for a year now i’ve had somewhere around half an hour of raw footage collecting digital dust on a hard drive from the day ron and dean came over to record the piano part for ron’s song “tattooed lady”. i figured it was time i got around to editing it.
the finished segment came out shorter and snappier than i expected, but i think it works as a little slice of studio life. what kept me from making it longer was the lack of visual movement. i didn’t set up a second camera to grab ron and dean, so while there’s a good bit of dialogue between the three of us, you would only see my headless torso no matter who was talking at any given time. that would get old pretty fast.
better to keep it brief. in a minute and-a-half you still get a bit of banter, a pretty decent idea of the feel of the song and what i played on it, and a few moments from takes that weren’t used in the final mix (as far as i can tell, what’s on the album is about 80% of my penultimate take, with the rest flown in from the very last take we did right after the camera ran out of recording time).
i’m trying not to share too many more video-related things before the big beefy “this has been the last few years of my musical life” video is finished, but i don’t think this little bit is giving anything away, and i kind of like the way it turned out.
just got this little guy back not long ago. thanks to kelly for taking good care of señor trumpet over the last few years.
i’m lucky enough now to know some people who, unlike me, can actually play brass instruments, and who are open to doing session work. if you’re thinking that might stop me from using the trumpet and the bugle to lob occasional dissonant curveballs at songs that don’t seem to want them, well…i’ll probably keep doing that here and there until the end of time. ha!
you can never have too many acoustic ballads with random atonal free jazz trumpet solos.
more surprises and mostly-forgotten little audio relics:
an unused kick drum part to bolster the stomping and tambourine-shaking on “everything he asked you”
drums recorded for “creepy crawly things” but left out of the final mix
the rain at the beginning of “wait all morning” fades out just before i get into an argument with the sky, asking for (and not receiving) thunder
as with “raccoon eyes”, “everything matters, everyone cares” started out as some improv behind the drums recorded with the idea of building some music around it after the fact; unlike what happened with “raccoon eyes”, i ended up casting out the initial drum part once it became clear it didn’t play well with the music it inspired
some out-of-tune piano over the bridge section on “what i would do for you” that was junked at the mixing stage
the tenor banjo at the end of “i love you” goes on quite a bit longer than the CD mix would have you believe (and longer than i remembered), growing even more crazed and dissonant
an unused bass harmonics overdub in the middle of “95 streets (is where i will find the heart of you)”
an alternate lead vocal for “fat mouth” that does some pretty serious attempted springsteen-channeling circa darkness on the edge of town
some acoustic guitar accents recorded for “absence makes the heart grow fondue” right where the drums kick in, but abandoned after about thirty seconds and not present in the final mix
several foul-mouthed arguments with an interrupting phone and/or fax machine
more forgotten riffs and licks sandwiched between proper songs
i’m still not as far along as i’d like to be, but i’m beginning to think i might actually finish this pet project someday.
at the intersection of riverside drive and devonshire road stands a four storey building that’s been there for almost a century. it looks like something that grew up out of the earth and now the earth wants it back. its brick is overrun with vines and ivy that goes from green to red to green again, and in some places where windows were broken by people who find value in breaking things without purpose, the colour has curled its way inside.
everyone and their brother and me has been calling this place the old peabody building as long as i can remember. but that isn’t what it is. the peabody building stood just to the west of this one, beside the peabody bridge, which was used for shipping and receiving and lasted until the 1990s when the rail lines were removed from the riverfront. the peabody building itself lasted almost as long. it was bombed during the first world war by nazi sympathizers, survived, and went on to become the base of operations for various engineering and pharmaceutical companies before it was demolished by the city in 1985.
there’s a mystery tied in with this part of the city.
in the summer of 1854, fifty seven norwegian immigrants died of cholera after getting here by train, packed into windowless freight cars. they were on their way to chicago via detroit. they didn’t make it across the border.
today our population is well over two hundred thousand. in 1854 it wasn’t even eight hundred. there was no hospital, and only one doctor. he did what he could, but he couldn’t save those people.
the railway promised to pay for coffins and the burial of the immigrants. then they broke their promise and didn’t pay for anything. they gave the doctor a gold watch.
we didn’t have a cemetery or a church then. no one knows what was done with the bodies. none of the names of the dead are on record. some people believe they were buried beneath the peabody bridge before the bridge was there, but no amount of digging has ever turned up anything definitive.
the building that still stands — the one we call the peabody building without knowing we’re naming a ghost — is the walker power building. it seems to have been designed in 1911 by three architects whose names read like a law firm and built in 1923 by albert kahn.
i was never able to exhume much of any reliable history. from what little i’ve been able to piece together, it started out doubling as industrial space and a power source for the buildings hiram walker owned, later became office space, and then slipped into its most interesting and varied life around the turn of the century, when the ivy was already taking over.
what i’m left with, then, is my own personal history with the building. that only stretches from 2001 to 2002, with one little blip four years later that almost doesn’t count. still, there are some vivid snapshots.
first there was recording gord and tyson’s metal band.
it seemed like half the bands in the city were renting a room at the neon shop when i was just getting out of high school. that was another name people called the walker power building, because on one floor there was a business that sold neon signs. there were stairs, and there was an old freight elevator. you had to pull a rope to close it, and you had to check the floor to make sure it was level before you pressed a button to take you where you were going, because if it wasn’t level you were going to get stuck between floors.
i trusted that elevator with most of the equipment i had at the time and recorded the only album that metal band ever made over two days in november, in 2001. i monitored with headphones and some tiny powered speakers tyson brought for me to use. i was wearing leather pants and a blue dress shirt.
their space was littered with empties and trash. brandon’s drum kit was so decrepit the snare drum’s top skin was falling off. but damned if that kit didn’t sound good with a few microphones on it.
for only getting paid twenty bucks and working in a genre of music i’d never recorded before, i think i did a pretty solid job. it still surprises me how good the album sounds for what i had to work with. i was used to recording things live off the floor in band situations, but we built the songs up piecemeal for better separation, and those guys were tight enough that we could record the drums first with no one else playing and drop the guitar and bass tracks on top after the fact, and you’d never guess it wasn’t done live. tyson overdubbed guitar harmonies for one track while his father grinned with whiskey and weed in his eyes and said, “it’s like an orchestra!”
then there were keg parties i didn’t go to. some of them got so out of control the cops showed up. there were punk and metal shows. i saw video footage of one of them. i remember a guy who kept breaking empty forties of olde english over his head until he started bleeding from a cut on the bridge of his nose. then he dipped one of his fingers in the blood and flicked it at the camera.
one of these parties got gord, tyson, and the rest of the band locked out of the room they were renting. they spent the better part of an afternoon taking turns trying to convince me over the phone to rent out a new room in my name so they could get back in there.
the idea was for me to move in my equipment. then i could record them whenever they wanted, and everyone’s gear would be accessible to everyone else.
“brandon loves pearl jam,” tyson said. “i’m sure he’d love to jam with us.”
our music sounded nothing like pearl jam.
it might have seemed like a decent plan if i cut my head open, plucked out my brain with some heavy duty salad tongs, and chucked it in the river. but with my name on the books, if there was any trouble at all, i’d be the one on the hook for it. and i had a great recording space at home. setting up shop somewhere else made no sense at all.
i said no, and nothing happened there.
there was the night an adam whose last named rhymed with hustle passed out drunk and pissed himself on tyson’s brother rick’s couch. they were renting a different room by then. when adam was sober enough to stand they threw him out. somewhere there’s a videotape of him demanding to be let back in, screaming, “i’ll pull a pesci on you! i’ll kill you all!” until rick walks up and punches him in the face to shut him up, and punches him again, and again, and again.
“he looked like the elephant man for about a week after that,” gord told me not long after it happened. “rick fucked him up.”
there was the time i jammed with gord in the new room and he told me to be careful where i sat on the couch, because that was the one, that was the famous couch, and even though it had dried months ago, well, you never can be too sure with piss stains.
he had long hair then. he has short hair now. we’re still friends.
and there was the time i got a call from a friend because she knew i was looking for work. she told me she was working on the fourth floor of the walker power building with a few other people, and there was one position still available if i was interested. it was light assembly work.
the imagination factory. that was the name of the business. that was may 2002.
i went in for an interview that wasn’t really an interview. kate was the name of the boss. she had blonde hair that was turning grey and looked like it was grey hair turning blonde. she explained what the job was. it was putting together these kits that would be sold in stores — replicas of some of leonardo da vinci’s inventions. we were putting together something for someone else to put together. i liked the loopiness of that.
she asked me a few questions, and then she told me i had the job, and then i did the job for as long as the job was there.
it was one of the more enjoyable jobs i’ve had. we listened to WDET, back when WDET still played music. i got to listen to nick drake and jazz and iggy and the stooges while i was making boxes and counting out parts and talking to the other people working there.
there was ken. ken had a ponytail. ken told me about steve’s music in toronto and talked to me about tony iommi. there was kate. she was a little testy sometimes, but mostly nice. and there was another woman. i remember her face but not her name. she told me when she was a little older than me she had a brief, doomed romance with someone who looked just like me, only he had blonde hair. he was a heroin addict on a methadone program, trying to put his life back together after his child had fallen out of the crib and died while he and his girlfriend were high.
one day, on our last break, i went outside with the friend who got me the job. we took the elevator down and sat together in the tall grass. after a while she laid herself down on her back, so i did the same. we lay together there. i thought about kissing her pretty face, didn’t think she’d want me to, didn’t do it. i wouldn’t have known how if i tried. she pulled a leaf out of my hair when we were back inside and smiled at me.
she had long hair then. she has short hair now. we’re not friends anymore.
the job only lasted about a month. that was all the work there was. but i got a call from kate inviting me and my dad over for a barbecue at her place on the fourth of july that year. kate’s common-law husband was there too.
they had a funny dynamic, those two. they would jab and prod at each another, but you could tell they were having fun with it. that was just their way. you could almost see the history of their whole relationship in one of those little spats they had.
they were comfortable. they were lived-in. they were them. it was nice.
later we watched the fireworks from the roof of the building we’d worked in. a ladder got you up there. it was the perfect place to be.
more people showed up. one of them was someone i’d worked with at a different summer job three years before. she was a little older than me. she was wispy, with a deeper voice than you expected when you first met her. she had perfect long brown hair, straight as any i’d ever seen. i had a crush on her but figured i was too young, she was too cool, nothing was ever going to happen there.
as she was leaving, she went to kiss me without telling me a kiss was coming.
it would have been the first kiss of my life. it would have been just right, except she was so drunk she could barely walk, so it happened like this. she leaned in to kiss me. i tried to prepare for whatever i was supposed to do. the wind from our leaning blew my hair and her hair in our faces.
that was what we kissed. hair. there were no lips. there was no spit. there was no me into you and you into me, and she was so far gone she couldn’t even tell hair was all we got, and i didn’t have the guts to tell her. by the next day i knew she would forget all about how we almost kissed, and how she’d been the one to almost make us kiss.
as missed opportunities go, that one was a real asshole.
then there wasn’t much of anything, until i dropped in on josh and mark a few years later. i didn’t trust the elevator anymore. i took the stairs. gord wasn’t there that night, but he was in their band.
their jam space was a lot nicer than the other ones there’d been. neater. pretty spacious. i dropped off some music, hung out for a while, and left.
that was the last time i was inside.
a year after that, whoever owned the building (maybe a new owner…i’m not sure) got the idea to kill whatever made it what it was and carve it into condos he could sell. when he found out how much money it was going to cost him to get the place up to code with the fire department, to get the zoning he needed, and to get the polychlorinated biphenyls out of the ground, he decided it wasn’t worth it and just evicted everyone and walked away, leaving the building to be condemned.
local band yellow wood elbowed their way inside to shoot a music video for a song off of their final album, 2009’s son of the oppressor. and it remained a popular spot for photographers, whether someone wanted some interesting wedding pictures or they just wanted to grab some compelling images of a sleeping structure.
bands were born there. artists had lofts there. small businesses got their start there. there was a vintage bicycle shop. there were print shops. there was a sheet metal fabrication shop. raves were held there.
this building could be a place for artists and small business owners to thrive. just like it was in those last years before it went dormant. you want to stimulate a city with an economy that’s bottoming out? there’s a place to start.
for a long time it just sat there and went on becoming more evergreen than brick. someone bought it last year, but no one thought anything would come of it. now comes news that it’s being renovated and redeveloped into a business hub. there’s an artist’s rendering of what the redesign is supposed to look like. it’s so sterile and depressing, i can’t bring myself to put it here.
the shape of the building will remain more or less the same, but they’re going to strip it of all its quirks and transform it into just another faceless husk, no different from any other commercial building, ignoring how it grew into something much more than that. then they’re going to sell whatever might be left of its soul to the highest bidders.
there’s talk of putting a starbucks in there, not thirty paces from taloola, where they serve you real coffee and tea, and not the fast food equivalent. what i guess you’d call the new owner’s statement of intent calls this part of the city “trendy”. that probably tells you everything you need to know about where their heart is.
everything about it is wrongheaded.
people will call this a useful advance. a rebirth, even.
it’s not. once the renovations are finished, what was once the walker power building will be as dead as the building that owned the name we borrowed when we didn’t know what this one was called, that died two years after i was born. and though its bones will still stand, its face will be a garish mask it never asked to wear.
and another piece of history will be gone. not just the city’s history. mine too.
i wanted to get some pictures of it today while it still looked like itself. they’ve already knocked out some of the windows, and by the time the ivy springs to life and lets it colours loose again, they’ll have ripped all that out and thrown it in the trash. at least you get some small idea of its crumbled majesty.
a lot of the pictures here aren’t mine, but these last four are, along with the one of the grass and the very first image. click on the second one in this group to enlarge it and you’ll see some wall graffiti, with a season misspelled. some folks must have been squatting there for a short time when things were in limbo.
here’s how i’m going to remember the walker power building — as a living work of art, knowing it will never look anything like this again.
a little while back i was talking with johnny smith about how much our culinary horizons have broadened in recent years. not to blow our own brass instruments too much, but at this point i think we make quite a few meals at home that rival some of the better dishes we’ve eaten in restaurants.
i thought it would be fun to document some of our creations. so i started doing that, taking the occasional picture with the trusty little pentax point-and-shoot camera i’ve had since this blog’s infancy.
the image at the top of this post is johnny smith’s famous chili. for my money, the only chili in the universe that rivals it is the vegetarian chili they serve at with the grain in guelph. that stuff is godly. all others pale in comparison.
here’s some shrimp linguine. we take the tails off our shrimp. you hear that, lazy restaurant chefs?!
this is one of the roughly five thousand salads i’ve made between the hours of two and five in the morning. i put a picture of one such salad up on facebook a few years ago. to this day it’s the most likes and comments anything i’ve posted has ever generated. share some music you’ve been working on for a long time and are proud of? twelve people like it. share a picture of a salad? it gets a hundred likes.
good old facebook — ridiculous to the last drop.
here’s some jambalaya. the picture doesn’t begin to capture how good it tastes. one of the keys to its power is the honey garlic sausage. you gotta go all-out when you’re making jambalaya.
french toast with strawberries. because why not?
chicken greek salad. do you think we put enough black olives in there?
improvisation on a nicoise salad. take it from me: those fresh artichokes are sex.
salmon salad. i think maybe we like our monstrous salads…
now, here’s where it gets interesting. i snapped a picture of tonight’s dinner with the brand new camera, just for something to do. didn’t dig into any of the manual settings. i was hungry and impatient. i just pointed it at the food, got it in focus, and pulled the trigger.
so here’s steak stir-fry.
the difference in clarity between this and the pentax pictures is blowing my mind a little. i think i like this camera.
so yeah. i guess this is a food blog now, at least until i post something music-related again in a few days.
a few weeks ago this blog turned nine years old. kind of nuts to think next year it’s gonna be ten. WHERE DID ALL THAT TIME GO? WHERE?
i don’t know if there will ever be another year like the first few, when i posted pretty much every other day. those were crazy times. but you never know. i’m just glad i got through those few middle years of being kind of “meh” about the blog and have once again committed to using this as a place to talk to myself. and motivate myself. and dance with myself.
these days i don’t like to go weeks without saying anything here if i can help it. but i had a valid excuse this time, i swear! i was sick.
it never fails. i’ll be ramping up work on something, getting ready to head into the home stretch, and then out of nowhere a mega-cold will knock me out for at least a week or two and mess up my ears for a while, so even doing any significant mixing work is pretty much impossible.
i don’t get sick often (knock on laptop screen). maybe once every year or two. but when i get sick, i get sick. in italics. i’d say about every third album i make, the coughing and sneezing and muffled hearing is bound to come calling before i’m finished, disrupting my momentum.
maybe it’s just my body’s way of giving me a break when i won’t take one on my own. i don’t know.
whatever the case, it’s awfully nice to have my ears back now, and to be able to sing without hacking up a lung. i wish this one time my ears had been given a free pass, because i could have put a huge dent in all that remastering work while recording was out of the question. what can you do?
a couple o’ things that may be interesting:
a day or two before that cold showed up, i was almost finished remastering CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN. one of the few songs left to revisit was “95 streets to the right (is where i will find the heart of you)”. and i couldn’t find that song anywhere. the title wasn’t scrawled on any of my backup CDs.
i knew there was no way i didn’t back the song up. it had to be somewhere. for more than a decade now i’ve been backing up everything, whether it’s worth keeping or not. on one backup CD there was something called “dream songs”. when i saw that, i was pretty sure i remembered recording fragments of a few bits of music i remembered from dreams and then, instead of making a new song, just recording “95 streets” there too.
i’ve gone through a lot of different brands of recordable CDs over the years — maxell, TDK, sony, verbatim, ridata, and a host of others i don’t remember offhand. most of them have held up. whether it’s got audio or data on it, i can grab a CD that’s almost twenty years old and know it’ll still work without any issues.
before i started getting taiyo yuden CDs for the most important stuff (and TDK for the slightly less important stuff), i liked verbatim. around 2007 or 2008 they changed the way they made their recordable CDs, and they became pretty glitchy and useless. maybe the printable ones are better. i don’t know. i just know the “regular” kind degraded so much, they were only useful for making rough mixes, and even then i couldn’t play them on most systems because they were more or less defective. i don’t buy those anymore.
you know what’s coming.
for some reason i’ll never understand, i used one of those CDs to back up “95 streets”. as you’d expect, it was toast. it would get halfway through transferring the data back onto the mixer, and then it would freeze up.
i dug through another box of backup CDs and found an alternate, backed up to a different brand. that one worked just fine. right about then i was pretty happy i always back up everything at least twice, just in case one CD goes janky on me.
and hey, i’m getting a new camera tomorrow. that calls for more dancing.
the cheap pentax point-and-shoot and the little flip video cameras have served me well, but it feels like it’s time to step things up a bit.
i almost did this a year ago. i was getting frustrated with how grainy the video i shot with the flip cameras would get in low light situations. more than that, every time i filmed myself talking to the camera i would have to get it very close to my face to get the best, most present sound possible out of the tiny built-in microphone. without a flip screen to show me what the framing was like, i would usually end up cutting off part of the top of my head (sometimes creating the illusion of a receding hairline) or the bottom of my face (leaving my chin feeling shunned). and that drove me nuts, though i learned to live with it.
i did a lot of research, trying to find better cameras that would do better in low light but wouldn’t break the bank. you can spend a ton of money on a great camera. i’m never going to be a real filmmaker. something that costs thousands of dollars would be wasted on someone like me. so i was looking for the best bang for the buck possible.
i found some videos made by ray ortega and was impressed not only by their quality, but by his willingness to share information with viewers. i sent him an email, outlining what i was trying to do and what i was looking for. i didn’t expect to hear back. he wrote a long email in response, making suggestions and giving some very thoughtful advice. (huge thanks go out to him for being so kind and eager to help a stranger.)
then i decided it wasn’t the right time to spend the money. and maybe i wouldn’t know what to do with a better camera anyway. maybe i was fishing outside of my pond. so i sat on it.
with YEAR OF THE SLEEPWALK inching closer to the finish line now, i started thinking again about how frustrating it was going to be to try and get the framing right for my narration bits, which will end up forming a pretty large part of the album’s video companion piece. with the few segments i’ve filmed of myself talking so far, sometimes i’ve had to go back and do it again four or five times before i get a take where i’m not cutting some part of my head off or moving out of the frame without meaning to. even using a small mirror to try and see what the camera sees only helps so much.
one suggestion ray made in his email was to use a better camera to film the bits of me talking and any interviews there might be with the other people involved in the making of the album, bumping up the quality of those parts and making for an interesting visual contrast with the older recording footage shot on the flip cameras. the more i thought about that, the more it seemed like a really good idea.
after a lot of mulling it over, i decided a canon T5i was the way to go. it has its fans and its detractors, but for the price and the ability it will give me to take pictures and shoot video at a level of quality far above anything i’ve ever done before, i look at it as a bargain, and almost a no-brainer. plus it’s new. i gave some serious thought to a used canon T3i, but it’s always nice to have a warranty. because you never know.
when it comes to video, i won’t be relying on a built-in camera microphone anymore, either. i grabbed one of these over the weekend.
it’s a zoom H1 microphone/recorder. for such a cheap little thing, the sound quality the H1 captures is pretty outstanding. it’ll be worth the minor inconvenience of mounting it somewhere nearby but out of the camera’s field of vision, dumping the audio on the computer, and syncing it up with the video. another option would be recording my voice in the “studio”, mixing it all proper-like, and using that as the audio. but this will be much simpler and less time-consuming, and still a huge upgrade in sound quality.
so if you notice a marked improvement in the clarity of the self-shot pictures and videos that show up here from time to time, that’s why.
i expect there to be a bit of a learning curve, but i’m looking forward to figuring out how to get the most out of that new camera. and it’s not like the little flip fellas are going anywhere. when i’m shooting in-studio footage they’re still probably going to be the best choice. they’re small enough to position in odd places, i don’t have to worry about knocking them over (it’s happened before, and they don’t seem to care one bit), and it’s easy to forget they’re even there, which hopefully makes other singers and musicians feel a little less self-conscious about being filmed.
remastering update: 70 songs down. that would seem like some solid progress — and it is — except for this part: 118 songs still to go. woof. if you’re one of the two or three people i’ve promised a mega package of music to, this is the main reason it’s taking me so long to put it together for you. i want you to hear these albums the way they’re meant to be heard. hopefully it’ll be worth the wait.
discoveries made along the way so far:
a piano intro for “do the mountain hop” that was mixed but never used
several song ideas/sketches i have no memory of coming up with or recording, hiding before or after the main tracks for various songs, some of which are very much worth revisiting and developing
a bit of night ranger’s “sister christian” sung a cappella at the end of “brooke ballentyne claps her hands”, apropos of nothing
a bit of “amazing grace” played at the end of “and i failed”, again for no apparent reason
a harmony vocal recorded for “random confessions of a failed lothario” but left out of the final mix
“what will become of luke perry’s nipples?” begins with me having a foul-mouthed argument with a fax machine that keeps interrupting the take
a goofy forgotten a cappella intro to “purgatory waltz”, mixed but never used
i double-tracked the vocal for the unlisted track at the end of CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN but decided it worked better with just the initial vocal take on its own
i kept playing piano through the synth-driven closing sections of “the ass, enchanted with the sound” but muted it in the mix
there exists an alternate mix of “weak bladder blues” with stomping and clapping
at the end of “the penultimate kiss” a few minutes survive of me working through the music at the piano, trying to figure out how i want to play it and swearing quite a bit along the way
“a solution improvised with yellow electrical tape” has both a vocal harmony part (muted in the mix until the final few seconds) and a lead chord organ part, making it appear that i thought about making it an instrumental before the wordless wailing happened
at the end of “some things are better left buried”, i recorded two guitar parts for a slowed-down take on “what she wants” (from way back on BEAUTIFULLY STUPID); i was considering dusting that one off at the second mackenzie hall show
i recorded a very harmonium-sounding chord organ part for “mismatched socks” that was abandoned when the slide guitar felt like a better accent and the two tracks didn’t want to play together
after finishing work on “shoelaces of the world, untie” on new year’s eve, i recorded the piano idea for “evil kid has a square torso”, singing the melody i ended up playing on melodica, and then a few minutes later went ahead and recorded the whole thing good and proper
one or two things aside, i have no memory of any of this stuff. and when it comes to music, my brain doesn’t tend to do a whole lot of forgetting. so it’s been fun digging up all these little surprises.
yesterday i got down bed tracks for a song called “la noche está viva con la locura de los hombres”, which translates to “the night is alive with the folly of men”. it’s sung entirely in spanish and features tender lyrics about walking naked on the moon and urinating in silence, “as god would do if he drank a lot of beer”. i want to see if i can get someone to play mariachi trumpet on it, because it think that would be hilarious.
AFTERTHOUGHTS landed inside the top ten on earshot’s national folk/blues/roots chart last week. i’m not sure how that’s even possible when CJAM has been the only station in the known universe to get a copy, but the earshot chart don’t lie.
i didn’t find out about this until i got an email from marlo, who counts down the weekly folk/roots/blues chart on a show she hosts over at CJRU in toronto called the rodeo. thanks to her for the tip-off, and for playing “dorsal venous” on her show.
on this, the ninth valentine’s day the blog has seen, i think a love song is in order. and no, it’s not the one some unknown person was screaming somewhere nearby a little before dawn that went, “I HATE YOU, WHORE” — you had to be here to appreciate that little ditty.
this song was written for GIFT FOR A SPIDER but went unrecorded for a year or two. it just might be the most tender thing i’ve ever written, with gooey, heartwarming lines like, “for now, you can hide how ugly you are, but the makeup won’t stay on. it always runs when you cry — assuming you cry.”
i’m content to have no inspiration to write songs like this anymore, but i can’t say i don’t get a kick out of the venom. who says awful, soul-destroying, toxic relationships that last all of four weeks aren’t good for something?
to say the song is easier on the ears in this quieter form goes beyond being an understatement, and flirts with chuck norris levels of truthiness. i can’t believe i ever found a way to justify letting all that clipping happen just for a little extra loudness. nothing like that will ever happen again on my watch.
for anyone who might be mastering their own music at home and wrestling with the question of whether or not they should over-compress it or introduce unnatural digital distortion in exchange for some additional volume, i offer the above as an audio add-on to my strongest recommendation that you stay away from that slippery slope altogether. concentrate on getting things to sound as good and dynamic as you can, without any consideration given to loudness at all. if anyone is miffed that they have to turn your music up a little louder than some of the other albums in their collection or they don’t want to listen to your stuff if it means they have to spend two seconds making a slight volume adjustment, well…you don’t really want people who are that goofy listening to your music anyway, do you?
as for the picture there, that’s a colourized panel from robert crumb’s patton — a retelling of the life of delta blues legend charley patton. a few historical inaccuracies aside, it must be one of the best comic strips crumb’s ever created. it’s difficult to find in printed form for anything like a reasonable price, but you can read it over here.
the piano shows up in the things i’m recording all the time in a textural role, but it’s been a long while since it operated as any kind of consistent musical driving force. i think you might have to go back to MEDIUM-FI MUSIC to find the last album where the piano provided the guts for more than a song or two.
i’m not sure it’s as simple as not being able to bring the upright upstairs where a lot of ideas are born. for some reason i just don’t seem to sit down at the piano and wander as much as i used to. i don’t know why. there’s really no excuse for that. it’s not as if i don’t keep the beast in-tune.
i thought it was about time something changed there. so i’ve been making a point of recording more piano songs lately. here’s one of ’em.
even if it ends up on an album, i don’t think sharing this one is giving much away. a naked tiny song is all it is. but sometimes i like those naked little tunes. and sometimes the heat comes on near the end of one such tune, a clicking sound is made, and the piano mics pick it up, but you like the performance enough to live with the click. this is one of those times.
the first verse is about mockingbirds. did you know some of them lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, and then their offspring bully any other young occupants out of the nest and steal their food, leaving the adults with no choice but to raise them as their own? i find that fascinating, and kind of horrifying.
the second verse is about being a self-aware organic compound derived from sugar. a state of being we all think about from time to time, yes?