ALEX MCMURRAY

Diary

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06.08.2015

random questionnaire

Hey I'll be performing at a thing called Milo's Music Parlor at 6:30 next Tuesday at Tasseology 1228 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard NOLA. They do this pre-interview. I guess so they know what to ask on the show. Here's the Q&A. I case you were wondering and, hey, it's content!

 

1.    How long have you been in New Orleans and where are you from?

Been here since August 1987. I can't do the math. 28 years? I was born and raised in Red Bank, New Jersey, in the house my father only moved of very recently.

2.    What drew you to New Orleans? or Why New Orleans?

I came here by accident. I wound up at Tulane University because it was the only school that I applied to that gave me financial aid. Hated it at first and spent my freshman year trying to get into a school in Oregon. When they wait-listed me that pretty much sealed the deal because by the time I was accepted all the financial aid money was gone.

3.    Current bands & other musical projects. What is the history of the current project?

I put out records under my own name and perform solo and with a group songs that I've written. I also play with a band called Tin Men. I'm in a band called The Write Brothers with three other songwriters. I have a band called The Valparaiso Men's Chorus that does sea shanties. I do a lot of work backing up other singers and songwriters. I try to keep busy. I have no other skills.

4.    Are you able to play music for a living or do you have other projects or work that fill in the...

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06.10.2013

2013 Chaz Fest Wrap Up

Rain Threatens

Well it's been over a month so I guess it's about time to do the post-mortem on the 2013 Chaz Fest. The story this year begins and ends with the rain. We had several days of biblical amounts of the stuff leading up to Mayday, and the ground was thoroughly saturated. On Tuesday some of the forecast models were predicting 2+ inches for the day of the festival. All one can do at this point is shake one's head in dismay. There is nothing more fundamental than the weather with outdoor music festivals. We've been doing this a few years now and have heard plenty of horror stories of rain wiping out one or two day music festivals in places like Wilmington, NC, etc, leaving the promoters holding the bag for all the infrastructure--stages, sound systems, lights, toilets, fencing that they have rented and paid people to set up. Not to mention the deposits they have laid out to the bands. Now they are facing bankruptcy and ruin. We are a rain-or-shine event and know the risks and are prepared to go forward in everything short of gale force winds and horizontal sheets of water. People don't generally want to be outside in these conditions however and this will be reflected at the box office, or in our case the folding table in the driveway. This was definitely front and center in our minds as we waited for a window where the stage guy could load in on Tuesday. There was pretty heavy rain on and off all day and Mike Biagas (stage guy) tried a few times to time his set up for a few...

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04.15.2013

OK let's get moving with this...

Man oh man what a time it has been lately. Just got through another French Quarter Fest. The new Website just went live a few days ago. The New Tin Men CD is out (finally!!! it has been a long time coming…). I just got back from the great Bay Area trip and before that the Tin Men spent 2 1/2 weeks in France. Work on the 8th annual Chaz Fest has been proceeding apace with actual yard stuff beginning to happen just these past couple of days. Jazz Fest is right around the corner…Oy vey.

 

The past year has been a pretty good one. I recorded a new CD called I Will Never Be Alone In This Land which has been nominated for some awards (Offbeat, Gambit). My old running partner the esteemed Mr. Carlo Nuccio produced which was lovely in that it was something we'd been talking about for a number of years. He took a bunch of songs that were wildly disparate and somehow came up with a cohesive whole. I don't know…he seems to really like making records. He speaks mysteriously of The Process…Matt Perrine contributed some fine horn arrangements and the caliber of the musicians in general was pretty amazing. One day we had Matt, Roderick Paulin, Jason Mingledorff, Gerald French, Charlie Halloran, Bark Braud and and Eric Lucero playing a brass band thing at an insane tempo. The result is a tune called "Me And My Bad Luck" and it's pretty death defying. There are some things in the total opposite direction as well. All in all I'm pretty proud and it has been fun performing the new songs...

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05.31.2012

Another Jazz fest

Well goddamn…It's been a few years now without a diary update and I have no excuses or apologies. Suffice it to say it just wasn't in the cards. The past 2 years have been a non-stop shit-fight and make no mistake. Mr. Sanchez likes to quote the great Louis Armstrong who always remembered to remind folks that all he wanted to do was keep his little "hustle" going. Well, the Jazz Fest has grown some real time-fangs for Yours Truly and on this Monday After Jazz Fest I can safely say I feel like I've gone 185 rounds with Sonny Liston. Which is debatable, I'm sure, but while I can sit here and listen to the dust settle outside my window and hear the tanker trucks pierce the night as they fly down Saint Claude, and feel my sacral plate recline into this chair and the whiskey loosen my typing fingers, and hear the air conditioner whine for the first time this year up in the bedroom where my wife lies in blissful, catatonic, doggedly-earned slumber, I can at least say that we have won the battle as well as the war for another year. The rains have come. The planet is right there in space where it was a year, or two years, ago. It is not hard to hear the rhythm. The rain comes very slow and the traffic is almost drowned out by the frogs.

 

There is a song by Blue Oyster Cult called "Veteran Of The Psychic Wars", which history will not be kind to, but which has one of the coolest titles around and which might resonate with all who have enlisted in the mercenary force that both...

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02.22.2011

Alex's top 10 mix tape for the online NOLA Defender

They recently asked me to do a little top 10 list of songs with commentary and youtube links. I got it together with relative degrees of success. I couldn't find Bobby Short's "I Like The Likes Of You" on youtube, but was feeling too sick to rewrite it and there was a deadline. instead there is a great "Charlie" fragrance commercial from the late 70s featuring Bobby Short. "I like the Likes of You" by Mr. Short is available on itunes.

My tastes were pretty pedestrian coming up. Still are.

 

1.  "Hammond Song"  The Roches

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EA-U5H4VoX8

 

This has been my favorite record almost since the first time I heard it in the Fall of 1986 in the middle of the night stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic at midnight on the Connecticut Turnpike. At the time I was a devotee of a record by a west coast a-cappella group called The Bobs. In the most teenage of ways, there was a specific ritual one had to go through involving smoking a lot of pot and having a primo tape deck to properly listen to the Bobs record. I was working my way through my whole set of friends and they were getting a little tired of this until this night that my friends Megan and Wendy and I commandeered a family vehicle and secretly drove from New Jersey to visit some friends who were freshmen at Emerson College in Boston. Megan had this tape of her sister's with her and said that if i liked the Bobs, then I'd probably like the Roches as well. She put the tape in the player and after the...

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05.27.2010

Sometime Post-Mardi Gras 2010

Finally the noise has come down to a level where one can hear a little. There’s still a general background buzz of around 105 db, but one can begin to hear one’s neighbor. The eyes are able to focus at last. The shattered nerves and strained heart and limbs are almost mended. It’s been possible to turn the heat off these last few days, and it looks like we are finally a-hurrying into spring.

No doubt one has read all one can about the months of January and February 2010 here in New Orleans. I was here almost the whole time, but I cannot summon many particular events. We had the great wisdom to schedule the first recording session for the new sea shanty record at the Saturn Bar following the conclusion of the NFC championship game on January 24. The whole city was walking on eggshells and most started drinking early. I was a nervous wreck because of the game, but not for the obvious reason. Were the Saints to beat the Vikings to advance to the city’s first super bowl berth in 43 years, it would be like an atom bomb went off, sending shock waves of hysteria from the Superdome emanating outward until the whole of Greater New Orleans was frothing at its collective mouth. Conversely, if the Saints should choke, the collective despair that would be visited upon the city would cause almost certain paralysis. The pall would be so great that many would be convinced that the sun would never rise again. How then to harness these most powerful emotions to record sea shanties? The...
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07.13.2009

Oshkosh did not inspire. But, strangely, Atlanta did. Here's how.

I've never really thought about gun violence before, but what I want to do is rush a TSA rep, seize his gun, shove it in my mouth and yank the trigger. I hope they carry big guns, like 45s, so I can get a big arc of blood and brains behind me. A cone of skull fragments and gray matter and purple clots around seventeen feet long and nine feet wide at its largest point. I want to do this as close as i can to the security checkpoint. But a better scenario has my death ritual taking place in the queue for customer service. That site of extreme disregard. That dantesque endpoint of nullity, frustration and rage. When the brain-snot flies, this shall be a fitting arena. They say the forty-five is a loud gun, and I hope they're right. I want to wake people up and get blood on their shirts. Up to now I've been more interested in hostage situations. A siege sort of mentality. No more. What I seek is a humongous explosion and a spraying of blood and bits. Like lump crabmeat infused with melted purple crayons all over people's faces. A pornographic shit-mess. I can't feel otherwise. Two days of actual and potential air travel, along with its ancillary terminal attendance and the raft of lies I've endured have brought me to a place I never thought I'd be. As miserable as I've ever been I'd never dreamed of suicide, but now I'm sweating I want to do it so bad, and I want to do it all over the representative at the...

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07.08.2009

Well golly it has been a while, hasn't it? Which is a good thing because so much has been happening, there's just no time to write it down. I've been working just about every night throughout the spring with all the various projects--Tin Men every Wednesday at the DBA, Tom Paines every Tuesday at the Circle Bar. Matt Perrine's Sunflower City has been playing here and there, as have the Happy Talk Band. I hear Schatzy is thinking about making another CD, and the Geraniums have gigs coming up real soon. Ingrid Lucia and Paul Sanchez both keep me pretty busy, and even 007 rears its head once in a while. We just did an "Alex McMurray" show last weekend where I was joined by Carlo, Matt and Bob, so we did a lot of the old stuff as well as stuff from my new CD and it was a hell of a time. That band (what to call it? the Retired Bowlers League? Fingerpuppet?) will be returning to the DBA Friday Aug 28.

DUBAI

Probably the strangest highlight of the year was a trip to Dubai I made with Susan Cowsill and Russ Broussard back in late March. They had been asked to play and speak at an international conference on education called "Education Without Borders". From what I could gather from the literature, students and presenters from over 200 countries participated in this series of lectures and entertainment events over three days. They wanted Susan to speak about their Katrina experiences, plus she's a Cowsill...The most surreal scene was the opening night gala at...

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02.18.2009

We had a few much-needed weeks away for the holidays but hit the ground running. I've played just about every night since january 10 with no let up, and the calendar is full until mardi gras, pretty much. Which should be a great thing, but my promoter's muscles are a bit atrophied. The Tuesday happy hour thing with the Tom Paines is a lot of fun, but nobody comes out. Started up the Theater of the Damned again last night and no one showed up until almost 9:30, which is understandable because there was absolutely no promotion, nothing in the listings, nothing at all. I would send a mass text but I hate it when I get them and have no idea how to do it to begin with.

            But there was a funny moment about ten after eight, while Bailee, Cindy and myself were sitting at the Saturn Bar watching "Hell's Kitchen" on tv, waiting for people to show up, when in walks this woman in a long overcoat. She made her way slowly to the bar and looked at me like she knew me. I probably had met her at a show but really have no idea. She said, "so is it happening?" I guess I could have assumed that she meant was I playing or not, but the question was put with such an air of intrigue that I couldn't help but reply, "Is what happening?" "There's nothing about it anywhere", she said and she definitely had me there. (Now, the good people at the Saturn bar have been especially generous to me and my various projects, but one thing they don't deal with is putting shows in the listings....

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11.18.2008

The usual apologies for not writing/promises to write more often, etc. I know there are a few of you who like to read the diary. I think that's great and that's the reason I like to spend at least a little time on it, and not just use it to channel sheer blather. I like for there to be some inspiration in the thing. Below are the scraps and shavings of several attempts to get the diary page going again. I have only a rough idea of when these were written or what frame of mind I was in, but it should give you an idea of how scattered my brain has been this past year

 

July?

If you were my neighbor you would be facing real madness by now. Whoever is running the railroad next door has either left a locomotive on the wrong part of the track or a switch is busted somewhere. The air is filled with the never ending din of clanging bells day and night. This goes on for days at a time. The railroad is trying to make the denizens of the vicinity of St. Claude and Montague insane, it would seem. The folks around the corner have a strange look to them, like they haven't slept in a while. Late at night when we go to bed there it is. In the day when there's a lull in the traffic there it is as well.

 

August?

The other day i noticed a month long gap in my calendar. This will send a chill down the spine of any professional entertainer, but its especially galling when you book yourself and can't place the blame anywhere else. I said to myself "let's use this time wisely. What are...

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11.27.2007

Whoa, this is sad. Almost five months since the last diary posting. While I am Extraordinarily Busy, there is really no excuse for this. And you would think that I'd be fixing to burst with news and information, but that isn't the case. Sure there are the usual updates, such as the news that there was another performance of sea shanties on November 2, which was triumphant and epochal. The Valparaiso Men's Chorus got its collective shit together and learned another set of music not on the CD. I harbor the faintest of hopes that we can make another CD. I can't see why not. Maybe the chorus could go out and sell magazine subscriptions to help raise the money. I think it would be cute to see Fayard and Starnes knocking on doors and putting on an earnest face. We could offer people Ranger Rick and Boy's Life. If those magazines still exist. Perhaps a sailing magazine or one devoted to piracy (even though we are not a pirate band). We have been offered a slot at the Offbeat Best of the Beat awards show. Hopefully we can field a quorum.

Outside it is a nice mix of rain and wind. High quality late November weather and a hell of a day to lose a window in one's car. We were driving over to Henry's birthday breakfast over at Elizabeth's when all of a sudden going down Gallier the driver's side window exploded with great fanfare and noise. Kourtney and I just about shit our pants, thinking we were shot. The window fell off its track a few weeks ago and last night I jammed it into...

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07.06.2007

The usual apologies for not posting one of these for so long, etc. What can I say? Its been a big spring and now that its officially summer i can see the days stretching out ahead of me like a wild highway out in Utah. They're tearing up the street in front of the house and there's dust everywhere and that beeping sound whenever the heavy trucks go in reverse. They repaved St. Claude Avenue less than five years ago and we're all wondering why they're doing it again so soon, especially as it was one of the better preserved thoroughfares. Maybe it's part of a maintenance schedule but graft is the more logical explanation, especially when you know Burgundy Street just two blocks away has been a nightmare for years. You don't even want to ride your bike down Burgundy. But even Burgundy pales in comparison to the condition of just about every street north of St. Claude (the virtual demarcation line of the Corps' floodwater). There you seem to be transported to some forgotten little town abandoned by Okies or the Army years ago. Its an eerie feeling until you remember that that's exactly what it is, and you wish you had a humvee to get up to Claiborne Ave. so you can cross the bridge over the train on your way to Mid-City to buy groceries.

But this isn't going to be that kind of piece. The Culture of Complaint went out of style years ago. But what is that godawful smell? Its like someone bottled the air in Elizabeth New Jersey and pressurized it to use as paint remover....

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