Chicago Breakpoint Jam Recap

A jar of Breakpoint Jam

Last Friday night at CocoaConf Chicago, we had a lot of fun at the first Breakpoint Jam.

Thank you to those who stepped up as ‘conditional breakpoints’ for the evening to play a set of James Dempsey and the Breakpoints songs for the crowd:

The next jam will be at CocoaConf Dallas in early April.  I hope to see you there!

In the meantime, sign up for our newsletter to find out about live shows and music releases.

Introducing the Breakpoint Jam at CocoaConf Chicago

Next week at CocoaConf Chicago, we are doing something new that we’re calling a Breakpoint Jam.

A jar of Breakpoint Jam

Readying our first bit of Breakpoint Jam

A Breakpoint Jam is an ever-changing pickup group performing James Dempsey and the Breakpoints songs.

The idea is simple—whoever is in town for a conference shows up and plays on whatever instruments they’ve brought or borrowed.

The players will change city to city, but the goal is always the same—performing a casual, entertaining jam of songs for conference attendees.

To get things rolling next week in Chicago, we’ve invited conference speakers to the jam.

(Once we get a few under out belt, we’ll open future jams up to attendees.)

I’m looking forward to our first Breakpoint Jam next Friday at CocoaConf Chicago—I hope to see you there! •


Speaking of borrowed: If you are coming to CocoaConf Chicago and are local—Can we borrow your acoustic guitar?

New Breakpoints Song at Renaissance!

James Dempsey and the Breakpoints will be debuting a new song at the Renaissance conference later this month. The song will be part of a noon performance on Wednesday, January 23rd, which will include old favorites along with the new single.

To find out more, I sat down with myself for a fake interview:

Can you tell us a little about the new song?
The new song has a different intent than all the others we’ve done.  Previous songs aimed to teach as well as entertain. This new song keeps to a technology theme, but is meant entirely in good fun.

Why debut the song at the Renaissance conference?
The conference brings together all iOS app builders—developers, designers and business people. It seemed the perfect place to introduce the first James Dempsey and the Breakpoints song that doesn’t require working knowledge of Objective-C or design patterns to fully enjoy.

Will the new song be available on iTunes?
Yes. The Breakpoints have been back in the studio and we’re in the middle of production. We are on track for the single to drop on iTunes as close to the live debut as possible.

What’s the difference between playing live and being in the studio?
Our live performances are acoustic, laid-back and lots of fun—we keep it simple in a live setting. In the studio, we can get more complex with additional tracks and instruments.

How’s the album coming along?
Last year we started recording a decade’s worth of technology songs. We found a great studio, got rolling on recording and laid down a lot of tracks. With this new song, we are back in the studio and working towards finishing the album.  Follow this blog or @jamesdempsey on Twitter to find out the moment there is more news about the upcoming album.

Can you tell us any more about the new song?
After working at Apple for fifteen years, it feels strange to say even this much about something that isn’t released yet. I can say that we’ve definitely enjoyed working on the new song, we think it will bring a smile to people’s faces and we’d love to have as many folks as possible join us for the live show at Renaissance. •

The Renaissance conference is January 21-23 in San Francisco.  Tickets are available here.

To save an additional $100 on registration for Renaissance contact me for a discount code.

The Liki Song on iTunes!


Our new single, The Liki Song, is now available on iTunes.

Like a tropical breeze arriving on the shores of a faraway isle, the new single from James Dempsey and the Breakpoints is here—gliding onto the scene just in time for WWDC 2012.

The Liki Song is a fun, breezy tune with Hawaiian style that recounts a brief history of memory management in Cocoa.

Memory management is a topic as old as computer science itself, and Cocoa has had its share of evolution in this fundamental area.

So mix up a Mai Tai, don your Hawaiian shirt, fire up the Allocations instrument, and take a trip down memory lane.

Click to view The Liki Song in iTunes

New Breakpoints Single for WWDC 2012

UPDATE: The new single is now live on iTunes!

Click to view The Liki Song in iTunes

Over the past few months, a number of people have asked if there would be a new song for WWDC this year, and I found myself wondering the same thing.

Then, driving into the studio one afternoon, a song started to take shape somewhere between Mountain View and Palo Alto.  So, I’m very happy to announce that there will be a new song this year.

The new single is a fun, breezy tune with Hawaiian style—singing it always brings a smile to my face.  Beyond that, I don’t want to give away too much more until folks can hear it for themselves.

LIVE near WWDC 2012

A surfboard with a picture of a hula dancer painted on it

The show venue John Colins already has the Hawaiian spirit for the LIVE near WWDC 2012 show on June 13th.

You can hear the new song, along with old favorites, at what we’re calling James Dempsey and the Breakpoints LIVE near WWDC 2012 on Wednesday, June 12th.

I’ll have final and full show details next week. I’m really looking forward to a fun evening and playing the new song for everyone. Also, thanks to all the folks who have retweeted and passed the word along about the show.

One Night, One Song

Another great event that week is the Looking Back at NeXTSTEP fundraiser for the Cartoon Art Museum.  The sold-out evening will have many luminaries from the NeXTSTEP days in attendance, all for a great cause.

I’m looking forward to attending the event as a sponsor, but I’m particularly excited, as well as honored, to be participating in the event as the special musical guest.

So, amidst the talk of days before NSString and autorelease pools, attendees will hear the public performance debut of the new single, done as a very ‘unplugged’ version.  Thanks to Dr. Michael Johnson for hosting the event, and for including me in the proceedings.

Fun week coming up fast

WWDC week looks like it will be a fun and busy one with the live show, new single, conference sessions, and maybe best of all, meeting new folks and catching up with friends.

I’ll also be taking requests during the week, so feel free to say hello—and no, we don’t know Free Bird.

Breakpoints Live Show 6/13 in SF! Save the date!

Will you be in San Francisco the week of WWDC?

Do you want to enjoy a performance of humorous and informative songs about Apple development technologies?

Have we got a show for you!

Who: James Dempsey and the Breakpoints

When: Wednesday, June 13th, 7:30 PM – 9:00 PM

Where: John Colins LoungeJust two blocks from Moscone West!

How Much? Free Admission! No Cover! Cash Bar.
The show is free, but the drinks you have to pay for.

What: An evening of James Dempsey and the Breakpoints songs performed live, including favorites such as Hold Me, Use Me, Release Me; I Love View; Model View Controller and more.

Anything else? No WWDC Ticket Required!
A great open event for all developers hanging out in SF that week!

Why all the exclamation marks?  Because this is shaping up to be a fun show and I’m very excited about it!  Tell your friends!  Tweet like the wind!

Other things to know:
• There are no tickets for this event.
• Arrive early for best spots.
• The venue is a bar—you must be 21+ years old to attend.
• Limited # of t-shirts available.  Early birds get their size!
• Don’t take ‘cash bar’ literally. Credit cards also accepted.
• Hang out after the show and say hello.
• Follow @jamesdempsey on Twitter for show updates.

Edited 6/5/2012 to include latest show details

Studio Update: Gonna Needa Pasteboard

We recorded Gonna Needa Pasteboard, a rockabilly romp through the world of NSPasteboard. Joining me in the studio was John Scalo on guitar—who also played live on the original—and Raleigh Ledet from the AppKit team who sat in on drums.

John Scalo playing electric guitar

John Scalo rips it up!
Photo by Adam Tow

John has been at Apple for more than 18 years. He got his start in tech support and says the experience gave him a much greater sense of empathy for users and their issues—an experience he recommends for every engineer or designer at some point in their career. Moving to OS X software engineering, his gigs have included parental controls, screen savers, Internet accounts, Stickies, and security. He also plays a mean guitar.

When John was about 12 or 13, he heard Jimi Hendrix for the first time and made his dad show him how to play Purple Haze. And then he got into the Texas blues. One summer, night after night, he’d walk a mile from his home to hear the house band play at the legendary Antone’s Blues Club in Austin. While in college at UT Austin he played in jazz, funk, and jam bands, doing weekly gigs on 6th Street and ‘The Square’ in San Marcos. His funk band Zzyzywuzsky played at the SXSW music festival. These days John’s tastes are more eclectic ranging from bluegrass to Brazilian, jazz, and some Eastern styles—but he sill loves those Texas blues.

Raleigh has been coding for a long while—he wrote his first commercial software for the Apple ][ in high school. He’s been doing Mac development for 14 years, including eight years at Wacom getting down and dirty with Mac tablet drivers and pref panes. A big fan of pressure-sensitive tablets, Raleigh has also written a number of shareware titles including inkBook, a notebook app with handwriting recognition (using Inkwell, one of the best-kept secrets on the Mac).

Raleigh Ledet playing the drums

Raleigh Ledet—AppKit meets drum kit
Photo by Adam Tow

For the past four years, Raleigh has been a member of the AppKit team, working in a variety of areas such as event handling, scrolling, various controls, and drag and drop. His focus on drag and drop makes him a perfect fit for Gonna Needa Pasteboard, which has an entire verse about it.

When Raleigh started drumming in 5th grade, his snare drum and case almost weighed more than he did. Growing up in south Louisiana, he played drums in numerous Mardi Gras parades. He has also played drums in various contemporary Christian rock groups over the years.

As for me, I’m definitely learning a lot in the studio. It’s a very different experience than performing live. And although I’m aiming to keep the recordings true to the spirit of the live originals, it is fun to be able to go a bit further, such as adding drums on this track. I also learned that drum sets don’t just load, unload and transport themselves. Maybe next time we just add some piccolo.

James Dempsey at the microphone wearing "I'm cuckoo for Cocoa Apps" t-shirt

I really am cuckoo for Cocoa apps
Photo by Adam Tow

Scenes from the studio

Recording the album is underway. We kicked things off by laying down the bit-flippin’, head-trippin’ tracks for the song Endian Reservations. Here are a few photos from our first session.

It’s been great playing these songs with Gordie Freedman again.

Gordie Freedman playing guitar

Gordie Freedman—the original guitar player for the Breakpoints
Photo by Adam Tow

When I’m recording vocals, I’m put in an isolation booth. Fortunately, I’m not overly prone to loneliness.

James Dempsey singing into a microphone

Singing about my endian reservations
Photo by Adam Tow

It’s been great working with Russell Bond.  He is a wellspring of recording wisdom, great suggestions, and patience after multiple takes.

Russell Bond, James Dempsey, and Gordie Freedman in the studio control room.

Russell Bond enlightens James and Gordie
Photo by Adam Tow

Recording at The Annex

In the coming weeks, James Dempsey and the Breakpoints will be recording our first album at The Annex in Menlo Park, a Silicon Valley studio with a long and storied 35-year history.  As we get ready to do so, I wanted to describe the setting and share a little bit about why I find this place particularly special for the project ahead.

The gold records lining the walls highlight the long list of artists and celebrities The Annex has welcomed a over the years.  Windham Hill artists such as George Winston, plus many others including Joan Baez, Chris Martin, Alan Parsons, and Michael J. Fox have spent time in the studio, working on everything from recordings and rehearsals to videos and voice overs.  Even Steve Jobs came in once to do a quick voice over. There is an awesome vibe just walking into the place.

Gold records line the walls of The Annex studios

Gold records line the walls of The Annex studios
Photo by Adam Tow

Continue reading

Into The Studio

It is amazing how exciting it feels to finally start working on a project after thinking about it for a long, long time.  Back in 2001, I had the thought that it might be amusing, in the middle of a technical presentation, to pull out a guitar and sing a little song about the topic at hand.

That idea led to over a decade of original songs on topics ranging from design patterns to data modeling and beyond.  The songs have gotten a great response from audiences, and I’ve wanted to record them for some time now.

There are eleven songs in total and the plan is to record and release them all.  A decade is a long time in the tech world however, and it’s been interesting to look back and see how well the songs have weathered the years.  For instance, the Objective-C memory management ditty “Hold Me, Use Me, Release Me” from 2002 picked up a garbage collection verse in 2007.  Now with the advent of Automatic Reference Counting, another lyrical tuneup may be in order (unless I can just convince LLVM to sing it for me).

There are many aspects of this project that I’m excited about in addition to the material itself—the musicians, the studio, the recording engineer and producer.  And those are all combined with the rush of trying something new, far outside the realm of sitting in front of a monitor, writing code.

I’m also glad that I’m not going it alone.  I will be joined in the studio by the Breakpoints.

The Breakpoints are a fabled group of talented engineers-by-day and musicians-by-night who have helped me bring my tech-inspired songs to life.  Although the lineup has changed over the years, all of the original Breakpoints are back for the recordings.  Each song will be recorded with its original musicians (and possibly some surprise musical guests in the mix).

Since this is a whole new adventure  for me, I’m going to blog all about it (like some guy on .Mac did).  Look forward to photos and details from the recording sessions in upcoming posts.  I think we are going into the perfect studio to record these particular songs.  I’ll have more to say about the studio in my next post.