Ode to Emperor Norton I

I need to re-record the Cello and use it as a bass – no bowing and use a high pass filter to get rid of the low frequency boom.

Born in Kent
Of London town
San Francisco's
Royal Clown

Colorful 9er
Wealthy man
Lost all he had

Made decrees
Rattled a sabre
Gentle sort
Beloved neighbor

Some say mad
Some say smart
Played his part

Had a vision
Tunnel and bridge
Other things
Seemed unhinged

Eccentric yes
Crazy no
Endearing man
Fantastic show

Emperor Norton
League of Nations
Brilliant designer

in a nutshell

  • Emperor Norton I is a beloved San Francisco legend
  • He earned and lost a fortune gambling on the price of rice
  • He was eccentric, not sure if was crazy
  • He had several ideas way ahead of his time like The League of Nations and the Bay Bridge


Everyone has probably heard the story of Emperor Norton I. I’m curious as to why he didn’t get back into business. He did enjoy life in SF as a celebrity. Maybe he had a breakdown or just enjoyed his “act”?

I didn’t sing the chorus – it didn’t fit as well as I had expected. I’ll keep trying to sing – maybe even take lessons. I’m finding that even just “roughing it out” with my vocals I get a better idea of how to arrange and orchestrate the song. In my dreams, someone would take my songs and play them live.


San Francisco Legends


The more I research eccentrics, the more I love them. They are the most human of humans in my book. Let your freak flag fly!

Night Owls At The Cafe

Night owls at the cafe
Under moonlit night
Drinking tea and telling tales
Everything feels just right

I had my favorite cafe
Called Cafe Soma
In San Francisco
They had the best Mochas

Those were great days
Night owls at the cafe
Also there most mornings
Where I'd start my day

Breaking Art News Flash!

Switchingyard, 1986 – Sutro Bath Ruins, San Francisco. I’m in the middle
Back into music 
After thirty something years
I just had an epiphany
That's always been near

Rock N' Roll
A simple art form
Disposable pop songs
Usually the norm

Under my nose
I just figured out
Arranging the song
Is what its about

It also applies
To other art forms
Like photography
Less is definitely more

I was listening to the recent posted song that I wrote called “Santa’s New Jet Rocket Sleigh”. When I wrote it I didn’t think it was that good because I knew that my mandolin and cello playing are so beginner. My guitar and piano playing is half way decent, but I thought it was just a silly little exercise.

Over coffee this morning, I found that while I’m no great musician, the song does have some “juju”. This tells me that if I keep at it – I could become a pretty decent song writer – so that’s what motivates me – its the journey – not some end goal. I actually like the song, and my lack of skill in some ways helped. I had to keep the parts simple since I’m on page 10 of my kiddie music lesson books playing Twinkle Twinkle little star. (I’m taking Twinkle Twinkle Little Star very seriously by the way!)

Rock N’ Roll and pop songs have been done over the years where it would seem every chord progression or melody has been done before. Then it clicked! The arrangement of several simple parts intertwine in such a way that there is “something” there. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Kicks Ass! Or maybe its called “Twinkle Stars Revenge?”. When I was in my 20’s I thought such exercises were silly. Boy did I miss the boat!

The same thing applies to my photography. A few simple parts goes a long way. Once you overdue it, you’ve gone too far (at least me being such a beginner musician).

Virtuosos of some instrument are the rare bird whose playing anything – simple or complex just works. But I’m no virtuoso, but that won’t stop me from trying to write a decent pop song.

When I was in a band in my 20’s in San Francisco, I never, ever would have figured this out. I wanted to play gigs and promote the band and I had more testosterone than brains. Hence the photo above.

Lets call this the “Lego School of Art and Music”. ALL of my recent Music and Photography was made up of several simple parts. Things that in themselves seem mundane and have been beaten to death in history. However, there are new points of view – and new arrangements that do sound new and (dare I say?) unique.


Mountain Pass[ed]

When All Seems Right With The World …

The Telegram came in at 3:40 yesterday afternoon. I was Writing and Playing this song – hence how upbeat this is. I feel like a train just strained over a big mountain – and now we are on the other side. I tried to capture this feeling in a song – as if the train were almost “free wheeling”.

May was a very trying month at work, but I have a few new opportunities and they are really great. I’ll update this once the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.

Basically, I have a new job lined up and its several rungs better than where I’m working now.

Green Apple Man

If you know where I took this picture, leave a comment

I’ll retire in 4 years. After 40 years in IT, I still love my job. I was the 127th employee at Oracle, and that was way back in 1984.

Tempus Fugit!

San Francisco Surreal Dreams in Color – Circa 1984


San Francisco between 1984 and 1994 was perfect. I was in my 20’s and did what people in their 20’s do. Besides work, I lived an artful life. I had some great fun with fellow musicians and artists.

One fun time stands out, and this photo – rendering is the picture worth 1024 words.

The Great Rock N’ Roll Myth (and Piano and Strings)

Gingko Leaf Last Fall

I’ve reminisced on this blog about being in a band in the 80’s in San Francisco quite a few times. Don’t get me wrong, it was one of the best times in my life.

After a year of studying music seriously, I can tell you with 100% accuracy that any band that says they just picked up instruments and threw together a band either did not tell the whole story. They might have started as a rag tag band, but then they absolutely put in the time and effort and studied music theory to get to that next level. I’m talking about bands that “made it”, not the one I was in – although for my level of effort back then, we ” made it” as far as we could. Even some rock bands who were deemed lousy or sloppy players, at least one player knew what he or she was doing. The Sex Pistols come to mind, but they would be my low bar. Some other bands were way better than the myth they perpetuated.

I’d lament the fact that looking back I see a young man in his 20’s who dreamt of fame and success but had not put in the work. I wasn’t quite shallow because I did one thing that could have gotten me to the next level. I took 2 or 3 piano classes at Chabot College and could site read. I remember playing Bartok pieces – little folk songs and loving it.

Fast forward 30 years, and I’m deep into music theory – mostly concentrating on understanding the keys, circle of fifths and experimenting with key changes and even song structures.

A couple recent songs have departed from the usual 3 minute pop song – most notable, the Hans Arp dada joke piece. Its not at all a 3 minute pop song, but is my first attempt at a piece with four movements. The movements follow a story line with intro, build up, climax and finale / release. I’ve had this idea I call a “Pocket Symphony” in my head. Its not a pop song (or is it?) But it would be way too prententious to think of it as classical music. And I hate “Rock Operas”. I Googled it and found that phrase has been used since 1928. Very interesting. My use of the phrase in my music is meant to be very tongue in cheek.

Perhaps the best part in all of this is that contrary to what I had thought a year ago (that I’m a guitarist who might use piano as a fill or accompanying instrument), its exactly the exact opposite.

I’ve learned that I think much better as a composer with a piano – and then layer in other instruments. This doesn’t mean I won’t compose with other instruments, but I fully expect the majority will be piano first.

I’ve also found that using piano and then one or two stringed instruments – all with just an effect here or there produces the best results.

Musically, its been my favorite year, musically speaking.

Heart Grenade

Empathy is a Heart Grenade

It feels great to have an administration with compassion and empathy – one who cares about the people of the US – not one man’s crippled ego and morally bankrupt soul.

Kabarett 391

My Midi Workstation. The Arturia Keylab 49 MKII

Back in the 80’s I played guitar and synthesizers in a band in San Francisco. We played mostly at The Hotel Utah, but other more divy bars in the SF Bay Area. I lived in SF between 1984 and 1994 – what I consider a real hey day and so much better than when the first “dot con” ruined the city – which happened in the late 90’s.

Anyway, between 1987 and 1991 I travelled to Europe a fair amount on business (mainly Gupta Technologies) and visited quite a few places in the UK, Germany, France, Switzerland and two other cities Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Helsinki (Finland).

Fabulous Gretsch Orange Crusher

That travel ended my musical escapades and I switched to photography – and had visited several of the Dada-ist and Surrealist “old haunts” in Europe. I had quite a few black and white shows in San Francisco at cafes and even a bar or two. I hung out at Cafe Soma and Brainwash back before SOMA was completely ruined.

The synthesizers I had in the 80’s were Roland, EMU, Casio and Korg. I see these fetch a big price as collectors items. Back then, you kind of had to declare that you were a synth band or a guitar band. As 80’s punk and new wave was supposed to be liberating, new and “free form”, it really wasn’t. There were standouts and strange bands who were very cutting edge – like Wire, New Order, Cabaret Voltaire or Tuxedomoon, and then there were synth band wannabes. Some guitar bands were less avant garde, but excellent, like The Feelies. There were excellent pop bands too – it was a great “gateway drug” of pop music that paved the way to the 90’s.

At that time I was listening to Jazz and Classical a LOT, and I was introduced to these fabulous genres as I sat in my favorite cafes pretty much every day.

My favorite rock decade was the 90’s. The different styles started making sense – grunge, rap and especially rap-rock (Beasty Boys, etc), and many other melding of styles. It wasn’t as artsy or pretentious as the 80’s.

In the last decade or perhaps two – there has been a new generation of styles influenced by the 80’s and 90’s, and one area that is perhaps the most exciting is the electronic music genre, that has all kinds of interesting elements. I think the rave scene and rap scene and its melding is just super cool.

I’m changing the name of this blog because several songs ago – “Synthetique” was an eye opener. I first changed the name to Kabarette Synthetik, but then got a new idea for scoring dadaist music for a creepy puppet theatre. I have only gotten back into music this past year, and it took a year to get a new direction artistically. Consider my past year as learning time – and a reawakening.

Because I’ve traced my German roots back to 1500, where the Holoch family has always resided along The Neckar River and valleys near Stuttgart. My Mothers side of the family were / are Cockneys from Bow and Hammersmith. I plan on learning German and doing my creepy puppet shows in German.

Recently I Re-introduced synthesizers in my songs, and WOW, not only is the technology so much better than the 80’s (you can keep those old synths), the re-imagined versions of those synths (Arturia V Collection 8) plus hybrid digital analogue and even cheesy little “toys” like Korg Volcas are all superb. I have watched what the trip hop and other rave electronic music artists have done, and yeah, this is so much better than the 80’s. What I mean by this is the use of synths in music that sounds like it goes all the way back to the real visionaries – Kraftwerk.

Back in the 80’s I wanted my band to be like R.E.M. or XTC, but we fell short. We always got gigs and our (cassette) demo tapes were played on College Radio and we were reviewed in several musical publications. The best review was “These guys are weird, but not weird enough”. I never was offended because that was the truth.

Thankfully, I’m old enough to give no mind to being cool and I feel more freedom than when I was in my 20’s.

I’m hoping an sort of Euro-cafe-synth-stringed-pop style emerges. I’m liking the recent stuff where I do spoken word up front then its just instrumental music. In my mind I hope it sounds like a new sort of Cafe music – something weird, but not weird enough …..

Aria on Grant Street, San Francisco

Perhaps my favorite shop anywhere – Aria in SF. Alas, tis no more . . .

I used to visit Aria on Grant Street on my daily walks from work – when I worked in downtown San Francisco. I met Jack Howe – who is a great Santa Cruz Assemblage artist and had purchased one of his pieces years ago. I got into Assemblage myself – and most of the photos in this blog are my Assemblage pieces. Most of them I either gave away or took apart to make others – but I always preserved them with my camera. For me – the photography is the thing – not the Assemblage. The Assemblage is like a still life in my mind. I do get many lyric ideas for my songs from my Assemblages.

Here’s to Bill Hesketh, Aria Proprietor, and Jack Howe – who both made my daily lunchtime walks in SF memorable.