Tag Archives: austin

Artist quote: Chris Chappell (Austin, TX)

“I’m trying to explore the part of my memory that holds images of insignificant things.”

A note from Chris Chappell on his painting style and why he sometimes paints portraits of commodes.

“To me, painting is sort of like journalism in a way, I just record what I see itself. It’s why I paint from life now, not literally sometimes, if I work from photos, but of actual things opposed to abstract or made up.

“A reason I paint toilets in the first place is that they often are symbols of something (in this case hatred); they are often something you see or use daily and take for granted. Also they’re weird in shape, interesting in form, and anyone is expert enough draw one from memory. You see them so much in life that you can actually recreate an image of one without looking at a reference. Go on, try. You may not be practiced at drawing, but you can figure out where everything goes. Or if you prefer try drawing a guitar without reference- I guess the point being that there is an actual image in one’s mind. I’m trying to explore the part of my memory that holds images of insignificant things.

“There are a million reasons. But ultimately, subject matter doesn’t matter. Whatever the subject of a really good painting gets left behind when you can sense the joy someone had simply moving paint around on a surface. At least to me.”


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Bayonette Love (by guest lecturer Chris Birchard)

85 degrees , Austin, February, outside.

How to Change a Radiator on a Toyota Model 2000
Get real greasy. Have fun in some grease and then roll around real good in some good ol’ antifreeze and transmission fluid (because this IS an automatically controlled transmission!) Put grease and pebbles and other substances in your hair then roll around on the concrete or in the dirt.
Fly. Go away to another country in your mind and stroll around naked and roll in soft mud. Masturbate with real grease. Hum hymns. Lie. Lie around with your face dropped on by  gritty specks, reaching around for the lost, slippery wrench. But have fun!
1): “Disassemble front half of vehicle”
2):”Install new radiator”
3):”Do everything in reverse that you did in forward before.”
So… we were cruising along Mexican Highway, “Eagle Pass to Torreon” (Former home-base of the revolutionistic outlaw Senor Pancho Villa) and we were doing good and everything, even talking up a storm, when we came to a desert… Nothing but sand and mountains on each side of the road with an endless sky above, clouds everywhere, but on this day dry sand below my wheels.
And then, I don’t quite remember exactly when, but, Al, my bro-in-law, said he had to go pee.
I said, ” Al, we can’t, we’re running out of gas.”
He said, “We can, or I’ll just go out the window.”
I pulled over and shut down the vehicle’s engine. Here we were, wife, daughter, bro, and me almost out of gas and in the desert.
Improvise. I stopped at the only place around and offered $20 for a gallon of gas and the cutthroats looked at me
funny. Al said don’t do that any more.
So we moved on. Saw a lot of vehicles sporting natural gas engines and mountains with places built for the saints and angels to remain secure in their holiness by the humans that inhabit the region.
If we broke down, we were to be their bait.
We rode a hundred miles through empty desert on empty and prayed a lot to a not-quite-forgotten God.
When we get to the gas station, I say, “Thank You, God, for putting an extra-large reserve tank on this vehicle!”
Bayonette Love
A woman needs a man for three basic reasons…
1) Because when she moves she need a man to carry her clothes and furniture to another place.
2) A woman needs a man to repair her vehicle when it breaks down. (She doesn’t wanna get grease under her nails, does she???)
3) Well, I forget #3, but a woman is also in need of a man then, too.

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Report from the fire in Oak Hill (Part 2)

By guest blogger Chris Birchard

O.k., Later that day.—————–
I’d arrived at the track where we run, just South and above , about 30 minutes after our evacuation.
Sunday, track almost deserted.
 So, I climbed to the upper-hill and made my way across the soccer field and onto the berm and near a fence that separates the residentials from the interlopers.
    First, I saw no cloud.
Then, I saw three or four clouds rising into the sky, from my hilltop perspective.  I sat down to join the grass and burrs, to join the battle being fought; to observe.
   It was a great vantage point: Two helos hauling tiny buckets back and forth. A spotter plane constantly daring the flames by running through them, showing C-130’s, with U.S.A.F. printed on the under of  their wings, where to drop their flowing, bright orange-red loads, onto the fire, which would stream out into the hot day.
   My sunglasses were gone, so I hiked my shirt up around my head, waiting for a verdict, avoiding the sun’s piercing stare into my eyes.A load of water, silence, then a new dark cloud, always coming back as a destructive shroud over the land.
    “Where will we spend the night?”, I thought.
The C-130’s made many circles right over me on their way into the action. As the younger of the gathering crowd would exclaim, “He’s peeing”, a load of retardant would hit the ground or flames, and I’d think, “Your’e upwind, son.”
   After the last dark cloud had left, I felt new again. I went home, to my precious objects and temporary security, but by a back way that few evacuees knew about, other routes in were closed, to find Jude & Sheri, there, waiting where we had started, for us, or something else, to arrive.

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Report from the fire in Oak Hill (Austin, TX)

By guest blogger Chris Birchard

2011 Capitol 10K

Hey, we’re all alright. I’m sorry for dramatizing it like I did. But I love that you are finally getting some response for your efforts. But I’m still not over yesterday, yet.


Sunday, 4/17/2011, (Scenic Brook, (South) Austin, Tx.)
  Esmeralda  got home early, that was a thrill, it meant I had some free time…
   Downstairs, picture-framing project. The tiniest can of polyeurethane that money can buy. She is “Poly”, the final step towards perfection.
 Applying poly, I start to hear many sirens and think what could it be to take such measures? Suddenly, first one siren and then twenty?
 Then an ash fell in my poly and I looked at my shirt, wondering, where did this come from? The sky then subtly changed tones-blue to orange. Then the smell. Weird, like cedar burning.
   Brush in hand, I took a walk to the top of the hill and found a group of people watching smoke and flames rise from a few blocks off as the strong wind blew the smoke directly into our faces. It reminded me  of Herb’s brush fires. The thickening of smoke as you approached the flames, the fun was just getting started, for the gusting wind would feed the games.
    The sirens, of course, wailed on and on.
   Everyone’s emergency character was revealed, as we watched that fire develop and discussed our options. The wind “ripping” towards us  and us only, it seemed, only directly at us and our homes, too. Flames would reach out, we’d discuss. The firemen, invisible, would gain three yards only to relinquish two yards.
   In other words, someone would say they’ve got it but the angry brown cloud would refoster itself, suddenly, in a brand new place.
People started to pack their, “most valuables”, and leave. (I gathered cash, change, and precious photos, totally forgetting my 1500.00 jackhammer and other sacred tools.)(I drove around as the “picture frame man”,that day, I guess.)
I met an actual teacher that day, on that hill, as he was,”wishing for a Northerner”, and it was clear that I had a new friend, as the wind was gusting hard from the South.
   We were the last two to speculate about our prospects with this situation at this location, although the “corner-man”, the dude that lives on the corner, the first to start moistening his lawn with a feeble gardening hose (soon, we were all doing it, by then the smoke was thick), so I ran back down to Jude and Sheri, our neighbors and friends, showing up for what would be my last “report” about the “front”.
   But it never did get to us, they stopped it, the firefighters did.
   But that was just the beginning of that day for me, in a way.

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Competent VS Nice

I realize they’re not mutually exclusive.

In my past, if someone was ‘no-nonsense’ with me, my feelings would be hurt, and I’d write them off as being a jerk. After all, I was bending over backwards to be nice to them. Didn’t that mean they owed me the same?

Nice guy. Can't fish worth a darn.

As time has gone on, I’ve learned (the hard way, more often than not), that I was trying to hide my own incompetence by acting ‘nice’. If I could charm the person, then maybe they wouldn’t hold me as accountable… maybe they’d let me off the hook.

Trouble is, that’s a two-way street. If I take my tires in to be rotated and the person helping me is incompetent, (loses lug nuts, takes an hour to do a 15-minute job, chats and jokes all the while, isn’t focused on what he’s doing, runs to the restroom a few times, etc.) then his acting ‘nice’ isn’t really making up for anything.

These days I’m realizing that I truly value competence over ‘nice’.

Don’t get me wrong… The best is when someone has technical skills AND social skills, and understands the spirit of true professionalism and customer service.

In my music, I can see the same thing manifesting. I used to try to hide my incompetence with lots of reverb, effects, distortion, smoke, and mirrors. In an effort to gloss over my poor sense of timing, I’d try all kinds of manipulation through software. Every time the results would turn out the same: substandard. (Like polishing a turd, as my father would say.)

Third and Congress. By Chris Chappell. http://www.chrischappellart.com. I'm a huge fan.

Little by little, I’m learning to throw away the performances that aren’t right. (And I know when they’re not right.) Learning to strip away the unnecessary fluff and focus on the true spirit of whatever song I’m working on.

I’m not perfect. I’m not as technically proficient as I could be. But I’m continuing to hone my skills. Peel away the layers of the onion. Drop the fake smiles and cut to the heart of the matter, whatever is at hand.

And as this process continues to unfold, I find myself less and less willing I feel to suffer fools gladly. Or to expect others to suffer my foolishness.

At the end of the day, I think it’s better for everyone if I’m authentic. Friendly. Competent. Honest.

But if you’re out there, Mister Gruff Garage Attendant, please know that if I have to choose two of the three, I’ll take ‘competent’ and ‘honest’ over ‘friendly’ any day.

How about you, Gentle Reader? How does valuing competency play out in your life? In your art?

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Thanks to John Paschall at Main Street Music in Aztec, NM

Best Music Store In The Four Corners Region… And Beyond!

Hey John,
It’s been a month or two since I drove down and bought one of your Mesa Boogie Mark V combo amps. I’ve been so busy jamming, writing and recording that I haven’t taken the time to thank you for the amazing customer service you provided me.

Let me do that right now.

I grew up near Austin, TX and went to college there. (Had the good fortune to be an intern for Austin City Limits in the winter of ’89; shook hands and chatted with Stevie Ray Vaughn.) As a fellow guitar junkie, you’ll understand how I was a regular at just about every single guitar store and pawn shop available, including some that catered to famous blues stars. I was young and naive. After getting burned a few times (like getting paid a ‘generous’ $400 for my 1963 Gibson ES-335 by one of the biggest-name stores in town, when I was 19 –read about it here:  http://theonesthatgotaway.blogspot.com/2009/02/1963-gibson-es-335.html), I pretty much came to expect to have to fight tooth and nail just to get what I needed without being taken advantage of. Pretty much everywhere I went, from music stores in Japan to places here in Colorado, it was the same story.

So I was genuinely surprised when I called your shop the second and third times to confirm that you still had the amp I wanted, and you remembered who I was! I drove down on a Friday, cautiously optimistic that I might ACTUALLY get the very same Mesa Boogie Mark V combo I’d tried out a few months earlier, and that you might REALLY have it boxed up for me, like you’d told me on the phone. My jaw dropped when I got there and you were expecting me, and you actually HAD boxed up my brand new amp for me.

My amazement grew as you happily unboxed it, plugged it in, and spent about half an hour just going over different settings for me. I was embarrassed about some of my “dumb questions”, but asked them anyway, and you were gracious and clear in your explanations.

I couldn’t believe it — I was receiving excellent customer service without the sales pitch, and without the condescending “sneer of coolness.”

In the end, you and your team not only provided top-notch service, but you also made me an unbelieveably good deal on the parts/labor for the installation of the “Tremol-no” unit in my PRS Custom 24 and on a boom stand for my mic. I’m extremely happy. My guitar is now set up just the way I like it, and I’m so excited to finally have my “dream guitar and amp” that I’m using every single free moment to write and record.

I have friends in town who have purchased gear from you (drums, etc.) and they shared glowing reviews with me before my visit to your store. Now that I’ve experienced your top-quality service firsthand, I’m sharing the same kinds of glowing reviews with every musician I meet. I’ll continue to send my friends your way, and I’ll definitely be a return customer at your shop. It’s been a long haul, and the search for the ultimate music store has taken me to the other side of the globe and back. But now that I’ve found Main Street Music, in humble little Aztec, NM, I can happily say the search was worth it!

Thanks again, and we’ll see you soon!

Tim Birchard
Durango, Colorado

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Heavy Weather

Heavy Weather 2mp3 (click here to play)

Started with the Korg. Added vocals, and then guitar. Then harmony vocals.

This is another example of approaching songwriting as play in order to get results I’m proud of. I had the house to myself for six hours, so I was looking forward to writing/recording something new. But when I sat down, I realized I felt turned off by the idea of doing music. I felt tired and not up to the focus that the process demands. I got up and walked away a couple of times before I decided to forego the idea of “writing something good” and simply relax and jam and have fun. Of course, once I took that approach, good things started to happen and I found myself hitting the ‘record’ button to capture the joy.

The music came first. Then I found a sheet of paper with lyrics that I’d written earlier this week, out of the blue. I hadn’t known what to do with them at the time, so they were just lying there on the edge of the Korg. Once I spotted them, I realized they would be perfect for this song.

Thanks for checking it out!


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