I am sitting quite comfortably on a sanity train.

Travis pointed out to me the other day that I haven’t gone off on an angry tirade in a while. This is troubling news. As it happens, I don’t really have anything I feel a need to rant about right now. Sure, my sleep is a mess and I’ve just committed to the most insanely ambitious album I’ve ever attempted to make, but the sleep thing is old news by now, and I’m kind of excited about the ridiculous task I’ve set for myself.

Fret not, my friends. I’m sure Psycho Johnny will return one day to regale you with various profanities and ass-destroying metaphors.

I did come close to posting something of a tirade a week or so ago, but I thought better of it and instead decided to edit the Who the Hell is Johnny West? page a little to reflect what was on my mind (if you’re interested, my mini-tirade is in the last few paragraphs of my response to “Absurdly Inaccurate Myth #1”). Sometimes I wonder if it makes sense to have a not-quite-FAQ page that’s essentially one long rant that quickly turns into a series of responses to the myths and misconceptions that have been formed about me. But I think the pictures amuse me too much to cut it down to a more typical, concise bio. I reserve writing about myself in the third person for those times when I’m speaking to people in a faux-russian accent while drinking imaginary martinis. It’s something to see, let me tell you.

I am now in the process of augmenting, finishing, mixing, and in some cases remixing eighty-five songs set for potential inclusion on THE ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE, all of whom (yes, songs can be people too) are languishing in various stages of completion. Some of them just need to be mastered a little bit differently, while others need a lot of work and haven’t even been given a rough mix yet. At the same time, I want to record a few dozen more songs for the album, and then shave things down to the best hundred or so.

You think I’m nuts, but this is me keeping things small. It could easily be twice as many songs. I’m not bragging. I’m just saying. There’s a lot of stuff I’ve been holding back for this album, and piles upon piles of songs have yet to be recorded.

Some song titles include:

  • Feed an Enemy, Starve a Lover
  • Squirrel Running with a Piece of Wood in Its Mouth
  • An Avalanche in Hell
  • I Think My Boyfriend Is a Terrorist (sung entirely in French)
  • The Only Figure Skater I’ve Ever Been Attracted to Is Now a Meth Dealer
  • The Fish Who Thought He Could Fly
  • The Rise and Fall of Steven Seagal

And on it goes.

I’m already unearthing some unexpected surprises. I dumped a song from the summer of 2008 back on the mixer to give it a once-over and discovered two things: a cool guitar idea I forgot I ever came up with at all, and a recorder coda I never used and also forgot all about. It must have seemed out of place at the time. Now i kind of like it as an irreverent curve ball, so I reinstated it.

Then I dumped some instrumental improvisations recorded with Martin Schiller (aka 87 things for he future) from around the same time back on the mixer too. Most of these were recorded with both of us playing electric bass, and I enjoyed the process at the time, but listening again after almost two years away (I never even mixed this stuff) I immediately thought, “This is cool! Why did I wait so long to mix this stuff?” Martin made some pretty wild sounds with his pedals, I “treated” his bass as well to make it sound even more messed-with in some places, and some of the licks I played are surprisingly funky and busy. If Martin is alright with it, I’d like to work these things into the fabric of the album somewhere.

I recorded drums for all of the improv tracks yesterday, which was fun, and added a few other things while I was at it — some additional bass to one track, and some processed electric guitar noise to another. I’m really digging the first song of the bunch. It’s the only one I’ve really finished and given what feels like a final mix so far. It sounds like some sort of weird ambient fusion electro-funk (though no synths are involved), with the rhythm coming and going at odd moments. There’s also a nice laid-back Wurlitzer-driven piece I was able to get more spacious and jazzy with, and a more ominous two-bass-driven track I broke out the mallets for. Sometimes that muffled drum sound is just right.

I like hitting the record button and improvising drum performances on top of songs with no idea what I’m going to play, working off of only the music and my immediate response to it. Pretty much all of my drum parts are recorded like this, but it’s made more interesting when the songs follow no predictable structure, forcing me to wing it even more than I usually do.

Another interesting thing is “finishing” a recording almost two years after the fact, after not quite forgetting it existed but definitely neglecting it. If these kinds of surprises are falling out this early in the game, it’s anyone’s guess what else is going to be revealed along the way…

I think I’m going to shoot for a June release. We’ll see how that goes. I’ll be especially curious to see how people react to this big beefy thing. If I can pull it off, I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something enormous. And then it’ll be time to move on to the next album.

You know what they say — no breasts for the wicked. I mean, no rest for the duck farmers. I mean…well, you know what I mean.

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