The world at my place

Andrew McLennan in the Bronx

I took a songwriting workshop with Martin Briley, a man who knows his way around a tune (“Salt in My Tears”). He stressed the importance of the vocal melody, citing I recall, a figure of 90% as a quantifiable amount of importance it has to the success of a tune. I wouldn’t really argue with that, thinking of all the earworms that have borrowed through my skull over the decades (If there’s a heaven, do we get that time back?).

I come from another planet; “Troubadour” where sense often takes precedence over sound in their eternal struggle. Things build up in me like static and can discharge at any time, often not even waiting for the killer melody to strike.

I got to write it out. When I’m feeling lonely, I post it. A bit of a focus group exercise on FaceCrack. For the last two years, Kiwi musician Andrew McLennan has been stalking my verse, sending me audio clips of him putting them to chords with …really strong melodies.

He knows how to work his voice. He knows how to work a melody. My words come back to me in new clothes, shaved, cologned, and ready to hit the town. I mostly don’t recognize them; they become ex-girlfriends after makeovers or cousins on my mom’s side of the family. 

Anyways, Andrew has a dream to come to see NYC. Hard to believe this thing I put on when I open the door has his attention, but I guess his place holds the same attraction for me. I meet the guy at the airport. I take him to my place. The night begins. He with guitar. Me with pen. It’s awkward to start. I feel at times he’s normalizing my stuff too much, but that’s the difference between youth and decades of failure. One learns to keep it in the holster.

An approach/process is created. He rounds out the rough edges. He shines. He cuts. He adds. He buffs. He polishes. Is it plastic surgery or engineering-it changes from case to case, but when he’s done, they sound like they’re his. He assures me they’re also mine. I squint and I see a resemblance. It’s nothing he would write. It’s nothing I would write.

Does it work? He sings in full head voice. He strums confidently. Almost everything is mid to fast tempo, reflecting the urgency and transience of two middle aged dudes in a Bronx night. Will it blend? F#ck around and Find out. 

I Need Your Attention


With Covid still circulating, I wouldn’t blame you either if you weren’t too enthused about being in a crowded room of strangers just to hear some local music. 

Over the winter, I thought I’d write a short set that wouldn’t need much in the way of accompaniment that could give an audience a bit of what I’m about. I wound up writing 30 to get eight to fit together. I don’t know how far the carpentry analogy goes, but I definitely felt like I was putting song pieces together and looking for an overall fit in terms of moods, tone, subject matter, and style. As always, the biggest challenge is searching for the light in dark times and balancing the fluff with the meat. You’ll have to tell me if I succeeded. 

Recording acoustic guitar well in a noisy apartment’s not my thing and as I always try to use new voicings and modulations, you’ll have to forgive me if it took a bit of trickery to get these takes. I did practice my butt off a bit, and (mostly) these were done in short order. I hope to play them at some point at a coffee shop or club near you. 

“May I please have your attention?” is something as a teacher I say at least a dozen times a day. As an artist, it’s a constant question. 

June 26th (one last day of school before summer break), 2022.

Feature article on Bandcamp today by Saby Reyes-Kulkarni

Feature article on Bandcamp today by Saby Reyes-Kulkarni

Oh the time I swear, I never saw it move...

...I was twenty-seven the last time I looked

-"Ohmyfatherfatherfather" from Obsessives (2019)


Pardon the narcissist, quoting himself. I wrote that a few years back for a song honoring my father’s passing. I still feel it, now that I’m twenty-seven times two. I feel relatively healthy most days, except for the obvious depression at the state of the world, but as I said then, “the rocknroll keeps me hallucinating”. 


As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve got this little problem in that I’ve written and recorded more than forty unreleased albums. And I want them to exist. I’m no Prince; don’t ask me to play a solo. But I write. And I’ve written daily for years. I’ve got energy, a public school teacher’s salary, no car or children that I know of, and a modest belief in the quality of the work I’ve made. 


So, forgive me if I’m about to launch a very deluxe sort of pathetic cry for help. Martin Scian, the brilliant mixing engineer is willing to cut me a deal. The plan is to release one of these babies every month for the foreseeable future. There are some neat collaborations with some well-known names and lots of other weird things. What’s the goal? Just to raise my profile enough where I could conceivably tour on my vacations from work and maybe eventually break even. 


OK, so mini-albums for everyone. Starting now. 


Bob Gaulke 

May 8, 2022

(Photo: Jardim Botannico, Curitiba. By Fernanda Burgath)

"Obviously" Streams April 1st

I don't make Brazilian music, as much as I'd like to able to.  I'm deeply inspired by it, but after living in several countries, I'm resigned to being some sort of rootless cosmopolitan. 

"Obviously" is the first fruit of a more than decade-long friendship with Marcos Kuzka Cunha. Marcos came to stay in NYC back then and we hit it off immediately. Well, Marcos hits it off with everybody as he's sort of a one-man carnival. Constantly studying, travelling, and playing, Marcos not only composes great film soundtracks, he's not a bad director himself. Most of our work has been with my little tunes. I typically send him vocals, guitars, and loops, and he does the rest, chopping my stuff up, then adding all sorts of strange sounds and parts from keyboards, basses, cavaquinhos, and more. As we both have limited attention spans, everything counts in a Kuzka arrangement and it all dazzles. 

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention other musical brothers, Marco Raaphorst, for one, a very accomplished Dutch guitarist, whom I had the pleasure of listening to for years as a part of MAM, before connecting in person, only to discover we share fathers with Bach obsessions, ages, and a love for Scritti Politti. 

I've worked with Gil Oliveira since we met as we both moved to the city about 15 years back. Since then, we've recorded in a variety of ways and I find his playing completely enchanting. I can never predict how he'll approach something and I'm always pleasantly surprised. 

Emilia Cataldo records as Nehedar when she's not singing with me. We've become very close over the years. She makes my songs much better than they would be without her. 

This is my fourth work with Martin Scian, and he's another secret weapon- a world-class mixing engineer hiding out in Patagonia. Don't tell anyone. 

And finally, through the magic of social media, we can always be in touch from people from other dimensions. Karin Kerkmann is one of those extraterrestrials one meets once in a lifetime, if so lucky. After more than 30 years, it was so nice to connect with her and her art on this project. 

As we might translate from Japanese, please enjoy my humble music.  


Bob Gaulke 

March 15, 2022

"Obviously" streams on all platforms starting April 1st, 2022.



My hipster years


Fall 1991, Rochester, NY. 


Bands are grad school. I met Eric Gregory at the nadir of my post-collegiate job search; Rochester was so boring that working at a bagel bakery chain seemed like a career move. Living at home, driving in a mufferless subaru, we started jamming at his house. I couldn’t sing and play bass at the same time, so we’d switch. We’d write separately, but soon start rubbing off on each other. 


Kids from my high school had opened a funky club, The Bug Jar. We’d chill there and continue writing and practicing. Eric was coming off a My Bloody Valentine fix and I was deep in a post-punk dive, ignoring the 20 year-nostalgia rule. We’d hammer out our aesthetic differences while slinging sandwiches then. 


We wrote, wrote some more, didn’t practice enough, then recorded. Then we ditched the recordings because we couldn’t make the sort of pop that inspired us. The history of race as reflected in our record collections and the critics we read. The examples of UK musos like Green Gartside, Jerry Dammers, and Paul Weller. We connected with Phil Thorne, another recent college grad making some of the first local hip-hop. We constructed songs from samples of kitsch 99c records. We dubbed out our rock songs and then skipped town. Not a plan for success. 


Resettling in Portland and Seattle, we played live in the early nineties; a punk band with horns. The hurdles of doing a band in your early thirties. People buying houses. People starting “realistic careers”. We staged a rock opera then called it good. 


Eric went on to create two well-received Portland bands, The Crack City Rockers and The Welfare State. I went abroad, first to Brazil, then to Japan, and finally settled in NYC where I’ve been for the past fifteen years. But our friendship was very much alive and…there might be a few more things we’d like to say. 


In the meantime, enjoy our nineties. 


Bob G

To The Future

(to the Ferris Clock)

In my thirties, culture shock was my drug of choice; I found it thrilling to get up and move and work, first in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, then Yokohama, Japan, and finally, New York, New York. I don’t think I’m a particularly original or insightful writer so moving the scenery around was one way to simulate plot development in narratives. 


Reading a couple of memoirs recently (John Lurie, James Salter, Irving Shaw), I’m struck by how much recall can be summoned by a capable author; I can’t claim that skill, but perhaps can evoke enough of a taste to move a lyric in a particular direction. 


“Enka” is a Japanese genre that occupies a similar cultural space to Country & Western ballads; songs of longing and regret squeezed out to wring every tear and desire left in a hulking middle-aged body. I’d sometimes pass by some late night venue where my fellow Yokohamians were doing their best to drive themselves to drink; it sorta balances the picture of a society dedicated to hard work, discipline, and death from overwork. 


This album of mine, however, bears no resemblance to said genre, but is rather my own meditation on my feelings for Yokohama a decade later. They spilled out quickly on a bass guitar and were recorded with a more than capable cast of musicians. Kevin Cerovich is where I go first for drums and trombones, then Leon Gruenbaum for keys, and Kenny Coleman for guitar. Emilia Cataldo sung wonderful harmonies and the album was mixed and mastered to perfection by Martin Scian. I hope you will enjoy this humble offering. 


Bob Gaulke 

December 19, 2021

So I got this NYFA Grant...

...and just when I was gonna pay everything off....

So NYC has a bigger arts budget than the feds. I was fearful I’d need to rebrand myself to get some of it, but the Covid bucks came through. Fantasies about paying off my credit card, taking the money and running, but you get a chunk (5K) and feel a bit validated, so you want something worthy to put up. I mean, why would n’t the ego get in the way as that’s why you do this stuff in the first place, right? "We could run the sound ourselves” Nope. “Wait- why don’t we film it?” Yup. “What’s your budget for sound?” Gulp. “What do you mean the venue has no sound system?”. The Instagram post said Hillai just moved back to Brooklyn. Everyone’s here. We could do “Insomnia”. 


When you’re doing one-off stuff, you’d think the logistics would be easier, but they’re actually more complicated by the fact that it’s all new and serious people have, like, life commitments to other things. Just negotiating rehearsals. One advantage is the stuff would be performed mostly as recorded, so if people just learned their stuff…we could put it together while we…rehearsed. Well, almost. Despite a few snags, I feel like we largely pulled it off. In moments it did remind me of things I didn’t pull off. You be the judge. 


“Live Insomnia” 


Emilia Cataldo- Vocals

Bob Gaulke- Bass + Guitar

Leon Gruenbaum- Keys

Hillai Govreen- Clarinet + Tenor Sax

Gil Oliveira- Drums and Percussion

Alex Nahas- Engineering + Live Sound

Pavlo Terekhov- Video 


Recorded at Pavlo’s October 23rd, 2021. 


Thanks to NYFA CAC Grants + StreetlabNYC

Bugolgi Apparatus


it’s your turn to be 
that crazy person

the role has recently
been vacated 

you’ll have to face 
their cruelty directly 

stomaching the looks
of incomprehension 

it’ll cost a pretty penny 
thank god for insurance 

getting those thoughts out
at any price will surely be worth it



are we still in a lull

how long does it last

you seem depressed

why do you ask

i’d give you a call

if you’d respond

you might not be up

preferring down

my friend Carl used to savor one

paired with a wine

writing dead stars

without replies

i use the time

to be unproductive

putting existential goals in order

working seductions

Goddess of Irony 

the goddess of irony 

drowns the city with her laughter

then she offers assistance

after every disaster

you tell her you're leaving

she says, "not so soon."

she's busy using your heart

to clean up her room

you swear you'll miss her 

this she doesn't believe

you hide those pictures of her sister 

in the folder on your screen

everyone carries her egg

within the egg is a lie

you find out too late

it’s not what it takes to survive

Zyprexa Latuda 

I just watch everything and think

What the fuck is going on

I’m fine in my apartment

I see no reason to step out

I miss the city I miss the buzz

I just miss being young

But could you imagine stepping

Back into yesterday with what you know now

So I’m exiled in the suburbs

I’m that old crazy woman now

I won’t post more than a few pieces of art

It’s insane how everything is public

Where’s the dignity in that

When I get too lonely I just talk to my plants

You’ll never get me

The way you want me

Live with your regrets 

While I don’t have any

I had my fun

And now I’ve got my dignity 

Can’t step into that cesspool again 

Not with these heels


I meet a lot of people 

coming out of trauma 

they make it sound thrilling 

connecting with something 

that gives them 

so much meaning 

before I can wish it 

could happen to me 

they’ve got me up to 

my bare sleeves


I breathe them in 

over my skin 

before I can tell 

what’s happening 

I’m feeling horrific visions 

blended with love 

resembling the predictions 

science warns us about 

I’m telling you all about it 

just telling you all about it

this again 


what we say and what we do 

in this world of thieves 

can I count on you 

to stick it to me

in everyone we’ve got

a mini-me 

pocket dictator 

mirror of society 

and I get down 

thinking about it 

get up putting it 

into pockets

work it out 

then bring the lucre home 

trying to make sense

of these hangovers

it’s the curse of work

hardship of birth

and the wonders 

of you 

searching everywhere

for one beautiful thing 

most days I surrender

to the ugly truth  

I’d like to believe 

I was wrong all along 

these signs me nothing

everyone is smart

but I’m haunted by those

Phil Ochs songs

not that naive to believe 

anything since has been done 

and you’re the answer 

to these imponderable questions 

don’t think I ever 

learned my lesson