Friday, December 19, 2014
Here's the complete shebang. You know, I recorded this less than three years ago and I'm a little nostalgic for that time. In my totally objective opinion, it's a fine album with many a pop gem on it. Of course, I'm disappointed that it's not universally recognized for that. I'm still proud of it - much in the same way a parent feels about their ugliest child. But this album will have its day. All of my albums will. I have yet to figure it out, but either I'm just slightly ahead of my time or waaaaay behind. In any case, something's gotta happen someday. Or maybe it won't. Or perhaps the sun will explode tomorrow, making it all moot.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
OK, last track from Instant Classics. I like to tell stories and initially, this just seemed like a short story about a guy whose low-key spy mission goes horribly wrong. But as I kept mulling it over, I began to think that perhaps this could be the beginning of a much larger work with actual characters and themes and all that. I felt there were many stories to go with a developing narrative. And thus, a song cycle was born. I have no idea how many installments this is going to require. At first, I though it could be done in eight or nine, but as I developed the story, the scope expanded. I don't have the whole thing figured out, only the first ten or so parts. Right now, there are four parts to it, but I can imagine that it might encompass up to 30 tunes. That's if I'm ambitious. The other side of this is that nobody seems at all interested in what I'm doing, so it's very likely that I'll have to quit this nonsense. Sure, recording is a true joy and a wonderful experience; I absolutely love doing it, but at this rate, I'll be out of money by the end of next year. I was originally hoping to ramp up to releasing three albums a year and keep on that pace for as many years as I could manage. That plan factored in that I would actually be selling albums or attracting minimal interest. That hasn't happened, so I'm only doing two albums a year. But this next record is going to be very expensive. In response to that, next summer's album will probably be my cheapest, but it'll take what's left of the war chest. I would love to keep this song cycle (it doesn't really have a name yet) going, but even if I do complete it, I'll be too poor to record it. Ah well, such are the troubles in this day and age.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
I was so enchanted with recording Ballard on Greater Seattle that I wanted to do a music hall-esque shouter on every album. That tune was, for lack of a better word, magical. We only needed two takes to get it raggedly perfect and I couldn't believe how good it sounded. I had that same intent for this tune. In many ways, it's on the same level as Ballard. This time, however, it's on a real piano; Ballard was on a pianner, or whatever the hell people call piano-y keyboards. And also this time, Ty the pianist kept messing up, so we had to start over. When both parts are live, that's what you have to do. I'm pretty sure it took 15 takes to get it right. And each time I had to hit it as hard as I could. You should have heard me on the first five takes! Thanks to all the flubs, I'm more snarly than shouty, but I'm still happy with the results. Despite all that yelling, I was able to come back the next day and sing So Gangsta, The Bucking Fus, Simple Past and several other tunes with no difficulty. But it's not all me on this track. I was helped out by some additional shouters, among them, my mom, my aunt, my friend Jim and the string quartet who played on So Gangsta. Much fun was had by all.
As for a music hall track on every album, that practice kind of fell by the wayside. The last three albums don't have anything like that. But I'm happy to say that there will be at least two tracks like that on the first of next year's two albums. One may actually verge on being a show tune and the other is closer to a national anthem, but the tradition will be reborn. And I'm sure that it will fall by the wayside again.
Monday, December 15, 2014
When you write a song called Douchebags Walk the Earth, what are you trying to achieve? Are you just doing it for joke value or is there any inherent meaning involved? Well yes, there's meaning. All I'm trying to say is that we've progressed this far down the evolutionary gauntlet only to be haunted wherever we go by a bunch of selfish, unthinking, lunk-headed slobs. Of course, douchebags aren't solely male; it's just that the most egregious examples are males. Here we humans have all these miraculously complex systems within our bodies that keep us alive and in motion, only so that some of us can put on too much aftershave and have loud, obnoxious conversations on our cell phones. It seems like something of a waste. I thought that I would put this in the context of the douchebag - pop dub reggae - in order to drive the point home. And here it is.
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Sometimes you have high hopes for a tune. I did for this one. I felt that I had written something stompy and compelling. The subject was fairly evolved for a rock song - wisdom through experience. The whole point is that you learn more outside of your comfort zone. However, being prodded beyond that by some charismatic sociopath can be dangerous. Let's get this out of the way: this is in no way autobiographical. None of my tunes are. I do what creative people do: make stuff up. I'm always amused at those movies about novelists, writers and whatnot who can't write a word unless they've gone through some transformative experience - which they promptly fictionalize. That's how Hollywood views the creative process. It can't be written about or described unless it really happened. Bah, I say. Bah! If things worked like that, how on earth would Tolstoy have written War and Peace? He would have needed a time machine to experience Napoleon's invasion of Russia and its subsequent turmoil in order to write about it, yes? No. Bah!
OK, so I've posted the better part of four albums and I'm just saying this: all my stuff is made up. It's so made up that even my opinions are fabricated. Case in point: this song. I don't believe that you should follow a charismatic sociopath anywhere, let alone allow him to call the shots for you. But that's what happens here. Like I said, I had high hopes for this tune. They didn't materialize. For some reason, this arrangement just falls flat. There are live drums (as opposed to a drum machine), but everything else is a keyboard. For the record, I do like the solo (it's a clavinet, believe it or not), but maybe I would have been better off adding a live guitar. I don't know. Perhaps it would have helped. As it is, this is one of those tunes that I almost always skip without hesitation. It's easy to pretend like I'm not responsible for it. It's strange that prior to recording this album, I really thought that this track would light it up, while I thought Alsace-Lorraine was just a throwaway. It turns out that this tune is something of a throwaway and Alsace-Lorraine is the one that I totally dig. Funny how that works.
Saturday, December 13, 2014
When I'm writing music, tunes emerge out of their sketches in an organic way. The music usually comes first, then the lyrics/subject matter are brought into sharper focus after a lot of scanning and crossing out. But this song was different, because most of my stuff is about something or tells a story. This particular tune doesn't. In fact, it's not about anything in particular except the general malaise I was feeling leading up to this album. I felt that I had a really good song here and just battered my way through until it was complete. It didn't need a meaning, it just needed to be done. The result was surprising even for me. I didn't intend to sing the verses in that abrasive whisper, but it seemed best at the time. And it was done very quickly. I believe we just used the entire second take. The ba-ba-bah parts were murder. I'm singing all the parts (I was my own backup singer on this entire album) and double tracking them. To make matters more difficult, it's getting late and certain people who aren't me are getting uncharacteristically impatient and cranky. But we got everything in the can and I promptly forgot about most of the unpleasantness. I also didn't expect much from the tune. But come mixing time the following week, it really stood out as a very fine rock song. I apologize that it's not about anything. Like I said, I vastly prefer to write about specific things or tell stories or express flawed opinions and so on. You don't get that here.