Sunday September 12, 2004



Amanda returned today. When she did, I was already on the way to the home studio of a Critical Darlings' friend named Dan Nolte. He's got a little workshop set up at his house. Tom and I recorded tracks for an old song of mine called "I Won't Stand Still" a month or so ago and now that Frank's in town we wanted to track his bass line and do a little mixing. Well, that's exactly what we did. As for the mix, it's just a rough mix and that's probably all that it'll ever amount to. It's overly compressed, distorted, boomy and just the way we told Dan to mix it! (So it's our fault, not his!) I have NO desire to record anything that we consider a keeper track or a "real" album track that way. It might be good enough for a limited release EP or something. It was too scattered. It's good for Tom and Frank to record and mix, though. The more experience they get with it, the better. That's my main motivation behind doing it this way.

I WON'T STAND STILL - Chris McKay & The Critical Darlings

Anyway - if you wanna hear it, here it is. Just click it or download it. It's a small file as the song's only 1:45 seconds. You'll notice the noise at the beginning and end. This is completely unmastered. It's ripped straight from the CD Dan gave me.

Let's hope that it matters someday that this is the first full band recording with Tom and Frank. It was (rough) mixed less than 24-hours ago and here it is for you already. It's nice having someone else's voice singing backups for a change (no, that's not me for once). What do you think?

I've gotta say, I've been really panicked regarding the upcoming ACTUAL CD. Why? Well, because there are too many new variables. I'll be recording with musicians that I've never recorded with by people who have never recorded me. I'm very particular and am incredibly demanding in the studio. I hate acquainting myself with new people and environments because it only makes things less efficient. I'm not looking forward to the beginning of it. On the other hand, I'm thrilled about getting something finished. It will either be

A) The best thing I've ever done.


B) Never released and never heard by anyone.

Those are the only two options. And which one it winds up depends on the performances and mixes that come out of it. I don't care if it satisfies or even thrills everyone else concerned. If I don't love it, it ain't coming out.

I can do mediocre recordings in my living room.

The studio is for shooting at the big time.

Anyway - after we finished mixing, we rushed over to Nuci's Space for another couple of hours of playing time. This time, we started again with the "She Walks" experimental section. It was the first time with all three of us playing and it was ridiculously difficult to get the rhythm section in sync. That only makes me more hesitant to go into the studio. (Guys - get metronomes. Otherwise, you will cost waaaaaayyyyy more money than there's any excuse for and it won't be fun. I promise.) After 2 or 3 tries, it started to work a bit better. It was weird hearing the full band version performed by three people...but really cool. Now if the guys could relax and follow, it'd be great.

Then we did Set A again. We added a slightly new arrangement that featured a segue between "If You Want To Go" and "Until The Road Ends." It made both come across better than ever. The highlight for me today was "Scared Of Myself." I finally got the solo exactly how I want it. If I could program that particular guitar solo into memory and just play it back exactly the same everytime, I absolutely would.

For some reason, the last 4 songs (all of which we alledgedly know well) were really sloppy and not right. It's a little disheartening to end the weekend this way. There were many more lows than highs but the highs were really highs and the lows weren't that low. Hopefully, that's still progress.

Of all the material we have, 30% is consistently good, 40% is just okay to mediocre, and the remaining 30% is...well, not so good. The worst we do is still better than the best of a lot of the band's I've seen, but with a full 70% being either only okay or sloppy, we're a long way from where we need to be.

When I got home, Amanda was there and cooking us up some viddles. It was so good to see her. She told me of surfing, jellyfish stings, cats in restaurants, walking with hands in pockets, ghost tours and how she nearly broke her elbow and gave herself a massive bruise on her hip! Yikes. Sounds like she had big fun, too.

I'm just glad to have her home and I'm glad to be there with her and our crustacean friends.





Saturday September 11, 2004




I started this ugly date the way I ended playing guitar. I made sure all my new effects / loops / ideas worked and went about preparing for 3 o'clock rehearsal. I never could track down Frank (he still doesn't have a phone and it's driving Tom and me a bit insane). If he'd have not forgotten about last night, he'd know what's going on today. It's incredibly frustrating. I drove to his house, he's not there. I called him at his job, can't get him on the line. Aaaauuuuggggghhhh!

Tom and I showed up on time. We immediately began working on the middle part of "She Walks" with the loop. Apparently Tom really hates that section and feels like it ruins a good pop song. The bad part is, I don't like the song - I just like the middle. I know Frank agrees with me so I pushed on. If it's actually going to be a problem, I'd just as soon cut the song all together. I feel that way about all of the material.

I was pretty angry about the whole situation with Frank and the band not picking up steam quick enough after his relocation. I know I came across as rude to Tom. I hate that but I truly meant every word I said. After the difficulty of getting Tom in time with a loop, we moved on to "I Know Too Much (For My Own Good)." Tom had that one fairly well worked out so that was nice. Now I've gotta learn more lyrics! We also tried "This Is The Night The World Changes" but it's probably going to go away. I don't think it's a good showcase for Tom's strengths. If it seems forced, I'd just as soon ingore it and that one just doesn't fit him.

After about 2 hours, guess who showed up. Frank came in clearly knowing that I'd be irritated. To his credit, he came in, plugged up and we jumped into Set B. "Phony" was devastating. I can't believe how hard we nailed it. "Colors In Black & White", "Everyday," "(Save It For) Another Day" and "Jewel Box" have possibly never been done better. The fact that we played so well took a little edge off. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to push even harder.

Afterwards, Frank and I had dinner at TransMet and then reconvened to my place for more work. We ran through the "She Walks" loop for an hour or so. We also tried to rework "I Know Too Much" and "This Is The Night...". When we reached the point of diminishing returns, we quit. He hung out 'til almost midnight.

In the last 24 hours, I've probably had a guitar around my neck for about 12.





Friday September 10, 2004



I finally finished the latest Big Show today and got it turned in. Now I'm assigned a 2000 word summer concert wrap-up to turn in next week! Big fun, eh? At least I'll be happy when I finish it.

Well, Amanda's deserting me for the weekend. She's going down to Savannah to visit her cousin Rachel who's in the military and soon may be shipped off to the Middle East. Part of me feels like I should've gone but I figured they could use some family time without me.

Plus, t his would give me a chance to make this a "Hamburg Weekend" as I like to call 'em. That's when I get the band to work super hard (a la The Beatles in Hamburg). Unfortunately, Frank forgot that he was supposed to go check out John Waite and Simon Kirke with me. So I decided not to go. It was a wise choice to stay home even though I really wanted to meet John Waite and get one of my old photos signed. It was wise because Amanda drove the car and I still can't handle the stick shift truck well enough to be safe going to Gwinnett (much less Atlanta). I was pretty irritated with Frank for not showing but I took the chance to get into my GNX-3 and program a bunch of new stuff.

The main, frustrating project was learning how to use the built in recorder and looping agent. I finally figured it out (with no help from the manual) by going online to a forum / message board about the unit. After I figured it out, I made a loop of my old rhythm track from the "proggy" middle section of "She Walks" and worked up the whole "guitar army" section for me to play alone! It's actually pretty cool. Whether my non-metronome trained band can handle following it is another story but I'm going to push for it.

It'll definitely be interesting.

I wound up playing for 4 or 5 hours tonight. Very unusual for me.



Thursday September 9, 2004


Sting & Annie Lennox declare their togetherness Thursday night.


I took it relatively easy today for no reason other than that I'm still extremely burned out. I'm trying to get back up to speed but gradually. It's harder than it sounds. Honestly, I don't want to do anything but veg out right now. I wish I could.

I tried to write the next Big Show today. I did get the Sting / Annie Lennox review done but that's all I could eek out before having to get away from the computer. I absolutely abhor writing right now. I used to like it. I've got to get back into the swing of it. My last Big Show was for concerts nearly 3 months ago...



Wednesday September 8, 2004


Alright, now back to it. We rehearsed tonight. I broke the songs into two set lists of equal importance. We needed that because we have so many songs now that some of the songs are being under rehearsed. We have a little over 2 hours worth of music. With some of the little experimental things, it may add up to about 2 and a half. This was an iffy rehearsal. We were really pressured for time due to some previous commitments of Tom's. I think that added to the lack of eyebrows at this rehearsal. The last practice was pretty good. This was nothing but mediocre.

The rest of the day was typical. No need to repeat my repetition, eh?



Tuesday September 7, 2004

Me and Grandma.
Amanda took this pic a week and a couple of days ago at the family reunion.



A few days ago, you read about my dread of September and all that it entails. You also read about the great thing about September, the chance for me to celebrate my Grandmother. I have never seen anyone put up with more extreme problems and demands with such grace. Some of you that know her will laugh at that. Well, some of you who think you know are clueless. You'da left this world long ago if you'd had to go through the things that she's been through. And while the rest of her family treats her in a Simpsonian way, I refuse to join in. It's wrong. If not for her, you wouldn't be in the alright places you're in now. If not for her, a slew of you wouldn't even exist. And yet somehow, it's completely easy for you to forget that. Don't worry - it'll eventually come back to you. It's not even a cosmic justice type thing. It's just the way people that feel that way breed it into the people around them. Good luck when it's your turn.

As for me, my Grandmother and I have always been close. That won't change. She looked out for me when the people who were supposed to couldn't 'cause they were too wrapped up trying to wade through their own issues and (mostly) self-inflicted problems. Not only did she make sure that I was okay, she made sure I was doing well whenever I was with her. She was always selfless. She did even when she couldn't. She's the only reason that I believe that unconditional love is possible. She was my savior more times than I care to recall and her home was and is the only home I'll ever have. It's the only place I'll ever really feel secure. Her house is "Wayside."

Not only did she perform the work of a whole family on occasion, she taught me to take care of myself and to have fun. She even taught me how to sing and harmonize as well as play guitar and bass. My Dad taught me barre chords, but Grandma's pretty much responsible for everything else I was taught on guitar (so blame her!).

Speaking of my Dad, if it wasn't for having to be strong for Grandma and having to help her, I don't know how I would've gotten through the past year. It gave me something else to focus on when I had to have something else to get through the day.

When my Grandfather died, I was 18 months old. She always told me that focusing on me got her through. In the past year, she's more than made up for anything I did for her then. I understand what she meant now.

I know I can never repay her for what she's done for me. I can, however, take the time to tell her Happy Birthday, spend time with her whenever I can and try to do the right thing.

Thanks, Grandma. Happy Birthday.



Monday September 6, 2004


So this is one of them there "bank holidays," eh? Whatever. I don't get it. I guess it's cool to get a day off work for most people. I don't really get that luxury. Of course, if I choose, I can stop anytime I feel like it and drop everything. I'll take that tradeoff.

In the evening, we got the band back together up at Nuci's Space. It was (in Frank's words) "much more raucous" than it has been. We hardly got to play any of our regular songs. We were focusing on newer material. "Skyward" is finally coming together. It's sounding powerful and full. It's the best it's sounded since Q-Sign. "Everyday" is evolving into more of this lineup's song now. It's a lot more power pop (as it should be) and less like an outtake from an '80s soundtrack. I even simplified a couple of my lines for some windmill ready chords. "It's Never The Same" is still giving us trouble. I think it's 'cause no one bothers to think about it...then they over think! I'm telling you, that song's possibly the easiest one I've ever written. I think "Jewel Box" is finally ready to go into the regular rotation now, too. Anyone that's ever heard that song is going to be quite shocked at what we've done to it. They'll either love it or hate it, but they'll have an opinion for sure! I don't really remember everything we worked on but I do remember these. "Twist" is changing a bit...mostly in the way I pick the verses. "Colors In Black & White" and "Worms On The Pavement" are finally slamming again. Maybe the big surprise for me last night was "She Walks." It came across as super monstrous. I don't know if we'll ever do it, but if we do...

Oh yeah, we also played "A Hard Day's Night" for maybe the second time ever. We hit it just fine. Good to know that one's in the arsenal if necessary.

Nothing much else. Everyone seemed happy with things. It was the best we've played since the last show. We even had our eyebrows on for some of it.

Came home and watched Dead Man's Gun and Chappelle's Show and then off to dreamland.

Unfortunately, the remnants of Hurricane Frances repeatedly woke me up as diagonal sheets of ran raked the window. It even knocked the power we've got to be at least 200 miles from the ocean!

Click here to read (and see) of last week's adventures with pics of Annie Lennox, Sting and Gloria Estefan.