously log onto Match.com while watching the videos in your living room than if you get dressed up and go to a club.

For me, I get a chance to produce music, "live" music, under my own power without worrying about traveling and money and all the crap I detailed above. I really want to just play music and see if people like it - this Static Tour idea allows me to do that without succumbing to economic pressures that are paralyzing me. I can make as much music as I want and give it to people for free. My only caveat is that I won't be doing full hour-long shows. That would be too big a video clip on most sites, so I'm going to chop things up into little appetizers and send them out one at a time. Like hors d'oeuvres or tapas. If you want the full meal, you'll have to either purchase an album or physically catch one of the live shows I will continue to play around town. Hopefully the video clips will entice you to attend a real show because it's still the best way to experience music.

And that's the plan for The Static Tour. It's static because no one has to go anywhere to experience the music. And also because the tour will be carried to you electronically. I'm still figuring out how to use the video camera to get decent sound in the videos, but I plan to put up the first videos in early February before Valentine's Day. I'll blog about the whole process as it happens and hopefully even unveil a new website that will house all of the videos, the blog, etc. I'm really excited to give this idea a try because I'd love to present my songs in a "live" format. I hope you'll stay tuned!

Duet Challenge to Stephen Colbert - 10/30/09