Black Hole Zion: March 2023

Monday, March 27, 2023

Meditations, Volume 2 is Officially Out

Meditations, Volume 2 is officially out!  I appreciate all of the support from the early Bandcamp pre-orders, Spotify pre-saves, etc…

You can stream it now on Spotify

Very happy to breathe a sigh of relief that this is out.  Sincerely hope folks enjoy something on the more relaxing side of things from us.  I think I might be able to sleep soon. 🖖🖖🖖

How I Got Into This Whole Meditations Thing

Wow!  So I have been talking a lot about the Meditations albums lately with Volume 2 coming out.  It might seem kind of odd with some wondering how the hell it all came about.  Here's what happened:

My friend, Jen, is a yoga teacher and a reiki practitioner like me.  Actually, Jen taught the first yoga class I ever went to and was my reiki teacher.  She's really cool and into all sorts of off-the-beaten-path modalities.  She also knows how skeptical I can be of things even when I feel something happening!  Haha!  Anyway, Jen was telling me about this crazy cool hypnosis/guided meditation thing she was learning.  I am always eager to try new things like this.  I am what I would describe as an "optimistic skeptic".  She said the whole thing was around an hour or two, and would sort of take you on a journey that may or may not relate to your true self, past lives, etc...  Sounded interesting, and I trusted her, so I did it.

I won't get into the whole thing, but it was WILD.  I don't know if I believe in past lives, aliens, god/spirits, or any of that stuff for sure.  I am not saying it isn't real.  I just don't know.  What I do know is that our minds are much more powerful than we think, and we hold a lot in our subconscious.  I 100% know that is true.  I saw, hear, and felt some pretty crazy and cool things in my head for this.  I wasn't unconscious.  It was very much like floating between being awake and dreaming.  I ended up seeing some things in outer space.  Crazy, I know.  As Jen was sort of helping me navigate it all and bring me back out of this sort of dreamlike state, she asked if there was anywhere else I wanted to go.  I said that I needed to stop at my house?!  Like, what?!

So I "stopped" at my house in this kind of dream.  I saw myself at my computer making music and sort of broadcasting it to people.  I could hear strange pulsations and miscellaneous tones, but not anything specific that I would later try to write.  I was sort of phasing between seeing myself at my computer with my MIDI piano and being in that body.  Making something, but nothing specific.  I instantly just KNEW that I had to try making music that tapped into a bit of that meditative-lose-yourself-find-yourself feeling I had.  Like it was just something I was SUPPOSED to do.  I can't remember if I thought about binaural beats during that session with Jen, but I knew of them before.  Either way, that session is how I got the idea to do Meditations, Volume 1.  It was a series of shorter pieces of music that I broadcasted live via our Facebook page.  I did one a week for five weeks and broadcast them around lunch time so folks that were working could listen on what might be a break.  Then, I made them available afterwards without me talking before or after.  I got some really good reactions, so I decided to release them all as a collection.  You can check those out here and here if you haven't already.  Jen wouldn't say she takes credit for it, but I most certainly want to thank her for helping to get that idea out of me!!  I don't know if it was spiritual/energetic intervention or subconscious thought getting out of me, but I am glad it happened.  Thank you, Jen/Illumination Healing!  You are a friend and a super rad person!

Volume 2 is an evolution of that.  Some of you know that I underwent a yoga teacher training program back in 2020 and I teach yoga on a regular basis at Main Street Yoga in Fairmont, WV.  

Side note:  science is real on yoga and you should try it!  It is absolutely one of the best things you can do for your mind and body. 

OK, back to post:  The training program was pretty intense in both physical and mental practice.  There were days were you had the option to do around six hours of yoga.  That's on top of having a regular practice outside of training sessions.  The instructor, Angela, is now someone I would call a friend.  It was a fantastic experience.  It was tough in the best way.  There was a lot of reading and writing both on philosophy AND anatomy. Lots of anatomy.  I can't speak for ever program in the world, or even the US.  However, I can say that the program I studied under put a massive emphasis on science while also handling the philosophical and spiritual side of things in a very practical manner.  Part of the program I took was to research a topic related to yoga and my own interests, then write a paper on it.  I decided to take a look at whether or not binaural beats had an impact on meditation and personal development.  I took it further and wrote music in conjunction with binaural beats (like Volume 1).  The difference this time was that even if someone wasn't using headphones to meditate, the music is designed to take someone through an hour long yoga practice.  I wanted music to work on multiple levels.  Either path someone takes, I wanted it to feel like they went on a journey with me or with themselves like I had done before.  Further still, I wanted it to flow seamlessly for an hour and then "loop" back onto itself so it could be played continuously.  This lets someone keep it going for as long as they want to meditate, work or create.  It also let's someone use it for an hour long yoga class and return to the beginning as they end class.  If class goes over a minute or two, you don't experience the shock of music suddenly stopping or shifting to a different/unrelated playlist.  

I put so much work into writing this, testing it in the yoga classes I teach, mixing, etc...  My sincere hope is that it shows and helps people in some way.  We do a lot of aggressive music in Black Hole Zion, but I think it is also important to remember that no one is one thing all of the time.  Meditations, Volume 2 is just a different side of that.  I teach a yoga class called Elemental Yoga just about every Tuesday at 5:30p.  That's exclusively the reason I decided to release this album on a Tuesday.  If you are local to me, you are welcome and encouraged to attend my class.  If not, I hope you will listen here or here on release day while working, studying, painting, drawing, practicing yoga, or meditating.  

Live long and prosper.


Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Meditations, Volume 2 In 6 Days

 Meditations, Volume 2 is out in 6 days!

The surprise reaction to that Running on Empty cover caught me off guard, and I need to talk about the full length album we have coming out in just 6 days.  Yikes!

This album is a big one.  It's a full hour of instrumental electronic and piano music with binaural beats.  If you listened to the first Meditations album, you might already be familiar.  Unlike the first album, this one was written as one long piece of music.  Each track flows into the next one.  You can listen to the whole thing, or you can skip around.  However, the intention was for a seamless play through of all the tracks.  Further still, the entire thing was written so that it loops back on to itself seamlessly.  Depending on what format you listen with, you could listen to the whole album for hours on end.

Also, it's a strange coincidence that there are six days until release as I write this.  The number 6 shows up in a few ways on this, and most of these were not intentional.  It happens to be the sixth meditative type piece of music I've done.  Meditations, Volume 1 was five distinctly separate pieces of music on one album.  The musical key for Meditations, Volume 2 is F# Major.  That key has 6 sharps in it (F#, G#, A#, C#, D#, E#).  My intention was focusing on the sixth chakra (third eye).  Also, the frequency I am implying with the binaural beats is 6Hz.  The 6Hz part WAS intentional though.  There's more, but those are the biggest ones I can think of.  Very odd coincidences, and kinda neat.  

You can pre-save Meditations, Volume 2 here on Spotify or pre-order here on Bandcamp.

Trying to keep this entry shorter than the last.  More soon!  Live long and prosper.


Monday, March 20, 2023

Running on Empty Surprise and Why

 Hey folks,

Some of you already know that Running on Empty is now available on streaming.  Here is a link to it on Spotify in case you did not.  I gotta say that I am pleasantly surprised by people's reactions so far.  It's a big departure for me, vocally.  Although I sing "clean" plenty of times, you don't really hear that on any Black Hole Zion stuff.  Although I had a great time working on the track, I was sort of expecting to hear things like "no screaming?  what?!", or something else along those lines.  While we don't make music to just try and appease folks, it is certainly nice to hear compliments.  I was genuinely surprised over the last few days to hear so many nice words and see people sharing the song with their friends.  Black Hole Zion has always been about more than one style of music even though the heart of the band is slightly more on the heavy rock side of things.  What I'm saying is, thank you, and I am glad that the folks that like us have an open mind when something a bit unexpected comes along.  Also, you'll hear plenty more clean singing, and also plenty more heavy things from us too.  We've got a whole album of cover tunes that were recorded a while back.  I'm slowly mixing them, but that's a story for another time.

A story for now is how the hell Black Hole Zion ended up doing a cover of a Jackson Browne song.  Well, a few folks that run a Twitch channel and do a podcast on the Shadowrun gaming universe have asked me to do some custom music for them in the past.  They came to me with the idea of doing a little theme/stinger for their Shadowun podcast.  It's called.....Shadowrunnin' on Empty.  The idea was to do a little parody of the Jackson Brown song and set it in the Shadowrun universe.  I was open to it because it seemed like such an usual thing, but also still fit with our band.  I have played Shadowrun tabletop before, and enjoy the whole world.  The song turned out so unique and unexpected that I thought maybe it would be cool to release.  Here's where things get complicated....

A lot of folks THINK they know what parody is, but they really don't.  I was once in that group too.  We hear Weird Al tracks and think, oh yeah, that's parody for sure.  While it is in a sense, what most folks don't realize is that Weird Al actually enters into agreements with the copyright owner(s) of the original songs and gets what is called an arranging license.  This allows him and the copyright owner(s) to share in the revenue of what he parodies.  It's great for all of them involved.  They make money, he makes money, and it also generates interest in the original track.  While the "Shadowrunnin' on Empty" track I recorded meets the legal definition of parody for the podcast, it might fall short under release as a standalone track.  The reason:  MONEY.  While there is no hard legal definition of parody, one commonly accepted pillar in determining legally accepted parody/fair use is that it is not done for commercial purposes.  Although the payout is very small, streaming a song on Spotify generates at least a bit of money for the artist, and thus becomes commercial.  Even if I gave the track away online, there is a small possibility that the copyright holder could say my version has a negative impact on the market value of the original work.  Sigh.  OK, what was I to do next...

I reached out to some licensing agencies and also to the publisher for the song.  I did not hear back from the publisher at all despite repeated inquiries.  One of the licensing agencies DID have an in with the publisher and came back to me.  The publisher of Running on Empty would need AT LEAST $500 USD just to get a conversation started on MAYBE NEGOTIATING an arrangement license.  No guarantees though.  By my probably-somewhat-inaccurate-musician-math, it would take something like 114,500 streams on Spotify just to make the $500 to TALK to these folks.  Whew!  That's a risk for something where they could just say, "ehhh... no, we don't like this.  You can't release it."  I was starting to feel pretty defeated, and not really comfortable with the risk of "it's parody, just release it anyway" kind of advice I was getting from some folks.  I had talked to a couple of lawyers, and they strongly advised against doing that.  I didn't want to get sued for back royalties AND potentially damages.  Ouch.  I know folks that have been sued for even giving away music like that, and it was way more than $500 for sure. 

Instead, I decided to do something that I KNEW was protected by copyright law.  I purchased a compulsory license.  See, under US Copyright law, musicians can record someone else's song without permission as long as they pay a fee.  The fee is a whole lot less than $500, so I was ready to go.  The catch is, I couldn't change the lyrics.  I went through the process and paid all the necessary fees.  Then, I went back and re-recorded the track using the original lyrics by Jackson Browne.  Did it take longer?  Sure!  Probably not as long, and definitely not as expensive as just trying to get a license to officially parody the track though.  It took me about 24 hours and around $50 or so to get that compulsory license.  If Black Hole Zion was Weird Al, maybe it wouldn't be so hard.  That said, I'm not interested in doing tons of parody songs anyway.

The take away(s) from all this:

1.  Parody isn't what folks think it is.

2.  The fact that I put so much effort into getting this song out and folks responding positively to it means a great deal to me.

Thanks!  Live long and prosper.


Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Meditations, Volume 2 Pre-save

 Hey folks!

It's almost time for Meditations, Volume 2.  I worked so hard on this, and I am excited to talk more about it soon.  The release date is 3/28/23.  We have a Spotify pre-save available for those that do streaming.  Here is the link:

Real talk - pre-saving and streaming on day one definitely helps us priority in the Spotify algorithm.  If you use Spotify, it would be rad if you pre-saved.

 Talk very soon!


Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Meditations, Volume 2 Release Date

Hey folks!

Meditations, Volume 2 is almost out! It is a one hour long piece of electronic music meant to take you from your physical body to outer space (or inner space) and back. If you dug the first volume, then you'll definitely dig this one. If you came to Black Hole Zion for more of the heavier rock stuff, give this a try! It's meant to work as meditation music, yoga music, deep listening music, music to create other art to, or keep you calm and relaxed while doing work or studying. It's one hour long, but I have written it so that you can seamlessly play it on repeat if you like.

There are a lot of elements in this release, and it was the most difficult thing I have ever mixed in my life. I am so very happy to release it, and I hope you dig it. Release date is 3/28/23, but you can pre-order now and get one of the tracks right away. More soon! Live long and prosper.