A Visit with Publish Brand

June 14, 2013

Publish Image

This week, I had a short visit with a new friend, Michael Huynh of Publish Brand Apparel.  He’s a smart and intense dude who built a company from the ground up.  His dad was a shoe cobbler with some experience in clothing, and never wanted his son to be in the apparel business, since he saw it as tough, low-paying, and service-based.  Michael’s dad wanted him to be a lawyer or doctor.  So Michael hid the idea of Publish from his dad.

The idea of Michael’s company came from his infatuation with a specific moment in the creative process: the moment when something becomes “real.”  For many, like myself, the buildup of time and energy behind a creative passion can be all-consuming to the maker, but there is often a sense of disconnection.  When you’re making something creative–an album, a book, or a clothing line, for example–countless hours may go into a project, over a long span of time.  During that time, it’s hard for other people to understand or appreciate the sweat and stress of making it work, the frustration of hitting dead ends and getting it wrong, and the overwhelming joy of getting it right.  Your parents and friends will ask, “how is it going?” but there’s really no answer you can give them that will help them understand.

Really, you’re working toward the moment when you get “published”–the moment when you finally get to show everyone what you’ve been up to.  Only then can they truly feel the effort that went into it, and begin to understand.

That feeling is one that I understand intimately, and it’s the feeling that Michael’s company was built on. He told me a great story about it: when Michael finally got his own space, his own office and warehouse, he didn’t even invite his dad to his opening party, for fear that his Dad would be disappointed in the small office.  Then, in the middle of the party, he felt a familiar hand on his shoulder…his father had crashed the party to see what his son was up to.

Michael was embarrassed and anxious as he showed his dad around the place.  But in the end, his dad gave him some of his most important encouragement.  And today, Michael is in the middle of a breakthrough in “publishing” his brand right now, finally turning heads with his creations.  In particular, their hats are kinda blowing up.

Unfortunately, as we were  hanging out and talking, I didn’t think to take any photos.  But if I had, I would have taken a picture of the craziest thing I found at their warehouse: the guy hand-making Publish’s popular hats is Michael’s own dad.

In a day and age where everything is computerized and streamlined, it’s often easy for fans to forget or question that there’s a human being on the creation side of the equation.  So sometimes it’s the human touch that makes the biggest difference.

As Michael says, “Today for Tomorrow.”



Big Sounds, featuring Walrus by @KillSonik

January 7, 2013

Joe, Dave, and I were hanging out today at Joe’s house. Joe said earlier this week, a song from the mid-90s came on the radio–a song that he remembered as being very energetic and heavy. But as he listened to it, he realized to really wasn’t that big-sounding by today’s standards.

I / we talked about how today, the easy-access to great sounding music software, when coupled with the University of YouTube, allows musicians of all levels to get big, amazing sounds.

It made me think of this KillSonik track that just came out. I feel like nothing sounded this big and nasty ten years ago…


My New Facebook Account

September 24, 2011

I have a Facebook page now.  Go here and click “subscribe.”



Numb cover: Welcome to Thailand

September 22, 2011



Shinoda Sketchbook, 1989

March 9, 2011

Just found this in a box in one of my closets today. This is the cover of my sketchbook, from 1987-89 (ish). Some of this is not my writing–I don’t know whose it is. But I think the funniest part is that there are logos of Bon Jovi, Cinderella, and Ratt, all crossed out. And Oaktown’s 357 made it into the mix somehow. Lucky there was no internet at the time, or my Mom would have Googled The 2 Live Crew and consequently thrown out my entire cassette collection.


1969: Mr. Rogers plea for PBS funding

January 17, 2011

We included a number of audio clips from speeches on A THOUSAND SUNS.  Today, I was reminded of how inspiring it can be to find a great clip online.  This clip came with the following description:

In 1969, Fred Rogers appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications. His goal was to support funding for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, in response to significant proposed cuts by President Nixon.

(credit: @SarahKSilverman for posting on Twitter)


Funny Little Singers

September 3, 2010

Make them sing:


I’m on Digg

July 29, 2010

Random note: I recently added a new user page on digg.com.  Go HERE to add me.


Recording Artists, Not Performers

May 6, 2010

I was having dinner with a close friend named Mark, and we found ourselves on the topic of seeing “new” bands in concert. Mark had recently gone to Coachella, and was telling me about his favorite acts–and some of the ones that underwhelmed him. He wondered aloud why some bands seem to be so proficient in the studio, but their live show didn’t seem to be nearly as solid. A thought occurred to me/us somewhere in the conversation, and I’m going to put it out there for discussion:

Today, there is a historic surplus of “recording artists” and deficit of “performers.” And it’s probably technology’s fault.

Thirty years ago, if you wanted to be a professional musician, you might start by saving up to buy an instrument. You’d buy it, and start teaching yourself. Next, you’d probably get lessons, and practice, practice, practice. You would get together with other musicians, at someone’s house, to jam other peoples’ songs, and maybe eventually write your own. Then you’d work your way toward playing live. You might start by playing covers, then move toward playing your own stuff. If that went over well, you’d build a fan base, who would spread the word. Eventually, a record company representative could find you and sign you to a deal, and FINALLY you would be able to create a “professional” recording of your music. By that time, you would have logged thousands of hours of performing together. And the recording of your album was geared towards capturing the essence of what you actually sounded like: the magic that everyone heard while listening to you play live.

Today, most people skip straight to the recording. The tools to make a great recording are as cheap as free: whether GarageBand on a Mac, or amazing online recording communities like BOJAM, nearly anyone can have access to the tools necessary to make a quality recording. There’s no gatekeeper or major hurdle between an amateur and their interest in learning writing, recording, engineering, and mixing music. That being the case, there’s a whole new generation of artists who have become really good at those things. They log thousands of hours writing and recording. Since an early age, they’ve been honing their skills, composing pop diddies and alternative anthems on their laptops–wherever, whenever they like. They put the songs online…and occasionally, a song starts to take off in a viral whirlwind.

But what then?

Let’s say the song becomes popular; whether signed to a record label or working independently, piracy assures that the mp3 doesn’t make a lot of money online. And the group needs to make some money to pay the rent, buy gear, build the band. So they start planning their “tour.” But they don’t have much experience playing live. They’re really good at their instruments, but they can’t make it happen on stage. The album has dozens of layered sounds on every song, and they only have four band members. The drummer can’t keep up with the drum pattern on the popular single, because it was a drum machine on the original recording. And the vocalist’s voice sounds awful without Auto Tune.

One of the places where a “listener” becomes a “fan” is at the concert, and if you can’t connect there, you lose. In the case of Coachella, there were some bands that had the whole package. Some sounded great because they sounded just like the album, some sounded great because they sounded different from the album. There were rock-based bands that played well together, and electronic-based groups that brought the energy of their recording to life on stage. But in between–and in general–more and more often, the world is seeing artists with incredible-sounding albums and songs, and no magic when you see them in concert.

My own band has had to deal with these same issues in one way or another in the past. We grew up recording on a computer, at the specific point in time when home recording software became accessible to the average kid. When we met a record executive for the first time, we had played no shows. At that moment, we realized that we needed to start playing live and practicing our new songs, so we could eventually bring them to a stage. It would be years before anyone had ever heard of Linkin Park. We were lucky enough to get through the worst of our awkward live mistakes while we were still a baby band, unsigned, without a million people coming to our first show to see what all the hype was about, and by the time “In The End” hit the mainstream, we had probably played 150-200 shows together and worked a lot of the kinks out.

I’m definitely not saying that being a masterful at recording isn’t an asset. I’m just saying that it’s a game with a lot of competition, due to ease of entry.

If you want to stand out, performance is key. After all, if you master that, you can easily hire someone to record you.



March 25, 2010