Castrated EP (2002)
the final GWD sessions? oh no! oh yes!
we were moving farther and farther away from the sprawling weirdness of earlier efforts, and at this point i was showing gord and tyson finished songs instead of just a riff or two for us to improvise around, though the lyrics were still improvised for the most part. if we had managed to stay together long enough to finish the album, it would have been tighter and heavier than anything we had ever done before, as demonstrated by there is no us and beautiful high. it all fell apart before more than an ep’s worth of songs could be recorded, so we’ll never know what might have been.
what’s funny is, tyson conceded that i had been right about mic placement all along, and through a variation of the two-mic method employed on SUBLIMINAL BILE and the first half of GOOD LUCK, we were able to get the drums sounding better than they ever had before. it’s a shame only a few songs were to benefit from the newfound sexiness. there’s the “low fat” version of this album, which contains only the A-grade material, and then there’s the expanded edition, featuring quite a few out-takes (completely separate from any of the stuff found on CONDOM MINTS).
while i would generally recommend sticking with the short version unless you’re a completist, there is some interesting stuff to be found on the overweight edition. the genesis of red eyeshadow can be heard in the form of wired, but the inspiration clearly isn’t there in any of the three takes. the stoned mini-session is sort of amusing if you’re into stoned mini-sessions, and you get to hear what cottonmouth might have sounded like as a band vehicle, and experience the hilarity of tyson staring through my snare drum during potential intro to cottonmouth, completely oblivious to what’s happening and the fact that he’s playing along with us.
it’s not essential listening, but it’s interesting as a historic document. our intoxicated state pretty much killed any chance we had at making coherent music; during cottonmouth, i looked at tyson and we were both smiling like we had entered some happy land full of sunshine and rainbows. it wasn’t a happy song, but that didn’t matter at all. we were too giddy to give it the conviction it needed, and when i tripped over my lyrics, i just laughed and started singing some gibberish about crystal meth.
the four proper songs making up the “low fat” version, however, point the way forward to something new that was never fully realized. i’ve often wondered just what the album would have ended up sounding like had we finished it. i probably would have come up with a different title, instead of the joke that brings things full circle from our beginning with WITHOUT DICKS, signifying the end. but i’m getting ahead of myself. back to the four songs that started something we never finished.
there is no us somehow manages to squeeze a marathon song worth of pain and rage into less than five minutes, starting out sounding like it could be a ballad before exploding into one of the most intense songs we ever recorded and what may be the most impassioned vocal performance of my life (i think it’s a toss-up between this and “i feel great”). it almost didn’t happen at all. it didn’t look like tyson was going to show up that night in early february, and after a few hours gord and i got tired of waiting around for him, so we took off to shoot some pool, smoked a magic cigarette, and then stopped in at tim horton’s to drink some tea and talk about all the things we were going to do with the band in the near future — where we would play gigs, what songs we would play…all of the stuff we never actually got to do because in a few months the band wouldn’t exist anymore, unbeknownst to us. when we were getting close to calling it a night, my dad walked through the door laughing and told us tyson had just shown up at the house.
back at the house, our high had pretty much worn off and we were tired. it was getting late, and we only had time to dig into one song out of respect for the neighbours and their children, who were probably asleep already. i played tyson a few new ideas, and he latched onto this one thing that i had envisioned as something like a sunny day real estate song — completely different from what it was soon to become. i even had a midsection worked out that was never used where i tried to sing like jeremy enigk in mellow mode. it was funny shit.
the music was all there, though i hadn’t written lyrics yet, and it took a while before i was able to effectively communicate to tyson what rhythm the “chorus” should be played in (sort of a 6/8 against 4/4 thing), but eventually we were in good enough shape to start recording. the first take broke down about halfway through. the second take was better, but i had no ideas at all for what to sing about and started chanting “my words are shit” over and over again. tyson thought it had potential; “it was fine until you started singing about your words being shit,” he said. he came up with the idea to begin the song with the sound of drum resonance, starting recording just after a drum hit to catch the toms in mid-ring, and a third take was attempted, with gord and i completely fried from marijuana comedown and not much hope in my head of anything worthwhile happening.
i’m not sure what happened…but somehow i was able to pull something out of my frazzled state, and out came all of this anger. the relationship i started using as inspiration on SUBLIMINAL BILE had finally come to an end once and for all (it was on its way out during STELLAR), and it hadn’t been pretty. as a result, there was a wealth of fresh emotional trauma to mine for inspiration. but here, i took what i might have put into a whole album, and packed it into one song.
as with “i feel great”, i was ready to end the song before tyson, and he got that same possessed look in his eyes, mouthing for me to keep on going, so i said, “gord, one more,” (i forgot to mute that part, so you can hear it in the middle of the song) and we went back into it for a suitably sludgy ending. when it was over tyson said it was one of the best songs we had ever recorded. i’d be tempted to agree with him. it would have made for a hell of a start to a new album. as it stands, it makes for a pretty intense start to an EP.
beautiful high isn’t as heavy in mood, but musically it’s even more aggressive, with an ending that almost sounds like grunge polka or something. i was really feeling a kinship with kurt cobain at the time (we would regularly jam out songs from in utero for fun before getting down to business), and in general the song kind of sounds like my idea of grunge. the lyrics aren’t about any particular drug, but tyson thought they might be about e, and i suppose that connection makes sense. i was thinking more broadly, about how the harder drugs i was becoming interested in were kind of romanticized by a lot of people, but for those who weren’t careful and didn’t have the necessary willpower, the romance wouldn’t last long.
mixed in with that is something of a twisted love song…sort of eroticizing the whole thing, on two different levels. there’s the person singing the song, who finds something erotic in the person he’s singing about and what she’s doing, and then there’s the subject of the song, who is pursuing the “beautiful high” but isn’t prepared for all it entails: “you’ve never felt like this / you never will again”. the feeling may indeed be beautiful, but it doesn’t last long, and is the comedown really worth it in the end?
on another level, i just wanted an excuse to sing about drugs some more, and i was really singing about myself.
death to johnny was just an idea i recorded to show gord and tyson, but when they heard it tyson said it was perfect the way it was, even though i had no idea what to sing after about thirty seconds. i thought it was funny how i was singing “death to you” to myself, but the whole thing sounded quite buoyant and poppy. while we tried turning it into a band vehicle, it never quite clicked and seemed to work a lot better as the sketch it started out as. so a sketch it remains.
red eyeshadow is the last GWD song there ever was — a reworking of wired that puts the original to shame and kicks mud in its eyes for good measure — and it grew directly out of yet another fun experience with a lady. kind of a harbinger of things to come on BEAUTIFULLY STUPID. ten minutes before tyson came over, she basically dumped me over the phone when i hadn’t yet attained a status from which i could be dumped. her name was stef (i never found out what her last name was), and oh what a time we had! after spending the previous week or two talking about how much she liked me and wanted to make out with me, and how hot she thought i would look with makeup on, and how amazing my long hair would feel against her body during sex, she now told me several different guys liked her, an ex-boyfriend of hers was coming to the show at the community center that night (where she and i were to meet up for a punk show).
now she just wanted to be my friend. “if we’re meant to be together, we’ll be together,” she told me. she might as well have cut my nuts off with a dull pair of kitchen scissors; just a few hours earlier she had told me i was probably going to get her cold, implying that we would be swapping more than just makeup application tips.
tyson smiled when i told him a bit about what had happened, because he knew something good would come out of it. “when things are cool with chicks, our stuff’s chillin’ and not that interesting,” he said. “it’s when they treat you like shit that you come up with your best stuff.” probably true. but things were never cool with chicks for longer than five seconds. i was always getting the sharp end of the popsicle stick, which was why there were no happy love songs on our cds.
gord’s soon-to-be girlfriend julie sat in on the session when we recorded red eyeshadow (the only time we ever had a visitor while we were recording), and you can hear her say “right on” at the end of the song. i like how tyson says, “that was a weird ending,” and i wish i would have kept recording to catch a bit more of our banter at the end of the song while i talked about how, when i stopped playing in the middle of the song and gord didn’t come in right away like he was supposed to (prompting me to say, “bass…gord…”), i thought we may have lost it, but fortunately things kept moving. as it stands, i cut myself off mid-sentence, the low-fat version of the EP ends abruptly, and i suppose you could look at it as a pretty effective way to symbolize the end of the band. we’re there, and then we’re gone, without any warning. poof.
comparing this stuff to the previous few albums, we sound like a completely different band. the songs don’t ramble or amble off in search of themselves anymore…which isn’t a good thing, or a bad thing. it’s just a thing. there are still rough edges, to be sure, but everything has become a lot tighter and more compact. these are much more like proper songs than the demented marathon pieces we were recording a few months before. once again we had shed our old skin to become something new.
while it’s impossible to say with any degree of certainty what the intended full-length album would have sounded like (or even what it would have been called), i think BEAUTIFULLY STUPID contains the road map. most of the songs on that album would have ended up GWD vehicles, had my band mates been at all interested in tackling them, though they probably would have been more stripped down in band form. it felt like we were reaching the end of what we could do together as a band; gord and tyson didn’t seem interested in following me where i needed to go musically, and i couldn’t turn away from the music that needed to come out of me, lest my brain explode from a buildup of untapped musical residue. odd how we had gone so quickly from being on the same page to being in very different places.
it’s also interesting to me to look at the recording dates. normally we would have a cd finished in a few sessions at the most (SUBLIMINAL BILE and STELLAR were both recorded in only two days, not counting a few bits of vocal harmony added after the fact), and the sessions would take place maybe a week apart. something different was going on here. after the 2/16/02 session that birthed beautiful high and the half-baked songs that were recorded while our brains were fried, a month or so would go by before another recording session, and only one song would come out of it, where in the past we would usually record at least a few songs, and sometimes half a dozen or more. in two months we only got three songs that were cd material (death to johnny was still supposed to be reworked as a band vehicle and i didn’t consider it to be a contender for the album at the time), and none of them cracked five minutes in length. that wasn’t the way we normally worked.
we ended up folding right when we were at our tightest and most accessible, and just as we were planning on playing a bunch of live shows to see how people would react to our music. kind of odd how most bands maybe record one album and play an endless stream of live shows, recycling the same material, while we played almost no live gigs and recorded about a dozen albums under the guys with dicks umbrella. we did everything backwards, and when we broke up, no one outside of a small group of friends even knew the band had existed.
i guess some people would look at this as a failure. me, i wouldn’t trade the music we recorded for any number of live gigs, no matter how well-received they might have been. in hindsight, we probably couldn’t have kept going much longer even if we still were on the same page musically and personally. things had reached such a level of intensity at this point, especially on a song like there is no us, that there probably wasn’t anywhere left to go but down.
at least we went out with a bang, instead of a whimper (even if no one was really around to hear it).
there is no us
death to johnny
there is no us
potential intro to cottonmouth
three funky days
the acoustic song
cottonmouth with sinus infection harmony
wired (false start)
wired (take 2)
wired (take 3)
wired (3rd take with new guide vocal)
death to johnny