I plan on doing some recording tomorrow, or at least giving it a shot, assuming I can decide on something specific to tackle and stick with it. In the meantime, since I’m able to upload music now, here are a few songs no one has ever heard. “What makes them different from any of your other songs, then?” you’re wondering. And the answer is: sea salt.
So, this is where you get to hear a bit of what happened when I tried to make a pop album. I like to call it my “doomed pop opus”.
It was the summer of 2000. I was sixteen and just settling into a new house, where I was still getting used to having a larger music room. I would later outgrow it after growing into it, but the music room before it had been all of 10 x 12 feet, so this space was huge by comparison.
I was writing songs like a fiend at the time, often during high school classes when I had nothing better to do. It looked enough like I was working, so no one suspected anything. My brain must have been on fire or something, because I have folders full of lyrics I wrote during just the first few months of the year, and the musical ideas were just as fertile.
I was in the middle of recording PAPER CHEST HAIR with Gord, and there were all these other songs that weren’t going to fit in there, so I thought I’d work on a solo album in the spaces between our recording sessions. This turned into the ill-fated CHILDREN HAVE NO EYES — the title lifted from “Love Is like Rabies”, which was a song written for the album but left unrecorded.
One of my early working titles for the CD was Almost Normal. That kind of says it all. This was shockingly accessible stuff by my standards of the time. There was no profanity, no twisted subject matter or role-playing, and there were no spoken word pieces. All of the songs were pretty conventionally structured, with lyrics that rhymed.
I guess I felt like I was in the autumn of my “career” and it was about time I made an album soccer moms and accountants with comb-overs could sing along to in their SUVs. But I didn’t go out of my way to make something more approachable. The songs just came out that way.
I ended up abandoning this project just as I was about to finish it. In addition to the dozen or so songs I recorded, I’d written many more for possible inclusion that were never tracked. There were several potential Papa Ghostface songs meant for PAPER CHEST HAIR that were never recorded either, along with some sketches that were never fully developed.
I was also working on a few other albums at the same time, at least in my mind. One was to be a collection of less accessible, sex-soaked songs, like “My Penis Says Hello” and “I Kinda Love You”, the first of which was sort of operatic in scope and was written during computer science class (always a good time to write lyrics, since half the time I had no idea what the hell I was doing in that class anyway), and the second of which ended with the violent death of a condom (always a sad thing).
Then there was an album that was going to be called Angry Music, collecting more out-there pieces like “Zebra Salmon Heroin Salad”, “Asthma for the Soul”, and “Stabbed in the Head with a Fork”. Lots of spoken word pieces designed to degenerate into psychotic screaming.
With all of that going on, I guess something was bound to give. I ended up ditching all of those projects except for the Papa Ghostface CD, and shortly thereafter a real band was accidentally sort-of formed, putting my solo adventures on hold for a good two years.
Still, every few years I would pull this unfinished album out for a spin and think, “I should finish this thing. There’s a full album there with the songs I did get around to recording. I just need to mix a few things I never quite finished to my satisfaction at the time, remix pretty much everything else, and fix a few nasty vocal bits here and there. And I might as well replace the keyboard drums with the real thing while I’m at it.”
Then I would start plotting what needed to be done for each song. And before I could get anything accomplished, I would get sucked into whatever else I was working on at the time and forget all about CHILDREN HAVE NO EYES.
But wait! There’s a happy ending, sort of. Last year I pulled the songs that were on CD out again for another listen, and I realized I didn’t need to tweak them after all. Sure, my guitar-playing is pretty rudimentary, and there are some pretty ugly moments of off-key singing (my “why do a second take when the first one seemed alright?” philosophy kind of bit me in the ass here). But for better or worse, that was the way I played guitar back then, before I knew how to bend strings, and that was the way I sang the songs.
I was experimenting with compression and limiting at the mastering stage, having just learned you could use that stuff to boost the volume. I ended up inadvertently mastering the songs a good deal louder than my music normally comes out sounding. Fortunately things don’t sound quite as squashed here as some of my other mastering experiments of the time, and I learned my lesson pretty quick: dynamics are good. If you want the music louder, just turn up the volume.
The drum loops are a part of the music as well, even if real drums would sound better and more organic. I still need to finish mixing a few things and throw all the songs together on one CD. I’ll get around to that eventually. I’m not sure what I would do for cover art, or if this album would be something I would want to give to anyone at this point…it’s kind of old news, and I’m still not sure exactly where it sits in the grand scheme of musical things. But maybe it would be good for a laugh. “Listen to me rhyme, from a time before I could cultivate facial hair!”
Sadly, some of the best songs I wrote for the album were never recorded at all. But I hope to remedy that to some extent with the projected Dust CD(s).
There’s more to the story, but I’ve gone on too long already, and not in an especially exciting way. So here are two songs from CHILDREN HAVE NO EYES.
Mine was the first thing recorded for the album, in the beginning of May 2000. It wasn’t really written about anyone or anything, but after I recorded it I realized the lyrics did a pretty good job of summarizing every semi-serious relationship I’d ever had with anyone — which amounted to exactly…one. And it was little more than a crush that led nowhere. The details aren’t really worth delving into here.
More relevant is the fact that I wrote out something of a script for a music video to accompany the song. It involved me being released from a mental institution and being haunted by the former object of my affection. It was kind of whimsical, or at least it was meant to be. I would transcribe it here, but I’m not sure if it would be very interesting to read.
La Montage was written in September of 1999 for another ill-fated (but this time completed!) album called SONGS FOR DEAD SKIN. Or at least the lyrics were written then. I had some music in my head but never got around to recording the song.
Eight or nine months later, I grafted the words onto completely different music, and there was the song. Gord left his little Zoom pedal over at my place from when he was over the day before, so I ran the drum loop through it to give it more of a kick.
And there you have a taste of what happened when I embraced my inner verse/chorus/verse monster. Kind of an odd choice of music to christen this blog-thing with, but you gotta start somewhere…and why not here?