GohNakamura's Posts

Merry Christmas (wrote this today)


Wrote this today. Merry Christmas!

There’s a mystery in Christmas
Tell me how did it all come to this?
and melodies we hear one time each year
that in the past meant presents
and being good to parents

isn’t it a wonder where the year has gone?
from the dying embers of december’s song

There’s a mystery on Christmas Eve
How did it it all come to this?
with shopping malls and airport crawls
we bicker quicker with the ones we
Love, for some, for me, for you,
for all of us who’ve lost a love or two

for some, for me, for you,
for all of us who miss someone,
don’t you?

There’s a history in this revelry
Break ups, Baking, Ultimatums
Drunken end of send-off parties
Open Bars and Scarves and too much food…

Wonder how we came to this, don’t you?
You know?

Long ago
in Christmas snow,
we fell and sang and made some angels

Some of us have angels of our own
on loan until they earn their wings
while things from past Decembers hold warm memories
we kindly fan the kindling of what next year might bring

There’s a mystery
and you’ve got me
enraptured til the last gift
is unwrapped here
and melodies from the past
now mean I’m glad you’re here.

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Asian American Film Festival in Chicago

Greetings from Chicago

Tim Hugh, one man bandleader of the Chicago Asian American Film Festival

This is Tim Hugh and his dog Helga in his kitchen in Chicago. Tim has run the only Asian American Indie Film Fest (i.e. no “imports”) for 12 of the 17 years that it’s been in existence. In this picture, he’s a one man bandleader- running it solo, something I can relate to as a solo musician. I’m in town to promote my film “Daylight Savings” which premiered at SXSW this year, and will be the opening night film this year. Joining me at the screening will be Michael Aki who plays my cousin in the film. I met Mike at this very festival in 2010 when he was showing his films Sunsets that he directed with Eric Nakamura, and his Film Noir tribute “Strangers”

I asked Tim a bunch of questions:

Goh: Why is this festival important?

Tim: It’s one of the only festivals that shows only Asian American films; produced, directed and/or about the Asian American experience. In the midwest more so than the coastal states, you’re constantly asked that stupid question “Where are you from?”… so it’s important to help define what being Asian and American is.

I’m a fourth generation Chinese American. In the midwest, it’s usually under the assumption that you’re just “Asian”… and not “Asian American.” When I see Causasian people I don’t ask them “are you from Poland? are you European?” I just see them for who they are, not what they look like.

Goh: How did you get involved in the festival?

Tim: I was just a fan of the band Seam, and Sooyoung Park, Ben Kim and Billy Shin started the festival in 1995 after they released the Ear of the Dragon CD, which was the first Asian American Rock Compliation. I’d always go and watch everything I could. I’d never seen films like this before; Asian American characters that spoke like me; the actors weren’t forced to speak with a bad accent. I could relate to these images and characters that I was seeing at this festival.

I became obsessed and would watch everything I could, whether it be a feature, documentary, or shorts program. I just wanted to see as much as I could, because I knew I’d never get a chance to see these movies again. Plus, being able to meet the directors and hear them speak about their films was one of the coolest things for me. I remember hanging out with Justin Lin, back when he was just a shorts director.

They noticed me being there year after year, and began to recognize me. Eventually, they would ask me to do little things like hand out program booklets, take tickets, watch the table, and take pictures during the Q&A’s. Basically, I became a volunteer. I remember standing there back in the day giving out Giant Robot magazines!


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Here’s A Secret

    I have a long playlist on my ipod that I call “the song graveyard” of old unfinished verses,choruses and riffs. It’s a musical “to do” list that I consult every now and then.
    One of the songs on there was a sad tune that started with the words “Here’s A Secret”… but then ended in gibberish. Songs can stay in this suspended state for years, until something jolts me emotionally to fill in the blanks. Such is the case for this tune.

    This is the first single from the Soundtrack album I’m about to release called “Motion from the Music Picture.” There’s 2 exclusive cues from my upcoming film Daylight Savings, too. Hope you dig.

    Here’s A Secret

    I’d imagine writers, artists have a similar “graveyard” that they consult from time to time…I’m curious. How do you guys work with older material?

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Walk – Single


Here’s a new tune I wrote. Actually wrote it on a walk to the coffee shop one day, just speaking words into my phone as they came into my head… pretending like I was having a conversation with someone.

This song was sort of an experiment, I wanted to write it away from an instrument… starting with words. I usually sit around with a pen and paper, but I found that the left/right rhythm of feet against concrete gets my brain going. When I get to the coffee shop, I sit down with a cup of joe, jot stuff down. Then I walk home, humming revisions or new ideas.

I made this video yesterday, walking the same route as I did when I wrote the song in November. I tried walking my cat on a leash, but he wasn’t having it. There’s some footage of my friend’s home/studio in San Juan Bautista, where I recorded it. The video’s like a little commercial for the song, which you can purchase Here

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Listening to Otis Redding at Home During Christmas (Okkervil River Cover)

I heard this Okkervil River song tonight for the first time and had to cover it, record it, and now I’m passing it on to you. Download away… Happy Holidays Everyone!

Listening to Otis Redding at Home During Christmas (Okkervil River Cover) by Goh Nakamura
Listening to Otis Redding at Home During Christmas (Okkervil River Cover)

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SV2 recording session


Tim Bulkley and Gary Wang, two of New York’s finest musicians humoring me,

and singing a doo wop bassline.  Amazing.

Recorded at Marlborough Farms in Brooklyn, helmed by the great Gary Olson of Lady Bug Transistor

more to come…

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Montreal, Chapter 2: Mutant Raccoons of Mount Royal.

Cray Cray Raccoon Whisperer AKA "RAY BZ"

Cray Cray Raccoon Whisperer AKA "RAY BZ"

Homeboy is Cray Cray.

“What the hell is goin’ on?” you might ask…  I’m not quite sure- but he and his family were feeding the raccoons.

After a long first day of getting into Montreal, my hosts Li Li and Jeff took me up to Mount Royal to check out the view.  We drove up, saw the beautiful lights of the city- but it was upstaged by the most random scene…  a family- two parents and a little girl, about 7 or 8? feeding a horde of Freakishly Large  Raccoons.  I was fearing that something really bad was about to happen, but fortunately it- never escalated… even when the mom was kicking some of the bigger raccoons out of the way so the babies could eat.

If you watch the video- you’ll see there’s like 30+ of ‘em swarming/begging for food like dogs.  Strangely, they were really gentle and seemed almost domesticated…very at ease around humans.  Maybe because they’re Canadian?  All the American Raccoons I’ve encountered are mean and aggressive.



Montreal, Chapter 1: Poutine on the Ritz

I went to Montreal for the first time last weekend for a screening of Surrogate Valentine and a small coffeehouse gig at the Pop Montreal festival.  The five day music/film festival sprawled across 58 venues with about 450 artists, including big names like  Arcade Fire, Stephen Malkmus, and Kid Koala. I flew in from New York, which was merely a 52 minute flight… pretty painless other than waiting through customs lines and lack of sleep after a whiskey party at my host’s abode before the 4am trip to the airport… but that is a tale for another time.

Let’s talk about Poutine.  Say it with me:  Cheese Curds, Gravy, Fries.

I was in Montreal for three days, and somehow I ended up eating it every day.  I tried not to, but it just sorta happened.  How I managed to survive, I don’t know.

Poutine #1:

My hosts in Montreal picked me up from the airport, and after a croissant and a 2 hour nap, took me out to get lunch. We sat down at this Poutine place called Banquis, and I thought we’d share a plate, but it was every man for himself.  Believe it or not, this is the smallest sized order.  I struggled to eat half of it.  You can’t really see the cheese curds, but they are there.  Chillin’…under the gravy…and fries… and onions… and mushrooms, bacon, peppers, and more fries and gravy.  This thing weighed as much as a child.  Homeboy across from me ate his whole plate- it was the same size sans fixin’s.


I’ve had it before, about 6 years ago in Toronto, but according to my hosts it’s not the same there.  Montreal-eans get all protective about their poutine.  To be honest, I forgot what it tasted like- but I felt like these cheese curds were more firm and chewy.  It was pretty good, but the portion and thought of eating that much alone kind of turned me off.  That’s a lot of heart attack right there.  I vowed not to eat any more cheese on this trip.

In the middle of eating this, I got a call from Kid Koala, who Eric Nakamura put me in touch with since he’s based in Montreal.  He was amused, and perhaps slightly worried that I was eating Poutine so early in the day.

“that stuff’s for late night, after drinking…”

He invited us to come by his studio, which was a mindblowing experience, but I’ll save that for another post.

Kid Koala in his natural habitat.



Act Sense

I was hanging out by the JANM about a month ago and was approached/suckered into “auditioning” for a Vonage commercial by a lady with a clipboard. She said there could be some money involved. I had just come from a bar after a few beers and figured “why not?”

She explained the premise of the commercial to me: A conversation between a Japanese musician calling his friend in Japan from his tour bus, explaining how great Vonage international calling is.

She had me read some lines from a script:

“Hey, How’s Tokyo?”

“Just kicking’ it on the tour bus”

“I’m still using Vonage, but now I can call you from my cell phone with my
International Rock Star Plan!”

“Yeah, you hear that? Just some groupies…”

“Yup, loving’ it. Every night. Bright lights, Big City!”

The lady seemed nice at first, but the more I read, the more annoying she got.

I have to admit, any enthusiasm I had dissipated after reading it the first time, but she got more and more aggressive and bossy each time. She somehow got me to read it about 5-6 times, recording each take.

I was trying to be a good sport about it, until I saw the top of the page: “to be read in an accent”

I stopped her and said “Woah. Accent? Sorry, this is a deal breaker. I’m wasting both of our time if I have to do some horrible accent in the actual commercial.”

She apologized, and said that she understood.

My friend, who had been watching from afar and heard the whole thing go down recently sent me a link.

“Hey, remember that annoying Vonage lady and the commercial?”


I have a lot of thoughts about this commercial, you can probably guess them.

The whole thing reminded me of the hilarious movie, “Hollywood Shuffle” by Robert Townsend. It came out in 1987 and blew my mind as a kid… and with that, I’ll leave you with this clip:


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I was lucky to visit Vancouver last month, for the first time… been hearing a lot of great things about it, and was excited to check it all out.

Greeted by some totem poles

I was picked up by my host, Canadian Animator and Filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns, whom I met in Eugene earlier in the year.



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Have Will, Guitar Travels: 10 Tips For The Modern Flying Guitarist.

I’ve lost track of how many times that I’ve flown with a guitar, but I’ve been doing it with various degrees of success since I was a teenager. It’s always a source of anxiety for me, but here are some tips that have helped me navigate the not-always-so-friendly-(to-musician)-skies.

1) Travel with a smaller guitar.

If you’re gigging regularly, you can invest in a smaller guitar. Martin and Taylor both make “mini” models that are travel friendly and play pretty well. There is even a company that makes a guitar that folds in half!

My “travelling” guitar is a Parlor guitar, which is smaller bodied than your standard folk/steel string guitar that you see most people play. A lot of folk and blues musicians back in the day liked these because they were more affordable and mass produced.

You can see the size difference, and how that would matter when you’re trying to store it above you.

Guitar Ready Bins!

After much research, I kept my eyes peeled for a used “Larivee” brand guitar. Luckily, one showed up in a local guitar shop, so I checked it out. It played and sounded great. There’s a famous Frank Zappa quote “If you pick up a guitar and it says, ‘Take me, I’m yours,’ then that’s the one for you.” I took it home.

Though it doesn’t sound as full or warm as my concert sized Martin or Taylor, it sounds fantastic when I plug it in to a P.A. or amp. I had bay area luthier/guitar repair whiz Mike Gold equip it with a pickup (Seymour Duncan Mag Mic)

If you travel with an electric guitar, you can probably get away with having a softcase or “gig bag” which you can sling over your shoulder, and store it in the overhead bin. I see this alot for acoustic guitars too. Never, under any circumstances, check a softcase as luggage though. Once it touches the conveyor belt, you can pretty much kiss your axe goodbye.

2) A Case for a Good Hard Case.

If you insist on bringing your $110,000 Les Paul from 1957, then by all means order yourself a professional case, or an “ATA” flight case

These are almost indestructible. They also cost about $700-1k. You’ll have to check it as luggage too, but at least it will be safe… (unless someone steals it, since these cases usually store really nice guitars)

3) Choose a Guitar friendly airline:

Southwest: Make sure you are an early boarder, i.e. the “A” group. You get on first and have first pick of overhead storage space.

Virgin, Jet Blue, American: When you pick your seat, get seated near the back of the plane (seats 19-23) Last Seats (24, 25) usually don’t have overhead space because that’s where they stash their water/beverages. (note: I’m typing this on an American flight, and in seat 25F where there is overhead space.)

4) Rent a guitar.

Some local used music stores will rent you a used guitar for the night. On a recent gig, I felt like playing an electric guitar, (I was playing with a band) so went and rented one for a night. Set me back $40, but I think people bought me about $40 in drinks, so maybe it was worth it. I definitely had more fun playing the electric that night, so it was a win for me.

5) Borrow a guitar.

If you don’t mind playing someone else’s gear, the best thing is to find a friend who has a guitar that you can borrow at your destination. Eliminates the need to babysit it everywhere you go too. I find that I end up playing the guitar for about 3-4 hours tops when I travel to and from gig.

How I Roll

6) The Force is With You, but Don’t Force it.

Dealing with the Airline Gate Attendants always reminds me of the scene in Star Wars, in which Obi Wan uses the force on the stormtroopers. The gate attendant is the stormtrooper. He/she is a robot who is programmed to not allow items of a certain size onboard. They are often kind of pissy and angry because they have to deal with mean people every day. Once in awhile, you will get a sympathetic guitar pickin’ human who will help you, but that is rare. Most of the time they are robots reading from a script to get everyone through as efficiently as possible. They will see you with your guitar, and say “this is a full flight, you’re going to have to gate check that”

Don’t panic. Definitely don’t be a wise ass or put up a stink. “Gate check” means your item is too big to fit above the overhead. They will attach a pink or red tag to your guitar and give you a claim tag, then instruct you to leave your guitar at the end of the boarding ramp where everyone puts their strollers and stuff. From there, they will put it below the plane, which is not optimal (due to cold temperatures) but it’s a hell of a lot better than checking it as luggage. (never do that)

What I do is say “thanks” and then walk right on the plane with the guitar. If the flight attendant tries to stop me, I gently and politely ask “Well- is it ok if I try and find a place for it in an overhead bin?” Usually there will be a cool flight attendant on board who will try their best to find a space for your guitar.

Some tactics that have worked before, but I haven’t used recently:

7) Try “PreBoarding”

When they announce “we are now boarding people with small children, or people who need a little more time on the ramp.” walk up with your guitar. If they question you, just say “I need a litte time to assure that I can stow this, which is like a child to me” I did this successfully on the suggestion of a gate attendant in 2006, but I think it was because she had a soft spot for guitar players.

8 ) The Price of Rock n’ Roll

Try to stash it in any open overhead bin you can while you’re going to your seat. People might get mad, but that is the price of rock and roll.

9) Call for Back Up

If you’re traveling with friends, lovers, or band mates, they might have some extra space. It will increase your chances to get your axe on board.

10) Give up.

There’s too many guitar players. Take up the shakuhachi or skin flute. Be an iPhone DJ! Bring “Mime” back! Start a portable musical revolution! …or take the train.

So to sum up…


Check your guitar in a gig bag.

Argue with the staff, you will lose.

It’s OK to Gate Check, but try and store it above.

One last tip: Allow yourself plenty of extra time, especially if your acoustic guitar has a pickup with a battery in it. Remove the battery if you can. It looks like a bomb when it goes through the x-ray with all the wires and electronics. Most of the people who are doing the screening have no idea what an acoustic guitar pickup is.

Happy Travels!

If any of you have any instrument travel stories/tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.


Pedal Pusher

Hi.  As my first blog post for Giant Robot, I thought it’d be fun to share an audio clip of something different from what I usually do as “Goh Nakamura: Sensitive Singer Songwriter dude w. Acoustic Guitar”

Here’s a little ditty that I came up while experimenting with some effect pedals… was trying to make an audio painting of a lonely robot floating aimlessly in space.

Effect Pedals are sort of like drugs for your guitar. I don’t do drugs, but can sort of live vicariously through my guitar by plugging it into a series of strange pedals and riding the snake.

Here’s your Guitar

Here’s your Guitar on Drugs

(2nd clip filmed at GRNY right before it closed. Gary Wang on bass)

I learned it from watching you, dad. I learned it from watching YOU!

Edit: Here’s a pic of the pedals I used for the audio example, and the 2nd video (at GRNY)

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