Day: April 9, 2010

Here I come to shave your clay.

I’ve been waffling a bit lately. I keep writing songs but not recording much of anything, because I have no idea what direction to head in. This means more and more songs keep building up, and I become even less sure of what direction to pursue. Vicious cycle, ahoy. Too much inspiration is a wonderful problem to have, but right now I feel like I need a little something concrete to work off of, as opposed to just blindly heading down another dark musical alley to see were it takes me. I don’t know why I feel this way, but there you go.

Even so, yesterday I felt I needed to do something. I ended up working on the last song I had any interest in, and by the time I was finished with it I liked it a whole lot more and had figured out exactly what I need to do. So it’s settled: I’m going to commit once and for all to finishing THE ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE and, goddess-willing, get it out there by the time summer rolls around.

That right there is my idea for the front cover. It’s a collage of some of the many random photos I’ve taken of myself and other things over the last year or two. It was something I threw together for fun, because I’d never really tried to make a photo collage on the computer before. Then I had some more fun with it and realized it had to be the cover. Yes, that’s a picture of my bass drum when it was unbelievably dusty, with the word “penis” written in dust with my finger. You need to capture these moments for posterity. There’s also a picture that captures part of the “studio” back when it was a lot less cluttered, before the piano arrived, and before several other things had come along. There will be several more photos and collages in booklet form (it didn’t really hit me what a large collection of random photos I’ve built up over the past year or so until I started digging through them all).

This is an album I have been working on sporadically (very, very sporadically, “off” more often than “on”) for the past three years. Some people call such things a “labour of love” or a “pièce de résistance”. I’ve taken to referring to it as my White Album on growth hormones. I’m not even beginning to compare myself to the Beatles…that’s just the best descriptor-and-point-of-reference-rolled-into-one I can come up with. In other words, it’s Deep Johnny West.

It’s going to be at least a triple CD set (that might end up getting bumped up to four depending on how long things get and how the sequencing works out), and roughly a hundred songs long. That’s going to come out to over three hours of music. I figure a lot of people won’t have the patience to dig into it, but I feel that these are some of the best songs I’ve written over the past few years. It will basically be the be-all and end-all in terms of what to give to someone when they ask, “What kind of music do you make?” because it’s a little bit of everywhere I’ve been over the past little while and then some.

There’s a whole album’s worth of have-a-coughing-fit-and-you’ll-miss-them tiny songs. There are a number of songs that sound like they belong on a sequel to CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN. There are some unexpected one-off collaborations that have languished for a while and will probably find a home on this album at last. There are thirty-second jokes and ten-minute workouts. There’s electronic stuff that was too weird for CREATIVE NIGHTMARES, along with some of my catchiest, most accessible moments that weren’t deemed weird enough. There are songs that were recorded both before and after I got a real piano, illustrating just what a huge difference that beast has made. There are a few sketches I liked too much to actually develop into full songs, feeling it might cheapen them somehow. Several songs were recorded while living attached to a crack house (all of those are short acoustic songs, since I didn’t have time to do much else with the brief periods of respite I got from the nonstop hip-hop-and-crack parties raging over there everyday).

This is not another MISFITS compilation. Not by a long shot. These songs are not out-takes or cast-offs, and the few tracks that sort of do fit that description were only left off of a particular album because they didn’t feel like they fit — not because they were deemed subpar. The true out-takes will show up eventually on another collection of odds and ends, I’m sure. This is a real album that just happens to be the most ambitious, far-reaching thing I’ve ever done, and it’s been a more long-range project than is usually the case for me. The people who think I’m crazy and pretentious will have a field day with this one, but it’s not designed to get anyone’s attention, though on some level I suppose it’s a little bit of a musical middle-finger to the people who feel that way about what I do. It was an ambitious project from the start, because that was the way I felt it had to be, and there’s no sense in ever finishing it unless I’m going to let it be as sprawling as it wants to be. I’ll delve into the backstory in more detail on the appropriate album page once the thing is finished.

The meat and potatoes of it is that I was brainstorming and chipping away at this thing before CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN was even a twinkle in the eyes of your domesticated animal of choice, and I know if I don’t put some serious effort into finishing it now it’ll just stretch on forever, getting more and more bloated until it collapses under its own weight and I give up and sweep it under the rug. That ain’t gonna happen. There’s a lot that needs to be done, but I’m confident I can do it. I’m digging in my heels, and this time…it’s personal.

That’s right. I just turned into a cheesy voiceover for an action movie trailer.

I guess I should also tell you a bit about the song I recorded. I’ll let the video do the rest of the talking. Sorry about the high-pitched whining sound. I forgot to turn the mixer’s built-in fan off. It’s tricky setting up a static shot that has my head and the mixer in it at the same time, so this time I opted for my head, which means you can’t see what my fingers are doing on the mixing board. But you can hear them. And isn’t that the most important thing?