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Dummyhead

Frequently Unasked Questions (You figure out the abbreviation):



Where did the name Dummyhead come from?

Bathroom Humour? What the heck is that?!

Trevor Stockman? Who the heck is that?!

What does Dummyhead sound like? I’m too lazy to deal with ogg files!

What happened before 1990? I mean, did this Paul Tourville just seep into this Universe from another dimension at the age of 22?

So, why maintain the pretense of a “band” if you do all this yourself?

Where can I get official Dummyhead merchandise?

The origin of the name "Dummyhead":

Back when we lived at the condo, Carol, one of our dogs, did something remarkably stupid. In the spirit of the baby-talk most folks speak to their pets, I called her a "big dummyhead". Autumn laughed, and I thought it was kinda funny, so I filed it away in the back of my head… A month or so later, I was toying with my 3-D rendering software, trying to come up with some subject matter for a new image. I pondered and thought and considered, and then the "Dummyhead" thing popped up, but not the babytalk dummyhead… the head of a dummy.. like a crash test dummy. So I played around with modeling a simple dummy head, and eventually decided to make it chrome-plated… always a neat effect… But the original image I had created was kinda boring, because there was no environment for the chrome to reflect. I then decided to set the dummy head model in an environment I had created previously, which was a sound-room of a recording studio. I thought it looked pretty cool… like it would make a pretty cool album cover… then the concept of Dummyhead as a band name occurred to me.

Well, we loaded up the truck and we moved to Beverly… no.. Temecula… and before too long, I’d bought a drum set. When that happened, my tuneage started moving in another direction, and I thought it was time for a name…. Dummyhead. It’s kinda whimsical. But the way it’s presented is fairly deadpan. I don’t know, I think it sorta fits.



Bathroom Humour: The Sound.

Bathroom Humour was an interesting experience. I came, mostly, from a classic rock background, with passsing appreciations for funk, jazz, classical, swing. Lance came into the picture with a leaning princpally toward techno. He liked jazz and so forth, also, but he was a synth man with a lot of energy, when you boiled it all down. I tend to think of Bathroom Humour as what would ha ve resulted if Tom Scholz and Thomas Dolby had meet as adolescents and formed a garage band. In retrospect, compared to what i’m doing now, Bathroom Humour was crass, raw and sophomoric. This is not to say that "The Ballad of Juan" is sophisticated highbrow material…. it’s not… but put next to "The Laundromat," it does seem an improvement. What I do like about all the stuff we did is that we had a great time doing it, and, apart from some of the juvenile material, the recordings sound pretty good, especially considering the limitations of skill, budget and equipment. There were times when Lance would come over at 7:00 pm, and we’d have no idea what we were goin to do…nothing on paper, no ideas.. and we’d grind away for a few hours.. finally, come midnight or one o’clock, Lance would go home with a stereo master. It was quick and dirty, but it was great fun.



The Trevor Stockman Project: The Sound.

The Trevor Stockman Project was, mostly, the embodyment of my ventings of bitterness, frustration, anger and depression. TSP’s sound consisted of lots of strings and other keyboardy voices, since that was the composition of the voice table on my QY10. There were other sounds, like drums and basses and guitars, as well as marimbas, vibes and others. The mood of most of the songs … at least the early TSP songs, was not chipper. There were only two songs that I can think of, that I did during that period, that had no negative emotion tied to them. They were "Barefoot in Balboa" and "Sunday Drive."



Dummyhead: The Sound.

The sound of Dummyhead is rather rough-cut. In some respects the drum sounds are reminiscent of early Van Halen records. Electric Guitars tend to be fairly distorted. Bass is usually pretty clean. Vocals are usually borderline tenor/baritone, and therefore kinda tough to mix. As far as song content is concerned, there is a certain amount of Dummyhead, there, too. The feel of the more recently written stuff is more… mature, but also a bit more spontaneous. MIDI has pretty much fallen by the wayside. I haven’t used it as a songwriting tool since PickThumb BooBoo. Actually the only song I’ve yet written under the Dummyhead monicker is "Settlers."



The musical misadventures of Paul Tourville –

Around 1977 (during my less than stellar grammar school career), I played the viola. I thought it sounded pretty cool. Practicing, however, was a drag. I lacked the discipline necessary to just stand there and play the endless etudes and sonatas. My music teacher said I had some natural musical ability, but no discipline. After a year or two, my viola playing ambitions sorta dried up. My viola was returned to the company from which it had been rented, and I went back to being a non-musical kid.

Some time later, I don’t remember exactly, but it has to have been either late elementary school or early junior high, I asked my father to teach me to play the saxophone. This was what historians often refer to as a dubious flirtation. My father had little faith in my commitment, and I had little commitment. Again, I demonstrated innate ability but no discipline. The sax thing petered out.

If memory serves, it was the 7th grade when I took up the trumpet. I enjoyed the trumpet, except I was back to playing etudes and preludes, and basically bored out of my skull. As I recall, I persisted for nearly two years. The trumpet, too, eventually lost its appeal.

Once I started earning money for myself, I started spending it foolishly. I bought albums as quickly as I could. I became enchanted by the electric guitar. The many voices with which that one instrument could sing captured my imagination. Eventually, I had to have an electric guitar. I scraped and saved, and looked around, and, as luck would have it, I stumbled upon a hollow-bodied electric, similar to a Gibson ES-355. Thirty bucks. It was mine. It was a monstrous green thing. I never did play it through an amp. It’s probably just as well that way. I bought the obligatory Mel Bay book on beginning guitar "Method". I fiddled around on my own, and had slightly better luck than I did with the sax, but, eventually, the green monster became more of a trophy and a musical instrument. I later sold it for forty bucks.

I finished high school without ever picking up an instrument again.

After high school, I went to college, which turned out to be a horrendous disappointment. I was in a "leather jacket, grow my hair, heavy metal" phase, while going to school to be a hypergeek. This, it turned out, was a paradox that could not be peacefully resolved. I started doing mobile DJ work, and discovered that it had the potential to be absurdly lucrative. I then got a job as a DJ at a local roller rink. The fame, however localized, had bitten me. I was appreciated for doing something which came naturally to me, that I loved to do. I was hooked. My freelance mobile DJ thing was doing well, I had a part time job as a roller rink DJ, and I was a full time student. That last part had to go. I dropped out of college and moved through a series of jobs which were more or less crappy and unfulfilling. While in one of my crappy and unfulfilling jobs (at Radio Shack) I acquired a Yamaha RX-15 drum machine. Thus my start in percussion. I also picked up a couple of cheap Casio-type keyboards and a Fostex 4-Track cassette deck.

In 1989, in the tail end of a doomed relationship, I received an unexpected Christmas gift. It was an electric guitar. Yes, again. I took it more seriously, this time. Since, by then, I had begun dabbling with multitrack recording, it was only natural to begin experimenting with multitrack guitar recording.

In January of 1990, I got my first big break… well, for me it was big, anyway. I was hired by WNLC/WTYD-FM in Waterford, CT as a DJ.. Wow. Radio. I met some interesting people there. One, of whom, was Lance Davis. Lance and I expressed a common interest in toying with music recording. I had a tiny studio and a guitar. He had a Moog synth. During that period, we wrote and recorded about 12 songs. I say "about" because there were some songs that we never really completed. While writing and recording with Lance, I bought a (very) used bass. The first song we recorded was called "Extasy". The lyrics were written by Lance.. if memory serves, in junior high. we were at his house, and he was eating dinner. I did the drum part on the RX-15, then came up with a bass line, all in the time it took him to eat dinner. That was pretty interesting.

Another fellow I met while at WNLC/WTYD-FM was Dan O’Brien.  Dan had been a session man in Nashville, and was a local Radio Veteran.  Dan sold me my Crate amp, and taught me a lot.

I got another guitar shortly after Lance and I started working together. We started operating under the name "Bathroom Humour." We never performed live, of course, but it helped to lend an identity to the music. Bathroom Humour tunes included
"Ragtop," "Got No Paycheck Blues," "The Radio Song," "Extasy," "Tell Wendy I Love Her," "A Shock to the System," "The Rest of My Life," "The Laundromat" and "The Years Keep Going By." We even did a video for "Paycheck Blues."

Bathroom Humour was unofficially dissolved, when I left for Navy boot camp in June of 1991. While enduring the psychological raping called Basic Training, I wrote the lyrics to 12 songs, including "Autumn," "Drive Me Crazy,"
"On The Beach," "The Number (You Have Reached)," "Father’s Day," "Blackout" and another tune that was based on the changes of "Autumn" but slower and much more depressing. It was in boot camp that I took on the pen name "Trevor Stockman." The name was a complete fabrication. "Trevor" came from a guy in my boot camp company who said I seemed more like a Trevor then a Paul. The concept I eventually settled upon was an "Allan Parsons Project" type of thing, where other featured or studio musicians might come on board, as I became more comfortable in my new environment. Although I never developed an official biography for the fictional character, I always associated a sort of musical feel with him. The music from the Trevor Stockman period was mostly sad; so much so, that I haven’t been able to record most of those songs. They just sit in a wire-bound notebook, where they have sat since I wrote them.

After I got out of boot camp, I went home on leave, and while there, I purchased a Yamaha QY10. The QY10 was an 8-song, 8-Track MIDI sequencer with a built-in MIDI sound source and a rudimentary 1-octave keyboard, all packed in the space of a single VHS cassette. That became my principle songwriting tool for about the next 6 years.

The depression of my early Navy career was defused by the beginning of my relationship with Autumn (my wife, whom I had not yet met when I wrote the song taht bears her name.) When our relationship started taking off, I kinda dried up, musically. The first thing I
wrote with the QY10 was the music to "Drive Me Crazy." I did a couple of other "original" TS tunes on the QY while on leave and later, in electronics school.

When I was assigned to my first ship, I brought my Yamaha QY-10 with me. While stationed on the USNS Sioux, I wrote "Barefoot in Balboa," "Sunday Drive," "The Ballad of Juan (and his ‘76 Monte Carlo)," and an
as-yet-unfinished ditty called "Speculation of a Lifetime." I continued operating under the Trevor Stockman moniker. All the TS tunes share the fact that they were all developed utilizing MIDI tools, whereas the stuff done before and since really doesn’t deal much with MIDI.

Autumn and I bought a condo in the summer of ‘94. The following spring was our first wedding anniversary. Autumn got me a Les Paul. Most cool. I continued fiddling under the guise of Trevor Stockman, pretty much throughout our stay at the condo. Tunes that came from that period included "Can’t Get Arrested," "Miracles," "Pickthumb BooBoo" and the TSP Rehash of "The Theme from S.W.A.T." It was also during this period when I acquired my Hammond M2, which appears on various
renditions of "Pickthumb BooBoo," Can’t Get Arrested" and "Paycheck Blues."

Throughout the Trevor Stockman Project era, I never actually got anybody else to come on board. In the end it was me, myself and I. I did the drum programming, sequenced the keyboard parts, played the guitars and did the vocal parts. I wrote, performed, produced
and engineered. In some respects, I think of that as being pretty cool, but mostly, I’d rather have the input of someone else.

At the end of February 1998, we moved to Temecula, into our new house. I reassembled the studio, once again, and resumed recording activities. Most of what I did after moving to Temecula was more… acoustic. I started playing bass, more. I
used the Hammond, rather than the Organ sounds on the QY10. Then I got the drums. A lot of things changed, as I became familiar with the needed coordination. I haven’t used MIDI drums, since acquiring the Slingerland kit.

The acquisition of the drum set pretty much spelled doom for Trevor Stockman. I just didn’t feel Trevor-y anymore. I’ve felt much more energetic and positive about my music since making the transition to real drums. The Dummyhead style started to take real form in the fall of ‘98.

At this point, I don’t know where things are going to end up… Perhaps Dummyhead will grow, with new members… Maybe there’ll be another paradigm shift… who knows?!

What happened to “Dummyhead: Chrome Plated”?

Ok… I admit it. I let it die on the vine. While I still like the “concept” of an album with that name… and the cover illustration is intriguing… It’s just not where Dummyhead is headed right now. “We” have some issues to sort out. The new project is tentatively called “Drumming in a New Dawn”. There are two new songs in process now, and more to come. I think this one will actually see the light of day (if you’ll pardon the call-back). Stay Tuned for updates. Also, check out the Studio Page

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For more information about ogg/vorbis, and why you might want to use it, see this: http://vorbis.com/faq/

Why bother with the pretense of being a multi-member band

For several reasons, actually.

Perspective: Keyboard players have a different outlook from guitarists. Drummers see the world differently from the way bass players see it. They all face different challenges, and have different options open to them based on their choice of instrument. I discovered this back in the Trevor Stockman days… Everything had a “keyboardy feel” to it because everything was played on keyboards, through different “voices”, but it was still a keyboard performance. For example, a guitarist can (either on purpose or by accident) bend one note in a chord; a keyboard player cannot. A keyboard player can strike ten notes at a time, across over 10 octaves; a bass player cannot. On a standard electric bass, it is very difficult to strike a B and the adjacent C simultaneously; on a keyboard, it’s quite easy. Because of the different “interfaces” used to perform the music, each part has a different “feel”. The bass part “feels” like a bass part, because of the features and limitations of a bass.

Performance: I never claimed to be a “competent musician”. I’m a hack and I know it. Nevertheless, I can usually distinguish between a MIDI-quantized interpretation of my performance and my performance on the real instrument. MIDI is handy, but … it’s kind of like digital animation… you start with a completely blank universe, and then have to create the appearance of chaos from an inherently rigidly ordered system. With MIDI, there is no palm noise on the strings (unless it’s put there by the designer of the sample). There’s no feedback (unless there’s a controller input that the tone generator interprets to be “feedback level”). There’s no drifting of the stick’s strike across the drum head, because you turned a little to face the bass player for a cue (I don’t know of ANY digital drum kit THAT sophisticated). All these things, even to the untrained ear, can lead the listener to distinguish between a performance that has some “life” and “reality” and one that is “flat and lifeless” no matter how energetic it might be. I like the feel of a guitar neck in my hand, but not if I’m playing an organ part. There is no “organic reality” to a drum part played on a keyboard. Yes, you may be able to compensate for the travel time of the keys and so on, but it will never be a stick hitting a head. Music is something to be performed, and as good as MIDI has gotten, for my money, when the rubber meets the road, it’s no substitute for the real thing. There’s something essential about a human manipulating an instrument that may never be captured by MIDI.

Personality: One of the things I like about classic rock is that it’s one of the few genres of music that really embraces the personality of the performer and the performance. Alex Van Halen is a very different drummer than Greg Bissonette. They’re both powerfully competent, but while Alex’s performances tend to decouple “song time” from the performance, which is not to say that he loses the beat… he doesn’t… but he does kind of let the song go off and do whatever for a while, and he’ll be over here doing something else… he knows what’s going on, and he can apparently keep it all straight… but he doesn’t really seem to be working within any formal time signature… He knows how many “beats” till the next break, and he keeps a feel for the pace of the song, but “beats” lose their importance for a little while…. while Alex does that quite a bit, and very well, Greg Bissonette, in my experience, seems to be more of a “session drummer”… he can play anything you put in front of him, and probably work within almost any style or genre of music, but he seems to be more wedded to the beat. I come at the lead guitar part differently than I come at the rhythm guitar part. I sort of developed the idea that each “part” had a personality… or persona… of its own, which naturally led to the idea of the performance having a performer, and … well… there you have it.

Keeping People Guessing: There’s something satisfying about watching people try to parse the phrase “six-piece one-man-band”. It’s also satisfying and entertaining to watch people try to pick out which person in a Dummyhead band photo is me.

It’s Fun: Doing the band photos and writing the biographies is an entertaining creative pastime.

Where can I get official Dummyhead merchandise?

You can get Official Dummyhead Merchandise at The Ursus Pacificus Kitsch Kave (http://www.cafepress.com/urspax), in the Dummyhead section.