Explonehttp://www.explone.comExplone - post-rock + shoegaze popen-us<![CDATA[Yellow Diamonds In The Light]]>Explone Bandcamp Page, or in a little while it should appear on iTunes, Amazon and the other digital destinations.



I love Rihanna. I own a couple of her records, but mostly my exposure is through occasional media hit & runs: changing TV channels at night, flipping dials on the car radio, long elevator rides and shopping mall strolls. A few of her songs have hit me this way, and I find myself on YouTube, looking it up to see if there’s an “official” video.  (There always is. I don’t think Rihanna has ever released a song without an official video.)


I think she’s a great singer, in the sense that she embodies every word and really owns it. You can say so-and-so is better and I might agree (Beyoncé), but that ain’t what I’m talking about. She’s beautiful, but that ain’t it either. (I followed her on Instagram for a few weeks, but I could only look at so many pictures of Gucci bathing suits and private jets before I started liking her music less.) I’m not familiar with all her music, so I can’t say whether this is true love or just a crush. But when one of her songs connects with me, she hits it out of the goddamn park. Thus I found myself covering “We Found Love,” which combines elements that usually make any song unlistenable for me (heavy auto-tune, obnoxious siren sound buildups), yet somehow emerges so compelling that I literally can’t turn away once I’ve caught a few bars of it.


I don’t really know anything about her, or about Calvin Harris, the DJ who wrote and produced the track. But when I heard the first line, I knew right away what she was singing about. I was listening to a song about addiction, about despair, about listlessness and abandon. And it was joyful.


Trying to learn the song left me both compelled and baffled by it. The musical arrangement: an endless loop of four chords, structurally indistinguishable between verse and chorus except for where the coda lands, and how she spaced the melody. Easy to play but hard to understand. It sounded like a piece of music waiting for vapid, cliched lines about pouring champagne and riding 20-inch rims. But with one opening line about smoking rock cocaine, she turned it into something else entirely.


Once again I wandered next door and enlisted the help of my old friend Stephen T. Cavit, who scored the strings and played all the drums for good measure. Maria Scherer-Wilson took the lead on the string section, with some fantastic cello playing. I tried to stay somewhat faithful to the original, but in the end I needed a little more to work with so I added a bridge of sorts. This is a little outside the usual Explone wheelhouse, but the guys in the band loved it and we’ll work up an arrangement for the stage that bridges the delta between this recording and our live show.


I like singing from the perspective of characters who are honest with themselves, and that pretty well describes this one. The party ends with a terrible crash, and rather than being resigned to it she’s reveling in it. Love is jumping out of the plane without a chute. I can’t say I agree, but I sure can sympathize.


Patrick]]>Mon, 14 Apr 2014 15:59:38 GMThttp://www.explone.com/home.aspx?id=1453<![CDATA[Suicide Fences]]>
We’re finishing a new record. The new Explone album will be called Suicide Fences. It will be out in the fall of this year, barring some unforeseen event (asteroid, alien invasion, death of the entire recording industry--oh wait, that already happened). Anyway, it’s coming out in the fall and it’s going to be on vinyl.


A lot of debate going on constantly about albums, and if they even matter anymore as a concept or an artifact. I’m biased (obviously), but I think they do. I believe it’s still a great artistic challenge to try and make 10 or 12 songs hang together into a cohesive listening experience, not have any filler, provide the right amount of ups & downs, and keep listeners wanting more. It’s something great to aspire to. All my favorite artists have made great albums, not just tossed out occasional great songs. So I’m invested in the format and the concept.


But in 2014, you really have to fight for people’s attention. There’s just too much shit going on all the time. You get to ask for attention when you have an event, and an album release is just one event no matter how many songs you include. That’s not enough for me; to steal a phrase from America’s Pastime: I want more at-bats. So we’re going to release a number of singles leading up to the full album release. These are songs that I feel would benefit from being released on their own for one reason or other. They’ll all be on the finished album, and they fit into the whole picture we’re painting with Suicide Fences. But they’re getting pushed out of the nest on their own first, into the wide, unforgiving digital world. (I thought for a moment about going full Wu-Tang on this album and releasing a single copy to the highest bidder. Okay, I didn’t really think about it. But I think the concept is brilliant. Well done, Wu-Tang.)


Lots of debate also about various methods of soliciting participation, achieving funding thresholds, monetizing, marketing, blah, blah, fucking blah. Kickstarter is great. Patreon is great. Just not for me, and not right now. I can make the art myself, I don’t need sponsorship to do it. In that sense I’m lucky, as I know a lot of artists can’t afford to make the records they want to make without some kind of crowdfunding. Not throwing shade at anyone who uses these mechanisms in any way. But I’m not comfortable with it for this album.


Labels are great too, obviously. But since nothing is cooking on that front at the moment, we’re going ahead on our own. We’re dropping the first single next week. In the meantime, thanks as always for listening and reading and just being who you are.


Patrick]]>Mon, 07 Apr 2014 21:21:45 GMThttp://www.explone.com/home.aspx?id=1452<![CDATA[What Are Words For?]]>I’ve slacked off blogging for a long time, maybe to reconsider the value of words in what seems like an endless stream of short bursts of sensory input. It’s been a weird few months. I needed to unplug for a while, whatever that means. And now I need to plug back in, which doesn’t necessarily mean more blogging but it might. Anyway, I’m quoting Richard Hawley when I say I’m thinking about a lot of things and probably not saying as much about any of them. Sort of having a “what are words for?” moment.

I probably owe loyal readers an event recap, but that will have to wait. Suffice to say there have been events, and they have been eventful. I wrote some songs, the band recorded some of them, etc. I played some gigs, including the worst/best one of my life so far. I don’t want to ever try and top it.

Lately I’ve been wondering about faith, and if music and really all art is just another form of faith. We start with nothing, but we believe so we go forward and at the end we have something tangible. Since I’m not a religious person, my intersections with faith have had more to do with looking within than looking without. But maybe they’re the same thing in the end.

I know music can also be a source of courage, because I’ve seen it. It can change lives. It can also diminish us, if we try to squeeze it into the same narrow boxes that fill up much of our world: materialism, avarice, blind ego, jealousy. These things rob us of our courage, the same way they rob art of its real power and authenticity. Real courage is more often about letting go, which is an exercise frequently required in the creation of art. Which also requires faith. But faith is not the elimination of doubt; faith is not certainty. I feel pretty strongly about this, our daily lives being so full of examples of phony confidence and false certainty disguised as “faith” when really it’s just authoritarian posturing and the usual bullshit.

I think there’s a place where faith and doubt coincide and coexist. That’s where I’m heading, and that’s what I’m trying to find. Through music.

Patrick

 

 

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Wed, 02 Apr 2014 14:30:59 GMThttp://www.explone.com/home.aspx?id=1451
<![CDATA[The Scott Andrew Appreciation Blog]]>I play with the best guys.  It’s one of those areas of life where I’ve been truly blessed.

Bands are just relationships, friendships hopefully, but in some cases they fall into other categories that are more transactional: “business relationship” or “access to my next social/professional circle” or “I’m sleeping with you so okay” or “you guys suck but you play weekends so okay” or “you’re my drug dealer so okay” etc. etc. In other words, any situation you can potentially find yourself in as a human being, there’s a good chance that a band is lurking right around the corner waiting to nab you on circumstantial evidence.

I’ve been in some of these other situations, but the vast majority of my musical collaborations have been based around playing with people who I liked.  Most of the good decisions I’ve made as a band member/bandleader came after I figured out this dynamic.  In other words, they’ve happened after I understood the variety of motivations for the “being in a band” transaction from different types of musician-y characters.  There’s a long list of these types, and they deserve their own blog...but I’ll save that for another time.  Suffice to say that I’ve weeded my way through most of them.

When I started Explone it was a nerve-wracking experience.  I’d never been a bandleader before.  I’d never had to deal with all these fucking musicians and their fucking hang ups and their fucking drug addictions and their fucking personality disorders in real time, as the guy who owned the van, and the P.A., and the lease on the rehearsal space.  It’s funny now, but at the time it seemed a daunting responsibility.  Most of all, I didn't want to get stuck dealing with any weirdos.  You know what I mean: the people who respond to a Craigslist ad, and right away you know there’s just something wrong with them...and yet you feel obligated to meet them for a cup of coffee just to hear their detailed account of why your music fits their current astrological profile and personal religious rebirth.  Or something. 

Anyway, I didn’t have go through any of those headaches with Explone.  Thanks to Josh Williams and John Merkel, our band got off the ground with nothing but good friends in the fold.  That lineup was awesome while it lasted, but life changes and people move on.  By the time Merkel left and I had to look for a new bassist, a couple of years had passed and I was more confident in myself...right up until the moment I wrote that first Craigslist ad.  In that moment, all my insecurity and irrational fear came rushing back.  Here come the weirdos.

Fortunately the first weirdo who responded was Scott Andrew.  We didn’t know each other, but we had some mutual friends.  We were fans of many of the same bands (Minneapolis punk rockers and Canadian prog rockers).  Scott is himself an accomplished and outstanding singer-songwriter, and he gave me a compelling sales pitch on his bass playing abilities: he had never played bass in a band before, but he just bought a bass and was looking for an amp.  And he liked our music.  (Hard to say no to credentials like that.)  Also, the bass he had just purchased was a Peavey T-40, an instrument of ungodly weight, hailing from the late 1970’s, one which I knew well and begrudgingly admired as perhaps the least “classic” of all the classic bass guitars of that era.  Anyone who actively sought out a T-40 was a person of discerning taste and not to be taken lightly. 

Fifteen minutes into our first rehearsal, it was clear that Scott was not only an excellent bass player, but also a worthy foil to all the nerdy humor I could come up with.  He recognized every single Rush riff I pulled out, and even knew some of them better than I did.  So he was in. 

Fast forward a couple of years and you can hear Scott’s outstanding bass work on the last two Explone albums, accompanied by his excellent backing vocals.  You can also see his work as a video director and producer here, and here.  All of the guys who have been/are in the band have made great contributions, but probably no one has been more instrumental (see what I did there?) than Scott.  He really glues everything together. 

This October everyone went away on separate vacations.  Scott went to the UK for a month, for a bit of work and a bit of touring the countryside with his super-crafty and awesome wife Megan.  While I enjoyed my own vacation immensely, going for more than a month without a gig or rehearsal has proven to be a bigger drought than I was ready for.  Practicing scales in my living room works to a degree, but I really miss getting in front of the amps and drums, being loud and working up a good sweat.  So I’m counting the days until Scott comes home, which fortunately is a single-digit number at this point. 

We picked up a show on November 15th at the Hard Rock Cafe in Seattle.  THis will be our last scheduled show of 2013, so unless something unforeseen happens this will be it for  the year.  It’s a great venue and a great night, and we’re very much looking forward to playing with our friends Will Wakefield & the Congress Hotel.  Doors are at 8:00 and Explone plays at 9:00.  Hope to see you there. 

Best,
Patrick

PS: I singled Scott out in this post, but I should mention the great admiration and thanks I have for all the people who have been part of Explone, past and present: Kyle, Nelson, Greg Garcia, John Merkel and Josh Williams (both times).  All are outstanding gentlemen and fine human beings. 


 

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Thu, 07 Nov 2013 12:08:49 GMThttp://www.explone.com/home.aspx?id=1450
<![CDATA[Trap Door]]>

 

“To the dumb question "Why me?" the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: why not?”  --Christopher Hitchens, Mortality

 



Ladies & gentlemen, I give you the new Explone video for “Trap Door.”  This was Scott’s sophomore turn as a video director, and he assures us it will be his final one as well.  To paraphrase Mr. Andrew: “this shit is just a LOT of work.”  Well, yes it is--particularly when you once again film the entire thing on an iPhone 4S.  (That’s not a plug or a product placement, it’s just a statement of fact.) 


“Trap Door” is one of my favorite songs from our last EP Telescope & Satellite.  I had the music kicking around for a while, but it took a long time to finish.  The song is pretty dark and moody, and I kept waiting for it to tell me what it was supposed to be about.  Something was tugging me, but it took awhile for it to come into focus.  When it finally did, I finished the lyrics and arrangement in about fifteen minutes.  The trigger, unfortunately, was a reminder that for all of us, time is short. 


Losing people is a bitch.  And fear of loss is something that keeps us all awake sometimes, one way or another.  Technology, in my estimation, makes this both easier and harder.  The ease with which we stay hyper-connected in virtual terms occasionally puts into stark relief how disconnected we are in real terms.  This is true when pondering the least significant milestones in anyone’s life, but it surely impresses upon us when someone passes away.  “Trap Door” is about losing someone, and more so about realizing the ways in which the losing happened before it happened. 


A long time ago, when I was taking my first fledgling steps into the Seattle music scene, there was a small network of bands who I admired, shared shows with, hung around, and generally felt like I fit into some kind of “scene” with.  This wasn’t a calculated thing; these were just the people I gravitated to in the early 1990’s, as Seattle was reeling with post-grunge euphoria and everyone from everywhere was moving to our town to start or join a band.  Some of the people in this scene were my close friends, and others were merely casual friends or acquaintances, people who I thought of fondly and admired in some way, even if we weren’t that close.  Music is a pretty intimate thing to share, and it tends to give the impression that you know someone better than you probably do once you’ve given or received that form of expression.  I know I’ve felt like I know someone better after watching one 45-minute set of loud rock music than I probably would have after working at a job together for weeks or months.  It’s just a barrier-breaking emotional exchange. 


A few years ago, one of the people from this scene passed away unexpectedly.  I was friends with this person, but we had not been in touch in some time.  Still, the news of their passing took me by surprise and reminded me not just of my own mortality, but also of how many missed opportunities I’d had to make a connection with them recently.  Thanks to the extremely connected virtual pond we all swim in, within a day or two I knew the whole story of their untimely death, and I anonymously shared an outpouring of shock and sadness from many other old friends and acquaintances, without ever really talking to anyone.  The whole thing left me with a strange, voyeuristic feeling.  I wanted to go to a bar and see everyone there, but it wasn’t happening. 


“Trap Door” wasn’t written specifically about any one person, but the sense of loss without closure I felt that summer came back to me while I was finishing it.  It’s hard to reconcile that stuff, especially if the person lost went unexpectedly, or (worse yet) took themselves out of the equation.  You really don’t know how much time you have.  This isn’t a reason to go around clinging to things, any more than it justifies hedonistically living only for the present moment.  It’s just a reminder of the fact that, sooner or later or somewhere in between, we’ll all be gone.  Maybe somewhere else, maybe not.  But not here, with each other.  Not even with ourselves. 


This past week I received word of the loss of another friend from that same time in my life.  In this case it was a guitarist who I had always admired and whose playing had inspired me on many occasions.  It might feel different if we had stayed in touch, but now the best memories I have of him are from when we were both in our 20’s, feeling young and ambitious and very immortal.  We saw each other a few times over the years, but not enough to overwrite the image in my mind of that earlier time.  And now he’s gone. 


It’s a fucking trap door, life.  Under your feet. 


‘til next time,
Patrick

 

 

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Wed, 18 Sep 2013 12:09:54 GMThttp://www.explone.com/home.aspx?id=1449
<![CDATA[Crafting some real shit.]]>
Seven new songs have been tracked for the next Explone record. Or eight if you count the Rihanna cover I’ve been working on with my friend STC. I’m not sure why I always want to choose covers from female singers, but this one is a gem and I’m very pleased with the results so far. We have the tracking done, and only need to finish the mix in proper fashion before we can unleash it on the universe.


Of the Explone material, I can confidently say that these songs are the best batch I’ve cooked up yet. A few of them are quite difficult to sing, which is an issue I’m grappling with this weekend as I sit in the Litho kitchen between takes typing this blog. I’m pushing myself into new territory as a vocalist, and that means a bit of discomfort but I suspect (and hope) it’s all for the best. Here are the titles of the songs we’ve tracked thus far:


Diamond Trackers
Ballad of Murtzuphlus
Born At The Wrong Time
Your Secret Name
Dead Set On Destruction (Hüsker Dü cover)
The City, My City
Turning Into California


The gradual dissolving of any differentiation of personnel between Explone and Kirby Krackle was completed when Bryce stopped by the studio to play electric piano on “The City” with us. I guess we’re all one big, happy band now. We also had a guest appearance from old friend Andrew Norsworthy, who plays the main guitar part on “Your Secret Name.” (I kept telling Andrew he was destined to rock again someday.) Both are fine gentlemen and acquitted themselves in the best possible fashion.


I enjoyed the hell out of our recent west coast tour with Kirby Krackle, wheeling down the I-5 corridor and back with our friends H2Awesome! in tow. The anchor gig of the whole expedition was a show in San Diego for Comic Con, with 90’s nerd rock trailblazers Nerf Herder. They were okay, but the real highlights of the night were the burlesque dancers who did striptease routines between the bands. Sexy girls dressed as comic heroines--need I say more?


During our long van rides, we listened to a bunch of podcasts. I really enjoyed one with Marc Maron interviewing Jakob Dylan. Maron can be a bit of a dick (which is often what makes him compelling as an interviewer, I realize), and I thought Dylan was candid and thoughtful. In particular, it stuck out that he was not a fan of the Rick Rubin-produced Johnny Cash albums, nor of the whole “stripped down” trend with older artists at the end of their careers. I tend to land on the same side of this topic, and it’s not something I’ve heard many people say. Anyway, I dug it.


On the broader topic of record making and art in general, I’ve grown pretty weary of hearing people endlessly exalt art that they determine is “real.” As in: “I love singers like Lou Reed; they’re so REAL.” Okay, I get it and I like plenty of rough-edged stuff myself. But “real” is just as artificial as any other attribute when making or discussing art--it’s no different than saying something “sounds bright” or “looks sad.” And a lot of times what I hear other people call “real” to me just sounds either lazy or carefully constructed to simulate realness via meticulously assembled sloppiness. Anyway, this is not to disparage Lou Reed (who I think is fuckin’ great by the way) or any other “gritty,” “authentic,” “uncontrived” or “real” sounding artist. I merely submit that all of that stuff is craft, whether it sounds like it or not, whether it took three years or three hours to create.


Heading back in to “craft” some more vocal tracks now. Thanks for reading and for keeping up with this blog and my musical meanderings. New music coming shortly...until then, safe travels to all.


Patrick]]>Sun, 25 Aug 2013 13:23:08 GMThttp://www.explone.com/home.aspx?id=1448<![CDATA[Golden Ballroom]]>I never spent much time in Shoreline until Kyle joined Explone. Or until I joined Kyle’s band Kirby Krackle...I honestly can’t remember which happened first. But as soon as one domino fell, the other was on the way down, and Kyle and I were destined to be double-bandmates. Our polygamous musical relationship led to a number of inconvenient rehearsal situations, until we all agreed to become one happy extended Explone/Kirby Krackle family, and we moved into the basement of Kyle’s house in Shoreline.

Kyle lived right next to the Crest Theater, which is a well-worn North Seattle institution specializing in late-run and cult movies. Back in the 90’s I went with a bunch of drunken friends to see Terminator 2 at the Crest, for the princely sum of two bucks. By the time we arrived at the theater I had already passed out in the back of Jeff Stone’s van, so they left me there to sleep it off. I assume the movie was a good time with the usual greasy, room temperature Crest popcorn.

Kyle’s house had one of those special basements that’s just tall enough to make you think you can stand up straight, and juuuuust short enough to ensure you keep nailing your head on a beam, or a light fixture, or a piece of duct work, or some other structural appendage designed to hang at exactly forehead level. It also had a catacomb-like quality, as the whole space was a seemingly endless, winding corridor that circled in toward the center of the foundation. The previous resident had used the basement as his “workspace,” and there were cabinets, shelves and drawers sitting in every nook and crevice. Imagine a long hallway with a lot of left turns, unlimited storage for arcane artifacts and torture devices, then toss in some Silence of the Lambs-style ambiance, and you’ll pretty well get the picture.

This would have been creepy, but Kyle transformed the space through sheer determination. He reached into his (apparently bottomless) collection of comic art, and papered the walls and ceiling with comic pages, rock posters, and various cheerful pop culture artifacts. He arrayed an impressive collection of action figures on the cinder blocks behind the drum set. He hung strings of party lights in tiny paper lanterns from the head-cracking beams. And he found some carpet that looked like it was stolen from the set of The Brady Bunch to cover the floor. Somehow he transformed Buffalo Bill’s basement lair into a nerd rock clubhouse.

As we were finishing the Telescope & Satellite EP, Scott floated the idea of filming a video for “Golden Ballroom” on his iPhone. Scott is the most technologically gifted of my bandmates, so I figured if he brought it up he must know what he’s doing. He said he wanted to shoot it in our basement rehearsal space, and that seemed like a good idea, since the place had good vibes imposed on it. Thus we arrived at the video below, courtesy of the directorial acumen of Scott Andrew.



“Golden Ballroom” is a song that literally came to me in a dream. I woke up one morning around 5:00 AM, and the song and imagery were so vivid all I had to do was stumble downstairs and grab a guitar, tune it to the key in my memory, and the song just fell out. I’ve had ideas come to me in dreams before, but this was the most complete song I’ve ever received while unconscious. I even had most of the lyrics the moment I woke up. In my dream, the space I was in looked a lot like the old Century Ballroom on Capitol Hill. And I wasn’t singing; I was standing in a circle around the middle of the ballroom floor, while a woman sang the song for all of us. I’ve always been a pretty good dreamer, but this one was a doozy--one of the best I’ve ever had. Have you ever had that feeling after a really intense dream where you wake up, and you need a few minutes to convince yourself that you’re not still asleep? That *this* is real, and the other stuff you were just experiencing in the unreal part? That’s what “Golden Ballroom” felt like.

We were working at Avast! for the recording, ain their cavernous Studio A tracking room. Shawn and I decided to use the space for effect, so I put my Fender Vibroverb on one side of the room, and put Shawn’s Fender Deluxe on the other side. We set the tremolo effect on each amp to a slightly different speed, which when combined with the space in the room created a kind of trippy, disorienting effect. Honestly, it was making me a little dizzy when we tracked the song but I got through it and it sounded killer.

I knew I wanted strings on the song, and my old friend Stephen Cavit came through with a stellar arrangement. He even conducted the string session, translating my dream-induced song into a written score for a quartet.

So there you go: the new Explone video for “Golden Ballroom.” Dreams do come true, once in a while.

--Patrick

Golden Ballroom

Deep in a dream I climbed the stairs, to a golden ballroom where
strange music hung like smoke
I met a silent woman there in a diamond wheelchair
I touched her shoulder, with her eyes she spoke

She said “never be too far from me
now don’t you worry you will see
my heart will always find you”

I opened my arms and pulled her near, and my eyes gave up their tears
and a singer started singing
Nobody moved or took a breath, still and beautiful as death
as the steeple bells kept ringing

Saying “don’t forget the things you learned
the joy you feel your tears have earned
my heart will always find you”

The singer’s voice was a perfect sound
as the golden ballroom spun around
my heart will always find you

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Sun, 10 Feb 2013 22:02:54 GMThttp://www.explone.com/home.aspx?id=1447
<![CDATA[Life Ring]]>I’ve been reflecting on 2012, and it’s a lot to consider. I mean, I got married…so nothing else is really going to top that. I saw almost all the people I love most in the world in one place at one time, and we all had a blast. But that’s a memory I’ll keep for myself. I also released an EP I’m extremely proud of, played some great shows, and felt my sails fill with new winds of inspiration to close the year. 2012 encompassed so much joy, so many milestones passed, so much to be thankful for and look forward to...it was hard to pick an angle. But after spending Christmas Eve with my family, one story rose to the top of my mind and seemed worthy of mention. 2012 was the year that my friend Mike Wansley caught a long-deserved break, and in the process he made a lot of us feel better about ourselves. And he reminded me how, years ago, he and some other friends gave me an inspirational ass-kicking.

In the summer of 1990 I was a freshly de-matriculated college student (translation: dropout), working two shitty jobs and struggling to get my band into shape. I thought I knew a thing or two about playing guitar, and I was a fledgling songwriter with no clue how much hard work lay ahead of me. Mostly I was just a dumb kid, partying a lot and enjoying life in Seattle after moving in from the suburbs. Among my friends was a wild, redheaded guitar player named D.P. (we call him “Deep” for the sake of monosyllabic brevity); he was the same age as me but with a musical background that trumped mine in both depth and breadth. He knew all about soul and R&B, and he knew how to play that way when he wanted to. But he was also a shredder with great technique, and not much patience for people who couldn’t find the downbeat. Deep had spent his late teens kind of like me, playing in cover bands at college parties to make a few bucks, and dreaming of being in an original band and making his mark. Except at some point that year, he stopped dreaming about it and starting doing it.

I was at home when my friend Fish called (it was all land lines back in those days), and told me to drop everything and get to the Rendezvous RIGHT NOW. “I’M WATCHING D.P.’S BAND AND THEY ARE FUCKING INCREDIBLE!!!” was what I heard through the din. I could detect the serious edge to his plea, so I jumped in my (t)rusty 1978 Toyota pickup, sweeping out the puddle of mystery fluid that collected daily on the floor board, and whisked myself to the venue.

Once inside I found Fish and we made our way to the stage, where the band was in mid-set. Four guys on stage, including D.P. who sat perched on a stool with a giant cast enveloping one of his legs. (As I was just finding out, dude is injury-prone.) Somehow he managed to stay upright, which was impressive because what these guys were delivering was a truly blistering wall of sound. It started with the drummer, a mild-mannered looking guy pleasantly massacring a beat up old kit that seemed in danger of exploding into splinters every time he laid into it. To the left was a skinny blond guitarist, all vintage cool and controlled poise—the exact juxtaposition to Deep’s fiery, modern slashing. And in the middle, a serious-looking black dude with a bass around his neck and a bandana tied around his head. And singing his ass off. Let me re-emphasize that: Singing. His. Ass. Off.

They were called Life Ring, and I had never seen anything like them. It wasn’t just that they were great musicians, or that they were super-tight (although both were true). It was the songs. They played songs that reached right into me and brought me face-to-face with what the singer was singing about. Being at the time a guitarist who considered singing the last piece of the songwriting puzzle, I wasn’t used to this. And I wasn’t ready for it. But it was happening, right in my face. And it was fucking awesome.

After the set we found Deep and exchanged multiple high fives, and then we met the rest of the band: David Nielsen, Jeff Stone and Mike Wansley. Everyone just called him “Wanz,” so I did the same.

Driving home that night with my ears still ringing, two things were abundantly clear:

      1. My band wasn't as good as we thought we were.

      2. I had never felt so hungry to practice in my entire life.

And sure enough, our band practiced furiously after that night. See, up to that point, I had never known anyone in a really good band. You went and saw your friends play, and you expected it to be what it always was: a good-natured amateur hour. No one really talked about it, probably because no one wanted to confront it. It was easier to just pal around and pretend you were all great. But then Life Ring came along and fucked it all up for us. Suddenly people we actually knew had a band that was actually awesome, and we had to face the facts—especially if we were ever going to share a stage with them. And pretty soon we did share the stage with them, as well as inhabiting the rehearsal room next door, swapping jokes, bumming cigarettes, and getting to know all of them as friends while having the deepest respect for them as musicians and artists. My pal Tommy and I even got to sing with them at Bumbershoot one year, when they needed some sexy backup vocalists. (Tom provided the “sexy.”) I never stopped believing in that band, and those guys. They just inspired the shit out of me.

Life Ring, unfortunately, went the way of a lot of really good bands, which is to say not very far. It was a shame and an injustice, except life isn’t fair and there’s no such thing as justice when it comes to the complicated, ugly marriage of art and commerce. But all of us stayed friends, and we’ve periodically kept up with each other as we’ve all gotten older and moved along through life. Bands, jobs, marriages, kids, etc. etc. All of us have kept some connection to the music world, and a few of us have stayed neck deep. This includes Wanz, who has somehow always had multiple bands, been a prolific songwriter, a musician and singer on many other artists’ records, and managed to keep a pretty great sense of humor throughout. We all had our ups and downs, but as I got older and somehow never lost my desire to write songs and make records, it felt good to have other friends who just kept going. We’ve never talked about it, but I wonder if Wanz (and Deep, and Roger, and Fish, and the rest) all feel the same way I do: why stop? And furthermore, how would I even stop if I wanted to?



Anyway, fast forward to 2012 and I get my first look at this video, which has by now become pretty ubiquitous, and shows no signs of slowing down. I was already aware of Macklemore (who in Seattle wasn’t?), but I have to admit I was blown away by Wanz’s brilliant contribution to what appears to be the right song, at the right time, in the right place. I would have liked it anyway—it’s a great song, after all—but the fact that Wanz was so clearly instrumental to the particular magic of this track made me shout with joy, jump out of my chair and dance around. (Thankfully no one was there to witness.) And to see the snowball of success and recognition that has come since this song was released feels really joyous for me. In his own way, Mike Wansley is one of my musical heroes, and it’s good to know that a lot of other people out there are finally feeling the way I’ve always felt about him. Wanz is a few years older than me, and to see someone who has worked for so long finally catch a break and enjoy a bit of well-deserved recognition is so, so righteous.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there needs to be a commercial or popularity payoff for all the years of doing work and making art. Art isn’t banking, and there’s no guaranteed rate of return. That’s not the reason you do it, or at least not the reason I do it. But I am saying it’s okay to feel gratified for one of your friends when they do something great and it catches fire.

My Dad and my Sister are both Macklemore fans, mostly because of “Same Love” and its timely and important message about equality for same-sex couples. But also because of “Thrift Shop” and the singer for Life Ring that they remember from way back when. On Christmas Eve, I had a copy of The Heist wrapped under the tree for my Dad, and so did my Sister. And my Dad had one wrapped for her as well. So somehow we ended up with three copies of the same CD under our family Christmas tree. If that’s not a signifier of cultural relevance, I don’t know what is.

So to sum up my feelings at the tail end of 2012, I’ll give thanks. Thanks to Deep, Jeff Stone, David Nielsen and Michael Wansley for being in the best band I’d ever seen at the time I first saw them. Thanks to Roger, Tommy and Fish for being as inspired and dedicated (and single-minded) as I was during that time. Thanks to all the musicians I’ve played with since for letting me be who I am and sharing their talent with me. And specifically thanks to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for making a great record and for shining some light on a person who has been long deserving of that chance to shine.

Happy New Year. I love you guys. This is fucking awesome.

Patrick

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Fri, 28 Dec 2012 16:25:33 GMThttp://www.explone.com/home.aspx?id=1446
<![CDATA["Eurotrash Guy"]]>Hitting the road soon…in a metaphorical sense, since “the road” in this case involves a plane and a 14-hour ride.  But anyway.  Things have been so good sine the release of Telescope & Satellite, and I am so very grateful for the friends and good fortune I’ve been blessed with.

A couple of weeks ago I stopped by the Air Raid Podcast, for a conversation with host Aaron Roden.  I met Aaron through Kyle, and when we sat down to talk I wasn’t sure what to expect.  As it happened the conversation ranged through a variety of topics, including the intersections o art & commerce (if and when they intersect at all), and my Mom’s struggle with Multiple Sclerosis.  It was more interesting than the usual “what’s your favorite track?” and “what inspired this song?” kind of interview, at least for me.  I’m glad Aaron had me over to his kitchen.

The CD Release Show at the Sunset was a blast, and I enjoyed the hell out of both Boxcar Rebellion and Spanish for 100.  I sweated so much during our set, my vision was blurry for the next day; it’s a miracle I didn’t wreck the van on the drive home that night.  I need to remember to pack Visine to gigs from now on, but it was well worth it. 

When I get back from Europe, it’s straight into more Explone activity: our next video for “Trap Door” should be finished shortly, and our next gig happens on Friday, 11/16 at The Skylark.  Plus I’ve started a flurry of writing (it happens every fall), so I guess I’m stacking up material for the next record already.  Can’t start too soon, I suppose. I bought a weird old electric piano, because the sound of it was haunting my dreams and I just had to have one.  I hope I can wring a few songs out of it, before the inevitable back surgery this 300-pound beast puts me in the hospital. 

I’ll post some pictures of the Eiffel Tower and other cool Parisian stuff once I get settled in and figure out Internet access.  As always, thanks for reading and be well. 

Patrick

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Wed, 17 Oct 2012 21:51:27 GMThttp://www.explone.com/home.aspx?id=1445
<![CDATA[Let's talk about bats.]]>Recently we released the first video from our new EP Telescope & Satellite, for the song “He’s A Bat.”  We love the song, and so far it seems like everyone else does too—especially kids.  I’ve had several friends share with me how much their kids enjoy rocking out to “the bat song,” which is a great compliment.  One buddy of mine even sent me a short video of his son dancing along with the bat, which I found both hysterical and really touching.



When I wrote it I was thinking specifically of the “Flash Gordon” theme song by Queen, from their soundtrack to the much-maligned 1980 film.  When I was a kid I LOVED this movie, and I wore out my VHS copy of it.  Looking at it now, I find this childhood obsession a little hard to explain, as the movie itself has lost the magic for me.  But the soundtrack most definitely has not.  This was Queen’s ninth studio album, and they delivered some pretty amazing music for it, most notably the theme song with its pulsing intro and explosive, screaming harmonies.  This was the feel I was trying to emulate with “He’s A Bat,” and I cribbed it as closely as I could.  I hope Freddie would be proud.  I hope Freddie’s lawyers wouldn’t want to drag my ass into court.

I think what we ended up with sounds a little closer to Cheap Trick, probably just because our band sounds more like Cheap Trick.  Also because it’s impossible for anyone else to really sound like Queen; that shit just ain’t happening.  I mean, have you ever noticed the dearth of bands out there that draw Queen comparisons?  Seriously, we’ve had everyone else: “the new Deep Purple” (Wolf Mother), “the new Led Zeppelin” (Black Mountain), “the new Joy Division” (Interpol)…blah blah blah.  No new Queen though, and here’s why: no one else can do it.  There was only one Freddie Mercury, and one was all we needed.  Anyway, I digress.

Getting back to our tune, clearly it’s a lighthearted song, and is obviously not intended to be realistic, scientifically accurate, or in any way a fair portrayal of the current state of American bats.  That being said, bats in North America are in some deep shit, and they really need our help. 

In 2006, researchers first detected a new disease that was killing bats.  This disease, called White Nose Syndrome, is a fungal infection that attacks entire colonies of bats while they hibernate in their winter homes, usually caves.  First observed in New York, White Nose Syndrome has now spread across the eastern US and into Canada. With a mortality rate of around 90%, WNS has already killed more than 5 million bats, and actually threatens some species with total extinction unless we figure out some way to stop it.

Why is this a big deal?  Mostly because bats play a HUGE role in the ecosystem of these regions.  If the bats go away, all of us will feel the impact, starting with farmers and food producers.  Bats eat insects, literally billions of bugs every year.  A lot of these bugs will see a population explosion without their natural bat predators around to thin them out.  And since a lot of these bugs eat plants and food crops, the agricultural industry will be hit hard by the absence of bats.  It stands to reason that this will eventually hit the rest of us, as prices go up and other measures like chemical pesticides are used more heavily on the stuff we eat. 

Now, you might think bats are creepy, bloodsucking, airborne rodents that only appear in your nightmares.  Or (like me) you might think they’re the cutest little guys prowling the night.  But either way, they are an important part of our planetary ecosystem and they could use our help.  Fortunately there are some good organizations that try to help bats (and help people understand these often-misunderstood creatures).  So my appeal to anyone reading this is to take a moment and check out Bat Conservation International, the Organization for Bat Conservation, or just read a little bit about them and learn how cool they are

Quick note that our CD Release Show is October 4th at the Sunset.  We’ll be playing with two great bands: Boxcar Rebellion and Spanish for 100, and we are stoked to bring these songs to the stage.  Hope to see you then, and be cool.

Patrick

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Sun, 16 Sep 2012 09:21:27 GMThttp://www.explone.com/home.aspx?id=1444
<![CDATA[Telescope & Satellite]]>Today we celebrate.

Although if we're being honest, there has been a helluva lot of celebrating going on around Explone HQ lately. Kyle has been celebrating the continuing success of Kirby Krackle, as well as his own imminent launch of a new business venture involving beer. Scott has been celebrating the completion of a new fence at his top secret Central Seattle lair. Nelson has been celebrating...well, I'm not really sure but he's been in his usual high spirits so I assume it's something good.

As for me, I got married. And it was pretty incredible, and the most incredible part about it is that I get to wake up in the morning now and I'm still married. It's like a party that never stops! Hopefully Lauren feels as strongly about this as I do.

But I digress. Today we celebrate the release of Telescope & Satellite, a release which is the very definition of "long awaited," at least by us. As of this day, you can find our new EP on all the usual digital services: CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon, etc. You will also find it shortly in cool local stores such as Easy Street, Sonic Boom and anyone else we can talk into carrying it. And if you happen to be in the area and want to get one from us in person, you can join us at The Sunset on October 4th for our CD Release Party. It will be an excellent time, as we'll be joined by our friends Spanish for 100 and Boxcar Rebellion.

These six songs are really important to me, and without getting too far up my own arse I can honstly say I think they're the best I've ever done as a writer, a singer and a producer. It helped having the amazing talents of everyone who pitched in on this recording, including engineer/producer extraordinaire Shawn Simmons, composr/conductor Stephen T. Cavit, and most especially drummer and vocalist Josh Williams. Josh is living the good life in Colorado right now, but we miss him and he is a huge part of this EP.

We've already been fortunate to receive some nice local love: KEXP has been playing songs from Telescope & Satellite, and you can request one if you are so inclined. We also got a great mention from longtime Seattle music maven and tastemaker Shawn Stewart over at Jet City Stream. The JCS folks picked "Gets In The Way" as one of their Best New Tracks of the Week, which is an honor for sure. The image of Shawn and Marco Collins arguing over which of our songs to pick almost had me tearing up; if you know how influential these two have been within the local and national music communities, then you know what I'm talking about.

And so it is with great joy that we unleash upon the world the first video from T&S, for the epic Queen-inspired anthem "He's A Bat." Ladies and gemtlemen, I give you the music of Explone, accompanied by the skillful animations of Betsy Lee. Enjoy!

--Patrick

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Mon, 03 Sep 2012 14:26:25 GMThttp://www.explone.com/home.aspx?id=1442
<![CDATA[In The House]]>
Here's me doing "Open Up A Window" - the first song on the new EP which comes out in September.



And here's "Michigan."



Here's The Devil Whale playing "New Consumer," which I believe is unreleased.



And here's an old TDW favorite of mine called "Butter For Burns," with some guest vocals from the audience.



This was the last song of the night, getting dark. A good time, and I'm so glad those guys stopped by to play, and that Thor was there to capture it all. There's lots more to see if you follow the links.

Telescope & Satellite is done and staged in my garage for release into the world. Official launch date is 9/4, more info coming soon.

Be well,
Patrick
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Sun, 22 Jul 2012 18:23:21 GMThttp://www.explone.com/home.aspx?id=1441
<![CDATA[Pioneer Square]]>This Friday Explone plays a show at a club called Fuel in Pioneer Square.  It’s literally been years since I’ve played anywhere in the Square, and it got me thinking about how that neighborhood has changed over the years, and my relationship to it and to the rest of Seattle.

 

The Square is the “historic” area of Seattle, which means it has all the old brick buildings which haven’t yet been converted into mixed use/luxury living urban epicenters. Although most of them have already made the switch, there are still a fair number of historic buildings in Pioneer Square hanging on to their dilapidated, original glory. Throw in the cobbled streets and the overall lack of neon and available parking, and Pi Square fits the “historic neighborhood” template fairly well. 

 

Once the sun goes down, most people probably think of Pioneer Square as the destination for drunken sports fans, and in 2012 that is certainly true. Its location next to all the football/baseball/footballsoccer stadiums makes it the prime spot to find wasted Mariners fans crying over cheap draft beer and puking in filthy alleyways. It’s also the city’s most established host to Amateur Night for clubgoers (although Belltown is gaining fast in this category).

 

But here’s the thing: Pioneer Square used to be the most vibrant neighborhood in Seattle for live music. When I first got to Seattle proper and was hunting for a scene with other musicians, it was where we went: The Central, The Swan Café, The OK Hotel, and later The Colorbox, The Fenix, and The Velvet Elvis. Even marginal Pioneer Square venues had their own good runs as live music venues: the Old Timer’s, Doc Maynard’s and Dutch Ned’s all hosted a lot of musicians over the years. If you wanted a break from the racket you would go around the corner and grab a drink at the Pioneer Square Hotel Bar, which felt like a big green room for all the bands who just played or were waiting to play at some other joint in the neighborhood. After the show wrapped up you might grab a bite at Trattoria Mitchelli, a decent Italian joint that stayed open all night and served piles of alcohol-absorbing, greasy pasta drenched in tomato sauce and capers.

 

Every phone pole in town used to be plastered an inch thick with show posters, and most of the shows were happening somewhere in Pi Square. All the grunge bands who eventually got famous and (for better or worse) defined Seattle for the rest of the world played at The Central, while all the later-era bands who came up played at The OK Hotel or The Colorbox. I worked at a music store in the neighborhood for a few years, and many times after work I’d just walk down the block to see a show, play a show, or work at a show doing sound at one of the venues. I worked at and saw so many memorable shows at The Velvet Elvis, it would be difficult to recount them all. And I played the Colorbox so many times, some of the bartenders thought I worked there.

 

Times change, and neighborhoods change along with them. Seattle built a couple of monstrous new sports arenas, and as Pioneer Square blossomed into a neighborhood of historic sports bars, the music scene moved elsewhere. Belltown went upscale, Capitol Hill grew up and Ballard blew up. But I still have a soft spot in my heart for Pioneer Square, and I must say it feels kind of nice to be heading there for a show one more time. 

 

This show is the CD Release bash for my old friend Steve Bergstrom’s band Dapper Jones. Steve and I literally grew up on the same street in Renton, and it’s both wonderful and kind of strange that we’ve floated around the Seattle music scene for all these years, playing in bands—and yet this is the first time we’ve ever shared the stage.

 

The first video for our new EP is completed and ready to release. All we need now is to actually release the EP itself, which is taking some time while we get the artwork to our liking. In the meantime, we’re stockpiling good content to accompany the songs. But for now: Pioneer Square!

 

Go Mariners/Sounders/Seahawks!

 

--Patrick

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Mon, 07 May 2012 13:33:10 GMThttp://www.explone.com/home.aspx?id=1440
<![CDATA[Jealousy]]>Telescope & Satellite, the integration of a new band member, and break in our new van with a couple of road tests. 

Last week we got called for an impromptu opening slot at El Corazon, playing with The Jealous Sound. These guys are a very cool and underappreciated band, and it was nice to share the stage with them. Kyle was on tour doing a run of solo Kirby Krackle dates, so Scott, Nelson and I rocked it as a power trio for the night. Nellie had a great first gig, and it was hard to resist the urge to break a bottle of champagne over his head after the show.

All in all it was good primer for the first full-lineup show of the year this Friday at the King Cat Theater. I've heard lots of conflicting reports about the King Cat from friends: that it's beautiful, that it's a dump, that the building is being torn down, and that the bathrooms are in rough shape. I can only say that, having seen many shows in this space in years past, it is indeed a beautiful venue. And I imagine a decaying King Cat looking like something from the set of "Escape From New York." Which would be totally awesome if you just picture a rock show taking place in that setting for a moment. Also, after playing El Corazon last week I can safely say that nothing can scare me in the bathroom department anymore.

Our awesomely comfortable 2002 GMC Savannah got its first road test a few weeks ago, when we took Kirby Krackle down to Portland for a show at the Mt. Tabor Theater. The show was great, and the van was too. Cars being the American Dream and all, it's nice having some good wheels. We plan to put the van to work this summer, so if you live in the western US and you want to see Explone come your way please drop us a line. We need stages and couches, although not necessarily in that order.

Hope to see you Friday,
Patrick
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Sun, 04 Mar 2012 22:12:38 GMThttp://www.explone.com/home.aspx?id=1439
<![CDATA[Why Kendrick Perkins is like Michael Anthony (sort of).]]>

We want this guy.


Last May, right after the Rapture didn’t happen, I ruminated on this very blog how, if basketball teams are like bands (which I believe they are), then the Boston Celtics are the Van Halen of the NBA.  And if you take the previous sentence to be true, then it logically follows that Kendrick Perkins is the Michael Anthony of NBA players.  Shortly after coming to this realization, I wrote it and forgot it…until now.

This week I saw a couple of things that really stuck with me and got me thinking about chemistry in collaborative endeavors.  The first was the new Van Halen video, for the first single from the recently-mostly-reformed lineup.  The song “Tattoo” is a pretty generic stomper, with a hatful of David Lee Roth’s usual vocal gimmicks and prancing, preening stagecraft, and a typically supple and dexterous guitar solo from Eddie.  Although the song didn’t suck quite so suckingly as I expected it to, I was still summarily unimpressed.  But the strangest thing about it was Michael Anthony’s absence.  Anthony, who was unceremoniously dumped and replaced by Eddie’s son Wolfgang in 2007, has apparently been enjoying his retirement from VH, palling around with Sammy Hagar and selling hot sauce.  But seeing and hearing Van Halen without Michael Anthony’s chugging, persistent bass lines and stratospherically high backing vocals was disorienting.  And somehow just wrong.




Not this guy.

The second bizarre moment came on Monday afternoon, when the Oklahoma City Thunder visited the TD Garden to take on the Boston Celtics.  As Celtics fans have been crying about for the last year, Danny Ainge shocked the NBA last February when he traded Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder.  At the time, the Celtics were in first place and looked like they were well on their way to one final run at a championship with their aging core of players.  But after the trade the Celtics fell apart, and without Perkins their toughness evaporated quickly along with their whole identity as a team.  They wound up getting lapped by the Miami Heat in the playoffs, in what will likely turn out to be the last gasp of a proud group of future Hall of Fame players whose careers are presently circling the drain.  Meanwhile, Perkins gave a young Oklahoma City team exactly what they needed: a tough guy who didn’t take any shit, played defense and let the other guys have the spotlight.  OKC wound up losing in the conference finals last season, then came out to start this year’s campaign like a house on fire.  Now they look like real championship contenders, while Boston looks old and washed up. 

On Monday night, Perkins returned to Boston for the first time since the trade.  Celtics fans gave him a long standing ovation, and the team showed a video tribute to his years as a Celtic before the game.  It was touching, and also a little awkward.  There is no rock and roll equivalent; Van Halen isn’t about to show a video montage of Michael Anthony’s best on stage moments as a warm up to their 2012 shows.  Then again, Michael Anthony isn’t about to jump on stage at a VH concert and kick the crap out of Eddie and Dave, which is basically what the Thunder did to the Celtics last Monday. 




We want this guy.

Maybe it’s just me (okay, almost certainly it’s just me), but I found myself struck by the similarities between these guys.  Both Michael Anthony and Kendrick Perkins are support players.  No one is giving Kendrick Perkins any points for graceful offensive execution, just like no one is going to put Michael Anthony on a pedestal for his elegant, artful soloing.  Both of these guys can look brutal out of context, whether you’re looking at Perkins’ stats for offensive efficiency or listening to one of Anthony’s remarkably atonal, blaring, seemingly endless stadium bass solos.  (There’s a reason the term “bass solo” is a much-derided cliché, and we have Michael Anthony to thank for it as much as anyone.)

But this is one area where bands and basketball teams are alike: it’s what they do together that counts.  By playing with a solid pocket, adding brilliant backing vocals and giving the more flamboyant Eddie and Dave plenty of room, Michael Anthony made Van Halen a much better band.  Just like Kendrick Perkins made the Celtics a much better team by adding great interior defense, solid rebounding, setting iron-hard screens and putting the occasional opposing player in a headlock. 

Without Perkins, the Celtics look more like an over the hill team that has lots of bark and little bite.  Without Michael Anthony, Van Halen looks more like a Van Halen tribute band with a scab bassist. 



Not this guy.


Now, maybe all this won’t matter to fans who want to hear “Hot For Teacher” bad enough to fork over $150 a ticket.  But it matters to me and I’ll bet it matters to most of us who saw the genuine VH article back in the day.  And after watching the Celtics get outplayed on their home floor, I think a lot of us fans suddenly feel like we’re watching the casino circuit version of this team, and not the arena-rocking real deal. 

In the immortal words of Jack Black: “that’s fuckin’ teamwork.”

--Patrick

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Wed, 18 Jan 2012 22:39:31 GMThttp://www.explone.com/home.aspx?id=1438