Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rock 'n Roll Haiku

Greetings, comrades!

Yesterday, randomly, became Haiku Day for my students. I was saying how writing a rock song can be like writing haiku, as one has to get a whole picture across with just a few words.

Here's what the comrades wrote:

"The Amplifier
It rocks the whole neighborhood
Hendrix would be proud"

- A.G.

"I am Charlie Sheen
Winning is my objective
I am bi-winning"

- K. R.

"Everything is cool
When you play it on the guitar
Bass sucks more than drums"

- K. S.

"Our lives suck sometimes
When you play them in a song
Then they don't suck as much"

- C. D.

"Gotta have my bowl
Gotta have my cereal
Today is Friday"

- B. N.

(Check THIS one out!)

"Josh is a cool dude
he has the best job ever
and he has cool hair"

R. L.

Good job, Comrades! You make me very proud. Or should I say...

"These comrades I train
Are totally the bomb, yo
Will rule the world soon"

- Josh

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Revolution spreads!

Hey Comrades!

I've just started doing a cool new thing. Anytime I'm on the road with music, and I come to a toll, I give the operator a CD. (Well, to be fair, I skipped a few, but at least I gave out one!)

I handed one out about a month ago on my way to Richmond. Fast forward to this weekend, and I found myself at the same toll plaza that guards the bridge carrying US 301 south over the Potomac River. I went to get in the far right lane, and swerved back at the last minute, thinking it was closed. I pull up to the window...and the lady says "hey, still pumping out those CD's?"

It's fun being a relentless self-promoter.

Now, I'm sending the good folks at the copyright office an extra CD for them to keep. Let's hope they like it!

Try doing the same thing with your music, art, or whatever. It's amazing the people you'll meet. And every great gig starts off with meeting just one person.

Vive la Revolution!

- Josh

Monday, April 25, 2011

You're on the air at WDCE!


Wow! What a fun radio show on Saturday! For those of you who didn't get a chance to tune in, I'll be posting YouTube clips very soon. I got to put on my best Ted Baxter voice, lean in to the mic, and say “Hello, Richmond!” The phone rang a few times, and it was so much fun to say “Hello, WDCE.” (The call letters of the station.) Promotions were made, I got a request, a few compliments, and thankfully, no irate callers! I absolutely LOVED being on the radio. It's funny, I was up late the night before, working on the playlist, and went to bed really late, and got up even earlier. The whole short time I was unconscious, though, I had nightmares of messing up my radio show. In one, I took a quick break, and came back to find that a guy was singing karaoke on the air while a bunch of teenage girls yelled harshly in the background. I was pretty upset, and glad to wake up! It looked like the bad dream might come true when I missed the button for the mic and wasn't sure if I was even on air at first, but I got it all figured out, and had SO MUCH FUN!

It was great to bring some local tunes to the airwaves, too. I had the privilege to air some music by Lynn Hollyfield ( and a client of mine, a promising young fella who goes by the name of DJ Stalker!

If you're a musician interested in having your stuff featured, or would like to make an appearance on The Signalman, please drop me an email!

I so so so appreciate everyone listening and being so supportive of the Revolution! I'm very grateful. Y'all be good comrades, that's fo' sho! I'll be back next month, with some guests, too. Stay TUNED! HA!

Vive La Revolution,

- Josh

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Alert! Alert!

Hey Comrades!

Boy, I'd make a terrible little old lady. I'm such a gossip. I'm more hesitant to hear what people are saying about me, although I am a sucker for compliments.

In today's industry, no matter what your field, it's important to keep an eye on what's being said on the world wide "interweb", as some old people call it. There's a lotta information out there, but Google Is Your Friend.

Did you know you can set up a Google alert for yourself? I've got a few: Guitar lesson alerts, Josh Urban alerts, They're coming to get me alerts...wait, that's just the minefield around my house.

It's a snazzy way to keep tabs on your web presence. Just punch in "Alerts" in Google, or go to

You can have 'em delivered with email or on a feed. Great stuff! I just saw my listing for a show this weekend thanks to the alerts, AND I've discovered that I have a "twin brother" who's a great pitcher in Texas. Cool, I always wanted to be a pitcher...

Give it a shot! You'll take one more step towards global domination!

Vive la Revolution,

- Josh

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

If musicians were firefighters

Hey rockers!

I've been annoying my students all day with this piece of insufferably preachy advice:

Practice to your weakness! If musicians were firefighters, we'd be putting out garbage pail fires while the house was burning down around us. Tackle the big stuff!

I just read an article on fitness, and the author was saying that if we work the big muscle groups, we'll lose fat a lot faster than our typical easy lame workouts that just strain the little muscles.

Get to it!

- Josh

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Happy Tuesday, Comrades!

I'm proud to announce the 300th blog post on The Doghouse!

Thanks for listening to so many words from yours truly!

They say that brevity is the soul of wit. I'm afraid I must be rather dull, then. However, I'll keep it snappy with this maxim I'm always repeating from some rock star interview (I think it was Eddie Van Halen.)

If it sounds good, it is good.

Here's to the next 300 posts!

Vive la Revolution,


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Introducing The Signalman

Hey Comrades!

Happy Saturday to you. Four announcements to make today.

1. Do not eat at Cracker Barrel restaurants. Ever.

2. "In The Heat of the Night" is a powerful movie. Wow, if you haven't seen it, you've gotta. It's a moving drama that serves as quite a reminder that the disease of racism must, must, must be stamped out. I think I'm gonna write a song called "They call me Mr. Tibbs."

3. I've finally got a name for this revolutionary, community-building, fortified-with-the-power-of-Rock radio station I've been yammering about! It's called The Signalman. Huh, seems like I've heard something like that before...Well, I just built a Facebook page for it - please check it out!

I'll be featuring local and touring musicians, both by playing their CD's and conducting interviews. If you'd like to be on my show, please drop me an email and we'll talk. I'm very excited to have the opportunity to build a community, and I so so so hope you'll be part of it! Even if you don't play any music, feel free to call in requests, or just drop a note to say hello. I'm figuring out that The Revolution is built of people like all of us, and the more participation, the better!

4. This just in: John Lennon was a communist. I heard my buddy Lynn Hollyfield play a great cover of "Imagine" yesterday at her show, and sitting there in my comrade shirt, the lyrics really struck me. Commie! Great tune, though...And a great concert by Lynn! It was outside. It was cold. It was windy. But it was rockin'! Good job, Lynn! Check out her great contemporary folk sound here:

Hope you have a great weekend!

Hey, check out my new friends I made at Lynn's show yesterday. It was good seeing a few old friends as well!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Framing the Debate

Happy Friday, Comrades!

Or would you prefer "The week is almost dead?"

There's always two sides to any story, and since we're storytellers, we can tell either one we choose. We're also salespeople, and the sooner we realize that, the better. We're selling our music and opinion to the masses. I like to think of it like the American gangster Al Capone put it - "I'm just a businessman providing a service that the people want" (Something like that.)

How we frame the debate directly affects our sales pitch. Jumping in the time machine, let's go back just a few years to a stifling summer in Quantico, Virginia. My Kirk Hammet meets Eddie Van Halen hair didn't help matters, but hey, it sure looked cool. I was smack in the middle of my days as an environmental organizer. (Actually, that's one right there - I could say "my days as a long haired hippie", but that doesn't sound good.) The teacher of the class outlined some important principles. There was, and always is, a fight over the oil reserves in Alaska. Proponents of the drilling call it "ANWR" (ann warr), and the environmentalists call it "The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."

Big oil calls it "exploration." Hey, didn't Lewis and Clark explore America?" That's a great vibe!

The greens call it "drilling" - casting it in a much more negative light.

Now, I happen to be on the side of the greens with this issue, but details don't matter for our discussion.

What you can see is the word choice is vital. Looking back at the healthcare spat would provide many good examples of what I'm talking about. Read editorials from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal if you're really serious about research.

Moving to music: Let's say you're an unknown band trying to break into the scene. Bad choice: Unknown band tries to break into scene. Good choice: A fresh new band is set to rock the town - don't miss their show to hear the very latest of what promises to be a bold new trend in music!"

OK, maybe that's overkill, because people can see through your "legal troubles" to know you were in the slammer. But again, it's all how you frame it. Hey, let's say you WERE in the slammer, and starting a new band.

Bad choice: Ex-convicts try for fresh start.

Good choice: John Smith knowns what it's like to be on the wrong side of luck. He also knows what it's like to work your way back to the right. Come out to hear his authentic fire-tempered blues.

Spin it!

- Josh

Thursday, April 14, 2011


"Bluetooth or not?" I asked myself the other day, as I walked into a business appointment.

On one hand, I see it as a symbol of status and business, mixed with a bit of importance because, frankly, I might get a call that's more important that you.

On the other, I think props like that come off about as convincing as 12 year olds using profanity.

The topic of Authenticity is an important one for everyone in general, and musicians in particular. I often lecture my students about how, in my opinion, the real key to the genius of Hendrix was in that he wasn't trying to sound like anyone else, only purely, fiercely himself...and the occasional war sounds reflected in his renditions of The Star Spangled Banner and Machine Gun.

There's half a dozen people in my town alone that can play faster than Jimi, know more about chords, and have way more theoretical knowledge.

But until we stop trying to emulate other guitarists, we can only hope to be pale imitations of our true glory, a fleeting ghost in the rear view mirror of what we could sound like.

And what a shame! Beethoven didn't even step into his own until he stopped trying to copy Mozart. What if he had gotten bogged down in the details of what piano Mozart used?

I heard somewhere that we're all like radios, tuned to our very own frequency, and receiving a unique sonic blend. I think it's time we all turned up the volume!

- Josh

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Toys 'R Us rockin' the world

"Rock 'n roll ain't no riddle now. To me, it makes good, good sense."

Hey Comrades!

You know what my favorite band of all time is? The Electric Mayhem - The house band from the Muppets.

Besides having great stage presence, they've got a totally killer sound. It's what people think rock music should sound like. It's literally a caricature of itself.

I also like the sounds that kiddie guitars from Toys R Us make. Talk about some pure voltage rock! I've got this little guitar that some kid probably got at McDonald's and then gave to me, and it's got the BEST riffs in it ever!

So, next time you're getting all stressed out about trying to beat Steve Vai at his own game, or invent a new chord voicing to knock 'em all dead - step back, and remember what the essence of rock is. If it can sound cool in Toys R Us, it can rock the world.

- Josh

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Office space

I saw a quote once that was pretty cool. I'm going to completely ruin in, because a.) I don't remember who said it, and b.) I forget who was in the quote.

But it was about a famous writer who wrote best with his feet in icy water, and a famous composer who thought the smell of slightly rotting apples was great for creativity.

It brings up the question of: What's your ideal creation lab?

Like I've been yelling about, I just went to Richmond to set up a radio show. I took the train, and that's my new favorite office, especially at night. It was the best. It was cozy, made me feel important, was ultra-comfortable, exciting (the traveling part), and only alarming once. A train moving a gazillion miles an hour in the opposite direction on the adjacent track let it's horn off right outside my window. I jumped. But maybe the reason I liked the space so much was because I didn't have wires everywhere. My students will attest to the fact that my studio is always an epic battle of wires vs. man, and the wires appear to be winning handily.

My mom and brothers really have this skill of setting up ideal space. Maybe it's because they take the effort to actually clean house a bit. I don't know. Their aptitude first dawned on me when we were eating dinner one day. I looked around the table, and saw how they had the food on their plates arranged just so, very artistically, and it looked so appetizing. I looked at my plate, and saw a plain pile of spaghetti resembling...well...My studio! When I take the time to set up a nice place to work, it's always worth it. See if it helps you, too. I think a good studio space is vital for world domination. Wow, I really need to get my act together!

Workspace doesn't have to be an actual office. I love taking songwriting safaris to the city or the park. A change of scenery can be really cool! It's fun to set aside a certain time each week or month for field work. I think it would be neat to find a dismal industrial alley, assuming I won't get shot, and sit there for hours to see what songs I could write.

Has anyone seen a marble or five? I seem to be missing a few...

- Josh

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's a long way to Richmond

"Well it's a long way to Richmond, rollin' north on 95"

Hey Comrades!

Wow, I hope you had a fun fun fun fun Sunday! I sure did. I got to take a TRAIN to RICHMOND to learn how to be a radio DJ!

Yes, yes, I will be hosting an occasional show on the University of Richmond's college radio station, WDCE 90.1 FM! I'm psyched. Now I gotta figure out playlists and formats and everything.

I'll be posting air dates soon, so stay TUNED. Ha ha!

Since music is a conversation, it begs the question: If you had a radio show, what would it be? Sports? Talk? Top 40? Classical? It's a great conversation starter. I'd be curious to hear what you think!

Also, I could use some input on the planning stages. I've got a solid idea of what I'm trying to do, but input is much appreciated!

Boy, the train trip was a blast, too. My new favorite office space is Amtrak's Northeast Regional train by night. I love love love being on the road for music. I was sitting at the train station, listening to the trains go by, and enjoying the breeze. I got to meet a cool lady on the train who gave me some great ideas about public speaking, too. Networking never stops! Uh, well, I DID get asked to pipe down by the people in front of me as I was enthusiastically asking about speaking and presentations, but oh well...

So here's your knowledge nugget today, comrades: Up the networking game! Start talking to people around you, and see what cool folks you'll meet.

Vive la revolution!
- Josh

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Mozart vs. Beethoven cage fight

Who says classical music is boring?

I mean, a bassoon looks like a cross between a bazooka and a mortar, for cryin' out loud!

I had the privilege to watch the London Conchord Ensemble in concert last night at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Wow, what a great show! Special thanks to the random lady who gave me a ticket to get in!

The program consisted of Mozart's Quintet in E-flat major, K. 452 for piano and winds,
Poulenc's Sonata for flute and piano, Bridge's Divertimenti for flute, oboe, clarinet, and basson, and finally, Beethoven's Quintet in E-flat major, op. 16, for piano and winds.

Notice that it started with a Mozart quintet, and ended with a Beethoven quintet. Reading the program, and I'm paraphrasing, I've got this:

Tonight on Classical Cage Fights! "The Wolf" wrote a quintet for woodwinds. Kings said these instruments were too loud, so The Wolf said he'd ease the bringing more! He dropped a PIANO in the mix! Arrrrrr!

Facing The Wolf, Stone Deaf Ludwig said he had it with always living in the shadow. He was going to write a piece using exactly the same format, exactly the same instruments, and even the same KEY. He'd shoot the Wolf from the sky like Sarah Palin hunting from a helicopter! And he's got a special message for all the haters - boo louder, 'cause he STILL can't hear you.

Don't miss it - on Classical Cage Fights!

The actual text said: "While at this point Beethoven's style still conformed to the Classical traditions established by Mozart, Haydin, and their contemporaries, evidence suggest that he was nevertheless striving to define his own musical abilities and expressive language by creating works in a wide range of compositional genres. The unusual instrumentation of the Quintet is identical to that used by Mozart in his own Quintet for winds, composed twelve years before, indicating that Beethoven wished to emulate (or surpass) Mozart's own essay in the genre.

Same difference, basically.

And Beethoven CRUSHED him! Wow! Mozart was all uptight and like "oh, I hope I don't step in a puddle with my fancy ballerina shoes." And Beethoven was like "BOOM! I'm the thunder, fool, and I'm gonna rain all over this parade!"

The musicians were most gracious and skilled. I have to wonder what they thought of us crazy Americans, though. Across the street, the lights in the Capitol burned late into the night as the very real possibility of a government shutdown loomed. To add insult to injury, as the oboe player was explaining a piece, instead of everyone just listening a little closer, some lady in the back has to yell "TALK LOUDER!"

At least she didn't request Freebird.

- Josh

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Women

"...And she valued herself." - terri st. cloud

Happy Friday, comrades!

Please forget that you ever read the following blog. I'm putting my chauvinist wit on the shelf temporarily, and actually saying something of substance. Don't worry, I'll be back to my old self soon.

I've been noticing women lately. Ha ha! I mean, a thinking pattern on their part that seems to be appearing...Something psychological that seems to be a trend, and no comrades, I'm not talking about them deliberately confusing us fellas. OK, maybe my chauvinist wit is back. Regardless, I'd like to share a few thoughts with you. Perhaps they could provide a male perspective to any women out there who are struggling, and a human perspective on strength and self-worth. And, of course, musicians need both of those qualities to truly succeed. Disclaimer - I'd never be so stupid as to say I understand the workings of the female mind. Ha! THAT would be silly.

Women are a fascinating gender. Typically not as physically strong as males (although there's quite a few ladies at the gym who could beat me in arm wrestling - but that's not a hard bar to clear), nonetheless, they exhibit an almost superhuman inner power. It's not always obvious, but it's there if you look.

Snapping back into my usual persona for a minute, how'd you think they made it through the 50's and 60's? A woman's gig was LOUSY, and all the Valium in the world couldn't get me through those crushing years of housewifeliness and oppression.

As I mature...scratch that...get older...I've been fortunate to have met some of these super ladies who have endured unimaginable loss, pain, and misfortune, only to emerge wise and kind and strong. Their cores might have always been unshakable, or perhaps they were forged in some of the terrible fires. They spread grace, light, and wisdom along the path for the rest of us, like the wizard in the Black Sabbath song The Wizard. And, just like the rest of us, sometimes they too stumble, or tick me off when they don't laugh at a "hey, cook me some food, woman" joke that I make, but man, that strength is undeniable. Actually, they usually tolerate the jokes alright, and laugh at it like a lioness would laugh at a bird who's yelling it's head off.

I've also noticed that, in other women, that possibly, this passive, quiet strength can actually be self-destructive. I'm always amazed at how the ladies fall all over sub-standard guys. (Ha, this makes me feel better when I get the cold shoulder.) But seriously, I've been seeing so many women in so many lousy relationships, some of them physically, and many of them emotionally, abusive and unhealthy. It seems as if the fear of being alone overpowers basic "HEY! This guy's a creep!" mentality. It saddens me to see people settle for so little, and to tolerate so much needless pain. It's as if that inner strength they possess is devoted to enduring the situation, slave to the idea in their head that this is all they're worth. Endure they do, and they're so good at it, sometimes they wind up dead. Talk about discipline.

I guess we all have these issues, not just women. It's that self-worth thing. I'd like to be a mirror for a day, and walk around so people could really see themselves. Would we all be like Stanley in Weird Al's "UHF" and run to the window, and say "HEY! These floors are as dirty as hell, and I'm not gonna take it any more!" (And leave, instead of cleaning them?) Would we stand up tall, and say "I matter?"

So here's my wish that all the ladies out there can see, imagine, or at least even pretend, to know your strength. Because you are strong, so very strong.

OK, so how does this relate to music? Well, us minstrels of the rock often take little or no pay for our craft. If we stopped selling ourselves short, and started acting like we were in the big leagues - maybe we would be! Don't be so hungry for a compliment that you've gotta eat it off the floor. Go up a level or three! Now, sure, sometimes a gig is good for the exposure, sometimes it's nice to help a venue out, and sometimes, you've just gotta pay your dues. But see your worth, in a quiet, humble way...And then take over the town!

It's all upstairs. Do you think you matter? That seems to determine a lot. I know I'm trying to figure it out myself.

- Josh

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The message, Jeeves!

Hellooooooo, Comrades!

And what a beautiful spring morning it is here in Maryland. I read on the news last night that Maryland is the 10th least-relaxing state in the US. Cool! Just wait till I get that new amp...

As I journey farther along in my music career, I'm getting to meet more and more people. Wow, there's some uptight musicians around here! Holy smokes, they certainly take themselves seriously. And their music, too. It feels like a high school of old people trying to keep a club exclusive.

Now, comrades, here's a news flash for you. Nobody really cares about you.

Say whaaaaat? Let me elaborate.

As I see it, there's three elements to a musician: Themselves (personality), their sound, and the song's message.

All three are essential, and the last part seems to get forgotten a lot. To use an automotive analogy, think of the musician as a car, the sound as the skill in driving, and the message as the contents of the vehicle.

If we have a beautiful piece of pottery that we would like to bring to a friend, we need a vehicle with which to transport it, and, of course, we need to be able to drive.

I'm seeing a lot of people, including myself, getting stuck on how fancy the car is (recognition as a musician) or how fast we can drive (the sound.) But all of that is more than irrelevant if there's no point to the trip, and no gift in the car. I say "more than" because after a very short while, it's downright annoying, not to mention pretentious.

I was talking to my mom about this recently. She's an artist, and her work helps people all over the world find real. She said "Josh, I take my work seriously, but not myself so much."

It just could be that a song you wrote will save someone's life. So promote it, shout it from the rooftops, and tell people it's the greatest, because it just might be.

But lighten up a bit when it comes to yourself. We're all in this together.

Vive la Revolution!

- Josh

PS. Hey all you snobby DC music scene old people...Consider yourself overthrown! "I have here a list!"

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Put the club down, sir


Got my potato salad from the store across the street, and a student is due in shortly...TRAIN!
Now I'm back. (I love trains.)

I was at the gym last night, and doing more listening to the house music than lifting. I noticed - wow, does everyone become rock stars to make their ex feel bad? It's all "look at me, look at me!"

Don't we have anything better to talk about than ourselves?

Ironic, as I say this on my blog.

So maybe try putting down that sonic club, and just beat the world about the ears with some good ideas instead!

Why don't you sit right back, and I....I may tell you a tale......

- Josh

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The daily news

Hey hey!

OK, comrades, I was just reading a neat article on the Dotted Music blog, and they said that it's important to blog every day. (Hey, at LEAST more than once every few weeks!)

So, I will be trying some new writing stuff out on you loyal readers and comrades of the Revolution to overthrow bad music!

First off - Train hard, comrades! I just played first gig of the "summer" season, and it was COLD! It's hard to play guitar when your hands are chilly. But hey, I played anyway, and was warmed by the power of rock. Remember, the Revolution won't always be fought in balmy weather.

Second - anyone got tumblr? I'm
Be my friend! I just posted a way cool video of the German army band playing "smoke on the water.

Third - I'm getting into radioooooo! More details soon! I did an interview for Richmond VA's WDCE 90.1, and had a blast! I've gotta chop up the audio, 'cause it's an hour and a half long. I'll put it on YouTube soon.

And lastly, here's a cool thought for the day: "How you do anything is how you do everything."

Vive la Revolution!

- Josh