thinking thinky thoughts

Feeling interesting.  It’s funny because the lastest song is entitled “Another Man’s Dream” and it’s about moving out from under the shadow of my Dad, Larry and the people in the church who hurt me those years ago…

It’s kind of a statement/manifesto of self.

Once recording and promotion is done for table for one. there are the new projects already on tap.  Not the least of which will be a non-holiday Balderdash & Humbug collaboration.
The other Myke Hutchings works are going to be recorded and released as they happen to me.  The joys of not being tied to a project or CD release, and the realization that I don’t need to hit the studio unless I have something big, allows me to make on the fly and produce regularly.
Next step is refining what happened August 28th into something more concise and a little less traumatic for me and the audience.  Then taking the show on the road (albeit without four damned guitars) – I’ve heard that people elsewhere are interested and I’m more than willing to play house concerts or events if expenses can be covered.
I think my nervous breakdown in December 2014 was a good thing in hindsight.  I get that working as a sideman for another musician meant I would have only ever been the sideman and potentially another songwriting collaborator versus staring down the barrel of finally recording table for one. as an artist in my own right.  Again, evidence I can no longer live someone else’s dream.
A tough lesson to be taught and in all honestly a fucking brutal way to learn it.
At the same time, the band members have been fully supportive of me since, despite my letting them down.
I am constantly reminded how lucky I am to be surrounded by people who believe in me, even when I don’t believe in myself.
You all are blessings in my life. I am truly grateful for your patience, kindness and support.
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open letter to mayor bratina and councillor morelli

Dear Mayor Bratina and Councillor Morelli,My name is Myke Hutchings and I live in Ward 3 with my partner. We have lived in this neighbourhood for twelve years, having owned 2 properties within the area. I moved here from Toronto to be with my partner as I found a community of like-minded individuals who were willing to try and bring a then faltering city …back to life.

I have worked in an office in Downtown Hamilton for the past seven years.  I also work as an artist and musician, attending St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church at James St. S. and Jackson St. as a paid soloist in the choir and have performed as a musician in a number of our local theater companies’ musical productions.

Much has been said about the ongoing urban renewal of the downtown, with new businesses, festivals, networks and opportunities. This is something that both my partner and I have witnessed both as spectators and active participants.Whenever we create a new culture, we need to do it in a way that coexists well with the existing culture of a place. You may have seen the t-shirts, posters and bags with the phrase “Art is the New Steel” over the past few years. In my opinion, this phrase sums up the fact that those directly involved recent renewal have been attempting to reinvent Hamilton as a city of culture and innovation with a healthy regard to the industries and culture that have preceded it. There is always danger of turning one’s back on the past and ignoring it, which is reflected in the gentrification that has occurred in many North American cities. The problem with this version of gentrification is it does not truly represent a renewal, however it is simply a shifting of poverty that has little to no concern for the overall health of a city and it’s citizens.

This is something that many of the newer transplants to Hamilton, particularly the residents of Wards 1, 2 and 3 have attempted to avoid. Believe me, it took me a while to WANT to move to Hamilton, but I DID see what was happening and what could be done when I decided to move here those years ago. As a former resident of Downtown Toronto, I wanted to be sure that my activities were aimed towards strengthening the culture of the city. I wanted to (and still do) focus on building community and relationships over profit and power. This renewal is less flashy, because it is more concerned with the common good than my personal and financial gain.

After months of engaging with the casino conversation, and reading articles from both sides, I have become convinced that placing a casino downtown would not create genuine urban renewal. Having performed extensive research on casino gambling and its effects as part of my final thesis in university, I noted that OVER 70% of existing independent businesses died in Atlantic City when casinos were legalized. More recently in Niagara Falls, New York, 30 restaurants declared bankruptcy within one year of the Seneca Niagara Casino opening, it had later impacts with restaurant supply companies and upstream small business supports.

The language being used by Carmens and their employees is of a “quick fix” to a “shitty downtown,” their articles and comments are filled with derogatory comments towards average engaged citizens (“Who are these people? What is their background? What have they done?” said Peter Mercanti. “They get almost all the same weight as the people who really count. It shocks me.”), small businesses, the poor, the mentally ill, and others who are in difficult and challenging situations. These comments present downtown as a problem to be fixed, instead of a place we should build, support and continue to grow. Ask those already deeply involved AND INVESTED in the downtown and lower city wards what they think of it. You will hear a love for this city as it is, and a desire to help it become even better.

Casinos pull money away from unique local businesses, they exist as entities unto themselves designed to keep their visitors (and their money) inside their four walls. Given recent focus on privatization, it is clear that the lions’ share of the revenues and profits of the downtown casino will be going to the private investors: Mercantis, Hard Rock and LIUNA with a mere pittance of this money being shared to the city.

OLG has confirmed that their casinos’ revenues are down due to people having less discretionary income and increased competition for the gambling dollar. To this end, the OLG has confirmed that downtown casinos are being considered to profit off of those who are vulnerable and are also trying to make casino gambling a more attractive draw for younger gamblers.

Casinos present themselves as fast, flashy, and big, which is the opposite of what so many of us love about downtown Hamilton. We want slow, sustainable and local renewal, the kind that will be good for all of us, and the kind that will truly last – it may not be as instantly glamourous, but it HAS been going on and WILL continue if you let it.

Barely two months into 2013 and eleven new restaurants have opened in the downtown core alone.
1,000 condos are being built, representing 1,500 new downtown residents to the over 100,000 already living here and the 24,000 working here.

Not to mention the hotels recently been built, the new hotel under construction and the McMaster University complex being built at Main St. and Bay St.

Let’s not ignore the fact that casino gambling’s revenues (including Niagara Falls, ON, Fort Erie and other local centers) have decreased steadily over the years, due to reduced discretionary income and increased competition. Let’s not ignore the fact that we citizens and private investors HAVE been investing in and building up the downtown core.

Let’s focus on continued, steady and sustainable growth instead of one person’s idea of a quick fix.

sometimes lyfe is like an indie film…

I went into Toronto to visit DH last night after work and had a very cool “Toronto” kind of moment.

As I am powering upstream up Bay St. at 4:30pm (going rather decidedly against the flow  of traffic), I decided to make direct eye contact with as many people as I could to see if a human connection could be made in the vast sea of humanity during the hustle and bustle of rush hour.

At Bay and Richmond, I locked eyes with a rather large and whimsically dressed young woman (she looked like Kirsten “Penelope” Vangsness from “Criminal Minds”) who obviously had itgoing on.  The clothes, the hair, the glasses, the look, the confident way she carried herself.  We headed straight for one another, never dropping eye contact and not moving out of one another’s way.  As we got close, she smiled a wry sort of smirk, as did I. 

I took a half step to the right, just before we collided, as did she.  As we passed, she raised her left hand and we high-fived each other.  Just a very cool one-of-a-kind moment where kindred spirits connected and bonded, even for just one fleeting moment.

I will be looking for her again, the next time I am walking upsteam on Bay St.

Superstar!

A question for social media types

Hey social media types!

Gotta question for everyone here, and I’d like to hear what your opinions are:

I’ve been invited to a number of events and forums for the express purpose of live tweeting/providing online coverage for these events.

Some of these events are invitation only, some are paid events and some are public events.

At a number of these events, the presenters, organizers and staff working the event are being paid while I’ve been asked to volunteer my time, because after all, it’s suchgoodexposure.

Disclaimer here:

If the event is something I am personally interested in and was planning on attending, regardless, I have no problem lending a hand and helping out.  A number of events that I have live tweeted have trended both nationally in Canada and internationally due to the engagement and open conversation I was able to have with participants both in person and online.

However my conundrum is when I’ve been asked to attend an event I was not planning on attending (due to cost, time involved or lack of interest) and essentially work as an agent of promotion for free.  If I’m not attending due to cost, I’d happily accept free admission in return for my time energy and support.  However if I’m being asked to an event I am not attending due to scheduling conflicts or lack of interest, that is another matter.

Apparently being invited to do this by the event organizers should be payment enough.  However when everyone else working this event is getting paid, I do take exception to this.

I’ve taken this question to twitter and engaged fellow social media types and have received the following general responses:

  • Getting another business to sponsor me.
  • Match sponsorship opportunities to event topics and keep offers available for a limited time after the event (in other words, asking a business to sponsor me)
  • Bill as for a print review of the event (as a journalist – which I am certainly not – I’m simply an asshole with a big mouth and an active online presence) or bill for my time.
  • Accept that being invited to an event that people are paying to attend is an honour and enjoy the exposure.  (This was the most  overwhelming response to my queries online)

Let’s take these in reverse order: 

  • Being invited to an event to publicize it online is all well and good.  However  if I had no intention of going in the first place as it is something I am either not interested or engaged in, how is my attendance going to be of benefit to me?  It would be different if I was planning on going and had paid – having my attendance comped/refunded in exchange for whatever I can do to get people engaged on social media would be nice.  But if I was not planning on attending, how is getting in in the first place of benefit for me when I’m expending my time and energy?  Plus, let’s be realistic in my country of Canada, one can die from exposure
  • Billing for as for a print review of the event (as a journalist) and/or billing for my time is all well and good, but at rates?  I’m not privy to what more traditional journalists are getting, how should I value my time if I bill hourly?  This is particularly what I was asking about, however none of the folks who replied to me were able to quantify what the services were worth.  Do I get paid per tweet?  Do I get a bonus if the event trends?
  • The last two essentially end up as “get someone to sponsor me.”  Ummm, if the organizers of the event are asking me to do this – shouldn’t they be the ones sponsoring me?  Why should I have to run around finding someone to pay for my time, especially when I am uncomfortable in what seems like whoring myself for money.  When I did endorse a musical instrument manufacturer, if they wanted me to attend an event – they essentially paid for me to attend the event – transportation, admission fees and branded clothing to wear in exchange for my time and energy in their booth, answering question.  As they had asked me to attend, they did not leave it up to me to find someone else to sponsor me to attend…just saying.

However I’ve found this quite prevalent in social media fields.  People going (or wanting to attend) conferences, essentially selling themselves for “sponsorships” and I’m not the only one who has noted this:

Cocktail Deeva on Who the Hell are You?

Sorry folks, I like to maintain my respectability, credibility and objectivity.  I am not going to beg someone for sponsorship to an event, especially if I wasn’t planning on attending it in the first place!  If an event organizer wants me to attend their event to publicize it, they are going to have to explain to me how I will benefit by this – beyond “think of all the exposure you’ll get!”  Ummm you’ve invited me, so I can give your event exposure…just sayin’.

My question to the field was how to monetize this – do I bill per tweet, per event, an hourly rate, ask for a bonus if it trends, etc.  My opinion on being requested to live tweet/online moderate for events is that if other event workers are being paid, so should I. 

The question is how?

it’s been an incredible couple of weeks

Yup, it’s been kind of quiet here, mostly due to my actually living my life off line the past couple of weeks!

A few weeks back, I let slip that I was heading into the recording studio to start on a new recording project.  Followers of my facebook and twitter feeds have seen action shots of yours truly, which provided visual confirmation of a fun and creative time had by myself in the recording studio.  In the course of the days spent working on my studio tan I had the pleasure of recording:

  • Acoustic guitars
  • Electric guitars
  • 12 string guitar
  • Hammertone Octave 12 Guitar (thanks George)
  • Bass guitars
  • Upright bass
  • Prophet 5 Synth
  • Wurlitzer electric piano
  • Lead vocals
  • Backing vocals
  • Spoken word
  • Drums and percussion

Yup it was a fun and varied week of making noise.  Expect TWO (yup count ‘em, 2) major recording projects from me over the next few months.  The first being another CD of more Balderdash and Humbug holiday insanity entitled “The 55 Days of Christmas”, the second being “table for one.”

“55 Days of Christmas” will be released in September/October and there will be a holiday release party complete with Christmas baked goodies, specialty holiday coffees and an early visit from Santa to share your Christmas wishes and get a picture taken.   I have a few other surprises up my sleeve for the release party, so watch here, my twitter feed and the Balderdash and Humbug facebook page for more information!

‘table for one.” is scheduled for release in early 2013, depending on how recording goes.  Direction has changed a bit through the generosity of DB leading to new inspiration into how the songs should be presented.  It’s going to be a little more organic in presentation than my prior posting had indicated, which is good in my opinion…but it’s still gonna be different than anything else I’ve done in the past, so watch out!

While in North Carolina, I had the pleasure of attending a concert by bluegrass/jazz guitarist Tony Rice.  His show was incredibly inspirational, particularly with the addition of Rob Ickes on dobro, who blew me away with his virtuosic abilities on his instrument.

After returning home from North Carolina, I had two whirlwind days back at the orifice, cleaning up the mess of almost two weeks off.  Then on Friday, I welcomed a guest into my home for the weekend.

Trip Wamsley is a solo bassist, whom I have been watching on YouTube and listening to on Bandcamp for the past few years, he has truly impressed me with his abilities on bass guitar and as a musician performing beautiful lyrical music.  Recently we have been connecting via twitter, which has led to discussions of our shared loves of music, Rush and coffee.

(hmmm…bassists and coffee:  Tony Levin, Steve Lawson, Trip Wamsley and me – interesting discussion and interview idea there)

In January, I contacted Trip on the possibility of hosting him for a house concert and he agreed to this.  We scheduled last Saturday as the date for the concert and preparations began accordingly.  He arrived, rather frazzled after a harrowing immigration experience, on Friday night and I proceeded to show him about Hamilton, taking in a couple of cafes and James St. North., ending up on the front porch of a friend for drinks and a fun conversation ranging from music to politics to personal hygiene products (hey I said it was fun!)

On Saturday George Furlanetto of F Bass, local manufacturer of incredible bass guitars and other instruments, invited Trip for a factory tour where we got to test some of his instruments and the amplifiers he is distributing.  It was a lovely time and I definitely plan on ordering a bass as soon as I can swing the financial end of it.  Between planned upcoming CD releases and medical expenses, I hope this can be sooner than later, but I am truly in love with those F Basses!

After a tour of the F Bass factory, we went for a quick coffee at Cannon Coffee Co and then an early Indian dinner at Himalaya, heading home to set up for the house concert.  I assisted Trip with the setup as much as I could and awaited the guests.  We had a fair, albeit small, turnout – I guess solo bassists aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but they were appreciative of his talents.  He played for two hours and also demonstrated how F Bass’ products sound as George brought a lovely sample for him to play as can be seen here.

We then spent the rest of the evening talking, music, basses and the music industry in general.  It was a pleasant evening and I really enjoyed the opportunity to talk to an incredible bassist and an incredible luthier – George even checked out one of my basses and offered to tweak it to his standards – really nice of him to do so!

The next day after we attended church, Trip wanted to go to Toronto, so I took him in and gave him a Whirlwind tour of downtown, including the Beach and also taking him to the Ontario Legislature where the album cover of Rush’s “Moving Pictures” was photographed.  Trip lost his mind when he saw that!  We drove home after a long day and he crashed for the evening as he had a long day of driving ahead of him.

I would like to say that as a performer, Trip is skilled and has wonderful music, he is also incredibly funny and had the audience in the palm of his hand for the two hours he entertained us.  He is also a wonderful house guest and I look forward in getting to know him better in the future.

Now I’m back to work and it’s time for a rest!

mayday! mayday!

It’s been a busy few weeks for me, recently.  Between the day job, doing chores around the house, singing with St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church choir, preparing for recording a new CD with “Balderdash and Humbug” and working on my own recordings for “table for one.”, I’ve had a lot on my plate.

I’ve also been thinking and evaluating my life and what is important to me as I’ve been prioritizing my time and trying to jettison things that have been “weighing me down.”  So I’ve been working on decluttering my surroundings and life these days, in essence cleaning house physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Physically, I’ve been tidying the house and also culling the stuff that’s accumulated in my life.  Let’s start with the CD collection and ripping what I want to keep to iTunes and ridding myself of excess clutter by selling, recycling, donating the rest.  Any of my readers who know about my CD collection and want any (beyond the Rush CDs which my brother already has dibs on) hit me up soon and I’ll let you know if they’re up for grabs!

Books have been sorted and gifted to various individuals and organizations as well as set aside for my Little Free Library.  A Little Free Library is a movement aimed at promoting literacy throughout the world while promoting community.  Essentially I am in the process of constructing a home for a small selection of books curated by myself that I hope to house in a local business.  These are books that will promote the values I support and respect, including a healthy respect for the environment, a healthy lifestyle, the arts, creativity and supporting my local community.  More on this in future blog updates!

Some of my closer friends have been questioning why I am now singing in a church choir, noting my past experiences with organized Christianity.  Before I signed the contract with St. Paul’s, I asked myself the very same question.  Noting that I have had such negative experiences with the Anglican and Presbyterian churches, I was asking myself if I was setting myself up for further disappointment and disillusionment with Christianity and God.

For those new to this blog, I have had two major blow ups with organized Christianity that were based in the failings of the people who claimed to represent God, but in reality, truly represented only their own interests, abusing their power over me.  Ironically, both incidents which targeted me as a homosexual and attempted to victimize me, strengthened my resolve as a gay male and helped me grow as an individual who was raised in modern Christian society.

I ended up realizing that my relationship with God or whatever you choose to call the force that set this universe in motion, was personal to me only and that I did NOT have to join ANY church as a parishioner.   I could continue my relationship with the universal force personally using the gift of music that I was given to glorify the power and celebrate my relationship with it.

The fact that I am getting paid to do this is a bonus!  I am keeping professionally detached at this point and avoiding affiliation with the church beyond being a paid chorister.  I think that will minimize any collateral damage should the “shit hit the fan.”

So my feelings of hypocrisy have been sated.  I still consider myself a spiritual humanist who was raised with Christian values.  My last “serious” blog entry confirms that I choose to do things not out fear of salvation or punishment in a hypothetical afterlife or next incarnation, but as it is the right thing to do.  Yes folks, I practice the “golden rule” and endeavour to treat people and the world, the way I wish to be treated in return.  But remember this, don’t expect to be able to shit on me and expect me to thank you for it, because it ain’t going to happen!

I’m headed to North Carolina in the next couple of weeks, where I will enter studio m in Durham in order to record the next Balderdash and Humbug disc “The 55 Days of Christmas,” which will include new holiday parodies expressing the mutual ire of DB and I about the increasingly commercial and harried nature of the holiday season!  I will also hopefully use the time to get ground work on “table for one.” started as well, or at least pick the brain of a talented producer and engineer.

I’m doubly excited because Mark,  the owner of studio m, has just signed to Yep Roc records (home of bands like the Sadie, Sloan, Gang of Four, John Doe and the Reverend Horton Heat) with his band, the Old Ceremony and their new album is due to drop this summer!   If you haven’t checked out the Old Ceremony, you’ve done yourself a disservice.  Incredible song writing and they are amazing to watch in performance.  I can only hope they tour for their upcoming album.

During all of this, I have been interviewed by the local newspaper as a diehard bicycle commuter, have had a number of photo shoots for both “table for one.” and the interview, learned the art of hand binding books (no shit folks!  Watch for some cool stuff here soonish!), volunteer as a gallery attendant for a local art gallery, continue to write songs for both my solo stuff and bloodwood. Stuff while continuing to plug away with increasing my physical fitness and health.

The bloodwood. shit is becoming increasingly incredible!  People who have heard rough samples have called it “Dead Can Dance meets Wilco” – a description which makes me exceedingly happy!

No rest for the wicked indeed!

on house concerts

People have been asking me about house concerts as I’ve been talking a lot about performing at and hosting house concerts.  In fact, I am hosting a concert at the end of May, featuring an incredible solo bassist whom I have been admiring for years!  

So what exactly is a House Concert?

It’s an invitation-only concert in someone’s home, presented by a host who does not profit from the event.

Also, house concerts are usually

  • Held indoors and on weekends (I have done week nights and concerts under the stars and by candlelight in the back yard can be magical)
  • Attended by 15-50 people (I’ve had as many as 35)
  • Paid for by a $10-20 donation per guest (for the performer)
  • Known to include light snacks, beverages or a pot-luck dinner (as a non-drinker, I usually provide water, coffee, tea and other unleaded libations but guests are free to bring their own)
  • Attended by the host’s friends, neighbors, co-workers, and maybe a few fans of the artist
  • Attended by a 25-60 age group
  • Performed by solo, duos and small groups
  • Performed with little to no amplification
  • Very intimate – the audiences sit close and are attentive
  • Performed in 2, 40-minute sets with a 20 minute break (no hard and fast rules about this – I do up to a 3 hour show with no breaks)
  • Booked with and without a financial guarantees (can vary by host and by artist – I give a guarantee, particularly if the artist is travelling)
  • Known to house and feed the artist for the night

Although house concerts will adhere to most of these traditions, you may not find any house concerts that run exactly according to the list above.   Each house concert is a true collaboration between an artist, a host/presenter, and their friends and supporters.

When I perform on a house concert tour, the elements of each show are:

  • Me (the musician)
  • You and your house (the host)
  • Equipment (which I do have, but am happy for you to provide as well!)
  • Travel (getting me and said musical toys to you)
  • Accommodation (I’m happy with your fold out couch, honest!)
  • An audience (normally, your friends, family and a few local music fans whom I know)
  • Food (ranging from snacks to a pot-luck dinner)
  • Some money (“Pay What You Can” admission donation/love offering, sponsorship, patronage, CD/merchandise sales… whatever, I need to make some because it’s my job!)

How it works is that I come to you – the further it is, the longer it takes and the more it costs.  So I try to book as many shows in a geographic area as possible.  I usually fly to and from a central point and drive from there as necessary.  If I’m flying, I MUST travel light due to airline regulations so, if you have some speakers I can play through, or microphone stands I can borrow, it’s easier because I can pack lighter and am therefore more mobile.  If I’m bringing or renting a PA as well, the logistics become a little trickier but it is still far easier than a band!

Space wise, I only need about a 6 foot by 6 foot patch of real estate – enough for me to sit down next to not bump into your guests.  The corner of your living room is fine.   

The audience is people you know – the reasons for this are twofold.  Firstly, it’s easier for you to ‘sell’ the idea to them, because they know you, and secondly, you do not have to advertise where you live to strangers.  Some people are cool with that, so they advertise it more widely, but for the most part, it’s a private event.  Your address won’t appear on any website from me, however if I have friends or colleagues in your general area, I’d like to be able to invite them specifically to come and see me perform.  Believe me, having a friendly and familiar face in the audience can help make a good show even better and you may just meet a fellow kindred spirit!

Numbers-wise, the audience can be anything from about 10 people upwards.  If it is only 10 people, they’ll have to be willing to pay $20 a ticket/donation for the gig (not much, really, for a night when you can bring your own drinks, eat snacks and watch a gig where you can ask the band questions between songs).  The more people there are, the lower the individual ticket price/donation can afford to be.

Bottom line is, I need a financial guarantee to cover my expenses and travel.  On occasion I’d consider dropping the guarantee, especially if I’m in an area and haven’t got a gig on a particular night, or it’s in a place less than a mile from where I am at that day, or I can get there with a minimum of fuss.  If you work towards me making my minimum guarantee plus a little to cover travel, that’d be plenty.  If I make more, it’s a bonus!  It helps to off-set those gigs where I just make the minimum.  

Food – eating together is one of the coolest parts of doing house concerts.  It’s great to finish the set, grab a bowl of chili or some cheese and crackers and have a chat with the audience about what they think.  If you want to work out a thing where some of the ticket money/donation helps to pay for the food, that’s fine too. 

And that’s it.  Seriously.  No remodeling your house to accomodate stages, incredible lights and a massive PA system, no running ads in the local press, no hoards of stoned hippies turning up at your front door.  Just you, me, 20 or so of your friends all cozy in your living room, and a fun night of music, chat and fellowship.

If this sounds like fun to you, let me know if you want to host one – I’m doing a few local shows in Hamilton and Toronto and am looking towards the Carolinas and other points south soon!