Full Circle

Last week an old friend reposted a call for a keyboard player on facebook to me and said “have you seen this?”  In recent months I’ve been scaling back and trying to simplify: as a full time family doctor with a loving family, I’ve learned that I can’t spend a ton of time gallivanting around the country (or even the state) playing music with a bunch of bands and still have time to come up with the next great American solo album and sleep all at the same time.  But this was different, it was Sean Kelly, looking for someone to play some Samples shows.

I first saw the Samples at the Garden State Arts Center in the summer of ’93.  It was my second H.O.R.D.E. tour – undistilled,  pure 90’s granolapalooza.  These shows introduced me to Colonel Bruce, Big Head Todd, Widespread Panic, and Phish – having been conceived by Jersey’s own John Popper and headlined by Blues Traveler, heralding the second coming of the now-ubiquitous jam band.  In the early nineties, improvisation-heavy rock bands were hardly everywhere; the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead had been pulling a reliable throng of sun-bleached, tie-dyed music lovers around the country with the promise that no two performances of a given song would ever be alike, but this had been a far cry from my experience of live music – dominated in the late eighties by glam bands, new wave, and synth pop.  I wanted in!

I knew there had to be a way to combine stretched out arrangements of great songs with synthesizers – and then along came the Samples, and I began devouring their albums, special ordering their eponymous fIrst EP from a CD store in south jersey for a $32.99 and wearing it out with a cigarette dangling from the open window on several six hour commutes to and from the University of Rochester.  I studied Al Laughlin’s keyboard playing with more fervor than I brought to any classes I took that year.  When they came to the Horizontal Boogie Bar in 1994 I dragged 20 friends down there and went nuts in the front row for the whole set.  I shouted all the lyrics and hung around afterwards to get autographs and gush at the band.

After graduation I moved to Boulder with my own group, because this was where the Samples were from, so it seemed like a good place to take a crack at the music business.  1996 was an awesome year to be a musician in Boulder – within weeks my little black book was full of phone numbers organized by the instrument the person played and I was experiencing live music nearly every day.  I eventually got to meet all the guys in the band – at bars, at shows (it’s a small town); they’re great people.  Sean’s the only remaining original Sample.

Then yada yada yada fatherhood, yada yada yada med school, yada yada yada starting a blog and writing in it 4 times in the first year.

Last night I drove to Denver to play two sets with the Samples at the Breckenridge Brewery after saying “yes please” to a facebook post.  They had texted me a list of songs and half of them were on mixtapes I made in the nineties.  The drummer’s parents are the same age as my parents and live about a mile away from them in south jersey.  The bassist owns the Oriental Theater – and in 1993, the same year I first saw the Samples, my Korean girlfriend told me to stop calling referring to myself as “oriental,” the proper term, she said, was “asian.”   Coincidence?

It was surreal playing tunes that I’ve listened to for so long but then realizing that the keyboard player is me.  Then going one step further to be realizing that for the most part the band likes what I’m doing and I get to stretch out and do my own thing with it.  Then I take a selfie with Sean who tells me “you’re hired!”

So 25 years after that time in Rochester when I got the Samples to sign a bumper sticker, I found myself signing someone’s Samples t-shirt and saying “you know it’s only my first day right?”

So this was a win for the optimism and the internet – social media, apparently, isn’t all about making us hate each other, toppling governments, and the the deregulation of youth.  Sometimes it brings a lifelong love of music full circle:)

Forgive the audio quality – it’s the best my phone can do.  But the document exists and must not be contained!

For the nerds:

Roland System 8

Native Instruments S61 M2

Yamaha CP 300

Korg CX3

Leslie Studio 12

Wired for sound

Yesterday I got back into the studio, which I use so infrequently these days the dog has decided that that is where she poops whenever it snows.  On this sunny Sunday morning the floor was turd free – a good sign!  With plans to record keyboard parts for the second Manotaur album in the afternoon, I thought it would be a good idea to make sure everything still worked.

In the process, a strong argument for computers getting the blues emerged.  If you want to get technical  –  you can turn the “swing” knob on the minibrute all the way to the right and slow the tempo of the DAW to 60 BPM and voila, blues pulse, highly reminiscent of lesson one at Otis Taylor’s trance blues festival year after year: nail down that heartbeat and deviate from it at your peril.

Thanks for taking the time to enjoy this video of me noodling around with some keyboards in my basement.  With all the medicine and the child rearing and the Netflix and the need for sleep I forget to come down here sometimes.  I love this gear and will do my best to continue justifying keeping it around. If you like what you see then why not see more at https://www.brianjuan.com ?

Not harmed in the making of this video:

Minimoog Voyager XL (someday I’ll learn what all the fiddly bits do)

Moogerfooger MF-104M Analog Delay (ditto)

Roland TR-8S (more options and easier to use than the 808 and in my opinion sounds just as good)

Arturia MiniBrute (Swing knob!)

Roland Juno 60 (Bought from Robb’s Music for next to nothing back in 1999. I’ll forever be grateful to Robb Candler for saying to someone “why don’t you call Brian and see if he wants that before we put it on the floor?”)

Wurlitzer Electric Piano (Found in the trash when I was in med school.  Teacher model.  Speaker was broke, but not broke anymore.  Also not at all portable.)

Who says romance is dead?

Once, years ago, I asked a pretty girl what she wanted to hear and she requested this song.  I didn’t know it, but of course I’d heard it, so I pulled the words up on my phone and I went for it.  Sometimes that goes really well and I become a hero for five minutes.  This time it was too high and I had no soul.  It was awful and I lost that girl’s attention as quickly as I had gained it.

Maybe if I had known the song, we would have hit it off – which would have been a shame, because I might have never met my wife, and we would have never made it to our one year anniversary (8/7/18), and I would have had no one living with me to say “sounds good honey,” and I would never try anything new, and I’d drink too much, and instead of practicing medicine I’d be selling flip flops.  

On our honeymoon I went to a Hawaiian mall and bought a pair of Olukais.  The salesman told me they were leather, so they really shouldn’t be worn on the beach or by the pool or anywhere that they could get wet.  I was like, what, they’re like business flip flops?  Pfffft!  So I wore them on the beach, and by the pool, and for months I’ve been sloshing them around various Colorado hot springs, and they, like my marriage, are still going strong.  

I would like to dedicate this performance and my inaugural attempt at split screen video to my wife, Rebecca Juan.  

I will also use the subject of marriage in general to give shout outs and thanks to Karrah Toledo and Ian McDonald, and to Jennifer Horsley and Brady Colvin, two couples who gave me the honor of presiding over their wedding ceremonies this summer.  

In Colorado you don’t have to be ordained as a minister to stand at the altar and get people to say “I do” – and I am certainly not one, but the unexpected challenge of coming up with appropriately reverent words to bridge the transition to married life proved to be just the right kind of pressure to make diamond speeches out of English major coal.

This recording features a chopped and refinished 1946 Hammond BV organ customized with smooth action B3 drawbars pumped, as God intended, through a Leslie 147 amplifier (itself shoehorned into a short 145 rotating speaker cabinet).  I bought the organ in Colorado Springs in 1999 for $250.00 and was told that Rick Wakeman played it once; there was a “Yes” sticker on the lid – fairly flimsy evidence indeed, but I did appreciate that the instrument came with a story.

Don’t forget to like, subscribe, etc etc and check out my upcoming shows – and thanks as always for listening/watching/reading/clicking or whatever you did today:)

Fingers Crossed

My buddy Tim Fee taught me this song in the summer of 1994. We moved to Block Island after my second year of college and he got me my first gigs for money on the front porch of the National Hotel. When I say “money” I should be honest and admit that I was being paid in mudslides, clam chowder, and half the tips. We did covers – the Dead, the Band, lots of sixties (the eighties of the nineties). This is the Clapton song that stuck.

So I went to the hospital today and visited a loved one. I love being a physician and I love helping my patients – but when its my friends or my family, I think it’s important to fight with every fiber of my being to put the burden of knowledge away and be someone else. Showing up as someone’s son, brother, father, friend, or husband is more important than showing up as their uninvited extra doctor (especially when they’ve already got a ton of really good ones).

Your loved ones supplement the science of medicine with hope. I believe that crossed fingers and held hands get sick people through the hard stuff. So it felt important to put this little faith-song out there.

Stayed up late to do it. Used the Rhodes to keep from making a ton of noise. Kids are sleeping.

Good night for now 🙂



This initial outpouring of support is kinda like the feeling you get when you open facebook on your birthday and that click-rush spark of dopamine kicks in – I can’t thank you all enough, especially those of you who shared, commented, liked, and actually watched the whole thing.  

I’m not gonna lie – it took a few takes.  In true #wartsandall spirit here are some of the screw ups.   Please peek behind the curtain if it compels you into a youtube subscription.  There you will find 2am hospital shenanigan residency videos, old band promo, cellphone clips of me with famous people, and more to come.

Tall order of an attention whore?  Perhaps.  The hope is to build an audience: please be in it!

Have a great weekend:)

Fear of Posting

Really internet – you are amazing.  There is a staggering amount of talent posting online every day; it’s almost enough to make a man keep his head down doing doctor things.

Instead I’m facing my fear of posting head on and putting this out there.  Getting really excited about not forgetting the words to the second verse and flubbing the left hand?  It’s in there.  Barely keeping it together during the solo, debatably rescued by the thump of a kick drum click track?  Check.  Making it look like I meant to do it?  Maybe.

This recording was plagued by July Colorado heat, a distinct lack of central air, minimal experience with recording in general, tempo struggles, and terror.  It was rescued by the UA Arrow audio interface, solid mics that are older than my child (earthworks Z30X and soundelux u195), a church-bought Baldwin baby grand in mono, some risks that panned out, and sheer nervous energy.

Until today I basically have not been in the habit of sharing or doing much in the music recording arena – and I am making a midyear’s resolution to get a little annoying about it.  More is on the way!

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