Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Island Time. Issue #51

This week I'm in Hawaii visiting my family, but wanted to share something I found recently...

Every few days since my video came out I check YouTube to see how many new views it has had.

You know, GUY STUFF.

Normally when I type in "Kyle Stevens" to find it, my video is the first thing you see. That is, with the exception of last Wednesday of course.


Now, not many people know this but my biological father was a body builder in Seattle for many years before moving to California. This is not a joke.

Done laughing? Good, I'll continue.

Like I was saying, he was a body builder and now makes a living as a personal trainer. After seeing this, I thought how ironic it was given my paternal history and how that could have been me should I have followed in my father's footsteps. Instead, I'll credit a long bout with pneumonia and a Pearl Jam cassette tape for my shortcomings...

I think upon seeing this I developed a fantasy of some long lost friend from high school finding that and thinking IT'S ACTUALLY ME. Too bad I couldn't materialize right then and there if it happened, but just thinking about it makes me happy.

Too bad if they did though...I look WAY better in a gray speedo.

Howlie Out,


Monday, May 19, 2008

I Heart Street Fairs Long Time. Issue #50

Yep, its true. On Sunday, the KS Band and I had the opportunity to play the University District Street Fair in Seattle on one of the hottest weekends we've had around here in a long time. Luckily, the stage was shaded but for someone like me who thinks 75 degrees is perfect I'd say that an unusual mid-80's weekend was cooking.



I always like playing Fairs if only because of the huge melting pot of different peoples they bring out (see above). Rarely do I have the opportunity (other than when I'm touring) to play to a crowd in Seattle where the number of people who don't know me vastly out number the people who do. It's a chance and challenge to connect with the mom who doesn't have the time to go out to shows and who brought her kids out for a day, and to connect with the couple who doesn't normally listen to rock music but found themselves a place to eat and listen for a bit. This is my idea of fun.

In my experience I have found that many artists/performers feel like they have to succumb or align themselves certain niche or scene to make success happen in their hometown. I've felt it myself more than a few times over the years, and seen it happen to many others. Whether it be the uniform of think black glasses and skinny jeans, an acting like not caring attitude, trying to hide a nice voice for fear it might ostracize you from you peers, or being told there are styles of music you shouldn't play; there are continuous pressures that one can come across in any scene driven city.

I think what I'm trying to say is that as I get older (and I'm sure this happens to all of us) I find I care less and less about about those things. I find I'm more and more placing greater weight in stronger personal connections with my audiences as we all move toward a though exciting but more impersonal world. And even though I talk about it in the lyrics to my songs a lot, I don't always follow my own voice in the application.

Yesterday's concert was refreshing for me, and if my "scene" ever turns out to be people who just want to listen, eat Strawberry Shortcake in the sun, and enjoy themselves well then that would be just fine by me.

Keep it real,


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Hulk, Pass The Deluxe". Issue #49

This past weekend was one that I look forward to every year...The Emerald City Comic Con! This year was the best of all as the venue had been moved from the halls at Qwest field to a nicer space at The Washington State Convention Center. I was fortunate to have an insiders look into the con due to the fact that Gigi Edgley was a special media guest this year. Since she was in town, we had the opportunity to play a few songs off of the E.P. we did together last year and performed in one of the panel rooms on Saturday afternoon.

It's always been important to me to be able to personally thank those whose art I have enjoyed for many years whether they be musicians or artists, and the con has always been a place where I know I will have that opportunity to do so. I continually have found the comic and art community to be made of of some of the nicest people of any medium I have been involved with, and every year I make it a point to walk up to my favorite artists/writers and tell them how much I love their stuff. On top of that, for only 20-40 bucks you can have some amazing one of a kind art commissioned for you personally on whatever subject you wish.
Usually, I get my favorite artist to draw their flagship character or a personal favorite of mine, but this year I thought I'd try something different.

I have always thought it would be too cool to have amazing artists do album work for me, but since that's not something I need right now I went for the next best thing.
I decided to ask to have interpretations of my album cover done instead of characters and what you see below is the product of that. I hope to be using them in the near future for flyers and possible t-shirt designs as well. I love them!
Just one step closer to having Jim Lee do my album graphics...

A heads of for this weekend! The band and I will be performing at the University Street Fair this year on Sunday, May 18th. We'll be at the 43rd Street Stage and right now it looks like it's gonna be perfect fair weather, and perfect ROCK conditions as well. There's no admission so come on down and join us as well as the guaranteed lot that will still be championing for Ron Paul's candidacy...

Before I go, does anyone else think that the picture above of HULK eating Dick's is just about the coolest thing you've ever seen!?! I think I see a tattoo in my future...



Tuesday, May 6, 2008

20 Violins. Issue #48

Thanks to everyone who sent feedback on the new video for "Sparkle And Fall". It seems the "Lil Devil" stole the show from what I've been hearing and that has me asking myself, "What does it mean to be upstaged in YOUR OWN video?". Hmmmm...

Someone even asked us how we digitally inserted the train in the beginning. Sorry, my editing crew is good but this wasn't done at Lucasfilm yo. That baby is real.
Moving on...

Last week I said I'd give some behind the scenes stories from the making of so let's jump right in!

If you read the short filming synopsis a few months ago, you know that the opening and end scenes were filmed at Carkeek Park in Seattle. I packed up part of my living room, and met the filming crew at 4:45 AM. The park opened at 5:00 and since it was still dark, we quickly took all filming gear and furniture down to the beach with nothing but flashlights to guide our way. The challenge was setting everything up in time to catch the sunrise (which we did), and have enough time to get a few practice runs in as well. Did I mention it was freaking freezing? Oh, believe it when I say it took everything I had not to look like I was shaking during the takes. The train passing by was a lucky mistake, and one of my favorite parts of the sequence. As you saw, the idea was for me to be "living" on the beach and a sort of a day-in-the-life surrealism about the whole thing. I'm sure you were throughly convinced I lived there due to my 2 quarters of community-college acting classes.
Some shots from this scene include me dancing arms outstretched with
OPTIMUS PRIME and frantically sweeping my living room area (we had extra time).
Too much sand...just to much....

I talk about THE COMIC STOP frequently in this blog, and that's where the 2nd scene of the video was filmed. My boys work there, and I help fund their kid's college fun with my patronage so it only seemed right. In carrying on with "day of surrealism" theme. I thought it was appropriate to include a few "characters" that one may find going about the day. My wife Mandi came up with the Catwoman mask idea (there's nothing to read into there freaks), and I called in a favor from my friend Shawn after I saw his Halloween costume from last year. Sombrero and Jewish Maracas? Genius. The hardest part of this shot was not laughing long enough to get the words out and make everything look like it was "normal". The shoulder rub from Catwoman I could handle, but you try having the Star Of David shaken in your face from a sombrero wearing Nacho Libre. Needless to say, I found my happy place.

Moving on to the park "chess scene", we meet the unassuming star of the
video, Kai "Lil Devil" Malek. This kid is so cute that I think I'm gonna kidnap him when he and his parents move to California in a few months. I keep joking about it, but I think I really might. He and I are buddies, no Amber Alert needed.
Director Heather Canik and I liked the idea of a little park hustler who challenges me to an action figure fight. You know, the kind that just sometimes happens?
Having never acted before, we were amazed by his awareness and ability to take ideas and make them happen quickly. You know that part when he points at me with crazy eyes? That's what we called "Mean Face", and upon cue he would contort what was once cuteness into uncontrollable rage. The goal was to make him look "roided out", and I think he did a great job. A tip I found when working with child actors in your video: Success comes with a snack break every 15 minutes, accompanied by a promise that at the end they can punch you in the stomach and walk away shaking their butt at you.
This Ain't Webster.

Finally we reach the end scene, and the one that took the most work to film and prepare for. As I stated before, the violin section was made up of good friends who I wanted to include in the video but had only one actual player among them. How would we do this? Keeping with the "What the ?!?" theme, I thought I would make 20 HUGE violins out of cardboard and detail them with paint and marker. After cursing though 3 hours of making one and having it turn out worse than something Kai would make at preschool, I realized that wouldn't be an option. Not only that, but I had 5 days to do it. You do the math...

A little panic set in as I began making calls to see if anyone would rent me
20 violins for the weekend, and eventually the kind folks at Kenelly Keys made it happen once I convinced them it wasn't as weird as it sounded (it was weird).

"I'm going to be giving these to people for many of whom have never played an instrument, and we're going to be handling them outside in a very sandy area standing on slippery huge boulders. Oh no, no insurance needed thank you."

Suffice it to say what was even weirder was that a company that will not be named wanted to charge me TRIPLE what I paid for for violins that had "holes in them, no neck, no strings, and broken". Yeah...

Shaun Hubbard (an accomplished local violinist) agreed to meet us all on the last day of filming to give a lesson to our string section. She showed everyone how to hold their bow, elbow, and body to give it as realistic a feel as we could. What you see on camera is a result of a quick violin class, and Shawn standing behind the camera waving a bow frantically for all to see and directing 20 violinists to look like they knew what they're doing. What you don't see is everyone cursing me for dragging them away from Sunday afternoon Netflix to stand in bone-chilling February wind. But hey, at least it made their hair look cool.

There you have it! A few stories that I thought you might find fun and I truly hope you enjoyed the video. It was fun, challenging, nerve wracking, and a chance to let go of some of the reigns all-in-one. I learned a lot from making it not only from what I found I am capable of pulling together, but also that I had a lot of people who also wanted to help make it good. That is a good place to be in.

Please share it with your friends, and if nothing else comes from this video at least I know the annals of YouTube will forever have footage of a 4 year-old kicking my ass.