Month: October 2008

shoelaces of the world, untie.

happy hollow wiener. halloween came a few days early for me this year, and there wasn’t any treat about it, but i don’t really feel like rehashing the details here because i would end up writing so much, a single post would stretch all the way down the page. and that wouldn’t be right. those of you who know what happened will understand. and those of you who don’t, well…blow a kiss into the air, ’cause you never know who might be there.

anyway. pleasant dreams.

i has a harmonica.

my trusty old harp (which is coming up on its tenth birthday) has sadly been missing in action since moving into this house. i probably would have used it in a song or two on CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN if i had been able to locate it, but it wasn’t to be. however, i now have a new, altogether different harmonica, and this is by far the coolest looking one i’ve ever seen. huge thanks to michael for sending it off to me. check out the detail of the designs on the top and bottom — you can click on the pictures to enlarge them for “super sexy close-up vision”.

the most important thing is that now, at long last, i can look all scary and intimidating again with my harmonica holder slung just so.

haven’t been accomplishing too much lately thanks to the return of the unintended vampiric sleep schedule, but there’s nothing like the love of a good harmonica to get you back on track. i have at least been making a lot of copies of that MISFITS collection so there will be enough of them to go around by the time i get the inserts and booklet made and pick up the appropriate chubby CD cases. chrissie hynde gave me a good song idea in one of my dreams the other night. memphis minnie is going back to texas, with kansas joe mccoy in tow. fingers keep on finging. baby, please don’t go down to new orleans. van morrison wants you to stay. and so forth.

it sure be a head-scratchin’ affair.

i’ve been bouncing some ideas around inside the old brain box, but there’s only so much you can do on your own…so i thought it might be an idea to ask anyone who reads this what they think.

see, in addition to everything else (and what i outlined in my first-ever post here has grown to include even more projected albums that may or may not ever come to fruition), the main things i’m working on right now are two albums—one that is mostly about things with strings and kind of all over the place stylistically, and one that is pretty piano-heavy and will probably feel more of a piece with itself. it’ll be a while yet before either album is finished (i’m shooting for the end of the year, which might be a little tight), but i think they might both end up hitting the finish line at about the same time. so the question is this: should i “release” them as separate albums, or should i bring them together as a double-cd?

personally, i’m of two minds about this. on the one hand, it’s been a long time since i put out a two-cd set of new material (i don’t think OUT-TAKES, MISFITS & OTHER THINGS really counts, since it’s a triple-cd and a compilation of songs that never found a home, and not something i view as a proper album). the double-cds i did put out are things that pretty much no one has ever heard. it would be kind of fun to throw something like that out there now that i know a few people would actually hear it, and i think the two cds would compliment one another fairly well in spite of their differences. it would also be easier to only have to come up with cover art and design the inserts/cds once. on the other hand, i’m just about to put out the aforementioned triple-cd set, and following that with a double-cd set might be a bit much for people to digest; that would be five cds of music inside of a few months. i’ve done the “simultaneously releasing more than one album” thing before, though it’s been a while, and that’s also fun to do, in a different way. both forthcoming cds will probably be pretty crammed with music (maybe not quite to the extent of CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN…i’m not sure yet), so keeping them as separate entities might make things a little less frightening and more approachable.

there are pros and cons on both sides. i’m sure the decision will be made easier once the albums come into sharper focus and i have a clearer idea of how well they may or may not work together, but i thought it was worth asking for some outside opinions. what do you think? two separate single-disc albums released more or less at the same time, or a double-cd set?

on the subject of MIFSITS, the thing is basically done. it’s about time. i’m not sure i’ll be able to get it out there before the end of the month as planned, but i’m going to look into the packaging business soon and, at the latest, get it out sometime in november. i don’t think i’ll be spreading it around nearly as much as the last cd, because i really doubt it’s something that will interest many people, but anyone who wants a copy is welcome to one. there are a few songs up on the appropriate album page now, along with some sketches and things scattered throughout earlier entries here, and there will be more information up there before too long. i realize there’s a typo at the beginning of this paragraph, but it amuses me, so it gets to stay.

making love to a chain link fence…but never the same way twice.

it’s a bit of a switch working with piano as the starting point of a song again. i used to do a lot of that, but it’s been a while.

i kind of fell into a pattern of using slight variations on a pretty specific electric guitar sound on CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN, which seemed to work well against banjo/guitar/other things with strings, but it doesn’t seem to mesh as well with a real acoustic piano (though i think it worked pretty nicely playing off of the digital piano on “pretty cynical”). it’s probably better to resist the temptation to fall into comfortable habits anyway, so things stay sonically interesting and at least somewhat unpredictable.

the triple-tracked vocal approach apparently isn’t going to be reverting to single/naked vocals anytime soon. but that doesn’t mean fun can’t be had with what surrounds the voice. i just find it interesting how certain things that work well in one setting will sound completely out of place when the glue of the song is a different instrument, even if the song itself isn’t that much different stylistically from what it might have been if it was led by banjo or an acoustic guitar.

so, in spite of the fact that i’m still not much of a producer and don’t spend much time thinking about what any given album should sound like, there will probably be a bit of a different ethos at work on the in-progress piano-heavy CD. the new song that’s up on spyspace right now is a good case in point, and maybe a bit of an idea of what to expect. the brushed drums are still there, but i think the drumming sounds a little meatier and more confident. the twangy teisco is there too, but only in the places where it could fit without too much resistance.

funny how, for a song that’s still relatively stripped-down, it was a lot more challenging to mix than most of the songs on the last album, what with different things coming in at different times and the volume of certain tracks needing to be altered at key moments. in general it seems a bit jazzier to me, at least to the extent that i’m capable of being jazzy, though i resisted the urge to go crazy during the instrumental outro and left a lot of space there, for whatever reason.

dig the bugle section during the “bridge”, if you can call it that. i don’t think i’m ever going to figure out how to form anything approaching a decent embouchure, but that doesn’t mean i can’t torture some noise out of the horn anyway, even if the results sound something like a small drunken elephant stampede. i recorded piano for a few different songs yesterday, and “capricorn cloves” (don’t ask me what the title means…i have no idea) was the one that decided it wanted to be fleshed out. i messed around with the others a bit, recording some rough vocals, but they still need work. and there are still so many songs i need to record in general that i fear i may never get completely caught up, but it’s kind of a fun problem to have.

now, here’s something fun. check out #166 on the chart, sandwiched between be your own pet and bob wiseman. not bad for a guy with an imaginary/nonexistent record label and no serious distribution, who’s only ever really garnered airplay on one of the many radio stations whose charts were used to come up with the top 200 for september. for my next trick, i will make a music video for “blue cheese necklace” in which david spade is beaten to a pulp with a baseball bat in slow-motion, and muchmusic will play it once before everyone becomes violentally ill and several hearts are irreparably shattered.

attack of the tragicomic kitten.

i was looking through many boxes of random and not-so-random things when i came upon some amusing items that date back to the time of OH YOU THIS, when i was all about getting my music heard by as many people as possible and playing live. here are a few crude mock promos i made:

i seriously considered plastering these things all over the place downtown and/or advertising in upfront magazine. then i realized that i could get sued, since i was inventing celebrity quotes that didn’t really exist. at least it was fun to do. i find it amusing that i’m shirtless in both of them and look kind of pissed…and apparently at one time i was gifted with the ability to fly.

i also considered advertising on CJAM for a while, and wrote out a potential voiceover ad that went like this:

are you tired of music that doesn’t say anything? tired of insipid ear candy manufactured for the instant gratification-craving masses? tired of knowing exactly when the chorus is going to appear, and reappear? tired of hearing that chorus repeated about 27 times?

the answer is probably no, because you’re not me. but, if you were me, you’d probably be saying, “hey! why can’t i get a gig anywhere in this city? is it because the few establishments that might be receptive to my music are also home to seemingly invisible music coordinators/club owners? is it because i don’t pander to the masses, and i’m the quintessential outsider of my generation, destined to develop a cult following of people who play the guitar with their thumbs and have lucid dreams involving chlorine?” and the answers are irrelevant, because i’m almost out of time. and my name is irrelevant, because you can only buy my CDs from me, though one of them is available at bubi’s. but you should visit my website, http://www.johnnywestmusic.com, because whatever higher power you believe in commands that you do so.

if you’re confused, just think about this: we’re all rats in a sea of foam rubber.

thanks for subjecting yourself to my voice.

brainstorming on the general subject of website promotion, and trying to figure out if i wanted a www. site or not:

hey, look — coming at you from the great record label onslaught of 2002, it’s a rejection letter!

if my music was such a pleasure to listen to, why didn’t anyone at sonic unyon offer to travel to windsor and give me a handjob? regardless of their reasoning, the lack of gratification is precisely why i never sent them another CD after that.

finally, here are some random guys, some of whom look like they’re wearing straitjackets:


i was listening to aphex twin when i did those last two fellas. fun times. i’m not sure why they’re all facing to the left…must have been symbolic of something at the time, like my overwhelming desire to dance naked atop a skyscraper to the music of right said fred while bathed in yellow light.

nothing says “i want to dance with you in zero gravity” like a homemade box set.

i recently made a “johnnybox” for a friend:

while it isn’t anywhere near being a complete collection, there are somewhere in the neighbourhood of 25 CDs in there (many without cases or proper cover art, which led to some fun when coming up with CD designs that allowed me to relay all of the pertinent information on the discs themselves), and it smells nice inside.

because of the work involved, i rarely do this sort of thing. but every once in a while it’s kind of fun to put a thing like this together. there’s even a little i.d. tag on the bottom, in case the box ever tries to escape from its owner and ends up in the wrong hands. i’d decorate it, but i would just end up defiling it without intending to, and i kind of like the way it looks as-is.

and now for the main event. if you’ve been longing for a bloated collection of music that touches on some of my invisible adventures as a musical fish over the past almost-decade, you’re in luck, because the long-in-development OUT-TAKES, MISFITS & OTHER THINGS compilation is just about finished. my sequencing ideas seem to be working well enough, the first and third discs are in finished form, and all that’s left to do is finish mixing two more songs, hope the sequencing works out for the second disc, and then figure out how to package the thing.

i doubt it’s something that will interest many people…we’re talking about three hours of music and close to 70 songs here, and that’s after being whittled down rather savagely from the insane collection it could have been. even in scaled-down form, there’s no way it can work as a proper album, and i’m not sure if anyone will have the stamina to listen to the whole thing in one sitting. but it felt like something that needed to be attempted.

i’m going to try and get it release-ready within the next month or so if i can. the main potential stumbling block is the booklet, which will be pretty damn thick, what with all of the stories behind the songs. worst case scenario, if no one wants to go to the trouble of making me something suitably hefty in booklet form, i’ll just put all the info up here on the appropriate album page.

i need to write/record some more ukulele-based songs, now that i have a uke that doesn’t suffer from poor intonation. also, i have an idea for a cover song that i’m pretty excited about, though it might be difficult to incorporate into a proper album. maybe i’ll put it up here if it turns out well enough. i think it’ll be pretty surprising. all i’m going to say about it right now is that it’s a hit from the 80s that will be altered to the point of being almost unrecognizable, but the soul of it will still be left intact, albeit warped quite a bit to suit my own purposes.